Posts Tagged ‘schwarzer’

Arsenal 2 Fulham 1 – Na na na na na na…

05/12/2010

Post match thoughts on Arsenal v Fulham.

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Both of Samir Nasri’s goals were wonderfully taken; on each occasion his close control getting him past several players before providing a finish with either foot. I think part of Nasri’s ability to score such goals stems from his comfort shooting off either foot. It doesn’t limit his direction as he knows whichever route he’ll take, there will still be an opportunity to fire a shot on goal. Beyond Andrey Arshavin, there isn’t a player in the Arsenal squad as two footed. This versatility is a big factor in Nasri’s terrific start to the season.

He's run out of fingers to count his goals this season.

Arshavin himself also had a pretty good game, and has also had a pretty good season thus far. Yes he is a luxury and yes he often stands around but he makes things happen and is often a step ahead in terms what he’s trying to pull off. It might be prudent to play someone a bit more defensive in tough away games but at the same time he is more likely to produce something out of nothing.

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Fulham played pretty well on the whole and with a little more ambition could even have won the game. The main tactic of trying to play in Kamara behind the defence didn’t work often (mainly due to Kamara’s tendency to mistime his runs and caught offside) but it did result in Fulham’s goal. I can’t complain that the game wasn’t stopped for Koscielny’s head injury, ultimately he hadn’t fallen to the ground and so it was difficult to know the full extent in the short space of a few seconds.

It was interesting that at 1-1 and with control of the ball in midfield, Fulham would often play it all the way back to Schwarzer in goal. Similarly they would spend an age over every throw and goal kick – it was clear that Mark Hughes considered a draw a good result, but that lack of ambition has seen him become the draw specialist in the Premier League.

Ouch.

I was impressed by Johan Djourou when he came on for Koscielny. He’s been good when he’s played this season but Wenger is obviously being cautious with regards to playing him every game. He was authoritative in the air and seems to have made a conscious change in terms of attacking the ball/player. Clichy and Sagna were also solid, the former having his best game in quite some time. Perhaps the fit again Kieran Gibbs has focussed the Frenchman’s mind somewhat.

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The game was closer than it perhaps should have been but in part this was due to the poor performances of Arsenal’s midfield. Wilshere looked quite tired after playing against Wigan and faded as the game went on. Rosicky was fairly anonymous but neither were as bad as Alex Song who seems to have forgotten what his role is.

There were plenty of misplaced passes from him and his tendency to wander forward unnecessarily remains unabated. This often left the defence exposed both in terms of Fulham attacks but also as an option for them to pass to. He needs a few games where he curbs his attacking instincts, especially if you consider the upcoming games against Man Utd and Chelsea.

Just 72% completed.

The tension made for a better atmosphere in a way. For once Arsenal had got going early in the first half and produced a number of chances (and indeed the goal) which got the crowd going. But as Fulham came back into it, mistakes were made and calls were not received from ref Chris Foy, meaning there was considerable crowd noise generated. The crowd often feeds off the team but I think it works both ways.

I should mention Theo Walcott briefly too. He was only on for 15 minutes but it was one of those horrible games were nothing he did came off. The worst thing was that his job was to play off the last centre back/left back but he seemed unwilling to do that, and simply jogged around not wanting the receive the ball or to make any runs. With Van Persie returning and Nasri and Arshavin in such good form, it’s tricky to see where his starts will come from at the moment.

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T.

Season Previews 2010/11 – Arsenal

12/08/2010

Arsenal

Last Season: 3rd

New Signings: Koscielny, Chamakh

Key Player: Robin van Persie

Ones To Watch: Jack Wilshere

Needs  A Big Year: Laurent Koscielny

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

Prediction: 2nd

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

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

Still an Arsenal player for now.

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

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

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

Crap meets crapper.

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

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

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

Needs to quickly adapt.

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

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

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

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

Arguably Arsenal's most important player.

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

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

Bounce back seasons ahead.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

T.

Arsenal

Last Season: 3rd

New Signings: Koscielny, Chamakh

Key Player: Robin van Persie

Ones To Watch: Jack Wilshere and Kieran Gibbs

Needs A Big Year: Cesc Fabregas

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

Prediction: 2nd

Thoughts:

Live Report – Arsenal vs Fulham 10/05/10

10/05/2010

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

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

walcott van persie

Yay!

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

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

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

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

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

arsenal fulham

We scored. Meh.

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

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

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

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

gunnersaurus lucozade

This would have been more interesting.

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

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

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

fabregas arsenal

If anyone deserved a lap of honour he did.

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T.

Fantasy Premier League – Gameweek 1

14/08/2009

As well as all the guides to picking your initial fantasy football team (strategygoalkeepersdefendersmidfielders and strikers), here at The Sportboys we’ll have a preview before every gameweek. This will be looking at form and captain choices and other related stuff. I haven’t quite worked out what new features to add so for the first week I’ll use last season’s method of three captain choices, three potential transfers and three to avoid.

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Three Captain picks:

1. Lampard/Chelsea – A new season and a fresh start for everyone. The first week is always a gamble as you get some unexpected results and it’s difficult to know who’s going to play. One thing you can be certain of is that Frank Lampard will line up against Hull at Stamford Bridge. Presumably last season’s top scorer will hit the ground running and I should think Chelsea will get a few goals against hapless Hull. If you don’t have Lampard then pick whichever attacking Chelsea player you do have.

2. Rooney/Man Utd – The other top four side with a gentle start is Man Utd with a match against Birmingham at home. With the departure of Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney is promising a big season and judging by his pre-season form he’s a good shout to start off well against Alex McLeish’s men. I have him behind Lampard just as I don’t think Man Utd will hit as many goals this weekend as Chelsea but it’s your call.

3. Murphy or a defender if you have one/Fulham – Our first risky tip of the season. I’m not a fan of picking of picking players who have an away match as captain but I think Fulham are good value to beat Portsmouth. Murphy is at the heart of their attacking play so could get an assist but maybe a safer option would be to pick someone like Schwarzer or Paintsil if you have them in your side based on last season. They are more likely to get six points than Murphy.

Right pick

Gets a captain tick.

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Three potential transfers in:

1. Ebanks-Blake/Wolves – Mick McCarthy’s side have quite a nice introduction to the Premier League with games against West Ham and Wigan. Ebanks-Blake is a good shout to open his account for the season against one of these two.

2. Scotland/Wigan – In the same way Ebanks-Blake could be good for a goal against Wigan, Jason Scotland could be good for a goal against Wolves or Villa. He scored two goals against Wolves last season and is largely facing the same opponents so why not again…

3. Alexander/Burnley – How brave are you feeling? Fancy Burnley to hold the Champions to a draw in their first game at Turf Moor. It’s not as outlandish as it sounds – Man Utd are notoriously slow starters and Burnley will have the bubble of promotion, plus a huge atmosphere in a tiny ground going for them. Could captain Alexander see them to a famous point? Perhaps. Just don’t blame me if United show them what the Premier League is all about!

Might (be a worth a) pick

Might be a worth a pick.

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Three to avoid:

1. Arsenal players – This applies to him and most Arsenal players. Their start to the season is very tough with Everton and Man Utd away in the first three matches and no game in gameweek 2. Bring them in after that.

2. Aston Villa players – Similar reasons as above. A winnable game against Wigan but then Liverpool away in week 3 after no match in gameweek 2.

3. Neville/Everton – The only reason he got 140 points last year was because he was listed as a defender, not a midfielder. He won’t break 100 this year so why do 32% of you have him in your team?

Light scoring pick

Are you taking the mick?

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T.

Fantasy Premier League Preview 09/10 – Goalkeepers

28/07/2009

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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T.

Fantasy Football – End of Season Review

31/05/2009

So the end of the fantasy football season came and went without too much eventfulness. Everything was already wrapped up in our league with the final standings as follows:

League of our own.

A league of our own indeed.

As mentioned before, well done to the Football guy for winning a third straight year. Sportboy P did a Liverpool and put in a title challenge for the first time while it was strange to come third for the first time. I still managed to be in the top 40,000 overall which isn’t too bad all things considered but disappointing as I was pushing the top 1000 mid season. On to some awards.

Player of the season:

Fat Frank Lampard, take a bow. My refusal to bring him in is what did for my title challenge this season. Top scorer in the game and worth every penny (except by me it seems). An honourary mention must go to Steven Gerrard who despite having played 6 games less ended up with only ten points fewer.

I am the best.

I am the best.

Best value player:

Take your pick from any of the Fulham defence. My choice would be the keeper Mark Schwarzer. Just £4m at the start, he was the highest scoring keeper, and second highest defender. The only player in my team all year.

I'm pretty good too.

I'm pretty good too.

Best sub:

I lost count of the times John Paintsil would come off the bench and earn me six points. Every week you’d think Fulham couldn’t keep it up and every other week they’d keep a clean sheet.

Fantasy bike:

Nicklas Bendtner. Flirted with him on three separate occasions, dumped him on three separate occasions…

Biggest flop:

With so few goals in the Premier League this season, plenty of high priced strikers did worse than expected. In this I include Adebayor, Keane, Tevez and Drogba. Ade and Keane still got over 120 in the end so it’s hard to call them complete flops but they did disappoint. Keane Tevez and Drogba both failed to break three figures though so must go down as flops. Perhaps Cesc Fabregas could be on too. He missed 16 games (still got over 100) but he was so so good last year, it was disappointing to see him do so little.

Some help next year please.

Some help next year please.

Best improvement:

Stephen Ireland‘s price rose and rose and rose. He started at just £5.5m and ended up on £7.1m. Perhaps the only reliable Man City player too.

Biggest surprise:

When did Dirk Kuyt become a fantasy stud? 196 points this year from midfield.

Best performance:

Andrei Arshavin, who scored not once, not twice not thrice but four times on crazy April evening at Anfield. Needless to say he got three bonus points for a grand total of 21.

I need 21 fingers.

I need 21 fingers.

Cesc Fabregas award for cheap bonus points:

Frank Lampard with 46.

Biggest fall from grace value wise:

I feel it’s a tad harsh on Ricardo Quaresma to get this as he was probably overvalued in the first instance. He dropped by £1.5m in just three months which is quite impressive really. Special mention too to David Bentley who fell £1.1m (I had him to begin the season!) and Louis Saha who fell £1.3m.

Biggest fall from grace performance wise:

Amr Zaki please step forward. A blistering start of seven in eight including a double at Anfield. Little did we know that just three goals would follow of which none would come in 2009. His season went full circle, starting at £6m, going as high as £7.2m after that start and then dropping all the way back to £6.1m once he fell out of favour by the end of the season.

Best impact:

Andrey Arshavin gets this too, for his 84 points in just 12 games after signing for Arsenal. Take away the first two and last two games and you’re left with 78 in just eight games. He’s guaranteed to be in my team from the off next year.

Finally lets take a look my team in August:

From start...

From start...

and the team I ended the season with:

...to finish.

...to finish.

Pretty different as you can see. The biggest mistake was not having a second big midfieler after Ronaldo who could give me a reliable captain option (i.e no Gerrard or Lampard) and once again I used my wildcard too early. Ah well, bring on next season!

T.


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