Archive for the ‘EPL Fantasy’ Category

EPL Season Preview: Part III: Chunneling

Neil Blackmon continues his EPL Preview marathon. (Too bad he doesn’t work for you guys ESPN)

Will The Deuce Abide...and remain at Fulham?

Part III of our Barclay’s Premier League preview focuses on five teams that should all contend for the Europa League, which, depending on who you ask, is either great (because some ownership boards are honest enough to admit they aren’t going to make the Champions League), or the European soccer equivalent of college basketball’s NIT. One disclaimer before we get started: two of these sides could conceivably make a Champions League run. And at least one of them certainly could, and may, finish fifth. Those two teams are  placed in Part III rather than Part IV of the preview simply because in most conceivable scenarios, a finish of 6th or 7th, respectively, is far more likely than a Champions League spot, or even a tough-fought 5th place finish. On we go…

FIVE WHO’LL FIGHT FOR EUROPE(A)

Fulham

Last Year: Overcame a rugged stretch early in the year to find a measure of consistency and form down the stretch. They never really got hot—they just avoided lengthy losing streaks, eventually finding enough goals in Mark Hughes’ rather predictable system to defeat the teams they should defeat and avoid embarrassing defeat to the teams they tend not to defeat. They also managed to qualify for the Europa competition for the coming season by earning the UEFA Fair Play award, despite a red card scare from Zoltan Gera in the season’s final fixture against Arsenal. After a marvelous run in the Europa league a year prior, last year was really about Fulham continuing to establish itself as a legitimate, impressive club firmly among the EPL’s top-half, and even though Mark Hughes departed on acrimonious terms, it should be noted that he certainly left Fulham better than he found out, which is becoming a trend.

Summer Additions: Fulham were relatively quiet this off-season, and at a small club with limited but not dire economic resources, that’s probably a good thing.

New gaffer Martin Jol did add one nice piece, 30 year old Norwegian left back John Arne Riise from Roma, whose attacking prowess from the fullback position will add flexibility to an already respected attacking side—a flexibility that was lacking after a subpar year from Mexican international Carlos Salcido.

Swiss U-20 international Patjim Kasami is another intriguing signing, and he’ll add physicality and size to a midfield that at times struggles against more physical opposition. Czech midfielder Marcel Gecov also joins the side at the bargain price of $650,000, but that about rounds up the help brought to Craven Cottage, and as the transfer window winds down, it is unlikely Jol or the board will make additional moves.

Summer Losses: Addition by subtraction, at least in TSG’s view.

Zoltan Gera didn’t have much left in the tank at the end of last year and nearly cost the team its spot in Europe. Now he’s West Brom’s payroll’s problem. John Pantsil has his days but he has many more mundane ones than good, as evidenced by his move to a lower division of English football. Diomansy Kamara is also departed, off to Eskisehirspor in Turkey to close out a once-promising career that was mired by injury and difficulty adjusting to the physicality of the English game. Getting him off the payroll could also benefit the Cottagers come January.

Strengths: The midfield, led by the finest American player in the world and for the time being, the finest player in CONCACAF, Clint Dempsey,  is deep and with the addition of the promising young Swiss player Kasami, it is capable of attacking in a variety of ways.

"Stretch"

Dempsey is at his best when he’s allowed to roam, drift centrally and create, and the pairing of he and a Dutch manager in Jol who sees the game quite similarly to Dempsey could be a match made in heaven. Danny Murphy remains a heartbeat player for the Cottagers as he nears the twilight of a long and (somewhat unappreciated?) career—he’ll join Dempsey, Simon Davies and Damien Duff in the league’s most economical (production-wise) midfield. Beyond the strong middle, Fulham are, as ever, steady in the back, led by two of the world’s finer defenders in Brede Hangeland and Aaron Hughes, as well as one of the EPL’s only “elite-class” goalkeepers, Mark Schwarzer. If golden academy boy Matthew Briggs can add anything, this too will be a more deep unit fit to the rigors of balancing both the EPL and Europa League demands—which you’ll remember was troubling for the Cottagers two seasons ago.

Weaknesses: Obviously, the closer you get to the top of the table, the less pronounced a club’s weaknesses are. This is not to say the top ten clubs don’t have them, and certainly Fulham are depending on the injury prone Bobby Zamora to carry the water bucket at forward yet again. Behind Zamora, there is 24 year old Belgian Moussa Dembele, who certainly shows flashes but also has significant scoring droughts. That’s not a great deal of depth for a team that will likely play a more attacking style of football under Martin Jol, and its part and parcel the reason the side will either need a new forward in January or absolutely require another fine year of goal scoring from Dempsey and a healthy Riise adding a backline threat to give Fulham extra offensive versatility.

Best Case: 7th, simply because one almost expects them to hang out in the Europa League for at least a couple of months. In fact, only moments after they had seen off RNK Split to advance to the playoff stages, manager Martin Jol conceded balancing the two will be the biggest challenge for the Cottagers in league play. The longer they do hang around in the competition, the tougher time a team that added depth but is still relatively thin by contenders’ standards will have hanging around high in the table.

Worst Case: 14th, thanks to another injury to Zamora, a broken down Riise, Clint Dempsey finally planting his knee wrong while “trying something” (that was difficult to type), and stalwart veterans Danny Murphy and Aaron Hughes showing old age early in the spring. Don’t see it happening, but it could. And who knows how the Jol transition will work from the get-go—though Europa was probably helpful in that limited manner.

Our Guess: 8th, and edging further towards permanent respectability, and all the American adulation being the club of Brian McBride, having Clint Dempsey and a statue of the King of Pop entails.

Newcastle United

Last Year: The team famously dubbed the “Oakland Raiders of the Barclay’s Premier League” weren’t terrible like the Oakland Raiders, but they weren’t very good either. Come to think of it, they were a lot like last year’s Oakland Raiders. Still, after sacking Chris Hughton, who had led them back to the EPL, they enjoyed top-flight football again very much. They earned a remarkable 4-4 draw with Arsenal that will go down in Magpie lore, defended well after a shaky beginning in the back and avoided the drop. Now the hard part—avoiding “second season syndrome” in year two back in the big boys league.

Obertan. Will he materialize at Tyneside?

Season Additions: Gabriel Obertan is in from Old Trafford on a five year deal that will hopefully provide a spark to the Newcastle flank as well as the young Frenchmen’s once star-destined career. He’s only 22—the Toons seem a fine place to start over, toiling in relative opposition hatred like at Old Trafford, but with the security blanket of mid-table anonymity. Alan Pardew also brought Jen Chang favorite Demba Ba in from West Ham on a free—and if the speedy, athletic Senegal attacker can find any measure of consistency, that could be an absolute steal.

Shola Ameobi also inked a new deal, indicating that Newcastle was determined to bolster the attack should the saga with completely crazy hipster footballer person Joey Barton continue. And it will, as Alan Pardew, himself a certifiably crazy person, has said whether Barton plays or not is “absolutely his call.” Beyond those moves, French midfielders Yohan Cabaye and Sylvain Marveaux add depth.

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It’s TSG EPL Fantasy Time

We didn’t run an EPL fantasy group last year and regretted it the whole campaign.

Matthew's team: "Chest Rodwell"

This year…we’re already set up and it’s a chance to earn a spot in the TSG Hall of Fame and maybe a few other goodies.

To participate, just click here, create a profile and enter the code: 1003470-216588

TSG’s league name: “Lanverton.” Matthew’s team is “Jack Chest Rodwell” and Shaun’s is “Shins Hurt.”

Thanks to all of you who helped us pick the web site and game to use.

TSG is by no means experts at fantasy (I mean we did finish in the top 100 for ESPN’s Fantasy game two years ago…before ESPN’s game got more complicated than a blind date with your best friend’s girlfriend’s best friend.)

Anywho, TSG is certain we won’t win our league this year. We’ve got to keep providing stuff that you’ll read.

But here’s a few tips when considering whom you want to join you on your trip to glory this year:

• Is that midfielder or striker you just selected the penalty taker for their club? Because if they are…money in a bag.

Two words for you: Frank and Lampard

• Is that defender you’re thinking about possibly headed to a new–and better–team?

TSG has the Maynor on their side...and so might Liverpool

TSG took a shot on Wigan’s Maynor Figueroa who could be headed to play with Glen Johnson at Merseyside.

His current price tag in the game, $4.5M, reflects the points he’ll likely attain at Wigan, not Liverpool where he’ll get more clean sheets and likely more scoring opportunities.

• Insure that you have one top table goalie on your squad…and insure that he’s not considered tasty by the injury bug.

• And finally…avoid the latest hyped England player.

Two years ago David Bentley and Stuart Downing‘s costs were ratcheted up and their values for their absolutely abysmal performances were retched.

Last year, Theo Walcott was on something like 15-20% of the fantasy teams going into the season. Oops!

There are exceptions (Adam Johnson), but they’re exceptions and the probability says avoid those players.

This year’s over inflated Queen’s man?

Andy Carrol from Newcastle (do you really expect a striker on a bottom-table side who is all of 21-years-old to come flying out of the gate when four of Newcastle’s first seven opponents are against Manchester United, Aston Villa, Everton and Manchester City?).

Yet, he’s been selected by nearly 7% of the game’s managers. If you like him, wait a few games.

Instead of Carroll, pick up Aston Villa’s Nathan Delfouneso who is only owned by .2% of managers.

Martin O’Neill has already stated that Delfouneso is going to get an abundance of first team minutes and his competition up top includes two oft-injured elder statesmen: Emily Heskey and John Carew.

(Full disclosure though, TSG doesn’t have Delfouneso on our team).

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