Weekend Review – from fantasybet.com

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Leicester hit a Jonathan Moss sized bump and Tottenham subsequently close the gap at the top to 5 points. We know for sure now that Villa are down, but which North-East side is joining them and will Norwich be there to follow them? 5 lessons learnt from a tumultuous Premier League weekend.

Sunderland prolong the relegation battle

The scrap for survival could have been settled this weekend, but Sunderland have given it a new lease of life. Combined with Newcastle’s win the tussling could continue right down to the final weekend. After looking sharp at times against Leicester last weekend, the Black Cats secured their first win in 7 emphatically. It felt a fair victory as Sunderland have clearly improved since their January additions. In comparison, Norwich have sort of been the opposite: scraping wins here and there despite looking just as poor as they have done all season.

Jermaine Defoe, as said before in this space, does very little to help his team win in his overall performances. But the fact of the matter is he gets shots off at a good clip and scores a decent amount of them and he’s probably been a net positive for Sam Allardyce’s side. After hosting Arsenal, they’ll face three iffy defences in Stoke, this weird iteration of Chelsea and Everton. For his price, Defoe looks a nice budget shout in those gameweeks.

Newcastle finally perform

Frankly it feels like Newcastle have won about 3 times all season. The league table tells us this is a lie and that at the Magpies have actually had 7 victories. Their most recent one over Swansea was crucial. Anything other than 3 points would have essentially sent them down but capitalising on a flagging Swansea squad and Sunderland’s win, Newcastle will now have the smallest of chances to escape. The gap to safety is only 3 points (with a game in hand) but it looks all the more gaping when seeing 3 of Newcastle’s final 5 fixtures are against some of the form sides of the division – Manchester City, Liverpool and then Spurs on the final day.

Andros Townsend made his presence felt on the scoresheet for the second time in as many games, which basically constitutes a blazing hot streak of form for a Newcastle player. The defence notched a clean sheet and it was well deserved after limiting Swansea to purely half chances. On the other end 3 goals probably flattered them as a couple of scrappy efforts found their way into the back of the net. All in all, I don’t feel so hot about picking up any Newcastle players, more because of their death row of fixtures than anything else. The overriding feeling is that it’s a shame we didn’t see a well-coached Newcastle team all season rather than their McClaren mess that last far too long.

Rashford an enigma going into next season

What with their cross-town rivals picking up speed again, the Champions League looks well beyond Manchester United now. It’s mostly just van Gaal trying to provide the illusion of competence now or, failing that, the sign that he’s building for the future. One example is his usage of Marcus Rashford, but evaluating the 18 year old’s true impact is difficult.

There’s certainly nothing wrong with Rashford’s performances to the naked eye. He’s quick and his finishes against West Ham in midweek and then Aston Villa looked clinical. The only issue is that he’s been so clinical, that it’s not quite representative of his attacking output. Many people pointed this out over the weekend but in the league Rashford is currently converting 50% of his shots into goals. That is an absurd percentage and clearly unsustainable. So while his price might look tempting next season, it might be best to wait until his finishing rates come back down to Earth.

Manchester City will be a problem next season

Remember how the confirmation of Manuel Pellegrini being replaced by Pep Guardiola threw off the whole Manchester City side? And how De Bruyne got injured around that time too and now he’s back City’s attack is humming again? Funny that. That swoon put them out of the title race and it the killer blow was probably the Leicester game where the winner would go to the top of the table. But Robert Huth and that Mahrez goal happened so now City will have to settle for duking it out with Arsenal to avoid playing a Champions League qualifier.

While Otamendi and Mangala’s developing partnership is promising the potential of City’s attack has returned to the mindblowing level it was at a couple of seasons ago. Although City are understandably not given many opportunities to showcase it they are absolutely lethal on the counter as Aguero’s second goal showed, which included some guy called Samir Nasri! Chelsea a bit of a joke right now but City have done and will do this to a lot of teams next season. Aguero and De Bruyne look like must haves for fantasy teams, regardless of the price.

Spurs are blowing past average teams

Stoke have had a nice season and will be very happy with another top ten finish under the management of Mark Hughes. Marko Arnautovic has been converted from talented headcase to regular contributor and Stoke also possess intriguing players who aren’t quite there yet like Giannelli Imbula. They’ve over-performed a little this year and will struggle to break into the Europa League in the coming seasons, but they’re a nice team who have their moments.

Tottenham ate them alive.

It’s stunning how Spurs have gone from a stale team going forward to this sudden onrush of incisive threat that comes at you for 90 minutes and won’t stop until it is satiated. Just as impressive is Dele Alli fitting into such a quality side in his ‘rookie’ season in the Premier League. Stoke had no shot of stopping them and it’ll take an otherworldly vintage Tony Pulis masterplan to stop them next weekend. If that doesn’t materialise, Spurs will overwhelm them just as they have to a bunch of oblivious midtable clubs.

Weekend Review – from fantasybet.com

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This weekend saw even more Riyad Mahrez, Diego Costa playing himself in the oft-remade film ‘Arsenal lose to Chelsea’ and West Ham dominating away from home, again…

Stoke slowly snapping out of their funk

Stoke City were a team in vogue going into this season. It’s well documented, but Mark Hughes has truly ushered in a new attacking era at the Britannia Stadium. Watching Marko Arnautovic on Saturday sweep down the wing and play in a weighted ball for an ever-exuberant Bojan to finish was a far cry from Rory Delap’s throw-ins and Matthew Etherington’s mediocre prime.

Stoke have had a rough start and their defence no longer looks quite the part, a trade-off for their increased dynamism in attack. These factors combined leave them in the bottom 3, but the table doesn’t honestly depict Stoke’s level of play. Leicester City were fortunate not to be facing a heavier deficit as Hughes’ side repeatedly turned them over. Another late flurry from the visitors reflected poorly on Stoke and handed both teams their third draw of the season already. Sparky’s jump leads seem to have worked for his team and Stoke’s results will soon see an uptick now the engine is rumbling.

Options are aplenty: Shaqiri is continuing to settle, Bojan is fit and Jon Walters will be a good differential pick while Mame Diouf is out because no-one ever, ever can bring themselves to pick Jon Walters.

Not all budget strikers were made equal

Callum Wilson and Troy Deeney were both talismen for their newly promoted clubs yet have fared differently when it comes to Premier League goalscoring. Wilson has spearheaded an attack that holds Bournemouth’s best chance of survival this season. He’s been energetic and clinical, a must for a forward playing for a lower table club. Eddie Howe has also been deploying him with no other recognised striker, which leaves a hefty burden on the former Coventry City man that he’s been able to handle.

Troy Deeney on the other hand is still looking for his first goal. In the Championship, pacy players and target men are reliable sources for goals. However in the past few seasons, pace has translated far more easily then what Deeney has to offer. Charlie Austin and Rickie Lambert spring to mind, but they are unusual when looking at the history of the newly-promoted. The burly Watford striker has notched some assists and perhaps hasn’t been helped by not playing in a free flowing side like Bournemouth — the Hornets’ defence looking like their best asset. Although we only have to check out Odion Ighalo, playing next to Deeney, to see how pace is often more damaging to Premier League defences.

Sunderland are the Andrex team of the year

The Andrex award is unofficially awarded to the Premier League team who’s defence most resembles soggy wet toilet paper. There’s always one specific backline that offers little to no resistance and subsequently gets relegated at the end. Two years ago it was Fulham. Last season it was QPR. This year? Hello Sunderland.

Bournemouth must be credited for their play on Saturday but Sunderland’s performances have been the collective embodiment of the word ‘soft’. It perhaps doesn’t help that Sunderland have taken a leaf out of QPR’s book in recruitment. In the starting eleven on Saturday we could find Jermaine Defoe who is declining rapidly and Younes Kaboul who hasn’t been good since the year Newcastle finished 5th.

When will everyone recognise that broken former Spurs players are not a good signing for a lower team? Kaboul’s suicidal performance at Bournemouth was not without good news, as his red card prevents his selection for at least one game. A dull silver lining in the gloomiest of clouds on Wearside.

De Bruyne has a place in Manchester City’s lineup

West Ham stole the show on Saturday night away to Manchester City, only after Kevin De Bruyne threatened to ruin it all for Slaven Bilic. More than any other player, De Bruyne was the one who had Hammers fans worried when he picked up the ball. The Belgian couldn’t ultimately bring it back but he proved to many that he will have a substantial role alongside Sergio Aguero and David Silva this year.

The doubters questioned whether another attacking midfielder was a necessary signing for Pellegrini. It was a reasonable qualm given how City’s attack had been steamrolling every cluster of 11 men that dared cross their path. But De Bruyne exerted such an influence on the match with his willingness to get on the ball and spread the play, you wonder how the team would have fared without him.

His case helped even more by Jesus Navas’ dire performance on the wing. De Bruyne will surely take his place when Silva returns. The need for Navas has been negated with the arrival of Raheem Sterling who provides the width City so sorely need and much more than the Spaniard. After making his first start of many, De Bruyne gave us a taster on Saturday of what he’ll look to serve up all season long.

Anthony Martial is making us look silly

Fantasy football players scoffed when they first saw Martial’s price. It was seemingly extortionate for a teenager that scored just 9 league goals in Ligue 1 last year. 3 bona-fide, Robbie-Savage-approved Premier League goals later and the tide has turned.

In a way that only fantasy football can, many people who consider their knowledge regarding football of the fantasy variety to be extensive have quickly been turned into fools. 8 million for Manchester United‘s starting striker and everyone thought he was overpriced? What were we all thinking?

Having Sunderland — this year’s Andrex team, lest you forget — at home seems like the most appetising fixture possible right now and it’s exactly what Martial is facing next weekend. If that doesn’t tempt you, nothing will.