Posts Tagged ‘Diaby’

Season Previews 2010/11 – Arsenal

12/08/2010

Arsenal

Last Season: 3rd

New Signings: Koscielny, Chamakh

Key Player: Robin van Persie

Ones To Watch: Jack Wilshere

Needs  A Big Year: Laurent Koscielny

Would Quite Like: A new goalkeeper and another centre back, but in terms of the season a first trophy since 2005.

Prediction: 2nd

Thoughts: TThe biggest story at the Emirates this summer was whether Cesc Fabregas would leave Arsenal and join Barcelona. After a fifth year without a trophy and a particularly spineless end to the season, Arsenal’s captain decided he had had enough and was going to rejoin his boyhood team.

Fine you might say, Cesc had given fantastic service and no one could begrudge him wanting to win things. However Barcelona were clearly not well versed in how transfers work, where if one club wants one of the best midfielders in the world, they have to pay what he’s worth, especially if he still has five years left on his contract.

Still an Arsenal player for now.

Instead, there were two derisory bids, and a daily quote from a Barcelona player about how Fabregas was being held prisoner, had Barca DNA, and Arsenal should just let him go. Seeing as Arsenal were very much in the position of power and Barcelona had spent what little money they had on David Villa, it meant Fabregas has to stay another year.

Is this the most important decision of the summer? Well yes and no. Nobody can deny Cesc’s influence and he had his best season for Arsenal, finishing as top scorer having played an advanced role. This will no doubt continue, as whatever his personal ambitions may be he’s professional enough to still do his best for Arsenal.

However the decision not to have a new goalkeeper in place for the opening day game with Liverpool has far greater ramifications. Yes, there’s still over two weeks of the window left, but despite being linked with the likes of Schwarzer and Marchetti, it is not guaranteed that a replacement will come in.

Crap meets crapper.

Manuel Almunia, for all his faults is still better than Lukasz Fabianski. While they are both the proverbial good shot stopper, neither seems able to deal with the mental pressure of big games and the physical pressure of high balls swung into the box. That Wenger views Fabianski as having the attributes of a No.1 keeper is worrying to say the least.

The lack of new keeper and the dearth of cover at centre-back (Campbell, Sylvestre, Gallas and Senderos out – Koscielny and fit again Djourou in) mean the same issues from last season look likely to rear their ugly head. As an Arsenal fan, it’s most frustrating. Knowing we are so close to winning the league but not addressing the clear issues preventing us from doing it is careless to say that least.

If you consider that they lost all four games against United and Chelsea last season, but were still in the running until late throwaway defeats to Wigan and Spurs, suggests that it only needs a player or two to help with that final step – that player or two being the aforementioned goalkeeper and extra centre back.

Needs to quickly adapt.

The talk emanating from the club over the summer suggests that it’s finally got through to the players what’s needed. No more slacking off when two goals up, no more being bullied by the more physical teams in the league, etc.

I think the impact of Sol Campbell’s half season cameo shouldn’t be underestimated. He came into the squad and showed what it takes to achieve something you want; that there’s no escaping hard work if you want to win. Though he’s left, his attitude seems to have rubbed off.

In terms of the squad, things generally look quite good. Marouane Chamakh has finally joined and should be an improvement on the departing Eduardo. The Crozillian never truly recovered from the horrific injury he sustained and coupled with hypocritical reaction to his dive against Celtic meant a change of scene was probably best. Chamakh is by no means prolific but gives a different option, and should prove useful in tough away games.

Vela stays for now and gets an upgraded squad number but the important news is Robin van Persie being fully fit again (albeit a couple of weeks behind in training). His injury really hurt Arsenal last November. Remember all the talk of how Arsenal could score 100 goals after all the big wins early on? The goals per game ratio went right down after RvP was out. They continued to challenge without him but with Bendtner also out at the time, you had the bizarre situation of Andrey Arshavin playing on his own up front, which was no fun for either player or fans.

Arguably Arsenal's most important player.

The Russian had an average season, nearly always played out of position. I think bigger things are expected this season. The midfield is boosted by Fabregas staying and Wilshere being ready for regular first team football. I would expect him to be ahead of Rosicky in the pecking order sooner rather than later.

Two players who failed to make their respective World Cup squads will be particularly determined to shine this year. Samir Nasri looked very sharp in pre-season and has a previously unseen seriousness about him. Similarly, Theo Walcott will want a season where he doesn’t pick up lots of small injuries. A run of 20-25 games in a row would do him a world of good. If he hits his target of 20 assists he’ll have had a great season.

Bounce back seasons ahead.

Once you factor in Song, Diaby, Eboue, the emerging Frimpong, Denilson and the hopefully returning Ramsey and you have more than enough options.

As discussed earlier, it’s defence where there are issues. There are currently just three centre-backs, at least one more is a must. Full backs are covered with Eboue and Gibbs being the reserves for Sagna and Clichy. Gibbs in particular excites me, I think he’ll be the first choice left back by the end of the season.

In terms of tactics I think Wenger will slightly adjust the 433 of last season seeing how overrun it caused the midfield to be. The benefits it brought to Fabregas and van Persie’s game make it worth sticking with but perhaps a slight switch to make it a 4231 instead with Fabregas advanced behind van Persie and two attacking midfielders/forwards playing either side of them will do the trick.

Arsenal don’t really have natural wingers who can play in a 442. You just get central midfielders or wide forwards out of position. It might be case of dropping an extra player (Diaby or Denilson) back to sit alongside Song with Fabregas ahead of them. Van Persie will be the central striker with any two of about eight players filling the wide roles in the 3.

It worked very well when the Dutchman was fit and the added bonus is Chamakh could take up the role were he to get injured. I would like to see more solid set-ups when playing the big teams as last season Chelsea, Man Utd and Barcelona had much fun drawing us out of position and hitting us on the break. In these games a four or even five men in midfield would work; there is enough pace in the side that the lone striker would never be too isolated.

Yes it is five years since we won a trophy but my players have great potential.

In terms of prospects, despite what many writers are saying, I think Arsenal will improve on last season if they sign a keeper before the window shuts. A simplistic theory you might think but if you consider that a top keeper is worth around nine points a season (that’s three match-saving performances – not unrealistic) then Arsenal will be very close indeed.

A slight tactical adjustment and they’ll be pretty close to that elusive trophy. Maybe even close enough to win it. No new goalkeeper or centre-back and it will be the same old problems and the usual 4th place.

T.

Arsenal

Last Season: 3rd

New Signings: Koscielny, Chamakh

Key Player: Robin van Persie

Ones To Watch: Jack Wilshere and Kieran Gibbs

Needs A Big Year: Cesc Fabregas

Would Quite Like: A new goalkeeper and another centre back, but in terms of the season a first trophy since 2005.

Prediction: 2nd

Thoughts:

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Live Report – Arsenal vs Fulham 10/05/10

10/05/2010

As I made my way to the Emirates yesterday for the final game of the season, I realised it had been over four full months since I had last seen Arsenal live. After a flurry of games from August till December, a combination of mid-season malaise as we stumbled in and out of the title race coupled with the usual difficulty of red members getting category A tickets meant my last match had been the Fabregas inspired victory over Aston Villa in late December.

As a side note I found it had been generally quite easy getting tickets this season, there’s certainly been more availability than in previous years. Even as a red member I could have gone to pretty much every home league game (bar maybe Man Utd/Chelsea) had funds and being online when they went on sale allowed it. Yet when it came to a match such as Barcelona, all the silver members who couldn’t be bothered for much of the season instantly came out of the woodwork.

walcott van persie

Yay!

Anyway I digress. As with every game, I had bought a month ahead at which stage we had clawed our way back into the title race for a third time. What followed were defeats against Spurs and Wigan which meant this game soon had the look of a meaningless fixture about it. No matter, it would still be a decent game to watch and a win was likely given Fulham’s pressing Europa League final this Wednesday.

I arrived earlier than usual, my timings slightly misjudged and soon found my clothing not adequate enough for the unseasonally low temperature. Given the anticlimactic nature of the game, there were no end of season promos or gimmicks before the game; only Sol Campbell receiving his deserved player of the month award and some man getting a £4,000 watch for predicting the fastest goal at the Emirates this season.

As I settled into my nosebleed seat behind the goal (right in the middle but row 32 of 33 in the upper tier) the line-ups were announced. There was mild booing behind me for Fabianski and Silvestre which wasn’t too much of a surprise but it seemed like booing for booing’s sake. It was pleasing to see the likes of Kieran Gibbs and Johan Djourou fit again on the bench while our remaining fit first teamers picked themselves.

Arsenal were shooting towards me in the first half and started brightly, immediately setting up camp in Fulham’s half. Nasri was charged with keeping things ticking over and he ensured a good tempo, regularly beating a man before laying it off while Theo was causing problems for Shorey with his pace.

The atmosphere was average, with even the red action singing corner strangely subdued. The smattering of empty seats here and there didn’t help but it felt like what it was – a game which didn’t matter. There was the usual ‘stand up if you hate Tottenham’ before Fulham initiated a united ‘stand up if you hate Chelsea’.

arsenal fulham

We scored. Meh.

On the pitch the first goal soon came after a mistake by Mark Schwarzer. He tried to play it out, mis-controlled it allowing Arshavin to nick the ball. He went past the big Aussie and with Van Persie screaming for the ball to be laid off for an easy tap in decided instead to shoot from a tight angle. It went in off a defender and Arsenal had the lead. I don’t think Robin was best pleased at Arshavin’s greediness there and it seemed like he spent the rest of the half trying not to pass to him.

Van Persie soon got his goal, firing in from close range five minutes later after an initial good save by Schwarzer. Theo proceeded to miss a sitter, before setting up the third by drilling in a right-wing cross which went in off the unfortunate Baird. By this point attention was drifting, the game was won and people were curious to know the Chelsea, Man Utd and Spurs scores.

There was some ironic cheering every time Fabianski made a catch (he had flapped at one early on) while I was entertained by a son quizzically asking his dad why people were cheering the Pole like that. “Because he’s not very good” came the reply.

Half time came and went; the ‘highlight’ being a bizarre race between Gunnersaurus and a giant Lucozade bottle. It was that  kind of day. Gunnersaurus won and I thought he perhaps should have raced Silvestre in the second half to make things interesting. The second period was particularly flat – Fulham weren’t trying and neither were Arsenal.

gunnersaurus lucozade

This would have been more interesting.

Substitutions started to break up the game. Silvestre went off injured and got the warm applause befitting his final appearance. Djourou was equally well received in his place, as much for his return from injury as being the man who takes Silvestre’s place next season.

Despite Gibbs warming up for most of the second half, he failed to get on the pitch. Carlos Vela did however and he added a nice fourth goal, chipping Schwarzer in a style reminiscent of his Carling Cup highs in 2008/09. It was his first league goal this season and it probably says a lot that it was in a match with no pressure. I do wonder what his future holds.

The game petered out and the fans were invited to stay for the players’ lap of ‘appreciation’. Not everyone bothered but there was warm applause as the rather sheepish looking players made their way round (though William Gallas was missing). It seemed to be a mutual feeling of players and fans thinking what might have been. Hopefully next season it will be a lap of honour…

fabregas arsenal

If anyone deserved a lap of honour he did.

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T.

Fantasy Premier League – Gameweek 33 Preview

02/04/2010

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

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

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Gameweek 32 Top Gun (aka Tom Cruise Approves):

Frank Lampard fantasy football

Maverick won't leave Fat Frank out again.

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

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

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Three Captain Choices:

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

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

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

Carlos Tevez Man City

Gets a Captain's tick.

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Three Suggested Transfers In:

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

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

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

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

samir nasri arsenal

Might be worth a pick.

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Three To Avoid:

Easy ones this week.

1. Fabregas/Arsenal – Done for the season.

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

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

fabregas fantasy football captain

Are you taking the mick?!

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T.

Fantasy Premier League – Gameweek 32 Preview

26/03/2010

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

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

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Gameweek 31 Top Gun (aka Tom Cruise Approves):

mikel arteta everton

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

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

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

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Three Captain Picks:

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

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

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

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

fernando torres liverpool

Gets a Captain's tick.

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Three Suggested Transfers In:

Returning players are the theme this week.

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

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

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

mikel arteta everton

Might be worth a pick.

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Three To Avoid:

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

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

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

scott dann birmingham city

Are you taking the mick?!

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T.

Fantasy Premier League – Gameweek 30 Preview

12/03/2010

I kept putting it off because I knew it would happen. But last week I could wait no more and finally got rid of Darren Bent in exchange for Nicklas Bendtner. It’s not that I doubted Bent’s ability to score but there’s only so long you can wait for Sunderland to win a game.

One hat-trick from Mr. Bent later and I wish I somewhat regretted the decision (despite NB’s five points against Burnley). Going into the rest of the season it was a move I wanted to make as Bendtner plays every week when fit and is so very cheap, thus allowing improvement elsewhere.

Getting a combined total of 38 minutes out of Rooney (injured), Drogba (no game) and Fabregas (one assist before injury) meant the weekly score was low at 41 points. I lost 12 points with Pompey’s last-minute consolation vs Birmingham but overall it was a week to get through as best you could.

It’s all in preparation for Wigan and Villa playing twice this week before the mighty gameweek 31 where TEN teams play twice. Leagues will be won or lost right there.

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Gameweek 29 Top Gun (aka Tom Cruise Approves):

mikel arteta everton

Maverick thinks Arteta is almost as good-looking as he is.

After being a bit of a fantasy god in the first season (06/07) I played (every week he’d assist a Joleon Lescott header) Arteta has had his fair share of injury problems in the three years since. Still a top player but often out for long periods.

This season was no exception but he has recently returned to full fitness and reminded us all of just how good a player he is. 18 points against Hull through two goals, an assist and three bonus points. He does tend to be a bit of a bonus point magnet when he plays and should be a good points scorer for the rest of the season.

Darren Bent pushed him hard this week with a 16 point hat-trick, while cheap strikers that you’re not likely to have followed with Nugent getting 14 and Jerome 13.

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Three Captain Choices:

1. Milner/Aston Villa – Two games this week, against Stoke and Wigan away. While Villa have been better away than at home, I’m reluctant to suggest a defender for two away matches. Milner has cooled off recently but is now their top points scorer and most likely to produce this week.

2. Drogba or Lampard/Chelsea – A home game against West Ham is a near banker for Chelsea, despite the useless Ross Turnbull (even worse than Hilario) set to play in goal. Lampard scored twice in the defeat to Man City but I still am more inclined to captain Drogba given a choice between the two.

3. Rodallega/Wigan – Games against Bolton and Villa. As always, you never know which Wigan will turn up but the beauty of them having two matches is that they should perform in at least one. N’Zogbia has been a little quiet since his bonus point binge a month ago so I’ll suggest Rodallega who got nine points against Liverpool last week.

James Milner Aston Villa

Gets a Captain's tick.

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Three Suggested Transfers In:

1. Aston Villa players – All about forward planning this week. Ten teams play twice next week so you’ll want to stock in order for a big week 31 score. Best option of all are Aston Villa players who have an unprecedented double double – four games in two gameweeks! I’d say go with attacking players like Milner/Young/Agbonlahor/Downing for this week’s away games and top up with defenders next week for the two home matches.

2. Everton players – A decent game against Birmingham this week followed by Bolton and Man City next week. I’d waver more towards the midfielders give the choice. Arteta will see a lot of pick up this week but justifiably so, while Pienaar offers cheaper but perhaps better value. Jack Rodwell is back in the picture too and before his injury was playing 90 minutes every week for only £4.3m.

3. O’Hara/Portsmouth – Ten bonus points and two assists in his last six games. Yes Portsmouth are rubbish and will be relegated soon but at home they still usually score. They have two home games next week (one against Hull) and O’Hara is only £4.5m leaving you to upgrade elsewhere.

Ashley Young fantasy football

Might be worth a pick.

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Three To Avoid:

1. Fulham defenders – They had a nice little run of games from which I picked up two sets of four clean sheets from five games but their Europa League exploits look to be catching up with them. Still worth a bench spot but there’s no need for me to have two players any more. Shorey might find he loses his place to a returning Konchesky.

2. Gerrard & Torres/Liverpool – Overpriced and underscoring. Pompey at home is a last chance saloon in terms of fantasy relevance this year.

3. Fabregas/Arsenal – Before you all get in a twist I’m just suggesting getting rid for this week and next before bringing him back in week 32. He definitely won’t face Hull and then has an admittedly good match against West Ham in week 31. In that time however Frank Lampard will play three times. Also, the last time Wenger said an Arsenal player had a small, small calf strain, Eduardo ended up being out for a month. Depends how much money you stand to lose on him I guess..

shorey fulham

Are you taking the mick?!

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T.

Fantasy Premier League – Gameweek 29 Preview

05/03/2010

It was a disappointing week 28 for me, which once emphasised that the obvious captain choice doesn’t always work out. As with many people, I went for Drogba as captain seeing as he’s in form and Man City have generally been useless away. One lack of handshake and doubles from Bellamy & Tevez later, and Chelsea were sitting on the end of  a 4-2 defeat and my captain had four lousy points. Fabregas saved my week as did clean sheets from all of my back five, which was nice.

This week sees another shortened gameweek with just eight matches and Burnley and Bolton playing twice. They’re not the two most inspiring teams for fantasy purposes but thankfully there’s going to be a lot of catchup from the likes of Aston Villa in the next few weeks.

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Gameweek 28 Top Gun (aka Tom Cruise Approves):

Maverick approves of Top Gun number 3 for Fabregas.

I had a good feeling that Arsenal would get a result at Stoke but I wasn’t expecting Fabregas to do as well as he did. But then this is something like the ninth time he has scored double figures in a game this season, one ahead of Rooney and Drogba. It was 16 points last week through a goal, two assists and three bonus points. Elsewhere Fat Frank had one of his better games of the season (I still fear he’ll come back to haunt me) with 13 points, a total matched by Carlos Tevez who looks to be back in form.

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Three Captain Choices:

1. Fabregas/Arsenal – He was top scorer last week and I suspect the same will happen this week. It’s an obvious choice but Burnley at home is as close to a gimme as you can get and I fully expect to Fabregas to come off around 65 minutes having scored and assisted once or twice in order to rest his legs for Porto on Tuesday.

2. Torres/Liverpool – Things are quietly ticking over at Anfield and last week Gerrard and Torres started a game together for the first time since gameweek 20. Torres usually scores when he plays and Wigan is an inviting fixture given their relative struggles this season and their open brand of football.

3. Rooney/Man Utd – Fergie’s suggesting he’s doubtful for Wolves away but I don’t think Man Utd will go into that game with a strike force of Berbatov and Diouf, Milan game or no Milan game coming up. Rooney may only play part of the game, but as we saw in the Carling Cup final, that’s often enough.

fabregas fantasy football captain

Gets a Captain's tick.

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Three Potential Transfers In:

1. Torres/Liverpool – I know I mentioned him as a potential captain this week but I think he’s a decent option to bring in for the rest of the season. His price is slightly cheaper than Rooney’s and Drogba’s now and you could feasibly rotate any two depending on the fixtures (or go crazy and have all three!). Six of his remaining ten matches are against bottom half teams…

2. Lee/Bolton – With two away games, no one really stands out if you’re looking to bring in a Bolton player for their double gameweek. Ricketts did score 12 last week but they won’t get a clean sheet this time I don’t think. Lee has been the most productive midfielder recently so could snatch something. Wilshere could be an interesting wildcard.

3. Eagles/Burnley – With new manager Brian Law still tinkering, lots of Burnley’s players are at the rick of rotation right now. To be honest all they’ll get from Arsenal away is two points for playing so you have to consider who might to something at home to Stoke. I’m going with Eagles on the off-chance he starts getting some bonus points again.

fernando torres liverpool

Might be worth a pick.

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Three To Avoid:

1. Shawcross/Stoke – Manchild Shawcross has the most yellow cards of any centre back (*edit – ok it’s actually Turner but 7 and a red is still poor*) and now has a three match ban after his assault on Aaron Ramsey. Stoke don’t keep that many clean sheets any more and I suspect he won’t be getting too many more bonus points this season either.

2. Huddlestone/Spurs – I think I suggested it a couple of weeks ago but never got round to it. His injury and my lack of players means he’s finally out of the door when I make this week’s transfer.

3. Bent/Sunderland – Every week I keep him in as he’s Darren Bent and scoring meaningless goals is his forte (as well as important ones against the big four), but the time has come to say goodbye. I know I’ll regret it as Sunderland have three straight home games and a double gameweek coming up. But what’s fantasy football whithout a few risks…

Ryan Shawcross Stoke

Are you taking the mick?!

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T.

Fantasy Premier League – Gameweek 27 Preview

19/02/2010

Friday morning, and it’s time for the weekly fantasy Premier League preview. We’re up to week 27 now and soon we’ll be entering the home stretch. After the foursome of Bolton, Wigan, Man City and Stoke played out disappointing second games in week 26, two teams are in action twice this time round – Man Utd and West Ham. More on that later.

Despite my captain Tevez not playing in the second game, I managed a pretty good score of 69 this week, thanks in part to Charles N’Zogbia doing well for Wigan and Abou Diaby having a great game against Liverpool. It was a relatively low scoring week, and going by overall comparison it was my third best week of the season, enough to bring me up to 6,666 in the world (how satanic!). Another eight points added to the lead in our private league too – 43 now.

There’s lots to consider in the coming weeks with plenty of double teams as well the potential annihilation of week 29 due to the FA Cup.

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Gameweek 26 Top Gun (aka Tom Cruise Approves):

Maverick approves but expected a higher score to grace this spot.

Bit of a random Top Gun this week but Paul Scharner led the way with 14 points via a goal and clean sheet. Adam Johnson continues his immediate impact at Man City with 12 points (including four bonus points) and Charles N’Zogbia matched him. A few other scores in double figures while the expected big hitters of Tevez and Adebayor got just seven and eight points respectively.

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Three Captain Picks:

1. Rooney/Man Utd – Two games against Everton away and West Ham at home. As far as I can recall he has a decent record against Everton since leaving while if you were a betting man you’d have to back him in any game at Old Trafford. Super form as we know with four of his last five matches resulting in three bonus points (‘only’ two in the other!). No better choice this week.

2. Cole/West Ham – His second match at Old Trafford is a tough game but you never know what might happen if Rio and/or Vidic are still out. This pick is more based on the potential returns from the first match which is Hull at home. He’s in form having scored last week as well as getting a bonus point in each of the last two weeks.

3. Fabregas/Arsenal – A disappointing Champions League result on Wednesday and I suspect Sunderland may feel the brunt of a heavy defeat in response. Arsenal are terrific at home and Sunderland haven’t won in about three months or something silly. As usual Fabregas will run the show.

rooney man utd

Gets a Captain's tick

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Three Suggested Transfers In:

1. Bolton defenders – After no clean sheets all season, they have picked up three in the last five games. Owen Coyle has definitely made them more solid (the other two games were Liverpool and Man City) and they stand much better chance of holding their own against the teams around them. Their upcoming games will decide their season – Blackburn (A), Wolves (H), West Ham (A), Sunderland (A) and Wigan (H).

2. N’Zogbia/Wigan – They have a tough run coming up but he has bonus points in nine of his last 12 games. Now the seventh highest scoring midfielder and still only £6m.

3. Arsenal players – I said this last week but the next five matches are Sunderland (H), Stoke (A), Burnley (H), Hull (A), West Ham (H). I envisage at least ten goals from those games, and with so many injuries to the expensive players, you’re bound to find a potential bargain who could score heavy points.

Ricketts Bolton

Might be worth a pick.

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Three To Avoid:

1. Teams still left in the FA Cup – A warning for week 29 when as many as eight teams may not have a game. In particular you may want to hold off overloading on players from Chelsea (of the title challengers) and Aston Villa (who may not have a game two weeks running due the Carling Cup).

2. Everton midfielders – They do produce fantasy wise and Everton are much improved but I swear every week someone goes down with a serious injury. It’s now Fellaini’s turn to miss several months through injury.

3. Huddlestone/Spurs – I’ve had him in my team for a while due to his cheapness and occasional habit of picking up bonus points and assists. Having missed a penalty last week I think I’ll be finally getting rid – there are plenty of cheap midfielders who produce more.

Ashley Young fantasy football

Are you taking the mick?!

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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.

Live Report – Arsenal vs Aston Villa 27/12/09

29/12/2009

I was personally quite apprehensive going into the Christmas fixture against Aston Villa. They were unbeaten at the Emirates and possessed qualities which would no doubt cause Arsenal problems such as good crossing, organisation and pace on the break. With Fabregas doubtful I thought we would struggle a little. In the event my fears proved unfounded.

arsenal aston villa

Nervous excitement and a nice view from the upper tier.

Arsenal lined up in the now usual 4-3-3/4-5-1 with Eduardo Nasri and Arshavin as the front three and Diaby and Denilson in midfield with Song. In defence Armand Traore returned to offer some pace down the left flank. A bright opening saw Eduardo hit a tame shot (a passback really) straight at Brad Friedel when essentially one on one.

Vermaelen and Song were putting in some strong tackles that gained crowd approval while a few set pieces caused danger in the Aston Villa box (though none of the chances were clear-cut). Villa meanwhile looked to Agbonlahor to stretch the Arsenal defence through his pace and Heskey to challenge it with his strength. Almunia looked indecisive, and was constantly lumping it long to Arshavin which was pointless as Richard Dunne would win the header everytime.

Arsenal Aston Villa Fabregas

Two free kicks in two weeks? Not this time, but later.

Half-time saw the teams level at 0-0. An intriguing contest and an entertaining one, but one you felt had only a goal in it which was worrying given Villa’s result against Man Utd a few weeks back. The crowd was fairly subdued I thought and inklings of frustration were beginning to creep in as the misplaced pass count began to increase.

Denilson, though not playing badly, had once or twice failed to find the final pass and it was no surprise to see him come off for Fabregas on the hour. The impact was immediate. The pace of Arsenal’s play increased and balls began to find their way to Arshavin more often (he was often in space yet no one was giving him the ball).

Not long after Fabregas won himself a free kick, dusted himself down and curled a beauty into the top corner with Friedel flailing. The American’s positioning didn’t look set but I don’t think he would have saved it even if it was. With a 1-0 lead, the game opened up and was brought on to expose Villa on the break.

15 minutes later exactly that happened. Traore found Walcott on the right who went surging towards goal. Following him was Fabregas who was busting a gut (and a hamstring) to meet a through ball. Walcott’s pass was perfectly weighted and Cesc simply slotted past Friedel into the back of the net. His celebrations consisted of some stretching which was somewhat worrying, but this was tempered by the fact the game was won.

fabregas denilson arsenal aston villa

Denilson hadn't played badly but Fabregas offered much more attacking threat.

A huge cheer greeted his replacement by Ramsey. Fabregas had been the difference and this was our hardest game for a while so was perhaps worth the risk of his injury. A few minutes later, Diaby capped off a fine performance with a nice solo goal, as he just ran past the dejected Aston Villa midfield and curled it round Friedel from about 20 yards. He has been very good the past few games and you just wonder whether he can finally make his undoubted talent stick.

So a fantastic win coupled with probably our best half of the season. Aston Villa can count themselves slightly unlucky to come away with a 3-0 defeat but ultimately they didn’t have someone who could make the difference like Fabregas. Ashley Young was very quiet while Agbonlahor was marshalled well by Gallas and Vermaelen. Cesc looks like he’ll be out for a couple of weeks but with the next games against Portsmouth and Bolton he should hopefully not be missed too much.

T.

Fantasy Premier League – Gameweek 19 Preview

24/12/2009

On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me the Sportboys gave to you… a fantasy football preview for gameweek 19. I tell a small lie as I’m writing this on Christmas Eve and very little team news is in yet but we’ll do what we can. Gameweek 18 was quite bad for me personally and I only just scraped a slightly higher than average score of 40 points.

Only Richard Dunne and Andrey Arshavin scored more than 2 points and it was all in all a week to forget for me and many others. To add insult to injury I was knocked out of the fantasy cup by someone who had a really random team which hadn’t been changed in months but just happened to have a certain Abou Diaby in it. More on that below.

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Gameweek 18 Top Gun (aka Tom Cruise Approves):

abou diaby arsenal

Maverick approves of Diaby's 2nd Top Gun of the season

craig bellamy man city

Some Christmas Goose approval for Bellamy

In what is now a regular occurence, we have a tie for last week’s Top Gun award with Abou Diaby and Craig Bellamy both scoring 14 points. Diaby scored, assisted, kept a clean sheet and got three bonus for his second Top Gun of the season while Bellamy scored, assisted twice and picked up a couple of bonus for his trouble. Elsewhere Crouch and Santa Cruz both scored 13 points while Bobby Zamora hit the net again for 12 more points.

On to your Boxing Day picks…

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Three Captain Choices:

1. Tevez/Man City – The overpriced Argentinian has a few things going for him this week. Firstly he’s been in great form having scored four in his last four games while picking up nine bonus points in his last five. Secondly he faces Stoke at Eastlands – Stoke are terrible away from home and Man City have no trouble scoring lots (if not always winning). Thirdly you have the new manager syndrome which usually results in a positive result for that team. No one really know how Mancini will line things up but I’m fairly certain Tevez should be involved.

2. Rooney/Man Utd – I’ve had Rooney in my team for the past few weeks and have felt disappointed with his production, even though he technically has five in five (includes a hat-trick vs Pompey). He faces Hull this week, who despite their recent upturn in form are still a poor side and he should hopefully find the net.

3. Torres/Liverpool – One final striker to consider this week as the Spanish hitman will hopefully play against Wolves at home. The risk is that Rafa will save him for the Villa game on the 29th but the way Liverpool are playing right now this is more important. A goal is virtually guaranteed if he does play, it’s your call if you think he will.

Carlos Tevez Man City

Gets a Captain's tick.

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Three Suggested Transfers In:

1. Milner/Aston Villa – We suggested him not so long ago and it’s time to do so again. In the last seven weeks he’s scored five points or more six times and got into double figures three times. Aston Villa look like they can last the pace this season and Milner will be doing his utmost to ensure they a) finish in the top four and b) he get’s in the World Cup squad. Great value at £8m too.

2. Zamora/Fulham – It feels weird to suggest this but you can argue that Zamora isn’t in form right  now. Three goals in his last three games plus five bonus points suggests a man who is finally harnessing his talents at the highest level. I still don’t think it is a permanent thing but you may as well ride the wave until it stops seeing as he’s only £5.7m and plays twice next gameweek.

3. No transfer at all – With four teams playing twice in Gameweek 19 why not save this week’s transfer and get two free for then? Or be able to change three players for just a four point hit. Arsenal, Fulham, Stoke and Bolton all play twice and provide options longer term then just gameweek 19. Something to consider.

James Milner Aston Villa

Might be worth a pick.

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Three to avoid:

1. Man City players you don’t have – With any new manager comes two things; an upturn in performance but also uncertainty over who will play as he works out his favoured side. Mancini is generally someone who plays 4-4-2 with wingers which leaves question marks over people like Stephen Ireland. Additionally Adebayor and Robinho were dropped in Hughes’ last match in charge – will they find their way back in. Hold off a few weeks.

2. Chelsea strikers – With Drogba off to the African Nations, Anelka nursing a minor injury and Kalou being a bit rubbish, the onus will fall on the midfield in the next few week. People like Lampard, Ballack and Joe Cole should be monitored in the next few matches.

3. Anyone going to the African Cup of Nations – Time to think about who to bring in as replacements, gameweek 18 will be their last for a month.

Stephen Ireland Man City

Are you taking the mick?!

Good luck this week and a merry Christmas to everyone. I’ll try to do a gameweek 20 preview on Sunday but might not get a chance. Needless to say you should be going with Arshavin or Fabregas as captain and getting in a player or two from Bolton or Fulham.

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T.


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