CAN WAYNE ROONEY EVER SHAKE THIS HANGOVER?

Wayne Rooney has arguably been one of the greatest talents in English football in modern times. The player who has scored over 50 goals for England and is closing in on 250 goals for Manchester United has enjoyed a 15 year career so far that has been mainly filled with highs. As is often the case with the British media, the very same publications that have celebrated his successes and built him up are now preying on his every move to knock him down from whence he came.

Once upon a time in a football fairytale (not so long ago), a player joining a wedding celebration and enjoying a few drinks with guests would be a hero – nowadays things are very different and Wayne Rooney has been hammered by the press for his antics whilst on international duty.

Perhaps it has raised wider issues and bigger questions about footballer conduct and the line between their personal and professional lives, but for Wayne Rooney, it is just the latest in a long string of 2016 low points – so we are asking the question as to whether Wayne Rooney is suffering a hangover that he just won’t be able to shake.

It is hard to feel sympathy for someone who earns more in a week than most people earn in five years – but then no-one enjoys seeing a previous Premier League star fade away.

With Zlatan Ibrahimovic suspended for the visit of Arsenal in the Saturday lunchtime kick off it might be the perfect tonic for Rooney to bounce back to form if he gets the chance to play in a more prominent position – but would it just be a short term fix even if he were to bang a goal in?

Wayne Rooney made his debut for Everton at the tender age of 16 in 2002. The fact that 2002 seems like a lifetime ago may go some way to explaining the downturn of the Englishman’s form. Rooney has been a fantasy football manager’s dream at times and the 2013/14 season that saw him score 17 goals and register 10 assists was his most impressive of recent years. If we go back to the 2011/12 season then we will remember him ruthlessly destroying defences with 27 goals and 4 assists. But will we ever see this side of him again or is it time to give up on him from a fantasy football point of view?

Some pundits are saying that the versatile forward has lost his legs, others disagree and say it’s his appetite for the sport. Others blame his lifestyle and general fitness. One thing that cannot be argued is his skill. But is it enough to keep fantasy footballers picking him? In fact, Rooney does not even feature in our fantasy football single game between Man Utd and Arsenal today with preference given to Marcus Rashford as a Premier Punt star player and he is likely to be given a starring role in the game by Mourinho.

From Rooney’s perspective, one of the biggest frustrations for the ex-Everton player  is probably that he has been playing in various roles (but crucially not as a striker) for two seasons now – Rooney is an impact player and whilst he is capable of playing in midfield or out wide, he is not going to be as impactful as he will in the number 10 position or as an out and out striker. Has he been mis-managed or is he simply not good enough?

Rooney should feature in today’s fixture and whilst it could be marred by injury and suspension there is enough talent out there for Premier Punters to choose from. Paul Pogba, Juan Mata, Mesut Ozil and Theo Walcott will be amongst the other popular picks for the game. It will be interesting to see if the Man Utd manager opts to play Rooney in a more advance role – if he does, then he can potentially have more of an impact – possibly the only thing that can clear his head from this lingering hangover. Either way, it looks like the trend is declining and we don’t see that changing in the medium to long term.

THE MOST EXCITING FANTASY FOOTBALL SEASON YET?

THE MOST EXCITING PREMIER LEAGUE SEASON YET?

The Premier League is regarded as one of the best elite football leagues in world football. Much of the reasoning behind this comes down to the competitive and fast paced nature of the football being played in England’s top flight.

Leicester City’s rise to prominence last season highlighted once again why millions upon millions of football fans across the globe tune in each week to watch their favourite Premier League stars battle it out and it would seem that interest is continuing to grow rather than slow down.

For the first time ever, Fantasy Premier League has attracted over 4 million players and this is in no small part down to the success of Leicester City FC last season and the fun and excitement that this brought in terms of fantasy football. Whilst the bargain basement players of last season have now shot up in price (the likes of Jamie Vardy, Riyad Mahrez and Dele Alli), the hunt continues for the new cheap hot shots in the 2016/17 season.

Whilst Leicester will perhaps struggle to replicate what they did last season, this season still looks like being one of the most exciting yet – and we are asking the question whether this could be the most exiting Premier League campaign yet? If it is, then surely that transfers to fantasy football and our very own daily fantasy football games.

THE TOP 5 

As it stands, the top 5 clubs in the Premier League are separated by just 3 points. The top three teams are all tied on 23 points and have all played some blistering stuff at times this season. Man City, Arsenal and Liverpool are only split by goal difference and with all three averaging almost 2.5 goals per game it makes for very entertaining viewing. Man City were most people’s guess to run away with the league and it looked that way after the first 5 games, but a stutter since then has opened things up and the free flowing football of Liverpool and Arsenal has caused a few eyebrows to be raised.

Chelsea and Tottenham are close on the heels of the leaders and both carry their own title challenging credentials. The top 5 all have their own strengths and all 5 clubs have top managers who all have slightly different styles.

No one likes a one horse race and this seasons looks like it will be the most open for years. As the season wears on, we may see a 2 or 3 team pull away emerge but we wouldn’t be surprised if all five of these teams are in the mix come the end of the season.

WHAT IT MEANS FOR FANTASY FOOTBALL? 

Aside from just making entertaining viewing for the neutrals, the wide openness of the title race makes for highly engaging and exciting fantasy football. Season long fantasy football games are developing nicely and daily or weekly fantasy football games resemble the excitement of the weekly Premier League heat more than ever.

With 5 teams performing well and around another 5 clubs having decent form beneath them, there are plenty of players to choose from. This breadth of player selection is making for some incredibly exciting pick 6 games and none more so than the big North London derby that takes place on Sunday. Will it be a goal fest or a tactically defensive duel? Do you pick the Spurs defence that has stood up so well so far or opt for the Arsenal attacking flair players like Sanchez?

There is nothing worse than template team boringness and this season is promising to eradicate the template team for good. After all – who wants to play fantasy football when everyone has the same players?

The unpredictability of the Premier League will never disappear and we will always have fixtures where anybody can beat a somebody – but this season looks to have that more than ever and with the goals that several of the big boys are bringing to the table – it looks set to be one of the best Premier League’s in years and an even better fantasy football league.

Pick 6 in our North London derby game on Premier Punt right now.

WHO IS THE BEST TEAM IN THE PREMIER LEAGUE?

THE BEST TEAM IN THE PREMIER LEAGUE

With the current Premier League Champions languishing in 12th place in the league table (just 4 points above the relegation zone) and the top four having an all too familiar feel – we are asking the question –

who is the best team in the Premier League?

Depending on results in game week 10, we could see any one of five teams sit at the top of the league by the end of the weekend and unless the team currently sitting at the top drastically improve their form – it could be that we have a new leader come Sunday afternoon.

If this question had been asked a few weeks ago then most people would have told you that Man City were the top team by a long shot, but with no win in three games the gloss certainly seems to have been taken off them. Has Pep lost his way or is the lure of the Premier League showing once again why it is the toughest in Europe to crack?

Unless you support one of the top five teams – and we’re talking Man City, Arsneal, Liverpool, Chelsea and Spurs – then why should you even care who is the best? After all – the league table will tell us won’t it?

Well – there’s a very simple answer to that – Fantasy Football.

Of course we care. In fact, some weeks I think I care more about fantasy football than I do about my actual real life – crazy I know… but I know I’m not alone.

So let’s take a look at the teams in a little more detail and see if we can gleam any pointers from them for our fantasy football selections.

TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR

Having conceded only 4 goals in the opening 9 games of the season Spurs have the meanest defence by a very long shot indeed. They have lacked a bit of bite over the last couple of games and have looked quite toothless without Harry Kane at times but a team that is hard to beat is always going to do well. Filling your team with Spurs defenders may not be a bad idea.

CHELSEA

Still early days for Antonio Conte but the new formation he has adopted in recent weeks with the three at the back seems to have given him the stability he needed defensively put is also fluid enough to offer a threat going forwards. A 4-0 hammering of Man Utd last week has certainly put the cat amongst the pigeons and exciting times might be coming back to the Bridge.

The key man so far has been Diego Costa of course and now you can add Chelsea defenders to your shopping list too. Matic has been weighing in with assists week after week now too – differential anyone?

LIVERPOOL

Alex Ferguson this week described Klopp’s Liverpool side as ‘the real deal’ and that must have been quite difficult for a man who was so proud to have ‘knocked Liverpool off their fu#$ing perch’. What Liverpool may lack defensively, they more than make up for in an attacking sense. The midfield options are excellent and offer plenty of options for our daily fantasy football punters.

The real strength of this Liverpool is that unlike all the other teams around them, they are not relying on just one person to score the goals – this could be their season!

ARSENAL

Arsenal have been consistently buzzing around the top of the Premier League season after season and the law of averages would indicate that at least once they will get it right – whether that will be whilst Wenger is still there remains to be seen.

They seem to be ticking along nicely without a proven goal scorer playing up front and the resurgence of the likes of Theo Walcott has certainly helped them. You can’t help but think that the lack of a real top quality goalscorer might bite them on the bum again – but if it is good enough for Liverpool then why can’t it work for the Gunners? Time will tell – but so far so good.

MAN CITY

There are not many managers in work right now who have a better record than Pep Guardiola and although he is currently enduring his worst ever run as a manager he is still sitting at the top of the Premier League and you can’t help but think that when all of their players are available, this City side has the best starting 11 in the league.

The weaknesses seem to lie at the back for City just like they do for Liverpool – but with so many goal scoring options up front it is hard to see them not being in the mix at the end of the season.

Peps men are the joint top scorers in the league (with Liverpool) but they do have more reliance on that one player than their North West rivals with Sergio Aguero being so integral to their success. It is no coincidence that they have failed to win the last three league games when he hasn’t scored and an injury to the Argentine could cause some tears in the blue half of Manchester.

THE VERDICT 

The fact that it is so tight at the top of the league gives a good indication to how the season will go. It is hard to see anyone from outside the 5 teams we have highlighted as having a chance at winning the league and the competitiveness is good for the game and also good for fantasy football betting. After all, it wouldn’t be much fun if everyone had the same players in their teams.

For the league – I’m going to keep my neck firmly in and sit on the fence and gleefully watch from afar. Instead, I’ll be putting my wagers on a daily premier punt.

WHAT MAKES A GOOD FANTASY FOOTBALL STRIKER?

In Fantasy Football, the majority of our team budget is going to be spent on our strikers. Certainly when you break it down in to average cost per player, the strikers are going to be where the biggest investments are made… and rightly so.

But what is it that makes a good striker – and do the same qualities make a good fantasy football striker as the qualities you might look for in the real life Premier League?

If we look at the top 4 strikers this season so far in terms of goals, we have Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Diego Costa, Sergio Aguero, and Romelu Lukaku. Between these four, they have netted 14 times and all of them have at least 3 to their name. They are familiar names and ones that could easily have been predicted to be up there at the start of the season.

We assess the potential of each of these players for our weekly and daily fantasy football games.

 

IBRAHIMOVIC 

Zlatan is a beast. Plain and simple. He might not have the pace that he once had but he more than makes up for it with ability. Some strikers lose their game once they reach a certain age but this has not been a problem with the super Swede. His ego is plentiful and this is potentially another link in his armour. The fact that he is clearly Manchester United’s number one striker is also a big selling point when considering him for your Fantasy team. 

COSTA

Diego Costa has had a very good start to the season with 4 goals in 4 games and he also has an assist to boot. The Spaniard has a ruthless streak running through him that sometimes spills over in to aggression. There is no doubting his quality and his biggest strength is his clinical finishing and bullish build. He can bully even the stockiest defenders and like Ibra, he looks to be the number one striker at Chelsea this season. 

LUKAKU

Lukaku had not scored in the league since March but a hat-trick against Sunderland in game week 4 reminded us of how lethal he can be. 18 goals last season shows he is a striker that has to be taken seriously, but whereas Costa has the consistency Lukaku seems to blow very hot and cold. A very different temperament to the Belgian’s game means he is much less of a risk of receiving a ban – but give him enough chances and he will punish a weak defence. 

AGUERO

Without a doubt there is not a striker in the Premier League who is better than Sergio Aguero. The Argentine reminded those players who would risk saving money on him how much of a mistake that could be in midweek by scoring a hat-trick. More diminutive in stature than all of the other strikers on this shortlist, and perhaps more in line with the build of a certain Mr Suarez, Aguero has been a consistent performer for Manchester City and looks set to be the class act once again this season.

So what makes a good Fantasy Football striker?

Really, the answer to this is simple. It’s goals.

Goals, goals and more goals.

Predicting when the goals will come is the hard part. All of these strikers are going to score 15 or more goals this season. Most of them will probably score 20+ and I’d say at least one of them will score more than 25 – no prizes for guessing who.

Of course, assists come in to play as well as the team they are playing for. Man City look like a real force this season and they are more likely to score more team goals than any other team in the league. A quality striker, playing for a quality team – that’s what makes a top choice fantasy football forward – it’s just a shame he’s suspended for another week!

PAIN & HOPE OF FOLLOWING ENGLAND

We all know the real reason why major football championships are not one year apart but two. It is because it takes that long for the fans to get over the disappointment of the last one.

Eleven months simply wouldn’t be nearly long enough, but the good news is, two years is enough for the scars to heal, and we are always raring to go.

You know when the time to the first kick off is getting close. When you go to your local supermarket the beer is the cheapest it’s been since Christmas and they are stocked up to the ceiling. The main supermarkets Sainsburys  Asda and Morrisons clearly on the side of England to do well, they would be gutted to see them go out at the group stage. Electrical Stores always sell the latest and largest TV’s in huge numbers before a competition. With a new TV you can get £10 cash back for every goal your team scores. I don’t expect extra time penalties are included though. Gone however seem to be the pairs of red and white St George’s flags that we all used to fly on our cars.

At the peak of the flag historian I always used to think what on earth would overseas visitors make of it all, the country has gone completely football crazy. But what a fabulous show of passion and support that used to display.

There are some changes to this year’s Euro 2016 tournament which really should mean that the six seeded teams all qualify. A bold statement perhaps, but the increase of final teams to 24 means we will only lose EIGHT teams in the group stages to make up a Round of 16. The top two teams and the four best 3rd place teams will go forward. I find it hard to believe that France, Germany, England, Belgium, Spain and Portugal won’t manage that. It would also be hard to discount Italy from Group C of course. In previous years there were two of the higher ranked teams in each group and two qualified. That thankfully has all changed.

Given that the top six (or seven) do qualify then the fun really begins. It is very difficult indeed to split the rest. In Group D for instance, Spain are with Czech Republic Turkey and Croatia, now anyone that can predict 2nd 3rd and 4th in that group will do really well. It honestly could be any order, and that kind of scenario is replicated in most of the groups. Quite possible that the team ranked 4th, Croatia in this example, could finish in 3rd or above and qualify.

This new set up also means that the final group games that are always played at the same time will ALL count. There will be no “dead rubber game” which is pretty clever I think.  It is also even more important to top the group, because getting paired in the round of 16 with a 3rd place team has to be on paper at least, the way to go. I add on paper, because although this sounds simple, it won’t be that easy it never is.

England play Russia Wales and Slovakia and really not qualifying given the above information would be an absolute disaster of massive proportions and I doubt if Roy would survive that. I think England fans would take two wins and a draw as being the minimum. The bookies have made England a really very short 1/10 on to qualify out of Group B and also short favourites to win it.

England winning Group B would see them play the 3rd place team in Group A C or D So a completely impossible prediction to make. If England did win the group they would not know who they play in the round of 16 until Group D is completed on 21st June. If they finished runner up, then they would play the runner up in Group F The advantages of winning the group are there, they always are, and that must be the aim.

France are 3/1 favourites as hosts, we don’t have that much form to go on they have won three friendlies recently against Netherlands Russia and Cameroon, but significantly they conceded two goals in all of those games as well. I also quickly add they did beat Scotland 3-0 in a very late fixture just six days before the opening game. After France it’s Germany 4/1 Spain 5/1 and England 8/1. With Belgium 11/1 and Italy a massive 18/1 and Portugal huge at 20/1 Others Wales 66/1 Rep Ireland 100/1 Northern Ireland 250/1

What about our squad of players, well for me my main player has to Wayne Rooney he is the playmaker, captain and has the most experience. He will agree he has been disappointing in previous tournaments, but he has the chance here to take Group B apart. Roy Hodgson has already come out and said Rooney will be the first name on his team sheet, so love him or hate him, he will be starting. The defence has been solid over the past two years if you look at those results, it seems like he will start with Smalling and Cahill with Stones waiting his turn.

Roy’s problems are however in midfield. He has to first make his mind up on the formation. 4-3-3 or the much talked about diamond 4-2-3-1 which will mean Kane will play up front on his own. Dele Alii looks like starting but I do worry about his temper he has to keep that in check, I am not convinced he can. I always seem to pick him on Premier Punt when he gets booked, which was quite often. Some very stupid ones that could have been avoided.

James Milner is a firm favourite of Roy’s and luckily he has had a very good season for Liverpool. If you have been checking the season long Premier Punt scores which are produced by OPTA it is always a fair guide, (in the single game you score points for a completed pass, shots on target and of course assists and goals) you will have seen that he has scored very high all season long. However there are other options Dier could play. Wilshire also, who was controversially been picked to travel when Leicester City’s Danny Drinkwater was not. Roy has a puzzle and it’s not really clear how he is going to fit it all together..

I think to be fair, he has options with the puzzle, and his first piece, the old corner piece will be Rooney, then he has to decide if he is going to build from the top (attack) or bottom (defence) Will Vardy play or not is the question, I think he will, we need to start well, we need to get three points, and we really need to win the group. No draws required, we need to attack and we need to get the fans running up to the supermarkets to buy that beer for the long haul. We have a route to the Semi-Finals and there is no reason at all why we should not at least get there. I am fully recharged, all scars repaired and ready to go, hope you are also, Have a great tournament everyone.

 

The history of previous tournaments over the past 50 years pretty much ensures us that something dramatic will happen in Euro 2016. The table of highs but mostly disappointments with five penalty shoot-out defeats are below.

 

1966 World Cup Winners

1970 in Mexico England Captain Bobby Moore caught up in a blackmail attempt which involved him being wrongly arrested for stealing a bracelet. England lost to Brazil in one of the most dramatic England games ever played.

1973  Failed to qualify when Poland’s goalkeeper daubed as “A Circus Clown with Gloves” by Brian Clough then probably had the most memorable goal keeping game by any keeper, certainly against England. My first trip to Wembley as well age 16.

1978 Failed to qualify and we were forced to watch Scotland in Argentina.

1982 Just lost out in a second group phase in group a of three with West Germany and Spain, we drew both games which wasn’t good enough.

1986 Maradona’s “Hand of God” goal for Argentina

1988 Euros in Germany England beaten by Republic of Ireland and finished bottom of Group 2

1990 Gazza’s Tears after England lost to West Germany in the semi-finals on penalties Chris Waddle missing the vital one.

1992 Euros Finished bottom of the group with Sweden Denmark and France.

1994 Very disappointing not to qualify for USA

1996 Euros Football coming Home Wembley Lost on penalties in the Semi-Finals to Germany

1998 World Cup Beckham sent off against Argentina which changed the game we lost.

2000 Euros Lost to Portugal and Romania and failed to qualify from the Group

2001 Beckham’s last second free kick ensures England beat Greece to qualify for World Cup.

2002 Another dramatic game against Brazil in the quarter final’s which we lost 2-1

2004 Euros Lost in quarter-final to Portugal on penalties

2006 World Cup Lost in quarter- final to Portugal on penalties

2008 Euros Failed to Qualify, Greece won the tournament

2010 World Cup Beaten by Germany 4-1 in the round of 16.

2012  Euros Losing to Italy after a 0-0 marathon on penalties..

2014  World Cup Losing to Italy in the Jungle in Brazil meant we needed to win two out of two, we got just one draw and were on the way home, bitterly disappointed again.

2016 Qualified with 10 wins from 10 games. The hope returns.

 

Optimistic Punt