The Week Ahead: Part 2

I'm a strategist at heart.  Most of the consulting work I do centers around helping businesses make better strategic decisions, improving their processes to yield better results, and creating digital tools to help them improve their engagement with customers.  In consulting we live for the elegant solution.  That one thing that simultaneously solves a bunch of issues for our client and proves how smart we are. As it turns out, that thing rarely exists.  Generally, the approach that brings results consists of a lot of little changes that all meet with a fair amount of resistance and make limited but positive impact by themselves.  Only after a few of them have come to fruition do you start seeing large scale change and potentially company-changing results.

I bring this up because it occurs to me that many Premier League teams need some help in understanding how to make change happen.  Since it is the (assumed) birthright of all consultants to make recommendations on businesses in which they themselves are not necessarily experts, I offer my unsolicited (and likely unwanted) advice to managers and technical directors across the land on small tweaks to the way they do things that will help down the line: 

Steve Bruce: See above, change happens slowly - you can't switch out your entire roster each season.  More money on 2 or 3 high quality additions each off-season rather than the same money spent on 8 or 9 lesser players you can't possibly hope to bring quickly into a unified team concept.

Arsene Wenger: Buy earlier man.  Everyone on the planet knew you had money coming in from Cesc and Nasri at some point.  Why not get ahead of your problem and buy Hazard and Jagielka BEFORE pre-season started (we know you were already on the phone with Lille)?  You have a new billionaire owner, I'm sure he'd have been willing to float the cash for a month until Cesc and Nasri were sold.  Why waste the value of an entire pre-season and the first few matches of the actual season?

AVB: Start playing Drogba and Torres together now because you just bought the "next Drogba" for a bunch of money.  All three players are best suited to the "9" role in your favored 4-3-3 alignment but those aren't the cards you've bought/been dealt.  You have one player (Malouda) who makes sense as a wide player in that alignment from time-to-time and a couple who either don't fit well (Anelka) or just aren't that good (Kalou).  Seems like time for Plan B.

Mancini: I'm sure that all of England appreciated that the first attempt that the club made to spend its way to success focused mostly on English players (SWP, Barry, Milner, Lescott, Bridge, etc.).  Now that the flaws in that plan have been revealed, it is time to allow the corpses of these players to go back to the mid-table clubs where they belong.  I have no problem with the notion of playing two holding-type midfielders but the ghost of Gareth Barry added very little going forward or backward against an over-matched Swansea side.  Time to let him find his rightful place on the bench or somewhere else where he can make a positive contribution.

Harry Redknapp: Be decisive.  I can only imagine the plight of current forwards Defoe, Crouch, and Pav.  They've spent the last two summers reading about how Spurs needed a world class forward to take the leap to being a serious and regular contender for the Top 4.  We're almost two seasons on and nothing has happened. Either shut up and try your best to boost their confidence because there is some talent there or pull the trigger and get the guy you want.  The middle ground isn't helping anyone but the media who get to write column after column about your failed/failing attempts to improve your lot at forward.

OK, enough with the rant and on to the player recommendations:

  • Aguero -  How can he not lead off the recommendations after THAT performance.  The only argument against is that a) everyone will have him and b) he can't possibly live up to everyone's expectations.  That said, I'm not brave enough to bet against him after watching that display.
  • Torres - I know, he didn't score last weekend.  As much as I'd love to crush him for it, he was more than a little unlucky.  Playing at home against a less impressive defense, I'd bet on him to score at least one. 
  • Welbeck - Rooney is likely to get his points but I've already recommended two "premium" forwards. I like the kid's chances to do well as Spurs defenders collapse to his much higher-profile teammates Rooney, Young, and Nani.
  • Carroll - Suarez is the better long term bet at forward for Liverpool but you'd be kicking yourself if you picked a LIV forward against Arsenal and it wasn't the one who is really good in the air.  The storyline is too obvious to ignore. 
  • Saha - The great injury gamble meets the great match-up.  We all know that Saha can get it done on his day but we also know he could have hurt himself between the time I started writing this blurb about him and the time I finished. If it is worth the risk at all this season, this is the time. 
  • Larsson - Not because of the amazing goal last weekend (although that doesn't hurt), you're picking him because he's at home to a NUFC team that isn't likely to post two clean sheets in a row and Larsson is the most likely to be in the middle of whatever happens for Sunderland. 
  • Sessegnon - This pick is because with Gyan hobbled, Sessegnon will likely move even farther up the field that his listed midfield spot, his price is reasonable, and the match-up isn't bad. Plus, how better to celebrate his late arrival into the Yahoo! game. (yup, still beatin' that particular horse)
  • Cahill - See Saha above minus the injury joke, not that Cahill doesn't have his share.
  • BFAY - My guess is he's going to throw out a very steady stream of double figure performances based on phantom points alone since he's taking the majority of kicks for a United attack that is going to have to compensate for the kids at the back for a while.
  • Jarvis - The match-up isn't quite as appealing as Larsson's but the player is more talented so I wouldn't argue with you going either way as their prices are at least similar. 
  • Silva - You sort of have images of he, Nasri, and Aguero forming a triangle that resembles a poor man's Xavi, Iniesta, and Messi.  Small, quick, amazing on the ball and capable of making their teammates better by drawing attention and making great passes.  Hard to turn down a part of that even if he's on the road. 
  • Smalling - Sort of a tough call with all the reserves likely playing for United at the back but worth a look even against Spurs since they're playing at home. 
  • Non-RJ Wolves Defenders - There are some relatively inexpensive guys Foley and Berra being the most obvious who could get you a few phantom points plus a clean sheet for a reasonable investment.  Sadly, no rock bottom prices here. 
  • Warnock - Obviously you'd be happier if you got him on the BD last weekend but he has a solid chance to return more than his value at home against Fulham Blackburn Rovers. 
  • Gibbs - Not sure about his health or Arsenal's ability to contain Liverpool minus Song but even at "retail" his price is still low enough for him to represent a great value if you need the money elsewhere. 
  • Heitinga - Hard to say whether he's going to start or not but if it looks like he is, he'd be a great fill-in for Gibbs as a cheap option that could pay off at home against a team that didn't look much like scoring last week. 
  • Baines - If you have the stomach to spend that much money on a defender, he's likely going to have a big match plus he could get you some CS points if QPR remain as inept as Week 1. 
  • Given - See Warnock above.  Excellent value on the BD, OK value at retail. 
  • Hennessey - If you need someone who is affordable and could easily end up with a win and a CSm he's your man.
  • Howard - I'm a little wary of him but I probably shouldn't be as a nice medium option between Given and Hennessey.  Solid potential for a double digit return at a reasonable (but not cheap) price. 


  1. Anonymous4:40 PM

    A word on Bent and van der Vaart?


  2. Redfordio5:09 PM

    Nzogbia? Is he worth the hassle

  3. Anonymous5:48 PM

    I appreciate this blog, but you can sound like a bit of a prat sometimes!

  4. Warnock and Given don't play Fulham this weekend.

  5. Jacob6:07 PM

    i'm starting nzogbia. Against a weak blackburn side for sure. I'm also start Bent and Given though, so take my advice with a grain of salt.

  6. Who the hell is BFAY?

  7. another point on the wenger problems with signing early. he kind of dicked tottenham over with mata. they were the only team to have offered the original price. then mata said he would prefer arsenal, after wenger starting pitching at him. the problem was wenger took too long and now his price is over $35 million.

  8. Neal - brilliant Manager advice, coming from a fellow non-expert at running a futbol club :) Clever, and spot on.

    Couple of questions - Thoughts on Bent at home to weak opposition? If the first week is anything to go on, Blackburn and QPR are going to be the whipping boys this season. And how about Vorm at home to Wigan? The guy's a phenomenal athlete - looks like the kind of goalie who will wrack up points even if he's scored on (didn't make it to Given on the BD, but did for Vorm).

    Also - have you guys thought about disabling "anonymous" posts on the new site you're headed to? Nik did that on the AM blog, and it really cleaned up the comments. Little too easy to make passing swipes that don't contribute to the dialogue.

  9. I'm curious as to why more people aren't looking at Osman as a choice he was Everton best scoring mid last year. Now is this the Arteta factor or Cahill is that overwhelming of a choice?

  10. why are you so convinced wolves will keep a clean sheet against fulham jeremy?
    I think your getting too much into this weird wolves thing.
    Defender picks are quite weak I think, gibbs very litle chance of playing, same with heitenga, smalling not worth it in makeshft defence with confiedence lacking goalie.
    Agree with warnock though.

  11. @daz, BFAY stands for "Blog favo(u)rite Ashley Young." It took me several readings the first time I saw the acronym to piece that together. (And no, I wasn't reading the post in which the term was coined.)

    As for the article, it was great to laugh again. In fact, I was hoping "Read more" would lead to a full list of manager critiques. But moving on, some people asked about Bent, and I would only add this to the discussion: Count on him to bag about 15 goals this season, but you might as well shake an 8-ball to predict when he'll score. Whenever it made the most sense to pick him last season, he seemed to do little to nothing, but then bang! Two games later, and he'd get a double against a stronger opponent. Here's his tally of goals from last season, in order:

    1 goal against Birmingham (+1 for predictability)
    1 goal against Man City (-1)
    1 goal against Arsenal (-1)
    2 goals at Liverpool (-2)
    1 goal at Newcastle (+1)
    1 goal at Wolves (+1)
    1 goal against Blackburn (+1)
    1 goal against Man City (-1, and this time for Villa)
    1 goal at Man U (-1)
    1 goal at Bolton (+1)
    2 goals at Everton (-2... well, +1, -1, maybe)
    1 goal at West Ham (+1)
    1 goal against Stoke (+1)
    2 goals at Arsenal (-2)
    17 goals, -3 for predictability (or -1, with the Everton split)
    Notice that all three multiple-goal games came AWAY at Liverpool, Everton, and Arsenal. On paper, he makes a very logical pick, but I'll probably look elsewhere.

    - D.H.

  12. Jeff Savage12:10 AM

    Everton versus QPR is where I want to find 3-5 picks. Is Arteta someone to pick? Yakubu? Yobo and J Hammer?

    Or, the bigger question is can Everton pound QPR like Man City did?

  13. @Wonko - where did you read Warnock and Given won't play?

  14. I think it sucks that you guys take a lot of your own personal time to do this blog and some people come on here just to make accusations or whine or insult.
    It's fine to disagree, but don't be a dick about it.
    I've been reading your blog for a while now and I just appreciate having an outlet to go to discuss this stuff and to be a part of a bigger, global community. I'm stateside so I don't have the luxury of picking up the papers or overhearing discussions at the Pub. Most of my friends think soccer is dumb, but I love it. This is one of my only outlets to hear and engage in intelligent, lighthearted but serious conversation about something that I - and obviously many other people - care about. Yeah, it's "fantasy soccer" but if you're really into it, it's so much more than that.
    So thank you for maintaining this site, for your time, for joining forces with some other well-done sites, and for giving me a chance to be a part of something I really enjoy.

  15. wasn't fabio great last weekend returning 8 points without a clean sheet... even great in terms of money where he worth 4.7 M
    i think you need to extend your player recommendations a little bit...
    And still many thanks for the hard work. you have always been great

  16. Anonymous8:23 AM

    Barry reminds me of Garba Lawal most Nigerians hated and thought he was useless but for years he was picked continuously and by about 4 different managers/coaches. Truth is as sloe as he is one city player has his work rate, maybe just De Jong, he runs "snail pace" all day till the final whistle. I'd rather have him holding alongside de jong than Toure who is very lazy or should i say saves his energy fot those bursting runs, meanwhile he just jogs around like Mario most of the time.

  17. Anonymous11:39 AM

    Any love for Swansea this week. I liked what I saw from the against Man city when they were in possession. Creative attacking futball with Dyer looking dangerous down the wing. Any thoughts abotut them home to Wigan?

  18. Warnock and Given will probably play. Wonko noticed that they were listed to play Fulham but they are playing against Blackburn.
    No love for Fabio? He returned over twice his value and for the price I kept him even with an insecure keeper and a made up back line. Probably will keep Gibbs at that price as well.
    My front line of Suarez, Rooney, Kun are probably season keepers barring serious injury. Good luck all

  19. Hey Neal. Good points.

    'Buy earlier man' - ah the irony re Cesc. Re Jagielka his prce was always going to be £12m+ but certainly re Hazard that should have been closed 2 seasons ago. If Chelsea take Mata (Guardian reporting) you have to wonder why Arsene didn't push for Thiago in exchange or buy Ander Herrera really. It's not like there is a dearth of central midfield talent in Europe. Certainly there is far more value to be found on the continent than £20m for Henderson.

    Either way Wolves, Villa and Man Utd seem value this week. As a long suffering Blackburn fan I just hope we have a 'wing' and a prayer of staying up. Honk.