At the end of the Euros, I found myself questioning whether I had lost sight of what truly made a manager valorous. We had guided Denmark to the FFS Euros semi final, a noble achievement in itself but what followed was unbearable. My co-manager took the lion’s share of the credit (so what if it was true) and departed for Italy for a new career at one of Serie A’s big boys. I could only find work at one of the EPL’s relegation scrappers. It was a dark time. I needed time to reflect and meditate (and do other things that bravery-judging Knights do) so I left Norwich with the instructions of keeping things tight at the back (admittedly they took the piss a bit) and departed for 6 months of wandering through the wilderness (settling for Birmingham but it’s close enough). I return now to declare that I have rediscovered my faith in the valour of my fellow managers and am ready to induct a new gallant member to the Order of Extreme Valour. Continue reading
Ah the budget midfielder. The guy you turn to when you find yourself with heavy hitters everywhere and not a lot of wonga left to splash on filling your 15 man squad. In my mind, they come in 3 flavours:
-the 5.0 with attacking potential who you use in a rotation policy or as an option when a more expensive player has a particularly tricky fixture.
-the 4.5 who is nailed on and serves simply to be cheap filler, earning a couple of points consistently on the off-chance injuries/rotation cripples your side.
-the 4.5 who is a very risky punt but may just be a bandwagon in waiting.
So here we are now with Reading. A team no one would likely have cared about but for cheap filler in rotations. Now thanks to Chelski being in the Super Cup Final, their players open the season with an infamous DGW (a double gameweek for the unitiated in the ways of FFS…..Wait, what are ye doing here??? Go away!!! ……… Are you gone? Good). Reading players have been given an boost to their fantasy prospects although the current uncertainty over their starting XI has really dampened enthusiasm again.
In goals, Adam Federici at 4.5 represents probably the safest route into the Reading defence. He acts as a very good filler alongside De Gea and Friedel and is one of the best options for an uber cheap rotation policy in between the sticks.
In defense, it has been hard to work out who will get the nod. Last season, they regularly fielded a back four (from right to left) of Cummings-4.0, Pearce-4.5, Gorkss-4.0 and Harte-4.5. 3 new signings have however thrown a real spanner in the works. Gunter-4.0 was probably brought in to be first choice at right back but a recent return from injury may prevent him from starting the season. Likewise Mariappa-4.0 certainly has a starting role at centre back in his sights but it is hard to guess which one if either of last season’s will make way. At left back we have Harte, a bandwagon which failed before the prices were even out due to the signing of Shorey-4.5. Rotation is quite possibly in McDermott’s plans for this position.
In the centre of the park, the hard working duo off Karacan-4.5 and Leighterwood-5.0 ply their trade. The signing of Guthrie-4.5 has also made it hard to know which of the trio will get the most minutes although their considerable defensive duties won’t make them the best of fantasy prospects even with the potential for the odd goal. It was down the wings where most of Reading’s assists came from last year and Jobi McAnuff-5.5 was the star man on the left and will continue in this role for the season. On the right flank, things are a bit more confusing. Kebe-5.0 was there last season and stood a chance of continuing this season with a threat from the new signing of McCleary-5.0. An injury to Kebe and the good form of HRK-4.5 (Hal Robson-Kanu for those newbies who stuck around) in preseason have left it up in the air as to who will start. It is also worth noting that HRK can play on the left and up top so could pick up minutes as filling in for injured/suspended players too.
Up top, Pogrebnyak-5.0 will take Roberts’-4.5 starting position and has been the the most popular selection from the Reading frontline so far due to his decent returns at Fulham in half a seaon. Similar to HRK, last season’s supersub striker, Le Fondre-4.5 is pushing Hunt-4.5 all the way thanks to his preseason form. All Reading strikers should be ignored due to their isolation from the even the low mid-price options from other sides unless you are planning to use 2 strikers and want to save heavily on the 3rd (although I can’t imagine there being many people looking to employ such a tactic)
I find Reading to be a tough team to wholeheartedly recommend due to the widespread uncertainty. Federici I think would be a good choice for most (except for those who have gone for Cech). Pearce was the standout centre back last year and would be my tip from the backline to do well. I think McAnuff is your best choice for attacking returns and there are plenty of midfield options to replace him (if he doesn’t deliver) with at that price. Pogrebnyak is too high a risk in my opinion. He does have the potential to score well with a DGW but at 17.0% ownership, if he flops, many owners will shift him out and that will cause his price to tumble. It is also difficult to find a valid alternative at 5.0 so money will have to be found elsewhere if you need to lose him.
Possible Starting XI:
Federici, Pearce, Guthrie, McAnuff, HRK.
Good evening, good evening, good evening, good evening, good evening, good evening, good evening and welcome to another fantasy preview of a Premier League club. If that QI reference has gone over your head, let me just clarify that I will be dissecting last season’s rotation-minefield: the Norwich City squad.
Starting off between the sticks, we have John Ruddy nailed on at 4.5. Although he only managed 3 clean sheets for the entirety of last season, he managed to make 140 saves (second only to Michel Vorm) and averaged over 2 points a game excluding clean sheets and penalty saves. If Chris Hughton continues his trend of tightening teams up at the back, Ruddy might not be a bad option either as part of an uber cheap rotation or as a filler alongside a bigger keeper.
And now let madness ensue, as we try to piece together what we know about the Norwich outfield players. In defence, we have 2 players at 4.5 in Russell Martin and new signing from Rangers, Steven Whittaker. This Scottish pair look to be guaranteed starting although in which positions is not entirely clear. Martin played nearly twice as many minutes as any of Norwich’s other defenders last season, picking up 2 goals and 2 assists and although originally a right back, he featured predominantly as a centre half, especially in the latter stages. Whittaker has most likely been brought in to play at right back this year, but his new manager has already heavily played up to the man’s versatility at playing across the back four and midfield. How he adapts to the English top flight will be interesting alhough it is worth noting he once scored 11 times in a season from full back for Rangers. The remaining central slot will most likely be filled by one of four 4.0 options: Barnett, Ward, Ayala and Ryan Bennett. Bennett finished the season as a starter but with a new manager that may not count for much. The fit again Marc Tierney, 4.0, looks likely to begin the season at left back although a reverse OOP Lappin may be a source of irritation if the Canaries’ rotation policy is continued.
Norwich employed many midfield combinations under Paul Lambert, but are likely to revert to a standard 4 under Hughton. The wide spots in this system would most likely be filled by Elliot Bennett and Anthony Pilkington, who come in at 5.0 and 6.0 respectively. Bennett endured a tough start last year but was flourishing at the close with 5 assists and a memorable goal at White Hart Lane. Pilkington, on the other hand, was quick out of the traps, taking some set pieces, scoried 8 goals but had his fantasy potential curtailed by being heavily rotated. A consistent run in the team could see his ownership soar. The most likely duo in the centre of midfield will be ex-Leeds pair, Howson and Johnson, who are both at 5.0. Johnson was certainly an interesting option as part of a diamond last year, collecting 2 goals and 5 assists although his extra defensive duties as part of a flat four could spell the end of such returns. David Fox at 4.5 could be utilised as more holding player, while Andrew Surman at 5.0 could also be a decent option with the ability to play on the left wing and the centre of the midfield, scoring 4 times last season.
A man deserving of his own paragraph is one Wesley Hoolahan. The Yellows’ top assister last season with 7, also pitching in with 4 goals, the affectionately nicknamed Wessi is undoubtedly the most creative player in the side and could be a bargain at 6.0 if nailed on. Although unlikely to be deployed centrally in a 4-4-2 (except perhaps with Fox), he can play down both wings highlighting his versatility. It is however playing off the striker in a 4-4-1-1 in which Hoolahan is at his best. His partnership with Holt in this role was what saw Norwich earn back to back promotions from the lower leagues and Hughton has said it is a formation he will consider.
Up top, the star man is certainly Grant Holt. 15 goals last time out as well as 3 assists has seen his price rise to 6.5. He demonstrated that he was not a flat track bully by scoring against teams like Arsenal, Chelsea and Man United, and that he is able to make an impact from the bench, netting on several occasions as a sub. For many however he was deployed as a super sub on too many occasions with about 15 of his 36 appearances coming from the bench. Again we are left with the case of hoping that, if this Norwich player could nail down a starting line up spot he would become a true fantasy option. Holt’s understudy, and sometime partner, Steve Morison played almost the same amount of minutes as Holt last season and got 9 goals and 4 assists. Although unlikely to partner Holt in a 4-4-2, if the Welshman somehow got ahead of the club captain or continues to be rotated with him, an initial 5.5 price tag could see him be a popular budget option. If 4-4-2 is the formation of choice however, Simeon Jackson at 5.0 looks certain to benefit. In his time at Carrow Road, he has failed to secure a regular starting role but still managed to get 3 goals and assists in his limited pitch time last year.
– Hughton has been heavily linked with a move for his former centre half at Birmingham City, Curtis Davies. Although there has been nothing official as of yet, if this move was to go through, he would likely be nailed on at a price of 4.5. This however would almost spell the end for one of the 4.0 options in the Norwich defence.
– Norwich in the last week have had a bid turned down for Leeds winger, Snodgrass, and are rumoured to be about to make a larger offer. Again, if this deal was completed he would probably come in at 6.0 and be guaranteed starts. He finished last year’s Championship campaign with 13 goals and 14 assists and certainly could be a FPL star.
For a team that finished in mid table last year, Norwich certainly look like a side that could hold excellent budget options for everyone’s fantasy team. There are some issues however which I’m sure you are aware of. They are at risk of the dreaded “second season syndrome”, the new manager may negatively impact on their fantasy potential, and worst of all, last season’s rotation may continue into this one. All things considered, the wisest course of action will probably be to wait and see how Norwich shape up over the opening weeks of the season….. but then again when does being wise have anything to do with fantasy football?
Probable Starting XI (although Possible could be more accurate)
Whittaker Martin R.Bennett Tierney
Bennett Howson Johnson Pilkington
Ruddy, Whittaker, Tierney, Pilkington, Hoolahan, Holt.
Sunday’s match was a suitable finish to a cracking tournament. The Spanish finally decided to kick on and put on a display worthy of the first team to win 3 consecutive international tournaments. In Valour terms, the 4-0 defeat ruined the chances of anyone backing an Italian. However we have been left with enough valiant selections to fill this final Awards post.
I judged the award by the rules posted here. http://uefaffs.weebly.com/7/post/2012/06/the-order-of-extreme-valour.html
A “successful gamble” is defined as a single player choice that returns an unexpectedly high number of points. The awards will be given on these criteria:
– Underdog team
Honourable Mentions – A couple of decisions which were worthy of note if not the award:
-The Light Knight cut a lonely figure in captaining Ramos and his bravery was rewarded with a clean sheet and enough recovered balls to ensure 14 points.
-Mac and Drinky courageously chose midfield maestro Xavi who delivered his first attacking returns of the tournament with a pair of assists, delighting his noble owners in the process.
And now for the winner:
Despite finding himself 2nd and even 3rd choice striker once, Torres has still managed to walk away with the Golden Boot, which was thanks in no small part to his goal and assist on Sunday. from the bench. It takes a lot of valour to back an out of form striker, and it takes even more to play him when he starts from the bench. So ladies and gentlemen please applaud our truly valiant winners; ENR, Jafalad and Demened Flamingo.
And we are done. Thanks to everyone on the Council for the chance to help out, thanks to everyone on FFS for the great feedback and special thanks to my teammate Isacki for all your help and encouragement over the tournament.
Goodbye and good luck!!!