First XI: Week OneThursday, August 22, 2013
Eleven (give or take) items that caught my attention from the week in fantasy Premier League football.
- For Newcastle United fans, all I can say is that it gets better. Yes, the team looked terrible. But this was against a side widely tipped to challenge for the title, and one that plays an aggresive, no quarter given, style. On top of that it was the home opener with new signings trying to make a mark and established players fighting to stay established. That certainly won't be the case every week. The schedule gets easier, with West Ham, Fulham and Hull City Tigers visiting St James Park, with a trip to Aston Villa in there as well.
- However, that easier ride won't mean much if their best players don't play for them. Yohan Cabaye was left out of the side after a bid from Arsenal over the weekend impacted the player's mental state, according to manager Alan Pardew.
I read that as "Cabaye wants to go to Arsenal and won't play for us.", but your mileage may vary.
It's a shame that the matter wasn't handled more professionally by all concerned, but you can understand the thinking. Arsenal lost Arteta for weeks and then get thrashed by Aston Villa while their fans mock them for the lack of signings. Cabaye solves both those problems. Meanwhile, if Cabaye can go to Arsenal, why would he risk that playing a no-win game for his current club? Which only makes the game that much more no-win for Newcastle.
See? Losers all around.
- Arsenal did look bad against Villa on Saturday. But they were unlucky as well. Injuries happen, but not often do you need all three subs to accomodate them. As for the penalty and red card... in my opinion, the next foul Laurent Koscielny commimts will be his first.
That being said, Arsenal have an thin, injury-prone squad, and despite claims of a huge war chest, they haven't brought in anyone into the first team. I believe Neal has written about this before, but it seems like the transfer window has changed, and Arsene Wenger has not changed with it. Spanish clubs are selling their best players left, right, and center. Other Premier League teams have snatched top talent in this window. Meanwhile Arsenal, with a crop of Spanish players including Mikel Arteta, Nacho Monreal, and Santi Cazorla, are still stuck on finding value in the French U21 team.
- Up next for Aresnal is Fulham. They responded well to the Villa loss today beating Fenerbache 3-0. So which team is the real Arsenal? Perhaps we'll find out this weekend when they travel to Fulham, a local rival (maybe) who always plays them tight. For someone like Theo Walcott, this will be his fourth match in ten days. IF he can't give 100% for 90 minutes once again, one player who might benefit is Matthew Briggs. He came on for the hamstrung Kieran Richardson, and with John Arne Riise seemingly frozen out at Fulham, Briggs is in line for the start.
- Many Fulham players will have extra motivation against Arsenal. Dimitar Berbatov, and new signings Adel Taarabt and Scott Parker are all former Spurs players while Steve Sidwell and Phillipe Senderos are former Gunners. Does this matter?
- If so, you might wanto to look at Kevin Nolan for your fantasy team this weekend. The midfielder cum striker already opened his account against Cardiff and faces his former team at a bit of a crisis point. It doesn't seem like Andy Carroll will be ready for the match, so if you believe that players score against their old employers, Nolan is your man.
- Speaking of players who have opened their account, Ross Barkley looked great for Everton at the weekend firing off a number of shots and scoring Everton's first goal. Everton have a good run of matches and Darren Gibson is still recovering from injury. Barkley is dirt cheap in the Yahoo! game and at worst, he should be on everyone's bench going forward.
- Another player that caught the eye without scoring was Phillipe Coutinho. He was all over the field for Liverpool, and created many dangerous opportunities for his strikers.
- It was Daniel Sturridge who finished off Stoke, from an Iago Aspas assist. Sturridge looks set to be one of the premier strikers in the league this season, regardless of if or when a certain Uruguayan returns to the squad.
- One rival for that title will be Christian Benteke. Three goals in two matches. Yes, two were penalties, but scoring on the road against top teams is a good indicator of his class. Villa are going to be a dangerous team this season. They won't win them all - their defense is still a work in progress and the midfield needs to find more consitency - but they'll put the fear into a lot of teams, starting.... well, continuing against Liverpool this weekend.
- It's going to be fascinating to see Brendan Rodgers' possession football against Paul Lambert's counter-attacking side. There will be a lot of young talent on display in this match and I for one am looking forward to it.