Fantasy Football Week 3: Who’s in your team?

“Do you lose points for an own goal????”

That was the question on most people’s lips during the Liverpool v Villa game on Monday night wasn’t it? Or was that just me? Yeah it was probably just me based on the facts that a) I am the only man sad enough to worry about Fantasy Football points when my side is getting pasted at home by a team that had looked past their best a week earlier, and b) the only sap stupid enough to put my trust in a certain Lucas Leiva.

Still, all things told it was another intriguing week for the Football Media Fantasy Premier League extravaganza. An average score of 46 for the 1.88m (and counting) players shows that competition is immense this season, and there were some surprises lurking among the Premier League, and not just those unpleasant ones at Anfield either!

The Men in Form

Stoke City may have suffered a midweek thrashing away to Liverpool (shame upon shame for Tony Pulis’ men!), but they are far from a bad side all things considered. Especially in defence. A goal-less draw with Birmingham at St Andrews at the weekend may have been last on Match of the Day, and greeted with all the enthusiasm of a visit from the mother-in-law on a promise day, but it gave the likes of Thomas Sorensen (7pts), Ryan Shawcross (8pts) & Abdoulaye Faye (9pts) the chance to add to their decent totals for the season with clean sheet/bonus contributions.

Pulis is reportedly set to add either West Ham’s James Collins or Middlesbrough’s Robert Huth to his ranks before Tuesday’s transfer deadline, keep an eye on their prices, they might be bargain material.

And what of little, downtrodden, trouble at t’mill Burnley eh? In it for fun, a little claret and blue, season long jaunt round the best clubs in the land before departing back to the Championship none the wiser? Not a bit of it. Two clean sheets in a row for messrs Jensen, Bikey, Carlisle, Mears, Jordan & Alexander, with goals thrown in neatly for Blake & Elliott.

It might well be as good as it gets at Turf Moor, but with Owen Coyle looking shrewder by the week, and confidence high, you could see the Clarets embark on a Reading/Wigan-esque run this season. Although Saturday’s trip to Chelsea may well soften the more lofty ambitions of some fans.

Speaking of Chelsea, Didier Drogba is in good form isn’t he? A twelve point bonanza at Fulham on Sunday means that he of the “Disgwace” claims sits proudly atop of the strikers chart with 28 points, two clear of the palpably in-form Jermain Defoe. Unlike Defoe however, Drogba is proving adept at providing both assists and goals, three goals and two assist to start the season is never a bad thing, and with his partnership with Nicolas Anelka looking useful, there should be plenty more to come from DD.

And finally, a word for the luckiest darned footballer on the planet. William Gallas. Not only does he get to play in a Gunners side that must be a joy to watch/train with, but he seems to have developed a knack for picking up ridiculous goals too. Three in three for the Frenchman until last night’s game, ranging from the simple- his unchecked dance into the box at Everton- to the ridiculous- a wicked deflection at Celtic and a ball smashed home via his face at the Emirates on Saturday. He might not have a clean sheet to his name this season in the league, but he is the third highest scoring defender in the game. Ooh la la.

The Men to Avoid

No score to settle here, but Everton players. They can’t get a break at the moment can they? If you believe all you read, Joleon Lescott has managed to single handedly un-sew seven years of hard David Moyes graft in one summer. If you look out onto the pitch however, you will see that the likes of Louis Saha, Marouane Fellaini, Tim Cahill & Joseph Yobo are doing as much, or as little.

Everton’s top points scorer after two games is Steven Pienaar, courtesy of an assist (for the 1 in a 1-6 defeat) against Arsenal. Saha scored from that assist, but undid that with a woeful penalty miss at Burnley last Sunday, and the defence minus Lescott and the injured Phil Jagielka is looking especially porous. Reinforcements should arrive this week, with Russian Diniyar Bilyalatedinov already on board, but all that means is that certain players’ places are up for grabs. Be careful with Everton until they settle down.

Same goes for Portsmouth. Their ownership issue may be resolved now, but the issue of quality (or lack of it) in their squad has most definitely not been. Gone are the likes of Defoe, Crouch, Muntari, Diarra, Johnson. Even Sol Campbell has chosen the leafier climbs of League Two and Notts County’s pots of cash.

It leaves a squad with no standout players, except the over-burdened Niko Kranjčar, and some serious confidence issues. I wouldn’t fancy a Pompey defender’s chances of picking up a clean sheet, whilst the only target Frédéric Piquionne & David Nugent look capable of hitting is the “minutes without scoring” one.

Bargain Hunters

Kamel Ghilas (Hull)– Ok so he has played just three games in this league, and we all know that players can fade after bright starts – see Geovanni for proof – but this young lad looks talented. 25, Algerian, pacy, and with a decent scoring record throughout his career, Ghilas got off the mark for Hull against Bolton on Saturday, and picked up three bonus points too. At £5m he may be a good signing for a third striker.

Wade Elliott (Burnley)– Former Bournemouth players don’t have the most incredible record in the Premier League to be honest. There was Jamie Redknapp I suppose, and his dad, but not a lot else. Wade Elliott might be set to change all that however. Scorer of the £20m goal for Burnley at Wembley last season, Elliott opened his account for the new season with the winner against Everton on Sunday, and is impressing with his tidy play and creative eye. Might be the Clarets’ finest vintage this season. Ouch.

Damien Duff (Fulham)– Inauspicious start against his old club Chelsea on Sunday, but that can be forgiven. In his one appearance for Newcastle this season Duff wore the look of a man eager to make up for lost time with some proper performances. He is 30 now, and very much in a last chance saloon as far as the Premier League is concerned. Fulham play some attractive stuff, so the Irishman may well benefit from that and begin to roll back the years.

Fixtures

• Chelsea v Burnley
Blackburn v West Ham
• Bolton v Liverpool
• Stoke City v Sunderland
• Tottenham v Birmingham
• Wolves v Hull City
• Man Utd v Arsenal
• Portsmouth v Man City
• Everton v Wigan
• Aston Villa v Fulham

Paper says that Chelsea players should be high on your list this week, with a home banker against Burnley. But then paper also said the same when Manchester United travelled to Turf Moor last week. United v Arsenal is the first heavyweight clash of the season, with Arsenal looking to maintain a 100% record.

Everton & Liverpool will be looking to find a foothold in this season with Lancashire derbies, Liverpool’s looks tougher on paper though Wigan were impressive away from home at Villa, Tottenham will not get a better chance of picking up four straight wins than a home game with Birmingham, whilst Gold battles Amber at Molineux in what could be a six-pointer, and crisis club Pompey host cash-laden Manchester City in an interesting match at Fratton Park.

My Team

Well even the greats are fallible. My decision to remove Wayne Rooney did prove silly. Especially given that his replacement captain, Cesc Fàbregas, picked up an injury and is now a doubt for Saturday. It could have been worse for me had Rooney’s direct replacement, Robin Van Persie, not contributed seven points with an assist and some bonus gear.

Drogba kept me bubbling nicely with twelve- he will be skipper this week- whilst at the back Joe Hart, Richard Dunne, Ryan Shawcross & Michael Turner all picked up clean sheets (although Turner’s earnt me nothing as he was benched), whilst Emiliano Insúa grabbed an assist, as did Carlos Tévez on his first start for City. There were more let downs from Charles N’Zogbia & Lucas, whilst my bench of Michael Brown and Kevin Foley looks as enticing as a week-old pizza currently, but all in all a healthy 57 points kept me ticking over nicely.

No transfer made for this week as such, I have £1m in the bank to play with, but with Fàbregas dubious, Foley crocked, Dunne set to be transferred to Villa, and doubts lingering over Lucas, N’Zogbia & Insúa, my team may need a bit of work on it.

Football Media League

And as for the big prize, well last week’s leader Matt Cornford may have changed his team name after an ear-bashing from Mark Hughes (Manchester City = Small Club have now become Corny Wins… Again!), but his side were knocked off their perch by Ciaran Doherty’s “LK United” and their blistering, Wayne Rooney-inspired, 74 point Gameweek. It gives them a slender margin at the top over Corny and his boys, with Vic Oh in third a further five points back with his side “vicstasteamsgonacane” and its enticing Rooney/Drogba partnership.

Myself, I am keeping a watching brief down in seventh, eighteen points off the lead. Big Gameweek for me this, if I am still in it after this I would say I will win. If not, then I would still say I will! Of course I am joking but it is a fascinating start, and one that looks set to continue this week, when all eyes will be on premierleague.com as much as Old Trafford or Stamford Bridge I’m sure.

Prizes

So far 521 players have joined the Football Media fantasy football league where we’re giving away prizes every month.

1st Prize

The winner will receive:

Monthly Prize

At the start of every month Football Media (in association with Subside Sports) will give away a free shirt (up to £39.99 + delivery in value) to one lucky player in the FM fantasy football league. This player will be picked at random and there are 9 shirts to give away in total (Sep 09 to May 10).