Posts Tagged ‘kranjcar’

The Six Pointer – Expensive Toys, Retro Formations & more…

07/02/2011

That was the weekend that was. Newcastle vs Arsenal deserves a post in itself!

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1. Fernando Torres certainly had a Chelsea debut to forget and it will be interesting to see how Carlo Ancelotti fits him in for the rest of the season. The switch to a diamond midfield with Torres and Drogba playing as a pair up front wasn’t a surprise but it was strange to see Nicolas Anelka given the nod in the hole behind them.

I assume the theory was that Lampard’s strength is arriving from deep, something which would be negated if he played at the head of diamond. Chelsea’s success over the past few season has come through playing 4-3-3 and you can’t fit Torres and Drogba in that system and get the best of both.

Torres of course needs time to adapt; despite his price tag you can’t just expect him to instantly understand his new team-mates way of playing. But, given how Chelsea are quickly becoming involved in a battle to maintain a top four position as well as trying to engineer another attempt at the holy grail of the Champions League, Carlo Ancelotti will have his work cut out to solve this conundrum quickly.

An inauspicious start.

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2. In contrast, Torres’ old team are on quite the run of form at the moment. After overseeing a defeat to Blackpool, Kenny Dalglish has quickly turned things around with some innovative, or should that be retro, tactical moves.

Three at the back has long been out of vogue but Liverpool have used it successfully to stifle the aerial bombardment of Stoke, and now the technical probing of Chelsea. Contrasting attacks but the same result – a convincing clean sheet. The beauty of playing 3-5-2 with wing-backs is that in theory it can work so well – they offer solidity in defence by forming a five but options in attack when pushing forward.

I don’t see Glen Johnson working well long-term on the left but it seems to be successful for the time being.  Of course Dalglish has the same problem as Ancelotti in trying to fit £50m worth of strike force into his team but you feel it will be a little easier with the players at his disposal.

Close enough. Though if this was Stoke they'd play all four.

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3. Niko Kranjcar’s winner for Spurs against Bolton should give Harry Redknapp some reminder of the talents at his disposal. Notoriously poor at rotating, Redknapp is very much one to stick to the same players until the they get injured or he just doesn’t fancy them anymore. Kranjcar has been one of the unlucky ones this season with just six appearances to his name, totalling a measly 235 minutes.

So much so that ‘Arry bought a similar player in Pienaar in the transfer window, simply because he was available rather than any great need for him. The whole point of a 25 man squad is to use it, not least when you’re competing at the top end of the table and the Champions League. Perhaps he’d find that when he does have to turn to them, they might perform better if they’ve had a few games under their belts.

Niko Kranjcar, Spurs player. Sometimes.

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4. Following Chelsea and now Man Utd losing to Wolves this season, Arsenal’s 2-0 victory at Molineux is looking better and better. It must be frustrating that Mick McCarthy can get fantastic performances against the big sides but then lose to those around him. As with last season, it will be a close run thing whether Wolves go down but there are certainly worse teams in the league this season. They have yet to play either match against West Brom and those two games look like being crucial in determining which of the two sides will be relegated. I certainly don’t think both will stay up.

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5. Bolton have now lost six straight away games. What was looking like a promising Europa League push is turning into a mid-table season. Part of the reason must be that the previously red-hot partnership of Elmander and Davies have one goal each since late November and Chung-Yong Lee, who had six assists has been away at the Asian Cup. With that in mind the loan signing of Sturridge looks to be a good move both for player and club. Already he’s taken on some of the attacking responsibility with two goals in two games.

He’ll be sure to want prove that he’s good enough to be at Chelsea next season and that motivation can only benefit Bolton. After all, this time last season Jack Wilshere was embarking on a similar loan and is now a starter for Arsenal and in the England squad. If Sturridge can get the goals to fire Bolton to 7th, Bolton may even have a shot at keeping him permanently.

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6. Ten games produced 43 goals this weekend. As ever, Blackpool played a big part in that and their 25 games this season have seen 87 goals at just three and half a game. I wouldn’t want Ian Holloway to change his approach at all, but for the sake of Blackpool having another season in the top flight, I’d love them to get a 0-0 away from home once in a while!

They'll need an updated version after this season.

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T.

Season Previews 2010/11 – Tottenham

11/08/2010

Tottenham

Last Season: 4th

New Signings: Sandro

Key Player: Luka Modric

One To Watch: Tom Huddlestone. Hard to miss him really.

Needs A Big Year: Peter Crouch

Would Quite Like: Some glory European nights and finally coming ahead of their bigger, better neighbours from N5. Perhaps a trophy too.

Harry counts the number of signings on one finger.

Prediction: 6th

Thoughts: After many years of trying and many years of spending, Spurs finally reached their holy grail and came 4th last season to have a shot at the Big Cup. Assuming they overcome Young Boys (responsible for one of the best ever headlines), Spurs will suddenly be welcoming the top sides to White Hart Lane every few weeks. I get the feeling may struggle to cope with demands of the Champions League and Premier League football.

Certainly their squad is big but I’m yet to be convinced that there is enough quality in it to do well in both. Surprisingly there’s been just the one signing so far, Sandro coming in to provide a much needed second defensive midfielder. It’s clear Redknapp is after a striker a who can play the lone front man role as none of his current ones can (save perhaps Pavlyuchenko).

The ability to adequately play 451 away from home (and in Europe) may go some way to improving their woeful record of no away wins against the top four in about fifteen years. Creatively they look fine with Modric, Kranjcar, Lennon Bale and Bentley all capable of laying chances on a plate. Defensive cover is probably an issue, certainly at right back at least. Corluka is a bit slow and none of the others are fully established. The last time all four central defenders were fit at the same time was quite a while ago too.

It’s clear Spurs are a good side but perhaps they peaked last season. I just don’t see how they’re going to as motivated this year for an away trip to someone like Blackburn when there’s a home tie against say Inter round the corner. They’ll still be challenging the top four again but I personally think they may find that both Man City and Liverpool come ahead of them this season. 6th spot in the league but the knockout stages of Europe.

T.

Road To Wembley – Semi Final – Tottenham vs Portsmouth

09/04/2010

When this whole road to Wembley idea started back in November it was meant to be fun, not a chore that has to be fulfilled every time another round occurs. Not for the first time I accidently missed a round due to genuinely not being interested in the FA Cup. I think it’s the fact that we’ve reached the semi final stage and I’m still only on my third team. It’s more fun when it’s someone new each time.

Anyway, enough of my moaning. Last time we were here, Portsmouth were about to face local rivals Southampton in the fifth round. In a one-sided contest the Saints were swept aside 4-1. That’s a little unfair I suppose as it was level for three quarters of the game but the superior fitness of Pompey must have told as three late goals from Dindane, Belhadj and O’Hara ensured there was no shock.

The quarter-final saw a home tie against Birmingham, who have had a great season under Alex McLeish. Once again, Portsmouth put aside their off-field and league worries and ran out quite comfortable 2-0 winners. A quick fire double from Frederic Piquionne saw off the Blues, who judging from the match report had a goal incorrectly disallowed. It’s unlikely Portsmouth will care really, given that victory gave them a bit more prize money and TV cash.

fa cup semi final

The big game! Or something...

The semi final draw produced an interesting proposition for Portsmouth – a meeting with ex manager Harry Redknapp, who was in charge when they won the whole thing just two seasons ago. Whatever your views on Redknapp’s responsibility for Portsmouth’s current plight (and I happen to think he should take a fair proportion of the blame) you can deny it was a great achievement in winning their first trophy in decades. He’s now trying to win Tottenham’s first proper trophy since 1991 (you can shove your Carling Cups where the sun doesn’t shine) and in doing so has plundered Portsmouth for about 43 of their players (ok, ok, just four).

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Form:

The less said about Portsmouth’s league form the better. They’ve had nine points deducted and will go down officially shortly. They drew their last game but haven’t scored in three games including a 2-0 defeat to Spurs. Tottenham had won four straight before losing 3-1 last week against Sunderland. Their next three league games are against the top three so they I imagine they’ll go all out for this.

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Team News:

Likely teams from the Guardian.

Basically Spurs have about seven central defenders out injured while Portsmouth have a bunch of players who will cost them appearance fees if they play again after the semi.

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Old Boys:

Concentrate. Jermain Defoe, Peter Crouch, Niko Kranjcar and Younes Kaboul were all at Pompey but now Spurs. Except Defoe who was at Spurs then Pompey then back to Spurs. Kevin-Prince Boateng used to be at Spurs but is now at Porstmouth, as is Ricardo Rocha who is really rubbish and Michael Brown who is really average. Jamie O’Hara is owned by Spurs but on loan at Portsmouth. Kyle Walker was on loan at Pompey but is now back at Spurs. Both O’Hara and Walker are cup-tied. Harry Redknapp was manager at Pompey and is now at Spurs and his assistant in both cases is Joe Jordan. Clear?

tottenham portsmouth

Just merge already.

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How Pompey Got Here:

2-1 v Coventry A after a 1-1 H draw

2-1 v Sunderland H

4-1 v Southampton A

2-0 v Birmingham H

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How Spurs Got Here:

Beat Peterborough 4-0 at home in the third round, Leeds 3-1 away in a fourth round replay after a 2-2 draw, Bolton 4-0 at home in a fifth round replay after a 1-1 draw, and Fulham 3-1 at home in a quarter final replay after a 0-0 draw at Craven Cottage. The semi can’t go to a replay as far as I’m aware so the job will need to be done first time round.

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Expert Predictions:

Lawro says:

Both teams come into this with injury worries – Tottenham defensively, in particular, and Portsmouth, well, everywhere you look in their squad. I know some people will have already written Portsmouth off, but the fact is this is their Cup final for so many reasons; they are relegated all but mathematically, every single one of their players is playing either for a move or for a new contract, and the financial reward for reaching a Cup final would be massive for the club.
Every single person connected with the club has a massive incentive in this match. And if I was [Portsmouth boss] Avram Grant, I’d be urging my players to make it extremely uncomfortable for Spurs. He’s not going to turn Portsmouth into an irresistible attacking force overnight so they have to grind the opposition down, flood the midfield and sneak a result. Saying that, I can’t really see past Tottenham winning. I definitely see it being tight, possibly going to extra-time, but Spurs will always cause you problems with their attacking players and that might just be enough to see them through this one.
Prediction: 1-0

John Barnes (not an expert): Home win
Tony Cascarino (not an expert): Home win
Graham Poll (not an expert): Home win
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Conclusion:

redknapp-fa-cup

Can he do it again?

Spurs are heavy favourites going into this tie and I’m sure Harry Redknapp would be delighted to get on over his old side. However logic hasn’t really applied to Portsmouth’s cup run so far and maybe, just maybe they can pull off another shock result. You can get 10/1 on Portsmouth winning which is a ridiculous price and worth a pound of anyone’s money. Tottenham have a few defensive problems and somehow I think they’ll just mess it up. Let’s go with 1-0 Portsmouth with a late second half goal. Either that or heavy Spurs win. You know, whatever…

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T.

Fantasy Premier League – Gameweek 33 Preview

02/04/2010

I get rid of Lampard. Drogba and Rooney don’t play. My nearest rival suddenly has 56 cheap points though auto-sub captain. Not impressed. I should know by now that Fat Frank always comes back to bite me. I’m not letting another title slip away due to not having him. Back in he comes.

As you can imagine last week was pretty horrific and basically Martin Olsson and Niko Kranjcar saved my lead being completely wiped out. It’s down to 47 points now and with a few big players getting injured it will be interesting who people choose to step up to the plate.

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Gameweek 32 Top Gun (aka Tom Cruise Approves):

Frank Lampard fantasy football

Maverick won't leave Fat Frank out again.

It was the Frank Lampard show last week as Aston Villa personally decided to gift him 28 points as he scored four goals, assisted another and thus got three bonus too. 28 points is ridiculous from one game and I think that may well be a new record. I don’t think Ronaldo ever got that high. Rooney of course got 32 in a gameweek earlier this season but that was of course over two games.

Malouda helped himself to 17 in the same match while Tevez scored a 12 minute hat-trick for a cheeky 16. Lampard has now beaten his overall score from last season by reaching 228 and there are still six games left. Might he challenge Ronaldo’s record of 280-odd points from a couple of seasons ago?

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Three Captain Choices:

1. Tevez/Man City – With the top two playing each other, Arsenal players being at the risk of rotation and Arteta being a doubt we have to look elsewhere for our captain choice. Tevez got three goals last week which was interesting as Adebayor played alongside him. Burnley away this week so more goals should be forthcoming.

2. Torres/Liverpool – Torres has six goals and nine bonus points in five games and while Birmingham away is a tough match, I feel if he plays he’s more than likely to score.

3. Arsenal players – A slight risk of the big guns being rested here given Arsenal play Barcelona on Tuesday. A big victory should be on the cards given it’s Wolves at home but it’s tricky deciding who will play. Bendtner could be rested so perhaps look at the remaining midfielders who are still fit.

Carlos Tevez Man City

Gets a Captain's tick.

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Three Suggested Transfers In:

1. Nasri/Arsenal – With both Fabregas and Arshavin out for the season (though it could only be three weeks with the latter) someone has to step up in the Arsenal midfield. With Fabregas having dominated league proceedings up until now, it’s quite hard to judge alternatives. Diaby is the highest available scorer but has been quiet for a few weeks now.

Denilson sits a bit too deep to regularly be on the assist sheet, leaving Samir Nasri as the most interesting alternative. He scored last week against Birmingham as well as having some fine performances when replacing Fabregas. He’s £7.9m and worth a speculative add.

2. Dunn/Blackburn – After being a week away from fitness for about two months, Dunn finally made his return four games ago. He’s been particularly impressive in the last two matches with three goals and six bonus points. Blackburn are safe and he’s still pretty cheap so could be good as a fourth/fifth midfielder for the rest of the season.

3. Torres/Liverpool – Your replacement for injured Rooney.

samir nasri arsenal

Might be worth a pick.

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Three To Avoid:

Easy ones this week.

1. Fabregas/Arsenal - Done for the season.

2. Rooney/Man Utd - Out for three weeks or so.

3. Aston Villa players – They fell away this time last season too. Deja vu?

fabregas fantasy football captain

Are you taking the mick?!

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T.

Fantasy Premier League – Gameweek 32 Preview

26/03/2010

At the risk of tempting fate, I think I may have wrapped up my private league last week. A massive 15 matches saw all sorts of opportunities for points and while the weekend fixtures weren’t too good, the midweek soon made up for it. 107 points in the end but more importantly another 18 points on my nearest rival.

I was particularly pleased with Arteta doing so well while Fat Frank Lampard signed off with a nice 18 points before I turf him back out for Fabregas. A 74 point lead with seven weeks left should be enough, considering everyone has the likes of Drogba and Rooney now leaving less differentials. Fingers crossed…

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Gameweek 31 Top Gun (aka Tom Cruise Approves):

mikel arteta everton

Maverick wonders how many points Arteta would have got were he fit in August.

For the second time in three weeks the Spaniard (though he’s now technically eligible to play for England) does the job, scoring a total of 22 points over two games. In a nice mirror image, both games saw a 2-0 Everton win with Arteta scoring and being man of the match.

Didier Drogba was all over Portsmouth and in two games scored three goals and assisted for a total of 20. After him were Carew, Lampard and Malouda with 19, 18 & 17. Credit to Lampard for getting the highest one game score of 16. Loads of other players in double figures for the week including four from Wolves!

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Three Captain Picks:

A little tricky this week with away games for the top three .

1. Torres/Liverpool - Sunderland ended their winless streak and have picked up recently but I don’t see anything but a home win here. Torres has been back amongst the goals since returning from injury and I fancy him to get at least a couple against Sunderland’s shaky back line.

2. Kranjcar/Spurs - Portsmouth got tanked 5-0 by Chelsea in midweek and with Spurs looking to gain as many points as possible before facing the top 3 in April, I suspect another thrashing might be on here. I would say go for Pavlyuchenko but he’s doubtful apparently so it will rest with creative midfielders and maybe Bale too. Bentley is too risky, while Modric is usually the passer to the assister so that leaves the other Croat Kranjcar as the choice.

3. Rooney/Man Utd - The safest bet of the big three teams though Chelsea at home to Villa could have a few goals in it. Rooney has a decent record against Bolton and will look to score, get the job done early and come off, saving himself for Bayern midweek.

fernando torres liverpool

Gets a Captain's tick.

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Three Suggested Transfers In:

Returning players are the theme this week.

1. Arteta/Everton – In case you haven’t got him already, last week should be the trigger to transfer Arteta into your team. He’s been fit for a couple of months now but has only started to make an impact in the last few weeks, with 45 points since week 29. With other player at his price level beginning to fade (see Milner, James and Valencia, Antonio) he should be a high scoring option for the last seven games. Three of those will be against bottom six sides.

2. Dempsey/Fulham - When he first got injured in January there were fears over his World Cup place but he recently made his return and should slot back into being a key attacking player for Fulham. With the Cottagers beginning to feel the effects of doing well in three competitions, some caution is advised but they have enough easier games to make this worthwhile. Only £6.6m again after a high of £7.1m.

3. Bent/Sunderland - More someone returning to goalscoring form rather than from injury. I got rid of him in week 29 and since then he scored 5 goals and six bonus points. I’d probably wait until after the Liverpool game this week but that said, Bent has no issues scoring against top sides. After this week he has a particularly nice run however of TOT, WHM, BUR & HUL.

mikel arteta everton

Might be worth a pick.

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Three To Avoid:

1. Birmingham defenders – However cheap they are, I don’t think it’s worth having three of them (inc. Hart) any more. Just one clean sheet in 11, you can get a similarly priced defender with more short-term upside from a different team. Keep Hart though, he’s solid.

2. Diaby/Arsenal – Cheap but can’t wait around for the three home games a season where he is a fantasy machine. Etherington is a better play right now at the same price.

3. Aston Villa players – Starting to tire due to Martin O’Neill’s preference for a small squad. They have a final double gameweek coming up in week 35 but are no longer a certainty fantasy wise.

scott dann birmingham city

Are you taking the mick?!

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T.

Season Previews 09/10 – Portsmouth

13/08/2009

portsmouth

Last Season: 14th.

Say hello to your new teammates: Frederic Piquionne, Steve Finnan, Aaron Mokoena, Antti Niemi.

Close the door on your way out: Glen Johnson, Peter Crouch, Djimi Traore, Sean Davis, Sol Campbell, Lauren, Noe Pamarot, Glen Little, Jerome Thomas.

Predicted star: Hard to pick one when there are hardly any left. A lot will depend on Niko Kranjcar who is the best player still at Fratton Park. He has already announced he will leave next summer but he’ll hopefully give Pompey fans one last season of creative play.

A golden goodbye?

A golden goodbye?

Needs a big year: David James will be very busy this season as a disintegrated Pompey side will no doubt struggle all season long. He showed signs of ageing last season and bear in mind he is 39 years old after all. If he has a good season however, he’ll go to the World Cup. The result of this is if he has a good season, he might just ensure Portsmouth don’t go down.

One to watch: Frederic Piquionne has been signed on loan from Lyon and scored twice on his pre-season debut against Rangers. He might be a good bet to score ten goals this season, which would go a long way to helping Portsmouth fight for survival.

What they want to happen: The takeover to go through, some players to come in rather than go out. Survival.

Nightmare scenario: The takeover doesn’t go through, Pompey go down, administration and the related consequences follow.

Plan A: Find sixteen players to play and form a bench. Try and use the duo of Belhadj and Kranjcar to create something down the left and use the pace and unknown quality of Piquionne to surprise a few people.

Plan B, just in case: Erm, rely on Kanu to produce a random bit of skill? He’s even older than James despite what his passport might say.

He gets stuck in his old age.

He gets stuck in his old age.

Predicted finish: 20th.

Why? I have nothing against Portsmouth and would sooner see many other clubs go down ahead of them but I just can’t see them staying up with the squad they currently have. Since last summer Peter Crouch, Jermaine Defoe, Sulley Muntari, Glen Johnson, Lassana Diarra and Pedro Mendes have all been sold, Sol Campbell released and Sylvain Distin likely to be on his way too before the window closes.

The reason for all this is that after spending big for several seasons and winning an FA Cup, the loans are now due and Pompey have no money with which to pay them with. No team could survive that level of talent leaving and they find themselves going into the new season with just 22 players, four of which are goalkeepers. The defence is old and slow and Steve Finnan will do nothing to improve it. There is some midfield quality in Diop and Hughes but neither of them are as good as Diarra. Kranjcar remains the player on whom they will completely rely on but he only played 21 league games last season having been seriously injured.

Piquionne.

Piquionne.

In terms of goals, Paul Hart will be relying on loanee Piquionne as you can’t rely on old man Kanu or Championship man Nugent. It’s an interesting signing but not one which will prevent the inevitable. As for Hart himself, you feel he’s only there as he’s cheap. It doesn’t really make sense that a man feted for his work with young players is at a club full of thirty somethings. The only hope for Portsmouth is that the takeover by al-Fahim goes through at some point before January, allowing for desperately needed reinforcements. Without this I think it will be an end to Pompey’s seven year stay in the Premier League.

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T.


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