Posts Tagged ‘rafael’

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.

Season Previews 2010/11 – Manchester United

12/08/2010

Man Utd

Last Season: 2nd + Carling Cup Winners

New Signings: Smalling, Hernandez, Bébé

Key Player: Wayne Rooney

One To Watch: Javier Hernandez

Needs  A Big Year: Rio Ferdinand

Would Quite Like: To keep City in their place while winning title 19 to overtake Liverpool’s record. Two birds, one stone.

Prediction: 1st

Thoughts: Alex Ferguson came mighty close to another league title last season but ultimately fell a point short of Chelsea, which was impressive given they’d lost both league matches against the Blues. Wayne Rooney carried them with his best ever season but the injury he suffered in March meant the Red Devils stuttered to the line somewhat and were pipped at the post.

Not too much has changed at Old Trafford with just three players joining in the shape of Chris Smalling (who was bought in January), Javier Hernandez and unknown striker Bébé for whom Ferguson has paid £7m or so on the back of a Carlos Queiroz recommendation. This last signing is really out of the blue, and considering how Nani and Anderson have turned out, it might be another case of overpaying.

In terms of the other two, Smalling is clearly being groomed as an eventual successor to Rio Ferdinand, though he wasn’t impressive when he played for Fulham last season. Hernandez or ‘Chicarito’ as he likes to be known is the interesting one. He looked very lively in the World Cup and has had a good pre-season. Double figures in goals could well be possible in his first season.

Bebe Man Utd

The last two Queiroz recommendations (Anderson and Nani) haven't exactly been rip roaring successes.

Elsewhere, there appears to be another crop of good youngsters pushing through, which is probably why Fergie hasn’t spent too much this summer. The likes of Tom Cleverley have been impressive in pre-season and should feature regularly as the season progresses.

The defence is solid if a little injury prone with van der Sar, Rio and Vidic all susceptible to niggles. Evans is a capable deputy at centre back however. Evra was one of the team’s best players last season but a question does remain over right back, where you have the same scenario as last season with O’Shea, Neville and Rafael battling it out.

It might be this for England.

Further forward, there are a huge range of options in midfield and attack. Fergie hasn’t named the same side in well over a 100 games and the likes of Valencia, Anderson, Nani, Park, Berbatov, Owen, Carrick, Scholes and Giggs all provide different options at different times.

Nani especially looked to finally be living up to some of his potential last season and Fergie will hope that he can be consistent over a whole season.

But it's more like this for Man Utd.

Really though it all depends on Rooney. The team is built around him now and he responded with his best ever season last year. After a dreadful World Cup (due to lack of fitness more than anything) he will want to bounce back – he looked half decent in the Charity Shield before being a bit rubbish in the Hungary friendly but I suspect the home comforts of Manchester will see another good season.

As ever, United have a pretty good team and if you come above them, you stand a very good chance of winning the title. I do feel Chelsea won’t be quite as good while Arsenal are still a decent keeper away from being true contenders. Ferguson has seen it all before and still has the same determination to win as he did twenty years ago. I think they’ll come top

T.

Fantasy Premier League – Gameweek 21 Preview

08/01/2010

So, a busy Christmas schedule has finally passed and we once again get a little more time to think about transfers and the like rather than having a deadline what seems like every other day. Gameweek 19 was my best of the season in both points scored (83) and weekly placing (14,432). Rooney and Fabregas had particularly big weeks while Birmingham defenders once again topped things up. It allowed me to take over the lead in our mini league too, for the first time this season I think.

I thought I was all set going into week 20, with five players (not counting an injured Fabregas) playing twice and Arshavin as captain for two quite easy games. It all went a bit belly up. Sorensen conceded and got himself injured in his first match, Cahill lost against Hull while Arshavin and Diaby did nothing against Portsmouth. No trouble I thought, Arshavin will hopefully do something, anything against Bolton and perhaps Diaby will help too. One postponed match later my captain has four points and the five between them have just 17 (eight of those by Faye). Not impressed. Thankfully Rooney had played well again and Bent scored too giving me a respectable score of 58.

With the African Cup of Nations putting paid to Drogba and the like, and severe weather still being a threat, careful decisions will be needed for gameweek 21.

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Gameweek 19 Top Gun (aka Tom Cruise Approves):

Wayne Rooney top gun

Maverick keeps approving, Rooney keeps scoring.

I had Rooney as my captain and he scored, assisted twice and got three bonus (yet again) for 15 points – his second highest score of the season. He really has been Man Utd’s key player this season and jointly leads the bonus point total with 26 so far. Closely behind that week (and level for season bonus) was Arsenal’s Fabregas. I was at the game against Aston Villa and was resigned to no points when he was named on the bench. He came on in the second half however and scored two quickfire goals, grabbed the three bonus and then went off injured. Quite the 27 minute impact. Credit to Hart and Jiminez with 11 each.

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Gameweek 20 Top Gun (aka Tom Cruise Approves):

Antonio Valencia Man Utd

Maverick approves of Valencia's steady point scoring this year.

Last week saw Antonio Valencia confirm his position as Man Utd’s top midfielder this season (and indeed top six overall) with a 17 point haul against his old club Wigan. He scored, assisted twice, got three bonus and kept a clean sheet for good measure. He now has 92 points and is quite cheap at £8.2m having seen his value dip. Closely behind him with 16 was team-mate Rafael, while Steven Hunt got 15. There were five other double figure scores floating around too.

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Gameweek 21 Picks:

Some tricky decisions this week as the weather may still play a part and there aren’t too many one sided looking fixtures.

Three Captain Choices:

1. Tevez/Man City – We suggested him last time (week 19) and he got nine points followed by another 12 last week. With Adebayor in Angola, Bellamy on the bench and Robinho out of form, the little Argentinian is leading the line under new boss Mancini. He has seven goals in his last six games and while that run is bound to stop, his all round play is always a good shout for assists and bonus. Blackburn at home is a fairly straightforward match so back him to deliver once again.

2. Dempsey/Fulham – Dempsey is a player I had for most of last year and is on my radar this season (have always had a more important transfer to do). He’s been in good form and is the 4th top midfielder with 96 points. Always a threat for a clean sheet and/or goal, he plays Portsmouth at home this weekend. With Zamora injured he’ll get pushed up front with Johnson which = more potential points.

*UPDATE* Fulham’s game has been called off due to bad weather. Maybe an Arsenal player as an alternative – Arshavin perhaps.

3. Lampard/Chelsea – With Drogba off in the African Cup of Nations, Lampard should get some more opportunity to be the focus of the team once more. In my book he’s underperformed this season but with a game against Hull he could be in line for big score.

Carlos Tevez Man City

Gets a Captain's tick.

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Three Suggested Transfers In:

Some potential replacements for your players who have gone to Africa.

1. Sturridge/Chelsea - I like this option as a low risk third striker option while spending the Drogba money on a midfield upgrade. He’s only £5.5m and while still very raw, upcoming games against Hull, Sunderland and Birmingham (the latter two at home) should provide some opportunity for reward. He had a couple of assists over Christmas and is worth a gamble at least for a week or two.

2. Ramsey/Arsenal - With Alex Song away, a spot becomes open in the Arsenal midfield. Ramsey isn’t going to fill it, but with Fabregas still out and Wenger often rotating his third midfield spot (i.e. not the one not filled by Song & Fabregas) Ramsey is worth watching. He is only £4.8m yet has come on as sub 12 times. His two starts have proved rewarding and last week he scored 13 points against Portsmouth. That postponed game against Bolton will be replayed soon and he’s worth stashing on your bench at least.

3. Zabaleta/Man City – Yes he is a Man City defender but they have kept two straight clean sheets!

Daniel Sturridge Chelsea

Might be worth a pick.

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Three To Avoid:

1. Zamora/Fulham - Injured himself against Stoke and is now out for up to eight weeks. I bet he stops scoring once he’s back.

2. Portsmouth players – Half the squad has gone to the African Nations and any remaining good players are for sale to clear their mammoth debts.

3. Davies and Fellaini - Amongst several players on seven bookings already. Minus points are not cool.

Bobby Zamora Fulham

Are you taking the mick?!

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T.


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