Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Olivier Giroud: Super Goal Poacher in Action?

As Montpellier president Louis Nicollin claimed that star striker Olivier Giroud transfer to Arsenal is complete, FPLZ analyzes the fantasy potential the French forward provides.

Giroud is indeed a very prolific goalscorer, scoring 25 goals in 43 games for Montpellier HSC last season. Primarily left-footed, the forward has shown exceptional comfort to score with both feet. He has also shown great shooting variations, which include chips, narrow angles and also power shots.

With a height of 1.92m (6 ft 3.5 in), Giroud is a towering presence for Montpellier last season. It was no surprise that the forward has the highest aerial duel success rate (at 70%) of any striker playing for a top four team in Europe. This will surely come to Arsenal's advantage as the Gunners will now have a targetman to support them upfront.

This is one of the most astounding ability of the 25-year-old striker. Giroud has one of the best attacking reactions across Europe, and was frequently the first to react on his teammates' shots to rebound and score goals.

While Giroud is good at finishing, he is not a selfish striker. The fact that he delivered 11 assists last season suggests that he can team up with his new teammates readily. Nonetheless, the forward should really improve on his passing, which has only 67% of completion last term.

Wenger has indeed got himself a good striker then. It remains to be seen whether he is bought as a direct replacement for Robin Van Persie or not, but nonetheless I believe he will play a prominent role upfront. Fantasy managers can expect a 15-20 goal season if he features as a season-long starter, and that will largely depend on Van Persie's future.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Steven Gerrard: Better Than Ever?

On top of this paragraph is the highlights of Steven Gerrard's performance on EURO 2012 group stage. Majestic. Incisive. Wide vision. All rounder. Captain marvel.

He will definitely be the most important piece of chess of Brendan Rodgers. Hopefully Gerrard's fantasy price won't surge following his impressive form for his country.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Barclays Premier League 2012/13 Fixtures Released

City's title defence will begin at Etihad Stadium against newcomers Southampton.

The Premier League website has unveiled the fixtures for the upcoming new season as FPLZ marks the important ones for you. The full list of fixtures can be obtained here.

Saturday, August 18th, 2012
Arsenal v Sunderland
Everton v Manchester United
Fulham v Norwich City
Manchester City v Southampton
Newcastle United v Tottenham Hotspur
Queens Park Rangers v Swansea City
Reading v Stoke City
West Bromwich Albion v Liverpool
West Ham United v Aston Villa
Wigan Athletic v Chelsea

Saturday, August 25th, 2012
Chelsea v Newcastle United
Liverpool v Manchester City

Saturday, September 1st, 2012
Liverpool v Arsenal

Saturday, September 22nd, 2012
Liverpool v Manchester United
Manchester City v Arsenal

Saturday, September 29th, 2012
Arsenal v Chelsea
Manchester United v Tottenham Hotspur

Saturday, October 6th, 2012
Newcastle United v Manchester United

Saturday, October 20th, 2012
Tottenham Hotspur v Chelsea

Saturday, October 27th, 2012
Chelsea v Manchester United
Everton v Liverpool

Saturday, November 3rd, 2012
Liverpool v Newcastle United
Manchester United v Arsenal

Saturday, November 10th, 2012
Chelsea v Liverpool
Manchester City v Tottenham Hotspur

Saturday, November 17th, 2012
Arsenal v Tottenham Hotspur

Saturday, November 24th, 2012
Chelsea v Manchester City

Tuesday, November 27th, 2012
Tottenham Hotspur v Liverpool

Saturday, December 8th, 2012
Manchester City v Manchester United

Saturday, December 15th, 2012
Newcastle United v Manchester City

Wednesday, December 26th, 2012
Manchester United v Newcastle United

Saturday, December 29th, 2012
Arsenal v Newcastle United

Saturday, January 12th, 2013
Arsenal v Manchester City
Manchester United v Liverpool

Saturday, January 19th, 2013
Chelsea v Arsenal
Tottenham Hotspur v Manchester United

Tuesday, January 29th, 2013
Arsenal v Liverpool

Saturday, February 2nd, 2013
Manchester City v Liverpool
Newcastle United v Chelsea

Saturday, February 9th, 2013
Tottenham Hotspur v Newcastle United

Saturday, February 23rd, 2013
Manchester City v Chelsea

Saturday, March 2nd, 2013
Tottenham Hotspur v Arsenal

Saturday, March 9th, 2013
Liverpool v Tottenham Hotspur

Saturday, March 30th, 2013
Manchester City v Newcastle United

Saturday, April 6th, 2013
Manchester United v Manchester City

Saturday, April 13th, 2013
Chelsea v Tottenham Hotspur

Saturday, April 20th, 2013
Liverpool v Chelsea
Tottenham Hotspur v Manchester City

Saturday, April 27th, 2013
Arsenal v Manchester United
Newcastle United v Liverpool

Saturday, May 4th, 2013
Liverpool v Everton
Manchester United v Chelsea

Sunday, May 19th, 2013
Chelsea v Everton
Liverpool  v Queens Park Rangers
Manchester City v Norwich City
Newcastle United v Arsenal
Southampton v Stoke City
Swansea City v Fulham
Tottenham Hotspur v Sunderland
West Bromwich Albion v Manchester United
West Ham United v Reading
Wigan Athletic v Aston Villa

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Fernando Torres: What Do the Two Goals Against Ireland Indicate?

Can we expect a better season ahead?
Spain completed its redemption after much skepticism by demolishing Ireland with a score of 4-0. Much to our surprise, striker Fernando Torres, who has been so poor for his country over the past two years, is showing signs of revival in the national football arena as he slotted two of the four goals Spain has scored. This surely arouses fantasy managers' interest whether FT9 will rise to become a fantasy superstar again in 2012/13 season, and FPLZ will analyze on this.

£50m Move to Chelsea: The Beginning of Nightmare?
It's not a secret that Torres' successful spell in the Premier League for his first few years was partly credited to Liverpool's tactical reliance on him and the skipper, Steven Gerrard. Together, the duo had produced the best chemistry in the Premier League over the decade and recorded fantastic goal scoring figures over the years. However, when El Nino felt unhappy and decided for a change in winter of 2010/11 season, things became very different.

Chelsea, unlike Liverpool, wasn't a two-man team. They had plenty of reliable offensive points which included Malouda, Drogba, Lampard, Anelka, and to some extent, Kalou. Unfortunatley, Torres couldn't merge well with his new teammates. While it took some time for Carlo Ancelotti, manager at that moment, to decide, he had no choice but to bench the Spaniard as the season came close to the end. At that half of a season, Torres scored only one goal - a big humiliation for a striker of his calibre.

Such phenomena didn't change with the arrival of Andre Villas-Boas, whom actually deteriorated the Blue's attacking prowess and made Drogba and him took turns playing on the field. However, as AVB got sacked  on 4 March 2012 and Roberto Di Matteo took over his helm, things started to change.

Roberto Di Matteo: El Nino's Saviour?
For some reason, unlike his predecessors Di Matteo seems to know the better way to utilize Torres. Torres ended his goal drought of 24 games on 18 March 2012 by scoring two and setting up another two in Chelsea's 5-0 victory against Leicester City in an FA Cup encounter. In the same month, El Nino scored a Premier League goal against Aston Villa, as his resurgence has started to make its surface.

It took almost another month for the Spaniard to score, but this one, for me, was a pivotal moment for him. The last minute goal against Barcelona in Champions League semi-final had effectively wrapped up the game and sent the Blues to Munich. More importantly to Torres though was the fact that he scored against what majority called "the best club in the world".

It was indeed a great morale booster for Torres, as he scored a hat-trick on 29th April, five days after he scored against Barcelona. That was a long awaited moment for his fans, as confidence slowly regrew in the striker's mind. Despite not starting the Champions League final, El Nino featured as a sub in that game, and earned a corner which Drogba scored to bring the game into the extra time.

With Torres getting back his goalscoring confidence in the national team as well, we can be hopeful that the once lethal Fernando Torres will return soon.

2012/13 Season: The Prospect
The coming season certainly looks bright for Torres, with Di Matteo continues to be in charge at Chelsea. He is currently uncontested at the forward position (that may change if Chelsea managed to land Porto's ace player, Hulk). Not only that, the current Chelsea also has much more "pacey" players such as Mata, Hazard and the latest signing, Marko Marin to complement his explosive style of play. If he can continue to improve and pick up his lost form, FT9 will surely become a hot fantasy commodity again, just like what he did seasons ago with Liverpool.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Brendan Rodgers: The Winners and Losers Under His Management?

Meet the new Liverpool gaffer.
Clearly Brendan Rodgers has taken the tough road to join Liverpool in his attempt to bring the old brand of football back to where "it's supposed to be". FPLZ analyzes the impact that the new Liverpool manager is going to bring to the players, especially in fantasy terms.

Out of the Topic: Public Relations Management
It's good to see Liverpool is not taking in another Roy Hodgson - a manager who is so poor in handling the players, the fans, and the press. Rodgers gives Fenway Sports Group a complete different package from the current England national team manager - not only the very different style in tactics, but also his much more superior PR management. For example:

“I know there are three types of supporters at every club,” he said. “Number one is those who, no matter who the manager is, they love their club and they will love their manager because Liverpool is their life and their passion. The second group is supporters who will accept you but to earn their real respect you will have to be successful. That’s fine.

"The third group are the critics and you never change them ever. Ever."

"I only want to work with the people who love the club. I have always had good relations with the media and with the supporters. I’m open and honest. I understand that not everybody will want me here. But that’s part of the dance.”

It remains to be seen how well would he cope with the constant high expectations at Merseyside, but at the moment, he has shown good degree of charisma and has definitely earned my respect.

Tactical Analysis
Tiki-taka was the famous brand Rodgers has established at Swansea, and thanks to such style of play he had managed to win against the big teams such as Manchester City, Arsenal and also Liverpool. It was indeed quite surprising that he actually led Swansea to beat Arsenal via an even more "Arsenal" way.

His tiki-taka approach heavily emphasizes on small triangular pass-and-move, where there are always two players sticking around the ball holder to provide support and ensure that the ball is always under their control. This definitely is not expected to blend instantly into Liverpool's current crop of players, though there are some players who can adapt to this style at ease.

The Defence
The back line is perhaps the most prepared ones for Rodgers infusion of tiki-taka play. Reina has always been a good commander and should have no problem adapting to the new tactics; Agger will be more than happy to stick the ball to the ground; Enrique and Johnson are both fast, offensive wing backs and should also cope well. Skrtel may struggle a bit in the beginning, but with all his defensive partners more than ready to adapt, he should be comfortable with the new style soon enough.

The Midfield
In the midfield, Lucas has developed into a great ball distributor - no problem, though I don't see how a DM is going to benefit from this fantasy wise; Gerrard is always the world class player who can take on any challenges - no problem as well; Sigurdsson, if he's joining, should blend readily since he had already flourished under Rodgers at Swansea.

The Offence
Suarez is the type of player you had expect him to blend instantly into the tiki-taka system - playing with Barcelona is always his ambition anyway; I am a little bit skeptical towards Carroll's response to this new system, especially when Ibrahimovic had actually deteriorated Barca's tiki-taka play in the past; Downing, on the other hand, still gets my vote of confidence despite his poor season - his stats wasn't that bad honestly.

The Bench
Henderson will need a good time to adapt in my opinion - he's a good runner, but needs to know his direction; Adam for me is the biggest loser under Brendan Rodgers - he likes to play long balls and that violates the principles of tiki-taka; Maxi, if he stays, should fuse readily with the system as Argentinians are good ground players; while Aquilani, if he returns, may become Rodgers favourite with the flair he's providing; not to be forgotten is the returning Joe Cole who had a successful revival at Lille - he can be the important chess piece of the new gaffer.

I believe you have gotten the idea who will become good Liverpool fantasy assets in this coming season. Agger, in my opinion, will definitely be the top gainer under Rodgers' system with increased participation in offence, while players such as Gerrard, Suarez and Downing can expect a better season ahead if the new gaffer can deliver the same thing he had delivered at Swansea in the past.

Read here for a intensive tactical analysis on Liverpool written by TPiMBW on "The Path Is Made By Walking".

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Shinji Kagawa: United's New Playmaker, Moneymaker, Or Both?

With Borussia Dortmund agreeing a £12m transfer of its superstar Shinji Kagawa to Manchester United, FPLZ analyzes the Japanese's impact to the both the fantasy and reality football world.

Similar to other players of Asian descent, Kagawa is 1.72 m tall and has a rather slim body build compared to players of other continents. However, this is well compensated by his superior dribbling skills, which at times are comparable to Barca's Lionel Messi. Combined with his footballing intelligence, the Dortmund's star is unplayable at times thanks to his exceptional first touch and ball control.

Kagawa enjoys the freeman role, hovering a big area on the pitch. Attacking midfielder would be the best position to execute such a role, as it will unleash his great positioning talent - to appear at the right place at right time and deliver lethal balls to kill off his opponents.

Creativity is indeed the main reason United signed him. Kagawa's vision is one of the best in the world, as shown in his superb partnership with Poland's goal poacher Robert Lewandowski. One two pass is perhaps Kagawa's greatest asset - his ability to find space for his teammates is simply astonishing. However, as Manchester United practises a more dynamic approach in passing, it remains to be seen whether Kagawa can deliver long passes accurately and consistently.

This is what that makes the playmaker a very lethal player compared to his Asian counterpart in United, Ji-Sung Park. Kagawa is able to finish equally well with both feet, and is very confident with powerful volleys. A total of 17 goals at Dortmund last season suggests that he will contribute a good portion of United's goals next season in the club's attempt to become the leader in Manchester and England again.

For me I think the initial fee of £12m for Kagawa is a steal - his football ability alone would worth at least this amount of money already. Kagawa's arrival would definitely deepen United's pockets with further attraction of Asian market especially Japan. At least the jersey sales are not expect to experience a sharp decline when Park leaves the club in the next few years.

Aged only 23, Kagawa has a bright future with Manchester United as his purchase solves United's biggest weakness for years - the lack of a world class central playmaker. The youngster shall link the front and the back, the left and the right effectively to take United's attack to new heights ever since Roy Keane's era. A £9.0m fantasy valuation, or more, is what you shall expect for a player of his pedigree.

Click here for a comprehensive scouting report of Shinji Kagawa by RangeRooney.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Eden Hazard: The Next Chelsea Ace?

With Roman Abramovich begun the transfer war with a £34m move for Lille's winger Eden Hazard, FPLZ assesses what kind of impact is the Belgian winger is going to provide in EPL and also FPL.

This is perhaps the most striking attribute the new Chelsea attacker has. Hazard's ball control in limited areas is as good as Mata, except that he's much faster. His addition is expected to create lots of hazards (more importantly fouls and cards) to oppositions' defenders.

While being good in one-on-one battles, Hazard's team play ability is also astonishing. This was clearly exhibited in the resurgence of his ex-teammate Joe Cole who was so poor seasons ago. Hazard's one-two passing and long range crossing and lobbing are definitely something that his opponents should really beware about.

Aged 21, Hazard has displayed excellent maturity in shooting, especially on one-on-one attempts against goalkeeper. He is calm, composed and shoots equally well with both feet. Not a man that one can easily mark him off from attempting shots.

Set Pieces
Hazard had frequently taken free kicks and corners at LOSC Lille and was also the primary penalty taker there. With his good accuracy, fantasy managers could really benefit from his set piece service, though it remains to be seen how is it going to be split among Lampard, Mata and him.

Being the ace player of Lille previously, I believe Hazard has adequately learnt what it takes to become a good leader. He may not be able to show the same kind of influence so soon in such a different football environment, but I can see a future Chelsea leader here.

It's always the same challenge for those who are new to Premier League - physicality. Can he shrug off stocky defenders like Vidic and Vermaelen? Can he remain injury free in a league full of harsh tackles? Time will tell how long will Hazard need to adapt to English football.

Being an all-rounder in offence, Hazard could really strike immediate impact in fantasy football. His fantasy valuation, in my opinion, will be around £10.0m. Whether will he worth the price will depend on both his playing time and also his role in set piece duties.

Read here for a detailed analysis on Eden Hazard published one year ago on "the elastico".

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Site Revamp In Progress

Dear readers,

FPLZ will be undergoing some site revamp in order to improve reading experience in this site. Due to that you may experience distorted templates for the next few days. Suggestions are welcomed to improve the quality of this site.

I apologize for any inconvenience caused.


Season Summary: FPLZ 2011/12 Fantasy Dream Team

Robin Van Persie: Undisputed captain choice for the season.
As the season closed its curtain, FPLZ picks its dream team of the season based on both performance and price.

Michel Vorm easily closed down this spot thanks to his godlike display throughout the season. One of the major pillars for Swansea's 14 clean sheets last season, the Dutch was never short of acrobatic saves. His save against Glen Johnson's volley against Liverpool on stoppage time was one of the best in my opinion. 158 points with starting value of only £4.0m, Vorm represents excellent investment.

City's captain Vincent Kompany was unarguably the best defender of the season. Scoring 145 fantasy points last term, the Belgian skipper was not only pivotal in defence with his superb defensive positioning, but he could also deliver upfront, most notably the winning goal against Manchester United which ultimately sealed City's first Premier League title.

Tottenham's Benoit Assou-Ekkoto had a surprisingly well season. Historically not known for offensive prowess, the left-back recorded a staggering 2 goals and 5 assists this term, along with 12 clean sheets, making him a real deal with a season ending value of £5.8m.

Jonny Evans made a shocking entry into this list. Having labelled as one of the troublemaker in Manchester United's defensive line-up for the past few seasons, the Northern Irish played exceptionally well this season as a replacement for injured captain Nemanja Vidic. His fairly cheaper price compared to his teammates, along with his consistent inclusion in Ferguson's lineup, was the reason why he managed to get into this list.

Meanwhile, Danny Simpson was one of the best-valued defender out there. Benefiting from Newcastle's resolute defence led by Coloccini, the young right-back managed to get 14 clean sheets for the term.

Needless to say, Clint Dempsey was the best fantasy midfielder of the season. Being the only midfielder to break the 200 point mark last season, the American also led the goal table for the midfielders with 17 goals recorded. Nevertheless, his outstanding performance was largely credited to the Cottagers' heavy reliance on him in offence.

Gylfi Sigurdsson was the real fantasy jewel out there who provided maximum per-dollar return among fantasy midfielders. Having played only half of the season in Premier League, the Icelandic was supreme in dictating Swansea's offence. Unfortunately, Sigurdsson's future in Premier League is uncertain after failing to reach an agreement with Swansea, though he has expressed his desire to continue to work with his ex-gaffer Brendan Rodgers at Liverpool.

"Speedy speed boy" Gareth Bale deservedly booked a spot in FPLZ's dream team. 10 goals and 14 assists were sufficient to compensate for his value of £9.5m. Without Champions League duty next season, we can expect the Welsh to improve on his tally in the next FPL season, though his asking price is expected to shoot up higher based on this season's performance.

The list would not be considered complete without David Silva. The Spaniard was the spotlight at the beginning of the season with his all-round performance. While his standards had dropped considerably in the middle of the season due to injury trouble, still he was able to reach third spot in midfielders table, making his second year in the Premier League a success.

I believe I would be bashed heavily if Robin Van Persie is absent in FPLZ's dream team. Being the first season the Dutch has played for all 38 league fixtures, we have seen the best from the captain, recording 30 goals and 269 fantasy points - both his highest so far. If he remains injury free next season, Van Persie will definitely bring another "C. Ronaldo phenomona" next season - the automated captain pick.

Similar to Sigurdsson, Papiss Cisse is the true definition of value in the forward lineup. Also played for only half of the season, the Senegalese striker has managed to record 13 goals and 105 fantasy points, not to mention the way he had executed those goals (remember the goal against Chelsea?).

Though Joe Hart is the better keeper in terms of fantasy scores, Tim Krul would represent the better value for money. Benefiting from Newcastle's resolute defence, the Dutch keeper was only two points shy from Vorm, with his ending value of £5.0m proving him a value bargain.

Jose Enrique was one of the very popular defender in FPL last term. His low starting price (£5.0m), coupled with some impressive defensive display by Liverpool earlier last season, was the reason for his surge in popularity. Though his usefulness had slowly deteriorated as Liverpool found itself dropped out of the Champions League race, the Spaniard is still by far one of the best defender to own in the first half of the season.

Widely labelled as the third choice winger among Ferguson's three excellent wide players, Antonio Valencia was never short of impressive displays when he played. His consistent stream of assists had made him become a more superior long term pick compared to Nani and Young, especially when he's also much cheaper than the duo.

Being underpriced, Emmanuel Adebayor represents excellent value, especially when he had such a good track record with Arsenal in the Premier League. 17 goals plus 12 assists were the solid proof of his credentials. His performance was quite streaky though, analogous with Tottenham's roller coaster form throughout the season.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

End of Season: Summary

A well deserved trophy.

A deep apology for lack of posts recently as the Premier League had already closed its curtain weeks ago. A dramatic finale though as we saw City who almost lost their trophy to derby rivals Manchester United somehow managed to get a comeback victory at stoppage time. Deserving enough to become the best season in 20 Premier League years.

Upfront: The Manchesters
The two clubs at the city of Manchester were the only ones who were in real contention for the title throughout the season. United once led City as much as eight points in the last third of the season, but somehow squandered the lead and suffered the consequences. Unexpected for an experienced championship team.

Second-Tier: The Grand Champions League War
Clubs such as Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur, Newcastle, Chelsea and Liverpool were all contesting for Champions League spot for most part of the season, with Liverpool dropping out of the race much earlier than expected.

Tottenham was in a rather safe position and was close to the leading Manchester duo for some period, but an unprecedented run of no wins has took the club down in league rankings. Despite still being able to grab the fourth place in the league, the Champions League victory by Chelsea would mean that the north London club will lose the much lucrative revenue from participating Champions League next season.

Newcastle was quite a big surprise of the season anyway, being able to achieve such a solid league position even after selling a number of stars last season. Senegalese duo, Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse, has shone in first half and second half of the season respectively with their clinical finishers.

Surprise: Promoters' Excellent Display
This is by far one of the finest season for the promoted clubs over the past decade: all three remain in the top tier league, with Norwich and Swansea both secured survival much earlier before the end of the season!

Players from Norwich took turns to become heroes while at Stadium of Liberty, Brendan Rodgers had incorporated Barca-esque style to make his side one of the toughest to beat across the league.

Relegated: Old Brands of Football
While Wolverhampton Wanderers' downfall wasn't that much of surprise due to their historical ranks, the drop of Bolton and Blackburn to the Championship was rather sorry.

Bolton's performance was uninspiring throughout the season with Kevin Davies losing the magic touch he once possessed, while Yakubu's marvel wasn't enough to save the ex-champion from falling into the Championship.