Posts Tagged ‘foster’

Season Previews 2010/11 – Birmingham



Last Season: 9th

New Signings: Foster, Zigic, Valles

Key Player: Roger Johnson

One To Watch: Eric Valles

Needs A Big Year: Ben Foster

Would Quite Like: Avoiding second season syndrome and a victory over the Villa.

More money please.

Prediction: 12th

Thoughts: If Ben Foster can adequately replace the departing Joe Hart in goal then Birmingham will go a long way to having another successful season. One of the surprise packages last year (I had them down for relegation!), Alex McLeish will be looking to consolidate and make sure his team remain as tough to beat as they were last season.

A lot of their players probably over-performed and bearing in mind there is quite a reliance on people as old as Steve Carr and Kevin Phillips, there is a valid concern that this year won’t quite be as good. A proper left back is needed so Ridgewell no longer has to play there while Zigic will hopefully provide consistency up front or a big target to aim at if nothing else.

Carson Yeung’s promised riches haven’t quite materialised but continued defensive solidity will ensure mid-table will be perfectly acceptable and attainable again this season.


England World Cup Squad Predictions – Mark II


EDIT: Updated version – April 2010


Way back in March I wrote a post that tried to predict England’s World Cup squad for next summer’s tournament in South Africa. In it around 50 or so players were analysed; everyone from certainties like Wayne Rooney to certainly nots like Curtis Davies. With the friendly against Brazil fresh in the mind and only one more international break before the end of the season, there isn’t much time for players to impress if they haven’t already. As before let’s work our way through who’s on the plane through to who won’t be going at all. .

Key men (if England are to reach their usual quarter final):

First name in the squad is the captain John Terry simply as he’s captain. I personally think he gets found against the very best strikers but there’s no chance of him not going. He’s swiftly followed by Wayne Rooney, Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard. Rio Ferdinand goes as long as he’s fit, though it’s a concern if he doesn’t make it simply as playing style wise he’s harder to replace than Terry – England don’t have a lot of ball playing centre backs but do have a lot of one paced ones.

Gareth Barry is defensive midfielder of choice though may be usurped by a fit again Owen Hargreaves. They’ll both be on the plane however. Ashley Cole and Glen Johnson are the first choice full backs and are far ahead of their immediate competition.

Fabio Capello


On the plane (extra leg room provided):

David Beckham has sorted another loan spell at AC Milan and I’m positive he’ll be going to his 4th World Cup. He’s very much a bench player these days but still offers great set piece ability as well as experience. Emile Heskey has not been in great form and is no longer in Aston Villa’s starting XI but that said he will still be on the plane. He won’t score but he makes Rooney et al play better so for that reason is picked.

David James is first choice keeper, and despite his age should be able to handle that number of games in a month. Theo Walcott has had a succession of injuries but has done enough in the games he’s played to go as a wide man who can play up front. His pace is a big asset, plus he strikes me as someone who does what he’s told hence Capello likes him.

Matthew Upson and Jermaine Defoe should go as first back-up centre back and striker respectively. Neither are going to win you a World Cup final but they’re the best reserves in their position. Defoe just needs to watch his petulance slightly as there’s no point having a player who is going to miss games after needless red cards..

Looking for their passport (they are going out of Europe after all):

Joe Cole should be a little worried, just as he hasn’t found a way into the Chelsea team after injury, but at the same time he offers dribbling ability and creativity that not many can match. I was quite down on James Milner in my last prediction but did say he had a shot of making it. He seems to be impressing Capello right now and can play in a few positions. I do wonder whether he ultimately misses out due to the competition on the right side, though he has been playing down the left for England so you never know.

Aaron Lennon will be there or thereabouts, possibly in a straight battle with Milner for a spot. Rob Green looks like he’s firmly established as England’s number two while Wes Brown’s versatility of being a right back and centre back should mean he finds his way into the squad.

Fabio Capello training

Still thinking...

On the fringes (which bits are chopped?):

Wayne Bridge is doing his best to play his way out of the squad. You could argue about whether you really need to take a reserve left back, especially when the likes of Gareth Barry could play there if needed. Barring injury, the first choice defence are going to play every game so specialist reserve left back may be an area to gamble on not taking.

Of the other alternatives Capello has picked during his tenure, Leighton Baines and Steven Warnock don’t strike me as being quite good enough. If Joleon Lescott goes he provides left back cover too but he is quite shaky defensively so I don’t think he does. There is dearth of centre backs though. What price Kieran Gibbs continuing his rapid progress and staking a claim? Of all those players, he’ll be the only one playing Champions League football but a lot depends on whether he can keep Gael Clichy out of the Arsenal side once the Frenchman returns from injury. He appears to have just injured himself too.

I reckon Michael Carrick probably only goes if Barry or Hargreaves are injured and even then he’s shown countless times for Man Utd that he’s not a big game player. Gabriel Agbonlahor offers pace and will find himself with Peter Crouch, Carlton Cole and Darren Bent in the queue for the 4th striker spot.

Capello has only ever picked seven strikers so it would be a surprise to see him take five of them, not least when Walcott can play up front. Of the four I would say that the Sunderland man had his chance against Brazil and didn’t take it. I think Agbonlahor doesn’t give enough variety when compare to the others – with a 4th striker you want someone who offers something unique.

In that regard I’d say it will be a close run thing between Crouch and Cole.The former has a good international record (against crap teams at least) and is very tall (though not that good in the air) while the latter is a more complete striker who has pace, power and can play the target man role too. It’s a tough choice to be honest and I think Cole may need to break his international duck in the next round of fixtures if he’s to pip Crouch.

Ashley Young may find himself as number 24 on the list of players though personally I would find a space for him. It does seem like Capello isn’t quite sure of him yet. There aren’t too many options down the left but it does seem like either him or Milner would go but not both.

fabio capello press

Still not quite sure...

Too late to make it? (need good form and injuries to others):

Stewart Downing has upgraded clubs but has six months to shine at Aston Villa following serious injury. The same probably goes for Phil Jagielka at Everton. Tom Huddlestone got his first call up against Brazil and while he’s decent player, he’s not yet international standard. Jimmy Bullard? Unlikely but you never know. I see him being a good pundit though. Scott Parker has a very outside chance of being one of the back-up central midfielders; he’s certainly no worse than Carrick in my opinion.

Ben Foster? Joe Hart? Chris Kirkland? Take your pick for the third goalkeeping spot. I doubt it will be the latter though.Of other players we mentioned last time Jack Wilshere isn’t yet getting regular games at Arsenal while Jonathan Woodgate is permanently injured. Dean Ashton has essentially retired.

However Gary Cahill has played well enough at Bolton to come on to the radar as 4th centre back and has a chance of going if Capello takes eight defenders. Everton’s Jack Rodwell could be a dark horse but I think it is one tournament too soon for him. The same goes for some of the West Ham youngsters like Mark Noble and Jack Collison.

Fabio Capello touchline

Now thinking "Why are they so useless?"


Providing ITV analysis (or BBC if they’re good):

I had Shaun Wright-Phillips as going six months ago but now I think he misses out as you have Lennon, Walcott and Beckham providing all you need down the right (dribbling/goals/crossing). SWP can do all three but not as well and his poor performance against Brazil has sealed a seat next to Papa Wrighty on the studio sofa.

Jermaine Jenas is another who isn’t particularly defensive or attacking. World Cup squad players need be specialists once you get beyond the first team, there’s no room for these jack of all trades types who provide little. Michael Owen has yet to be picked by Capello and barring injuries to four of the seven strikers we mentioned will not be going to South Africa.

Micah Richards needs to get back in the Man City team before he can think about England – it’s all gone a bit pear shaped for him hasn’t it? He hasn’t been picked in a year; Capello just doesn’t like his terrible positional play. Scott Carson had a shot at being third choice keeper but he won’t be going and neither will Paul Robinson, who you could roll the ball to very slowly from 30 yards and he’d still find a way to let it in.

Sadly, Ledley King can barely handle three games in a month, let alone seven. He would 100% go if he could. David Bentley, Kevin Davies, Anton Ferdinand, Gary Neville – no, no, no and no.

fabio capello michael owen shaun wright phillips

The closest Owen has ever and will ever get to being in Capello's plans.


Possible squad:

James, Green, Foster.

Terry, Ferdinand, A. Cole, Johnson, Upson, Brown, Lescott.

Gerrard, Lampard, Barry, Hargreaves, Milner, Beckham, Lennon, J. Cole.

Rooney, Heskey, Defoe, C. Cole, Walcott.


The three keepers speak for themselves as do the first four defenders. Versatility is the name of the game so to complement Upson you have two centre backs in Brown and Lescott that can cover the two full back slots.

In midfield you have the three main men plus a fit again Hargreaves. Beckham goes for his experience while Lennon and Joe Cole provide the skill and trickery on either wing from the bench.Milner offers the most versatility of the remaining midfield options so gets the eighth spot.

Up front Rooney is a given, as is Heskey due to their partnership. Defoe is the main back up and I think Carlton Cole will play his way into the squad, pipping Peter Crouch whose record of scoring against bad teams is of no use when you only have good teams in the World Cup. Theo Walcott rounds off the squad as a foward player who can play right wing or as striker.

At most risk is Lescott I’d say and possibly Milner too. You may want more cover in central midfield and down the left so perhaps Carrick and Bridge or Gibbs (who could also play left wing) end up going instead.


Fantasy Premier League – Gameweek 7


After much talk, I went and used my wildcard last week and am much happier with my team for it. There has been nothing to suggest the there will plenty of clean sheets this season and it appears that in general teams are going for it a lot more. Whilst I think the big teams will start despatching poor sides with ease later in the season, I don’t think we’ll see anything to match Man Utd’s ridiculous clean sheet run of 08/09.

Anyway I decided to sacrifice most of my expensive defenders as well as one pricey midfielder (Arshavin) in order to get Rooney and Van Persie/Adebayor(once he’s back) up front. I still have Lampard and Gerrard plus Darren Bent so all in all quite pleased. Getting rid of Arshavin was something I was unsure of but at the moment he’s not producing and is getting injuries. I still think he’ll be pushing 200 points come May but for now I’ll run with the in form strikers.

I did think about trying to get Cole or Johnson in there but I think the former won’t keep up his goalscoring while the latter is too expensive now. I was also pleased that the leader in our league Amer, who you may remember has been as high as sixth in the world, also played his wildcard. I don’t especially like the changes he made and am still confident he can be clawed back despite a lead of 90 points. Of the main people I think only Sportboy P is yet to use his so we’ll see how long he waits.

Gameweek 6 Top Gun (aka Tom Cruise approves):

Maverick denies the accusation that the Top Gun award is designed to favour Arsenal players.

Maverick denies the accusation that the Top Gun award is designed to favour Arsenal players.

An Arsenal player wins it for the third time this season as 19 points come from Thomas Vermaelen who scored twice against Wigan and kept a clean sheet too. He only got one bonus point and having been at the game I think that was fair. He scored two good goals but there were more important players who contributed to the 4-0 win.

It’s a little tricky with Arsenal players this year as there are quite a few who are capable of random bursts of points scoring (see Diaby in week 3) but there’s a lot more fluidity (and rotation) in the new formation meaning you’re never quite sure who’s going to come up trumps. I could quite easily imagine Arshavin, Eduardo and Van Persie all winning the Top Gun award before the season is out.

Elsewhere James Milner continues to increase his influence at Villa with 14, Ryan Giggs got three assists in the Manchester derby for 14 and Torres scored two great goals against West Ham for 13.

Interestingly, every single recipient of the Top Gun award has stunk the place out the following week – Fabregas 2pts, Johnson 1pt, Diaby 2pts, Cole 1pts, Benayoun 2pts. It looks like the Football Guy’s decision to bring in last week’s Top Gun Vermaelen could well backfire. Expect two solitary points in a 2-1 victory!

Three Captain choices:

1. Torres or Gerrard or Johnson or Kuyt/Liverpool – You should really have one of these guys in your team if you any ambitions for winning private leagues and with a home game at Hull it’s take your pick as to who you think will cause most damage. Torres is back in form and Hull have a shocking defence, Gerrard has been on the verge of a huge week for a while now, Dirk Diggler Kuyt has scored two weeks running while Johnson is very likely to get a clean sheet and assist.

2. Defoe/Tottenham – Ickle Defoe was quiet against Chelsea but has a home game against Burnley this weekend. Burnley are no pushovers of course but I’m pretty sure this game will have goals in it, hence Defoe is as likely as anyone to be amongst them.

3. Baines/Everton– Portsmouth are fast becoming the team where you pick whoever is playing against them as captain. Six straight defeats and I don’t see Everton not beating them to make seven. Baines is in great form and has assists in three straight games. Clean sheet + assist? A good chance I’d say. If you’re feeling adventurous pick Saha, Yakubu or Bilyaletdinov.

Gets a Captain's tick.

Gets a Captain's tick.

Three to bring in:

1. Giggs/Man Utd – Old man Giggs has shown that he still runs (metaphorically at least) the Man Utd midfield. His set-piece delivery is still second to none and he got three assists last week. While I don’t think he can maintain it for the whole season, it’s worth getting him in for the time being. He’s only £7m which is excellent value. Fletcher is worth considering, but he doesn’t contribute much beyond the odd bonus point (last week’s double aside).

2. Bilyaletdinov/Everton– The injury list at Goodison Park is always quite large with any number of players out. This guy was signed in August for £10m or so and he has impressed in his two cup games so far with five, yes five assists. A bit of set piece specialist by all accounts he’s only played two league minutes so far but I expect he will get more shortly. Worth a punt at £6.5m with four very favourable fixtures coming up. Put that in your spellchecker and smoke it!

3. Barry/Man City– Fast becoming the bonus point machine at Eastlands. I think the pattern will go something like this: if Adebayor scores he gets three bonus, if he doesn’t but City still win then Barry will. Not very scientific but still.

Might be worth a pick.

Might be worth a pick.

Three to avoid:

1. Foster/Man Utd – I still have him but every passing week I’m less impressed. I’m very tempted to cash that £5m in, get a second cheap keeper who saves enough to make up for fewer clean sheets and invest the rest elsewhere. VDS isn’t that far away from being back either.

2. Bolton players – Booed off the pitch last week and the next five games are quite tough (Birmingham A, Spurs H, Man Utd A, Everton H & Chelsea H). I can see them getting no more than two points and it wouldn’t surprise me if they lost all five.

3. Benayoun/Liverpool – Not because he isn’t a good player, but the 24 point week is the exception rather than the rule and I would much rather have the more consistent Dirk Kuyt in my team (and regular readers will know my irrational fantasy hate for Dirk). Benayoun strikes me as someone who will always be the guy who assists the assist, i.e. the guy who gets no points.

Are you taking the mick?

Are you taking the mick?


Season Previews 09/10 – Manchester United



Last Season: 1st plus a Carling Cup win, Champions League final and FA Cup semi final.

Say hello to your new teammates: Michael Owen, Gabriel Obertan, Antonio Valencia

Close the door on your way out: Cristiano Ronaldo, Carlos Tevez, Frazier Campbell.

Predicted star: Wayne Rooney has it all set up. A central role should be his at last and he’ll now be the key creative outlet following Ronaldo’s departure. He undoubtedly has the talent to score 25 goals in all competitions as well as hand a bucket load of assists, it’s just a question of can it all fall into place.

This is my town now.

This is my town now.

Needs a big year: Antonio Valencia. Mr Ronaldo’s shoes are big ones to fill and Valencia is no 42 goal a season man. Indeed he only got six last season, but he has enough pace and skill to get into double figures at a team like Man United. I think the fact that no one expects him to be as good as Ronaldo means there should be less pressure on him. He has plenty of Premier League experience so should slot right in. I could add Michael Owen to this section too. Everyone seems to have written him off and while he will spend time out injured at points in the season, he will get at least ten goals if not 15 in all comps. For a free transfer you can’t really argue with that.

One to watch: It looks like there’s another crop of talented youngsters coming through the Old Trafford ranks and the likes of Federico Macheda, Danny Welbeck, Darron Gibson and the da Silva twins should provide plenty of interest and talking points over the course of 2009/10.

To me, to you.

To me, to you.

What they want to happen: Title number 19 preferably with Liverpool in 2nd again.

Nightmare scenario: Ronaldo’s transfer sees them drop all the way to 4th as they struggle to replace his goals and influence.

Plan A: With C-Ron gone it looks like it will be back a traditional 4-4-2 this year. The defence is solid and picks itself and Evra and Rafael will provide support down the flanks. Carrick will sit and playmake while a variety of options will compete to play alongside him. Valencia will have much less of a free, roaming role compared to Ronaldo and his job will be to feed Rooney and Berbatov with the latter playing further forward.

Plan B, just in case: Bring Owen off the bench and play it into the six yard box.

Predicted finish: 1st.

Why? So how come I think Man Utd will win their fourth straight title despite losing their best player? I’m not entirely sure to be honest and I’ve changed my mind quite a few times whilst writing these previews. The top four will be very tight but I believe Fergie’s men have the most solid base in their defence. A measly 24 goals were conceded last season and this included a record run of thirteen straight clean sheets. If you don’t concede at all in 24 of your games, it puts a lot less pressure on the attack who thus need to find just one goal.

Ronaldo dug them out of many a game but Rooney is capable of providing a similar level where week by week he finds a way of breaking through a stubborn defence. Owen is an interesting gamble and should prove a match winner on several occasions. If you think Tevez only got five league goals last season, then Owen will certainly beat that. As mentioned before, several youngsters were beginning to make a mark last year and Ferguson seems quite happy to go with the three experienced strikers plus Welbeck and Macheda in reserve.

Owen fears a merking.

Owen fears a merking.

Another of United’s great strengths is the ability to beat poor teams with no fuss, home and away. They failed to win just one game against the bottom twelve last year I believe and that was the opening game against Newcastle United. If you think that their record against the other members of the big four could actually be improved then you begin to see why it’s not unfeasible a fourth successive title is on its way.

The chequebook is apparently closed for the summer but I would be surprised if no one came in, though perhaps it won’t be until January. In any case, every year people think Ferguson is finished and Man Utd will step aside for someone else and nearly every year they are proved wrong. I’m happy to tip them for another and as the old adage goes, if you finish ahead of them you’ll probably be Champions yourself.



Fantasy Premier League Preview 09/10 – Goalkeepers


The new season is only a few weeks away, it’s time to start drafting those fantasy football teams. Once again the competition of choice will be Fantasy Premier League, free to use and with the best features. As with the last three years, Sportboy T (that’s me), Sportboy P (he does exist), the Football Guy (the reigning champ) and a few others will be having a mini-league which we’ll keep you updated on over the course of the season. Needless to say it’s about time someone else won it. This is the first of the previews which focuses on that weird guy at the back – the goalkeeper. We’ll follow with looks at defence, midfield and attack in the next few days…

Dedication, but a bit of luck too.

Dedication, but a bit of luck too.


Pricey keepers always seem like a waste of money. I’m more of the school of thought that you’re better off spending your budget elsewhere. A cheap goalkeeper for a poor team is likely to get more points for making saves due to him being busy and the relative money you save will make up for lack of clean sheets. You always get a surprise team that’s solid too, let’s not forget Schwarzer was top scoring goalkeeper last year and he was a bargain £4m to begin with. Jaaskelainen and Sorenson were both top 10 too.

Number one last season.

Number one last season.


Expensive (£5.5m-£6.5m)

Having said the above, you could also view this area as a cheap way of getting a top four defender in your side for less than it would cost to have a top four defender (if you follow). What do I mean by this? Well take Chelsea’s defence for example. All of their likely starting defenders cost £7m+, whereas Petr Cech can be had for just £6.5m. He’ll be getting the same 6 points for a clean sheet and you’ll have £0.5m in the bank. Looking at the rest of the guys in this price range it’s hard to see any value. I suppose Reina offers a similar strategy to Cech and is also at £6.5m – Liverpool should be solid again. I don’t expect Man Utd and Van der Sar to be as tight defensively this year (indeed I don’t expect VDS to be first choice by the season’s end) so I would avoid him. Almunia is overpriced at £6.5m while Howard, Friedel and Given don’t represent good enough value. Everton, Villa and Man City will keep clean sheets but probably in spells rather than consistently over the season. Lots of people will pick Schwarzer based on last year (175 points) at £5.5m. Lots of people will be disappointed.

Cheap for a Chelsea player.

Cheap for a Chelsea player.


Mid-range (£4.5m-£5m)

Unlike other positions where it may make sense to have some cheap options, some mid-price and a few big guns, it makes no sense with goalkeepers I’d say. Either go for top of range or go for the cheapest. I would tend to avoid this price range if possible. I aim it more at the £5m guys than the £4.5m ones but even then I’d probably be looking to save that extra half a million. Looking at who costs £5m, it’s all reserve top four guys like Fabianski and Cavalieri (not going to play) or top half clubs who aren’t especially solid like Spurs (Gomes) and West Ham (Green). Avoid. There are some tempting choices at £4.5m like the aforementioned Jaaskelainen and maybe Craig Gordon at Sunderland too, who under Steve Bruce should have a good defensive record.

Just say no.

Just say no.


Cheap (£4m)

This is where I’m likely to make my two choices from. It goes without saying that your sub keeper should cost £4m as he’s only likely to play about four times over the course of the season. Why not your main guy too? It appears that Thomas Sorenson has been deemed as this season’s Schwarzer with 37% of people picking him so far. Stoke kept plenty of clean sheets last season (at home a least) and he scored a solid 143. Joe Hart is a good shout and you’ve got a few other guys there who are going to play every week.

This year's Schwarzer. Probably.

This year's Schwarzer. Probably.



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