The start of the new season has been highly anticipated to say the least, and with a host of new high profile signings joining the Premiership this year it looks to be a fascinating contest. Fantasy Football Cheat takes a look at the weekend’s curtain raiser games and how the developments affect fantasy managers.
Buoyed by last season’s fifth-place finish, Newcastle beat Tottenham 2-1 to give AVB a taste of defeat in his first game at the helm for Spurs. Demba Ba scored in spectacular fashion to end his run of 14 goalless games, curling a Danny Simpson cross past Brad Friedel. Alan Pardew had to watch Jermaine Defoe’s equaliser from the stands after he was dismissed for pushing a linesman during a dispute about whether or not the ball had gone out of play. It seems it’s not just us fantasy managers who get over enthusiastic during the opening games of a new season! Hatem Ben Arfa reminded everyone of his form from last season when he was brought down after a jinking run into the Spurs box. He then sealed the points from the spot to get the Magpies off to a great start. For Newcastle, it looks like the creativity they possess in midfield is as strong as it was last season, giving fantasy managers plenty of options for transfers. Ba’s goal also hints at a return to the kind of form we saw from him prior to his departure to the Africa Cup of Nations, which incidentally, is taking place again midway through this season due to a change of the timing of the tournament. This might be something to consider nearer the time if you are likely to be fielding African players. As for Tottenham, they might not have impressed too much during this game, but with new signing Sigurdsson playing alongside last year’s fantasy sensation Gareth Bale, they’re certain to provide points along the way.
West Ham United returned to the Premiership with a win over a poor Aston Villa side, beating them one-nil. The only goal of the game was scored by Kevin Nolan, side-footing a Vaz Te pass past Given. Aston Villa were lucky to stay in the top flight last season, and will have to become a lot more resilient and more creative with the ball if they don’t want a repeat of last season’s performance. West Ham will be looking to the experience of the likes of Nolan and Carlton Cole to score the goals to keep them up this season, and either player could well prove to be a reliable budget option for transfers, costing £6m and £5.5m respectively. It will be interesting to see how the Hammers fare against more threatening opposition as the season progresses.
Brendan Rogers’ impressive reputation as manager of Swansea did not translate to his new role at Liverpool, losing 3-0 to West Bromwich Albion. Zoltan Gera’s spectacular opening goal started the ball rolling for West Brom, smashing the ball home from 25 yards. Peter Odemwingie then scored from the spot after Shane Long was brought down after missing his own penalty just moments before. Liverpool had Daniel Agger sent off for the first missed penalty, compounding the day’s misery for the Reds. Romelu Lukaku, on loan from Chelsea then made it three with a header in the 77th minute. The result suggests Odemwingie is worth keeping an eye on, and also suggests that Lukaku seems capable of getting on the scoresheet too. No doubt Luis Suarez and new signing Fabio Borini will prove influential for later Liverpool games, but this weekend they lacked the finishing touches many fantasy managers will be relying on.
Reading returned to the Premiership after a four year absence and were lucky to earn a point against Stoke. Michael Kightly saw a miss-hit shot somehow evade the Reading keeper to open the scoring, and Reading had to wait until the 90th minute to equalise from the spot with Adam Le Fondre’s penalty, a result of Dean Whitehead’s red card foul in the box. There wasn’t much to take from this match from a fantasy manager point of view, mostly as Reading’s new signing Pogrebnyak failed to make his mark in this match as some fantasy managers might have liked. One point worth noting, though, was that the attack minded defender Ian Harte was given the nod over Nicky Shorey to start in defence. At £4.5m, the starting role for Harte (as long as he continues to start!) adds to his attraction for fantasy managers.
Swansea seem to have improved on their already impressive form from last season, thumping five goals past a forlorn QPR. New signing Michu scored twice, either side of half time, and sensing blood, Nathan Dyer and Scott Sinclair also piled on the misery for the home side, with Dyer also scoring a brace. The result is a shock given that QPR have a host of new signings to help bolster their league hopes, with Park, Hoilett and Green to name but a few. A good start was vital for the London side seeing as they have Manchester City, Chelsea and Spurs among their upcoming games, but it was not to be. A solid defence and a busy, creative midfield mean that Swansea should yet again provide fantasy managers with a range of options for viable transfers.
A five-nil win for Fulham without Clint Dempsey even in the squad would have been unthinkable last season, but that’s exactly what we got in the Fulham-Norwich game. Damian Duff opened the scoring, followed by two goals from Mladen Petric on his debut. Alex Kacaniklic poked home from close range and Steve Sidwell scored from the spot to destroy Norwich’s opening game hopes. Petric looks like he could well make up for Dempsey’s potential absence from the team in terms of goalscoring, and at £6m he could be a bargain to pick up early on in the season. Fulham will be looking to take the momentum of this result into next week’s clash with Manchester United, but after that they have a couple of relatively easier fixtures against West Ham and West Brom.
Robin Van Persie’s absence from the Arsenal side that drew 0-0 with Sunderland will no doubt be given as a reason for their lacklustre performance, especially as new signings Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud were largely inefficient. The Gunners were more than likely a little bit unsettled by the new shape of their team, but they still possess plenty of threats in terms of goalscoring. Despite the lack of goals, another new signing, Santi Cazorla, was impressive, providing several crosses and passes that his new team mates were unable to convert. Some may be interested to know that Cazorla set up more shots than any other player in the Premier League this weekend. On another day against less resolute opponents, the goals will surely flow. As for Sunderland, they can be pleased with their defensive performance. With a midfield that’s more than capable of retaining possession and creating chances, it will be interesting to see how Martin O’Neill’s team gets on in their next two games against Reading and Swansea.
Fantasy Football Cheat recently tipped Eden Hazard as one to watch in a long line of new players to the Premiership, and in Chelsea’s 2-0 victory over Wigan, he proved to be exactly that. The Belgian was instrumental in both goals and slotted in perfectly to Chelsea’s midfield, assisting Branislav Ivanovic in the opener, and in being brought down for Frank Lampard’s penalty. The game was an interesting one in terms of other potential transfers, in that Victor Moses is linked with a move to Chelsea, but was picked to play against them in this match. The Nigerian must have impressed his potential new club with his tricky runs and probing work on the wings, showing why he was a valuable budget midfielder towards the end of last season. One possible concern for both fantasy managers and Moses himself will be that if he does complete a move to Chelsea, given the strength and depth of their midfield as it is, just how much game time will he get? One for both us and Moses to consider.
Manchester City were just as dramatic in their first game of this season as they were in their last game of the previous season, coming from behind to win 3-2, this time over newly promoted Southampton. Worryingly for City and fantasy managers alike, Sergio Aguero was stretchered off after a serious knock to his knee in the first half. Fellow Argentine Carlos Tevez opened the scoring, latching on to a superb through-ball from Samir Nasri, but Southampton responded in the second half with goals from Rickie Lambert and Steven Davis to stun the champions. City responded in the way we’ve become accustomed to recently – pressing home the attack until they get the goals they need. They came courtesy of Edin Dzeko and Samir Nasri, the latter winning Sky Sport’s Man of the Match award for his superb assist in the first half and his winner in the second. Southampton look to be a good cohesive unit and if they can replicate this form against lesser opponents they should make decent progress in the top flight. Fantasy managers might want to look at Lambert as a striking option, as he was the top scorer in the Championship last season, and scored just minutes after coming on against City. Beware that the Saints play Manchester United and Arsenal in the coming weeks though, a tough set of opening fixtures, but once they settle down they should provide points for canny managers.
Plenty of goals and incidents in the first weekend, and we still have Everton-Manchester United and Chelsea-Reading to come! You’ve read our views on the first gameweek matches above, but did anything stand out to you? Any good team performances, or players that caught your eye? We would love to hear your views, so please feel free to post your messages below…
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This article was written by Sharpie