After a fair few months of waiting we finally have our new collaborative fantasy soccer blog, Never Manage Alone, live on the SB Nation platform and I'm absolutely delighted with it. Blogger has been a fantastic home to my own AM Blog for the past 2+ years but there is no denying the network and tools available to us and our readers here on SB Nation will make the whole experience more interactive and will allow our already fantastic community to grow even further.
For those of you who have followed us over from Blogger - thank you! You may be new to SB Nation, so to get an idea of some of these new features, take a look at the "Fanshots" and "Fanposts" section. These areas allow you (the readers) to contribute your own stories/links/threads and have fellow readers reply/comment on them; it is a whole new way of getting people involved - these are exciting times.
My first post of this new era is my Week 8 Player Picks. If you're a new reader, the focus of this post is fantasy soccer player recommendations, mainly for the Yahoo Fantasy Football game, but I would hope it comes in handy for whichever format you play. Jeremy and Neal will also be writing their own post on this subject, but like all soccer fans, our opinions differ, so we hope this blog will give you a full spectrum of views. I start each week with a look at the English Premier League fixtures, so let's get straight in to that...
Predicted Comfortable Wins
MANCHESTER CITY v Aston Villa
CHELSEA v Everton
These are the only three fixtures that look like "bankers" to me this week. The Gunners' problems have been well documented, with their defensive issues there for all to see in the North London Derby, but they looked a threat going forward and I think they'll have too much quality for Sunderland. Manchester City could be without a few star names but the strength and depth of their squad means they'll still field a quality XI against Aston Villa. Villa remain undefeated but they tend to play quite negatively away from home under Alex McCleish, so I expect City to have most of the play and all of the goals. Chelsea are starting to look pretty good and could yet challenge the two Manchester clubs to the title this season, so while Everton are no mugs I expect a home win at Stamford win this weekend.
WIGAN v Bolton Wanderers
STOKE v Fulham
QPR v Blackburn Rovers
You won't often see Wigan listed in the "win" section this season, but Bolton are leaking goals at an alarming rate, and for the teams expected to fight against relegation, these are the MUST WIN home games, so I think Wigan could sneak it. Stoke have made the Britannia a fortress and despite Fulhams 6-0 win in Week 7, they don't travel well, so for me it's three points for Tony Pulis' men. The team on the other end of that 6-0 drubbing was QPR, so you may be surprised to see them listed as possible winners, but Blackburn have consistently looked like the worst team in the league this season, so I'm tipping another home win. You'll notice I haven't predicted a single away win for Week 8 - I can't remember the last time that happened.
Draws/Hard To Call
Liverpool v Manchester United
Norwich City v Swansea City
Newcastle v Tottenham Hotspur
West Bromwich Albion v Wolverhampton
Liverpool v Manchester United should be a cracker but it's difficult to call a winner in such heated games, so I'm expecting a draw with plenty of goals and probably a red card in there somewhere. The other 3 fixtures are between teams in similar form so I'm feeling draws at Carrow Road, St James' Park and The Hawthorns, with a nil-nil not out of the question at Norwich-Swansea.
So that's how I see it for the teams this weekend, which leads me on to the players I feel you should be looking at for Week 8...
Despite his rest against Norwich, 90% of teams are holding David De Gea at assorted discounts and I am confident that keeping him for the long term (no matter his fixture) is the sensible choice. If you don't have him then I reckon your options are either QPR's Paddy Kenny - at home to Blackburn and priced below 5 - or take a risk with Wojciech Szczesny at 7ish and hope Arsenal's defence holds firm for once.
Micah Richards played no part for England so should be fully rested, and I'd expect him to get the nod over Pablo Zabaleta against Villa. He's having a great season attacking from right full-back so I see him as the top defensive pick if you can afford him. Jose Bosingwa was withdrawn early against Bolton but has been in excellent form so I'd expect him to start with David Luiz likely to be on the bench after travelling to South America during the international break.
We have plenty of cheap defensive options this week, with Arsenal providing two - full backs Kieran Gibbs and Carl Jenkinson (likely to replace the injured Sagna), priced below 5. I'm not necessarily expecting a clean sheet but they should have a chance to pick up some attacking points at home. A former Arsenal full-back Armand Traore returns from suspension for QPR, should slot back in to defence and should produce a decent return in a winnable home game against Blackburn and if you want to cover the potential Stoke clean sheet, you could do worse than picking up Mark Wilson, who is often found pushed in to midfield.
At the bottom of the list appear some familiar faces: Wigan's Gary Caldwell, Sunderland's Wes Brown and Bolton's Dedryck Boyata. All three of these men are priced below 5 and have been returning somewhere close to their value each week. Caldwell is slightly below this mark, but he has a decent clean-sheet chance against Bolton, so he could be a decent option if you're looking to be a little bit different.
It seems Sergio Aguero is struggling to make this weekend's game against Villa but Roberto Mancini sounds less than worried. He correctly pointed out that David Silva & Samir Nasri are both capable of pushing forward and supporting the striker, so I would think both men could be in for bumper points, as they play just behind Mario Balotelli or Edin Dzeko (or both?). Yaya Toure is a cheaper option if you want a Manchester City representative in your midfield, but he should still get plenty of chance to get forward with Gareth Barry playing the anchor role.
In terms of Arsenal midfielders, it seems a straight choice between Theo Walcott and Mikel Arteta. Walcott is more likely to get in to the box and have chances, and he's capable of big scores, but he can also often leave you with a big fat zero if he doesn't find the back of the net. Arteta has started sharing corners with Robin Van Persie and will also get occasional free kicks, so is the slightly safer choice, but it depends on how risky you're feeling.
QPR's Shaun Wright-Phillips & Adel Taarabt will keep being recommended at their current prices as they continue to score well, even in defeat, and they won't get many better chances than against Blackburn at home. Wigan's Victor Moses has been a bit disappointing this season after some early high hopes, but if ever the onus was on him, it'll be in "must win" games like this. Cabaye continues to impress at Newcastle and should've recovered from his midweek injury, while Ramsey is purely a value Arsenal midfield pick if you can't afford Walcott or Arteta.
Wow - how expensive is Robin Van Persie? Out of all the premium strikers he has the best fixture, but you will be paying some serious money. He needs a goal and assist (minimum) to outscore his cost, but I'll tell you what - I think he's capable. As mentioned, Aguero is a major doubt, so with Tevez on trial, the news on Friday will be key. Balotelli and Dzeko are both well priced and could score well against Villa, so if both play they're great options, but you need to be sure before splashing the cash.
In terms of potential vs cost, Daniel Sturridge comes top, especially if you grabbed him at 9ish before his price rocketed after his brace vs Bolton. You can tell he has an eye for goal and with Torres still suspended, he should be a dead cert for a start and has a great chance of big points. If you're looking for an Arsenal attacker but can't afford RvP and others middie options, Gervinho (who missed an open goal vs Spurs) could be your man as he remains very cheap.
If you're looking to do something different upfront then Franco Di Santo against Bolton, Peter Crouch against Fulham and Shane Long against Wolves are all worth a punt and very affordable.
That covers the players this week.
Now something I had not yet mentioned yet is that Week 8 is the 2nd Round of The Blog Cup! Unfortunately if you're new to the blog it is now too late to join, but we started off back in Week 4 with 1400 teams across the 14 Blog Leagues set up by myself, Jeremy & Neal at the start of the season. That has since been reduced to 1200 after the completion of Round 1, and this week we reduce things further, down to 1000 teams ready for Round 3. It adds another layer of excitement to an already enthralling fantasy game - good luck to all those left in the competition!
As for my own Week 8 team, I have lots of decisions still to make. Here's what's currently on my team page:
De Gea, Boyata, Gibbs, Bosingwa, Wright-Phillips, Silva, Walcott, Lampard, Aguero, Adebayor, Sturridge
I have a whopping 13.19 million left in the bank, so there will be lots of changes. Nasri could come in if he's going to be pushed further forward, but I'm not sure who for yet, possibly Walcott. If Adebayor and Aguero are both doubts then one of them will have to go, and the chances are I bring Van Persie in with all that extra cash but this could require the downgrading of Lampard. Lots still to be decided but I'll wait for team news on Friday before jumping in to anything.
That's it for the Week 8 Player Picks! Please let me know how your own team is shaping up! What do you think of the new blog?
Cheers, Nik (AM)