Posts Tagged ‘valencia’

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.

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Season Predictions 09/10 – How They Turned Out

31/05/2010

Apologies for the lack of posts recently. I’m still in two minds about whether to do season reviews for each club – to be honest I’m in World Cup mode now. Perhaps I’ll still get round to it though.

Back in August I played a mug’s game and tried to predict how everyone would finish. Here’s what actually happened:

'Expert' predictions...

Looking at the results showed I got just three clubs spot on: Man City in 5th and basement dwellers Hull and Pompey taking the bottom two places. In my defence I was only one place out with six other clubs but really this table looks like what it is, rubbish punditry.

I think if Gareth Southgate and Garth Crooks had a bastard lovechild it would look something like this predictions table (enjoy those nightmare thoughts kids).

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In terms of the thinking, I had found it really tricky to split the top three when writing pre-season predictions. My loyalties to Arsenal may have played a part in placing them second while I couldn’t bear to predict Chelsea as Champions even though deep down I knew they had retained the most strength over the summer.

A similar scenario led to placing Spurs 7th – I was hardly going to predict them a Champions League spot was I?! I underestimated Liverpool’s decline and overestimated Sunderland’s improvement.

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The biggest mistake was Birmingham, a full nine places out, but I’m sure I’m not the only one who had them down to struggle. Fair play to Alex McLeish (who I had as first sacking!), he brilliantly led them to a top half finish.

The bottom half was slightly better predicted clubs wise, if not positions wise. The dearth of quality is such that it’s pot luck as to where the likes of Bolton and Wigan finish. I got three of the bottom four right and on another day would have predicted Burnley to come in 18th not 17th.

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In terms of the cups and other stuff it went like this:

And I thought the league prediction was bad...

Oh dear. Only Bayern Munich correct and I suppose West Brom for promotion. If the Premier League table was the Southgate/Crooks lovechild then this is the resulting mess when said lovechild had a threesome with Alan Shearer and Jamie Redknapp. I literally couldn’t do any worse at being a pundit. Like I said at the beginning, it’s time for the World Cup…

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T.

Fantasy Premier League – End Of Season Review 09/10

14/05/2010

So another year of fantasy football ended last Sunday without too much drama. A solid final week meant I held on to my league lead and won it for the first time in the four seasons we’ve played.

Victory at last.

It was an entertaining season and at one stage looked to be a four-way title race. That said I don’t think I let go of the lead since about week 19 so without gloating too much victory is deserved. I was kind of limping to the finish line for the last few weeks and dropped from a position of 7,264 as late as gameweek 31 down to a final ranking of 24,501 out of 2.3m+. Not my highest ever position but still very good and just outside the top 1%.

Sportboy P came a worthy second while longtime leader Amer came third. Too many transfers and dodgy captain choices cost him and he couldn’t pick it back up. Three time winner the Football Guy had his worst ever season in fifth. I expect him to bounce back next year.

On to some awards.

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Player of the season:

Frank Lampard wins this for the second straight season. I learnt from my lesson last year and made sure he was in my team when in mattered, not least for the run in. Top scoring player by 42 points and his total of 284 is quite incredible. I only realised while writing this that it’s the highest ever score in a fantasy season, edging out Ronaldo’s 283 points in 2007/08.

I think it was Chelsea’s sheer volume of goals that did it, as although he ‘only’ scored 22 (compared to C-Ron’s 31) he weighed in with a season high 17 assists (only 8 for CR). If you factor in that he wasn’t even the highest recipient of bonus points, or that he played neither game vs Wolves, you start to wonder whether a 300 point season is possible.

An honourable mention too for Cesc Fabregas who matched Lampard for points per game and got the second most bonus points this season but due to his various injuries missed eleven games thus ended up with  214.

Frank Lampard fantasy football

Maverick's 2009/10 Top Gun.

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Best value player:

Thomas Sorensen is the clear winner here, gaining 164 points for his measly £4m initial price tag. He even saved three penalties this season. Joe Hart was also a big plus here, with a lower score but higher price rise over the course of the season.

However I think the best bargain to be had this season was Darren Bent. Costing just £7m to start with, he banged in 24 goals for a frankly average Sunderland side. He was quieter in the second half of the season when Sunderland went on a long winless run and Drogba/Rooney/Tevez was the way to go but picked it up again in the final few games.

bent sunderland

Bargain of the season.

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Best sub:

Birmingham defenders were this year’s Fulham, providing regular clean sheets at a bargain basement price. Though they faded somewhat once they hit 40 points, they were a great option.

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Fantasy bike:

There wasn’t one single player I kept bringing in this season, but looking back it seems Drogba, Lampard and Tevez were all transferred in on three occasions. With expensive players all generally performing this season, you could usually mix and match as fitness and suspension dictated and not have to worry about losing money.

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Biggest flop:

Many of last season’s flops bounced back, not least Fabregas, Tevez and Drogba. For his price tag Steven Gerrard has to be up there. A victim of Liverpool’s poor season; he was generally pretty useless until about gameweek 32, before an end of season points binge.

Elsewhere big things were expected of Andrey Arshavin after last year’s four-month cameo but I thought 135 points was poor while Dirk Kuyt has gone back to being a plodder. You could argue Van Persie and Torres were disappointing but everyone knows they’re injury prone. When they played they both had a high points per game average – 5th and 6th overall.

arshavin arsenal

Could have done so much more.

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Best improvement:

The way of looking at this is rise in value over the season. Here Richard Dunne and Didier Drogba are the winners, just edging out James Milner. All three had terrific seasons and the former two rose by £1.8m in price.

I would say Dunne was the most unexpected, and he picked up Martin Laursen’s tendency for being a bonus point machine while captaining Aston Villa at centre back. That said, clever old me came up with this gem of a prediction about Drogba in one of my previews.

"I no longer think the Ivorian has the ability to get 20 goals a season."

Good thing I realised the error of my ways!

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Biggest surprise:

The under performance of Gerrard – previously a lock for 200 points. Gareth Bale post January (116 points) compared to pre January (2 points).

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Best performance:

Last season’s high was 21 points from Arshavin. I think this score got beaten six times this year. In reverse order:

Joint 3rd: Benayoun and Kalou – 24 points

2nd: Defoe – 25 points

1st: Lampard – 28 points versus Aston Villa through four goals, an assist and three bonus. Needless to say that was one of the few weeks he wasn’t in my team, let alone in my team as captain.

Credit to Fabregas for getting 22 twice and Rooney for getting 32 in a double gameweek.

And Arshavin’s high score this season? 11…

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Cesc Fabregas award for cheap bonus points:

Wayne Rooney with 46 (matching Lampard last year). Cesc was second with 41.

rooney man utd

Bonus. Om om om.

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Biggest fall from grace value wise:

Biggest price drop was Diamanti of West Ham and surprisingly Nicolas Anelka. Both went down £1.2m. I assume the latter was a victim of people going with the three highest scoring strikers and just sticking with them. Of the other renowned players Carrick fell by £1m while Arshavin again plays a part here, falling £0.9m.

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Biggest fall from grace performance wise:

Aaron Lennon was fantastic until December, then got injured and only returned for the last few games. Perhaps it’s a little harsh to include him here. Jermain Defoe on the other hand had 14 goals before January and just four afterwards. Antonio Valencia was also pretty poor in 2010 with just four assists and no goals.

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Best impact:

Gareth Bale was immense after the turn of the year, scoring well over 100 points. I didn’t bring him in though due to his price.

From a personal point of view I was pleased with the transfers of Martin Olsson and Adam Johnson. The former was listed as a £3.8m defender yet played in an advanced midfield role, while the latter made a big impact after joining Man City in the January transfer window. Both were nice differentials who scored steady points in the run in.

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Predictions:

I mentioned the Drogba one earlier and how I fancied Anelka over him this season. Other specials included tipping the likes of Ebanks-Blake, Zhirkov, Scotland and Robinho while being negative on players like Bellamy, Lennon and Valencia. In my defence, I had Milner, Bent plus more expensive guys like Fabregas and Rooney to have good seasons.

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Finally lets take a look my team in August:

fantasy premier league week 1

Ebanks-Blake, what was I thinking?!

and the team I ended the season with:

fantasy premier league week 38

The league winning side.

Pretty different as you can see. I think Sorensen was the only player to make it through the season without being transferred out, surviving even the wildcard. I played a three-man defence for much of the season and given how well strikers did it was usually three up front.

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T.

Fantasy Premier League – Gameweek 28 Preview

26/02/2010

Going into Tuesday night I was rather concerned. Captain Rooney had done nothing against Everton and it seemed like I was due for my usual poor week after a good week. I needn’t have worried in the end. A Rooney double from two Valencia assists and five bonus points between them meant my score jumped to 81 for the week. Not great, but not too bad all things considered.

The Carling Cup final this week means Aston Villa and Man Utd don’t play and neither do Hull or West Ham. I imagine lots of people have brought in the likes of Milner and Agbonlahor after their week 27 exploits but that’s a little silly as they’re going to miss next week too. I can just about put a full team out this week but that depends on one or two injury concerns.

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Gameweek 27 Top Gun (aka Tom Cruise Approves):

Antonio Valencia Man Utd

Maverick approves of Valencia's second Top Gun.

Antonio Valencia justified the four point hit I took to bring him in with 16 points with three assists and a couple of bonus points too. I imagine he’ll be back ahead of Nani now in the terms of the starting XI. There were some big scores right behind him with Givet, Rooney and Downing all getting 15 points. Nine other players got into double figures.

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Three Captain Choices:

A little trickier this week with no Man Utd, a tough away match for Arsenal and a testing home game for Chelsea.

1. Drogba/Chelsea – Man City are a decent side but rubbish away from home. It will be interesting to see how Mancini lines them up after they lost at Stoke in midweek. Drogba might not have got the better of Lucio on Wednesday but a Premier League defence shouldn’t pose too many problems. Certainly not one with Lescott and Toure in the middle anyway.

2. Kuyt/Liverpool – Not someone I’m particularly keen on but there really are few obvious captain choices this week. Liverpool have improved in recent weeks and should beat Blackburn at Anfield. Torres is still out injured (though may be a sub) so Kuyt is probably the biggest goal threat.

3. Bent/Sunderland – Surely they have to win sometime right? 13 games is the longest winless streak this season but Fulham at home is a fair opponent if you’re trying to break that run. Risky, if nothing else…

Didier Drogba Chelsea

Gets a Captain's tick.

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Three Potential Transfers In:

1. Hilario/Chelsea – With Cech out for a few weeks this could be a sneaky way to get some cheap clean sheets. Chelsea admittedly don’t play next week but their games after that are relatively straightforward. A little pricey at £4.9m but cheap for a Chelsea defender.

2. Bale/Spurs – I never thought I’d be recommending him here but to his credit he’s finally over his jinx of not being on a winning Spurs team. Tottenham are pretty tight at the back right now and Bale has been getting bonus points galore in the last five matches (10). He doesn’t really assist (first one last week) but could be a good differential in a mini league.

3. Kalinic/Blackburn – It seems many people who have had Darren Bent since the start of the season are finally looking to get rid of him. With Sunderland playing terribly and his value dropping, the need arises for a cheap third striker. Kalinic has quietly been playing pretty well with a couple of goals recently and some bonus points too. He won’t score many more this season but might be worth keeping an eye on.

hilario

Might be worth a pick.

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Three To Avoid:

1. Crouch/Spurs – Despite featuring in every Spurs match this season, has only five goals and just one since Christmas. Pavlyuchenko’s recent form might push him out of the side.

2. Adebayor/Man City – A three match ban means he’s out till gameweek 32.

3. Cech/Chelsea – Out for a month.

peter crouch spurs

Are you taking the mick?!

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T.

Fantasy Premier League – Gameweek 27 Preview

19/02/2010

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

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

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

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Gameweek 26 Top Gun (aka Tom Cruise Approves):

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

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

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Three Captain Picks:

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

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

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

rooney man utd

Gets a Captain's tick

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Three Suggested Transfers In:

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

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

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

Ricketts Bolton

Might be worth a pick.

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Three To Avoid:

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

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

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

Ashley Young fantasy football

Are you taking the mick?!

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T.

Fantasy Premier League – Gameweek 22 Preview

15/01/2010

Gameweek 22 is shaping up to be a big one for fantasy managers. After snow decimated the fixture list last weekend, we were left with just three games played meaning many managers only had a few players at most scoring them points.

In one of my leagues my nearest rival scored just six points while in my main league with the other Sportboy, the Football Guy and a few others, the story was similar. Nearly everyone had Carlos Tevez so the scores weren’t terrible but me picking him as captain meant I got 55 points and extended my lead to 37 points over 2nd place (now taken by Amer who was once upon a time sixth in the world). The week couldn’t have gone better really, and going for Tevez instead of Rooney as captain really made a difference.

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Gameweek 21 Top Gun (aka Tom Cruise Approves):

Carlos Tevez Top Gun Goose Man City

Maverick got stuck in the snow this week so Goose is here to approve of Tevez's hat-trick and his 2nd Top Gun.

Yes, in case you hadn’t realised Carlos Tevez was easily the top scorer last week – a hat-trick against Blackburn getting him three bonus points for a grand total of 17, or 34 if you made him captain like I did. Even though the game was initially in doubt I thought it was worth the risk as if it did get called off it would automatically go to my second choice Rooney.

Anyway, I digress. Benjani grabbed three assists in the same match for 13 points in what was his first appearance of the season. Not bad for someone who’s best has passed. Elsewhere Pienaar and Richards both got nine, as did Cameron Jerome.

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Gameweek 22 Picks:

With all the postponed games last week, many clubs have tried to rearrange them as quickly as possible. It means this week we have six teams playing twice: Man Utd, Liverpool, Arsenal, Spurs, Bolton and Hull. Plenty of good teams to pick from and I’d say you’d want at least six players playing twice, if not more. Just be aware that Man Utd and Hull don’t play in gameweek 23 so don’t pick too many of their players for this week.

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Three Captain Choices:

1. Fabregas/Arsenal – A quirk in the fixtures means both of Arsenal’s games this week are against Bolton; first away, then at home. Fabregas is confirmed fit again so I would think that he’ll definitely play in both games. He’s been a stud this season and there have been just two (and a half) games where he’s failed to anything. Bolton away will be tricky what with Owen Coyle providing the new manager lift in performance, but the match at the Emirates should be a comfortable win. In any case, you’d be wise to pick him as captain this week. Arshavin would be my next Arsenal choice.

2. Rooney/Man Utd – The fiery striker has arguably easier games than Fabregas, with two home games against Burnley and Hull but I’m wary of a couple of things. Firstly, Utd haven’t been overly impressive of late and the FA Cup tie against Leeds showed they are still vulnerable in defence without Rio, Vidic and VDS. Secondly, Rooney can be a bit hot and cold, either having a massive game or doing nothing. He scored 15 against Hull recently but only got one point against Burnley away in August. A confident, but not surefire pick. Valencia would be the Man Utd alternative.

3. Defoe/Spurs – With all of Liverpool’s good players injured, it leaves us looking at Tottenham as the third team to provide a potential captain. Hull at home should be easy pickings for Defoe and he might just do something at Anfield too. Modric is back fit again and could get some good points if you don’t have the midget up front.

fabregas fantasy football captain

Gets a Captain's tick.

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Three Potential Transfers In:

1. Bolton players – This gameweek is admittedly difficult to envisage a Bolton player scoring heavily but even two sets of two points would be useful and Arsenal are not super solid defensively. I think Owen Coyle will give them a boost and hopefully make them a more expansive, attractive side. This could mean players like Matt Taylor are worth watching. They also have play twice in gameweek 26 meaning seven matches in the next five weeks.

2. Donovan/Everton – The American loanee made his debut for the Toffees last week and by all accounts played pretty well against Arsenal (he got an assist). I’ve always thought he’s overrated, and his previous record in Germany suggests that he’s not quite good enough at the top level. That said, maybe the Premier League will suit him. Plenty of US players have succeeded so maybe he will be the next (if only for a couple of months). It will cost you £6m to find out.

3. N’Gog/Liverpool – The young Frenchman is an interesting one. He has only played 412 minutes this season but has grabbed four goals and two assists, which is twice as many as a certain M. Owen. With Torres injured for six weeks, he should get a consistent run in the side. Liverpool are woeful this season but at £5.2m he may be worth a speculative punt as a third striker.

matt taylor bolton

Might be worth a pick.

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Three To Avoid:

1. Vieira/Man City – I think Vieira is a legend and as an Arsenal fan he gave me nine glorious years of midfield dominance but I can’t help thinking this move back to the Premier League is a bad idea. He’s only £5m but I don’t think he’s going to do much. Granted, he’ll probably have a big game against a team which doesn’t possess much pace and people will think he’s still great but I reckon it’ll will be a one-off. Not worth the bother.

2. Sorensen/Stoke – With David James about to join on loan, it seems Sorensen may be on his way out. With the World Cup coming up I can’t think that James would be moving somewhere where he isn’t guaranteed a first team place and rumours of the Dane going abroad have not been denied. Time to find a new penalty saving king.

3. Liverpool players – The good ones like Torres, Johnson, Gerrard and Benayoun are all injured for varying lengths of time. The others like Aquilani, Kuyt, Riera and Carragher have been useless for varying lengths of time.

Patrick Vieira Man City

Are you taking the mick?!

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T.

Fantasy Premier League – Gameweek 21 Preview

08/01/2010

So, a busy Christmas schedule has finally passed and we once again get a little more time to think about transfers and the like rather than having a deadline what seems like every other day. Gameweek 19 was my best of the season in both points scored (83) and weekly placing (14,432). Rooney and Fabregas had particularly big weeks while Birmingham defenders once again topped things up. It allowed me to take over the lead in our mini league too, for the first time this season I think.

I thought I was all set going into week 20, with five players (not counting an injured Fabregas) playing twice and Arshavin as captain for two quite easy games. It all went a bit belly up. Sorensen conceded and got himself injured in his first match, Cahill lost against Hull while Arshavin and Diaby did nothing against Portsmouth. No trouble I thought, Arshavin will hopefully do something, anything against Bolton and perhaps Diaby will help too. One postponed match later my captain has four points and the five between them have just 17 (eight of those by Faye). Not impressed. Thankfully Rooney had played well again and Bent scored too giving me a respectable score of 58.

With the African Cup of Nations putting paid to Drogba and the like, and severe weather still being a threat, careful decisions will be needed for gameweek 21.

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Gameweek 19 Top Gun (aka Tom Cruise Approves):

Wayne Rooney top gun

Maverick keeps approving, Rooney keeps scoring.

I had Rooney as my captain and he scored, assisted twice and got three bonus (yet again) for 15 points – his second highest score of the season. He really has been Man Utd’s key player this season and jointly leads the bonus point total with 26 so far. Closely behind that week (and level for season bonus) was Arsenal’s Fabregas. I was at the game against Aston Villa and was resigned to no points when he was named on the bench. He came on in the second half however and scored two quickfire goals, grabbed the three bonus and then went off injured. Quite the 27 minute impact. Credit to Hart and Jiminez with 11 each.

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Gameweek 20 Top Gun (aka Tom Cruise Approves):

Antonio Valencia Man Utd

Maverick approves of Valencia's steady point scoring this year.

Last week saw Antonio Valencia confirm his position as Man Utd’s top midfielder this season (and indeed top six overall) with a 17 point haul against his old club Wigan. He scored, assisted twice, got three bonus and kept a clean sheet for good measure. He now has 92 points and is quite cheap at £8.2m having seen his value dip. Closely behind him with 16 was team-mate Rafael, while Steven Hunt got 15. There were five other double figure scores floating around too.

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Gameweek 21 Picks:

Some tricky decisions this week as the weather may still play a part and there aren’t too many one sided looking fixtures.

Three Captain Choices:

1. Tevez/Man City – We suggested him last time (week 19) and he got nine points followed by another 12 last week. With Adebayor in Angola, Bellamy on the bench and Robinho out of form, the little Argentinian is leading the line under new boss Mancini. He has seven goals in his last six games and while that run is bound to stop, his all round play is always a good shout for assists and bonus. Blackburn at home is a fairly straightforward match so back him to deliver once again.

2. Dempsey/Fulham – Dempsey is a player I had for most of last year and is on my radar this season (have always had a more important transfer to do). He’s been in good form and is the 4th top midfielder with 96 points. Always a threat for a clean sheet and/or goal, he plays Portsmouth at home this weekend. With Zamora injured he’ll get pushed up front with Johnson which = more potential points.

*UPDATE* Fulham’s game has been called off due to bad weather. Maybe an Arsenal player as an alternative – Arshavin perhaps.

3. Lampard/Chelsea – With Drogba off in the African Cup of Nations, Lampard should get some more opportunity to be the focus of the team once more. In my book he’s underperformed this season but with a game against Hull he could be in line for big score.

Carlos Tevez Man City

Gets a Captain's tick.

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Three Suggested Transfers In:

Some potential replacements for your players who have gone to Africa.

1. Sturridge/Chelsea – I like this option as a low risk third striker option while spending the Drogba money on a midfield upgrade. He’s only £5.5m and while still very raw, upcoming games against Hull, Sunderland and Birmingham (the latter two at home) should provide some opportunity for reward. He had a couple of assists over Christmas and is worth a gamble at least for a week or two.

2. Ramsey/Arsenal – With Alex Song away, a spot becomes open in the Arsenal midfield. Ramsey isn’t going to fill it, but with Fabregas still out and Wenger often rotating his third midfield spot (i.e. not the one not filled by Song & Fabregas) Ramsey is worth watching. He is only £4.8m yet has come on as sub 12 times. His two starts have proved rewarding and last week he scored 13 points against Portsmouth. That postponed game against Bolton will be replayed soon and he’s worth stashing on your bench at least.

3. Zabaleta/Man City – Yes he is a Man City defender but they have kept two straight clean sheets!

Daniel Sturridge Chelsea

Might be worth a pick.

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Three To Avoid:

1. Zamora/Fulham – Injured himself against Stoke and is now out for up to eight weeks. I bet he stops scoring once he’s back.

2. Portsmouth players – Half the squad has gone to the African Nations and any remaining good players are for sale to clear their mammoth debts.

3. Davies and Fellaini – Amongst several players on seven bookings already. Minus points are not cool.

Bobby Zamora Fulham

Are you taking the mick?!

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T.

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.

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.

Summer Silliness

13/07/2009

Excuse the lack of posts recently but it feels like not much has been going on. Not much that’s worth writing about at least. A few things have caught my eye I suppose.

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Fergie shuts his pension chequebook early

Hmm, think I’ll take this with a pinch of salt. Apparently after signing Wilson Palacios (must stopped getting them confused) Antonio Valencia (3 league goals last season), Gabriel Obertan (1, yes one) and Michael Owen (8), Fergie reckons that’s enough to replace the 23 league goals from Ronaldo and Tevez last year. I’d be amazed if he doesn’t buy another top player to head into the new season and I think the fact that he was after Benzema suggests he knows that Rooney, Berba, Owen and the two youngsters aren’t enough. Aguero has been mentioned in certain circles and mischievously Torres in others. The former is much more likely to be honest but someone of that ilk (proven international, capable of the spectacular, consistent goalscorer) is certainly needed at Old Trafford.

Hands up who's here to replace Ronaldo. Oh...

Hands up who's here to replace Ronaldo. Oh...

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Micah Richards has man swine-flu

Consummate professional Micah Richards was shocked to find he had swine flu. Good to know he thought it was alcohol poisoning at first after presumably getting absolutely battered on his summer holidays in Ayia Napa (how classy, I wonder if it was a package holiday).  Here’s hoping he passed it on to Craig Bellamy…

Yep, that will clear up the sore throat.

Yep, that will clear up the sore throat.

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Man City after Adebayor

and Tevez and Terry and Eto’o and Lescott and… Now I do believe you can only play 11 players at once but that’s not stopping City trying to sign three more strikers to go with the eight (I guess Jo has gone though) they have already. From an Arsenal point of view, I think we’d be letting Adebayor go cheap if the price is £20-25million. If a 28 year old John Terry is worth £30m then so is a 25 year old Ade. Add in the rich tax that bumps up the price further for any billionaire and I think it would be some good business for Arsenal. I jest slightly of course but I think if City are going to throw silly money around and Adebayor plans to play like he did last season then he is welcome to leave. He wouldn’t improve their team nearly as much as Terry would though.

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David Bentley smacked upside the head

‘England star’ David Bentley was punched while having a meal with his pregant fiancé. Now I wouldn’t quite agree with The Mirror’s assertion that he’s an England star. Let’s be honest he not even a Tottenham star. A bit harsh that he’s just sitting there and his partner had to see it all too but it seemed to be quite a well executed attack, with bills already paid and getaway cars at the ready. Maybe they were just trying to coax him out of his season long period of poor form. Personally I would have done it to whoever decided that paying £17m for him was a good idea in the first place! Though as you can see in this exclusive reconstruction maybe he was asking for it…

Before you ask I couldn't find him doing this in a Spurs shirt

Before you ask I couldn't find him doing this in a Spurs shirt

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T.


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