Thursday, 28 February 2013

Fantasy Premier League: Gameweek 28

Following the weekend, there’s a very clear gap between first, second and third in the league. Manchester United are 12 points ahead of neighbours City, while City themselves are 5 points ahead of third placed Tottenham. Chelsea’s season has imploded following di Matteo’s sacking, and they face a fight to finish in the top four, while Arsenal continue to make a fist of an increasingly difficult fight for top four.

This is the last gameweek of the third quarter of the season. Apologies for the break last week. Back to business.

Gameweek 28 fixtures

Aston Villa v Manchester City
Chelsea v West Brom
Everton v Reading
Man Utd v Norwich
Southampton v QPR
Stoke v West Ham
Sunderland v Fulham
Swansea v Newcastle
Tottenham v Arsenal
Wigan v Liverpool

The Big Boys

Santi Cazorla, Arsenal midfielder

It’s the North London derby this week, always a gobsmacking prospect, particularly since Spurs became a realistic competitor for top four. There are always goals in this one, and getting them quite regularly now is Santi Cazorla (9.3), who has scored 4 in his last 4 league starts. Hold Walcott (9.5) if you have him, and never forget that Bale (10.3) has been The Stud of 2013.

Chelsea’s form has been erratic under Benitez, particularly at the back, but Mata (10.1) and Lampard (8.6) continue to bang them in like there’s no tomorrow (there’s this tidbit I wanted to share last week: Frank Lampard has scored more goals than van Persie since December 15), and there’s no reason not to hold on to them. Note that Chelsea won’t play next weekend due to cup commitments, and the Europa League tie immediately after means that GW29 is a confirmed null for Chelsea, so don't buy any Blue on retail right now.

Man City travel to woeful defenders Aston Villa in what is shaping to be the plum tie of the gameweek for City’s attackers. Aguero (10.9) will play, and keep on playing since City have no European commitments. Get in. Mancini is quite hormonal about Tevez and Dzeko, so picking either one is a risk. Hold on to David Silva (9.3), who was outstanding against Chelsea and could be on the rise. City also have a cup match next weekend, but with no European game immediately following it, the postponed league fixture is likely to be rescheduled just 3 days later in the same gameweek (likely, but don't bet your house on it)

Luis Suarez’s (10.6) brilliance is undoubted, and with defending like Wigan’s, there will always be chances for him and Sturridge (7.5). A lot of the upcoming fixtures look promising too.

Van Persie might miss the game due to the hip injury concern coupled with the upcoming Real Madrid game, and with the league title all but wrapped up and two important knockout matches in the coming week, expect a fair bit of rotation. That said, there is little reason to drop who you have, but don’t buy anybody. As for United’s cup commitments/GW29 match, see City.

The Other Guys

Moussa Sissoko, Newcastle midfielder

Laudrup’s Swansea are coming off the high of winning silverware in emphatic fashion, and Michu (8.3) has rediscovered his scoring touch over the last 3 weeks. Against a Newcastle side conceding two every game, he’ll have a great chance of scoring. Sissoko (6.4) is still a good retail purchase, and as I said in my last meaningful post, he’s shaping to be this season’s Sigurdsson.

Lambert (7.0) is on quite a run of form, and will have every chance of setting about his next century of Southampton goals at home against QPR.

Le Fondre (5.0) should get a start or two due to Pogrebnyak’s suspension, and Everton’s defence is not the best. Bon Appetit. Everton players must be avoided on retail for the same reason as the Chelsea boys - their GW29 is a confirmed null because their GW29 opponents Arsenal have midweek commitments.
Tony Pulis vs Sam Allardyce. Oh joy. Most would expect these sides to kick lumps out of each other on the way to a 0-0. If not, then given Stoke’s recent defensive frailties and his own recent form, Carroll (8.2) is the most likely to make the difference.

Berbatov (6.8) is fit, and is generally brilliant. He will get his chances at Sunderland. Fulham, meanwhile, have conceded at the rate of two goals per away game, and this is good short-term news for Fletcher (7.1). 

The Blogger's Team

The Blogger's Team
This team will be massively mauled by next week's fixture fallout, I'm holding my wildcard till then

Meme of the Week

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Fantasy Premier League: Gameweek 27?

There will be no post for Gameweek 27 because the Blogger has to avoid getting raped by ongoing exams. Apologies to readers.

Maaf kar do. Is baar mujhse nahi ho payega (no double meaning!)

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Fantasy Premier League: Gameweek 26

Manchester City and Liverpool both ended the weekend 9 points off - what I believe to be - their respective aims for the season. There were several eye-catching goals from the big names for the neutrals to enjoy. Chelsea have now become easy opponents home and away and have North London breathing down their necks while United are typically relying on muscle memory to get through this time of the season with one win following another.

This is the last gameweek before another FA Cup round, and hopefully both your real and fantasy teams give you reason to smile for the next two weeks.

Gameweek 26 fixtures

Tottenham v Newcastle
Chelsea v Wigan
Norwich v Fulham
Stoke v Reading
Sunderland v Arsenal
Swansea* v QPR
Southampton v Man City
Aston Villa v West Ham
Man United v Everton
Liverpool* v West Brom
Liverpool* v Swansea*

The Big Boys

Liverpool’s double gameweek simply cannot be overlooked, given that both of their matches are at Anfield. Gifts galore for owners of Gerrard (9.7), Suarez (10.7) and Sturridge (7.7). Liverpool have kept 7 clean sheets in their last 9 home games, so Jose Enrique (5.7) is definitely a prospect considering that.

Much to the relief of tortured Chelsea fans who’ve had to watch Bertrand make a poor fist of being a winger, Eden Hazard (9.3) has finished his 3 match ban and has a favourable match-up at home to Wigan. And Juan Mata (10.1), as always. Lampard (8.5) is on a run of goals and seems determined not to stop till he breaks Tambling’s record.

Everton face a daunting trip to Old Trafford to face a team that has won every home game bar one. Despite European commitments, it’s hard to imagine that United will rest any of their big names, so don’t drop/sell them. Fellaini (7.8) is back playing an advanced role after Gibson’s return, and if the reverse fixture is anything to go by, he will prove a handful once again.

Sissoko (6.0) had a great home and away debut, and early signs suggest he could be as valuable in this year’s Feb-May period as Sigurdsson was in last year’s. Bale (9.8) is an FPL stud who takes plenty of shots and scores his fair share, particularly in this strikerless formation Spurs will use for the rest of the month, so don’t drop him. The same applies to Lewis Holtby (7.5) who had an impressive Premier League debut start.

The tie that comes closest to the “plum” region is Manchester City’s trip to St. Mary’s. Aguero (10.9) found the net last week and with no European commitments for City to consider, should be a season-long starter for them.

Sunderland aren’t playing well, whereas Podolski (8.3) and Walcott (9.6) are. It’s that simple.

The Other Guys

Ben Davies (4.5) is something of a must-have given the combination of his low cost and the two matches of which one is at home against an ultra-low-scoring QPR. Owners of Michu (8.4) should give him one last chance considering that it’s a double gameweek. Nothing lost if he fails to produce yet again, as most of you bought him when he cost well below 7 and you will gain a hefty profit by selling him if he does fail again.

Stoke-Reading feels like one match that is best avoided in the retail market this week (I don’t even know why I’m saying this, everybody’s just after Liverpool players anyway).

Norwich v Fulham. See above.

Villa have been getting on the scoresheet lately, but there are a bad couple of fixtures following the international break, so hold Benteke (6.7) if you’ve got him, but no retail purchase.

The Blogger’s Team

Fellaini has a bright yellow mark now. Never mind it.

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Sorry fans, Chelsea truly is Roman's club now

Disclaimer: I in no way intend to imply that AVB or RDM were indeed mistakes, or that the players from the Jose era deserve to be kicked out. Far from it, in fact. I believe both managers deserved more time than they got, and that Lampard must stay. I am not responsible for misinterpretations you make reading the post.

Andre Villas-Boas hired as Chelsea manager
After Ancelotti's reign, Roman's personal favourite got the job

Let’s all be clear about one thing here: Andre Villas-Boas was Roman Abramovich’s personal choice, and Roman Abramovich hates it when someone else tells him that his choice was the wrong one. He always backs his men completely (as Ray Wilkins said here) unless he falls out with them, or sees them as unfit. There was a falling-out with Jose Mourinho while Carlo Ancelotti was no longer seen as the right man for the job.

Neither was true of AVB. Villas-Boas’ tactics were incompatible with many of the players, and his less than tasteful man-management led to dislike of said tactics turning into dislike of the man. Only, this dislike was confined to the dressing room. The Board were naturally forced to act given what finishing outside the top four would’ve meant. 

Obviously, we've been here before. Roman patiently listened as the players laid Scolari's flaws bare and had the World Cup winning Brazilian sacked. But this time, Abramovich was seething. He had not wanted this. He was on good terms with the manager and felt he was the right man to change Chelsea’s style and take them forward playing pretty football.

Andre Villas-Boas
AVB's sacking felt like shooting Bambi, a decision probably popular only in the dressing room

As written before, Roman Abramovich doesn’t like other people telling him that he made the wrong choice, making him look the fool. Even winning the prize he was supposed to covet most wasn’t satisfaction enough for him, for besides being derided in the media over Villas-Boas, he was now also being hounded by comments from every direction saying Chelsea were the ugliest and luckiest team to win the European Cup. He decided that the players responsible for making his (latest) Portuguese hiring look bad would pay.

Which is what is happening now, and will keep happening till the final flames of Mourinho and Ancelotti's Chelsea are well and truly quelled. Bosingwa, Kalou and Drogba were released (although Drogba wanted to leave himself), and Lampard looks set to follow them out even if he scores a hat trick every game from now (UPDATE: It seems talks over a new contract have begun). It’s hard to imagine that Essien will be a Chelsea player next season, and Ashley Cole beyond 2014. Don’t put it past the Board to even consider pushing out John Terry.
Roberto di Matteo
Club legend to the fans, but he was never wanted by Roman

AVB, Roman’s personal choice, was fired after pressure from the players. Roberto di Matteo, who was never Roman’s choice, was hired due to pressure from the fans. A few months later, Chelsea become the first defending champions to crash out of the Champions League group stages, heaping further embarrassment upon what Roman had been hearing earlier about Chelsea being lucky winners.

Roman Abramovich, Chelsea owner
Having been embarrassed enough, the oligarch no longer cares about other people's opinion

Hiring Rafael Benitez and sticking by Fernando Torres, come what may, have proved to be the Russian’s most unpopular decisions yet, but he no longer cares. Decisions hurting the fans will now be consistently made. The last two major decisions before the start of the season were made after pressure from players and/or fans, and both have left Roman feeling less than flattered. After AVB and RDM, the oligarch - who has pumped a humongous amount of his money into Chelsea - has drawn the line. Abramovich has had enough of listening to the players. Abramovich has had enough of listening to the fans.

He will run his club his way now, and Chelsea fans should learn to live with it.

Friday, 1 February 2013

Fantasy Premier League: Gameweek 25

The midweek saw QPR manage yet another draw (at least they're not losing), and Manchester United pull further ahead in the title 'race'. Chelsea's performances at Brentford and Reading make them look less like a team and more like Juan Mata + 10. Tottenham failed to capitalise on a tough game for Arsenal (which they did well to draw, mind you) and a bad result for Chelsea by failing to beat a struggling Norwich. So it looks like the title is heading to Manchester, but hopefully it won't be that simple in your FPL league.

Moving on to a gameweek where it really isn't mentally healthy to gamble on who's keeping a clean sheet.

Gameweek 25 fixtures

Newcastle v Chelsea
QPR v Norwich
Wigan v Southampton
Arsenal v Stoke
Everton v Villa
Reading v Sunderland
West Ham v Swansea
Fulham v Manchester United
West Brom v Tottenham
Manchester City v Liverpool

The Big Boys

Olivier Giroud, Arsenal forward

Arsenal have been scoring lately, and Stoke have been conceding lately, so it wouldn't be too much of a push to suggest that the gameweek will be a good one for Giroud (7.9), who's put in some good recent performances.

The box office fixture at the Etihad against Liverpool is a sort of must-win for the hosts given the ground they've given up in the title 'race' (have I already covered that one?). Liverpool haven't defended well away from home at any point this season so despite an aberration at Loftus Road, Aguero (10.9) should be primed to net in this one. For the Reds, Suarez (10.5) is the gift that keeps on giving. Also remember that Gameweek 26 is a double home gameweek for Liverpool, so prepare to take full advantage.

As for Chelsea, the question mark that none of us wanted was one over the fitness of Juan Mata (10.1), and the good news is that Juan Mata is declared fit. And how about Moussa Sissoko (6.0)? Great Premier League debut, first home game for an improving team against a struggling team without a holding midfielder to speak of.

Manchester United's work is eased by an injury to ex-player Dimitar Berbatov. This raises the value of United's defenders. Hang on to van Persie (14.1) and Wayne Rooney (11.8), of course.

Tottenham failed to beat a struggling Norwich, and their next trip is a much harder game. West Brom's home defence is bettered only by Manchester City's, so there's not much value in retail for Spurs players. Keep their premium-priced attackers if you have them.

The Other Guys

Yes, I realise Michu (8.4) hasn't had a goal for a while now, and that is causing some angst, particularly for those who bought him on retail recently. But also realise that Liverpool's second opponents in GW26 are Swansea, so GW26 is a double gameweek for Swansea too. So I'd hold on to the lad, and the cheap yet valuable Ben Davies (4.5).

Hosting Manchester United aside, the upcoming fixtures aren't too daunting for QPR, and if there's any time for them to get points, this is it. Loic Remy (6.0) could prove quite the differential bargain in this period, and if you want any cheap defenders, then maybe Fabio (4.2) is your way in. QPR kept 3 clean sheets in their 4 league games last month, and those shutouts came against Chelsea, Tottenham and Manchester City.

Wigan are witnessing an upturn in form in front of goal, and that's due to the creation of Shaun Maloney (4.8). di Santo (5.3) is a one-week-only purchase that could pay off. Observe Southampton a bit more under new management before deciding who has retail value.

Sunderland had a wretched home performance against Swansea, so I'm a bit cold on them for this one, despite them playing a relegation-battling team. Adam le Fondre (4.8) scored 5 goals in his last 72 minutes for Reading, it's quite extraordinary that he isn't starting. Hard to imagine his bench status will continue, but better you than me to gamble on that.

Aston Villa have been wretched for weeks, and the return to fitness of Darron Gibson should push Fellaini (7.7) back to a more attacking role. Hold on to Baines (7.5).

The Blogger's Team

The Blogger's Team
No transfers this gameweek

Meme of the Week

Football Meme of the week