The Week Ahead - Matchweek 33

Interesting reaction to the post on Charlie Adam.  I saw a lot of support for Michael Carrick from people who wanted to claim that because he has won titles and started lots of matches that he's an excellent player.  The second most frequent source of criticism was that I was letting my pro-Arsenal bias show through in the type of midfielders I tend to prefer.  I would like to dispute both notions.  And clarify my comments about Carrick and Adam.

First, on Carrick.  Please check your facts - he hasn't started more than 24 matches in the league for United since 2006-07, his first year with the club.  He has played 19 matches for them this season. He has been the definition of a squad player.  He doesn't have any single outstanding skill.  His passing is above average but not exceptional.  He doesn't score.  He doesn't tackle particularly well.  He isn't fleet of foot.  He isn't seen as the organizer of the defense.  About once per season he takes an exceptional shot from long range.  He is a squad player, no more.  He is fortunate to be a squad player on an excellent team.

Now, lest we forget, he was purchased for £18 Million.  If you bought Carrick for say £5 Million and got a squad player who can start 20-odd matches then that's some good business.  If you pay £18 Million you're looking for someone you expect to start just about every match and make a noticeable contribution more than once in a blue moon. 

This is the root of the comparison to Charlie Adam.  I don't think Adam or Carrick would be bad players for any of the bigger teams that I listed.  What I said was that I thought he'd be a disappointment for any of those teams given the amount of money that they would undoubtedly have to pay for him.  The exceptional things that he does for Blackpool are already being done by other people at United, Liverpool, and Spurs.

Could Adam make the same contribution that Carrick has made to United? Sure.  Is that worth £18 Million (or even the more likely fee of around £12 Million)? I wouldn't think so.  I'd think any of the clubs I mentioned would be far better served going with other options - specifically options who price won't be artificially inflated by results that they are never going to see.

I appreciate that it is easy to make the connection between my support of Arsenal and any criticism I make of players who play for other teams - especially United or Spurs - but the mere fact of my support for Arsenal doesn't mean that it drives everything that I write.  I'd bet that if you got an honest answer from Sir Alex that he'd be disappointed in the results of his purchase of Carrick.  Not because Carrick doesn't have a role to play but because he paid WAY too much money to get him.

The Schedule

This is a tricky week with three teams - Chelsea, Arsenal, and Birmingham - playing twice and five teams - Bolton, Fulham, Stoke, Wolves, and Citey - not playing at all.  Chelsea's matches (@WBA and BRM) are much easier than Arsenal's (LIV and @TOT) while Birmingham has a little bit of each (SUN and @CHE).  The problem is that Birmingham are Birmingham and we all remember how the last two-gamer ended up for us.

Our focus will almost exclusively be on the two-gamers and how you can get as many of the right ones as possible into your line-up.

  • The Chelsea Dilemma - Three forwards providing little production but Drogba is the one who seems most likely to start both and produce.  Torres looked better despite not scoring in his cameo last weekend so he'd be the second choice here.
  • RvP - Almost a must-have even though Arsenal's matches are tougher RvP seems to get his points more often than not.  The price is ugly though.
  • Birmingham? - This is the toughest thing to predict at this point because Zigic and Martins have been out due to injury but they seem poised to come back.  We won't really have an answer here until we see the Friday injury reports.
  • One-gamers - I'm thinking Suarez is the best bet here for the money.  It may be more on phantom points and assists than goals against Arsenal but that's not a bad thing if he enables others.
  • Lamps vs. FloMal - Of the two, FloMal looked the (much) better option based on last weekend's performance.  That said, I'd rather take Lampard and the potential PK goals than the up and down FloMal.
  • Arsenal's Midfield - Tough call here - Cesc and Nasri have been poor fantasy value for almost the entire second half of the season and Walcott and Arshavin are inconsistent even under the best of circumstances.  I'd be more inclined to buy Wilshere as an enabler than I would be any of the premium guys.  I you must have one of the premium guys then I'd go with Cesc and hope there's a PK in it for him.
  • Gardner - Bentley and Larsson will be the more enticing options in Birmingham's midfield because they get the phantom points and I can't necessarily argue with either choice but neither is a guaranteed starter and Gardner has had the better per-match average.  He's a little expensive but given the other options, he's a relative bargain compared with say Nasri's struggles at a greater cost.
  • Enablers - In addition to Wilshere the obvious candidates for people not holding on to players like Valencia on the cheap are Hitzlsperger, THud, Bilyaletdinov, Ramires, and Eboue depending on Sagna's injury status.
  • Luiz - The only people who shouldn't be buying him for his price are those trying desperately to make up ground and holding out hope that he'll pick up a red card - sort of a desperate ploy really but I had to write something next to his name other than "pick him"
  • Premium Defenders - This is a week where buying someone like Ashley Cole or John Terry actually makes some sense given that you'll get two cracks at CS points.  I actually like the spend on defenders more than the spend on Drogba or Anelka.
  • Carr - A cheap way to get two cracks at CS points while you hope you don't get negatives from YCs.  The presence of Sunderland as part of the two matches makes this a reasonable investment.
  • Enablers - Heiginga is the best one I've found - hard to imagine him duplicating his "no-YC CS" weekend of last weekend but at the price and given Everton's reasonably easy match-up, you could do worse as you try to free up money for the expensive two-match forwards.
  • Cech - The no-brainer if you can afford him.  That said, he's expensive and you'll likely have to choose between him and someone like RvP/Drogs/Lamps.
  • Foster - Only a little less expensive than Cech so there are likely few cases where you'd want to buy him but if you need just a little extra to spend elsewhere he's a strong bet despite the away match against Chelsea.
  • Howard - Like Heiti, I'm not sure how much I trust two EVE clean sheet wins in a row but at his price he is definitely a big enabler of other things (especially if you got him at last week's price).


  1. Anonymous1:00 PM

    Is Smalling worth hanging onto @5?

  2. no love for RSC the enabler?

  3. Anonymous1:14 PM

    I would say, u rather have a squad player that can help, than a star player who complains a lot (see mash, flamini, ballack, etc)

  4. Anonymous1:33 PM

    AW said Van Persie is on pk's.

  5. Before we "check our facts" could you bother to check yours? United regularly go deep in 4 competitions. Among United's midfielders, Carrick has ALWAYS been either second or third in terms of matches started in all competitions. In terms of starts for all outfield players, Carrick has ranked 3rd, 7th, 8th, 5th and 4th over his 5 seasons. To me, that clearly says "starter" and at the very least is someone Sir Alex relies on heavily.

    In an honest moment, sure, SAF might say he was disappointed with the return on investment (at the time he was comparing Carrick to Keane). But that has a lot more to do with the inflated values of English born players. And he'd NEVER say Carrick couldn't "cut it."

  6. Anonymous3:21 PM

    As a football fan who doesn't support United or any of their rivals I think I can give an unbiased view on this topic.

    Carrick isn't good enough for United. Only reason he gets the number of games he does is because of how much has been paid for him. Only reason that Carrick currently cuts it is because United have a poorer squad than they have had for a long time.

  7. @Jim, homer. jog off.

  8. I think peoples lack of appreciation of Carrick is simply a lack of understanding of the role he plays. He is in the side with instructions to keep possession, switch play, play forward between the lines when possible, screen the defence and take the odd long shot. He's a ball playing central midfielder, a breed of player we under rate in England (see Denilson for Arsenal, Mikel for Chelsea, Lucas for Liverpool). Zonal marking has some very enlightning articles about this type of player:

    p.s. I don't support United, Arsenal or Tottenham or any of their rivals!

  9. so is torres and malouda(lampard) a better option than drogba and ramires(wilshere)

  10. @Josh, homer? I'm an ARSENAL supporter. I'm not inclined to like Carrick. Hell, I can't stand United players, and I certainly can't stand Ferguson. I think he's a pompous jackass. But I acknowledge the overwhelming success they've had and try to evaluate them with this in mind.
    I'm not engaging in personal attacks on Neal. I like him and I really like this site. This is a spirited disagreement. As such, I'll stand up for my views strongly. But thanks so much for your in-depth contribution.

    @kev, spot on. That's what I'm getting at with Carrick-- I think we all have a tendency to underrate that kind of player.

  11. Why are Man Utd fans always so defensive and against even a little critisism against their team??? Jeez relax a bit guys. No one is saying your team is crap...we're just making observations. And for the record...I think Carrick can't cut it as well. If everyone was fit do you honestly think SAF would pick Carrick to start? Really now...

  12. Anonymous10:17 AM

    Carrick was brought from Tottenham as a Charlie Adam type of player....his vision and passing ability which has since all but disappeared since he joined United. Also neither Denilson or Mikel get game time at their clubs...

  13. Cesc doesnt do PKs when RVP is in the game..

  14. Anonymous12:02 AM

    Team 1:
    Luiz , Smalling , Parnaby
    Lampard , Malouda , Hitzlsperger , Southern
    Van Persie , Drogba , Santa Cruz


    Team 2:
    Luiz , Terry , Smalling , Walker
    Lampard , Malouda , Wilshere , Hitzlsperger
    Van Persie , Demba Ba

    Which one better ?