Weekend Review – from fantasybet.com

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By the time Spring comes in the Premier League, there’s dead rubbers all over the place and certain teams looking to book holidays. So, focusing on the games that mattered at either end of the table – 5 things we learned from the weekend:

Leicester can rout teams too

No Vardy, no problem. Leonardo Ulloa scored twice in a charged Leicester performance that blew past Swansea and put them eight points clear at the top of the table in April. (Read that sentence again). The very same Leonardo Ulloa who was so awful before Christmas has come back to play a crucial part in the title challenge. Sunday was his best showing yet. Even if Vardy returns from suspension, Ulloa may be in with an outside chance of starting but Ranieri will surely recognise that his best team includes Okazaki and Vardy up front. The Argentine also suffered a minor back injury which could harm his chances.

There were new contributors that made their mark too. Schlupp did begin the season as the starting left back but was an absolute livewire in his first start in 2016. Listed as a defender in fantasy, he’s worth a look in as Leicester’s defence will to keep securing clean sheet after clean sheet. Demarai Gray continues to improve after looking completely out of his depth, his blistering run down the right flank eventually culminating in Leicester’s fourth goal. A game to prove that Leicester aren’t a one man team and a game to prove that they don’t just scrape by in these games.

Riyad Mahrez stepping up in a huge way

It’s been an interesting period for Mahrez and one that’s difficult to fairly evaluate. He’s been having less of the ball, marked much more diligently and then as a result put in a couple of torrid performances. Yet at the same time he managed to concentrate his impact into singular, pivotal events. In that well-documented series of 1-0 wins – Leicester’s impersonation of Euro 2004 Greece – Mahrez came up with two winning goals in games against feisty physical opponents.

If ever there was a time for the return of the gliding, free-flowing and PFA Player of the Year award winning Algerian – it was now. Vardy’s absence meant Leicester couldn’t stretch Swansea across the length of the pitch so easily, requiring more patient building of attacks. Mahrez responded to his increased responsibility resoundingly. Neil Taylor had no chance of covering him and the finish after Ashley Williams’ error was never in doubt. If Vardy’s absence is prolonged, Mahrez showed that he can turn it up when the stakes are highest.

Allardyce has finally made Sunderland defend some

After looking like the softest team since Fulham in their relegation season, Sam Allardyce has managed to drill some defensive resilience into this tepid squad, helped by his January signings. They still look favourites to claim that final spot outside of the bottom 3 as Norwich are floundering and Newcastle’s mini-revival under Rafa Benitez might be coming too late.

Jan Kirchoff has been a steady, if not completely mobile, presence directly in front of that shaky back 4. Just as important, perhaps more so, has been the uptick in general intensity and tempo from Sunderland’s forwards without the ball. Jermaine Defoe still won’t do much, but Wahbi Kazhri’s quality is matched by a tenacity that showed against Arsenal. Fabio Borini’s only virtue is putting himself about a bit. Despite all this, no-one should be too eager to make a late-season play for Sunderland defenders in fantasy.

Spurs will make deep lying teams pay more often than they won’t

In what became a deflating night for Spurs it’d be easy to forget that for 45 minutes this was another blitzing performance from Mauricio Pochettino’s men. West Brom lined up in their typical 9-0-1 formation with faux wingers but it did little to stop the home side from breaking through and creating chances at a high frequency. Boaz Myhill did well to push Harry Kane’s shot onto the post and Christian Eriksen threatened with a long range free kick. When the goal did come it was in ugly fashion but well deserved. One simple set piece forcing Craig Dawson to put into his own net. Alas, this would not be the defender’s last involvement in the match.

Even in the early stages of the second half when West Brom finally made their presence felt, Erik Lamela hit the post after another flowing move. It was a stark reminder of how drastically this team has improved and at the very thing that the team struggled to do for so long. Since Harry Redknapp’s iteration, Spurs haven’t been a team that flowed as such. Now, they’re cutting teams open with a movement and a flair that has led them very nearly to a title. The only issue in the short-term is…

Dele Alli may be missed

Referee Mike Jones missed this little incident but the rest of the viewing masses didn’t. As Spurs held on to their 1-0 lead, the recently named PFA Young Player of the Year concluded another one of his off-ball runs he span on the spot and landed an iffy punch into Claudio Yacob’s midriff. It wasn’t anything to compare to Anthony Joshua but it still didn’t look good on tape. Provocation was unclear but the pair had a previous coming together in the first half.

It seemed set to hang over the events of the night, marring another Spurs win until Dawson did that for them. If Alli is indeed banned, it’s a huge blow for this team which relies on him heavily to make the incisive cuts around Kane. Eriksen is a key cog in the attack but getting in behind isn’t his game at all and Lamela just doesn’t do it as well. Heung-Son Min will likely come into the side – this is by no means the level of drop-off that Leicester experienced going from Vardy to Ulloa – but the loss of Alli, who’s breakthrough season was wholly unprecedented, is one that might just crumple Spurs’ title challenge once and for all.

January Transfer Deadline Day Diary

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There are no rules on Deadline Day. Only exceptions.

I actually wrote about deadline day last September. In it there were criticisms of Deadline Day about the way it’s over-dramatized and how it generally struggles to come up with enough material to stop you flicking over to whatever shit film is on Channel 5. It died a cash-saturated death a few years ago, probably when Robinho signed for the second best team in a rainy northern English city. Yet here’s another piece about deadline day, hey ho. Amongst the 2000+ words some interesting statements were made a few months ago. Here’s some that have been self-assessed and have varying degrees of accuracy:

Regarding Ben Arfa’s move to Hull:

“The transfer says more about Pardew’s ego than Ben Arfa’s attitude”

2/10, Ben Arfa is even lazier on Humberside

On Welbeck’s positional security after his move:

“[at United] he was shifted out towards the left constantly, an issue which will not occur at Arsenal”

4/10, Giroud gained his place back quickly after his injury.

Assessing the problems Falcao causes for United:

“…the Colombian, if he plays, will force one of Wayne Rooney (Just been appointed as captain), Juan Mata (Bought this past January for £37.5M) or Robin van Persie (Diva alert), to the bench. None appear to take kindly to demoting. This isn’t creating good competition; it removes harmony from the squad in this situation.

7/10, a talking point after the Southampton game

Make of that collection what you will and feel free to pick out any more stupidity from it. First one to find my optimism about Hull’s upcoming season gets to sign Nile Ranger. Here it is again, go crazy.


Here’s the inaugural (and possibly only) Deadline Day Diary:

7:45AM – Right! Here we go! Ready to provide witty remarks and maybe even some brief analysis if you’re lucky, all the way until after the Deadline Clock strikes 11 o’clock!

7:47AM – Just kidding. I’m not starting this until the Sneijder to Manchester United rumours re-surface which is to say, soon.

9:33AM – I finally found an obscure Manchester United – Sneijder link so that the diary could start.

9:35AM – Quick Morning Round Up. At this point in the Summer deadline day, Old Trafford emerged as the likeliest destination all of a sudden for Radamel Falcao, a prophecy that was fulfilled later on.
Today it’s pretty dead. My favourite rumour was on Saturday: Redknapp to bring Mark Noble to QPR. The guy’s a cult hero at the Boleyn Ground, Redknapp is (supposedly) limited to loan signings and West Ham are 12 places above QPR. That’s beyond lazy invention.

9:36AM – Watch Mark Noble now sign for triple his wages and a victory lap around the Championship.

9:42AM – Already there’s those transfers that you heard about a week ago but are inevitably going to drag on through the day. Schurrle, Cuadrado both culprits here.

9:48AM – You’ve got to love the BBC Gossip Column. First ‘story’ on there on Saturday: Manchester City prepared to bid for C. Ronaldo if he decides to come back to England. Christ. Apparently the Noble thing stemmed from the now collapsed Darren Fletcher signing. Yes, an injury-prone 30 year old would definitely have forced out the Club captain.

10:00AM – There are more satirical Deadline Day posts than real Deadline Day content. Suppose I’m not helping this now.

11:01AM – Leicester news: Robert Huth was at the training ground. Seeing as Wes Morgan created another goal for the opposition at Old Trafford today, he could be a welcome addition. As long as it’s on loan. Please don’t saddle us with your obese contracts Premier League, you know we’re desperate.

11:05AM – Redknapp has been limited to loan signings this window. Kind of like waiting all year for your birthday then your parents explaining that you’re only allowed the leftovers from your older brother’s pile that he didn’t want and that they are still annoyed that a couple of birthdays ago you signed your old boy Jermaine Jenas and shipped out Faulin. Daddy Fernandes has neutered this deadline day. The owner also put out a statement basically saying ‘Look, I’ve spent copious amounts already, so we’re not getting anyone else unless we got offered someone good. Or from Tottenham. And I may fire Redknapp. Cheers x’

11:15AM – From Sky Sports:

Hull boss Steve Bruce has admitted Aaron Lennon and Dame N’Doye may not now move to the KC after their 3-0 loss to Newcastle

So the pair were all keen to move, watched the team fail to bypass Mike Williamson and decided their futures would be best served elsewhere? Shame. Hull have a growing Tottenham contingent that given a few years would rival QPR’s.

11:18AM – Lot of pessimism around the Premier League. Mark Hughes and Roberto Martinez ruled themselves out of bringing some fresh faces. Martinez declared his squad ‘phenomenal’. Hang on, is that 45 year old Distin still playing in the heart of defence for Everton?!

11:20AM – Redknapp also bemoaned other managers not wanting to sell him players. Those bastards. Did the same thing after he first took over QPR, saying that no-one wanted to co-operate like everyone else used to. (Read: All the ‘gaffer’ types are becoming extinct, cutting off his supply lines)

11:23AM – Down in the Championship everyone’s favourite racist comedy duo, Whelan & Mackay, are going against the tide and are openly saying “God we need some players. We just sold our highest valued guy to West Brom. Please.” Actually Whelan might still be banned for his apology for his apology for his apology for his original offence.

11:29AM – The Championship is a slippery bugger to teams like Wigan. It just offers no resistance to new arrivals. Relegated teams slip n’ slide all the way down and the promoted teams just can’t be stopped. Morale of the story: Don’t stagnate in the Championship.

11:32AM – Ooh, we’re chugging into business now. Tony Pulis is trying to offload Brown Ideye who if he leaves will win the second ever Andreas Corneilus award, for making the least impact in the Premier League. No prizes for guessing who the inaugural winner was.

11:38AM – Newcastle’s oft-injured fullback Davide Santon is on his way to Inter Milan on a loan deal. Not quite a Lebron-esque homecoming.

11:40AM – Would have preferred Santon to go to AC Milan, continuing the incestuous theme of Serie A. It’s difficult to buy into any rivalries in Italy because chances are three players in the game have played for both sides. This especially applies to the Derby della Madonnina, because each team is a small fraction of what they used to be.

11:47AM – Veteran leftovers from a top 7 club, always a tasty dish for relegation prospects. Spurs are driving around hanging Adebayor out the window and there’s willing takers, but Adebayor will be the one to stop the deal with his demands. With the possible sale of Graham Dorrans to Burnley, West Brom look to fill the Premier League’s offical quota of one Scot per team by signing Darren Fletcher. I have a feeling one of these deals will come off.

11:52AM – Rickie Lambert’s tale becomes increasingly depressing. Feel good story over the last 2 years. Signs for hometown club, marginalised due to clashing with style of team (not really his fault) and now being touted for loans to Palace and Stoke. Meh.

4:02PM – We’re back up and running.

4:12PM – Quick Afternoon Round Up. Schurrle’s deal might finally go through to Wolfsburg, who are becoming a fun story to watch in the Bundesliga and will probably be the recipient of the hipster fanbase, who have returned to Germany after going on a European road trip through Madrid (Atletico) and Southampton.

Leicester signed someone! I can’t remember the last time Leicester signed someone on Deadline Day. Robert Huth is a solid addition and it’s also fulfilled my wish (see 11:01AM) of being a temporary move. Tip top.

Yakubu is back in the country, Reading of all places. I would normally at this point type ‘Feed the Yak and he will score!’ but he’s big enough as it is.

And that’s it. A signing that hasn’t gone through yet, Leicester getting a defender on loan and Yakubu. More to come?

4:22PM – Unconfirmed reports of Zaha going to Palace permanently. He’s been in a state of constant flux, somewhere between United, Palace and briefly Cardiff. Zaha’s ability seems to have been marginalised by the tactical evolution of football. There’s no room for slightly lazy wingers who can go past a man, in the top tier at least. Those types play in the centre now, behind one striker or two if it’s a diamond. If doesn’t have the vision and feel of the game to play there, you wonder where his career goes. QPR probably, when he’s 27.

4:27PM – While we’re on the topic of Palace: Pardew will relish the transfer windows now that the best player isn’t obliged to be sold and he’s not struggling under the restraints of Graham Carr with his scouting network that promised exclusivity to France. Although Steve Parish is nothing if not an overwhelming character so we’ll see how much influence in recruitment Pardew managed to wedge into his contract.

4:54PM – Sorry for the lack of speed, but frankly, it’s quieter than the Emirates Stadium on a Saturday lunchtime game against Sunderland.

4:58PM – Are Spurs emptying the bin (will make sense after reading 5:52PM)? Etienne Capoue was reportedly an ambitious target for West Brom earlier. Adebayor is being offered to every single congregation of buildings and people resembling a football club. Then Aaron Lennon is the latest rumour to pick up pace, with many suggesting a move to Stoke could be on. It sounds like a transfer with a 2 year delay, as Pulis would have wanted to have Lennon at his disposal. Stoke’s revert to counter-attacking football under Hughes requires plenty of speed obviously, which may explain this possible signing. He’s one dimensional (running directly at fullbacks and taking them on) but pretty good at it and for a reasonable contract Stoke will have pulled off a minor coup.

5:14PM – Hmm, still transfer tumbleweed blowing around. It’s almost as if all the Owners, Managers and Directors of Football have realised they could think rationally and plan signings earlier in the window so the prices won’t get driven up. Who knew reckless capitalism would make for such a bad business strategy?

5:16PM – Even the BBC Sport blog is taking the piss out of Deadline Day and they’re paid not to have opinions.

5:24PM – The last club we talked about that wasn’t Stoke was Palace so let’s make the journey Arsenal did in 1913 and move from South London to North London. “They still need a central defender and an imposing midfielder.” is a handy quote from every transfer window piece that strays near the topic of Arsenal. Well Krystian Bielik (signed earlier this January for some piddling amount that Wenger pays for a 17 year old defensive mid) is going to be one of two things.  Either become their much needed destroyer in 2018 or be Szczesny’s smoking buddy where they can mock Wilshere’s moany face and try to figure out what Monreal is good at in guttural Polish. Well maybe Bielik will, Szczesny talks like a Fulham season ticket holder. As for the defender, Gabriel Paulista was signed from Villarreal. Sid Lowe wrote an excellent overview on him, calling him ‘dynamic, intense and strong’. If he really is all that, it seems scandalous to think that the sale of Thomas Vermaelen funded pretty much the whole transfer.

5:37PM – We talked about Spurs’ futile attempts to get rid of Adebayor. Well United have been doing that for 18 months at least with former Golden Boy winner Anderson, only succeeding in securing a loan deal with Fiorentina last January. It seems like it might finally happen for good this time. Noted journalist Juan Mata reported Anderson was off back to play in Brazil.

5:41PM – There we go. He’s finally gone. Schurrle is a confirmed signing for Wolfsburg, bolstering what is now a talented pool of players, spearheaded by another of Chelsea’s lucrative castoffs Kevin de Bruyne.

Seems a little surprising, given Mourinho’s love for Willian who is slightly less technically gifted but has a higher workrate to the German. Perhaps because Schurrle struggled to flourish on the right where the only vacancy was? Cuadrado may be an upgrade, he may not. The talent doesn’t always just work itself out in these situations.

5:49PM – As usual, questions remain for Spurs. Pressing ones, such as: is Harry Kane really their lone striker for the future, or do Spurs dip into the market for a sexy name to back him up? Will their bulging squad finally be relieved of their duties to watch an unheralded academy player (Mason, Bentaleb) come out of nowhere and take their place?. The final, most important question. Do Spurs need to buy another defensive midfielder? Preferably French? Of course they do. There’s a hint of irony that Arsenal have been crying out for a player like such for god knows how long and just a short while away Spurs can’t stop buying them. Schneiderlin/Matuidi/Sissoko incoming!

5:52PM – Tottenham’s squad is like when no-one can be bothered to empty the bin so you just keep stuffing it down and filling it. This analogy explained: Unlike their professional basketball namesakes, Tottenham have a fun procession of coaches. Each one brings his own new philosophy to the club and because they’re in such a hurry to do so they buy tailor-made players to fit their system, or as many as Levy will let them. The clearing out process can come later, right? WRONG. And Levy will inexplicably buy 2 more stuffing the bag down even further. At some point, the bin has to be emptied. Empty the goddamn bin.

5:55PM – Can you buy a new chairman on deadline day? One that doesn’t resemble a futuristic bald cyborg that fires managers at the touch of a button and understands the words ‘patience’ and ‘continuity’?

6:01PM – No deals for QPR? Codswallop! BBC link Aaron Lennon (classic Redknapp signing) to QPR. Hang on, the source appears to be Lennon’s Wikipedia page. Honestly, is that going to be the first priority for QPR’s staff? Probably not. Might be best to take this report with more than a few pinches of salt.

6:07PM – The BBC honestly have someone commenting on signings as a ‘Football Manager’ expert and a Fifa player. Is the guy paid to do that? If so, he’s found the ultimate dream job of many an unemployed 20-something.

6:38PM – Video Montages! Bony appears to be the central figure in them. Never forget watching Gareth Bale’s 3 minute loop of his move to Real Madrid:

  • Highlights of Bale scoring ridiculous stoppage time winners from 35 yards

  • Bale moving suspiciously around Spurs training ground

  • Awkward Welsh accented “Hala…Madrid!”

[LOOP]

6:40PM – Ian Dennis has arrived, featured on our main image at the top. Yes, I did the photoshopping myself and his face would not comply.

6:46PM – Cuadrado done. Oh we rollin’ now.

6:48PM – Danny Murphy’s talking for far too long. Relevant anecdote coming up…

6:49PM – A different deadline day, Tim Vickery was talking about Ricky Alvarez (a loan signing for Sunderland) and at some point said ‘I’m a sucker for a good left foot’. Danny Murphy, noted comedian (well he’s a shit pundit) made a gesture, implying Vickery had a foot fetish. Rory Smith was far wiser, pointed out the camera and Murphy sheepishly looked back down at the desk after a giggle. What a prat.

6:52PM – Uh oh. The dreaded English talent making a move to the big team too soon. Dele Alli is reported to be close to a move to Spurs, maybe to be loaned back to MK Dons. Watched him once at Port Vale, fantastic range of passing. Spurs do have a gap in their midfield.

6:53PM – Oh wait. No they don’t. Silly me, they have all the central midfielders.

6:54PM –  There will be an announcement on the3yardscreamer at 7:00PM.

7:00PM – Time for the first ever bizarre deadline day image, taken from blogs and websites across the world over the past couple of years. Our first one depicts Wenger suffering a Marty McFly-esque ailment and Falcao reacting to the news that it’s his 29th birthday (again).

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However I must also report that this Diary will not be updated until some point after 10, for personal reasons.

7:06PM – Well, there’s enough time to celebrate the same collection of people in the 5Live studio. Rory Smith, Danny Murphy and the guy that holds it all together Mark ‘Chappers’ ‘Chapstick’ Chapman.

7:11PM – It gets worse for Rickie Lambert (11:52AM). He might be forced into Aston Villa’s army to help wage the ‘war on goals’, as the Daily Mirror put it.

7:13PM – Murphy brings in a nice touch of xenophobia by basically emphasising a fear factor into Danny Ings possible move to Real Sociedad.

7:20PM – As Southampton chase another continental signing (Filip Djuricic) that will probably be an effective rotation player, it raises an interesting point. Setting aside Southampton’s anomalous academy for a second, the way they’ve built a quality side this season doesn’t look good for the future of English footballers. As a very well run club, Southampton have identified where the value is, which is abroad. So essentially, they’ve proved to other clubs that they should buy from other leagues in Portugal, Holland and France. There are good players to be found for some cheap and it’s better than paying the English premium.

10:00PM – I’m back and let’s have our penultimate slightly-bizarre-but-not-really deadline day image. I have a few stacked up, but they’ll just have to wait until September.

The latest masterpiece shows one of the most lacklustre and quite inexplicable composition of players. Crouch! Samba! Hooper! Is this some sort of QPR gossip column XI or something?

bizarre deadline day image2

10:14PM – “I’m not a wheeler-dealer” – Harry Redknapp

‘Redknapp has recently been foiled in his attempts to sign Matt Jarvis on loan, because he already signed Mauro Zarate on a temporary deal. Rules state he cannot send Zarate back, therefore the Jarvis signing will not go ahead.’

Judge for yourselves.

10:18PM – Allardyce David Gold has made himself available in the Adebayor sweepstakes, brave. Levy is willing to subsidise his wages for any club except West Ham. Levy is also reportedly willing to drive him there, do his laundry and make his dinners if someone else will have him.

10:19PM – Oh joy Joey Barton has graced the 5Live studio. He’s learnt the word ‘ramifications’ and celebrates this by saying it multiple times in the same sentence.

10:22PM – David Pleat goes on a tirade against modern ways of scouting through statistics. His point is fair enough, but I doubt West Ham have no idea about Kara Mbodji who they are looking at spending around £4Million.

10:26PM – I’m depicting the goings on in the studio because fuck all is happening. Tom Ince has gone to Derby. There was one window where Ince must have driven to about 12 clubs in England and taken a trip to the San Siro as well. The iPro stadium it is instead.

10:31PM – Sigh. Saints completed a nice little signing in Djuricic.

10:34PM – Entertaining juxtaposition of Zaha with Morrison at the moment. Barton to his credit provides some good insight to the differences in their play, describing Morrison as ‘intelligent’ and Zaha as ‘a little bit rawer’.

10:38PM – Lennon has signed, on a loan of course nothing’s permanent these days, for Everton. Rory Smith made a good point saying Deulofeu’s pace was an effective tool off the bench for Everton last season, suggesting Lennon could replicate that perhaps.

10:41PM – Mark Chapman just googled ‘i asked david pleat a question how do i get him to stop talking’.

10:44PM – Dele Alli is a very talented player and his move to a bigger club was very predictable. But something just feels off, a little too soon or too high up the food chain. Would not want him to be in Tottenham’s squad next season, demands would be too high from Pochettino who knows Levy will be looming over him. Championship loan would be best for development, one tier higher and should be valued and nurtured as a player.

10:48PM – Oh. Adebayor’s move to Upton Park may be off – being blocked by Daniel Levy of all people. Clearly wants Hammers to take on full wage packet and David Gold is playing hardball.

10:51PM – Ian Dennis, “…it’s been a very, very quiet Deadline Day”.

Quelle surprise.

10:52PM – Burnley signed Michael Keane permanently? Why are there all these deals that feel like they happened in the summer, must be a flashback to that time.

10:53PM – From Roberto Martinez’ statement about Aaron Lennon I learnt he was involved in two of England’s World Cup squads. 2006 was a decent squad, but 2010 was god awful. Stephen Warnock, David James and Gerrard playing on the left? No thanks.

10:56PM – Before the window shuts, here’s a final odd deadline day image. We’re spared for a minute of watching the same report on loop about Cuadrado signing for Chelsea. It’s another odd composition of players for this one. Danny Graham was being signed by a manager on his way out of the door, Beckham was completing the best PR motivated transfer since Corneilus went to Cardiff (there must have been some reason he went there, right?) and a panicky looking Chris Samba makes his second appearance in this feature, a fifth of what he did for QPR.

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11:02PM – That’s it. There doesn’t seem to be much worth staying up for now. If Leicester are one of the top stories on Deadline Day, not a lot happened.

Until next time Sneijder to United rumours re-surface, goodnight.