Posts Tagged ‘Aston Villa’

Weekly Photoshop – Gerard Houllier

21/09/2010

New Aston Villa manager Gerard Houllier is this week’s theme. Tricky to see how that will turn out – he undoubtedly brought success to Liverpool but six years is a long time to be out of the Premier League. Good luck to him.

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gerard-houllier pope

With the Pope in town, Houllier puts his name down for future canonisation. It'll be a miracle if he gets Heskey scoring after all...

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Hop on board Gerard's magic roundabout. Turns a corner every week...

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More here.

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T.

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Archive.

The Six Pointer: Theo Time, Tennis Scores & more…

23/08/2010

That was the weekend that was.

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1. Theo Walcott had arguably his best ever game for Arsenal scoring a hat-trick as the Gunners demolished Blackpool 6-0. Showing pace, direct running, and good end product, Walcott ran the show against the beleaguered Seasiders.

Yes it was “only” Blackpool and he was afforded more time and space than normal (not least once Blackpool were down to ten men) but it was encouraging to watch him put in such a performance.

Walcott has had his critics in his brief career, and rightly so in many cases but it shouldn’t be forgotten that he’s only 21 years old and has yet to get a through a season without major injury disruptions.

Taking his league stats from the last three seasons into account, it shows every season broken up through injury and bit part appearances.

2007/08 – 25 appearances/1260 minutes

2008/09 – 22 appearances/1265 minutes

2009/10 – 23 appearances/1129 minutes

1260 minutes equates to 14 full games which is just over a third of the season. Therefore in the space of three league seasons, he’s had one season’s worth of playing time. Yet people wonder why he’s not yet the finished article.

Of course cup and European games can be added to those totals but the point remains that Walcott is still very early into his development. Walcott himself acknowledges this is a key season for him, but let’s judge him at the end of it not the beginning.

Yeah!

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2. Another week, another 6-0 win for Chelsea – this Premier League lark is pretty easy isn’t it?! Drogba was once again a key player with three assists while Malouda and Anelka helped themselves to yet more goals.

Tougher tests will follow than West Brom and Wigan but a significant goal difference advantage amounts to the equivalent of an extra point at the business end of the season. Given they won the title by just a point last season, these early victories may prove vital.

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3. Two bogey teams continued their hold in London this weekend; Bolton winning their third successive game at Upton Park while Fulham prevented Man Utd from 3 points at Craven Cottage for the third successive season. Both games came down to missed penalties taken by someone other than the regular taker.

Carlton Cole saw his kick saved by Jaaskelainen which meant West Ham didn’t go into half time with lead. Bolton came out in the second half and scored twice and went on to win meaning Mark Noble’s penalty made no difference.

Meanwhile at 2-1 up against Fulham, Man Utd’s Nani took a spot kick instead of regular man Ryan Giggs. Stockdale saved, Fulham equalised and Fergie bemoaned silly dropped points.

It got me wondering as to why Noble hadn’t taken West Ham’s first and Giggs hadn’t taken United’s. Every club ranks their penalty takers for a reason. If the top man is on the field, he should take it.

The only exception to this is if someone is on a hat-trick and the game is won. I’m sure both Avram Grant and Alex Ferguson will be telling their players as much before the next game.

He's no Ronaldo...

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4. As much as I want to ignore Bale’s second goal vs Stoke, I can’t deny it was an excellent volley. I’m pretty sure we’ll see better this season but it’s likely to end up as goal of the month if nothing else. Bale is fast becoming Tottenham’s most important player and will be key to ensuring they challenge for a top four spot again.

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5. I don’t think anyone expected the third 6-0 of the weekend at St. James’ Park. Newcastle were terrific against a woeful Aston Villa and Joey Barton and Kevin Nolan reminded many that they are more than capable of performing at the highest level.

Andy Carroll scored a nice hat-trick and already people are tipping him for an England call. It is perhaps a little early for that but he has great potential. He won most things in the air against Vidic last week and was once again dominant aerially against the Aston Villa defence. His link up play suggests decent technique and it will be worth watching him this season, especially in home games.

Newcastle are now unbeaten in something like 23 games at home and they could do well to follow the template of two other recently promoted clubs, Stoke and Birmingham, in making their home ground a fortress in order to get the points needed to stay up.

Aerial beast.

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6. Last season Wigan were very Jekyll and Hyde beating Arsenal or Liverpool one week before getting smacked by seven the next. It looks like this season will mainly consist of the latter. I don’t think Martinez will have too long to sort it out but with games against Spurs and Man City coming up, they may be quite far adrift quite quickly.

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T.

Season Previews 2010/11 – How They’ll Finish

13/08/2010

Based on all the predictions written, here’s how I see the Premier League finishing up in May.

  1. Man Utd
  2. Arsenal
  3. Chelsea
  4. Man City
  5. Liverpool
  6. Tottenham
  7. Everton
  8. Fulham
  9. Aston Villa
  10. Stoke
  11. Blackburn
  12. Birmingham
  13. Bolton
  14. Sunderland
  15. Wolves
  16. West Ham
  17. Newcastle
  18. Wigan
  19. West Brom
  20. Blackpool

A few more thoughts. I think the top four are quite interchangeable though Man City won’t win it. It depends what other business is done before the end of the transfer window – you get the feeling the Milner deal will get a few things going.

I reckon Liverpool, Everton and Spurs are all capable of sneaking fourth spot. With the former two it depends on how fit their first choice teams stay throughout the season while Spurs could maybe go as high as third but it relies on them coping with two competitions at once. I’m sure they’ll sign one or two more players but are waiting to see if they beat Young Boys in the qualifier.

With Martin O’Neill leaving Aston Villa will drop down the table. It doesn’t matter who they get in to replace him, they won’t come ahead of those top seven teams. I have Fulham a little high on reflection. I should probably swap them with Villa. If they lose Schwarzer and get an injury or two, it remains to be seen whether Hughes can keep them going. With the signing of Kenwyne Jones Stoke might push on an extra place or two. I genuinely wonder if they have any players under 6ft beyond Tuncay and Etherington!

Going down to about 15th/16th you can mix and match. Bolton could shock a few people, while West Ham have one of the more talented spines of teams at that level. Birmingham could really struggle if Foster doesn’t live up to Hart’s performances last season and Zigic doesn’t perform but all in all the teams in this section should be ok.

For me there are just the four clear relegation candidates, though you could perhaps chuck Wolves in there too. Maybe I’ll revisit this once the transfer window shuts, as things should be a bit clearer by then.

T.

Season Previews 2010/11 – Aston Villa

11/08/2010

Aston Villa

Last Season: 6th

New Signings: Hmm, none to report as yet.

Key Player: Ashley Young

One To Watch: Marc Albrighton

Needs  A Big Year: The new manager

Would Quite Like: Continued dominance over Birmingham whilst pushing onto the Champions League places.

Prediction: 9th

Thoughts: This was all written up and then Martin O’Neill resigned which changed things somewhat. Much of it still applies though. Aston Villa appear to have reached a bit of a glass ceiling at the moment. Sixth place for three seasons running but unable to make to the breakthrough whilst other teams such as Spurs and Man City overtake them.

Despite them fading every spring I think Villa’s problem is not so much one of squad depth but more of quality. Martin O’Neill tended to play the same starting XI for 95% of the season so to push on they need one or two top quality players who will cost £10m+ and replace someone currently in the side.

It appears that at the moment the money doesn’t exist to do that which would reflect in the attempts to get rid of the likes of Luke Young, Steve Sidwell and Habib Beye. Also, in losing arguably their best players two summers in a row (Barry and now probably Milner) it means they’re always trying to catch up to where they were rather then move forward.

Laters, I'm off.

Assuming Milner does leave I would suggest buying a replacement in midfield (though if they get Ireland in part exchange then it’s a great deal) as well as a striker and left-back. For all of Carew and Agbonlahor’s qualities, neither can be relied on to score 20 goals. With Milner gone, the onus falls on Ashley Young to live up to his undoubted potential.

O’Neill had been experimenting with him in a floating central role in pre-season and perhaps this change in tactic is needed to offer some variety in Villa’s play. I think as usual they’ll be tough to beat and will gain a victory or three over the sides above them but the reality is that they’ll find it difficult to maintain their current level and may find they drop a place or two this season. O’Neill’s motivational skills will be greatly missed.

Villa’s prospects really depend on who comes in to replace O’Neill. Some of the names mentioned so far aren’t very inspiring but I think they’ll go for someone up and coming rather than a big name. I don’t see a new manager getting any greater sum to spend, but I suppose there will be some Milner money to make a few improvements. Either way it’ll now be mid-table.

T.

Season Previews 2010/11 – Birmingham

10/08/2010

Birmingham

Last Season: 9th

New Signings: Foster, Zigic, Valles

Key Player: Roger Johnson

One To Watch: Eric Valles

Needs A Big Year: Ben Foster

Would Quite Like: Avoiding second season syndrome and a victory over the Villa.

More money please.

Prediction: 12th

Thoughts: If Ben Foster can adequately replace the departing Joe Hart in goal then Birmingham will go a long way to having another successful season. One of the surprise packages last year (I had them down for relegation!), Alex McLeish will be looking to consolidate and make sure his team remain as tough to beat as they were last season.

A lot of their players probably over-performed and bearing in mind there is quite a reliance on people as old as Steve Carr and Kevin Phillips, there is a valid concern that this year won’t quite be as good. A proper left back is needed so Ridgewell no longer has to play there while Zigic will hopefully provide consistency up front or a big target to aim at if nothing else.

Carson Yeung’s promised riches haven’t quite materialised but continued defensive solidity will ensure mid-table will be perfectly acceptable and attainable again this season.

T.

Weekly Photoshop – James Milner

01/06/2010

Winner! £100 coming my way. The first time I’ve won top prize in well over a year. England’s new favourite utility man James Milner was this week’s theme. It’s a bumper triple bill for you, his slightly odd head being a wealth of potential. One can only marvel at that tree trunk neck…

milner england

Milner's big block head was preventing Capello from fitting him into the round shaped hole in England's midfield

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I'm sure there's a joke in here somewhere about him fighting Lampard over the last slice of Cow Pie...

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And a mega harsh one for luck…

Is it harsh to say he's one half of the ugly twins? There's a passing resemblance at least...

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More here.

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T.

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Archive.

Season Predictions 09/10 – How They Turned Out

31/05/2010

Apologies for the lack of posts recently. I’m still in two minds about whether to do season reviews for each club – to be honest I’m in World Cup mode now. Perhaps I’ll still get round to it though.

Back in August I played a mug’s game and tried to predict how everyone would finish. Here’s what actually happened:

'Expert' predictions...

Looking at the results showed I got just three clubs spot on: Man City in 5th and basement dwellers Hull and Pompey taking the bottom two places. In my defence I was only one place out with six other clubs but really this table looks like what it is, rubbish punditry.

I think if Gareth Southgate and Garth Crooks had a bastard lovechild it would look something like this predictions table (enjoy those nightmare thoughts kids).

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In terms of the thinking, I had found it really tricky to split the top three when writing pre-season predictions. My loyalties to Arsenal may have played a part in placing them second while I couldn’t bear to predict Chelsea as Champions even though deep down I knew they had retained the most strength over the summer.

A similar scenario led to placing Spurs 7th – I was hardly going to predict them a Champions League spot was I?! I underestimated Liverpool’s decline and overestimated Sunderland’s improvement.

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The biggest mistake was Birmingham, a full nine places out, but I’m sure I’m not the only one who had them down to struggle. Fair play to Alex McLeish (who I had as first sacking!), he brilliantly led them to a top half finish.

The bottom half was slightly better predicted clubs wise, if not positions wise. The dearth of quality is such that it’s pot luck as to where the likes of Bolton and Wigan finish. I got three of the bottom four right and on another day would have predicted Burnley to come in 18th not 17th.

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In terms of the cups and other stuff it went like this:

And I thought the league prediction was bad...

Oh dear. Only Bayern Munich correct and I suppose West Brom for promotion. If the Premier League table was the Southgate/Crooks lovechild then this is the resulting mess when said lovechild had a threesome with Alan Shearer and Jamie Redknapp. I literally couldn’t do any worse at being a pundit. Like I said at the beginning, it’s time for the World Cup…

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T.

Fantasy Premier League – End Of Season Review 09/10

14/05/2010

So another year of fantasy football ended last Sunday without too much drama. A solid final week meant I held on to my league lead and won it for the first time in the four seasons we’ve played.

Victory at last.

It was an entertaining season and at one stage looked to be a four-way title race. That said I don’t think I let go of the lead since about week 19 so without gloating too much victory is deserved. I was kind of limping to the finish line for the last few weeks and dropped from a position of 7,264 as late as gameweek 31 down to a final ranking of 24,501 out of 2.3m+. Not my highest ever position but still very good and just outside the top 1%.

Sportboy P came a worthy second while longtime leader Amer came third. Too many transfers and dodgy captain choices cost him and he couldn’t pick it back up. Three time winner the Football Guy had his worst ever season in fifth. I expect him to bounce back next year.

On to some awards.

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Player of the season:

Frank Lampard wins this for the second straight season. I learnt from my lesson last year and made sure he was in my team when in mattered, not least for the run in. Top scoring player by 42 points and his total of 284 is quite incredible. I only realised while writing this that it’s the highest ever score in a fantasy season, edging out Ronaldo’s 283 points in 2007/08.

I think it was Chelsea’s sheer volume of goals that did it, as although he ‘only’ scored 22 (compared to C-Ron’s 31) he weighed in with a season high 17 assists (only 8 for CR). If you factor in that he wasn’t even the highest recipient of bonus points, or that he played neither game vs Wolves, you start to wonder whether a 300 point season is possible.

An honourable mention too for Cesc Fabregas who matched Lampard for points per game and got the second most bonus points this season but due to his various injuries missed eleven games thus ended up with  214.

Frank Lampard fantasy football

Maverick's 2009/10 Top Gun.

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Best value player:

Thomas Sorensen is the clear winner here, gaining 164 points for his measly £4m initial price tag. He even saved three penalties this season. Joe Hart was also a big plus here, with a lower score but higher price rise over the course of the season.

However I think the best bargain to be had this season was Darren Bent. Costing just £7m to start with, he banged in 24 goals for a frankly average Sunderland side. He was quieter in the second half of the season when Sunderland went on a long winless run and Drogba/Rooney/Tevez was the way to go but picked it up again in the final few games.

bent sunderland

Bargain of the season.

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Best sub:

Birmingham defenders were this year’s Fulham, providing regular clean sheets at a bargain basement price. Though they faded somewhat once they hit 40 points, they were a great option.

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Fantasy bike:

There wasn’t one single player I kept bringing in this season, but looking back it seems Drogba, Lampard and Tevez were all transferred in on three occasions. With expensive players all generally performing this season, you could usually mix and match as fitness and suspension dictated and not have to worry about losing money.

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Biggest flop:

Many of last season’s flops bounced back, not least Fabregas, Tevez and Drogba. For his price tag Steven Gerrard has to be up there. A victim of Liverpool’s poor season; he was generally pretty useless until about gameweek 32, before an end of season points binge.

Elsewhere big things were expected of Andrey Arshavin after last year’s four-month cameo but I thought 135 points was poor while Dirk Kuyt has gone back to being a plodder. You could argue Van Persie and Torres were disappointing but everyone knows they’re injury prone. When they played they both had a high points per game average – 5th and 6th overall.

arshavin arsenal

Could have done so much more.

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Best improvement:

The way of looking at this is rise in value over the season. Here Richard Dunne and Didier Drogba are the winners, just edging out James Milner. All three had terrific seasons and the former two rose by £1.8m in price.

I would say Dunne was the most unexpected, and he picked up Martin Laursen’s tendency for being a bonus point machine while captaining Aston Villa at centre back. That said, clever old me came up with this gem of a prediction about Drogba in one of my previews.

"I no longer think the Ivorian has the ability to get 20 goals a season."

Good thing I realised the error of my ways!

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Biggest surprise:

The under performance of Gerrard – previously a lock for 200 points. Gareth Bale post January (116 points) compared to pre January (2 points).

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Best performance:

Last season’s high was 21 points from Arshavin. I think this score got beaten six times this year. In reverse order:

Joint 3rd: Benayoun and Kalou – 24 points

2nd: Defoe – 25 points

1st: Lampard – 28 points versus Aston Villa through four goals, an assist and three bonus. Needless to say that was one of the few weeks he wasn’t in my team, let alone in my team as captain.

Credit to Fabregas for getting 22 twice and Rooney for getting 32 in a double gameweek.

And Arshavin’s high score this season? 11…

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Cesc Fabregas award for cheap bonus points:

Wayne Rooney with 46 (matching Lampard last year). Cesc was second with 41.

rooney man utd

Bonus. Om om om.

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Biggest fall from grace value wise:

Biggest price drop was Diamanti of West Ham and surprisingly Nicolas Anelka. Both went down £1.2m. I assume the latter was a victim of people going with the three highest scoring strikers and just sticking with them. Of the other renowned players Carrick fell by £1m while Arshavin again plays a part here, falling £0.9m.

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Biggest fall from grace performance wise:

Aaron Lennon was fantastic until December, then got injured and only returned for the last few games. Perhaps it’s a little harsh to include him here. Jermain Defoe on the other hand had 14 goals before January and just four afterwards. Antonio Valencia was also pretty poor in 2010 with just four assists and no goals.

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Best impact:

Gareth Bale was immense after the turn of the year, scoring well over 100 points. I didn’t bring him in though due to his price.

From a personal point of view I was pleased with the transfers of Martin Olsson and Adam Johnson. The former was listed as a £3.8m defender yet played in an advanced midfield role, while the latter made a big impact after joining Man City in the January transfer window. Both were nice differentials who scored steady points in the run in.

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Predictions:

I mentioned the Drogba one earlier and how I fancied Anelka over him this season. Other specials included tipping the likes of Ebanks-Blake, Zhirkov, Scotland and Robinho while being negative on players like Bellamy, Lennon and Valencia. In my defence, I had Milner, Bent plus more expensive guys like Fabregas and Rooney to have good seasons.

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Finally lets take a look my team in August:

fantasy premier league week 1

Ebanks-Blake, what was I thinking?!

and the team I ended the season with:

fantasy premier league week 38

The league winning side.

Pretty different as you can see. I think Sorensen was the only player to make it through the season without being transferred out, surviving even the wildcard. I played a three-man defence for much of the season and given how well strikers did it was usually three up front.

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T.

Fantasy Premier League – Gameweek 37 Preview

30/04/2010

It all went a bit Pete Tong last week as I saw my league lead almost entirely wiped out based on one wrong transfer. I was still debating who to bring in on Saturday morning and was thinking that someone like Gerrard for Ashley Young would be a good move given the formers home game against Burnley. However I started to second guess myself given that a) Liverpool are super inconsistent and b) they were coming off the back of a European tie. It says a lot that I wasn’t 100% confident of them thrashing Burnley!

Anyway, that plan was put aside and I decided to get rid of Drogba as he was listed doubtful for the Stoke game. Rooney at home seemed like a good idea so in he came. Literally five minutes later the news broke that he was out injured. Transfer already made, one injured player in, one doubtful player out. As it turned out Drogba was fit and got nine points against Stoke while Gerrard got 15 against Burnley. 24 points missed out on and my lead is down to a measly 17. The title race between the two Sportboys is back on! Oh dear.

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Gameweek 36 Top Gun (aka Tom Cruise Approves):

salomon kalou chelsea

Maverick's alwasy surprised when someone nearly equals their season score in one week.

Chelsea went goal crazy against Stoke, eventually settling for a 7-0 victory. Chief beneficiary was squad player Kalou who notched a hat-trick of tap ins, as well as an assist and man of the match for a grand total of 24. He had only got 42 points all season prior to that and it’s certainly one of the highest scores this year. Following closely behind was Frank Lampard, who rewarded the many who chose him as captain with an 18 point performance.

Lampard really has been racking up the points and has ten goals and ten bonus in his last nine matches. Barring some heroics from Drogba or Rooney, he ends the season as highest points scorer – not for the first time either. Elsewhere it was a case of the midfielders with Gerrard on 15 and Giggs and Aquilani both on 14.

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Three Captain Picks:

Four teams play twice – Man City, Spurs and Fulham are the three you want to load up on.

1. Tevez/Man City – Two home games and about the only Man City player you can trust. Always performs in big games and Aston Villa and Spurs are big games.

2. Bale/Spurs - With Defoe out of form and none of the midfielders doing particularly well either, the Spurs pick has to be Gareth Bale. After last week’s messy performance at Old Trafford, Redknapp should hopefully switch him back to left-wing.

3. Fulham defenders or Dempsey – Fulham are always solid at home and have conceded just 12 goals at Craven Cottage this season, better than anyone else. West Ham and Stoke should bring at least one clean sheet. Meanwhile with Zamora injured, look to Dempsey to play upfront and hopefully bag a goal or two.

Carlos Tevez Man City

Gets a Captain's tick.

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Suggested Transfers In:

1. Lennon/Spurs – Fit again though I doubt he will play the whole 180 minutes available to him this week.

2. Fulop/Man City – Apparently nine professional goalkeepers isn’t enough so Man City have been allowed to sign Sunderland’s reserve keeper to try and keep Villa and Spurs at bay. He conceded seven on his last appearance…

3. Etherington/Stoke - If you must go for a Stoke player this week make it him.

Aaron Lennon Spurs

Might be worth a pick.

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Three Transfers Out:

1. Bendtner/Arsenal – Suffering now that Van Persie is back.

2. Sorensen/Stoke – Out for the season.

3. Given/Man City – Ditto.

Nicklas Bendtner Arsenal

Are you taking the mick?!

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T.

Fantasy Premier League – Gameweek 36 Preview

23/04/2010

An interesting week last week with Aston Villa and Hull providing opportunity for double gains. Unless you were the gambling type, I imagine most bets were hedged on the key Aston Villa players. While the returns weren’t huge, they weren’t bad either and will probably have justified any points spent in transfers.

It was a slightly above average week for me, not helped by going for Ashley Young as captain. Just 12 points from him as he got just a solitary bonus point. The league lead is 39 with three weeks left, and Sportboy P (remember him?!) now takes up the chase.

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Gameweek 35 Top Gun (aka Tom Cruise Approves):

James Milner Top Gun Aston Villa

Maverick approves of Milner's second top gun.

matt taylor bolton

Goose approves of Taylor's best performance this season.

Two midfielders got 15  points this week; James Milner and Matt Taylor. Milner scored once and got six bonus points last week while Taylor got into double figures for the first time this season through two goals and three bonus. He has been a little underwhelming in 2009/10 but still has eight goals and three assists.

Elsewhere Charles N’Zogbia got himself 13 points against Arsenal while six players scored eleven. Of those the most interesting was Gareth Bale. After not scoring for over two years, he now has two goals in two weeks.

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Three Captain Picks:

1. Lampard/Chelsea – A home game against Stoke should be easy pickings for Chelsea. Stoke are still rubbish away from the Britannia and I’m sure Ancelotti will be looking for a response from his team after last week’s debacle against Spurs. Drogba picked up an injury during the defeat and may not be fully fit, thus possibly creating an opportunity for Lampard to run the show.

2. Arteta/Everton - A home game against Fulham is no doubt tough but Roy Hodgson has gone on record as saying that the Europa League is now his priority. Everton are in good form and should probably win against a Fulham side in the middle of a European semi-final against Hamburg. Arteta is back from injury and scored last week.

3. Van Persie/Arsenal or Adebayor/Man City – Hate each other, face each other this weekend at the Emirates and will both be super motivated to be the match-winner. Van Persie has home advantage but may not start. Adebayor will get royally booed with every touch but is match fit and has the benefit of facing Silvestre and Campbell.

Frank Lampard Chelsea

Gets a Captain's tick!

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Three Suggested Transfers In:

It’s all about form players right now.

1. Bale/Spurs – Obviously he’s been excellent in the past two weeks with 20 points but looking further back he’s been consistently good since regaining his place in mid-January. 85 points since gameweek 22 plus two matches coming up next week.

2. Players with something to play for - Whether that’s from teams who are relegation threatened, fighting for titles or simply those after personal gain like World Cup selection – now is the time to go for motivated players ahead of those whose season has ended.

3. Craddock/Wolves – 25 points in his last four games.

gareth bale spurs

Might be worth a pick.

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Three To Avoid:

1. Wigan players – Beat Arsenal last week so judging by how their season has gone will probably lose against West Ham this time round.

2. Terry/Chelsea – Out this week through suspension and generally not playing well.

3. Arsenal goalkeepers & defenders – Not that you’d have one!

n'zogbia wigan

Are you taking the mick?!

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T.


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