Lockdown Imminent

15 mins left until Yahoo locks down the Fantasy EPL game for the week. Are you ready? Made your picks? Have we helped or just muddied the waters?

Good Ghaly

Tottenham sign midfielder Ghaly

Headline writers all over England are celebrating this transfer. How much easier does it make their jobs?

Though it is not like Tot were making their lives difficult before, and they'll still have Michael Brown in London to kick around as he moves to Fulham.

What can he do for them?
(man, that's lame)

Better Late Than Never...

I apologize again for the lateness of the post, the last week has been packed to the gills and today was no exception as I woke up at 5:00 AM for a flight to Chicago, spent the majority of a day in the Chicago airport for meetings, and then flew home and am now comfortably sitting back in my living room ready to talk about the mid-week games to come.

The first oddity of the week is Yahoo's apparent refusal to acknowledge that there is a match on Wednesday between Arsenal and West Ham. According to Arsenal.com, Soccernet.com, and BBC.com, this match is happening. I'm guessing that Yahoo will figure this out, but it's been a week and they haven't yet, so you might want to be a bit wary.

Before getting to the commentary, I'd also like to congratulate fellow blogger Jeremy on his elevated status in the ranking - nice work. And this is in no way meant to put a hex on his recent success...

With that said, and (hopefully) done, on to the commentary (I'll try to keep it brief because I'm freakin' wiped out).

Chelsea - So, do they react to their second run of mediocre play of the season (consecutive draws to Charlton and Everton) by breaking out? Or are they so focused on their match-up with Liverpool on Sunday that they fall prey to the trap that David O'Leary is no doubt praying for at Villa Park. I'm not sure exactly what is wrong since Chelsea are trotting out their first team. Maybe they're just bored now that they've built up such a lead in the league. I still refuse to bet against Lampard having a big match because he is almost always productive for fantasy managers but the defense must be questioned after giving up goals to the "other" Bent and James McFadden (who the Blog loves but who isn't exactly Henry either). For the money, Chelsea haven't pulled their collective fantasy weight. If you have someone (Del Horno or Crespo most likely) at a cheap price, it's worth keeping them. If you're shopping from scratch, this is probably not the match to look at. Villa is unlikely to score more than one and Chelsea hasn't shown much more than that. If I were betting, I'd say 1-0 Chelsea, but I wouldn't make the bet because there's too much recent history saying that 1-1 is as likely an outcome.

The Former "Big Two" - There are a number of things that are troubling about the Arsenal match. First, their form has been rotten. Not as much at home as on the road, but even at Highbury they've been less than dominating unless the opposition just rolled over (this means you Boro). Presuming Yahoo gets its act together and counts the points from this match, I'm not sure how excited I'd be about it. Henry is incredibly expensive and the Gunners don't get consistent production from anyone else - either on the field or in terms of fantasy points. Pires, Reyes, and van Persie have had hot stretches and Hleb has started contributing but none have done so week in and week out. Likewise, the Gunners defense has had some nice stretches but they've also had some unexpectedly bad outings as well featuring lots of cards and one or more goals.

On the West Ham side, new signing Dean Ashton has to be considered questionable after his new manager said "I blessed with luxury up there. Dean is definitely fit for Wednesday - so God knows what I'm going to do". Not exactly what fantasy managers want to hear although it doesn't matter much since Yahoo doesn't appear to have posted him yet (not their finest week so far). Ashton's possible inclusion decreases the value of Harewood (who will take penalties?) but increases the value of Etherington who will now have someone on the end of his crosses. It's probably wise to wait a week but if Ashton's impact at Upton Park is similar to the one he made at Carrow Road last year, look for good things all around once he's settled.

Manchester United travel to Ewood Park in an attempt to avenge the loss Blackburn and MGP inflicted on them at OT. Just their luck that MGP is starting to produce again after a rough November and December. Fortunately, the Neviller is back and should help shut down Pedersen on the left. The worry will be Bentley/Emerton vs. Evra on the right side of the Rovers attack. Helping United's cause will be the continued (likely) absence of Bellamy and Dickov up front. Rio should be able to hold Kuqi leaving the other central defender to help Evra with Bentley. I wouldn't be surprised to see a 2-0 away win in this one. On the offensive side of the ball, Ruud and Rooney continue to be points engines while the rest of the squad is sporadic at best and more likely injured. Despite his issues covering Premiership attackers, Evra is still a nice fantasy pick-up because he's still relatively cheap and he does make the occasional cross in. He's no Heinze but he'll do for now.

Against the Relegation Zone - Welcome back Birmingham, Pompey and Sunderland - you can tell it's getting later in the season when there isn't much change in the clubs in this section of the blog. Of the three, Birmingham has showed the most promise recently but they face the harsh reality of a trip to Anfield where I expect their momentum to come to a grinding halt. Go for Gerrard if you can afford him, Kewell, and Kromkamp if you need a cheap defender. Reina is also a great bet but he's pricey. Up front, Crouch seems to have cooled off but is still relatively cheap. On the Birmingham side, Pennant is always a good bet but he's less of a good bet this week than he usually is - keep him if you have him at a bargain but otherwise probably not the week to invest in him.

Sunderland v. Boro has all the makings of a nice background for a nap. I can only think of two people who I have any interest in endorsing in this match and they're Downing (who looked good in his first match back) and Yakubu who is always a threat to score, especially against a crap defense. Not much else here folks.

Pompey have signed yet another player (Routledge on loan) but they don't seem to be getting any better on the field despite the signings. Bolton on the other hand, are coming off where they picked up at least a draw in every match they played. Not a ringing endorsement but I expect them to get (yet another) professional, grind-it-out sort of win. 1-0 or 2-1 sounds about right. Not a lot to give me hope on the fantasy side of things. I was burned on Stelios earlier in the season so while he has been playing well, I'm going to stay away.

Random Notes - Charlton offensive players (both Bents and Murphy) have to be considered attractive again as they have uncharacteristically come back from the dead this January rather than taking the entire month off again, hosting WBA doesn't hurt either...Citeh hosting NUFC means that Joey Barton has to be considered as does Sun Jihai who produces for cheap in a defensive slot...Fulham v. Tottenham will pit a team who can't play defense against a team who can't score - not sure how that's going to work out but until Mido comes back from Africa, I'm staying away from Spurs offensive players - Carrick is always a decent bet but without Mido, you can probably do better...Wigan v. Everton is another hard one to pick - Wigan is playing well but Everton are starting to play clog-it-up defense again and seem likely to limit the production Wigan gets out of its offense this week. Thompson is still relatively cheap and might be worth a risk based on his first match for the Latics...Ditto Mellor...

That's about all from here...happy shopping...

Just So You Know...

I'll be landing back at home around 9:00 PM Eastern Time. I'll post my preview as soon as I can after I land. My apologies for the late post but I was out of town for the weekend and straight to an all-day, out-of-town meeting. The quick review is that Charlton is attractive vs. West Brom; Liverpool is very attractive against Birmingham and Man City should rebound vs. Newcastle. More later...

Monday Morning Manager

Greetings, fellow fantasy managers. Glad to have you here this morning. And I would like to welcome David O'Leary who has finally gotten around to reading the Manager. How else do you explain this:
Aston Villa manager David O'Leary wants striker Kevin Phillips to model his game on Teddy Sheringham.

O'Leary is keen to transform the former Sunderland star from an out-and-out striker into a playmaker who sits behind the frontrunner, in the manner which has made Sheringham such a success.

The Villa boss believes Phillips is not as effective as a goalscorer without a tall partner, but he feels he still has the attributes to play alongside Milan Baros in a revised role.
Now why does all that sound familiar? Because the Manager said the same thing 6 months ago!
Kevin Phillips and Milan Baros kicked off their new partnership in fine style, beating Rovers and combining well through-out the game, but mostly on Baros' 13th minute goal. It will be interesting to watch these two play together as they both made their names playing off a larger target forward. Niall Quinn for Phillips at Sunderland, and Jan Koller for Baros on the Czech Republic national team. My guess is that Phillips becomes more of the set-up man as he seems to have a better sense of the game. He plays with his head up and looks for the right pass whereas Baros puts his head down and runs at the defense.

Broken foot woe for Campo

Bolton midfielder Ivan Campo is facing a spell out of action after breaking a foot in the FA Cup defeat of Arsenal.

The 31-year-old Campo suffered the injury following a challenge from Abou Diaby that saw the 19-year-old booked.

So let me get this straight... Diaby is the next Viera? Sounds like he's off to a good start. Though maybe he's the new Essien. Or is it Mokoena?

Neal, as our resident Gunner, I put the question to you (or any of our good readers): Did Viera ever go Cobra Kai on anyone?

Stop the Presses!

Do they say that in England?
Manchester City's Robbie Fowler has sensationally re-signed for Liverpool.

Skysports.com reported earlier on Friday that Fowler was being strongly linked with a return to Anfield - and now the move has been completed.

Fowler has joined The Reds until the end of the season, with his City contract due to expire in the summer.
I'm sure this had nothing to do with the decision:
Meanwhile, Liverpool have confirmed that Cisse was arrested earlier this week for an alleged assault on his wife Jude.

Beat the mid-week blues

"Filled roster slots will lock down and be uneditable from 31 Jan 11:00AM PST"

So enjoy your weekend, and we'll stress on Tuesday morning.

Weekend previews

Here is team news for the EPL sides' FA Cup games at the weekend. Probably your best published guide as to who will be healthy and available for Tuesday's and Wednesday's games.

When is a Friday not a Friday?

When all the games are mid-week.

Wigan Athletic - Everton31 January 2006
Sunderland - Middlesbrough31 January 2006
Fulham - Tottenham Hotspur31 January 2006
Charlton Athletic - West Bromwich Albion31 January 2006
Liverpool - Birmingham City01 February 2006
Portsmouth - Bolton Wanderers01 February 2006
Aston Villa - Chelsea01 February 2006
Blackburn Rovers - Manchester United01 February 2006
Manchester City - Newcastle United01 February 2006
Arsenal - West Ham United01 February 2006

Neal, do we still get the benefit of your wisdom before the week's "transfer window" closes?

Nobody Beats Nobok

Needless to say, I'm thrilled! Thank you, Jack!

Get your own copy of Sir Bobby's Farewell But Not Goodbye: My Autobiography here.

We report, you decide.

SkySports is running these headlines together.
Mentioned without comment. ;-)

Timing is everything in life

Promoted from the comments:

At 9:44 AM, mullet said...
Does anyone have any top 10 worst or best signings tales. i Remember getting riggott on a steal before he delivered a cool minus five -and dropping Chimbonda when he hit form.
Well, I'd say that I've had good luck with Mido this year. Bought him from week 1, but sold him before the Chelsea match when he got sent off. Then bought him again when TOT had that run of easy games and he put on a goal-a-game show.

Having Nigel Reo-Coker in week 1 was a masterstroke. However, I kept him in the team too long (ie, more than 1 week).

Buying Pennant last week was a HUGE bonus.

Geting Reina at $9 was a blessing. Doing it the week he posted -4 wasn't a great start.

Misses: jumping around in the eary season and missing big games from Murphy, MGP, and Robert.

Neal, wanna brag about Giggs and Milner? Or Collins "I can't believe I'm losing to this guy" John?

When it rains it pours.

And that isn't a reference to the number of ManU-related posts in the last few days.
United also revealed today that John O'Shea will be out for up to six weeks with fractured ribs.
Guess we'll see more of the Giggs as a central middie experiment in the next few weeks. And Richardson's run in the team will continue even after CRonaldo returns from suspension (depending on the extent of Park's injury).

If at first you don't succeed...

Portsmouth defender Gregory Vignal has urged Newcastle United to tie up a move for him this month.

The former Liverpool ace has had contact with Marseille and Monaco but would prefer to link up with Graeme Souness on Tyneside.
Let's see.. former Rangers player? Check. Fairly crap at actually defending? Check. Sure to cost more on reputation than results? Check.

Ladies and gentlemen, I think we have Souness' and Newcastle's newest defender!

One in, one out

Reports emanating from Spain insist that Thierry Henry has made his mind up to join Barcelona at the end of the season.
Spare a thought for Neal. Just as one favorite signs for West Ham, another departs (maybe) his beloved Gunners. Does this mean that Arsenal haven't "matched his ambition"? I don't understand that because how can they do that when signing him is the best way to bring success to the club?

This would be a huge blow to Arsenal, to the EPL, and to fantasy managers everywhere who are willing to blow 1/4 of their budget on one player. What are we going to do next year, buy Scholes?

Scholes out for rest of season

Eye condition rules Scholes out for rest of season

Fantasy manager the world over can breathe a sigh of relief. They won't have Paul Scholes to kill their fantasy teams any more this year. Best wishes for a speedy recovery... and here's hoping for some CONSISTENCY in his future playing career.

When Sir Alex does speaks to the press...

... he has a nice turn of phrase:
"Hopefully that does give him [Rio Ferdinand] the confidence to attack the ball in the penalty box. It was a marvellous leap and a great header. He's 6ft 4in with a big enough head."

Too little, too late?

Here's our analysis of the weekend from Friday. Turned out we were almost right on some things and totally wrong on others. Of course since it's now Monday and of no use to anyone (I know, you're welcome) I'm only posting what we got right. ;-)

[09:09] buttonmoulder: sky thinks NUFC/Blackburn will go 1-1
[09:09] buttonmoulder: that's optimistic
[09:10] JSpitzberg: not for blackburn
[09:10] buttonmoulder: man to watch: beer guy

[09:25] JSpitzberg: pennant AND sutton too much BRM?
[09:25] JSpitzberg: and speaking of which, is dunn in that $ range?
[09:26] buttonmoulder: no help on the chelsea site
[09:26] JSpitzberg: might not be the worst pick ever
[09:26] JSpitzberg: you figure BRM have to come out to try and kill POR

[11:07] buttonmoulder: on the other hand, i am playing with luque, so basically a 3-4-2
[11:12] JSpitzberg: ;-)
[11:12] buttonmoulder: he's $5. and can't suck forever
[11:12] buttonmoulder: right?
[11:12] buttonmoulder: right?
[11:13] JSpitzberg: he starts
[11:13] buttonmoulder: yeah. that's basically why i have him
[11:13] buttonmoulder: and he shoots constantly
[11:13] JSpitzberg: more than you can say for john
[11:13] buttonmoulder: kind of where kewell was three weeks ago
[11:13] buttonmoulder: shooting, but into row zed
[11:13] JSpitzberg: can't suck forever

[11:47] JSpitzberg: just got the feeling that BRM are going to try and out-tall POR
[11:47] JSpitzberg: jarosik in close support of heskey and sutton
[11:48] JSpitzberg: early crosses
[11:48] JSpitzberg: from pennant and dunn
[11:48] JSpitzberg: win some corners
[11:48] JSpitzberg: send up upson
[11:48] buttonmoulder: makes sense
[11:49] JSpitzberg: one of those games where jose would play Huth
[11:49] buttonmoulder: that's a major reason why pennant went in the squad first thing last weekend
[11:49] buttonmoulder: ha
[11:49] buttonmoulder: i don't seriously think that birm will actually score
[11:49] buttonmoulder: but i do think they will be tossing crosses in all afternoon

Jewell busy in the market: UPDATE

Fantasy EPL: Jewell busy in the market

So the moves pay off immediately! Mellor with an assist and the game-winning goal, Thompson with Wigan's second goal of their three. And Thompson taking kicks. Did you sell Bullard ($7) for Thompson ($4) before his value rose to $7? If not, do you get Thompson at $7?

Ashton Hammers out wages - Yahoo! Sport UK

Dean Ashton has agreed personal terms with West Ham and will sign from Norwich for £7.25million on Monday after undergoing a medical.

Ashton earlier revealed the chance to return to the Premiership was 'too good to turn down' after the Hammers agreed a fee for the England Under-21 international.
So finally, the saga ends. WHU... Neal's new 2nd favorite team.

The Media Empire Expands...

Blog co-founder Neal Thurman will be a guest on Inside Soccer radio tomorrow at 3:20 PM Pacific Time. Here's the link to the show.

If you'd like to call in between roughly 3:20 and 3:40:

Toll Free: 888-514-2100
Intl: 001-858-268-3068

I'll post the archived segment when it's available

Lots of New Choices...

...and somehow none of them are very attractive this weekend. In some cases it's due to the match-up (ManYoo's new defenders facing Liverpool and Marcus Bent vs. Chelsea). In some cases, it's due to the uncertainty around their place in the line-up (Liverpool's defenders because of Rafa's rotation policies). In other cases, it has to do with the quality of the team that they went to (everyone coming in to Pompey). Evra seems like he'll be a good pick-up on Sunday afternoon and one or both of Liverpool's new defenders might be as well. Maniche is a good stopgap if you need a cheap midfielder this week. What has been missing so far are new, cheap players who might stick in your line-up.

Chelsea - Charlton have been playing better recently but they seem unlikely to be a match for the Champions. Casualties for Chelsea include Drogba, Essien, and Robben. Good bets include Lampard, Cole, Crespo, and Duff. Maniche is likely to start with all the injuries/suspensions in midfield. Marcus Bent is an interesting gamble for Charlton - he's cheap and Chelsea's defense hasn't been nearly as airtight as last year. If you're looking for a cheap alternative, he might be a good one.

The Former "Big Two" - Man United face Liverpool in a battle at the top of the table. My advice is to stick with the players you have at a good price but this isn't the weekend to pick up new guys on either squad - especially the Red Devils.

Arsenal face Everton after a very optimistic week at Highbury. None of the new signings look likely to contribute in the near future but the Gunners have some momentum and are facing an Everton squad that they have done well against recently. Reyes and Henry are in excellent form and should be considered. Pires and Ljungberg also had nice games last week. The backline is unsettled with injuries and the African Cup of Nations. Kerrea Gilbert will fill in for Cole/Clichy and is an excellent stopgap while waiting for Evra to get past the Liverpool match.

Against the Relegation Zone - Birmingham and Pompey match-up in a battle to try to get clear of the relegation zone. Chris Sutton had an excellent debut for Birmingham and is also cheap. Pompey's new acquisitions failed to impress in their first week so I'd stay away from them until the squad gels and one or more of them show some potential.

Sunderland also play relegation strugglers West Brom in a match that no one wants to watch. Not a lot to like here, I'd stay away unless you're really struggling to make a budget work.

Random Notes - Villa who have not been good on the road, travel to Spurs...Carrick has been a solid contributor and is likely to have a good match here...Look for Defoe to be motivated as he has a short window to re-establish himself while Mido is gone...Baros and Milner, who have both been playing well, are not likely to have their best weeks...Paul Robinson is a good bet in goal...Newcastle v. Blackburn - yuck but MGP is in form and worth a look...Check out the Boro v. Wigan match to see how Stewart Downing looks in his return to the squad - probably a better bet for next week but not a terrible bet this weekend...Mellor is likely to start for Wigan and he's cheap and facing a team in decline...Man City and Bolton are both prone to inconsistency and I wouldn't bet more than a couple pennies on this match...Barton and Sun are the only two guys I'd spend much time worrying about...

That's about it for the week, sorry it was so brief but I'm in a meeting all day...

Happy Shopping

America offer World Cup carrot to Rossi

The United States have a series of friendly matches over the next two months as part of their World Cup preparations and Rossi will almost certainly be invited to join Tim Howard, United's reserve goalkeeper, in the squad. Whether he will accept is a question that Rossi is yet to address publicly, and a subject that he will have to discuss closely with his family.
I may be treading into Neal's territory here, and he's sure to be able to say it better, but let's hear it for The Bruce. While it's a bit of a no-brainer to contact Rossi (and while he may never want to play for the USA) it is exciting to think of him joining the likes of Oguchi Onweyu, Run DMB, Spector, Convey -- good, young, American players facing top opponents in Europe's leagues and cups, and forming the nucleus for the next generation (Project 2010, anyone?) of American soccer.


Everton are reportedly lining up a shock move for Middlesbrough's Mark Viduka while Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink is also set to leave the Riverside with Fulham being the likely destination.
It's funny, normally these reports coincide with Viduka banging in a few goals. I'm sure that statistical analysis will show that over the course of his career, he has more goals immediately before or during an open transfer window than at any other time of the season.

But this year he's not even bothering. Are things that bad at Boro? The league table certainly indicates that it is.

Dennis Miller for the bangers and mash set

Whether or not you agree with his politics, you gotta love Steve Gilliard's dropping the topical EPL references.

I mean, what's next? Buying Portsmouth? Bank accounts in the Caymans? These guys put the Russian oligarchs to shame. At this rate, DeLay will be sitting next to Harry Redknapp in thw owner's box. Hell, they took money from the Oligarchs. These guys are as owned by them as Chelsea.

Wigan transfer follow-up

Looks like Wigan have gotten both Thompson and Mellor. Any truth to the rumor that the latest season ticket holder at the JJB Stadium is this man?

We'll let Posh be the judge of that

Park: I can be as good as Becks

"I may not be as handsome as Beckham but I feel I could be just as good as he is," declared the former PSV Eindhoven star in Gold, the monthly newsletter for the 2006 Asian Games in Doha.

But is he still injured? If so, and with CRonaldo suspended, I would expect Giggs to be moved to the right side of midfield and Richardson coming in on the left. Ole came through 90 against Burton yesterday, but I wouldn't expect him to make the starting line-up just yet.

Jewell busy in the market

Wigan Athletic have signed David Thompson and are closing in on Liverpool striker Neil Mellor.

Seem like good moves for Wigan. Thompson adds a bit of guile and a lot of bite to their midfield and may allow Scharner to move back into defense. Mellor had a good spell when given a run in the Liverpool team last year. He seemed to click well with Gerrard and the two of them combined for some important goals.

But fantasy managers want to know, who will take the kicks? Seems Bullard takes corners and shares free kicks with Kavanaugh. Does Thompson get into the mix?

DC United record sale falls through - Yahoo! Sport UK

D.C. United is up for sale once again after a record 26 million-dollar deal to sell operating rights for the Major League Soccer club reportedly collapsed.
What do you say, everyone? Should we start running ads on the site to afford our very own team? Would you contribute to a fundraiser?

Hammers Ready To Up Ashton Bid - Yahoo! Sport UK

"West Ham are ready to test Norwich's determination to keep striker Dean Ashton by raising their bid for him to over £7million."

Not sure how Neal will feel about this. Sure, it gets his boy Ashton back into the EPL. In London no less. But still a far cry from Highbury.

Transfers and how to pick them

to rip off Michael Stipe, "If I write a book it will be called 'Transfers and how to Pick Them'"

JSpitzberg: marcus bent to charlton
JSpitzberg: bent/bent
buttonmoulder: get really bent
JSpitzberg: @Chelsea this weekend
JSpitzberg: but he's 5.51
buttonmoulder: may be 4.51 next monday
JSpitzberg: i can afford chris sutton
JSpitzberg: 6.13
JSpitzberg: home to POR
JSpitzberg: new POR guys under 6
JSpitzberg: wonder if evra is posted
JSpitzberg: rasiak at 3.46
buttonmoulder: he did so well on sat
JSpitzberg: evra at 5.54
buttonmoulder: meant for evra, but applicable to the POR folk as well
JSpitzberg: 6pts
JSpitzberg: had a monster game accrding to yahoo
JSpitzberg: 5tw 5pi
JSpitzberg: still a buck and a half cheaper than gnev
buttonmoulder: i have sun at 4.65
JSpitzberg: new wigan guy listed as a defender
JSpitzberg: 5.57 with a 6.5 pt week
JSpitzberg: not sure if he's a starter
JSpitzberg: but i think he played in midfield
JSpitzberg: krompkamp at 5.48
buttonmoulder: listed as a middie or defender?
JSpitzberg: d
buttonmoulder: that might not be the worst pick
buttonmoulder: save 50 cents on dawson
buttonmoulder: though dawson has been a really productive pick
JSpitzberg: pick him (not a starter) over evra (not a finisher)
JSpitzberg: dawson the next evolution of the DNH defender
buttonmoulder: pretty much
buttonmoulder: and as long as tot go humming along, he gets points
JSpitzberg: the do some good defender
buttonmoulder: might as well. you are in for $5-6 either way
buttonmoulder: days of the $1 DNH are over
JSpitzberg: long live the Do No Harm defender

Another satisfied customer

Read your EPL blog and made some changes. Looks like it's working out well. Thanks for the tips!
- JL. Arlington, VA, USA

Sunderland/Chelsea - Live "commentary"

... or, "Following the Game/Matchcast Cross-Country".

[08:30] JSpitzberg: what did i miss?
[08:31] buttonmoulder: 1 - oh to the sunderland
[08:31] buttonmoulder: liam lawrence assisted by henry
[08:31] buttonmoulder: and frank lampard has had about 22 shots
[08:32] buttonmoulder: looks like korean scientists cloned about a half-doz lampards
[08:34] JSpitzberg: crespo doing the "you can put me in but you can't make me play" routine?
[08:36] buttonmoulder: stead booked so he is back to evens
[08:37] buttonmoulder: apparently crespo had a golden opportunity off a blocked shot
[08:37] buttonmoulder: but couldn't put it in
[08:38] JSpitzberg: :-(
[08:38] JSpitzberg: cmon!
[08:39] buttonmoulder: woohoo!
[08:39] buttonmoulder: go us
[08:39] JSpitzberg: yeah us
[08:39] buttonmoulder: and lamps didn't help
[08:40] JSpitzberg: we've temporarily reversed the polarity of the SLOPPI
[08:40] buttonmoulder: nah. but given yeasterday's math, that's gotta be worth at least .5 points for me
[08:40] JSpitzberg: cross-SPLOPPI-nization
[08:43] buttonmoulder: crespo "in the thick of the action"
[08:43] buttonmoulder: that's exactly the sort of thing that happens when the koreans try to clone things
[08:45] JSpitzberg: sunderland are actually trying
[08:46] JSpitzberg: good for them
[08:46] buttonmoulder: sunderland can't wait to play boro
[08:47] JSpitzberg: what is robben doing?
[08:47] buttonmoulder: getting booked
[08:47] JSpitzberg: is he trying to drop his value so I can afford a real 4th middie?
[08:47] buttonmoulder: ha
[08:48] JSpitzberg: stead shooting on sight
[08:48] buttonmoulder: J. Lampstead
[08:49] JSpitzberg: but stead's are on target
[08:49] JSpitzberg: Young, L
[08:49] buttonmoulder: robben CW
[08:49] JSpitzberg: Croft, L
[08:49] buttonmoulder: ha
[08:52] buttonmoulder: d-ho CW (for sunderland, but points are points)
[08:53] JSpitzberg: almost time for the orange slices
[08:54] JSpitzberg: then CHE come out and steam roll SUN
[08:54] JSpitzberg: cole on for crespo
[08:54] JSpitzberg: lamps with 2
[08:54] JSpitzberg: robben with an assist and foul won for lamps 2nd from the spot
[09:10] JSpitzberg: [09:08] jonwolf2k: wigan goes down
[09:08] jonwolf2k: what is up with that team
[09:08] jonwolf2k: want to like em, don't trust em
[09:08] jonwolf2k: and nada for bullard
[09:08] jonwolf2k: sorry
[09:10] JSpitzberg: boy, will he be surprised with his 12pts
[09:10] JSpitzberg: ;-)
[09:10] buttonmoulder: ha
[09:12] JSpitzberg: dear jose,
[09:12] JSpitzberg: please keep crespo in the game
[09:12] JSpitzberg: and let robben take kicks
[09:12] JSpitzberg: thank you.
[09:12] JSpitzberg: ps. i've been very good this year
[09:15] buttonmoulder: cole for lamps
[09:15] buttonmoulder: more firepower up front
[09:16] buttonmoulder: all i ask
[09:16] JSpitzberg: ps. i've been very good this year
[09:16] buttonmoulder: all two weeks of it
[09:17] buttonmoulder: jama walk time
[09:18] buttonmoulder: back in a few minutes
[09:22] JSpitzberg: shooting drills for CHE
[09:23] JSpitzberg: and they seem to need the practice
[09:28] JSpitzberg: this is brutal
[09:34] buttonmoulder: two SOGs for crespo, robben and lamps
[09:34] JSpitzberg: Substitution, Chelsea. Damien Duff midfielder replaces Joe Cole.
[09:34] JSpitzberg: i wanna see the last 15 mins when FSC shows it on Wed
[09:35] JSpitzberg: something like 7 shots on for CHE
[09:35] JSpitzberg: and at least 2 for SUn
[09:36] JSpitzberg: so far i'm glad i didn't go with the ice man
[09:36] JSpitzberg: seems to be the only one out of the action
[09:37] JSpitzberg: he's sitting in ruud's lounge chair in the center circle
[09:37] buttonmoulder: him and carlton cole
[09:37] JSpitzberg: carlton cole running out every once and a while to freshen his mai tai
[09:37] buttonmoulder: i love the little yellow umbrellas
[09:37] buttonmoulder: brutal here too
[09:38] buttonmoulder: temps 0-5, 20 mph winds with stronger gusts
[09:38] buttonmoulder: dog got about 50 feet
[09:38] JSpitzberg: brrr
[09:38] JSpitzberg: it's raining here
[09:38] JSpitzberg: in a lazy sunday kind of way
[09:38] buttonmoulder: same here
[09:38] JSpitzberg: drizzling every once and a while
[09:39] buttonmoulder: no point in going outside
[09:39] JSpitzberg: not when there's EPL on the computer
[09:39] buttonmoulder: woo hoo!
[09:40] buttonmoulder: oh hell
[09:40] buttonmoulder: feckin karma
[09:40] JSpitzberg: wtf?
[09:40] JSpitzberg: he's up
[09:40] JSpitzberg: he's down
[09:40] JSpitzberg: i'm laughing
[09:41] JSpitzberg: i'm crying
[09:41] JSpitzberg: jesus
[09:41] buttonmoulder: how did cole get the assist?
[09:41] JSpitzberg: matchcast says gallas
[09:42] JSpitzberg: i have robben at 70 cents under cost
[09:42] JSpitzberg: wonder what this will do to his value?
[09:42] JSpitzberg: but I guess i'm moving for pires @EVE
[09:42] JSpitzberg: or duff
[09:42] JSpitzberg: or both, actually ;-)
[09:42] buttonmoulder: crespo out
[09:43] buttonmoulder: well that ended things quickly
[09:43] JSpitzberg: only negative rooting remains
[09:43] JSpitzberg: boo lampard
[09:43] JSpitzberg: go sunderland
[09:44] buttonmoulder: +16, minus 9
[09:44] buttonmoulder: 7 points for robben
[09:44] buttonmoulder: lamps at 12 and rising
[09:45] JSpitzberg: crespo - 16
[09:45] JSpitzberg: and staying there
[09:45] buttonmoulder: crespo 15 on paper, so about 3.50 based on yesterday
[09:46] JSpitzberg: hopefully the fog rolls in right about now
[09:46] JSpitzberg: or the pitch freezes
[09:46] JSpitzberg: or polar bears escape
[09:46] buttonmoulder: or lamps gets sent off
[09:47] JSpitzberg: pennant home to POR next week
[09:48] JSpitzberg: duff home to charlton
[09:48] JSpitzberg: pires @ eve
[09:52] buttonmoulder: why is gamecast shouting everything
[09:52] JSpitzberg: very exciting throw ins
[09:53] JSpitzberg: jose holding on the for the win
[09:53] JSpitzberg: ice man out for huth
[09:53] JSpitzberg: HUTH!
[09:54] JSpitzberg: wow... i almost had ice man and c ronaldo this weekend
[09:54] JSpitzberg: one red card is plenty
[09:54] JSpitzberg: 2 would have been a nightmare
[09:55] buttonmoulder: bolton killed themselves with their early dismissal
[09:55] JSpitzberg: that game was brutal
[09:55] JSpitzberg: they almost played football (soccer) in the second half
[09:55] JSpitzberg: but the first half was closer to a fight than a game
[09:56] JSpitzberg: blow the whistle ref!
[09:57] buttonmoulder: end this game
[09:58] JSpitzberg: end it!
[09:58] JSpitzberg: duff sc, ccole sot
[09:58] JSpitzberg: get them on the barn door!
[09:59] JSpitzberg: 2 yellows/red is a one game suspension?
[09:59] buttonmoulder: i think
[09:59] buttonmoulder: crap
[09:59] buttonmoulder: what a mess this weekend has become
[10:00] buttonmoulder: tried to buy henry yesterday, but they were quick with the lockdown
[10:00] JSpitzberg: that was a surprise
[10:00] JSpitzberg: hadn't done that in a while
[10:02] buttonmoulder: viduka is the pick for next weekend
[10:02] JSpitzberg: ccole yellow
[10:02] JSpitzberg: he's cementing crespo's starting spot
[10:02] JSpitzberg: xfer window almost closed....
[10:02] JSpitzberg: everyone else almost out of boro
[10:02] JSpitzberg: it's his turn
[10:03] buttonmoulder: c'mon sunderland
[10:04] JSpitzberg: c'mon ref
[10:04] buttonmoulder: there you go

Derby Day Blues

Evidently, Trevor Sinclair is a ham sandwich.

Back to Our Old Tricks...

It feels like forever since I got to write one of these preview columns in the old format, hopefully, the combination of a month of two game weeks and Cup matches hasn't robbed me of my fastball. The big news of the weekend doesn't have immediate fantasy benefit but comes in the form of Arsenal coming back from the dead with the (reported) signings of (French Midfielder) Diaby and (English Striker) Walcott - two young players they were competing with Chelsea for. Finally beating Chelsea to something has to be comforting to the Highbury faithful. Outside of that update, the transfer window hasn't brought much excitement for fantasy managers yet. As of this writing (late Thursday night), the new ManYoo defenders are not available on Yahoo yet.

From the match-up standpoint, there are a couple interesting notes. First, everyone must be licking their lips for Chelsea's trip to the Stadium of Light where Chelsea might score more goals in this one game than the Black Cats have scored there all season (7). On the negative side, recent fantasy high-flyers Liverpool host relatively stingy Tottenham in a match that has all the makings of a knock-down, drag-out fight that could go either way. Similarly, the Manchester Derby finds fantasy high-flyers Manchester United in a match that has to make managers uncertain as to what they might get for their money. I know, I know, enough of the rambling, on to the analysis...

Chelsea - The big question isn't whether they will do well but who will play. Maniche hasn't been posted yet but looks likely to play along with Robben, Duff, Makelele, and Lampard with the injuries to Joe Cole and Michael Essien and ineffectiveness of SWP. Robben and Duff are good bets at a reasonable price. Maniche is a must-buy if he's posted. Lampard is probably a good bet as well if you have the money. Anyone who is likely to play on the backline should be thrown in your line-up as well. Ordinarily I try to stay away from putting my eggs in one basket but if ever there were a time to go against that advice, this is it.

The Former "Big Two" - Derby Day in Manchester finds United in reasonably good form and City having gotten 4 points from their last five matches. What does this mean? It usually means that City will play United surprisingly tough and generate more yellow cards than fantasy points. Expect yellow cards for Wayne Rooney and Joey Barton and goals from unlikely candidates like Darren Fletcher and Darius Vassell (ok, that was a cheap shot). All that said, if Evra is posted and it's clear he's going to start on the left of the defense for United, he's probably worth picking up. (As an aside, what happens to him next year when Gabby Heinze comes back? Do ManYoo really need 11 million worth of left backs? and isn't it likely that the one that doesn't start will begin complaining almost immediately). As an FYI, Paul Scholes is out creating an even larger hole in the center of ManYoo's formation.

Arsenal welcome Boro to Highbury coming off two consecutive nil-nil draws in the Premiership which has those of you who have a quarter of your salary cap invested in Henry almost as bitter as Gunners fans (if you're both, it's been a rough new year). Boro beat Arsenal 2-1 at the Riverside earlier this year but haven't won a match against English competition since the beginning of December. You can never bet against Henry but no one on the Arsenal squad has been a very good fantasy pick recently. With van Persie out and Bergkamp doubtful, Reyes moves into the frame as the best bet for the money. Hleb is also likely to figure and he's extremely cheap (although his fantasy production hasn't been great so far). There are reports that Ashley Cole might play but I'd hold off on him for at least a week. As for Boro, with Sol Campbell out and Kolo Toure in Africa, Yakubu will likely have a few SOTs and is a reasonable bet for a goal.

Against the Relegation Zone - We've already covered Sunderland's pending thrashing by Chelsea which leaves Birmingham's trip to The Valley and Pompey hosting Everton - wow, that's a lot of crappy teams squaring off and blessedly neither match is on TV. From this mess I suggest the following: Darren Bent if you're looking for a relatively inexpensive striker playing against a bad defense; Tim Cahill has been hot and is playing against a sketchy opponent; and, well, that's about it.

Random Notes - Villa have been scoring a lot recently and I have to say, I've enjoyed having Milan Baros and James Milner in my line-up - a home game with mid-table West Ham is a chance to keep the scoring going for another week...On the other hand, Villa still hasn't solved any of their defensive problems so Marlon Harewood is in a good position to score...Fulham welcome a Newcastle squad that's still suffering from a ton of injuries (Owen, Emre, Parker, Ameobi, et al) and both Collins John and Brian McBride are excellent choices - remember kids, the Collins John bandwagon started here...the Liverpool/Spurs match mentioned above is bound to be a rough for fantasy managers - if you have players on either side at a good price (Gerrard, Kewell, Crouch, Reina, Carrick, or Lee) you might want to keep them but this probably isn't the week to pick them up...As for Liverpool's new defenders, both are to be included in the squad but neither are guaranteed to start (and neither are posted as of this writing either)...Mido is headed to the African Cup of Nations after this match so even if you have him at a good price, it might be time to ditch him...Blackburn host Bolton in a match that will feature an in-form Mort Gamst Pedersen...Finally, Wigan and West Brom face off on Sunday with fantasy superstar Henri Camara off to Africa leaving, um, not much to choose from here...

Happy Shopping Kids

It's the Magic Number

Pompey Sign Spurs Trio

Good news for Pompey fans as Davis and Mendes should solidfy the midfield, with Taylor and O'Neill on the wings you would presume. Bad news for Diao, Hughes, and Vignal as we may never hear from them again.

One MILLION Players!

Pompey Target Spurs Duo

Redknapp Targets Spurs Trio


Not an anagaram for "Harry Kewell"

'Cole beaten up over Page 3 girl' - Football365.com

Joe Cole has reportedly suffered a savage beating after trying to chat up Page 3 girl Keeley Hazell (note: link not work safe).

A 'love rival' gave Cole such a thrashing that the Chelski and England midfielder 'was almost unrecognisable', says The Sun.

But will he start on Saturday?

Part Deux...

...of the www.Goal.com EPL first half review can be found here

Articles Published Elsewhere...

If you're interested in my review of the first half of the EPL season - it will be coming out in four parts on www.goal.com this week. Here is the first installment

Schwarzer Set For Pompey

Schwarzer Set For Pompey - Yahoo! Sport UK

Can someone explain this move to me? Is it that much warmer in Portsmouth than Middlesbrough? Does Schwarzer have a vengeful ex-girlfriend (or boyfriend) in the North East of England?

I can't understand this.

Crespo Wants Blues Exit. Fantasy Managers Want Answers.

Crespo Wants Blues Exit - Yahoo! Sport UK

Crespo explained: "In football terms I am delighted with the squad, with Mourinho and with the fans.

"But on a personal level, I am suffering. I miss everything. My friends, cinema, TV and the theatre. The sporting aspect is not open to debate.

"We have already won the Community Shield, we are 13 points clear in the Premiership, we have the best manager in the world and Roman Abramovich worships me.

"However, having said all this, life isn't just about football and, at the end of the year, I would like to return."

WTF? Abramovich worships him? Maybe his English still needs work, but such a strange thing to say.

Anyway, and more importantly, how does this impact Chelsea's starting lineup v Sunderland? They are already without Drogba and Essien because of the African Nations Cup. Does Diarra keep his spot in midfield after a good FA Cup performance? Is Crespo still nursing his hamstring? Will Carlton Cole get the nod? The Ice Man? And if so, up front or in the midfield?

All this on top of the usual, "which 2 of 4 wingers will play" questions.

Now it gets interesting

Evra Deal Done - Fergie - Yahoo! Sport UK

Finally, a transfer we fantasy managers can get excited about. A new left back for ManU. He'd be like GNev, but cheaper! Hopefully, anyway. We'll see. Maybe he's a card magnet who couldn't defend a ham sandwich.

More Magpie Musings

Magpies Suffer New Injury Blow

Parker, Emre, Owen, Ameobi, Taylor, Carr...

Most of a decent side playing for the Treatment Room All-Stars. But how many good, young players has Newcastle sold or released in the last few years? What if they could field a side that looked like this...

ShearerLua Lua

To be fair, they couldn't resist the $ for Jonothan Woodgate, especially as he is as injury prone as the current bunch. But he's in Spain, and these 9 (until Robert moved to Benfica, so 8) were still playing in the EPL and doing quite well (Milner, Speed) to not too bad (Distin, the Pompey boys).

Makes you think that maybe Sir Bobby was on the right track all along.

How many chucks could a wood chuck chuck

Obsessively detailed analysis from a bored analyst:
buttonmoulder: ok, here's the math. For the season, NUFC is averaging 1.3 points per game (20 matches for 26 points). If they continue the average for the rest of the season, they will end up with 49.4 points on the year. Obviously, NUFC's success has a lot to do with Owen, so let's factor that in. In the games Owen has played, NUFC averages 2.1 points per game (7 W, 0 T, 3 L). With that sort of average for the rest of the season, they would be looking at 63.8 points at season's end. Without Owen, NUFC averages 0.7 points per game (1 W, 4 T, 5 L). With the non-Owen production factored in for the remainder of the season, they will finish up at 38.6 points. Given the ubercrappy form of the teams at the bottom of the table, that would probably be just enough to stave off relegation. Hate to be a Geordie with a weak ticker though.

Real Madrid confirm capture of Cassano

Italy striker Antonio Cassano is joining Real Madrid on a four and a half-year deal from Serie A club AS Roma, the Primera Liga side said on Tuesday.
That should pretty much solve their "talented but difficult attacking player" problem. Thank god the team has always had a solid defensive ethic to fall back on.

Speaking of "talented but difficult attacking players", "Laurent Robert has completed a transfer to Benfica after passing a medical this morning." I wonder how this will affect O'Neill and Taylor? Are they more attractive now? Or does it not matter because Pompey are still crap?

Joe Cole - Up to his old tricks

The cloud on Chelsea's horizon is the prospect of a less than happy start to 2006 for Joe Cole. Having been lauded for the winner at Manchester City last week, he felt his manager's wrath here. It was an old-fashioned show-pony performance. Fancy. Reckless. Indisciplined. Utter anathema to Mourinho. 'I just told him, 'One more match like this, one more match for himself and the public, and he's out,'' rapped the king of effective football.

Oh, and he's suspended for tomorrow's game against West Ham.

joecoleishteanswer whatisthe? Indeed.

Shearer is dead...

... long live Shearer.

Winning every header, playing in his teamates, scoring goals. These used to be Alan Shearer's trademarks. Now he flings his elbows around and not much else. But Mido put on a Shearer-esque performance v Newcastle creating one and scoring another. He also won so many of Robinson's kicks (hell of a keeper!) with his head, holding possession for TOT and getting the ball to Keane, Tanio and Davids to attack NUFC.

TOT are going to miss him next month during the African Nations Cup. Rasaik hasn't looked anything like a replacement and Martin Jol is going to have to think about restoring his little-little tandem of Keane and Defoe, and reworking his team to accomodate their strengths and weaknesses. Maybe move Davids in from the left to allow Carrick to move further upfield and pass the ball to the smaller, quicker forwards' feet. Or move Jenas into a support striker role behind Keane where he could use his height and athleticism to play the "Mido role".