First Impressions and Second Thoughts - First Quarter of the Season

This past weekend, I was lucky enough to be able to attend Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert's Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear on the National Mall here in Washington, DC.  For those of you living outside of the US (or under a rock in the US), here's a brief summation from Jon Stewart toward the end of the rally...
"What exactly was this? This was not a rally to ridicule people of faith. Or people of activism or to look down our noses at the heartland or passionate argument or to suggest that times are not difficult and that we have nothing to fear. They are and we do. But we live now in hard times, not end times. And we can have animus and not be enemies.
"I feel strangely, calmly good, because the image of Americans that is reflected back to us by our political and media process is false," Stewart went on to say. "Sanity will always be in the eye of the beholder. To see you here today and the kind of people that you are, has restored mine."
First off, the event was a blast.  The entertainment - we got to see Ozzy, Yusef, Sheryl Crow, Kid Rock, the O'Jays, John Legend, and more plus plenty of comedy from the hosts - was amazing and brought together in a pretty funny way. The message was equally fantastic and made better by the fact that the crowd seemed to live by the "Sanity" motto and managed to be very civil to each other despite a LOT of people in a space not made to hold nearly that many.  The other thing that the rally did, was it inspired my latest gimmick that comes just in time for the Premier League Season to hit the quarter pole.  Here is our review of each team with one item that should help supporters "restore sanity" and one that should "cause fear", we'll see how it goes but it's certainly better than trotting out the obvious Halloween ploy.

Arsenal, 2nd
  • Sanity - The kids seem to be growing up to the extent that Arsenal is much more able to withstand their seemingly endless array of injuries to key players.  With Wilshere, Koscielny, Squillaci, and Chamakh added to the mix as serious contributors, the losses of RvP, Cesc, and Vermaelen for significant stretches has been crucial. 
  • Fear - Despite a few solid outings from Fabianski, we're all waiting for the other shoe to drop aren't we? Maybe he's turned the corner but I don't think anyone REALLY trusts that to be so.
Aston Villa, 14th
  • Sanity - Hmm, not a lot to love here other than Albrighton being a ray of sunshine in an otherwise fairly dismal start - the only other comfort is that the table is so bunched that 3 points separates them from 5th place. 
  • Fear - We've always worried about their abnormally healthy side that's thin on numbers, if the injuries start to pile up over and above the absences of SPet and Gabby, it could get ugly.
Birmingham, 15th
  • Sanity - Rough times all around in the second city but at least Foster has been a reasonable replacement for Hart.
  • Fear - The off-season acquisitions brought in to fuel a more potent attack - Hleb, Beausejour, Zigic, etc. - haven't been fueling much of anything so far. 
Blackburn, 18th
  • Sanity - The fake Big Sam Twitter feed is pretty funny and they've played most of the "Big" teams already in the first half of the season (@MAN and @TOT the only two left with mostly bottom half teams until the New Year).
  • Fear - They say that when you look around a poker table and you can't figure out who the sucker is, you should assume it's you.  Think Rovers are looking around the Prem and having trouble figuring out who the sucker is?
Blackpool, 9th
  • Sanity - THEY'RE IN 9TH PLACE (seriously, they only have one bad loss for a mid-table team which was at home to Rovers)
  • Fear - The bunching from 5th to 17th place means that they could be in a relegation place within about 3 weeks if they don't keep it up but still, THEY'RE IN 9TH PLACE.
Bolton, 11th
  • Sanity - The young, inexpensive talent - Lee, Holden, etc. - is easing the transition to a more attractive brand of football without too many stumbles as they make that change.  Elmander finally living up to expectations has helped a bunch too.
  • Fear - The defense doesn't have the same bit it used to which means the goals will have to continue to increase for the draws from the first quarter (6 of them) to start turning into Ws and finding goals on a budget in an unfashionable location is a tough job. 
Chelsea, 1st
  • Sanity - They've kept up a great pace in the league while dealing with serious injuries to key players like Lampard and Alex - and they're getting closer and closer to full health.
  • Fear - The injuries could mount in the second half as many key players - JT, Lamps, Drogs, ACole, etc - are getting older without the "net" of a lot of younger potential stars to fill the void.  I don't think anyone will be quaking in their boots facing Ramires, Kalou, and Sturridge if it ever comes to that.
Everton, 8th
  • Sanity - They managed the early rash of injuries and didn't bury themselves from competing for a Europa Cup spot despite not having a recognized striker for multiple weeks.
  • Fear - There still seems to be something missing from the team that finished so strongly last season.  It was popular to say Donovan didn't have THAT big an effect last year (right after it was popular to say he did) but clearly they could use him (or someone) to take them from OK to consistently better-than-average.
Fulham, 10th
  • Sanity - They seem to be maintaining a decent pace given their budget despite the change in management which is certainly more than their former manager and his new club can say.  Even more impressive since they've done so with so many injuries to key attackers like AJ, Zamora, and Duff. Dempsey has continued to ascend and Dembele and Salcido have helped in spots
  • Fear - One more key injury starts turning the draws (6 in the first 10 matches) into losses.  Dembele and Salcido have to be more consistent.
Liverpool, 13th
  • Sanity - Has there been any? Maybe the best that can be said is that it seems likely that they've played as poorly as they can and they're still in 13th place after 10 matches.
  • Fear - The obvious, Gerrard gets hurt and/or Torres/Reina want to leave in January.  If any of those three things happens, look out below.
Manchester City, 4th
  • Sanity - Tevez and Kompany have established themselves as consistently excellent.  David Silva has shown signs of joining them.
  • Fear - The rest of the line-up has the look of so much over-priced, big name talent thrown together with little thought beyond what a fantasy manager would give.
Manchester United, 3rd
  • Sanity - They're third after 10 matches and Rooney has given them virtually nothing so far.  That's got to be seen as a good thing right? Oh, and they're the only team that hasn't lost a match yet.
  • Fear - Their improved play has corresponded directly to fragile Rio Ferdinand's return to health.  If their fortunes are tied to Rio's health, that has to be seen as a bad thing, right?
Newcastle, 7th
  • Sanity -They have the ability to crush solid Premier League teams like Villa (6-0 on the road) and Sunderland (5-1 at home).  They're 4th in the league in goals scored after 10 matches. 
  • Fear - Take away those two blow-outs and they've only scored 8 goals in their other 8 matches making them maddeningly hard to evaluate.
Stoke, 16th
  • Sanity - Based on results from years past, it seems like results should improve with talent like Jones and Pennant added to a firmly mid-table team last season.  Not much comfort though, is it?
  • Fear -  For a team that prides itself on being rugged and stingy at the back, they're not even in the top half in terms of goals allowed with Arsenal, Citeh, WBA, and B'pool (all among the top seven in goals scored) still to come in the first half of the season.
Sunderland, 12th
  • Sanity - Until Sunday, they were as high as 7th with points from MAN, MAC, and ARS to their credit.  Having DBent on their side helps a lot too.
  • Fear - Points dropped to Wigan and Rovers and the drubbing by NUFC means that this club doesn't have the consistency to do take the easy points that make the points from the Big Four gravy, mmm gravy.
Tottenham, 5th
  • Sanity - Haven't played particularly well? Check.  Have suffered serious injuries to key players? Check. Have the signing of the summer on your roster at a fraction of "Citeh prices?" Check. Still within 2 points of a Champions League spot? Check. 
  • Fear - VDV injury history combined with relatively few difference-makers could mean that 5th is Spurs destiny in Chelsea/ManCiteh's big money Premier League.
West Brom, 6th
  • Sanity - Even better than Blackpool because they've showed a depth of scoring options and nearly came back from two goals down and two men down vs. Blackpool yesterday.  Just an amazing first quarter that sees them more than a third of the way to the magical 40 point mark (which is probably a bit outdated in favor of a magic 34 or 35 points to guarantee survival)
  • Fear - Playing with house money at this point but I suppose playing all of their matches in downpours two men down would qualify.
West Ham, 20th
  • Sanity -Obinna looks like a nice find and Green seems to have rediscovered some of his mojo
  • Fear - Sadly, that's about all the good news I could think of from this group so far this season. 
Wigan, 17th
  • Sanity -It's gotten a lot better for them since that early drubbing by Blackpool - both because we have all come to realize that Blackpool is pretty good and because Wigan has played better.
  • Fear - While it has gotten better, they're still 17th and there's a lot more progress to be made.  Seems like they have more attacking talent than their performances would lead you to believe.
Wolves, 19th
  • Sanity - Same number of wins as 10th place Fulham but they have to find a way to make some of those losses into draws, especially on the road where they've collected one entire point.
  • Fear - Um, did I mention the one point on the road so far? And I had so many hopes.


  1. Anonymous12:41 AM

    Awesome post! Miss you guys from the Yahoo days!


  2. Anonymous6:52 AM

    Amazing post, loved it. If you could do something like this with players (which i know is s sh1tload of work) it would be ridicawesome!

  3. Great post Neal! My wife was in DC doing the Marine Marathon on Sunday so she went down a day earlier for the rally. Looked like a LOT of fun!

    So then, who's the one player that everyone thinks is going to do the business this weekend? Chamwow! is WELL overdue. If he wasn't at home to Wolves he'd be out of my team. Looking for another striker, I have Berbs and Benjani at the mo but not feeling either of them...any ideas?

  4. Anonymous9:57 AM

    Nice read, nice nice read i must say. I think i underrated your work. Thanks

  5. Chris Jones11:02 AM

    First of all, an important message from the league office

    Fantasy Football will no longer be including midweek games in the same game week as weekend games. Midweek games on Tuesday 9th and Wednesday 10th November will now be counted separately.

    Therefore you have the option to make separate transfer choices for these midweek games. The transfer window for midweek games is open from midday Saturday 6th November until Tuesday 9th November at 7pm.

    After 7pm on Tuesday 9th November you will then be able to make changes for the following weekend's games on the 13th/14th November.