Sunday, February 15, 2009

On the horizon

Cast you eye over the upcoming fixtures and two teams' schedules stick out as particularly attractive: Arsenal and Everton. Over the next 6 weeks, Everton and Arsenal each have 5 green rated fixtures, with the average goals per game conceded by their opposition coming in at 1.69 (Everton) and 1.56 (Arsenal). With that in mind, the following attacking options become very interesting buys this week:

Arsenal

Denilson - the cheapest of the big name midfielders (6.2) has had a decent season, though his last 5 games have seen him contribute just 13 points. With 5 assists and 3 goals for the season, along with a much improved defense, mean that Denilson could be a decent, and steady (16 straight starts) point contributor in the next month or so.

Nasri - the highest potential scorer in midfield is a bit overpriced (7.6m) and I would not generally suggest buying him ahead of similarly priced studs like Cahill and Ireland. Considering Cahill's recent advanced role and comparably easy fixtures, I would still rank Cahill ahead of Nasri, though Ireland owners may consider the move due to City's brutal fixtures (opposition averaging less than a goal per game in the next 6 games). Nasri has 5 goals for the season, though has found the net just once since his impressive brace against United in week 12. With van Persie in decent form, Arshavin added during (or just after) the transfer window and Fabregas touted to return to action this month, the goals should start to flow for Gunners and Nasri looks as well placed as anyone to benefit.

Van Persie - starting to really show his class this season in both the Premier and Fantasy league. The Dutchman has 4 double digit gameweeks so far and could easily add to this total in the next few weeks. Van Persie has 9 goals and 7 assists in just 17 full appearances this season, though has only 1 goal in 2009 in the league. I would recommend swapping Robinho, Anelka and to a lesser extend Berbatov for the Arsenal forward who looks set to hit a rich vein of form.

Everton

Cahill - the Aussie forward hit an impressive run of form in his advanced role notching 4 goals in 9 games, averaging over 5 points a game in that span. Anichebe is back for Everton though he is far from an established striker which means Cahill could continue to partner new arrival Jo up front. Soft defences like Newcastle, West Brom and Portsmouth will provide great opportunities for Cahill to add to this season's tally of 6 goals.

Arteta - the Spaniard has been in incredible form of late, running the Everton team and being at the centre of all good things that come their way. This is reflected in his 24 bonus points for the year, 10 of which have come in the past 7 weeks. With Arteta taking on penalty duties as well as all free kicks and corners, the goals and assist are likely to continue to flow and Arteta is best placed of all to capitalise on the favourable fixtures coming up for the Toffees. Outside of the big three (Ronaldo, Lampard and Gerrard) I would sell anyone for Arteta right now, even blog favourite Ashley Young (who will see welcome Chelsea and Tottenham as well as visiting Liverpool and United in the coming 6 weeks).

Leon Osman - not well heralded and not incredibly cheap (5.9m) Osman is nevertheless a decent option who is all but guaranteed to play (15th in minutes among all midfielders) and will cheap in with odd goal and assist (3 of each so far this year). Personally, I'd prefer Milner (6.1m) or Murphy (5.6m) but nevertheless the little Evertonian is decent value for now.

Jo - incredible debut for the Brazilian last week who had a miserable time in his first few months in England. He took his first goal majestically and then slotted in a penalty in the dying minutes of the game. Whilst we can't expect any more penalties (Arteta is still the taker) a few more goals are not too much to ask. At 7.7m though I feel he is a bit overpriced and does not provide better value than say Kenwyne Jones (7m), Craig Bellamy (6.9m) or Amr Zaki (6.6m). On the other hand I like him more than Keane (8.3m), Santa Cruz (8.5m) and even Robinho (9.5m).

Not so bright

Aside from aforementioned City, Pompey, Boro and Liverpool also have daunting looking fixtures and it may be time to move along any players you hold from these clubs. A further caveat for Liverpool players is the return of the Champions League, which Benitez has often held in higher regard than the league. This could change this year though don't be surprised to see key players rested in games that immediately proceed the midweek European games.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Gameweek 25

So here we are again, another Saturday afternoon fretting over our teams (both real and fantasy) and there's a great selection of games on offer today. No less than eight games will be played today which makes a good change from the normal 5 game fixture list we are forced to suffer through after Europe kicks in again.
The action starts at the Middle Eastlands where City look to get back on track when they welcome fellow strugglers Middlesbrough. City start with transfer window arrivees Given, Bridge, De Jong and Bellamy alongside fantasy favourites Wright Phillips, Ireland and Robinho. Onuoha is the surprise starter as he takes his place alongside Kompany at the back. Boro partner new arrival King alongside Alves as Boro look to pick up points to relieve their relegation worries.

I'm very interested to see Bellamy today as at 6.8m he looks like a ready replacement for Zaki who I am starting to lose faith with. The Egyptian was simply unreal to open the season but constant injuries along with losing valuable teammates like Heskey and Palacios have hurt his value of late. I am also scouting Ireland as a possible replacement for Valencia who may be distracted by his apparent move to United or Real Madrid in the summer. City's fixtures are very tough over the next 4 weeks (@Liv, @WH, Ast, @Che) but after that they pick up a bit and only trips to Arsenal and United look to be really tough in the final season run in.

28 mins Fantastic first touch for Given as he pulls off a terrific save though Alves still should have scored. Best chance of the game so far and its a bit against the run of play. I was not a fan of the Given signing as I rate Joe Hart highly but Given shows there why City paid the big bucks for him.

In other news, there is more proof that United really need to hire private drivers for their players as now Tevez has been pulled over, not long after Ronaldo's crash a few weeks back. No expected fantasy impact, though anyone holding Tevez probably isn't concerned with winning their league right now.

38 mins I really don't think I'm exagerrating when I say that Stephen Ireland is City's best player. He's just hit the bar with a header which is just another facet of the game I wasn't aware he had. I appreciate this is a lofty comparison but I see alot of Gerrard in Ireland and if the likes of Robinho and Bellamy can link up with him I see him being a fantasy demon for years to come.

40 mins At the other end of the field, Given pulls off another good save from Alves whose movement has been good today. If he could just be more clinical I could see him threatening 15 goals a season.

Half Time. A little suprising this one is still 0-0 and it looks like goals will surely come in the second half. A lack of a cutting edge aside from Ireland (where is Wright Phillips?!?) has cost the Sky Blues so far.

51 mins GOAL Bellamy gets his second goal in two home games after poor defending from Boro. They never got close to the Welshman who now has 6 in his last 7 premier league games. I only wish I had taken my own advice and brought him in this week for Zaki. De Jong credited with the assist.

85 mins City look to be cruising to a clean sheet here, though as I mentioned earlier, the tough fixture list suggests you shouldn't be jumping on their bandwagon just yet. However, at just over 5m the likes of Bridge and Zabaleta are intriguing prospects is Hughes can get his team to play tighter on the road as well as at home.

Team News: Wigan v Fulham
Valencia is in (yes!) but Zaki is only on the bench (no!) and Charles Insomnia makes his debut for the Latics. Fulham are as you were though Dacourt does make the bench. Although not known for his attacking prowess, at 4.5m Dacourt would be a decent purchase is he playes every for a decent side like Fulham.

Full Time. City takes all three points and get the clean sheet to boot. I was wholly impressed with Ireland and he shoots to the top of the charts to replace Valencia if I decide to do so. Boro were pretty poor and have basically no fantasy options in the side.

Team News: Chelsea v Hull
Quaresma is in to make his debut with no place for Drogba or Deco in the starting 11. Alex deputises once again at the back and Hilario is in for the injured Cech. The on form Mendy is suspended for Hull so the early season wonder Geovanni comes in to replace him.

Team News: Everton v Bolton
Jo gets his Everton debut and will be supported by the newest Pure Juice player, Tim Cahill. Yobo returns from injury but only makes the bench which may suggest that bargain Baines (4.5m) may keep his job and might be worth looking at over the next few weeks as Everton have a good looking fixture list. Bolton make just one change with O'Brien in for Gardner.

Team News: Blackburn v Aston Villa
Ashley Young returns and joins Heskey and Agbonlahor up front for the first time. Carew takes his place on the bench after being out for a long time with a back injury. Santa Cruz and Diouf are on the bench for Rovers with Roberts and McCarthy getting the start.

15:02 GOAL Early goal for Newcastle and its through Damien Duff who slid it in from the edge of the box. Great start for Joe Kinnear's side who was taken to hospital this morning. Meanwhile John Terry has missed one from two yards and Cahill has missed a sitter for Everton. Furious start this week.

15:05 GOAL Another goal at the Hawthorns and West Brom have hit back straight away through Fortune. What a start!

15:10 GOAL Newcastle take the lead at the Hawthorns through debutant Peter Lovenkrands. The former Rangers man is listed as a striker but only costs a mere 5m and could be worth a bench spot for those looking to save cash.

15:13 Things calm down a bit and as the dust settles I realise that all that excitment probably had about zero fantasy impact! Oh well, excitement none the less.

15:14 Everton are all over the Wanderers and a goal is coming for sure (hopefully through Cahill). On Sky, Phil Thompson suggests that there could be "alot of goals" in the game at the Hawthorns, really, you think? With three after 10 minutes I think thats a decent bet.

15:16 Goal dissallowed at Ewood but I am not sure why. Robinson and Samba collided and Heskey seemed to tap the ball in but has been pulled back for a free kick. Strange one that. Still having ditched Barry this week I'm not too unhappy he lost his assist.

15:20 Everton could/should have scored 3 or 4 by now and this time it is Jo who misses. Cahill is running the midfield in that whole behing Jo and surely a goal is on the cards.

15:26 GOAL James Milner scores for Villa, who are seeking their 7th straight away victory.

15:29 Trouble at Stoke who have now used all three substitutes today due to injuries, the latest being fantasy bargain Ricardo Fuller who looks to have dislocated his shoulder. Tough luck for Tony Pulis that.

15:31 Chelsea are knocking on the door at Stamford Bridge but Terry has missed another great chance as his header is cleared by Turner. As with Everton it does seem to just be a matter of time though before the breakthrough comes.

15:36 Valencia has been taken off at Wigan and that seals his fate for my team. Stephen Ireland is in next week, and I am well and truly done with the Wigan pair of Valencia and Zaki. Frustration once more for my team.

15:40 GOAL Penalty to Everton, but who takes them? Is it Arteta, or (hopefully) Cahill? And its Arteta who slots it home (doh!).

15:42 GOAL Newcastle get their third and its Steven Taylor with fantasy favourite Ryan Taylor getting the assist.

15:46 Half times come around the grounds and that was a decent half of action. No joy for my team mind and I'm looking to big guns Lampard and Cahill to change all that.

16:03 Back under way around the country and my frustration with Valencia has been tempered by the introduction of Zaki. Here's hoping the Egyptian can repay my loyalty to him.

16:06 GOAL 2-0 to Everton and wouldn't you know it but its Jo. Probably still overpriced at 7.6m but possibly worth monitoring as the Brazilian has a point to prove.

16:13 Its all gone quiet though Hull almost took the lead at Stamford Bridge through Fagan. I think Chelsea are genuinely in a slump and their players cannot be relied upon from a fantasy perspective. They are not scoring enough and their weakness from set pieces will always limit their value. As long as Carvalho and Cech are out, Alex and Hilario are good value but the likes of Terry and even maybe Bosingwa are a touch overvalued right now. Lampard and co are also in pretty poor form and I for one are considering moving him on.

16:20 Drogba is on for Quaresma who seemed to do nothing by all accounts. I simply cannot understand why Scolari refuses to play Drogba. Its mind blowing to me.

16:25 Hull miss a guilt edged chance after a good ball from Geovanni finds Marney who whistles his shot past the post. Will Chelsea make them pay?

16:27 SENDING OFF Matt Etherington has been sent off for taking a swing against Collins. School boy stuff from the former West Ham man and he might have cost his team a point here.

16:29 Penalty shout at the Bridge as Kalou's shot rattles against Turner's arm. Could have been given, but that would have been a bit harsh.

16:35 GOAL West Brom have pulled one back and its game on now. What would this do to Newcastle's confidence if they let this one slep?

16:37 This time its Chelsea who squander a chance as Kalou shoots straight at the Hull keeper. Chelsea look to be out of the Championship race so long as this kind of form continues.

16:40 GOAL Sunderland look to have won it as Kenwyne Jones heads them into the lead. That goal was coming as Stoke have dropped further and further back into their own half.

16:45 It looks like its going to be a dissapointing afternoon for Chelsea and the pressure will continue to mount on Scolari. Villa are also hanging on and hoping to inflict Big Sam's first defeat as Blackburn manager. I'll be back tomorrow evening to wrap up the weekend and make some suggestions for the coming weekly transfer.

Bear with me

Apologies for the lack of posts over the past week, other commitments have hampered my ability to spend my evenings debating the return of Robbie Keane to Tottenham or whether Fulham are really that good a play this week.
I will hopefully be able to do a diary today at 3pm, including the City game at 1pm. I look forward to hearing from you guys, and what your plans are for the last leg of the season.
In case you read this before 11:30pm, I am all over Tim Cahill for the coming weeks, starting today at home to Bolton. The other best bet is of course City who play twice against poor sides (Boro and Pompey). Of the team I'd take Ireland to make the biggest splash for your cash, though A Robinho brace would not surprise me at all.
Hopefully see you guys at 1pm.