THRILLING PERFORMANCE OR PATHETIC TACTICS?

The fall from grace for Alan Pardew and his Crystal Palace side has been well documented in recent weeks and the pressure on him has intensified after a wildly entertaining 5-4 defeat last week at the hands of Swansea City who have now managed to claw themselves back off the foot of the Premier League table – all coming off the back of last week’s Premier Punt article that examined who were the worst team in the Premier League. The jury’s still out on that one but it does lead us to ask…

With goals galore in the Swansea Vs. Crystal Palace game – does it make for a thrilling performance or does it just show a huge amount of tactical ineptitude?

Both Crystal Palace and Swansea are shipping an average of exactly two goals per game as they head in to game week 14 of the Premier League calendar and that level of weakness at the back has to the result of a tactical flaw somewhere. The weaknesses were there for all to see last weekend but as Crystal Palace took a 4-3 lead with just minutes to go – it looked like Pardew and his team had turned a corner and you might even have credited the Eagles with showing some character.

That character was drained minutes later as they left the field with zero points and another two goals against their goals conceded statistic. It will probably go down as one of the games of the season but will it be remembered for individual brilliance or just for calamitous defending? Or maybe a bit of both?

Both teams have a much tougher task this weekend with Southampton and Tottenham Hotspur the respective opponents of Crystal Palace and Swansea and as Fantasy Football managers we might be inclined to pile players in from Saints and Spurs – and I’d say you’d be pretty justified in doing so.

For all the attacking delights displayed by Palace and Swansea last weekend (and for Palace for most of the season) there are definitely frailties at the back. Swansea concede the fourth most amount of shots per game (15.1) than any other Premier League side, whilst Palace concede the 8th most (13.6). Compare that to Burnley who conced over 20 shots per game and it is hard to fathom how Burnley have conceded 5 less goals over the campaign – can all of that really be attributed to the brilliant goalkeeping displays of Tom Heaton?

Fundamentally, it looks like there is a mentality issue. Particularly with Crystal Palace. To be fair to Swansea they are still getting to grips with a new management style under Bob Bradley and to be fair to him, he is still testing out which is his best backline and so some defensive errors can be forgiven – on top of that – his team did show great character to snatch victory late on last weekend.

Palace on the other hand just go from low to lower – and it looks like Pardew will be on his way out if he can’t claim a win in the next two games. As much as he has been commended for his teams attacking exploits by TV pundits – the reality is that his team only sits 13th in the league for the number of shots per game – this lack of balance between the team’s attacking and defensive philosophy is costing them game after game.

Any manager under pressure should sure up defensively so it will be interesting to see what approach is taken this weekend as they entertain Southampton on Saturday afternoon – but for the sake of Palace and Pardew especially – entertainment should be put on hold and a return to tactical sense should be employed.

Why not chance your hand with Spurs and Southampton players in our daily and weekly fantasy football games on our main site.

THE WORST TEAM IN THE PREMIER LEAGUE

THE WORST TEAM IN THE PREMIER LEAGUE?

As we head in to game week 13 of the Premier League season we take a look at the wrong end of the table and ask the question:

Who are the worst team in Premier League?

It may be the 13th week of the season, but bad luck cannot be blamed for poor league positions at this stage as we head in to the second third of the campaign – instead, we are interested in the reasons why certain teams are struggling at the foot of the table and wonder if any of them can pull themselves away.

The Premier League is notoriously competitive and the reality of it is that almost any team can fall foul of the relegation zone’s clutches if they have a bad run of form.

As it stands, Swansea hold up the rest of the teams in 20th position having won just one game all season. Having recently brought in Bob Bradley to steer the seemingly sinking ship doesn’t seem to have had quite the right impact and he is still searching for his first win in the Premier League. Perhaps the grass isn’t always greener?

Sunderland sit just above Swansea in 19th place but have at least showed some spirit in their last two games with two good victories. Sunderland seem to flirt with danger each season before making the great escape – but can they do so again this season? David Moyes is at least starting to see something from his players now.

Hull City complete the relegation zone lineup and sit on 10 points having had a decent start to the season before losing all but one of their last 6 games and with the joint worst record for goal scoring it doesn’t look like they will be turning anything around anytime soon. A 3-0 defeat at the hands of Sunderland last week hardly did anything to challenge that theory – but are one of these three teams really the worst in the league?

THE PREMIER LEAGUE FORM 

With the exception of Sunderland, the teams at the foot of the table also have the worst form which is unsurprising. Another team that have been widely reported in the media this week as having dreadful form are Crystal Palace. In fact, Palace are rock bottom of the form table in the Premier League with one draw and five defeats in their last 6 games. In fact, their form for 2016 is the worst of the entire football league which is almost unbelievable when you look at the attacking talent on show for the Eagles.

THE RELEGATION DOGFIGHT

With just 4 points separating the teams in the top half of the table from the relegation zone, we could be here all day analysing who the worst team is – and you could perhaps make a pretty convincing case for many of them. Aside form Hull, you have to say that it is the established Premier League sides that look more vulnerable to the drop this season but West Ham and Crystal Palace surely have enough quality to pull themselves away from trouble.

The North East of England is a passionate place when it comes to football but Hull City have looked pretty awful this season. The biggest two statistics paint a worrying picture for the Tigers as they have both the worst goalscoring form and the worst goals conceded stats too. A game against West Bromwich Albion this week might have been one to look forward to until the Baggies thumped Burnley 4-0 on Monday and this will be a game that could see Hull City crowned as worst team in the Premier League if they don’t avoid defeat. The management structure in place at Hull (and we are not talking about Mike Phelan here) looks like it needs to carry a lot of the blame for the state of affairs at the KC Stadium.

Swansea face Crystal Palace this weekend and this clash could see the relegation zone shaken up again if Bradley does manage his first victory in Swansea colours – if he fails to capitalise on Palace’s poor form then they will sit rooted to the bottom of the league in a very perilous position.

As good as the league is at the top, it is as poor at the bottom – and whilst any team in this league can beat anyone, it looks to us as though Swansea and Hull City will be destined to relegation – with Sunderland playing their usual Houdini act – but it might be one trick too far this season.

Think you know who is the best and worst in the league? Then play our daily and weekly fantasy football games here.

 

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.

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.

CHELSEA VS. MAN UTD PICK SIX

PREMIER PUNT GAME OF THE WEEK: CHELSEA VS. MANCHESTER UNITED

Many of us settled down for an evening of brilliant blistering entertainment in the form of North West rivalry between Manchester United and Liverpool on Monday evening only to be left feeling somewhat cheated… but like an ever faithful puppy dog we have already moved on from the boredom of Jose Mourinho’s negative football as we look forward to another set of Premier League fixtures for game week 9.

The Premier Punt game of the week for GW9 looks set to revolve around another tactical showdown with the Chelsea Vs. Man Utd fixture already holding down our biggest prize pool – despite the fixture not taking place until Super Sunday.

It is new vs. old as Mourinho heads to Chelsea not much less than a year after his infamous sacking to take on his successor Antonio Conte who has already found himself under pressure and speculation at the Bridge earlier this month was suggesting his tenure is already far from secured.

Both teams head in to this game in decent form and although Manchester United might have had a midweek European fixture, the attacking performance (particularly of Paul Pogba) might mean that having played in the week will actually work in their favour.

The question is who to choose in your pick 6 team if you are entering our big fantasy football pick 6 game?

TOP 6 PICKS – CHELSEA VS. MAN UTD

The top scorers from the Liverpool game last week were of course the defenders and with no defenders or goalkeepers having star player status you could have your pick of any. It’s a tough call though as a single goal can wipe out a load of your points so what is the likelihood of another 0-0 draw? Not to mention it feels a bit boring choosing a team full of defenders!

Two of the last six games between these two in the Premier League have resulted in 0-0 draws and only one of those fixtures has enjoyed more than two goals! There have been two red cards in that time both times going to the away side in the fixture.

If we look at the last 6 games when Chelsea have played United at home there have actually been no goalless draws and just 2 clean sheets – both coming for Chelsea.

It’s a difficult pick 6 for this game but it does look like the game will revolve around defence and midfield. That being said, Diego Costa is the real in form attacking player in this fixture and will probably make most teams – he has the best chance of breaking down a resolute United side. At the back, Luke Shaw might want to be avoided as Mourinho may well start with the same back four that played Liverpool.

It is hard to predict but perhaps a mix of Chelsea and United defenders mixed with one or two attacking players is the way to go in this game. With home advantage to Chelsea and the extra preparation time you would have to be swayed towards the Blues in this game and Marcos Alonso is a defender who has really impressed in recent games. He bombs forward and supports the attack and it might need a player of his type to provide the width in a game that could be tight.

Whoever you decide to pick in this game, there are a range of prize pots and challenges to choose from including a £500 progressive pot that is not to be missed – so what are you waiting for – play our daily fantasy football here.