Monday, 31 October 2011

Solutions to England's national football system

Hi folks. I can't post my GW 10 summary yet, as Stoke are due to play Newcastle United on Monday. Instead, to fill the void, I thought that I should post my "Football Reform Manifesto" that I wrote up after England's lacklustre performance in the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Let me know your thoughts and enjoy...

Solutions to England's national football system:
Football Reform Manifesto - written circa July 2010

Scrap the League Cup

- There is no point in having two domestic cup competitions (the other being the FA Cup). In recent years, even the big teams have treated the League Cup as a training/reserve team exercise. The abolition of the League Cup will ensure that there is a reduction in fixture congestion and as a result there will be less player fatigue.

Reduce the Premier League to 18 teams

- By reducing the Premier League to 18 teams, the football season will finish earlier, by at least an extra 3-4 weeks. This will ensure that players get more rest and time to recover from each match.

Introduce a Winter Break

- This can be easily achieved if either of the first two proposals are implemented. The ideal time for this to occur would be in the last two weeks of December, midway through the season. This concept is not alien to football and is practised elsewhere, such as in Germany.

Increase the number of England (national and B team) friendly matches

- Time and time again we hear of complaints about English players not getting enough time to show their "talent" in an England shirt. As it stands, the limited number of friendlies creates a situation where young players would be lucky to get 10 minutes of match play in a friendly. If they fail to prove their worth, they may not get picked again. With a reduced Premier League and Winter Break, the England national football team could easily play at least two more extra friendly matches per year, in which you can have a mixed squad of players playing against mediocre and good opposition. In addition, the England B team should be revived and used as a regular platform for English players (over the age of 21) that play in the Premier League, but are on the fringes of the England national team.

Invest in Youth Development

- This may seem pretty obvious, but it is often neglected, especially in England. The FA had a "School of Excellence" from 1984-1999, which produced the likes of Michael Owen and Joe Cole (and many other Premier League players). However, no decent alternative exists today. Without something similar and better, the England football team will not progress any time soon.

Introduce a "5-domestic players rule" per match squad

- It would be wrong to put a cap on the number of EU and non-EU players that play in the Premier League. However, it is about time that the FA did do more to nurture domestic talent in the top flight. One way that they could do this would be to introduce a rule that demands the inclusion of at least 5 English players in a match squad. To put this in perspective, that would be 5 players from a first team squad of 16-20. It will ensure that English players get a chance, whilst not undermining the positive presence of foreign players.

Introduce a salary cap

- It is unbelievable to think that a considerable number of English players earn over £100,000 a week, yet fail to deliver on the international stage. The Premier League has the highest average weekly wage per player in the world. Paying high amounts to such players only adds to their egos and prima donna statuses. Consequently, as a common sense and cost effective measure, it would be best to introduce a salary cap (excluding performance related bonuses) that is reviewed every season.

Encourage English born players to play abroad

- Time and time again we see young foreign players leaving their home countries to seek opportunities abroad. Such a hunger is currently not present within England. In fact, it is rare for an English player to ply their trade abroad. Of course, there are rare exceptions that do, such as Owen Hargreaves who started at Bayern Munich as a youth player and then became a full England international. France (and the continent) is only a train ride away for many would-be English professionals that want to develop their game. Instead of complaining about the lack of opportunities abroad, they should be incentivised to go abroad to develop their game, rather than slumping into semi-professional/amateur oblivion.

Transfer control of the England team from the FA to the Premier League

- This is a controversial idea, but the fact of the matter is that almost all English players are contracted to Premier League clubs. It would make more sense for the governing body of the Premier League to take charge of the England team than the FA. The FA should concentrate on the administration of the Football League (Championship to League One), as well as the development of grass-roots football. The Premier League may be money-driven, but it is also results driven, unlike the FA. Therefore a radical shake up in the overseeing of the England team could lead to better success on and off the pitch.

Why do we need change?  Because It's time to learn from past mistakes...

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Major changes to Fantasy Premier League from last year

Major changes to Fantasy Premier League from last year

More than just a makeover...

My team for gameweek 2 during the 2010/2011 season.
60 points scored, with 12 points lost on the bench.

I know it's gameweek 10, but there are some changes that have occurred to the game from last year that you may not be aware of.  I think its important for me to highlight the aforementioned to prevent you from being unwittingly short changed.  Apart from the obvious aesthetic interface makeover, Fantasy Premier League has changed in three major ways:

1) Overall Points deduction via extra transfers (not just Head-to-Head Leagues)

Last year if you made more than one transfer per gameweek, points would be automatically deducted from your head-to-head tallies, but not from your overall leagues or classic league points. This year, you will now also lose points from your overall leagues and classic league tallies.  It means that you need to be wiser with your transfer spending as you will lose out on an overall ranking basis with bad team selections.  Read my Management Advice page for more information.

2) Wildcard

A wildcard allows you to change your entire selected team for any gameweek without having any points deducted from your overall, classic and head-to-head league tallies. Last year the FPL game issued each team with two wild cards - to be used at any time. This year there are two wild cards, of which only one can be used between gameweeks 20 and gameweeks 23 with the other any time before or after.  My advice would be to avoid using your wildcard unless you absolutely have to, i.e. perennial bad injuries, long-term suspensions or poor form for a significant number of your team's players.  If you are going to use it voluntarily, try doing so after the January transfer window and/or near the end of the season, in case teams have bought new signings and they do well later on.

3) Bonus points update

Previously, bonus points per match would be updated within a few hours of match's completion, i.e. For a match that finished at 5pm, bonus points would usually be added by 9pm on that day.  Unfortunately it now takes a lot longer.  In fact you have to wait until the end of the weekend, i.e. all matches completed by Sunday would mean that bonus points will be updated by about 9ish on Monday morning.  This can be frustrating as you won't know your actual points or league rankings until a lot later, rather than on the day.  To complain about this or any new changes or faults, feel free to contact Fantasy Premier League on the following email address:

Friday, 28 October 2011

Readers' Recommended - Gummi - Gameweek 10

Readers' Recommended - Gummi - Gameweek 10

This is the time for a Stoke purchase to capitalize on their favorable fixture list. Having only conceded one goal at home they play Newcastle, QPR, and Blackburn at home in the next four Gameweeks with Bolton away in between. Begovic and Shawcross are the reliable picks but for only 4.0 you could pick up right back Andy Wilkinson.

Should you want to gamble on Stoke delivering goals Walters and Etherington stand out as the attractive picks. Walters is playing up front and has penalty duties, having registered two goals, two assists, and seven bonus points this season. Etherington has a proven Fantasy track record, having scored ten goals and provided 16 assists in the last two seasons.


Best regards,


One Hundred Years of Football Management

One Hundred Years of Football Management

Look what I found!  Evidence of my football management addiction.  The above screen shot is from the offline PC game Football Manager 2005 - with only the top 3 tiers of English football selected.  The game play spanned the years 2008-2009 in real time.  As is evident from the graphic (you may need to click it to enlarge it), I was managing for over 100 years!  102 years to be precise.  During this time I won 39 League titles and 97 Cups, without cheating.  I managed 6,241 games - beat that Fergie!, which works out to be on average 60 or so games per season .  I was managing for such a long time that the games stats page malfunctioned, as is evident from the "Total Value of Players Bought" (note the odd minus sign) and total wins - highlighted in red.  The total wins was automatically reset by the game when I reached a certain amount of career wins.

By adding up draws and defeats I calculated that I won 3,532 matches at win rate of 56.59% (unbeaten in 77.79% of all matches played).  My most expensive signing was a Brazilian chap called Vagner in the year 2080.  Perhaps he is a future descendent of Vagner Love?  At £74 Million he cost me almost as much as Cristiano Ronaldo cost Real Madrid in real life.  I got rid of him two years later.  In the process I doubled my money by selling him at an expensively cool £140 Million.  During my century of management I managed 35 clubs and 24 countries, with my longest tenure being at Manchester United for 4075 days (about 11 years, surprisingly short considering my management career).  At the time of the screen shot Bristol City was the last team that I managed, who I believe were in the Premier League.  I may have "retired" after managing them.

Why did I play the game for so long?  Well, I actually managed for 100 years during 2002 whilst playing Championship Manager 2001.  I tried matching that length record, which I surpassed.  However, there was one thing in both of those stints that I failed to do... The Quadruple - Premier League, League Cup, FA Cup and Champions League in one season.  The amount of times I did the treble is beyond count.  But I perished so many times when trying to do the Quad that it was unbelievable! I would always lose in one of the aforementioned cup finals to a minnow whenever I was the favourite, which prevented me doing the much coveted Quadruple.  Ah well, the things you do...

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Blast from the past: Newcastle Utd 5 - 0 Manchester Utd

Blast from the past - A reminder from history

Sometimes losing by a huge score line isn't so bad in the long term.  Manchester United's defeat by 5 goals to City was a shock to every football fan, as United very rarely lose by such margins. With Manchester United's loss over the weekend and Newcastle United's renaissance start to the season, I was reminded of a famous win during the 1996/1997 season. As is evident from the video below, the Geordies humilated the Red Devils in the match. But remember, it was Manchester United who went on to win the Premier League title and the other trophies that followed. Perhaps City's victory over the weekend isn't so much a changing of the guard, but more of their credentials as genuine Premier League challengers.  City must avoid complacency or else they may follow in Newcastle's mid-to-late 1990s footsteps of over spending on flair players that don't deliver regularly.  But the truth is City's team is consistent (packed with world class talent) and all they need to do is maintain form and composure.

Philippe Albert's goal is an absolute peach!  Any striker would have been proud of it.

Recommended Player for Gameweek 10

Recommended Player for Gameweek 10 - Kyle Walker (Tottenham)

"Kyle Walker possesses all the qualities to be a top right back"
(triffic tottenham)

My recommended player for gameweek 10 is not Silva, Nani or Van der Vaart, but rather future England international Kyle Walker.  I don't often praise Tottenham's defence, considering the fact that they have conceded more than a goal a game this season in the Premier League and conceded 46 league goals last season.  However, I am making an exception for Kyle Walker.  As is evident from the above video, he is an attack minded right back, who I believe will definitely be picked for England's Euro 2012 squad and possibly the British football team for the London Olympics.  It was ironic that the spread of the Tottenham riots prevented him from potentially winning his first senior England cap in August.  But the 21 year old has already shown a glimpse of his true rising stardom in the first 9 matches of the Premier League.  He is averaging a respectable 4.5 FPL points per game, as well as having a goal (scored against Arsenal) and an assist to his name.  He will almost certainly score or assist a bit more this season, especially with inspiration from the likes of Bale, Van Der Vaart, Modric and Defoe.  At 5.4 he is a bargain; his price will almost certainly smash the 6.0 mark in the near to distant future.  I believe that injury and extreme weather pending, he should be a mainstay in your FPL team until mid-January!  And here's why... look at Tottenham's next 12 Premier League fixtures:

30 Oct - Queens Park Rangers H (winnable with a likely clean sheet)
6 Nov  - Fulham A (a fair possibility of clean sheet)
21 Nov  - Aston Villa H (mild possibility of a clean sheet)
26 Nov - West Bromwich Albion A (fair possibility of clean sheet)
3 Dec - Bolton Wanderers H (winnable with a good possibility of a clean sheet)
11 Dec - Stoke City A (mild possibility of a clean sheet)
18 Dec - Sunderland H (winnable with a good possibility of a clean sheet)
22 Dec - Chelsea H (highly likely to concede in this match)
27 Dec - Norwich City A (winnable with a fair possibility of a clean sheet)
31 Dec - Swansea City A (winnable with a fair possibility of a clean sheet)
2 Jan - West Bromwich Albion H (winnable with a good possibility of a clean sheet)
14 Jan - Wolverhampton H (winnable with a good possibility of a clean sheet)

I would say that only Chelsea in their next 12 matches seem to be a major goal threat to Tottenham.

The Blues are the only top 4 team from last year that Tottenham will face until mid-Jan 2012!

Buy Kyle Walker whilst he is cheap.  He is definitely worth having in your team.

PS - My Captain for GW 10 will be my problem player ... Edin Dzeko! 

See my GW team page for more information.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Gameweek 9 Summary

Goodness Gracious Me (I think I need to go for an English)!  This is my three word summary for my gameweek team and the weekend's Premier League fixtures.  The highlights of this gameweek included Manchester United being thrashed by their noisy neighbours, 9 man Chelsea losing away to QPR, Liverpool drawing to the Canaries at home and of course Newcastle continuing their fine unbeaten run to the season thus far.  My recommended player (and captain) for this gameweek did me proud by scoring a brace.  Ramsey managed an assist and Yohan Cabaye (my game week 6 tip) got on the score sheet.  Sinclair and Petrov didn't score or assist.  Alas, apart from Ryan Taylor, my much acclaimed defence of A Cole, J Enrique and P Jones failed to keep a clean sheet.  Hart conceded one goal in the seven goal derby.  Rooney proved to be a damp squib in the Manchester derby yet Dzeko wasn't, as he scored two and registered an assist.  I had Dzeko as my first sub after he failed to get any significant game time in his last three matches, how wrong I was to do this.  The Bosnian marksman showed his class with his 21 minute cameo.  The irony of this was that I was going to sell him due to the aforementioned and his squad rotating status, but I may decide to keep him for the time being.  I have finally got rid of Cahill and replaced him with Micah Richards (a bargain at 6.0).  I may consider acquiring Silva or Van der Vaart in the future, but their expensive price tags mean that I would need to sell one of my marquee strikers or defenders.  I have scored more points than the average GW 9 score, but I am gutted that I had decided to bench Dzeko.  He is proving to be an enigma for me.  I will definitely have to start him now for GW 10.  Apart from my one "Dzekostraphic" (non-)game week selection, I would say that I had a mildy good gameweek considering the many surprising Premier League scorelines...

Even Match of the Day 2 highlighted the historical significance:

Monday, 17 October 2011

Recommended Player for Gameweek 9

Recommended Player for Gameweek 9 - Robin Van Persie (Arsenal)

"Robin van Persie is a special player... He's blessed at the moment and let's touch wood with his injuries. He's shown what a great player he is when he can be consistently playing". 
(Arsene Wenger, Oct 2011, BBC).

My recommended player for gamweek 9 is Robin Van Persie.  Arsenal as a team may not have had a good  start to the season, but this hasn't been the case for their Dutch striker.  His consistency is not a short-term phenomenon.  According to the BBC website Van Persie has been so important that he has been "involved in 29 Premier League goals (23 goals, six assists) for Arsenal since 16 October of last year, equal most in the league by Manchester United's Wayne Rooney".  This statistic alone speaks volumes.  Moreover, he has no major rivals for his place in the team, thus ensuring regular first team football.  Fabregas and Nasri's departure has allowed Van Persie to have more responsibility and creative freedom in attack.  His Beckhamesque free kick v Sunderland in Arsenal's last match shows his set-piece ability.  27 GW points from his last three games and 5 goals from 8 league matches means that he can't be ignored.  He is currently valued at an expensive (but worth it) 12.0.  Buy him before his value smashes the 12.5 mark.

PS - Make sure you also make him your captain for GW9!

Gameweek 8 Summary

Well, well, well... another mixed GW for me.  All of my defenders let me down by conceding goals.  Fortunately Ashley Cole and Ryan Taylor (autosub) saved face to a small extent, by managing a couple of assists between them.  My goalkeeper Hart conceded his fourth goal in eight premier league outings, during City's 4-1 thrashing of Aston Villa.  Midfielders Petrov and Cabaye failed to get a goal or an assist.  On a brighter note, my recommended player for gameweek 8 managed an assist.  Sinclair is truly on form by bagging 29 points in the last 4 games, which equates to a respectable 7.25 points per game.  

I got my captain's pick correct with Van Persie as he bagged two goals from upfront.  However, I only got 1 point from my other two strikers - Dzeko who got no game time and Rooney who came off the bench and didn't do much.  To top things off I selected Huth, who turned out to be an unused sub, as Stoke obtained a clean sheet - yet my other autosub (Cahill) failed to protect a clean sheet.  As a result of this GW I have finally transferred Huth in place of Liverpool's Jose Enrique.  I will also get rid off Cahill if he fails to perform in the next GW.  I am also inclined to ditch Dzeko as he has not regularly played 90 minutes in the Premier League this season for City despite his proven form.  Finally, I am now keeping track of John Terry who scored his second league goal this season and Norwich's Anthony Pilkington (5.0) who has scored three in his last four league games.

I will post my recommended player for gameweek 9 in due course.  Your thoughts are most welcome as always.  Until next time, ciao.

Friday, 14 October 2011

Malaysian born Scotsman - Shaun Maloney - One to watch

One to watch: Shaun Maloney

"Roberto Martinez rates Shaun very highly and has every faith that he will do well"

Many of you may not have heard about him, but he was once touted as a future star of Scottish football.  Born in Sarawak, Malaysia, he is currently playing in the Premier League for Wigan Athletic and is currently listed as a midfielder in FPL, but can also operate as a forward.  As is evident from the video below, he has a tenacity to score from set pieces.  No wonder why he was a fans' favourite at Celtic and won multiple SPLs with them.  His previous stint in the Premier League with Aston Villa wasn't as successful and he will be hoping to prove his real worth with Wigan.

At this moment in time I would not recommend buying him for your first XI team.  He may be a steal at 4.9, but he is not currently a regular for Wigan.  Moreover they have too many midfielders currently in their team (Ben Watson, 5.4, may be more ideal for bargain hunters).  At the very least I would suggest that you keep an eye on Shaun Maloney or have him as one of your cheap subs.  He hasn't had a regular run with Wigan as of yet, considering his potential and SPL successes.  Surprisingly, he hasn't been a regular feature in Scotland's national team either since his debut in 2005.  Perhaps he should have represented Malaysia and tapped into the lucrative offers of the South East Asian market?  Regardless, what's done is done and he probably has a couple more good years still left within him.  So keep watch of him...

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Recommended Player for Gameweek 8

Recommended Player for Gameweek 8 - Scott Sinclair (Swansea City)

My recommended player for gameweek 8 (Scott Sinclair) may sound like a bit of a surprise or an unheard of choice for some FPL gamers.  However, I would recommend you picking him.  He plays as a winger and is arguably Swansea's best player.  He bagged 27 goals in 50 appearances last season and will most likely be signed by a Top 6 Premier League club by next season, even if Swansea survive relegation.  Moreover, a good run of form this season may lead to him receiving his first senior international cap.  He has two goals and an assist to his name in Swansea's last three matches.  They are due to face Norwich in gameweek 8, a match in which Sinclair is more than capable of assisting or scoring.  At a current value of 5.9 he is the ideal midfielder to have as a third of fourth choice midfielder for any gameweek.  The Swans will not score half as much as Manchested United this season.  But when they do score, Scott Sinclair will most likely be involved in their goals on a regular basis.

Gameweek 7 Summary

A mixed GW for me.  I was unfortunate in having Aguero as my captain, who got injured in the first half.  Dzeko was my other striker and only came on for a cameo appearance at the end of the match as City won 0-4.  To make matters worse I benched Rooney as he was apparently suffering from an injury after his last match, yet he recovered and managed an assist.  On a brighter note, Hart kept a clean sheet and all of my bargain basement midfielders (Ramsey, Cabaye, Petrov, Sinclair) either assisted or scored.  

Alas, all of my defenders conceded goals, apart from my recommender player of the gameweek (Phil Jones) who kept a clean sheet.  My purchase of Ramsey proved a success with his clinical strike, even though Arsenal lost.  It was a good week for English players - Frank Lampard, Daniel Sturridge, Andrew Johnson, Danny Murphy and Bobby Zamora bagging a hatful of goals between them.

For the upcoming GW I have transferred Aguero for Van Persie, due to his injury.  This may be a long term move on my part, as Van Persie is Arsenal's main striker and is more likely to get minutes on the pitch than Aguero in Man City's more apparent squad rotating system.  I am inclined to ditch Cahill and Huth, due to their teams respective poor forms.  Replacements I have in mind are Fulham's attacking wing back JA Riise (5.8) or Liverpool's Jose Enrique (a steal at 5.1).  Until next time, adios!