Monday Morning Manager: Colombo, Sri Lanka Edition

Laurence Griffiths

What a pulsating end to a thrilling weekend! We saw two major comebacks, a last gasp, brilliant back-heeled winner, an undefeated streak coming to a close, and the humbling of Manchester United away to an excellent Manchester City. What were the key talking points from Week 5`s action? Let`s discuss!

It is really too early to get into a panic, with only 5 matches finished there is still a lot to play for. But what we know is that the Premier League is more competitive this season than ever, with all major challenging sides having dropped points somewhere along the way. Only Everton stands alone as the last undefeated side currently in the top division. Brace yourself, this is going to be a long season with many twists and turns!

Onto the matches:

Norwich City v Aston Villa - Despite losing fantasy favorite Christian Benteke early on in the first half, Villa were able to pull out the 0-1 win away to a Norwich side looking out of ideas. Kozak was brought on in place of the injured Benteke to score the winner just moments after being introduced. The extent of Benteke`s injury is unclear, but Villa found the steel to grind out this win, although can count themselves a bit fortunate as Robert Snodgrass missed the PK to put the home side up early. Gabby Agbonlahor continues to look impressive and could come into contention as a fantasy asset should Benteke be sidelined for an extended period. Nathan Redmond continues to be an exciting prospect in a lack luster Norwich side. If Chris Hughton doesn`t get his boys working cohesively, namely van Wolfswinkle, Norwich are in for a long season.

Newcastle v Hull City - A brilliantly hard fought game which saw both sides working tirelessly for the win. But it was Steve Bruce`s men who found the nerve to come out on top. Loric Remy comes firmly into our thoughts as his brace (admittedly should have been a hat-trick) kept Newcastle fighting until the final whistle. With Cisse still continuing his less than impressive start to the campaign, and Hatem Ben Arfa having a relatively quite match, Remy could offer solid differential in the coming matches. Debutchy continues to be a phantom point monster and will be one to watch closer to the Everton match as a fixture proof option. R(OB)bie Brady shook off his knock to be reinstalled to the starting 11 and produced another fine performance. Could he be heading for the much beloved title "Blog Favorite"? He certainly seems fixture proof with his share of set pieces and dangerous deliveries. I wouldn`t look to Hull City much this season for fantasy prospects, but if Brady continues in this vain he may become a staple in anyone`s fantasy side.

Liverpool v Southampton -  Well it just wasn`t meant to be, Liverpool`s undefeated start to the Premier League campaign was ended by a resolute Southampton side. I don`t know how much of this was down to Southampton, or the fact Brendon Rodgers strangely fielded 4 CB`s in a home match, while leaving the excellent Jose Enrique on the bench. Without the support of the wing backs, Liverpool looked lost in attack and Daniel Sturridge was often isolated upfront, leading to a dismal return of 0pts with most selecting the Liverpool hitman as their captain. It shouldn`t be all doom and gloom for Liverpool though, as they have defied expectation and are currently mixing it up with the big boys at the top of the table. Liverpool visit a defeated, manager-less Sunderland side next week, so the likes of Sturridge (remember he has 4 goals in 5 matches), Gerrard, and quite possibly Luis Suarez come firmly back into our reckoning. We will wait and see if Suarez does indeed come straight back into the side (I believe so), as his addition of trickery will only aid Sturridge up top.

West Bromwich Albion v Sunderland - The stage was set wasn`t it? Sunderland and Paulo di Canio slammed Stefan Sessegnon before the match calling his "commitment and attitude" into question. But let`s take a step back and follow the "rules" here: home matchup, against his former side, not least of which are bottom of the table, and looking for a statement performance made Sessegnon the perfect hunch pick of the week. His opening goal kick started a fine performance from WBA that ultimately resulted in the demolition of Sunderland and di Canio`s job. I won`t brag (okay I totally will!), but taking the risk to captain Sessegnon paid off immensely. Not that he is worth BDing for the Utd match, but he is certainly the spark WBA needed and will be a good pick up on given weeks. New boy Amalfitano looks a real exciting prospect, constantly challenging the Sunderland defense and rightly grabbing a goal and assist in the process. Certainly one to watch. As for Sunerland, boy do they look out of sorts. Could it be that di Canio brought in 13 new faces, from all corners of the globe, that just haven`t found their feet yet? Sure that could be part, but the lack of cohesiveness and rather "shot gun" approach to his transfer dealings lead to his downfall. Sunderland will pick themselves up at some point, but for now they are firmly in the "Who is playing Derby County" category - so load up against them for the time being.

West Ham v Everton - What a magnificent performance by Leighton Baines. Two brilliantly taken free-kick goals that brought Everton back into the game against a spunky West Ham side. Who needs a CS with Baines locker of free-kicks? Everton`s stunning comeback was capped off by a debut goal by "the new Drogba" Romelu Lukaku, who has seemingly picked up where he left off last season for WBA. Even if he doesn`t start, Lukaku has proven he can change the game off the bench. Given his performance, we should see him installed as the main target man upfront, and returns for both Baines and Lukaku look strong. As for West Ham, they can feel a little hard done by the fantastic fight that Baines and co put up. West Ham started brightly and Ravel Morrison is proving to be one to watch. Mark Noble did what Mark Noble does best, score a PK and make multiple rash challenges that ultimately lead to his dismissal. So far I haven`t seen much from West Ham to dive in for fantasy terms, but once Andy Carrol is fit, we may change our attitude.

Chelsea v Fulham - It really wasn`t the performance we expected from a Mourinho managed side, but Chelsea got the job done while keeping the CS. Defensive returns were strong as many invested in the Chelsea backline. But without the creativity of Juan Mata, Chelsea look abject at best, failing to break down a resolute Fulham defense until the second half. Oscar looks a real fantasy prospect (but we already knew that) and should continue his fine form in the "hole", although the lack of goals from Chelsea`s frontmen continues to be an issue. Samuel Et`o seemingly has sealed himself as the main striker, but you have to wonder why Mourinho let Lukaku go out on loan again when his physical presence will be needed in matches like this. Don`t get overly excited by John Obi Mikel though, that was his first goal for Chelsea in 7 years. Fulham will flitter on the edge of the top half of the table, but many positives can be taken from this match. If they can get Berbatov fit and firing, the addition of Darren Bent will pay dividends in selected home matches.

Crystal Palace v Swansea City - Crystal Palace looked like they didn`t show up to play, and we put under huge pressure early. Jedinak looks an interesting fantasy prospect, getting his fair share of phantom points, but really no one else has shown us that they warrent inclusion into our starting 11. Michu continued his scoring run, now 3 goals in 3 matches on the trot. After a tough opening set of fixtures, Swansea have settled a bit and look a real threat. It wouldn`t be a surprise if many managers keep Michu at home to high flying Arsenal, but if you didn`t get him on the BD, there might be better options elsewhere. Jonjo Shelvey looks an erratic player, but he is getting involved quite regularly in the attack and has been taking some free-kicks. He won`t be a week in week out fantasy pick, but given the right match up, he wouldn`t be a bad pick up.

Arsenal v Stoke City - Who would have though Aaron Ramsey would be having the season he is currently? Arsene Wenger is certainly chuckling to himself going "I told you so!". Ramsey has already surpassed his goal tally from all his previous seasons under Wenger in only 5 matches. His late runs into the box, getting into the right positons, distrobution of the ball and tough tackling has vaulted Ramsey into a "must have". Add in the stellar form of Mesut Ozil, Oliver Giroud (although he had an off night), and sparkling runs of Theo Walcott, you have 4 Arsenal players that could grace any managers team week in week out. Ozil`s free kick deliveries have been sumptuous, and increase the likelihood of set piece goals from Arsenal`s backline (see: Mertesaker). At this point Ramsey and Ozil look undroppable. Stoke City on the other hand, continue to punch above their weight under Mark Hughes, who has finally given Stoke a much more flowing/attacking style. They still lack the quality in the final third, so unless the match up is tasty, there isn`t much to get excited about beyond their defense and solid shot stopper Asmir Begovic.

Manchester City v Manchester United - Once the team sheets were announced and Robin van Persie was left out of the squad due to a thigh strain, you knew Utd would be in trouble. Again the question has to be asked, why does David Moyes not rate Shinji Kagawa? This is another mystery akin to Mourinho and Juan Mata. Undoubtably Utd missed Kagawa`s intelligent passing and eye for space. Fellaini and Carrick look too similar in central midfield, as both generally play a more holding role, so the absence of a midfield playmaker was huge. Wayne Rooney continued his fine scoring record against City, with a glorious free kick that evaded the out stretched Joe Hart. With RvP possibly sidelined for a period of time, Rooney comes back into our thoughts (and hopefully back on PK`s) for the visit of WBA. Manchester City looked fantastic right out of the gates, with Aguero, Nasri and Kolarov putting in stellar performances. Pellegrini looks like he has his team operating exactly as he wants, and City are by far the favorites to bring back the title this season. Our only major concern is the rotation policy with regards to City`s forward line. Aguero seems nailed on to get the most minutes this season, but with Jovetic and Dzeko both viable options, who knows what team Pellegrini could select in a given week. One thing I do believe, is that we will never see Jovetic and Aguero start together, they are too similar and the most effective strike partnership seems to be pairing one with either Dzeko or Negredo. With a visit to Villa next week, City will certainly receive ample investment, we just hope to pick the right players!

Cardiff City v Tottenham - What a finish from Paulinho no? Brilliant back heeled, last gasp winner to take Spurs level with Arsenal at the top of the table. We wondered who would take up the mantle left by Gareth Bale to be the decisive match winner, but with Spur`s current squad, they have multiple players that can fill this role. Erik Lamela looks a good option, although has yet to feature from the start, and Eriksen has been dangerous, getting behind the backline, deilvering fine passes to space, and having a shot at goal when he gets the chance. Robert Soldado continues to look for his first Premier League goal from open play. Although his movement and ability is undoubted, many are starting to grow tired with his lack of production. I assume it won`t be long until he gets his non PK goal, but against Chelsea probably isn`t the time to invest. Cardiff can feel very hard done by not taking a point after a solid defensive performance. We knew Cardiff would be tough at home, and given the right matchup, could produce decent defensive returns and carry a goal threat through Frazier Campbell. Otherwise, not much to get excited about week in week out.

Phew! Okay, another fantastic week down! I currently sit on 604pts in the top 300th places. How have you done thus far? What were your thoughts on week 5?

Cheers!

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