Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Thomas Vermaelen, Johan Djourou & Fantasy Football.

First of all today there is the news that Thomas Vermaelen is expected to return in four to six weeks time from his surgery on his ankle. Apparently it's only a small procedure, and there's a possibility that he will be back for the first leg of the Champions League tie with Barcelona. To be honest I'll believe that when I see it, and I won't be at all surprised if he's not back before April, if at all this season.
Even if he's back in training in four weeks, he won't have played a game since the start of September which will be almost six months. He's going to need a few weeks just to get his fitness levels back, and after that he's going to take a few games to get anywhere the level required to play in the Premier League. The players are lucky to get six weeks off in the summer before they return to pre-season training, and he will have had a lot longer than that off.
Thankfully Johan Djourou has stepped up and looks like the best centre back Arsenal have available to them at the moment. Only a few weeks ago Arsene Wenger told us that Djourou was still being eased back into action after missing all of last season injured, and that he could not be risked in two games in a week. Since then he has played virtually every game for Arsenal, and unless there has been a remarkable turnaround in his recovery process I think it's a very big gamble, and I hope that Djourou doesn't have to pay the price for it.
The need for a centre back purchase in the transfer window is even greater now in my opinion, and if that player doesn't arrive very soon it could ruin Arsenal's season if Djourou suffers a setback. There are players out there that would fit the bill, and it's just a matter of whether the boss is prepared to stump up the cash for a player who will probably give him a headache in the summer. If Arsenal have five centre backs at the club next summer it will mean that there is one too many, and he will have to sell one of them. That could well mean the end of the road for Sebastien Squillaci, as he would be the most likely candidate to leave. With the prices being quoted for certain Premier League players at the moment, I would be very surprised if Arsenal were to do their shopping in England.
Ahead of tomorrow night's FA Cup replay away to Leeds the boss has said that Lukasz Fabianski has had a slight setback with his shoulder injury, and that means that Wojciech Szczesny will continue in goal, with James Shea on the bench. Manuel Almunia is still supposedly injured, but I don't think anybody actually believes that at the moment. During his "injury" he has slipped down to third choice goalkeeper at Arsenal, and at his stage in his career the only real option is for him to join another club. The biggest problem to that proposed move would probably be his wages, as he earns a fairly high wage at Arsenal. I honestly can't see a top club signing him, and if he joins an average side on the continent I can't see them matching his wages at Arsenal. Maybe the removal of any transfer fee that the club might expect to get would help to move any proposed deal along, and at least lower the weekly wage bill by enough to keep an average fan happy for a whole year.
As I said yesterday I'll be previewing the Leeds match tomorrow morning, which means that I have enough time to run through a quick review of the Fantasy football league I'm running in conjunction with 11Gunners. At the start of the season when I set the league up I said that there would be trophies for the first three teams, as long as I got 300 teams in the league. As it stands there are 770 teams in the league, and it's ranked 42nd out of over 220,000 leagues. I had hoped that my own team would challenge at the top of my league, and that one of my trophies might sit on top of my own mantle piece, but it would take a remarkable run for me to finish in the top three at this stage. I'm 89th in the league at the moment, and that's a few hundred places better off than I was a couple of months back, but it's looking like it's too late at this stage. Thankfully both my son and my wife are faring better than me, and they are in with a chance of winning one of those trophies.
If I was to try to give any hints for the rest of the season I would have to say to look out for clubs who have games in hand, and to include their players on your team in the weeks when they play those games. The choice of captain is always a very important one, as the captain's points count double. It's never easy predicting what player is going to perform well in a particular week, but if you can get that right it goes a long way to ensuring you have a very successful week.
When it comes to individual strikers I think that Robin Van Persie could be about to show exactly what he can do, and he could be a very good purchase. Of course Carlos Tevez has been performing brilliantly too, and Andy Carroll had been scoring very consistently before his recent injury. Carroll has the added bonus of costing a very reasonable price, and when he's fit he's a must for any team. "Manure" have games in hand on virtually every team in the league, but it's tough to pick Berbatov who blows so hot and cold that he is a big gamble, and "Shrek" is still playing and scoring very poorly.
In midfield Rafael Van Der Vaart is an absolute must have, as he continues to perform excellently for The Spuds. When "Manure" are playing at home Nani is an excellent bet as captain, as their home form is so good, and he is their star fantasy performer. Charlie Adam of Blackpool is another player that just has to be in any team, as he costs so little, and performs so well. No other player has come anywhere near the amount of bonus points he has earned so far this season, and it's no wonder that other Premier League clubs are looking to buy him during the transfer window. I
t's hard to know what Arsenal midfielders to pick as Theo Walcott, Samir Nasri and Cesc Fabregas are all performing very well too. If Arsenal are going to continue their title challenge then all three of them are well worth considering for any fantasy team. Tim Cahill of Everton was an excellent player to have in any team before he went off to play in the Asia Cup with Australia, but Everton are performing well in his absence. It will be interesting to see if they change their formation back to one to accommodate him when he returns to the club. Three more midfielders that are hard to ignore at their price are Matthew Etherington, Kevin Nolan and Morten Gamst Pedersen.
When it comes to defenders it's hard to look further than "Manure's" Nemanja Vidic, although he is very expensive. For me I think that there's plenty of bargain defenders to be had at Sunderland, and they have managed 11 clean sheets in 23 league games so far. Seamus Coleman of Everton is also scoring plenty of points, as he is listed as a defender, but he's playing in midfield. It means he gets any defensive points that Everton earn, as well as adding goals and assists from his advanced role.Three other good options are Leighton Baines, Robert Huth and Brede Hangeland.
If I had to choose an Arsenal defender I would choose Djourou, who is available at a very good price, and has three clean sheets in a row at the moment. Despite the fact that Man City have as good a defensive record as both "Manure" and Chelsea it's still hard to pick any of their defenders, as they seem to chop and change so much. At a push I would say that Kolo Toure is the best option, but he is quite expensive. At the start of the season Chelsea had a great defensive record, and at home they still do, but their away form is suffering. Their defenders are all pretty expensive, but if they can turn things around then both Cashley Cole and Branislav Ivanovic are good point getters.
Finally there's the goalkeepers, and it's very hard to look past Joe Hart, although he is very pricey. There are some cheaper alternatives such as Craig Gordon of Sunderland, and Ben Foster of Birmingham. If you really want to go out on a limb you could pick Arsenal's goalkeeper Fabianski, or if he retains his place Szczesny might be a better option.
That's just about it for today, but here's a look at how the top 10 of my Fantasy league table stands at the moment. The team in eighth place is my son's, and all my hopes are with him now.
Ranking stayed the same1 Laverick 'N' Sons Stephen Laverick 63 1278
Ranking stayed the same2 THE UNDERDOGS mike booton 57 1238
Ranking increased3 In Arsene We Trust Sam Griffiths 68 1226
Ranking fell4 Herk City Mark von Herkomer 51 1222
Ranking increased5 Leave-Ma-Arcelona Gurdeep Jugpal 66 1211
Ranking fell6 Los Galacticos XI Mark Conroy 46 1204
Ranking increased7 MahindraUtd Ankeet Mahindrakar 73 1196
Ranking increased8 Wycombe Wanderers Sam Sheehy 64 1192
Ranking increased9 Cosmic Discorient ben whybrow 62 1191
Ranking increased10 Gunners James Monahan 71 1191
Here's a look at RVP, and a few of his free kicks.

See You Tomorrow.

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