There's only one...

... or is there?

For all their talk of "one of a kind" and "irreplaceable", you would think that Fox Soccer Channel would have at least made enough of an effort to get a photo of Roy Keane and not Robbie (no relation). It's this kind of sloppy that gives the web a bad name. Like talking about L Robert all week only to find out that he can't play anyway. Bush league stuff.

Week 8...

With the announcement by bookie Paddy Power and every columnist everywhere that Chelsea have already won the Premiership, we can all rejoice in the fact that we - as fantasy owners - still have a long and competitive season ahead of us. Personally, I'm still reeling from predicting a good week for Mort Gamst Pedersen and then not picking him for my own line-up - would have been a hell of a week with him, Murphey, Lee, and Owen. Rest assured, that won't be happening again. One other note - my condolences to Toffees fans on one ugly European experience. There is, however, a silver lining for both the Everton faithful and fantasy managers. With the premature end to their continental schedule, Everton can concentrate their energy on what is shaping up to be a relegation battle rather than dividing their attention between the UEFA Cup and the Prem. From the fantasy standpoint, this may return Cahill, Arteta and the Everton defense to the consideration set after they have a chance to settle in for a few weeks minus the extra matches. With that, on to the upcoming week...

Chelsea - Apparently, there are no goals to be had at Anfield this season. Midweek saw Chelsea and Liverpool play to a scoreless draw in Champions League action and Sunday sees a return match in Premiership action. I have a hard time believing that anyone can shut out Chelsea in consecutive matches so I look for a 1-0 Chelsea win featuring very few chances on net. The usual suspects from Chelsea (Cech, Terry, Gallas, Lampard, and Robben) are good bets to get a majority of the points but will cost you dearly. Essien is still a relative bargain at 8.05 and I have a feeling that he's going to have a break-out offensive game some week soon.

On the Liverpool side, Reina is still a decent bargain in net but I have a hard time believing that this is the week to pick him up. Honestly, the same goes for the entire Liverpool squad. Their lack of offensive production has minimized their value as fantasy players so far this season. Even Gerrard, who has the 7th best fantasy points/game average among midfielders who can be counted on to start, is way overpriced for what he's delivered. As with most players who are playing Chelsea, I'd stay away and hope they drop a bit in price after what promises to be an unproductive weekend.

The Former "Big Two" - What have things come to when ManYoo is set to square off against strugglers Fulham and I'm questioning the value of including any of their players other than the Ruud one. Rooney certainly invigorated the squad when he was introduced against Blackburn but he still isn't producing enough to justify his selection. I still have van der Saar in net but I have to say that I'm wavering more and more with every passing week. I'm already starting to have nightmares of Boa Morte terrorizing the fringes of the Red Devil defense. The other beneficiary of the Devils full back woes will be Claus Jensen as the ManYoo defense gives up a bunch of fouls within his range. There is a slight chance, according to the Soccernet injury report, that Jensen will miss out due to an injury but he seems confident that he'll play and that's good enough for me.

Turning to Highbury, Arsenal are at home which has meant good things so far this year and must be confident coming off of their short-handed win away at Ajax. Van Persie and Reyes are both in position to start again and I predict good things for both as they continue to develop their partnership. Outside of those two, I have to say that the only other Gunner that I'm bullish on is Freddie Ljungberg but his fantasy production has been spotty so far this season and that has to put him in the "risk" category. On the Brum side of things, Pennant is the man. If you currently have Gerrard at or near his current valuation, do yourself a favor and trade him in for Pennant and pocket the $5 difference and spend somewhere else. Lehman is an OK bet for a clean sheet but he's pricey and Brum isn't as bad as all that on offense.

Playing the Newbies - The first note I'll make here is that I'm adding West Brom to the "Newbies" category and removing West Ham since they've proven that they really don't belong. Everton is on the way to being included as well if they don't turn it around soon. With that in mind, West Brom travel to Ewood Park to play a Rovers team that must be high after their victory over United last weekend. MGP is a stud and should be in your line-up if you can afford him - hopefully, you picked him up before his value went up. Brad Friedel might be a good value pick in net if you're not sold on Reina vs. Chelsea, van der Saar vs. anyone or Andersen vs. Spurs.

West Ham gets to stay in this category for one more week as they travel to Sunderland. After earning a draw with Arsenal last weekend, the Hammers seem likely to get a win on the road this weekend (2-1 sounds about right). Marlon Harewood's price has gone back down under 8 and he represents a good bet given his recent good form. Etherington, Benayoun and Reo-Coker are also good values in midfield, attack and defense respectively. For Sunderland, um, well, their stadium has a cool name.

Finally Wigan host Bolton who are displaying excellent form but can't help but be negatively impacted by their away match in UEFA Cup action. I have a hard time justifying a prediction of more than one goal by either side and wouldn't be shocked if this were the nil-nil draw of the week. Probably best to keep guys from both sides out of your fantasy line-up.

Random Notes - The most interesting match of the week for me is Charlton hosting Spurs. Charlton are the most improved team in the Prem so far while Spurs added the most talent in the off-season. Charlton have had a relatively easy schedule so far other than the loss to Chelsea so this will provide an excellent test. Murphy, Bent, and Smertin are excellent bets in what I predict will be a 2-1 home win. Smertin is one of the best values currently available on a points/$ basis. In response to Jeremy's worry about the shine being off Bent. I'm still on the bandwagon. You have to write off the Chelsea match because, well, they're Chelsea and then you're just looking at one bad match. No reason to drop one of the best fantasy producers so far this season.

The Pompey vs. Newcastle match-up, despite the flurry of postings in this space about it, has turned into much ado about nothing since Pompey agreed not to play Robert against his former team as part of the transfer deal. I'm pretty sure that and LuaLua's malaria leaves Pompey without a credible threat on offense. If you're shaking up your roster and are looking for value in defense or at striker Owen and anyone on the Toon defense are a good bet.

Man City hosting struggling Everton who have to be deflated after their European ouster - if Andy Cole is back in the line-up, I think he, Reyna and Barton are all reasonable fantasy bets this weekend. Without Cole to draw attention and create a little magic up top, City will struggle to score and this could quickly degenerate into a completely unwatchable match. Finally, we come to Boro's trip to Villa Park. Boro are returning from Europe and have been pretty bad over the last season and change when returning home. Add to that their poor Premiership form so far and this looks like a good week to pick up a Villa player or two. I'd strongly consider Baros (although I generally don't like his game in real life, he's been a pretty good fantasy pick so far) and Jeremy's boy Milner who is playing well after his move from Newcastle to Villa.

So, there it is - happy shopping and good luck.

Should I stay or should I go now?

Laurent Robert playing at home v. his old club... could be fireworks!

Shearer fouls the keeper. Robert tries to put the resulting free kick on frame.

Throw in... Robert tries to put it on frame.

2nd half kickoff... well, you get the idea.

Though Portsmouth is in disarray and they've lost their most creative player to a bout of malaria, dare you sell one of the most consistent fantasy players of the last several years?

Cone of Silence

The Cone of Silence (COS)

Originally a device from the Get Smart tv show (RIP, Don Adams), now a term to use to let everyone know that you do not want to hear the results (or any details, for that matter) of a soccer match.

For instance, "I am COS on Liverpool/Chelsea" means that I am recording the game and plan to watch it tonight. And I would prefer - nay, insist - on not knowing anything about the game that might ruin the drama. Or lack thereof.

And, just in case you missed it, I am COS on Liverpool/Chelsea.

In this day and age

Pompey's LuaLua hospitalised with malaria

Medical experts are certain the bout of malaria that could put Portsmouth striker Lomana LuaLua out of action for up to six weeks has been caused by a mosquito bite.
If I may refer to something I wrote the other day, "Lua2 can't come back soon enough for them [Portsmouth] (or for the Manager) as it is his pace and trickery that gets Robert the dead-ball chances that they thrive on.".

All which begs the questions, is Robert still an automatic fantasy pick? Or is the money better spent elsewhere?

Friday's Team News Today

for what it is worth to the Magpies:

"[Kieron Dyer] is poised to hand manager Graeme Souness a boost by appearing in Saturday's Premiership clash at Fratton Park.

Though Dyer is tipped to play, Emre Belozoglu, Nolberto Solano and Albert Luque will all miss the trip south."

Square Pegs

O'Leary ponders Aston Villa's defensive worries

I thought Bouma was a central defender. Under that illusion, I thought Villa did really well to get him during the transfer window. But O'Leary has him at left fullback, where he has been pretty shaky. Why not move him infield and restore the interestingly named Jlloyd Samuel to left back?

Instead I guess they'll rely on their right-sided utility men, Hughes and Delaney (when healthy). Or maybe they'll move Barry back into defense. Though they're probably even thinner in the midfield.

This squad building thing is a bit harder without Peter Risdale writing blank (and eventually rubber) checks.

Monday Morning Manager

Portsmouth were one of the most active teams during the open transfer season, but look to have gained nothing. They have, off the top of my head, 5 or 6 strikers on the squad even after selling Yakubu for buku (sp?) bucks. But with Tresor Lomana Lua Lua* (Lua2) injured, Pompey were in disarray. They set out for their game against (my god... who did they even play? Was it that unmemorable. Then why am I writing about it? Oh yeah, Laurent Robert is on the Manager's squad. I guess I'll have to look it up...) Bolton (right, Bolton) in some variety of a 4-5-1. Fine as far as it goes, but they had 3 strongly left-footed players in Robert, Vignal, and Taylor; 2 holding midfielders in Hughes and Diao; and then way on the right (you can see him if you squint) was Gary O'Neill, who had to come to the left side of the field to ever see the ball; and way up there in attack (wave and maybe he'll see you) was Dario Silva, who barely ever saw the ball.

As regular readers know, the Manager thinks Bolton is always a tough side to play against, but Pompey made it much to easy for them. Bolton just needed to close down 1/2 of 1/3 (that's the middle left for those not paying attention) of the field to shut down Portsmouth. Lua2 can't come back soon enough for them (or for the Manager) as it is his pace and trickery that gets Robert the dead-ball chances that they thrive on.

Pompey's next game is at resurgent Newcastle. Kudos to all the managers who stuck with Owen despite his 1pt debut. Since then it's 2 goals in 2 games. And Newcastle is getting some of their better midfielders back from injury. I'd say Owen a sure pick for the weekend, and probably for a long time this season.

Speaking of 2 game streaks, how much do you read into Darren Bent's lack of production? Perhaps a 1.5pt game is acceptable against Chelsea. But against West Brom? For those, like the Manager, who have him at his initial $6 and change we have some decisions to make. Is it worth keeping through this slump? Is it a temporary slump? Or were his early season heroics the abberation?

One Charlton player who is showing his form to be no fluke is Danny Murphy. A 2-goal blitz this week and his average pts per game is in Henry (well maybe not quite) and Lampard (who had his own brace) territory. Another 2 goals for Morten Gamst Pedersen (MGP) too.

Dean Whitehead, last seen as a good buy in last week's Manager, has to be a sell after the weekend. Though Sunderland finally get the win, they did so with Julio Arca, a former Manager favorite back when he was a winger listed by Yahoo! as a defender, taking their free-kicks. Where does that leave Whitehead? Not good value for money.

The Manager doesn't normally talk formations, but this, like the NFL, is a copycat league. And the Manager's counterpart, Mr. Thurman, went 3-5-2 this weekend to no ill effect. With players like MGP, Murphy, and Pennant, etc., averaging above 10 pts a game and slamming home the goals; and with no forwards making any great impression for too long a time; maybe 3-5-2 is a good option right now?

What do you think?

The Manager

* as a member of the All-Name Team © All-Stars he deserves to have his name spelled out in full

Welcome to Week 7...

Sure signs of the coming of Autumn - the cooling of the weather, the turning of leaves, Tottenham underachieving, and some embarrassing performances by a few Premiership clubs in the opening round of the Carling/League Cup. Thanks to Pompey, Tottenham and Man City for making sure that, like death and taxes, some things are eternal.

The thing that the onset of Autumn bring us as fantasy owners is enough matches to start figuring out what was merely an early season anomoly and what is an emerging trend. With that in mind - here are a few thoughts that I've included in my analysis of who I should include in my line-up from week-to-week. West Ham have joined Arsenal and Chelsea at the top of the goals/match column for the season but they've done nearly all of their damage at home (as have Arsenal) whereas Chelsea has scored wherever they've been. Liverpool is playing entirely negative football - so much so that only ONE goal has been scored by either side in all four matches combined - not good times unless you have a defender in one of their matches. WBA and Sunderland are giving up goals by the bucketload, so players playing against those teams should be given some consideration - ditto anyone hosting Villa. Just a little food for thought as you think about playing the odds. And with that, we're on to the usual analysis...

Chelsea - Chelsea continues to look unbeatable and the presence of Villa seems unlikely to change that given their terrible road record so far this year. Stay away from any and all Villa players if you know what's good for you (unless you have Baros at a very low price, then you have a decision to weigh). As for the Chelsea players, the obvious guys (Cech, Terry, Gallas, Carvalho, Ferriera, Lamps, Robben, and Del Horno) are expensive - if you can afford them, they'll probably make you happy but you'll have to find bargains elsewhere. One ray of hope here is Michael Essien who is still very affordable at 7.99 and has been improving very steadily and inserting himself into the offense more and more. The striker dilema continues - Crespo is relatively affordable but Chelsea's strikers have split the minutes and the fantasy points so far this season and that leads me to believe there are better options elsewhere - the Crespo decision is, in my opinion, high risk (he doesn't play or midfielders get all the points) and medium reward (even when he does score, he rarely does the other things to produce a large point total).

The Former "Big Two" - Arsenal travels across London to visit the Hammers and does so with a large number of injury worries. Bergkamp, Pires, and Freddie all seem likely to join Henry on the bench. This leaves van Persie very likely to start and have a good fantasy day for the low-low price of 7.90 and Reyes as the talisman (albeit at an expensive price). This feels like a 2-1 or 3-1 Arsenal victory to me (note to new readers - I'm a Gooner, so take that with a grain of salt) which leaves me thinking that it isn't worth including anyone from Arsenal's back line unless you can guess which defender is going to net two of the goals. Hleb came into the Prem with high expectations but as Jeremy so rightly pointed out, so far he seems more likely to make the pass that leads to the assist - good for the team, bad for the fantasy manager.

Manchester United welcome Rovers to the Theatre of Dreams needing a win in a big way and suffering from something of a defensive crisis. Gary Neville and Gabriel Heinze are still out and Roy Keane is added to the injury list leaving Sir Alex likely to continue to use multiple (bad) central midfielders to stem attacks. This, and the lack of creativity in central midfield seems to be cutting off the supply lines to United's talented attackers. Ruud has been effective and I wouldn't be surprised to see that continue against Rovers. Rooney and Ronaldo have been ok for fantasy owners but not enough so that they're worth their prices. Those with United (healthy) defenders or van der Saar should stick with them as Rovers have been miserable on offense and don't seem likely to reverse that trend at Old Trafford. The only Rovers player I'd recommend is Mort Gamst Pedersen who may find room to operate against United's depleated wings and might pile up some "phantom" points in the form of corners won and successful crosses as he did last week. This feels like another nil-nil draw or a 1-0 United victory - in either case, it'll be ugly.

Going Against the "Newbies" - Everton welcomes Wigan and I have no idea if that's a good thing for them or not. Given that Everton are playing at home and must be desperate at this point might inspire a good performance, but it is unlikely to be a goal-fest. We've already talked about West Ham hosting the Gunners - probably not a lot of value in taking any of the Hammers unless you have one or more of them (Reo-Coker, Etherington, Harewood) at an extremely low price. I'm still on the Benayoun bandwagon but he disappointed me last weekend and I'm not willing to try again against Arsenal. Finally, we have Boro hosting goal-leaking Sunderland. You have to suspect that Boro will win this match and it may even be worth assuming that they'll get a clean sheet while doing so but I have to say that doesn't leave me THAT much more excited about taking anyone from Boro for my squad. They rotate their strikers too much for my liking and none of them are very consistent. Yakubu is pretty expensive and very streaky - and when he doesn't score, he doesn't do much for you.

Random Notes - I love Charlton even thought they're on the road - it is WBA and we've already noted their deficiencies on the defensive side of the ball. I'd get as many of the following as you can - Danny Murphy, Darren Bent, Chris Perry, Chris Powell and maybe even Jon Spector if it looks like he'll start. Robert may be in for a down week as Pompey travel to the Reebok to face Bolton. Liverpool and Birmingham will slug it out in the Midlands and probably do more for the cause of fighting insomnia than they will for fantasy managers. Finally, everyone must make a big decision on Newcastle - was last week's result against Fulham a mirage or is there some value in inexpensive players like Charles N'Zogbia and Michael Owen or will they revert to their previous terrible form. Man City seem like they've cooled off after their hot start after losses last weekend in the Premiership and in mid-week in Carling Cup action. Finally, we have Fulham travelling to White Hart Lane for another match that is likely to end 1-0 - the biggest question is who gets the goal. Talent and location leads you to believe that it will be Spurs (and Defoe) but history leads you to believe that it will be Fulham (and McBride). I'm staying away from that one because I have no idea which factor will win out and there are more attractive options available.

I'm posting early because I'll be on a cross-country flight tomorrow so make sure you check the injury reports for any updates after this posting...good luck.

Woodgate ready to make Madrid bow

Jonathan "I haven't cut my hair since my last start" Woodgate may play tonight against Athletic Bilbao.

Does Vegas have a line on this?
  • over/under, minutes played: 27
  • over/under, months until next start: 6 1/2
  • injury: hamstring - 3:5; achilles - 7:1; hip - 12:1
  • over/under, Asians assulted: 1
If I'm Sergio Ramos, or Paco Pavon, I'm not sweating my place. If i'm a Japanese tourist, I'm watching my back.

Musings from an American Expatriot in Dublin (and Reigning Fantasy EPL Champion)

A few random thoughts . . .

Ok, Wigan's manager (whoever that is) wants a US style salary cap - dooh - not a good idea unless FIFA or whoever rules international soccer mandates a cap for EVERY country's top flight. If the EPL brings in a salary cap than all the players will move to countries without a cap - Spain, Italy, Germany, etc. That being said - I am 100% for a currency adjusted salary cap for all top flight divisions in all countries so that there are more than 2-4 teams that even have a glimmer of hope of winning their respective leagues (can you say Green Bay Packers - the NFL has a good model - the Packers winning the Superbowl is like fecking (Father Ted reference) Portsmouth winning the premiership (well, actually, Neal could probably come up with a better analogy but I think that one works)).

Andy Johnson SO should have left Crystal Palace.

West Ham rocks.

4-5-1 - wow - so much debate and controvery - seems like Chelsea's tactics are like the Neutral Zone trap in the NHL (before the strike that is) - or at least some think so - however - Chelsea do seem to be scoring goals of their own which people seem to forget. In life, EVERYONE copies what works, whether they have the skils or means to pull it off - it happens in all of the sports leagues in the US. But more importantly, will MANU get their act together and become an exciting attacking team now that Roy Keane is out?

FIFPRO XI Awards show - where to start on this debacle. An ESPY's like sports award show, but misses on every level. "C" level American stars (Anthony Lapaglia, that weird looking girl (Veruca Salt's Mum in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and other small roles, and others that I can't even name) presenting awards for the top 11 players in the world. They also awarded Rooney the Young Player of the Year Award - his acceptance speech consisted of more tugs on his ears and nose than intelligible words - too funny. I was hoping he would "mock" applaud the people for his award - but alas - that was WAY to much to hope for . . .

Will someone please explain Soccer / football / fubol to me? How can all of these Premership teams lose to these teams that are the equivalent of The Longest Yard Prison Guard semi-pro teams? Would / could this happen to NFL, MLB, NBA teams?

Cricket, The Ashes, kinda like baseball, but one game / test / whatever can last days and when it ends seems to be something they totally make up when they feel like it.

Rumour / Rumor Centeal - Chelski will table a 70 million pound offer for Adriano in January - saw it in NUTS magazine - the UK equivalent of Maxim (though its not nearly as cool - but it does have TONS of bare breasts)
on a final note, the following article is a great amusement - a chartered flight of soccer fans faked an emergency to get to a match - classic . . .

IMA (Reuters) - A plane carrying Gambian soccer fans to Peru made an unauthorized detour and faked a fuel emergency to land in time for the West African nation's game in a world youth tournament, officials said Wednesday.

The Rum Air plane carrying 289 fans bypassed immigration formalities in Lima by landing in the northern city of Piura about two hours before the African youth champions kicked off against Qatar in the World Under-17 Championship Tuesday.

The apparent emergency sparked a red alert in the coastal city with fire fighters and police racing to the airport and hospitals were told to prepare for an emergency.

"They faked an emergency to land in Piura. They were coming from Brazil and the should have landed in Lima first," Ramon Caminate, a tournament organizer in Piura, told Reuters.

Piura newspaper El Tiempo quoted one fan as saying Gambia's President Yahya Jammeh had chartered the plane.

Long Tambong Tamba, apparently a government official traveling on board, told reporters: "The president gave me the responsibility to lead the team (of fans) here."

A spokeswoman for CORPAC, the state body that runs Peru's airports, said the Tri-Star L1011 plane with 12 crew on board had raised the alarm, saying it did not have enough fuel to fly to Lima and would have to land in Piura instead.

CORPAC said it would issue a statement later on the incident. It was not immediately clear what penalties the airline could face.

Caminate said residents were astonished to see such a large plane. Piura's little airport is for domestic routes only and all international flights to Peru go to Lima.

Immigration officials checked documents in Piura and the fans went straight to the stadium to see their team beat Qatar 3-1 and qualify for the quarter-finals.

Some fans wore just tunics and trunks in the national colors of red, blue and green stripes separated by white bands, and had their faces painted.

The fans later took over five hotels in the small city while the plane was impounded at the airport.

Local prosecutor Carolina Neyra told reporters the stop in Piura was not authorized.

Well, that's it for now . . .


Friday's Team News Today

Previewing Fulham's Carling Cup match v. Lincoln today:
[M]anager Chris Coleman expects to change his entire starting line-up.

Injuries to Claus Jensen, Niclas Jensen and goalkeeper Tony Warner have convinced Coleman, already stretched by injuries, that he cannot afford to take any further risks ahead of next Monday's Premiership visit to Tottenham.
Expect to see these names as needing to pass late fitness tests, which means having them in your lineup for Saturday will be 50-50. Both Jensen's are mainstays of many a fantasy team as they are relatively cheap for their productivity.

This will be an interesting test... keep them and hope they play, saving the money it would cost to replace them. Or sell them to avoid losing points but draining your bank balance to do so. WWJD (What Will Jeremy Do)?

All-Name Team, Carling Cup Edition

Jean-Paul Kamudimba Kalala (Grimsby Town - M)

When it rains... pours:
Manchester United players are reportedly
furious at the 'negative' 4-3-3 formation championed by assistant boss Carlos Queiroz and backed by Sir Alex Ferguson.

The formation has led to only five shots on target in United's last
three games against Manchester City, Villarreal and Liverpool.
Just something to think about before (or after) you spend the $ on Cristiano van Nistelrooney. Though at home to Blackburn... maybe it's worth it after all.

A thought on Arsenal...

After all the talk of who is going to replace Viera in the Arsenal line-up, maybe the answer was on the field the whole time... but just playing in a different position. Kolo Toure might make a perfect replacement for the departed Arsenal captain. He has the height, the athleticism (he broke into the team as a right winger), and after two years as a central defender he has a much better command of the game. His runs through the Everton midfield today were perfectly timed and were very reminisicnt of Viera's.

Maybe Arsene was just hoping that this would be the year that Senderos developed into a top class defender and that Sol Campbell could get and stay healthy. Didier Drogba probably put paid to the first notion earlier this season (seen Senderos anywhere but on the side of a milk carton since the second Chelsea match?), but Campbell is certainly back. If Flamini and Fabergas start to lose their edge as the season goes on, look for Toure to step into the midfield to partner Gilberto. I bet that if he does, it will be a long time before someone moves him out of that spot.

Fantasy EPL blog hits the big time! Thanks to Yahoo! for name checking this blog on their fantasy game's home page. And welcome to everyone who has journeyed from there to here.

Coffee(c) Talk with Linda Richmond

Roy Keane breaks his metatarsal, or more specifically, Luis Garcia breaks Keane's foot.

Will this be a blessing in disguise for the Red Devils? Discuss.

I say yes, if SAF uses it as an excuse/opportunity to move back to his old 442. Scholes and Fletcher should be enough in the center of midfield, especially with Ronaldo and Giggs/Park on the wings and Rooney and RvN playing in tandem.

At some point, SAF will have to take a leap of faith on his defence (even with their injured full-backs) and go for some games in the EPL. If he does, then I think the goals and wins follow.

What do you think?

Monday Morning Manager

The Manager wonders why Bolton gets no respect? They are not flashy and have a reputation as a very physical team over-reliant on set-pieces for their offense. But when the mood strikes they can play some neat soccer (football). But defense does come first for them and they are very hard to beat. They have a good keeper, a deep and experienced back-line with Campo and Speed protecting them from the midfield

Yet week after week, fantasy managers pick against them. Last week it was Pedersen. This week there were teams featuring more than one ManCiteh player. There will be few points in these games, and they will be spread around. So don't look to take advantage of the team playing Bolton because it is not a favorable fantasy match-up.

While picking against Bolton is not the best idea, picking against Chelsea is the kiss of death. Credit to Danny Murphy for coming out of the game with almost 10pts, but Chelsea just shut down opponents. 6 wins. 6 clean sheets. Let's just hope that del Horno recovers quickly as he's the only affordable Chelsea defender. Though Michael Essien is cheap and is putting in great performances in the midfield. He appears to be the real deal, box to box middie that he was billed as. And he's going to be great for Chelsea as he seemingly can play in place of Gudjohnsen, Makelele, or one day, even for Frank Lampard. Once Lampard breaks David James' consecutive games streak that is.

In the last few weeks it was Chelsea's subs doing the damage. Duff. Drogba. On Saturday it was the starters. Crespo - it was hinted that he would start - and he did, scoring the game winning goal in the process. And Arjen Robben - probably the most exciting player in the EPL, with Henry in the treatment room, seemingly fully fit after his own injury problems.

Looking ahead to next week, Aston Villa are next to run up against the Chelsea buzz saw (or is it a brick wall?). Villa were one of the winners in the last minute transfer sweepstakes, bringing in Baros and Bouma, and getting Milner on loan from Newcastle. Baros and Milner have paid immediate dividends for their club and for fantasy owners. Both have been lively and gotten points for goals and all the various and sundry (and sometimes "hidden") categories. Though Baros needs to be more accurate in front of goal (squandered 2 good chances over the weekend) he is playing with his head up and bringing others into the game - something he never did at Liverpool. Bouma hasn't settled in to the flow of the EPL yet, though he's more accustomed to playing in the middle of the defense rather than as a left full back. How long will DO'L keep faith with Liam Ridgewell to partner Olof Melberg?

Charlton's fortunes should improve as they play at struggling West Brom. After the Chelsea game, Charlton players are a bit more reasonable. You could do worse than have an Addick at every level... Bent, Murphy, Powell, and Andersen. Rommedahl has been playing well too. In WBA's favor, they got the goal from Zoltan Gera as predicted by Mr. Thurman. And Kirkland was able to get decent points in the tie with Sunderland.

Speaking of Sunderland, they feature one of the several cheap and productive midfielders in the league this year. Dean Whitehead is taking shots, taking free kicks, and getting the occassional (2) assist. A great pick at around $8. Others in this category are Claus Jensen, (a long time Manager favorite), Jiri Jarosik (never thought I'd write that), Etherington, and all of a sudden Charles N'Zogbia with Newcastle.

Tomorrow sees Arsenal trying to recover build some momentum home to Everton. After losing to Middlesbrough and barely getting by pub team FC Thun, Arsenal are short on belief. Beating Everton by a few goals would do their attitude a world of good. Everton have lost big to the Arsenal in the past and will be hoping to avoid the hangover that have afflicted so many teams when they are new to European competition, like Middlesbrough last year. A lot will depend on whether or not Arsene Wegner has figured out how to get through a five-man midfield who will try to get on Arsenal and deny them time and space. Here's a thought... keep your wide players wide and keep at least one forward on the last defender. Make Everton defend the width and depth of the field rather than having all of your attacking options collapse around the middle third of the pitch.

Until next Monday.
The Manager

Showdown Saturday...

I don't know if the Brittish media is awash in silly titles like that but if the Prem were college football, you know damn well that Chris Fowler, Kirk Herbstreit, and Lee Corso would be all over this like bad rash. With early season pretender/contender Charlton flying high, we get to see what they're made of as they host Champions Chelsea. On Sunday, the marquee match-up will be Manchester United traveling to Anfield to square off with the (and, yes, I still have trouble believing this after seeing that snoozefest vs. Tottenham) European Champions. The Monday match-up pits last year's 2nd and 4th place teams against each other with both teams seemingly headed in the wrong direction. Should be an interesting weekend. And with that, we're off to the fantasy analysis...

Chelsea - Charlton seem like they have a lot of the same characteristics of last year's Everton squad with Darren Bent playing the role of Tim Cahill only more prolific (at least so far). Charlton are talented, but not uber-talented, at every position and seem to be willing to play for the betterment of the team. If Chelsea continue to perform at a mediocre-for-them level, this could be a trap because Charlton must be full of confidence. It does seem unlikely to me that Charlton will score a lot of goals win, lose or draw so they are probably not a great fantasy bet unless, like me, you're keeping Darren Bent because you've got him on the cheap. Another major note is the absence of fantsy RotY Asier del Horno who is out with a thigh strain. Gallas is likely to move over to take his spot (and grumble about it all the while) and Carvalho will move into Gallas' spot in the middle of the park. On the offensive side of the ball, Chelsea are clearly still in disarray. Drogba has been a good mid-range fantasy option at striker (even when he's only played 30 minuntes). You can ask Jon about how Crespo has been doing but you're more likely to get a one-fingered salute than a verbal answer. One last Charlton note, Smertin is out due to his loan agreement. Overall, my advice is that you should stay away from this one unless you're protecting a player you already have.

The Former "Big Two" - Think Bergkamp is excited about this week? First he scores a late winner to save the team from the embarrassment of drawing with unknown Swiss side Thun. Now, for dessert course he gets Everton the team he destroyed almost single-handedly at the end of last season in a performance that surely convinced Wenger that it was worth keeping him around for another season. And, did I mention that they're coming off of a trip to Romania where they got completely destroyed (following up a loss to Pompey) - not good times for the Toffees. Arsenal has had their own problems and I'm still not convinced that I want anyone from their backline on my fantasy squad but you have to like the potential for a big offensive rebound on Monday Night Football. If you can afford Reyes, get him. Ditto Freddie. Since Bergkamp is going to be drafted into Champions League service in Holland, he may not start (heck, he may have gotten on his bicycle already to start the trip to Amsterdam) so I'd give some thought before picking him. Pires seems to have calcified almost as quickly as Paul Scholes so I'd stay away from him too.

As for the Devils, they travel to the more successful part of Liverpool. With defenders dropping like flies, ManYoo will likely find out how good their investment in van der Saar was this past off season. Most of the "experts" seem to be picking a ManYoo win but this seems to have unpleasant 1-1 draw written all over it. Not good for watching and not good for fantasy owners. Ruud continues his excellent form and is likely to get the goal for ManYoo. Ronaldo and Rooney have been good but not quite as good as you'd want to make them every week no-brainers in your fantasy line-up. Richardson is being tipped to replace the injured Gabriel Heinze in the line-up - hard to tell what that might bring.

Playing Against Newly Promoted Clubs - Jeremy pointed out yesterday that Fulham aren't nearly as bad as people have given them "credit" for. That said, they aren't good either. West Ham make the trip across London high from their thrashing of Villa this past Monday and are likely to give Fulham all they can handle and more. This has the makings of a high-scoring affair and I'd be willing to bet that at least 4 goals will be scored between the two sides - obviously the message is go for the offensive players on both sides. Claus Jensen, Boa Morte and McBride merit consideration on the Fulham side and Benayoon, Reo-coker, and Etherington deserve a look on the West Ham side of the ball. Marlon Harewood was the hat trick hero but keep in mind that he's consistently been an underachiever in the Premiership so he may be the next candidate up for the Steve Watson memorial "all my fantasy points for the season in one match" award. Last week at $5, a great value, this week at over $10, not so much in my book.

In other newly promoted team match-ups miserable Sunderland host up and down West Brom in a match that could turn into just about anything. Scoring hero Geoff Horsfield is in doubt for the match and I can't think of a single reason to put a Sunderland guy in your line-up. Zoltan Gera had a nice year last year and seems ready to come back to the WBA line-up but other than the cache of having a guy named Zoltan in your line-up, I can't think of a good reason to include any of the Baggies. Finally, we have Wigan/Boro and I can't even muster the energy to talk about how horrible this is likely to be. Just don't get involved.

Other Random Notes - Blackburn host a Newcastle squad who might not have any midfielders with Parker, Nobby, Emre, Luque, and Dyer out of action - time for MGP to justify the fact that I kept him for that crap-fest last weekend. Bellamy will also be facing his good buddy Souey which is sure to end in him scoring a brace or seeing a red card (or both) - interesting risk if you're looking for a "dare-to-be-great" proposition. I'm also staying away from Owen in this one for two reasons - 1) no midfield; 2) Blackburn are a bunch of goons and Mikey is 5'2 and weighs about 105lbs. The other interesting match-up is Tottehnam going to recently-pasted Villa. What will win out here? Villa's propensity to give up goals or Tottenham's inability to score them? If you're looking for a forward choice, Defoe has to be in your consideration set from this match. Ditto Paul Robinson and anyone else from Tottenham's defense - seems like a cheap clean sheet - I know I have new left back Lee in my line-up. From the Brum/Pompey match the two wingers - Robert and Pennant - are the only two players I'd even think about. Finally, like real estate prices, who knows when the Joey Barton bubble will burst but he's playing at home, playing well and still relatively affordable at just under $12 - who would have guessed it?

So, there it is...good luck with your last minute moves and trying to figure out what Jose is going to do with his line-up...

Crap-shoot FC

Some say
Drogba has been first choice to date but his disappointing display in the 1-0 victory over Anderlecht on Tuesday night could see Crespo given the nod for Saturday's clash with Charlton.

Following their European success in midweek, Chelsea are unlikely to make few changes.

I don't even know what that second quote means. "[U]nlikely to make few changes."... does that mean they'll make no changes, or many?

And these two sources are owned by the same Austrailian bloke! Lord knows how many different opinions are floating around the other 2 media companies who control everything.

Hate team news on Friday mornings. Only serve to confuse and irritate.

And I haven't even had my COFFEE© yet!

Hopefully RvP will still be affordable... and still on parole

Bergkamp Willing To Make Ajax Trip

Arsenal's Dennis Bergkamp is ready to make the exhausting overland trip to play against Ajax as compatriot Robin van Persie is set to miss the game through suspension.
Wenger will delay any final decision on Bergkamp's travel plans, although it is now likely that the Dutchman will miss the league game against West Ham on September 24 to allow time for his father-in-law to drive him to Holland.

We're the tops

if any gets real specific on Google's new blog search

Top blogs matching fantasy epl

Fantasy EPL  updated 12 Sep 2005 

Now we just need to figure out how to monetize all the eyeballs this great SEO will generate. Ah... feels like 1999 all over again.

As if I needed another reason... dislike Liverpool. The following certainly won't help. One Super Bowl victory against the Eagles = my undying hatred.

Liverpool could soon join Manchester United in being owned by Americans, says the Daily Mail. The Kraft family, who own the New England Patriots, are said to be ready to invest in the Anfield club. They already have experience in football, having been instrumental in the the USA's Major League Soccer competition.

Turning Japanese

So far, Hidetoshi Nakata has had little influence on Bolton Wanderers Football Club. However, he seems to be inspiring the headline writers. For example, this haiku of a headline from The Guardian:
Bentley splutters in
the mishmash as Bolton by-
pass entertainment

Which in turn inspires me to write:

Rovers eleven
stay on the pitch for ninety
Pedersen, bad pick

Monday Morning Manager

The Manager's lot can be an unhappy one. Consider Mr. Wenger. Arsenal have alreay lost two games this season and did not look very convincing in their two wins. Though still early in the season, and with a game in-hand, they find themselves 9 points behind Chelsea.

They certainly miss Viera. Not only would he win the ball in midfield, but so often he would start (and sometimes finish) Arsenal's sweeping moves forward. It is that momentum and motion that Arsenal lack now. At Boro, they pressured the home side, but everything stalled at the Boro 18-yard box. Hleb, Reyes, Bergkamp, and Pires would all line up or clump together trying to pass the ball through the massed Boro defense. Often it was left to the fullback, Cole or Lauren, to try and get behind the defense without the ball. Where or where is there "fox dans le box"?

Not much else to say as the Manager didn't see too much footie this weekend. But from looking at the fantasy table, it looks like Mr. Stoltz picked it just right. Kudos to him. Ruud and Drogba continue to score goals and points with very limited touches. Murphy and Pennant score points with lots of crosses, etc., but without scoring goals. And the new boy, Owen ... did he touch the ball at all on Saturday?

Two new defenders that a few teams picked up, Nuno Valente and YP Lee, did well for themselves (and their fantasy owners). Valente collected 8pts without a clean sheet and despite picking up a yellow card. Though home to Portsmouth seems like it will be a game that other teams will look forward to all year long.

In his group, the Manager is just keeping pace. Though Baros is yet to play so here's hoping that Villa have some joy against the Hammers. And if Reo-Coker can find his shooting boots again (Nigel, they're the ones you wore in the first week of the season) that would put a smile on the Manager's face too.

What is not putting a smile on the Manager's face is that Thierry Henry's price continues to go up even though he's not playing. Is the rest of the league so poor that he looks better and better by comparison? So it looks doubtful that TH will find his way back to the squad. Anyone recommend a few middies the Manager can spend $20 on?

And we're back...

I know you've all been salivating at the chance to dip into the cheap transfers that made their way to England at the end of August. Welcome back Michael Owen, you've no doubt been the person at the forefront of most of our minds as we try to decide if we should rearrange our line-ups around you. Welcome also to a host of new defenders who are cheap and likely to start for Everton, Tottenham, Blackburn and Fulham to name just a few. Finally, welcome to the gimpy Andy van der Meyde - we wish you a speedy recovery so that we can include yet another inexpensive, but talented midfielder in our line-ups soon. And with that, we're off to the preview for the week...

Chelsea - I'm not sure anyone has any idea who is going to play for Chelsea since John Terry is rumored to be out and there have been rumblings that Jose might rest ironman Frank Lampard. What's next? The sun not rising in the East? If you can figure out who is going to play, that's a good thing because Sunderland is coming to Stamford Bridge in what should be a massacre. Drogba hasn't played since scoring two goals on Saturday against Cameroon so he should be ready to go and in fine form. Arjen Robben also played in midweek for Holland so he is at least in contention for one of the wing spots. Essien is likely to play, but he looks to be more Makelele than Lampard as a fantasy player so far. I'm not ready to take the risk on him. Joe Cole is a reasonable bet at a low price but with Robben, Duff, SWP, Lampard, Essien, and Makelele all theoretically healthy, who knows for sure if he'll start.

The Former "Big Two" - It's Manchester Derby day and Man Citeh is in fine form so it's hard to know what to expect from this one. The Devils have been in fine form as well with Ruud having been particularly productive for his squad. The biggest note in this match is that Cristiano Ronaldo is out due to the death of his father - Giggs or Park will deputize. My inclination is to stay away from this match and try to shift as many of my ManYoo guys to Chelsea guys this week if I can afford it. The big news out of Highbury is that fantasy god Theirry Henry will not be suiting up this weekend due to an injury sustained in midweek playing for France. Arsenen has indicated that he will include Reyes, Bergkamp and Pires among his starters. Pires and (sadly) Bergkamp) still have to prove themselves to me as viable fantasy options. Reyes, though, is a great bet if you can afford him. Ditto anyone in Arsenal’s defense against toothless Boro.

Playing Against the Newbies – We’ve already covered Sunderland, hopefully, they won’t be too mentally scarred from this weekend’s experience. Wigan travel to West Bromwich Albion who have proved that they can score with the big boys this season but that they really can’t defend. It should be an interesting match up with Wigan who have been tight in defense, but can’t score. Geoff Horsfield has been hot but as Jeremy pointed out, he hasn’t had a ton of chances, he’s just been perfect when he’s had them. That always leads to the question – when will his luck/good form run out? Finally, Villa travel to London to face the best of the three promoted sides so far, West Ham United. Villa will have a new look without Solano and I’d anticipate that they’ll suffer a little bit as they figure out how they’re going to get the ball to Philips and Baros. Baros is still a decent cut priced bet but I’d be more likely to take a chance on his former teammate at Anfield. Nigel Reo-Coker may have done everything he’s going to do for the year (and in doing so, win the Steve Watson award for stunningly successful early season match followed up by not much of anything).

Random Notes – Still on the Darren Bent bandwagon even thought Charlton/Birmingham isn’t the most exciting match-up ever…Ditto Jermaine Pennant and Danny Murphy…It looks like Nuno Valente is going to start for Everton – cheap wing defenders are always a welcome thing…Ditto Lee from Tottenham although the match-up with Liverpool isn’t as enticing as the match-up between Everton and Pompey…I’m staying away from the Tottenham/Liverpool match as well as Blackburn/Bolton as both feel like they’re going to be nearly unwatchable, not very high scoring, and in neither case do I have a strong feeling about who will win. From those four squads, I am only planning to include Mort Gamst Pedersen since he’s been great all season so far.

Wales/England Highlights

courtesy of

0 min -- Beautiful day in Cardfiff; everyone's ready for this massive game. The roof is open on the Millennium Stadium. John Hartson's head looks massive; about as big as a house.

2 mins -- There have been two minutes, and Wales haven't had a touch. They are an awful football side. About as good as Andorra.

5 mins -- England are doing a great job of doing nothing at all; just knocking the ball about with no particular purpose or direction.

8 mins -- Great atmosphere; rubbish game.

17 mins -- Lots of passing the ball about in front of the Wales defence, which numbers eight, but nothing remotely interesting is happening. If this continues, I'm going to have to start making things up...

21 mins -- Ricketts drags a shot horribly wide after cutting in from the left wing. In truth, it was the worst attempt at goal I have seen for a long, long time. Dreadful.

25 mins -- England have had twice as much possession as Wales, but have done nothing with it. Absolutely nothing. I feel as though I'm dying inside.

31 mins -- I'm not one to exaggerate, but this is dreadful. Go outside and watch the grass grow; it's going to be more interesting than this.

36 mins -- Beckham, in this new 'holding' midfield role, has done precisely nothing. Nothing that you or I couldn't do. I can pass the ball sidewards, to someone five yards away. Can you?

HALF-TIME: Imagine your worst nightmare. This has been it. My head hurts from thinking up words to replace the expletives that I want to use during this commentary.

51 mins -- I swear that Hartson's head has got even bigger during the half-time interval. Maybe he has injected it with something, in order to appear more intimidating. Just a thought.

52 mins -- GOAL! Joe Cole side-foots a shot past Coyne after latching on to SWP's low cross. A big deflection took the ball past the goalkeeper.

72 mins -- Collins, the Wales substitute, has a fantastic shock of ginger hair; a beautiful bonfire of crazy dreams, flickering away, right there on his head.

89 mins -- Richardson attempts to waste some time by doing some tricks near the Wales corner-flag. Giggs flies in and nails him.

FULL-TIME: About the worst 90 minutes of football you can imagine. Sweet Valley High. England win, and they'll be happy. Wales lose, and they'll be sad.

The Saga Continues

"City failed with Ashton bids":

Norwich City have revealed Manchester City made two bids to sign Dean Ashton.

The England Under-21 international was one of the most sought-after strikers during the summer, with Wigan Athletic also chasing the player.

Wigan boss Paul Jewell confirmed his interest in the former Crewe Alexandra ace but dropped out of the hunt when learning he was not for sale.

Premiership rivals City were also keen on the powerful hot shot and made two substantial offers for Ashton.

Both bids were rebuffed by The Canaries, who displayed their determination to keep Ashton at the club by handing him a contract extension which ties him to Carrow Road until 2009.

Winners and Losers at the Transfer Deadline...

Read it here...or at

So, the transfer window has finally closed and what did we learn? That Newcastle made a mistake by letting Nobby Solano go? No, we already knew that. That David Moyes may be an excellent motivator but he, or someone at Everton, is clearly a lousy sales person? Apparently, everyone wants the chance at playing in Europe…unless it means coming to Everton. Seriously, has anyone who qualified for the Champion’s League ever had THIS much trouble attracting talent? That Michael Owen doesn’t have very good advisers or just doesn’t think strategically about his career? His move to Madrid should have taught us that. OK, maybe we didn’t learn anything but at the very least, this gives us the opportunity to speculate on who came out better and who came out worse as transfer activity came to a close until January…

Newcastle – Luque wide on the left, Solano wide on the right, Owen running all day long while Shearer positions himself for headers and one-time shots with Emre providing a creative spark in the middle and Scott Parker holding the line in front of the leaky defense. That almost sounds like a Premiership team. The additional offense will certainly take some of the pressure off the defense by keeping the ball in the offensive end more regularly. If there’s any money left for a defender or two in January, Newcastle might finish in the top half of the table with a strong second half run.

Arsenal – No, not for getting Poom although he can’t be much worse than Almunia. No, they win because Tottenham saved them from spending any money on Jermaine Jenas and because they managed to load out David Bentley rather than selling him outright. Loaning out Justin Hoyte so that he could get some first team experience at Sunderland was also a good thing. This has the feel of a third place season for the Gunners as they turn over at least half of their midfield with Vieira gone and Pires having aged 10 years in the last 12 months. I’m sure this won’t go over well with Gooners (myself included) but there wasn’t anyone available who was going to change this from being a 3rd place team into a 2nd or 1st place team. In the absence of any major talents on the market, Arsenal were wise to save their money rather than spend it on a mediocre replacement like Jenas who has great potential but hasn’t shown himself to be any better than Flamini or Fabregas with his play on the field. Not a huge win, but a win none-the-less.

Blackburn – Anytime they add a skilled player, it has to be considered a win – on the off chance that anyone agrees to televise another one of their matches there is now the possibility of 3 skilled players being on the pitch at the same time with loan signing David Bentley joining Mort Gamst Pedersen and Brett Emerton. If Bellamy is ever healthy again, that number goes to 3.5.

Villa – Getting Wilfred Bouma to fill the gap in the center of defense created by the injury to Martin Laursen was a great move and not that expensive. Losing Solano will hurt but David O’Leary knows more about James Milner than anyone else and the combination of Milner and loan signing Bakke from Leeds will give Villa enough on the right wing to compensate for losing Nobby. Baros has obviously started to pay dividends already.

Pompey – Who knows if either of their signings – French Midfielder Frank Songo’o and Uruguayan Striker Dario Silva – will make a meaningful difference but anything would be an improvement over what they’ve shown so far. Lauren Robert and the ten dwarves have had Pompey firmly on track to join neighbors Southampton in the Championship next season. The new guys certainly can’t hurt and by all reports, Songo’o has a great deal of potential. Hopefully, Pompey will be back in the Prem by the time he realizes that potential.

Norwich and Palace – The deadline has come and gone and they still have Ashton and AJ respectively. Now, the clubs have to prove that keeping their star strikers was the right move by at least getting into the top half of the Championship standings. Heck, Norwich would do well to win one. If things continue at this pace, expect both to be gone in January with Everton, Man Citeh, West Ham (if they have a chance to stay up) and Newcastle (if there’s any money left) the likely bidders.

Chelsea – Neither ManYoo or Arsenal got any closer to challenging them at the deadline. With the acquisition of Essien in the bag, there was really nothing to do to improve their squad.

Boro – Nothing against new signing Fabio Rochemback but it looks like they’ll be losing Stewart Downing for some amount of time and the rest of the team looked very old against Charlton last time out getting crushed at the Riverside. It’s going to take more than one fairly anonymous Brazilian midfielder to change the way things are going at Boro. They needed at least two central midfielders and some cover for Downing while he’s out. Trading in either JFH or Viduka for the cash to buy some younger talent wouldn’t have been a bad idea either. They’re essentially the same player and Boro should cash in on one of them before they lose their value.

Robbie Keane – Spurs signed ANOTHER striker ahead of him but did so late enough that Robbie wasn’t allowed to go to Everton where he would have been sent straight into the starting XI – something he’ll have a hard time doing as Jermaine Defoe cements his place as a top striker in the Prem and Martin Jol makes sure that Defoe has a target player as a strike partner.

Jermaine Jenas – This is a guy who hasn’t been able to hold down a starting spot at Newcastle where, until recently, there haven’t been more than 3 or 4 competent midfield players on the roster. Now he’s headed to Spurs where he’ll have to get past Edgar Davids, Michael Carrick and every up-and-coming English central midfielder under the age of 23. File this with Michael Owen-to-Madrid in the category of “all-time bad career moves”. I won’t be shocked if he moves again in January. Next summer at the latest.

Everton – I’m a big Andy van der Meyde fan and have high hopes that he will follow Dennis Bergkamp’s career path – success at Ajax, crap at Inter, excellence in the Premiership. However, Everton needed more than just he an Matteo Ferrari before the transfer window closed. With only the flabby James Beattie, the ancient Duncan Ferguson, and the injured Marcus Bent at striker – they needed at least one more quality player up top given the extra fixtures that they’ll presumably face in the UEFA Cup. Likewise, Ferrari fills the void left by Pistone’s injury but they were short of depth in defense before that injury. That signing was just treading water. These guys are in deep trouble in the second half of the season unless they fortify in January.

Man United – They’ve started off brightly but I’m still convinced that they need another central midfielder who can be groomed to take over for Roy Keane when his legs eventually fall off. Alan Smith can replace Keano’s bad temper and occasional rash tackle but I can’t see him offering the leadership, passing, or high quality defending in front of the back four that Roy got right 98% of the time when he was in his prime. Maybe there was no one available, but it seems obvious by the lack of even a rumor over the last week that there's no $$ to shore up the midfield. Not good times at Old Trafford.