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Fantasy Football Player Picks: Matt Ritchie, Newcastle United

Fantasy Football: Aguero, Defoe and a Nintendo Power Glove

Arsenal, Liverpool… and Stoke feature in the Gameweek Preview??

15 Essential Fantasy Football Tips: Gameweek 1

Mahrez to Arsenal or Chelsea?? Who Cares! He’s in my Fantasy Football Team

Fantasy Football Goalkeepers: Manchester United Old Boy’s Club

I said Arfield not Arsenal!! Can Burnley provide Fantasy Football Differentials?

Fantasy Football GW34 preview: Has Michu’s magic returned?

The sun is shining and Michu (£8.0m) is scoring goals. It suddenly feels like August again doesn’t it?

Swansea’s Spaniard made one of the most spectacular entrances into Fantasy Premier League that we can remember, scoring four goals in his first three games and finishing the year 2012 on 13 strikes. All whilst handily listed as a midfielder.

The goals saw his Fantasy price rocket up from an initial £6.5m, with his ownership percentage increasing each week as a result. However since a goal against Manchester United just before Christmas, Michu has scored just four in 12 games since then. As a player who doesn’t contribute many assists (just two in that time and three all season), the Spaniard started to lose support.

The early season additions to many teams still sees his ownership percentage at a huge 44.1%, above the likes of Luis Suarez (39.8%), Robin van Persie (37.8%) and indeed everyone else, and after a recent return to goalscoring form there will be even more managers who are willing to take him on board in the closing weeks of the season.

Strikes against Tottenham and Norwich in the past two weeks have taken Michu’s tally to 17 goals this campaign, and after Swansea missed out on playing last weekend he has a double gameweek on the horizon in a bid to find even more.

This weekend though he faces a home game against a Southampton side who have failed to win away at a team ranked above them in the table all season, and so Michael Laudrup’s side will be confident of delivering a victory which will keep them in the top half of the table.

Michu is almost certain to be key to those hopes.

Elsewhere on a Saturday which is likely to go a long way towards determining who will be relegated this season, Norwich host a struggling Reading outfit who still look set to go down despite goalkeeper Alex McCarthy (£3.9m) earning them a point from a goalless draw with Liverpool last weekend.

Like Michu, Robert Snodgrass (£6.3m) scored in the last game at Carrow Road – Norwich’s 2-2 draw with Swansea – and the Scottish midfielder is likely to be a key element to the Canaries’ attempts to break down the Royals on Saturday, when Snodgrass will be looking to improve on his record of five goals and six assists this season.

FA Cup finalists Wigan are another side battling the drop, and although they could find it tough this weekend as they return to London to face West Ham, they do so offer intriguing cheap forward options in Arouna Kone (£6.6m) and Callum McManaman (£4.5m).

QPR simply have to beat struggling Stoke if any hope of them staying up is to remain, and so Loic Remy (£5.9m) is certain to be one to watch, whilst Sunderland’s Adam Johnson (£6.7m) is sure to be key to his side’s hopes of a second successive win as they host a strong Everton outfit.

Sunday’s matches bring together four of the top seven in a couple of big-hitting clashes, and whilst Tottenham will be hoping for the return to fitness of Gareth Bale (£10.5m) ahead of their match against Manchester City, it is a return to form that Suarez (£11.1m) will be after as Liverpool host Chelsea. After hitting 11 goals in 10 matches, the Uruguayan now hasn’t managed any in his last four.

Monday night will see Manchester United expect a victory from their home clash with Aston Villa, and whilst Van Persie (£13.6m) managed to find the net for the first time in 12 and a half hours of football for United against Stoke last weekend, it could be Wayne Rooney (£12.1m) who steals the show this time.

Stationed in a deeper role against Stoke, Rooney will be determined to return to a position further forward here, and he could just make struggling Villa pay.


Gameweek 11 preview: Rebel without a clause


Theo Walcott still hasn’t signed a new Arsenal contract.

He hasn’t signed it at the time of writing, he’s not likely to have signed it by the time you’re reading this, and he probably still won’t have signed it when you come back to these pages ahead of Gameweek 12.

If Walcott (£8.7m) wasn’t so bland as to make a legion of football fans yearn for the post-match interviews of Michael Owen then his dispute with Arsenal could almost be portrayed as a dramatic stand-off, with the nippy winger-but-wants-to-be-thought-of-as-a-forward and Arsene Wenger drawing pistols at dawn and seeing which one backs down first.

In reality it’s just a stare-off, which will only end one day when one of the parties gets bored and decides that their time will be spent better elsewhere, be it Walcott wandering off to pastures new or Wenger realising that one of the most dynamic players in the Premier League really is worth hanging on to after all.

What it has created is a situation in which Walcott is determined to perform well to simultaneously try and prove that he’s worth keeping hold of and to impress potential future employers at the same time.

Recent goals in the Capital One Cup and the Champions League have staked Walcott’s claim for a starting berth in Wenger’s league team, and with Gervinho injured and Jack Wilshere suspended for Saturday’s home game against Fulham, the Frenchman could do worse than to hand a starting place to a player who will be desperate to impress.

Of course it would be a gamble to transfer Walcott into your team given the uncertainty over his position at Arsenal, but ahead of a Gameweek which could go one of several different ways given the fixtures it might just be a gamble worth taking, especially when you consider his differential potential (he’s owned by 1.3% of teams), the possibility that he could be played upfront and the idea that he’ll be playing for another team in January. Liverpool have been linked, and he’d start every week there.

For now he’s still at Arsenal though, where Olivier Giroud (£8.4m) and Santi Cazorla (£9.4m) will be other players worth considering if you think that the Gunners can beat Fulham at home on Saturday. Bacary Sagna (£5.4m) is a defender worth keeping an eye on now that he’s returned to the team and dislodged previous Fantasy favourite Carl Jenkinson (£5.0m).

Elsewhere, this intriguing Gameweek offers up very few strong defensive options given the close nature on paper of many of the matches, but one of the strongest surely comes at Goodison Park where Everton take on a Sunderland side who have scored just once in their last five in league and cup – and that goal came from Newcastle’s Demba Ba.

Leighton Baines (£7.6m) could be a wise move as Everton bid to end a run of four straight draws, with Nikica Jelavic (£8.5m) and last weekend’s top points scorer Marouane Fellaini (£7.2m) sure to be popular picks.

Manchester City haven’t convinced recently and their match with Tottenham on Sunday looks to be one which will include goals, whilst Chelsea will be backed to beat Liverpool especially given that Juan Mata (£9.4m) will return after missing the Swansea game and Oscar (£7.8m) will look to repeat the goal he scored in the Champions League in midweek.

Cheap striking options over the weekend can be found in Reading’s Jason Roberts (£4.5m) and Arouna Kone (£6.5m) of Wigan but for our final forward we look towards Manchester United, and not towards the player you think.

Whilst Robin van Persie (£13.5m) now features in over a third of teams, Wayne Rooney (£11.8m) can only be found in 8%, and as United click ominously into gear you have to assume that that number will only go up.

He may have missed a penalty against Arsenal last weekend but Rooney made up for that with an assist, and as @shots_on_target suggested last weekend he could be the way to go ahead of a welcoming set of fixtures for Sir Alex Ferguson’s men, starting with Aston Villa on Saturday.


Gameweek 9 preview: Sergio sets sights on Swans again


As introductions to English football go, it was a pretty spectacular one.

Sergio Aguero (£11.1m) entered Premier League life in the 59th minute of Manchester City’s first game of the 2011/12 season against Swansea City at the Etihad Stadium last August, and 31 minutes later he’d scored two goals.

It was the perfect beginning to a campaign in which Aguero would – in this writer’s opinion anyway – establish himself as the most complete forward playing in England right now, with his final kick of the season bringing the kind of joy to Manchester City fans that they hadn’t experienced in 44 years.

This time around things haven’t gone so smoothly, with the knee injury suffered just 13 minutes into City’s opening game of this campaign against Southampton stalling his progress and seeing him cast to the sidelines for over a month.

Now, having played a part in each of City’s last four games and registering two goals and an assist whilst doing so, Aguero will face up to Swansea again as a man determined to repeat former glories.

Picking City forwards is not for the faint-hearted, and nor is trusting them going by the Champions League loss in Amsterdam on Wednesday, which ended with Roberto Mancini fielding all four of his frontmen at once in a bid to get back into the game.

European disappointment will only make the Italian more determined to succeed on the domestic front just like last season of course, and there can be little doubt that a fit and firing Aguero looks to be a menacing addition to his teamsheet ahead of the weekend. He’d look good on yours too.

Other City options ahead of a game they’ll be expecting to win include midweek goalscorer Samir Nasri (£8.2m and worth serious consideration given David Silva’s injury), super-sub Edin Dzeko (£7.5m) and of course Carlos Tevez (£9.4m), but the latter hasn’t scored in his last five games after finding the net in his first three, and if you’ve got the spare cash then it could be time to switch to his Argentinean mate Aguero in a bid for more firepower.

Elsewhere the Sunday clashes at Goodison Park and Stamford Bridge will attract the most attention, but it is the two other fixtures on that day which should be catching the eyes of Fantasy bosses.

Tottenham go to a Southampton side who have shown a worrying inability to construct any form of functioning defence far too often this season, and with the revolving door policy in front of the Saints net set to continue the visitors will fancy some goals.

Jermain Defoe (£7.8m) is sure to prove a popular choice as his goals continue to keep Emmanuel Adebayor (£9.0m and falling) out of the Spurs side, but it is to a man who often provides him with service that we look to next.

Aaron Lennon (7.0m) only makes it into 4.3% of Fantasy Premier League teams, but the quicksilver winger will fancy his chances up against the creaking Southampton backline, and he could just make hay as Spurs chalk up goals and points on the south coast.

At the opposite end of the country, Newcastle take on a West Brom outfit who had the wind knocked out of their sails by Manchester City last weekend.

The Magpies, on the other hand, were solid before somewhat unfortunately letting their lead slip in the derby match at Sunderland last week, and this fixture might just be another home match in which Hatem Ben Arfa (£7.9m) will shine.

As we’ve discussed on these pages before, Ben Arfa is a man to back when Newcastle play at St James’s Park, and he’ll fancy improving on his record of two goals and one assist when the Baggies come calling.

Cloud nine on Gameweek nine awaits for him, and possibly you too.


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