UEFA CL Final Man of the Match

The award has to go to Rafa Benitez for his halftime adjustments. In the first half he wanted his fullbacks to get forward and overload the Milan fullbacks. It worked, but when the crosses flew in, there was no one there to attack them. How many times did a leaping Baros, marked by Stam or Nesta, watch a ball fly over his head?

And while this approach worked on the attacking end, it was a completely disaster defensively! Liverpool was concentrating on the wings while Milan was shredding them up the middle. Seedorf, Pirlo and most especially Kaka had the run of the field and were able to send dangerous balls through to Crespo and Shevchenko. If those two would have stayed onsides more often the score could have been 6-0 at half time.

In the second half, Benitez sacrificed Finnan on the right to bring in Hamman in the middle of the pitch. This switch closed up the space that Milan's midfielders were exploiting and allowed Gerrard to move forward and concentrate on attacking. Gerrard scored one and created one, and Hamman created the other with a quick pass to Scmicer.

While Benitez was decisive, Ancelotti didn't change his tactics until too late. Only when he brought on Sergihno (sp?) and started attacking Liverpool's flank did Milan look like getting back into the game. But big saves from Dudek and tired legs forced PKs. Which much to my surprise, Liv won. Credit Dudek's "crazy legs" and his new habit of coming out 3 steps to deny the kick. A tactic I like to call "the Brianna Scurry".

Now, will the CL trophy stay in Liverpool next year? Only if David Moyes is as good a manager as Rafa Benitez.


Just to Recap...

Arsenal Undefeated Champions in '03-'04

DC United MLS Cup Champions 2004

Philadelphia Eagles to the Super Bowl '04-'05

UNC NCAA Men's Basketball Champions '04-'05

Arsenal FA Cup Winners 2005

Throw in a run of increasingly positive finishes for me in Fantasy EPL and an undefeated record (5-0) in Fantasy Sports Side Wagers and we're looking at a sporting run the likes of which hasn't been seen in my world since Philadelphia in 1980 (Phillies World Series, Sixers, Flyers & Eagles in their respective championship games).

Not a bad run - time for the Eagles to break through and get it done in Super Bowl XL

How Sweet It Is...

Yup, we got outplayed. Rooney and Ronaldo were CLEARLY the best two players on the field in Cardiff on Saturday and there really wasn't a close third place. You know how much I cared about those two facts as Paddy Vieira put the 5th PK past the hapless Roy Carroll? Not a damn bit. It was lovely to hear Sir Alex bitch and moan about his timid team of underdogs who couldn't stand up to the physical play from, um, Jose Reyes? Take it like a man, your boys haven't been able to finish when they needed to all year and Saturday was no exception. Ruud just needs to call a mulligan on the year - he missed a number of opportunities that should have been gimmies for him. Scholes missed a couple that he should have put in as well - including the PK that everyone on Earth knew he was going to find a way to blow. And there it is - Arsenal are FA Cup winners without Henry and ManYoo go home for the summer with nothing to show for the campaign and no transfer budget for the summer. Good times indeed.

Just something to ponder, if Chelsea win the league, Arsenal win the FA Cup, Liverpool win the Champion's League, and ManYoo win nothing, does that make ManYoo the fourth best team in England this year?

News that Arsenal will be buying 2 or 3 players is welcome, especially given that one will be a striker. Dean Ashton, your life is waiting...

Finally, as I get ready to jet over to Ireland and England for Kris' wedding, I'd like to savor my moment atop the MLS Fantasy standings. I'm sure it won't last long but since its never happened before, I'm going to bask in the glow. On Ronald, on Jaime, on Edson and Brad, on Hector and Thiago, on Danny, on Albright and Michael and Tim - and, finally, keep holdin' on Scotty - the defense is bound to get better in Big D eventually, isn't it?

Is He or Isn't He?

As if in response to yesterday's commentary on Patrick Berger heading to Villa Park, the rumor mill has Craig Bellamy (along with the forgettable Aaron Hughes) already signed, sealed, and delivered as JPA's running mate for next season. If it happens and the health problems that always seem to dog Bellamy and Berger allow them to play along side each other for more than half the season, Villa may have something. Certainly, fantasy managers have to be intrigued by the possibility of Bellamy starting up top every time he's healthy.

In other news, Sam Allerdyce seems ready to test the bounds of his ability to bring in underperforming old guys for one last hurrah at Bolton. He's done amazing things with Campo, Hierro, Candala, et al but after watching the new apple of his eye, Patrick Kluivert, this past season - it seems like a bit of a stretch. On the other hand, maybe we'll find out just how poisonous the situation is at St. James' Park.

Good Berger

Last year, they added Nobby. This year it appears that they will add Patrick Berger who will leave Pompey on a free transfer. Granted, you can only expect Berger to make about 2/3 of the team's appearances but between the two of them, Berger and Nobby can make plays on their own and open things up for the rest of the team. Now, about adding a couple more strikers who can actually do something with the space that Nobby and Berger open up. If they can get Baros away from Liverpool, they might actually have something. Don't hold your breath.

ESPN.com: Page 2 : Man U. Football 101

ESPN.com: Page 2 : Man U. Football 101

Let the games begin...

Still my beating heart. Unlike American sports with Free Agent waiting periods and other silly artificial constructs, the transfer market is already in full swing. The hero of my 2003-04 fantasy season Yakubu will be the next to test the curse of the 'Boro striker (OK, its not quite the curse of the Bambino, but ask Viduka, Maccarone, and Ricketts about arriving on Teesside as a striker with expectations - not good times). Tottenham also announced the signing of a Canadian wing defender - Paul Stalteri - from Werder Bremen. Here are some quick thoughts...

1) Unless Yakubu pulls a hammy on his way to deposit all of his money, he'll be in my starting line-up in the fall;

2) Stalteri has some things going for him in the fantasy footie world - descriptions of his play imply that he plays a fairly attack-minded wing-back and is proficient at crossing the ball. OK, he's not French but Canadian is the next best (worst?) thing when it comes to fantasy stats. Now the questions is whether he can overcome Tottenham's inexplicable knack for producing fantasy football mediocrity. Seriously, can anyone remember the last time a Spurs player was a fantasy no-brainer? The last one that comes to mind is now managing Germany.

Crying Foul in Manchester - New York Times

'Not for $ale.'

this is getting quite the play in the MSM. Maybe Malcolm and Rupert have a plan for FSC?

Between McBride and Bocanegra dismantaling Norwich, and Freidel keeping TOT out of Europe it's been quite the week for American's in English football.

Wrap-up, Part One...

(...of many I'm guessing). Well done to Jeremy who won the battle for second and would probably have done so by even more with his second choice squad for the week whereas I played Norwich to his Fulham - completely uninspired. At least it won't cost me 18 million pounds. Some random thoughts...

1) I'm on the Lampard bandwagon as much as anyone but I was shocked to see that he DID NOT finish first among Premiership midfielders in goals. That honor would go to the somehow overlooked Robert Pires who started 27 games to Lampards every single minute of every single game. Granted, Pires is not the player he was a couple years ago, and he has fewer responsibilities in Arsenal's system than Lampard has at Chelsea but I'm not sure I'm ready to give Frank the "best midfielder in the world" title just yet when a) he's probably not the best midfielder on his team (Robben has a much bigger impact when healthy); and b) Pires produces nearly as much in far fewer minutes.

2) After a late surge, my man, Dennis Bergkamp finished the season at 8 goals and 11 assists. Not bad for an old man who played in about half of his team's games/minutes. Here's hoping for one more year.

3) Not having had the chance to watch any of the action over the weekend, I have to say that even 24 hours later, I'm still stunned that Norwich failed to show up against a Fulham team that had no reason to be doing anything but scheduling tee times (or tea times, I suppose). The six goals they recorded on Sunday represented 12% of their goal output FOR THE ENTIRE SEASON!! (just for perspective, each game in a 38 game season represents about 2.5% of the season). Think the Fulham fans are wondering where the hell that effort/outcome has been all season?

4) Nice to see T-Ho getting an additional 2 years at OT. Granted its a mess up that way these days but its still nice to see that they still see the talent there and are willing to let him mature.

5) Sorry, Kate, but my intuition tells me that ManYoo will regret the commitment they just made to Giggs. He was effective in spurts but not consistently healthy enough. Seems like the time that SAF in his prime would have sold Giggsy off to a less savvy manager in need of a brand name for his off-season efforts (Tottenham anyone?).

6) Let the Dean Ashton-to-Arsenal watch commence in earnest!

7) Wonder what the hell I'm going to do with all the free time I have now

8) At least next season starts early because of the World Cup.

Look for more soon.


Big celebration for a guy 120 points in the rear view mirror of the champion . . .

That being said, what happened to me in a head to head 10 week mini-league at the end of last season at the hands of Mr. thurman has happened to him - except this time it wasn't yakubu doing the yakubu'ing - it was an on loan Man U player (ouch) and some goalie I have never heard of (dooh!)

Strong finish, well done. Too bad of course its only for second place.

for Kate, part duex

Laurent Robert "celebrates" the end of NUFC's season.

hell yeah!

let "a summer of good natured abuse from Jeremy" begin!



Once more into the breach...

So here we are at the last weekend of both the EPL and fantasy seasons and it seems like all hell is on the verge of breaking loose. Much like the EPL, we don't have much of a race for first so once again congratulations to Kris on his victory as well as his pending nuptuals. Additional congrats on what must be a pretty impressive world ranking. I'm sitting at #676 worldwide and he has somewhere between 150 and 200 points on me. Lofty heights indeed.

On the all hell breaking loose side of things...will Glazer-gate accelerate the decline of ManYoo? Soccernet certainly seems to think so. Needless to say, the revelation that Arsene Wenger does indeed have his eye on Dean Ashton has me on cloud nine as I contemplate a future rooting for a front line of Reyes, Ashton, van Persie, Bentley and Fabregas. The rumor that the Lyon coach and his 3 straight Ligue 1 titles quit to come over as Wenger's successor in a few years is also good news as this clearly puts us ahead of ManYoo's unsettled front office. Elsewhere, we have the 4 games that will determine the plights of the relegation candidates. I'm having a hard time deciding whether to root for my boy Dean Ashton to do well and stay up because I've enjoyed Norwich a great deal since he came over in January or to root against them in hopes that relegation frees him up for a transfer to Arsenal this close season. In any event, one last time for this year, here's the line-up...

Henry - He's back...the question last week was whether he'd have more points in one half of one game than one of my other strikers had in two full matches.
FAS DA - Everytime Norwich's backs have been against the wall, he's come through - can't leave him out now.
AJ - if I'd been on his bandwagon earlier, I might be up with Kris in the stratosphere - I wasn't and I'm not, but I couldn't take the notion of missing out on 2nd by repeating my mistake when he has everything to play for.

Lampard - He's going to play which means he's got to be in the line-up
van Persie - This is really a placeholder for now - with Henry back, his starting position is in jeopardy - he's definitely been in form but with only 6 points separating me from 3rd place and a summer of good natured abuse from Jeremy - every point counts
Camara - relegation on the line and he's definitely starting at striker with Crouch benched
Francis - did I mention that I've been sucked in by the Norwich bandwagon? If only Huckerby were correctly assigned as a midfielder...

Cole - Arsenal seems to be in form heading towards the FA Cup
Toure - taking over for Lauren as he recovers from "blood poisoning"
Wallwork - fighting to avoid relegation makes an already prolific defender even more attractive

Lehmann - See Cole above...

The season has been a blast and remember to look for commentary reviewing the season just past - the ongoing MLS season and the EPL off-season in the coming weeks...

Cheers - Neal

Top of the Table Recommendations

While this weekend's line-up decisions matter not to me, I thought those less fortunate could benefit from my selection acumen and wisdom, so here goes (and for once I go before neal so he can ridicule my ideas) . . .


Henry - I say no (though he burned me bad with a hat trick a while ago)

AJ - I say yes - the palace will stay up

Ashton - FAS Dean Ashton is a good bet this weekend

Rooney - while man u may rest some supposed stars, despite an american owner (cool), fergie won't want to throw the game v. SOU and rooney should have plenty of chances versus a pathetic defense

Defoe - If he plays in the three headed TOT strike force - there should be goals a plenty


Van Persie - granted a 2nd pager - but now a good bet to get some points as arsenal goes for 14-0 win

Lampart - say it ain't so joe - the streak will stay alive - the only CHE player we know will start

SWP - the mighty mite should be in for a good day as his team pushes for europe

Downing - always a good bet - though his recent appearances on the bench are worrying

Any Reid - He's Irish and Pudgy, what more could you want? Plus, TOT looks to get lots of offensive points this match

Pires / Ljjunggberrg - not sure who is playing here - but if you are feeling the arse love (boy that sound dirty) than one of them might be a good selection


These are tricky this week, but . . .

Quedrue - or what ever his name is (i guess he might play and he seems to have a high average)

A Cole - seems to be due to be the arse defender to get big points

hibbert - one of my favorites this year - good for points with or without a clean sheet

Senderos - if you don't like ashley (yellow card cole) or if you want to double up on the arse defenders

Ledley King - might be a good bet to score this weekend


All i can think of is Lehman - all the other games are too confusing for me

Any way - those are my thoughts - the last week is tough to call for the obvious reasons, sure glad i am not fighting for a champions league spot - speaking of which, how terrible does LIV feel about seeing EVE losing 7-0 to ARS and knowing that they will be in the champions league next year - too funny

Late Night Blogging...

Greetings from 2nd place in our little division. In the glow of the touchdown to nil performance by Arsenal over Everton (which brings the aggregate between the two to 11-1 this year), the virtuoso performance by Dennis Bergkamp (a goal and at least 2 assists), and 2 goals by Bobby Pires which makes my fantasy situation much more palatable, we find this item on Soccernet... http://soccernet.espn.go.com/headlinenews?id=333102&cc=5901 - its really the 3rd to last paragraph that makes an excellent day even better. Indeed, FAS may turn into AS sooner than even I had hoped. The only thing that could make the end of the season any better would be a similar flogging of ManYoo on the 21st.

Exciting times as we head into the final weekend.

Press Release: Major Announcements from Galway Galacticos

The Galway Galacticos, in light of the massive cash influx from their impending finish at the top of the table, have officially announced that they will be moving into a new yet to be determined stadium in Dublin, Ireland. An unnamed team spokesperson stated, "We have many great memories of our time in Galway, especially this year's championship run, but we simply can't pass up this opportunity to expand our fan base and create new revenue streams going forward."

In a more controversial move cleary targeted at generating more merchandising revenue, the club has decided to change its name to the Blue Dobies FC. This name change will seek to create synergies between the incredibly successful first year fantasy epl club and its more established parent fantasy nfl football club, the Blue Dobies, 2003 Champions themselves.

The club has stated that its intention is to win the coveted epl/nfl double next year.

While this decision is likely to result in large scale fan protests, the owner, an unemployed american business tycoon, has stated, "Let the silly English soccer fans protest, its all about the broadcast rights, oh, baby i love those Asian television markets - oh, and if I get my way we will have fecking video replay in goals and time will be kept accurately, with matches ending exactly on 90:00 - how hard can it be for the ref to start and stop his watch during the match when there is no play going on anyway, every other sport in the world has seemed to master this time keeping skill."

Weekend in Review...

Welcome back my friends to the show that never ends...really, this does seem to be dragging a bit at the end. The top 4 are in place, there's still some work to be done at the bottom and I suppose the pretty much useless UEFA Cup spots are still up for grabs.

Storyline 1 - Dean Ashton, Dean Ashton, Dean Ashton - Norwich takes the lead in the relegation battle and Dean puts off the inevitable move to Highbury for another year. One can only imagine where Norwich would have finished with Ashton in the line-up all year and Bentley injury-free.

Storyline 2 - Paradise Lost - ManYoo, once again, puts out a second team line-up (leaving Rooney and Scholes on the bench) and pays the price by giving up two points to West Brom. Not the greatest penalty call ever, but certainly more legit than Rooney's vs. Arsenal earlier in the season. The decline of the non-Rooney, non-Ronaldo ManYoo talent pool will, of course, get its own blog entry (or two) after the season is over.

Storyline 3 - Talented Chelsea - and in this case, we mean the wives that took the field to celebrate with the newly crowned champions. Maybe Jose should have played them at Anfield. No way talent like that would ever lose to the Reds. And we KNOW that they'd never walk alone.

Storyline 4 - High Hopes - this will also get one or more entries to itself over the summer, but here's the early list of potential breakout players for next year: Robin van Persie, Mikael Arteta, Tim Cahill, Luis Garcia (potentially scarey with a full year under his belt), David Bentley (if he gets PT somewhere), Darren Ambrose, James Milner, Jon Stead, and Collins John. Probably not appropriate to include anyone who will be joining Chelsea (as they will likely be an established star from somewhere costing upwards of $20 million) and ManYoo's kids seem to have already either broken out (Rooney, Ronaldo, and Heinze) or burnt out (everyone else Sir Alex has purchased in the last 3 years).

Here's hoping that the one storyline that I'm missing is the last hurrah for Scholes, Pires, Ronaldo, Terry and Ashley Cole later this week so that I can nudge my way back into 2nd place in advance of the last week of the season. A pox on John O'Shea. Ryan Giggs and the aforementioned Arteta - yellow cards and/or seats on the bench all around.

Trophies in the foreground

click to enlarge

Streakers interrupt Liv/Che

No, wait... evidently, JARiise threw his shrit AND his shorts into the crowd after the match. Kate, this one is for you. Click here.

You'll Never Walk Alone...

...but you may find yourself defending your Champion's League crown in the UEFA Cup next season. Congratulations to Liverpool on beating down the evil empire of the EPL and proving that no matter how good you are down the middle, if you've got no width, things will not go well for you. The absence of Duff and Robben (for most of the game) and the movement of Joe Cole into a more central role led Chelsea to try to generate offense in the middle of the park, Liverpool packed themselves in got a quick goal and that was that.

Now, on to this week in the Prem...

Chelsea, ManYoo, Arsenal & Everton are all playing double games giving managers lots of obvious choices for doubling up. The biggest question of the week will be who Jose plays now that they've won the Prem and are out of the Champion's League. Will he stop Lampard's consecutive games streak? Will he rest his first team and trot out the second team for the beginning of next year's try-out camp? ManYoo and Arsenal are still fighting for 2nd place so the chances are that they'll be playing their full line-ups. Really, I can't see any reason to include anyone who doesn't play for one of the big 3 so we'll limit the conversation to them. Hopefully, the cosmic balance will forgive me for excluding Dean Ashton last week and these will be the right choices:

Reyes, Rooney & Ronaldo - given ManYoo's need to get as many points as possible, it's unlikely they'll rest either of their best offensive players. Reyes is really the only Arsenal guy labeled a striker to include. Drogba has been terrible the last few weeks and I just can't get excited about Eidur.

Pires - up and down but seems like he should be due for a 1 goal, 1 assist sort of game
van Persie - been playing great, still pissed I didn't put him in last week
Lampard - risk management - can't leave him out and Jose will probably indulge his streak now that there's no risk of it impacting the outcome of the Champion's League (HAHAHAHAHAHA)
Scholes - its either him or Giggs depending on who seems likely to play

Lauren - Of all things, the Arsenal defense has been the tightest of the big 3 in recent weeks
Cole - See above
Terry - Some portfolio diversification as well as adding in his offensive potential as opposed to going with an all-Arsenal back line - neither Toure nor Senderos seem likely to do much on offense.

Lehman -Haven't given up a goal since Senderos started in place of the injured Sol, not sure why this isn't a bigger story. Does this make Sol available over the summer? Will another Englishman ever play for Arsene? Is Campbell slipping into the "overrated" category? Do you partner Sol and Senderos next year and have Toure as a utility defender (remember he was a wing midfielder before being pressed into action in central defense)? Enquiring minds want to know...(plus, enquiring minds need to set up some storylines for the off-season)...