Posts Tagged ‘Owen’

Season Previews 2010/11 – Manchester United

12/08/2010

Man Utd

Last Season: 2nd + Carling Cup Winners

New Signings: Smalling, Hernandez, Bébé

Key Player: Wayne Rooney

One To Watch: Javier Hernandez

Needs  A Big Year: Rio Ferdinand

Would Quite Like: To keep City in their place while winning title 19 to overtake Liverpool’s record. Two birds, one stone.

Prediction: 1st

Thoughts: Alex Ferguson came mighty close to another league title last season but ultimately fell a point short of Chelsea, which was impressive given they’d lost both league matches against the Blues. Wayne Rooney carried them with his best ever season but the injury he suffered in March meant the Red Devils stuttered to the line somewhat and were pipped at the post.

Not too much has changed at Old Trafford with just three players joining in the shape of Chris Smalling (who was bought in January), Javier Hernandez and unknown striker Bébé for whom Ferguson has paid £7m or so on the back of a Carlos Queiroz recommendation. This last signing is really out of the blue, and considering how Nani and Anderson have turned out, it might be another case of overpaying.

In terms of the other two, Smalling is clearly being groomed as an eventual successor to Rio Ferdinand, though he wasn’t impressive when he played for Fulham last season. Hernandez or ‘Chicarito’ as he likes to be known is the interesting one. He looked very lively in the World Cup and has had a good pre-season. Double figures in goals could well be possible in his first season.

Bebe Man Utd

The last two Queiroz recommendations (Anderson and Nani) haven't exactly been rip roaring successes.

Elsewhere, there appears to be another crop of good youngsters pushing through, which is probably why Fergie hasn’t spent too much this summer. The likes of Tom Cleverley have been impressive in pre-season and should feature regularly as the season progresses.

The defence is solid if a little injury prone with van der Sar, Rio and Vidic all susceptible to niggles. Evans is a capable deputy at centre back however. Evra was one of the team’s best players last season but a question does remain over right back, where you have the same scenario as last season with O’Shea, Neville and Rafael battling it out.

It might be this for England.

Further forward, there are a huge range of options in midfield and attack. Fergie hasn’t named the same side in well over a 100 games and the likes of Valencia, Anderson, Nani, Park, Berbatov, Owen, Carrick, Scholes and Giggs all provide different options at different times.

Nani especially looked to finally be living up to some of his potential last season and Fergie will hope that he can be consistent over a whole season.

But it's more like this for Man Utd.

Really though it all depends on Rooney. The team is built around him now and he responded with his best ever season last year. After a dreadful World Cup (due to lack of fitness more than anything) he will want to bounce back – he looked half decent in the Charity Shield before being a bit rubbish in the Hungary friendly but I suspect the home comforts of Manchester will see another good season.

As ever, United have a pretty good team and if you come above them, you stand a very good chance of winning the title. I do feel Chelsea won’t be quite as good while Arsenal are still a decent keeper away from being true contenders. Ferguson has seen it all before and still has the same determination to win as he did twenty years ago. I think they’ll come top

T.

World Cup!

08/06/2010

World Cup! World Cup! World Cup! World Cup! World Cup! World Cup! World Cup! Are you excited? I am!

Shake it.

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Watch him.

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Definitely not on cocaine...

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The Divine Ponytail no longer.

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Listen to the mental Dutch commentary!
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Remind me where the ball hit him...

Oh yeah, here
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That haircut!
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I love how indignant the panel are.
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Your sister is a...

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To think that’s just the last 20 years.
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T.

England World Cup Squad Predictions – Part Three

18/04/2010

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.

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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.

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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.

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Goalkeepers:

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.

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Defenders:

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.

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Midfielders:

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.

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Strikers:

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.

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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.

The Six Pointer – Same old Arsenal, Man Utd’s 2nd best striker & more…

08/02/2010

1. It’s getting boring writing the same thing each week but if Arsenal make the same mistakes each week then what choice do I have?! Unlike last Sunday against Man Utd, there was at least something resembling a performance against Chelsea, but once again Arsenal failed to win with their traditional combination of poor defending and not taking chances.

the wanderer clichy

Clichy the Wanderer

Quite where Gael Clichy was wandering to for the first goal I’ll never know but it was really rather stupid to leave your post as the ball was being played into the danger area. One Terry flick on later and Drogba is stealing in at the far post to slot home the opener. As I mentioned last week, Clichy has been in a funk for probably 18 months now but with Traore just as poor positionally and Gibbs injured there’s no other option (Silvestre is NOT an option).

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2. When Chelsea smashed Arsenal 3-0 at the Emirates in November, Wenger made an interesting point about how Drogba doesn’t really do that much (this was after having scored twice). To a certain degree he’s right but only because so often opportunities are given to him on a plate when facing what masquerades as an Arsenal defence.

drogba arsenal

Easy.

The second goal was made by Clichy drifting inside as Chelsea were counter-attacking. The failure to realise until too late that Drogba was on the right meant the Ivorian could easily cut inside him and blast a powerful shot past Almunia.

Considering how highly Wenger values pace, it’s distressing to see how devastating counter attacks have been from Everton, Man Utd and Chelsea in recent weeks. I’m probably being a touch harsh in thinking Almunia could have made a better effort but Drogba’s shot was pretty powerful. That said, I think a top keeper would have reacted.

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3. Theo Walcott was at least visible in this match. Only for his appalling touch however. What was confusing though was both him and Bendtner have come back from long injuries yet it is only the former who is getting starts at the moment.

You can understand that neither are fit enough to play 90 minutes at the moment but surely someone like Bendtner would be more effective starting, as opposed to coming on when the game is lost. Likewise, surely Walcott is better suited to a sub role where his only reliable skill (pace) could be used against tiring legs rather than fresh ones.

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4. Man Utd’s second top scorer this season is Own Goal with ten goals thus far. He scored a hat-trick on Saturday against Portsmouth and now has as many as Berbatov and Owen combined!

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5. It’s a little depressing if Liverpool end up as the 4th best team this season. Despite their good recent form, to me they are fundamentally a flawed side but years of finishing in the top four has given them a head start in knowing what it takes. We saw last season how Aston Villa fell away and it seems like no one of Man City, Spurs or Villa can string a set of results together to make a charge this time round.

gerrard liverpool everton

Yay, I play for an average team!

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6. The form of the bottom eight or so teams is so poor right now that a win shoots you right up the table. Two games ago Hull were in the relegation zone but a draw against Chelsea and win against Man City later they are up to 14th. Of course it’s still very tight with just four points separating seven teams so it’s anyone’s guess who will go down. For what it’s worth I still think Hull will be one of them.

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T.

The Six Pointer – Blue Hughes sees red, Megson’s style (or lack thereof) & more…

22/09/2009

1. Mark Hughes has been getting on my nerves recently so it was quite funny to see him fume at Michael Owen’s last minute winner for Man Utd against Man City yesterday. He can bleat all he wants about the amount of stoppage time played but as has been pointed out several times now, the time that gets shown up on the board is a minimum not a maximum. Bellamy scored to make it 3-3 right on 90 minutes and the celebrations took around a minute. Fergie made a substitution and brought on Carrick which added around 30 seconds and Owen scored after 95 mins 28 seconds which if you add all the other stuff makes it perfectly fine.

Almost as good as the Neviller's celebration.

Almost as good as the Neviller's celebration.

If I was Mark Hughes I’d be more concerned about how my near £40 million centre back partnership appears to be a bit rubbish in the air while my right back has atrocious positioning skills. Richards was nowhere to be seen when Giggs slipped Owen through while Fletcher twice out jumped the City defence. Don’t forget all the great headed chances Berbatov had too.

Another issue of concern will be the number of shots Man City are taking. Even disregarding the three strikers they had out on Sunday, only five clubs have fewer shots on goal this season. City’s success thus far has been due to making the most of those shots with the highest on target accuracy of 57%. Given you would expect this to drop a little (the average is 44%), it means they’ll need to be more attacking if they’re to maintain their good start.

A word too for Craig Bellamy who has made a good start to the season and scored two excellent goals. I was arguing with the Football Guy the night before the game over where he stood in the pecking order at Man City. He reckons that Tevez is easily ahead whereas I wasn’t so sure. I think Bellamy’s two goals have added to the argument that he’s just as worthy of a place in the side as the Argetine. For all the talk about the determination and fight Tevez brings, it was clear on Sunday that Bellamy has fight in him too!

Biff!

Biff!

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2. Chelsea were pretty good against Spurs, with Drogba in particular terrorising their makeshift central defence once King went off. The talking point was Carvalho’s challenge on Keane in the box at 1-0 Chelsea. The Portuguese defender took none of the ball but Keane stayed up for a step before going down. This delay probably cost him the decision though Howard Webb wasn’t in a great position to see it clearly.

Had he been at a different angle Webb would have had no choice but to give it and perhaps send off Carvalho too. Given how Drogba played it may not have made a difference but it certainly would have been more of a challenge for Ancelotti’s side at 1-1 and with ten men.

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3. I’ve been thinking for a while that of the three centre backs Liverpool have, more and more Carragher seems to be the weak link. To be fair to him, Carlton Cole caused just as many problems for Martin Skrtel but Carragher is making lots of mistakes these days. Agger is not quite fit but it will be interesting selection choice once he is. I for one am quite happy if Rafa continues to play the Scousest man on Earth.

Luckily for Rafa Benitez he has probably the best player in the league in Fernando Torres who scored his 42nd and 43rd league goal in just 63 games – an awesome ratio that compares with Ronaldo and Henry at their best.

Another goal for El Nino.

Another goal for El Nino.

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4. It appears Bolton fans are slowly getting fed up with Gary Megson, booing the team off the pitch after the 1-1 draw with Stoke. Only Matt Taylor’s last minute penalty spared defeat but it’s the manner of play which is at odds with the support. Attendances are falling at the Reebok and it’s in no small part to Megson’s style of play. I imagine it would be bearable if it was bringing good results like last season but there’s just a solitary win against Pompey so far.

Bolton have made the fewest passes in the division and have the fourth lowest shooting accuracy. While the direct tactics may be effective against some, it’s not going to work when you have Kevin Davies on his own against the giant Stoke defenders. Klasnic might prove useful once he fully adjusts to the Premier League but record signing Elmander has not played any part in the last two games. With the promoted clubs doing better than expected it looks to be a long season ahead for Bolton.

Under fire.

Under fire.

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5. Just like that Aston Villa have won four straight games and all the talk of crisis after the Wigan defeat has gone. The new look defence has settled well and Agbonlahor has found himself some form again. Three straight clean sheets has shown value in Martin O’Neill’s policy of tending to buy domestically. Players like Dunne and Warnock were established Premier League players before moving to Villa Park and thus could slot straight in without the need to adapt. There’s even a little more rotation going on this season with 20 players already used (just 21 were used all of last season). Once again they look well placed to challenge for that elusive top four spot. With a more open league they could get that little bit closer this time round.

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6. Portsmouth have now lost six of six. Even Derby didn’t start off this badly. Might we have a new contender for the record low points tally?

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T.

Weekly Photoshop – Eduardo

10/09/2009

Jermaine Defoe was not worthy of my efforts last week but it’s back to normal with everyone’s current public enemy number 1 Eduardo. After he ‘won’ a penalty against Celtic in the Champions League qualifiers, everyone got their knickers in a twist and he ended up with a two match ban. I await UEFA doing the same to every other diver this season. Hmm, somehow that won’t happen will it. Anyway, diving is always a topic with lots of options so I did a couple of attempts, the latter of which got into this week’s gallery.

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The expert judges felt Eduardo could have done more to ensure contact was obvious.

The expert judges felt Eduardo could have done more to ensure contact was obvious.

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English players don't dive huh? Eduardo has an idea...

English players don't dive huh? Eduardo has an idea...

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As usual the rest of this week’s entries can be found here.

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T.

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And the old ones can be found here.

Season Previews 09/10 – Manchester United

13/08/2009

man-utd

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.

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T.

Betting Preview – Top Goalscorer

05/08/2009

I’m not a huge fan of long term betting just as it takes ages to get your money. That said, betting on top goalscorer is one of the markets that does hold appeal as you can get some quite good value on each way bets (i.e. to finish in the top four). Last season saw the lowest figure required to win top goalscorer for ten years – Nicolas Anelka with just 19 goals.

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I have a feeling we’ll be back to mid-twenties this season and the clear favourite with the bookies is Liverpool’s Fernando Torres. He’s around 5/2 on the high street and 9/2 on Betfair. I reckon it’s probably best to avoid this bet. Whilst I think he will very likely be top scorer, there’s always the risk of how many games he’ll actually play. It remains to be seen how Liverpool adjust their system without Alonso too. I’d be more tempted with an over/under bet on El Nino but I haven’t been able to find one as yet.

38 goals in 57 league games

38 goals in 57 league games

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I’m going to avoid any Man Utd strikers or ones from Man City for that matter. It will be interesting to see how United cope without Ronaldo and I think it will be through sharing the load. If Owen, Rooney and Berbatov all get around 10-14 goals they’ll have done well. Robinho scored plenty for Man City last season but with all the new signings it’s again a question of goals being shared around. I (reluctantly) think Adebayor is a decent bet for outright scorer and both him and Robinho can be had at 22/1. Of the Chelsea players I would look beyond Drogba and Anelka and go for Frank Lampard at 28/1. With his new advanced position at the top of a diamond midfield he should score more scuffed pea rollers than ever.

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Moving on, I maintain the focus should be on each way picks however. The odds get quartered but I don’t think it’s too hard to finish in the top four goalscorers. In the last five seasons the total required has been:

08/09 – 14 (Robinho/Torres)

07/08 – 19 (Santa Cruz)

06/07 – 14 (Rooney/Viduka)

05/06 – 16 (Keane/Lampard/Rooney)

04/05 – 13 (5 players)

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As you can see these kind of totals are not beyond the majority of first choice strikers in the Premier League. The ones I think could do it this season are as follows:

Arshavin/Arsenal @ 28/1 – The Russian maestro scored six goals in twelve after arriving in January. This time round, with a full pre-season and Premier League experience under his belt I would back him to be Arsenal’s top scorer ahead of Van Persie and Eduardo.

Will I be top scorer? Who knows.

Will I be top scorer? Who knows?

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Bent/Sunderland @ 50/1 – I think this is potentially a fantastic bet. I know Harry Redknapp obviously doesn’t rate him but I think he will thrive at Sunderland. Let’s not forget the man was Spurs’ top scorer last year despite starting just 11 league games.

Brucie's price is right.

Brucie's price is right.

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Ebanks-Blake/Wolves @ up to 100/1 – This one is certainly worth a pound I’d say. While I reckon Wolves will be battling relegation for much of the season I’d say they should be scoring plenty of goals in the process. It’s their defence which will be their downfall not the attack. Ebanks-Blake has been Championship top scorer two seasons running, and whilst it’s an obvious step up to the Premier League, I think he has the attributes to spring a few surprises.

I score for fun. In the Championship...

I score for fun. In the Championship...

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T.

Fantasy Premier League Preview 09/10 – Strikers

31/07/2009

Strikers are the last area we need to look at. It’s always quite difficult to judge what to go with in this area. I tend to go for a mix of someone expensive who will score 15 goals minimum and then two cheaper guys who might be good for assists or bonus points or about ten goals. Last season was definitely not a striker’s market, reflected in the fact that top scorer Anelka only had 19 goals.

Last season's top scorer.

Last season's top scorer.

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Lots of established stars had relatively poor seasons – people like Keane, Adebayor and Drogba. Only one person got over 150 points and that was Anelka. After that you had people like Agbonlahor, Van Persie and Robinho who all did well but very much in stops and starts. Only three strikers got more than 12 goals.I would hope that we’ll see a few more goals this season and as ever there’ll be some surprise names who crop up and have a super season. Don’t forget it’s a World Cup year so players should be extra motivated.

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Expensive (£9.0m-£11.5m)

Despite playing just 24 games last year, Torres is the most expensive striker at £11.5m. This is mainly due to what he did in those games (score 14 goals) which meant a per game record of 5.6 points. This was only beaten by the Lampard-Gerrard-Arshavin triumvirate. I think the anticipation of what he could potentially do is the reason for the high price and I’m willing to bet he’ll get 25 goals this season. If you can afford him get him.

This season's top goalscorer.

This season's top goalscorer.

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Rooney will be the main man at Man Utd now. He is just about worth £11m I’d say and if he can back to playing 35/6 games a season then he should get about 15 goals. He always gets lots of assists and bonus points too. If Rooney is a bit too pricey then you should look at Berbatov (£10m) too, who should similarly benefit from Ronaldo’s absence as well as a year of adjusting to United’s style of play.

The two main Chelsea strikers are Drogba and Anelka. Both cost £10.5m but I’m much more inclined to go for Anelka as I no longer think the Ivorian has the ability to get 20 goals a season. Van Persie could go even better than last year and is at a good price of £10m. He only scored 11 league goals last year – it felt like a lot more due to his all round play which brought in 145 points. 15 goals is reasonable to expect now Adebayor is gone.

Will he earn as many points in season as £ in a week?

Will he earn as many points in a season as £ in a week?

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Talking of Adebayor (£10m), he’s one of three Man City strikers in this group along with Robinho (£9.5m) and Santa Cruz (£9m). Of the three I back Robinho to do best – he should actually start performing away from home now that City have a spine. Adebayor will do ok, I think, but Santa Cruz should be avoided. He will mostly be a sub I’d say and looking back at his decade in Europe it would make sense. He has only scored more than five league goals once and that was two seasons ago. He will get a few more than that just as Man City will score loads but he’s the worst option of their four main guys.

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Mid-range (£6.5m-£8.5m)

Lots of strikers in this group are more than capable of ten, if not fifteen goals a season. It’s just trying to find the ones that will. Owen (£8.5m) is the second most picked striker which is interesting as he’ll mainly be a sub, at least initially anyway. He’s a good gamble though and it’s always worth having a top four striker who’s cheap but plays lots (see Tevez two seasons ago). Tevez himself is now also £8.5m and should get some decent points at Man City, especially if they plan on playing three up front.

There’s a whole bunch of Spurs strikers who may tickle your fancy but not mine. Keane, Defoe (both £8.5m), Crouch (£7.5m)and Pavlyuchenko (£7m) will all score about ten to twelve goals each and all be as mid-table points wise as the team they play for. Ironically enough, Redknapp is choosing to sell Spurs’ top scorer from last season Darren Bent. He’ll be an excellent choice once the move to Sunderland is complete and is cheapish at £7m. Likely partner Jones is also a player I like fantasy wise and should get similar points to Bent at the same price.

Spurs decide to sell their top league scorer.

Spurs decide to sell their top league scorer.

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Bellamy and Shevchenko are both £8m and both aren’t going to play much but Carew is a useful player when not gallivanting around in strip clubs. Yakubu and Eduardo are reasonable value at the same price, though it depends on their fitness. I’d sooner go with Agbonlahor who at least is going to play every minute of every game. Villa will struggle to repeat last year’s push for Champions League football though. We talked about the Sunderland boys, and of the other £7m strikers I’d say Kevin Davies is probably the pick. He is overlooked as he plays for Bolton but he had an excellent (for him) season last year with 136 points.

You should probably save a little and look at Andy Jonhson at Fulham or Arsenal’s Nicklas Bendtner instead though as they both cost a bargain £6.5m. Fulham don’t score many goals but Johnson is someone who can put them away (he scored 22 in 2004/05). Many people slate Bendtner but I think he’s incredibly good value, especially now Adebayor has left. One of the more curious stats from last season was that Bendtner made the joint most appearances overall for Arsenal with 50. 31 of those were in the league and while he just missed 100 points, I fancy him to get 130-140 this time round. Don’t forget that once you’re getting to this price range and below you’re essentially gambling that the player hits some form. The beauty is that you can always dump them quite easily if they’re not up to scratch.

You'll be surprised.

You'll be surprised.

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Cheap (£4.5m-£6m)

From this price range you’re looking at someone to be getting you around 100 points. If you figure they get around 70 for playing 35 games, then that means you want to score say 5 goals and 5 assists which would bring it to 105. This is a reasonable return for the price and there are plenty of guys who will get this and even a little bit more. Last season you had guys like Zamora, Fuller and Cole all break 100 points while starting at £5.5m. The former two can still be had at £6m this season though I would not pick Zamora in any situation. Stoke also provide Beattie at £6m and both him and Fuller are very good picks as a third or even second striker.

Good value.

Good value.

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Sturridge could potentially be first choice sub at Chelsea and offers value at £6m but I’d probably avoid him until he scores a goal or two. Same goes for Federico ‘Kiko’ Macheda and Danny Welbeck at Man Utd and N’Gog at Liverpool. Jason Scotland is a £6m man I like though. He was great at Swansea last year and I think he has the attributes to do well in the Premier League for Wigan. Seeing as Wigan only have two other strikers right two, he will be their main source of goals. The promoted teams offer some interesting choices. A lot of people fancy either Kevin Doyle or Sylvain Ebanks-Blake to do well for Wolves and I agree that they are worth a try at £5.5m each.

The oldest looking teenager ever.

The oldest looking teenager ever.

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Birmingham’s strikeforce is bit meh. McFadden will probably play done the left and won’t score too often (though may take pens). Cameron Jerome has pace and could do ok for £4.5m while Benitez cost a lot in real life and can be had for £5.5m in fantasy. If I had to choose a Burnley striker it would be Paterson at £5m. Not sure why though! A quick focus on the no-hopers who cost £4.5m. Marcus Bent anyone? Richard Creswelll? Ade Akinbiyi?! No me neither.

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T.

Weekly Photoshop – Franck Ribery

16/07/2009

Everyone’s most in-demand Frenchman is this week’s theme. Franck Ribery is currently coveted by a host of major clubs, not least Real Madrid to complete their attacking foursome, Man Utd to replace Ronaldo and Chelsea as they need a marquee signing. It’ll be interesting to see if Bayern Munich end up selling to anyone, as they’ve been quite stubborn about it so far. Anyway, I did a couple this week so here you go:

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Harshly, Ribery's face is unsuitable for viewing by minors

Harshly, Ribery's face is unsuitable for viewing by minors.

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"Ach, I'm sure there was someone else I was meant to sign" - Fergie's memory gets a bit hazy in his old age.

"Ach, I'm sure there was someone else I was meant to sign" - Fergie's memory gets a bit hazy in his old age.

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

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T.

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Old ones can be found here.


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