Season preview. Liverpool – Newcastle

August 12, 2013

Liverpool

At the moment it doesn’t really matter where Luis Suarez ends up because you’re not going to be able to play him until mid September anyway. As I write, he’s training with the reserves, and his manager is calling for an apology from him to his team mates and the fans. I doubt he’ll get one. I can understand them not wanting him to move on to Arsenal – but is there anyway back now for him? From a fantasy point of view – who cares? Come October, if he’s started scoring, whether it be at Anfield or the Emirates, no-one will give a shit. With this protracted transfer saga, and the similar shenanigans surrounding Gareth Bale, it does open up two huge gaps in your fantasy squad. If they were both fit and focused, I dare say 50% of teams would pick the pair – and probably RVP and team full of Palace reserves. There are plenty of nicer alternatives in this Liverpool team. Not least Phillippe Coutinho, who, in 12 and a bit games, managed 70 points in the second half of last season following his January transfer. That’s between 5 and 6 points per appearance. Scoring at the same rate over a full season will bag him somewhere around the 200 point mark. They should close the gap on the top 6 this year. They’ll probably usurp Everton, and depending on Bale, could even make a play for Spurs and fifth. But the top 4 maybe a bridge too far. Still, expect strength at home, with a healthy amount of clean sheets, and in Suarez’s absence, Danny Sturridge looks more than capable of stepping up to the plate, as he had to last year.

Buy:- Phillippe Coutinho. Liverpool’s answer to Silva, Cazorla and Mata.

Avoid:- Luis Suarez. For now.

Bargain:- Kolo Toure. Maybe not the player he was but sounds like he’s first choice partner for Agger ahead of Skrtel.

Manchester City

City have spent the most money of any club thus far, and have vastly improved their attacking options. Gone are the problem children, Tevez and Balotelli, and in come Navas, Jovetic and Negredo. Where, how, and if they all fit is anyone’s guess. New manager Pellegrini has the welcome headache of having seen Dzeko and Milner, buy all accounts, have impressive pre seasons. If any two players were going to make way, it was the aforementioned. Much like Chelsea, second guessing the starting line up for their first game is tough. Hart, Komapny and Toure are probably certain of a berth. Zabaleta will probably continue ahead of Micah Richards at right back. Richards could be in with a chance of a centre back place alongside Kompany, and will battle with Joleon Lescott for that role. Gael Clichy probably still has the edge on Kolarov for left back. Sergio Aguero hasn’t played a minute of pre season, so it’s anyone’s guess which of their remaining three £20 million plus strikers will get the nod. New signing Fernandinho looks to be favourite ahead of Barry and Garcia alongside Toure, and then Navas, Silva, Milner and Nasri will take up the other two forward roles. Regardless of how the squad rotates, expect all players to score well when they get their chance. With such an array of attacking options, don’t be surprised to see them as the league’s top scorers come May. They’ve a great run of games up until their derby clash with United 5 games in. Four clean sheets and a sackful of goals is a distinct possibility.

Buy:- David Silva. A slight drop in his starting value from last season. If he recaptures the form of the previous season, 9 million is good value.

Avoid:- Gareth Barry. Slipping down the pecking order.

Bargain:- Edin Dzeko. Their cheapest striker, but as we speak, their most in form.

 

Manchester United

So, the Dark Lord has gone. Where does that leave Man Utd? It makes you realise what a massive impact their former manager had. That squad with him looked like a title winning side. That squad without him…doesn’t. From a fantasy viewpoint, there’s still only one player really worth investing in. And that’s 14 million RVP. Don’t balk at the price. Remember (potentially) there’s no Bale. So you can more than afford to splash the cash on last seasons leading striker and overall points scorer. If you look at last years final totals, only Patrice Evra and Wayne Rooney finished in the top 30 players. And Rooney only just – finishing lower than Asmir Begovic, Robert Snodgrass and Rickie Lambert among a few other less glamorous names. It doesn’t look like Rooney’s anywhere near the starting line up anytime soon either. You’re more likely to see him in a Chelsea shirt by the time the month is out. Like Suarez, bridges seem to have been burnt. Fergie hardly ever picked the same team for two consecutive matches, hence the lowness of some of the other players scores from last season. Moyes might have a different approach. There’s obviously money to spend, although they’ve received nothing but knockbacks so far. Bids for Fabregas, Baines, Modric, Lewandoski and Fellaini have all (so far) been unsuccessful. Yet, there’s still enough time. Don’t lets rule out them getting one of Bale or Ronaldo. Then those predictions of a 3rd place finish might have to be rethought.

Buy:- Robin Van Persie. No brainer.

Avoid:- Rio Ferdinand. Won’t play every week, and may well end up being relegated from 1st team thinking altogether if Jones, Smalling or Evans can step up.

Bargain:- Danny Welbeck. Early season doubts with Rooney, Hernandez, Nani and Young virtually guarantee Welbeck a chance.

 

Newcastle United

Two seasons ago, finishing 5th was a massive over-achievement. Last season finishing 16th was a massive under-achievement. Hopefully. If ever a bunch of fans wanted a season of mid table mediocrity with no dramas and a nice cup run, it’s those that support Newcastle. It doesn’t look like that’s a possibility. Luckily playing Buckets doesn’t require you to invest in a Dioector of Football. I imagine if it did, Joe Kinnear wouldn’t be top of that list, and I’d like to think he’d come in at around the same price as the Crystal Palace tea-lady. There’s one new face – Loic Remy – who could be in jail by November. They’ve got City in their first game, and FPL managers don’t seem keen on picking any Newcastle players. Yohan Cabaye is the most popular pick at the moment – but only 5 % of managers are taking that chance. Three times as many managers fancy Robert Snodgrass (sorry Robert) at the same price. But look beyond the imminent first defeat of the season, and there’s a run of fixtures that could result in wins, points and goals – welcoming West Ham and Fulham to St James, and then away trips to Villa and Hull. The defence has to play better than last season. The first choice back line have seen their values drop dramatically, and if they keep closer to 14 clean sheets as they did in 2011/12  rather than the 6 clean sheets they kept last season, the likes of Coloccini, Taylor, Santon or Debuchy could be attractive acquisitions. I fear that won’t be the case however.

Buy:- Hatem Ben Arfa. The only Newcastle player with any flair. Put him in a top 6 team and he’d flourish. But he needs to stay injury free.

Avoid:- Cheik Tiote. Not even worth having on the bench in emergencies.

Bargain:- Mathieu Debuchy. He’s had his settling in period, now he needs to show why he’s France’s first choice right back. 10 clean sheets and a few assists from wide areas please.

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