First Impressions and Second Thoughts - Week 15

I have a new theory.  That theory is that there is only so much that can be going right in your life from a sports standpoint at any one time.  What do I mean? In most years, I have the following things going on in the fall/winter when it comes to the sports and teams I follow:
  • Arsenal
  • Philadelphia Eagles (gridiron football)
  • Philadelphia Flyers (hockey)
  • Philadelphia Phillies (baseball)
  • Philadelphia 76ers (pro basketball)
  • my fantasy premier league team 
  • upwards of 4 NFL fantasy teams
  • the blog
As you might imagine, that's a lot to keep track of, give attention to, and hope goes well from both a skill and luck standpoint.  Inevitably, not everything can be going well at once.  In most seasons, this is how it tends to go:
  • Arsenal seem terribly flawed but are hanging around with Chelsea and ManYoo into the new year with little real hope that they can go the distance.
  • The Eagles are extremely similar to Arsenal really, always in the conversation but not QUITE strong enough to go all the way.
  • The Flyers have traditionally been a top 10 team in a 30 team league but rarely are they among the top couple teams.
  • The Phillies have been among the best three or four teams in the sport over the last 3 years with a championship to their credit two years ago. 
  • The 76ers have been rotten for the last 7 or 8 years with no end in sight. 
  • My fantasy premier league team (in the Yahoo game) has been one of the top two or three in our private group year in and year out and I've generally finished somewhere in the triple digits (100 to 999) in the overall standings. 
  • One or two of my fantasy NFL teams have been in strong contention for a championship
  • The blog has been ascending steadily with some years finding us holding steady (more traffic but no major leaps forward) and some finding us experiencing major milestones (being paid to write for the first time, being paid to write in print for the first time, syndicating our column with TheScore in Ireland, etc.) 
THIS year has been a bit different.  The Eagles and Arsenal both seem like they have a better chance than usual at a title due in large part to the fact that the dominant teams that usually stand in their way seem more flawed than usual this season.  I don't think either team is really that much better than they have been in years past but this might be the year that's good enough. The Phillies are coming off of a deep run in the playoffs.  The Flyers were in the Stanley Cup Finals last season and have opened this season among the best teams in the league.  The 76ers continue to stink but that was pretty well expected.  The blog has continued to grow and progress and expand in scope (and thank you to everyone for your contributions in readership, "Likes," and sharing of articles, etc.). 

Finally, and this is the major change, my NFL fantasy teams have been REALLY good (knocking furiously on wood).  Of the four leagues I'm in, I am far and away the best team in three of them and in the conversation for a championship in the other. Now, none of this guarantees me a win in any of those leagues because I still have to win playoffs but regardless of those outcomes, this is certainly my best fantasy NFL season ever by a wide margin. 

So, unfortunately, something had to give and that something has been my Fantasy EPL team.  For about five weeks, it just hasn't been going well.  I've stuck with some players too long (Drogba, Malouda, Adam) and slept too long on others who were emerging (Brunt being the big one).  Finally, I've just been unlucky.  If you read The Week Ahead you'll know that I've at least been considering extremely solid contributors most weeks but sometimes you just don't pick the right ones.  For all of November and now into December I've been on a horrible streak of picking around the points.  Does my theory above hold any water? Probably not but I have to come up with some excuse for such a crappy month so that's what I'm going for.  I'm sure those of you inclined to comment will suggest some other reasons for my bad month.

OK, enough of my moaning, here's the review of the weekend that was in the Premier League:

  • The Leaders - I'm not one to really consider a club the leaders just because they've played more matches than the others so I still put ManYoo in this category as I fully expect them to beat Blackpool whenever the match happens. Still, it was probably a bad time for ManYoo to lose a match to weather.  The schedule gets congested soon and they're coming off of some significant milestones - generally good health, Rooney returning to some form, Berbs waking from his slumber, etc. - it's a shame to miss out on that.  It also doesn't help that Arsenal's young team gets the confidence of seeing their names top going into the match with United next weekend. 
  • The Chasers - Arsenal will have a chance to claim the "Leaders" mantle for real next weekend but for now, as I said above, they've been their typical selves and so far this season, that's been enough.  Nasri's two goals against a stubborn Fulham were exceptional.  The interesting note here is that with the injuries and age and United and the injuries and seeming belt-tightening at Chelsea, Arsenal now have more players - Nasri, Cesc, RvP, Arsh, and Walcott - who can create something from very little in addition to the overall ability to create team goals.  Since they can't seem to figure out defending for 90 consecutive minutes, this is a good thing.
  • Chelsea - As Chelsea's slump drags on, it's becoming harder and harder to figure out exactly what is at the root of it.  Certainly injuries have been big.  Maybe the loss of depth in the form of guys like Ballack and Deco who, while not at the peak of their powers, were still solid central midfielders who knew how to make things happen in the absence of Lamps has made more of a difference than we thought possible.  Maybe I'm underestimating the loss of Alex as the lynch pin of the defense.  Maybe Drogba is really at about 50% of effectiveness as opposed to 80% or 85% and he was responsible for even more of their success than we suspected. Maybe it's a little of all of the above all happening at once.  Regardless, they just aren't very good right now are they? Good thing they still have all those points and goals from earlier in the season to fall back on.  They could still turn things around but they'd better hurry up with a brutal schedule coming up featuring TOT, MAN, and ARS.
  • The Bags of Money - You get the feeling this is what it would have been like if Big Sam every got a ton of money to spend at Rovers (or anywhere else).  The names would have been bigger but it would still have been a series of matches ground out to little critical acclaim.  That's where Citeh find themselves.  It certainly doesn't FEEL like the stuff championships are made of but the same could be said of ManYoo and Arsenal at this point as well.  With money to spend in January and the December schedule easy outside of the Manchester Derby, Part Deux things have to be looking up at Citeh.  Imagine if they start playing to their talent. 
  • Hard to Figure - A draw @BRM isn't a bad result really.  Citeh have dropped points against the Blues as have Chelsea.  That said with Chelsea coming up next it seems like points lost to the 14th place team are too valuable to give up for a team trying to keep a place in the Top 4.  Is it a tragedy? Not by any means but a win would have been big.  Here's a question for Spurs supporters: If Spurs are going to make it into the Champions League, who are they most likely to do it at the expense of? You'd have to say that Chelsea look the more likely compared to Citeh at this point with none of the current top four looking iron-clad.
  • Villa - What a mess.  Credit to Liverpool for a strong win without Carra, Gerrard and Torres but you have to think that this has to do more with Villa degrading than Liverpool suddenly being spectacular without three of their best players.  Houlier has done for Ryan Babel what no other former (or current) Liverpool manager could - made him look worth the money.  You get the feeling that things could get ugly at Villa Park pretty quickly with resurgent West Brom on the agenda followed by @Wigan in what will be almost a "must win" because Spurs and Citeh follow before the New Year.
  • Newcastle - What can we say about a club that can't stand at least some level of success.  Chris Houghton may not ever be confused with Sir Alex but unless there was something incredibly bad happening behind the scenes that hasn't become public there doesn't seem to be an excuse for an injury-riddled, newly promoted team to fire a manager that has them 12th and looking pretty solid nearly halfway through the campaign. Just a mystery to me.  Maybe Martin Jol or whomever comes in next will be able to get even more from the squad but after watching a team without any attacking motivation behind the strikers in the absence of Barton, Ben Arfa, and Nolan I was left thinking that it would take a Sir Alex to get more out of the personnel that were healthy on Sunday.
  • Nasri - Wow, those were some great goals.  So, here's the next question...with his best position seeming to be as the right-wing in a 4-3-3, what happens to Theo Walcott who displayed similar form earlier in the season? Is he back to being on the Carling Cup side? A late-match change-of-pace? Is there another position that he could fill?  Nice problem to have I suppose but I'm sure there will be some grumbling soon.
  • Fab4 - Here's a question I never thought I'd be asking.  If his hamstring passes fit, should he start against ManYoo this coming weekend? Based on his performances thus far this campaign, you'd have to say "no" wouldn't you? He didn't look up to the task against Braga and even ManYoo's mediocre midfield is better than that. 
  • Brunt - Not a great fantasy weekend for him but he was at the center of just about everything good that West Brom did against Newcastle.  Fun to watch.
  • Tchoyi - With Brunt and Odemwingie commanding attention, Tchoyi was pretty much one-on-one with Jose Enrique and he made the most of it.  He was dangerous all afternoon.  He's not the typical speedy winger but he was certainly effective.  Now if he would only get more consistent playing time, we might consider recommending him more often.
  • Balotelli - He didn't score but he picked up a lot of phantom points which is good to know with Tevez out of action this weekend due to yellow card accumulation.  Even at retail price, he's probably a good deal.
  • Bent - Despite Sunderland's win, DBent looked a bit lost as part of a 3-striker alignment. Too much overlap with Gyan and a lot of the attack going through Welbeck as well.  Good options for Sunderland but it probably means that DBent will be a less consistent scorer.
  • Cleverley - Apparently this is the season where ManYoo loanees come of age elsewhere. Welbeck is playing very well for Sunderland and Cleverley is having a strong run for Wigan now that he's healthy and starting.  Good news for Sir Alex and he looks to switch out his midfield next season.
  • Maxi - 8, 15, 8.5, 3.5, 7, 16, 7, 10 - pretty solid fantasy run from someone who was universally labeled a bust (for both fantasy and reality purposes) over the second half of last season. If only we'd known when he was priced at 6.71 before that run started. 
  • Morrison - You wouldn't know this from the statistics or his fantasy output but James Morrison seems to be coming into his own at WBA.  He was in the middle of a lot of the action against NUFC.  He could easily have had a goal or two if he'd been sharper.  Hard to tell if he's growing into his place at age 24 on a good attacking team or if he's just a limited player capable of being involved but not making a huge difference. Still, worth watching since he's relatively inexpensive. 
  • Song - Quietly, pretty good fantasy value for a holding midfielder (priced at 7.18 and returning over 6) and he's getting forward a lot this season. He'll never be a fantasy stud but he could be a more than adequate fill-in over a week or two.


  1. Anonymous8:27 PM

    Don't forget Seamus Coleman, a lot of people were talking about him a bit too early. His sharpness is improving in the final third and he is starting to chisel out some good opportunities coming forward. As for Chelsea, I believe they have minor ball hogging issues, and a few changes to the squad with some unselfish players would be welcome. Kalou has got to go, between him, Anelka and Drogba, they consistently try to see what they can get and then dump off when too many opportunities are exhausted. It's a killer for creative robots like Florent Malouda. They take advantage of service, and ruin build ups, and leave youngsters like Makuta, Ramires and McEachern looking amatuerish and/or awkward. Mikel has the creativity of a piece lead, even at full strength they would have chemistry issues. I say the African Cup can't come fast enough, wait and see, and please hang on to Malouda until then. He has played way too safe and hugged the left wing with Cole too much like a security blanket. With Kalou and Drogba gone this could open a few eyes to some moves that need to be made.

  2. Anonymous8:28 PM

    Sorry that was Gael Kakuta...

  3. I just want to add that Ashley Cole was utterly pathetic. 0 point for 90+ mins. What an absolute waste of money I saved up from all the discounts!

  4. Merv XI11:34 PM

    Hey guys, I'm on 18th place in overall, my highest ever, thanks to this blog and AM's. :) Currently I have

    (PRob cheap)
    Kolarov Skrtel Konchesky
    Brunt Etherington (Tchoyi cheap) (MGP cheap)
    Torres Balotelli Odemwingie

    ...But I'm leaning to

    (same def)
    Brunt Etherington (Adam at 9) (Larsson)
    (same forwards)

    What do you guys think? I'm not sure about PRob, he might let in a few to Bolton. Tchoyi was very involved in WBA's attack last week. Is Adam worth $9 away to Stoke? I'm pretty sure Larsson will return his value @Wolves.

  5. Anonymous3:39 AM

    I dropped Odemwingie and Brunt but the way Villa are playing i could regret it.

    @Merv love your team except Adam, scored below 8 in the last 6 weeks and i don't see him scoring big this weekend

  6. Merv XI8:39 AM


    Thanks. If I replace Konchesky with Shawcross, then I can upgrade Adam to Barton @LIV (is he back or still injured?) or Meireles vs NUF (who might lose his SP duties if StevieG is back)

  7. Anonymous9:21 AM

    With regards to the first post, I don't believe Drogba will be attending the African Cup of Nations. Hasn't he retired from international football?

  8. Anonymous9:42 AM

    I am surprised noone is looking at Gyan (which I am glad in a way). I picked him up at 6.07 and for the past 6 weeks he's been returning 29.5, 15, 16, 0, 4 and 11.5. 76 points for a total investment of 36.4. Compatriot John Mensah is another one to watch especially if he can stay healthy and string together a series of starts.

  9. Anonymous10:08 AM

    Thank you Neal....finally someone says it somewhere...Chelsea would definitely be in a far better position with Ballack,Deco and J Cole still in the squad. Looks good on you Roman, you russian gangster who raped your own country. For 4 years Ballack had to play second fiddle to Lampard because he was younger and had the seniority at Chelsea, and never near enough missed a game. Half the goals came from the penalty spot ( I know who I would choose to take a PK between a German and an englishman any day ), not to mantion countless free kicks. This year Ballack could have been the central point of the midfield with Lampard out alas he is gone...remmber when two winters ago he took Cheslea throughout the holiday season for 5 games w/o a loss with Terry and Lampard out, not to mention the only Chelsea midfielder to show up in the Champions League final vs Manu ?

  10. it is funny how some of the owners have sucked the life out of their respective teams. the tightness that has emerged at liverpool, chelsea and manure is finally affecting all of the teams. of course, pool were the first to falter, but that could have been due to coaching issues too. now ferguson's lack of desire to pick defensive and creative players in the middle of the field is telling.
    arsenal could probably have a real lead at this points if wenger had splurged on a top and respected goalie, that would have solidified the defense. instead his inherent cheapness and smugness on the issue has cost the team some vital points. what will happen to arsenal once van persie, walcott, nasri, arshavin, cesc and chamakh are truly healthy and clicking with each other. they could be as exciting as barca.

  11. Anonymous1:24 AM

    @ greginho

    No disrepect to Arsenal but don't think they can ever hit the same level as Barca circa 2008 - 2010. I think this Barca team is probably one of the all-time great teams in football. And Cesc's going to barca sooner or later :D

  12. i sad exciting, not on the same level. i am a barca fan, so i can truly say that arsenal will never get to that level, because it was offense and defense, too. arsenal are just offense now.

  13. and Van Persie will never be healthy for long enough. Take a look at his appearances record...
    Agreed though, I will never understand Wenger not buying up Jaaskelainen a few years ago. That said I read a quote from an ex-Arsenal goalkeeper saying that Fabianski is awesome in training but somehow doesnt bring it out with him onto the pitch so maybe that is a factor: forever waiting for him to come good.

  14. Anonymous11:34 AM

    any suggestions for this team?

  15. Gareth12:43 PM

    "Credit to Liverpool for a strong win without Carra, Gerrard and Torres but you have to think that this has to do more with Villa degrading than Liverpool suddenly being spectacular without three of their best players."

    Where has this myth come from that Carragher is any good? Even Gerrard these days is more of a hindrance than a help. Torres in this form is also better off not playing.

    I fully expected Liverpool to start performing better without these three untouchables starting every game.

    The Greek is a far far better player than Carragher these days, yes Carragher has been a good servant to the club, but he's a liability now, too old and too slow.

    Meireles is showing his class in the absence of Stevie G. As much as I admire Gerrard and his never say die attitude, he has not been at his best for some time, neither club or country are benefiting from his automatic selection. He has no discipline, running around all over the pitch leaving holes left right and center, making dreadful attempts at long hollywood balls when he would be better off keeping it simple. It looks like schoolboy stuff sometimes to me. The Roy of the Rovers style is fun to watch, but i bet his team mates curse him sometimes.

    Torres, just doesn't look like he want's to play for Liverpool, he doesn't look like a world class player, and hasn't done for some time now.

    I do agree however that Villa look absolutely woeful! I am thinking more than twice now about picking Villa payers at home to West Brom. That shouldn't be the case. They're really paying the price for having such a thin squad. They were very lucky they didn't have these injury problems last season.

  16. Anonymous3:51 PM

    anon @11:34

    I think you're going to regret not having Balotelli in your side.

  17. P.rob
    any suggestions?

  18. To Moe

    Who is your other forward?

    I've got out:

    onuoha, jagielka, ridgewell
    cahill, nani, etherington, bale
    elmander, carroll, balotelli

    Is this okay?? Am i looking at 100 points? :)

  19. Moe Vawda.Bent is currenly struggle with his fitness and form .Gyan is better choice even he is purely penalty taker..prefer to slot brunt rather than song cause he is master of set pieces and advance forward.with nasri is getting better and persie on wenger radar, there likely song stay litte bit down rather than move forward..

  20. @gareth,ur right about torres and carragher,the greek is much better though gerrard can give some class to the side which the other players lack.we'll see how the greek can do against carrol this weekend though.

    @bill,my other st is tevez,suspended for this week.i back balotelli for some points this week

    gyan might not start all games and bent will come right with easy fixtures coming up,and i agree about brunt