“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.
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.
“Many of us believe that wrongs aren’t wrong if they are done by nice people like ourselves”
Every now and again, Sir Alex Ferguson will come out with a piece of pure hypocrisy which surprises me. Usually it will involve the F.A. or referees. This time, it involves transfer fees, wages and the new lofty heights they continue to reach:
“The enormous amounts of money that are paid, not just the transfer fees, but for salaries; I don’t think it rests easy with supporters.”
This truthful titbit comes from the Manchester United boss who has smashed the British transfer fee for Gary Pallister, Roy Keane, Andy Cole, Ruud Van Nistelrooy, Juan Sebastian Veron and Rio Ferdinand. Add in Wayne Rooney, the world’s most expensive teenager at the time and Dimitar Berbatov, who would be Britain’s most expensive player were it not for Robinho. Last January, Ferguson agreed to pay Fulham £10 million for Chris Smalling who had only made three Premier League appearances at the time of the transfer. Moreover, the biggest winners of inflated prices were the club who profited from the sale of Cristiano Ronaldo, the world’s most expensive player. That club and the beneficiaries of £80 million were Manchester United.
Ferguson isn’t in a position to complain about escalating fees. More than any other manager in the Premier League era, he has raised the bar for transfer fees and wages. But now with Manchester City, Chelsea and Real Madrid all able to freely spend, Ferguson claims he has been “hamstrung” by the competitive market. What the Scot is experiencing now is a taste of his own brutal medicine. The rest of the Premier League have been continually frustrated when United have ramped up the prices. Roles haven’t entirely reversed but Ferguson certainly feels belittled by City in particular.
Even in a World Cup year, there is a good value to be found in this transfer market. Joe Cole, held in high regard by Ferguson as a teenager, was available on a free. Germany’s young World Cup stars Mesut Özil and Sami Khedira were available on the cheap as both had only one year left on their deals. Khedira may well have rebuffed any approaches from England as soon as Jose Mourinho and Real Madrid threw their hat into the ring. But Özil’s name continues to be linked with a plethora of European giants and the playmaker, who tormented England at the World Cup, is reportedly available at somewhere between £10-£15 million. United need a goal-scoring, creative midfielder along with a dominant holding player and all three of these players would fill voids in Ferguson’s team without breaking the bank. Wesley Sneijder has been linked with a move to Old Trafford but he was superb value 12 months ago and Ferguson missed out. There is a real danger that in a year’s time, Özil could be the next one that got away.
If you can’t keep up with the market, you have to be happy with what you’ve got. This is where Ferguson, an expert at handling the media, comes into his own. He claims he is very happy with his young charges. It would be wrong to question Ferguson’s faith in youth. Nobody has dared attempt to do so since Alan Hansen scoffed humble pie back in 1996. If nothing else, we know these players will have a winning mentality drummed into them. But will this next batch of youngsters reach the same heights as the class of 1992? There have been flashes of brilliance from Danny Welbeck, Gabriel Obertan, Fabio et al, but replacing club legends like Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and Gary Neville is a tall order.
Perhaps Ferguson has been stung by his last acquisition to carry a large price tag. I remain a big fan of Dimitar Berbatov but he was grossly over-priced at £30 million particularly considering his age. Perhaps, as most fans believe, Ferguson’s hands are tied by the heavy debts that the Glazer family have burdened the club with. Perhaps Ferguson hides behind the ‘no value in the market’ line to protect his employers. It is a theory which Ferguson frequently rejects much to the fans’ dismay.
Whatever the case, Ferguson’s criticism of inflated transfer fees is hypocritical. He is right to insist that fans are dismayed at transfer fees and wages but this phoney empathy has never stopped him breaking the bank beforehand.