Fantasy Premier League: Toca Me, I need a miracle!

Before you start reading this blog, may I suggest you listen to this classic trance anthem from clubland lore. You will get the theme when you see the strife of my Fantasy Premier League team in recent weeks. 

A disastrous couple of weeks since the last blog and no I did not blog because it was that embarrassing. The Maddison and Mitrovic experiments were utter failures and they are dropped from the starting XI.

Looking for a miraculous upturn in fortunes to even get to a respectable position in our private league this season; languishing third from bottom. The banter has started on my selections; a long overdue pint with the lads and it will properly kick off!

Mercenaries XI

Ederson continues in goal; has being superb this season with multiple clean sheets but this weekend is the Manchester derby and anything can happen, cannot think of dropping the player. Easy points throughout the season. 

The Alexander Arnold experiment potentially has one week left, looking for a big performance from the player or he is out of my side for the next game day.

Azpilicueta has being a solid points player; the same cannot be said for Matt Doherty in recent weeks but will persevere with the Irishman for another week. He offers plenty going forward so hopefully a few assists against Arsenal (hope more than expectation). 

Maddison is sidelined with injury so it is the perfect time to look at my options. Neves produced seven points last week and hopefully can do the same this weekend on set piece duties on the road to Arsenal.

The Liverpool contingent should be smelling blood as Fulham come to Anfield; playing like a Championship side at present. I am expecting a good points haul from Mane and Salah; otherwise there will be trouble ahead.

Pereyra is my new pick; the player has impressed early doors (a sure sign that will fall off the cliff now) but a fixture against a Southampton side who are defensively vulnerable after a trouncing to City bodes well. 

The striking options. Manchester United cannot keep a clean sheet so Sergio potentially may be in for a goal or assist. He has being stellar this season and his cameo last weekend against Southampton was superb despite the yellow card. 

Wilson is my new pick to the strike force; impressed with his movement and goal last week against Manchester United and given Bournemouth’s pace and speed, they could potentially cause massive issues for Newcastle on the road.

Wilfred Zaha (Mr. Crystal Palace) has being quiet lately, hoping that the London derby will revitalize him as it has being a tough few weeks for the Selhurst Park outfit. Roll the dice and let us see what the weekend brings!

Fantasy Premier League: Game Week Eight

Houston. We have a problem. The fixture list is conspiring and I am starting to go more up than down the private league standings and more woe lies potentially in wait after this weekend. 

Mercenaries XI

You see the predicament that I face by looking right down the spine of my side. Liverpool play Manchester City in the ‘Challengers vs. Champions’ fixture on Sunday evening. What would I like most? A total shootout like last season when Liverpool won 4-3. Here is hoping. 

Ederson is going to be a busy goalkeeper this weekend; that front three for Liverpool has serious pace and threat. Anfield holds mixed memories for the player after his clearance was pounced upon by Salah to chip over the keeper for an outstanding goal. I cannot see Ederson keeping a clean sheet but it is only this weekend where issues may surface as he has being racking up clean sheets so far this season. 

The back line has one enforced change. Vertonghen is out injured so decided to go with Matt Doherty (Wolves). The defender has impressed in recent weeks with his attacking runs from deep; assist streak continues after his cameo against Southampton last weekend. Doherty looks dangerous against a Crystal Palace side who looked defensive brittle on MNF. 

Alexander-Arnold could be bound to get sent off in the City fixture; could be tempted to switch with Robertson next week. Azpilicueta continues in the back line; a road trip to a Southampton side who are indifferent at best could see the Spaniard earn yet another clean sheet and perhaps a goal from a set piece (hope more than expectation) 

Maddison comes into the side for the expense of Kante. The Leicester City players looks a real threat in open play and set piece; a bargain deal considering the points tally this season. Fraser from Bournemouth for the transfer fee is a snip too. Maddison faces an Everton side who are inconsistent at best; expecting some more good points from the player. 

Mane and Salah are in my midfield. Both players will lift it for this fixture, a key game in the EPL season. Salah’s form of last season was an one off but he has being decent this season without getting the goals / assists. Mane’s pace will cause City endless issues so as mentioned hoping for a high scoring contest at Anfield. 

Neves continues to rove the midfield; his creativity and talent to the fore but no goals or assists in recent games. Crystal Palace defensive indiscipline may provide some set piece delivery opportunities for the Portuguese player to exploit. 

The front three remain the change. Aguero will look for goals against Liverpool but it won’t be easy given the improvements made in the Liverpool back line. Mitrovic at home against an Arsenal side who have had Europa League action poses a good threat of scoring a goal or two. Zaha against Wolves at home will need to conjure magic on his own as Wolves look a good bet to win on the road this weekend. 

There is a lot of hope in this team selection but also a lot of trepidation in the same sentence; things could go spectacularly well in the Anfield clash or it could be a boring 0-0 draw. Roll on the weekend!

Fantasy Premier League: Game Week 7

Mercenaries XI

Sixty-one points from Game Week 6, rewarded for keeping some tangible faith with Alexander-Arnold as the City contingent in the side continue to generate points for fun. Mitrovic came in and did a job against Watford. An interesting week beckons this time round with the meeting of Chelsea and Liverpool. Hawkeye Sidekick is more hoping than optimistic at this stage. 

Ederson is such a solid pick right now in the keeper position. The number of clean sheets alone so far this season has being impressive and his ability to launch swift counter attacks. Six points last week, hoping for more this weekend with the Brighton & Hove Albion visiting the Etihad. 

The Chelsea and Liverpool player clash starts with the back line. Alexander-Arnold and Azpilicueta are in the back three, both players could have torrid afternoons given the pace and speed of the attacking units on display. I am not hopeful on either this week, grin and bear and hope neither player does not get booked (wishful thinking). 

Vertonghen is hopefully the saving grace for the back three this weekend. A trip to Huddersfield, a clean sheet and perhaps a goal from a set piece would do nicely. Tottenham need a result after a torrid couple of weeks in the league; they should get the job done here against a Huddersfield Town side who are neither scoring enough or preventing goals defensively. 

The midfield four again has a Chelsea player (Kante) and two Liverpool players (Mane and Salah). I am rather pessimistic that there will be a goal fest at the Bridge (hoping for it) but need to be realistic given the curse of the Sky Sports advert campaign. 

Neves comes into the picture and it is a time for him to impress. Wolves play Southampton who look quite shaky as of late. Neves has to increase his attacking threat in the final third; hope (yet again) that the Portuguese midfielder will deliver a man of the match performance. Mark Hughes is under pressure at Southampton as it is and I think it intensifies after this fixture. Wolves if they have their shooting boots on could win well. 

The front three are unchanged. My best mate Mitrovic scored against Watford but anyone else feeling that Mitrovic is going to do something stupid and get sent off. I cannot think like that in team selection so he retains his spot and a game against a vulnerable Everton outfit could see the Serbian striker score another goal. 

Sergio Aguero is a points machine. He is having an outstanding season and that run of fantasy league points looks set to continue with the trip of Brighton & Hove Albion who will try to sit deep but think City are too slick in their passing. An early strike and BHA get opened up which will be music to the ears of Aguero. 

Mr. Crystal Palace continues as the third striker. Zaha plays a Bournemouth side smarting from their 4-0 drubbing on the road to Burnley last weekend. MNF game for Zaha to flex the muscles and suspect that Palace will score a goal on the road and inevitably Zaha will be key from an attacking perspective. 

Fantasy Premier League: Game Day 5

Hawkeye Sidekick after a meh round four (47 points) performance is under the cosh. The Hail Mary / Toca Me selection of Calvert Lewin last week got what it deserved; absolutely nothing. It is time to move the deck chairs and tables around this FPL selection in attack hoping for some more points from all three attackers. 

Mercenaries XI

Ederson continues in goal; seven points last week was a superb return, do not see any other keeper in my side (infamous last words).

The back three continues as last week. Alexander-Arnold continues to worry me, think his club colleague Robertson is the option going forward but will give it another week. Azpilicueta is a solid pick; will pick up clean sheets throughout the season.

The fixture list last week conspired a bit but expecting better from the midfield selected. Southampton are primed for a thumping and Mane and Salah should get sufficient chances to score and provide assists. Mane gets into so many great positions; if he only converted half those opportunities, jackpot time. Neves has being quiet in recent weeks but Wolves are so easy on the eye that they could upset Manchester United so retain him in the side. 

Sergio continues to produce superb numbers; fourteen points last week was just desserts and a trip to Cardiff City who look incapable of keeping a clean sheet bodes well. Zaha got off the turf and slayed Huddersfield Town last week on the road; seven points tally and with Newcastle at home, hopes are high for another good day out for Mr. Crystal Palace.

The Hawkeye Sidekick change or others will perceive as the ‘throw it on the team and sees if it sticks selection’ is my new best friend Mitrovic; he has had a promising start to the season with a couple of goals for club and country and I think a Watford team who lost last week may be a good pick. Watford after a strong start have a serious test of attitude this week and Fulham may be the benefactors. Mitrovic hopefully picks up the goals for the Craven Cottage outfit or he will be out on his ear (Barry Fry management 101). Fingers crossed for this week!

Fantasy Football League: Game Day 5

Mercenaries XI

After an international football break where WhatApp audio clips were the order of the day for anyone interested in Republic of Ireland training ground shenanigans, it is a welcome relief that the EPL is back and with it some decisions for the FPL side which struggled last time out. A couple of team changes as my patience with the pup Sane and a quite clearly not required Cenk Tosun (Everton) have forced my hand. 

Goalkeeper

Ederson continues in goal. A home game against a Fulham side who will not be afraid to pass the ball around should see an exciting spectacle and perhaps an opportunity for the Brazilian keeper to provide a quick assist for his outfield colleagues. Clean sheet is the aim this week. 

Defenders

The back three remains unchanged; going to give Alexander-Arnold one more chance. A tough fixture against Tottenham, the likelihood of another yellow card but the player did show some genuine attacking threat. One more chance for the player, otherwise Robertson could be getting the nod. 

Azpilicueta is solid and with a home fixture against a Cardiff City side who are struggling to score goals, clean sheet should be well achievable and perhaps a foray on the attacking set piece could yield a goal. An added bonus (here’s hoping). 

Vertonghen has being an ever present in the side, tough fixture with Liverpool at the weekend but his threat at the Tottenham set piece could be an added bonus. Clean sheet looks remote to be honest given the pace of this Liverpool attacking unit; hoping perhaps for a goal / assist from the player. 

Midfield

I have had enough of Leroy. I have had enough of the bench warming sulking body language antics so Sane is gone from the squad, slotting Mane into the side and could be a permanent fixture given his early season form.

Pace to burn and has chipped in with a couple of goals as well, hoping for the same against Tottenham along with Salah as the counter attack style of Liverpool in this fixture could be too much for Tottenham defensively. Question marks on Lloris fitness as well.

Neves continues to impress; cannot see the player being at Wolves next season and hopefully he showcases his talent against a Burnley side who are struggling for goals and defensively have looked vulnerable. Kante will continue to do his thing; protect his back four and keep a clean sheet against Cardiff City. A goal from the French World Cup winner would be dreamland territory. 

Strikers

Sergio has proclaimed that he is in good fitness and physical condition, that will do for me and he continues. Fulham will provide opportunities for City and Aguero should be in the middle of all that will be good in City’s attacking play. 

The two other strikers are questionable picks. Zaha’s absence against Southampton last weekend was massive for Palace so I think if Zaha can stand up, he will be playing against Huddersfield Town who are ripe for another thrashing.

Calvin-Lewin should play against West Ham United in the absence of Richarlison. West Ham United defensively are not doing it for me at the moment and Everton should produce good chances. Cenk Tosun looks to have no future at the club so Calvin-Lewin will get the nod and hopefully score a couple of goals.

Fantasy Premier League: Game Day 4

A mediocre week for yours truly last week and Hawkeye Sidekick is starting to ponder team selection ahead of this weekend’s fixture list. 

Hawkeye Sidekick Mercenaries XI

No change in goal as Ederson continues to put solid performances; a near certain clean sheet last weekend denied by dubious officiating at Wolves. A game against under pressure Newcastle United should see more points from the net minder and his distribution to outfield colleagues could yield assists like in game day two. 

The back three continues as is for now; have my concerns on Alexander-Arnold, yet another booking to his name but was prominent in a couple of attacking opportunities for Liverpool. I will give him another week to impress; otherwise it could be time to look elsewhere. Azpilicueta and Vertonghen continue to impress and expect good numbers from each player with games against Bournemouth and Watford. 

The midfield four is unchanged, hoping Neves can impress against a clearly struggling West Ham United on the road. Neves is a class act and with West Ham United struggling to keep clean sheets (even against AFC Wimbledon) , Neves should be prominent.

Salah continued his good start to the season with another strike against Brighton Hove & Albion and I cannot see Leicester City defense able to contain the Liverpool attacking threat. Speed kills and Liverpool could give Leicester City a serious hiding. 

Sane is another player which I am pondering over. Minimal starts for City this season; will keep the faith for another week and hope Pep gives the German international the nod. If not, then time to look at my options. Newcastle United look so vulnerable right now and City could have the proverbial field day if they score early. 

Kante should be prominent against Bournemouth; consistent points throughout the season and he should chip in with additional goals this season as Sarri looks for the French international to contribute more from an attacking sense which is very much a work in progress. 

The key change this week is upfront. My patience with Rashford has gone; a player of serious ability but with the Manchester United crisis in full flow, it remains to be seen when Rashford will get more game time so is dropped from my squad.

Cenk Tosun comes into the lineup. He will replace Richarlison who is suspended and with a home game against a vulnerable Huddersfield Town side missing Jonathan Hogg in midfield, Tosun should get plenty of opportunities to score. 

Aguero lines the lead as always for City. Newcastle United at home and should be a good game to pick up additional goals and assists with Jesus providing searing pace alongside. 

Zaha has started the season really well and a home game against a Southampton side who are a mixed bag at present should see the key Palace attacking threat add to his goals and assist tally. 

The objective is clear this week, start to claw back points lost last week. If not, Hawkeye Sidekick may be looking at a long season of defending himself from his mates down the local!

Fantasy Premier League: Week 2

Solid if unspectacular start to the league last week, the gamble to introduce Neves in my starting lineup was fully merited but Sessegnon did not and with Kante on the bench, easy points were dropped last week. 

Mercenaries Xi

Ederson was comfortable last weekend against Arsenal; a clean sheet secured with the minimum of fuss and more of the same expected at home to a Huddersfield Town side who look devoid of any scoring threat. 

Alexander-Arnold continues to feature in my side; clean sheet last weekend in the rout of West Ham United but an early yellow card blotched the copybook and with his defensive colleague Robertson started well with an assist for Salah’s opening strike; Hawkeye Sidekick may wield the axe pronto here. 

Vertonghen continued his World Cup form; standout defensive performance and scored the opening goal in Tottenham’s 2-1 road trip win to Newcastle United. Fulham next for Tottenham at Wembley and suspect that the Belgian may get more chances to score at the set piece. 

Cesar Azpilicueta for me is such a solid pick right now; the guy will tally points throughout the year and chip in potentially with a goal or two throughout the season; expecting Chelsea to be solid defensively with Sarri in charge. No need to change the Spaniard from the side. 

The one change to side is including Kante for Sessegnon who showed flashes of promise but ultimately offered little to test Palace last weekend. Tottenham this weekend was the decisive reason to drop the youngster from my squad entirely. Kante scored last week and all indications suggest that the World Cup winner will play a more advanced role; decent finish to start Chelsea’s account last weekend, more to follow I hope. 

Salah, Sane and Neves retain their spots. Sane hopefully gets game time this weekend. Huddersfield Town look ripe for the picking; imagine Sane rampaging on the flank but given the form of Mahrez and Bernardo Silva last week, will Pep Guardiola look to keep as it is? 

Salah opened his account for the season with a regulation strike from close range following great work from Robertson; the front four should prove too much for Palace on MNF and hopefully the Egyptian focuses on scoring goals and not using his mobile phone while driving!

Neves was the pick of my team last weekend. The player will not be at Wolves come January; the Portuguese player looks a standout for the side and his cameo was superb. Expect some of the big fish to make queries on the player come next January. Neves play a Leicester City side who to be honest were inconsistent at best against United last weekend so Neves could have another good day in the Wolves midfield. 

The attacking options remain unchanged. Even though, I think Liverpool should have too much for Palace, Zaha if given decent supply could pose issues to the Liverpool defense; another goal would be nice. Rashford has the talent but the goal ratio is not matching up; a road trip to Brighton Hove & Albion looks a mixed bag so it is all down to Sergio Aguero to hit the goals against Huddersfield Town; otherwise the points tally will look meek with the vulture they call relegation form looming large on the horizon. 

English Premier League 2018-19 Preview

August 10th is suddenly upon us and that means the start of the English Premier League season as Manchester United play host to Leicester City at Old Trafford. Hawkeye Sidekick runs the rule over the twenty teams on the starting blocks. 

City still the team to catch? 

The century point winning league champions were the standout team of the league last season. Their passing game was too much for the rest. City have secured the services of Mahrez from Leicester City, an excellent squad depth signing.

City are happy with their defensive setup and will hope that Vincent Kompany is injury free this season. Stones and Otamendi will have come on from their World Cup experience. The midfield is stacked with quality and De Bruyne, Sane, Silva will look to continue where they left off last season terrorizing league defenses. 

The attacking options for Manchester City will be in the form of Aguero and Jesus and they should be expecting plenty of opportunities to score given the players around them. They are the side to beat this season and are a good bet (provided the players are hungry for further glory) to retain their title. 

Pep also wielded the axe during the off-season. Toure and Hart bide farewell from the club; two players who have had indifferent relations with the manager. Several promising young players have also left the club for first team opportunity with Angus Gunn looking to impress at Southampton.

Liverpool poised to deliver title push? 

Is this the season where Liverpool deliver a league title? This is a crucial season for Jurgen Klopp and squad given the investment on new talent this off-season. Four marquee signings may their debuts for the club this season. Fabinho, Keita, Shaqiri and Alisson will need time to settle but in doing so, will Liverpool lose valuable points to the likes of Manchester City early doors?

A second season for Mo Salah to confirm his talent and goal scoring prowess; an opening day home fixture against West Ham United should be the perfect platform for the player and club to start the season in the right fashion. 

The defensive side of the team has being highlighted last season but the central defensive positions look strong. van Djik and Lovren struck an effective partnership in the second half of last season.

Robertson and Alexander-Arnold are two full backs full of potential and pace. The keeper situation has being addressed with Alisson but the Brazilian keeper will need to answer early questions on his aerial ability. If he can come through this unscathed, Liverpool are in with a great chance of securing a much coveted league title.

Tottenham content with squad depth? 

For the first time since the transfer window was introduced, Tottenham Hotspur decided not to sign any player (much to the disappointment of Jack Grealish). The club have sent out the statement that squad depth is sufficient as they prepare to move back to the Lane. The home fixture with title rival Liverpool should be a standout moment of the season.

Massive onus on Harry Kane to continue to be the main man to score the goals. Alli, Song and Eriksen will provide the creativity and flair in the side. The question is when Kane is injured, who will provide the scoring threat? Defensive solid with the likes of Vertonghen and Sanchez in the ranks, expect Trippier to become an even more prominent player from the set piece given his impressive World Cup cameo. 

The question is with respect to the striking options when Kane is injured or unavailable for team selection; it is the biggest concern for the club and Llorente will need to contribute more than last season which was brief cameo appearances. 

Manchester United in limbo? 

What to expect from United this season? A mixed bag truth be told. Can the manager get the best out of Paul Pogba who showed with France this summer that he is capable of playing a disciplined midfield role? The prospect of Matic being absent for the start of the season places pressure on McTominay and no discernible replacement for retired Carrick.

It has being an interesting off season at the club.  Early summer signings with Fred the standout but the end of this window has proved increasingly frustrating. The chase for a central defender foiled several times; Maguire, Godin, Boateng and any other defensive player they approached were out of reach. A messy end to transfer dealings which has only increased Mourinho’s frustration to the media yesterday.

The performance of Sanchez will be keenly watched; an interrupted preseason showed glimpses of brilliance from the player and he will need to be the focal point for attacking flair in the side. Rashford and Lukaku will be the main scoring threats as Martial looks primed to play a peripheral role given his extended absence from preseason. A season where Mourinho may decide that it is time to look elsewhere; the dreaded third season in charge, watch this space. United are not winning the title and top four is the priority this season with a cup run the likely outcome.

Arsenal: Post Wenger Era

The start of the Unai Emery era at Arsenal. The Arsenal TV fans will need to give the experienced manager the time to settle into the club. There have being key departures from the squad. No Mertesacker, Wilshere, Cazorla in the squad but Arsenal have secured the services of Lichtsteiner, Leno and Papastahopoulous who should contribute from the opening weekend. 

What to expect from Arsenal this season? It is a good question. A daunting home game to start against Manchester City but the new manager will look for his side to express themselves with the ball and be compact when in defensive duties. Patrick Aubameyang should enjoy an excellent full season with the club; his pace, power and scoring prowess should see Arsenal take a couple of top four scalps but defensively there are concerns particularly in the central defensive areas. Top four finish is the priority for the club. 

Are Everton the dark horse top four bet?

Everton have had on paper a strong transfer window and the board have backed new manager Silva in the transfer market. Richarlison is a risky buy given his record with Watford. Where now for Cenk Tosun? Digne from Barcelona will provide good options in the full back berth.

Bernard, Mina and Gomes if they can settle quickly into the side are quality additions. Mina has the skill set, power to settle the Everton defensive issues seen last season.

Silva is a well respected manager but the fact that he has being dismissed by Watford last season has cast a shadow on the appointment. Will Silva last the full season? Everton need a stable managerial tenure to grow but Silva has questions to answer particularly when the club have backed the manager to the hilt. 

The fact that Jordan Pickford remained at the football club was almost another signing in the off-season as well as the fully fit Seamus Coleman to the ranks. This is a season which could deliver great promise for the club provided that they start the season well. 

Everton were shrewd in their departures this off season. They cut their losses on Klaassen and Williams who did not settle at the club. The fortunes of the club rest on the new manager and Silva needs to deliver. Top six is attainable given the personnel assembled.

Burnley steady as she goes 

Sean Dyche and squad should be applauded for the sixth position in the league last season. UEFA Europa League secured but it brings its own challenges to the club. The squad depth will be fully tested this season and if early season form dips, an uncomfortable relegation battle will ensue which would be a big disappointment. 

The goalkeeper crisis at the club forced Dyche’s hand and it has provided Joe Hart with the perfect opportunity to restore his reputation as a top keeper in this league. Given the side’s defensive organization is usually on point, Hart should revel in the surroundings. When Pope and Heaton come back to the first team squad, the competition for the number one jersey will be epic. 

Other transfer dealings were to reinforce the defensive squad depth with the capture of Gibson and Vydra arrives to bolster the attacking options. If Burnley finish in the top half of the table given their UEFA Europa League commitments, it would be regarded as a good season.

Leicester City after Mahrez

The departure of Mahrez from the club has being long in the offing. It is now a reality and we will see if the likes of Gray can fill the shoes and provide the ammunition for the likes of Vardy to score the goals. 

Claude Puel and club held their ground with Manchester United’s advances of Harry Maguire. The England international defender will play a key role in the side defensively and with Kasper Schmeichel still at the club, the side look extremely strong defensively. 

The squad has being reinforced with the signings of Pereira (Porto), Evans (WBA), Maddison (Norwich), Ward (Liverpool), Ghezzal, Benkovic (Dinamo Zagreb) and Soyuncu (Freiburg). Maddison is a player of tremendous upside and is one of the young players to watch in the league this season; good feet and his delivery from set piece should create goal scoring opportunities. 

The attacking options without Vardy is the chief concern for the club, a top eight league berth should be attainable given the experience and defensive cover signed. Gray will be asked to be the Mahrez effect at the club. 

Wolves: Mendes United

The Championship winners from last season have wasted no time to strengthen their squad depth for the challenge of the top flight. Exciting signings come in the form of Boly, Patricio, Moutinho, Traore. Afobe arrives with EPL experience from AFC Bournemouth and then you have one of the potential shrewd signings of the window with Leander Dendoncker arriving to bolster the midfield ranks. 

I am genuinely excited to see how the new signings blend in with the current squad and their footballing style was so easy on the eye last season. The time to integrate the new signings is key here and could be an issue early doors but expect Wolves given their squad quality to have more than enough to secure a respectable mid-table position. Moutinho’s experience to midfield also a real positive for the Midlands club. A quality addition to the league; great stadium and fan base. 

AFC Bournemouth look to move onwards


Eddie Howe has being given transfer funds to bolster the squad after an inconsistent past season. The performances were a mixed bag and the squad needed rejuvenation. 

Several squad members have departed the club. Arter , Gradel and Federici lead the list. Howe has reinvested in the squad with three targeted signings. Brooks arrives from Sheffield United, an exciting midfielder who will look to create from the wide channels. Rico is an established La Liga defender who comes from Leganes and their chief summer target was finally secured with the capture of midfielder Jefferson Lerma from Levante. 

The team’s passing style is lovely on the eye but do the team have sufficient quality at both ends of the pitch to contend in the UEFA Europa League race? Initial answer would be no and I think mid-table position is the prediction for the club this season. King and Wilson will be required to produce the goods upfront. 

Chelsea In Transition? 

This is a season into the unknown for Chelsea. The unceremonious dismissal of Antonio Conte resulted in the appointment of Maurizio Sarri from Napoli. The managerial appointment will have to be judged on its merits as the season progresses but a good start is vital for the Italian to win over the board and fans that he is the man to lead the side on. 

The off season has seen the departure of Thibault Courtois to Real Madrid. Kepa and Kovacic arrive to offset the loss but the two new arrivals will take time to acclimatize to the EPL style of play. Chelsea’s keeper options are Caballero and Green; enough said so the signing of Kepa is a win or bust scenario. 

The potential signing for Chelsea of most promise is Jorginho, the player had a superb season with Napoli last season and will provide the side with attacking and defensive nous to complement the likes of Kante and Fabregas in the side. 

The big question upfront is whether Morata can fulfill his potential and start to score goals on a regular basis. After a strong start, confidence quickly faded from the Spaniard with some glaring missed opportunities. If Morata fails to fire, questions will be asked of the side in the attacking department so more onus on Hazard to rescue the side. 

I don’t see Chelsea as a title contender this season. The new head coach is an unknown quantity and his ability to adapt quickly to the EPL will be key for Chelsea to have a successful season. Chelsea will pick up momentum as the season wears on but early season dropped points will prove costly. Potential top four finish but it will be a close run thing. 

Brighton & Hove Albion spending big to get to the next level 

Chris Hughton has being backed in this transfer window with several arrivals of note which will look to increase squad depth and quality.  Defensive options are boosted with Balogun, Bernardo and Montoya. Goalkeeper competition is increased with Steele and Button’s arrivals. The attacking options see Andone, Jahanbaksh (club record signing), Dreyer to provide goals and support to the likes of Glenn Murray.  The middle of the park now contains Bissouma who will be well suited to the league. The key point for the club is how quickly these signings bed in and start to contribute. A quick start is required; otherwise Hughton may be looking over his shoulder as fans and board start to become impatient. Brighton & Hove Albion should be well safe this season; top half finish is a realistic aim. 

Crystal Palace looking for goals

Roy Hodgson and squad deserve massive credit for their great escape last season. A dreadful start to the season saw the De Boer era finish as soon as it started and it was up to local boy Hodgson to pick up the pieces with the club securing their top flight place this season with a couple of games to go in the season. 

The club has seen key arrivals and departures.  Guaita is a key acquisition to increase competition for the number one spot. Kouyate provides defensive and midfield presence for Cabaye who has left. Zaha is the standout goal threat but there needs to be more goal scoring threat. Benteke will look to right the wrongs of last season but Hodgson is looking for alternatives as Max Meyer and Jordan Ayew arrive to bolster the strike force. Meyer potentially is a dark horse. Ayew is a mystery; not sure of the lure for the player who has not delivered for Swansea last season. 

Palace will look to Zaha for the attacking inspiration and there will be moments of anxiety defensively but the side are well placed with Hodgson to reach forty point and secure their place in the league next season. Mid-table finish. 

Newcastle United look vulnerable 

Rafa Benitez is a worried man. The lack of off season activity from the club means that the manager will have to use all his tactical nous to stave off a lengthy relegation battle. 

Dubravka and Kenedy were key recruits at the start of the calendar year. Muto, Rondon will look to provide the goals for a side who struggled in this department last season. Fernandez signing is astute; defensive experience but nothing standing out in terms of any summer arrivals truth be told. 

I fear for Newcastle United this season; thought this off season was an opportunity missed by the club to consolidate their league position as clubs around them have invested big in their squads, sense a relegation battle and if Benitez walks away could go down. 

West Ham United splash the cash

Last season was a scene from Dream Team for the football club. Fan protests against the board, fans invading the pitch were all too common. The board have responded with support to Pellegrini in the transfer market and the recruits joining look potentially astute. 

Fabianski is a goalkeeper well respected in the league and he will provide excellent squad depth with Adrian. All areas of the pitch have being covered with particular attention on Wilshere for the coming season. If the player can remain fit, his passing style and play will be ignite West Ham as an attacking side. The striking options will see Arnautovic playing a key role; the Austrian was superb in the second half of last season and will be the main target man. 

Squad depth looks on point with the acquisitions of Anderson, Yarmolenko as well so the club should not be in a relegation battle this season. Top ten finish potentially if the side can start the season with aplomb. Otherwise, fan hostility to the club and team will intensify leading to a hideous atmosphere and relegation battle will loom large. 

Huddersfield Town look doomed

Huddersfield Town did something no-one expected last season; stave off relegation. A great achievement for the town, the club, the squad and the fans. This season sees added challenges for management and playing group and the sense of surprise is no longer a trick card to play for Wagner’s side. 

Experienced campaigners in Whitehead and Green have departed and the arrivals are uninspiring. Sobhi struggled for form at Stoke City last season. Hamer will provide backup for Lossl. Durm, Kongolo, Diakhaby and Mbenza are quite frankly unknown quantities which is a worry and concern. 

Dressing room leadership is further eroded by the loss of Hefele who has left for Nottingham Forest; a popular figure around the club. This is a season where the harsh realities of EPL life will be exposed; do not see another fairytale survival this season and could be down by next March. An early season winning stretch is required to have any chance as squad depth will be ruthlessly exposed. 

Southampton start the Hughes era 

Mark Hughes must have being a relieved man at the end of the season. He staved off relegation with Southampton which he could not do with Stoke City who were well on their way to the Championship when he was sacked. 

Southampton have responded with that near miss with a shrewd transfer window. Tadic has left for Eredivisie and his replacement comes in the form of Stuart Armstrong from Celtic. Angus Gunn arrives with an excellent reputation and will provide additional keeping squad depth for Forster, McCarthy. Vestergaard has the ability to be an excellent defensive and set piece signing. Danny Ings will provide pace and goal scoring nous for the side who struggled in front of goal last season (particularly Shane Long). 

A season of consolidation and I suspect Southampton may have to battle for a time around the lower half of the league before moving away from relegation trouble by Christmas. Hughes and January transfer window looks pivotal if they harbor any aspirations for a top ten berth. 

Fulham keen to impress 

Fulham have had an active transfer window with several marquee signings in all areas of the park. Seri was an early standout signing. The Nice player was courted by the likes of Liverpool before deciding to join Fulham. Schurrle provides a wealth of EPL experience from his time at Chelsea. Mitrovic provides attacking and goal threat; a player who could be a key player for the side if he hits the ground running.  

The new signings will provide good quality depth options for management to complement the talent of Cairney and Sessegnon who will look to impress in the top flight; two superb young talents. With an owner looking for the club to grow at a massive rate, the world is at Fulham’s feet and if a deal to purchase Wembley is pulled off, the revenue streams could be incredible. Top mid-table position to start off their top fight stay. 

Cardiff City could struggle 

Neil Warnock has done a superb job at Cardiff City, a club who were spiraling out of the control before his arrival. His classic man management approach has worked a treat and the side were a cohesive unit last season with the likes of Hoilett, Connolly, Etheridge to the fore. 

This season has seen several key signings to complement the talent in the squad containing Gunnarsson, experienced operator in both international and top flight level. The issue is that the arrivals lack top flight experience, good Championship players who are looking to get to the next level. 

Only Harry Arter has EPL experience from the players signed and this is a concern if the new arrivals such as Murphy, Reid, Camarasa, Smithies struggle early doors. The fact that Warnock has not kept a team up in the top flight is another concern whose post-game comments could get the manager into disciplinary trouble. 

After a promising start, squad depth and experience will kick in and I sense that Cardiff City could be relegated come next May. January transfer window will be pivotal for the club to acquire key loan signings to stave this predicament. 

Watford Jekyll and Hyde 

Watford are a mysterious club; they wheel and deal managers and players like no one else in the league and this off season was no different in the squad department. 

The marquee signings of Deulofeu (Barcelona), Navarro (Barcelona), Foster (WBA), Sema (Ostersund)  will provide strength in depth but the side have being inconsistent over recent seasons at the cost of the manager who has being sacked. 

Silva was shown the door last season and Garcia will get the same treatment if Watford perform in the same vain; don’t think they will go down but might struggle at the bottom half of the league for long stretches so the games against teams around them will be key. 

The big issue for Watford is who will score the goals in the side with the departure of Richarlison from the club? Interesting to see how Garcia manages that big issue if he is given the time. Lower half of the league with the odd top four scalp thrown in for good measure; their inconsistency must drive their fans demented. 

Predictions: 

League Champions: Manchester City

Top Four: Manchester City, Liverpool, Tottenham, Chelsea 

Europa League: Manchester United, Arsenal

Relegation: Cardiff City, Newcastle United, Huddersfield Town 

Fantasy Premier League XI

The FIFA World Cup withdrawals have started to ease as we enter August and that means one thing and one thing only, it is the start of the English Premier League. Thirty-eight rounds filled with excitement, drama, horrific officiating decisions and sublime moments of skill to win key fixtures.

The banter has started in earnest amongst my friends and this season, Hawkeye Sidekick will summon the courage to chart his progress as the season progresses. In this opening article, we will look at his opening season fixture team selection. The words hope and fingers crossed come to mind.

My past seasons with Fantasy Premier League have being horrific; last season was a particular low point as a couple of bargain buys in week one for the likes of Erik Pieters, Jeff Cameron (don’t laugh) got what they deserved; utter derision and slagging from my friends and no points on the board. I gave up after the week eight such was the gap to everyone else, hoping that the team would produce miracles in my absence (or let the players mature and improve). Nope, it did not work.  

My team selection looks okay on paper but there are a couple of potential gotchas in the mix for this weekend. What if Arsenal beat Manchester City? Bye Bye Ederson clean sheet and potentially subdued performances from Sane and Sergio; knowing my luck that will happen.

Alexander-Arnold, Azpilicueta and Vertonghen should deliver good points throughout the season. The Liverpool youngster hopefully providing some good assists and goals this season, nice price if I am may say so myself. 

There is a bold leap of faith with the newly promoted teams. Neves from Wolves is an interesting selection; his scored an absolute screamer last season but will he able to step up to the top league? Sessegnon is a player of undoubted potential, hope rather than optimism on those picks.

Mo Salah hopefully rescues the situation; a fixture at home to West Ham United who look defensively short with the absence of Reid a good omen. Rashford and Zaha will provide the attacking scoring threat to supplement Aguero who should have another standout season.

Time for you good readers to poke holes in this team selection; looking forward to the season kickoff, hopefully I am still respectable by the time week eight comes around this season but given my past track record in this format, it is 50/50. Best of luck everyone! 

FIFA World Cup Russia 2018: Best and Worse Moments

I have the FIFA World Cup Russia 2018 withdrawals today. The prospect of no soccer today was disappointing but it is time to reflect on the tournament as a whole. The hosts held a superb tournament for the most part. Hawkeye Sidekick reflects on the tournament and gives out the best and worse gongs.

Embarrassing moment

A couple of standout moments come to mind and unfortunately it is all South American themed. Argentina were shambolic both on and off the pitch. A team deeply divided, a team whose coach could have easily being a Sunday League pub team gaffer such was the control that Sampaoli had during this tournament. Argentina were lucky to get out of their pool. Nigeria had them where they wanted them but did not get the job done. Messi struck a forlorn figure during this tourney.

The absence of Dybala was a disgrace and Sampaoli conceivably should have gone after the Croatian result. A team on a downward spiral. Messi would do well and retire from international football. The Argentinian national side is in crisis and an embarrassment much like Diego Maradona whose cameos at the tournament were nauseating at best. The Spanish meltdown sacking their head coach before the tourney or VAR would normally get the crown but Argentina were at a different level of embarrassment in this tourney.

Tournament Clown

The sight of Neymar rolling around the pitch resembled an injured bird after hitting a clean window. This was a tournament where the Brazilian Superstar was supposed to be the main guy; the guy to take over the mantle from Ronaldo or Messi. Wrong. The player had some excellent moments but there were disgraceful con jobs along the way. Belgium beating Brazil was the most welcome victory of the tournament; if only to get rid of Neymar whose stock value has devalued to the extent that PSG may struggle to offload the player even if they wanted to this summer.

Vinny Jones Hard Out Award

Colombia. Easy decision. Four years prior, Colombia played superb passing football but thoughts of their elimination from the tourney saw a different side to the Colombian side. The side were cynical as early as the opening exchanges against Japan. An early red card for deliberate handball was the prelude. Senegal and Poland wins subtly dampened down the dirt factor but their performance against England was deplorable. Hatchet job comes to mind; the Harry Kane penalty in normal time belied belief. Colombian players kicking turf from the penalty spot. Their antics around the referee throughout the tournament beggared belief. Their capitulation in the penalty shootout was a fitting exit for the side.

Easy on the eye Award

France flirted with the neutral with their attacking prowess against Argentina and also in the second half of their World Cup final win over Croatia. However, defensive solidity was paramount and they miss out on this award. Belgium and Croatia for me were the teams that were easy on the eye, loved their style of play, passing football. Hazard, De Bruyne vs. Modric and Rakitic. It is so hard to chose. Seeing as both side did not win anything, they jointly win this reward for their cameos in the tournament.

High Notions Award

England media. Well done England for securing a World Cup semi-final berth but the record  ignoring the win over Panama (pub side),  there was ample precious attacking moments from open play. Set piece execution was the pivotal attacking weapon of choice for England. Kane’s goals secured a quarter final berth and then Sweden came with a shockingly poor performance. Southgate is realistic; the side are going in the right direction but the side have some way to go before being considered a contender in a tournament of this stature. The losses to Belgium and Croatia exposed composure and skill shortcomings to the max in the side. England media can calm down again.

Minty Fresh Team Award

Japan. Their performances were a breathe of fresh air; incredible honesty and ethos to their play. Pundits will ridicule their tactic of all out attack against Belgium at the death in the last sixteen round but it was so adventurous; a change from the standard negativity and hold what you have approach. Martin O’Neill would have being disgusted. Their games were high octane and their never say die attitude was one of my personal favorite moments.

Manager Award

A couple of manager’s come to mind. Carlos Queiroz had Iran superbly organized and with a little more conviction in front of goal should have secured a second round berth. Gareth Southgate to lead a limited England side to a semi-final berth; most unexpected. Roberto Martinez for orchestrating the best half of tactical football in their defeat of Brazil. Didier Deschamps for me is the manager of the tournament; to even get Paul Pogba to execute at the level of performance in this tourney was outstanding (given his difficulties at Manchester United). Squad depth was abundant but the ability to create the cohesion defensively and attacking wise was seen at different points of the tournament. The water carrier has done well indeed.

Player of the Tournament 

Easy decision. Luka Modric creativity, game management and goal threat was seen to the fore throughout the tournament. The mercurial genius was unfortunately on the wrong end of the final result yesterday but his cameos in the previous rounds oozed class.