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