Kicking off the new year with...

more of the same...

As we approach the end of 2004, its time to hand out some wishes for the New Year...

1) To Everton...continued good health and hard work and a spot in Europe - maybe even a striker who can put the ball in the net (Mr. Beattie, perhaps?)...

2) To Boro...a long run in the UEFA Cup, another run in Europe next year, and enough stature and money to keep Stewart Downing away from the "big teams".

3) To Liverpool...a healthy striker - not sure they have the stuff to break the top 4 but I hate to see them lose out because of injury.

4) To in form Yakubu - he's just fun to watch when he's on his game.

5) To Joe Cole and Scott Parker...some playing time somewhere - they've got to be atrophying despite Cole's goal this past weekend.

6) To Theiry Henry...some help, you get the feeling that he's doing almost all the work.

7) To ManYoo...a spot in the UEFA Cup - you just get the feeling that there's another slump coming in the second half. They just don't frighten you like they used to.

8) To my hero, Dennis more run of form towards the end of the season leading to a graceful retirement.

A quick set or recommendations before heading off to some new years cheer...

Not much out there this week with some tough match-ups for the big teams - I'm going with Henry and Andy Johnson at the top of a 3-5-2.

Downing gets ManYoo and Chelsea which doesn't seem like a recipe for points so I'm going to tempt the karma gods and drop him again. I'm also breaking up the Chelsea triumverate - partly because its bad business to have too many eggs in one basket. This leaves me with Giggs, Scholes, Pires, Lampard & Robben.

Stayin' with what I got - Gallas, Terry and Heinze.

I'm going out on a limb with Alumania since Cech has some tough games this week as does Carroll.

All about the Benjamin

EPL getting stale? Tired of everyone having the same 15 or 20 players every week with no regard to "salary cap"? Well here's your chance to change that.

I'm issuing the $100 challenge. Starting next week (week 21 of the EPL season) I want your best 11 for under $100 in the following new group:

Group ID# 41463
Group Name All About the Benjamin
Group Password sawbuck10

Go ahead and set up a new Yahoo ID and create your team... just make sure that it doesn't accrue any points this week! Any team coming into week 21 with points will be dumped.

Going forward, no wheeling and dealing in players with midweek or Monday games will be allowed. This is on the honor system gentlemen, but it's not like you're going to score big bucks on the "transfer" market as Yahoo is only moving values a buck or two at a time.

So get off your "Chelski" horse with it's $550 cap and let's see what sort of fantasy manager you really are.


Waiting for holidays to start in earnest, its time to contemplate...

The beauty of the quarter final Champions League matches - are Arsenal and Liverpool now the most likely of the English sides to move through to the round of 8? Chelsea is in form and talented but Barca will be tough and given their current form, ManYoo certainly can't be considered favorites to beat Milan although it wouldn't be a shock.

More importantly, though, as we look forward to the Christmas season, how can you get yourself the gift that keeps on giving (by allowing you to talk trash to your friends below you in the standings? and you know who you are...) - the answer, of course, is read on...

Henry, Arsenal - since Arsene had a chat with the man and told him to play up top more, he's been back in form. Can't think of a single reason not to include him.

Smith, ManYoo - Rooney is the high risk/high reward pick here but he's been more risk than reward when I've played him so I'm going with the guy who seems to be in the points every time he gets a game.

Johnson, Palace - Yup, I'm throwing the match-up out the window on this one - he's playing well and ManYoo haven't proven to me that they're THAT good yet.

Lampard, Chelsea - As Phil Knight chuckles to himself constantly in his retirement, "Just Do It"

Robben, Chelsea - No reason to change now.

Gerrard, Liverpool - He's really all that Pool have going for them right now. The only question you have to ask is whether they'll score enough for him to have a great week. He should do enough on his own even if they're shut out to have a good week.

Downing, Boro - I get infatuated with Alonso and his two games for a week and my boy punishes me by having significantly more points in one game than Alonso had in his two. Lesson learned - stop overthinking it and keep this guy in unless he's hurt.

Terry, Chelsea - Who would have guessed he'd become a scoring machine? Can't risk NOT having him in the line-up since he's apparently a threat in the air every week as well as very likely to get a clean sheet to his credit.

Gallas, Chelsea - Chelsea's defense has been putting up some good offensive numbers and it feels like it might be his turn this weekend.

LeSaux, Southampton - He's playing left midfield, albeit for a crappy team, but he gets a lot of offensive points consistently. Being away at Tottenham isn't great, but it isn't tragic either in terms of a possible clean sheet.

Cech, Chelsea - After a week where he gave up two - neither of which he could have done a thing about - its back to a save or two and a clean sheet at the Bridge (vs. Naawich).

Pulling Defeat (ok, draws) from the Jaws of Victory

So, I have mixed feelings about the extended premiership weekend - to quote the 80s philosopher Gordon Gecko, "its like seeing Larry Wilde going over a cliff... in my new Maseratti". Here's what I mean...

1) ManYoo gives up a goal at the death and manages only a draw from a game they dominated - they got no closer to the top of the league and this officially ended their run of good results...but I lost 21 fantasy points with that single (fantastic) shot (3 clean sheets, a Win going to a tie, and a goal allowed).

2) Liverpool (stop me if you've heard this before) gives up a goal at the death and manages only a draw from a game the dominated - they continue to wallow in 7th place...but I lost 5 points with that single (mediocre) goal.

As a fan, I loved watching both events transpire, as a fantasy owner, not so much. Which one is more important? How do you walk the tightrope of supporting your fantasy team when it contains people from teams you dislike? If I knew the answers, this blog would certainly have a wider circulation.

What I can say is that I'm very much looking forward to the simplicity of a week where ManYoo, Arsenal and Chelsea all play teams that they should beat so I can go back to rooting for a loss, a blow-out win, and a high-scoring draw respectively.

How Time Flies...

When you're spending 18 hours a day on proposal writing. Not exactly a ton of time to track the comings and going in the wonderful world of the EPL (aside from "watching" the textcast from the Arsenal trouncing of Rosenborg at midweek). Anyway, take this weeks ramblings with a grain of salt as a result. The big news of course is that Liverpool and Pompey play an extra game. In the case of Pompey, I don't think anyone really cares but Liverpool offer some good choices. Arsenal host Chelsea in a meeting of not only the two top clubs but most of the best fanasy players so far this season - with apologies to Stuart Downing and Thomas Gravessen. Your opinion of the way this match will go will have a HUGE impact on the squad you put together this week. If you think offense will rule, then you should probably leave that squad mostly unchanged (Henry, Pires, Lampard, Robben, Duff and maybe even Drogba who looked excellent in his return). If, as I do, you suspect something more on the order of 2-1. Then its time to decide where to cut back and examine other options...


Henry or Ruud/Rooney - Depends on your answer to the question above about the nature of the Arsenal/Chelsea game. I'm sticking with Henry.

Milan Baros, Liverpool - I'm guessing that he won't be spectacular in either game as he comes back to fitness but even one OK game (couple SOTs) and one game where he scores will be better than most one-game striker outputs unless you have a strong feeling about someone going off this weekend.


Lampard - and on this rock, I build my midfield

Robben - every big game I've seen him play he's risen to the occasion. If you don't share this opinion, substitute Giggs here.

Scholes - see last week's note about riding Scholes until ManYoo start playing decent teams - hello, Fulham - Scholes stays.

Gerrard - was a good choice last week with only one game, with two, its a no-brainer

Alonso, Liverpool - two games worth of corners and free kicks and he's quietly been a very consistent fantasy performer.


Finnan - Not playing on the wing as often as he was earlier in the season but the two-gamer makes him a worthwhile selection.

Silvestre/G. Neville - I like the ManYoo/Fulham match-up and, as much as I hate to admit it, am rolling with the ManYoo revival.

Heinze - Churning out points like clockwork.


Carroll - The high risk, high reward choice is Peter Cech on the theory that Arsenal will take a lot of shots and he'll get a lot of saves and the win. I prefer the more likely chance that Carroll will get 2 saves (+/- 1), the win, and a clean sheet.

Brief notes...

Due to the need to write a big-ass proposal on top of normal work activities, this week's column will be a little bit on the brief side.

General Thoughts:

1) How did Arsenal go from being THAT good to being THIS bad? Frightening for Fantasy Owners everywhere.

2) The king is dead (or dying), long live the king - the Chelsea line-up seems to have stabilized a bit, seems like the new default answer is to include a bunch of their guys.

3) ManYoo seems to be waking up on offense - seems like a good idea to ride Scholes until they start playing good teams again (which isn't this week).


Henry - at $1, its hard to argue.

Ruud - Imagine having Ruud and Henry at a combined cost of $3.77 - strange times.

Andy Johnson, Palace - he seems to be healthy which is a rarity among top strikers these days - still kicking myself for him over JFH last week.


Lampard - no need to comment further.

Robben/Duff - they're both productive and playing regularly, having three Chelsea midfielders/wingers is probably too much so probably worth picking one and living with the fluctuations.

Scholes - try not to hurt yourself jumping on to the bandwagon

Downing - not ready to jump off this bandwagon yet.


Heinze - see Lampard

Pick a Chelsea Defender - only one seems to get involved in the scoring in any given game - Terry had his chance and is unlikely to get more than his customary 6 points this weekend. Time for Carvallho to put in one of those headers he's been skying? he certainly gets to enough of them. Gallas is always a threat out wide as well.

Hibbert - at home to a flagging Bolton squad, he's been good on offense and the defense has been airtight at Goodison.

Cech or Carroll - sort of a crapshoot, ManYoo has the better match-up but Chelsea's defense is just a bit better. I'm bound to get this one wrong when I choose but both should get points for the win and one or two saves - the question is who is more likely to lose the clean sheet?

Regarding Henry

Points for the week: -4.60

Current price; 1.00

Seeing Arsenal lose on that goal by (Thorton) Mellon or whatever his 5 minutes of fame name is . . .

Priceless (or at least very, very cheap to buy)

I guess the world player of the year final 3 announcements are unrelated to fantasy EPL?

What in the name of fantasy sports is going on, too many freedom fries, were there a lot of Germans on the Liverpool team? Who is doing the player valuations? Is he/she currently in a federal white collar prison for manipulating internet stock valuations for selfish gains?

Henry averages the most points of any player and yet is as cheap as possible - One fecking (irish quasi-expletive) dollar. He averages 14.80 per match, while Rocking Robben averages 14.50, yet costs 43.01 (and was in the 50's last week). I believe Henry was at 12 or so last week so he dropped over 11 - I guess those yellow cards are like kryptonite to french strikers.

Perhaps if he pronounced his name properly, as in "hen-re" (in americanese) instead of "on-re" he would recover from this downward spiral (and please pardon the hooked on phonics). And don't even get me started on Terry with the addition of an 'H" and and "I" and an extra "R"- Thierry.

There is no way on earth anyone with names like that can Cowboy Up when required (GO SOX!!!)

Sure glad I dropped him for last weekend (insert gloating emoticon here)

TheTop Three (and ManYoo) are at home...

and none of them are playing a particularly worrysome opponent. Lots of positive match-ups to choose from as a result. Also a lot of injuries to take into account. Baros is out, and that leaves Liverpool's goal-scoring ability in doubt. Saha is out and Ruud picked up a knock midweek for Holland which leaves ManYoo's strikeforce up in the air a bit. And Henry made opponents tremble with the declaration that he's been playing at about 70% for the last few months. Anyone else wish their 100% was in the same ballpark as his 70%? Me too. And with that brief intro, here are the recommendations of the week:

Henry, Arsenal - even at 70%, you might want him in your line-up.

Rooney, ManYoo - think he wants to atone for his mid-week meltdown? Think Charlton coming to OT have any power to stop it?

Have to agree with my colleague Jeremy, there aren't too many extremely appealing options at striker this week. Might be a good week for a 3-5-2 line-up as there are lots of midfielders who will be playing striker this week. If you just HAVE to have another striker the next best options are probably Eidur, Ronaldo and Reyes since Andy Johnson is still in doubt.


Lampard, Chelsea - Apparently looked like crap for England but he an EPL fantasy points machine.

Robben, Chelsea - Fast approaching teammate Lampard as a fantasy pillar. Fun to watch too.

Pires, Arsenal - Seems to have rediscovered his form even if he isn't guaranteed a start these days. Even in 30 minutes, he's been effective this season for fantasy managers

Gravessen, Everton - On a day when all of Everton's midfielders and forwards probably combined for 35 fantasy points total, the bald one had more than 25 of those. Reasonably good match-up as well being home to Fulham.

Kewell, Liverpool - Maybe I've been too reluctant to let go of past performance, but in a week where Liverpool's strikeforce is gutted, you get the feeling that Harry might be ready to break out and re-establish himself. If you're not as inclined to a little risk, Garcia might be a better choice.

Heinze, ManYoo - see all previous postings since he joined the line-up.

Hibbert, Everton - not very noticable on the field, but an excellent track record thus far and a good match-up as well.

Jaidi, Bolton - not his best week last week, but has been strong all season.

The big decision is between Cech and his superior defense against a reasonably productive Bolton team or Lehmann and a questionable defense against a WBA offense that has been firing blanks and may be without their best striker, Kanu. If you're budget conscious, the decision is an easy one as Lehmann is much cheaper.

US MNT Review

I'll begin the review with the admission that I was exhausted and possibly a little grumpy when I watched the game on TiVo (the greatest invention of the last 10 years)...

The ball just seems to find Eddie Johnson in good places. Once is a fluke, twice is a pattern, three times is a trend. Apparently on his way to train with ManYoo for a couple weeks. Nothing but great things to say about his performance other than that he could have had two or three goals.

(Side Note: Doubtful that he'd see any time with them but not much of a stretch for ManYoo to buy him and loan him out or for another team to swoop in. Could be an interesting January for Mr. Johnson.)

What happened to Landon Donovan? I forgot he was in the line-up between the 10th minute and around the 75th minute. I was shocked that he was still in the line-up. Hopefully, no one at Leverkusen stayed up late enough to watch.

Cory Gibbs was great all night, a stand-out performance.

I loved him with DC United back in the day but why are we wasting time on a past-his-prime Tony Sanneh? I don't see the upside for starting him over Jonny Spector. Tony might be a better player right now but we should be getting Jonny ready for '06 and beyond in games that don't matter for us.

Recently read the England Worst XI Under Sven column - if anyone ever pays enough attention to the US MNT to write such a column, you have to bet on Ramiro Corrales to make that list. Bobby Convey could use a run, why not bring him back for this game?

Look for the weekly EPL Fantasy comments early tomorrow.

Mid-season Thoughts

Larry King Style...
For my money, Arjen Robben is the best purchase by any team over the last two years...Who would have guessed that ManYoo's veterans would get so old, so fast?...Think Sir Alex is kicking himself for not packaging Giggs and Scholes last season and buying Ronaldinho with the $$...Any applicants to play striker for Pompey this weekend?...As a fantasy owner, I can't justify putting a striker who doesn't score goals in my line-up (see Ronaldo, Christiano)...If teams in our fantasy league were actual EPL teams - Toby would be Chelsea (looking strong)...Kris would be Everton (shock to all that he's still here)...Jeremy would be Arsenal (always good and lurking near the top)...Neal would be Boro (relatively new to the top but likely to be in it)...Stoltz would be Villa (currently outperforming previous track record)...Mike would be Liverpool (perenial quality not achieving usual standards)...Dan would be Newcastle (see Liverpool, but worse)...and Jon would be ManYoo (traditional power fallen on hard times)...

Just a few thoughts from mid-week while still basking in the glow of a 4th MLS Cup for United. Can't wait to see the US MNT line-up for the game tonight.

(Red) Devil's Advocate - Inagural Weekend Review

Ok. My two cents, er, pents on this weekends events:

9 goals in the arsenal match and no goals or assists for Reyes - many grumpy owners

Yakubu - nice medial ligament - more grumpy owners

Baros - now really - give me a freakin break - this little rodent has no business with a hat trick

Man U penalty - not sure about the rules of soccer since I don't actually watch the sport, but seems like it was a penalty, though shearer seemed to disagree

What is the deal with Koumas?

Deja Vouz - what is the deal with Robert? Is it an anti-french thing? Fantasy stud can't get off the bench?

Still many, many bad hair styles in the EPL - mullets, mini pony tails, corn rows and many bad long hair head band options - and don't even get me started on the gelled-up mowhawk swoop hair style so popular among english players - john terry and alan smith among others- very silly

will malcom glazer please buy man u so i can laugh at the utter distress it will cause - (insert conan the barbarian quotation here "see my enemies crushed beaneath my feet, hear the lamentation of their women, etc . . . .)

jose mourininniho is a very very silly and arrogant little european guy - though his team is ok

rooney is like an exceptionally large fetus (except with great soccer skills)

do players on teams start to look alike like married couples, is everyone on everton bald or balding like gravesen? they should be sponsored by hair club for men

that's all for now, hopefully neal will have more valuable knowledge to pass along . . .

In a week where Arsenal's youth proved better than the main squad...

Really. Should Arsene piss off the legions of fantasy players and just bench everyone for a week or two and let them get their legs back? Van Persie, Flamini, Pennant, et al. seem to be capable of beating full EPL squads. Why not rest the big boys for two weeks and run these kids out vs. a Southampton or some other struggler at Highbury? Based on recent results, it couldn't hurt.

On to the picks of the week in yet another week that doesn't feature a no-brainer match-up that will help managers stack their line-ups...


Henry, Arsenal - Granted he hasn't been at his blistering best over the last couple weeks but are you going to be the guy who bets against the Gunners coming out of their funk this weekend?

Yakubu, Portsmouth - Derby matches are always tough to call and even more so when there is managerial unrest, but the Pompey hitman has been warming up again and he generally scores in bunches.

Tough call on the last striker if you're running a 3-4-3 formation. ManYoo still can't score AND they're on the road. Palace and their sensation Andy Johnson are on the road vs. a Liverpool team that has been playing good defense. They guys who score for Chelsea are all designated as midfielders. Streaking Fulham face Chelsea's defense. Do you recall Reyes? Is it time to go 3-5-2? Is this the week JFH breaks out? Tough call. I'm leaning towards Reyes vs. a disorganized Tottenham squad.

Lampard, Chelsea - Getting tired of finding nice things to write about him. Just put him in your line-up and don't think about that spot for the rest of the season unless he gets hurt.

Robben, Chelsea - Showing that he may be the class of the offseason signings. Makes things happen for both himself and teammates. If he's starting, he boosts the value of Chelsea's strikers.

Downing, Boro - I'm still on the bandwagon even after a couple down weeks, that Boro are playing WBA doesn't hurt either.

SWP, Man Citeh - Playing home to Blackburn who may be better but still aren't good. Generally the most dangerous player on the field.


Jaidi, Bolton - He's been great on offense and Bolton have a reasonable shot at a clean sheet since apparently, Villa's strikers don't travel with the team.

Heinze, ManYoo - See Lampard above.

Anyone from Chelsea - take the 5+ points that almost seems to be guaranteed and hope that the one you choose gets involved in the offense a little bit.

Cech, Chelsea - Not sure when I'm going to learn that Cech should be in the same category with Henry, Lamps, and Heinze. Not much reason to change him out.

As a follow up to Neal's post, the final tally for MLS Fantasy sees me retain the Transformer trophy for another year. I finished the season with 11995 points. Second place went to Procrastination FC with 11295 points and hot on his heels was The Albatross, just 55 points off second with 11240 points.

It's a small consolation, but I'll take what I can get these days.


PS. Yes, that is Landon Donovan's signature on the soccer ball. I'm waiting for him to head back to Europe and start scoring Champions League goals. Then I can put that thing on eBay and send my daughter to college. ;-)

It May Be The Minor Leagues...

But it was sweet...

In a week where New England has lost its mojo...

Here's the inside scoop.

The Red Sox win seems to have sucked all the good fortune from the Northeast part of the country. The Patriots fall for the first time since mid-last season. Hockey is a no-go for the season. John Kerry lost to a guy that the country really didn't want to elect. The Celtics gave up a big lead to lose their home opener. And Mike Langlais of Vermont had his first weekly victory in the Bad Ideas Teams table wrapped up until Nicky Anelka and SWP snatched it from him on Monday. We can only hope that this continued lack of good karma carries DC United to the MSL Cup as they face the Revs on Saturday night. What does this have to do with EPL Fantasy advice? Nothing that I can think of. Lets get to it. Gentlemen, this is the week I'm jumping on the Norwich fantasy bandwagon. And if ever there was a week to do it, its the week they play Blackburn. Always a good time. Arsenal appears to be in some sort of a midseason slump so even a match-up away to newly promoted Crystal Palace isn't as enticing as it might have appeared earlier in the sesaon. Chelsea's new goal scoring prowess will be tested by a visit from Everton in one of the most difficult games of the week to call. Liverpool hosts futile B'ham in what promises to be a home win but probably a low scoring one. All that said, there aren't a ton of inspiring match-ups so this would appear to be the week to revert to a) class; and b) the rules Big Daddy Spitzberg so kindly made available recently...


Henry, Arsenal - Yeah, they're slumping but even on a day where they didn't play well and he missed a penalty (huge negative points). He hit for more than 8 fantasy points.

Huckerby, Norwich - Quietly having an excellent fantasy year and they're hosting Blackburn - good times.

JFH, Boro - Two goalless games in a row for Jimmy. Time for the scowl to turn into, um, the "I-just-scored" scowl. Bolton are playing well, but they give up goals and Boro tend to score them at home.


Duffman, Chelsea - Finally in form and playing well enough that the careful fantasy manager can be pretty sure that he'll be in the starting XI.

Lampard, Chelsea - Nothing specific to say here, ya gotta have him.

Downing, Boro - A bit of a clanker last weekend. Don't expect two in a row.

Garcia, Liverpool - Not spectacular vs. Deportivo in midweek, but still the best bet for some points on this squad.

Robben, Chelsea - Three Chelsea midfielders vs. an in-form Everton squad? Robben is really playing at striker, and playing well. The big question is "will he get the start?".


Heinze, ManYoo - Gets easier and easier to recommend this guy each time I see him play. Air tight defense, moves into the attack well, and just combative enough to throw strikers and wingers off their game. Manages not to get carded.

Jaidi, Bolton - Check the injury reports before starting him. Went out towards the end of last week with a broken nose.

Terry, Chelsea - Keeps racking up the points as Chelsea keep the sheets clean.

Kirkland, Liverpool - Birmingham isn't scoring much. Liverpool is defending surprisingly well. Better bet for a win/clean sheet than Cech vs. Everton.

Sticks & Stones . . .

Tough weekend for the medical staff. Reyes has some uncertain wrist damage (out of the match), Jaidi broke his nose in the cause of getting me an assist (out of the match), and last and clearly not least, Cisse - tib-fib Joe Theiseman leg break (out of match, season, and maybe career) - ouch. Of course I had all three unfortunate players. Though having 6 screws and a titanium plate in my leg definitely makes me understand how my fantasy woes are not as important as such things (well, maybe).

As a side note - what on earth happened to arsenal and man u - was arsenal worrying about chelsea? was man u just, ok, i really can't think of an explanation for that one.

Big Clubs???

Not ManYoo...

Not Arsenal...

Not Today.

Despite More Important Things Happening...

The Blog must go on...
Most importantly, congratulations to Jeremy and Laura on the birth of Melanie - may she have a long and happy life in the sunshine of San Diego and may she always be listed as a defender but play striker and take all the kicks.

My review of the last week (and the last thing I'll say about it) - 1) we should have finished our chances better and made the contraversy irrelevant; 2) the penalty was complete BS and I find it hard to believe that Rooney wasn't suspended along with Ruud; 3) the ManU defense is fantastic now that GNeville, Rio and Heinze have played together a bit - probably doesn't matter who the 4th defender is; and 4) Ruud doesn't take nearly enough shit for being a cheapshot artist.

On to the coming week...

Some really nice match-ups for everyone to sink their teeth into. As our new papa pointed out midweek - no one wants to be Southampton traveling to Highbury this weekend - may God have mercy on their souls. Liverpool gets the free pass vs. Blackburn which should mean at least a couple goals and Chelsea get a WBA team that is in disarray after the sacking of their manager. There really isn't much reason to go beyond these three match-ups for the majority of your team this week. Here are some line-up thoughts:


Henry and one of Reyes or Bergkamp, Arsenal - maybe you want to go with all three. I'm going to guess that the scoreline will read at least 3 on Arsenal's side so there should be points aplenty for all.

Cisse or Baros, Liverpool - Baros looked the better of the two last weekend, but Cisse might be a little safer bet as Baros seems less likely to get assists or crosses, etc. Either way, the match-up with Blackbrun is too good to pass up. And yes, our hearts go out to Brad Friedel who doesn't deserve the battering he's taking in the Rovers net.


Downing, Boro - Until further notice, the young Mr. Downing has a spot on my squad. He's scoring key goals, crossing the ball like a champ, and getting some assists. When Boro score a lot, he has a lot of fantasy points, when they don't score a lot, he has a lot of fantasy points. Singlehandedly saved my weekend from being a disaster last week (from the Fanasy EPL perspective anyway).

Lampard, Chelsea - The midfield anchor for every fantasy owner who has top-of-the-table aspirations. I should probably stop writing anything after his name and just assume that everyone knows to include him.

Garcia, Liverpool - Excellent match-up and how about that goal he scored last weekend - a thing of beauty.


Heinze, ManYoo - OK, I learned my lesson, I gave Gabriel stud/do not remove from the squad status and then removed him and missed out on over 10 points. I really need to listen to myself more often.

Jaidi, Bolton - after 3 goals so far this season, he's locked into the squad until further notice.

Ashley Cole, Arsenal - not the greatest year for Ashley offensively this year but with all the goals that are going to come on Saturday - there's a good chance that he'll enjoy a clean sheet and some part of the offensive production.


Cech, Chelsea - He might not have any saves this weekend but pencil him in for a clean sheet and a win.

Kirkland, Liverpool - see Cech above - good match-up with Blackburn unlikely to pose much of a threat on the Liverpool net.

LEHMANN ALERT - seems that the Arsenal netminder is struggling with a tweaked hammy - perhaps from laughing too hard at Sir Alex with pizza on his shirt - regardless, he may not start. If you're confident he will, he's probably a good bet if you don't want to go with Cech or Kirkland.

The Rules

As I am facing a few weeks out of the blogging game due to an impending addition to the family, and as I am completely distracted at work for the same reason, I thought I would take Neal's suggestion and blog my Fantasy EPL rules. Any value to these rules/tidbits/strategies come with the caveat of my current 3rd place in my private group following a a 4th place finish (I think) last year.

1. Punch above your weight
You generally want to pick anyone playing in a more advanced role than they are designated by the fantasy game - defenders playing in midfield and midfielders lining up as forwards. Perfect example of that is Steve Watson. Listed as a defender for Everton, but except for acute injury crisis, he has played on the right side of their midfield. The further up the pitch, the better chance of getting you points.

2. Wing it
Another player to look for is the wing back or attacking full back. While not lining up in midfield per se, they end up spending a lot of time there. You can find these guys best on teams playing a 3-5-2, like Steve Carr and Christian Ziege for Tottenham in years past. Or Wayne Bridge and Ashley Cole who start in a flat back 4 but often push up in support of the attack.

3. Live for the dead ball
Always try to pick the player who takes dead balls for his team - free kicks and corners. These lead directly to scoring chances - goals, assists and successful crosses. Plus they are free points! Your guy doesn't have to do anything to earn these chances. Let the rest of the team work for your fantasy betterment! Look at Laurent Robert over the last few years. He's been a fantasy stud averaging 15points a game because he took all of Newcastle's free kicks and corners. Thierry Henry is the perfect fantasy player because he takes kicks on top of his incredible goal scoring. Even a middling player on a poor team can be elevated to must have because they earn enough points taking kicks - Danny Murphy, Jason Koumas or Youri Djorkaeff (who also falls under Rule #1) come to mind.

4. Never pass up a sure thing
Always try to get the sure starter. Don't pick up Louis Saha because he could get a hat-trick in 20 minutes of play. Because if you play the odds and get someone on the pitch for 90 minutes you'll be better off. This gets hard because a lot of your best players are on the best/biggest squads. So Chelsea, ManU and NUFC forwards are a nightmare to pick. So save yourself the aggravation.

Well, kids... that's it for me for a while. See you on the other side of of fatherhood. Good luck, and god bless America.


Separated at birth

One is an intergalactic threat whose minions are violently trying to take back what they claim is theirs. The other is a Star Wars character.

Monday Morning Manager

Took the easy way out this weekend and got burned. No other way to put it. Didn't have a bad week, but got hosed by 1rst half injuries to Anelka and Mendieta and a no show from Kewell.

All credit to those managers who went with their gut and sold Henry for Johnson, or kept faith with Downing under threat of a benching. And those brave souls who said, "Hey, I bet Gudjohnsen could have a good week." Sometimes in this game you have to follow your gut. Go against the grain and get the points that no one else gets. That's the only way to separate yourself from the pack and all those other sports cliches.

So this week it's time to lick my wounds and reconsider my strategy. There seem to be a lot of good choice middies around. Robert, Robben, Duff, L. Garcia, Pires, Ljungberg, Solano, Downing, etc. How about the 3-5-2? Thoughts? I'd love to read your comments.

"You wouldn't like me when i'm angry ..."

Early tip for next week: Arsenal home to Southampton. Expect Southampton to keep everyone behind the ball at all times. Expect it not to matter.

Friday Morning Team News

Line 'em Up

Over-hyped? Chelsea continued to show they can score goals in Europe vs. the other teams that Mr. Abromovich owns - and lets not fool ourselves, he has a HUGE stake in CSKA Moscow and might as well own Porto after all the $$ he threw them over the summer - but Arsenal and ManYoo looked questionable against a bunch of guys no one has ever heard of. ManYoo can't score anywhere and Arsenal can't seem to stop doing silly things on the European stage. What does this mean for fantasy managers? Probably nothing. The smart money is on the trends continuing. Arsenal will put up points (but maybe not so many as usual since the ManYoo defense is solid). ManYoo players are not worth the risk of another shutout against them (it says here Arsenal win 1-0 with Henry getting the goal from a Pires assist). In the meeting of the "resistable force" (aka Chelsea's offense) and the "movable object" (aka the Blackburn defense) expect one goal from Chelsea but where it will come from, no one knows. In other potentially lopsided match-ups - Liverpool host Charlton, Boro host always-dodgy-on-the-road Pompey, and Newcastle host ManCiteh. All that said, here are some line-up suggestions should you be unsure of yourself going into the weekend:

Henry, Arsenal - If there was a week you wanted to risk not having him in the line-up to pick up some ground, this is probably the time to try, but I wouldn't do it. Would you?

JFH, Boro - In the goals vs. Blackburn last weekend and only played 20 minutes midweek in UEFA action. Match-up vs. Pompey should be a good one.

Craig Bellamy, Newcastle - Depends on how much you think Souey wants to prove his point. Bellamy has been excellent when he's played and Citeh who, despite Chelsea making their defense look competent, aren't up to the task on the road.

Lampard, Chelsea - With Karl Malone gone from the NBA, Lamps is next in line for the "Mailman" nickname - somehow, he always delivers despite the fact that Chelsea can't seem to score.

Downing, Boro - Sven threw out his name as an England contender this week (and how often does that happen to a Boro players?). Nice weekend last week in the JFH goal-fest. Put in one of his own today in UEFA Cup action. On the rise. If he played at ManYoo he'd be the next hot thing. Coming soon to a tabloid near you "Sir Alex eyes up Downing for a January swoop"

Osman, Everton - Who would have guessed at the beginning of the year that there would be multiple Everton midfielders worth selecting for a fantasy squad where money is no object. Gravessen hasn't done much in the last few weeks but has still had a strong year so far and Osman appears to be in form.

Jaidi, Bolton - he's been solid offensively and Bolton comes up with the occasional clean sheet to boot.

Terry, Chelsea - coming off a goal in Champions League and a sure bet to start in what promises to be another clean sheet for the Blues. Really, any Chelsea defender that is likely to start is a good bet for some solid points here.

Hibbert, Everton - The Everton defense has been tight, even on the road, and he's been contributing the occasional point or two on offense as well. Very solid.

Note: In the battle of Old Trafford, Part Deux, I'm sitting Heinze because I can't see ManYoo getting a clean sheet or scoring a goal themselves. Probably bad mojo to go against a guy I've praised so much, but this doesn't seem like his week.

Cech, Chelsea - Sort of a boring choice, but they give up goals at about the same clip that W says things that Americans can be proud of. Martyn of Everton and Schwartzer of Boro would be decent alternatives. Given would be as well but his status is uncertain because his wife is scheduled to give birth soon.

Midweek Musings

As we prepare for what should be an excellent week of football - featuring AC Milan vs. Barca on Wednesday and then ManYoo vs. the best team in the world on Sunday - it seems like we've gotten far enough into the season for some trends to emerge. The Euro 2004/Olympics hangover should be far enough in the past that teams can't continue to use them as excuses any longer. The transfer window has been closed for over a month and the few obligatory season-ending injuries have taken place. Here are a few random observations significant of nothing other than the fact that I've probably seen too many games so far this year...

1. Mutu, Crespo, Drogba, Kezman, Duff, Geremi, Cole, Robben, Tiago, Rooney, Ronaldo, Saha, Smith, Cisse, Alonso, and Garcia acquired over the last 2 years yielding a total of 31 goals in 26 games with nearly half of that total going to Liverpool. 17 goals in 18 games between ManYoo and Chelsea. How much did Chelsea pay for their coach again?

2. Should Roman have purchased Everton instead? More goals than either ManYoo or Chelsea this year. 1 point behind Chelsea in the table and 5 up on ManYoo. Can we officially label Chelsea the Washington Redskins of the EPL and Roman A. the Daniel Snyder? Overgrown fantasy owners with too much money and not a clue in the world.

3. Lack of creativity in midfield - Could someone not wearing a Gunners jersey PLEASE make a highlight reel pass before Christmas? Can we import some more Brazilians to play in English central midfields or play some samba music for the English youth squads as they're training? Other ideas are welcome.

4. Champions League? How is it that ManYoo and Chelsea are looking exceptional in Europe but can't beat the likes of ManCiteh and Birmingham? Are the fodder of the EPL really THAT much better than the supposed best of Europe? or are the Devils and Blues in for an ugly awakening when they play the better teams in the competition?

5. Injury Reports? Can someone please tell Sam Allerdyce that "probable" means that a player is 75% likely to play. Thus far that term has been used twice in relation to Okocha and in neither case has he played. Fantasy owners are bitter. Something must be done.

6. Malcolm Glazer at ManYoo - how do you think New York would react if the Japanese had purchased the Yankees rather than the Mariners? ManYoo isn't just a team, its part of the culture (insert your own crumbling empire joke here).

7. Contraction - can we all agree that Fulham and Charlton are really the same team and just contract them into one just-better-than-mediocre club rather than the two just-worse-than-mediocre clubs they currently are. If Aston Villa wasn't two words, they'd be part of this as well.

That's about it while I wait for the big mid-week games. Enjoy.



Monday Morning Manager

At long last, a late change pays off! I had Giggs in my team all week, but a last minute mention that he had missed the Wales game midweek with a virus led me to change. Who to pick? Well, as Neal famously said, if all else fails pick Arsenal. So that is what I did. And Pires comes through with 2 goals and 30 points to put me top of the table for now.

In a related note, Pires has 6 goals in 8 shots. We'll be following this stat. And does anyone know why he taking PKs now? Was Henry tired? Did they have a bet? This is the kind of information fantasy managers need.

Other than Arsenal's performance, it was a disappointing week. ManU crapped out v. BRM. Why did we all have ManU forwards? Is it just spill-over from Rooney-mania? Granted RVN should have had 2 goals on tap-ins. (Could I use any more hyphens in this paragraph?) ManU has yet to show that they can score goals on a regular basis. For all their talent they score 1 a game. Fantasy managers aren't going to get rich at that pace, and nor will Malcolm Glazer.

Another team that flatters to deceive in the offensive end is Chelsea. Lampard put up his points. He's a machine and I learned my lesson about not having him in the team last year. He'll play. He'll score fantasy points. End of story. But otherwise Chelsea made a brittle Man Citeh defense look like, well... the Chelsea defence. Chelsea made it easy for them by keeping everything b/w the "hash marks" to mix football metaphors. Even Duff spent the game inside and played right into the heart of the Citeh defence. Why not bring on Cole for Tiago and and stretch Citeh across the pitch with Duff on the left and Cole on the right. Or vice versa. Or both. Make James defend crosses, which isn't his strong suit, rather than stopping shots from outside the box, something he does reasonably well?

Anyway, Chelsea have a chance to redeem themselves next week at home to a fragile Blackburn team. And speaking of which...

In hindsight JFH v Blackburn should have been a no-brainer. I'm ashamed for all of us.

Finally, I would like to thank David Moyes for giving Steve Watson 3 mins v. SOU. Easiest 5 points a fantasy manager ever earned.

Until next week.

Quick Advice This Week

An overly busy day job is leaving precious little time to write this week's column. Fortunately, this week isn't chocked full of compelling match-ups that require a lot of analysis. Of the teams at or near the top of the table, only Arsenal and Everton have favorable circumstances for fantasy owners (both home to clubs with pourous defenses). The rest of the group at the top are on the road vs. decent competition. With that, here are some quick picks that revert to class and Jeremy's rules of selecting fantasy players (which he really needs to publish an article on, hint, hint)...


Henry & Reyes, Arsenal - Reyes seems to be back in form after a few weak weeks and Henry always seems to be in form. Villa give up goals even to mediocre offenses so being on the road at Arsenal doesn't bode well for them.

Ronaldo, ManYoo - In a week when good match-ups are at a premium, revert to the guys who take kicks, cross the ball and generally do all the little things that make fantasy owners happy. He hasn't scored yet this year and he's still averaging over 10 points a week. Low risk here in a week that will be filled with risky propositions.


Everton Midfield - Cahill, Osman & Gravessen are all doing a nice job this year and have favorable match-ups vs. Southampton. Gravessen is probably the low risk bet. Cahill is the risk/reward choice with Osman being somewhere inbetween.

Djorkaeff, Blackburn - Nice first week and he's pretty much playing in a striker role which makes him a value, especially at 1.00.


Chelsea Defenders - Always a good bet for a clean sheet and eventually, one of them will score probably Terry or Ferriera.

Heinze, ManYoo - I'm sticking with "he's a stud" as my justification here. Did I mention, I hate saying this about anyone from ManYoo?


Cech, Chelsea - Yeah, he's on the road and he barely ever makes a save but you've gotta think Arsenal is going to give up a soft goal this weekend (3-1?) which will kill Lehman's point total for the week. Lehman is probably the second best choice this week.

Friday Morning Team News

South African Soccer Update

"The dispute began when the referee awarded a penalty against the visiting team,” policewoman Mali Govender told a press conference in Kenton-on-Sea, in South Africa’s Eastern Cape. “Some of the Marcelle players protested, and objected when the referee gave one of them a yellow card. An argument broke out, and some of the Marcelle fans stormed the field. That was when the referee pulled out a firearm and began shooting. He shot the Marcelle coach dead, and wounded two of their players, then ran off the pitch screaming ‘I am now the master of the universe,’ and has not been seen since. We are hunting for him, but he is still on the run. We don’t know what his tactics are, because we haven’t found him yet.”

Later, the South Africa Football Association issued a statement: “It was with regret that Safa learnt of the fatal shooting of a coach and the injuries to players in a soccer match. However, the referee that officiated in this match was not a properly qualified official registered with Safa, he was one of the spectators who had been asked by the organisers to handle the match. Furthermore, we would like to put on record that the match between Ekuphumuleni and Marcelle was an unofficial village friendly that was not played under the structures of Safa, and we are therefore in no way responsible. Safa passes its condolences to the family of the coach, and wishes a speedy recovery to the injured players.” (South African Press Association, 27/04. Spotter: Stewart Truswell)

Monday Night Football

Are you ready for some football?

Yes, the monday night EPL game on Sky Sports is called MNF (seems to be a copyright issue there). And as with fantasy NFL MNF - the theory goes is that its good to have one or more players playing in this "Primetime" game. The bigger spotlight brings out big perfomances and so forth. Also, having a player in the monday night game after the weekend's matches are over lets you watch the match and track your rise (or fall) in thr league standings since all the other points are in.

As a side note - Andy Johson netted about 15 points last night but it killed me to watch as I saw him miss SEVERAL easy goals and could have easily had 3-4 goals rather than the feeble one he posted. So the rest of the league should be quite thankful that my lead is not even larger . . .

Monday Night Football

Are you ready for some football?

Yes, the monday night EPL game on Sky Sports is called MNF (seems to be a copyright issue there). And as with fantasy NFL MNF - the theory goes is that its good to have one or more players playing in this "Primetime" game. The bigger spotlight brings out big perfomances and so forth. Also, having a player in the monday night game after the weekend's matches are over lets you watch the match and track your rise (or fall) in thr league standings since all the other points are in.

As a side note - Andy Johson netted about 15 points last night but it killed me to watch as I saw him miss SEVERAL easy goals and could have easily had 3-4 goals rather than the feeble one he posted. So the rest of the league should be quite thankful that my lead is not even larger . . .

Monday Night Football

Are you ready for some football?

Yes, the monday night EPL game on Sky Sports is called MNF (seems to be a copyright issue there). And as with fantasy NFL MNF - the theory goes is that its good to have one or more players playing in this "Primetime" game. The bigger spotlight brings out big perfomances and so forth. Also, having a player in the monday night game after the weekend's matches are over lets you watch the match and track your rise (or fall) in thr league standings since all the other points are in.

As a side note - Andy Johson netted about 15 points last night but it killed me to watch as I saw him miss SEVERAL easy goals and could have easily had 3-4 goals rather than the feeble one he posted. So the rest of the league should be quite thankful that my lead is not even larger . . .

Monday Morning Manager

We've become draw specialists, like Aston Villa and our friend David O'Leary. The teams differ here and there, but no one is able to gain an advantage.

If I had had Anelka instead of van Nistelrooy, I could be challenging for the top spots in the group. Or Mellberg for Watson. Or anyone for Koumas. As it is, this week was a case of 2 steps forward, 2 steps back.

As for Manchester United and Mr. Rooney, in the absence of Paul Scholes he was always going to be asked to drop back and create out of the midfield. That means he gets the early ball and sends it along to Giggs or Ronaldo running down the wings or be clattered by Boateng. And that was how the game went. I thought that this pattern of play would favor Ruud as he would be the target of crosses from the wingers. It did, but Ruud was never able to set his sights and he sent balls high, wide and into the crossbar. Everywhere but into the back of the net. Kudos to Boro who worked really hard and who's youngsters attacked and defended with the same enthusiasm and skill. In fact it was the more experienced players on that team, Zenden, Nemeth and Mendieta, who often ran and passed into no-man's-land, stifling good moves started by the likes of MacMahon, Morrison and Downing.

And now we have an international break. Nothing to do for two weeks save for watching the injury lists grow. Wake me when it's next Friday.

Let it rain, let it reign

The Koumas Konspiracy

What is the deal with the EPL's lack of good pre-match info - the sport is highly gambled on and the occurance of unforeseen and unexplained line-up changes seems a bit dodgey. Hmmm, I think I won't start one of my best players and give no notice and reason why - happens all the time in the NFL right?

Where is the transparency? Don't they realize the tremendous fantasy ramafications of their decisions? Unacceptable.

Okocha last week was bad enough - no injury reported until he's a no show - but this Koumas situation is annoying - just a mananger's decision it seems.

Fantasy owners were left in angst across the world (or at least in Alexandria, VA and Galway, Ireland).

Anyway - I guess the lesson of the day is - don't trust the three newbie teams - or - maybe the lesson is that no matter how much diligence you use in setting your line-up there will always be a certain amount of risk involved so don't obsess - but since obsessing is often an integral part of fantasy line-up selection, perhaps the true lesson here is to avoid players on a team whose name (West Bromwich Albion) is so supremely silly - East Bromwich Albion might be ok, or perhaps even Central Bromwich Albion - but West Bromwich Albion, I mean really - might as well be West Albus Dumbledore.

(Red) Devil's Advocate - Early Bird Special

For those up at a reasonanble hour in Europe (and really fecking early in the US), here are my line-up thoughts for the week - belated though they may be (sorry, won't happen again) . . .

Okocha - he is not certain to return to the starting line up - so beware

Tarnat - I wouldn't start him this week, he seems to not be in good epl form

McNabb - a must start each week this year . . . oops, wrong football

Kamara - Portsmouth's big new signing should start for Yakubu and match-up is good

- - - - - - -

Who to avoid (and that being said they will now all have hat tricks):

Reyes - the wee little man has not looked good

Yakubu - could be getting splinters this week

Robert - Butt (nice name by the way) is back so Robert may sit (don't mgrs know their players' fantasy value)

Chelsea goalie and defenders - I am not seeing a clean sheet for them this week

That's it for this week (since it is already nearly deadline time afterall), and remember, those that can, can, and those that can't, teach (or post fantasy advice columns).

Will He or Won't He...Match-ups Of The Week

So, if you don't know what the title is referring to, then you should probably turn in your username and password and do something else to pass the time at work. The bet here is that he will start, and score vs. a depleted Boro squad that has JFH, Viduka and a host of others in doubt. Due to the encroachment of my day job, this will be a slightly abbreviated version of "Match-ups":

Henry, Arsenal - go ahead, don't start him, I dare you.

Roonaldo, ManYoo - I hate to say it, but the hype is at least somewhat justified AND Boro are in rough shape as they journey to OT.

Bergkamp, Arsenal - yup, I'm biased, in my humble opinion, Bergkamp is god and I can't imagine what Charlton might do to stop that.

Shearer & Kluivert, Newcastle - Headed to B'ham which is never a recipe for goals but they are in form.

Johnson, Palace - Our first promoted striker recommendation of the year - he's been solid every week and Palace are playing Fulham at home which means there will be goals available.

I usually start out this section with Pires but he's out - please make a note of it, it would be a shame for someone to start an entire midfield of players who don't actually play (ahem, Rob).

Giggs, ManYoo - All signs point to a ManYoo scoring-fest this weekend - Giggs has been finding a way to accumulate fantasy points despite mediocre ManYoo performances, it can only get better if team performance improves.

Fabregas, Arsenal - He's back, sans mullet to replace the injured duo of Edu and Gilberto - maybe we'll see that attacking style again and the points will follow. How is it that the Brazilians had to get hurt before this happened?

Duff-man, Chelsea - Could it be that he'll actually play? He looked good with Drogba last weekend. Do you have the stomach for this one yet?

Okocha, Bolton - Back in the line-up after breaking hearts last weekend due to his unannounced groin injury. Playing at WBA means that Bolton could improve on their early form.

FLYER OF THE WEEK - Leon Osman is back and despite playing vs. a tough Tottenham defense, he's been clutch for Everton so far. If you're looking to do something a little different, this might be a good strategy.

Heinze, ManYoo - It still turns my stomach to endorse a Red Devil so strongly, but, he's a stud. Start him every week, good things will happen.

Everton Defense - A stingy defense at home to anemic Tottenham. There is a reasonable chance of a clean sheet here.

Clichy, Arsenal - Starting in place of Ashley Cole, he'll get into the offense on the left, Arsenal has a reasonable chance of a clean sheet at home and he'll give you a financial boost if he does well.

Cech, Lehman, Carroll - its a bit of a toss-up between these three - the Arsenal keeper has been getting more shots against him but also letting more in. All three are reasonably well-positioned for a win/clean sheet combo.

If you're looking to be a little bit different, Shay Given might be a nice change of pace outside of the "big three" keepers.

Enjoy the Weekend...

Friday Morning Team News

Tomorrow's headlines today

here's what you will be reading in tomorrow's team news:

After a stunning midweek performance, Rooney will certainly be itching to make his first start with his new club this saturday. Fergie will have to decide whether he wants to risk Rooney again so soon after coming off injury and may instead choose Ruud up top in Sir Alex's preferred lone striker system. Of course, Smith, who has had a spell out of the side in recent weeks, is also fit to step and play alongside - or instead of Ruud - should the back to back matches prove too taxing.

Initial Match-up Thoughts

As our friend Jeremy pointed out, despite all the Roonaldo-mania running wild, the Gunners are still the class of the EPL. The question is, which Arsenal team will show up this weekend. Will it be the lively side that dominated the Charity Shield and the first few weeks of the EPL season? or will it be the just-good-enough 11 that has seemingly been sleep-walking against Bolton, PSV, Man City and Rosenborg? That first group had fantasy points aplenty for everyone in the offensive end of the pitch, the latter group seems to have only enough for Henry and one guest scorer per match. Charlton is a mediocre squad and the game is at Highbury so maybe this is the week that they break out, but then again, maybe not.

ManYoo on the other hand, gets Boro at Old Trafford and has all the hype from their Champion's League fixture on their side. Boro was a defensive powerhouse out of necessity last season but seem a little more vulnerable this year since no one has even confused Viduka and JFH with strikers who work back into to midfield to be disruptive to their opponent's attack. As much as it pains me, there are a few Devils who are solid fantasy bets this weekend including Heinze (my favorite EPL newbie so far this season), Giggs and Rooney (assuming Sir Alex doesn't buck popular opinion and sit the young lad).

Chelsea/Liverpool might provide something not seen frequently at the Bridge this season, goals. Liverpool's recent EPL form has been strong and their defense seems vulnerable enough that even Chelsea might be able to break through.

Newcastle has been strong, but playing away at Birmingham is never a recipe for lots of goals. Tottenham's match at Goodison Park has "low-scoring" written all over it so it is probably best to avoid any offensive players in this one. Villa and ManCiteh both have favorable match-ups this week but both are on the road where neither has been terribly successful. Finally, the Monday game seems on track to be yet another in a long line of terrible games in front of a national audience - how do they pick these games. If one or both of the teams were underperforming or injured I could understand how these things happen, but who saw Palace v. Fulham and thought that would be an entertaining way to cap off a Monday.

See you tomorrow for Match-ups O' The Week...

Roon... eh?

Far too much ManU chatter on this blog. Let's take a moment to reflect on who is atop the table, atop the fantasy production charts, and probably the best footballer in the world today.

Mon dieu!

Nobody's Fault But The Turks

Wooooo, Roonaldo-Mania is runnin' wild. Despite running out three of the worst midfielders ever to wear the ManYoo colors, the Devils rocked the Turk pretenders last night at OT with Rooney scoring a hat trick on his debut with the Reds. Two of the three goals were highlight reel stuff. For fantasy purposes, be sure to buy early and buy often so you're not the only kid on the block who is left out. And to all the little Roonaldo-Maniacs remember to say your prayers, eat your vitamins and, please, oh please, remember to tip your hookers.

Wayne Rooney . . . English Soccer's Larry Bird?

Is Wayne Rooney English Soccer's Larry Bird? "Soccer Jesus" to save english football from the seeming dominance of the superstars of otherwise silly nations . . . Henry, Reyes, Ruud, Cisse, Drogba and so forth?

3 Goals in the 1st 50 minutes of his champions league and man u debut after being out for three month seems somewhat impressive. (That's his total as I write this blog, he could have 8 goals by the time the match is over)

However, since EVERYONE will likely now add Rooney (or Young Slapper) to their EPL Fantasy line-ups, the question is, will he even start this weekend? He is young and Fergie will not want to over use him - will there be a much dreaded striker rotation?

As in NFL Fantasy - running back by commitee or RBC is death to fantasy dreams - its analogy in EPL fantasy is striker by commitee or SBC - Liverpool, Newcastle, Chelsea and Manu (Rooney, Ruud, Smith and also Saha to spice it up) all have numerous options in attack. Will Rooney be an every weekend machine like Henry or a hit and miss bundle of aggravation and frustration for fantasy owners. For now it may be unclear, but as time passes it looks like he will be the real deal for future seasons.

That being said, he has played 75% of one match versus a frickin turkish soccer team - who is probably just happy not to have fans lobbing mortars and nerve gas cocktails at them from the stands . . . how good can a soccer team be with a "Ç" in their name be after all.

Left-sided Frenchmen... Collect them all

Djorkaeff joins Blackburn Rovers on short-term deal

LONDON, Sept 28 (Reuters) - French playmaker Youri Djorkaeff has joined struggling Blackburn Rovers on a short-term deal until January, the English Premier League club said on Tuesday.

(Red) Devil's Advocate - Introduction

Starting today, an american with way too much time on his hands living in Galway, Ireland (Me) will be posting weekly blogs (or more frequently should anything remotely worthwhile cross my mind) providing my take on Fantasy EPL.

More importantly, I will be providing a much needed dose of iconoclastic and contrarian thinking to counter the decidedly arsenal-centric world view of certain bloggers.

However, a few caveats and disclaimers - while I am currently "dominating" my fantasy EPL League, to me, football implies, helmets, shoulder pads, cheerleaders and beer in the stadiums (those pesky soccer hooligans ruin it for the rest of us). Additionally, I have only been following the premiership for less than a full season (having only watched my first start to finish soccer match last year. So I still snicker when people say "brace" or "treble" or "pitch".

So do not be stunned to see a comment such as "the United Nations muted response to the geo-political crisis in the Sudan has clearly broken the concentration of the Nigerian striker Yakubu as the humanitarian tragedy grows so I would not start him this week against that team that sounds like a fast food chain." So heed my advice with appropriate number of grains of salt. Plus, it could all be a sophisticated and sinister campaign of disinformation.

However, my NFL fantasy credentials are impeccable - having won 3 titles in 5 years of play. And perhaps more relevantly, I get all 4 Sky Sports Channels, Premiership Plus, RTE, BBC and Eurosports channels - so I get to see lots of programming.

That being said, let the games begin . . .

A very special "Monday Morning Manager"

Session Start (AIM - JSpitzberg:Neal J Thurman): Mon Sep 27 07:19:53 2004
JSpitzberg: one of these days i'm going to get 11 men on the pitch
JSpitzberg: then watch out!
Neal J Thurman: Yeah, I still haven't had time to figure out what happened to JayJay
JSpitzberg: groin
JSpitzberg: saw that somewhere
Neal J Thurman: No one seemed very surprised at the top of the broadcast
JSpitzberg: bastards
Neal J Thurman: but I didn't see it anywhere pre-match
Neal J Thurman: they do suck
Neal J Thurman: Killed me that it allowed Jon to win the week
Neal J Thurman: Just about anyone would have put me past him (and certainly anyone who played would have gotten you ahead of him)
JSpitzberg: yeah.
JSpitzberg: he's won 2 weeks out of 3 since he's been back in town
Neal J Thurman: Only real outcome of the week was gaining ground on Toby and putting a little more distance between me and Mike
Neal J Thurman: Otherwise, everyone was pretty solidly in the 90s
JSpitzberg: we all have the same core squad
JSpitzberg: how does henry fall $15?
JSpitzberg: he's the best player in the game
Neal J Thurman: Not sure, especially when Reyes only fell a few $$ after his second straight crap performance
JSpitzberg: who else puts up 15 pts without a goal?
Neal J Thurman: Also not sure how Shearer doesn't go up after his goal - (he's still at $5ish)
JSpitzberg: really?
JSpitzberg: so weird
Neal J Thurman: Yup
JSpitzberg: liv@che this weekend
JSpitzberg: could be a good one
JSpitzberg: or could be REALLY boring
Neal J Thurman: I'm guessing the latter
JSpitzberg: ;-)
Neal J Thurman: Chelsea seems incapable of playing attractive football (although Duffman helped some this weekend)
JSpitzberg: duff duff duff
Neal J Thurman: If he and Drogba ever get some mojo together, they'll be tough
JSpitzberg: pal@villa didn't work out according to the script
JSpitzberg: though sorenson did ok
Neal J Thurman: yeah, I was psyched, I thought I was going to get punnished for that decision when he neither won nor got the clean sheet
JSpitzberg: and in what alternate universe is nicky butt a $17 middie?
JSpitzberg: they need the week by week chart for the players
Neal J Thurman: Someone better send him the clipping that lets him know for posterity that he was deemed more valuable than Henry for at least one week
JSpitzberg: even nicky butt jr. doesn' t have him on his team
Neal J Thurman: lol
Neal J Thurman: In my early thinking, I'm liking Anelka vs. S'hampton as my Reyes replacement (unless, of course, Arsenal gets its mojo back vs. Rosenborg tomorrow0
JSpitzberg: stop stealing my moves
Neal J Thurman: lol
JSpitzberg: henry, elk, rvn up top at the moment
Neal J Thurman: I've still got Shearer w/ Henry and Anelka but was thinking about Ruud as well
Neal J Thurman: Put Giggs in for Nobby
Neal J Thurman: And your boy Watson for Mellberg
JSpitzberg: playing by the rules now
Neal J Thurman: Yup
JSpitzberg: i grabbed gravesen and okocha for solano and ...
JSpitzberg: oh, okocha
JSpitzberg: ha!
JSpitzberg: lampard with the henry-like ability to get pts from nothing
JSpitzberg: not convinced about either of those middies though
Neal J Thurman: BTW, think one of those wacko Boro fans are going to kill someone in the league office for scheduling them home to Chelsea and then away to ManYoo in consecutive weeks?
JSpitzberg: star-crossed with me
JSpitzberg: no worse than the promoted teams' schedules
Neal J Thurman: I was very un-inspired by the midfield choices for the week.
JSpitzberg: lampard the only sure thing these days
JSpitzberg: koumas' team stinks
Neal J Thurman: Lampard is a gimme but other than that I'm not wild about the matchups. Newbies are at home to decent, but not great, teams. No idea what to think of Arsenal
JSpitzberg: and too many will they/won't they play like robert and gravesen
Neal J Thurman: Yup (although according to Soccernet, Robert got robbed of an assist by Yahoo)
JSpitzberg: may be a good week for pires if he's healthy

Update: Crisis in Midfield

The Friday word is that both Robert Pires and Gilberto Silva are likely out for tomorrow's clash at City of Manchester Stadium. This will probably mean a starting front 6 of Henry, Bergkamp, Vieira, Edu, Ljungberg, & Reyes.

Also, ESPN Soccernet is reporting that there is some chance that Harry Kewell will be handed a seat on the bench based on his mediocre real-world performance. Don't these managers pay any attention to fantasy stats?

Please take note and act accordingly - Ljungberg is now a good bet to get those sidefooted goals infront of Calamity James on Saturday.

A Day Early, Its...Match-ups Of The Week

With most of the teams in the league either off entirely or resting their first squads during Carling Cup match-ups with minnows from the lower divisions, we can be reasonably assured that there won't be any mid-week injury issues springing up (and you can almost hear Sir Alex thanking the powers that be from here). Despite everyone's relative good health, there are some match-ups that make us take notice. Specifically, the offensive-minded Villa squad hosting the pourous (especially on the road) Crystal Palace team and the revitalized Newcastle welcoming WBA to St. James' Park. Oh yeah, and Arsenal are traveling to ManCiteh (and no, we don't care how many goals Citeh scored in the Carling Cup or how bad Arsenal has looked the last couple matches). So here we go...

Henry, Arsenal - no comment necessary but what the heck, its the web and I don't have a word limit. If Anelka were consistent, if Ruud were healthy, if Shearer were 8 years younger, they still wouldn't be as good as Henry is right now. Only thing close right now is Adriano scoring for club and country (wow, that dude is good - too bad the rest of Inter sucks).

Shearer, Newcastle - this is a blanket endorsement of all three Toon strikers that will likely start vs. WBA (with Bellamy being inserted in what we'll call the Dyer spot in right midfield). Shearer is the most consistent and the cheapest so unless you have a feeling about Kluivert or Bellamy, Alan is probably your best bet.

Carlton Cole, Villa - With Angel's status uncertain, Cole is likely to be the target in this weekend's match-up with Palace. He's looked good when he's been given a chance and has consistently put the ball on target. Look for him to break through with a goal or two against a weak Palace squad that will have trouble dealing with his pace.

Quandry of the Week - Ruud is 1.00, he's been producing in spurts and ManYoo looks to be turning things around. At the same time, they're headed to Tottenham who has been packing in the defense and putting together a string of clean sheets that any royal maid would be proud of. In general, we think Ruud is a good investment but there doesn't promise to be a ton of offense in this one. Good luck with your decision on this one.

Pires, Arsenal - He's playing poorly but still manages to get a goal AND he's playing ManCiteh who have the look of a team that will crumble if they let in the first goal to Arsenal. Remember that game two years ago where Arsenal had 5 goals vs. Citeh in under 25 minutes. It might not be THAT bad, but I wouldn't bet against it.

Solano/Hitzelsperger, Villa - Going with the "who's playing Palace" theory combined with the general value in guys who take free kicks/corners these guys both seem like good bets to produce this week. We still aren't sure why Hitzelsperger hasn't become a star but if you could buy stock in such things, I'd be buying.

Kewell, Liverpool - An enigma so far this year. Hasn't been a terrible fantasy player (in fact he's among the top 15 midfielders) but certainly not up to his lofty standards. There will be a void in the Liverpool midfield without Steven Gerrard and this might be the opportunity Harry needs to re-establish himself as a force. As a bonus, he's affordable at roughly 7.5. Doesn't hurt that Liverpool is playing home to Norwich.

Gabriel Heinze, ManYoo - I've seen him play on TV a couple times now and this guy is ALWAYS in the play. As an added bonus, the game vs. Tottenham seems like a good bet for a clean sheet because, well, Tottenham always seem to be a good bet for a clean sheet for both sides these days. He's expensive but worth every penny (of course, take this with the grain of salt that I said the same thing about Neil Clement last week right before he punched some dude in the face and got a second yellow for it).

Olaf Melberg, Villa - Another relatively expensive defender who is a) playing against a week opponent; b) productive on offense; and c) got a good chance at a clean sheet due to facing a struggling opponent at home.

Liverpool Defense - Playing at home to Norwich, Steve Finnan and Josemi seem the most likely candidates for good days on both offense and defense.

Tim Howard, ManYoo - Just kidding, we here at the Blog wish Timmy the best in getting back on the first team. After watch O'Shea and Carroll fluff the own goal vs. Liverpool on Monday it is our suspicion that it wasn't T-Ho's fault. His defense has been terrible to the point of actually hurting the cause. Give him Rio, Heinze, Silvestre & Neville (Gary, please) and he'll be back to his old self soon enough.

Our actual selections of the week in net...
Sorenson, Villa - Playing at home to Palace, recipe for a clean sheet and a win (but probably not a ton of saves). Cech is playing away to Boro who have been scoring a lot. Robinson looks destined for a draw or a loss with ManYoo coming to town.

Given, Newcastle - This may be his best chance at a clean sheet for a while. The offense is clicking and there's a weak team in town. Not a great match-up week for the premium keepers so this might be a worthwhile risk to gain some ground on the leaders in your league or put some additional ground between you and them.

For What it's Worth

Robert Pires has 4 goals on 4 shots on target.

Monday Morning Manager

Still the big game of the week to be played, but after the weekend's action, I'm another 20pts in the hole to the group leaders. After over-thinking last week, I tried to be true to my early selections. So Reyes finally makes my team and plays a real stinker. I don't think he had a touch inside the attacking third. Clement retained his place instead of Melberg and that cost me 15 points after Clement went nuts and got tossed after 2 yellow cards. Villa of course blanked Norwich.

At least I resisted the urge to sell Cech for Lehmann. Another 15 point loss on a Friday trade and I would be typing this post with very sore wrists, if you know what I mean.

As for today's game... we're looking for a big Liverpool win coming from Garcia and Finnan. Worst case is a Ruud and Heinze scoring for ManU with Gerrard starring for Liverpool. Real chance to make up some ground... or get left by the wayside.

It's Friday So It Must Be...

Fantasy Picks of the Week
Only in Newcastle would a striker be rewarded for a European brace with a seat on the bench - behold the power (and arrogance) of the local hero Shearer. Liverpool play ManYoo on Monday in what will, without a doubt, be the most interesting match-up of the weekend given the early struggles of both sides. Fulham travel to West Brom giving Albion a reasonable chance to score at least three goals. Arsenal will attempt to prove that not just anyone can hold them to 1 goal at home by packing in 10 and sometimes 11 men behind the ball when Bolton comes to town. And finally, Pompey will see if they can finally manage to take their goal scoring exploits on the road when they travel to see Blackburn and their new manager Mark Hughes. So with that, here are some line-up thoughts for the week:

Henry, Arsenal - Unless he's on his deathbed, he's a must-start.

Van Nistelrooy, ManYoo - At home, starting to round into shape, coming off a brace in the Champions League - oh yeah, and he's priced to move at 1.00. Hard to imagine how this could go wrong, especially if Furgeson plays Christiano Ronaldo from the beginning of the game.

JFH, Boro - Scowlin' Jimmy has been having a nice season now that he doesn't have to fight for playing time at Chelsea. The trip to Everton will probably be more difficult than one might expect, but Boro have to be on a major high after their successful European debut at mid-week. He's expensive, but a good value.

Shearer, Newcastle - Any road game is a tough one, but Southampton probably less so than most this season. Shearer is both a bargain and a good bet to get at least one goal.

(apparently its Old Stand-bys Week for Strikers here at the ol' EPL Blog)

Bargains - See RVN & Shearer above - Imagine getting those two for under 6.00 in the same week - good times.

Robert, Newcastle - Keeping with the "Old Stand-by" theme. He takes free kicks and corners. He crosses the ball a lot. Has a rocket for a shot. And he's playing Southampton. Not a bad deal at 13 and change.

Koumas, WBA - Has been chomping at the bit after missing the first 4 games of the season to suspension. Came out with a strong first game last week. Is playing against Fulham at home this week which can be nothing but a good thing. At 5 and change, both a bargain and a good bet for a lot of points.

Wright-Phillips, ManCiteh - On the theory that they will be up one week and down the next, this should be an up week for Citeh. SWP has been having a nice year and if Citeh score, he'll likely be in the middle of it.

Ljungberg, Arsenal - With Pires looking sluggish the last two weeks or so, look for Wenger to start a healthy Ljungberg on the right and Jose Antonio Reyes on the left with Bergkamp and Henry up front. Assuming this happens, Freddie is a good bet to get his points.

Bargains - See Koumas above, Scholes (he can't stay on this list forever... can he?), Duff (if you have the stomach for it...Jeremy), Izzet (if you're poor, desperate and clinging to the hope that he'll regain his form of last year)

Heinze, ManYoo - One of the few Red Devils playing well and as a bonus, he's relatively cheap at 5.00 and change.

Clement, WBA - Almost as many points as Gerrard so far this season and he's playing home to Fulham. Expensive, but likely a good investment.

The Chelsea Defense - Tottenham has been having a tough time scoring, Chelsea has only conceded one goal. Chelsea is at home. Sounds like a clean sheet waiting to happen for Chelsea. Not a lot of offense from any of them so far but its a good bet for 5+ points.

Bargains - See Heinze above, Samuel (at Norwich), Yobo (1.00 and a good bet for some offense)

Cech, Chelsea - See the review of the Chelsea Defense above. Good bet for the win and a clean sheet. If he throws in a couple of saves, it will be a happy time for those with the money to buy Mr. Cech.

Schwartzer, Boro - Everton haven't been pouring in the goals so if you're looking for a bargain, Schwartzer might be a good bet for some saves and a win, although a clean sheet on the road would be asking a lot.

Friday Morning Team News

Initial Thoughts for the Week

It seems that the majority of clubs in the Prem are currently in flux. ManYoo is slowly getting players back (Ronaldo, Ruud, Heinze, and Rio so far) but the ones that have been playing seem to get worse and worse with each passing week. Liverpool seems to be headed in a better direction but both of their recent wins (WBA and Monoco) have been against questionable competition - so it remains to be seen if their progress is real. Chelsea can't seem to score. Newcastle has been a mess in the wake of their managerial change and showed signs of life against Blackburn - who have managerial disarray of their own which might be as responsible for any Houlieresque "corner turning" as anything happening right at the Toon. And on down the list - Birmingham can't score (again); Charlton, Everton, ManCiteh and Villa are hot one week and fantasy busts the next. So where does that leave us? In my eyes, it leaves us with the following general recommendations...

1) When in doubt, pick someone from Arsenal - at least we know they'll score
2) If not Arsenal, (and I can't believe I'm saying this) go with someone from 'Boro
3) Load up on guys playing against Fulham - especially when they're on the road
4) If Fulham are at home or you don't like anyone on the team playing them...those playing against Blackburn and Crystal Palace are the next best bet.

Look for the Match-ups of the Week tomorrow...

Cole Comfort

Ashley Cole
Referee Halsey took a bit of persuading, but the Arsenal left-back can do no wrong at present. And so a penalty, a dismissal and a two-match suspension reverted to a goal-saving tackle. On such small margins – and this was a marginal decision – are reputations saved.

... not to mention fantasy weeks!

Monday Morning Manager

Don't over think this.

...but West Brom has looked good.

...and with the international break, there's no way that LIV's Spaniard's have gelled with the team.

...and Man Citeh is a pretty porous team, even at home.

... and Gravesen takes the free kicks and penalties while Gerrard leaves that to others.

So that's that. Sell Gerrard, buy Gravesen.


Another 10 pts down the drain in a last minute trade that didn't work out. I should just set my team on Tuesday and not look at it again until the next Tuesday. Friday never works out in my favor as I over think this.

PS. For the sake of background, I'm also the guy who sold Lampard two weeks ago for Scholes. :-(

UPDATE: In my own defense, I knew that Man Citeh would be crap. They never put 2 games together and they were good 2 weeks ago v. Charlton.

Friday Morning Team News

All About the Match-ups

As teams have learned how to "work the system" and increase their overall budget, the notion of "Bargains of the Week" seems a little less important since teams are likely to have a little more flexibility. As a result, for the rest of the season, we'll be tracking what we think are the best match-ups for the week regardless of price. As an aside, if there are some bargains out there, we'll try to let you know about that as well. And with that, we enter the best time of year... EPL in full swing, Champions League about to start up (featuring Arsenal vs. PSV this week no less) and NFL Sundays starting up. Fantasy Sports heaven my friends...

Henry vs. whomever - you can't say no to Henry, who is off to an even better start than last year. The fact that Arsenal are playing the sluggish Fulham squad that got crushed by Pompey last we saw them makes it even more attractive. This is a no-brainer.

Yakubu vs. Palace - Speaking of Pompey, Yakubu broke out vs. Fulham and gets another struggler this weekend. He is streaky, and the bet here is that the streak continues with at least one goal.

Cisse vs. WBA - I'm not convinced that Liverpool is as bad as they've played so far. There has been a lot of criticism in the press that the manager hasn't brought a ton of new players together and produced immediate results. If Chelsea weren't bringing a new squad and manager together more successfully (and with more holdover talent I might add), I don't think anyone would be shocked that a team with 50% turnover and a new manager was struggling. I think the 'pool comes together a bit this weekend and scores 3 goals, of which Cisse will have at least one.

Lots of Bargains as well this week - Shearer for 3.58; Stead for 2.13; Angel for 1.00.

Probably best to avoid - Ruud Van Nistelrooy - wait 'til next week even though he's a bargain at 1.00 and will be on the bench this week.

Pires vs. Fulham - see Henry, Thierry above. Even if Pires doesn't start, it doesn't seem to matter, he'll probably see at least 30 minutes and a goal.
Gerrard vs. WBA - needs to have a good game one of these days, doesn't he? Why not at home vs. WBA?

Not as many Bargains at midfield this week - Scholes for 7.29; Kewell for 11.92; Ljungberg for 10.07

Anyone on the Tottenham defense - the back line has been playing well and they get Norwich on Sunday. None of these guys are a great pick if you're looking for offensive stats out of your defense. Just a good bet for some solid defending points (best probability of a clean sheet in my estimation).
Josemi vs. WBA - another Liverpool pick, he puts up good numbers without the benefit of clean sheets and there is a good chance of a clean sheet to boot this weekend vs. WBA.

Bargains in the back - Terry for 5.15; Samuel for 2.12

Robinson vs. NOR - OK, easy to pick the most expensive guy but he's playing at home against a mediocre Norwich team in addition to coming off a solid performance in his first appearance for the Three Lions. If you've got the money to spend back here, this is the pick over Cech away to a more potent Villa squad.
Lehman vs. FUL - This has the feel of Arsenal letting in a bad goal in a 3-1 or 4-1 game (seems to be a trend so far this year). On the off chance that they maintain concentration in the back and the defense avoids getting caught up in the rush for goals, I like Lehman vs. Fulham as a better bet for a win and a clean sheet than Cech at Villa as well.

Bargains in the Net - Dudek for 6.18; Schwartzer for 4.20