The One Where Jeremy Picks a Team

Jeremy Spitzberg: have you put together a "real" team yet?
Jeremy Spitzberg: guess there's no hurry
Neal Thurman: check your text messages
Neal Thurman: :-)
Neal Thurman: EvdS, Boateng, Koscielny, [space for Korolev], MPet, Eth, JCole, DSilva, Chamack, new LIV striker, Roonaldo
Jeremy Spitzberg: why don't you just TELL me what movie you want to see
Neal Thurman: ?
Jeremy Spitzberg: never mind
Jeremy Spitzberg: jcole super cheap?
Jeremy Spitzberg: or you have expectations?
Neal Thurman: 7.06
Neal Thurman: cheap
Jeremy Spitzberg: too bad jovanovic is a striker
Neal Thurman: Riera already out the door, rumors that Maxi will follow - seems like they're making room for JCole - even if his stats are "Yossi-like" that's not terrible at 7
Jeremy Spitzberg: true
Jeremy Spitzberg: we'll see
Jeremy Spitzberg: emerton a middie
Jeremy Spitzberg: starting from the last page and working fwd
Jeremy Spitzberg: in case any bargains jump out at me

Midfield role for Wolves’ Kevin Foley

Midfield role for Wolves’ Kevin Foley — Express & Star
Kevin Foley has been earmarked for more central midfield duties by Wolves boss Mick McCarthy.

The Republic of Ireland international was voted fans’ Player of the Year in 2008-09 playing right-back.

But two of his three appearances have been in the central role after playing the second half of last season at wide right.

And McCarthy believes the 25-year-old has the football brain and mobility to play more in a midfield role.

“I’ve played Kevin in midfield because I know he can play there,” said the boss.

“Kev’s been versatile – right-back and right wing – and he’s very comfortable with the ball. We’ll have to play three in the middle from time to time and I like him in there because he’s comfortable.

“He gives us another option in there.”
Y! again has Foley listed as a defender, but if he's going to continue in midfield he might be a bargain signing. Of course in his run at right mid last year he didn't do too much, but still. Hard to resist the defender playing in midfield.  Maybe he's this year's Mancienne, if not this year's Kevin Foley.

Latics tie up Stam deal

Latics tie up Stam deal

What?!? Jaap "Goon, Hired Goon" Stam returning to the Premier League?!?! That's too good to be true! And it was.

Ronnie Stam is the new right back to replace Melchiot at Wigan. He could be worth a flier in week one as Wigan host Blackpool. I put Figueroa in my side for that reason (and if he gets transfered to Liverpool, well that's good too) but Stam may represent a cheaper option once he gets loaded into Y!'s system.

Update: The Season is Live With Sane Pricing and Cleared Out Rosters...

For all those of you who rushed to create a team of Galaticos for under 60.00 yesterday, I hope you enjoyed it while it lasted.  Yahoo! reset everyone's rosters at the same time they re-adjusted prices to better reflect reality from last season.  As you confront this new reality and start piecing a roster together that doesn't include Rooney, Gerrard, Lamps, Cesc, EvdS, Bale, RvP, Elk, and whichever other defenders you filled in the rest of the places with I'll give you my first few observations...

The new guys will obviously be important in getting you to a few premium proven commodities: Koscielny, Chamakh and Silva are the only three obvious ones who are in the system so far but I'm sure Citeh will contribute one or two more options before the season starts.  All we have to do is figure out who Citeh will start in central defence - Toure? Lescott? Boateng? Onuoha? Richards? (I'd assume Toure and Boateng but who knows really).

IMPORTANT: New Season Has Started - Bargains Available

UPDATE: Y! has hit reboot and the game now has the proper valuations. You'll have to start over building a team, but at least you'll be doing it for real this time.


I'll make this quick since there is quite possibly a time-sensitivity to this information.  The new season of Yahoo! Fantasy Premier League Football has been opened up.  We look forward to everyone joining in on both the game and all of our fun over here at the blog. 

The most important thing for you all to know is that the prices are a bit crazy right now.  Here are the most obvious bargains if you don't want to search yourself...

1.00 - Friedel, Hart, Given, van der Sar, Defoe, Dempsey, AJ, and others
3.93 - JT, Gerrard
5.35 - Vidic, Verm, Bale
Under 10 - Elk (7 and change), Lamps (8 and change), RvP (8 and change)

Those are just some of the names out there available to you at incredibly cheap prices.  I have written to the guys who run the game at Yahoo because this is potentially setting things up for a very ugly year of fantasy football if some people get in on the low prices and others don't.  I don't know what they'll do about it but my first action was to build the team I wanted with the crazy prices.  You know, just in case.

Plenty of season preview materials to come between now and the start of the season.

Cheers - Neal

Given set for City return

Sky Sports | Given set for City return

Manchester City goalkeeper Shay Given could make his return from injury in Thursday's friendly against Club America.

The 34-year-old has been absent from Roberto Mancini's side since dislocating his shoulder towards the end of last season.

But the shot-stopper is now hoping to resume his role as No.1 for the Blues - either in Atlanta or in Saturday's clash with Inter Milan.

This would be big news before the start of the Premier League season. For fantasy managers it would raise all the "wither Joe Hart" questions again. Surely he wouldn't sit on the bench all season. That would be a disaster for his career and potential England hopes. But it is just as certain that Citeh can't afford to let him go. #loggerheads

Magpies clinch Campbell deal

Sky Sports | Magpies clinch Campbell deal
Newcastle United have finalised the signing of veteran defender Sol Campbell on a one-year contract.
In keeping with the theme, it's another defender on the move. This is a good signing for Newcastle if their expectations aren't too high. Sol had a great impact on Arsenal over a short period of time. I don't think he has the legs for an entire season. But if he can be professional and an example of what a Premier League quality player does and how one has to prepare and play, then they'll get their money's worth out of him.

No Rest for the Defence

So, Robbie... tell about Liverpool. Did they treat you well there?

... or "It's all happening at the back".

Liverpool agree fee of £2.5m for Aston Villa's Luke Young
Liverpool have made a surprise move for the Aston Villa full-back Luke Young. Roy Hodgson, the Liverpool manager, tried to sign Young earlier this year when he was in charge of Fulham and he has now rekindled his interest in the former England international. Liverpool have agreed a £2.5m fee for a player who has been told he is surplus to requirements at Villa Park.

Although Hodgson's pursuit of Young might raise a few eyebrows among Liverpool supporters, the 31-year-old is able to operate in both full-back positions... He would also increase Liverpool's quota of homegrown players to comply with the new Premier League rule.
Young has long been a fantasy favorite, back to his Charlton days when he was listed in the game as "Young, Luke". He was also a fierce tackling, adventurous fullback. Which we love. I don't remember where his price was last season, but hopefully we'll get another starting full back on a top-7 team for reasonable money.

Elsewhere in the world of the defensive arts...

Manchester City seal Kolarov deal

City seal Kolarov deal - Yahoo! Eurosport
"He has the ability to play in numerous positions and is very good in midfield," Mancini told the club's official website.

"This is an additional benefit to the team. He has a fantastic international career ahead of him. I first saw Kolarov in his Lazio debut back in 2007. I was impressed by the speed and strength of someone so young.

"I have watched him a lot since then and so have the Manchester City scouts. His attacking capability is very good. He is fast and can shoot with power and accuracy.

"He was composed on the ball, had an excellent delivery with his left foot and was technically very able."
You had me at "midfield".

Busy weekend so missed that this transfer was finalized. Kolarov will be +10. I have no reservations about saying that. The only fantasy teams that won't have him in their line-ups will be those run by die-hard Red Devils who would never consider a player from the blue side of the city.

Magpies grab Gosling

Magpies grab Gosling
Newcastle United have completed the signing of former Everton midfielder Dan Gosling on a four-year contract. reported on Wednesday that the promising 20-year-old was close to agreeing a switch to St James' Park.

He has now put the finishing touches to the move, becoming the Magpies' second summer signing in the process - following James Perch's arrival from Nottingham Forest.
Gosling is a fantasy favorite from his time at Everton, having been listed in the fantasy game as a defender but getting his playing time - such that it was - in the midfield. He also had a knack for scoring big goals. Which was nice too. But before you rush out and pick him up for your side, just remember that a) NUFC had a pretty settled midfield last year with Nolan, Gutierrez, Smith and Guthrie, and b)
While Gosling is keen to get going, Newcastle supporters will have to wait some time yet before seeing him in action as he is still nursing his way back to full fitness following a serious knee injury.

Plus ca Change

Seagulls denied by Campbell leveller
Fraizer Campbell denied Brighton with a late equaliser as Sunderland claimed a 1-1 draw in their pre-season friendly in the Algarve...

Young keeper Trevor Carson had to make a superb save from Murray after Matt Kilgallon's error and the Black Cats then had George McCartney stretchered off, but Campbell provided a silver lining when he stretched to turn in Jordan Henderson's excellent free-kick.
What I'm taking from this for fantasy purposes:

* Carson is Sunderland's number one in Gordon's absence. Interestingly, he's listed as a defender on Y!'s Sunderland squad page. Wouldn't that make for an interesting fantasy selection?
* Last year's fantasy favorite Jordan Henderson is still on set piece duty.
* McCartney is through. He was always a decent fantasy bet, despite a penchant for the rash card (of various colors). But He can't get or stay healthy. I assume that means we'll see KRich line up at full back again this season. Sunderland are rich in the middle with da Silva, Ferdinand, Kilgallon, Turner and maybe Mensah but don't have any fullbacks beyond Bardsley.

... and the why:

Sunderland's opening fixtures include Birmingham, @West Brom, Manchester City, @Wigan before Arsenal, @Liverpool and Manchester United. Bruce will want points from those early matches and there could be bargains on the Sunderland side who were good bets for much of last season.

Chelsea keeper Petr Cech may miss Premier League start

Chelsea keeper Petr Cech may miss Premier League start
Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech is set to miss the start of the new Premier League season after tearing a calf muscle in training on Tuesday.

Cech, 28, is expected to be out for a month, during which Chelsea play four pre-season games and the Community Shield against Manchester United.
Hilario or Turnbull? I've never regretted not picking either of them in the past. But if we know who the number two is, he would certainly come into the conversation if Cech is missing for the first few weeks of the fantasy English Premier League season.

Joe Cole to Liverpool, continued

It's all smiles for Joe Cole at Liverpool.

This began as a comment in response to Kellz, but took on a life of its own so it gets its own post.



I won't speak for Neal, but for me JCole isn't free. No transfer fee, sure. But 90K a week is a lot of money. Especially -- and here's what I can't get past -- for the one position on the field where Liverpool have numbers! I keep coming back to, "Is JCole a significant upgrade -- for that kind of money -- over Babel, Aquilani, Gerrard, Jovanovic, Maxi, Babel, Kuyt, and Riera?"

Let's put it this way, what if Liverpool got Gigi Buffon on a free? That's a big signing for Liverpool, right? He's a huge name in international football with a long pedigree and titles to his name.  But do you need to spend big money (wages only, but still) on Buffon when you already have Reina?

At some point you have to fill needs, and not just make signings to "win the press conference".  There are outfield positions where Liverpool are weak or thin, or both. Who starts the season at striker if Torres can't? N'gog? Kuyt? Are you happy with those options? Would you rather Liverpool be paying some of that money for Guillermo Franco or Benjani who were released from their clubs this summer?  Maybe they would have been better off spending a transfer fee on Luis Suarez or Miroslav Klose.  Or maybe Robbie Keane, who isn't wanted at Spurs and is a lifelong Liverpool fan.

Wait... Never mind.  Scratch that last idea.

What if Liverpool had signed Paul Scharner on a free transfer?  It wouldn't be a sexy signing.  But he can play holding midfield.  He can play in the center of defence.  Both are positions where Liverpool could use further options.  I don't know how Torres and Gerrard would have felt about that signing, but it seems silly to me to think that Torres and Gerrard would pledge themselves to Liverpool because they went out and signed another attacking midfielder.  Unless they think that they'll have leverage to demand pay increases themselves based on what Cole is now earning.

As for your thought experiment of JCole going to Arsenal, I think the same thing. "Is JCole a significant upgrade -- for that kind of money -- over Arshavin, Nasri, Rosicky, Wilshere, Ramsey, Fabregas, and Walcott?"  I think the answer is no.  In fact, I think Arsenal should now go out and buy Scharner to be understudy to Song and third or fourth choice center back.  In fact, I'm starting the official bandwagon now!

In short, I think Liverpool have won a lot of press but I don't see how Joe Cole is going to help them win a lot of matches.  I'll be happy to be proven wrong and if so, I'll be thrilled to put him in my fantasy team.  But this transfer doesn't pass the smell test for me.

Rafa Marquez Closing In On New York Red Bulls Switch

Report: Barcelona's Rafael Marquez Closing In On New York Red Bulls Switch

Barcelona defender Rafael Marquez is closing in on a move to MLS side New York Red Bulls according to Sport.

Oh, this would be sweet. A move I can TOTALLY root against. Just what I want from the NY/NJ MetroStars/Red Bull.

Portsmouth announces roster ahead of D.C. United friendly

Portsmouth announces roster ahead of D.C. United friendly

Sad, sad state of affairs when Pompey's marquee names are...

Danny Webber, David Nugent, Michael Brown, Tommy Smith, and wait for it...

Marc Wilson.


Fulop left out of Black Cats senior party
Sunderland goalkeeper Marton Fulop will spend the next few days on reserve team duty despite Craig Gordon's broken arm.

The 27-year-old Hungary international was among a 17-man party which headed for Scotland as the senior squad set off for Portugal.

Fulop has made no secret of his desire to leave the Stadium of Light in the search for regular first-team football, although his position looked to be unclear last week when it was revealed Scotland international Gordon has suffered a recurrence of a lower arm fracture in training.

But amid speculation England veteran David James could be a short-term target for manager Steve Bruce as he decides whether or not to entrust youngsters Trevor Carson and recent arrival Simon Mignolet with the goalkeeping duties for the start of the Barclays Premier League season, the former Tottenham man was not among the group of players who flew out to the Algarve.
So fantasy managers might get James at Sunderland and/or Fulop at another club. Veeery interesting.

Not Sure I Love This Move - Cole to LIV

So Glen, is Liverpool a good place to be injured... I mean play?

Football365 | All The News | Football News | JOE COLE SECURES LIVERPOOL MOVE

It is being widely reported that Joe Cole has, as bookies over the weekend surmised by closing down betting on the topic, signed with Liverpool.  I can't say I'm thrilled about this outcome for either the player or Liverpool.  Here are a few random thoughts strung together to form my overall reaction.
  • He's just not that good - As we were reminded during the World Cup, the current crop of English players just aren't that great and this one could barely make his way into that group.
  • Lamps-lite - We have all witnessed the futility that has been the Gerrard/Lampard partnership in midfield for England and Cole isn't as good as Lampard but he wants to play as an attacking midfielder in the middle of the park - don't we know how this is going to end?
  • Faux-winger - what you say? He's not a central player but a winger? Just because a number of managers have tried and failed to play him there doesn't mean he's actually a winger.  Is there any quality winger that he reminds you of?
  • Other needs - While losing Benayoun is definitely a bummer, it seems to me that Liverpool have more pressing needs than a direct replacement.  Shouldn't they be chasing another striker with that sort of salary? How about a left-sided defender? Maybe a central midfielder to finally start to replace Xavi Alonso? 
  • On the plus side - The fact that a player with choices wanted to go to Liverpool has to be seen as an endorsement of the Hodgson era and hopefully will help the club build some momentum.  The fact that they didn't have to pay a transfer fee has to be seen as a big plus as well.
Have Liverpool gotten more talented today? Yes, without a doubt.  Was it the best use of that amount of money? Probably not.

Still, here's hoping Joe Cole finally finds a regular starting spot so we can decide if he's really any good or not.

Reid to see specialist

Reid to see specialist
Sunderland's Andy Reid is to a visit a specialist after suffering a setback in his return from injury.

The Irishman has picked up an Achilles complaint and will seek medical advice before stepping up his pre-season plans.
Lee Cattermole is also nursing a knock.

The combative midfielder was forced out of Saturday's 1-0 victory over Darlington with a groin strain and he too will be assessed on Monday before being freed for training duties.
Well, we won't have BFAR to pick at the beginning of the season. And further back, Sunderland have now lost both Cana and Cattermole - who just can't stay healthy. Riveros will start, but alongside whom? Jordan Henderson, with Malbranque left and Campbell right?

Reds sign Joe Cole

Exclusive: Reds sign Joe Cole - Liverpool FC
Liverpool FC are delighted to confirm the signing of Joe Cole on a four-year deal.

The England midfielder has agreed personal terms with the Reds and will undergo a medical in the next 48 hours.
Benayoun is gone. Long live Benayoun.

Double Swoop for Hammers

Avram Grant has continued his rebuilding programme at West Ham with the capture of French striker Frederic Piquionne as well as Mexico winger Pablo Barrera.
Grant is bolstering a line-up with a lot of attacking pieces, even if they never meshed last season. Piquionne can play with CCole or replace him, if need be. Barrera is the true right-sided attacking midfielder they lack with Collison sidelined again.  For fantasy my worry is that Barrera, like Diamanti last year, will be listed as a forward even though he'll line up in midfield.  That being said, 11 goals in 28 games for his club last season is a good return regardless of position.

What I haven't seen from WHU yet is a commitment to bolster their defence.  And this won't help:
Israel international Tal Ben-Haim, whom Grant also worked with at Portsmouth, is reported to be close to completing a switch to Upton Park, as the club reported "further major additions are expected within the next 72 hours."
Could we see Bridge leaving Citeh for West Ham?  Or Neal's favorite, Nedum Onuoha?  Either would be welcome in East London.

Gone til November

Scotland, Sunderland GK Gordon 'out until October' -
The Scottish Football Association says Sunderland goalkeeper Craig Gordon is set to be out until at least October after breaking his arm.

Gordon underwent an operation on Thursday after fracturing his bone during preseason training for English Premier League club Sunderland.

Sunderland only said Gordon would miss the start of the season in August, but the SFA went further, announcing that the 27-year-old 'keeper "is expected to miss the first four games" of Scotland's qualification campaign for the 2012 European Championship.

The fourth qualifier is against Spain on Oct. 12.
Is Fulop still a buck?

Wigan take Al Habsi on loan

Al Habsi signs on the dotted line

UPDATE:  Here's some more information that sheds some light on the context of this signing:
Wigan keeper Chris Kirkland is off the club's pre-season trip to Sweden today with a back injury - to give Roberto Martinez a major headache.

Kirkland pulled up in training and will be left at home for treatment, leaving Latics with just one fit senior keeper in veteran Mike Pollitt.

If Kirkland is sidelined for any length of time Martinez may have to make an emergency signing as both Richard Kingson and Vladimir Stojkovic - who appeared for Nigeria and Serbia in the World Cup - have left the club.
So not only will Al Habsi provide backup for Kirkland, and not only could he challenge for the gloves... he may be wearing the gloves when the season opens, at home, against Blackpool.

Where is K2?

The Football365 World Cup Awards
Funniest Interruption Of The Tournament
Emmanuel Adebayor's mobile phone ringing live in the BBC studio as he settled in to talk up South Africa v Uruguay. Made even funnier by him instantly turning it off, despite it apparently being the news that he'd just become a father.

Citeh Becoming "The A Team"?

ESPN Soccernet - On The Move
1421 BST: The Times is reporting that Manchester City have given a trial to the son of Dirk Benedict, the former star of popular 80s TV show The A-Team. Roland Benedict, 20, whose father played Face in the show, has been training with City's development squad. I pity the fool.
If ever there was going to be something that was going to get me to support Manchester City, this would be it.  If Roland Benedict is starting and daddy Dirk is in the audience smirking and doing Starbuck/Face things, I might just have to be in on Citeh.  Since that isn't likely to ever happen, I feel pretty safe in maintaining my distaste for all clubs in the greater Manchester area.  In fact, if Citeh continue down the path to being the new Chelsea, they might actually make me support ManYoo in the Manchester Derby.  Frightening stuff.

As a follow-up to Jeremy's post on the fact that the best American athletes aren't playing soccer, apparently the former Gillingham and Southend trialist was an exceptional basketball player before deciding to commit to soccer full time.  Not exactly a move toward our "best" athletes playing soccer but the fact that there is likely a generation who will have cross-trained between soccer and other, more traditional American sports and will see soccer as a legitimate path to a career in professional sports maybe he can be the, ahem, Face of a new generation of American soccer athletes.

Anyway, we'll get back to the serious posts (or at least I will) in the next couple days as we start our preparations for the 2010-2011 Yahoo! Fantasy season.

Cheers - Neal

I just threw up in my mouth a little bit

A piece of me just dies every time I look at this.

Thierry Henry was (is?) the player. The player we wanted to watch.  The player we had to have in our fantasy teams.  The player that could do the impossible and make it look easy.

Give that fan a contract

This is just too funny. Mesut Ozil playing keepy-uppy with his chewing gum during warm-ups.

Best athletes just aren’t playing soccer in U.S.

Photograph by Matthias Calmer

This trope comes up every time soccer percolates into the American consciousness, that our best athletes just aren’t playing soccer. I saw it for the nth time this month today on Yahoo!.
Until 8-year-olds aspire to be Landon Donovan rather than LeBron James, the United States is as far away from matching the new world-standard Spain as it has been with any World Cup champion of the past 80 years.
I'm not saying I disagree.  In fact, I've been saying it for a decade now.  But what bothers me is that no one has taken the time to really mine this particular meme for all it is worth.  This is blog fodder of the purest form. Link bait extraordinaire!  So I'm, um...  taking the bait and am doing it myself.   Who would make the "USA best athlete" starting eleven, and why?

It begins?

With the World Cup not even cold yet, has the fantasy Premier League season begun?  Or at the very least, is it time to turn our attention to the League and the team's pre-season preparations?
[Roman Pavlyuchenko] stole the show with a superb second-half display, scoring twice and creating another goal as Harry Redknapp's Champions League hopefuls turned the screw after the break.

Jonathan Obika netted the only goal of the first half. The youngster profited from a mix-up in the Bournemouth defence and rolled the ball into an unguarded net after 36 minutes.

Andros Townsend set-up Pavlyuchenko to make it 2-0 before the two players combined again soon afterwards to create an opening for Danny Rose to score.

Pavlyuchenko completed the scoring with a deft lob after latching on to a long throughball.
In the same match, however:
[David Bentley] was forced off during Spurs' 4-0 win in the pre-season friendly at Bournemouth on Saturday and scans revealed Bentley had damaged right ankle ligaments.

A short statement on the club's official website confirmed Bentley would miss the tour of the USA to receive further treatment at Spurs Lodge.
Meanwhile, it's all happening at Liverpool.
If 'arry Redknapp had been named the new boss at Liverpool we'd already be hearing about how they were down to bare bones.  And while I guess this could just be a case of "sell before you buy" for Hodgson, he will have to buy, buy quickly, and buy well.  

Sexy World Cup Fans

The title says it all. From Life Magazine.

Gunners eye Handanovic

Sky Sports | Football | Premier League | News | Gunners eye Handanovic
Arsenal have seen a bid for Fulham keeper Mark Schwarzer rejected and the Gunners could now switch their focus to Handanovic as an alternative, with the player seen as a long-term option for the club as he is only 25-years-old.
I hadn't heard about the Schwarzer bid being rejected, but it makes sense. Fulham are reliant on Schwarzer and they won't want to let him go, even if £3.5million is good money to get for a keeper.

As for Handanovic... well, I'm not so sure about that. For one, do you want a keeper with "hand" in his name?  The bad puns are already being written.

 More importantly, I don't think I'll ever be able to get the image of him ducking out of the way of Landon Donovan's goal in the Slovenia/USA group play match. He came across as an intimidated keeper who reacted (poorly sometimes) to things around him rather then "bossing his area" as the cliche goes.

I think there were other keepers who distinguished themselves in South Africa.  Certainly Eduardo, with one goal allowed in four matches, comes to mind.  But he just signed for Genoa --who finished mid-table in Serie A last season and out of the European places! Is this another case where Wenger was too slow in pulling the trigger for a keeper?  I think he should have signed Begovic last January but instead Stoke signed him for £3.25million. And now Eduardo goes to Genoa for just £4million?

What about Diego Benaglio of Wolfsburg and Switzerland?  He won the Bundesliga in 08/09, but the vultures are circling over Wolfsburg's better players like Edin Dzeko (to Manchester City?).  Would the club like to double their £2million investment in Benaglio?

Are there other good, young keepers that you think Wenger should buy?  Sound off in the comments.

Video of the Slovenia/USA goals after the jump.

Cana leaves Sunderland

Cana leaves Sunderland
Sunderland skipper Lorik Cana has left the club after just one season to join Turkish side Galatasaray.

The 26-year-old Albania international, who joined the Black Cats in a £5million switch from Marseille last summer, has moved on after the club accepted an offer of in excess of 6million euros for him.
This certainly comes as a bit of a surprise. Cana was one of the highlights of Sunderland's early run up the table, but like the team he was struggling at the business end of the season. His ability to play at center-back was a saving grace at times, but his accumulation of cards - 11 yellow and one red - meant he was unavailable for many matches.

I don't know if Bruce knew this was coming, but Sunderland have a ready-made replacement in Paraguay's Christian Riveros. He should be a good partner for Lee Cattermole, assuming the latter can stay fit.

Official: Liverpool FC complete signing of Milan Jovanovic

Jovanovic scored that goal against Germany

Liverpool FC complete signing of Milan Jovanovic
MILAN JOVANOVIC completed his move to Liverpool today.

The Serbia international has joined the Reds on a three-year deal from Belgian club Standard Liege...

Jovanovic can play as a striker or wide on the left and is seen as a replacement for Yossi Benayoun who joined Chelsea last week.
It's tempting to look at last season's Fulham squad to find parallels for how Hodgson will set up his Liverpool side. Is Jovanovic Gera, a wide-man playing behind a lone-striker? I don't think he's quite the orthodox winger, a la Damien Duff. Maybe Clint Dempsey is the closest comparison. Either way, it's exciting to have an attacking player coming in to a "big side" from outside the League. The +10 possibilities are there for Jovanovic as long as he's listed as a midfielder in the fantasy game.

Gunners close in on Koscielny deal

Football | Barclays Premier League | Gunners close in on Koscielny deal |
Arsenal are on the verge of completing a £10million deal for French defender Laurent Koscielny from Lorient.

Arsene Wenger has tracked the 24-year-old for some time, as Koscielny, who is also eligible to play for Poland, impressed in the French domestic league.

The Gunners boss is in need of cover at the back, with Sol Campbell mulling over a new one-year deal and fellow veterans William Gallas and Mikael Silvestre set to leave after the end of their contracts.
Another summer, another £10million investment in a central defender. If this one turns out half as well as the Vermaelen signing, then Gooners and fantasy managers alike will be very, very happy.

Gosling walks out on Everton

Gosling walks out on Everton
Everton have lost out on up to £4 million for England U21 star Dan Gosling after an administrative error allowed the midfielder to walk away for nothing.

Gosling stunned Everton by walking out of the Merseyside club as a free agent despite a £15,000 a week contract offer.

And his decision was a double blow for the Merseyside club: an administrative error saw them fail to make Gosling an official written offer, meaning that they will miss out on a tribunal fee should he move to a rival Premier League club.
Really? "Gosling walks"? That's the best that Y!'s headline writers could do? No, "Gosling flies" or any nest puns? I'm a bit embarrassed for them.

But for fantasy, it could be a nice bonus if Gosling finds himself playing in midfield while still being listed in defence. See also Perch, James. And more bird puns likely in our future between these two.

Newcastle set to sign Forest's James Perch

Newcastle set to sign Nottingham Forest's James Perch
Newcastle are set to start their summer recruitment drive with the signing of Nottingham Forest's James Perch.

The Magpies have agreed an undisclosed fee with the Championship side for the 24-year-old, who can play in midfield and across the back four.
Well, well, well. I don't expect Newcastle to be keeping many clean sheets next season, but if Perch does claim a midfield spot - that's where he played most regularly for Forest, and Nicky Butt has left the club - then he could be worth a look in for fantasy managers. The new Graham Alexander? Another Jack Rodwell perhaps.

Nicklas Bendtner could miss season start

Arsenal's Nicklas Bendtner could miss the start of the new Premier League season because of a groin injury.

The striker had surgery to rectify the problem in November last year, but said the pain had returned during Denmark's World Cup campaign in South Africa.

The 22-year-old said he struggles to get out of bed at times and has cut short a holiday to return for scans.

"I have spoken to Arsenal throughout the holiday and I am having a big scan when I return this week," he said.
The "Arsenal injury crisis" starts early this season. Good think they've secured Chamakh.

Uruguay-Netherlands Minute-by-Minute

Jeremy Spitzberg: cos?
Neal Thurman: trying to decide, is it on ESPN3?
Jeremy Spitzberg: of course
Neal Thurman: the quarterfinals on Saturday weren't for some reason :-(
Neal Thurman: so then no COS :-)
Jeremy Spitzberg: b/c they were on ABC
Neal Thurman: in any event, I'm in baby :-)
Neal Thurman: Harkes? Really?
Jeremy Spitzberg: ha
Jeremy Spitzberg: i'm struggling to get sound
Jeremy Spitzberg: there we go

Down the Rabbit Hole

How blogging is like being bad at math
[A]ny organized attempt to look deeply at something risks being self-defeating: you can end up disappearing down all manner of silly dead ends, and understanding less than you would with a more-is-more approach.
So true for fantasy English Premier League. Especially when it leads to Friday trades.

The Dutch and the Germans Make Peace, For Now

The Dutch and the Germans Make Peace, For Now

Great article from the author of Brilliant Orange.
The last time Argentina were humiliated 0-4 in a World Cup quarterfinal the dark skies sundered and rain fell with the force of a monsoon. That game took place 36 years ago in Gelsenkirchen, West Germany and left observers reeling with admiration for the Dutch victors, led by Johan Cruyff, playing “total football.”

In Cape Town last weekend the Albiceleste were humiliated 0-4 once more, albeit without rain, by another swift-moving team playing soccer from the future. Only this time the defeat was inflicted by brilliant, free-spirited Germans...

The current tournament is making the Dutch both happy and troubled. They are euphoric that Oranje is winning, but uncomfortable about the “ugly” fotball and loss of attacking elan. Meanwhile, seeing the once-hated Germans is getting Dutch fans even more confused. They look in the mirror and see the face of the old enemy. They see the beautiful, creative, new multi-ethnic Germans and realize, with a flush of potentially healing recognition, that they remind them of the best of themselves.

World Cups are always best understood as epic psychodramas involving entire nations. Yet this sort of symmetrical Jungian mirroring is rare.

Who Is The Player of the Tournament So Far?

My wife and I moved into our new house over the weekend.  Turns out that moving is a lot of work and priorities must be set.  On Saturday morning with a house full of boxes, we navigated our new neighborhood and found a gigantic sports bar that was showing the game to very few people watching.  My wife was bitterly disappointed that Argentina showed so poorly (if I hadn't mentioned it, she spent a lot of time in Argentina while she was in high school and college so her second favorite national team after the US is Argentina) there wasn't much hope of breaking away from the moving chores for the later match.  This led to more text messages than usual between me and Jeremy over the course of Spain/Paraguay. 

Aside from the insanity of the two missed PKs and the one re-called make in-between, the conversation turned to the following topic..."Who is the man of the tournament thus far?"  We're down to four teams and unless someone who has played reasonably well to this point has an incredible "Final Four" then we probably already have our finalists.  In my mind, the obvious candidates are (in no particular order):

  1. Mueller, GER - He won't get to play in the semi-final but he's been in the right place at the right time all tournament.  He doesn't have the outrageous skill of a Ronaldo or a Messi but he always seems to be in the right place, make the right pass, strike the ball solidly, and make something happen in a way that neither Ronaldo nor Messi were able to do in this tournament.
  2. Sneijder, HOL - I can't say I love his game but it certainly has been effective for the Dutch thus far.  Maybe the Special One has rubbed off on him but he seems to be more able to stay in control and keep his team together than in years past.
  3. Forlan, URU - I think I've enjoyed watching him play more than any other single player in the tournament.  Uruguay haven't had a very difficult road to the semis but you can hardly blame that on Forlan.  He has been everywhere showing great passing, strong set pieces, orchestration in the attacking half of midfield, and a vicious strike from distance.  Tell me again why striker-shy ManYoo let this guy go.
  4. Villa, SPA - Spain hasn't been all that impressive really but they've won and he's scored the goals so hard not to put him in the conversation.
So, who is my pick for my man of the tournament so far? One of this blog's favorite gunners (not to be confused with Gunners) from last season's Premier League Fantasy season.  That's right, Mr. Kevin Prince Boateng.  What you say? You're picking a guy who went out in the Quarterfinals to a back water South American team? Yup.

Why KPB? His has been by far the greatest impact in the tournament.  His influence on this tournament is so great that he started making it in May.  I'm referring, of course, to the tackle that crocked Michael Ballack and left Mueller and Ozil with the freedom to run wild in midfield.  If you think that the confidence and flair that those two are playing with for Germany would have come out with Old Man Ballack getting starts for Lifetime Achievement as opposed to current skill/capability then you're crazy.  Ballack's shadow would have been cast over the entire German side and I'm guessing they would have gone out early.  With Ballack gone, Mueller and Ozil could take control and not worry about sharing the spaces in the center of the midfield with the now-plodding, toothless veteran. 

Oh yeah, outside of his unintentional influence on the tournament, Boateng also scored a critical goal that helped Ghana into the Quarterfinals and provided a lot of the attacking impetus that the Black Stars were missing with Michael Essien unavailable due to injury/the Chelsea Curse.

So, for all those things, congratulate KPB for winning the 2010 Fantasy Blog Man of the Tournament Award (at least until someone does something not to be believed in the semi-finals and/or finals).

Manchester City announce signing of Yaya Toure

Manchester City announce signing of Yaya Toure
Manchester City have secured the signing of Yaya Toure on a five-year deal from Barcelona.

The Ivory Coast international midfielder returned from World Cup duty on Monday following the African side’s exit from the tournament.

Toure has completed a medical with City physios in Spain and also finalised the details of his switch from the Spanish Champions.
Between Touré and Jérôme Boateng, it's going to be hard to write about Citeh just because of the special characters in their names! [/geek]

These two also add to the number of brothers in the Premier League, which is always fun. Though are Yaya and Kevin the only ones who aren't defenders? And even Yaya can play in central defence. But Nevilles, Dawsons, the Muppet Twins at Manchester United, the Caldwells... all defenders.

Premier League Transfer Talk

Hold it now... Hit it!

Premier League Transfer Talk – Club-by-club – Football Transfers – Football Rumours - Telegraph

A lot of interesting names here. Of course there is a lot of intra-Premier League dealings being discussed. But what interests fantasy managers more would be players coming in from other Leagues as they come into the game at a discount.

So, who might that include?

Per Mertesacker to Arsenal -- Sorry, but doesn't he suck? Everyone is always going on about how central defence is Germany's achilles heel. We'll see how they fare against Argentina, but I can't see Arsene spending double-digit millions for him.

Rafael Van der Vaart to Liverpool -- With a new manager, Liverpool are going to be linked to a lot of players. Especially those like Hangeland and Murphy who have played for Hodgson. But Van der Vaart would be a great fantasy signing alongside the still-coming-to-Liverpool Milan Jovanovic.

Fabio Coentrao to Manchester City -- Of course. Citeh are linked to just about every player at this point. But Coentrao has made his name with a great World Cup with Portugal. He's a real attacking threat out of the back and would be a +10 fantasy signing.

Utaka to Sunderland -- Depends on where he is in the pecking order, which will likely depend on other's health. But he was a very cheap option at the end of last season so if he's starting he could be a good value pick.

Asamoah Gyan to Spurs -- Just what Spurs need, more players. But were he to be signed, and were he to win a starting place over Defoe he could be +10.

October return for Hunt

October return for Hunt
Wolves manager Mick McCarthy has confirmed that new signing Stephen Hunt will be out until October due to a foot injury.

McCarthy signed the Republic of Irelandinternational for £3million from relegated Hull City earlier in the summer.

The 28-year-old ironically suffered his injury playing for the Tigers in a Premier League game against Wolves back in February.
So Matt Jarvis should still be the pick of the litter (do wolves have litters?)... for the time being.