It's official

Shevchenko completes move to Chelsea
Chelsea have confirmed the signing of Ukraine striker Andriy Shevchenko from AC Milan for a fee of around £30million.

The 29-year-old flew into London today to conclude negotiations with the Stamford Bridge club after announcing last week his intention to leave.
No word on the fate of Drogba, Crespo or Gudjohnsen.

Sheva/Berbatov/Ballack +8!

Free Carlo!

Nacional goalkeeper Hilario signs for Chelsea

Does this mean Carlo is free to sign for another club? If so, who do you pick next season, him or Howard?

McDonald's/FIFA World Cup Fantasy Game

McDonald's/FIFA World Cup Fantasy Game
Fantasy Football is offered for entertainment purposes only and may not be used in connection with any form of gambling or wagering.
Just a friendly reminder. :-)

We at blog headquarters are going to try to take a look at this this weekend, and hopefully get a private group together. So look for more information on that, and the World Cup in general, in the coming days.

Fantasy Poison

Fergie: 'Sensational' Scholes will be back to his best
Sir Alex Ferguson is convinced Paul Scholes will be as good as new next season despite his continuing eye problems.

The former England star has admitted he may never be completely clear of blurred vision which forced him to miss over four months of the season.
Scholes is a fantasy team killer. Plays an amazing game... 3 SOT's, game winning goal, takes a free kick or two... so you buy him even though he's not too cheap. And then he'll disappear for weeks. So you sell him. And he goes wild again. Never fails. And it looks like he'll be back next year to kick us around again.

With Scholes returning, and Ribery a possible addition on the left, does that leave Giggs as an understudy to them both? And with Smudger and O'Shea sharing the holding role, along with Ronaldo, Park and Richardson; does Fergie have his 2006-2007 midfield in place?

Cole closing on Spurs switch

Cole closing on Spurs switch
[Carlton Cole] now looks set to join Martin Jol's ambitious side on a four-year deal after visiting the club's training ground on Friday.

Spurs have already snapped up Dimitar Berbatov for £11 million, but are determined to bolster their squad further in an attempt to break into the top four next term.

Their search for another striker was given extra impetus by the news that Egyptian forward Mido will return to Roma next season.
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the old Carlton Cole! So where does Defoe end up when the music stops?

Everton match £8.5million bids for Johnson

Everton match £8.5million bids for Johnson

Everton have revealed their £8.5million offer for Andrew Johnson had been accepted by Crystal Palace.

The England striker, on standby for the World Cup squad, is now due for talks on Merseyside today, according to Everton.
Third time a charm?
When Bolton made their offer, Jordan informed them that Wigan were 'in the box seat' to sign Johnson, however reports have claimed the player would prefer to join Everton.
Looks like Faddie is heading back to the bench. Or the left wing, if he's lucky. Though you figure Arteta slots in on the left, with van der Meyde on the opposite flank (if healthy). Add Neville and Cahill and you have a 1/2 way decent midfield.

I worry about Everton's "Dad's Army" defense with Stubbs and Weir, but Moyes is putting together a good squad and won't have the distraction of European games next year so they can focus on the EPL. I don't expect to see them in 4th any time soon, but you figure they will be competitive.

Kalou set to sign for Chelsea

Feyenoord striker Kalou set to sign for Chelsea
Feyenoord striker Salomon Kalou is holding talks with Chelsea, the Dutch news agency ANP reported on Saturday.

'Anticipating the possible departure, we have given Salomon an authorisation to talk with Chelsea,' Feyenoord marketing director Chris Woerts told ANP.
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the new Carlton Cole!

Come and get me, Roman!

Shevchenko clears the way for Chelsea switch
AC Milan have accepted Andriy Shevchenko's transfer request but have warned Chelsea they must break the bank to land the Ukraine striker.


'I am leaving for family reasons - I want to thank the club for everything it's given to me,' said Shevchenko. 'There's no problems regarding my relationship with anyone in the club or any financial problems.'"
He has family in London?
"It's a victory of the English language over the Italian language." That was apparently a reference to Shevchenko's American wife who reportedly wants a move to England.
Right. It was the language barrier in Italy and not the chance to grab not a few million in Russian oil profits.

Sheva/Berbatov/Ballack +8

Americans Invading England...

Jeremy tends to give me a hard time when I don't link my articles on other sites on the ol' blog so here's the latest from Yanks Abroad (ed. note: link fixed)

And if any of you are so lucky as to be going to the Cup - we (Yanks Abroad) will be sponsoring events around each US match (click on the link above and follow the links on the top right of the page). I'll be at both the Friday and Saturday events in K-town...

Friday's Team News Today

Okay, maybe not this Friday, but old habits die hard.
and of course:

Fowler & Crouch

... for Liverpool and for England!

Morientes leaves Liverpool for Valencia
Liverpool have announced that striker Fernando Morientes has joined Valencia for an undisclosed fee.
Methinks new signings are in the works, and that he may not be the last one out the door.

Dyer accused of indecent exposure

Dyer accused of indecent exposure
Newcastle United winger Kieron Dyer has been arrested for allegedly exposing himself at a female member of staff at a Norwich hotel.
Dyer has been seen more (and more has been seen of him), and gotten more action in hotels than on the pitch in the past few years. Time for NUFC to cut their losses? Of all the players moving on from Ipswich in the last few years, has any had more potential and been so far from reaching it as Dyer?

Gold wants to keep assets

Gold wants to keep assets
David Gold has insisted Birmingham do not have to sell striker Emile Heskey - reported to be a £3.5million target for Blackburn - or winger Jermaine Pennant.
I don't think Gold quite has a handle on the term "asset". Heskey may be valuable (and I fully expect some EPL club to waste millions of pounds on him this summer), but he certainly isn't an asset. If he were an asset, Birmingham would still be in the EPL and we wouldn't be having this discussion.

Bolton's Johnson bid accepted

Bolton's Johnson bid accepted
Crystal Palace have accepted an £8.5 million offer from Bolton Wanderers for striker Andy Johnson.

The Trotters' offer matches that made by Wigan Athletic just 24 hours earlier as the race for the England international hots up.


Everton and Portsmouth were also interested but they will have to match the offers tabled by Bolton and Wigan if they are to have any chance of snatching Johnson from under the noses of the two Lancashire sides.
Looks like we'll have AJ to kick around next year, but where remains a question. Surprised to see Bolton in the bidding. They only play with one striker and already have Davies, Borghetti, a rapidly improving Vaz Te, and a rapidly aging if still useful Pedersen. I wonder if AJ would play the inside-right role that Stelios currently holds, especially if Stelios' noises about moving on (to Liverpool, was it?) was more than just hot air.

Pires finally decides - a two-year deal with Villarreal

Pires finally decides - a two-year deal with Villarreal
Robert Pires has ended his six-year association with Arsenal after he joined Spanish side Villarreal.


Wenger moved to strengthen his midfield options earlier this week with the signing of Czech Republic international Tomas Rosicky, 25.

The Arsenal manager, however, knows his squad will be poorer for the departure of Pires.

Wenger said: 'Robert has had six tremendous years with us and made a huge contribution to the team's success during his time here.

'He is not only a great footballer but a good man, so of course, we are sad to see him go.

'It is difficult to pick out one or two highlights - but he was superb in our double winning season during the 2001/02 campaign and contributed so hugely to our unbeaten season with 19 goals.

'I would like to thank Robert for the dedication, determination and passion he has shown and wish him well in his career.'
Farewell to a fantasy stud, and the poster boy for left-sided (if not left-footed) French players who have been EPL Fantasy gold for years (Pires, Steed, Robert, etc).

Finally, someone with something to say on the topic...

From a German reporter who covers the Bundesliga on Rosicky...

"He is in many ways a typical Arsène Wenger signing," says Honigstein. "He is very technical, very clever on the ball and always has an eye for a through ball. In Germany and for the Czech Republic he mostly played as a No 10 behind the strikers, similar to the role Alex Hleb used to play for Stuttgart.

"That position doesn't really exist in the Premiership so I'd expect him to fit in somewhere on the wings or perhaps as a second striker. He is not very physical so is probably most likely to operate as an attacking midfield player.

"In terms of stature and the way he moves, he reminds me a little of Joe Cole. He doesn't get many goals but Wenger can get the best out of him. In five years at Dortmund Rosicky hinted at his genius but has not quite been able to do it consistently. Wenger has obviously looked at him for a number of years and decided to make a move for him."
My interpretation for fantasy purposes is "don't waste your time for the first half of the season" - it took Hleb a while to adjust to the speed of the Premiership and even then he wasn't a very good fantasy player. In the immortal words of Vince Vaughn, he might end up being "the guy behind the guy behind the guy" (which comes off a lot gay-er when you're typing it than it did in Swingers...not there's anything wrong with that).

Hard Ball

Liverpool Back In For Me - Kuyt
Feyenoord striker Dirk Kuyt has claimed Liverpool have expressed fresh interest in signing him and he would like to move to the Premiership.
This is certainly not a negotiating ploy to wring more money from Newcastle. No. Nope. Didn't happen with Owen. Nor did they do it with Rooney the year before. This is real news. Honest.

Latics have £8.5m AJ bid accepted

Latics have £8.5m AJ bid accepted
Crystal Palace have accepted an £8.5million bid from Wigan for Andrew Johnson but Simon Jordan has told Bolton and Everton to match the offer.
So it looks like AJ is coming back to the EPL, even if his final destination is still unknown. As long as he goes to a team where he can take PK's, he should be a good fantasy pick up next year. Otherwise... ?? ;-)

The Hot Stove

[13:38] Neal J Thurman: Rosicky to Gunners?
[14:14] JSpitzberg: is that the latest water cooler talk?
[14:14] Neal J Thurman: soccernet feature
[14:15] JSpitzberg: interesting
[14:15] JSpitzberg: where does he play?
[14:15] JSpitzberg: who steps down?
[14:15] Neal J Thurman: ??
[14:15] JSpitzberg: in the gunners midfield
[14:24] Neal J Thurman: not sure if he's central or wingish
[14:24] Neal J Thurman: seems like he's going to be similar to Hleb
[14:24] JSpitzberg: i had the sense that he was a Cesc
[14:25] Neal J Thurman: could be
[14:25] JSpitzberg: but not sure at all
[14:25] JSpitzberg: but i can guess that a 25yr old international isn't coming in to sit on the benhc
[14:25] Neal J Thurman: I was thinking maybe he was the next Freddie
[14:25] JSpitzberg: bench
[14:26] Neal J Thurman: maybe they're counting on needing a lot of people since they'll have the Liverpool Champions League schedule in the Fall
[14:28] JSpitzberg: could be
[14:28] Neal J Thurman: I think I saw somewhere that Pool played about 70 matches this season
[14:29] JSpitzberg: squad rotation... a fantasy manager's nightmare
[14:39] Neal J Thurman: best I can find for a description is "attacking midfielder"
[14:39] JSpitzberg: "playmaker"
[14:39] JSpitzberg: that's normally central
[14:40] JSpitzberg: though not necessarily the point...
[14:40] Neal J Thurman: exactly which gives credence to your Cesc comparison
[14:40] JSpitzberg: see carrick, etc
[14:40] JSpitzberg: seems to score more for country than club
[14:40] JSpitzberg: for what that is worth
[14:40] Neal J Thurman: really, hard to believe that a Czech player might do that...
[14:40] JSpitzberg: ;-)
[14:40] JSpitzberg: list forthcoming, i assume
[14:41] Neal J Thurman: really just Baros and Rosicky
[14:41] Neal J Thurman: Koller (when healthy) and Nedved are pretty good for both
[14:41] JSpitzberg: fair nuff ;-)
[14:41] Neal J Thurman: plus, not enough people to justify a list
[14:41] Neal J Thurman: bigger question - why aren't Arsenal buying central defenders instead of attacking midfielders?
[14:42] Neal J Thurman: even if Sol stays, I'd like to see another solid center back for the squad
[14:42] JSpitzberg: diaby's injury worse than we know?
[14:43] JSpitzberg: reyes going back to spain?
[14:43] JSpitzberg: silva old and crap?
[14:43] Neal J Thurman: can't imagine any of the above would constitute the need for another attacking midfielder
[14:44] JSpitzberg: maybe he's a carrick, alonso type
[14:44] JSpitzberg: maybe it's a sign and trade
[14:44] Neal J Thurman: HA
[14:45] Neal J Thurman: to get under the non-Chelsea salary cap?
[14:45] JSpitzberg: ;-)
[14:45] Neal J Thurman: maybe they're just trying to keep him away from ManYoo, Spurs, Liverpool, or Blackburn
[14:45] Neal J Thurman: Blackburn with someone like that would be pretty impressive
[14:46] JSpitzberg: they were...
[14:46] Neal J Thurman: ManYoo could use him as well if Riquelme doesn't end up at OT
[14:46] JSpitzberg: for the 3 games in which Tugay played well
[14:46] Neal J Thurman: right

[08:19] JSpitzberg: otherwise, are you excited by the new signing?
[08:20] JSpitzberg: for a supposed star, there's not much 411 on him floating around
[08:22] Neal J Thurman: I'm not sure what to think about it...more good players is better than fewer good players...he's young...I'm hoping he sucks (for at least one game) at the WC...still haven't figured out where he plays
[08:23] JSpitzberg: true dat
[08:24] Neal J Thurman: Kuyt to Toon?
[08:24] JSpitzberg: we'll see if anyone denies it
[08:24] JSpitzberg: then we'll know
[08:24] Neal J Thurman: lol - they've all been having a lovefest
[08:25] Neal J Thurman: they love him, he loves them
[08:25] JSpitzberg: sounds like a barney song
[08:26] Neal J Thurman: this is Toon we're talking about
[08:27] JSpitzberg: childish?
[08:28] Neal J Thurman: given that they're looking at strikers (Kuyt, Eidur) when they should be looking at defenders
[08:29] JSpitzberg: honestly they need at least one of each
[08:29] JSpitzberg: would love to see the iceman line up for them
[08:29] JSpitzberg: hell, if they can grab huth at the same time that would be a bonus
[08:29] Neal J Thurman: that would be a good idea
[08:30] JSpitzberg: send milner to CHE in trade?
[08:30] JSpitzberg: though they are already home to parker and babayaro
[08:30] JSpitzberg: so they know how to do their shopping in london
[08:31] JSpitzberg: on the che high street
[08:32] Neal J Thurman: Not as impressive a set of names but Defoe/Kuyt/Eidur are much more likely to be available for 30-40 matches/season
[08:33] JSpitzberg: not as impressive as... ?
[08:33] JSpitzberg: sheva?
[08:34] JSpitzberg: i think defoe will want the danny murphy clause at his new club
[08:34] JSpitzberg: ie, you will play
[08:34] Neal J Thurman: I mean Defoe/Kuyt/Eidur not as much glamour as Owen but more likely to actually produce
[08:34] JSpitzberg: not that that worked out well for danny murphy
[08:34] Neal J Thurman: right
[08:34] JSpitzberg: wouldn't expect a defoe/owen pairing
[08:34] JSpitzberg: too similar, right?
[08:34] JSpitzberg: tot all over again
[08:34] Neal J Thurman: right...
[08:35] Neal J Thurman: but Kuyt/Defoe would be great
[08:35] Neal J Thurman: or at least pretty good
[08:36] JSpitzberg: kuyt/owen?
[08:36] JSpitzberg: either really, but owen is already there
[08:36] Neal J Thurman: would be better but might make it difficult to afford Huth and Eidur
[08:37] JSpitzberg: we're still talking nufc, right?
[08:38] Neal J Thurman: lol, yes
[08:38] JSpitzberg: ok... so it's owen +10, right?
[08:38] Neal J Thurman: until they decide to sell ;-)

Cesc or Czech?

Czech playmaker Rosicky signs for Arsenal
Arsenal have completed the signing of midfielder Tomas Rosicky from Borussia Dortmund.

Gunners boss Arsene Wenger said: 'We are delighted to welcome Tomas to our squad.

'He has great technique, skill on the ball and sharp passing.

He secured World Cup football for the Czechs this summer by scoring the winning goal in the decisive qualifying play-off second leg against Norway.
Anyone know more about him? Seems like a player much like Cesc... central middie who looks to start the attack. So do those two compete for time? Hard to imagine Wenger bringing in someone to compete for that spot after dumping Viera for Cesc last year. But on the other hand I wouldn't expect a player like Rosicky, a 25-yr old international, presumably at the prime of his career, to be content with a place on the bench.

Chelsea open to Eidur offers

Chelsea open to Eidur offers
Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho has revealed that he is willing to listen to offers for Eidur Gudjohnsen.

The Iceland international has been an integral part of Chelsea's success in the past couple of seasons, with Mourinho finding a niche for him in midfield following the arrivals of strikers Hernan Crespo and Didier Drogba.

However, German superstar Michael Ballack has been brought in this summer and two or three more high-profile signings are likely to follow.
This should surprise no one. The Ice Man was always going to be the one to drop in the pecking order with Ballack's arrival -- rumors of Joe Cole's concern not-withstanding.

Maybe he can head to ManU as a make-weight in a trade deal for Ruud? Eidur would be a great assest to ManU as he is a quality player and would probably accept his role as a sub, especially if he got to play as an out and out striker again. And Chelsea would get a player capable of finishing all the chances they create.

Other Chelsea players to look for on other teams next season seem to include Carlton Cole, Hernan Crespo, Glen Johnson, Robert Huth, and Lenny Pidgeley. That leaves Chelsea looking for at least a striker and cover at center back.


Perhaps not the ultimate in journalistic restraint but that's about all I can say...

I guess this means its time to figure out how to get Henry into your line-up...

Here's an initial look at the line-up for next week's season opener...

I'm guessing that spending on Henry and Cech will be possible given the quality of the newbies coming in...

Striker - Henry, Sheva, and Berbatov

Midfielder - Walcott, Ballack, Liverpool's new right sided middie, Bobby Convey

Defender - Roberto Carlos, Cory Gibbs, Eboue

Keeper - Cech

Tests shed light on Spurs bug

Tests shed light on Spurs bug
"Results have confirmed that Norovirus, a form of viral gastroenteritis, has been identified in three samples taken from those affected," read the statement.

"Although no conclusion can be drawn as to the source of the illness, as the symptoms of Norovirus infection begin around 12 to 48 hours after a person becomes infected, exposure to the virus will have taken place prior to their arrival at the hotel."

Dr Alex Mellanby, consultant in communicable disease control at the North East and Central London Health Protection, shed some further light on the illness.

"Our investigation has identified Norovirus as the cause of the outbreak," he said.

"The affected cases would have been exposed to the virus before they visited the hotel and the infection was probably transmitted from person to person."
Norovirus. The new glandular fever.

Barcelona 2 - Arsenal 1

I was going to let Neal vent his spleen on yesterday's game (and I'm sure he will when he can uncurl from his fetal position on the bathroom floor) but did want to share my thoughts:

You have to start with the red card, right? Whether or not it was the 100% correct, Pareto optimal decision, it was probably fair to both teams. It was a red card worthy foul as Lehmann was the last defender. But Arsenal were probably lucky to escape going a goal down as the result of an advantage call. In fairness, they could have gone a man and a goal down and not had any complaints.

Barcelona identified Campbell and Cole as Arsenal's weak points and went at them, even sacrificing Eto'o for streches by sticking him on the left wing so Ronaldinho could run/dance around Campbell in the middle. It was working as Guily was getting behind Cole, and Barca were getting runners through the middle. That's what led to the red card, and should have later produced a goal from Eto'o were it not for Almunia's thumb.

I thought ESPN's coverage of the game (here in the USA) suffered from trying too hard. Celo Balboa didn't bring anything to the table and having to work in the "sideline" reporters disrupted Seamus Malin's normally smooth call. I hope that they can play it a bit straighter for the World Cup coverage, but I suspect they'll succumb to the "event" mentality, especially in the later knock-out games.

One particularly frustrating aspect of going a man down (and you could see this from Henry time and time again) was that when Arsenal got a goal kick, Almunia would out kick the entire team and give possession immediately back to Barcelona. But was that his fault? Or just the nature of the game you have to play with 10 men - 1 forward and 9 defending too deep to support him.

Another part of the game that confused me was Arsene's substitutions. Has there been any word on Cesc's removal? Was he hurt? Tiring badly? He, as usual, was so solid in midfield for the Arsenal. Though he seems to turn into trouble too often, he can usually get himself out of it. And he was so calm on the ball. Making the right pass at the right time... not rushing things, but drawing the defenders to him and only then releasing a team mate. (fantasy note: he also took a few set pieces) So why remove him from the game? And why put in Flamini, who hadn't played in midfield for months, regardless of how well he played at fullback? If you do want to get him in the game, why not put him at fullback and move Cole into the midfield.? Arsenal lost the middle of the pitch when he came in and a -2 "plus/minus" for Flamini says it all.

The other odd substitution was the late introduction of Reyes. I understand you're chasing the game, you put in a forward. But why not do it earlier? Barcelona took off the defensive-minded Olegur for the more attacking fullback, Beletti. Why not put Reyes in right away and keep Beletti honest, or exploit the space he leaves behind? I'm not saying that this would have prevented the second goal... but maybe Beletti doesn't find himself in Arsenal's box if he has to worry about Reyes.

What are your thoughts?

Cone of Silence

COS, UEFA Champions League Final edition.

Mido, we hardly knew ye

With the news that Spurs have agreed on a fee for Berbatov we have to assume that Blog favorite Ahmed Mido is on his way back from whence he came (on loan from AS Roma) or elsewhere. We can only hope that our favorite wild card and all-around lunatic finds his way back to the Premiership sooner rather than later. He can't seem to hold a job down for more than a year so it seems likely that he'll be back at some point.

While we wait, we will warmly remember the days when he managed 7 shots (probably only 2 or 3 on target) in 20 minute substitute appearances. I'm sure that sort of thing doesn't make real managers happy but Mido clearly has an appreciation for what's important to fantasy managers. Will miss you big man...

In response to Apai's Comment on Freddie Adu...

Here's my take...

1) Freddie isn't exactly lighting up MLS and until this season wasn't starting for DC United. Similar situation to Walcott in England but DC United are no Arsenal and MLS is no EPL.

2) If Freddie had any experience playing wide on the right, he'd probably be on the team as we don't have what I would consider a traditional right-sided midfielder. I love Clint Dempsey and I can't wait for him to head to Europe next season or the one after but he's more of a central player (his ideal spot is playing off McBride in a similar role to Helguson at Fulham - he's target-like at 6'1 but not solid enough to be an actual target man yet).

3) Freddie didn't handle his lack of playing time well last season - Bruce Arena probably didn't want someone on the bench who was going to be a disruptive force. The combination of Arena and Peter Nowak (DC United's manager) seem intent on making Freddie earn everything he gets...

Anyway, that's my take. I'd expect that he will start playing well in MLS about halfway through the season and the Freddie-to-[Fill in big club in Europe here] rumors will start in earnest with Chelsea being the biggest name on the list. With any luck they'll loan him out somewhere that he'll actually get to play (somewhere in Holland would be nice, I'd love to see him learn to play the wing spot in Ajax's 4-3-3). It also couldn't hurt for him to toughen up a little bit in the Coca-Cola Championship.

Your messages drive teams on

Your messages drive teams on

This is too ridiculous to let pass withtout comment. So, without further ado...

[12:19] JSpitzberg: "2006 — It’s Swiss O’Clock!"
[12:20] JSpitzberg: hilarious
[12:20] JSpitzberg: of course the US won't have their flag on their bus
[12:20] JSpitzberg: for security reasons
[12:20] JSpitzberg: only nation w/o
[12:20] Neal J Thurman: wonder if we got a slogan...
[12:20] Neal J Thurman: Got Oil?
[12:22] Neal J Thurman: at least ours is fairly inoffensive
[12:22] Neal J Thurman: maybe Kevin Payne will adopt it after the Cup is over
[12:23] Neal J Thurman: Tunisia's is awesome - I expect Sean Penn, Eric Stoltz, and Anthony Edwards to come piling out of their team bus followed by billows of smoke
[12:24] JSpitzberg: nice
[12:24] Neal J Thurman: :-)
[12:24] Neal J Thurman: never a bad time for a Fast Times reference
[12:24] JSpitzberg: wait till they play japan
[12:24] JSpitzberg: Light up your Samurai spirit!
[12:24] Neal J Thurman: I'm sure you can get some Samurai Spirit at a coffee house in Amsterdam
[12:25] JSpitzberg: Germany - "For Germany, through Germany"
[12:25] JSpitzberg: should have been Germany - "For Germany, through France"
[12:25] Neal J Thurman: HA
[12:25] Neal J Thurman: (or Poland...or...)
[12:26] JSpitzberg: "Get up, Argentina are on the move"
[12:26] JSpitzberg: that just makes Chile nervous
[12:26] Neal J Thurman: maybe Brazil loses the cup as their stars are laughing at "Vehicle monitored by 180 million Brazilian hearts"
[12:26] JSpitzberg: Australia - "Australia Socceroos – Bound and gagged for glory"
[12:26] Neal J Thurman: does that come on one of those little yellow window hangie things
[12:27] Neal J Thurman: Costa Rica - not too terrible
[12:27] JSpitzberg: Vehicle monitored by 180 million Brazilian hearts, and the good people at OnStar. OnStar...
[12:27] JSpitzberg: Costa Rica sounds like a decleration of war
[12:27] JSpitzberg: declaration
[12:27] Neal J Thurman: lol
[12:27] Neal J Thurman: but not bad
[12:27] JSpitzberg: Come on the Elephants!
[12:28] JSpitzberg: just too easy
[12:28] Neal J Thurman: gotta love Serbia just sort of giving up...
[12:28] Neal J Thurman: might as well have said..."hi mom"
[12:29] JSpitzberg: mexico/ivory coast
[12:29] JSpitzberg: "Aztec passion across the world. Come on the Elephants!"
[12:30] JSpitzberg: japan/tunisia (as you noted)... Light up your Samurai spirit... higher and stronger than ever
[12:31] Neal J Thurman: Some fantastic matches - we have sex and drugs, now all we need is rock-n-roll
[12:32] JSpitzberg: usa/paraguay... "United we play from the heart of America"
[12:32] JSpitzberg: they must have seen the # of road fans at a US game
[12:32] Neal J Thurman: lol
[12:33] JSpitzberg: Never-ending legend, united Korea
[12:33] JSpitzberg: political?
[12:34] Neal J Thurman: interesting

Japan coach Zico takes is place in the wall during a training session

Japan coach Zico takes is place in the wall during a training session

Moments later, while finally remembering what he had eaten for breakfast that day, Zico found that he couldn't remember much else; including what had happened to all of his teeth.

Bearish, even with Bullard

Fulham ready to sell Malbranque
Fulham are ready to sell midfielder Steed Malbranque after he rejected the offer of a new contract.

[O]n their website, Fulham say: 'Unfortunately Steed has indicated no offer would be acceptable as he wants to leave next year on a free transfer.

'This would be unacceptable to the club so we will listen to offers for him.'
Maybe a swap for SWP? Steed may be a good fit as a back-up in the new "winger-less" Chelsea while SWP would give Fulham balance in midfield and a lot more attacking speed.

Regardless, Fulham are going to have a very busy and very important summer. They won't survive in the EPL if they can't improve. Next year there aren't likely to be three or four teams so much worse than themselves. Though a healthy Niemi will translate into points they need to improve their center back and center forward options, and shore up a rapidly changing midfield.

Lauren up for Eboue fight

Lauren up for Eboue fight
"Competition is good as it improves the level of the team. [Can I win my place back?] Why not? I am a professional."
This will be very interesting going into next season. Who will be Arsenal's right back? Wenger has been keento keep young players in the team (selling Viera for Fabregas' sake, for example) so Eboue would have to be the favorite. Who knows, maybe with Gilbert healthy, Wenger finds Lauren expendable.

Ballack finally signs three-year Chelsea deal

Ballack finally signs three-year Chelsea deal
Mourinho, who did not take questions from reporters and instead asked his own, said: 'How can Michael's arrival affect Lampard and the team?

'It will affect it a lot because Lampard wants top players to play with him and the team want good players to improve the team.

'I look forward to working with them and look forward to playing both together.'
Only 10 spots left on everyone's 2006-2007 Yahoo! Fantasy Football team.

One for the ladies, sort of Page 2 : A fantasy league for the females

The Sports Guy on fantasy leagues... why we play, why we're hooked, the extents we will go for our fix, and how we can do one for the ladies.

Cone of Silence

COS, UEFA Cup Final edition.

UPDATE (5/11): Alas, the Cone of Silence has been replaced by the Cone of Sucky. Boro showed their true face (at least the ones not behind a Batman mask) and they just weren't good enough. Their passing was poor and wasn't helped by a mostly static team. Sevilla put pressure on them with speed from the opening and Boro couldn't cope. Morrison was lost. Rochemback was lost. Even Boateng was getting dragged around the field. And Viduka was the Viduka who shows up day in and day out, rather than the forceful, effective Viduka who appears at the opening of every transfer window.

The only thing worse than Boro's performance was that of Max Bretos, announcing the game from LA for Fox Soccer Channel here in the USA. Just annoying. In Sports Guy parlance, he takes things off the table.

The Table Test:
It all comes back to my world-renowned Table Test, which can be used for any actor, athlete, writer or broadcaster. It centers on one phrase: "I'm not sure if Person X brings anything to the table." Hey, sometimes that's not a bad thing. We all have friends who don't say much or add much, but they're fun to have around, know when to laugh at the right times and generally fit in with everybody else in your group (the Robert Horry of friends). And maybe they don't bring that much to the table, but they also don't take things off the table -- they aren't rude, they aren't inappropriate, they aren't stupid, they don't act like drunken idiots, and so on. Think of it this way:

Scenario No. 1: Person X brings something to the table.
Scenario No. 2: Person X brings nothing to the table.
Scenario No. 3: Person X takes things off the table.

In certain circumstances, you can get away with bringing nothing to the table (No. 2); for instance, I'd much rather hear a play-by-play broadcaster pull a No. 2 over somebody trying too hard to be a No. 1.

Bretos even suggested that McLaren might bring in Ray Parlour on the right wing. I honestly yelled "You idiot!" at the television, "He's going to bring in Maccarone!" My wife began wondering sarcastically why I wasn't in LA announcing soccer games if I know so much. But I was right, wasn't I?

You tell me, was that the stupidest commentary, or what?

Wigan release first team duo

Wigan release first team duo
Wigan Athletic manager Paul Jewell has begun building his squad for next season by releasing experienced duo Stephane Henchoz and David Thompson.
Paul Jewell explained:
"Thommo is a good little player, but he has found it difficult, in particular as he has had a couple of niggly injuries.

"But he is very unlucky because you could see what he's capable of at Arsenal.

"So it was a tough decision, but I've just thought for next season we will try something different.
There goes my hope for next year of seeing Thompson with a unique treble for Wigan on the opening day of next season... score, booking, and substituted for injury. Guess there's still a chance that he can do it for another club.

2006 FIFA World Cup Fantasy

2006 FIFA World Cup Fantasy
Pit your wits against friends, work colleagues or leading celebrities by playing the McDonald's®/FIFA World Cup™ Official Fantasy Game. Register to play on 18 May.
This is in partnership with Yahoo! and will require a Yahoo! account to play.

Looks like you pick a squad of 23, a formation, and a captain (double points) and then set your line-up...
You will be able to chop and change your lineup as many times as you like before each match but once a player is in action, he cannot be substituted for another.
We'll have to see how that will work in practice.

But good to know that we'll have at least one game to play this summer.

Would anyone be interested in a "Fantasy EPL" private group?

Carr wins appeal over dismissal

Carr wins appeal over dismissal
Newcastle defender Stephen Carr has been spared a four-game suspension after winning his appeal against the red card he received against Chelsea.

Referee Mike Riley dismissed Carr for aiming a kick at Lassana Diarra but the Football Association's disciplinary committee overturned the decision.
Just blogging this as a reference point for August.

United keeper Howard joins Toffees on loan

United keeper Howard joins Toffees on loan
Manchester United keeper Tim Howard will join Everton on a 12-month loan deal this summer.
Martyn is out of contract and Wright is just terrible. I expect Howard to be Everton's number one with Turner as his back-up. This should free up some money to spend on a forward and maybe a defender who doesn't remember where he was during the Queen's coronation.

Week 41?

Spurs request West Ham game to be replayed
Tottenham have asked the Premier League to order their game against West Ham to be replayed.

The crucial match went ahead on Sunday despite a number of the Spurs team being struck down with food poisoning hours before kick-off.

Martin Jol's side subsequently lost 2-1 at Upton Park and therefore missed out on a Champions League place after Arsenal's 4-2 victory over Wigan.

A Premier League spokesman said: 'Tottenham fulfilled their fixture and as far as the Premier League is concerned the result stands.

'However, the Premier League board will convene and discuss the contents of Tottenham's letter.'
Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water...

I would like to thank all the little people

... that made this possible.

Bent left gutted by World Cup finals snub

Bent left gutted by World Cup finals snub
Bent, who scored 18 goals in the league for Charlton, was a surprise omission from the Swede's 23-man squad with places instead going to Peter Crouch and the untried Theo Walcott.

Players refused to appear - Bruce

Players refused to appear - Bruce

Looking at the squad, I'm thinking the possibilities are oft-injured players who will probably be sold in the summer (Gray, Dunn, Izzet and Upson) or others on loan or already released (Lazaridas, Jarosik & Sutton?).

Should they risk injury for their current employer if it would jeapordize their future employment?

Another Yank Abroad

Addicks pip Boro to Gibbs
Charlton Athletic have beaten off competition from Uefa Cup finalists Middlesbrough to land USA international Cory Gibbs.

The versatile defender was available on a free transfer after completing the season with Dutch outfit ADO Den Haag.
Good to have another American in the EPL next year. With Convey and Hahnemann joining, and Eddie Lewis doing all he can to make it as well, there may be enough players for a fantasy XI.

Though I did find this interesting:
Gibbs revealed Charlton chairman Richard Murray played a key role in enticing him to join the Valley outfit.

"In the past week I've received interest from Middlesbrough, Bolton Wanderers, Reading and Charlton," Gibbs told the club's official website.

"Playing Premiership football has always been my dream and I was flattered to have such options. I am joining a club that is ambitious and hungry for success.

"I was hugely impressed with the chairman, Richard Murray, and his ambitious plans for the continued development of the club."
Translation: Mr. Murray was the one offering the most money.

Note to self

Always pick this man on the last day of the season.

Oh yeah, this guy too:

But that's more of a general rule.

Un Dia Sin Futbol

This is tough. Nothing to read. No mental notes on matchups or form. No players to put on the team before their price rises. Full slate of games tomorrow, but I'm already going through withdrawl.

I'm going to have to take up knitting or learn Sanskrit to fill this info void in my life.

Friday Football Manager

The Manager normally has the good sense to wait until the games have been played to comment on them (if at all), but this week our normal prognosticator, Neal, is in-flight somewhere over New Mexico. So it's up to the Manager to step up and break down the final slate of games in the EPL season.
West Ham v Tottenham

While my first instinct is to go for the home team, West Ham have injuries and will be conscious to avoid any more before the FA Cup final. Look for Spurs old-boys Zamora and Sheringham to lead a depleted and disinterested team. Meanwhile, Totteham need 3 points to secure Champions League football in front of their hated rivals, Arsenal. But they are hampered by a host of injuries, including probably losing their first choice strike pairing of Mido and Robbie Keane. Defoe should therefore be a good bet, as may Lennon who is finally adding some end product to all of his running. On defense you may look at Stephen Kelly if Stalteri can't go.

Arsenal v Wigan

Another must win for Arsenal. Get Thierry Henry. Just do it. He's cheap for god's sake. Gut the other 10 and buy Thierry Henry. You won't be sorry. This isn't rocket science, people. If you want to be contrary, or need a cheap middie to fund your buying of Henry, try David Thompson for Wigan. Terrible match-up and he's sure to get a booking. But he's also fighting (bad choice of words) for a new contract (I think) and will be taking kicks for Wigan now that Bullard is out.

Man Utd v Charlton

Like Tot, ManU need to win this game to clinch 2nd place and the automatic CL berth that comes with it ahead of rival Liverpool, while Charlton checked out of the sesason a few weeks back. Seems like a sure home win, but ManU has stuttered towards the finish line themselves. Saha and Ronaldo are "minor" doubts, but still good bets. Park has been playing well and Rossi might see some time if you feel like gambling in this final weekend.

Portsmouth v Liverpool

This is a testimonail match for Pompey while Liv, while they want to win, probably have more of an eye on the Cup final. This could be nil-nil just as easily as 4-3. Fowler is a good bet at $8 as he's Cup tied for Liv so could start.

Newcastle v Chelsea

Newcastle are in form and trying to secure 7th place and a chance to ruin next season by playing in the Intertoto Cup. Chelsea just want the season to end. Cudicini is cheap and a quality keeper, but on the road to a more motivated team. Duff is cheap and a sentimental favorite around here. If Chelsea chop and change again he may get significant minutes and could give the NUFC defense some trouble.

Bolton v Birmingham

Never bet on Bolton. So why is Vaz Te in my lineup? Nothing to see here...

Blackburn v Man City

(unless you need a cheap middie and want to gamble on Sibierski) Keep moving...

Fulham v Middlesbrough

Fulham got their road win. Boro are looking towards Wednesday's UEFA Cup final. Both teams are done with the EPL this year. Bridge and Niemi are good bets to get a clean sheet, if Niemi is healthy. If not I wouldn't back them.

Everton v West Brom

This one has nil-nil written all over it. So why do I have James McFadden in my team? Probably because WBA are done and gone and are just terrible on the road. No, that's why I have Ian Turner in my team. Faddie is there so I have an excuse to type "Faddie" for one last week.

A Villa v Sunderland

Another game that could be nil-nil as easily as 4-3. Sunderland got their home win and REALLY have nothing left to play for. Villa have nothing but pride to play for. Will that be enough? Barry and Milner are good bets in this one, as would be Gabriel Agbonlahor (sp?) if he were listed in Yahoo!'s game.
Whew! How does Neal do this every week?

Thank to everyone who has come and read our blatherings and added their own comments. Check back as we wrap up the week and the season... awards, best and worst XI's, etc.

And we'll be around all summer saying stupid things about the World Cup and MLS (that's the USA top-flight league) so stick with us as we kill time until next August.

-The Manager

Farewell and thank you, Dennis

The Dutchman, who plays his final league game on Sunday, will be remembered for scoring one of the top 10 World Cup goals, winning European trophies with Ajax Amsterdam and Inter Milan, and an 11-year Arsenal career highlighted by two Premier League and FA Cup doubles.

What has set Bergkamp apart is his touch, vision and slide-rule passing which could flip open a defence in the blink of an eye from his position in the "hole" behind his strikers.

My Team News

ESPNsoccernet - England - Premiership Team News

Antti Niemi, who missed the Stadium of Light clash to have a scan on his knee, should return.
Louis Saha and Cristiano Ronaldo are minor doubts - both men picked up knocks in Monday's draw with Middlesbrough, although manager Sir Alex Ferguson expects the duo to be fit
Robbie Fowler could return to the starting line-up

Sky Sports - Premiership last day preview

Arsenal legend Dennis Bergkamp is sure to grace Highbury one last time, although he may not start.
[Everton] striker Victor Anichebe could be given a run-out.
Chris Coleman could also hand Claus Jensen his first outing since October.
[Tottenham striker] Lee Barnard may be pressed into action alongside Jermain Defoe in attack.

Cole, Clichy. Clichy, Cole.

Man City v Arsenal Report
Wenger is still debating whether to include Cole in the crucial match against Wigan on Sunday, where they must get a better result than Tottenham to overtake their arch-rivals and claim fourth place and Champions League qualification.

He said: 'Ashley was very tired at the end of the game and I'll have to see what his recovery is like. Then I will see what we will do.'

Happy Happy Joy Joy

Man City - Arsenal

30'Goal! Manchester City 0, Arsenal 1. Fredrik Ljungberg (Arsenal) left footed shot from the centre of the box to the bottom right corner. Assisted by Thierry Henry.

One more (plus the assist) for the good team!

Neal's Curse Claims More Victims

BBC SPORT | Football | My Club | Sunderland | Live Text
Fulham substitution: Luis Boa Morte replaced by Tomasz Radzinski (injury).
And Niemi, K2, and Clichy didn't even make the bench today.

Any national, club, or fantasy team managers wanting Neal to avoid their players (or pick the opposition)... for a small fee... can contact him at the email address below.

What do you think, Neal?

Coleman braced for interest in key Fulham duo
Fulham boss Chris Coleman understands why Luis Boa Morte and Steed Malbranque are frequently linked with moves away from Craven Cottage.
I think Wigan should buy both of them for next year and they should sit out today's match with Sunderland. It's only fair.

All change for Arsenal

Ashley Cole to start
Full-back Ashley Cole will start against Manchester City tomorrow after coming on at the Stadium of Light.

Gael Clichy is rested, along with striker Dennis Bergkamp, but Alexander Hleb, Gilberto, Freddie Ljungberg and Jose Antonio Reyes all return to the squad.

Togo striker Emmanuel Adebayor (sinus infection) is out, along with Mathieu Flamini (hamstring), Theo Walcott and Philippe Senderos (both knee). Lauren (knee) is a long-term absentee.
But let's be honest, there's only 1 player that matters...

Looking Back...

It's been quite a year and while it isn't entirely wrapped up, I have a few minutes before I get on a plane for the West Coast and I was IMing with fellow-blogger Jeremy and we were discussing our All-Blog Team of the year. Not necessarily the best of the best (that's a little too obvious) but those guys who out-produced their reputations, came back from injury/down seasons, or otherwise got Jeremy and I in their corner over the course of this fantasy season.

We'd love to hear who your favorites are from this season and why in the comments section...


Dean Ashton - he came on the scene (as predicted) like a house of fire and had three fantastic fantasy weeks in a row. He was slowed by injury and inconsistent playing time later in the year but you knew he was going to be on the team so I figured I'd get it over with early.

Collins John - Fulham's leading scorer this year with 11 goals in the Premiership despite starting only 17 matches (and coming on as a late sub in 19 more). He's fun to watch and more importantly, we were on the bandwagon early and he rewarded that faith. Now you have to wonder if Chris Coleman will find a way to get him on the field more next year.

Mido - We love him because he's a wildcard - you never know what you'll get but it's bound to be interesting - he also had a great run of things through the first half of the season (too bad for Jeremy Collins John was better pretty much every week)

Harry Kewell - We love redemption and we love it even more when we see it coming and let our readers know about it. Harry started off shakey but came back to have a very good fantasy season. He faded a little bit late but you can hardly blame him with Liverpool playing an incredible number of matches this year.

James McFadden - A striker listed as a midfielder, even better when he's relatively cheap and very productive (which happened over a couple stretches when he and Beattie were both healthy and paired together). Here's to better health for both next year.

Stewart Downing - We've been on the Downing bandwagon since late in the 2003-2004 season and while Downing didn't play that many Premiership matches this season, he was effective when he was in there.

James Milner - Call him Downing 2.0 - the bandwagon started last year and built up a lot of momentum once he got settled at Villa - it will be interesting to see if he can be as effective for someone other than O'Leary.

Del Horno/Eboue - The perfect first half of the year/second half of the year combo - always good for some points going forward as well as more than their share of clean sheets

Bridge - Fulham didn't record many clean sheets but Bridge did a nice job of pushing forward and producing for fantasy managers when he was healthy.

Reo-Coker - Started the season off with a bang and ended it in similar fashion - the middle wasn't spectacular but we always like midfielders who are listed as defenders...

Reina - Was clearly the best value in net for most of the season - he faded late but that shouldn't diminish what he did from August until about mid-March.

Honorable Mention - Darren Bent (nice first third of the season), Danny Murphy (ditto), Michael Carrick (solid and affordable all year), Yakubu (crap year but we still love him from the last two years), K2 (it's fun to have a new Kanu), Fabregas (nice final third of the season), Park (always cheap, occasionally productive), Dially (exceptionally cheap and had a few excellent weeks in the starting line-up).

Keeper Cechs Out Of Chelsea Run-In

Keeper Cechs Out Of Chelsea Run-In
Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech is concentrating on the World Cup after admitting he will take no further part in the club's season.

Cech is not the only player undergoing a rest as captain John Terry, Ghanaian midfielder Michael Essien and Claude Makelele will also take no further part in the campaign.
C. Cudicini (CHE - G) @NUF [ BUY ] 9.33
L. Diarra (CHE - M) @NUF [ BUY ] 5.60
E. Gudjohnsen (CHE - F) @NUF [ BUY ] 4.94

C. Cudicini (CHE - G) @NUF [ BUY ] 8.71
L. Diarra (CHE - M) @NUF [ BUY ] 6.13
E. Gudjohnsen (CHE - F) @NUF [ BUY ] 5.31

MIA Mystery Solved

Bolton v Middlesbrough
Kevin Nolan will have a late fitness test on a rib injury
I guess that explains his absence for the past 2 games.

Not that anyone who reads (or writes!) this blog would be foolish enough to bet on Bolton.

A blog favorite returns

Heinze poised to return
Gabriel Heinze could get the chance to prove his fitness for the World Cup against Middlesbrough on Monday.
Let's just hope he doesn't do so well so we can pick him up on the cheap next year. You too, Mr. Cole.