Fantasy Football Week 5 – Hail the Unsung Heroes

Andy Reid, Jason Roberts, David Dunn. What do they all have in common?

No, it isn’t that at regular intervals, their respective managers have prefixed the mentioning of their names with a string of expletives, bemoaning their inconsistency/fitness/existence. It isn’t even that they have, at some stage of their careers, been signed for a sum that made most people remark “how much?!”

These three, along with fellow lesser lites & fallen giants such as Richard Dunne, Chris Kirkland & Darren Bent, form the basis for this week’s Fantasy Premier League ‘Dream Team’. No star names, no obvious choices, no hyperbole, just solid, workaday performers. And points. Plenty of points.

Yep, Gameweek 5 in the world’s most popular online Fantasy Football game threw up plenty of surprises, and proved once again why it is so hard to achieve that winning formula.

The Men in Form

I was at Anfield on Saturday to witness Yossi Benayoun and his accumulation of a season’s best 24 points. A hat-trick, an assist (although Burnley keeper Brian Jensen should take some of the “credit” here too), three bonus points and a clean sheet took the Israeli into third place in the midfielders’ list – behind the far more celebrated duo of Steven Gerrard & Frank Lampard. Rafael Benítez was quick to praise Benayoun’s “character and mentality”, and a few more weeks like this may lead to his inclusion in more sides across the globe.

Impossible too, to ignore the rise of the much-maligned Darren Bent at Sunderland. Bent, derided last year at Spurs by Harry Redknapp for missing chances “my missus would have buried”, has hit the ground running under the appreciative Steve Bruce on Wearside, and added a further two goals – and ten points – to his season’s tally against a woeful Hull City. It leaves him with 26 points thus far, rubbing shoulders with the likes of Emmanuel Adebayor, Wayne Rooney & Fernando Torres, and clear of Nicolas Anelka & Robin Van Persie.

And speaking of men rebuilding their careers after stuttering seasons, how about Shaun Wright-Phillips at Manchester City? The pint-sized winger may well have looked nervously over his shoulder this summer as Mark Hughes added 145 forwards to the City roster, but his performances thus far have indicated that the 26 year-old may well be set to follow Stephen Ireland in establishing himself as a mainstay among the rotating cast of stars. A goal and an assist in the rout of Arsenal on Saturday took him into the top six midfielders list, and with City looking useful so far this season, he may well be a bargain at £8.1 million.

The Men to Avoid

You know you are in trouble when your most expensive defender is £4 million. That is the trouble Phil Brown at Hull City faces. Kamil Zayatte may have (briefly) drawn the Tigers level at Sunderland on Saturday, but he also conceded four goals (one of which he scored himself), and produced one of the most inept displays of defending Alan Hansen has ever seen. And he’s seen a few. Hull may have made a few interesting additions to their forward line-up this season, but defensively they are a shambles. Michael Turner’s departure has left them painfully short of quality at the back, and their defensive players should be avoided at all costs. All costs.

What price a Birmingham goal? Alex McLeish’s men are not a bad side all things considered. Their defence is unspectacular but organised well, Joe Hart is a decent keeper (and cheap at £4m), whilst in midfield the likes of Lee Bowyer, Barry Ferguson & Sebastian Larsson all represent useful budget signings. But in the final third, they are far from prolific. James McFadden is the only man in the team with a goal to his name – a penalty of course – and the support cast of Garry O’Connor, Cristian “Chucho” Benítez & Kevin Phillips are yet to have so much as a shot on target. Sunday’s derby defeat to Aston Villa highlighted these weaknesses perfectly, Birmingham have their merits, but they are in their own half for the time being.

Bargain Hunters

Jason Koumas (Wigan) – Steven Gerrard once famously dismissed the Welshman as a fair-weather player (“boot Jason early and he fades”), but there is no doubting the former Tranmere & West Brom man’s ability. He crosses well, dribbles well and shoots well. Another assist on Saturday means he is the Latics’ top points scorer (level with Hugo Rodallega), and Roberto Martínez is clearly a fan, giving him a far more consistent run of games than Steve Bruce ever did.

Tamir Cohen (Bolton) – Uncle Avi is revered among Liverpool supporters for his exploits in the early 1980s, but his nephew is starting to make an impact at Bolton. Two goals in two games for the Israeli make him Bolton’s premier midfielder at the moment, and the manner in which he smashed home at Portsmouth at the weekend suggests he might be about to add a few more as the season progresses. At £4.4m, he is bargain basement.

Tomáš Rosický (Arsenal) – Lost in amongst the furore of “Adebayor-gate” at Eastlands on Saturday, was the return of the Czech playmaker, after the best part of two years out through injury. He scored as well. Rosický may take time to find his feet after such a long lay-off, but there are few more creative midfielders in the league, and with his value having skydived to under £7m, the baby-faced former Borussia Dortmund man may well prove a steal as he starts to re-establish himself in Arsène Wenger’s plans.


• Burnley v Sunderland
• Arsenal v Wigan Athletic
• Aston Villa v Portsmouth
• Bolton Wanderers v Stoke City
• Hull City v Birmingham City
• West Ham United v Liverpool
• Manchester United v Manchester City
• Wolverhampton Wanderers v Fulham
• Everton v Blackburn Rovers
• Chelsea v Tottenham Hotspur

It is a decent weekend of fixtures that awaits Gameweek 6, two big clashes on Sunday mean that the wheat should be separated from the chaff as Tottenham & Manchester City look to keep pace with the big guns. Arsenal will undoubtedly be looking to respond to the bursting of their bubble with a home banker against Wigan, whilst Liverpool face a tricky trip to Upton Park – is it too easy to call this a “must-win”?

Elsewhere Portsmouth will be looking to pick up their first points of the season, but face a tough clash at Aston Villa, Everton will try to add some consistency with a home fixture to Blackburn, Burnley welcome Sunderland to a raucous Turf Moor, and there is a big clash at the KC as Hull & Birmingham meet in a battle of the strugglers.

My Team

Solid week all told. All my scoring was done on Saturday, with Micah Richards & Michael Turner picking up assists rather than clean sheets. Captain Steven Gerrard ensured a solid week with a seven-point performance (doubled to fourteen of course), whilst there were goals for both my forwards – Didier Drogba & Robin Van Persie – and an assist for Cesc Fàbregas (of course). One note worth mentioning was that the much-criticised Lucas Leiva collected five points for his performance against Burnley on Saturday, although no good it did me as he sat nicely on my bench. Doh.

This week, I have a few headaches. Carlos Tévez’s injury and drop in value has seen him jettisoned in favour of the in-form Darren Bent (see above), it gives me an extra £1m to spend, but with injuries to Thomas Sørensen & Kevin Foley to contend with, I may be forced into a second transfer – at a cost of four points. Decisions, decisions eh?

Football Media League

Jon Eggert Hallson retains his spot at the top of the table despite a modest weekend, lit up only by goals for Dirk Kuyt, Wayne Rooney & Didier Drogba, his team Handavinna lead by just a point from fast-rising Hats Off FC & Colin Corrigan, who housed Frank Lampard, Tim Cahill, Didier Drogba, Wayne Rooney & Darren Bent in a strong week.

Behind them the league is tightly congested with numerous amusing monikers lurking dangerously – kudos must go to Joe Cassidy’s Savage Cabbage in seventh spot – whilst down in 30th position lurks the Baroque Social, and yours truly. Still well placed, still watching intently. Still far from at my best. Scared?


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