Alvaro Negredo climbs off the bench to help steer City to a win over Hull. Hatem Ben Arfa’s quality proves the difference for Newcastle, Nathan Redmond grabs Norwich’s winner against Southampton, while a goal from Jermaine Pennant helps Stoke end West Ham’s unbeaten run. With only two of yesterday’s six Premier League fixtures mustering more than a single goal, Fantasy managers were forced to rely on clean sheet returns to boost tallies once again.
Pellegrini Reveals Rotation Plans
Edin Dzeko’s owners breathed a sigh of relief when the teamsheets were announced, as the Bosnian remained in the City first XI to face Hull. Having struggled to break down a determined display from Steve Bruce’s side, however, Dzeko was left in the dressing room at half-time as Manuel Pellegrini turned to Alvaro Negredo to partner Sergio Aguero up top. The Spaniard needed little time to vindicate his manager’s decision with a goal just 20 minutes later and has now notched in each of City’s last two – Dzeko, by comparison, has a single strike from three successive starts. With Stevan Jovetic fit enough for the bench yesterday, Pellegrini now has a full quota of strikers at his disposal and, post-match, the City boss made it abundantly clear he intends to utilise the strength and depth of his first-team squad over the club’s upcoming schedule – a definite worry for Fantasy managers who have loaded up on City’s assets:
“I expect Alvaro to do exactly what we’re seeing every time he plays. He played some minutes and scored a legal goal in the first game against Newcastle which was ruled invalid. In the second game, he scored a goal – again today, he scored one goal more. I know what a good striker he is. In Edin and Alvaro we have two very good strikers. We’ll need both of them….During August, we played just three matches at weekends but after the international break we have to play eight matches every month, so everyone who has a good performance has a chance to start. We will rotate the squad a lot over the coming months.”
Significantly, Pellegrini also went on to confirm that the club are in the market for yeat another new signing, with a defender the key target.
“I expect it (some business). I hope for one defender. Maybe that is the name we want. We will see what happens.”
While the exact target is unknown, we can presume that a central defender will be a priority having witnessed the struggles in the absence of Vincent Kompany. Any new arrival would, once again, put the central defensive role alongside Kompany, and therefore Matija Nastasic’s start, in doubt. Pellegrini already handed Fantasy managers food for thought in yesterday’s game by benching left-back Gael Clichy following the defeat to Cardiff.
Ben Arfa the Magpies Saviour
Having failed to score in any of their previous four home games, it was always likely Newcastle would need a little bit of magic to make the difference against Fulham yesterday. With just four minutes remaining, their French talisman lifted the Tyneside gloom with a superb strike that proved enough to seal the points. Ben Arfa – the headline act in yesterday’s Spot the Differential article – vindicated out faith and will surely now move onto Fantasy radars ahead of a favourable run of games which sees the Magpies play Villa, Hull and Cardiff in three of the next four Gameweeks.
Berbatov Drops Deeper As Bent Earns Start
Martin Jol partnered Dimitar Berbatov and Darren Bent up top at St James’ Park, confirming many of our fears by shifting the Bulgarian to the role in “the hole” in order to accommodate the Villa loanee. Prolific as the most advanced forward last season, Berbatov’s prospects look to have taken a dent since Bent’s arrival. Certainly, post-match, Jol offered indication that he has settled on such a set-up…
“If you saw what we did with Bent, he gave us what we wanted.”
Elsewhere, Bryan Ruiz was forced onto the right wing against the Magpies, with Adel Taarabt relegated to the bench after his manager confirmed he had picked up an ankle knock in midweek.
“Adel Taarabt had a little ankle problem after Burton Albion and he’s a terrific player. With Damien Duff, Kačaniklić, Ashkan Dejagah and Taarabt, we are okay.”
Patjim Kasami was also relegated to the bench for Saturday’s defeat – having started the previous two league outings. Kasami had attracted strong Fantasy interest as a budget midfield option and went into the trip to Newcastle with over 7% FPL ownership. However, pre-match, Jol had made it clear that Kasami’s starting role was far from secure…
“Last year and the year before he didn’t have a lot of success so we put him on loan and he’s come back and had a good pre-season, a few assists and a goal against Sunderland. So he has made a big step but that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s in the team now and he knows that.”
Having earned an FPL rise to 4.6, Kasami’s prospects are now potentially limited with Jol introducing both Bent and Ruiz into the fold and Duff, Taarabt, Kacaniklic and Dejagah competing for flank roles. Kasami’s new owners look set to suffer frustration in the weeks to come.
With Craven Cottage meetings against West Brom, Cardiff and Stoke and a trip to Palace in the next five, Fulham’s assets certainly warrant consideration. Bent, as a 6.5 FPL option up front, may well fetch some interest.
Bassong’s Return Earns a Clean Sheet for Canaries
Having made his first start for the senior side in the midweek Capital One Cup match, Seb Bassong was installed to the heart of the Norwich defence once again. The Cameroon international’s first league appearance also coincided with his side’s first clean sheet as the hosts kept out Southampton at Carrow Road. Chris Hughton sprung something of a surprise by retaining Steven Whittaker at right-back, with club captain Russell Martin dropping out of the starting XI. At just 4.2 in FPL, Whittaker looks an intriguing option if he can hold off the challenge of Martin, though with Spurs, Chelsea and Arsenal in the next five, defensive returns may be a little hard to come by.
Redmond on the Radar
Despite the return of Anthony Pilkington in the midweek Capital One cup win over Bury, the former Birmingham winger kept his place in the Canaries starting XI yesterday. Fielded on the left flank for the third successive Gameweek, Redmond popped up with the Carrow Road winner to earn the hosts their first league win of the campaign and force himself onto Fantasy radars, with a modest 5.0 price tag in FPL. After the match, Redmond unsurprisingly picked up the praise, with Hughton more than happy with the summer signing’s recent displays:
“He is an exciting young talent. I always understand when somebody is in really good form, particularly if they’re a young player, there will be interest in them. I think that is normal, but we have all been around long enough to know that also with young players they can have highs and lows and you have to be sure to look after them in the right way.”
Full-Back Uncertainty at Southampton
For the Saints, Mauricio Pochettino’s decision to bench both Nathaniel Clyne and Luke Shaw will be a growing concern for their owners. After missing the pre-season matches, Clyne has failed to reclaim the right-back berth from Calum Chambers despite returning to full fitness, while Shaw’s owners will be hoping his bench role was merely precautionary. The left-back was forced off against Sunderland with a recurring knee problems last week and has failed to feature since. With home games against West Ham, Palace and Swansea in the next four, plenty will be willing to invest in the Saints defensive options, with Artur Boruc perhaps the safest bet at the moment.
Further forward, Pochettino opted to give new signing Pablo Osvaldo his first start at Carrow Road, ousting Jay Rodriguez to the bench. The former Burnley man eventually replaced the Italian international on 78 minutes but is now set to struggle to fight his way back into the starting lineup.
Toughened Toffees Lacking A Cutting Edge
Many had anticipated a downturn in Everton’s defensive resolve after Roberto Martinez was installed as manager. The Spaniard had failed to steer Wigan to safety last term as the Latics sank into the Championship with the joint-worst defensive record in the top-flight but the Toffees have now registered back-to-back clean sheets following yesterday’s goalless draw at Cardiff. While the likes of Kevin Mirallas and Nikica Jelavic continue to toil up top, Seamus Coleman and the defence are racking up the points; though with clashes against Chelsea and City, in addition to a trip to West Ham in the next four, Martinez’ side look set to have their resolve tested to the full.
Post-match, Martinez acknowledged the defensive effort but indicated that a lack of goals is becoming a concern…
“We were strong, we kept Cardiff very, very quiet and this is a difficult place to do that. On the other side, when you get the amount of moments in the final third that we did, we need to be clinical and start scoring goals – because that was the difference that stopped us getting three points.”
Mirallas is rapidly becoming a worry for his Fantasy owners. The Belgian is yet to register a goal or an assist and gave way to Gerard Deulofeu late on: the loan signing from Barcelona notched in the midweek Capital One Cup tie and is beginning to exert some pressure on Mirallas for the spot on the right flank. Interestingly, Martinez has revealed that the financial cost of the Deulofeu to Everton involved in the deal reduces depending on Deulofeu’s appearances which would suggest that opportunities for starts will come:
“The deal is performance based, so, depending on how many games he [Deulofeu] plays, financially there is a difference. It decreases if he plays more.”
Certainly, from Martinez’ comments, Deulofeu is seen as a wide player and therefore a direct threat to Mirallas’ start:
“I agree that he could really thrive in the English game. He is an old-fashioned winger who is incredible in one-on-one situations. He is a finisher, but he needs to get used to it and change some habits.”
In Fantasy terms, Mirallas’ case is not helped by the continual emergence of Ross Barkley as a budget midfield option. Barkley again started in the absence of Darron Gibson and was pushed up to support the attack with Leon Osman and Marouane Fellaini providing protection in central midfield.
Jelavic must also be under threat. Having enjoyed an encouraging pre-season, the Croatian could well lose his starting role for the meeting with Chelsea as Arouna Kone waits on his first league start for the Toffees. The Ivorian replaced Jelavic on 68 minutes at Cardiff.
Hughes Makes His Mark
Having won just twice on the road in 2012/13, it’s something of an understatement to suggest Stoke’s displays under Tony Pulis were hugely underwhelming last time out. Heading to face a West Ham side that had registered back-to-back clean sheets, Mark Hughes’ men were understandable underdogs for yesterday’s showdown but the Potters not only earned the points, they turned in a resilient defensive display which prevented their hosts from registering a single effort on target. While immediate games against City and Arsenal will temper any investment, Stoke are starting to suggest they could prove the doubters wrong and progress under the Welshman’s guidance. After the game, Hughes gave his verdict on the Stoke defence’s display:
“I was aware that West Ham had a really good home record and it’s a difficult place to come to but I have to say it was a great performance by us, near perfect in fact. I thought we were in total control of the game and were in no danger of conceding. You always worry that a goal might not come; there’s a fear that a ball into your box might go the wrong way and someone dispatches it. Thankfully, we defended brilliantly, dealt with everything they threw at us and always looked a threat on the break.”
Problems Mounting for Di Canio
Having omitted Stephane Sessegnon from the squad after his midweek drink-driving arrest, the Sunderland manager was left without both Jozy Altidore and Craig Gardner after the pair picked up late injuries prior to the Palace clash. This left the Black Cats with Connor Wickham and Ji Dong-Wong up front, while David Vaughan was drafted in alongside Seb Larsson in central midfield, with new boy Cabral again left on the bench. While the goalscoring return of Steven Fletcher offered a chink of light after yesterday’s dismal defeat, the dismissal of John O’Shea leaves Di Canio without his skipper for the Gameweek 4 visit of Arsenal – with Liverpool and United also rolling up to Wearside in the next four, the Sunderland boss has plenty to consider as pressure begins to mount after just three league outings.