Mid-season Fantasy Football Scouting report- Gameweek 22

Where has 2014 gone? We are now into the second half of the season and injuries, suspensions and run of fixtures are taking their toll on struggling teams, on top of the loss of key men to the African Cup of Nations. Here is a round up of upcoming key battles and how to utilise your use of transfers/wildcards…

Finding a goal scorer at Villa Park…

For a team with 11 goals scored since the season began, Aston Villa aren’t fairing too bad in 13th place. Narrow 1-0 victories have kept them in a solid position going into the back end of the season; however it is unlikely the same scoring form in 2015 will keep them there. Main goal threat Christian Benteke has been back for a while now and will be looking to use his recent average form as a spring to terrorise the shaky Liverpool defence; who have shipped 27 goals past them already this season. Holding on for dear life and squandering opportunities has been a familiar tale for Liverpool this season and looking at Brendan Rodgers’ attacking options you wouldn’t expect them to be sitting on a goal difference of plus two. If Liverpool can’t find goal scorer and become unsettled, Benteke could be the man to unlock the defence and be in for a field day.

Kane is able…

…to lead Tottenham into rekindling their impressive form. The inform striker for the inform team (minus the Selhurst blip) will be hoping to keep the Spurs marching on Versus Gus Poyet’s Sunderland – who find them 17th in the form table and 16th in the Barclays Premier League. In front of the White Hart Lane faithful and with a £5.8 million price tag, Harry Kane is well worth a punt considering the amount of misfiring strikers almost double his asking price. With seven goals each, Christian Eriksen and Nacer Chadli are also worth a thought in the short term. When Spurs are high flying they can compete with any midfielder, however inconsistency may overshadow this good form in coming weeks.

Hamer over Schwarzer…

When Mark Schwarzer signed for Leicester on the 2nd January, Ben Hamer had conceded seven goals in five games and was under huge pressure after the injury to number one Kasper Schmeichel. However, as soon as the Aussie came in Hamer and his backline have had a complete transformation, shutting out Hull, Newcastle and Aston Villa on their way to 1-0 victories. Stoke are lacking a prolific goalscorer this season, but seem to share the accolades between Mame Biram Diouf (5 goals), Peter Crouch and Jonathan Walters (4 goals) and Bojan Krkic (3 goals). If Mark Hughes doesn’t measure his attacking options right, Leicester could be on their way to a fourth clean sheet in five games.

Potential midfield diamond for United on their travels…

After the unsatisfying performance against Southampton using his beloved 5-3-2 formation, Van Gaal may opt for a 4-4-2 against QPR. With another week’s training under his belt, Marcos Rojo is likely to come back in to the team alongside Michael Carrick at the back- this change will allow Daley Blind to push forward and play the most defensive position in a midfield diamond. This formation has seen Man United flourish this season with the right players available, plus the manager has plenty of options in attack with Radamel Falcao and Marouane Fallaini possibly coming into the starting Xl. Of the midfield quartet, it is Wayne Rooney and Angel Di Maria – virtually unchallenged for the number ten role- who hold the greatest threat at Loftus road, both from open play and set pieces.

Back five a risk for the Swans…

Chelsea have failed to find the net only once this season – an unwelcoming stat for any Fantasy manager with one of the Swansea back four, who haven’t kept a clean sheet in four games. Now that there is light between them and City in second place, Jose Mourinho’s men will not put on the breaks once they find the back of the net and we could be in for another goal fest- as was the case in the return fixture at Stamford Bridge, where the Blues ran out 4-2 winners. Safety first would see any Swansea defenders dropped to the bench for this Gameweek, before reinjecting them into the team for games they would deem winnable versus Southampton, Sunderland and West Brom. The likes of Eden Hazard, Cesc Fabregas and Diego Costa are not to be taken lightly and have already proven that they deserve their place in the overall Dream Team this season.

The future’s bright, the future’s Pardew…

After the comeback versus Tottenham and the talk of Alan Pardew’s attacking style, little seems to be going wrong for the South London outfit. Looking to their next four fixtures and they are up against teams who have leaked goals at the back, starting with a tricky, however hopeful trip to Burnley. then Everton, Leicester and Newcastle. With an asking price of just £5 million, Dwight Gayle is sure to be on everyone fingertips along with Wilfried Zaha, who sparkled after coming off the bench versus Spurs and topped it off with a fine assist.

Saints utilising defence to defend 3rd place…

It’s North vs South when these two meet at St James’ Park with Southampton on the up, and Newcastle spiraling downwards. The best defence in the league take on the manager-less Geordies, who have failed to score in the last two matches. The Saints are on a six game unbeaten run, conquering top four rivals Man United and Arsenal in the process. Dusan Tadic will be hoping for a starting position after his match winning display at Old Trafford, however it is in the defensive areas where points could be picked up. At under £6 million each, wing-backs Ryan Bertrand and Nathaniel Clyne will bomb forward and provide for Graziano Pelle, whilst knowing they have a more than capable defensive structure to shut Newcastle out in this fixture for the 3rd time in a row- the previous 2 finishing 4-0 to Southampton.

Injuries a real concern for struggling Hull…

With record signing Abel Hernandez and top scorer Nikica Jelavic out for the foreseeable future, it’s difficult to see who will come up with the goods for Hull – especially against a well-drilled West Ham side. Enner Valencia could be the man to step up into Diafra Sakho’s scoring boots, after scoring the opening goal in the midweek FA Cup triumph over Everton. It was the Ecuadorian forwards first strike in front of the home crowd, and he will be looking for similar link up play leading to that goal with the man mountain that is Andy Carroll, whilst praying Stewart Downing’s sweet left foot delivers – as it has done all season. These three are the main goal threat for the Hammers and are all at a reasonable price at under £7 million.

Exploiting the hole in front of Arsenals back four…

In the stand-out clash in Gameweek 22, we see a well-documented problem for Arsenal – who have a dismal record against clubs challenging for the title. If they were going challenge the physical strength of Man City, they’d need a proven defensive midfield player, something they have lacked since the days of Gilberto Silva. With Mikel Arteta injured, Arsene Wengers options are Aaron Ramsey and Tomas Rosicky, both of whom will find it difficult keeping up with the fast paced movement and creativity of Silva and the physicality of his accompanying team mates. Despite not coming away with three points, Silva was instrumental last weekend against Everton, creating pockets of space for others as well as typical creative flair in City’s attacks. At £9.4 million the 29-year-old doesn’t come cheap, but he is a consistent performer if he stays away from injury troubles.

Will Saido be celebrating?…

Monday night’s game has great potential for both Saido Berahino and Romelu Lukaku, who will be looking to continue their good form since the turn of the year. Lukaku has already scored against West Brom this season and will be eager to show the away fans what they are missing. The Belgian scored 17 in 35 games for the Baggies but has struggled for goals so far in the League. In recent games however, Everton have been forced to pump the ball forward to the big man, and Lukaku looks dangerous once again. At the other end of the pitch is a great finisher with five goals in his last two games. The last thing on Berahino’s mind is a celebration – the kid just wants to find the back of the net. New boss Tony Pulis has stated he will not be sold, so expect his name on the score sheet for Baggies a lot more in the coming weeks.

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