- 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
- 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.)
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.