Archive

Archive for the ‘Fantasy Football’ Category

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 2 comments

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.

Premier League Fantasy Picks: Week Two


“It is better to take many injuries than to give one”

The Premier League’s fantasy league has offered a lifeline to users who suffered with log-in problems last week. There will be unlimited transfers up until the Week 2 deadline and the urge to tinker will prove too much for many. The mass clamour for Sergio Agüero is perhaps understandable but there are diamonds in the rough to be unearthed following a spate of early injuries.

Bank on them…

The brightest fantasy managers are always the ones who seize the small windows of opportunity when they present themselves.

These may come in the form of double game weeks or, often, in the form of injuries. Even in week two the latter is already coming into play.

Hilario will fill in for Cech

Chelsea today announced that a knee injury would keep Petr Čech on the injury table for four weeks. In his absence, Hilário (£4.5m) suddenly becomes a very appealing option. He will feature in Chelsea’s next two, possibly three league games. They are against West Brom and Norwich at home before a trip to Sunderland in four weeks. Bank on him to record some clean-sheets in the coming weeks.

Manchester United’s defensive injury crisis is good news for the likes of Chris Smalling, Phil Jones, Fábio and Jonny Evans. The difficulty as always with Sir Alex Ferguson, is second guessing his team selection. Smalling and Fábio started against West Brom but both Jones and Evans came on when Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidić departed with injuries. Patrice Evra may return for the game against Tottenham meaning the Champions could name several different starting back-lines. Smalling (£5.5m) will probably fill one of the centre-back berths and Jonny Evans (£4.5m) may get the nod over Phil Jones due to his big match experience. But Fábio presents possibly the best value at £5m. His attacking instincts mean he could be among the assists or even goals. Of course picking any United defender is a risk after horror shows from goalkeeper David de Gea in his first two matches.

Roll the dice…

Cesc Fàbregas is gone and Samir Nasri’s pen is ready for Manchester City’s colossus contract offer. England’s bright hope Jack Wilshere is injured, as is Abou Diaby, and Gervinho and Alex Song will start three game suspensions. The spotlight will therefore focus on Aaron Ramsey (£6.5m). Games with Liverpool and Manchester United are tricky encounters but Ramsey proved he can rise to the big stage by grabbing the winner when the Gunners beat United at The Emirates last year.

It was Ramsey who set up Theo Walcott for the only goal of the game against Udinese in the week so consider him as a relatively cheap choice despite Arsenal’s difficult fixtures.

One to avoid…

United are not the only top club experiencing problems with injuries. Arsenal have kept two clean sheets in their first two games but are now down to the bare bones with Johan Djourou, Kieran Gibbs and Armand Traoré all out. That means that rookie defender Carl Jenkinson (£5.5m), who came on in the win over Udinese is likely to get the nod.

But think twice before plumping for the teenager. There are no guarantees of clean sheets in those clashes with Liverpool and United and sandwiched inbetween that is a trip to Italy for the second leg with Udinese.

For a player who has only appeared once for Arsenal and eight times for previous club Charlton, Jenkinson carries a hefty price tag.

You can follow me on Twitter @liamblackburn.

Fantasy Football: The Emergence of Victor Moses


By faith Moses, when he was born, was hid three months of his parents, because they saw he was a proper child; and they were not afraid of the king’s commandment

When Bolton boss Owen Coyle grandly declared himself to be the biblical character Moses two years ago, he should have been aware that he was muscling in on someone’s territory.

Days after Coyle preached to the media asking them to shun his ‘Judas’ tag in favour of the Moses moniker, Victor Moses was joining Wigan.

He may not possess the wave-parting abilities of Coyle but his surname puts him one up in the claim to be the North West’s answer to the Red Sea-splitter.

Moses should be celebrating much more this season

The Nigerian-born striker was tutored at Crystal Palace, the club which nurtured prolific goalscorer Ian Wright. The Eagles knew that Moses was always likely to fly from the nest as his stock grew and he moved to Wigan in 2010, a move which initially surprised.

He was touted by many but opted for what could be construed as one of the least attractive options in Wigan. But in the long run, Moses may reap the rewards. Former team-mate John Bostock has toiled away in Spurs’ reserves and on loan spells since his high-profile exit from Selhurst Park whilst Moses has slowly honed his skills at the Latics. Now, he could be ready to explode onto the Premier League scene.

Roberto Martinez decided to stay at the DW Stadium this season despite perceived interest from Aston Villa. He claimed his stay was an act of loyalty, something which Burnley fans would claim Coyle was adverse too.

But the departure of Charles N’Zogbia, the shining light of Wigan Pier, will test Martinez’s allegiance further. N’Zogbia was their match-winner, in the end, the difference between them suckling on the Premier League teat for another year rather than protecting themselves with parachute payments in the Championship.

In his place, Wigan must find a new star and with limited funds, he must come from within. Step forward, Victor Moses.

“He’s a special talent,” said Roberto Martinez.

“’It’s a real shock to any player to move up to the Premier League, but since he’s been here he’s added maturity and experience to his undoubted ability.

“’Charlie has left a big hole in our team but that vacancy is a big opportunity for Victor and maybe a couple of other players to step up.

“Victor is a different kind of player to Charlie but has the same quality that sets players like that apart from the rest.”

Martinez believes the time is now for Moses and he’s certainly backed that up with some impressive performances as a warm-up act, netting five times in pre-season.

There is plenty to like about him. He is quick and powerful, capable of scoring goals and turning provider for others. He has all the match-winning attributes that made N’Zogbia such a valuable commodity.

In fantasy football, that value is severely underappreciated. Moses is valued at a meagre £5m, the same as Lucas and Nigel De Jong. Whilst those two are regular fixtures for their respective clubs, they’re also prone to allergic reactions and nose bleeds should they venture as far as the opposition’s box. Moses, therefore, is a snip considering his ability to weigh in with goals from midfield.

If you needed further evidence, consider Wigan’s first three fixtures, the three promoted clubs, Norwich Swansea and QPR, two of which are at home. The opportunity is there for Moses to make an instant impact.

Owen Coyle believed he was like the prophet Moses because he led Burnley from the wilderness to the Premier League. Wigan frequently cling onto their place in the latter and the real Moses may go some way to ensuring they don’t find themselves in the wilderness any time soon.

You can follow me on Twitter @liamblackburn

Premier League Fantasy Picks: Week One


Picking an initial fantasy team may not make or break your year but it has huge implications for how your season could pan out. The key is not to make too many gambles but given the enforced salary cap, certain risks do need to be made. Consistent performers can still be found on the cheap and don’t automatically assume the bigger names will be the biggest hitters. Here’s my week one guide to the Premier League’s official fantasy game:

Goalkeepers

Bank on him…

Shay Given

Twelve months ago we were unsure if Given (£5m) or Joe Hart would be Roberto Mancini’s number one at Manchester City. Hart was awarded the title and Given spent the entire 2010-2011 season looking on. He’s now £2m cheaper than Hart and playing for an Aston Villa team which regularly recorded clean sheets under Martin O’Neill. New boss Alex McLeish ran a tight ship at Birmingham and so Given will be considered by plenty this time around.

Roll the dice…

Paddy Kenny

QPR’s Kenny was imperious last year, being voted Fans’ Player of the Year in a QPR team which won the Championship with a solid back-line. The step-up will faze some Rangers players but Kenny’s been here before with Sheffield United. For £4.5m he could be a suitable back-up if you need to free-up money for other players.

One to avoid…

Manuel Almunia

Three Arsenal goalkeepers are valued at £5.5m or above and Almunia (£5.5m) is probably Arsène Wenger’s third choice to go between the sticks. Wojciech Szczęsny should begin as number one with Łukasz Fabiański backing him up. Almunia shouldn’t therefore be considered at all unless either picks up an injury.

Defenders

Bank on him…

Brede Hangleand

There is no centre-back pairing more familiar with each other than Fulham’s Hangeland and Aaron Hughes. Both collected well over 100 points last year and Hangeland was the second highest scoring defender behind Leighton Baines. Hangeland is an ever-present fixture in Fulham’s team and is always a threat at set pieces. At £6.5m he also represents decent value.

Roll the dice…

Kieran Gibbs

There hasn’t been a mass exodus from Arsenal this summer but first-choice left back Gaël Clichy used his searing pace to run out of the Emirates door. The Gunners are in need of a player to fill that berth and Gibbs (£5.5m) looks the most likely to do so having impressed before. Tottenham’s Kyle Walker (£5.5m) is another who may tempt some, particularly after his strong showing at the under-21 tournament this summer. However Gibbs should be a regular starter whilst Walker may share time with Alan Hutton and Vedran Ćorluka.

Two young Arsenal stars who could have different fantasy years

One to avoid…

Rio Ferdinand

The inclusion of the former England captain under the ‘one to avoid’ banner may surprise some but United centre-back Ferdinand (£6.5m) continues to present bad value. His frequent injuries mean he often has spells on the sidelines and he lacks the potency from set-pieces which make Nemanja Vidić, Robert Huth and Leighton Baines so enticing. Need further proof? In his last three seasons, Ferdinand’s managed 69, 49 and 92 points compared to compatriot Vidić’s totals of 148, 94 and 187. Look for Ferdinand’s role to diminish further still with the arrival of Phil Jones and the continued maturation of Chris Smalling.

Midfielders

Bank on him…

Rafael van der Vaart

Last year the big trio, Steven Gerrard, Cesc Fàbregas and Frank Lampard, were poor by their own very high standards. Lampard only showed flashes, Gerrard is returning to a strong squad and Fàbregas may yet start the season at his beloved Barcelona. In the next tier, Florent Malouda blows hot and cold, how Ferguson plans to fit Nani, Ashley Young and Valencia in isn’t clear and Dirk Kuyt may see less playing time. So my reliable pick is Spurs’ Rafael van der Vaart (£10m). Takes penalties and free-kicks, makes goals and is in no danger of losing much playing time to his teammates.

Roll the dice…

Scott Sinclair

Every year they’ll be some debate about ascribing certain positions to certain players. Categorising Swansea’s Sinclair (£6m) as a midfielder could be worthy of such debate giving his striking tendencies. The former Chelsea and Wigan man has been highly rated for some years now but has struggled to perform in the top flight. However his form at the tail end of last season suggests he’s ready for another crack at the big time.

 There are other gambles which may be worth taking. How about Hatem Ben Arfa at £5.5m? An impressive talent who creates and scores goals, the only question mark is if he will return to the Newcastle team with as much verve after his serious injury.

One to avoid…

Jack Wilshere

Again the very mention of Wilshere’s name here will shock some and he seems a popular option for fantasy players this season. But let’s not forget the England man was ever present for Arsenal last year yet scored just once with three assists. He failed to score 100 points in a very good team, playing more minutes than any other Gunners midfielder. Yes he is cheap (£6.5m), but there’s a reason for this. It may be that Wilshere has a season similar to Fàbregas’ a few campaigns back when he suddenly started scoring frequently but until Wilshere shows some signs of doing so, I’m avoiding him.

Strikers

Bank on him…

Darren Bent

Villa’s Bent (£10m) is the model of point-scoring consistency wherever he ends up. Seventeen goals last year after a mid-season move, 24 the year before that, and 100 points in four of his last five campaigns. Sergio Agüero may take time to adapt to England, Wayne Rooney’s form can be patchy and there may or may not be enough room at Chelsea to accommodate Didier Drogba and Fernando Torres every week. Look for Luis Suárez (£9.5m) to continue his excellent form from last year too; I think he’ll comfortably out-score Liverpool teammate Andy Carroll who costs more.

Roll the dice…

Jay Bothroyd

Picking a striker to surprise is difficult but this doesn’t mean one won’t spring up and record a shed load of points. Last year DJ Campbell and Peter Odemwingie defied their valuations and had impressive years. QPR’s Bothroyd (£6m), called up by England last year, could well emulate their achievements. Were Robbie Keane to move within the division he could be an interesting proposition. He has a record of scoring goals wherever he’s gone and £5m represents good value for the man who’s scored more Republic or Ireland goals than anyone else.

One to avoid…

Fernando Torres

An obvious one by all accounts but Torres’ dire end of season form last year for Chelsea should serve as a warning to fantasy owners. At £11m he carries a hefty price tag and he won’t start justifying that until he starts netting on a frequent basis at the Bridge. Carlos Tévez’s (£12m) desire to remain out of Manchester needs to be considered too. Don’t write him off totally because we’ve seen an unhappy Tévez can still be a valuable asset but that is all dependent on him returning to City.

You can follow me on Twitter @liamblackburn.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.