Circumstances surrounding yesterday’s resignation of the successful Aston Villa manager are still a little vague and the ramifications are still unknown. The future of O’Neill could be bright, with some betting agencies giving him 6/1 odds of taking the England manager position and other groups are giving him equal or better odds of taking over at Manchester City or Manchester United. Meanwhile, speculation for the Villa job includes a number of managers, with US coach Bob Bradley and Everton’s David Moyes linked and Alan Curbishley, Slaven Billic, Sven Goran Eriksson, Steve McLaren, Jurgen Klinsmann and Martin Jol are all linked with the position. No doubt any unhappy manager, possibly even including Fabio Capello, will be linked with the place over the next few days. Bob Bradley is probably the favourite to join the American owner and since I can’t see a Man City or Man Utd place opening up in the next month I would suggest that O’Neill will be heading elsewhere.
But what has all this got to do with the fantasy football season? I hear you cry. Well, actually, quite a lot. You see, as any fantasy football manager will know, it’s the bargains that make or break a season. On premierleague.com, Friedel and Gomes made the top three goalkeepers for the season, Dunne and Cuellar made the top four defenders, Milner and Ashley Young made the top six midfielders and Tevez sat in third place on the forwards’ list with Defoe level a point off fifth. Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester City and Aston Villa are essential teams to look at and this change has ramifications for all three.
Now, speculation as to why O’Neill has left comes down to a few end results. Saturday saw the confirmation that Nicky Shorey is going to West Brom and we’re now on the brink of seeing James Milner go to Manchester City. One of the key reasons that Martin O’Neill left the job, it is generally reported, is that he was told he wouldn’t be allowed to reinvest any of the money. The expected revenue from the sale is up to £24 million and could see Stephen Ireland heading in the opposite direction. The final piece in the catastrophic puzzle, as far as Villa fans are concerned, is the well-covered media speculation that Ashley Young could be heading to Tottenham for £18 million. Without his two star midfielders, with no money to reinvest and with massive tension in the management, there was little else that O’Neill could do.
So what are these ramifications for the main three? Well, if Milner and Young leave Villa Park, there will be a shortage of midfielders. This could mean that the remaining midfielders are worth much more than their labelled value – or it could mean that the defenders and attackers are worth much less. Milner totalled 12 assists last year whilst Petrov and Downing, between them, got two. On the other hand, Agbonlahor and Carew are happy to set each other up with 11 assists and 23 goals sitting on their statistics table. Defenders could take free-kicks and corners, wingers could get more assists, Carew and Agbonlahor could have more freedom. And with Stephen Ireland’s possible arrival, he will probably be worth a million more than his current fantasy football price.
Manchester City are likely to get Milner’s transfer wrapped up by the weekend, causing more selection problems. With other new signings David Silva and Yaya Toure already in midfield, there is an excellent new line-up. But with Barry, Wright-Philips, Ireland and Vieira already there (and De Jong, Weiss etc.) it’s going to be hard to anticipate the season. My money is on Barry, who is on top form. Bellamy has played in midfield, too, and might not be transferred despite links to Tottenham whilst an additional midfielder, in the shape of Mario Balotelli, would cause further complications.
And at Tottenham, we could see the arrival of Ashley Young with possibly Richards, Bridge or Bellamy coming from Manchester City after their match on Saturday. Tottenham’s defence isn’t the strongest of the top teams’ and wouldn’t suffer from having some reinforcement. Their midfield, however, sees Lennon and Jenas battling it out for the right-wing, Bale and Modric fighting for the left and Kranjcar, Huddlestone, Bentley, O’Hara and others trying to ensure a place on the first team. An Ashley Young injection would definitely make the first team but would devalue the other midfielders. If Gareth Bale is a defender in your fantasy football competition, buy him. If he’s a midfielder, consider whether he’ll be playing as far forward as previously. And Inter Milan are still open about the possibility of selling Sulley Muntari as an additional midfielder to Tottenham.
And if you think the impact will stop there, think again. Reports suggest that Balotelli must leave before Inter will sign Mascherano, though Barcelona are also looking at the Liverpool midfielder, and the income generated from that sale will probably be put back into signing Peter Crouch or Carlton Cole whilst possibly affecting their moves for Christian Poulsen and Brad Jones. The arrival of Jones could allow Reina to go to Arsenal whilst the arrival of Balotelli could allow Shaun Wright-Phillips to leave Man City for Liverpool or Arsenal. This could, in turn, allow Almunia to leave for a Spanish team, Lucas to go to Palermo, Ngog to go to West Bromwich Albion and more besides.
And then there are rumours of Keane going to Villa, Tottenham chasing Gallas, Bridge or Wright-Phillips to Liverpool, Bellamy to Fulham or Celtic, Landon Donovan to Everton, Forlan mysteriously turning up, Remy signing for a Premiership team, Yakubu going to West Ham, Zhirkov going to Russia, etc. etc. and Mesut Ozil arriving at Man Utd or Chelsea.
Also, apparently Robinho still plays for Manchester City. Really?