Sorry for the delays guys – but here is the GW25 review for you all to feast upon. I won’t waste any further time, let’s get into it!
QPR 0 – 0 Norwich
So we start with the nil all draw, it might not sound interesting but that’s not exactly the case. The first half was a little bit dullsville with both sides seemingly feeling their way into the game. Norwich have been in horrible form of late and you just get this feeling that QPR really try keeping tight, I guess in hope that will allow them to score on a counter or put heavy pressure on in the last few minutes for a winner. Anyway, after 56 minutes the game finally sprung alive – Bunn brought down Mackie inside the box gifting QPR a penalty – introducing QPR’s Mr. X Factor, Adel Taarabt.
However Bunn made up for giving away the penalty with a superb save, keeping the deadlock intact. Norwich indeed then had their own chances, with Cesar again being somewhat of a hero for QPR (he is looking quite a tasty prospect). Pilkington (hamstring) was injured quite early in the piece for the canaries (although not really an FPL option), he has somewhat of a knack of scoring goals out of nowhere. This really left Holt as an isolated front man, whilst at the other end Remy (groin) missed the game after a training injury – leaving Taarabt the real lone attacking threat for QPR until Zamora made a rare appearance off the bench who added some spark when QPR pushed hard for a late winner. The QPR new boys Samba (who nearly scored on his debut) and Townsend both started on the field with Jenas coming off the bench.
Bonus points went the way of Townsend (3), Johnson (3) and Hoolahan (1). A nil all draw and defenders don’t get a look in, I can’t understand that. Anyway, moving on!
Everton 3 – 3 Aston Villa
Well whoever picked this.. wait. Not even Paul Lambert would’ve picked this so don’t even think about it! What a surprise this was, Villa came out all guns blazing and after a mere 2 minutes Benteke seemingly walked past Jagielka and actually scored from a reasonably tight angle. It didn’t take too long for the toffees to respond, Anichebe held off a defender and put one across Guzan for an equalizer on 20 minutes. To my greatest surprise, Villa bounced straight back with a headed goal from Agbonlahor 3 minutes later in what was an entertaining half of football.
But it didn’t end there, after the break Benteke scored again with a diving header from a great cross in putting Villa right in the driving seat. Then it was a case of cometh the hour, cometh the man – Fellaini finally returned to the score sheet after seven weeks off it, giving the toffees some hope after 68 minutes. That hope seemed to be fading though, until Fellaini again scored this time from a set piece – heading in after 93 minutes – his 11th goal of the season (this is why Moyes can’t play him as a CDM). Devastating for Villa, but it least this sort of performance means there may still be hope for them yet.
In the highest scoring game of the round, bonus points were afforded to goalscorers only; Fellaini (3), Anichebe (2) (you beauty!) and Benteke (1).
Arsenal 1 – 0 Stoke
Well, this game won’t make your list of top 100 most memorable EPL games that’s for sure – Stoke arrived at the Emirates really just trying to do one thing – stop Arsenal scoring. Whilst that may seem like a viable strategy, it really allows for quite a dour game with deep defending and few genuine chances on goal. That’s the Stoke style, so as a Stoke fan (and Begovic owner) I was happy to finally see the defensive effort returning. Anyway, the game was quite tight and really only Arsenal had the good chances. Walcott, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Wilshere and even Koscielny all were denied goals through the Stoke defense – mostly however by Begovic who played like a man auditioning for the spot between the sticks of a top 4 club.
However it did all count for nothing for my team (not surprisingly, after coming off 10 consecutive losses to the Gunners), when Podolski saw his free kick deflect in off one of our FPL teams defensive cheapies in Geoff Cameron. Importantly, this also gave a lot of us some points with Walcott getting the assist. This was well and truly a deserved result though, the Gunners had the run of the play most of the game and certainly had the lion’s share of chances and possession, keeping them in touch with Spurs in 4th spot.
Again for the bonus points we saw Koscielny picking up the 3, Arteta picked up 2 whilst Podolski wrapped it up with 1.
Newcastle 3 – 2 Chelsea
Again a little unexpected here, but in some ways I am not surprised. The controversy just follows this blues team wherever they go now – it seemingly only hung around at Stamford Bridge but now Rafa takes it everywhere with him in his no doubt oversized man purse. This was really about the return of Ba to St. James Park, however that ended prematurely when Coloccini seemingly vented his frustration at being stuck at St James Park (whilst Ba went on his merry way), by kicking the strikers face in on 42 minutes. Whilst that may sound harsh, it’s not as harsh as it has been for all us FPL managers that persisted with the Senegalese striker.. I’m sorry Demba, but good riddance.
This game was full of end to end football, however the only goal in the first half came from a Gutierrez header. After the half, it was Chelsea who came out firing – firstly through Lampard who scored his 10th goal for the season, for the 10th season in a row (what a legend he’s been!) and soon after our favourite midfielder Mata curled one over Krul into the top corner. This allows me to introduce perhaps our next fantasy asset – Moussa Sissoko, who not only went on to level the scores but then also put one in from 20 yards on 89 minutes for the unlikely Magpies win. He seemingly is playing in the hole behind Cisse, which may not sound that attractive with the striker struggling to.. well, even recognise what a football looks like, but it does mean he’ll have a few goes at goal himself (a total of six in this game).
As for bonus points, they all went the way of the home side – Sissoko (3), Gutierrez (2) and Santon (1).
Reading 2 – 1 Sunderland
So a couple of form sides faced each other here, Reading in particular have been quite impressive in the past few weeks with their goal scoring prowess (particularly late!). However in this match Reading got on the board first relatively early (6 minutes) through Kebe – which had to be the case because Le Fondre has taken over the role as “super sub” from Edin Dzeko (notice how we seem to have a new Ole Gunnar Solksjaer almost every month though?). Anyway moving on, later in the half Pogrebnyak decided he would try and slide tackle O’Shea as the defender was running away from his goals – bringing him down right in the corner of the box which brought about a spot kick which was nailed by Gardner.
Reading went on to have most of the possession and the chances, with the best of those an effort headed into the crossbar by Mariappa. There were late introductions for Le Fondre and also new signing Blackman, whilst ex-Swansea striker and Newcastle fan (Sunderlands arch rivals) Danny Graham also came on late to try pinch a winner. Graham nearly did so, however Federici tipped his header over the bar. Then just when you thought this game would end up falling to a draw, it was Kebe again who completed his brace when he rose at the back post to nod in a expertly placed Harte free kick. Those of you that have the Irishman as a cheapie in defense – well done to you.
Bonus points didn’t hold any surprises here, going the way of Kebe (3), Harte (2) and Gardner (1).
West Ham 1 – 0 Swansea
This game marked the return of much maligned striker Andy Carroll who West Ham had missed a little bit more than Papiss Cisse misses everything. It didn’t take long for the partnership between Carroll and hammers captain Nolan to come to the fore – Carroll just draws defenders from everywhere and delivers regularly to Nolan to put away. I think if you’re stuck in the midfield keep an eye on the hammers captain now the big striker is back. The first half here saw a few saves from Tremmel to deny the hammers, but Swansea weren’t really involved.
The second half however did seem to open up a few chances for the Swans, notably Michu probably had the best chance – his header denied by Jaaskelainen who tipped over the bar. But in the end, it wasn’t to be for the swans as Carroll scored the winner on 77 minutes just as he knows best – with a powerful header off a Noble corner kick. As much as he probably didn’t get as much game time as he’d like, you have to wonder whether Laudrup already regrets letting Danny Graham go. I am certainly starting to worry about our midfield sensation Michu becoming too much of a focal point to the extent where he just gets swamped by defenders – something to keep a close eye on.
Bonus points went all the way of the hammers and rightly so, with Carroll picking up the maximum whilst Noble and Nolan picked up two each.
Wigan 2 – 2 Southampton
The last of the ‘smaller’ games here for the week, with the relegation battlers slugging it out at DW. Wigan came out of the blocks early and Boruc denied Di Santo after 13 minutes with probably save of the week for mine. That didn’t last though, with Caldwell soon giving the latics the lead after 25 minutes. Then it was all Soton, particularly in the second half – they absolutely “pantsed” the latics. The saints club captain Lallana came on after 60 minutes making his return from injury and he seemingly inspired them – Lambert converted a header after pouncing on a loose ball in the box before Al Habsi could get to it (his 11th goal this season).
The latics managed to hold out after this and the pressure from Soton seemed to fall away slightly, that was until Rodriguez made a brilliant run and cut the ball back in off the by-line to Schneiderlin to knock in what I thought was the winner. However returning former PL leading scorer in Scharner leapt high at a corner ball in the last minute of regular time, knocking the ball down for Maloney to poke in from near the post. Disappointing for the saints no doubt, but the latics will just be happy to escape with a point here, surely they cannot survive again this year.. surely!
Bonus points: Caldwell (3), Lambert (2), Schneiderlin (2).
Fulham 0 – 1 Man United
A bit like the superbowl today, this game was interrupted by the lights going out at Craven Cottage just before the half (many on twitter called the game to be abandoned so RVP owners missed out, personally I wish that was the case as I had Bale as my VC). Anyway, this was a much improved performance from Fulham as opposed to the FA cup belting they copped from United last weekend, even without their ex-United striker Berbatov who was missing through injury. Ruiz however (the guy I traded out this week after so many blanks, albeit without much luck), tried his best to cover and was denied several times by the United defense. At the other end, the most expensive man in the game had a quiet game, whilst the almost forgotten Nani impressed – particularly before the lights went out.
That incident however, seemed to take all the zip out of the game – beforehand it was quite an intriguing and quite level contest with the keepers at both ends being kept busy. The deadlock was broken however when Rooney scored again (is it time to look at him seriously instead of RVP?), running onto a long ball from defense and calmly slotting past Schwarzer for what was the eventual winner. RVP had a chance not long later to double their lead, however he uncharacteristically volleyed a cross over from inside 10 yards whilst unmarked. He was required at the other end though to preserve United’s clean sheet and 3 points when he cleared a Senderos shot off the line from a set piece. As a side note, Hangeland ended up limping off here with an anchillies injury – Fulhams next few fixtures could be very leaky without him. Lots of things to think about coming out of this game!
This really surprised me, but the bonus points went the way of Rooney (3), RVP (3) and Evans (1). Again I’m not sure I understand that especially given his quiet game, but given he is my captain I shouldn’t be complaining. Possibly his header off the line at the end.. ah who knows.
West Brom 0 – 1 Tottenham
Well, I was certainly surprised only one goal was scored here. Firstly West Brom have been terrible of late, which really has stemmed from their poor efforts in defense allowing goals far too easily compared to their early season efforts. Secondly and very much so the talking point of the game, Popov got himself red carded early in the second half after spitting at Walker. Whilst he didn’t get anything on Walker and it seems a bit harsh to be sent off for it, I don’t have any sympathy – pretty filthy act. I’d rather be punched in the face than spat at to be honest, just so you guys know that for future.
Anyway with albion were down to ten men, I thought surely this could be when the Welsh wizard Bale could put on an exhibition. To an extent, he certainly did – however he only notched the only goal of the game with a cracking strike into the top corner from outside the box. He seemingly played a more central role in this game, that was until Defoe awkwardly twisted his ankle and ended up coming off – resulting in Dempsey moving forward and new signing Holtby replacing him in midfield. I quite liked the look of Holtby, he gave Spurs some purpose – he chased down the defenders deep in their own half and that seemed to encourage the likes of Lennon and Bale to do the same. As such it was really one way traffic, particularly with the red card which also meant Lukaku was subbed out of the game robbing Albion of much attacking threat.
Bonus points here unsurprisingly went the way of Bale (3), with Lloris picking up 2 for his first half saves, whilst Assou-Ekotto and Walker landed 1 each. Walker clearly didn’t get a point for the assist, more so for provoking Popov surely!
Man City 2 – 2 Liverpool
The final game of the round and a cracking one at that too. I have to say watching this I was super surprised by Liverpool’s competitiveness, particularly after they trailed early when Dzeko tapped in a great cross from Milner after 24 minutes. That didn’t take long to be cancelled out, with recent signing Sturridge again showing he is a potential bargain at just 7.6 – that is however not taking into account his leg injury he sustained which puts him in a little doubt for next week’s DGW. The former city striker now has four attacking returns – one in each of his first four PL games with the reds, impressive stuff.
Mancini decided to bring on Kolarov to replace Nastasic, giving city a back three – which seemed to tip the ascendency in their favour slightly. Shortly afterwards, Aguero threatened with a great run only to fall over at the decisive moment in the penalty area. The recently crowned England player of the year for 2012 Gerrard, however decided it was time to step up – so he let fly a crisp strike from well outside the box which was too good for Hart. I couldn’t believe my eyes, Liverpool were going to beat a side from the top half – at that it was City at Etihad! However it wasn’t to be for those “poor, suffering” reds fans (I think that grain of sympathy I just had is gone already), with Reina losing his mind and deciding he was best placed to chase and challenge Aguero headed towards the corner. The Argentine striker however got to the ball first and with one touch was around the Spaniard, then proceeding to shoot at the open goal from the tightest of angles – and of course knowing City’s ridiculous luck, he nailed it.
So a great way to finish the game, Gerrard and Sturridge as I mentioned are in my team for the DGW – however Sturridge’s injury means you should watch him closely (I brought him in just after lockout on Saturday). Suarez was relatively active but was hardly threatening, but he rarely seems to perform in the big games – fortunately neither of their games are quite at that level next week meaning he’ll probably pocket a bag full of points for his owners. Gerrard I cannot recommend enough – that was his 5th goal in his past 10 games and 6th overall for the season. I already have him locked and loaded as my captain personally. Interesting points to note from this game for City, we didn’t see Carlos Tevez at all (he was on the subs bench) and they conceded their first goal since December 29 (584 minutes since last conceding).
The bonus points for this final fixture were heavily swayed in City’s direction, with Aguero (3), Dzeko (2) and Milner (1) denying all reds players aside from Gerrard who also picked up 1.
So in summary, this is how I did this week. Well and truly back inside the top 20,000 overall which i’m happy with:
Lord: Anichebe, Bale
Loser: BA, Michu.. I could be harsh and say RVP too.
Trades: As soon as GW26 opened I traded Ba and Cazorla to Sturridge and Gerrard for the DGW.
Vent: Waiting until GW26 opened to do the above trade – costing myself 13 points. In saying that, I would have only brought in Gerrard for Cazorla as I had already done this trade below…
Brag: Brought in Anichebe for Ruiz this week (hence the earlier cheering at his bonus points). At just 4.3, it was a punt worth taking with Ruiz having blanked many weeks in a row and playing United – 11 points was a much bigger bonus than I expected!
Before I forget, here’s the results of our little tipping competition which was in Seags GW25 preview (unlucky Matty, so close…):
Seags: 7 points (four correct results and one correct match score)
Matt: 2 points (two correct results)
Me: 5 points (five correct results)
That’s it from me for now, however I will be back later in the week with somewhat of a form/value piece. So feel free to unleash with any comments you might have, or at least (most importantly) with your scores for the week below! Don’t forget to hit me up on twitter either, maybe even throw me a follow (i’ll even follow back, wowzers.. or something)!