First Impressions and Second Thoughts - Week 12

Just when you think you're getting a sense of what's going on in the Premier League, the script flips and a weekend completely surprises you.  As I sit here watching the Premier League weekend wind down as Sunderland lead Chelsea 2-0 at the Bridge in the second half, I'm sure you won't be surprised to learn that I have some thoughts on what has just gone on.  Without much further ado (aside from a potential interruption for another goal in this match), here are those thoughts:

  • Chelsea - Finally paying the price for age, injuries, suspensions, and Drogba's illness.  Even if they come back and nick a point a la ManYoo at Villa, you have to say that they've made Sunderland look like potential champions which Sunderland themselves haven't ever been able to do.  Anyone else find it surprising that there really hasn't been much discussion of replacing the mediocre Mikel? Regardless, somewhere Ray Wilkins might be smiling just a touch.
  • ManYoo - Still undefeated.  Second best for most of the match.  Undermanned.  On the road.  Facing a talented opponent.  Still got a point.  If ever there was a testament to how good a manager SAF is, this was it.  If just about any other manager trotted out that line-up in a Premier League match, you'd think "mid-table" at best.
  • Arsenal - The points they have been losing at home to mediocre teams, they've been getting back on the road against mediocre teams.  Even more impressive with 3rd and 4th choice center backs starting.  All that said, they really didn't look like they came to play.  The passing was extremely sloppy to an extent that I'm not sure I've seen it that bad in the Wenger era.  Cesc, his goal aside, was pretty aimless.  Can be looked at as a positive (road win playing poorly) or a negative (playing poorly).
  • Citeh - Both Manchester teams seemed to be suffering from a post-derby hangover.  I wonder if the reviews of Citeh's effort would be as harsh if the Tevez goal hadn't been wrongly disallowed.  It still wouldn't have been a thing of beauty but commentators would have spun it as a gritty win against a scrappy opponent - the sort that championship contenders need to win.  With the goal ruled out, the reviews were much harsher.  Seems to me that they need to admit that Yaya and Barry aren't really accomplishing very much.
  • Spurs - THIS (the two goals conceded aside) is what Spurs supporters have been waiting for.  Bale and VDV co-existing and thriving as a result.  Contributions from a forward, really, any forward will do.  It could have been even more impressive if Pavlyuchenko hadn't missed two additional goals.  They have to hope that this represents a light going off rather than a one-time flash.
  • Liverpool - Speaking of one-time flashes.  That's what Liverpool's win over Chelsea feels like now.  With one point from road matches against mediocre teams in Stoke and Wigan and Liverpool are right back to struggling mightily.  They just never looked like they had a plan and no one took control of the ball in the center of midfield and controlled the action for the Reds.  
  • Draws - I pointed out late last week that the pace of drawn matches is exceptional.  Over the weekend I saw OptaJoe Tweet that the current pace (about 35%) would represent an all-time high if it continued.  With 4 from 10 matches this weekend, the pace quickens rather than slowing down.
  • Bunching - With Chelsea dropping points, the top of the table got more bunched with 3 points separating the top 3.  There is also still a big bunch led by Bolton, Sunderland, and Spurs that sees 5th and 12th separated by a mere 3 points.  
  • Elmander and Onuoha - Scorers of the two best goals I saw this weekend.  Elmander's dance in the box followed by a sparkling finish was certainly the most technically exceptional of the weekend, maybe of the season so far.  Onuoha's was also impressive but was more so due to circumstance (first away goal at Stamford Bridge) and pedigree (he's a defender not usually thought of as an attacking player).  Congrats to both who scored great goals to help push their respective teams toward the top of the table (5th for Bolton and 6th for Sunderland).
  • Bale - I'm still not convinced that he's fantasy value (especially next weekend away to Arsenal) but those who have kept the faith were finally rewarded for the first time since early in the season. Again, no doubt he's an excellent player - just not a great fantasy value at this point.
  • Milijas/Holden/Brunt/Jarvis/Albrighton - A great weekend for midfielders who generally fly under the radar of the average fan or media member.  Excellent fantasy output from all.
  • Chelsea's Stars - What a flat performance from all of them.  I actually though Cech was the best of the bunch and he just let in number 3 off of a terrible mistake from Ashley Cole gave Welbeck a deserved goal after excellent play early in the match.
  • Welbeck - Hmm, think SAF could have used him at Villa Park on Saturday? Or was his performance in robbing Chelsea of 3 points more valuable to United?
  • Fab4 - Looks a bit lost. I'm sure the headlines will revolve around his match-winning goal but he wasn't good.
  • Gerrard - There seems to be something missing for him too.  I don't know if he's confused with his role or he's just being used poorly or maybe he's lost a step but whatever it is, you didn't get the sense that he was the best player on the field in Saturday's late match.
  • Gyan - He just keeps scoring with DBent out of the line-up.  With rumors that Bent will be back for Sunderland's match a week from Monday, you have to wonder what will happen when the two partner.
  • Walcott - Is he still injured? Or did he lose his spot to that injury? Regardless, sort of surprising to see so little of him after the start he was off to before he got hurt.  That Rosicky and Denilson came off the bench without Theo getting a shot certainly makes me wonder.  Even more so in a match where Arshavin wasn't impressive and only occasionally involved.
I'm sure other stuff worth mentioning went on that I didn't see so please feel free to contribute in the comments section. 


  1. with 4 of my players giving me negative points this weekend, I can only be glad I kept the faith with Bale!

    Those extra 11 points from VdV would have been welcomed, but I guess you cant have it all!

  2. Anonymous6:06 PM

    thx for v gud post neal. nice to see you objektive bout arsenl for 1st time in while, altho you got the classic digs in at man u, chelsea, city & pool, i like it, but for once tottehm get away from you! ;o)

    must say tott were v.gud and 4 or 5 goals would be a fair win. bale at his original price of 12-13 was always ecceptional value despite a few bad numbers and i keeped him. he is attacking mid plus great crosser, dangerous shooter and on occasional set pieces with clean sheet opportunities. People who dropped him but keep/buy Malouda or equivilent at same/higher price really confuse me

  3. Anonymous7:24 PM

    Can I just say that your routine comments disparaging Bale as "not a good fantasy value" are entirely off-base!? What's your definition of value, Neal? A player who returns a point for every million spent on him in a given week? Or wait, better yet, a player who returns a point for every million spent on him not just once in a blue moon but consistently over the course of an entire season?

    If you have owned Bale since Day One, you hold him in the high 12s/very lows 13s (some slightly lower than others due to a short-lived glitch with YFF's pricing early in the season). The guy has averaged 12.65 points over the course of 13 games. That is the very definition of good value...amongst players who have played 10 games or more and average 10+ points/game, only Petr Cech approaches that level of consistent value.

  4. Anonymous7:26 PM

    Can you imagine if Spurs had actually kept clean sheets at or near the pace that they did last season? If Spurs had, say 6 clean sheets this year, Bale would be far eclipsing even Didier Drogba in points production this year (even despite the lack of clean sheets, Bale only lags behind DD by 8.5 points).

  5. Have to agree with annoymous. Bale has been very good value since buying him week 1, the potential is there for 20+ weeks every week, but the reality is that Spurs just can't keep a Clean Sheet, which is where Neal and Jeremy would say he isn't worth the price. So I think both opinions are valid, however, when Bale clicks like he did today, the returns are huge, and honestly, I'll take a consistent defender playing midfield for 12.71mil averaging 7-10pts a game when not scoring goals/assists or clean sheets. Basically what I am saying is the potential for Bale to light up is worth having him.

    Can you really blame Bale's production though? I mean hes been putting in the best and most consistenly dangerous crosses of any one in the Prem. His pts total would be much bigger if the likes of Crouhc or Pav could put his crosses to goals.

    TY Bale for helping me to an 106.5pt week!

  6. Anonymous1:20 AM

    I also think Bale is definately a Fantasy Stud... If we look at his no.s he has 164.5 pts. Remove the 1 CS he has and he is left with 158.5 pts and a avg of just under 12. That still will be 3rd most pts by any player.

    So, a player you bought for 12-13 gives u close to his value return over the run of the season.

    Now just think if TOT were better defensively (more CS for Bale), that 12 will become 15-18per week.

    Add to that, this dude is amazingly fit, rarely gets injured so has a definate chance for playing week-in-week-out.


  7. Anonymous4:52 AM

    1Can't say i regret dropping Bale but if we look at their averages and starting value then Bale is right up there and will remain up their come the end of the season, though i have no plans to bring him back in. Again Bale is bargain for those who kept him from week1.

  8. Anonymous5:00 AM

    There's nothing dangerous about crosses if nobody gets on the end of it, its a waste putting balls in if your team mates wont get to it. The Finidi's and Beckam's were world class wingers because of their ability to find their team mates in the box no matter how small or short they were.

  9. G-man9:41 AM

    Wow, Finidi George reference. I'm impressed.

  10. guys - love the blog.

    can't find a contact for you - but I'm the editor of an Irish sports website - can you drop me a line at please for a quick request? thanks. A