Season Preview. Arsenal – Cardiff

August 7, 2013

Arsenal

Curiously all of the Arsenal backline is priced at under 5.5 million pounds. So why not go with an all Gunner defence? Well, last year, they were forced into rotating with long term injuries to Gibbs and Sagna, and the lack of form shown by their then new captain, Thomas Vermaelen. Vermaelen looks to be injured at the moment, so choosing between Monreal and Gibbs looks to be the only selection headache. Despite their cheapness, the all Arsenal defence is a bit of a non starter when you consider how many goals Arsenal always manage to score. Maybe opting for one of Mertesacker or Koscielny with a pick of their strong midfield and attack would be the best option. Cazorla and Walcott will be popular choices again. Both hit double figures for goals, assists and bonuses last season. Jack Wilshere is playing again and comes in at 6.5 million. If he stays fit, he starts every game, and providing he can keep his temper in check, should be a regular alongside Mikel Arteta, who is first choice penalty taker. If Luis Suarez arrives, that will probably relegate both Olivier Giroud and Lukas Podolski to the bench. Giroud was favoured towards the end of last term, and even if the scumbag Uruguayan does arrive, he misses the first six games due to suspension. Giroud, at 8.5 million, is attractively priced, and could be well worth a punt over the opening weeks of the season.

Buy:- Theo Walcott. Could play as a lone frontman at times, and so could get more goals than Cazorla

Avoid:- Abou Diaby. Injured now. Will get injured again.

Bargain:- Per Mertesacker. Dont believe the pundits. None of them like him, but you don’t lose points for being a lumbering German. He weighs in with the odd goal, and despite any personal failings, the team will keep somewhere in the region of 15 clean sheets this season.

Aston Villa

Paul Lambert, may one day, buy some players that Villa fans have heard of. He’s “strengthened” his squad this summer with five new signings. Of which, it’s thought, Antonio Luna will become the new first choice left back, Jores Okore will partner Ron Vlaar in the heart of the defence, and Aleksandar Tonev will find a place in midfield. Despite teetering on the brink for most of last term, their end of season form showed glimpses of a young team coming together. They eventually escaped relegation with games to spare. Improvements were obviously needed in defence, and midfield. Time will tell if they can stem the tide of goals – conceding 8 against Chelsea, and 69 overall. They were saved by their attacking line up, who started banging in the goals as the season came to a close. Forget the new boys, the new contract offered to, and accepted by Christian Benteke is their best bit of summer business. One of last seasons bargain buys is now priced at 9 million, but a return of 19 goals, 4 assists and 23 bonus points probably justifies that increased valuation. Alongside the power and strength of Benteke is a revitalised Gabby Agbonlahor and the ever improving Andreas Weimann. Both are temptingly priced at 7 and 6 million respectively. One, two or maybe all three of these players could return well in the first week – a double gameweek for Villa. But be aware of a tricky run of fixtures, and a blank week in the immediate aftermath.

Buy:- Christian Benteke. Has the raw talent to score against anybody.

Avoid:- Darren Bent. Not even thought of highly enough to train with the tea lady five-a-side team. Should move on, but his silly transfer fee and ridiculous wages could scupper that chance.

Bargain:- Andreas Weimann. Definitely a contender to be the best bargain buy.

Cardiff City

First up of the new boys. Cardiff won the Championship with games to spare last season. Their defensive strength was key to that win. How will that solid defence cope against the Premier League’s top forwards? Well, if you’re going to put your faith in any of the promoted teams – for those lower priced options – those bench warmers that are as key to your team’s success as the first choicer’s – then Cardiff is the best place to start. Ben Turner, Mark Hudson, Andrew Taylor and Matthew Connolly were the mainstays in that defence, and all come in at under 4.5 million. Steven Caulker has been bought from Spurs. His 5 million price tag suggests he could be straight into the starting line up, possibly at the expense of Turner, and alongside Hudson, their captain. Cardiff will be strong at home, and will keep the odd clean sheet there. Every team needs one or two 4/4,5 million defenders. Connolly managed 5 goals last season and he could be the best pick of this team. Further forward there are some familiar names. Peter Whittingham gets his chance at Premier League football again. Whittingham takes most set pieces, and is reasonably priced at 5 million. Craig Bellamy comes in at 5.5 million, and is classed as a midfielder. Injuries still niggle at Bellamy, so it’s unlikely you’ll get a full season out of him. Aron Gunnarrson was Cardiff’s best midfielder in terms of appearances and goals last season, and should start, as should their new signing up top, Andreas Cornelius, who scored 17 goals in Danish Football last season and has been bought to lead the line. Depending on your formation tactics, having Cornelius as your cheap striker option could yield some unexpected goals if he adapts quickly.

Buy:- Andreas Cornelius. Why not? 5.5 million for a leading striker is cheap as.

Avoid:- Frazer Campbell. Talented striker, but could be relegated to bench-warming again after the arrival of Cornelius

Bargain:- Matthew Connolly. Regular, and could get goals.

Chelsea

Blank screen. Where to start. Click on the Chelsea link. It’s a double gameweek. Chelsea’s propensity for fluking their way to European titles shows no sign of letting up. As with last season, their scheduled appearance in the European Super Cup means that they play twice in the opening week. Last year, Rip Roaring Reds scored 102 points in the first week of Buckets based on the right Chelsea picks. Last season Ivanovic, Hazard and Lampard scored double figures in that opening gameweek. It effectively won the August Manager of the Month award for RRR. This season they play Hull and Villa. Definitely two winnable games – and two potential clean sheets. Second guessing Mourinho’s first line ups isn’t going to be easy. First there’s the wealth of talent at their disposal. And secondly the indication already from the manager that Mata, Torres and Azpilicueta may miss the first game due to a Spanish international match on the 14th August. It’s odds on that Cech will start in goal, Cole at left back, and probably Hazard in midfield. Every other position is up for grabs. If Azpilicueta is left out, Ivanovic will start at right back, and it’s two from three in the middle of the defence. Unless David Luiz is employed in midfield, which would suggest Mikel and Essien would get no further than the bench. Romelu Lukaku has been impressing in pre-season, so there’s a fair chance he’ll get the centre forward berth. The midfield is packed full of options. Oscar showed fleeting glimpses last season. The £18 million outlay on Andre Schurrle would indicate that he’s a strong contender. Then there’s Mourinho’s buddy, Frank Lampard. Add Victor Moses, Ramires, Marco Van Ginkel, Dema Ba and Kevin de Bruyne and you’ve got a…Friday night headache. And this headache could last all season. It’s no doubt they’ll be contenders for the league. A first team line up will become clearer as the season progresses, but rotation will be key as and when the Champions League becomes more serious.

Buy:- Eden Hazard. Mata may eventually outscore him, but for those first few games, Hazard is the most likely to gets points on the board.

Avoid:- Jon Obi Mikel. The curse of the defensive midfielder.

Bargain:- Romelu Lukaku. If pre-season form continues, and he makes this position his own, 8 million is a snip for a title contender’s leading striker

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