Part One, below.
Update, Part the second:
Blackburn Rovers 0 - 0 West Ham United
We've already mentioned Givet above. He was a seemingly do-no-harm defender, but even at center back he got points. Could be the Paintsil of this season as Rovers are becoming quite the Allardyce team - tough to beat no matter who lines up at the back. The question will be if David Dunn can stay healthy, and not suspended, long enough to be their Okocha. He shared kicks with MGP and had two shots on goal. He could have had an assist or two with better finishing. And that's going to hold Rovers back if they can't fix it. Rovers have a reasonable schedule upcoming - Wolves, @Eve, Villa - before a brutal October - @Arsenal, Burnley, @Chelsea, @Manchester United. Maybe Dunn is a pick for this upcoming game week as other transfers bed in with their new clubs.
As for West Ham, I'm beginning to think that they're not the free flowing attacking team that the media is making them out to be. They're overly reliant on Carlton Cole and he's not consistent enough to carry a team. It will be interesting to see how Diamanti beds in but West Ham seem to lack some grit on both sides of the pitch. They're going to have to scrap a little more to progress in the Premier League. I'm not saying that they go back out and re-acquire Nigel Quashie but another center back (which they've gotten) and another center forward with a presence. Hopefully for them, and for fantasy managers, Diamanti can be that player. But I have my doubts.
Wolverhampton Wanderers 1 - 1 Hull City
Stephen Hunt is becoming an early fantasy favorite. A lot of buzz around him and Jozy Altidore, and at least Hunt delivered. Credit to Hull, they are competitive with, and beating!, the teams around them at the bottom of the table. They made their bones last season by beating bigger clubs early before falling apart completely after Christmas. This new strategy may be a bit more sustainable.
Wolves are going to be bouncing around the bottom of the table this season. They're assembling pieces, but aren't solid enough at the back or threatening enough up front to worry any midtable sides. See how easily West Ham beat them, and look at what they've done since. But they'll win their share of games against Wigan, Hull, Bolton, etc. It just remains to be seen if they'll get enough points to survive.
I'm still waiting to get more from Milijas. He is getting 'kick-taker on a bad team' points and he finally played a full 90. He's still worth it at even his current price, but he promises much more. Perhaps Wolves will kick on when they're healthier -- when Kightly and Ebanks-Blake are back. But until then, they're there for the taking by opponents and for fantasy managers to pick against (see Dunn, David above).
Tottenham Hotspur 2 - 1 Birmingham City
This one had clean sheet for Spurs written all over it. But an injury to King and shaky keeping from Cudicini gifted a goal, and a point, to Birmingham. With ManU and Chelsea next, there may be diminishing returns for Spurs defence. In attack, they are clicking along. Lennon has added an eye for goal to his repetoire, and it is much welcome for 'arry, England and for fantasy managers. With Modric out they may dip back into the transfer market which may be a fantasy boost - hello, MPet - or a fantasy bust - Krancjar and/or Bentley are already too expensive. Defoe's hot streak cooled down as quickly as it started. After his hat-trick against Hull, he has only the goal he was gifted by West Ham to his name. Meanwhile Crouchinho scored a headed goal, which is something of a rarity - or a relative rarity for someone known for their height.
I don't have much to add about Birmingham - especially with their ill-tempered derby against Villa next on the schedule. But they'll be tough to beat. It only remains to be seen if they have enough to win, or even draw, these close games. A lot will rest on Benitez, and I'm guessing that he'll start to get more involved after the international break - depending on his own travels. He's creeping up in price, but it may be worth a look at him on the barn door after the Villa match as Birmingham then face @Hull, Bolton and @Burnley.
Stoke City 1 - 0 Sunderland
Stoke are still very good at home and Wilkinson is growing into a fantasy stud. It will be very interesting to see how they incorporate Tuncay into the squad. But as a striker priced at 1!!... well, that in itself is quite apeallilng. He came on for Fuller at the weekend, but I think it will be Etherington who is most at threat.
Sunderland probably have too many new pieces to have gelled just yet. They are assembling a nice, albeit expensive, squad and should be a very solid team. It remains to be seen if their attack can click consistently but with Turner and Ferdinand anchoring the D, with Mensah and da Silva pushing them, they should be tight enough at the back. It's just a shame that they can't settle on a keeper, due to form and injury.
Chelsea 3 - 0 Burnley
A routine win for Chelsea but Burnley had their chances against the mighty Blues. Maybe a better team wouldn't have gotten the space they did, but a better team might well have put one or two chances away. So worrying for Chelsea? No. Same old same old for them. And with Drogba leading the way this fantasy season they are in fine fettle. It's Lampard who, while still an elite middie, is under threat on fantasy sides. Drogba and Deco are stealing his points. And don't worry about Ballack, he has these two or three match runs before sliding back into fantasy obscurity. Maybe things are different now under Ancelotti, but I'm not looking to get back on to the Chelsea midfield roller-coaster right now.
Burnley won't take the loss too badly. I'm sure they were looking to the international break all along and saying "our season starts now". Well, after their trip to Anfield. The six points they won off ManU and Everton are bonus, and there may still be value in Jensen, Paterson and Alexander when the schedule finally eases up.
Part the first:
Aston Villa 2 - 0 Fulham
I'm not sure we can draw any conclusions from this match. Fulham must have been absolutely wiped out after their trip to the Urals. Villa are a real Jekyll and Hyde team so far this season, but I think they'll continue to improve.
Everton 2 - 1 Wigan Athletic
What happened to Wigan? They blitzed Villa on the opening day but have seemingly fallen apart since then. Granted, maybe their opposition has been tougher, but that's not going to change with Arsenal and Chelsea following a visit from West Ham. It may be worth keeping HRod, Koumas and N'Zogbia for another week, but their bandwagon may be running out of steam. I was going to included Jordi Gomez in that list, but I think he may be above that. Your classic kick-taker/point getter on a bad team. I Friday traded him out of my team for Jimenez to move from Givet to Bassong and that turned out to be a 17-point mistake. The match-ups were right, but Friday trade karma just seems to trump match-ups. Will I make the mistake again, however? Probably. But I'm certainly back on Gomez for now.
Portsmouth 0 - 1 Manchester City
Citeh don't steamroll teams, do they? They get their nose in front and hang on for dear life! That may well work against Rovers, Wolves and Portsmouth. But it remains to be seen if it will translate against better opposition. And look who they play next... Arsenal followed by the big Manchester derby! If you're invested in Citeh players you may just want to take your lumps over the next few weeks as the schedule eases up again. And maybe there's some "facing your old club" magic for K2 and Toure. But if you're just getting on the bandwagon, maybe it's best to wait and see.
Interesting from this match that Robinho was rested and it was Bellamy who came in. Seems that Petrov is well and truly out of favor as Hughes will play SWP on one wing, but not get too stretched by playing two wingers. Instead it's a front three with K2 the sure starter (and repaying the faith with goals) until at least RSC is healthy and Robinho, Tevez and Bellamy in for the two supporting places. Maybe Tevez is a sure starter too and Robinho and Bellamy get home and away matches, respectively? I think Hughes might switch it up a bit more than that, but that is certainly an interesting option based on Robinho's preference for "home cooking" last season.
For Portsmouth, there's more churn with Distin leaving but Prince-Boateng, O'Hara, Brown, Dindane and Smith arriving. It remains to be seen what kind of side they'll be when all this settles down, but O'Hara has been good for Spurs (and fantasy managers) when given a chance there and he could be a nice option in midfield at 4.23.
Manchester United 2 - 1 Arsenal
Notes taken while watching the match:
- van Persie did everything BUT score. A shot off the woodwork, a glorious kick save from Foster, an effort ruled out by an earlier Gallas offsides... what's a brother got to do to get a goal around here?
- Arshavin should have had a PK... and well, RvP would probably have put that away! Fletcher totally cleaned him out in the box! It's not even a question in my mind. Especially if what Almunia did to Rooney was a PK, than this was too.
- Diaby - I hope that there weren't too many of you who went in for Diaby after his brace against Portsmouth. He's a nice attacking middie. I don't know why everyone wants to compare him with Viera. Other than being tall and black, I don't see the comparison. But Wenger likes him and likes to play him behind the striker. He's even said that when Diaby plays Fabregas will play deeper to accomodate him.
Rooney can't stop scoring even if the PK was the only fantasy points he earned. But ManU's entire game-plan was to get him the ball quickly and on another day he could have scored more.
On the other side, Arshavin finally got off the blocks with an amazing goal. I had flashbacks to Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink the way he got the ball out of his feet so quickly and with such power. He doesn't seem to be as involved in the games as one might hope but he did have another shot just go by the post and again, there was the PK he should have earned.
Bolton Wanderers 2 - 3 Liverpool
This was a good effort from Bolton, but they are still in deep trouble. They've failed to pick up a point while watching Burnley earn six unlikely ones, and losing to Hull in what is likely to be a six-pointer come the end of the season.
Gerrard pulled Liverpool out of it, as he has so many times. Not a classic performance from him, but points is points. And meanwhile Torres is back to his storming best. It's maybe a little quiet with Drogba and Rooney taking the plaudits but Torres is right there at the top of the table with them. And not far behind is Glen Johnson on two goals. He's starting to get really pricey now but an early investment is paying off.