Weekend Review – from fantasybet.com

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Sunderland and Norwich are scrapping to stay up, the top 4 looks all sealed off by now and then there were two in the title race; Leicester and Spurs. 5 things we learned from the weekend’s matches:

Hammers defence finally exposed

For the early fixture against Arsenal, Slaven Bilic went 3 at the back before switching things up again at half time. It was a clear change of system, but it didn’t look like they had much of a plan to stop this humming Arsenal attack still. The game had a weird pattern, with Arsenal racing into a 2 goal lead before Andy Carroll of all people pegged them back, eventually forcing a draw. Strangely West Ham were actually extremely positive (or risky, one could say) in their play rather than sitting and countering. Unless you’re organised and compact without the ball, which West Ham aren’t, that is not a strategy that will work against Arsenal.

If West Ham want to sustain their league postition for next season, they’ll need to develop something of an identity on the defensive end. Bilic might want to look at making the team press higher and with much more intensity. They have the tools to do so, their centre-halves are fairly quick and the squad has a fair few top-level athletes throughout. If a higher press isn’t implemented then something needs to be altered, because they’ve been riding their luck for much of the season in defence.

Watford show little signs of changing

Quique Sanchez Flores found a recipe he could consistently rely on early in the season: Troy Deeney and Odion Ighalo will link up off of scraps for the goals while the rest of the team grafts defensively. It worked really well, although they’ve faded over the course of the season. Ighalo and Deeney are an interesting pair to look at. Deeney does a lot more defensive work and is probably the better overall player, but fantasy points make Ighalo look much better. The Nigerian is helped in this sense by the fact that he never, ever looks to pass the ball so his stats grow while Deeney is left to fume at him.

The Hornets will still need to tinker with a few things over the Summer. One-dimensional approaches will work for a season or so, but eventually teams will figure you out. It gradually happened to Burnley last year; once the opposition took Danny Ings out of the game there was little to worry about. We know that Watford’s strikeforce can do damage, it’ll just be difficult to replicate their output next season in exactly the same manner.

Gylfi Sigurdsson has decided someone’s mini-league somewhere

When Steven Naismith signed for Norwich, I touted him as a possible differential. That didn’t quite come off, but the tradition of one player coming alive for a poorer side and carrying them for a few matches. It was continued by Gylfi Sigurdsson who since 2015 ended has notched 9 goals and 2 assists for a blah Swansea side. In other words, he’s been absolutely on fire.

This run has taken him up in the fantasy rankings to the point where he’s the 7th highest scoring midfielder in the whole league after a slow start. Every midfielder ranked above him is at 14% ownership or higher. Sigurdsson’s ownership? Nearly half that, at 7.9%. In other Swansea news Jefferson Montero, who was tearing it up at the start of the season, has started getting minutes again after a long time out. This is welcome news to Swansea fans, because he’s good, and all neutral football fans, because he’s damn fun to watch.

Liverpool have potential to be a top 4 side

Thanks to a Premier League campaign that frequently found itself stalling combined with their prolonged Europa League involvement has lead to Liverpool playing a few dead-ish rubbers on quiet Sunday afternoon. With Leicester and Spurs vying for the title either side of their game with Stoke, Liverpool didn’t get much publicity for their excellent 4-1 win over Stoke. It doesn’t just look like a small Spring emergence either, Jurgen Klopp’s side might get good really soon. Top 4 kind of good.

The first team – stocked with the likes of Emre Can, Divock Origi and Alberto Moreno – has a lot of players who you know have talent and there’s something there but it hasn’t quite been coming together consistently. Now finally they look like they’re on the verge of becoming bona fide top level contributors. Can in particular is developing into quite the unit in midfield. Everyone is clearly better off when Sturridge is in the team and it’s been key to Liverpool’s little run down the stretch of the season. The England international has evolved from burning teams with his pace on the counter in 13/14 to a more deliberate, creative force up front. If, if, if they can keep him healthy next season, look out for Liverpool.

Martial needs to grow as a striker

A season that started with such a rush has devolved into something much less rewarding for Anthony Martial. Labeled a panic buy when arrived at Manchester United, the Frenchman kicked off his Old Trafford career with a decisive goal against Liverpool. This isn’t such a bad way to announce yourself as a Red Devil. Yet going into the penultimate month of the season, Martial’s goal tally stands at just 8 with 3 assists to go with it. Granted, he’s played as a wide forward for much of the season but there’s clear room for Martial to develop as a goalscorer.

The main issue is he just doesn’t shoot enough. There was a clear example where he worked it well all the way to the Spurs penalty area before allowing a speeding defender to come and intervene. That situation has to generate a shooting oppurtunity, if not for Martial then for someone else. He can glide by players and always looks a threat but that doesn’t materialise often enough into a shot or drawing a foul. Looking ahead to next season, I’m still pessimistic as to the fantasy prospects in United’s squad while they remain under Louis van Gaal’s tutelage. Rashford provided a brief injection of life into the attack but it’s still a real grind for United to score. Set to finish outside the top 4, we’ll watch closely to see if the Dutch boss survives.

Weekend Review – from fantasybet.com

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1-0 to the Leicester again, Aston Villa lose in the most depressing match of all time and Payet scored another gorgeous free kick. All becoming rather predictable this Premier League season, isn’t it? Here’s 5 things we learned:

Arsenal breezing past teams without pressure

It’s perhaps a little harsh to give Arsenal backhanded compliments when they dismantled Watford as thoroughly as they did. But if you fail against Swansea and then a severely short-handed United side, criticism will come from all angles. Saturday afternoon saw Arsenal at their very best, it’s just a shame that Arsenal at their very best means them turning over Watford in a quiet game at Vicarage Road. If they win enough games the end of the season might give them another chance to prove themselves under pressure.

In the meantime, buy lots of Arsenal stock right now in the shape of defenders and midfielders. Alexis Sanchez is due so many goals he might explode any second. It’s started already so it might be worth hopping on that bandwagon and seeing if it has any legs on it. Iwobi is the cheap option and his two recent goals will buy him time in the starting lineup, so he isn’t as risky as he might initially seem. Get your Arsenal players now, before the stakes ramp up to something meaningful.

Norwich pull out another crucial win

Well, well, well, here come the Canaries! And Cameron Jerome is nowhere to be found! How surprising. In all seriousness, Norwich are fighting to be better than Newcastle and Sunderland, with the reward being another Premier League season. Safe to say that the quality at the bottom this season seems even lower than usual and that’s without mentioning Aston Villa.

Norwich came out on top in a classic 6 pointer and their triumph left them 4 points clear of Sunderland. They’ve come on strong in the last few games and it’s all a bit out of nowhere. The addition of Stephen Naismith initially looked like it was going to transform Norwich’s attack into something effective but it didn’t transpire quite like that. In this game and their previous win over West Brom there’s been 4 different goalscorers which suggests there’s no really good candidate to transfer in for fantasy and the defence isn’t anything special either. Maybe admire Norwich’s resurgence from afar.

Southampton are crossing the ball way too much

I’ve moaned all season that Ronald Koeman has been playing overly cautious lineups without either Sadio Mane or Dusan Tadic or very occasionally absent of both players. It’s been a bizarre development given the successes the pair had last season but this weekend’s gripe doesn’t revolve around that. (This gripe isn’t much of a gripe at all, because I’m a Leicester City fan so Saints’ inepititude was fine by me.) The issue with Saints is that they cross the ball far, far too much.

It could be argued that Koeman is looking to play to the strengths of his squad, as Southampton do have one of the more imposing squads in the Premier League. The only thing was, it played right into Leicester’s strengths too. Facing Robert Huth and Wes Morgan, two man mountains, how are you going to fire in cross after cross in the hope that it’ll work? Crosses are an inefficient method of attack anyway but they were especially ineffective against Leicester. It’s turned into a nice season for Saints after an uncertain start but their attack could do with some fine tuning.

Tottenham don’t like the taste of their own medicine

There’s a team from the East Midlands that has the ‘unlikely title challenge’ story on lockdown, but we shouldn’t forget how unprecedented it is for Tottenham to be in this position either. Mauricio Pochettino has created another high-intensity, high-pressing team with this Spurs squad that has seen huge improvements at both ends of the field but especially in defence. They possess probably the best defence in the league while their attack is more of a functional affair than a beautiful one, their constant ball pressure being a huge reason they’re scoring more and conceding less.

The pressing that they unleash on everyone is exactly what hurt them in their game at Anfield however. They only mustered up chances off of Liverpool mistakes and the goal was a special piece of work by Harry Kane out of nothing. They consistently struggled to beat Liverpool’s pressing; Eric Dier and Christian Eriksen both excel when given enough time on the ball but the pair were shutdown for long stretches of the match. The attack has always been the less convincing aspect of Spurs this season and if teams want to beat Spurs, then these teams are going to have to go press Spurs.

Mahrez increasingly marginalised as Leicester grind

As is now well known Claudio Ranieri endured a brief yet disastrous time with Greece not long before returning to England. The extent of it: 4 games played resulting in one draw and three losses. It was a far cry from when Greece were at their best in Euro 2004, grinding out three 1-0 wins in the knockout stages to win an unlikely Championship. With his current employers, Ranieri has seen his side take up a similar style. Of course, Greece were far more defensively minded than Leicester but the results of Leicester’s previous 4 wins don’t suggest much difference. 1-0 (The Ulloa game). 1-0. 1-0 (The Okazaki game). Then today: 1-0 (The Morgan game).

There have been consequences however. Riyad Mahrez scored the winner in two of those fixtures but his influence continues to waver as teams load up on him. Southampton started off sacrificing any attacking output on the left by ordering Matt Targett to stick to Mahrez wherever he ventured and it worked. Later in the game when the Algerian did get loose, he wasn’t quite his incandescent self. This cuts both ways. You can either assume that he’s due a good performance or drop him if it seems like a consistent trend that will harm his fantasy performance. I’m leaning towards the latter.

 

 

 

Weekend Review – from fantasybet.com

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Leicester go five points clear, Arsenal and Spurs leave their contest feeling disappointed and Swansea virtually guarantee some Welsh representation in the Premier League next season. 5 things we learned from the weekend:

Another reminder to mostly avoid derby matches

You’d be hard pressed to find anyone who didn’t find the North London Derby gripping to watch. Everyone groans at the cliche of ‘form goes out the window’ for rivalry games and with the recent results for Spurs and Arsenal it was hard to tell if that cliche held true or not. With both teams coming off narrow defeats but pushing for the title, it was declared the most important fixture between the teams ever to be contested. Unfortunately, all of this excitement and entertainment made it nigh on impossible to pick a fantasy team suited to the occasion.

Michael Oliver came armed with a yellow card to White Hart Lane and he wasn’t afraid to use it, while the peculiar trend of Arsenal’s big games this season always involving a red card continued. This is the main reason to avoid selecting players participating in derby matches, the widespread dispersion of disciplinary cards of both colours.  Personally, I tend to steer clear of defences in particular for these games. Francois Coquelin isn’t a factor in fantasy football, but his rush-of-blood red card could have happened to anyone and Eric Dier probably should have gone for a slightly early bath. There aren’t many derbies left this season, but proceed with caution when 2016/17 rolls around.

Lukaku becoming a fully fledged star

Saturday eventually morphed into a day of doom and gloom for the Toffees, whose disappointing season has started to linger into ‘Roberto Martinez might actually get fired’ territory, especially given that new owners are in town. Regardless of yet another lead being let slip, Romelu Lukaku showcased his complete game – aside from penalty taking – against West Ham and it’s getting to the point where he’s making Everton’s attack deadly week in, week out. Firstly, he went about sending Reece Oxford back to the U21s in the process of scoring his first and then set up Aaron Lennon to create the two goal advantage that Everton’s non-existent defence would lose.

Lukaku at under £9.0M is really undervalued in FPL and this is in a season where Riyad Mahrez (£7.3M) and Jamie Vardy (£7.8M) are stamping their authority all over the league. The Belgian has 18 goals, second in the goalscoring charts to only Jamie Vardy, and he could have boosted that tally even more against West Ham only to let a couple of chances go. Many seem to always have the sense that Lukaku never quite lives up to his billing and it’s difficult to understand why. Lukaku should be enjoyed for what he is right now, which is a striker who’s clearly on the path to being world class. As fantasy managers, we should enjoy him before his price is set in double figures next season.

Newcastle and McClaren should have parted ways a while ago

It was fitting that Ayoze Perez was the one to score for Newcastle while they still came out second best against former relegation candidates Bournemouth. The Spaniard is a rare spark of life in this Newcastle team when he plays so, naturally, Steve McClaren left him on the bench for the games prior to this one. It’s not just Perez that has received this puzzling treatment. Seydou Doumbia, of CSKA Moscow and Roma fame, threatened Stoke City in midweek when he came off the bench. Who did McClaren choose to start vs Bournemouth? Emmanuel Rivière of course, of 1 goal in 23 appearances fame.

No one is saying this Newcastle squad should be challenging for anything serious. But looking at what McClaren is working with, they should at least be able to score goals freely. Starting Rivière feels like he wants to get sacked and truthfully it has never looked like his heart was really in it. In fantasy terms the club feel like a poor man’s version of Manchester United, where you know there’s good players in the squad but it’d be wasting transfers and money to go after them while they’re under the direction of van Gaal or McClaren. Clubs should always look to be patient with their managers, but McClaren was a poor hire from the start and it’s only getting worse.

Bertrand Traore will be a sleeper next summer

Chelsea’s conveyor belt of prospects, most of whom might make a couple of starts during the season then fade into obscurity, is hard to keep up with at the best of times. However Bertrand Traore looks like he might stick around a tad more permanently. In the Premier League he’s up to 2 goals and an assist in just 166 minutes, as well as his recent emergence being the only interesting thing about Chelsea right now. The question is: will we see him starting next season under the next Chelsea manager?

Presuming Hiddink departs over the summer and Chelsea look to recruit as they normally do, it isn’t such a simple path to the starting XI for Bertrand. For example, Chelsea opened 2013/14 with Kevin De Bruyne in their side and he looked like he might be part of a funky new look Chelsea attack. But Mourinho and Chelsea decided otherwise and moved him onto Wolfsburg in the following January, so you just never know. But if Bertrand Traore looks set to get minutes from the off next season, pick him up. Or you could always just get him in your teams now of course, why wait?

Manchester United are just like every other team now

In the last couple of seasons, as soon as United look like they’ve found something and get on a bit of a roll someone like Tony Pulis and his West Brom team turn up to ruin it. Louis van Gaal has to be frustrated with the result at The Hawthorns that brought about the abrupt end to their winning streak, yet the way it happened was simply bemusing. The notorious Juan Mata picking up 2 yellow cards in nearly as many minutes? Not only is this iteration of United less talented than squads we’ve seen before, it’s also less intelligent. We all grew up dealing with Sir Alex Ferugson’s monolithic team, so to watch them playing with 10 men against West Brom and not being able to scrap a result just isn’t very…United.

On the positive side, Anthony Martial looks really dangerous regardless of where he plays and that versatility makes him an enticing prospect for the foreseeable future in fantasy football. If he can switch almost seamlessly between the left wing and leading the line, he’ll get plenty of minutes which for obvious reasons is a good thing. We don’t really know what Marcus Rashford is yet and I imagine he might be a tad overpriced next season because of his reputation. One final piece of advice for the coming double gameweek frenzies, perhaps you should drop your United defenders if Michael Carrick really is going to continue starting over Morgan Schneiderlin. I thought we’d solved this issue before, van Gaal?

 

Weekend Review – from fantasybet.com

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The League Cup marks the home stretch of the football season, when everything’s going to get even more enthralling. It proved so this weekend with Arsenal disappointing, Leicester scoring late winners and Louis van Gaal chucking himself to the floor. Oh Premier League, how we missed you.

West Ham are embodying the Premier League

While Manchester City were busy with their Capital One Cup affair, whisperings of a race for the top 4 started over the weekend. Old Trafford hosted what was undoubtedly the biggest fixture, but it was in East London where another dramatic weekend kicked off. A visit from Sunderland was hardly a prospect to get pulses racing but West Ham made it so by taking the lead on the half hour mark before having to fend off an unprecedented surge from the Black Cats. The visitors were led by another solid outing from Wahbi Khazri that solidified his status as the main Sunderland player worth consideration in fantasy football.

Suddenly it became clear during this game that the team responsible for West Ham’s most successful season in recent times is representative of everything that English football is right now. It’s an athletic squad with one or two extremely talented and creative players creating for the rest and it all makes for attractive viewing at times. However the other side of the Premier League was showcased when they couldn’t control the game in the slightest and their defence looked increasingly permeable. It devolved into chaos in the latter stages, which wasn’t helped by the questionable decision from Slaven Bilić to replace Emmanuel Emenike with Andy Carroll. It left the Hammers struggling to find an outlet as attack after attack fizzled out with balls towards Carroll. They do indeed have a sniff of the top 4, but this defence looks set to run out of luck in its next few games.

Palace continue to get cooked defensively

If there’s one thing that a Premier League team should do, it’s not falling victim to a first half flurry of goals to a Tony Pulis managed team. A dire 2016 continued for the Eagles on Saturday night as a no longer moody Saido Berahino spearheaded West Brom’s attack, scoring 1 and hitting the post in a refreshing performance. Even so, the ease at which they got their trio of goals has to be alarming for Alan Pardew. His side are yet to keep a clean sheet in the league this year and they’ll still be looking for a Premier League level striker to start in the summer. The best news of the night for Palace fans was that it only took their manager 45 minutes in this game to decide that Adebayor is washed up. Nice signing, that one.

It’s been an exposing few months for Pardew. He continues to play Yohan Cabaye in midfield which is fine in some situations because he’s a nice player and he’s beneficial to an attack, but if there’s only one other central midfielder alongside him the backline are in for a rollercoaster ride. With James McArthur out, using both Mile Jedinak and Joe Ledley together with Cabaye might provide the protection Palace need to get out of this slump.

Koeman losing his mind a little

Recently, Southampton have had a enjoyable surge towards the places that can bring the dizzying heights of the Europa League and all the Thursday night glory it holds. It has come off the back of a renewed defensive effort with Fraser Forster back between the sticks, which has been Southampton’s main strength for 3 years now. Chelsea came to town this weekend and now that they’re back to a respectable level, some managerial caution would have been understandable. But managerial caution does not comprise of playing zero attacking midfielders and benching Sadio Mane, that’s just excessive. That’s Pulis-esque.

Who does Ronald Koeman think Chelsea are, Leicester? Saints won the reverse fixture 3-1, so it wasn’t as if there had been some previous thrashing that caused Koeman to think twice. Mane is having a down year with his goalscoring but he’s still deserving of a place in Southampton’s starting XI . Although the ‘Shane Long and chill’ plan gave them the lead, the 2 shots on target is indicative of how they fared going forward for most of the game. This rather unperturbed Chelsea team can be got at and it’s reasonable to think that a mildly more adventurous team selection would have seen Southampton take home a share of the points.

Throw away the Spurs stereotypes

It takes a good manager to improve a solid team into a title contender. It takes an even better one, a brilliant one to erase the embarrassments and failures welded deep into a team’s culture and establish a new order that showcases everything the previous one didn’t. Mauricio Pochettino is most certainly brilliant. If Leicester keep up their title contention to the final throes of the season then Claudio Ranieri will be the likeliest candidate to win Manager of the season and the Italian has had his shining moments this season tactically.

But no one has completed a steeper task than what Pochettino faced with this team’s identity and if it makes you feel better you can call them the Tottenham Pochettinos because there’s nothing ‘Spursy’ about them this season. In these games they’re just grinding away all the time . Perhaps unlike Arsenal, if Spurs don’t win the title this year it won’t be the fault of their manager. Coming from behind to beat Swansea was the manifestation of all his work to give this club an edge in which it’s lacked for so long.

Injury crisis may have been a blessing for United

Young players are a curious prospect. The inexperience is palpable sometimes and they hurt the team’s performance, as they get ran ragged by their footballing elders on the opposing teams. But in other cases, such as Manchester United this season, their lack of enlightenment serves them well. We’ve seen van Gaal anaesthetize this squad to the point where goals have been a genuine struggle despite the millions of pounds lavished on recruitment. It took a rash of injuries – and Wayne Rooney’s was especially important – and the resulting injection of youth for this United team to get going.

Marcus Rashford’s form is reminiscent of Anthony Martial’s prosperous beginnings in the Premier League. Safe to say that the ‘score with every touch’ plan doesn’t sustain for long, but he’s looked sharp. Memphis Depay decided to wake up and now that he has, he’s quickly become one of the more exciting players to watch with his unexpected touches of flair and Jesse Lingard’s continuing improvement is encouraging. He’s one more name to add into the mix for England’s Euro 2016 squad, which looks increasingly difficult to predict. All good news for United, but don’t anoint van Gaal as the savior just yet, let’s see what his team selections look like when United have more than half of their squad fully fit.

 

 

Weekend Review – from fantasybet.com

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As it often does, the crammed festive period brought around some interesting results, plenty of goals and pretty much everything except an Aston Villa win. Here’s 5 things we learned:

Arsenal will keep bouncing back

There was a lot of talk about how Arsenal suffer under the pressure of being true title contenders, after a 4-0 hiding at the hands of Shane Long and Southampton. While a home game against Bournemouth was a pleasant opportunity to respond, Arsenal do tend to respond to their domestic calamities quite well. They opened the 13/14 season and then this season with home losses to Aston Villa and West Ham. Both losses were followed by several wins, most coming in the comfortable fashion we’re accustomed to seeing Arsenal win in.

The main issue with Arsenal is that their defeats are never all that quiet. A tough, usually televised game suddenly becomes a disastrous flaming inferno fueled by Arsenal fans screaming #WengerOut. This time however, it might have worked in their favour. The pressure was definitely lifted from Arsenal a bit after the two results this week and now they’re free to tackle what looks a soft-ish schedule in January. Barring any complete slump in form, the Gooners next big test will be when Bayern Munich come to visit in February and potentially distract them from their league opponents too.

Aston Villa are going down

Remi Garde’s reign has been very quietly documented but that’s because essentially very little has changed. Villa are awful. That is not up for debate, and the comparisons to Leicester’s grave situation last year and the possible escape are a little off the mark. At this point in the season last year, yes, Leicester were bottom but they had 13 points and were only 3 points from safety. For comparison, Villa are sitting on 8 points and are 11 points shy of climbing out of the danger zone. As well as this, Leicester were playing good football just without the results to show for it, which is a far cry from the product Tim Sherwood and Garde have trotted out this season.

Is there anything to salvage from this season, surely lost now to the waiting arms of relegation? Jordan Ayew has looked lively under the new manager, and will provide a different option all season in the sub-6.0 range. But Ayew, the small bright spot is now suspended for 1 game which sums it all up really. Rudy Gestede…maybe? That’s really starting to scrape the barrel there and shows just how devoid of quality Villa’s squad is right now. Maybe the Championship will be good for them.

Stoke reaping rewards of Shaqiri investment

Everton’s defensive faults manifested themselves at home once again, but sometimes things happen. Sometimes, those things are sweet, sweet strikes from a certain Swiss right boot. Xherdan Shaqiri’s half-volley was a gorgeous strike but Mark Hughes will have been equally pleased by the way his side is now creating and converting chances. The Potters are starting to harness the potential of summer signing Shaqiri while getting consistent contributions from Marko Arnautovic. The bulky Austrian with a spiky temperant is often a handful but his talent was often seen in flashes.

Stoke have a very similar makeup to Crystal Palace, given that both attacks are largely reliant on good performances by their wingers. Hughes in recent weeks has mirrored their South London counterparts by playing 4 winger-type players with Bojan as the main forward. It seems to have unlocked the space for Shaqiri and Co. to attack from behind but I’m sure Mame Biram Diouf still has an influential part to play this season. Peter Crouch continues to look on in lanky bemusement.

Spurs will go as far as Kane and late, late goals will take them

While their North London rivals had a more dramatic week with opponents from the South Coast, Tottenham are creeping up on the title race. Spurs scored freely in the win over Norwich before pulling out a tight one against an ever-stern Watford outfit. Late goals, often from Christian Eriksen, were a huge feature of their wins last season but their wins this season appear a lot more sustainable.

It’s easy to forget that Spurs have only lost twice this season. One of those came courtesy of a Kyle Walker OG in a stodgy season opener at Old Trafford. The second was at home to Newcastle, which has proven to be something of a bogey fixture for Spurs in recent years. Their defence has conceded the fewest goals in the league and that level of performance should be maintained during the season. But to seriously entertain title chances, they will need Kane to continue excelling. Perhaps involving Son Heung-Min more would help, as the Korean often provides another outlet up front and allows Kane to drop deep where he is most effective.

Morgan Schneiderlin could prolong Louis van Gaal’s reign

For most of the season, the main gripe with what the Dutchman was doing with Manchester United was that they were boring. Stout, solid and extremely difficult to beat – but judged by most as dull. Their defensive prowess led to many raving about Chris Smalling, but the man who really deserved credit was Schneiderlin. It was he who was dropped by LVG looking for some more inspired play going forward, but the stagnant attack remained and United had sacrificed their one redeeming quality – a suffocating defence.

Although injuries did play their part in United’s recent swoon, Chris Smalling was present while United shipped goals to below par teams. It’s clear that Schneiderlin is United’s best defensive midfielder and if Louis van Gaal wants to remain at the helm he will have to keep playing the Frenchman.  United arrested their slide with a sober draw against Chelsea, keeping a clean sheet on Schneiderlin’s first start since the 0-0 draw at home to West Ham. If he’s getting a run in the team again then picking up United defenders would be highly recommended.

 

 

 

Weekend Review – from fantasybet.com

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Second season disorder

Crystal Palace last year. Southampton in 13/14. Swansea in 12/13. Newcastle in 11/12, remember Hatem Ben Arfa and Demba Ba? Now we’ve seen Leicester rip through the league, powered by Jamie Vardy and a dangerous bunch of sidekicks behind him. Welcome to the second season experience.

The Foxes’ surge was most recently punctuated with 3 goals against a stern West Brom side playing the type of football not even Tony Pulis’ mother could love. Leicester is up there as the story of the season, eerily reciprocating Chelsea’s stunning slump. Although Leicester finished strongly last Spring, the transformation made over the summer has been instrumental in their success. Claudio Ranieri’s appointment was condoned by very few but he’s the clear frontrunner for Manager of the Season, his case helped by another typically smart, proactive outing this weekend.

Riyad Mahrez returned to his mischievous point-snagging ways serving justice to those who, without paying attention, assumed he had gone off the boil for good. Ranieri did briefly drop him seeking defensive solidity and then rested him after the international break, but the Algerian was always going to come back into the fray. His development from last season is just as marked as Vardy’s. Under Nigel Pearson the winger would have plenty of touches and runs, only for them to lead into nothing productive, a sort of inverse Nacer Chadli if you will. His first goal against West Brom, sprinting off the ball to meet convert Marc Albrighton’s millionth cross, illustrated how he’s now channeling his obvious ability into goals this season.

Nitpicking the league leaders

Manchester City’s difficulties lie on a road thoroughly mapped out and well travelled by observers from the past few years: Their best players are injured. With Aguero and Silva out, Manchester City were unable to break down Norwich at the Etihad which is a little worrying as the East Anglian visitors aren’t watertight like West Brom or Watford. Wilfried Bony remains an uncertainty. Letting Edin Dzeko go and prioritising the Ivorian was a lateral move at best. He does seem to have learnt Dzeko’s trait of scoring useless surplus goals though, piling 3 on against Bournemouth two weeks ago. The upcoming international break will helpfully buy more time as Aguero recovers.

Arsenal’s current optimism is reminiscent of the 2013/14 season before a visit to Old Trafford, where United won 1-0 thanks to RVP, initiated the grounding of that title challenge. Arsenal were widely praised on Saturday for ‘winning ugly’ against Swansea while Manchester City ground out their own 3 points against Norwich. It’s only more noticeable with Arsenal because it’s so rare. After their 2-0 win away to Manchester City last season we collectively gushed over Coquelin and Arsene Wenger discovering defensive resistance. 2 weeks later they surrendered at White Hart Lane. That exact fixture is up next for the Gooners and trepidation remains a tad hard to shake off with this team. Two Spanish fullbacks though, so that’s a plus for me.

Liverpool uncork the goals

Philippe Coutinho kickstarted his pretty dreadful season thus far with 2 goals against Chelsea. It was also done in the Brazilian’s style, having developed a quirky knack for scoring in games where he doesn’t play as well overall.

Chelsea’s defence may as well have been credited with the assist for Benteke’s goal. Not many would volunteer to get in the way of Christian Benteke but the professional footballers playing against him were the most likely candidates. Not so, it seems.

I was dubious of Benteke’s prospects under Klopp but an early one will settle him. Liverpool face challenging sides in the next month but both ends of their play are showing improvement. Spanish fullback Alberto Moreno is fun to watch but was directly responsible for Chelsea’s opener, which is less fun.

The key to the Weekly Freeroll?

Central midfielders are often forgotten about in a fantasy midfield. For good reason too, given that there are eligible players for midfield like Alexis Sanchez and Dimitri Payet. But in the hunt for differentials, turning to the engine room might be a wise move. We already know about Jordan Henderson and Yohan Cabaye who have history of producing in that area. Many other are lounging around who will have near zero ownership worthy of a weekly punt.

Yann M’Vila has proven to be one of the few reasons to watch Sunderland this season. He’s tough tackling but skilled, with some set piece responsibilities. There was a lot of reasonable scepticism over Chieck Kouyate’s start and his prosperous start and surely enough the goals of August and September dried up. Yet for a cheap price you get an energetic player who will make runs forward in an attacking side. It doesn’t hurt that he gets to play in close proximity to Payet every week either.

Fernandinho has long been an underrated component of Manchester City’s well-oiled machine. He’s probably the biggest punt considering he does all the dirty work playing next to Yaya Toure. Danny Drinkwater has a dire first touch (trust me) but it was his ball that set away Jamie Vardy for his eighth consecutive goal. Leicester have the most lethal attack outside of the top 2 and Drinkwater is a classic candidate for being ‘due a goal’. The Weekly Freeroll awaits you.

Remi Garde has his hands full…or empty?

90% of new managers come in with platitudes of attacking mindsets and looking to get the team playing some ‘good football’. The former Lyon boss, who enjoyed Monday night watching his Aston Villa comfortably lose to Spurs, was no different. Andy Brassell, European football expert, said as much, “He creates the environment in which players can express themselves, and favours attacking, possession-based football.”

Yet where does he fashion this attacking team from? Rudy Gestede and Jordan Ayew? Jack Grealish’s reputation is still high despite him doing the square root of naff all. It’s far easier to envision Villa as the counter-attacking, anti-possession outfit they were for most of the past few seasons. Nice as it is to play ‘good football’, some squads just aren’t as cut out for it. Garde has a serious task cut out for him in the West Midlands.

Weekend Review – from fantasybet.com

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Newcastle won! Jurgen Klopp drew 0-0 with Tottenham! Leicester came back from 2 goals down again! Oh, what a jolly exciting weekend. The moral of the weekend as you’re about to find out is get Spanish fullbacks. Here’s 5 things we learned:

Bournemouth are brave, but limited

Long-term injuries have bizarrely swept the league in a frightening fashion which Bournemouth have found out all too well in their debut Premier League campaign. Max Gradel, Tyrone Mings and most painfully Callum Wilson have all been lost in the massacre. Even more worrying is how Bournemouth’s defence has been largely untouched — given that Mings had not started for the Cherries pre-injury — but still shows no signs of being able to repel a Premier League attack.

Conceding 5 goals at the Etihad is not a horrific showing. Manchester City will continue to do that to many respectable sides this year. But as a defensive unit Bournemouth have looked on par with Sunderland and given Allardyce’s appointment even they should improve somewhat. Clean sheets are a slightly safer guess than trying to pick a goalscorer from the back and an appealing fixture should not sway you to pick one from Bournemouth. These are not the budget defenders you are looking for.

Arsenal seem sterner but beware banana skin fixtures

The main complaints with Arsenal are so tired and repeated that Arsene Wenger must have permanent tinnitus from sentiments like these:

“They need a top-class striker!”

“The defence will never hold up to a title challenge.”

Of course these could still prove themselves to be partially true. Theo Walcott came off after 60 minutes without a grabbing a goal for Olivier Giroud, who promptly did. That narrative will continue to spin but Arsenal’s defence can be cautiously judged as improved. It relies on Francis Coquelin holding up for 50 games this year but let’s put that to the back of our minds, eh?

Popular perception has often been unfair to Arsenal. They conceded the second least goals last season but televised capitulations have lived long in the memory. It might be a good idea to stock up on Spanish fullbacks. Hector Bellerin and Nacho Monreal are producing the points that we might start to expect of Alberto Moreno on Merseyside. Away to Swansea seems like a banana skin for Arsenal so fill your boots with Spanish left-footers selectively.

A trend to go with – West Ham away from home

Sometimes we over-complicate things. Actually fantasy football managers pretty much always over-complicate things. It just works sometimes, that’s all. An established pattern that seems worth investing in across the field is West Ham’s national tour. A home defeat, coming to a football stadium near you.

Against Palace at the weekend they didn’t muster up a lot of opportunities but like a month ago against Manchester City they secured victory. Manuel Lanzini is not someone many had pencilled in a sa contirbutor when the season started but alongside growing cult hero Payet he’s flourishing around the country.

Don’t do that! I see you hovering the cursor as well as your devious thoughts over Andy Carroll for next week’s game against Chelsea. There’s an unwritten Andy Carroll rule that’s been in effect since 2012 that all should adhere to. Don’t pick Andy Carroll in fantasy football.

Go against your wishes and back Chelsea

It’s been a month since Diego Costa enraged anyone who associates themselves with a club named Arsenal. Swallow your dignity and take a deep breath: pick Diego Costa and perhaps Begovic if he takes your fancy. Begrudging as it may be, a glance at the league table shows Chelsea may be about to embark on a positive streak. Can you envision the Blues being 11th in the middle of November? Nor can I.

The backing comes with caveats of course. Jose Mourinho has no idea how his midfield is going to be set up so don’t bother trying to guess anything there. The Loftus-Cheek and Ramires tandem we saw trotted out on Saturday would interest only a fool. Fabregas, Hazard and Oscar’s statuses are unknown. The defence picked up a clean sheet against Aston Villa (Quelle surprise.) but Azpilicueta is the only one nailed on.

Spanish fullbacks, I’m telling you!

Behind Vardy and Mahrez, Leicester are lacking at the back

No clean sheets. 17 goals conceded which is fourth worst in the league. You sense past the Premier League’s top goalscorer and Riyad Mahrez (who will be starting again now, honest), Leicester are hiding one of the worst defences in the league. Robert Huth and Wes Morgan are strong but stately in their manner. Not to be crass but Huth and Morgan could get exposed by pace in a game of walking football.

They aren’t helped by those around them. Schlupp and Fuchs will oblige in their attacking duties with pleasure but aren’t offering a lot of protection from the flanks. A similar problem has emerged from last season with a lack of size across the pitch. Two smaller central midfielders and no height up front means huge mismatches at set-pieces. It showed with both of the Saints’ goals coming from centre-halves. To sum it up:

Things Leicester are good at: Jamie Vardy, Riyad Mahrez

Things Leicester are bad at: Defence