Red Rum won its first Grand National in 1973 coming from over 30 lengths behind to beat Crisp by 3/4 of a length at the finish post. This win was a remarkable achievement in itself but it preceded an historic three National wins for the Southport-based thoroughbred.
Last night at The Emirates saw one of the most thrilling 0-0 draws that we've ever witnessed but now that's over and most of the Premiership issues are now settled bar who gets the "coveted" Europa League spots and who gets the final relegation place, we turn this newsletter's focus onto next season and the promoted sides.
Those of us who captained Kun Aguero this week were richly rewarded with a hat trick and 2 assists plus 3 bonus points to make it 46 for the week. Kun has had a remarkable 4 seasons in English football including of course, his stunning winner against QPR in 2012, which brought the Premiership trophy to The Etihad for the first time. During those 4 seasons, the diminutive Argentinean has scored 2 goals every three games and this season, he's scored a goal every 94 minutes on the pitch, some distance ahead of Costa on 103 minutes, and way ahead of Kane’s 120 minutes. But Aguero doesn't just score goals. He can claim 7 assists this season, as many as Costa (3) and Kane (4) put together, and his passing accuracy is also ahead of his rivals, with 85 per cent of his passes reaching their target against Costa’s 76 per cent and Kane’s 73 per cent.
By Christmas in our private "mates" leagues we usually know whom the best three contenders are going to be at the end of the season and the rest of us start to lose interest and stop doing our teams each week. We guess that you all must go through the same thoughts?
There weren't many football fans that would argue with the professional players choosing Hazard and Kane for the PFA Player of the Year and Young Player of the Year. But why bother with all the voting? They could have just looked at the PFL stats page and it would have shown that Hazard was indeed the top points scorer and that Kane was the top young points scorer. However, in terms of many previous winners, Hazard has quite a low goals and assists tally (so far) of 13 and 8. Previous winners such as Suarez (31/12), Ronaldo (31/7), Van Persie (30/9) and Henry (30/9) put him firmly in the shade.
There was some discord when it was announced that Arsenal's FA Cup semi final at Wembley was to be screened at the same time as Chelsea's Premier League clash against Manchester United. We're sure most of us would have preferred to watch the EPL game but we're also sure that most of us were unhappy with yet another nail in the FA Cup coffin being driven in by the broadcasters. For us Fantasy League managers, the worse thing was the total devastation of our teams with Liverpool, Arsenal, Villa, Sunderland, Hull and QPR all without games. 4 of those teams have double gameweeks this week and Arsenal v Sunderland is in gameweek 37.
If we forget the Mourinho Machine being almost boringly on target for the whole season to win the league, the final month of the season looks absolutely fantastic. Who will finish second? Could Long Ball Louis pip both City and Arsenal into 2nd place and disprove the early doubters? Could Arsenal actually give Chelsea a run for their money with their no pressure brilliance? Could Pellegrini throw the occasional teacup and prove that he's not actually deceased nor a poor imitation of Coronation Street's Audrey Roberts? Could Southampton pip Liverpool and Spurs to 5th place and could Burnley, QPR or Leicester avoid the drop? It's not been this exciting since Balotelli squeezed his only assist ever in a City shirt to Aguero to win the Prem in 2012.
After Chelsea's win against the very brave Hull last night and Long Ball Louis's team taking full advantage of Slippy G's aberration earlier, the EPL Top 4 is cast in tablets of stone. The only issue is who will finish where behind Chelsea with Manchester United still having to play both City and Arsenal, Arsenal having to play Liverpool, Chelsea and United and the Champions having to play away games at both United and Spurs.
Arsenal are definitely on a roll. Since they lost away to Southampton on New Year's Day, they've only lost 1 game in 8 Premiership fixtures, dropping just 3 points in that period and now sit just one point behind City and 7 behind Chelsea who they meet at home on April 26th. That's obviously a must-win match for the "serial losers" but if they do, and you discount Manchester United away the only really tough game they've got is Liverpool at home. Could Wenger do the unthinkable? He's got a better chance than Pellegrini that's for sure.
In a gameweek when Spurs and QPR played an extra game each it shouldn't have been that hard to pick your captain. Anyone whose name ends in ane would do the trick and those that did claimed a superb 30 points from the Spurs wonderkind. In fact, all of Top 10 did the same with the notable exception of our Number 1, Oli Ottey who chose Aguero. Following on from last week's choice of the suspended Jack Colback, we're getting seriously worried about our Oli who seems to be chucking his once-unassailable lead away without a care in the world. It's like Manchester United losing to Everton and losing the league a couple of seasons back.. Maybe he's just got a girlfriend and the Fantasy League just doesn't hold the same attraction any more. Whatever it is Oli, we think we should be told!
Liverpool's post Christmas revival is remarkable. Not only did they take apart the Champions on Sunday but they have also started to look like the real deal and will almost certainly secure a Champions League spot this season. Their three at the back line-up has been superb such that since their New Year's Day aberration against Leicester, they've only conceded 3 goals and have kept 5 clean sheets in those 7 games. They've also kept 5 consecutive clean sheets in away games - a feat that they've not managed to do since Hansen and Lawrenson were still playing back in 1985.
You know that something is amiss at Old Trafford when their greatest media fan, the Daily Mail's Ian Ladyman says that he doesn't think LvG knows what he's doing. The weekend actually started OK for the manager who even United fans have taken to calling Long Ball Louis with a report in the Mail that 81% of United fans thought he was doing a good job. The poll, in the Manchester Evening News actually asked the question "What is more important for van Gaal this season, style or results?" It isn't so surprising that United fans think that results are more important given that style seems to have gone out of the window. United fans are historically extremely supportive of their managers but dropping Rooney to a defensive midfield position and then launching long balls up to Fellaini is testing their patience. It seems incredible that until Saturday's game Rooney hadn't had a single shot on target in the whole of 2015 and that despite United's impressive 65% possession at the Liberty Stadium they could only muster 3 shots on target as opposed to Swansea's 6.
"Kane is Able", "HurriKane", "Citizen Kane" and "Prince Harry" were just some of the tabloid headlines on Sunday morning after the Spurs wonderkid netted twice to win the North London derby for Tottenham and to not only put pressure on Arsenal, but also on Southampton, Manchester United and Liverpool. The way City are playing at the moment you could arguably include them in that list as well. Harry has now scored 20 goals in all competitions this season, which isn't far short of the 26 that Bale scored in his best season at the club. At £6.1m he's an absolute bargain and yet only 41% of us have him in our sides. Shurely, Shomething wrong?
So with Sanchez still out and Costa now absent for a further 2 games, captaincy was the big choice this weekend. We wouldn’t have thought that many would have been able to pick out an effective person from the Arsenal team and yet Ryan Roberts managed to pull a total of 49 points from 3 players, this is actually more than some of the teams totals in our league as well!
Nobody who watched Arsenal's highly mature and impressive demolition of City on Sunday could fail to be impressed with Santi Cazorla. Of course, in the Spaniard's first EPL season he came straight out of the blocks with 13 goals and another 13 assists and was one of the first choices for all FPL managers.
As we go past the halfway mark of the season, there are 13 players that have scored more than 100 points and nearly half of them cost £6.5m or less. Charlie Austin at just £6.4m has to be the bargain attacker of the season but Berahino and Kane also come close. Midfielders Downing, Chadli and Sigurdsson are all right up there in the Value / Season table and are all in the 100 points plus club. The best value defenders with less than 10% ownership are Fonte, Cissokho, Janmaat and O'Shea whereas the best value goalies are Heaton, Guzan, Forster and Green. Guzan has a large ownership but the other three will all give you an edge against your rival managers and free up funds for key acquisitions such at £12.4m Kun Aguero.
This weekend in Spain, both Ronaldo and Messi scored hat-tricks. For Ronaldo it was the 23rd of his La Liga career and took him ahead of Telmo Zarra and Alfredo di Stefano from the 1950's. Ronaldo's 3 goals also took him to 200 goals scored in a mere 178 games; the shortest number of games it has taken any player to achieve such a total. Although Messi has been playing in La Liga since 2004, Ronaldo didn't arrive until 2009. However in the time since Ronaldo's arrival, Messi has scored 202 goals but in 182 games. In that time, Ronaldo's averaged 1.13 goals per game compared with Messi's 1.11.
Ronald Koeman still holds the record for the world's highest goal scoring defender in top class football. It's therefore fitting that Gael Clichy who hadn't scored a Premier League goal since the 2008/09 season scored yesterday when City increased Southampton's goals against tally by 50% at St Mary's. Glen Johnson used to score 3 a season but Liverpool soon battered that out of him and he hasn't scored for 2 seasons until Saturday. Brenda will probably drop him for that. Chris Smalling's goal scoring chart looks to be in binary 1-0-1-0-0-0 but he got one on Saturday when Manchester United played the seriously unambitious Hull City and West Ham's Aaron Cresswell scored the first Premiership goal of his career to earn a fantastic 15 points in their 1-0 defeat of Newcastle. Cresswell is now third in the Defenders Form table and is owned by just 1% of managers. Food for thought there guys.
At the end of September, Alan Pardew was the bookie's favourite to lose his job. Newcastle had just 3 points on the board and hadn't managed a single victory in the Premier League and had been thumped 4-0 by Southampton into the bargain.
Manuel Pellegrini will be very glad of the international break next weekend but not as glad as the fact that he has the brilliant Kun Aguero lifting his struggling City side week in, week out. After Ronaldo, Aguero is now the second most prolific goal scorer in all the European leagues this season.
The best Fantasy League managers are always reticent to choose big players from abroad until they've settled into the Premiership. Too many fingers have been burnt on players like Ozil and Falcao. Alexis Sanchez came with a big reputation. He was never the first choice at Barcelona until his final season when he scored 19 goals in 34 appearances, and a few of those were from the bench. He had an OK start at Arsenal but he's now on fire scoring 5 goals in his last 3 games, pulling the north Londoners out of the mire in the process. However, the best thing about the Chilean is that the Fantasy League have him down as a midfielder rather than a striker which means of course, that he gets 5 points for every goal scored instead of a striker's 4 points.
So much for the Barclays Manager of the Month award being a curse. Ronald Koeman collected the award before the Sunderland game and then went on to watch his team destroy the Mackems with his refreshingly swish style of football and no less than 8 goals This week they beat Stoke to go second in the table having conceded a mere 5 goals all season. Being keen aficionados of Barcelona, Koeman was always a hero of ours ever since his blockbuster free kick won the 1992 European Cup at Wembley, but we've never rated him as a manager before with most of his previous jobs lasting less than 12 months.
Southampton score 8 against Sunderland who score the funniest OG in history, Aguero scores 4 against Spurs AND misses a pen and for the first time in EPL history there are 4 pens awarded in a game, Arsenal are lucky to draw at home with Hull, Newcastle win a game, Everton win a game AND keep a clean sheet, QPR contrive to both score 2 and concede 2 in the final 8 minutes with Richard Dunne securing the record number of EPL OGs ever and Manchester United's Marouane Fellaini has his first decent game in a red shirt. The Baggies were made to eat their tweeted words when he scored within 3 minutes of coming on - "Fellaini has now taken his tracksuit off. Fortunately he has a Man U strip on underneath"
Last season, Everton were one of those go-to teams where Fantasy League managers could pick up great value players that would produce points week in, week out and where Baines and Coleman would not only get us clean sheets but also chip in with goals and assists galore.
When the PFL's Dream Team only features 3 midfielders and when those in question are Dorrans, Jedinak and Willian you know for certain that most managers' midfields are going to have had a pants week. And that's exactly what happened with the best manager in our league scoring a mere 61 points.
You can imagine that headline this morning in the Daily Manchester United Mail can't you but United's transfer window buys and their performances this season do remind us of the original Galacticos of Real Madrid who went a full 3 years without winning a sausage after they bought Beckham to add to Figo on the right wing and totally ignored their defence. Elsewhere, what a week it was with some of the more fancied teams suffering from post-European hangovers and Southampton, Villa, Swansea, Leicester, West Ham and Hull all in the top 10 and Liverpool, United and Everton all in the bottom half.
New imports Diego Costa and Angel De Maria have lit up the EPL in just a few short weeks and in Di Maria's case, just one week. Costa has now scored seven times in four league appearances, from just 14 shots. Torres took 43 games to register that many. Not only has Costa has equalled TalkSport presenter, Micky Quinn's 22 year old record of scoring in his first 4 EPL games but he's beaten Quinny's & Kun Aguero's record of scoring 6 goals in the opening 4 games. We still think Quinny's record is the better one though as he was playing for Coventry City in a team of no-hopers!
Because we know how difficult it is to juggle placements, client calls, paperwork etc in the middle of August when you're covering for your colleagues who are busy sunning themselves on the beach, our fantasy league gives you that bit more time.
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