Posts Tagged ‘Allardyce’

The Trouble With… Mike Ashley


The news yesterday that Newcastle, or more specifically Mike Ashley, had sacked Chris Hughton was something of a shock to say the least. After leading them back to the Premier League with a 102 point Championship winning season, Hughton has overseen comfortable start to the season with Newcastle lying 11th with 19 points from 16 games.

You're better off without him Chris...

Ashley cited the need for someone with more managerial experience to take the club forward which is reasonable if Newcastle were struggling but not in the current circumstances.

It’s not as if Newcastle are marooned in the bottom three, they’ve been mid-table all season and had impressive league victories over Arsenal, Aston Villa and Sunderland amongst others. Chuck in a League Cup win away at Chelsea and you’ve got the basis of good start to the season.

Perhaps there was the feeling that the current run of one win in six was a sign of things to come, but if that was the case then surely Chelsea would be sacking Carlo Ancelotti right now, given he has the exact same record over that period. If  Ashley looked at the table he’d see Everton and Liverpool below his side too.

The whole reason Newcastle were regarded  as a joke club for so many years was that there was always something ridiculous going on. Whether it was poorly thought out signings, directors making inappropriate comments, or hiring Joe Kinnear as manager, you always felt glad your own club wasn’t as stupid.

Hughton brought some stability and more importantly some dignity back to Newcastle. Conducting his business with little fuss, and managing to pretty much unite one of the most divisive squads in recent memory, he was doing well in his first shot at full-time management. Ashley obviously felt otherwise.

Let's shake on it. It won't make a difference but it makes me look good.

Perhaps he felt this season offers an opportunity – it’s a tighter league than normal so a higher than expected finish is achievable.

Perhaps he looks at how well fellow promoted sides West Brom and Blackpool are doing and feels Newcastle should be doing better having last season finished 11 and 32 points ahead respectively.

Perhaps he still plans to sell the club sooner rather than later and wants a bigger manager to attract higher bids and better players. The thing about most of these options is that if anything Newcastle are punching above their weight at the moment.

Ashley may feel that they should resume their place at the higher echelons of the league but times have long since changed from the heady days of title challenges. The main reason is the lack of investment in the team. I know Ashley has spent £300million since buying the club (including the cost price) and he the right to do what he wants but much of this was wasted on poor players and a big fat payoff to big fat Sam Allardyce.

This summer they spent around £6million and that’s being generous as a third of that was just to loan Ben Arfa. Considering how small the squad was to begin with, to currently be 11th despite a poor run of form isn’t to be sniffed at. A promoted side should be looking at staying up first and foremost. Who knows what changing manager now will have.

Mr & Mrs Average

In fairness, despite the difficulty in doing so, judgement has to be reserved until the next manager is named. If Newcastle end up with say Martin O’Neill (unlikely) or Martin Jol (expensive but maybe) then you could argue that a good decision may have been made, however harsh it is on Hughton.

There isn’t really a good time to change managers and it may as well have been done pre January transfer window. The backlash will come if Newcastle end up with someone like Alan Curbishley or Alan Pardew. Are they truly better than Chris Hughton? Really? It would smack of hiring the proverbial safe pair of hands or in other words complete mediocrity.

Curbishley has a track record of uninspiring mid table finishes, the exception being 7th with Charlton in 2003/04. I lost track of the number of times his team would be in a good position come January before collapsing once reaching 40 points. I suppose Alan Pardew is a slightly better option but that’s like saying Andy Townsend is a slightly better pundit than Robbie Earle – both are completely meh.

I wonder who Jol would pick as his assistant?!

By keeping out of the limelight for a while, Mike Ashley’s reputation improved in recent months but he’s destroyed any goodwill he had with Newcastle fans. Even if he brings in someone really quiet good, I’m not sure he will regain it. In the eyes of most, he’s probably the one who should be leaving the club.


The Six Pointer – Complacency, Financial Burdens & more…


That was the weekend that was.


1. I don’t know where to start with the north London derby. Cruising at 2-0 going in to half-time, Arsenal had run rings around their neighbours in the first period. A smart tactical change by Redknapp at the break coupled with a complete mental collapse from the Arsenal players resulted in a famous Tottenham comeback.

You can’t even say this was a massive shock, as it’s happened too many times in recent years for it not to be a serious problem. A very good analysis can be found over at Arseblog while there was an interesting post on Arsenal Vision which documented every game where a lead had been lost and Arsenal had not won the match in the last five years.

Déjà vu.

I think it’s a touch unfair to include every instance where 1-0 ended 1-1 but what I found telling was in the last three seasons alone there have been 11 occasions where Arsenal have taken the lead and gone on to concede at least two goals. There in lies the crux, be it through complacency or the fact they haven’t held on against a top side when gaining the advantage.

The fact another game comes tomorrow will give the players an immediate opportunity to make partial amends but this side has a long way to go before it can be considered winners.


2. Chelsea were pretty unlucky not to have beaten Birmingham with Ben Foster making at least five or six top saves while the defenders in front of him stood firm.

Like Ancelotti said, their problem at the moment is they’re not firing on all cylinders going forward which means they’re vulnerable when conceding (which in turn is currently more likely with their centre-back woes). Drogba has not scored since October 3rd (while admittedly recovering from malaria) while Malouda also has just one goal since late September.

I feel in part this is down to the midfield three they’re forced to regularly play at the moment – Mikel, Ramires & Zhirkov. There’s not much creativity there nor the control that is offered when Lampard and Essien are fit. Lampard’s absence has been perhaps a little easier to cope with but it’s no coincidence these three recent defeats have been without Essien in the side.


3. Bolton were very impressive in beating Newcastle 5-1 and it will be interesting to see what happens in January if they are still riding high in the top half of the table.

Admiring glances are being aimed at the likes of Lee, Cahill, Holden and even Owen Coyle himself and with the club recently announcing a debt of £93million there may be some pressure to sell a star to ease the burden.

But for how long?

Another twist to this is the impending expiring contract of Johan Elmander, who is having by the far the best of his three seasons at the Reebok. He finally seems to have adapted to the Premier League but now Bolton risk losing their record £8m signing for nothing next summer.

Unless I’ve missed the Swede professing his undying love for the Trotters, I suspect we may see a gentleman’s agreement when a one year deal is signed but with him being sold in the summer.


4. I don’t see Blackburn’s new owners pumping too much money into the Ewood Park coffers but it would be interesting to see what Sam Allardyce does with a bigger budget. He claims he’d win the double every year at a top club, but I seem to remember him being something of a flop the last time he had a bit of money to spend when managing Newcastle.


5. Roberto Mancini has been saying for a while that a big part of  his tactical plan was to have full backs who bomb forward and support Tevez/the notional front three. We saw a glimpse of that in the victory over Fulham with both Kolarov and Zabaleta consistently getting into the Fulham half and attempting several crosses and four of their 11 shots on goal.


I think while Mancini is at heart a cautious manager, we will eventually see a relatively attacking side with Milner and Toure in the central midfield trio and Silva and Balotelli properly supporting Tevez. Reasonable upcoming fixtures should provide opportunity to experiment.


6. Fulham have lost just four times but are 17th. Chelsea have lost four times and are top of the table. An extreme example perhaps but it shows how destructive draws can be to your league position. Mark Hughes should remember that a win and a loss is better than two draws. Of his last 27 games with both Man City and Fulham, Hughes has overseen 15 stalemates.



Season Previews 2010/11 – Blackburn



Last Season: 10th

New Signings: Fernandez, Diouf

Key Player: David Dunn

One To Watch: Phil Jones

Needs A Big Year: Morten Gamst Pedersen

Would Quite Like: More entertainment and maybe a cup run somewhere along the way. Another six points from Bolton.

Slap me.

Prediction: 11th

Thoughts: Love him or loathe him (and I’m most certainly in the latter camp) you can’t deny that Fat Big Sam Allardyce is quite good at getting decent results on a smallish budget. After doing it for years at Bolton he was pretty rubbish at Newcastle but is now making Blackburn into a hard to beat side who consistently can aim for top half finishes. To be honest at the moment that makes them quite a dull team to preview. There’s not much chance of them being relegated but they’re not going to be pushing for a Europa league spot either.

Firmly in the 9th to 14th section you can take your pick of where in those positions they’ll finish. A few wins at home against the good sides, the bottom end of the fair play league and a bust up with Arsene Wenger is the sum of what you can expect at Ewood Park this year. Continued progress from young centre back Phil Jones and Swedish midfielder Martin Olsson coupled with a fit David Dunn (30 games+) should see something like a 11th place finish. Next.


The FA Get Something Right


Just a quick thought on Capello remaining England manager for the next two years. For once the FA have made the right decision and gone for a bit of long term thinking instead of just following what the media tell them.

While Capello must hold some of the blame for England’s World Cup exit (mistakes with his squad picks, tactical stubbornness), it’s good to see the hyperbole surrounding the so called golden generation of England players has been put to rest. It was telling that despite the technical limitations of the England squad being there for all to see, first port of call was to blame it on the foreign manager.

Fabio Capello

Not his fault, well a little bit but not as much as the players.

Some of the suggestions of who could replace Capello were ridiculous, and perhaps that’s partly why he’s kept the job – the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. First off the idea that David Beckham could be the next to have a go. Really? A man with no managerial experience whatsoever and someone who last time I checked was still playing.

Just because it worked for Germany with Klinsmann and is kind of working for Argentina with Maradona doesn’t make it right. I have a lot of time for Becks but thankfully this idea was soon dismissed.

Next up we had the genius suggestion by Mark Bright of giving Glenn Hoddle another chance. Glenn Hoddle?! Ok, he was half decent 12 years ago as England manager but that doesn’t make him right in 2010. This is a man who had been completely out of the game since 2006 and last managed a top flight club in 2003. Next thing I know, someone will be suggesting his Sky colleague Jamie Redknapp!

Just stop, it's getting embarrassing now.

Sam Allardyce ensured his media mates put him forward. He needs to realise it’s never going to happen. His thuggish, unattractive style of football will never win any major tournament. Harry Redknapp can do likewise but whilst he has the style of football which appeals, the fact that his business dealings are even dodgier than El Tel Venables’ says all it needs to.

A few other names were floating about with the best option Roy Hodgson wisely deciding that the Liverpool job was far more appealing. As the week went on, everyone began to come to their senses and started disecting the overblown reputations of the players instead. Who’s have thought the likes of the Neviller and Roy Keane would be calling it right?

Overrated as a player, overrated as a human being.

So, partly due to the massive contract the FA tied themselves down with, and partly due to the realisation that John Terry et al are not nearly as good as everyone thinks they are, Capello hangs around till 2012. Credit to the FA for realising that for once it wasn’t entirely the manager’s fault. Here’s hoping that he now fulfils his promise of bringing a fresh approach.


The Six Pointer – Missing Rooney, inspirational Cesc & more…


1. Arsenal were fantastic going forward against Blackburn yesterday and Cesc Fabregas inspired a 6-2 rout with six different scorers. Paul Robinson got his usual work out against the Gunners and has now conceded an amazing 47 goals in 16 games against Arsenal, fourteen of which have come in the last three games. I thought he actually played quite well but there was a definite strategy to pepper him with mid to long range shots.

Rovers had taken an unexpected lead twice before Arsenal hit back, Fabregas providing four assists and a goal before coming off. All six goals were of a high quality but I’d say Bendtner’s was the best. It was obvious as soon as he got the ball what he wanted to do but those efforts are now starting to go in rather then sail high and wide.

I love Arsenal and ROsicky loves me.

I love Arsenal and Rosicky loves me.

There was some talk earlier in the season about how Fabregas looked distracted and unhappy but I think he’s back to his best. There will always be speculation surrounding his future and I think most Arsenal fans accept he will one day play for Barcelona but at the same time it may not be for a few years yet (at least not until Wenger burns him out!). You can see what it would mean to him to win trophies with this team and if he can direct those kind of performances against the big sides then Arsenal could well have a shout for one this season.

Allardyce called Vermaelen’s foul on Dunn at 3-2 a turning point and while yes it was a definite penalty, to say it was a red card offence too is just silly. Even if Blackburn had scored, there was no way Arsenal were losing yesterday, they were just too good going forward. Maybe if Allardyce hadn’t taken off his best player in David Dunn, not played four full backs and generally shown a bit more adventure, then he might have had a point.

Blah blah blah

Blah blah blah.

The return of Rosicky has been very pleasing too and I think everyone forgot just what a classy player he was before he got injured. He’s constantly creating space and playing intelligent passes and he fits really well into the 4-3-3 system. With Nasri back sooner rather than later and Ramsey ever more impressive in his weekly substitute cameo, it should hopefully consign Diaby to the bench. I think right now his height is the only thing going for him (meaning he plays against ‘big’ sides like Rovers) but his overall play just doesn’t fit. He did very little on Saturday and can only offer potential for so long.


2. Liverpool lost for the fourth time this season (including Europe) and each time it’s been a good side. They have become more expansive this season but with that have sacrificed much of the solidity that brought them good results. They are turning into flat track bullies who can hammer 20 goals past the likes of Burnley, Hull, Stoke, West Ham and Bolton but then struggle when facing half decent sides like Spurs, Fiorentina, Chelsea and Aston Villa. Similarly Torres can score five in two games but then waste the two presentable opportunites he had yesterday. He was well marshalled by Terry and must show that he can impose himself on a big match consistently like Drogba can.

It has been said before but Alonso is being missed with every passing week and the return of Aquilani won’t help that. Alonso sat deep with Mascherano and gave it to Gerrard or played in Torres. Aquilani is much less likely to do the same and like Lucas will wander forward, given that by nature they are both more attacking players. This leaves the centre back pairing exposed and may explain partly why Carragher has been so poor this season. Meanwhile if you rely on Torres and Gerrard so much, when they’re stopped so are Liverpool. Benitez can say they are still contenders, and of course points wise they are. But I think there are fundamental issues at which will prevent Liverpool from winning the league yet again.

Hey lads, why do you flatter to deceive?

Hey lads, why do you flatter to deceive?


3. After just four draws in the opening 66 games there were four this weekend. As teams finally get the measure of each other we can expect that total to increase. Tellingly, there have been only two draws amongst the top ten and six in the bottom half. The usual scenario of nervousness at the foot of the table is beginning to creep in. How many times have we seen positive play rewarded with more wins, hence more three point gains, hence eventual safety. Something to take heed of for those playing 4-5-1.


4. Man Utd got out of jail on Saturday evening against Sunderland with an injury time equaliser via the unfortunate Anton Ferdinand who scored an own goal. Prior to that Sunderland had fully deserved to be leading, Cattermole and Cana again holding their own against an opposition midfield. Those two have quickly become one of the better partnerships in the league and offer a nice mixture of toughness and harassment but with enough skill to allow for some creativity.

Up front Darren Bent is fast developing an impressive habit of scoring against the big sides as well as the small so it was a surprise to not see him get called up for England given the two qualifiers are essentially meaningless.

The other English striker on show Rooney (though I suppose there was Welbeck too, who was bizarrely chosen down the left) had another poor game and has yet to learn how to avoid his drops in form. Throughout his career (a bit like Defoe really) he has gone on runs where he’ll score in something like six successive games before doing nothing of note for ages and then picking up again. Now that he is the main player at Old Trafford, he can no longer afford these extended periods of goalless play.


5. Good to see Portsmouth rewarded for their recent good form with a victory at last. They’ve been unfortunate to lose the last couple of games and it’s encouraging that despite not being paid they are still trying on the pitch. The expected suspects (+ one of two others in Fulham and West Ham) are beginning to form an orderly group in the bottom half and it was vital that Portsmouth didn’t fall too far adrift. I still think this season spells doom, unless this mystery new takeover happens to inject half a new squad in January, but to be fair at this stage last season Spurs had just points and still managed a top half finish. There’s hope yet for Pompey fans.

I think he's happy.

I think he's happy.


6. Four straight Premier League victories at Turf Moor to go with the six at the end of last season. Are Burnley set to do a Stoke and stay up based almost entirely on their home form?



End of Season Reviews – Arsenal, Aston Villa, Blackburn, Bolton




Where they finished: 4th

Season in five words: Reliance on youth = no trophies

Successful season? In Wenger’s eyes yes; 4th in the league and semi final appearances in Europe and the FA Cup. In the fans’ eyes no; there was never a league challenge after losing 5 of the first 14, Arshavin wasn’t started in the FA Cup semi and Man Utd dominated over two legs in Europe. They’re not far off, but far enough this season to warrant it as one in transition (again).

Defining moment: The two semi final games against Man Utd in the Champions League. They showed just how far from challenging the best Arsenal are. Completely dominated for most of the tie.

Player of the year: Song improved immensely, Van Persie scored 20 but without Andrey Arshavin the Gunners would not have come fourth. His impact since signing cannot be underestimated.

Goal of the season: Vela’s chip(s) and Ade’s volley get honourable mentions but for my money Eduardo wins it with this.

Flop of the season: In terms of a drop-off from last season, Adebayor was most frustrating but Mikael Silvestre gave Arsenal fans the chills every time he set foot on the pitch.

Highlight: Arshavin’s four goals at Anfield, a league double over Chelsea.

Summer homework: Sign an experienced central defender and central midfielder, plus a striker if Adebayor leaves. Oh, and stop playing Fabregas in the hole.



Aston Villa


Where they finished: 5th

Season in five words: Second half slump costs fourth.

Successful season? Yes and no. For much of the season they were riding high but then injury (and eventual retirement) to Laursen and a slump in form meant a small squad couldn’t keep up the pace. Ended up being overtaken by Everton too. Did finish with more points than last year but an opportunity lost.

Defining moment: The last five minutes vs Stoke at home. Two goals up and heading for eight point lead over Arsenal. Stoke then scored twice, momentum was lost and two games later Arsenal would take over fourth spot for the rest of the season.

Player of the year: Stilian Petrov has finally reached the level he had while at Celtic. Ashley Young had another good season.

Goal of the season: John Carew vs Stoke. On second thoughts (from a reader’s recommendation) Ashley Young’s last minute winner against Everton was a great strike.

Flop of the season: Emile Heskey caused a change in formation and didn’t do much to arrest Villa’s slide in the spring.

Highlight: The 2-0 win over Arsenal at the Emirates.

Summer homework: Replace Gareth Barry and ensure he’s the only big name departure. Buy more squad players, specifically cover in the full back positions.





Where they finished: 15th

Season in five words: Ince terrible, Fat Sam steady.

Successful season? It’s hard to say what constitutes success at Ewood Park, as Blackburn are one of the least ambitious clubs in the top flight. It was brave to give Ince a try but he’s not ready. Sam Allardyce then lead them to safety without too much fuss. Where next?

Defining moment: Hiring Allardyce. Kept them up when Ince would probably have taken them down.

Player of the year: Hmm, Stephen Warnock has done pretty well since converting to midfield.

Goal of the season: Aaron Mokoena against Sunderland. That video doesn’t work so here’s a pic instead. Look how happy he is… It was a great strike.

Flop of the season: In what seems to be a recurring theme, Roque Santa Cruz becomes the latest striker to have a poor second year after a great first.

Highlight: A couple of 3-0 home wins against Stoke and Newcastle.

Summer homework: Cash in on Roque, sign strong physical players to push for mid-table. Replace Tugay and his luscious locks.





Where they finished: 13th

Season in five words: Anything interesting happen at all?

Successful season? Yes. Comfortably safe, never in any real threat of going down. If only Megson could make things a bit more entertaining. Another club somewhat lacking in ambition perhaps.

Defining moment: Was there one? Nothing stands out, honestly.

Player of the year: Called up by England and linked with moves to bigger clubs, Gary Cahill has had a great season in central defence.

Goal of the season: Even Bolton fans are struggling. Let’s go for this screamer by Gretar Steinsson on the opening day.

Flop of the season: Has Elmander justified the £8-10m fee? Not quite, but he could improve next year.  Muamba hasn’t been great either.

Highlight: Almost coming from 4-0 down against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. Couldn’t quite get the fourth goal however.

Summer homework: Sign another striker who can score ten goals, keep Cahill, Taylor and Jussi. Become interesting (this applies more to Megson).



Weekly Photoshop – Joey Barton


Newcastle’s favourite goody two shoes midfielder this week. Well not exactly. More like an aggressive, violent, cigar stubbing, assaulting, ticking timebomb. Shame, as he’s quite a good player when fit and not suspended. Anyway, his past misdemeanors provide plenty of ammunition.


Barton was always one of those 'misunderstood' people who could start a fight in an empty room

Barton was always one of those 'misunderstood' people who could start a fight in an empty room.


 The rest of this week’s gallery can be found here:




Previous entries: KeaneMessiVidic and the rest.

The Trouble With… Sam Allardyce


While watching ITV’s decidedly average coverage of the FA Cup tie between Preston and Liverpool, Sam Allardyce mentioned how it’s harder for young English players to break through (with reference to Neil Mellor) as clubs are filling their academies with foreigners. He cited Arsene Wenger as a prime exponent. Now whilst I’ll be the first to admit that Wenger has signed/poached/found down the back of the sofa many a youngster from abroad, the implication seemed to be that *yawn* he doesn’t give English players a chance. There is plenty of evidence to suggest otherwise.

My opinion matters

My opinion matters


1. Current Ex-Arsenal youth players in the Premier League.

Ashley Cole/Chelsea

Jermaine Pennant/Liverpool

Steven Sidwell/Aston Villa

Fabrice Muamba/Bolton

Justin Hoyte/Middlesbrough

David Bentley/Tottenham

Stuart Taylor/Aston Villa

Matthew Upson/West Ham


All English and all given chances by Wenger, but for various reasons never made the grade. Obviously some were signed at from other clubs at 16/17 but it’s fair to say their main education came at Arsenal. Add to this several players like James Harper in the Championship (Mellor’s current level) and you have lots of guys who simply had better players ahead of them at the time.


Ok, so just hoof it up there. No wait that's not right...

Ok, so just hoof it up there. No wait that's not right...

2.  Current English players at Arsenal (who’ve played this season).

Theo Walcott

Jack Wilshere

Gavin Hoyte

Henri Lansbury

Jay Simpson

Kieran Gibbs

Mark Randall

Kerrea Gilbert


Many of those have received their opportunities in the Carling Cup but about half have played in the league or Europe. It’s unclear who will make it beyond Walcott and Wilshere but it again shows that if good enough you are given a chance.


3. The standard at the Big Four clubs is higher.

Big Sam can moan all he want but ultimately it will always be tougher to make it at the likes of Liverpool and Arsenal than Bolton and Blackburn. Wenger and Benitex didn’t get where they are by worrying about nationality, it is always about quality. Their job is to worry about how their club is doing, not England. It is not unfair to say that give the size and number of players, England have underachieved internationally. Could it possibly be because many players just aren’t that good? Allardyce is also a bit of a hypocrite in this whole issue as he has also been quite happy to play 11 foreign players in his Bolton team rather than give an English youngster a shot. It seems he does realise the same thing as the top boys.

Hey, Rafa why is Big Sam picking on me?

Hey, Rafa why is Big Sam picking on me?


4. Allardyce and Wenger don’t particularly like each other.

This point is on a slight tangent, but Allardyce and Wenger have never been the best of friends. Wenger never liked the fact Bolton would beat Arsenal playing physical, direct football while Allardyce felt he didn’t get the credit he deserved. There has been many a bitchy comment in the past and I wouldn’t be surprised if this was a another small dig.


In conclusion, Allardyce fires another cheap shot that fits in perfectly with the lazy journalism of ITV. Wenger has perhaps bought/played foreigners ahead of English players in the past but it is unfair to say he never gave chances. Also, why should he persist with someone who breaks curfews, punches people and drink drives and lies about who he is (step forward Mr Pennant) just because he is English? In a word Big Sam, shut it.

Ultimate pro

Ultimate pro



Fantasy Football – Gameweek 18


One of the highlights of fantasy football is when you get teams playing twice in a gameweek. Pick the right captain and you’re easily making triple figures in points overall. There haven’t been any thus far, but Man Utd miss a match this weekend for the second time this season so at some point in the New Year will be catching up on games against Fulham and Wigan.

Tin Pot Tournament

Tin Pot Tournament

Last week if you had picked either of our suggestions of Young or Gerrard as captain you would be sitting pretty to the tune of 26 or 28 points. For some reason I went with Ronaldo so only got 12. It’s actually quite nice not having him play this week as it finally forces different captain choices. As mentioned Man Utd and Wigan don’t play so make sure you have enough players to bring in from the bench. 


Top 3 Alternatives to the standard choice of Ronaldo as Captain:

1. Young/Aston Villa – There are some quite tricky games to call this week so no obvious captain choices stand out. One option is to go with Young, who has been on fire for the past two weeks – three goals, an assist and six bonus points. It’s always risky choosing someone who has an away game but West Ham are pretty bad defensively.

2. Adebayor/Arsenal – Arsenal have been very inconsistent this season but have saved their best performances for the big matches. Liverpool don’t have the best record at the Emirates and I can see Adebayor  causing their central defence problems whether it’s Carragher, Hyppia or Agger (and with Rafa who knows…). Ade has been playing well recently and has seven goals and seven assists for the season. He’s quietly picked up points every week and is the second highest scoring striker after Anelka.

3. Santa Cruz/Blackburn- A bit of left field choice considering his form and Blackburn’s league position. I talked about Blackburn’s poor point scoring overall last week but Roque is now the first to break the 40 point barrier – go him! Also, I’m going with the notion of teams improving when a new manager. Yes that manager is Sam Allardyce (oh how I want them go down) but it’s worth a shot. Stoke have only one win in six (though only one defeat too) and it’s at Ewood Park. 





Suggested Transfers In:

1. Whoever fits in your budget/Blackburn – As mentioned above new managers have a galvanising effect, often getting initial wins above their station before settling back to mediocrity. It’s hard to pick out any stars as there haven’t been any but perhaps Pederson might pick up some form or maybe Samba is good for a clean sheet. Blackburn players are pretty cheap right now so you could pick up a bargain.

2. Elmander/Bolton – I slated him for about six weeks solid on this blog and he’s responded and proved me wrong. He has four goals in four games and plays a Portsmouth side capable of great wins one week and bad defeats the next.

3. Owen/Newcastle – Never underestimate a player who’s after a new contract from somewhere.





Players to avoid.

1. Song or Diaby/Arsenal – Out of principle. They may ‘play’ every week but they never do anything useful, in real life or fantasy.

2. Any Man City player not named Robinho or Ireland – Before they worry about becoming one the biggest teams in Europe they should concentrate on surviving in the Premier League. 

3. Joe Cole/Chelsea – His undoubted talent can’t overcome yet another injury riddled season. After a good start where he played the first five games, he’s managed just five of the last 12.





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