Posts Tagged ‘kuyt’

The Six Pointer – Wounded Challenges, Slippery Slides & more…

07/03/2011

1. Liverpool convincingly dealt with Man Utd yesterday and Dirk Kuyt will never, ever score an easier hat-trick. It was very surprising to see Fergie start with Paul Scholes and Michael Carrick in central midfield – recent history has normally seen him go with three in the middle in big matches in an attempt to gain control and stop the opposition playing.

Neither Scholes nor Carrick are particularly energetic or mobile in the way Darren Fletcher is, but with the Scotsman left on the bench after his shift against Chelsea (he can only do one big game a week)  it meant United were unable to gain a foothold on the game.

As you can see in the Chalkboards below, between them they won only one tackle and the likes of Meireles would consistently run or pass around them.

Only one interception between them too.

The decision to give Carrick a new contract during the week was greeted with some derision but at the same time I don’t think Ferguson considers him a first choice player. He’s not bad against weaker sides and he has long been found out against the best – playing him yesterday was more out of necessity than want.

Still, with his continued mediocrity, Scholes’ potential retirement, Fletcher’s one game a week effectiveness and Hargreaves and Anderson’s consistent injury problems, Man Utd’s midfield will certainly need some work in the summer.

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2. Yesterday’s match could have easily seen two red cards, and probably should have. Carragher went in high on Nani and created quite the wound (see below) while Rafael was similarly lucky to stay on the pitch following his wild lunge on Lucas. There is something to be said for a referee to take into account the situation and the context, but really Phil Dowd made errors in giving both players just a yellow.

Red drawn, yellow given.

Interestingly, Rafael is developing quite a reputation as someone who may not have the temperament (or indeed the positional sense) to go with his natural talent.

A red card would have meant his third in under a year, while he was nowhere near where he should have been when Suarez tip-toed through the United defence for the opener.

Recently Ferguson has seemed to prefer someone more dependable in tough matches, with Rafael being omitted against Man City, Chelsea and Marseilles. It will intriguing to see when the Brazilian next plays again, I imagine he might find himself out of the team for a few weeks.

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3. In the context of yesterday’s result, it is difficult to say whether Arsenal’s draw against Sunderland is a point gained or more likely two points dropped.

Wenger’s team have struggled in recent seasons against Sunderland having won only one of the last six games, so it was always going to be tricky without out several players and against one of the best defences outside the top five.

Wenger had a similar problem to Fergie in that first choice midfielders weren’t available so he was forced to play Denilson and Diaby alongside Wilshere. They can usually get away with one of those in the team but having to play both meant it was one of those days where the team struggled to get going, Wilshere unable to do all the tempo setting himself.

The weight of the other two on his shoulders...

Sunderland were lucky to get away with Bramble clearly fouling Arshavin in the box and a goal incorrectly ruled out for offside but having said that they also had their moments and drew a couple of very smart stops out of Szczesny.

I would think that once Aaron Ramsey has a bit more fitness under his belt, he will swiftly move ahead of Denilson and Diaby in the pecking order. He might not have the same experience but he makes things happen, and in a game like Saturday’s and indeed for the run in, that could be priceless.

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4. Momentum at this stage of the season is key so it’s fascinating to see who is making a move at the bottom end of the table.

Just nine points separate ninth place Newcastle from bottom placed Wigan but realistically it’s looking like everyone from Blackburn downwards are the ones who should be worried.

Things are swiftly grouping together for a climatic last few games and as the old cliché goes, a couple of wins and “you’re right back in the mix” (© every pundit going).

I’m willing to condemn Wigan already to be honest, they’re tough to beat but they don’t win many either. As I’ve written here many times before, draws can be rather useless at times and a team like Blackpool who either win or lose has a far better shot and getting the points needed to stay up.

Almost good enough, but not quite.

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5. Of the teams not in that bottom group, Stoke are looking a little vulnerable. They’ve won just one of their last seven and still have to play four of the top five. They seem to have a slightly resigned air about them at the moment – certainly away from home where they’ve lost their last six (and not even scored in the last five).

The earlier point about momentum is key – they face Newcastle, Spurs and Chelsea next. Fail to win the first one and you could be looking at mid-April before they are favourites in a match, by which time they could be in a much more serious position.

I do think they should be ok, given the cushion they have, but it wouldn’t at all be surprising to see them need something against Wigan on the last day.

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6. Jermain Defoe has only just scored his first league goals in a year. If he fulfils Harry Redknapp’s wish and gets to ten by the end of the season, then it will go a long way to ensuring Spurs finish in the top four again. As it is, the lack of a striker in double figures for 2010/11 may be what costs them. Van der Vaart’s ten goals should complement not lead.

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T.

Weekly Photoshop – Stuart Attwell

05/10/2010

SUCCESS! Everyone’s favourite referee is this week’s theme. Stuart Attwell has been involved in more controversies than Nigel De Jong has made dirty tackles.

The most recent was getting a free kick being taken confused with a player passing back to a keeper allowing him to take it in the Sunderland Liverpool game a week or so ago.

Having seen him first hand make loads of poor decisions when watching Arsenal v Bolton earlier this season, I definitely think the guy is well out of his depth. Anyway, the entry below won 2nd place this week. Huzzah, it’s been a while!

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Though originally classified as a comedy, Attwell is now considered by some critics to be one of Shakespeare's problem referees...

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More here.

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T.

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Season Previews 2010/11 – Liverpool

11/08/2010

Liverpool

Last Season: 7th

New Signings: Cole, Shelvey, Jovanovic, Wilson

Key Player: Fernando Torres

One To Watch: Dani Pacheco

Needs A Big Year: Alberto Aquilani

Would Quite Like: A fully fit Fernando Torres firing them back into the Champions League. Alberto Aquilani to show he’s worth £20m.

Prediction: 5th

Thoughts: Last season was a dreadful one for Liverpool. Benitez seemed to have lost the dressing room, Torres again played only 20 games and off the field problems were mounting as it was clear that Hicks and Gillett had no money, which in turn meant Rafa had none either.

The summer has seen something of a shake-up take place with Roy Hodgson and his safe pair of hands takeover. He did brilliantly at Fulham and I fully expect him to reinvigorate Liverpool too. People seem to forget that their first XI is actually pretty damn good and were last season hampered by tactical tinkering and injury.

The new boys.

While Mascherano will probably be sold, his main appeal was the job he could do in Europe against the very best and that isn’t an issue this season. I don’t think he’ll be missed in games against Stoke, etc. It looks like Gerrard will drop back and Joe Cole will play behind Torres.

This could be quite successful, Gerrard wasn’t exactly a bad central midfielder while Cole gets to realise his long held ambition of playing as a No.10. Let’s see if he can do it. The wide players aren’t as creative as some but Kuyt and Jovanovic are consistent.

I think Liverpool’s defence is a good shout to be the tightest this season – solid across the back four and one of the world’s best keepers behind them. If Hodgson is known for one thing then it’s organisation where every player knows his role.

Left back is a slight concern but they’ll manage with Aurelio and Insua if he stays. Fulham players moaned about repetitive training but appreciated that it got them results as they were so hard to break down. I predict the same with Liverpool this year given they have better players.

True, they are a Torres injury away from struggling in front of goal but with Hodgson sides, one goal is often enough. It won’t be boring but it won’t be super exciting either, somewhere in the middle instead. This effectiveness should see something of a renaissance and 5th place.

T.

World Cup Bet Of The Day – Day 22

02/07/2010

Running Total: -3.8 units

Hmm it seems any bet I suggest on here is bound to lose. Spain had to wait until the second half before taking the lead against Portugal, therefore scuppering day 19′s tip.

Today we have Holland v Brazil and Ghana v Uruguay. The former should be a good match but I’ve lost count of how many times that’s been predicted. I don’t think Holland should be as high as 7/2 to win that match but Brazil have looked very good so far.

Ghana have done brilliantly so far but in the interests of my Suarez top goalscorer bet I’ll be hoping for a Uruguay win. Let’s go with him to score anytime.

Bet of the day:

Luis Suarez to score anytime vs Ghana @ 2/1.

T.

Fantasy Premier League – Gameweek 28 Preview

26/02/2010

Going into Tuesday night I was rather concerned. Captain Rooney had done nothing against Everton and it seemed like I was due for my usual poor week after a good week. I needn’t have worried in the end. A Rooney double from two Valencia assists and five bonus points between them meant my score jumped to 81 for the week. Not great, but not too bad all things considered.

The Carling Cup final this week means Aston Villa and Man Utd don’t play and neither do Hull or West Ham. I imagine lots of people have brought in the likes of Milner and Agbonlahor after their week 27 exploits but that’s a little silly as they’re going to miss next week too. I can just about put a full team out this week but that depends on one or two injury concerns.

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Gameweek 27 Top Gun (aka Tom Cruise Approves):

Antonio Valencia Man Utd

Maverick approves of Valencia's second Top Gun.

Antonio Valencia justified the four point hit I took to bring him in with 16 points with three assists and a couple of bonus points too. I imagine he’ll be back ahead of Nani now in the terms of the starting XI. There were some big scores right behind him with Givet, Rooney and Downing all getting 15 points. Nine other players got into double figures.

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Three Captain Choices:

A little trickier this week with no Man Utd, a tough away match for Arsenal and a testing home game for Chelsea.

1. Drogba/Chelsea – Man City are a decent side but rubbish away from home. It will be interesting to see how Mancini lines them up after they lost at Stoke in midweek. Drogba might not have got the better of Lucio on Wednesday but a Premier League defence shouldn’t pose too many problems. Certainly not one with Lescott and Toure in the middle anyway.

2. Kuyt/Liverpool - Not someone I’m particularly keen on but there really are few obvious captain choices this week. Liverpool have improved in recent weeks and should beat Blackburn at Anfield. Torres is still out injured (though may be a sub) so Kuyt is probably the biggest goal threat.

3. Bent/Sunderland – Surely they have to win sometime right? 13 games is the longest winless streak this season but Fulham at home is a fair opponent if you’re trying to break that run. Risky, if nothing else…

Didier Drogba Chelsea

Gets a Captain's tick.

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Three Potential Transfers In:

1. Hilario/Chelsea – With Cech out for a few weeks this could be a sneaky way to get some cheap clean sheets. Chelsea admittedly don’t play next week but their games after that are relatively straightforward. A little pricey at £4.9m but cheap for a Chelsea defender.

2. Bale/Spurs – I never thought I’d be recommending him here but to his credit he’s finally over his jinx of not being on a winning Spurs team. Tottenham are pretty tight at the back right now and Bale has been getting bonus points galore in the last five matches (10). He doesn’t really assist (first one last week) but could be a good differential in a mini league.

3. Kalinic/Blackburn – It seems many people who have had Darren Bent since the start of the season are finally looking to get rid of him. With Sunderland playing terribly and his value dropping, the need arises for a cheap third striker. Kalinic has quietly been playing pretty well with a couple of goals recently and some bonus points too. He won’t score many more this season but might be worth keeping an eye on.

hilario

Might be worth a pick.

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Three To Avoid:

1. Crouch/Spurs – Despite featuring in every Spurs match this season, has only five goals and just one since Christmas. Pavlyuchenko’s recent form might push him out of the side.

2. Adebayor/Man City – A three match ban means he’s out till gameweek 32.

3. Cech/Chelsea – Out for a month.

peter crouch spurs

Are you taking the mick?!

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T.

Fantasy Premier League – Gameweek 24 Preview

30/01/2010

After the highs of a 145 point week 22 came a somewhat disappointing gameweek 23, where I scored a bang on average 37. Whilst I had a full team playing, there were no Chelsea players in my side and none of my six attackers got more than four points. It was my fourth worst performance of the season, judging by how many people scored more (1,033,779 no less).

Anyway, there’s still a lead in my private league so I won’t dwell too much. A couple of blocking transfers and things should be tasty this week. Four teams play twice, most significantly Chelsea so it’s probably time I overcame my yearly aversion to having Fat Frank Lampard in my team.

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Gameweek 23 Top Gun (aka Tom Cruise Approves):

Frank Lampard fantasy football

Maverick's thinks he overpriced but begrudgingly gives Fat Frank thumbs up.

Frank Lampard has found some form whilst Didier Drogba and scored two goals for the second week running. This time he added an extra bonus point and clean sheet for a total of 16 points. That’s 30 in two weeks but lets see how he gets on once Drogba returns to the team against Hull in midweek.

Elsewhere it was all about the midfielders last week with Cahill getting 14, Malouda and Gamst Pedersen scoring 13, and Lee of Bolton getting 10.

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Three Captain Choices:

1. Lampard/Chelsea - Four goals in two games and plays twice this gameweek against Burnley and Hull. Can’t say fairer than that. Drogba’s return against Hull might impact returns from the second game but overall you’ll be hard pushed to find a better captain option this week. Anelka’s a slightly riskier option.

2. Tevez/Man City – After three straight man of the match awards, the little man only scored 2 points against Everton in gameweek 23. A midweek Carling Cup goal suggests he’s still in form and a home game against Portsmouth should see a good return.

3. A Fulham defender – Home games against Villa and Portsmouth. They’ve struggled a little with the injuries they’ve suffered but are still a formidable outfit at Craven Cottage. Hangeland is the obvious choice but Baird or new Man Utd signing Smalling are cheaper alternatives.

Frank Lampard Chelsea

Gets a Captain's tick.

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Three Suggested Transfers In:

1. Wigan and Fulham players – Both sides have four home games in the next five. Players like Rodallega, N’Zogbia, Zamora and Duff should be on your radar.

2. Campbell/Arsenal - If his two recent games are anything to go by then he’s in pretty good shape. Vermaelen hasn’t got a broken leg after all but you’re never far from an injured defender at Arsenal so he’s one to keep in mind.

3. Wilshere/Bolton – The precocious Arsenal teenager has joined Bolton on loan till the end of the season. He hasn’t quite made the appearances expected this season but the loan should provide him with a ‘finishing school’ as Wenger put it. Only £4.3m, he could be a good 5th midfielder.

Bobby Zamora Fulham

Might be worth a pick.

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Three To Avoid:

1. Kuyt/Liverpool – My latest vendetta. Avoided him all last season when he was on fire and he’s become one of those players I just don’t really like from a fantasy perspective. I needlessly brought him in last week and he’s gone straight back out. At the end of the day, even though he’s playing up front right now you just can’t trust Liverpool.

2. Everton players – After this week face Liverpool (A), Chelsea (H), Man Utd (H) and then Spurs (A). Ouch.

3. Bent/Sunderland – He’s still great value but I worry how long he can do it on his own for Sunderland. After a promising start they’ve been in wretched form for about ten games now. Might be time to cash in?

Drik Kuyt

Are you taking the mick?!

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T.

The Six Pointer – Temper temper, goalscoring riches & more…

20/10/2009

That was the weekend that was…

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1. Liverpool were beaten for the third straight week and it’s starting to get a bit boring with how often we have to mention how thin their squad is. Of course any team would miss their two best players, not least when those players are Gerrard and Torres, but of all the big four sides they are least equipped to cope.

Dirk Kuyt toiled on his own up front and reminded us all why he has been playing on the right wing instead for the past 18 months. Meanwhile in the middle Jay Spearing was given his Premier League debut and looked a bit lost by all accounts.

Hilariously the jokers at the Liverpool official website gave him man of the match honours which must have been news to everyone else watching the game. Cana and Cattermole once again dominated for Sunderland and just taking a random cross section of national newspapers, Spearing was not even the best Liverpool midfielder, let alone the best player on the pitch.

The white one Jose, save the white one...

The white one Jose, save the white one...

As for the beach ball goal, it shouldn’t really have stood but these things happen. Sunderland fully deserved the victory. Ironically enough it was a Liverpool fan who threw the thing on the pitch in the first place! The title challenge is over, even if they beat Man Utd next week. There is just nothing to fear with this Liverpool team and I can see them losing several more times before the season is over.

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2. Jermaine Defoe needs to keep one eye on his temperament. You can’t be taking players to the World Cup who are liable to get themselves needlessly sent off. Fall out of favour now and it’s going to be very hard to get back in, what with so few friendlies left.

Defoe’s red card also provides a good opportunity for Peter Crouch to cement his claim for a spot in the Spurs starting line up as well as the England squad as Plan B/C. Fortunately for Defoe it won’t be at his expense. For now.

Dum dum Defoe.

Dum dum Defoe.

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3. Since James Collins was sold to Villa, West Ham have failed to keep a clean sheet. That does over emphasise his importance somewhat but when you look at Villa’s form since he joined, it does illustrates that he is a good player.

I had big concerns over Villa’s ability to replace Martin Laursen this season but to be fair to Martin O’Neill he seems to have pulled it off, mainly by signing two players in Dunne and Collins. They exposed Chelsea’s (well, Carvalho’s) set piece deficiency at the weekend and have formed a promising partnership at the back.

Back at Upton Park, Upson has been left to do it on his own (Tomkins is not the finished article yet) and the lack of defensive options has been a big reason why the Hammers have struggled so far this year.

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4. Man Utd were controlled enough against Bolton and are back top. Away games against Liverpool and Chelsea are coming up in the next three matches and we should have a clearer idea of just how good they are this season after that.

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5. David Dunn now had four league goals this season, level with Fabregas for most from midfield. Easily Blackburn’s best player, how their season evolves will depend on him.

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6. Arsenal made heavy weather of Birmingham before eventually completing the job late on. After going 2-0 up they switched to cruise control and started treating it almost like a training match. When Bowyer got one back after the traditional Arsenal goalkeeper fail under a high ball, you could see the nervousness that was so prevalent last year creeping in again.

This was after a spectacularly mis-timed jump.

This was after a spectacularly mis-timed jump. Almunia has taught him well.

Fortunately class eventually told and Arshavin slotted home a nice goal to wrap up the points. Even though I’m not totally convinced by the defence, Arsenal currently have so many goal scoring options in the side that they could well last the distance. In eight games, 27 goals have been scored from 12 different players.

The number of injuries suffered at the Emirates means there’ll never be a situation where everyone is available at any once but as long as four of Fabregas, Arshavin, Van Persie, Bendtner, Eduardo, Rosicky, Nasri, Walcott and Vela are fit at any given time then a sustained challenge may yet be forthcoming.

Simples. Eventually.

Simples. Eventually.

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T.

Season Previews 09/10 – Liverpool

13/08/2009

liverpool

Last Season: 2nd

Say hello to your new teammates: Alberto Aquilani, Glen Johnson, Chris Mavinga.

Close the door on your way out: Xabi Alonso, Alvaro Arbeloa, Sebastian Leto, Jermaine Pennant, Sami Hyppia, Jack Hobbs.

Predicted star: Fernando Torres. Lethal when fit, Liverpool will hope that he plays more than 24 games this time round. If he manages 30 games he should be top scorer, given his record of 0.67 goals per game in his Premier League career so far.

Needs a big year: Alberto Aquilani. I mean this in the sense that Xabi Alonso’s boots are hard to fill, especially considering how he played last season. He’s out for 4-8 weeks so will need to hit the ground running once he gets fit. Glen Johnson will also need to justify a £17m price tag.

The number of weeks before he plays.

The number of weeks before he plays.

One to watch: Emiliano Insua. I was impressed by him the few times I saw him play in the latter stages of the season and given that Aurelio is out until mid September he has a great chance to establish himself early on. Rafa surely won’t play Dossena ahead of him? Right?

What they want to happen: A first league title in 20 years and with it sole ownership of the overall record.

Nightmare scenario: Man Utd win number 19.

Plan A: Solid organisation in the back four with two deep lying midfielders ahead of them. Kuyt and usually Benayoun working hard down the wings and Stevie G playing just off Torres. More expansive play down the flanks is planned with the signing of an attacking full back like Johnson.

Plan B, just in case: Let Gerrard shoot from distance late in games and make Andy Gray squeal in delight.

Predicted finish: 4th.

Why? But for seven disappointing home draws last season, Liverpool would have won the title at a canter. Rafa Benitez had finally found a formation that worked and with it stopped the tinkering. Gerrard found in his best position and essentially plays as a second striker these days. Most of all Xabi Alonso resisted Liverpool’s attempts to sell him and had his best season in five years at Anfield.

The defence first policy was also somewhat abandoned and Liverpool were the top scorers with 77 (two per game). The thing is though I can’t see Liverpool repeating the heights of last season. Alonso is a big, big loss and I don’t think Aquilani will offer the same kind of skills (though he be a good player for them). Luckily Liverpool’s start is very easy so it will cover his injury and the need to play someone like Lucas to begin with. As ever, a lot will depend of the fitness of Gerrard and Torres. They both seem susceptible to several niggly injuries a season rather than one big one. Three of four periods of missing a few weeks soon adds up though and it was telling that they only played something like 14 games together.

The wait goes on.

The wait goes on.

Though the first team is very strong, the squad is still quite average I would say and many of the replacements are nowhere near the level required. If you look at some of the other players who have left (Hyppia, Pennant, Arbeloa) you can see that they’re not great but whoever stands to replace them are only going to be at the same level, not an improvement.

Up front especially you just have Torres, two potentially good youngsters in Nemeth and N’Gog and nothing else. A new striker (to replace Keane no less) is definitely a priority. Liverpool will be up there and even though I have them 4th, they will be within 10 points of the title. Glen Johnson will help turn some of those home draws into wins but I think once again, the wait for number 19 will continue.

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T.

Fantasy Premier League Preview 09/10 – Midfielders

30/07/2009

It’s time to preview the midfielders in Fantasy Premier League. This will basically be the area where your leagues are won and lost, as most of the big hitters are here and your captain choices will often come from this group. The big change this season of course is the absence of a certain Portuguese winger. No, not Boa Morte or Nani (though the former is injured till Christmas) but Cristiano Ronaldo who has been the backbone of the majority of teams over the last three seasons. His goalscoring feats were a bit ridiculous, not least in 2007/08 when you had the fear every week if you were foolish enough not to pick him as captain. He’d usually make you pay with twelve to sixteen points which were then doubled as captain. Good times.

Someone else will have to be captain now.

Someone else will have to be captain now.

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On a side note the Football Guy and I were debating recently about whether Thierry Henry would have got more points fantasy wise when at his peak for Arsenal. I think we reached the conclusion that C-Ron would have beaten him just due to his goals being worth more as a midfielder. Ronaldo got 283 points in 07/08 if I recall – 31 goals, a bunch of assists and somewhere in the region of 40 bonus. In his best overall season in 2002/03 (he scored more the following year but assisted less) Henry scored 24 goals (=96pts), assisted 23 (69pts), played 37 (74pts) and probably would have a bonus figure in the thirties. This would leave him at around 270. Pretty impressive all told but we can only speculate at FPL didn’t exist then. Anyway, I digress somewhat, we’re trying to find the new Ronaldo after all.

A booking for taking his shirt off. That's minus one point.

A booking for taking his shirt off. That's minus one point.

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Expensive (£9m-£12.5m)

The three most expensive midfielders this season are Gerrard, Lampard (both £12.5m) and Arshavin (£11m). I would advise to get at least two of those three in your team. They’re all dead certs for more than 200 points and will be the main creative outlets at their respective clubs. It looks like Lampard will play in an advanced role behind the front two at Chelsea so I reckon he could push to 15 league goals as well as his usual ten assists. Gerrard is Gerrard, double figures in goals and thirty five bonus points every year. He only played 30 games last season so with a fill campaign could possibly reach around 240 points.

I’m put off Fabregas a little bit after his truncated season last year but at £10.5m he should bounce back nicely. It will be interesting to see how the assists are shared between him and Arshavin but I expect Cesc to still get around 180 points if not more. If nothing else, the man is a bonus point machine. Arsenal’s start is quite tough so perhaps look elsewhere initially and bring one of those two in after a few weeks.

A big season coming up.

A big season coming up.

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I do wonder if Dirk Kuyt can repeat his career year of 08/09 this time round. Only Carragher played more outfield minutes for Liverpool last season and the Dutchman weighed in with twelve goals and lots of clean sheet points in his new classification of midfielder. He will play a big part in Liverpool’s title bid but the signing of Glen Johnson is designed to provide width going forward which may impact on his assist total.

I don’t understand why Joe Cole is at £9m. Yes he’s good when he plays but that’s the problem, he never does. He does seem to bounce back in alternate years so he’s due a good season but he also has competition from Zhirkov and Malouda. Steer clear I’d say. Stephen Ireland at £9m is another debatable choice. Man City’s best player last season with nine goals, ten assists and 16 bonus, he faces a tougher time this season with all the players they have bought. By that I mean that whilst City will be better, they won’t be relying on him as much hence the goals and assists are likely to be more spread out with Barry, Tevez and Adebayor all after a share of the spoils.

If only they gave points for being injured...

If only they gave points for being injured...

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Mid-range (£6m-£8.5m)

One or two of these guys to supplement the big hitters, and you’re looking at a very nice midfield. The choice is very wide here with lots of players who have the potential to hit 180+ is they have a good year. First and foremost I’d be looking at Ashley Young at £8.5m. It’s weird to think I was disappointed with his 153 points last year but expectations were high after a stellar 07/08. He is the hub of all creativity at Villa and arguably the best crosser in the Premier League. I expect closer to the 17 assists he two seasons ago and perhaps finally double figures in goals too. Next up you’ve got the two Everton guys, Cahill and Arteta. You have a choice here between goals or assists but both will score well and represent good value at £8.5m.

The main man at Villa.

The main man at Villa.

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I don’t expect too much from Valencia (£8.5m) but then none of United’s midfielders look particularly appealing this season. There’s a bunch of players at £7.5-8m whose price is based on reputation and they aren’t worth getting. In this I include Ballack, Deco (both past it), Kalou, Walcott, Wright Phillips, Elano (not consistent/guaranteed starters), Nasri and Downing (both injured). Barry will be good at Man City and may well take the occasional penalty while I think Modric may have a big season at Spurs. Certainly a better one than Lennon.

Essien is the only defensive midfielder worth having in my opinion due to his bonus point skills but it takes a rich man to spend £7.5m on him. Of the £7m men I think Rosicky could be an interesting gamble if he stays fit (big if) while Fellaini seemed to cut the yellows towards the end of the season whilst scoring an excellent eight goals. Matt Taylor at Bolton loves to score and will assist plenty too and I shall be keeping an eye on Kranjcar as he’s now the one good player at Pompey. Bentley, Riera, Babel, Nani? Meh. Milner is becoming a big player for Villa and is a good secondary option to Young while Petrov will create, but sadly just won’t play much in the new look City side.

Faces a lone battle to keep Hull up.

Faces a lone battle to keep Hull up.

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At £6.5m I’d go for Murphy or Dempsey, both consistent Fulham midfielders who will assist and score respectively. Gamst Pederson has been getting worse each year but I don’t see where else Blackburn’s creativity will come from. Oh wait Fat Sam is in charge so it doesn’t apply. Geovanni is the only player of interest to me at £6m. Oh and maybe Richardson or Malbranque at Sunderland.

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Cheap (£4.5m-£5.5m)

This is an area where you forget about players you know and start working out who got most assists for the likes of Wolves and Burnley last year. Stoke midfielders are still pretty cheap. Delap and his power throw can still be had for £5.5m. A few West Ham players at that price too but I’ll be honest and say I wouldn’t know who to pick. N’Zogbia should get forward for Wigan while Kightly was Wolves’ provider last year in the Championship and could make the step up. Belhadj is now a midfielder at £5m – he did well for Pompey last season.

Likes assists. Apparently.

Likes assists. Apparently.

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Seb Larsson was a bit of a legend two seasons ago and is still just as cheap at £5m. Moving down to £4.5m you want to find someone who plays every week first and foremost. McSheffrey, Gudjonsson, Muamba, Etuhu and McCann aren’t going to get you much each week, but as they’re relevant only a few times a season it shouldn’t matter.

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T.

End of Season Reviews – Liverpool, Man City, Man Utd, Middlesbrough

09/06/2009

Liverpool

liverpool
Where they finished: 2nd

Season in five words: Home draws cost the title

Successful season? Yes, for the first time a serious title challenge to Man Utd was mounted. Consistent, difficult to beat and in Torres and Gerrard, a lethal front two. Ultimately there were too many draws against lower opposition and considering Liverpool did the double over United, they will be disappointed to have finished behind them.

Defining moment: Rafa’s rant perhaps? Whether or not he was right is besides the issue. The draws and poor form that followed are what cost Liverpool the league. I don’t think it was a coincidence.

Player of the year: Steven Gerrard is the obvious choice but credit must be given to Xabi Alonso too. Dirk Kuyt has suddenly turned into a key player with his best season since joining.

Goal of the season: Torres vs Blackburn.

Flop of the season: Dossena was another addition to the long list of left backs who have flopped at Anfield. A bit fat and a bit slow. He did score great goals against Man Utd and Real Madrid though. Ryan Babel hasn’t lived up to expectation, or even come close to doing so.

Highlight: The destruction of Real Madrid was impressive (if not surprising) and having a real go at Chelsea in the Champions quarter final second leg was entertaining (if ultimately doomed). They ended Chelsea’s long unbeaten home league record too. There can only be one choice though and that’s the 4-1 spanking of Man Utd at Old Trafford.

Summer homework: Keep Gerrard but specifically Torres fit and playing together. Don’t sell Alonso, buy a striker, a left winger and possibly a left back too.

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Man City

man-city
Where they finished: 10th

Season in five words: Big spending but poor results.

Successful season? Not really. Expectation was high after a summer takeover and there was enough time to splash a British record fee on Robinho from Real Madrid. Mark Hughes’ side were pretty poor however and for much of the season were towards the bottom of the table. Though recovery was made, via more big money January signings, City won’t be playing European football next year. Domestic cup exits were made to lower league opposition and most of the season was a case of win at home, lose away.

Defining moment: Towards the midnight deadline for summer signings, City announce the signing of Robinho for £32.5million. Having been rejected by Berbatov, with his signing the Abu Dhabi owners announced they meant business. The flip side of this was paying £17million for Nigel De Jong in January when he could have been bought for £2million this summer.

Player of the year: Stephen Ireland. The shaven headed maestro was one of the few highlights of a Jekyll and Hyde season at Eastlands. Robinho has shown enough in his debut season (at home at least) to suggest he could get 20 goals next year.

Goal of the season: Robinho’s lob vs Arsenal.

Flop of the season: Dunne and Richards. The former looked slow and prone to mistakes while the latter seems to care more about his physique (ironic given his fat arse) than his positional sense. Oh and Robinho away from home.

Highlight: A 3-0 win over Arsenal was quite impressive in November, as was an early 6-0 battering of Pompey.

Summer homework: Sign a good strike partner for Robinho, get Petrov, Dunne and Richards playing like they did in 2007/08, buy a left back better than Wayne Bridge. Quality not quantity (see strikers).

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Man Utd

man-utd

Where they finished: 1st, Champions League finalists and Carling Cup Winners.

Season in five words: Liverpool equalled, outclassed by Barcelona.

Successful season? Yes. Their record equalling 18th league title was won unconvincingly but at the same time without too much trouble. Liverpool tried hard but didn’t have the experience of closing it out. A record run of clean sheets built up enough of an advantage to concentrate on Europe. Though they reached the final again, Barcelona taught them a footballing lesson in Rome. They won the Carling Cup too.

Defining moment: Macheda against Aston Villa perhaps? The day before Liverpool had grabbed a vital last minute win over Fulham to go top so momentum was with them. United played poorly and were losing 2-1 before staging a comeback in the last 10 minutes. In the last minute 17 year old debutant Federico Macheda, controlled, turned and hit a great winner past Brad Friedel. Momentum restored to United, league title heads to Old Trafford.

Player of the year: Nemanja Vidic was great until the spring and undoubtedly lay the foundations for the record breaking defence. He got found out by some nimble strikers towards the end but overall was excellent. Wayne Rooney had a great season, and Fletcher has pretty much established himself as first choice central midfielder.

Goal of the season: Cristiano Ronaldo’s 40 yard toe punt against Porto.

Flop of the season: Flops in a title winning side? No one really. Berbatov gets another season to prove that he can fit into Utd’s style of play. He hasn’t flopped but he hasn’t impressed that much. Nani is beginning to look like a lost cause though. Van der Sar will be doing well to still be first choice come 2010.

Highlight: Equalling Liverpool’s title record is an overall highlight. Outclassing Arsenal at the Emirates in Europe and Macheda’s goal against Villa were particular highlights.

Summer homework: Make a decision on Carlos Tevez and sign a pacey replacement if he goes. Get Hargreaves fit and playing in the big games.

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Middlesbrough

middlesbrough

Where they finished: 19th

Season in five words: Lack of goals means relegation.

Successful season? No. Despite all the mocking of Schteve McLaren, he usually had Boro pushing the top half and in a cup final or two. Gareth Southgate has taken them further down the table with each passing season. Boro’s problem was selling their best players and not replacing them, and not having anyone capable of scoring on a consistent basis. England’s best left winger™Stewart Downing had a miserable season scoring zero goals, while the less said about Alves and Aliadiere the better.

Defining moment: Losing Mark Schwarzer to Fulham last summer. A big reason why Fulham went from 17th to 7th this year while Boro went down.

Player of the year: Erm, Tuncay was the one highlight suppose. He reminded me of Juninho a few years back where he was the only one trying to keep them up but no one else was good enough/cared enough to help.

Goal of the season: Not hard to choose given there have been so few. Tuncay’s bicycle kick late in the season against Villa wins it.

Flop of the season: When you pay £12 million for someone you exect more than six league goals in return this season. Southgate will be judged by his transfer deals and Alves will go down as one of his biggest errors. Playing Brad Jones over Ross Turnbull in key end of season games was a stupid idea too. Jones is incredibly useless. Terrible hair too.

Highlight: A 2-0 win over Liverpool of all people in February.

Summer homework: Get rid of players who don’t want to be there, sign someone who can score goals in the Championship. Try and get £15 million for Downing from Spurs even though he’s injured.

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T.


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