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Premier League Fantasy Picks: Week Five

September 15, 2011 2 comments

Bank on him…

Stoke have conceded just once in the league in four games this season. The heart of that defence and club captain Ryan Shawcross (£5.1m) has always been a strong fantasy option due to Stoke’s stern back-line. The Potters are usually unbreakable at the Britannia Stadium and have kept clean-sheets against Chelsea and Liverpool this year.

But even with him playing away from fortress Britannia on Saturday, there is more than a strong possibility of them keeping Sunderland at bay. Steve Bruce’s men are yet to win this season and have not recorded a victory in-front of their home fans since April. The exciting Asamoah Gyan departed last week, and Sunderland have managed just two goals this season.

Roll the dice…

Martin Petrov (£5.7m) is the only player who costs less than £6 million to have recorded over 15 points. He was inspirational at times when arriving in the league for Manchester City but the multi-million pound revolution was bound to come at the expense of some, and Petrov was one of the unfortunate ones. City’s loss was Bolton’s gain. The Bulgarian left winger wasn’t always on song during his first season at the Reebok but this season he has been rejuvenated. He already has three assists and with a left foot capable of delivering devastating left foot bombs, he could be a decent option, particularly given Bolton’s opponents this week – Norwich.

One to avoid…

Even given Everton’s less than stellar beginning to this season, a home fixture against Wigan looks particularly appetising. Leighton Baines (£8.0m), a prime piece of real estate, and the undervalued Leon Osman (£6.9m) have predictably started well and could be amongst the points when Baines’ former employers visit Goodison Park. But the forthcoming fixture list is very difficult for Everton. After Wigan they travel to free-scoring Manchester City, then face Liverpool in the derby before visiting the slowly-improving Chelsea and Fulham (who are difficult to beat at Craven Cottage) before Manchester United visit Goodison. Sometimes it pays to look into the near future.

You can follow me on Twitter @liamblackburn

Premier League Fantasy Picks: Week Four

September 9, 2011 1 comment

Bank on him…

Whether the signings and the returning figures will turn Arsenal into a title winning force remains to be seen, but that coupled with the international break, should at least provide the Gunners with a fresh slate this weekend. Picking an Arsenal player after the 8-2 loss would have seemed foolish but two weeks later, with a deadline day sandwiched in-between, it seems an incredibly long time ago. Winless Swansea arrive at the Emirates as lambs to the slaughter. The ‘new look’ Arsenal should run out easy winners and Robin van Persie (£11.9m) could run amok. It may be some time before Mikel Arteta and Yossi Benayoun bed in properly and with Jack Wilshere out, Arsenal have plenty of concerns. But there’s a sense that, like Blackpool last year, Swansea are just too naïve to withstand the inevitable wave after wave of Arsenal attack at the Emirates.

Van Persie has netted six in his last four games

One to avoid…

Ali Al-Habsi is a popular fantasy choice. He’s relatively cheap (£4.5m) and quietly goes about his business effectively (although he will want to forget his error on the opening day). He also has back-to-back clean-sheets to highlight just how worthwhile he can be. However just like last week, when I warned against Brad Friedel, Al-Habsi needs to be benched given his tough match-up with Manchester City. They have so much attacking intent and so many ways to score goals that he is in serious danger of ending up with minus points.

But, do be weary of selecting specific Manchester City players given that they begin Champions League life with a tricky test versus Napoli on Wednesday. Manager Roberto Mancini will have more than one eye on that game and that could force his hand when selecting his team against Wigan. Given their impressive form of late, the obvious selections would be Edin Džeko, Sergio Agüero and Samir Nasri but Mancini has two large egos in Mario Balotelli and Carlos Tévez to appease. Giving them a run out against lowly Wigan may prove to be a sensible decision.

Roll the dice…

Joey Barton (£5.9m) loves being in the headlines. Whether it is through Twitter rants tinged with philosophical musings, digs at Match of the Day pundits or simply falling down after being slapped by a man with absurd hair, Barton is always in the spotlight. There will be no chance of that subsiding now he’s joined QPR given the baptism of fire he will face against former club Newcastle. There’s a story to be written and you can bet Barton intends on playing a prominent role in the plot. That may well be a red card and it may be a marvellous performance rounded off with the opening goal (14-1 on Paddy Power, by the way). Either way, Barton is unlikely to remain under the radar at Loftus Road, his selection would be a true gamble but one which may reap dividends.

You can follow me on Twitter @liamblackburn.

Premier League Fantasy Picks: Week Three

August 26, 2011 1 comment

Bank on him…

Newcastle’s defence has probably gone under the radar in recent weeks. But perhaps it’s time to give them their dues now the Joey Barton soap opera has moved onto Loftus Road. The Magpies have opened their Premier League account with back-to-back clean sheets. What used to be a problem and source of constant humour for Newcastle has no turned into something of a positive.

Reliable entities such as Tim Krul, Danny Simpson and Fabricio Coloccini are all good fantasy purchases but Ryan Taylor has muscled his way into the limelight. Taylor normally plies his trade at right-back and has found the ever-present Simpson immovable in recent years. But José Enrique’s departure has seen him fill in at left-back and he’s performed admirably.

Taylor is deadly over a free-kick

Taylor’s biggest attribute is his devastating free-kick and this past week saw him score in not one but two dead ball situations. The first against Sunderland in the derby gave them all three points in the league and he followed that up with an equaliser against Scunthorpe in the Carling Cup which took them to extra time.

Taylor currently tops the list of defenders in the Fantasy Premier League with 18 points alongside namesake Steven. S Taylor (£4.5m) has had two three point bonuses but R Taylor’s (£4.1m) ability to curl a ball up and over a wall and into the net makes him a very plausible option. Newcastle have Fulham at home this week before a trip to QPR so both Taylors look good value for their third and fourth successive league clean-sheets. Ryan Taylor will continue to fill in at left-back providing Alan Pardew doesn’t sign a left-back before next Thursday so get him whilst he’s relatively cheap.

Roll the dice…

Everton are still the only Premier League team yet to dip into the transfer market this summer and could conceivably let the window shut without making any additions. The lack of funds will give those within the squad a chance to nail down first team spots as David Moyes has a small squad and he already has injury concerns. Séamus Coleman, a stand-out star last term, is out for a while and there are doubts over Tim Cahill, Jermaine Beckford and Magaye Gueye for this weekend’s game.

The Toffees didn’t get off to the brightest start. They were beaten by QPR, an ‘upset’ which many saw coming given Everton’s static stance this off-season and their history of slow starts. But there was a modicum of joy for Moyes and that came in the form of the performance of 17-year-old Ross Barkley.

“I’ve said to the players in the dressing room that I was disappointed with most of them, but not Ross he played well,” said Moyes.

“He needs a big pat on the back, because he’s not long 17.”

There is plenty of excitement about the development of Barkley and a genuine sense that he will be the finest talent to emerge from Goodison Park since a certain Wayne Rooney.  The inevitable comparisons with him are futile, particularly given Barkley’s position, but he did give another glimpse into the reasoning behind the hype against Sheffield United on Tuesday, contributing two assists in a 3-1 win.

He is excellent value at £5m and there are several reasons to like him. The small squad and current injuries to the likes of Coleman mean Barkley is likely to see plenty of playing time. He is a confident player, good with both feet and not afraid to take a shot when an opportunity presents itself. David Moyes is protective of his youngsters but he won’t be afraid to utilise Barkley. Based on the strength of his first two performances, he may have no choice.

One to avoid…

Brad Friedel’s inclusion at Manchester United on Monday seems to have provided a definitive answer to the question of whether he would be Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp’s number one over Heurelho Gomes. The American put in a typical sturdy performance and it is unlikely that Redknapp will reinstall the erratic Gomes.

Friedel (£5.5m) is a reliable performer and Spurs do keep plenty of clean sheets but the time to choose him is not right before they face the irresistible Manchester City. United notched up three goals on Monday night and Friedel prevented them from grabbing plenty more, making a mammoth 13 saves. That earned him four points but you do not want your keeper that active every week. City have helped themselves to seven goals in the past two games and Samir Nasri has joined the cavalry to provide yet another attacking option for Roberto Mancini.

Carlos Tévez could start, Sergio Agüero and David Silva have started on fire and Edin Džeko looks like an entirely different prospect from the one which toiled last season. Brad Friedel may be a good option in the long run but don’t acquire him this week. If he’s already amongst your ranks, show him to his seat on the bench.

You can follow me on Twitter @liamblackburn.

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