A LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN OR ARE THEY JUST BIG EGOS?

We are just two weeks in to the Premier League season and as we head in to game week 3 it has been notable that some of the big name players are already performing as per the script. Living up to their pre-season hype, players such as Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Sergio Aguero are in excellent form and with the world’s most expensive player (Paul Pogba) set to make his second start for Manchester United this week we are asking the question – are these players really extraordinary or are they just a load of big egos?

ZLATAN IBRAHIMOVIC – BIG HEAD OR BIG STAR?

Any player who comes out with statements like ‘I can’t help but laugh at how perfect I am’ and ‘when you buy me, you buy a Ferrari’ has to have an ounce of skill or suffers from complete disillusionment. Whether you are endeared to his personality or think he’s just another Premier League playboy, the Swede’s performances on the pitch have been outstanding so far with 4 goals in his first 3 games for United (if you include the Community Shield).

With the self proclaimed ‘special one’ as his manager it is likely that the ego will be kept in check to an extent but with Ibrahimovic only scoring less than 20 goals a season once in the last 5 seasons, he is likely to live up to his own hype.

SERGIO AGUERO – TOP OF THE CLASS?

Sergio Aguero is generally considered by most Fantasy Football players as being the best in class when it comes to scoring goals and there has been nothing this season to suggest we will see anything other than a stellar season from the Argentine. Another big player who has hit the ground running with 6 goals in 3 games, Sergio doesn’t appear to have the same arrogance that some of the Premier League’s other big hitters have but he shows his arrogance on the pitch rather than off it.

It is difficult not to love Sergio Aguero. The only thing that puts most Fantasy Football players off including him in their teams is the price tag. We think he is pure class and worth every penny.

PAUL POGBA – OVER INFLATED PRICE OR EGO?

Paul Pogba made his debut for Manchester United last week against Southampton and looks set to play against Hull City in game week 3 and the Frenchman made it look incredibly easy with a pretty flawless display against the Saints with the exception of heading over the bar from close range. The difference between Pogba when he left United and Pogba now seems to be maturity and humility.

Anyone who has seen Pogba interviewed since his big money move to the Premier League would be hard pressed to find any arrogance in the man. Many would argue that to become the most sought after player in the world requires a large degree of arrogance, but like Aguero, Pogba seems to be doing most of the talking on the pitch.

The way he has dealt with the return to a club that allegedly spurned him after his first spell there has to be applauded, particularly given some of the things that were said after he moved to Juventus in 2012. Pogba has already played more minutes for United in his second spell at the club than he did during the first and it looks like the move to Old Trafford is a good one for the club and for the league as a whole.

His price might be over inflated but then isn’t every price of a Premier League player? One thing is for sure, his class is clear to see and if he can hold his own amongst the other egos at his club then he will be a star in the grey skies of Manchester.

THE MANAGEMENT

The players with the biggest Egos often make excellent managers as they are able to put their personality across to their players. The influx of new management in the Premier League gives us the opportunity to see a plethora of top managers flex their muscles as they vie for the number one spot in the world’s best football league.

Antonio Conte, Jurgen Klopp, Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola are just a handful of the new(ish) names in the league and they carry some of the biggest personalities in the game. It is too early in the season for the real antics to start but no doubt there will be plenty of fallings out as the season progresses and we can’t wait to see some of the heavyweight clashes unfold.

From Conte’s exuberance, Klopps passion (proclaiming himself the normal one), Mourinhos arrogance and Guardiola’s style – each of these top class managers bring something special to the league – and it certainly is a league of extraordinary gentlemen.

SETTLING IN TIME

Well, how was week one for you? The new English Premier League season kicked off last weekend in a blaze of publicity and non-stop live telly football and I, for one, am grateful for it.

Liverpool looked good going forward, not so good at the back; Arsenal were, well, Arsenal; Ibra scored on his debut for Manchester United; Sergio scored for City, as usual; and Hull won! Yes, who would have thought it? Certainly not me but they beat the champions with only nine fit first team players according to the narrative. To be fair to them they kept the same eleven players on the pitch for the full ninety minutes.

What of Leicester and Vardy? He missed several chances that last season he would have gobbled up. Is it too early to think their bubble has burst?

Game of the weekend had to be Arsenal at home to Liverpool. It had just about everything, great goals, shocking defending, angry fans and Gary Neville slaughtering Liverpool’s full back Alberto Moreno. I doubt if many Liverpool fans would have disagreed with him too much.
Worryingly for Burnley fans they lost at home to Swansea. I hope this is not a sign of what’s to come this season but I’m sure Sean Dyche would have been targeting these types of games as the kind where a victory would go a long way to securing seventeenth place.

Friday’s game
Last season Aston Villa hosted Manchester United in a one-off Friday night fixture. This season, as part of the biggest television deal in history, there will be regular Friday night football on Sky. The first official Friday night football offering from Sky is Manchester United (what a surprise) against official Premier Punt partners Southampton.

I’m interested in seeing how attendances will be affected in these games. Under normal circumstances, Old Trafford would be full to capacity with no empty seats, even if the game was being shown on TV on a Saturday or Sunday and even on a Monday night. It will be interesting to see if United’s famous ‘travelling’ home fans will make the effort on a Friday night. On this occasion, I doubt if we will see any empty seats given that it is the first home league game of the Mourinho era, Ibrahimović makes his home debut and, for the first time in twenty years, the world’s most expensive player might make his debut (again) in a Premier League match.

Keep an eye on future attendances for these Friday games, particularly ones that are less attractive than this one.

Saturday’s games
Stoke host Manchester City at the Victoria Gro…..no, sorry the Britannia Stad….no, that’s not right either, the Bet365 Stadium….Anyhoo somewhere just near Stoke.

Joe Hart won’t be playing as Pep says he can’t pass the ball properly. Well, I watched Caballero last week and from what I saw he better sign a keeper who can because he’s not very good at it either.

Lancashire derby at Turf Moor. Is it still called that? It should be entertaining with Liverpool looking good going forward and Burnley trying to get their first points.

Swansea started with a good away victory last week and play Hull this week at home. It will be interesting to see if Hull can maintain their level of performance with a threadbare squad and no indication of any other signings on the horizon.

I think Spurs are a certainty at home to Palace. Not sure what’s going on at Selhurst Park. Why is Pardew getting rid of Jedinak, a fan’s favourite? I know why they got rid of Bolassie, another favourite….almost £30,000,000, that’s why.

Chelsea go to Vicarage Road to play Watford. Diego Costa is not suspended….I have no idea why not after watching him almost break the West Ham keeper’s leg in two on Monday night, and he had already been booked.

Everton go to the Hawthorns. I don’t see too many goals in this one so I’m backing under 2.5 for ninety minutes.

The evening game is Leicester against Arsenal. Will Arsene have signed a centre half (that’s what they used to be called before football was invented in 1992) by then? No, I don’t think he will either. He might have signed a small, skilful playmaker though….

Claudio will have been rallying his troops all week after last week’s opening day loss at Hull. Will last week be a blip? Will Vardy take his chances against the team he could have signed for in the summer? Might Riyad Mahrez, a small and skilful playmaker, have signed for someone else by then? Who knows?

Sunday’s games
A North-East derby in the Premier League kicks off at lunch time. No, the Geordies did get relegated last season; this one is Sunderland v Middlesbrough. I’m taking Jermaine Defoe in my Premier Punt team this week as he will score. Alvaro Negredo might well score for Boro as well. It should be a decent game.

Closing the week two fixtures is West Ham at home to Bournemouth. I don’t know what the name of their new rented stadium is and I don’t care. I can see the euphoria taking the Hammers all the way to three points, which will make it two losses on the trot for Bournemouth if I’m proved correct. It could be a hard season for the Cherries and one of England’s top Premier League managers…..not that he’s got much competition for that accolade.

Over and Out,
Cheeky PUNT

THE NEW SEASON IS UPON US

Welcome to season 2016-17! What’s in store for us with a new English Premier League season on the horizon? Will we see another fairy tale ending with an underdog following Leicester to glory? Liverpool fans sure hope so. Will the big guns get their act in gear and restore the league to normality? Will the money being spent on players be reflected with an increase of quality on the pitch? I doubt it. Will the superstar managers of the Premier League mean we will be talking more about what happens off the pitch than on it? Undoubtedly. And most important of all, how much cash will I be able to win on Premier Punt this season? Download the new app from the App store to play.

Saturday’s games
One of the most open seasons since football began in 1992 kicks off this Saturday with the champions, Leicester City, (yes, I can still hardly believe it) hosting Hull City, (and no, they aren’t relegated yet) at lunch time on Saturday. Hardly the most glamorous of starts but Leicester deserve their day in the sun before reality kicks in. Other first weekend clashes include Barnsley at home to Swansea, Crystal Palace playing West Brom and Middlesbrough entertaining Stoke. Well, you can’t accuse the Premier League computer of looking for opening day blockbusters with that lot, can you? On a more serious note, it will be interesting to see how Burnley and Boro do in their return to the big time.
This season sees Premier Punt become one of Southampton’s official club partners. Look out for the Premier Punt logo on the board behind new manager Claude Puel and during the game with the pitch side advertising. Good luck to the Saints at St. Mary’s against Watford!
Pep’s first game in charge at the Etihad sees City play David Moyes’s Sunderland. How long will it take him to realise that you can’t play a 5 foot 7 midfielder at centre back in this league just because he can pass the ball a bit? In saying that, he could put Samir Nasri there – he’s quite big apparently…..
Two of the league’s top managers from last season go head to head at Goodison on Saturday with Everton playing Spurs. New Everton manager, Ronald Koeman, is looking to spend some of his new owner’s cash as well as the fortune he received from City for John Stones. As we type he’s trying to tie up a deal for Palace’s Bolassie and has replaced Stones with ‘Welshman’ Ashley Williams. How will Spurs fare after collapsing on the title run-in and even managing to end up below Arsenal yet again?

Sunday’s games
Big spending Manchester United kick Sunday off with a lunchtime start at the Vitality Stadium (shocking name) against Bournemouth. Will we see the world’s most expensive footballer make his debut? I don’t think so. He’s been on holiday for about two months and has had no pre-season, but maybe it’s in one of United’s noodle sponsors’ contracts that he starts every game, so you never know.
Anyhoo, if Pogba doesn’t make it we can always enjoy Zlatan’s league debut instead. I’m going out on a limb here to predict that the big man won’t score ten league goals this season. I just can’t see a soon-to-be 35 year old scoring the amount of goals he did in Ligue Un. He didn’t have the likes of John Terry or Scott Dann trying to boot him up the arse every week over there. Feel free to slaughter me for that prediction if I’ve got it all wrong.
I’m looking forward to Arsenal at home to Liverpool on Sunday afternoon. I have no idea who Arsenal will play at centre back since they don’t have any that are fit. However, Arsene doesn’t seem to be particularly bothered about the situation as he hasn’t bothered his arse signing anybody….again. Maybe he could drop Ozil back in there à la Pep.
As for the Scousers, well anything could happen. Apparently they could win the league because they don’t have the welcome distraction of European football this season (since they weren’t good enough to qualify for Europe last year). Who knows?
Monday’s game
Finally, Monday Night Football is back on Sky Sports…..on Monday. Gary Neville is back with Sky but, supposedly, isn’t getting his regular Monday spot back.
Their first game should be well interesting, Chelsea at home to West Ham. This will be Conte’s first match since joining directly from the Euros. I think he will do an excellent job for Mr. Abramovich. Well, he better or else…
I can see them reclaiming a Champion’s League spot.
Slaven Bilic did a great job with the Happy Hammers last season. It will be interesting to see how they get on at their new council ground. A big season awaits.
Here’s my prediction of how the table will look at the end of May. Feel free to post your own version.
1. Manchester United
2. Manchester City
3. Chelsea
4. Tottenham Hotspurs
5. Arsenal
6. Leicester City
7. Liverpool
8. Everton
9. Southampton
10. West Ham United
11. Stoke City
12. West Bromwich Albion
13. Swansea
14. Crystal Palace
15. Sunderland
16. Bournemouth
17. Middlesbrough
18. Burnley
19. Watford
20. Hull City

Over and Out,
Cheeky PUNT

BIG SAM, FERGIE AND WAYNE

So Fergie’s best mate gives Fergie’s other best mate the job he’s always wanted, but where does this leave England’s captain and record goal scorer? Well in my opinion it leaves him in a very vulnerable position with regards to his future international career.
When David Gill offered Sam Allardyce the England job last week it would have come with a ringing endorsement of big Sam from Sir Alex Ferguson. Always an admirer of big Sam’s approach to running a premier league team that would never be relegated, or challenge Manchester United, big Sam would always have been the first name on his list of recommendations when his former chief executive at Manchester United came looking for advice on replacing the hapless Roy Hodgson. Notably, the other top candidate for the job was another of Fergie’s mates, his former captain at United and now former Hull City boss Steve Bruce. Who incidentally also has a lamentable record of managing teams against Fergie and United in general, he has never won against them with any of his teams.
Allardyce would have been my choice for the post, I think he deserves his chance to lead his country to a world cup and let’s face it he doesn’t need to do much to improve on his predecessor’s record at the last three tournaments. First of all, the team will be organised, there will be no round pegs in square holes. Secondly, they will be better prepared than ever because if nothing else Allardyce is meticulous when it comes to preparing a squad, one of the first managers to embrace nutrition, psychology and the use of tools like Prozone and Opta statistics to analyse performance in the nineties Allardyce has always been a leader rather than a follower in fact some of his former players and staff describe him as a great innovator. Speak to former pros Kevin Davies or Kevin Nolan and they will verify that Sam was ahead of his time during his time as manager of Bolton Wanderers.
Tactically Allardyce has always been sound, he’s had to be. Having never taken charge of a top premier league team his strength has always been getting the best from a group of average players by creating a great team spirit and deploying the tactics that would result in Bolton, Blackburn or West Ham performing above expectation season after season.
But how will Sam cope with star players with big egos who have continually under achieved in an England shirt? I think he will be a revelation, he has fantastic man management skills, he knows when to administer the proverbial boot up the arse and when the arm round the shoulder is required. This brings us back to the original question regarding Wayne Rooney, what is international future under Sam’s management?
I don’t think he has one, well not a very long one anyway. This is where I believe Sir Alex Ferguson may have some influence. It is three years since he retired but in the final six months of his last season it was obvious that he felt Rooney had served his purpose in a United shirt, he was substituting on a regular basis which only served to increase Rooney’s frustration. On what turned out to be his last match in charge of United in the Champion’s League he left Rooney on the bench at Old Trafford against Real Madrid, the biggest insult he could deliver to United’s star man. In his last post-match interview as United manager he announced that Rooney had asked for a transfer…. again, knowing full well the response that this would bring from United’s supporters who had still not forgiven Rooney for the transfer request he had lodged in 2010. The truth is that he had not submitted an official transfer request this time but in a row with Ferguson told him to sell him if he was not going to play him.
Of course there was no need for Ferguson to reveal any of this but he could not resist it, one last grenade before strolling of into the sunset. All part of the revenge for the 2010 transfer request. Now Rooney’s international future lies in the hands of one of Fergie’s best mates…….good luck with that Wazza.

Over & Out
Cheeky Punt

EURO 2016 FINAL PREDICTIONS

FRANCE VS. GERMANY – WHO WILL YOU BACK?

The European Championship Final is taking place at the Stade De France on Sunday 10th July and Europe’s biggest international competition will be hotly contested between host nation France and Portugal. It also signifies the time when most football fans turn their attention back to domestic competitions and with pre-season already underway there is plenty to look forward to in that respect.

But for now… let’s keep our focus firmly on the Euro 2016 final… as we still have one huge daily fantasy football betting game centered around the big game – so the big question is:

Who should you back in the final?

The tournament has already given us many pointers as to who will win Euro 2016 as well as many other fond memories. We won’t be forgetting Joachim Low’s infamous genital rub and sniff in a hurry and the internet almost broke with Cristiano Ronaldo’s funny pose that was captured and has been Photoshopped to death – yet it still seems to get funnier each time.

Back to the final though and the form all points to France with Portugal having only won one game in the tournament in normal time and scraping through their group with 3 points, many fans believe they don’t deserve to have made the final at all. That being said, they have the world’s best player in their team and Ronaldo’s performances have improved as the tournament has gone on. If France have a weak point then it is their defence so we could be set up for a fairly open final.

Whilst Portugal have hardly looked brilliant, there have been times where France have also looked to have their weaknesses exposed and with both teams having good attacking options and having conceded five goals between them in two fixtures against Hungary and Iceland, the pointers towards a goal filled final look even clearer.

 

FRANCE TO WIN EURO 2016 ON HOME SOIL

If you are looking for fantasy players to pick for the Euro 2016 final then you are going to want a clear idea of who is going to win the game. Everything suggests that France will live up to the hype as they have a knack of winning European Championship Finals with them having won both of the finals they have competed in with wins in 2000 and 1984. France have also competed in two World Cup Finals and they have won one of those (1998). The World Cup Final and the 1984 European Championship Final were both on home soil and it looks like 2016 is set to be a hat-trick of home soil success.

In contrast, Portugal have only made one major final, which was Euro 2004 when they lost to Greece of all teams in Lisbon. Psychologically, France have the superiority and it looks like they have the advantage physically too.

 

WHICH PLAYERS TO BACK IN THE FINAL?

Okay, lets get to the crux of the matter… which players to put in our teams for the final.

There is one player that stands head and shoulders above the rest in terms of tournament form and that is Antoine Griezmann. It’s hardly surprising that the player who is likely to take the Euro 2016 golden boot is top of the fantasy football stats but the French striker has made himself indispensable to France manager Didier Deschamps and fantasy managers alike. The other key players on form are Dimitri Payet, Paul Pogba, Ronaldo and Nani.

If you are looking for defensive options then France look like the team to back and although it could be a tasty goal laden affair on Sunday, it could just as easily be a tight and tactical game. If that is the case then France have proved that they are capable of winning on that front too with a very well thought out game plan to navigate past the Germans on Thursday.

Hugo Lloris, Patrice Evra and Bacary Sagna are top picks in this regard with Sagna perhaps just having the edge on Evra based on the points scored so far.

Of course you will be restrained by budget, but to be successful we suggest you opt for Griezmann and Payet as a minimum.

Attentions will be turning to domestic competitions as of Monday and keep tuned in to Premier Punt as we have some very exciting announcements coming up over the coming weeks. We are just as excited as you are for the new Premier League season so keep an eye out as we countdown to the new season.