First Impressions and Second Thoughts - Week 14

Dimitar Berbatov is, in some ways, a perfect poster boy for this season's Premier League campaign.  In a season where unpredictable is being redefined, he is about as unpredictable a player as there is in the league.  I have written a fair number of unkind words about Berbs this season so I want to make this clear first off - he is a talented player.  The only reason he's worth writing unkind words about is because he manages to get such inconsistent results from his considerable talents.  If you look at either his real life stats (leading the Premier League in goals scored for the season now) or his fantasy stats (he's third in overall points among strikers) you're definitely missing a large part of the picture.  What do I mean?
  • He has only scored one away goal this season (vs. Everton early in September).
  • He famously went 10 matches in all competitions without scoring up to yesterday.
  • His goals have come almost exclusively come against teams that are struggling mightily.  His victims: NUFC (their first match back in the Prem); West Ham (bottom of the table); Everton (were on 1 point from their first three matches at the time); Liverpool (in the middle of a variety of crises at the time); and Rovers (sitting 14th) - hardly the last 8 of the Champions League.  
  • Between his three goals against Liverpool and his five against Rovers he exceeded 5 fantasy points (Yahoo scoring system) exactly ZERO times.
So, what to make of this? The best I can come up with is that Berbs is what Drogba and Chelsea are frequently accused of being and that is a flat track bully.  He picks on the weaker kids and when the level of competition rises, he shrinks to the point where he pretty much disappears.  Given that Berbs' profile is the exact opposite of the typical Ferguson player (comes up big when the stakes are the highest) it seems to me that Sir Alex would be best served cashing in on Berbatov's flashy output from this weekend with a January sale - if he could sell him today, that would probably be even better business.  All of the above said, cheers to any fantasy managers who saw Berbs' outburst coming and got on the bandwagon while avoiding his long drought.  Oh, and Blackpool are coming to Old Trafford next so it wouldn't be shocking to see him keep his goal-scoring going into next weekend.

So, what else happened this weekend?


The New Leaders - SAF's remarkable coaching season just kept getting more impressive as ManYoo ran roughshod over Rovers while Chelsea withered on the road at snowbound St. James Park.  Rooney didn't score but he certainly showed some signs of a return to form with two assists and some other chances he likely would have cashed in on with a little more sharpness.  Oh, and incredibly, the Invincibles chase is still on after 15 matches.  #Amazing. 

The Old Leaders - Arsenal's frustrating weeks (and there have been two thus far this season) seem to create more headlines than the complete loss of form that has seen the defending champs win only 4 points for the entire month of November.  With December offering considerably more difficult matches - @TOT, MAN, @ARS - and the performance in midfield being best characterized as "lackluster" leaving the defense vulnerable and the attack starved for good chances you have to wonder where things are heading.  With there being little talk of new signings in January you really have to wonder if November 2010 will mark the month that Roman lost interest in his football plaything.  We knew it would happen eventually. #Fading 

Third Place - Two points out of first place despite some terrible lost points at home.  They have been excellent on the road (17 road points vs. 14 for Citeh; 10 each for Chelsea, Bolton and Spurs; and only 9 for ManYoo) and they've been able to stay closer in a year when there just isn't a great team in the league.  There are a few pretty good teams and a lot of average teams.  The thing Arsenal have going for them that has the CHANCE to swing things in their favor over the course of the second half is that they (and Citeh) are deeper in quality depth than ManYoo, Chelsea, Bolton, and Spurs.  This won't be the only factor in the Championship race but unlike in years past, Arsenal are much better able to withstand the inevitable injuries to key players than their rivals.  #QuantityOverQuality

Spurs Resilient -  If ever there was a case for supporters arriving late but making sure they stay until the very end, this season's Spurs team is it.  They haven't been great at home and it looked for all the world like they were going to drop more vital points at the Lane but they were dominant over the final 20 minutes and came back from behind yet again.  And Aaron Lennon did what Defoe couldn't and scored the decisive goal.  That said, why on Earth to Spurs continue to let Defoe take PKs (that's 6 misses from his last 7 takes in all competitions - I think I could do better than that (hat tip @OptaJoe). #NailBiting

The Surprise - If Bolton were a more famous team, we'd say that this is the type of match that good teams find a way to get a point from.  With Bolton having taken up residence at that end of the table, you have to give them the same sort of credit.  On a day when they clearly weren't at their best, they managed to fight back and get a point from two goals down.  Anyone want to guess who has the second fewest losses in the league? #HangingTough 

The Newly Promoted - A good point for NUFC and Blackpool against teams in the top five spots and a full three points for WBA on the road.  With all three planted firmly in the middle of the table, you can't quite start printing tickets for the Premier League for next season yet but it is certainly looking like none of the three feel at all out of place in the top tier. None of the three have a particularly daunting December schedules with Blackpool's trip to ManYoo the only result that seems preordained with NUFC's trip to Spurs in their last match of the year the next most likely to go poorly for one of the newly promoted.

The Disappointing - When you think of Everton and Aston Villa you tend to think of teams more likely than not to be mounting strong-but-ultimately-doomed campaigns for spots in Europe - either the final Champions League spot or a Europa Cup place.  This year, not so much.  Villa are in 15th and Everton are in 16th.  I will grant you that the bunching in the table has them as close to Spurs in 6th as they are to West Ham in 20th but this seems like exactly the sort of year that both clubs have been waiting for.  Instead of capitalizing on the fact that the top teams aren't setting a pace that neither team are capable of keeping up with and staying close to the top they've lagged well beyond their respective paces of last season.  At this time last season Villa were on 26 points.  Everton always seem to start slow and are actually on the same pace as last season (exactly) but the quality of their roster leads you to believe that one of two things are true: 1) we've overrated their roster; or 2) they've underachieved badly in the first half of each of the last two seasons.


Charlie Adam Falling - Maybe I'm the last one off of this particularly bandwagon but he's just not doing the business.  Maybe it's his contract issues (he's been fighting with management over a bonus).  Maybe teams have figured out how to defend him.  Maybe he's just getting tired after carrying his team for the first quarter of the season.  Whatever the reason, he's been pretty useless over the last month or so. 

Meireles Rising - In the absence of Gerrard he's been very good.  I'm still not sure how Liverpool should line up once Gerrard comes back but it's clear that of Woy's questionable acquisitions over the Summer you have to think that he got at least this one right.  Heck of a play to deny Bale in the 51st minute against Spurs this weekend as well.  

van der Vaart Ailing - Having gone down early against Liverpool and having been on the injury report for what seems like the entire last month, we have to start wondering if we have another Duff/Dunn (from years past) on our hands.  A player of unquestioned quality both in reality and for fantasy purposes but perhaps one that will ultimately prove too fragile to be considered among the best in the league in the long term.  Side Note 1: can you imagine if the current generation of Dutch attackers could actually stay healthy? RvP, Robben, and VDV have all flashed exceptional talent but have been equally prone to injury.  Side Note 2: Any chance that the Dutch have figured out how to avoid drug tests and anti-doping investigations? Poor tempers? Prone to tendon and muscle injuries? Not saying it IS happening, I'm just saying I wouldn't be shocked if we learned about it at some point in the future.

Lennon Adding - Aaron Lennon has always been tabbed as having lots of potential if, you know, he'd ever learn to cross the ball or shoot at the end of his moves.  For about two months last season, he seemed to have it nailed.  Then he got hurt and the performances seemed to revert to being all speed and no end result.  With his winner this weekend, you have to wonder if that might be the thing to give him back some measure of confidence.  If so, Spurs get exponentially more difficult to defend (assuming VDV's injury isn't of the long term variety).  If defenders have a dangerous Lennon on one side, Bale on the other and VDV coming down the middle then Modric should have more room to operate which should mean being muscled off the ball less.  They are still in dire need of a holding midfielder and some health at CB and someone useful in place of Crouch/Pavyluchenko would be nice as well but even without addressing those other deficiencies a dangerous Lennon could make things very difficult for the leaders in the second half. 

Howard Stinking - With Everton's struggles, there has to be fantasy implications and the biggest one thus far has been Tim Howard.  Sure, Arteta hasn't been nearly as consistent but he's had strong matches.  Howard has been an unmitigated disaster as a fantasy keeper.  He's had exactly 4 decent matches this season and this weekend makes 11 bad ones.  Until we've confirmed that Everton have started in on their traditional second half charge up the table, I'd start ignoring him as a fantasy option. 

All They Do Is Score Goals - Here at the blog, we tend to like players who get a lot of phantom points and contribute their goals and assists over and above. Why? Because it's hard to predict when players are going to score goals (see Berbatov, Dimitar).  That has left us with a class of players who return good (but not great) points when they score but don't tend to get you much when they don't score.  The thing is, they're pretty big names in the real world because they do tend to get goals.  Here's the quick list: DBent, Kenwyne Jones, Chamakh, Torres, Berbatov, Kalou, Elmander, Davies, Tim Cahill, Defoe, and Kevin Nolan.  The thing about this list is that it is mostly strikers and the occasional midfielder like Cahill or Nolan who essentially play a withdrawn striker role that Yahoo has chosen to call "midfield" instead of "forward."  The odd thing about this list is that it also includes Samir Nasri who, especially when Cesc is out, SHOULD get phantom points.  He takes kicks. He plays a more traditional creative midfield role for a high-scoring team.  In theory, he should score well each week regardless of goals.  The reality is that he doesn't.  Even when he does score like he did this weekend, he didn't have a great fantasy weekend with 12.5 points.  That's the sort of weekend you'd expect from a Cesc, Nani, or Bale if they DIDN'T score - not the sort you'd expect from them when they do.  Nasri has had a nice fantasy season so far because he's been in the goals pretty consistently (6 in 11) but with only 1 assist to his credit and a modest totals on Successful Crosses (12) and Corners Won (15) he's just not grinding out the points the way you'd hope.


  1. Anonymous1:38 PM

    @ adeem blackpool are hosting manu next week not the other way around .rooney to score and berbs back to his old self now tht everybody has him hez gonna disappoint them all again as usual.

  2. chelsea fan2:32 PM

    don't you think it is a bit premature to write off chelsea? they are in second place, have the fewest goals conceded, and are tied for best goal differential. all despite being without several key players due to injury, illness, or suspension: terry (injury), lampard (injury), essien (injury, suspension), drogba (malaria), and alex (injury). this is the core of the team! sure, chelsea, are not as deep as they once were, but their bench (ramires, ferreira, zhirkov, sturridge, kalou, etc) will be more than adequate when everyone comes back. as a chelsea fan, i am biased of course. but i am pretty sure chelsea will be in first or second by the end of the season -- and definitely ahead of arsenal! PS: this same team that is supposedly on the verge of collapse is the only team that is 5-0-0 in CL.

  3. chelsea fan3:15 PM

    or perhaps i am deeply in denial. we should know within a few weeks one way or another ...

  4. Gutted... my hunch about Berbs came last week, against Wigan, when the sod never even made the subs bench!

    As a result, I dropped him in favour of Tim Cahill for the week just gone. 14 points instead of 53.5! D'oh!

    Excellent post, though, as always.

  5. afif-here10:45 PM

    Quote from Sam Allardyce which I totally agree: "Berbatov gets a lot of criticism but he has great ability and is a quality finisher. It is unfortunate for him that he has a laid-back attitude."

  6. Anonymous1:06 AM

    A bit hard on Berbs here aren't we. Over-looking the fact that he has been without a real support structure. And to say he exploits lesser teams is like saying a porsche is quick off the line. I think you might have over-looked the numerous Champions league games he's owned, the single goals against top-flight EPL teams. Downplay Liverpool all you like, but other than that game the team itself didn't play anyone till week 10 against Tottenham, and he only played 63 minutes as well. And really look at who Sir Alex had out there with him, every single player was either a young striker trying to make his make damn supporting the real goal scorer (berbatov). All those games Chicharito scored those goals did you once see him come back into midfield for any support? He, as well as Macheda camped up front saving energy. And lets talk about the two of the more selfish attacking mid-fielders: Nani and Park. In all honesty I don't agree w/ Allarduce's comment in the fact that he was the one sacrificing goals to hold possesion in the final 1/3 of the field. I've watched him closely the past 8 weeks, Spurs, City and Villa were extreme bouts of frustration for him as it was essentially every man for himself out there. Man U, have been extremely lucky to come out with this many results, and to have their chemistry click this past weekend was a god-send to them.

  7. Anonymous6:02 AM

    Thanks for shaking my confidence in Nasri, I just put him in for the Fulham game, now do I have a week of second thoughts :)

  8. Anonymous6:49 AM

    Nani selfish ok that's well known, but Park? Can't agree with that, he is such a team player. He goes for goal when he desrves it with his runs or when noone else is stepping forward. And I think that I was never less impressed when a player scored 5 goals, almost all of them came on a plate from teammates of oppsitions. You say he is sacrificing goals to keep posesion, and others say that he is dropping back to help his team, and i say he drops back because he is afraid. That's not his job, he should be up front, remeber Blackburn last year in april, he was to be star striker and he was hiding in the back so central midfielders had to go up, even full backs were in front of him. I agree with Neal about january sale, it would be nice to get some money for him. He has the talents but he is too lazzy for ManU's style of play.


  9. I agree about the players you mentioned who score well only when they are getting goals, but I think you have to take Johan Elmander off of that list, he get's lots of assists now that he is on form and Bolton is in song(3 assists in last 4 games). When he doesnt get a goal or an assist(I.E. this weekend) he still got double-digits with 10 points, nearly returning his value at 10.23 discount.

    When is Thomas Vermaelen coming back for god sakes?

  10. Great read, it's my favourite of the blog articles every week. Solid analysis and observations that help put the weekend's YFF action into perspective. Thx !!

  11. Nasri did play on the right against villa though and wasn't on set peices..