At last. At last we are through with international weeks for 2008/09. This past fortnight saw the last internationals until the end of the season. There are some games in June but essentially the next seven weeks are all about the business end of the Premier League, with no more interruptions for dull World Cup qualifiers.
It was a while ago now but the last gameweek saw Gerrard go on a points scoring rampage with 20 against Aston Villa. He even had time to pick up a yellow card. By my count that is the highest score of the season, I can’t think of many other hat tricks this year, let alone ones from midfielders. Elsewhere Ryan Shawcross got the classic defender combo of winning goal, clean sheet and three bonus for a total of 15 points, while Crouch and Riera got good totals with 13 apiece.
For the second week running, a suggested captain choice got himself sent off (Rooney, following Vidic the week before) and I’m hoping to make it a hat-trick this week.
Three alternatives to Ronaldo as Captain:
1. Crouch/Portsmouth – Crouchie is in good form for both club and country with four goals in three games. Portsmouth are in the midst of an important run of games against their rivals and this week Crouch faces a Hull side dropping faster than Harrison Ford diving off that dam in The Fugitive. He tends to score goals in bunches and is a fair shout to add to his recent tally against Phil Brown’s men. It’s the time in the season to take risks after all so what have you got to lose.
2. Gerrard/Liverpool – 20 points last week, Liverpool’s top point scorer and goal scorer this season by some distance, and a winnable game against Fulham this time around. On a one man charge to bring the title to Anfield, worth the £12m it now costs to bring him in.
3. Lampard/Chelsea – An interesting game away at Newcastle this week, who’ll be sure to be buoyed by Shearer’s return. Chelsea should win though you can never discount the impact of a new manager. Part of me is hoping that Fat Frank is that one who completes the hat-trick I was talking about earlier in the column…
Three potential transfers in:
1. Fabregas or Adebayor/Arsenal – I was talking to the Football Guy about this earlier in the week – should Adebayor go straight back in the team despite his lacklustre displays this season? I wasn’t so sure, saying he should earn his place back but he was going with the view that he plays as when on top form he’s Arsenal’s best striker. I imagine Wenger will agree and play him but that’s probably partly due to injuries to RVP, Eduardo and Vela. Talking of returning players, Fabregas also makes his comeback after three months out. I have a gentlemen’s agreement to bring him back in before the season is out, mainly due to my team being named Cesc’s Superstars. I’m digressing somewhat but the point remains that Arsenal are unbeaten in 16 and two of their best players are returning fresh for the final eight games. I for one can’t wait to see Fabregas and Arshavin play together and reckon that him and Ade will be good for some decent points before the season is out.
2. Newcastle United players – New manager equals positive results most of the time. When a god-like hero like Shearer takes the reins, you can multiply that effect tenfold. Chelsea is a very tough opening game but I’m thinking beyond this week. Owen should be good value to get a few goals while I like what I’ve seen of Gutierrez this season. There are a few other options floating about, basically pick whoever fits into budget.
3. Lennon/Spurs – Tottenham are essentially safe now and while they have nothing to really play for, they’re the kind of team capable of big end of season wins when the pressure is off. Lennon has been in particularly good form recently (3 goals/2 assists/4BP in five games) and is still quite cheap at £7m.
Three to avoid:
1. Cole/West Ham – Out for the season.
2. Zaki/Wigan – Remember the early days this season when he scored eight goals in eleven games and his value had risen £1.2million? How times have changed. He hasn’t scored this year, currently finds himself behind fatman Mido in the pecking order and is now in Steve Bruce’s bad books for returning late from international duty. If for some reason you still have him, for goodness sakes get rid.
3. Players from teams still in Europe – I’m not saying completely ignore players from Man Utd; Liverpool; Chelsea; Arsenal and Man City, but just be aware that with big European games coming up players will be rested in the league. Keep an eye out.