Season Preview. Part 3

August 9, 2011

Newcastle United 

I never pick players from my own team. It’s a double whammy when they get beat. And if you support this shower of shit, those double whammies come around way too often. I digress – they actually had a decent season last time out. But for a last-minute West Brom equaliser in the last game, we’d have finished 9th. Instead we landed in 12th. We scored well, but the old notorious, clueless defence often let us down. We play Arsenal on the 13th, and we may have a squad left, if they haven’t all been sold off. We’re clinging on to Enrique, but expect to see him in red by the end of August. The fear is that if he goes, and Barton, so will Coloccini, Gutierrez and Tiote. Our main creative player, Ben Arfa, is injured again, and I have no idea how good, or bad, Cabaye or  Marveaux are. You’d be fairly foolish to consider any of our regular numpties. Shola takes a good penalty, but is so immobile, he’s never in the box to be in with a chance of winning one. We’ll always concede, so don’t go anywhere near the defence. I’m worried. I fear relegation. And if that’s not enough to put you off picking anyone in black and white, I dunno what is. 

  • Pick – erm, Joey Barton. Hopefully all will see sense and re-instate him to the team. 
  • Bargain – Hatem Ben Arfa. Hopefully (a word I use a lot), he’ll come back from injury quickly, and stay fit. At 5.5 million he’s a snip. Albeit, a very flimsy snip. 
  • Avoid – Alan Smith. Whoever told him he was a central midfielder (it was Alex Ferguson) was wrong.

 Norwich City 

OK – this is where I pretend to know shit about the promoted teams. Last year, two of the promoted teams stayed in the league, and Blackpool, the other, were relegated by a whisker. I see a similar thing happening this year. The most likely to follow the Blackpool lead is Norwich. They were the top scorers in the Championship last season, and have added to their strike force. Of them, only James Vaughan has played Premiership football before. He’s injured, so take Morison, Holt, Martin and Jackson – all plucked from lower leagues, but all capable of finding the net. All have finished on 20+ goals in at least one of the last 2 seasons. Defensively, they’re probably best avoided, unless you’ve got 4 million left, and a position to fill. 

  • Pick – Wes Hoolahan. The creative lynchpin, and got into double figures himself last year. 
  • Bargain – Elliot Bennett. They’re all potential bargains really – including Hoolahan. But this guy has apparently been impressive in pre-season.
  • Avoid – Kyle Naughton. On loan from Spurs. A good player in his own right, but in this team, won’t pick up many points.

Queens Park Rangers

Are QPR still the richest club in the world? Almost signing Wayne Routledge, and picking up two of football’s most injured men, Keiron Dyer and Danny Gabbidon, doesn’t suggest so. Having said that, the addition of Jay Bothroyd and DJ Campbell to their attack provides the fantasy manager with some useful options. A strong defence helped them to the Championship title. But don’t go there this season – unless you have a position to fill with limited funds. Paddy Kenny could be worth a punt. He could potentially pick up points for saves made – it depends on your keeper policy. Fancy them more at home than away. Loftus Road is probably smaller and pokier than Wayne Rooney’s kitchen.

  • Pick – Adel Taraabt. Older. More settled in England. Should look better this season than he ever did when he had a crack at the Premier League with Spurs. Having said that – he may be gone by the end of the month.
  • Bargain – DJ Campbell. Proved last year he can cut it at this level
  • Avoid – Shaun Derry. Looks and plays like a binman.

Stoke City

How well Stoke cope with their European campaign, and the increased expectation of their fans, will determine where they finish this season. There have been unsuccessful bids for bigger name players, and talk of splashing out 10 to 15 million on a new striker. Specifically Cole and Crouch – two more six footers – to add to their basketball team of a squad. Maybe Pulis should be looking to introduce a more creative element to his midfield and forward line. You wouldn’t necessarily associate sexy football with names like Whitehead, Delap, Fuller et al. Having said that they do possess two very good wingers. Etherington and Pennant scored heavily last season, and in Jonathan Walters they have a midfielder, who was regularly employed as a secondary striker last year, and could score heavily again in this campaign. Defensively, you can rely on Pulis picking Huth and Shawcross whenever fit. Spend your defensive pounds here to save money and give you more attacking options.

  • Pick – Robert Huth. Like Hangeland, he finds the net. And not much gets past him.
  • Bargain – Kenwyne Jones. Currently Stoke’s only fit striker. Will probably hit double figures, and a snip at 6.5 million.
  • Avoid – Jonathan Woodgate. Won’t dislodge Huth and Shawcross in a hurry. Will probably injure himself walking to training.

Sunderland

Sunderland have bought a new team. Again. They did that last year, and it didn’t work out, so they’ve given it another shot this year. More Man Utd dregs and a couple of frees, plus Conor Whickham, who could have gone anywhere, so I suspect he landed at the Stadium of Light becasue they offered him silly money. They’re not a bad fantasy option. Even Titus Bramble appeared to be worth a gamble for the first half of last season. They tore Chelsea apart – a result which started their downfall. Then they got tonked 5-1 at Sid James Park, and they started to slip towards a relegation battle. Expect more inconsistency this season. They may make a good start – but I wouldn’t expect any Sunderland players to be rooted in your fantasy team.

  • Pick – Asamoah Gyan. Will score 15-20 if he gets the service.
  • Bargain – Phil Bardsley. Discovered an ability to score goals last season. Should get the occasional clean sheet bonus too.
  • Avoid – Lee Cattermole. He probably won’t get to the end of August without being sent off.
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