It was a dangerous week to be the manager of a big club in the Premier League. Right, Mourinho?
While the Stamford Bridge record finally snapped, at least his job looks secure as Chelsea focus their efforts toward winning the Champions League.
And then there's Old Trafford. The board at Manchester United finally came to their senses by doing what everyone who follows the Premier League was anticipating and removed David Moyes. I suppose Moyes was told the job was his as long as he could keep United in the Champions League and that he would be given every chance to do it until it became mathematically impossible. That is the only explanation I can think as to why the decision took so long.
To be fair though, it can be easier to see something isn't working from a distance. I suppose the same point could be made about my fantasy team in recent weeks. I had been cruising for a solid 12 week stretch, inching up the rankings until I snuck in the top 2k in the global standings. A good run meant many of the players in my XI enjoyed significant price rises, making it more difficult to remove them for fear of not being able to afford them again later. The approach of sticking with a core group of players has backfired in the past couple of weeks however, including the big double gameweek in Week 34, where I couldn't even hit 100 points. Sometimes one becomes stubborn in their own decisions. For United, I suppose with the reputation of perennial greatness, stubbornness and admitting a mistake took longer than the typical club. It had to be done though. No one, and I mean no one at Old Trafford could possibly have felt a sense of optimism heading into next season with Moyes at the helm. Even if he had managed to turn things around, the risk of further damaging the club's reputation was not worth the reward of what was already expected -- a Champions League caliber side with sights on league titles every single year.
Hopefully with three weeks remaining, I have recognized my own stubborness as a fantasy manager and can rebound from a poor two week run.
Remember the goal of this column is to find that player or two to fill out your squad when the money gets tight, or you want to find a player with high potential and low ownership to try and close the gap on the rivals above you. Let' take a look...
Wojciech Szczesny - (Arsenal) There is a marked disadvantage to recommending players, whether for or against, with three days until the matches play out. Don't get me wrong, hosting Newcastle is an attractive fixture for a keeper considering Newcastle has scored one goal in a month and their strikers are dropping like flies due to injury. I am pointing out Szczesny not just because I think there is a cheaper keeper offering similar value, but that Arsenal investment in general must be monitored closely this week due to the threat of tube strikes in London. Tube strikes are rather common in the UK and they have resulted in postponed matches before, though more often than not an agreement is reached that allows the games to go ahead. Either way, consider this a head's up as the deadline approaches. We all want a piece of Arsenal somewhere in our squads given the opponent, but be sure to have a backup plan in place and confirm the match is on as close to the deadline as you can.
The Free Kick
David De Gea - (Manchester United) Let the Ryan Giggs era begin! .....What's that? They already have a permanent replacement for Moyes lined up and Giggs is just keeping the manager's seat warm? So an underachieving United are now being led by a player with no managerial experience and have little to play for in terms of their place in the table. Surely, a situation to avoid, right? I don't think so. I feel if anything, United will come out determined against Norwich. Despite a shoddy defensive record by their standards, United cannot put much blame on David De Gea, who's development this season has been one of the few bright spots for the Red Devils this year, if not the brightest. As long as they can limit set piece opportunities for Robert Snodgrass, the Canaries have little dependable threat elsewhere, and a clean sheet seems plausible. For over 5m less than Szczesny, it is worth the roll of the dice. It is also worth holding on to for any potential price rise ahead of United's double the following gameweek.
Curtis Davies (Hull City) Davies has had a phenomenal season for the Tigers and he may have worked his way into Roy Hodgson's thinking to make England's squad for the World Cup because of it. He has been killing it in fantasy as well, occupying third place on the leaderboard of the top scoring defenders. One may see how Hull have Fulham as their next opponent, a club who have been wallowing in the relegation zone virtually all season long, as an opportunity to pick up another nice haul. My issue though is that Hull really don't have much left to play for, in the league that is. They are in the FA cup final and that trophy is what Steve Bruce's side have their sights set on. It could be a lackluster performance from them in league play leading up to the final so while I think investment could be wise next week because the Tigers have a double, I am shying away from their trip to Fulham, where the Cottagers are playing for their lives.
The Free Kick
Jordi Amat (Swansea City) Aston Villa are amidst a bit of a goal drought, having failed to score in consecutive matches, and now head to the Liberty Stadium, a ground that has lost its reputation as a tough place to score this season but can still be a tricky environment in which to find one's scoring shoes. Chico is serving the second match of his two-game suspension meaning the spot belongs to Amat. While their win last week should make them feel relatively comfortable in avoiding relegation, a few more points would make it a certainty, so they still have something to play for. Villa are in a similar situation, but without Christian Benteke available, their attack is only a shell of itself. If you like the Swans chances in this one, Amat would provide value at 7.5m in your XI.
Samir Nasri (Manchester City) In a week where Manchester City look set to be without the services of Yaya Toure and David Silva, it is understandable why Nasri may enter one's thinking. He is probably City's next best fantasy option in their midfield and has been finding the net lately, scoring twice in the previous four games. Two problems though. 1.) They are headed to Selhurst Park to face a Palace side that has registered five clean sheets in their previous seven matches. In fact, they have not given up a goal on their own ground in over two months. That is officially fortress-esque. and 2.) It's Silva's creativity and Toure's physicality that creates so many opportunities for the likes of Nasri to excel. With the heart and soul of their midfield gone, I don't see how City can overcome The Pulis System. A goal is likely to come from individual brilliance from Sergio Aguero, or perhaps one of their fullbacks sneak through as Pablo Zabaleta did last weekend.
The Free Kick
Lewis Holtby (Fulham) Holtby was unavailable last weekend to face his parent club, but should go straight back in to the Cottagers' XI this weekend as they host Hull City. Fulham are fighting for their lives to stay in the top flight and were riding positive momentum before falling last week to Tottenham. Holtby was integral in the back to back wins leading up to the loss at Spurs and his absence at the Lane is a good reason why they were unable to keep that momentum going. Holtby is seeing a ton of set piece work these days and looks a sound bet to provide at least a goal or an assist if not much more against a Hull City squad that has little to play for. Prior to last week's forced benching, he has managed a six game stretch averaging 10 points a week. I like him to hit double digits this week making his 12m price tag an enticing one.
Harry Kane (Tottenham) While not a traditional standard, "Sugar" Kane is as close as I can get to nominating one that I can actually recommend against. I cannot advise against the likes of Suarez, Rooney, Aguero, Giroud, Bony....they all have decided potential this week and have all entered my thinking. Kane's three goals in first three starts is nothing to sneeze at, and if the opponent was soft this week, I would love to consider him as a third forward. However, away to Stoke is a tough fixture, one that promises to be quite physical. I am not sure if Kane can perform well in that environment so despite the wonderful start for his senior club, scoring in a fourth straight match seems difficult to expect.
The Free Kick
Fabio Borini (Sunderland) I do not think this is the best week to be bargain shopping at the forward position, but if you must, I like Borini as a play this week. I am bullish on Sunderland after their shock upset at Stamford Bridge last weekend, and why shouldn't I be? I cannot think of a more powerful shot of confidence a club can get than shattering Jose Mourinho's home record. While Borini is not an out-and-out striker in Gus Poyet's formation, (he plays wide opposite Adam Johnson) he can still provide returns, and is their penalty taker as we witnessed against Chelsea. Again, I think you pay for the big names at this spot this week, but Borini can prove useful at under 11m. He may prove to be a beneficial two week investment should you decide to retain him for Sunderland's double gameweek in Week 37.