Posts Tagged ‘Milner’

Season Previews 2010/11 – Manchester City


Man City

Last Season: 5th

New Signings: Silva, Boateng, Toure, Kolarov with Milner and Balotelli to potentially come

Key Player: Carlos Tevez

One To Watch: Mario Balotelli if he joins, David Silva if he doesn’t.

Needs A Big Year: Joleon Lescott

Would Quite Like: Everything if possible. Will settle for a trophy and coming above their city neighbours.

Four more players please.

Prediction: 4th

Thoughts: A friend and I spent a couple of hours at work recently trying to predict who would be in Man City’s starting line up. After much deliberation we decided we had no idea. This is probably the biggest issue facing Mancini as he begins his first full season in charge at Eastlands.

Whilst some of the prices he (or rather his bosses) have paid for players would dictate they will start but even then who can you really say is guaranteed to play if fit? Tevez obviously. Silva and Yaya Toure I suppose. Koralov too. But beyond that it appears like it may be a case of adapting to the opponent and seeing who performs.

This is fine but with big games from the very off, there isn’t much room for error if the aim is to challenge for the title. The sheer depth of a squad where Bellamy, Ireland and Santa Cruz aren’t even in the 25 (and are all likely to leave) means a top four finish should be comfortably achieved. Whether they can do even better depends on how quickly things will gel together.

Tactically it looks like City will be playing two defensive midfielders whatever happens, though Toure is known to get forward. At home I’d wager that Tevez and another striker (Balotelli probably) play up front with Silva and Milner pushing from left and right. A fluid 4231. Away from home against stronger teams it may almost be a Christmas tree formation with three defensive midfielders, with Silva and another pacy player supporting Tevez up front on his own.

The options are quite varied to be honest but Mancini is a bit of a safety first manager. My main concern is whether the centre-backs are up to the task. Lescott and Kolo Toure were decidedly average last season meaning it will be probably be Kompany alongside one of them, or possibly even Boateng. Either way it’s not going to be the greatest partnership in the world. What price another defender coming in before the deadline?

No , make that five.

Overall I think City will do well but they’re still a season away from a proper title push. This time next year though they’ll have Champions League football to offer as a carrot to prospective players. Just watch who they sign then…



Weekly Photoshop – James Milner


Winner! £100 coming my way. The first time I’ve won top prize in well over a year. England’s new favourite utility man James Milner was this week’s theme. It’s a bumper triple bill for you, his slightly odd head being a wealth of potential. One can only marvel at that tree trunk neck…

milner england

Milner's big block head was preventing Capello from fitting him into the round shaped hole in England's midfield


I'm sure there's a joke in here somewhere about him fighting Lampard over the last slice of Cow Pie...


And a mega harsh one for luck…

Is it harsh to say he's one half of the ugly twins? There's a passing resemblance at least...


More here.





Fantasy Premier League – Gameweek 36 Preview


An interesting week last week with Aston Villa and Hull providing opportunity for double gains. Unless you were the gambling type, I imagine most bets were hedged on the key Aston Villa players. While the returns weren’t huge, they weren’t bad either and will probably have justified any points spent in transfers.

It was a slightly above average week for me, not helped by going for Ashley Young as captain. Just 12 points from him as he got just a solitary bonus point. The league lead is 39 with three weeks left, and Sportboy P (remember him?!) now takes up the chase.


Gameweek 35 Top Gun (aka Tom Cruise Approves):

James Milner Top Gun Aston Villa

Maverick approves of Milner's second top gun.

matt taylor bolton

Goose approves of Taylor's best performance this season.

Two midfielders got 15  points this week; James Milner and Matt Taylor. Milner scored once and got six bonus points last week while Taylor got into double figures for the first time this season through two goals and three bonus. He has been a little underwhelming in 2009/10 but still has eight goals and three assists.

Elsewhere Charles N’Zogbia got himself 13 points against Arsenal while six players scored eleven. Of those the most interesting was Gareth Bale. After not scoring for over two years, he now has two goals in two weeks.


Three Captain Picks:

1. Lampard/Chelsea – A home game against Stoke should be easy pickings for Chelsea. Stoke are still rubbish away from the Britannia and I’m sure Ancelotti will be looking for a response from his team after last week’s debacle against Spurs. Drogba picked up an injury during the defeat and may not be fully fit, thus possibly creating an opportunity for Lampard to run the show.

2. Arteta/Everton – A home game against Fulham is no doubt tough but Roy Hodgson has gone on record as saying that the Europa League is now his priority. Everton are in good form and should probably win against a Fulham side in the middle of a European semi-final against Hamburg. Arteta is back from injury and scored last week.

3. Van Persie/Arsenal or Adebayor/Man City – Hate each other, face each other this weekend at the Emirates and will both be super motivated to be the match-winner. Van Persie has home advantage but may not start. Adebayor will get royally booed with every touch but is match fit and has the benefit of facing Silvestre and Campbell.

Frank Lampard Chelsea

Gets a Captain's tick!


Three Suggested Transfers In:

It’s all about form players right now.

1. Bale/Spurs – Obviously he’s been excellent in the past two weeks with 20 points but looking further back he’s been consistently good since regaining his place in mid-January. 85 points since gameweek 22 plus two matches coming up next week.

2. Players with something to play for – Whether that’s from teams who are relegation threatened, fighting for titles or simply those after personal gain like World Cup selection – now is the time to go for motivated players ahead of those whose season has ended.

3. Craddock/Wolves – 25 points in his last four games.

gareth bale spurs

Might be worth a pick.


Three To Avoid:

1. Wigan players – Beat Arsenal last week so judging by how their season has gone will probably lose against West Ham this time round.

2. Terry/Chelsea – Out this week through suspension and generally not playing well.

3. Arsenal goalkeepers & defenders – Not that you’d have one!

n'zogbia wigan

Are you taking the mick?!



England World Cup Squad Predictions – Part Three


A semi-regular feature (ok, just twice) has been an attempt to look into Signor Capello’s mind and try to make an educated guess on who might make the England squad for this summer’s World Cup. When first written in March last year the following conclusion was reached:

James, Foster, Kirkland.

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

Lampard, Gerrard, J.Cole, Young, Beckham, Hargreaves, Wright-Phillips, Barry.

Rooney, Walcott, Heskey, Crouch, Defoe.


Another go was made in November and there weren’t too many changes to be honest:

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.


So, what’s changed since then? Quite a lot since you ask. We’ll start with Goldenballs himself David Beckham. A shoo-in for the squad if fit, he injured his Achilles in the last-minute of a Milan league match and will not be fit in time. He’ll still be going to South Africa, but purely as a cheerleader. I think Fabio Capello would sooner pick his mum for England than Michael Owen but he’s been saved the hassle of having to explain to the press why it wasn’t going to happen as Owen is out injured too.

In my last preview I had doubts over Wayne Bridge going just to the low likelihood of needing a second left back but now he won’t be going due to John Terry’s assertion that the role of club and country captain allows you to shag your best mate’s fiance and then pay her to get rid of the consequences. Capello harbours hope that Bridge may change his mind but he won’t.

england squad

Capello's first squad. How things change.



Five months ago David James looked certain to be first choice but a succession of niggly injuries and a relegation battle with Portsmouth seems to have given a chance for Rob Green. There’s no doubt in my mind James is still better but it may come to whether he can play seven games in a month. Either way both go.

The third spot is now clearly Joe Hart‘s after a great season at Birmingham. He won’t play but I imagine it’s to give him experience ahead of him becoming the first choice for the Euro 2012 campaign. This is the least interesting position in terms of uncertainty; barring injury those three will 100% go to South Africa. Next in line would be Paul Robinson I reckon but the less we think about that the better.



The first choice back four pick themselves and they should all be relatively fresh given their various injuries this season. Yep Ashley Cole, Glen Johnson, John Terry and Rio Ferdinand being fit are key to England’s hopes (along with Rooney of course) given how poor the back up is. The drop-off in each position is quite worrying and none of the backups really strike me as being international quality.

Matthew Upson is still the go-to centre back if one of the main two go down. Joining him will be Joleon Lescott who can provide cover at left back and probably Wes Brown who can provide cover at right back. It’s a scary thought if either of those two have to play full back – can you imagine them trying to stop a Ribery or a Messi *shudder*.

The more I think about it the more I believe it will be seven defenders only, especially when you can call on certain midfielders to provide cover too. Barry, Milner, Carrick and Gerrard have all played defensive positions adequately. Desperately hoping for an injury or two will be Phil Jagielka who is certainly next in line.

Should Capello go a bit cautious then Leighton Baines will now be the second left-back while shockingly, and mainly due to lack of any other alternatives, Gary Neville would go if Johnson was crocked. Ryan Shawcross has been looked at but the fallout over the Ramsey tackle has put paid to his hopes. Michael Dawson? Perhaps but I doubt it.

A couple of interesting wildcards would be Ledley King and Sol Campbell. When fully fit the former is probably better than Terry but he’s rarely fully fit. The latter meanwhile has been a revelation since rejoining Arsenal in January. As backups they wouldn’t have to play every three days but I guess the risk is that if Terry or Rio were badly injured then they would be needed more often than they could handle. Still though, it could be worth a gamble.

wayne bridge john terry veronica perroncel

No longer friends, no longer teammates.



Again we’ll deal with the first choice guys first. Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard and Gareth Barry have been there and done that. All are super experienced and in the team. Beyond that it starts to depend on who the opposition is. James Milner has gone from nowhere to possibly challenging for a place in the first XI.

Aaron Lennon should regain fitness in time to take a right-wing spot against weaker sides, while the fact Owen Hargreaves still isn’t fully fit means Michael Carrick will be the nominal defensive midfielder. That’s the Michael Carrick who has been found out against every top side he’s faced this season.

If I had written this two months ago Theo Walcott would probably not have been going but he’s recovered form well in the preceding time. You still feel his one weapon is pace though. Stewart Downing seems to be the only left winger under consideration but I haven’t really been that impressed by him.

Joe Cole is desperately trying to find some form in Chelsea’s last few games – he’s under great risk of not going but at the same time he has skills which no other English midfielder has. It may well come down to a straight choice between him and Adam Johnson, who has been excellent in his three months at Man City.

The one thing against the latter is the he normally plays on the right (even though he’s left-footed) and there’s already Lennon and Walcott in the squad. That said Beckham would still have gone if fit so there’s no reason why Johnson can’t be a third option on the right as well as one on the left too. It could come down to the next friendly.

Shaun Wright-Phillips wasn’t in my squad last time I did this and he won’t be in this one either, despite Beckham’s injury opening a spot. Johnson has usurped him at club so no doubt he will at country. Plus it may also be that Wright-Phillips is a bit average. Sorry Ian.

People knocking on the door marked injury backups? Hmm, Tom Huddlestone has had a decent season at Spurs as a central midfielder with centre back skills but I think Jagielka would sooner go as a centre back with central midfielder skills. Ashley Young just doesn’t seem to be liked Capello as for my money he’s better than Downing but is very much on the fringes.

There’s a real dearth beyond that. Jack Rodwell? Scott Parker? Lee Cattermole? Your guess is as good as mine.

capello england

Johnson and Cole? Just one, not both.



I think it’s still very much four strikers plus Walcott as a fifth forward. Wayne Rooney is so important it’s unbelievable. If he gets injured you’re probably looking at a second round knock-out. With him fit it’s at least the quarter finals woo! Anyway, he’s first name on the teamsheet.

Emile Heskey is under a lot of pressure right now. Obviously the point of Heskey isn’t goals but how he enables others (like Rooney) to play better – the thing is though that there’s only so poor a season someone can have before you have to look at alternatives. He should be fine, I think. Jermain Defoe is an impact striker – not good enough for 90 minutes but capable of being a 25 minute nuisance.

Peter Crouch will need to make sure he performs well in the next squad get together as Bobby Zamora looks set for a call up ahead of the final friendly. Zamora perhaps is more of a replacement for Heskey in terms of skill set and what he’d give the team but Crouch should be concerned too. Carlton Cole would go if Defoe was injured, while Darren Bent would go if Cole and Defoe were unfit. Gabriel Agbonlahor doesn’t seem to be on the radar and rightly so.


So where does that leave us? Well for my money these are the 23 going to South Africa:

James, Green, Hart.

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

Gerrard, Lampard, Barry, Milner, Carrick, Lennon, Walcott, Johnson, Downing.

Rooney, Heskey, Defoe, Crouch.

Fantasy Premier League – Gameweek 35 Preview


Just four weeks left and 44 points to play with. My lead has been shrinking slowly but hopefully the season can be seen out without too much fuss. It’s starting to get rather tricky given the numerous injuries to the so-called ‘big’ players. Indeed only Drogba and Lampard can say they’re fully fit right now with maybe Rooney to come back soon. The search is on for the less heralded players who can make a difference.

In terms of overall performance, a second shocking week in three (by shocking I mean 1.3millionth for the week) means I’ve dropped out of the top 10,000. I’m still on track for my highest ever finish both points and position wise but it would be nice to end things on a high.


Gameweek 34 Top Gun (aka Tom Cruise Approves):

Graham Alexander Burnley

Maverick approves of vendettas. Reminds him of the one he had with Iceman.

Graham Alexander seems to have some kind of personal vendetta against Hull. After winning the gameweek 11 Top Gun for 21 points against Hull (two goals, clean sheet and 3BP) he decided to repeat the trick last week in the return match. Another two goals (both penalties) coupled with being man of the match saw 17 points coming his way.

There was no clean sheet this time but once again it illustrated the value of having penalty takers in your fantasy squad, even if they do play for a rubbish team. Elsewhere, Adebayor and Tevez continued their newfound high-scoring partnership with 15 and 11 points respectively. Let’s see them do it against Man Utd this weekend though.


Three Captain Choices:

1. Young (or maybe Agbonlahor)/Aston Villa – Aston Villa play twice this gameweek; both away games against basement dwellers Portsmouth and Hull. If they have any lingering hopes of finishing fourth then six points is a must. The fact Villa are away in both matches should suit their counter-attacking style and I’m looking at their paciest players as captain options.

While Milner is a fair shout, he’s burnt many a manager in not one but two previous double gameweeks and his recent form hasn’t been great anyway. Young (Ashley not Luke btw!) on the other hand has four assists, a goal and three bonus points in his last five. Meanwhile upfront Agbonlahor tends to score in bunches and he got his first goal in about six weeks on Wednesday.

2. Tevez/Man Utd City – You just know he’s going to do something against his old team.

3. Bullard/HullPhil Brown’s Iain Dowie’s side are the other team playing twice and while the realist in me thinks they’ll lose both, on the the other hand they face a Birmingham side in poor form and with nothing to play for and an Aston Villa side fading when it matters. You might be looking at goal or two if nothing else and the likeliest man to score for Hull is Bullard.

Ashley Young fantasy football

Gets a Captain's tick.


Three Suggested Transfers In:

1. Van Persie/Arsenal – I mentioned last week you should keep an eye on him and if Wednesday’s ultimately fruitless 25 minute cameo against Spurs is anything to go by then he’s not far from being back amongst the fantasy points. Arsenal face Wigan this weekend before Man City at home next week.

While he may not start this time, I imagine he’ll be getting a minimum of 30 minutes before a super motivated start against his old friend Adebayor next weekend. As good a differential as you’re likely to find at this stage.

2. Johnson/Liverpool – Sneakily scoring quite good points over the last five weeks after returning to full fitness. Liverpool are pretty solid again right now and he’s popped up with a couple of assists too. Still well pricey at £7.6m but maybe get him in and cheap midfielder rather than hoping that the likes of Arteta etc will regain fitness.

3. Gomes/Spurs – 26 points in three games, still under £5m.

Robin van Persie

Might be worth a pick.


Three To Avoid:

1. Vermaelen/Arsenal – Another key player at Arsenal bites the dust for the season.

2. Torres/Liverpool – One of the most frustrating players I’ve encountered in fantasy football. So good yet injured so often.

3. Birmingham players – Bottom of the form league.

thomas vermaelen arsenal

Are you taking the mick?!



Fantasy Premier League – Gameweek 32 Preview


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…


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!


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.


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.


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?!



Fantasy Premier League – Gameweek 31 Preview


Week 31. 15 matches. Given it’s so late in the season this will be title deciding I would think. Ten teams play twice including four from the top half so you should really be looking at having a minimum of seven double players I’d say. Unless we get a bunch of 1-1 draws, 100 points should be the minimum target.

Last week was pretty good – 85 points and a slight increase of my league lead. This despite having five players who would have been better captain choices than Fat Frank. He’ll be leaving my team for Fabregas again shortly after this double gameweek ends. I was particularly pleased with Bendtner getting another 11 points while spending eight points on transfers just about paid off too.


Gameweek 30 Top Gun (aka Tom Cruise Approves):

fernando torres liverpool

Maverick wants to know where Torres got those highlights...

After an injury truncated season, Fernando Torres reminded us of what he can do with 19 points against Portsmouth. Two goals, two assists and three bonus gave him his highest score of the season, moving him into the top seven strikers despite having played just 1471 minutes.

Funnily enough his price has actually gone down this week as people were still reacting to one point against Wigan plus the fact he faces Man Utd this week. Judging by past form against Vidic that no bad thing. Elsewhere Malouda got 16, Milner and Aquilani 12 while it was a striker’s week with Rooney, Drogba, Bendtner, Berbatov and Pavlyuchenko all in double figures.


Three Captain Picks:

1. Chelsea attackers – First choice for a captain this week should be Chelsea attacking players. While they have two away game which are trickier than they look, I’d still be surprised if they didn’t come away with six points from Blackburn and Portsmouth. Lampard is an option as always, while Malouda is possibly their best player right now. You can’t really look further than Drogba though, and he should feast on those two defences. I wouldn’t bother with Chelsea defenders this week, I think it’ll be one clean sheet at best.

2. Aston Villa players – Villa have two home games against Wolves and Sunderland. Again, I’d be surprised if they got less than six points and they perhaps offer more variety than Chelsea. I’d be quite comfortable with picking Dunne as captain while Agbonlahor is usually involved some way when they score. Really though Milner is the most realistic choice when choosing a Villa captain. You can talk about potential differentials like Young and Downing all you want but at the end of the day it will be Milner getting the points.

3. Everton midfielders – Choices from Everton are narrowed to their midfield for me as Saha is currently injured and I don’t trust the Yak. Pienaar has been consistent and Cahill is always good for a goal but now that Arteta is back he’s the man you want.

Didier Drogba Chelsea

Gets a Captain's tick.


Three Suggested Transfers In:

1. Johnson/Man City – How brave are you feeling? Johnson has shone for Man City since joining in January and last week got himself nine points coming of the bench to rescue a draw vs Sunderland. Difficult fixtures against Fulham A and Everton H but he is in form and making an impact. The key question is will he play both matches? I think yes, but you never know with Mancini.

2. Olsson/Blackburn – An interesting week for Blackburn as they have two home games but both of those matches are quite tough (Chelsea and Birmingham). Olsson is one of the cheapest players in the game at just £3.8m and is listed as a defender even though he normally plays left of midfield. I could certainly see him getting a clean sheet against Brum and perhaps a cheeky assist too.

3. O’Hara/Portsmouth – They’ve been docked points, are essentially relegated, and face Hull and Chelsea this week. That said they are ok at home and tend to score if nothing else. O’Hara should get something against Hull (unless new manager syndrome kicks in) and will get two points vs Chelsea too. He’s cheap and gets bonus, what more do you want?

adam johnson man city

Might be worth a pick.


Three To Avoid:

1. Hull players – Not even Iain Dowie can save this lot.

2. N’Zogbia/Wigan – His double gameweek produced just one assist and he’s been taken off before the hour twice in the last three weeks.

3. Anelka/Chelsea – No goals or bonus since the end of January.

jimmy bullard hull

Are you taking the mick?!



Fantasy Premier League – Gameweek 30 Preview


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.


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.


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.


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.


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?!



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


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.


Fantasy Premier League – Gameweek 19 Preview


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.


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…


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.


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.


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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