Weekend Manager: International Break Edition

Tim Krul might just have had the performance of his career to date - Jamie McDonald

We had yet another thrilling contest in the Barclay's Premier League seeing top dogs Arsenal dropping all 3pts to a well equiped Manchester United side, a rampant Liverpool destroying Fulham, and Sunderland again proving to be Manchester City's 1-0 bogey rival (that's 4 games now to be clear!). How did your fantasy team fair from this weekends games? How will you approach game week 12? Let's discuss!

We are now well into the International Break eagerly awaiting the return to Premier League action. I am sorry for the lateness of this post as I have been dealing with some interesting internet all this week here in Chiang Mai, Thailand (you have to love dropped connections!). But without further adue let's take a look at last weekend's action and how that might impact our Week 12 selection.

Chelsea v West Bromwich Albion - Not the type of response we expected from the Blue side of London, in fact, what has been happening to Chelsea under Mourinho this season? They don't look like a team capable of claiming the title if they cannot manage to win games like this. I don't know if this is some how an impact garnered by Mourinho's reintroduction, as he is certainly a force of ego in him self, but he has certainly seemed to alienate a number of players trying to adapt to his system *cough* (Mata). His head certainly gets the best of him and Mourinho can count himself lucky after escaping with a draw. Next week's derby does look promising however, so the likes of Ivanovic, Hazard, Oscar, and Et'o will be crucial to getting Chelsea back on track. As for West Brom, they were positive in attack, took their chances, and were HORRIBLY denied a famous win at the death via a soft penalty. They just seem to have a knack of raising their game against stronger opponents (Liverpool not with standing). With Aston Villa making a visit to the Hawthorns (a bitter derby I might add), Sessegnon and Morgan Amalfitano could be solid pick ups and are certainly back on my radar.

Southampton v Hull City - Although they failed to keep the clean sheet again, Southampton have been on absolute FIRE! They have quietly been building a very capable and strong side under the radar of the traditional "big teams". Who can say that they don't look like a strong candidate to attain some form of European football next season? They dispatched Hull City in exciting fashion, 4-1 with guile and precision. With Arsenal on the cards next week, expect the likes of Boruc, Lovren, Jay Rodriguez, and Adam Lallana top be crucial for Southampton to take any result off the league leaders. Hull City on the other hand, look like a side desperate to get Robby Brady back to full fitness, as he wasn't even named to the bench as he recovers from his hernia operation. While we won't have much to choose from, Hull City do face the ultimate strugglers Crystal Palace at home, so C. Davies, Harper, and hopefully Robbie Brady will all be interesting picks next week.

Aston Villa v Cardiff City - A solid if not scrappy win for the claret and blue side of the Midlands with a clean sheet logged into the books to boot. The only down side? Christian Benteke was not among the scorers. One could say he needs time to get back to his stellar early season form, but he has had opportunities now to achieve that goal. I would have had him in my side had he scored against Cardiff City, but now I am a bit uneasy especially with the bitter Midlands derby next week. Bacuna seems to be taking the direct free kicks for Villa and smashed an absolute beauty last game week. I am not inclined to get too involved in the Midlands derby, but if I were, Bacuna and Benteke would be about all I'd look at. Onto Cardiff City we really don't see much at all in the way of fantasy promise. It is just too hard to tell when Steven Caulker will come up with a headed goal so it is probably best we avoid at this point.

Liverpool v Fulham - You just can't stop Luis Suarez can you? His movement is hypnotic, his touch precise, and his ability to score paramount. Let's not forget his double at the weekend took him to 8 goals in 6 league matches since returning from his ban. At this point he is undroppable, but you might ask, what of Daniel Sturridge? He seems to have cooled a bit and away to Everton in the fierce Merseyside derby might be the right opportunity to drop him. The bright side? His price has dipped and he is easily picked back up for Liverpool's next set of fixtures. The likes of the Liverpool defense made a solid return to the clean sheet club with Mignolet, Glen Johnson, and Martin Skrtle all coming up aces. For the derby however, I wouldn't be looking to pick up any defense as a clean sheet is about as likely as Crystal Palace winning the title. As for Fulham, they look in real trouble and Martin Jol is edging closer to the chop if he can't turn his Fulham side around. It will take a real effort to turn this ship around and right now it doesn't look good for the Cottagers.

Crystal Palace v Everton - Certainly not the result I expected as Everton were unable to break down a resolute Crystal Palace defense dispite having ample opportunities on goal. Leighton Baines produced another stinker in terms of fantasy production and has put himself close to the "dead to me" zone. He hasn't lost the set piece duties he has always had, so it is confusing to me why his production has taken such a sharp nose dive. In any event, he won't be one to take in the Derby given his production and price. To make it a double blow for many managers this week, Lukaku managed nothing except a disappointing negative score. Really?? Against the bottom league team? Frustrating to say the least. As for Crystal Palace, they will feel good about the fact they were able to attain a point while keeping a clean sheet. But that point is simply a piece of tape over a massive canyon. They have to really turn themselves around if they have ANY hope of escaping relegation.

Norwich City v West Ham United - A great win by Chris Houghton's Norwich side and a big boost to their bid to escape the bottom 3. They proved to be clinical with the chances they had, although a bit lucky with Jussi's errors, but it is a win none the less. I wouldn't get too excited, Norwich player's haven't hit any sort of consistent form and form now I'd be looking to get players from the teams against them. The interesting news is that Gary Hooper has taken penalty duty away from Snodgrass, not that you were thinking of picking either but certainly something to remember. West Ham really do look abject and this 4-6-0 formation is completely anti-football. It obviously hasn't worked very well and Big Sam needs to get a new tactic to allow West Ham to start scoring again. Speaking of scoring, guess who popped up with the goal? Ravel Morrison! Of course when many of us had his last week he couldn't manage more than a paltry ZERO points! Uhg, frustrating again! At this point, I am avoiding both teams.

Tottenham Hotspur v Newcastle United - Simply, utterly brilliant from Tim Krul. He single handedly kept all of Tottenham's expensive toys at bay and Newcastle's slight 1-0 advantage until the final whistle. Amassing an incredible 14 saves, vaulted Krul up the price category with an astonishing 38 points. I hope you got him on the barn door because next week looks promising. Loic Remy again proved to be the right man for the right occasion increasing his goal tally in what is an impressive rebirth into the Premier League. Undoubtably both will be selected by many mangers for Week 11. Tottenham should feel aggrieved not to have taken that game especially with the amount of shots they had stopped by Newcastle's Man of the Match. You have to wonder what is going on with AVB's side, and by that I mean, with the riches afforded to him, why can't his team score more goals? The point has been made they this side needs time to gel, but that should only be said in the beginning of the campaign. We are now well and truly under way. Next week they face the huge task of travelling to the Etihad and taking on a Manchester City side ready to prove their title credentials after another miserable road loss (starting to become a pattern isn't it?). Regardless, the likes of Lloris, Erikson, Soldado, and Townsend might not be the best choices next week.

Sunderland v Manchester City - The stage was set wasn't it? After coming off the 7-0 destruction of Norwich and the 5-2 dismantling of CSKA Moscow, Manchester City seemed ripe to continue their devastation against lowly Sunderland. But with the thought of 3 consecutive 1-0 defeats away to the Black Cats, Manchester City capitulated and lost, not shockingly, 1-0 AGAIN! Sunderland are certainly Manchester City's bogey rival and only further highlighted City's struggles on the road this season. There was huge disappointment from the defense through to the forwards as Manchester City looked abject and devoid of ideas. It was only in the second half that they finally got their tempo up and made some dangerous plays inside Sunderland's 18 yard box. However Sunderland defended remarkably well given the amount of pressure, deservedly took their win and stamped hope on surviving their early season woeful form. Given the fixtures next week, neither teams look too promising, but any high discount should probably be kept.

Manchester United v Arsenal - While in recent years, Rooney has been the man to haunt the Gunners, it was their old talisman, Robin van Persie that took the glory in what was a much needed win for United. They may not have had the best season by their own standards so far, but they lie 5th and only 5pts off top spot. United were able to effectively shut down the inter play of Arsenal's superior midfield and keep a clean sheet in the process, something that has been elusive for them this season. Next week looks good for United's fantasy prospects and the likes of David De Gea, Phil Jones, Rooney, and RvP look solid bets. There are doubts over the starting status of exciting youngster, Adan Januzaj, so watch the team news before taking the plunge. Arsenal can take solace in the fact both other title rivals Chelsea and City dropped points at the weekend as well. I don't think this hurts them too much, but certainly a win would have solidified their dominance. Of course it always hurts to drop points to a title rival. Obviously next week will be tough, but Ozil/Ramsey and co should come away with the win.

Swansea City v Stoke City - A high action high scoring match, but wait, you say Stoke City was involved? Who spiked the water! Stoke City did what Stoke DOESN'T do and exploded out of the gate taking a 2-0 advantage into the break. They should have capitalized on Swansea's lack of pace and tempo in the first half, but instead let the home side back in through the wonderful Wilfred Bony. It took a last minute penalty from Charlie Adam to secure a vital 3-3 draw but Stoke City will feel they should have taken all 3pts. With Fulham next on the cards, Swansea look poised for modest investment as Michel Vorm should come straight back into the side and Wilfred Bony looks an interesting differential pick (albiet only if you got him on the barn door). Stoke play host to Sunderland, but I can't see any fantasy prospects for this match as both sides have been up and down all season long. Best to avoid in my eyes.

Okay well that does it for me! Again I apologize for the lateness of the weekend wrap up. I finished the week on a paltry 91pts dropping me from 131th to 524th. This just goes to show how incredibly tight the overall league is and how just one bad week (or one stellar week) can drastically change your position! My barn door team isn't at it's final set but my side currently looks like: Krul, P. Jones, C. Davies, Ivanovic, Ozil, Oscar, Ramsey, Coutinho, Rooney, Remy, Suarez (capt) with Holtby, Demichelis, Harper + Fillers on the bench. I have 4.01mil left in the bank and I will certainly be using it to alter my current side after the international break is over.

How did you far this week? Who did you look to bring in on the barn door?

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