First Impressions and Second Thoughts - Week 16

I'll be writing some thoughts as I watch the massive MAN/ARS match here on Monday as the introduction to this week's column:
  • I think we all saw the Berbs benching coming from a mile away.
  • Very interesting to see how Szczesny does filling in for Fabianski who is out with a hip injury (but not SO injured that he isn't on the bench).
  • Fab4 also on the bench - interested to see if he gets the Lampard-style cameo from yesterday.
  • In a non-MAN/ARS thought, odd move by Rovers to sack a manager who is currently in 13th and has the team playing reasonably well given the talent/budget on hand.  One wonders if the new owners are planning to spend some money in January and don't trust Big Sam to spend it wisely.  That was one theory I saw on why Houghton was let go as well.  Certainly an interesting angle.  
  • Back to the match, for a home team, ManYoo seem to have a lot of high-energy/low talent players clogging midfield (Carricck, Park, Anderson, and Fletcher).  Neither side able to get much rhythm in midfield in the early going as a result.
  • Arsenal matching ManYoo physically and stating their intention that they may be a less finesse oriented team than in years past.  
  • Lots of nerves as players are trying to force passes that aren't there or send misguided passes into spaces where no teammates are. Through 35 minutes Arsenal have had more pretty good attacking movements while ManYoo have had more direct attacks on Arsenal's net but neither have really had an opportunity that SHOULD have resulted in a goal.  
  • Nice goal for United but it's all down to Nani who makes the goal and Park sneaks it in - could have gone to either side of the post but it went in and that's a huge advantage to United playing at home.
  • And that's halftime...
  • I hate to say it but Anderson looks to be a different (and rather competent) player - still has a bit of work to do to become a match-winner but for the first time in my recent experience (I didn't see the Champions League match) he didn't look like a weak link.
  • ManYoo just SO solid at the back.  The difference between pretty good CBs and just being excellent back there.  
  • Nice to be able to bring Cesc and RvP off the bench.
  • Weak PK and justice served with Rooney missing badly although my fantasy team isn't so happy with that justice.
  • Arsenal just didn't get much in the way of an attack going - maybe they'll handle the challenge better at home or with RvP and Cesc in better shape in the second half of the season but this was well won by ManYoo.
  • My man of the match is a toss-up between Nani on the attacking end and the partnership of Rio and Vidic who were just incredible at the back.  
  • This will make next weekend against Chelsea even more interesting.
So, what about the rest of the league? Here we go with the usual:

  • The OTHER Manchester Team - Citeh would be considered the clear winner from this weekend if not for Tevez sounding a lot like he's kicked his last ball for the team.  They're on level points for second but they'll need to replace the most prolific striker in the league over the last 50 or so matches which won't be easy even with their money and what points will they drop until a deal can be made? Of course, it all could come to nothing and Tevez could be back out there this weekend with Citeh hoping ManYoo and CHE both drop points in their match-up. 
  • Chelsea and Spurs - From a PR standpoint, both can say they got a point from a match against a title/Champions League spot contender.  Outside of PR though, both will feel like they needed those points - especially Chelsea who face ManYoo next and could face the real possibility of 3 points total from six matches if United can get the win. Spurs on the other hand will look around and realize that they are closer to Bolton and Sunderland in the table than they are to a Champions League spot and that as things currently stand the defending champions with deep pockets falling out of the Top Four is their BEST bet to retain their place in Europe's big time.  That can't be comforting at all.
  • Sunderland - Had it all going their way after their big win at Chelsea but three points from matches against 15th place, 17th place, 19th place, and 20th place isn't exactly the way to consolidate your position is it? I don't care where the matches were played, you need at least six points from those matches and more like nine.  If they'd gotten nine instead of three, they'd be sitting in fifth place and nipping at Chelsea's heels instead of holding on to seventh with a pack of teams in mid-table threatening to overtake them.  
  • Liverpool - As we had suspected all along, they're really just a mid-table team this season.  And no, I don't give any credit to the rumors that the large contracts handed out to new acquisitions of the Boston Red Sox baseball team will have any negative impact on the January or Summer spending available to Liverpool.  The Red Sox are an EXTREMELY profitable team and there would be no need to make that trade-off - additionally, there will be some large salaries coming off the Red Sox books heading into next season as well so the money should be there for the Reds if it was going to be there before those free agent signings.  
  • The Newly Promoted - All on 22 points, all looking pretty safe (and yes, we're assuming that ManYoo will take all three points from Blackpool when the match is made up).  Regardless, a pretty amazing accomplishment that all three are six points and a lot of goal differential away from the drop zone this far into the season.  
  • Fulham - Every American's second favorite Premier League team have been pretty rotten.  I guess the good news is that they've salvaged 10 draws but unless Mark Hughes can find the magic that made him successful at Rovers, Fulham look as likely as anyone to go down this season which would be a shame - but maybe Bolton (or wherever Owen Coyle goes next) will replace Fulham as the place Americans can break into the Prem after Holden's excellent debut season. 
  • Barton/Carroll/Nolan - When all three are healthy and not suspended, NUFC are a pretty good team - definitely worth of being in the top half.  When they're not, managers get fired.  Here's hoping that there is some money for depth in the near future.  
  • Adam - He's really come down from his hot start and as Jeremy noted, he'll be suspended this coming week for accumulation.  He's definitely lost the "best player no one really knew before this season" award to Chris Brunt.
  • Pavlyuchenko - Seems like he should be the first choice starter at striker partnering Defoe - his strike record is far superior to that of Crouch who has proven multiple times now that he isn't up to the challenge of being a striker for a team with ambition.  
  • Essien - What has happened to him? He looked entirely aimless during the Spurs match.  There is no doubting that he has talent but for whatever reason that talent isn't being deployed to much advantage.  Maybe he's not entirely healthy.  Maybe the taste of goal-scoring earlier in the season has him distracted from other tasks. Regardless, with so little production coming from the Chelsea midfield, they can't afford to have Essien at anything less than his best.  
  • Tchoyi - He's definitely a useful player but one without a defining characteristic that would allow you to categorize him.  He plays multiple positions, he isn't particularly fast, he isn't particularly tricky, he doesn't have a rocket for a shot, he isn't dominant in the air, but despite not being great at any one thing, he's pretty good all around. We approve.
  • Silva - He seems to be edging closer and closer to a breakout fantasy weekend.  His double digit performance this past weekend will give managers hope that there's more to come with Citeh having a favorable match-up this coming weekend. 
  • Kingson - Double digits in his past three starts.  If we'd known that the ManYoo match were going to be postponed, maybe we would have been higher on his potential over these four weeks.  Sadly, his price has skyrocketed accordingly. 
That's about all from blog headquarters for this week.  We'll be wiping the tears from our eyes and hoping to regroup for the upcoming weekend where we hope our fantasy fortunes continue to improve and ManYoo and Chelsea draw to make the title race even that much more interesting.


  1. Kellz8:12 PM

    @Neal: We all knew Brunt for the second half of the season West Brom were relegated. Its just that many of us expected to see Dorrans being up at 10+ with Brunt just behind him. Can't say I have had a bad week when he has been on my team :D

    Therefore Adam still takes that title if you have him for 5.4mil

    If Fab21 was really injured and not able to play why would he ever be on the bench as a sub? Do you think Wenger was trying to shake it up so to speak? I can't understand why he went the way he did if he thought Fab21 could still be on the bench.

  2. I reckon that Pederson is gonna have another good game against west ham and nasri too, both expensive mind you.

    Will Tevez play against everton though....

  3. Great post Neal. Your thoughts on the game last night mirror my own - I found myself screaming at Arsenal to shoot on multiple occasions, but it seemed like the same old failings at Old Trafford & United are now in pole position with their game in hand.

    On the subject of Tottenham, I actually think they'll be reasonably pleased with the point & their current situation considering they've been juggling the League/Champions League for the first time.

    In the past month they're unbeaten and have taken 11 points from a possible 15 despite a fairly difficult run of fixtures: Blackburn, Arsenal, Liverpool, Birmingham, Chelsea. They now have an "easier" run over Christmas and New Year: Blackpool, Aston Villa, Newcastle, Fulham and Everton.

    In that time United play Chelsea, City play Arsenal and Arsenal play Chelsea, so the current top 4 will take points off each other.

    The question is, can Spurs capitalise on this? I'm not sure - my big worry is injuries which really do seem to be mounting up...and the inability to keep a clean sheet.


  4. Anonymous9:44 AM

    spurs is also without defoe + dawson for months and no gallas, king, woodgate, kaboul, o'hara, jenas, kranjcar, huddlestone + van der vaart so they did ok against chelski with all those!!!

  5. Anonymous10:39 AM

    Sunderland drew with Everton, lost to Wolves,
    beaten West Ham and drew with Fulham.

    At least they got more than 3 points :)