New season starts in two days!
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13 Aug 2010
New season starts in two days!
Posted by Tarquin at 00:05:00
12 Aug 2010
OK, as promised, it's time for a preview of the coming season
My league prediction:
16. West Brom
19. West Ham
Full team reviews
Well, the good news is they've kept Fabregas, surely the most essential player to their title hopes - and they've replaced Eduardo with the promising Moroccan, Chamakh, while van Persie is hopefully fit and Wenger has a lot of options with Walcott, Arshavin, Rosicky, Ramsey et all - but that's not Arsenal's problem is it? It's always the defence with Arsenal, not goalscoring - Gallas has gone, as have Senderos, Silvestre and Campbell, for what it's worth, but the only purchase is Koscielny, who is promising, and along with Vermaelen the Arsenal defence is possibly getting a bit better, but there's little cover if anyone gets injured, and inevitably Wenger will have a strop because Arsenal will be the only team in the world with injuries. The goalkeeper is perhaps the most pressing problem - rumours about Mark Schwarzer came to nothing, and frankly unless there's a little more strength at the back I can't see Arsenal making up those 11 points they fell short of last year. Not enough improvement for me, very similar to last year's result - Second, maybe third
Fabregas is the obvious name, in recent years he has been matching Gerrard and Lampard while being considerably cheaper - alas no more , he's only got a million on last year's top-scorer Lampard and is now more than Gerrard, who underperformed last year - so his value has gone down substantially. However, take a look at his points to games ratio and he's actually considerably better than Lamps, who barely missed a minute, Fabregas averaged nearly nine points every game, compared to Lump's eight - so if you watch his injuries you may well benefit and save yourself a million. Arshavin looks good value for a mere 9.5, with 10 goals from 25 games and therefore excellent value, but remember he was playing up front in the absence of a striker last year, so he may not score as much, and could be a bit pricey. There's little else of huge note in Arsenal's vast midfield line-up, Song's score was reliant on bonuses, always variable from season to season, and you could punt on a fit Walcott or Rosicky.
The other main area to look at is defence, not the most solid in the world - but Vermaelen's seven goals are definitely worth thinking about, he is the joint most expensive defender in the game, but if Arsenal keep aiming for the centrebacks, which they always do, then he should come good. Koscielny is a cheaper option but a bit of a gamble. Sagna took an injury last year and is reasonable value for assists, particularly if Arsenal keep a few more clean sheets (keep note of goalkeeper situation).
Up front there's only one consideration - a fit van Persie could well be a snip at 10 mill, his points to game ratio was as good as Rooney and Drog last season.
The recent loss of O'Neill is bound to have ramifications, particularly if someone like Southgate comes in, Villa have only sold players and therefore they're only getting worse, particularly if Milner heads off to City - there's still a lot going for them with a strong defence and decent attacking options in Young, Downing and Agbonlahor, but let's face it, they won't be challenging for Europe this season without some quick investment. My prediction - 8th
In midfield, Ashley Young will once again be a worthwhile investment, he's been very consistent at scoring points with assists and goals, hard to tell if he'll pick up without Milner taking the points or dip if Villa aren't scoring as much.
Up front, Agbonlahor and Carew offer decent returns, but history suggests they aren't the best value - Gabby in particular keeps getting more expensive and yet gets consistent points, so he's losing value - not the best option up front, but a safe choice who tends to go through scoring patches.
Ninth spot last year was the surprise of the season - doesn't mean it'll be the same this year, a few pieces of bad luck may make the difference, but to be honest I think they'll be fine, if not top half. The main problem is goalscoring, Zigic is coming in and may provide some, but they remain a bit thin up front, they need some more investment if Yeung wants to improve on last year. That said, a good defence is what keeps you alive in the Premier League, and Roger Johnson was the signing of the season last year, however if there are many injuries there's very little cover available. The other signing is Foster coming in for Hart, personally I feel he's slightly poorer than Joe, but a good signing for a club this size. All in all, should do well, but don't expect much more than last year, I'm going for 12th.
Pretty much zero changes from last season, they've just got (another) Diouf on loan as this year's new striker, I'm predicting lots of long ball football, a physical home style and a mid table finish - 11th
I don't know much about Blackpool, but I know they have a small and inexperienced-at-top-level squad and will have an almighty task to stay up, much like Burnley last year - they start with four away games out of their first five matches, which is not the best prospect, prediction - last
I see they only have 16 members in their squad...not good, Charlie Adam is undoubtedly their best player and that's reflected in him being the only player worth five million, I've never had much luck with top-scoring promoted players, although as he's a midfielder he may be good value. The trick with Blackpool is to find a player who plays every match and costs four mill - stick him on the bench and guarantee yourself two points when required.
Finishing 14th last season under Owen Coyle, Bolton haven't exactly been busy this summer and the usual gang of Cahill, Taylor, Davies et all are all there, while they have also made a promising purchase in Martin Petrov. Coyle brings a better quality of football to the Reebok, whether or not it gets results is another matter - but with a good, stable team and a few decent players I can see Bolton getting their usual mid-table finish.
There's a few options at the back - Cahill scored five goals last year and will start, but the clean sheets may be a problem now that he's 5.5, Ricketts may be a better option at 4.5 as a sub, I used to have Andy O'Brien but to be honest I'm not 100% on their first XI anymore. Jaaskelainen has always been a reliable choice - he's a good keeper and usually gets a few penalty saves, but last year's goals against tally is slightly worrying, he's good value for a second choice, but there may be a few better options.
In the middle, Matty Taylor is always a fun pick, now a snip at 6 million for a player who usually gets around ten goals a season, and they're usually from 30 yards, the drop in price this year makes him pretty attractive. Bolton's player of the year, Lee Chung-Yong may be worth a look, but at nearly the same price as Taylor I would argue that Taylor will be more value.
Up front Kevin Davies is one of the best strikers around, he's easily one of the top five best value players and is an excellent third or possibly second striker, Klasnic however may be an even better bargain, having scored eight goals despite playing less than half the season, if he starts regularly, and his full move to Bolton suggests he will, then he's a gem at 6 mill.
Last year's winners undoubtedly remain the team to beat, even if they aren't the best side in Europe, the ageing spine of Terry, Lampard, Drogba remains and there's no reason to think it won't last another year, personally I think they're weakening at the back, still reliant on Mourinho's squad, but I don't see much better from the other top clubs. So far Chelsea's biggest buy has been Benayoun, not a bad purchase but hardly season defining, while Ballack, Cole (J) and Deco have all gone, and Carvalho is set to leave - while there's no big parts leaving, there's definitely need of a few replacements. I have to back them as returning champions
Chelsea are expensive, so pick wisely - generally the lesser players are too pricey so we'll aim for big names. Cech wasn't brilliant last year, and has a niggle, maybe avoid such an expensive option. At the back Terry is a competitive top pick, but Ivanovic costs the same and considering games played last year he's far better value, just check he's always starting. Likewise Ashley Cole is a good choice, again better value than Terry, even if he's the most expensive in the game, his goals and assists are vital.
In the middle, you have one of the trinity to pick (the new trinity is Lampard, Fabregas, Gerrard), and Lampard's phenomenal score of 22 midfield goals last year must be worth considering, however as the most expensive player in the game you have to ask if the 32 year-old will be as prolific. Malouda had a great season last year and at 9.5 is competitive value, the power of Lampard means there's little room for anyone else from Chelsea.
Up front, the obvious choice is the Drog himself, the decision is totally up to you, he's now 12.5 and so has lost considerable value since the start of last year (10.5), and he may not start the season due to a groin injury, Anelka is a reasonable choice, but you could get cheaper, depends on form with him. I will point out Chelsea have a favourable early fixture list, not playing any big names til week 6.
The tightest ship going, Everton continue to make the best out of peanuts and have secured the services of Jermaine Beckford on a free, while selling a few peripheral players. Not much has changed then, and as ever, they will be dependent on injuries, I'm hopeful they'll be a little luckier this season. I'm going for sixth
Howard at 5.5 is an average keeper, Baines is a solid selection, but has lost the bargain value he once had, Jagielka is probably the best bet at 5.5, having missed most of the season through injury he may be a bargain if he stays fit. The fixture list is medium from a defensive perspective, they face United in their second home game, sandwiched between Wolves and Newcastle and have an early trip to Villa.
In midfield, Arteta is an old favourite of mine and is, based on past scores, better value than Cahill, who now costs the same, Fellaini could be a reasonable bet, but the others would probably trump him.
Up front, Saha would be a reasonable choice, with 13 goals in 25-odd games, but is no bargain at 8, there are better value options.
With a new manager it's difficult to see how Fulham will fare, Mark Hughes has a good track record and I hope he shows the pettiness of City's hierarchy by doing well this year. Fulham's main issues were goals and fatigue, as they don't have Europe to worry about this year they should be alright on the defensive front, but still need a goalscorer. It depends who Hughes can coax away from other clubs, Kevin Greening will not cut it, so I expect a dependable result from the Cottagers, Ninth.
Hangeland was the pick of the 08/09 season, but last year Fulham were definitely weakened by their Europa cup involvement, despite this Hangeland remained one of the better value, if not spectacular, defenders, he's definitely an appropriate price at 5.5. Aaron Hughes is slightly cheaper and scored nearly the same as Brede last year, but he played more games so hasn't got quite the same worth, but a solid choice. Konchesky may be the better option as he is more essential to the team and scores occasionally.
Duff and Dempsey are the real choices in the middle, both offer a good return for a reasonable price, Dempsey has often been a good midfield back up but has now reached a high of 7.0, so Duff may be the better option.
Personally I wouldn't go near Zamora, although his stats are decent, the fact that he scores goals off his back should say something, last season was his best in years and he's now a bit pricey at 6.5, you can do better.
Finally, a new manager, and Joe Cole on a free, things may be looking up at Liverpool, but although I think Cole is a move in the right direction, he's not going to challenge on his own. A fit Torres though, just might, as his goals to game record is superb, although it seems unlikely he'll stay fit with his record (he's already on a groin injury) and Liverpool definitely need a bit more up front. They also probably need a bit more cover at the back and creativity in the middle to win the title, but that said, I think we'll see them do considerably better than last year's seventh - fourth
Gerrard massively underperformed last year, and on that evidence Lampard or Fabregas would be a better choice, but we all know what he is capable of and it could be a shrewd move to back a better performance this year as he's dropped to 11.5. Cole will have to do well to live up to his 9 million price tag, but could be worth it if he starts well. Mascherano remains good value at a mere 5 million. The only striker worth thinking about is Torres, he's doubtful starting the season though, if N'Gog is used more regularly by Hodgson then he could be a bargain at 5.5.
In defence, 'Mr. Reliable' Carragher is a solid choice at 6.5, but Johnson will probably give you more points for an extra million. A good combination of a weak enough defence to make saves, and a healthy number of clean sheets made Reina the top scoring keeper in the league last year, so he's definitely worth a look. Liverpool do not have it easy however, facing Arsenal, City and United in the first five weeks.
By far the biggest spending club this summer, in fact pretty much the only spending club this summer (age of austerity and all that), City will be looking to break the top four finally (that'd be 'get higher than Spurs' then...) with their nigh on £80million spending blitz, and yes, that's net. There's some nice purchases, with Boateng coming in at centreback, and Kolarov on the left, Silva's basically a better replacement for Robinho, and Yaya Toure coming in to strengthen the midfield. There's a lot of talent there, alongside existing players like Tevez and Adebayor, and on paper they look formidable - but it's all about performance and it's hard to spot the first eleven in this squad, the bench will be the best in the world, but on the pitch it remains to be seen how the team will gel, no doubt Mancini has made his own mark now, but the defence needs to be proven and it's still hard to see how the midfield will operate aside from having a blinding winger. Fifth again...
Christ this is a mess of a team - in goal you have two excellent keepers who may well alternate, Hart was the star of last season and is now 6 million, so I wouldn't risk either of them. In defence there are eight players five million or above, so I have no idea who will be playing, but surely the £27 million pair will be first team, Kolarov is pretty prolific and may be worth it at six, and Boateng could be good value if City keep clean sheets this year.
The midfield is further mess - due to rotation City provided no high scoring players last year, SWP doesn't have bad value, but he needs to start a lot to warrant 7.5 of my cash, the up and coming Adam Johnson may be better at 6.5, Silva will presumably play a lot so might be a steal at nine million, and then Milner might come in! In short, there's so many here it's prohibitive for a fantasy manager, we need players to play every week, and while some might hit the points when on the pitch, half the time your money is going nowhere, and that's shown by the low scores across the board last year.
Up front it's a different story, Tevez had a great season last year and could be great value if he keeps up with Rooney and Drogba again, but you'd be reliant on him performing due to his new price of 10.5, Adebayor is a million less and if he finds the net like he used to then he could be a steal. City in general are very much a gamble
Rooney had a phenomenal season last year, from an overpriced and poor value striker (fantasy league perspective, ok!) who'd never scored more than 14 in a season, he scored 26! Now at 12 million he's a more realistic price and will have to get around 20 to prove his worth, but there's little reason to think he won't, unless Hernadez steals them all. Berbatov has gone down to a more appropriate price of 8.5, but there's still better value out there, and Hernadez looks good for 7.5, twelve goals or more would be an excellent return for him.
At the back, United defenders usually provide the goods, Vidic was a god a few years ago, but his and Ferdinand's injuries scuppered them both last year, with no reliable starters the only United defender worth anything was Evra, who remains a good choice thanks to his attacking prowess down the left, although he's top price and Wes Brown at 5.5 wouldn't be a bad investment if he stays fit. Maybe Smalling is worth a punt as Rio will miss a fair few games, and Fergie isn't going to leave his biggest signing on the bench, at 5 mill he's a snip. I wouldn't touch Van Der Sar, he's top end price but with his age and injuries he's unlikely to be worth it.
In the middle Giggs broke into the top echelons despite playing roughly half the season and at 7 is pretty good value...when he plays, you'll need a good sub to offset when he's not there though, and he's also an intensive option - he must play well when he plays. At the same price Darren Fletcher will certainly play more, but he's clearly not as effective when it comes to points, his price increase puts me off him this season. Valencia can certainly get points, but he's got lots of competition with a fairly hefty price tag of 8.5, while Nani had some excellent play last year and his points ratio is very good, if he were to keep it up I'd recommend him at 8, but risky though. Avoid Carrick as, well as he might play, he doesn't get the assists and isn't recognised in the scoring, nor is Scholes. United start with a decent set of fixtures, Newcastle, Fulham and West Ham - and they don't even play Arsenal and Chelsea til Christmas.
They're back - and frankly far better for it, they've had to become leaner and are now a fast, attacking side, from a side that used to...well, do nothing, trouble is Ashley is still there and the league money/parachute payments are not going into new players by the look of it. They've retained a few talents from their old Premier League days - Taylor, Gutierrez, Coloccini, Joey Barton...but that just goes to show what little they had two years ago, formerly solid players like Nicky Butt are gone and the team that steamrollered the Championship may struggle against Premier League defences. In midfield they may have some decent options, but up front they lack any experience and rarely have strikers like Andy Carroll come up and done well. The defence is the main worry - commanded by new signing Sol Campbell and lacking experience and depth this could be a disaster waiting to happen, and we all know it's defence that keeps you up in this league. Newcastle should be aiming solely for survival, and I'd like to think the bosses will be as realistic as the fans, but things could start to go mad again if they start off too badly, they will be reliant on teams like Blackpool, West Brom, Wigan and Wolves to do worse. I think they'll
One for the brave I think - no player is more than 5.5 and there could well be a gem in there somewhere - probably in midfield, Kevin Nolan or Gutierrez perhaps could be a decent sub, or you could gamble on Barton finally being sane. You could back a striker like Carroll as a third striker, but not Ameobi, let's be sensible (see: Special 1 TV). Frankly, I think you're insane to go for anything from that defence, even if it's a rock bottom sub (ie Perch, if you must have one). Certainly a more fun team to choose from...
Who is Florent Cuvelier? He's a promising Belgian youngster, and he's Stoke's only signing - so as you can tell, we're getting much of the same from Pulis' men, with pretty much everyone coming back for more throw ins! What else can I say, the defence remains sound, they still have no goal threat outside of throw ins, and they still tackle hard - the only thing is to watch for Pulis' purchases - he wants a striker or two...he needs some midfield creativity. They've been 12th, 11th, so I'm saying 13th this time
Stoke had the most clean sheets outside of United, Chelsea, Liverpool and Villa, so naturally we are looking for value defenders here. Shawcross at a mere five is excellent value and the most promising prospect, while Sorenson is a rock and came fourth in the keeper table last year - a wise investment for again, five mill.
For all my talk, Delap only managed one assist last season, quite a decline, and while a decent prospect for a lowly five, which is about as cheap as a starter gets, you could probably do better, in this team for one - Matthew Etherington, as Stoke's sole creative player was the best value midfielder last season - at six million he's a potential bargain.
Unsurprisingly, they offer little up front, what with being the lowest scoring side bar Wolves, Fuller is alright at five, but there are better choices, watch out for any purchases though. Early games against Spurs, Chelsea and Villa may be discouraging for your initial line up.
There's been some interesting, if not exciting, developments up on the Wear - Steve Bruce has brought in names such as Angeleri (RB), Mignolet (GK), Riveros (M), Al-Muhammadi (RM) and...Titus Bramble, who was a Sunderland favourite at Newcastle - so there could be some improvement, and they retain the services of top-scorer Darren Bent, who ironically, got a knock with England...They may need a new striker if Kenwyne gets his way, but I would think if that defence has improved a bit they could push on from last season's 'averageness' to about tenth.
Bent looks good value for 8.5 considering he got 24 goals last season - he may not be starting the season though. Jones not so much, and he may be off to pastures new.
Sunderland's defence let them down last year, so Bramble coming in with a better previous score than any of the rest of them is a good sign - he's always a fun choice at a mere 4.5, however own goals now cost you (note: 50p says he scores against Newcastle...possibly for them as well...). You could bet on the promising Al-Muhammadi at 4.5 also, he likes to get forward and should play. Mignolet is a good prospect, but will probably take a back seat to Gordon when he returns, and I don't trust the Black Cats defence that much.
Midfield is pretty barren, unless you want to take a punt on Riveros, he'll be missing the opener however. Sunderland open with Birmingham at home and West Brom away, but then have City, Arsenal, Liverpool and United within the space of five games...
Europe for 'Arry, but it doesn't look promising to me - great man-manager he may be, but he's strapped for cash, the defence needs more than a plaster, and the midfield, while promising, needs bolstering to keep up with the likes of City and Liverpool, and to play the extra European games. Up front, Keane may go, leaving the main strikers a bit thin on the ground - but of course we'll have to wait and see who Redknapp can secure, rumours surround Ashley Young (because they need another winger...), Loic Remy would be a better option for me. I think they'll struggle - seventh
Tottenham kept one of the tightest defences last year, which they can mostly thank for their final position, that's reflected in the once-mocked Gomes' high score, however at the back the injury merry-go-round meant that no one did too well, if they continue to utilise injury-prone King and Woodgate then players like Dawson underperform.
In the middle, Bale and Lennon look your best bets, they've come into their own now, Bale remains significantly cheaper despite less match time and a higher score last season, check he starts regularly but he could be a bargain.
Defoe is a solid choice up front, but has never merited his 9 million price tag by breaking into the 20s, he's not bad, but you can get cheaper. Crouchy actually has great value, this is somewhat offset by his propensity to be benched, but as his price has dropped to seven he's actually worth it for assists and goals.
Boing, boing indeed - feels like only yesterday since the Baggies came up and went down again, could this be their season? Personally I think they might do it, they're a bit tougher than the Mowbray era and with Scott Carson shepherding the defence they might just have the capability - there's not a lot here, but good solid teamwork at the back means they're possibly in better shape than champions Newcastle - 16th
(at this point Blogger deleted the last few entries so now we're keeping it short - and yes, I checked it saved) Carson, Olsson, Shorey are value, Mulumbu good sub
Think they're going down, frankly - a couple of purchases doesn't cover their frailty at the back - reliant on Parker, Green and Cole and very vulnerable - 19th
Parker is good value, the two new purchases in midfield are worth looking at, Cole is still cheap and Upson isn't a bad investment
I've tipped them to go down, some exciting new attacking options in Boselli, but at the back they are without cover - Martinez has created a true South American side...Argentina, defence keeps you up - so they will be in the dogfight, 18th
Avoid the defence, stick to N'Zogbia, Rodallega or Boselli
Decent investment from Mick this summer, looking to beat 40 points and achieve relative safety, I'm going for 14th
Craddock should remain great value if he keeps getting on the crosses, Matt Jarvis offered good value last season, he may again, Doyle and Fletcher may be useful at a mere 5.5, if they work well...
6 Aug 2010
Sorry the blog has been left idle for so long...I had hoped to be about during the World Cup but alas real life is more pressing, I'm hoping that the structure of the league will improve the situation
Anyway, I thought I'd get back into the swing of it by looking at last year's predictions
1. Chelsea (1)
2. United (2)
3. Liverpool (7)
4. Arsenal (3)
5. City (5)
6. Everton (8)
7. Villa (6)
8. Spurs (4)
9. Fulham (12)
10. Wigan (16)
11. Bolton (14)
12. Blackburn (10)
13. Stoke (11)
14. Birmingham (9)
15. West Ham (17)
16. Sunderland (13)
17. Wolves (15)
18. Burnley (18)
19. Hull (19)
20. Pompey (20)
Well, it started off alright - I picked the top two (a good sign for my straight forecast this year), and I got City right, and relegation was bang on - but only six perfect overall
I don't know if that's a good figure or not, it goes to show the middle is always the trickiest, and in fairness it's quite random, I'm really only unhappy with Birmingham and Wigan
FA cup - wrong! I said Spurs (Semi)
League Cup - I said United
Champions League - I said Barca (Semi)
First Sacking - I said Brown, who was fifth, first was Paul Hart
Top scorer was Drogba, I said Torres...who came sixth, however had he actually played I would've been right, best goals to game ratio going!
I said West Brom would come up champions - they were runners up
I shall try to get this year's up tomorrow!