Monday Morning Manager



Part One, below.

Update, Part the second:

Blackburn Rovers 0 - 0 West Ham United
We've already mentioned Givet above.  He was a seemingly do-no-harm defender, but even at center back he got points.  Could be the Paintsil of this season as Rovers are becoming quite the Allardyce team - tough to beat no matter who lines up at the back.  The question will be if David Dunn can stay healthy, and not suspended, long enough to be their Okocha.  He shared kicks with MGP and had two shots on goal.  He could have had an assist or two with better finishing.  And that's going to hold Rovers back if they can't fix it.  Rovers have a reasonable schedule upcoming - Wolves, @Eve, Villa - before a brutal October - @Arsenal, Burnley, @Chelsea, @Manchester United.  Maybe Dunn is a pick for this upcoming game week as other transfers bed in with their new clubs.

As for West Ham, I'm beginning to think that they're not the free flowing attacking team that the media is making them out to be.  They're overly reliant on Carlton Cole and he's not consistent enough to carry a team.  It will be interesting to see how Diamanti beds in but West Ham seem to lack some grit on both sides of the pitch.  They're going to have to scrap a little more to progress in the Premier League.  I'm not saying that they go back out and re-acquire Nigel Quashie but another center back (which they've gotten) and another center forward with a presence.  Hopefully for them, and for fantasy managers, Diamanti can be that player.  But I have my doubts.

Wolverhampton Wanderers 1 - 1 Hull City
Stephen Hunt is becoming an early fantasy favorite.  A lot of buzz around him and Jozy Altidore, and at least Hunt delivered.  Credit to Hull, they are competitive with, and beating!, the teams around them at the bottom of the table.  They made their bones last season by beating bigger clubs early before falling apart completely after Christmas.  This new strategy may be a bit more sustainable. 

Wolves are going to be bouncing around the bottom of the table this season.  They're assembling pieces, but aren't solid enough at the back or threatening enough up front to worry any midtable sides.  See how easily West Ham beat them, and look at what they've done since.  But they'll win their share of games against Wigan, Hull, Bolton, etc.  It just remains to be seen if they'll get enough points to survive.

I'm still waiting to get more from Milijas.  He is getting 'kick-taker on a bad team' points and he finally played a full 90.  He's still worth it at even his current price, but he promises much more.  Perhaps Wolves will kick on when they're healthier -- when Kightly and Ebanks-Blake are back.  But until then, they're there for the taking by opponents and for fantasy managers to pick against (see Dunn, David above).

Tottenham Hotspur 2 - 1 Birmingham City
This one had clean sheet for Spurs written all over it.  But an injury to King and shaky keeping from Cudicini gifted a goal, and a point, to Birmingham.  With ManU and Chelsea next, there may be diminishing returns for Spurs defence.  In attack, they are clicking along.  Lennon has added an eye for goal to his repetoire, and it is much welcome for 'arry, England and for fantasy managers.  With Modric out they may dip back into the transfer market which may be a fantasy boost - hello, MPet - or a fantasy bust - Krancjar and/or Bentley are already too expensive.  Defoe's hot streak cooled down as quickly as it started.  After his hat-trick against Hull, he has only the goal he was gifted by West Ham to his name.  Meanwhile Crouchinho scored a headed goal, which is something of a rarity - or a relative rarity for someone known for their height.

I don't have much to add about Birmingham - especially with their ill-tempered derby against Villa next on the schedule.  But they'll be tough to beat.  It only remains to be seen if they have enough to win, or even draw, these close games.  A lot will rest on Benitez, and I'm guessing that he'll start to get more involved after the international break - depending on his own travels.  He's creeping up in price, but it may be worth a look at him on the barn door after the Villa match as Birmingham then face @Hull, Bolton and @Burnley.

Stoke City 1 - 0 Sunderland
Stoke are still very good at home and Wilkinson is growing into a fantasy stud.  It will be very interesting to see how they incorporate Tuncay into the squad.  But as a striker priced at 1!!... well, that in itself is quite apeallilng.  He came on for Fuller at the weekend, but I think it will be Etherington who is most at threat.

Sunderland probably have too many new pieces to have gelled just yet.  They are assembling a nice, albeit expensive, squad and should be a very solid team.  It remains to be seen if their attack can click consistently but with Turner and Ferdinand anchoring the D, with Mensah and da Silva pushing them, they should be tight enough at the back.  It's just a shame that they can't settle on a keeper, due to form and injury.
 
Chelsea 3 - 0 Burnley
A routine win for Chelsea but Burnley had their chances against the mighty Blues.  Maybe a better team wouldn't have gotten the space they did, but a better team might well have put one or two chances away.  So worrying for Chelsea?  No. Same old same old for them.  And with Drogba leading the way this fantasy season they are in fine fettle.  It's Lampard who, while still an elite middie, is under threat on fantasy sides.  Drogba and Deco are stealing his points.  And don't worry about Ballack, he has these two or three match runs before sliding back into fantasy obscurity.  Maybe things are different now under Ancelotti, but I'm not looking to get back on to the Chelsea midfield roller-coaster right now.

Burnley won't take the loss too badly.  I'm sure they were looking to the international break all along and saying "our season starts now".  Well, after their trip to Anfield.  The six points they won off ManU and Everton are bonus, and there may still be value in Jensen, Paterson and Alexander when the schedule finally eases up.


Part the first:

Aston Villa 2 - 0 Fulham
I'm not sure we can draw any conclusions from this match.  Fulham must have been absolutely wiped out after their trip to the Urals.  Villa are a real Jekyll and Hyde team so far this season, but I think they'll continue to improve. 

Everton 2 - 1 Wigan Athletic
What happened to Wigan?  They blitzed Villa on the opening day but have seemingly fallen apart since then.  Granted, maybe their opposition has been tougher, but that's not going to change with Arsenal and Chelsea following a visit from West Ham.  It may be worth keeping HRod, Koumas and N'Zogbia for another week, but their bandwagon may be running out of steam.  I was going to included Jordi Gomez in that list, but I think he may be above that.  Your classic kick-taker/point getter on a bad team.  I Friday traded him out of my team for Jimenez to move from Givet to Bassong and that turned out to be a 17-point mistake.  The match-ups were right, but Friday trade karma just seems to trump match-ups.  Will I make the mistake again, however?  Probably.  But I'm certainly back on Gomez for now.

Portsmouth 0 - 1 Manchester City
Citeh don't steamroll teams, do they?  They get their nose in front and hang on for dear life!  That may well work against Rovers, Wolves and Portsmouth.  But it remains to be seen if it will translate against better opposition.  And look who they play next... Arsenal followed by the big Manchester derby!  If you're invested in Citeh players you may just want to take your lumps over the next few weeks as the schedule eases up again.  And maybe there's some "facing your old club" magic for K2 and Toure.  But if you're just getting on the bandwagon, maybe it's best to wait and see.

Interesting from this match that Robinho was rested and it was Bellamy who came in.  Seems that Petrov is well and truly out of favor as Hughes will play SWP on one wing, but not get too stretched by playing two wingers.  Instead it's a front three with K2 the sure starter (and repaying the faith with goals) until at least RSC is healthy and Robinho, Tevez and Bellamy in for the two supporting places.  Maybe Tevez is a sure starter too and Robinho and Bellamy get home and away matches, respectively?  I think Hughes might switch it up a bit more than that, but that is certainly an interesting option based on Robinho's preference for "home cooking" last season. 

For Portsmouth, there's more churn with Distin leaving but Prince-Boateng, O'Hara, Brown, Dindane and Smith arriving.  It remains to be seen what kind of side they'll be when all this settles down, but O'Hara has been good for Spurs (and fantasy managers) when given a chance there and he could be a nice option in midfield at 4.23.

Manchester United 2 - 1 Arsenal
Notes taken while watching the match:
  • van Persie did everything BUT score.  A shot off the woodwork, a glorious kick save from Foster, an effort ruled out by an earlier Gallas offsides... what's a brother got to do to get a goal around here?
  • Arshavin should have had a PK...  and well, RvP would probably have put that away!  Fletcher totally cleaned him out in the box!  It's not even a question in my mind.  Especially if what Almunia did to Rooney was a PK, than this was too.
  • Diaby - I hope that there weren't too many of you who went in for Diaby after his brace against Portsmouth.  He's a nice attacking middie.  I don't know why everyone wants to compare him with Viera.  Other than being tall and black, I don't see the comparison.  But Wenger likes him and likes to play him behind the striker.  He's even said that when Diaby plays Fabregas will play deeper to accomodate him.
Otherwise, it was an entertaining match.  Nani got the start and looks more and more like he'll be a fixture in the midfield.  Which is reassuring if you own him.  However, while he did okay with some late points, Giggs was stealing all of his opportunities for 80 minutes.  That may be a pattern against the bigger sides, but hopefully there are enough points against the minnows to justify the investment in Nani over the course of the season.

Rooney can't stop scoring even if the PK was the only fantasy points he earned.  But ManU's entire game-plan was to get him the ball quickly and on another day he could have scored more.

On the other side, Arshavin finally got off the blocks with an amazing goal.  I had flashbacks to Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink the way he got the ball out of his feet so quickly and with such power.  He doesn't seem to be as involved in the games as one might hope but he did have another shot just go by the post and again, there was the PK he should have earned.

Bolton Wanderers 2 - 3 Liverpool
This was a good effort from Bolton, but they are still in deep trouble.  They've failed to pick up a point while watching Burnley earn six unlikely ones, and losing to Hull in what is likely to be a six-pointer come the end of the season.

Gerrard pulled Liverpool out of it, as he has so many times.  Not a classic performance from him, but points is points. And meanwhile Torres is back to his storming best.  It's maybe a little quiet with Drogba and Rooney taking the plaudits but Torres is right there at the top of the table with them.  And not far behind is Glen Johnson on two goals.  He's starting to get really pricey now but an early investment is paying off.

Modric suffers broken leg



via Yahoo!UK/Eurosport:

Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Luka Modric will be out for at least six weeks after breaking a bone in his right fibula in Saturday's 2-1 win over Birmingham City.

The 23-year-old midfielder, who has been in inspired form as Spurs have won their opening four league matches of the season, was hurt in what seemed an innocuous collision with Lee Bowyer at the start of the second half.

He told the Croatian daily Jutarnji List: "It's like my whole world has crumbled because I will be out for at least six weeks. I am terribly sad.

This is a big blow for Spurs and of course the 20% of fantasy managers who own him.  Wow!  I had no idea it was that high.  Anyway, there have been a bunch of theories floating around the FEPL-blog-o-sphere about what Spurs might do.  Options seem to include 1) Bentley playing on the left, 2) Johnny Two-Saints getting a run in the side, and most likely, 3) Keane dropping back into a wide spot and Crouch starting alongside Defoe.  For fantasy managers, only Giovani coming in (option 2) would be feasible based on cost.  Otherwise, managers would be wise to look elsewhere for their $8 middie... perhaps N'Zogbia, Deco, JGomez or Milijas.  Or if you're bound and determined to stay with Spurs (even with ManU and Chelsea their next Premier League opponents) maybe THud is your pick.

Update:

Please, please, please let this happen:
Bulgarian international Martin Petrov's transfer to White Hart Lane appears to be certain, and according to several media reports, he is expected to become a Spurs player by the end of the day on August 31.

Matchday Open Thread

My apologies today - I'm not going to be able to host our live chat due to the presence of my in-laws and the need to spend time with them while they are here. As neither of them are big footie fans, that lends itself more to brunch and the like as opposed to sitting in front of the big TV, watching whatever match is on, and them being curious about what it is I'm doing on these here Internets.

Enjoy the international break and check in frequently with the blog for all the news and opinions you'll need to get ready for the next match-week.

Oh, and by the way, Rooney getting 8 little points in a ManYoo win was about the worst possible outcome from yesterday. One final note, one of our loyal readers/chatters (I don't remember who) pointed out that Jamie O'Hara (on loan from Pompey to Spurs Spurs to Pompey) is likely a great bargain for next week. Worth watching today or at least checking stats to see what positions they put him in (i.e., does he take kicks, does he start).

Enjoy the rest of the weekend...

Neal

The Barn Door Live - Week 3 (running late)

Injuries and Suspensions

Honestly, there isn't a ton out there that either hasn't been reported on before (i.e., player was injured last week or has been injured all season) or that is likely to have a huge impact on your fantasy team. Here are a few notes that might perk you up though...

Sylvain Distin should be ready to go for Everton on Sunday and isn't terribly expensive. Not sure if I'm ready to take the plunge here but having things settled MIGHT be enough to get Everton back on track. Getting PNev out of central defence will certainly help a lot.

Sotirios Kyrgiakos appears likely to start at centre-back for Liverpool with Skertl still having a difficult time with his jaw. If you're betting on a Liverpool rebound/return to normalcy, there are likely some cheap clean sheet points available for 6.16.

Cesc is injured for Arsenal meaning that Denilson is likely to have a more attacking role for Arsenal but given the opposition and the venue, I'm not sure this is the weekend to take a flyer there.

Otherwise the news of the day is all of the minor "old faces in new places" moves - Huth and Tuncay to Stoke (great moves), Warnock to Villa, Dunne (presumably) to Villa, Danny Collins (presumably) to Stoke, etc. All vaguely interesting in the real world but I'm not sure any of those moves is particularly interesting to fantasy managers this weekend.

Hammers sign Diamanti


West Ham have eased their striking problems with the signing of Livorno forward Alessandro Diamanti. The 26-year-old, who joins the Upton Park club for an undisclosed fee, has signed a five-year contract with the Hammers...

Mattia Fontana of Eurosport's Italian website gives us the lowdown on the new Hammer:

Diamanti is an incredibly talented forward, a 'number ten' if you like.

He is perfect in a 4-3-3 formation so Gianfranco Zola could play Luis Jimenez and Diamanti behind Carlton Cole.

He is fast, his ball-control is simply amazing and his shot, always with his left foot, is powerful. He loves to shoot from distance and is also a free-kick specialist.

The big question, for me, is about his character. Diamanti is a bit 'crazy', similar to Paolo Di Canio if I was to draw a comparison.
You had me at "free-kick specialist".

Early Doors



The dominos are really starting to fall now.

Villa close to Dunne deal
Villa clinch Warnock deal
Dunne will offer them experience in the heart of defence, something they've been missing since Martin Laursen retired.  Not the Dunne is the same player, but they can't rely on Davies and Cuellar all season... especially as Davies seems to have popped his shoulder out in today's Europa League qualifier.
Oh dear, Davies suddenly motions to the bench and sprints off, his right arm not moving by his side - the shoulder is out again. Shane Lowry comes on in his place.
Warnock gives MO'N even more options.  He's primarly a left back, but Villa already have Shorey and, sooner or later, Bouma there.  He can also play in midfield either on the left or center, providing cover for BFAY and eventually Downing.  For fantasy it will be most interesting if he starts as a central midfield attacker alongside a deeper-lying Petrov.  He may be a real value defender even at 8.56 if that turns out to be the case.  Villa are home to Fulham this weekend with both clubs having just played European ties.  It might be worth keeping your powder dry until after this match and next week's sure-to-be-contentious Birmingham derby.  But then Villa are home to Portsmouth and at Rovers.

Chimbonda joins Rovers
"The experience of the player, the adaptability of the player in a
number of positions and his past record means we will have a good
player on our hands and will not miss Warnock too much.

"We all know his favourite position is right-back. We are well covered there, but he can play centre-back and left-back.

Definitely a wait and see.  Chimbo can provide fantasy returns when he's in the mood, but I'm not sure where he will slot in to Rover's defence barring injury.  But, lucky for him Rover's backline are brittle as... well, something very brittle.  Nelsen came out at halftime last weekend, so maybe Givet slides in to the center and Chimbo plays on the left.  That will cut into Givet's fantasy appeal, but at his price that may not be a problem for fantasy managers.  Givet seems like a reasonably do-no-harm defender and please, please, please let that not come back to haunt/jinx/curse me!  Regardless, at 8.16 and with Rover's terrible defensive record, you probably aren't considering Chimbo.

Pompey swoop for Smith

Portsmouth have signed Watford striker Tommy Smith on a four-year contract, for an undisclosed fee...

"He can play as a centre-forward, behind the centre-forward or out wide, so covers a lot of positions. He's going to be a great asset to us."

Smith netted 17 times for Watford in the Championship last season and has two goals in the current campaign.

This either speaks to Pompey's lack of money or ambition... or perhaps both.  I'm sure he'll be a good signing for them but at this point they are just making up the numbers.  And speaking of turmoil at Portsmouth...

Distin agrees Toffees deal

Everton have agreed a deal to sign defender Sylvain Distin from Portsmouth, and the player is set to have a medical with the Goodison Park club...

Toffees boss David Moyes is armed with funds after selling Joleon Lescott to Manchester City for £22million, and Distin will be effectively a like-for-like replacement.

A good signing for Everton but another real blow to Pompey who will in the very short-term have to try to keep the likes of Tevez, K2 and Robinho off the score-sheet at the weekend.

Stoke clinch Huth signing

Stoke have completed the signing of Robert Huth from Middlesbrough.

The 25-year-old defender finalised personal terms after undergoing a medical on Wednesday, and he could be followed to the Britannia Stadium by Boro striker Tuncay Sanli.

The Turkish striker was in talks with the Potteries club's hierarchy on Wednesday, with Stoke expected to pay around £11million for the pair.

The domino here is Sonko leaving.  The wildcard is Tuncay who showed flashes of real talent alongside a generous work effort.  It will be interesting to see how Pulis chooses to use him - up front off a target striker (Fuller/Beattie) or wide, which would threaten Etherington or Lawrences regular spot.  I guess he could also play in midfield, say in Glenn Whelan's role.  That is, if you can spot him amongst the trees.

The Week Ahead - Week 3


We here at Blog Central have always enjoyed the notion of getting on the bandwagon of specific players early. Those of you who have been reading know that we were high on Ashley Young before Watford and Young made their Premier League debut. We were on Dean Ashton as he came on with Norwich. We were on Milner before he was on the outside of the England squad. We had you invested in John Pantsil from Week 1 last season. You get the idea. Now, not all of our faves pan out but we seem to be right more often than not. It is with this in mind that I bring you the latest addition to our 2009-2010 bandwagon. Joining Yayga (that's Rodallega for those who haven't been participating in the live chats over the weekend), Milijas, and Jordi Gomez is...

...wait for it...

...Hull striker Jozy Altidore!

OK, for those of you following the blog here in the US, this doesn't come as much of a shock. Throw in

1) a healthy dose of patriotism,
2) seeing him lots of times against CONCACAF competition,
3) the hope for an evolutionary Brian McBride/the American Drogba,
4) my reaction to his first match and change (sub appearance with an assist and a near miss last weekend and a goal in midweek in Carling Cup action), and
5) a cheap price

and you have the perfect recipe for me to get really excited for the Jozy-at-Hull era. I'm thinking Zaki-at-Wigan early last season without the attitude problems and injury issues. With any luck Yuri Zhirkov will get healthy and will join the rest of our bandwagon crew in enabling us to have 3 or more of Rooney, Drogba, Lampard, Gerrard, Cesc, and a decent defence without completely gutting the fantasy squad. In any event, consider yourselves in on the big secret from America if you weren't already. This kid is young, as physically gifted as anyone who has ever come out of CONCACAF, and has already started performing on big stages (see his goal against Spain in the Confederations Cup leading to the US win).

One two notes before we get to the analysis...

1) I want to compliment the overall bad@ss-ness of those who have joined our Private Groups. I'm at about 3500 in the overall standings which in most years is good for the top one or two percent. In our private groups, I'm no higher than 24th out of 100. (24th in Beat the Bloggers 5; 31st in BtB 3; and 35th in BtB 1). I'd like to think that our advice has something to do with the high quality of the scores in these groups. Regardless of the truth in that statement, I'm going to go on thinking that to make myself feel better about the fact that I'm not doing better in those groups.

2) We here at the blog would like to say a fond farewell to Dean Ashton who is going to retire due to the effects of his ankle injury. As was mentioned above, we've been on that particular bandwagon for as long as there has been such a bandwagon (OK, mostly it was me). I particularly liked the combination of skill and power in his game and am bummed that we will be deprived of seeing him come into his prime.

OK, on to the analysis...

Schedule
So, the big question is what to make of Burnley after consecutive upsets of ManYoo and Everton? On the road...at Stamford Bridge...I'm not willing to give them the same credit. I doubt they'll get crushed as they've been stout in the back but I don't think Chelsea will share the fate of their Top 6 brethren from last season.

Elsewhere, high-flying Spurs have a favorable match-up with Brum traveling to the Lane. Citeh will take their shiny new defence to Fratton Park to face a decimated Pompey side that is likely to struggle to contain mid-table attacks let alone Citeh's array of stars. I'm not sure what to make of the Wolves/Hull match-up other than that it puts players from both sides into contention.

Liverpool's visit to Bolton is attractive for the Reds on paper but outside of Gerrard it's hard to get too excited about their prospects based on the results this far - especially on the road.

The rest of the match-ups are fairly even with players from neither side being more attractive than usual based on the opponent. This doesn't mean that they aren't attractive at all, just that you shouldn't go "all in" for ManYoo players with Arsenal coming to Old Trafford (or the reverse).

Remember now, the below is only taking into consideration current market prices. If you have players way below current market value we trust that you'll know enough to keep them if it is really a bargain that will pay off in future weeks (Drogba at 10) as opposed to one that isn't likely to be worth the wait.

Strikers
Best Value Striker of the Week:If you go with the match-ups then I think I have a surprise pick for you this week in Robbie Keane. He's on the edge of being a premium striker but he's definitely an inexpensive option compared to the likes of Rooney, Drogba, RvP, and even K2. Second place in this category is Tevez who continues to be enticing at a relatively low price but in what should be a prolific attack against poor competition. That said, Tevez has also produced very little thus far this season so beware. Other options include Yayga against struggling Everton who have to be demoralized from the sale of Lescott and will be returning from a Europa Cup trip to the Czech Republic.

Best Premium Striker of the Week: Hard to choose between K2 and Drogba in this category given early season performances and this weekend's match-ups. I'd give a slight advantage to K2 because he is more prone to scoring in bunches and doing it against inferior opposition. That said, Drogba is a little less expensive so we can call this pretty close to a wash. Robinho is also interesting here based on his propensity for scoring phantom points even when he doesn't actually score (as opposed to someone like DBent who either scores or does very little most weeks). Definitely NOT the week to go after Rooney or RvP - one of them might have a great weekend but that's a lot of money to gamble on thinking you know which one compared to the alternative uses of that money.

Best Bargain Striker of the Week: See the note on Jozy Altidore above. I'm definitely in. If he's not your cup of tea then Doyle has to be interesting assuming he's healthy again. Finally, I realize that he has a tough match-up on the road vs. ManYoo but Bendtner has looked very strong thus far this season. I'm not necessarily in for him this weekend but as Arsenal's schedule starts to look a bit easier in the coming weeks he's definitely going to start getting his points. If you're looking for someone who you might be willing to take a risk on at a low price (as opposed to risking a ton on RvP) then Bendtner might be your guy.

Midfielders
Best Value Midfielder of the Week: Until he stops producing (or his price goes way up) the clear answer here is Stephen Hunt. Hull may not be a glamorous side and their match-up is only slightly better than average this week but Hunt has shown that he's going to produce whether it is goals or crosses or corners won, he's going to do the job. My expectation is that with Altidore providing a better target, that Hunt will get more assists and more SCs than he has thus far with Hull's anemic strikeforce. The goals may wane but at 8.88 you're not going to do any better. Heck, you may not do better at 10 or 11. Aaron Lennon is improbably the next best option for the money here with Nani coming in third despite the match-up with Arsenal. You probably just want Nani in the line-up at a reasonable price unless he's hurt or ManYoo make the (unlikely-but-still-rumored) move for Arjen Robben.

Best Premium Midfielder of the Week: What to make of the situation? Gerrard has performed well despite Liverpool's rotten start and Lamps has been only mediocre despite Chelsea's strong start. Chelsea has the more favorable match-up so I'm going to give Lamps one more weekend before I make the move to Gerrard. If he doesn't figure out the diamond formation against Burnley then I'm good ditching him.

Best Bargain Midfielder of the Week: Hunt is really the answer here but we've already written about him so I'm going to go against last year's experience and suggest that Deco is an interesting option. He seems to have adapted to the new Chelsea diamond and he's producing decent fantasy stats at a low price. As we've previously noted in this space, he did the same thing early last season and then did pretty much nothing the rest of the season but we're not talking about a big investment here so it may be worth considering based on the match-up. Wilson Palacios is another option here as are re-emerging Blog Favorite Jason Koumas and new blog shiny objects Jordi Gomez and Nenad Milijas - neither have fantastic match-ups but neither are bad match-ups either.

Defenders
Best Value Defender of the Week: I'm sure I'll be accused of jumping on the moneytrain here and to some extent that's true. My pick is Micah Richards. As Jeremy mentioned in his Lescott-to-Citeh posting, Lescott isn't necessarily any more valuable after his move but his addition/presumed replacement of Richard Dunne increases the values of Richards, Wayne Bridge, and Shay Given who should see more clean sheets as a result of the improved central pair of central defenders. At 7.36, it's hard to argue with Richards both this week and as a long term investment. Quietly, Tyrone Mears has crept into this discussion as well, he's not so cheap that I can put him into the "Bargain" category but Mears seems to be potentially emerging as this year's Pantsil.

Best Premium Defender of the Week: I rarely go in for premium priced defenders but that doesn't mean that there isn't value in doing so. If you're going to splash the cash this weekend, then John Terry has to be the answer. Hard to see Burnley getting a goal against Chelsea despite their improbable heroics thus far. Throw in the fact that JT hasn't gotten much going on target yet this season and you have to think he's due for at least an SOT or two if not a headed goal from a set piece. Not a guarantee, just worth noting. I'd give Ledley King a nod as a secondary option here as well - certainly not someone you want to count on week-to-week since he'll take up a chunk of your budget but given the match-up and assuming that he won't injure himself between now and the weekend (a big assumption I know) he is worth a look.

Best Bargain Defender of the Week: Richards fits this category but there are a bunch of other guys who you have to put into the picture and decide which version of imperfect you prefer. SeaBass is probably the next best of the bunch given the match-up. You can also throw in Hutton to that mix. My reservation about the Spurs defenders (including King from above) is that I can't get away from the fear that they'll give up a bad goal and turn very strong weeks into mediocre ones very quickly. Other options include Wilkinson who is at home but doesn't have a great match-up in Sunderland who are off to a good start. Old favorite Pantsil who also has a tough match-up @Villa but continues to be good value despite a year's worth of evidence that he should be priced higher. George McCartney is another attractively priced option even though he's on the road.

Keepers
I haven't really changed my tune much on this so far this season - Given is the man (even at 9 but much more so at 6) . Foster is still a great option even if he isn't necessarily a great option THIS week - for some reason he's still only 8.17. Those two should probably be the beginning, middle, and end of your goalkeeping ruminations. If you have to go low, Myhill has been excellent and is still exceptionally cheap despite that fact. The only other guy in the equation on paper is Tim Howard but given that he's at -7.5 per match you have to take that with a grain of salt. I'd much rather think about him on the BD than for this week since Everton is still highly suspect.

Sorry for the lateness of the post, I've been traveling like crazy for work and for nearly two weeks and this is the first chance I've had to get my thoughts together. See you tomorrow for Injuries and Suspensions and then on Saturday for our live chat.

Cheers - Neal

Yakubu in Everton squad



It's all Everton, all the time around here these days.

via Eurosport/Yahoo!UK:
Everton striker Aiyegbeni Yakubu has been included in the squad to face Sigma Olomouc in the Europa League play-off second leg in the Czech Republic.

Manager David Moyes named the Nigerian in his travelling party after watching the striker mark his comeback on Tuesday night with a goal after only 31 seconds in the reserves 3-0 victory against Burnley.

It was his first game since last November when he ruptured his Achilles at Tottenham.
I don't expect him to displace Saha or Jo in the pecking order just yet, like Wigan yet... but soon.

Lescott completes City move



My fellow fantasy Premier League managers, our long national nightmare is over.

via Eurosport/Yahoo!UK:
Joleon Lescott has finally completed his move to from Everton to Manchester City.

The 27-year-old defender signed a five-year deal with the Eastlands outfit on Tuesday night.

Lescott completed his medical and agreed personal terms on Monday after City had a bid, reportedly worth £22million, accepted by Everton on Sunday but there was a brief delay to the England star's transfer going through as a minor wrangle was resolved.
I'm assuming he'll be available for this Sunday's match at Portsmouth.  We'll certainly be watching the news on that.  He's a 10.49 defender, so much like his transfer value in "real life" he's too expensive.  But he may bring additional value to the cheaper members of Citeh's back five - Brigde, Given, and Richards.

Everton sign Russia winger



via Eurosport/Yahoo!UK:

Everton have confirmed the signing of Russia midfielder Diniyar Bilyaletdinov from Lokomotiv Moscow for an undisclosed fee...

Bilyaletdinov will not be eligible for Thursday's Europa League play-off second leg against Sigma Olomouc and is unlikely to be in England for Sunday's Premier League clash with Wigan.

He is due in the UK early next month for Russia's World Cup qualifier against Wales and is expected to link up with his new team-mates for the first time ahead of the following weekend's trip to Fulham.

...

Ilya Minskiy of Eurosport.ru gives us the lowdown on the new Toffee:

"Bilyaletdinov aka Bilya or Bill mostly plays as a left sided central midfielder. Sometimes Lokomotiv used him as a left winger but he lacks pace for that role.

"He has good vision, dribbling and passing and is also a good set-piece taker.

"He has scored 40 goals in his professional career so far which includes goals in the Russian Premier League, Russian Cup, Champions League, UEFA Cup and for the Russian national team.

"However, he lacks pace and fitness. He is not that strong mentality either...

"My personal opinion is that Everton have made a mistake. Bilya was a pretty promising player about four years ago but he has made little progress since.

"I don't see him shining in Premier League but I hope he will prove me wrong."


You had me at "good set-piece taker".

Torres To Cost Bookies Thousands?



via Football365:
Sky Bet are praying that Fernando Torres fails to find the net tonight at Anfield after running up a six-figure liability on an enhanced goalscorer special, which will be landed if the Spaniard scores against Aston Villa.

Going into the weekend, the Harrogate-based bookie offered enhanced odds of 20/1 for Wayne Rooney, Emmanuel Adebayor, Didier Drogba and Fernando Torres all to score in their respective matches and with three-quarters of the accumulator already weighed in, Sky Bet - along with some 2,000 customers - are anxiously waiting to see if the Reds striker will do the business.
How did that turn out for them? ;-)
GOAL!! Insua bursts into the Villa box and toe-pokes a ball across to Torres, who fires into the roof of the net! Game on!
71:41 GOAL - Fernando Torres
Liverpool 1 - 2 Aston Villa
Fernando Torres grabs a goal from inside the penalty area to the top right corner of the goal. Liverpool 1-2 Aston Villa.
72: GOAL LIVERPOOL - TORRES. Game on. Voronin does well to hold play up. He sends Insua scampering into the box and his cross is volley home into the roof of the net by Torres. Is the comeback on?

Matchday Open Thread


We join the match already in progress with Lucas heading an Ashley Young free-kick past Reina for a 0-1 Villa lead.

Your thoughts, comments or primal screams welcome in the comments.

Monday Morning Manager



Sometimes these posts are hard to write.  Not that I don't have anything to say.  I've been running through what to say in my head for two days now.  Can't sleep because of it, to be honest, as evidenced by the fact that I'm writing this at 2:30am.  I've had a terrible week in fantasy football.  I made no good trades... in fact I made terrible, panic trades at the barn door and followed them up with terrible Friday trades, which I strongly recommend fantasy managers never do.  Why?  I'm not entirely sure but I do have my (exculpatory) theories. 

I've been living and breathing this stuff for a month now.  I know... so have you.  But with the blog, the Facebook page... talking about fantasy football, writing about fantasy football.... I've been up to my neck in it almost constantly for a month.   After week one, I lost it.  I did fine.  Mid-table return.  But I'm the fantasy football blogger!  I need to do better than mid-table.  I'm doing this live on stage. I need to be clever and right!  So last week I made some dumb moves on the barn door to "prove" how smart I was.  To myself, at least.  I went in for Everton and Sunderland players because of their schedules.  I got off ManU because of their shaky defence and anemic offense.  I went in for Arsenal midfielders.  I was determined to have Leighton Baines and by Friday thought Benni McCarthy was a smart pick because he had shots on goal from free kicks against Manchester City.

Needless to say, my team got spanked this weekend.  My best player was Vermaelen.  My defence provided 2/3 of my points.  I'm seeing a lot of fantasy teams returning around 100pts.  Great return, great week everybody.  I got 30.  Just a crushingly miserable performance.  I can't even look at that number without feeling a little sick to my stomach.  Am I taking this too hard?  Probably.  I know it's just a game and everyone is likely to have a week like this once a season or so.  But again, I'm doing this live on stage to some extent and I'm really, really mad at myself... and more so, I'm just really, really embarrassed. 

I hope the blog and our "insights", such as they are are helpful to you.  But now I've spotted all of you 150-200 points in the first two weeks of the season.  It's a long season and I'm going to be playing catch-up the whole way.  I'm going to have to just follow my own advice from now on and do so in as rational a fashion as I can.  Hopefully you can too.

Now, with that out of the way (and thank you for sticking through it) we can turn to the weekend's matches:

Fulham 0 - 2 Chelsea
Chelsea continue to stroll through the opening weeks of the season and it's again Drogba at the sharp end.  The Elk finally gets off the mark, but it's Drogs providing the assist.  Just put him in your lineup and don't look at that spot again until January.  Seriously.  44% of teams already have him and the other 56% should.

Meanwhile Lampard is having a very quiet season.  Just the PK goal to his name.  While he's getting phantom points, it's certainly not enough to justify his upper tier middie price tag.  Maybe he's still worth a gamble home to Burnley this week, but I'm not sure the money isn't better spent on Gerrard or Rooney.

On the other side of the pitch, it was a nice debut for Damien Duff.  He may be one to watch.

Burnley 1 - 0 Everton
Burnley do it again!  After turning over ManU by a goal, they do it to Everton.  I was invested in this match and earned a tidy 4.5 points from three players.  Ugh!  They're getting their goals (goal) from midfield and I'm not sure anyone can predict who, or how long.  But Graham Alexander got clean sheet points this week and is still a very cheap defender.  We singled him out before the season and he might be a good pick up in a few weeks - they now face Chelsea and Liverpool back to back.

Everton aren't a shambles, but they aren't the same team as last season.  Fellaini is MIA and their fit players aren't making up for the loss of their injured teammates like they did in the past.  It might be worth sticking with someone like Howard for the time being (pending Moyes' bringing in another center half), but I'm hard pressed to even slighty up another one of their players except for Rodwell who should return enough points to justify his 3.65 price tag.

West Ham United 1 - 2 Tottenham Hotspur
Carlton Cole scores and then turns around and gifts Defoe the equalizer.  Could you sum up Carlton Cole any better than that?  Good player, but prone to do the stupidest things!  If he and Titus Bramble were on the same side... oy!  Jimenez got another shot on target.  He looks like he could be value - not just yet, but maybe if he settles into the game a bit more.

Spurs, meanwhile, continue their great run.  Kudos to 'arry for finally spending smart money at the club.  Ok, maybe not all of it, but certainly whatever Defoe, Palacios and Bassong cost.  Defoe, Lennon and Keane are returning the points but prices as such.  Bassong is somehow still a reasonable option at 6.15.  They way defenders are priced these days that's still a steal.

Wigan Athletic 0 - 5 Manchester United
The champions sparkle again as Wigan lives down to old habits by capitulating to a top team.  Rooney with the brace answering any doubts about him after the Burnley match.  Even Owen scores, though I think he's going to settle into his sub role with Berbatov also shining and scoring.  Nani returned too and scored too.  There have got to be a lot of fantasy managers upset after shipping him out of their teams and I expect he'll be one to whom they return.

I'm not sure what to make of Wigan just yet.  They were devestating against Villa, but maybe later today we'll learn that it was more of a reflection on Villa than Wigan.  But I'm not ready to write off Rodallega, Koumas or Gomez just yet.  They get Everton next, which will be a very interesting marker for both clubs.

Sunderland 2 - 1 Blackburn Rovers
Givet makes bargain hunting fantasy managers everywhere very happy.  I don't think Rovers will keep many clean sheets, but Givet is shaping up to be a nicely priced, low risk defender.  I'm on the bandwagon.

KJones with the double this week, after going missing for the first two matches.  DBent is the one to disappear this week.  I wonder if they'll every be on the same page like Beattie and Fuller were for Stoke last season, of if it is going to be a case of one will do well for you, but you'll never know which one.  And their defence seems to have some clean sheet potential.  McCartney and Fulop might be decent bets for the money.
 
Manchester City 1 - 0 Wolverhampton Wanderers
Second verse, same as the first.  K2 scores and Given works miracles to keep the clean sheet.  It's a great recipie for Hughes and for fantasy manager with those players in their team.  Hint, hint... I'm now one of those managers.  Tevez looked good on his debut, assisting for K2's goal while Robinho continues to flirt with a hat trick per game but ends up converting nothing.

In what looks to be one of the more frustrating things about the season, Milijas again comes out of the match early.  Is he not fit?  Not fitting into McCarthy's system?  I don't know but it seems odd to me.  And it's killing his fantasy value.  I'm not ready to pull him myself, especially at the bargain price... and home to Hull this weekend.  But something to watch closely over the next few weeks. 

Hull City 1 - 0 Bolton Wanderers
Speaking of Hull City, they come up with a big three points here.  Three points that Bolton sure could have used.  It's a really good thing we don't bet on Bolton, because these types of things happen to them.  Jozy Altidore with a dream debut and he'll be someone to watch and see if he becomes a regular starter and a regular contributor.  Meanwhile Ghilas, the goal scorer, isn't in the Yahoo! game yet.  C'mon guys!

Birmingham City 0 - 0 Stoke City
The scoreline no one could be surprised by.  Wilkinson continues to contribute as a cheap defender.  But across the pitch I've been really impressed with Franck Queudrue.  He's been taking kicks all over the pitch, though mostly the restart play kind.  But he's getting points from his defence, and keeping his nose clean which is a new aspect of his game.  He's a bit pricey at 8, but has been returning 11 a match on a surpringly stingy Birmingham defence.  You read it here first.

Arsenal 4 - 1 Portsmouth
Again Arsenal runs rampant and again fantasy manager are left scratching their heads.  Where is Arshavin?  Fabregas picks up a hamstring injury after 45mins.  Almunia was slow to a cross and Kaboom beat him to the ball to score and ruin the clean sheet.  van Persie continues to be the guy behind the guy, notching his third assist of the season.  And after Fab4's double last week, it was Diaby's turn.  Diaby has shone in flashes as an attacker and Wenger has said that when he plays, Fabregas will sit deeper.  Well, now Fab4 is out and maybe Diaby gets a few games to let loose.  Maybe Arshavin or Eduardo steps up to fill the void.  It will be intruiging, and it will repay the fantasy manager who gets it right, but I'm surely not the one with any insight into it.

Portsmouth are only not bottom thanks to the train wreck that is Everton and the fact that they held the Gunners to two fewer goals in their whipping.  Next they host Manchester City and it might be another beating for Pompey.  You see, Citeh's Arab billionaire actually had some money.

Liverpool v Aston Villa

I fully expect Liverpool to thrash Villa again, say 3-1.  Villa have no spine and Gerrard and Torres should be well positioned to take advantage of that.  Villa should score themselves as Liverpool are still thin in the back themselves.  But it's a Monday match and those never play out the way you expect.

So until next week,
The Manager

The Barn Door Live - Week 2

I'm coming to you live from my sister-in-law's living room in Tampa and I'm (ahem) borrowing a neighbor's wifi signal to connect so we'll see how well or how consistently this works but we'll give it a try rather than lose the great momentum we picked up doing this last weekend.

Injuries and Suspensions


One in, one out.

Not much new news this morning, the latest being the casualties from yesterday's Europa League matches.  Those claimed Andy Johnson and will force Jack Rodwell and Steven Pienaar into the dreaded "late fitness test".

Spurs have lost Gomes for a while and so Cudicini will sit behind their make-shift back line.  Presumably King will be back to partner Bassong with Corluka moving to right back and Hutton dropping to the bench.

Rio will be out for a month, but Manchester United have Vidic back.  That should solidify the back-line though presumably Brown and O'Shea will be the candidates for center and right back.

Ilunga is a doubt for West Ham meaning a likely start for Spector.  N'Zogbia is a doubt for Wigan.  Sunderland have questions over Lee Cattermole, Steed Malbranque and Martin Fulop.  The latter is interesting if it gives Gordon a chance to claim the number one jersey.  Doesn't sound likely, however.

Manchester City have some mixed fitness news after their 1-0 win over Barca midweek.  Adebayor, Robinho, and Bridge are slight doubts but Tevez looks good to start against Wolves.  Wolves themselves are missing Sylvan Ebanks-Blake, but could have Berra and Doyle back if only from the bench.

Finally, Birmingham's Cameron Jerome turned his ankle.  This may give Christian Benitez his first start, but I'm not sold on that as his play has been so limited in games and warm-ups.  That being said, he's an interesting pick at home to Stoke for 6.04.

All the gory details at the links below:

Early Doors



Your first look at the rumour, innuendo, injuries and team news ahead of tomorrow's pre-match press conferences.

Zola closes on Chamakh
Meanwhile, left-back Herita Ilunga's facial injury means he is rated as doubtful to face Tottenham on Sunday in the Barclays Premier League clash at Upton Park. Jonathan Spector is a likely replacement but Fabio Daprela, the Switzerland Under-19 international, impressed in a behind-closed-doors practice match against Watford.
It will be great to have another budget striker in the game, and certainly the buzz has been good on Chamakh since Wenger was sniffing around him. But in the immediate term, Spector becomes an option in defence.

Santa Cruz on course for derby date
Roque Santa Cruz is in line to make his debut in next month's Manchester derby... And, while Hughes is reluctant to put a timescale on the 27-year-old's availability, the September 20 showdown with Sir Alex Ferguson's men at Old Trafford is a possibility. "We are talking about two or three weeks," Hughes told www.mcfc.co.uk.

Fulham sign Greening on loan from West Brom
Fulham complete Duff signing
I don't see much fantasy value in these signings... at least not with Murphy, Dempsey and Gera fit and Davies on the mend. But I do think these are great real world signings for Fulham and will allow them to reasonably compete in multiple competitions without stretching themselves too thin. Kudos to Hodgson and co.

Johnson out for up to eight weeks

Furious Fulham boss Roy Hodgson has blasted the challenge that has left Andy Johnson out for up to eight weeks with a dislocated collarbone.

Hodgson was livid after Amkar Perm defender Dmitry Belorukov executed a cynical body-check that left Johnson sprawled on the pitch in the second half of Thursday's 3-1 Europa League play-off victory.

"It was a good win against a difficult team but the game has been marred by the unbelievably blatant challenge on Andy Johnson," said Hodgson.

"It has dislocated his collarbone and put him out for a long time.

More Fulham news, and this no good. But there may be a silver lining for fantasy managers in the form of 4.99 Erik Nevland. He looked capable when called upon last season. However, Fulham have a bit of a rough run over the next few weeks - Chelsea, @Amkar (Russia), @Villa, Everton, @Wolves, Arsenal. Nevland will be interesting for consideration but certainly isn't an automatic selection.

Hot Rod shines as Everton stroll

Rookie midfielder Jack Rodwell became Everton's youngest goalscorer in European competition with two spectacular long-range goals in their emphatic Europa League play-off first-leg victory over Sigma Olomouc at Goodison Park.

Louis Saha also weighed in with a brace, as manager David Moyes got the response he was looking for after the 6-1 drubbing at the hands of Arsenal last Sunday.

I've certainly been hyping Everton and now Rodwell has entered the picture as a budget midfielder. I would think there are better options in the side, but at 4 cheaper than Fellaini, or 7 cheaper than Baines he might be worth consideration as a midfield enabler.

Spurs sweat over Gomes injury



from SkySports:

Tottenham are sweating on the fitness of goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes after he picked up an injury in the win at Hull City.

Gomes was forced to limp off in the first half of Spurs' 5-1 victory at the KC Stadium after sustaining a thigh injury.

The Brazilian is due to undergo scans on the problem and it is feared Gomes could face a lengthy spell on the sidelines.

After yesterday's match, he's gone from 8.8 to 9.91. Probably too rich for fantasy managers, especially with THo at 7.76, Jensen at 7.75, Jussi at 7 and Foster at 6.85. But we're nothing if not comprehensive.

The Week Ahead - Week 2


So, what do we know after either one or two matches per team? I have to say, not a heck of a lot. Here's a quick recap of my observations...

1) CoverItLive is a really great tool - thank you to everyone who showed up to the blog over the weekend and contributed their observations and questions - it was a blast and one that we'll re-create as frequently as we can (sorry, mid-week won't work because I have a day job and Premier League matches are generally on at 3 PM on the East Coast of the US).

2) We have two new nicknames that came out of the weekend live chats...Hugo Rodallega has now been dubbed Yayga (giving us the option to call his goals Yayga-bombs and/or eventually calling him the Yayga-meister if he turns into a good player). The other nickname is SeaBass for Sebastien Bassong - fill in your own Austin Powers jokes as appropriate.

3) We learned that Liverpool, Villa, and ManYoo, while they will not be as bad as their worst performances (Liv v. Spurs and ManYoo v. Burnley) they are both diminished from what they were last season. You can't lose integral talent like they did and not drop off a bit. Last season CRon would have rescued at least a point if not all three in that Burnley match.

4) We learned that Jordi Gomez and Nenad Milijas are both strong fantasy players. Milijas will suffer a bit from being on Wolves who will be outclassed from time-to-time and Gomez will suffer from the number of people at Wigan who can take kicks. Still, both are going to be strong additions to Premier League fantasy rosters at their current low prices.

5) We learned that it doesn't matter who (other than Big Phil) manages Chelsea - they're going to play ugly and win ugly. Jose...Grant...Hiddink...Ancelotti - all roads lead to the same destination. You have to think they're early season favorites by a nose at this point.

6) We learned that Citeh's best spending was on Given, not all of those attackers. Although they could still really use another central defender.

7) We were reminded that, if given a regular role, Darren Bent tends to score goals. As you can see from Jeremy's "Cake Walk" article, there's reason to believe that it might continue for the next month or so.

8) We learned that 'arry might have figured out how to get Spurs off to a fast start as opposed to the dismal openings of the last couple seasons. Even better for them (but not necessarily fantasy managers) they're getting contributions from a lot of different players.

9) We were reminded (again) that while the margin may have been an , that Wenger guy in North London might know more that we do about, well, just about everything football (with the possible exception of the gridiron kind).

10) Finally, we learned that Neal has sufficient self-control to stiffle his glee when the final result came through on his scoring update widget while he was in a client meeting.

11) We were reminded that, as is true every season, we won't know much for a few more weeks and just as soon as we think we are figuring it all out, other players will find their form, others will lose theirs, and injuries and rotation policies will start throwing everything into chaos. That's why you have the blog, to try to make some sense of it all.

OK - hopefully, TWA will be a little easier this week as everyone only has one match so here we go...

Schedule Arsenal and Citeh seem to be at the greatest scheduling advantage as they are both at home to teams that are going to struggle all season (Pompey and Wolves respectively).

Everton would seem to advantaged as well heading to Turf Moor but one home drubbing for Everton and one win for the ages at home for Burnley and all-of-a-sudden you have to wonder how great this match-up is. Remember that the last time Everton got close to breaking in to the big time they nearly got relegated the following season with almost the exact same line-up. Not saying it's going to happen again but they just aren't as deep as the Big Four which makes it difficult to sustain that sort of performance.

Speaking of teams that SHOULD have a strong match-up but you now have to question - ManYoo if Nani isn't back seems like they might struggle for attacking ideas against a Wigan team that looked pretty strong over the weekend (I didn't get to see the mid-week match).

Finally, Chelsea v Fulham (derby match); Sunderland v Rovers (similar talent), West Ham v Spurs (Spurs still a question on the road to a decent team); Hull v Bolton (should be a grinder), Birmingham v Stoke (also a grinder) are all likely to be without a clear match-up advantage.

That brings us to Liverpool v Villa. Seems like a match-up that Liverpool SHOULD win big based on Villa's deficiencies in central defence however this is usually when Liverpool lets us down and ends up with a lackluster draw or a late 1-0 win. Hard for me to get as excited as I probably should be about this one.

Strikers
Best Value of the Week - For me, this competition comes down to Tevez (they didn't pay all that money for him to come off the bench regularly), Bendtner (he was very good last weekend despite having very few fantasy points to show for it), and Jo (seems unlikely that Saha is going to start and he should get chances against Burnley). Of the three, Jo is the least likely to miss due to rotation so he takes the prize for me with Bendtner in second and Tevez just behind.

Best Premium Striker of the Week - Hard not to like Robinho in a match-up where the defenders are unlikely to be able to keep up with his combination of skill and speed. Nando Torres also merits a mention here - he warmed up a bit today and Villa's gaping hole in front of the keeper might be just the thing to keep that going. RvP must also be in consideration here.

Best of the Rest - Yayga is still inexpensive; DBent is hot and the schedule is kind; If you have Defoe at pre-hat trick prices there's no reason to get off that bandwagon.

Midfielders
Best Value Midfielder of the Week - This answer depends on the health of Nani. If he is going to go (and go more than 45 minutes) then he is definitely the value pick of the week. If he's not healthy then we have to start thinking about options like Cahill or Fellaini from Everton. I'd also be willing to consider emerging Blog Favorite Nenad Milijas for this spot. Wolves are likely to lose to Citeh but even a team like Rovers that generally doesn't generate a lot of attacking momentum picked up decent points as they peppered Shay Given's net and forced a lot of strong saves. It might not be in a scoring effort but I'll bet on Milijas to get a bunch of phantom points.

Best Premium Midfielder of the Week - Do you go with Cesc who had almost an entire fantasy season in one match last weekend and hope he keeps it going? Or do you go with Arshavin who is probably going to be the more consistent goal-scorer over the course of the season? Can you get to both? Throw in Gerrard who is off to a flying fantasy start (even if his big fantasy showing vs. Spurs was the quietest 20 points that you'll ever see) and you have plenty of options. Lampard is definitely the low man on this totem pole as he faces a tough derby match up at Fulham.

Best of the Rest - Gomez, Jiminez, Delap, Hunt, and KRich

Defenders
Best Value Defender of the Week - I'd really like to write a lot here but I'm not sure how you end up at any conclusion other than Vermaelen in this spot. SeaBass might have had a shout for inclusion here at 6.60 but he was left out of the match today which means that despite his debut goal he isn't a certain starter.

Best Premium Defender of the Week - I'm going to go with Jeremy's intuition on this and say Baines is the man here. Gallas certainly isn't a bad option either after getting off to a 2-in-2 start between the Prem and Champions League qualifying.

Best of the Rest - Insua, Carvalho, Richards/Bridge, Fabio (depending on the injury situation at Old Trafford), and Wilkinson

Keepers
Almunia is the safe premium bet; Given is sort of mid-priced now but also excellent value; and THo is great value if you think Everton will rebound; and finally, Myhill is your really low end option.

Best of luck everyone - back with Injuries and Suspensions on Friday.

Cheers - Neal

Cake Walk



Just thinking 'out loud' here. I know Neal thinks I'm a bit mad, but could you go too wrong loading up on Everton (Howard, Baines, Fellaini) and/or Sunderland (DBent, McCartney, Fulop) players over the next month or more? Check out their upcoming Premier League fixtures:

Everton
@Burnley
Wigan
@Fulham
Blackburn
@Portsmouth
Stoke
Wolves
@Bolton
Aston Villa
@West Ham

Sunderland
Blackburn
@Stoke
Hull
@Burnley
Wolves

Nary a top four club in sight for either of them!

Certainly Everton can't be as bad as 1-6 to the Arsenal, can they? But will their small squad be stretched by injury and European commitments (home and away to the Czech side Sigma Olomouc over the next 10 days)? And are Sunderland for real, or is this just another false dawn for them?

Matchday Open Thread


photo courtesy mirror.co.uk

Sunderland v Chelsea

Wigan Athletic v Wolverhampton Wanderers

After our grand experiments at the weekend - by the way, please let us know what you thought of the Cover It Live application - we're back to an old-school matchday open thread for today's midweek matches. Will Ballack get the start? Will KRich make the game for Sunderland? Do Wolves have any players left? Other than Milijas, does it matter? Can Kirkland shake a dead leg (sounds like a terrible dance craze) for Wigan? 

Follow along with us in the comments.

Bill Simmons on Mexico City soccer game

Sporting emotions at the highest pitch:
Beyond that, what the hell was happening to me? Why was I starting to get hooked by soccer -- a sport I have never totally liked and even actively hated at times? Was this an extremely early midlife crisis? And if so, why soccer of all things? Couldn't it have been a Porsche or an 18-year-old Starbucks barista? Wait, am I saying that out loud?

The good news? My trip to Mexico quickly morphed into one of those "I'm going to remember everything that happened 40 years from now."

Read the whole thing on ESPN.com. For an admitted soccer newbie, he is very perceptive about the game - this one in particular and soccer in general.

Fabregas doubt for Gunners



via Soccernet:

Arsenal could be set for an injury blow ahead of the first leg of their Champions League play-off clash with Celtic at Parkhead on Tuesday night.

The Gunners have injury doubts over Bacary Sagna, Cesc Fabregas and Denilson, with captain Fabregas given only a 50-50 chance of playing.

Sagna took a knock in Saturday's 6-1 win over Everton while Denilson (groin) and Fabregas (hamstring) will also be assessed before the game, although midfielder Abou Diaby has recovered from a groin injury.

Rut-roh!  And just after we all put Fab4 on the barn door.  I guess it will be easy enough to swap in Arshavin or RvP, but the uncertainty going into the Pompey match looks to be high.

Monday Morning Manager



Every Monday the Manager will be looking back over the weekend.  Who shined, who stunk and what it all might it portend going forward.  If anything.

Tottenham Hotspur 2 - 1 Liverpool
Liverpool just looked flat.  I don't know if it's the Alonso sale or Gerrard's injury or Palacios throwing himself about, but Liverpool never really threatened.  Gerrard had a few pops from distance (where his three shots on target came from I'm not sure.  I counted 1 on, 2 off) and Torres nearly connected with a nice GJohnson cross.  But I'm hard pressed to think of another opportunity.  They did look better when Benayoun came on and gave them a full 11 players on the pitch.  Wait... what do you mean Babel was playing the first 65 mins?  Really?  I didn't notice.  Still, Gerrard got his points and Reina made some fantastic saves.  He had no chance on the goals. 

And what goals!  A rocket from BAE of all players and a flying header from Bassong - who made A LOT of fantasy managers very happy this weekend.  Modric was taking corners and THud was given free-kicks.  It will be interesting to see if Jenas can get his place back when he's healthy.  I wouldn't be surprised if he's on the bench, or at Everton, as 'arry can be stubborn.

Manchester United 1 - 0 Birmingham City
Berbatov was not a cheap replacement for Rooney.  Hoped he would be... he wasn't.  Rooney was a man on a mission and it was his goal that won the match for United.  Nani played well again, creating the goal with a cross from which Rooney shot and buried the rebound.  But Nani only lasted 45mins and we'll have to see if he can play in midweek or if he's even likely to be back for Wigan at the weekend.

At the other end of the pitch, Rio and Evans join the defensive injury list with Rio not making the game and Evans leaving on 74 mins and JUST missing out on the clean sheet points.  Foster didn't have too much to do, and was still shaky but was solid enough when he needed to be making two saves to preserve the shut out. 

Everton 1 - 6 Arsenal
Arshavin who?  Fab4 gets the Manager's player of the week honor for his performance taking apart a solid Everton team at Goodison Park.  Arsenal had one of those Arsenal games but Everton really let them have the freedom of the penalty area on those early set pieces.  Vermaelan and Gallas were both unmarked as they scored and that's just inexcuseable.  So Fabregas is a must have for next week's match at home to Portsmouth whereas before the game it would have been Arshavin.  Both wouldn't be too bad either. ;-)

As for Everton, I'm not sure what to think.  On one hand, maybe they are unsettled or too injured.  But on the other, they have a great run of matches coming up and I'm inclined to pile in on some of their reduced prices.  Players like Baines, Howard and Fellaini, despite how they played at the weekend, may be really good bets over the next month or two.  At the least, we'll keep an eye on their fortunes in Europe later in the week.

Wolverhampton Wanderers 0 - 2 West Ham United
I'm glad we wrote about Mark Noble in our West Ham season preview.  So we can almost say "we told you so".  He had a great game from midfield and who knows, maybe he's ready to make the leap.  You know, "the" leap.  For more of a fantasy bargain, Dyer had a very lively match and Jimenez (who took a few corners) also pushed forward.  West Ham are good at beating the teams they are supposed to beat and, in the past at least, been just as likely to lose to the teams they were likely to be beaten by.  Next week's match, home to Spurs, should be a very interesting test for both clubs.

Where we can definitely say "we told you so" is on Nenad Milijas!  We've been pimping him since the day he signed for Wolves and we weren't disappointed with his performance in an advanced role.  Wolves are going to struggle but he looks a bright spot at least for fantasy managers.

Stoke City 2 - 0 Burnley
Same as it ever was for Stoke.  A Shawcross goal from a Lawrence free-kick and a Stephen Jordan (wasn't he a Citeh Academy prospect way back when?) own goal from a Delap throw.  I think Burnley is just off the radar for the next month (@ManU, Eve, @Che, @Liv) but maybe there will be some bargains (Alexander?) on the other side - if they can recover.  It was interesting to note that Eagles didn't start the match.  That kills whatever fantasy value he may have had.

Portsmouth 0 - 1 Fulham
A lucky goal for Zamora who repaid any faith anyone may have had in him, or his price tag.  But it was Dempsey's work that created the goal.   Just saying.

Bolton Wanderers 0 - 1 Sunderland
DBent makes it happen!  On the road no less.  This is a big win for Sunderland, getting their new era off to a good start and building on the good feelings the club was developing, rather than quashing them, or at least diminishing them, at the first hurdle.  For Sunderland the immediate question is health in attack as KRich, BFAR and Malbranque are hurting.

Bolton play Liverpool next week, but otherwise have Hull, Portsmouth, Stoke and Birmingham in the next month.  They are going to have to pick up some points if they don't want to be sucked in to the bottom of the table.  For fantasy, Matt Taylor continues to lead the way, but it's Bolton.  So, meh.

Blackburn Rovers 0 - 2 Manchester City
The Citeh era has begun!  Three minutes into the match they score through Adebayor and at the death Stephen Ireland is invited to score the cushion.  Rovers aren't completely healthy but I think they may be in trouble this season.  I would stay away from their players regardless of their current discount prices until they show something different. 

For Citeh, Given had to stand on his head again and agasinst a better team than Rovers they may have conceeded.  Citeh played Barry as the lone anchor player and as we wrote about in the preview, that may hurt them against better attacks.  Of course, they may not play that way against better attacks.  SWP got the start and two assists even though his place was thought to be most at threat from the new arrivals.  So we know that have good players, but we are still worried about the rotation of said players.  Stay tuned.

Aston Villa 0 - 2 Wigan Athletic
Wigan looked very lively and all four of their attackers - HRod, Gomez, N'Zog and Koumas - paid off for fantasy.  Gomez slipped off the radar last week but had a really good showing.  He took kicks and wasn't afraid to shoot from his spot off the striker.  For my money, he's right up there with Milijas of the newcomers.  I'm not sure I want to pick him up hosting ManU, but couldn't argue if you did. 

Villa were weak where we expected them to be - up the middle.  No Barry, no Laursen.  And they paid for it on the second goal where N'Zog brought the ball right up the middle of the pitch and found Koumas who finished nicely.  Not as nicely as HRod's 'Yayga-bomb' though.  That was a great strike.  Hopefully he can continue to thrive and maybe next time it will be his own teamate that sets him up.

Chelsea 2 - 1 Hull City
Drogba justified all of his 10 and change price tag this weekend! That's a joke.  I'm not sure I like him stealing Lampard's kicks, but better him than Deco.  Malouda was a real disappointment for me, however.  Especially as I moved down from Rooney to Berbatov to get him.  That will probably turn out to be a fifty-plus point loss over the week.  I'm trying to console myself that it's early.  But it does hurt.  A lot.  We live and die with this stuff, right?

Hull didn't look as out of their depth as I expected them to.  Perhaps the new signings, Hunt - and his goal - in particular may just do the trick after all.  But they still leave without points, even if their pride is still intact.

Injuries and Suspensions



Midweek, and therefore mostly useless, version.  But certainly worth consideration for next week's matches.

Injuries mount for Wolves

Striker Sylvan Ebanks-Blake is sidelined for a couple of weeks with a hamstring injury picked up in Saturday's opening-day defeat to West Ham, while right-back Kevin Foley is also ruled out for a similar spell with a medial ligament problem.

Kevin Doyle (groin) and centre-back Christophe Berra (hamstring) are still not 100% and will also miss out but are expected to be okay for Saturday's game at Manchester City.

Full-back Stephen Ward and midfielders Greg Halford and Matt Jarvis also picked up knocks at the weekend but are expected to feature, while striker Chris Iwelumo (foot) and winger Michael Kightly (hip and foot) remain out.


United without Ferdinand again for Burnley clash

England defender Rio Ferdinand will miss Manchester United's match at Burnley on Wednesday and is likely to be sidelined for at least another two weeks as the champions battle to cope with an early season injury crisis.

Ferdinand went for a scan on his injured thigh on Monday after missing United's opening game against Birmingham City, which they won 1-0 at Old Trafford on Sunday.

Ferdinand's injury comes at a bad time for United with his defensive partner Nemanja Vidic (calf) also out of the visit to Burnley while reserve defender Jonny Evans limped off after 74 minutes with a groin injury.

Goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar (broken hand), Gary Neville (groin) and Rafael da Silva (shoulder) are also sidelined.

West Brown on the barn door?


Malbranque worry for Bruce

Sunderland boss Steve Bruce has a major doubt over midfielder Steed Malbranque ahead of the Premier League clash with Chelsea.

The Frenchman twisted an ankle in Saturday's 1-0 win at Bolton and is rated at 50-50 at best, while Kieran Richardson is struggling with a dead leg suffered in the same game.

Andy Reid missed the trip to the Reebok Stadium with a thigh problem, but was expected to resume training on Monday, while keeper Craig Gordon was on the bench at the weekend as he continues his recovery from a knee injury.

Summer signing Paulo da Silva is working his way back to full match fitness, while Paul McShane remains on the sidelines after knee surgery.


Zhirkov worry for Blues

Chelsea are likely to be without new signing Yuri Zhirkov for the trip to Sunderland.

Zhirkov is still struggling with a knee injury while full-back Juliano Belletti (Achilles) and defender Alex (groin) are also expected to miss out.

Here we go again - Live!

Week 1 LIVE (just to try it out)

A non-footie rumination on the eve of the season starting

So, as a native of the Philadelphia area here in the US I'm confronted with something of a dilemma. Growing up in Philadelphia you are generally brought up with a healthy (and some would say unhealthy) bit of mania for the local professional sports teams across all major American sports. As a kid who played just about every sport available growing up and growing up in an era (late 70s and early 80s) when all of the local teams were challenging for championships I formed life-long attachments to my teams - the Phillies in baseball (that's the defending World Series champion Phillies I might add); the 76ers in basketball; the Flyers in hockey; and the Eagles in football (our version). Not having a sustainable professional league for most of that time and having limited-at-best access to European footie, I didn't develop my affection for Arsenal or DC United until later.

Why do I mention this? Because today (well, actually last night) my Eagles announced the signing of contraversial quarterback Michael Vick who is fresh off of 18 months in federal prison after being convicted of a variety of infractions revolving around running a dog-fighting operation and participating in some incredibly gruesome acts in putting down some of the dogs that lost their fights. I have to say I'm incredibly conflicted on a number of levels...

  1. Paying his debt? - according to our system of justice, Vick has paid his debt to society. His sentence came down, he served his time, his previous employers and those companies that had previously had him as an endorser exercised their rights to either stop paying him or taking back some of the money they had already paid. From this standpoint, I believe in his right to pursue whatever career people will allow him to have knowing his past history.
  2. Are sports different? despite believing in his RIGHT to be employed somewhere by whomever will have him, I don't believe that playing professional sports isn't an unalienable right. I think leagues have to be clear about what they consider acceptable behavior and what they don't and I think the lines are a little too blurred. We have people here in the States like Ray Lewis (allegedly stabbed a person to death), Donte Stallworth and Leonard Little (both killed people while drunk driving) as well as all manner of asaults and batteries and generally horrible behavior. I'm not sure where Vick's actions fit in the continuum of bad things - it is certainly horrible but is it worse than beating your wife/girlfriend or killing someone while driving drunk? Obviously it isn't my decision to make on behalf of the leagues but I think the least they could do is publish some standards that eliminate someone from further participation if they go over a line.
  3. Should talent make a difference? For those of you not familiar with Vick, he's something of an athletic freak of nature. This isn't a merely-better-than-average guy like Joey Barton this guy was one of the top ten talents in the NFL before his fall from grace. All of the PR is that this is a story about redemption and all of that but it's really about him getting another chance because he's a freak of nature as an athlete. If here were a lesser player, would he be given this chance? Would a team take a chance on him?
  4. My team? Despite my desires for more stringent rules, they don't exist and he has been allowed back. As I said above, I believe in his right to play for A team. Now I have to decide how I feel about him playing for MY team and how I'm going to react to it. A small part of me is intrigued as to what he might add to the Eagles current mix that was only two victories from winning their first championship of my lifetime last season. Overall though, my gut reaction is that I'm not thrilled about it. We've all seen teams who sold their souls for the sake of someone who has a talent that they currently lack. I'm just not wild that my team is the one doing it this time around.
So, where does all of this leave me? Well, I've rambled for quite some time. I know myself well enough that I'm not going to stop supporting the Eagles for this one decision even if isn't my favorite. Honestly, I even hope the best for Mike Vick as a guy, he did some pretty horrible things but I hope he has (and keeps) his act together and realizes the error of his ways. At the same time, I sort of hope that his return to the NFL fizzles and he is forced to earn a living like normal human beings do. I'm not sure if it is possible to root for a team while hoping one of the players on that team doesn't do well but I'm going to give it a try. I guess we won't know for sure how it will work out until he's on the field and I have to react to something he does.

Curious to know what everyone else out there thinks about the situation. What would you think if it was your team that was considering such a tainted player? What if it had the potential to push you over the top for a title you've been hoping for all of your life? Would you be willing to look the other way? Would you be satisfied with finishing out of the money but having your team making a moral stand?