1. Chelsea are dull- The good old days have returned. After dispensing with the innovative AVB, Chelsea have reverted to their “Mourinho tactics”. Who cares if the new style alienates Fernando Torres? It’s effective, and that’s all that matters. Plus it makes Gary Cahill, Branislav Ivanovic and John Terry very valuable indeed. Petr Cech, too.
2. The Ox- Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain performed, by his standards, very poorly against Chelsea. He was uninvolved for long periods, gave the ball away more than usual and was substituted with plenty of time remaining. However, Oxlade-Chamberlain, whose exploits this season earned him a PFA Young Player of the Year nomination, could be set for further opportunities in the next few weeks. With half an hour left in the Chelsea match, Theo Walcott limped off with what looks like a season-ending hamstring injury, leaving the right wing position vacant. Unless Gervinho miraculously improves his forehead-to-talent ratio in the next three weeks, “The Ox” should start all of Arsenal’s remaining games. At 5 million, he could prove a bargain.
3. Dirt Cheap Newcastle- When the dust cleared on Saturday evening, Newcastle found themselves in fourth spot, three points clear of a faltering Tottenham. Another Cisse goal, reinforced by Cabaye’s brace, had propelled Newcastle to victory over Stoke. The fantasy headlines, though, were made by the defense. Every member of Newcastle’s back five is priced at or below five million. Incredibly, Santon and Williamson cost just 4.2 million each. That’s what you call value for money.
4. Junior Hoilett- For the poets among us, Junior Hoilett’s unfortunate surname offers ample opportunity to rhyme a word that seldom gets its due. For the fantasy managers among us — a somewhat larger group — Junior Hoilett offers a perfect short-term option: he’s too inconsistent to star all season long, but he can be relied upon to produce bursts of form. One of Hoilett’s purple patches could be on the horizon. With Blackburn battling the drop, you would like to think that all their players will dig in, go the extra ten percent, put their lives on the line, run through walls, wear the badge with pride, and generally run about. If Hoilett does all that — and throws in a few goals, as well — then he may yet prove pivotal to some bloke’s fantasy run-in.
5. January Signings- According to Sir Alex Ferguson, there’s no value for money in the January transfer window. Well, Fergie, you’re wrong. With Jelavic and Pienaar, Everton brought in two necessary attacking players, reinforcements who solidified their upper-mid table place and inspired an exciting, though ultimately disappointing, cup run. Newcastle, too, have benefitted from some savvy January dealings — Papiss Cisse’s goals have put them within touching distance of a Champions League place. Unfortunately, fantasy managers rarely exploit incoming talent. Players who join from another league half-way through the season don’t show up on the top-ten- player leader boards, so many managers forget about them. Don’t make that mistake.