Posts Tagged ‘zabaleta’

The Six Pointer – Complacency, Financial Burdens & more…


That was the weekend that was.


1. I don’t know where to start with the north London derby. Cruising at 2-0 going in to half-time, Arsenal had run rings around their neighbours in the first period. A smart tactical change by Redknapp at the break coupled with a complete mental collapse from the Arsenal players resulted in a famous Tottenham comeback.

You can’t even say this was a massive shock, as it’s happened too many times in recent years for it not to be a serious problem. A very good analysis can be found over at Arseblog while there was an interesting post on Arsenal Vision which documented every game where a lead had been lost and Arsenal had not won the match in the last five years.

Déjà vu.

I think it’s a touch unfair to include every instance where 1-0 ended 1-1 but what I found telling was in the last three seasons alone there have been 11 occasions where Arsenal have taken the lead and gone on to concede at least two goals. There in lies the crux, be it through complacency or the fact they haven’t held on against a top side when gaining the advantage.

The fact another game comes tomorrow will give the players an immediate opportunity to make partial amends but this side has a long way to go before it can be considered winners.


2. Chelsea were pretty unlucky not to have beaten Birmingham with Ben Foster making at least five or six top saves while the defenders in front of him stood firm.

Like Ancelotti said, their problem at the moment is they’re not firing on all cylinders going forward which means they’re vulnerable when conceding (which in turn is currently more likely with their centre-back woes). Drogba has not scored since October 3rd (while admittedly recovering from malaria) while Malouda also has just one goal since late September.

I feel in part this is down to the midfield three they’re forced to regularly play at the moment – Mikel, Ramires & Zhirkov. There’s not much creativity there nor the control that is offered when Lampard and Essien are fit. Lampard’s absence has been perhaps a little easier to cope with but it’s no coincidence these three recent defeats have been without Essien in the side.


3. Bolton were very impressive in beating Newcastle 5-1 and it will be interesting to see what happens in January if they are still riding high in the top half of the table.

Admiring glances are being aimed at the likes of Lee, Cahill, Holden and even Owen Coyle himself and with the club recently announcing a debt of £93million there may be some pressure to sell a star to ease the burden.

But for how long?

Another twist to this is the impending expiring contract of Johan Elmander, who is having by the far the best of his three seasons at the Reebok. He finally seems to have adapted to the Premier League but now Bolton risk losing their record £8m signing for nothing next summer.

Unless I’ve missed the Swede professing his undying love for the Trotters, I suspect we may see a gentleman’s agreement when a one year deal is signed but with him being sold in the summer.


4. I don’t see Blackburn’s new owners pumping too much money into the Ewood Park coffers but it would be interesting to see what Sam Allardyce does with a bigger budget. He claims he’d win the double every year at a top club, but I seem to remember him being something of a flop the last time he had a bit of money to spend when managing Newcastle.


5. Roberto Mancini has been saying for a while that a big part of  his tactical plan was to have full backs who bomb forward and support Tevez/the notional front three. We saw a glimpse of that in the victory over Fulham with both Kolarov and Zabaleta consistently getting into the Fulham half and attempting several crosses and four of their 11 shots on goal.


I think while Mancini is at heart a cautious manager, we will eventually see a relatively attacking side with Milner and Toure in the central midfield trio and Silva and Balotelli properly supporting Tevez. Reasonable upcoming fixtures should provide opportunity to experiment.


6. Fulham have lost just four times but are 17th. Chelsea have lost four times and are top of the table. An extreme example perhaps but it shows how destructive draws can be to your league position. Mark Hughes should remember that a win and a loss is better than two draws. Of his last 27 games with both Man City and Fulham, Hughes has overseen 15 stalemates.




Season Previews 2010/11 – Manchester City


Man City

Last Season: 5th

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

Key Player: Carlos Tevez

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

Needs A Big Year: Joleon Lescott

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

Four more players please.

Prediction: 4th

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

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

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

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

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

No , make that five.

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


Fantasy Premier League – Gameweek 21 Preview


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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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