Ahhhhh...

What a great day yesterday way. The release of the new version of the game. Endless IM sessions discussion line-up permutations and provisional line-ups. Throw in the first GameCast of the season (Arsenal's Champions League Qualifier) and things are looking up after a month of hanging on to pre-season reports and transfer rumors as the only outlet for the football-addicted among us (OK, I was following MLS as well, but it isn't quite the same).

As you have hopefully all seen, we have invited our readers into one of two private groups for this season. And, yes, that was a shameless plug - just imagine if we had actual sponsors - the shamelessness would be almost unbearable.

With that out of the way, I thought I'd start off with my initial thoughts as I spent some time with my line-up yesterday and started looking at things like schedule, etc.

My first thought, was about schedule and how bummed that I am that Arsenal and Liverpool are both one-gamers in the first week (even though both games are very attractive). Given the influx of talented newbies, I was ready for a strategy that got me Gerrard and Henry from the outset. As it stands, we have to make (or not make) the bet that these guys are capable of a game SO spectacular that it will make up for them not having two.

My second look was to the schedules for the two gamers which yielded the following teams as being good bets the first week - ManYoo, Spurs, West Ham, and Everton along with Chelsea. Actually, quite a lot to choose from.

So here's where that leads me in terms of my thoughts about my first starting line-up of the season:

Strikers (3 From) - Sheva, Drogba, Ashton, Berbatov, Rooney, AJ, and Keane with Sheva being a no-brainer for the money and Berbatov being pretty close to that. If he appears to be healthy, Saha enters into this mix as well (but how many times have we typed those words).

Midfielders (4 From) - Ballack, Lampard, Cahill, Arteta, Lennon, Convey, Benayoun, Etherington, Giggs, Ronaldo, and Park. Again, Ballack is something of a no brainer. Convey is a personal bias (nice wing player who will be a points machine unless Reading is completely overmatched). Cahill and Arteta are priced to move and have a nice first week schedule. Lennon is even cheaper and seems likely to start in the wake of his World Cup appearance. There are always old standbys like MGP and Joey Barton but the schedule isn't really in their favor this week (although MGP generally starts brightly). The real tragedy is that Liverpool's midfield trio of Pennant, Gonzalez (who scored within 3 minutes of his Anfield debut), and Gerrard don't make much sense. You may notice that Paul Scholes is not on this list - that is not an omission, Paul Scholes is dead to me - he's screwed my fantasy roster up too many times to be counted on.

Defenders (3 From) - Terry, Bridge, Heinze, Dawson, A. Ferdinand, M. Taylor, and Neville. The absence of Arsenal defenders Hoyte and Djourou as viable options here makes this a lot tougher. With few high profile signings at the back, there aren't many bargains to be had. If Ashley Cole makes the move to Stamford Bridge, then his name replaces Bridge's as a contender for the first week. If you figure out who starts on the right for the Hammers (Pantsil/Mears/Spector) - they might be a price-effective pick-up that allows you to spend your money elsewhere.

Keepers (1 From) - Tim Howard. Unless you're planning to spend a bundle, T-Ho is the obvious choice coming off a year of sitting at Man United. Hard to believe a former Premiership Keeper of the Year who is under 30 and has no history of injuries has had so much trouble getting a match. If you're not shy about spending on your keeper, then Cech and van der Saar are the two obvious choices with Robinson in 3rd.

In the meantime, please join me in hoping against all hope that one of the Premiership teams in the running can close a deal for Obefemi Martins - as Jeremy pointed out, he's a better version of LuaLua and his name is nearly as much fun to say.

Finally, we throw out a fond farewell to Nigel Reo-Coker who went from being a great fantasy player when listed as a defender while playing midfield to a fantasy afterthought now that he's (correctly) listed as a midfielder. It was great getting to know you (although better for Jeremy than the rest of us).

Only 10 days left...