Burnley showing the way


There is not much between the three clubs that came up from the Championship, and although just one of them reside in the relegation zone, a poor run of results for any of them could result in trouble and an immediate return to the Championship.

Burnley were the first club to guarantee Premier League football, having secured their place at the top after finishing top of the Championship. Middlesbrough were to follow after a 1-1 draw with Brighton & Hove Albion meant they could finish no lower than second. The last club to join them had to come through the notoriously difficult and high-pressured play-off route and Hull City, despite finishing fourth in the Championship, celebrated as they defeated Sheffield Wednesday in the play-off final.

Burnley splashed out on Jeff Hendrick, Steven Defour and Charlton Athletic duo Nick Pope and Johan Berg Gudmundsson among others on their return to the Premier League. They are faring best of the newcomers and have accumulated ten points after nine matches and if they keep up that win rate they shouldn’t be too far from safety come the end of the season.

Middlesbrough brough in nine new players upon promotion including Adama Traore, Antonio Barragan and the highly rated Vikto Fischer (from Anderlecht). After a start of three matches unbeaten with two wins and a draw, they are beginning to struggle and plummeting down the table. They sit just outside the relegation zone, but on current form must be among the favourites for the drop unless they start getting some wins under their belts.

Hull City splashed out a rumoured £13 million on Tottenham Hotspur player Ryan Mason as well as securing the services of goalkeeper David Marshall with Jams Weir and Will Keane coming in from Manchester United. They have amassed seven points from their nine games so far, but have been on the receiving end of some heavy defeats, namely a 6-1 thrashing from Bournemouth and a 5-1 beating from title hopefuls Liverpool.

So as the season begins to take shape, it’s looking likely that at least one from the three promoted clubs will be relegated this season. Both Hull City and Middlesbrough are looking vulnerable and the games against each other could be crucial to their survival. Sean Dyche has Burnley carving out some decent results, most notably a 2-0 win over Liver pool and if they keep that up they should have no trouble securing Premier League football for next season.

Hull urgently seeking successor to Bruce

arsene wenger

Hull’s City hierarchy are set to begin interviewing potential new managers, as they intensify their efforts to find a suitable successor to Steve Bruce, according to the i

Since Bruce’s resignation, Hull are understood to have drawn up a shortlist of five managerial candidates, with one of those believed to be the former Everton manager Roberto Martinez.

Martinez among a quintet of candidates

Martinez, who also previously managed Swansea City and Wigan, was sacked by Everton at the end of last season. Nevertheless he left the club after enjoying an excellent three-season spell, whereby he led Everton to victory in 61 of his 143 competitive games in charge of the club, to give him a win percentage of 42.7%.

Subsequently Hull’s vice chairman Ehab Allam is thought to view Martinez as an ideal candidate to fulfil the club’s vacant managerial position and hopes to interview the 43-year-old Spaniard in the forthcoming days.

In addition to Martinez, Bruce’s former assistant Terry Phelan, who is currently in caretaker charge of Hull on their pre-season tour of Austria, is set to be afforded the opportunity to present his case for being appointed the club’s permanent manager.

Two other managers currently in work who have been linked with succeeding Bruce are Birmingham City’s Gary Rowett and Le Havre coach Bob Bradley, who has not only managed the U.S.A national team but also that of Egypt, as the 58-year-old American is by far the most experienced manager to be connected to the Hull post.

Another contender to become the Tigers new manager is Ryan Giggs, with Manchester United’s record appearance holder having left Old Trafford earlier this summer in search of his first managerial role.

Cutting it fine to appoint manager before start of new season

Despite it being unclear as to whether Giggs will apply for the Hull job, the interview process to find a replacement for the 42-year-old Welshman’s former United team mate Bruce, is set to commence this weekend, with the Tigers hopeful of making an appointment within a week’s time.

Should they do so, that would give the club’s new manager less than a fortnight to prepare for Hull’s first game of the 2016-17 Premier League season, which is a home fixture against champions Leicester.
So far this summer Hull have not yet signed a senior player with the Tigers only acquisition being the 18-year-old goalkeeper Will Mannion from MK Dons, whilst the club released both Sone Aluko and Ryan Taylor.

A lack of activity in the transfer market, combined with several members of their first team sustaining serious injuries, has left Hull with just 13 fit senior players, which means the Tigers new manager will have to work resourcefully to ensure the club’s return to the top flight starts well.

Hull City defeat the end for Paul Lambert at Aston Villa

Aston Villa dropped into the relegation zone for the first time this season after losing 2-0 away to fellow strugglers Hull City. It was Villa’s four consecutive league defeat, and the eighth game of their last 10 that they have failed to score in. The Midlands club have gradually been dropping down the table week after week since December, and recent form has seen the majority of supporters turn indefinitely on the manager.

Fans were seen lofting banners with “Lambert Out” during the game, and they could well receive their wish in the coming months. Lambert’s post-match interview had the air of a defeated man who had little left to give. The task to keep the club in the Premier League has never been harder, as they are enduring the worst form since the Scot arrived at Villa Park.

“The dressing room is as flat as you’ll probably get it, the way they’re feeling. You’ve got to go into the next game and win it. You can’t feel sorry for yourself. We’ve got to keep battling away and keep our heads up. We’re certainly in a fight. You have to keep going and keep being positive. There’s a lot of football to be played,” said Lambert following the Hull City defeat.

There was an element of luck with how Hull City scored both goals to earn three points over the Villans, but the table doesn’t lie, and this season Aston Villa have been one of the weaker sides in the division. There’s enough time to get themselves out of the drop zone, but Lambert’s future was another story.

He found himself in a similar predicament as Alan Pardew did during his time at Newcastle, where supporters wanted the manager gone from the club regardless of the outcome to the campaign. The Aston Villa boss signed a four-year-deal earlier in the season to many fans’ surprise, but his current position was untenable after another disappointing result to a relegation-threatened opponent.

Defeats to the likes of Arsenal, Manchester City and Chelsea can be excused if the club are still picking up points against the teams around them in the table, but Aston Villa have lost to Hull City, Leicester City and West Brom in the last two months. A five-game losing streak isn’t even the worst of the season, but a lack of goals, and little indication of improvement have been enough to signal the end for Lambert.

As Arsenal and Hull prepare for the FA Cup final, here are their star performers of the season

The 133rd FA Cup Final takes place this weekend, with two clubs desperate to get some long-awaited (by their own respective standards) silverware added to their trophy cabinets, and as a result many Fantasy Football managers will be keen to get as many of those players into their own lineups as possible – especially those who have enjoyed a nice, point-laden season for the fantasy bosses out there.

For the favourites, Arsenal are likely to name Wojciech Szczesny as the stopper, and the 24-year-old has indeed established himself as Arsene Wenger’s no.1 this season, with his 370 fantasy football points placing him only marginally behind the club’s top pointsman, Olivier Giroud. He also has the fourth best points to value rating of the entire squad, behind only Aaron Ramsey, Laurent Koscielny and Tomas Rosicky – at €8.50m, the Poland international surely represents great value.

Frenchman Giroud goes into the game only 10 points ahead of his side’s custodian, earning himself 10 points in the final league game of the season against relegated Norwich. His 16 goals from 36 starts surely make him one of the first names on Wenger’s Wembley teamsheet, especially with eight assists, tying him in second place alongside Ramsey and Santiago Cazorla, and behind only club record signing Mesut Özil.

Gunners defender Thomas Vermaelen spoke earlier this week about seeing the Hull game as a potential catalyst for the north Londoners to return to trophy-winning ways, but the Belgian has not had a great season by any standards – while his 45 points earned this season represent a marked improvement over last term, where he scored -15, fantasy football managers would surely be mad to move him into their squad at this stage. This omission from the first team owes largely to the fantastic partnership Koscielny has formed with Per Mertesacker in the Arsenal defence this season – Mertesacker’s 245 points thus far will have helped managers who picked him early on massively, and of course also helped the club qualify for Champions League football next season.

Moving the attention over to Hull now, the fantasy points totals are understandably much lower overall – after all, Hull scored the third fewest goals in the Premier League this term. On-load star Jake Livermore has been the Tigers’ best performer this season in fantasy football competition, and while his 170 points may pale in comparison to many of the competition’s top players his value of €2.50m give him a P/V ratio of 68 – better than any player in the entire Arsenal squad. His influence will be ignited by the fact the opponents are Arsenal – bitter rivals of his parent club, Tottenham.

Shane Long has had a great time since joining Hull in January, the Republic of Ireland international becoming a regular and popular figure in the striped shirt. He is second only to Livermore in Hull’s top points scorers as far as fantasy football is concerned, though he has failed to add to his 150 points in two games this month.

Allan McGregor’s debut season for the club looks set to climax in a Wembley start, though his 105 fantasy football points total leaves him sitting 70th among the goalkeepers in this season’s list.

Arsenal, on paper at least, look set to claim a win and send an echoing sigh of relief among their supporters, but one need only look as far back as last season when Wigan beat Man City in this fixture to know that surprises are still more than capable of being sprung. Overall, however, Arsenal have enjoyed the better season – the likes of Mertesacker and Giroud especially should be considerations for any fantasy team moving into the 2014-15 campaign.