So there’s one game still left for this extended game week – but that’s not until this weekend. Anyway, let’s look at what happened with the other ten games we’ve still had so far this round. Go.
So the game week opened up with this, which was a pleasure to watch all thanks to the brilliance of one man – Gareth Bale. If you don’t have this guy in your team you’re going to have a hard time when he fires, sure his consistency is questionable, but when he’s on he can string scores together – and frequently they are of significance. He was on song in this game from very early on, as were spurs as a whole, dominating the early proceedings where they pressed several times before Dempsey drew a free kick which Bale consequently scored brilliantly from 25 yards. Newcastle did eventually settle into the game however and provided chances of their own, to the point they ended up with an equaliser after 24 minutes when Sissoko flew down the wing delivering to fellow January signing Gouffran – who managed to beat Lloris after a deflection off Dawson.
The status quo was maintained well into the second half where Bale in particular pressed again, finally putting spurs in front with what was the eventual winner on 78 minutes. He streamed towards goal after beating the Newcastle defense and one-on-one Krul didn’t have much hope of keeping the Welshman at bay. Shortly after this Caulker missed an open header from a corner which would have sealed the game, instead Newcastle were still in it and nearly equalised again through Ameobi in injury time, only for him to head wide of the target. Due to a nasty leg injury to Gouffran in the second half, injury time was a lengthy 7 minutes – which was time enough for Krul to deny Bale a further two times to prevent him taking home the match ball. In the end it was a reasonably comfortable win for spurs – however that is largely due to the Bale influence, for their sake (and our viewing sake) I hope they can keep him in the premier league!
It shouldn’t need to be said, but maximum bonus points unsurprisingly went to Bale (3), followed by Dawson (2) and Parker (1).
This game saw the return of a couple of first XI mainstays in Luiz and ballboy ‘basher’ Hazard (returning from his 3 game suspension), whilst Cech played despite an injured finger. History shows that this fixture has goals in it, which this game certainly did no harm to that school of thought. As you’d expect, Chelsea dominated most of the first half – but not before a couple of very early tests for the injured Cech were unsuccessful – denying the efforts of both Di Santo and Maloney. The only goal of the half came through Ramires who slotted the ball over Al Habsi who was charging towards him after a Torres assist. This seemed to calm Chelsea and they had several opportunities denied and others missed before the halftime whistle blew.
It didn’t take long for the blues to extend their lead in the second half, where Hazard latched onto a first time shot after Azpilicueta neatly cut inside to deliver the assist. This goal however seemed to relax Chelsea entirely, which Wigan pounced upon only 2 minutes later through Maloney – who took advantage of a defensive error and beat Cech (who was running at him) from a very tight angle – in a similar vein to Aguero’s goal against Liverpool last week. This was Rafa’s worst nightmares repeating, he’d seen such instances before (prior week vs. Reading replaying in his mind surely) – which ensured a very nervy time for the next half hour before the legend that is Lampard finally put Rafa’s mind at ease with his 198th goal for the club on 86 minutes. Substitute Marin put the finishing touches on the result after converting from an Al Habsi parried save off Azpilicueta deep into injury time.
Bonus points for this game went all the way of Chelsea, with Hazard (3), Azpilicueta (2) and Ramires (1).
Quite surprisingly in some ways, this was a game which Stoke dominated for most of the game – which isn’t really in line with Stoke’s style at all. Reading however seemed perhaps overawed at the Brit (it is an intimidating place usually), which probably just confirms their status as a genuine relegation candidate to be honest. The first half was largely one way traffic with the royals defense under pressure and requiring some very neat saves from Federici, however the score at the half remained nil all.
Early into the second half Brian McDermott called upon his ‘super sub’ in Le Fondre to try and inject some life into an otherwise offensively lacking performance. However Tony Pulis also made his own moves early on bringing in Jones and Jerome for Crouch and Kightly who were creative in their time on the pitch without converting. This move paid dividends shortly after when Huth powerfully headed home from a Whelan corner after 67 minutes – finally breaking the deadlock. As you’d expect, Stoke continued to push following this and were rewarded again after a good bit of skill from Jerome (never thought I’d be saying that) when he pounced on a defensive error by Mariappa after a Shawcross long ball to smashed the ball past Federici. However just when we might have thought we’re finally getting a clean sheet from Stoke again, Mariappa made amends only 2 minutes later when he headed in from Harte’s corner on 83 minutes. Reading however were unable to get anything out of this game unlike their past few weeks though, with Stoke taking their first lot of three points since Boxing Day.
Again onto the Bonus Points, where Whelan collected 3, Huth 2 and Mariappa picked up 1.
Wow. Just, wow. If you didn’t watch this one, don’t bother (it seems that I’ve said that often about either of these sides lately). If you’ve seen the score above, you’ve seen enough to be perfectly honest! This was a total dullfest which then petered out to a scoreless draw.. I think that says it all really. Anyway of the minimal points to note here, Becchio made his debut for the canaries in place of Holt who injured his back the morning of the game, whilst Berbatov made his return for the cottagers after he returned from minor injury. Some of the better earlier opportunities were spurned by Duff and also Becchio, whilst stand-in captain Martin only managed to push a free header wide inside the box.
The second half was a lot of the same, however Fulham did start the brighter of the two – Sidwell tested out Bunn with a long range shot whilst Bassong decided to use his face to block the full force of a powerful Ruiz strike. There was little else in the game after this apart from Johnson putting a stabbed shot wide before the game fizzed out into nothing as both sides seemed content with a point.
Although probably of no use to anyone, the bonus points for this game were relatively evenly shared with Sidwell taking three, whilst Hangeland, Garrido and Turner all received two.
This game could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.. or at least whatever recent resistance we’ve seen from the hoops anyway. The Swans bounced back strongly after losing somewhat unexpectedly to the hammers last week, with what can only be described as a dominant performance. Importantly for a lot of us managers in this DGW, that everyone’s favourite swans player Michu lead that performance. After reading Seag’s article during the week about Michu, I’d certainly planned to sell him – now I’m almost certainly not going to after his 18 point haul with 2 goals, an assist and of course the maximum bonus points. As you’d expect, the Spaniard opened the scoring after pouncing onto a parried save by Cesar after Dyer was allowed to run and unleash a ferocious shot at goal. That was quickly followed up when Rangel scored a rare goal after Cesar failed to deny his first effort after being played in by Routledge. This was unfortunately followed by the first half injury to Chico which looks to be reasonably serious – likely to keep him out of the upcoming League Cup final.
The swans however didn’t let the injury to the key defender impact them, going into half time with their comfortable two goal buffer. In a bid to ignite the hoops, Redknapp subbed on Zamora and Granero for Mackie and Derry at the start of the second half, which paid almost immediate dividends. Zamora pounced onto another parried save – this time from Vorm – as he kept out a Taarabt thunderbolt after he had forced a defensive turnover by Davies on 48 minutes. However unfortunately for Redknapp, the swans restored their buffer almost immediately as Hernandez skipped down the wing to the by line and scored from a very tight angle in a crowded box – a goal that really shouldn’t have been allowed by what was an uncharacteristically weak hoops defense (based on recent form). Finally our man Michu completed a brace when he scored a very ‘Michu’ like goal and caught the hoops out on the counter, slotting the ball on his left past a hapless Cesar when one-on-one (his 18th goal this season!).
So in the end a comfortable win for the swans, which clearly was reflected in the bonus points with Michu picking up the maximum (as previously mentioned), along with Hernandez (2) and Rangel (1).
This was actually a more interesting game than the score gives it credit for, and it was almost what you’d describe as a game of ‘two halves’. In the first half, the ascendency was largely in Arsenal’s favour with their wealth of talent and classy passing style of football really undoing the black cats in the back half, with Mignolet instrumental in keeping the gunners at bay. In particular he denied an early shot by Walcott and a stinging effort by Ramsey which were probably the better of the chances. That was until the 35th minute where Wilshere and Walcott combined before the latter laid the ball off to Cazorla, who unleashed powerful strike from distance to get through the crowded black cats defense and produce the lone goal of the game.
The second half started a lot more balanced than the first half, with chances being missed at both ends by the likes of Giroud and also Fletcher. However on 62 minutes, Arsenal full back Jenkinson (a late replacement for Koscielny after he fell ill during the warmup), was sent off after receiving his second yellow card. This threw the game up in the air and as you’d suspect, the black cats unleashed a barrage of attempts on goal – none better however than a headed effort from Fletcher which was brilliantly stopped by Szczesny and also a scrambled effort by Bramble after a set piece where he failed to hit the open target from a matter of 2-3 yards. The fact that Arsenal were reduced to 10 men however didn’t stop them also having their own chances – Walcott was denied by the upright after he beat Mignolet one-on-one after 75 minutes, so the England forward only landed the assist after having so many genuine good chances on goal. In a late bid for a win, Graham was thrown on as the black cats searched for an equaliser, but his impact was unfortunately minimal for black cats fans.
So an important win for Arsenal in regards to the top 4 race, but more importantly for us FPL managers the bonus points all went the way of the gunners – Ramsey picking up three, importantly Walcott two and Arteta landed one.
Well, if anyone saw this coming – thanks for not telling me as this result buggered up a handy little multi I had for the weekend! Anyway, I’m sure Roberto Mancini doesn’t care about my minimal amount of dollars I would’ve won, versus the amount of money he’s likely to lose when his job goes missing after failing to reclaim the premiership this year. I guess that’s the big story everyone will talk about out of this game, in regards to the title race, but seriously well done to Southampton! They had a very shaky first few weeks on returning to the EPL and they since have really steadied (way back when even Adkins was still around), to the point where you’d almost say they’re clear of the relegation scrap. Unfortunately for City though, they really only have themselves to blame for this result – they committed some very simple, very poor defensive errors which resulted in goals to the saints. The first goal was as a result of a Gareth Barry turnover in his own half, with Puncheon virtually stealing the ball off him before offloading to Rodriguez – who’s shot was parried by Hart into the path of Puncheon who followed up and put the saints in front.
It wasn’t long before the saints extended that lead – this time a Lambert strike inexplicably burst through the hands of Hart, only for Davis to follow-up and make a simple tap in to the open goal. City did bounce back on a big counter attack just before half time, where Zabaleta ran the majority of the field before cross the ball into Dzeko who did the rest for City. However the fairytale comeback had deserted City this weekend, again they were the biggest threat to themselves as Barry unbelievably intercepted a saints pass only to pass the ball himself straight past Hart into his own net only 3 minutes into the second half. Both sides continued to try and press for further goals, however they weren’t forthcoming – Boruc impressively denied Aguero to deny City their best chance to make a comeback after the break. Unlike last year, I think the final nail went into the City coffin this time. Game, set, match – United.
Bonus points were dished out to Davis (3), Lambert (2) and Dzeko (1).
I don’t think this game will ever receive awards for the sheer quality of it, but nonetheless Villa picked up an incredibly important three points in regards to their relegation fight. This was really a genuine arm wrestle until deep in the second half when there was finally a break in the deadlock. However that wasn’t before I think ‘miss of the season’ was delivered by
Weimann when he missed an open shot from six yards when Jaaskelainen couldn’t hold onto a Benteke shot, pushing the ball wide with the net at his mercy. In what may be an issue for some FPL managers, O’Brien had to be substituted on 24 minutes with a leg injury after a strong challenge – fellow defensive cheapie Demel replaced him on the pitch. As I mentioned the deadlock was broken late in the piece when N’Zogbia managed to earn a penalty, which Benteke calmly slotted away (Gerrard – you should maybe take note of that).
This was quickly followed up when Bent was brought down just outside the area, with N’Zogbia taking the free kick and curling it over the wall and into the corner out of the reach of Jaaskelainen. At the other end West Ham were generally toothless, their main threats coming from Andy Carroll unsurprisingly during set pieces – which Villa have struggled significantly with this season. However it wasn’t West Ham who managed to get one back, it was Villa themselves, with Westwood very unluckily getting enough purchase from his attempted blocking header for the ball to fly deep and over the head of Guzan. The hammers tried to press for an equaliser but time was against them, meaning Villa crawled up to 17th on the table.
Again here the bonus points all went the way of the winning side; N’Zogbia (3), Benteke (2) and Westwood – despite his own goal! – (1).
This fixture certainly has some great history, in fact this fixture late last season was the turning point for City to bridge the gap to United. However that was not the case this year. It did look bad early on when RVP danced around Howard when one-on-one, only for him to miss the open goal as he fell after his shot. However the Dutchman quickly made amends by spotting up veteran Giggs in the penalty area, who had all the time in the world to slot home a right footed shot off the upright. In true toffee fashion though, they attempted to fight back – an effort from Osman was put behind by De Gea, however his next effort beat the keeper but also beat the post. Van Persie who had been ruled offside a few times during the half, managed to finally time his run right just before half time, when he again danced around Howard one-on-one and managed to score in almost identical fashion to the goal he missed early on.
Unusually, there wasn’t any goals scored after the half – but that wasn’t through a lack of trying on the part of both sides. United probably should’ve been ahead by three when a goal mouth scramble resulted in Evans being denied at least twice from about three yards out within a matter of seconds. The toffees also had their chances, Jelavic who came on as a substitute, forced a fine save from De Gea whilst Rooney cleared late denying Heitinga a shooting chance. So that left United 12 points ahead with 12 games remaining, worryingly for FPL managers, SAF mentioned post match that he had planned to rest players this game until he heard City had lost. The problem with that is, he mentioned “we can make more changes later on in the season”. In my opinion that sounds a little concerning for our striker assets, particularly RVP and even those who may own his counterpart Rooney. Definitely food for thought!
Onto the bonus points again; the two goal scorers picked up bonus points with RVP taking three and Giggs landing two, whilst Cleverley also managed to pick up two as well.
Well what an absolute fizzer from a fantasy perspective. I am not sure if many (or any) of you are still holding West Brom players from earlier this year (you shouldn’t be given their form of late) – but plenty of us were definitely on board with Liverpool players due to the dreaded DGW. Anyway, for anyone else that may have crawled out of their bed in the earlier hours of the morning – depending where you are I suppose – you must be questioning that decision like I am. Liverpool quite flatly dominated the game, particularly early on, to the point where the baggies didn’t even get a shot off in the first half. At the other end the West Brom defense was relatively solid but in all fairness, under siege.. however not too much had tested Ben Foster at that point, that is aside from a goal scored by Shelvey (who replaced the injured Sturridge up front) when he was flagged offside.
The second half started much the same way with Liverpool pressing harder still, Henderson having a back heel in front goal stopped by Foster until both he and Shelvey were substituted for Borini and Sterling. This seemed to spark Liverpool more so, with several chances created and stopped by Foster – Gerrard and Borini probably having the best of those. Then one of the defining moments of the match – Suarez going up for a header against Olsson and McAuley (yes, the midget in between the two West Brom giant beanstalks) was deemed to be fouled inside the area and hence earning a penalty. The captain (and many of our FPL captains this week – mine included) took the spot kick only to have his placed shot saved brilliantly by Foster diving to his left. Thanks mate, thanks a lot. This seemed to inspire the baggies and rightly so, shortly after they had a rare corner where Brunt curled in a beauty in the box with a surging McAuley crunching in a header from a few yards to give the baggies what seemed an unlikely lead. Not only that, but soon after Lukaku decided to turn on his beast mode and narrowly missed a brilliant running effort before he made amends and slotted home the sealer with a matter of minutes remaining.
So that left all our Liverpool players scoreless (besides points for minutes), with Gerrard on an almighty zero thanks to his penalty miss and Suarez getting an almighty 1 thanks to a yellow card. The bonus points didn’t help any of us either, all going the way of the baggies with McAuley (3), Foster (2) and Mulumbu (1).
Summary for the GW to date:
Lord: Michu (VC!), Bale, RVP, Walcott
Loser: Gerrard, Sturridge, Mata
Trades: I need to burn another -4 (like I did getting Gerrard and Sturridge in this GW!!!) to get rid of these guys. I may make that -8 if I decide to get rid of Demel as well (rather than play him on the field).
Vent: Well, I hate DGW’s – they suck. FPL sucks in fact. In my league, my main opponent has luckily avoided Gerrard and brought Michu in to captain. He also had Bale and Cazorla when they went spastic. These points alone are more than the difference between us right now (I’m probably just grumpy because it’s a cash league).
Brag: AFL Fantasy starts soon.
Onto our little tipping competition again (in Seag’s preview article), or at least an update of it leading into the last game:
Seag’s: 8 (5 correct results, 1 correct score), remaining tip Liverpool 1 – 0 Swansea
Matty: 8 (5 correct results, 1 correct score), remaining tip Liverpool 2 – 0 Swansea
Myself: 6 (3 correct results, 1 correct score), remaining tip Liverpool 2 – 1 Swansea
I’m praying for a 2-1 result then, which will make it a three-way tie!
That’s it from me for now. I should be back later this week (or early next) with another article to keep us going, particularly with only one game for the next 11 days! Feel free to follow me on twitter to discuss our deep hate for DGW’s or talk rubbish about any other sport! Cheers!