Newcastle United v Liverpool - The early kick off for week 8 and certainly one of the more entertaining matches. Goals, a red card, and a 100th league goal summed up an exciting 2-2 draw. Yohan Cabaye proved his worth yet again with an outrageous long distance strike that left Simon Mignolet with no chance. It is just very frustrating that players like Cabaye and HBA don't seem able to produce the fantasy goods consistently enough to warrent week in week out selection. Loic Remy had a quiet match but has been Newcastle's star performer this season and certainly on my radar. Given the right match up however, all three look strong fantasy assets. Looking over at Liverpool we saw another fantastic link up between the "on fire" Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez, who was unlucky not to get on the score sheet himself with a wonderful freekick that Krul kept a strong hand to palm out. Steven Gerrard scored from the penalty spot (yes Suarez went down easily, but would you expect anything different?) to mark his 100th Premier League goal. All three currently demand investment with the high number of fantasy points they have collected so far. Mignolet and the Liverpool defense have been a bit shaky at the back as of late, so better to keep some of Liverpool's attack for the longer term investment (especially given their next run of fixtures).
Chelsea v Cardiff City - A bit of a disappointing first half from Chelsea lead to a bizzare David Luiz error which allowed Cardiff to strike first, much to the frustration of many fantasy managers who had banked on Petr Cech and the Chelsea defense for the Clean Sheet. However the game was quickly turned on its head when Eto (illegally I might add) prodded the ball from the Cardiff keeper as he went to restart the play. This lead to a scrappy Eden Hazard goal (although it looked like it grazed Eto on the way in) and sparked Chelsea's upturn in the game. Eto seems to have finally been rewarded for his hard work and had a fantastic fantasy return with his goal. However with Manchester City looming next game week, I am hard pressed to keep him or BD Hazard especially because they play away. Oscar again proved why he is Mourinho's golden boy after scoring after coming off the bench (many of us got a bit lucky with that one!). Barring next game week, Chelsea still look solid week in week out fantasy assets with Ivanovic proving he can deliver some solid phantom point production. As for Cardiff, they continue to offer no real fantasy interest so I wouldn't be looking to them much this season.
Stoke City v West Bromwich Albion - Uhhg, a very typical bore draw for a Stoke side that were supposed to start playing more exciting football under Mark Hughes. Asmir Begovic will get a decent amount of shut outs this season especially at home so keep him in the back pocket. But ultimately both teams really didn't show us any of their players justified selection in our fantasy teams. Certainly keep an eye on WBA's Amalfitano, but beyond that - YAWN!
Swansea City v Sunderland - Oh boy, even with a new manager (swapping one tyrant for another?) Sunderland look in trouble. They really have not been able to come together as a squad and it shows in their play as often players get isolated. Stay away until we can see Gus Poyet has given them the confidence to NOT be drubbed each game week. Look to continue to get players from teams facing Sunderland. This was a solid result for Swansea City however, especially given their tough start to the campaign. Frustratingly for fantasy managers, Michu was totally absent from all crucial involvement for the goals and was not on the score sheet in a dominating performance from his team mates. Worse, we see he is obviously not first choice on penalty duty as Wilfred Bony tucked away the resulting spot kick to grab the fantasy points. Vorm and Ben Davies proved vital additions leading to a great week for many. If you happened to get Davies at discount (I kick myself for not listening to KM) then he certainly looks a strong season keeper candidate.
Manchester United v Southampton - It looked like this was going to be a routine win for United at home, even to a high flying Southampton side. What no one expected was Southampton to get the late equalizer in very much the same way United always found late goals under Sir Alex Ferguson. But this is a different United team.. err... wait, it isnt! You have to wonder what exactly is going on behind the scenes. Is it David Moyes or is it just a poor run of form? Certainly he inherited a championship winning side from Ferguson, so United's up and down start to the season is a bit worrying. The bright side is United have a very exciting new prospect in Adan Januzaj, who is quickly becoming a favorite among fantasy circles. He didn't get on the score sheet this week but his play has been outstanding and he looks likely to get a decent amount of phantom points. Robin van Persie was welcomed back to the scorers table (I know KM is jumping up and down haha!). Although beyond United's front 2 and their new wonder boy, I don't see much value. Moyes shuffled his defense which burned many who opted for Vidic, we will wait and see if United can turn it around (they will of course), but maybe stick to the attack for now and maybe De Gea if you have the money. Southampton played admirably and without fear, fully deserving their equalizing goal. If they can get Osvaldo scoring on the regular, they will surely be talking possible European places. Right now if you have Lovren you are pretty pleased as his price has steadily climbed since the start of the season. Throw in Adam Lallana from week to week and Southampton have a variety of fantasy assets for us to savor.
Everton v Hull City - The blue side of Liverpool continued their impressive start to the campaign under new manager Roberto Martinez with a 2-1 home victory over the Tigers. However the biggest disappointment was the fact many of us shelled out the big bucks to land Leighton Baines and Romelu Lukaku only to receive a paltry 4pts combined. Baines has started to frustrate many who pick him week to week with his low fantasy output. But as we all know, he can have games of pure brilliance and bring a landslide of points. For now, he remains an expensive gamble as you just don't know when he will hit a FK or PK. I am opting to drop him for now. Lukaku had a quiet game, but in the long run I expect him to be a solid week in week out fantasy pick. As for Hull City, they were able to welcome back Mr. Robby Brady a bit earlier than expected. While he stayed relatively quiet, he certainly will be the spark Hull City need to retain their Premier League status. I am opting not to put him straight back into my line up, but he has already made his case as the one Hull City player worth having.
Arsenal v Norwich City - No one, and I mean no one, expected Arsenal to have this good of a run did they? It seemed doom and gloom after the opening fixture loss to Aston Villa, but Arsenal have completely steadied the ship and are steaming towards the title. It remains to be seen if Arsenal can keep the momentum going, but if they succeed in landing a world class striker in January, you'd be hard pressed to say they won't be at the top come May. Mesut Ozil continues to show why he cost Arsenal 42mil (why on earth did Real Madrid let him go?) with a brilliantly taken brace. Aaron Ramsey was set to frustrate many fantasy managers who kept the faith in him, but those managers (myself included) were duly rewarded with a fantastic display from the youngster. Arsenal's slick one-two passing tore apart Norwich on many occasions and will be a force especially at home. Olivier Giroud contributed a fine pair of assists to attain a respectable fantasy score and make his investors happy. At this point, Ozil/Ramsey seem the "must haves" each week and are going no where from my starting 11. Norwich on the other hand, had another match to forget, although they had brief periods of decent play. The biggest worry is the inability of the Norwich front men to find the net. For now, most game weeks we will be loading up against Norwich, sorry Mr. Houghton.
West Ham v Manchester City - A typical dominating performance from Manchester City, although with a slight lapse in concentration leading to the Vaz Te goal, but an over all good result. Sergio Aguero proved again he cannot be over looked, even in what appears to be a tricky away match. The return of David Silva has been instrumental to Manchester City's return to form. It was a bit disappointing to see Kolarov named on the bench, but even in his brief cameo, was able to find a decent amount of phantom points. Manchester City play host to Chelsea next week so I didn't do any barn door work and I will almost certainly ditch Kolarov, but no one could blame you for keeping the discount on Aguero. Moving onto West Ham, they again showed no real consistent fantasy performer, although an eye should be kept on their midfield youngster Ravel Morrison who looked bright for spurts during the match.
Aston Villa v Tottenham - What to make of Andros Townsend? He has been performing fantastically for Spurs this season, leading to his first senior call up to the national side. If you had him then congratulations as many of us had to settle for him on the barn door. He is certainly making a case for himself to be included week in week out, especially given his current run of form. The other big notes were Roberto Soldado's first goal from open play and a solid performance and CS from Hugo Lloris. The biggest question is who to pick from Spurs midfield in a given week? It seems each midfielder has had their moments, Paulinho with his game winning back heel and Siggy grabbing some well taken goals in the start of the campaign. This is frustrating for fantasy managers, but for Spurs as an organization, the ability for multiple players to step up is a huge welcome after relying so heavily on Gareth Bale. Aston Villa will be greatful Christian Benteke has returned to the side following his injury. He will surely provide a much needed boost and many of us are waiting eagerly to put him back into our team when the match up becomes good.
Crystal Palace v Fulham - Our final match of the week and one not many cared about beyond their respective fans. Fulham were uncharacteristically dominant in an away fixture with 2 brilliant goals out of Kasami and Sidwell. I wouldn't be running out to grab either however. It was good to see Dimitar Berbatov get back to scoring ways as he makes himself an interesting differential pick week to week. Crystal Palace are in trouble however. Ian Holloway seems completely out of ideas on how to steady this sinking ship. At this point Crystal Palace (along with Norwich and Sunderland) are fantasy poison and you should be looking to load up on teams playing against the likes of them.
Okay that does it for the wrap up of week 8! I had a solid week with 148pts moving me to 131th overall. I was admittedly lucky to have Ramsey and Oscar come off the bench to score. Even Kolarov had a decent cameo. My biggest differential was Eto, but I will be looking to drop him next week in favor of more favorable fixtures.
How did you team do? What were some of your favorite talking points from the week?