Mario has something he would like to show you.
Ladies and gentlemen, the Transfer Window Simulator is here, and I’m off to Barbados.
Oh wait… I’d better explain how to use this new toy.
Well hello there from all of us. We’ve even attached a postcard above from our tough training camp. You can see all of us have been having a great time, though some of us are a little worse for wear from last night’s pre-tournament party – the four lads at the top were snapped around 4am after the 7th round of tequilas. I’m typing this from a laptop covered in silly string and party poppers with a dull headache and a serious case of the munchies. So, how are we doing? The mood in the camp is very relaxed with the experienced management team of Cap’n Berbilly, Vice Cap’n Giggs Boson and Coach TW not only running things with ease but covering all of our drinks! Cheers!
Serie A Game Week 12 Preview – by Goonerdhanesh
Game week 11 saw some thrilling encounters, some end to end stuff, some awesome victories and some shock losses. In the light of recent events in GW 11, I can assure you that GW 12 will be nothing short of a purely entertaining week in serie A.
One of the best things in serie A league is that the league is still wide open and no one are still sure of what will be their final standings after season 1. But the current leader Atlanta who is having a comfortable 6 points lead over others can be the only comfortable manager coming in to this game week.
As said earlier the league is wide open. Managers ranging from 2nd spot in the points table to 10th spot are only separated by just 3 points which means that a defeat in the coming weeks for any of these managers can dump them down to the bottom half of the table.
Further down in the table, managers ranked from 11th to 16th spot are only 2 to 3 points away from the 10th placed manager, which again means the league is very much wide open for them too. This is why I said that a defeat in the coming weeks could dump the managers down to the bottom half of the table.
And that is why I think GW 12 is one of the most promising game weeks in serie A league with all the managers want none other than 3 points from their respective games. And I am sure some of them are also preparing intensely to beat their counterparts in the coming weeks.
Although at this time I am not able to see any teams for GW 12, I feel like I have to give a preview to some of the upcoming matches in serie A this week although not all the matches are covered here.
1. Atlanta(MJ6987) vs Internazionale(Isacki)
Arguably the biggest match this weekend is between the league leader Atlanta and the 3rd placed Inter. As far as the information that I have got, both the managers talked to each other and both the managers are in confident mood ahead of their game week clash. While Atlanta comes to this match with a 6 points lead and with 4 consecutive victories over serie A rivals, Internazionale are also in fine form after thrashing Juventus in Gameweek 11.
Moreover a win could assure Atlanta a further lead in Serie A tables whereas a win for Inter will see Inter closing on Atlanta by reducing the gap to just 3 points.
I am pretty much sure that this match will be a close call as both of them have strong team and suspect that the match verdict will go to the one who makes the right captain choice.
Good luck MJ and Isacki!!!
2. Chievo Verona(Reina Man) vs Udinese(Menly)
Both the managers are now sitting tight on 6th and 5th respectively in the league. Both the managers are coming to this match searching for their first win after Game week 9. While Cheivo Verona lost to Pescara and AC Milan, Udinese lost to Catania and Bologna in the previous weeks and since they are aiming to return to the winning ways, this match is also going to be a cracking one for sure. A win would bring any one of them to 21 points and close the gap on leaders whereas a 3rd straight loss means it will need real hard work and a bit of luck to get back to the top 4 CL spot.
3.Lazio (forca inter) vs AS Roma(Udit)
Pretty much like Chievo Verona and Udinese, these two teams are also on 18 points currently and are sitting in 8th and 7th spot respectively. While Lazio is looking to avoid 3rd straight loss, Roma is keen to get back 3 points after losing to Palermo last week.
Like I said previously, a win for any one will bring them closer to the leaders and a potential CL spot whereas Loss means it will be hard to get back from now on.
4. Palermo(Mark) vs Sampdoria(Megatron X)
After notching up the highest score in Serie A in GW 11, Palermo looks set to continue the same form against Sampdoria who lost the last match against the league leader Atlanta. While Palermo sits in 4th spot in the table with 19 points, Sampdoria now is at 9th spot with 18 points. With just one point separating these two sides, both of them are going to try hard for a win over the other and prove to be a competitive side to watch out in the coming weeks.
5. US Pescara(goonerdhanesh) vs Juventus(Pratik)
It is a rare co incidence that Arsenal fan Dhanesh is going to meet Spurs fan and popular FPL manager Pratik on the same week when Arsenal clash against the north London rivals Tottenham(popularly called as the north London Derby) in the Premier League. Whilst Pescara is looking for the 3rd consecutive win, Juventus has vowed that they will be back in the winning ways possibly defeating Pescara and thus giving a statement that Juventus can also be a threat to all the other clubs in the coming weeks. Pescara sits 2nd in the league and also sees this as a perfect opportunity to close the gap on leader Atlanta bearing in mind that the 1st placed Atlanta and 3rd placed Inter are clashing this week.
Other interesting matches in this weekend are
- AC Milan (18th ) vs Fiorentina (11th)
- Cagliari (19th) vs Catania (20th)- The relegation battle.
- Genoa (14th) vs Napoli (13th)
- Parma (17th) vs Siena (15th)
- Torino (12th) vs Bologna (10th)
This week’s patroller: Isacki
Here’s this week’s overview of some popular players’ prospects. Any resemblance to my squad is purely coincidental, but hey, the devil you know…
QPR have only scored 8 goals in 10 games. Despite their reputation as a home team, they have scored a slightly greater proportion (60%) of those away than at home. Even so, Stoke’s incredible home defensive record is back with a vengeance with only 1 goal conceded so far! With the QPR attack still not clinical enough despite some improvement in all round play, he looks like one of the best candidates for a CS this week.
Baines (SUN) & Pienaar (SUN)
Sunderland have infamously only scored 5 goals all season. Everton have been conceding an average number of goals with 13 conceded from 10 games. Their home record is somewhat better though with 5 conceded so far. Baines looks another solid contender for a CS. In attack he’ll be up against Sunderland right back Phil Bardsley who is fairly solid. Bardsley won’t receive much support from Adam Johnson though, and it’s very likely that attacks will pour down the Everton left with Baines & Pienaar combining. Sunderland have a stubborn defence, but have conceded twice as many goals away than at home.
Arsenal have been frustrating in attack with only 13 goals from 10 games. There’s no improvement in their home scoring either. However, Fulham have been living up to their home team stereotype in a defensive sense with some extremely leaky away defending, conceding an average of 2.4 goals per match. The big question for me this week both in a fantasy sense and for the sake of my club is whether our front three start getting into goalscoring positions, particularly the wide forwards. On that note, Walcott looks set to come in and has done just about everything to show that he is the right man to solve this. Cazorla, on the other hand, looks set to produce modest returns IMO. This is because when the flanks do explode (as they did when we thrashed Southampton) he gets few assists and goals, and when they don’t we simply don’t score. Apart from his endless potshots from distance, I see him producing unspectacular points, unless the system completely changes and he is able to play through balls through the centre.
Liverpool have been leaky defensively with 15 goals conceded, though there are signs they are tightening up of late. Chelsea on the other hand have been consistent up front with 2.2 goals per game overall and 2.6 goals per game at home. Mata’s incredible form, tactical importance to Chelsea and dominance of set pieces make him likely to be involved in any goals Chelsea score. As a matter of fact, he has been involved in an incredible two-thirds of Chelsea’s goals in the last four matches he’s played. If he plays on the right he’ll be up against a fairly solid left back in Jose Enrique. However, he’ll drift central so much he is more likely to be up against the likes of Allen who is not strong defensively. Andre Wisdom has been identified as a potential weak spot in the Liverpool defence, but with Johnson and Enrique potentially available, remains to be seen whether he plays or where he plays.
Spurs have been average scorers at 1.6 goals per game overall but this increases to a remarkable 2.25 goals per game away, which tallies with anyone who watched Spurs dissect United on the counterattack at Old Trafford. Bale remains one of the most threatening midfielders in the game, though Spurs’ team attacking statistics are undistinguished and the absence of Dembele and potentially Sandro appears to have robbed them of the midfield fluidity they need to break through defences. Failing to score at home to Wigan tells its own story. Spurs’ strong Europa League performance to defeat Maribor via a Defoe hat-trick and two Bale assists is encouraging. Fittingly, it was achieved with a change of formation to 4-4-2 with Adebayor replacing a midfielder, where Spurs are currently short of options. It is difficult to conceive AVB risking fewer men in midfield away to Man City though, and there is of course some fatigue to be expected from Bale playing 90 minutes on a Thursday night. Prospects are mixed, with the City defence tightening up of late.
Good potential on paper, with United averaging 2.5 goals per game and Villa averaging 1.4 goals conceded per game. Villa have been unreliable for clean sheets this season, though they have also generally refused to be thrashed. United’s record at Villa Park is surprisingly poor, with 3 draws and a single win in the last 4 meetings and an average of a mere 1 goal scored per game. Defensively, Villa have also been stronger at home (1.25 goals conceded per game) than away (1.9 goals conceded per game). While RVP has looked like an easy captaincy choice this week, especially after his CL rest, this may merit at least a pause for thought. The big question is whether the United lineup will be more threatening than that of previous years. While RVP’s arrival significantly upgrades the personnel, the system may well be familiar with the most likely option being a 4-4-1-1 flanked by Young and Valencia.
Arsenal maintain a surprisingly solid defensive record with only 8 goals conceded all season and only 3 at home. It would not be surprising if the majority of these goals were conceded from set pieces, which remain Arsenal’s Achilles’ heel. Fulham have a flourishing attack with 18 goals scored so far, though their home team status is beginning to show again with only 7 of these scored away. Until recently Berbatov boasted enviable involvement in Fulham goalscoring. As may well be familiar, Jol’s rotating of strike partners for Berbatov has not quite worked out for him of late and his threat has diminished somewhat alongside Ruiz. His prospects look poor at the Emirates unless Jol has a new trick up his sleeve.
Despite Southampton’s reputation for goalscoring they find themselves on a fairly average 1.3 goals per game. This increases to a decent but still modest 1.6 goals per game at home. They may perhaps have flattered to deceive a little at the start, or had the stuffing knocked out of them by the cruel clinicality of the Premier League. They are up against a leaky side at the back, with Swansea conceding 1.4 goals per game, though their away record is slightly better. Lambert has a good record of starting in home games and despite over a month without a goal could perhaps be relied upon for another chance. The potential is certainly present in this lopsidedly attacking team, with Ramirez’s return the most exciting factor. While West Brom shut them out in impressively dedicated fashion, Swansea may be open enough to give them the space they need to thrive. If Southampton can rediscover the form with which they beat Villa 4-1 at home, with Lambert scoring twice, he is a great candidate this week.
Not every gameweek gets a preview. Only the really special, deserving ones receive the red carpet treatment, and this one is the biggest yet. As outlined in the review of leagues a few weeks back, Serie A is possibly the closest and most competitive league in FFS UEFA, with only 3 points separating 2nd place from 11th place, no runaway leader and 14 teams sitting on points differences between -50 and +50 over 9 weeks of action. GW10 marks the halfway point of this Serie A season, with the battle for the title and European spots continuing in earnest. As you doubtless know, the top 4 enter the Champions League with places 5-10 entering the Europa League.
The fixtures are perfectly set up to create a gameweek of destiny. In the top half of the table, 1st plays 6th, 3rd plays 8th and 4th plays 9th. Potential banana skins loom for the current high-fliers, with 2nd playing 20th and 5th playing 17th, among many other exciting matchups.
But if that wasn’t enough, we’ve been hit at Halloween by the FPL gameweek of horror. The fixtures looked bad enough to us at last gameweek’s deadline. All hell then broke loose and made for the nearest template footballer. First Wilson out for months, Berba’s rib scare, and Ba’s shin tweak and subbing off. Despite this, the worst was yet to come, and come it did at the end of the working week. Today’s news that Mata’s hamstring is “very doubtful” leaves many people struggling to field a full team without hits. The possibilities are endless. The horror is unending.
Welcome… to the Gameweek of Horror!
Atalanta (MJ6987, 1st) v Napoli (Daniel, 6th)
Top of the league by 3 points, MJ6987 looks to squeeze out another victory but is up against an unpredictable opponent in Daniel who does have a remarkably high points difference of 67. At the back it’s Cuellar, Hughes and Clyne for MJ6987 against Gallas, Johnson and Wilson, with half carrying injuries. Midfield comes down to Fellaini against Nolan with the other 4 slots very much agreed on, it appears. Even the forward lines are very similar, with the only difference being Daniel’s Aguero against RVP. Looks like this one is coming down to who sorts their defence out best…
Udinese (Menly, 2nd) v Catania (Djerbil, 20th)
Looking to emulate his hero Di Natale by qualifying for the Champ… oops, best not to mention that I guess… Menly plays the bottom placed Djerbil. It’s not been a great season so far for Djerbil but as they say, he must be due. Both have Foster so may well be tied in goal. The defensive battle is fought between the home team’s Mertesacker, Baines, Hughes and the recuperating Demel, against Hangeland, Gorkss, doubtful Cuellar and the injured Gibbs. Again, both could be a bit light in defence. The midfield battle is interesting with Udinese playing Bale, Gervinho, Morrison and Yaya against Mata, Nolan, Cazorla and Ben Arfa. Fascinating variety. Up front there are no players in common either, with Udinese’s Ba, Suarez and Lambert facing off against Aguero, Berbatov and Fletcher. An extremely open game.
Chievo Verona (Reina Man, 3rd) v US Pescara (Goonerdhanesh, 8th)
The FFS resident photographer Reina Man faces off against my fellow Goonerdhanesh in a European qualification battle. It’s almost certain to be Mignolet v Begovic in goal – looks pretty even between the two most exciting defences in the Premiership. Defence is competitive with Mertesacker, Hughes, Baines and Demel up against Ivanovic, Cuellar, Rafael, McAuley and Clyne. Including the injured Wilson, that’s 10 different defenders. Midfield is again open with Michu, Sterling, Pienaar and Ben Arfa meeting Bale, the very doubtful Mata, Yaya and Fellaini. Up front it’s yet more refreshing variety – perhaps the secret of Serie A’s competitiveness! – with RVP, Tevez and Petric against Ba, Berbatov and Lambert. Wide open.
Internazionale (Isacki, 4th) v Sampdoria (Megatron x, 9th)
This is the bit where the author tries desperately not to give away his transfers while setting out the battle lines. Having finally got a winning run together, he takes on the most psychedelic guy in the deadzone – megatron x. With both owning Begovic, there’s a possibility of cancelling out in the goalkeeper area. Defence looks like a scene from a slasher movie with both teams suffering from Cuellar doubts and an “unknown return date” for Demel. Isacki has Richards out for the count too. So it’s Boyce and whoever manages to turn up against Gorkss and Davies. In midfield it’s Mata and Sterling against Maloney and Hazard, with Sampdoria looking in much better shape there. Up front it’s RVP, Berbatov and the repeatedly-benched Lambert against Ba, Suarez and Tevez. It’s Sampdoria’s to lose… no pressure!
Lazio (Forca Inter, 5th) v Torino (BowString 92, 17th)
Everyone’s favourite Suarez fan hosts the famous talking FPL fish. In a bizarre twist of fate, it’s actually the away team that own Suarez, pairing him with Tevez against Ba and Jelavic in a contest that will probably be decided by the condition of Ba’s shin. In goal it’s likely to be even with both owning Foster. In defence it’s Hughes, Gorkss, Nelsen and doubtful Demel against Gallas, Davies and Rafael with Wilson injured. Clean sheets look scarce. The midfield comes down to Mata, Cazorla, Bale and Michu and injured Guthrie against Fellaini, Yaya, Morrison and Sterling and injured Gervinho. Another hard one to call.
Juventus (Pratik, 10th) v Bologna (Frazek, 15th)
Council member Pratik looks to improve in his own competition against Spurs fan Frazek. Both will probably choose to play Begovic in goal. In defence it’s Gallas, Hughes and the curiously missing Steven Taylor against Coloccini, doubtful Cuellar and Wisdom. Midfield is open with Ben Arfa, admirable differential Gerrard and Bale against Michu, Yaya and a fading Kacaniklic. Up front, the home team goes without RVP to field a midpriced forward line of Podolski, Berbatov and Ba against RVP, will-he-won’t-he-play Lambert and Aguero. Will Frazek’s heavy hitter attack see him through or Pratik’s midfield flair triumph?
Palermo (Mark, 11th) v AC Milan (Milanista, 18th)
Scoutcast fan Milanista will perhaps be listening a little closer to this week’s podcast looking for subliminal messages in his battle against Mr FFS, so be prepared for the inexplicable appearance of Victor Moses. The home team edges behind in goal, with Jaaskelainen against Begovic or Foster. The home team’s defence is also threadbare with current injuries setting up Davies against Boyce, Rafael and McAuley. It’s in midfield that the battle hots up with steadfast keeper Cazorla, Hazard and Michu against Bale, Kightly and a not-so-hazardous Mata. Up front Mark edges ahead with Tevez and Berbatov against Lambert and Jelavic.
Parma (Little_Wizard123, 13th) v AS Roma (Udit, 7th)
The lesser spotted Udit travels to Parma knowing a win could propel him into the Champions League spots, while a win for Little_Wizard123 could get him into the Europa zone. In goal it’s Begovic v Begovic/Foster. In defence it’s Baines, Cuellar and McAuley against Hangeland and Figueroa with Fabio injured. In midfield, Maloney and Sterling play the Batman duo of Bale and Nolan – very much in keeping with an Udit grav. Strikers are slightly in the home team’s favour with Tevez and Fletcher against Jelavic and Lambert. Too close to call.
Genoa (EX, 14th) v Fiorentina (RoysCallerAnne, 16th)
Old-timer in more ways than one – I really do think I am going to pay for writing this article – RoysCallerAnne hosts Ex in a battle to stay clear of the “relegation zone” which actually doesn’t exist because there are no lower leagues. It’s another Begovic v Begovic/Foster affiar in goal. Defence is Rangel, Cuellar and the benched Steven Taylor against Davies, Boyce and the injured Demel. Midfield is Michu, Sterling and Pienaar against Nolan, injured Guthrie and injured Gervinho. It’s Giroud v Tevez up front. As if to complete the uncertainty, both own Ba. The home team look likelier to field 11. It might come down to that.
Cagliari (Grounderz, 19th) v Siena (Running Riot, 12th)
Second-from-bottom Grounderz hopes to finally get Running Riot. Grounderz’s defence of Baines, Hughes, doubtful Clark and injured Demel against RR’s Santon, Gorkss, Davies and Cole could be a close one. Both own Fonte, and must feel rather chuffed at picking the only Southampton defender who hasn’t been an absolute disaster. In midfield the old Mata v Hazard debate rears its head again, with Yaya and the injured Guthrie against Michu and Sterling. The strikers are identical. The away team could nick it.
20 teams down and 300 players digested. It’s down to you now to escape from the Gameweek of Horror!
The transfer window has just shut, bringing to a close possibly the greatest summer of spending ever seen in the Premier League. While big names, big fees and big clubs naturally catch the eye, there is a wealth of new players with low ownership, some of which have the capacity to deliver not just value but arguably outscore the heavy hitters. Here I’ve pinpointed 6 players who I’d characterize as credible differentials with considerable upside. All are below 7.9 in price, and all I would consider putting in my team if I only had a free transfer…
Steven Fletcher (7.0)
Fletcher is simply very good at one thing: poaching. With most of his goals coming from around the six-yard box, he makes Van Nistelrooy’s shooting look like David Beckham. Fletcher is particularly gifted in the air with numerous headed finishes. He was perhaps the only shining light in a woeful season for Wolves last year, grabbing 12 goals and 2 assists. Impressively, he demonstrated an immunity to fixtures, scoring against United and Arsenal to name a few. Having prospered with undistinguished service, Sunderland offer him the very real possibility of blowing that tally out of the water. With the signing of Adam Johnson, set to return soon after injury, Sunderland are ideally placed to service Fletcher by his favourite route: crosses. As partners in crime, he will have McClean and Johnson crossing from the wing, Larsson’s set pieces and Sessegnon supporting the striker with his personal brand of magic.
Of course, this is one differential that is rapidly ceasing to exist: Fletcher walked straight into the starting lineup just days after signing and scored twice in his debut in a tricky match away to Swansea, who hadn’t conceded yet. Both goals were classic poacher finishes. Fletcher is clearly sharp as a razor and hitting the ground running. In my view, he could be this year’s Papiss Cisse.
Arouna Kone (6.5) & Franco Di Santo (5.5)
Stereotypes have to be updated occasionally. Arsenal being poor at the back… Fulham only being good for home cleanies… Man City being chokers. For this particular differential, I think the relevant stereotype is that of Wigan being no-hopers. I won’t bore you to death with the glories of the formation change and Martinez’s positive football, but suffice to say, three games in, they are happily refusing to struggle. The difference this season is in the forward line. Last year, of the three forwards, Maloney played on the left, Moses in several positions including the right, and Di Santo as center-forward. With the sale of Moses and the arrival of Kone, Kone has become center-forward with Di Santo moving to the right. The effect has been pronounced – all three of the frontline have scored, with Di Santo notching twice and Kone scoring once. To see the full glory of the stats you should bag yourself an FFS membership, but suffice to say Kone’s stats so far at center-forward utterly blow Di Santo’s from last season out of the water. It may well be that both strikers have found their best positions.
In Chelsea’s galaxy of midfielders, Oscar has slipped under the radar somewhat due to the delightful distractions of Hazard and his understandable lack of early gametime. Even without knowing he has represented Brazil at virtually every level, become the first player to score a hat-trick in the FIFA U-20 World Cup final, scored in a friendly against Argentina, and provided all the goals in Brazil’s 2012 Olympic campaign alongside Neymar, you know from watching him once that he’s a supremely gifted player. He’s already been given two cameos of 27 minutes and 34 minutes against Wigan and Reading, though he stayed on the bench for the tricky visit of Newcastle. For me, Oscar is on course to become Hazard’s partner-in-crime in attacking midfield this season, with the two fluidly interchanging anywhere in the strip behind Torres. If we reasonably expect him to continue to be deployed against smaller teams, upcoming fixtures of qpr, STO, followed two weeks later by NOR, offer chances for him to explode. Definitely one to watch – this boy is coming to the back pages very soon.
Charlie Adam (6.8)
Adam going to Stoke is one of those transfers that seems like a perfect fit. Peter Crouch up front. A team built around crossing. A new central midfielder to sling in ‘Hollywood’ long balls. Liverpool were characterized as a failure last season and Adam has gone down with the ship in that regard with an ownership of only 1.3%. Adam’s record from last season is considerably better than you might expect. 2 goals and 11 assists is a particularly impressive return in a team which only scored 42 goals. Adam also played exclusively in deep central midfield in Dalglish’s ill-fated 4-2-3-1. At Stoke, he’ll be playing a little more advanced in the midfield two of a 4-4-2. There’s obviously very limited data from this season with only a 58 minute appearance, but his average position looks about as expected. Adam is on free kicks, while we may yet see if he establishes himself as a corner-taker. All these add up to improved assist potential relative to a season where he managed double-figure assists. He’s now 2.2 cheaper.
Pablo Hernandez (6.5)
With Laudrup’s Swansea playing sparkling attacking football and a good run of fixtures, any of their attacking assets has to be considered. Pablo Hernandez’s arrival is likely to oust Routledge playing on the left, instead of Dyer, particularly given that Routledge comes out inferior to Dyer on most stats so far this season. That’s not to say that Routledge has failed to deliver – with 3 assists and 1 goals he is currently a major scorer in FPL. Dyer and Routledge, as the wide midfielders in the attacking three, have prospered from Rodgers’ tactical change bringing them closer to the centre and increasing their involvement. The question is: what Hernandez can bring to the table? He certainly has some pedigree having played for Valencia, and his total time in La Liga yielded 19 goals and 22 assists from 139 appearances. It should be noted that a considerable fraction of these were off the bench – of his total appearances of 30, 27 and 33 in the last 3 seasons, he was subbed on for 11, 7 and 8 times respectively. If he can offer threat comparable to his compatriot Michu, he is definitely an option at 0.9 cheaper.
This week’s patrollers: Isacki & Pratik
A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, there used to be a popular FFS post in midweek appropriately named the ‘Midweek Meander’. In this post, Mark would, in his own words:
“take a sideways glance at the games that approach us, offering my view on your best bet for clean sheets and goals and which team/player/manager you’ll be wringing your hands over come Sunday evening.”
Having been given the nod to continue this, though under a different name – to avoid us instantly and spectacularly destroying the credibility of the FFS brand by backing Boselli (C) – we present the very first article of this rebooted series with a rebooted name and a logo of its very own!
AT THE BACK
No surprises here. With Newcastle’s first choice CBs back playing together again at home to woeful Villa, a clean sheet is very much on the cards. Newcastle conceded a stingy 17 goals in 19 games at home last year, and Villa look likely to tend more towards the 0 than the 1. Their only goal in 180 minutes so far is a spectacular long-range goal from central midfielder El Ahmadi. That said, they did thrash Tranmere Rovers in the League Cup so you can’t rule anything out…
Man City (QPR)
Unavoidably you’ll immediately think of the unforgettable 3-2 win last year, which is of course was a long way from defensively acceptable for City. It’s true that they’ve made a somewhat leaky start to the campaign, but they remain the same side that collected 11 clean sheets from 19 home matches last year and should dominate a QPR side that appears to have stepped backwards since. Continue reading
My thoughts on Liverpool v Man City.
- Liverpool lined up with a 4-3-3. Suarez in the middle with Sterling left and Borini right. Kolarov left wing back and Milner right wing back again.
- MCI surprisingly played their “plan B” 3-4-1-2 formation. Since this only had space for one central attacking midfielder, they chose Nasri over Silva who possibly is still a little tired. Tevez and Balotelli up front. This didn’t make sense to me from the start as this pitted 3 center backs against 3 mobile strikers without a spare defender to mop up, and stuff did happen.
- City were presumably trying to overload the flanks with their two free wing backs and score from crosses. This produced little, apart from Kelly making an awful mistake dealing with one of the crosses putting it on a plate for Yaya.
- On the other hand, City had weakened their central midfield – there were now only three men in the middle as opposed to the usual four when they play their narrow 4-2-2-2 with Silva and Nasri. Worse still, Nasri is more of a threat but far less of a passing playmaker than Silva, and was uninvolved. Hence it often felt like City were playing with two in midfield against three or more for Liverpool – exactly the same problem Newcastle had against Chelsea yesterday when they lost.
- Liverpool dominated central midfield with Allen deep, Gerrard quite deep and Shelvey surprisingly advanced and taking loads of shots. Shelvey was only on because of Lucas’ early injury but offered plenty of vertical movement in midfield and ball-winning energy. He may not be as bad as I thought. If Lucas is out for a while, he may be worth a look.
- Because Liverpool dominated central midfield they could supply the mobile front three, whose movement was brilliant and passing is improving. Sterling, after an impressive preseason, delivered with a superb game – I think this was his debut in the starting XI in the Prem and he is a possible legend in the making. Superb dribbling and general threat, if he cements a place alongside Suarez they could rip defences to shreds. Borini did his job well although still lacks a lethal edge.
- Gerrard got two assists for me, which chuffs me but I am keeping my head screwed on. This is the conundrum – he isn’t playing very advanced at all. His role is almost identical to his role for England – crosser, midfield metronome, set pieces, long shots. This is reinforced by both assists coming from set pieces. One was a superb cross from a corner, the other a bit jammy – a Suarez free kick he won because someone handled his long shot. I hate to oversimplify by using the comparison of another player again, but it helps you get the picture – I’d say Gerrard is playing the Beckham role. He’s not in the hole and rarely involved around the box. The question is basically whether his crosses and long shots are worth 9.5m, and I’m leaning towards no.
- City forwards definitely play wide in the 3-4-1-2 system, running into the corners to interchange with fullbacks and cross – as shown by Tevez’ assist.
- Mancini waited a long time to fix his midfield. The first thing he did was sub off the uninvolved Nasri for Rodwell – a classic Mancini move that allowed Yaya to get forward while De Jong and Rodwell covered him. This culminated in his fortunate goal in the box due to Kelly failing to deal with Tevez’ cross.
- The second thing Mancini did was sub Silva on for Milner. Silva drifted central as usual, made more passes than Nasri, was more involved and helped City compete in midfield.
- I am not sure Mancini will be too keen to repeat this 3-4-1-2 experiment without doing it differently next time. He may also think twice about playing Nasri ahead of Silva in this system. Nasri paid off against Chelsea in the Community Shield, but he could get away with it after Chelsea went down to 10 men. If they go back to 4-2-2-2 I can see both Silva and Nasri starting regularly of course.
- Ones to watch: Sterling, Shelvey (pending Lucas injury), Suarez
- Ones to be concerned about – Nasri, Balotelli, City defence, Liverpool defence (you surely don’t own any?)
- Ones to agonize about: Gerrard
My thoughts on Chelsea v Reading.
Reading played a textbook 4-5-1 with 3 central midfielders to stifle midfield passing (ironically reminiscent of Chelsea v Barca). Chelsea’s 4-2-3-1 actually struggled to break through for long periods as Reading’s strategy was working in the middle and they couldn’t get enough width to break it. The big battle of this game was on the flanks between Reading’s wingers who weren’t particularly suited to defending, and Chelsea’s fullbacks who were trying to bomb on and provide the width. In the end, though the latter won, the game turned on Reading’s goalie error when they were leading 2-1 and sitting far too deep. The next (offside) Chelsea goal came from width (Cole’s assist). The final goal also developed down the wing, though obviously it was a bizarre one with no goalkeeper present.
Ivanovic v Cole
Just as the members stats said, basically. Ivanovic was further forward and he drifted more central. Unlike Cole, he was happy to play on the inside when interchanging with the wide midfielders. Might have been a bit of shock when you saw Hazard cut the ball inside to Ivanovic to score the final goal. Hard to comment on the defensive performances; the Reading goals came from both flanks, though they weren’t straightforward chances so it’s hard to assign fault.
Mata v Hazard
It’s very clear that Hazard is playing furthest forward. Mata is playing much deeper than you’d think when he is described as playing in the hole. He can play deep as Ramires and far behind Hazard. His job in the team is primarily to sustain the passing, not to score or assist, and he may well suffer from assist-the-assister syndrome (technically this was the case for Cahill’s goal as he passed to Hazard who passed to Cahill – it was hardly a goalscoring opportunity though). Mata did have two shots off target when Reading sat deep, though in both cases he was still behind multiple Chelsea players. One of his few points opportunities was his excellent cross from a free kick, but if you wanted someone for set pieces it would be Lamps. Basically, I think Mata is this year’s Modric.
Torres simply didn’t get good service, and I think that’s as much something to worry about as his supposed flakiness. He was massively outnumbered as the lone forward with not only two center backs but three central midfielders surrounding him. Chelsea’s midfield is not actually built as many of us expected – to feed Torres with through balls. The midfielders get forward and try to have a go themselves, with most of the crosses coming from overlapping fullbacks, one of which Torres scored from. Torres often is trying to create for the midfielders instead of vice versa, holding up play and drifting wide. The sad thing is that Torres craves through balls – the perfect example is the one Ramires played to him in the Community Shield. The only player I see as consistently able to deliver these is Mata, and he’s way too deep.