From Neal's Week Ahead post:
Nolan - I saw the old Joey Barton re-emerge in his cameo vs. Arsenal yesterday - he could easily have been sent off in under 20 minutes (as it was, he saw yellow for the less flagrant of his two bad fouls).  With a derby on tap this weekend, it feels like the time to shift to Nolan if you want a reasonably priced NUFC midfielder.
Does Nolan ever score just one goal in a match? It's either brace - or hat-trick - or nothing for him. So frustrating for fantasy purposes.

No live chat - rally to restore sanity instead

This seems too good to pass up so I'll be back next week for a chat

Injuries and Suspensions

Link to SoccerNet consolidated injury reports

Jeremy has already posted some of the key injury-related news this morning.  The biggest news is that Chelsea's midfield continues to be at less than full strength with the continued absences of Lampard and Ramires which means that Zhirkov should start and be an excellent bargain.  On the plus side, there isn't any mention of an injury to Charlie Adam so I'm expecting that he'll start.

Honestly, there isn't a ton of really important injury news but here's the quick rundown:

Rooney set for longer injury lay-off

Premier League - Rooney set for longer injury lay-off - Yahoo! Eurosport
Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson has confirmed that striker Wayne Rooney's ankle injury is worse than first thought.

Rooney was originally expected to be out of action until the second week of November with the injury, which has restricted him to just six appearances and one goal for his club so far this term.
However, speaking at United's press conference ahead of Saturday's home clash with Tottenham Hotspur, Ferguson revealed that the England striker is set for a longer lay-off, effectively ruling him out of the Manchester derby at Eastlands on November 10.
How do you say Little Pea in Spanish?

Alex Back; Ramires and Lampard out

ALEX BACK FOR BLACKBURN | Latest Chelsea News | Team & Transfer News | Chelsea FC | Chelsea
Ramires and Frank Lampard remain sidelined for this weekend's fixture, but Alex returns to the line-up after a four-week layoff.
The defender has not played since smashing in the second goal against Arsenal on October 3, but will partner John Terry in the centre of defence against Blackburn on Saturday afternoon.
Yay! Another week with Zhirkov at a cheap defender playing in midfield!

The Week Ahead

A pretty quiet midweek for once with only a handful of clubs playing in the Carling Cup and most of those fielding line-ups with few potential weekend starters.  Arsenal used it as a chance to provide sharpness to parts of the rotation that are coming back from injury - Bendtner, Walcott, Koscielny, Gibbs (oops, back to being injured), and Frimpong Eastmond.  Most of the other Premier League clubs like ManYoo used decidedly second team and reserve teams.  In theory, this means that there should be few new injuries to report.  The biggest consideration is Tevez heading back to Argentina meaning an excellent goal-scoring option is off the table and we have to anticipate who Mancini will use as a replacement - K2? Balotelli? 6 midfielders? Hard to know for sure.

Before we get to my recommendations, I'm going to do a quick book review that came up in the Live Chat last weekend.  The book in question is called Brillant Orange: The Neurotic Genius of Dutch Soccer. Despite my general passion for sports of all kinds, I don't tend to read and enjoy too many sports books.  This is definitely an exception and here's why:

First, I am consistently fascinated at the ability of such a small country like Holland to produce exceptional footballers and this book gives some insight into why that may be.  Second, I enjoy it when an author does a good job of making connections between a nation's sporting culture and their national culture and not only does David Winner do that but the connections he draws are more interesting than even others that I have enjoyed.  Finally, as both an Englishman and a Gooner, I found Winner perhaps drawing the obvious parallels between the Dutch and Wenger's Arsenal.  He never makes an explicit connection other than to mention recent Arsenal squads as the successors to the Total Football style but it wasn't difficult to read between the lines - both the admiration and frustration.  In any event, if you're looking for something interesting and different on the topic of soccer then I think you'll enjoy this book.  There is also a mention of a really cool photography project about amateur soccer by a photographer named Hans van der Meer - I went out and searched on some of the photos and they're really quite amazing. 

Injured Carlos Tevez flies home

Injured Carlos Tevez flies home, Manchester derby doubt - Barclays Premier League - ESPN Soccernet
Tevez is all but certain to miss City's upcoming Premier League matches against Wolves and West Brom...
Now we know. And knowing is half the battle.

The other half is figuring out if K2 or Balotelli get the playing time. [My guess - Balotelli scores the winner after coming on for the ineffectual K2, who starts.]

And the other half is figuring out whom to gut to afford/place them.

On Modric

Apparently I struck a nerve with my assessment of Spurs and the talent on their roster with my "First Impressions..." column on Sunday.  Equally apparent is the fact that Spurs supporters (at least I assume that's who would be most likely to disagree with my assessment) don't have a terribly realistic view of the players employed by their club. 

Here's the harsh reality, Spurs have three and a half players who would even be in contention for a spot with one of the other contenders in the "Big Four" of Chelsea, Arsenal, ManYoo, and Citeh.  Here's the list:

Bale - Given the form he's shown since the turn of 2010, he'd contend for a spot just about anywhere in the world.

van der Vaart - Wouldn't start at Chelsea over Lamps/FloMal/Essien.  Not sure how he'd fit with Cesc at Arsenal but has the talent to find a way into the side over Arsh.  Would fit somewhere into the rotation with Citeh but wouldn't be a sure-fire starter.  Would be an obvious upgrade over/replacement for Scholes at ManYoo.

Gomes - He'd start at Arsenal but that's about it. If he returns to his form of the latter half of last season then he's probably about equivalent of EvdS, a step below Cech and two steps below Hart.

King - I call this a half because if he were healthy, he'd start for any of the contenders other than perhaps Chelsea.  That said, he's rarely healthy so in the real world, he'd be a reserve held out for big matches on the big teams.

As they say on PTI, that's it, that's the list.  One player who would start for all of their rivals.  Two players who would only be a clear upgrade for one of their four big rivals (VDV for United and Gomes for Arsenal).  One potentially great player who isn't reliable enough to really be considered a starter at Spurs or anywhere else.  Outside of that, you have a lot of adequate players.  Let's face it, there's a reason that you don't hear much about the moneybags teams either domestically or elsewhere in Europe sniffing around the Spurs roster.  The real strength of Spurs roster is that they have depth of solid players which, especially over the course of a long Premier League season, is enough to distance them from the likes of Villa or Everton who probably have equivalent first team talent but can't survive dips in form or an injury crisis without a significant drop in talent. 

If you think I'm mis-estimating one of more players on the Spurs roster vs. their counterparts from other teams, I'd love to see the analysis in the comments section.  What Spurs player(s) would take the place of someone from one of the other "Big Four" teams?

Cheers - Neal

Using your Pea

He meant to do it, and immediately knew it was a goal.

First Impressions and Second Thoughts - Week 9

It was quite a week topped off by Arsenal beating Man Citeh in the big clash at the top of the table.  Chelsea and ManYoo were a bit on the ugly side in doing the business against decidedly average competition and Spurs dropped back a bit with Everton surging back toward the top half of the table after a terrible start.  As players go, there were some returns and debuts worthy of note with AJ, Balotelli, and Saha all coming on after lengthy injury layoffs.  Get the scoop on the Premier League week that was here:

The Barn Door Live - Week 9

I'm back from vacation and ready to go with our usual Live Chat.

(Replay after the jump.)

Injuries and Suspensions

So, did anything happen while I was gone? I feel like I went to this tropical island and had a crazy dream that Wayne Rooney insisted that he was leaving Manchester United and that the roof of Old Trafford seemed like it was caving in and that generally, the world was coming to an end.  Imagine my surprise to wake up this morning with a tan (so I know the island part was true) to see that Rooney has signed a 5 year extension to lead the (deteriorating) line at ManYoo.  In my dream, I also recall mentioning that it's always best to follow the money so my guess is that SAF and the Glazers realized that they needed Wayne-o and make sure that the money path led back to Old Trafford.  I still can't say I'm thrilled about ManYoo's prospects unless they can add some more talent to Rooney's signing in January or over the summer but at least it stems the tide of decline.  Making the quick transition to actual injury and suspension news - Rooney is out for the next three weeks counting his money nursing his ankle.

Here are the other relevant injuries and doubts:

Best player that's ever graced MLS

'Best player that's ever graced MLS' says goodbye - MLS - Yahoo! Sports
“He’s the best player that’s ever graced MLS,” said United interim coach Ben Olsen, a longtime teammate. “It’s no coincidence that every trophy that this team has won, Jaime Moreno has been a part of.”

Moreno entered the league during its inaugural season in 1996, and he’ll play his last game Saturday when United ends their regular season against Toronto FC at RFK Stadium. He is the only player in MLS history with 100 goals and 100 assists. His 132 goals are tied with Jeff Cunningham of FC Dallas atop the all-time list—and Moreno has played in four fewer games. Moreno’s 102 assists are fifth all-time, and he’s a seven-time All-Star.

How much have defenses feared him? He’s suffered 703 fouls, 66 more than anyone else.

But it’s the hardware that sets the 36-year-old Bolivian apart from any contender on the MLS legacy charts. United have won 12 trophies with Moreno on the roster: four MLS Cups as league champions, four Supporters’ Shields for best regular-season record, two U.S. Open Cups and a pair of international titles. He is a winner, one who didn’t get sufficient due in the general sports world.

This is a bit off topic for the blog, especially these days as we don't really cover - as we don't play - MLS fantasy any longer; but I wanted to take a minute to pay tribute to my favorite player ever. As I wrote when Thierry Henry signed with the New York Red Bull:
You see, Neal and I are DC United fans. Since day one. Since Eric Wynalda beat us with an 88th minute goal in the first ever MLS game. Since the magic triangle of Etcheverry, Moreno and Diaz Arce turned around that first season and led us to consecutive MLS Cup championships - the second of which we watched in the pouring rain at our home field, RFK Stadium. Since the day Peter Nowak and the expansion Chicago Fire beat us to deny us a hat trick of championships, and broke our hearts.
Of that magic triangle, it was Moreno who stayed around the longest, adapted his game the most and really is my last strong link to DC United - which makes me quite sad. But in the words of perhaps my favorite bit of signage ever at a DCU/NY(J) match:
DC is Jaime-town!

Drogba fit to face Wolves

Premier League - Drogba fit to face Wolves - Yahoo! Eurosport
Didier Drogba looks set to return to lead the Chelsea attack against struggling Wolves on Saturday, but Frank Lampard will have to wait a bit longer for his comeback - much to the frustration of the England midfielder.

Ivory Coast international Drogba has missed the Blues' last two matches because of a virus but has now resumed full training ahead of the visit of Mick McCarthy's side, third bottom of the Premier League.

Lampard, though, is expected to need more recovery time following his hernia operation which has seen the 32-year-old out of action since August 28.

Luke Young to miss three matches

BBC Sport - Football - Aston Villa full-back Luke Young to miss three matches
Aston Villa defender Luke Young is set to miss the next three matches with a torn hamstring.

The 31-year-old missed last Saturday's 0-0 draw with Chelsea after suffering the injury in training on Friday.

Scans show the problem is worse than feared and the former England full-back is likely to be out for two weeks.

He will miss Saturday's clash at Sunderland, Wednesday's Carling Cup tie with Burnley and the home match against Birmingham on 31 October.

At 7.70, Habib Beye is a bit expensive after getting 10pts in Villa's clean sheet draw against Chelsea. But he may be worth the investment over the next few weeks if you have money to spend on defenders, or are selling Bale to afford other purchases.

Odemwingie chances are slim

To answer a question raised in The Week Ahead...

West Bromwich Albion | News | Latest Headlines | Latest Headlines | Odemwingie says chances are slim:
PETER Odemwingie admits his chances of facing Fulham on Saturday (ko 3pm) are slim.

The four-goal striker missed the 2-2 draw at Manchester United due to a knee injury he picked up against Bolton almost three weeks ago.

He is itching to get going again but has yet to train this week and will not be rushed back with 11 Barclays Premier League fixtures to come in November and December.

The Week Ahead - Vacation Edition

Artists rendering

If ever there were a great reason to become a writer fulltime, this is it. Rather than my usual deskchair in Northern Virginia, I'm writing this week's version of TWA from the balcony of my hotel room in St. Thomas. I'd add a picture but I'm also doing this on my iPhone so the blog editor is somewhat limited.

My current surroundings got me thinking about the notion of the grass being greener on the other side of the fence - or Manchester. Thinking back on a few recent high profile cases, I guess it all depends on what you're looking for. Henry left Arsenal and continues to win but had to do so as a secondary player rather than as the star. Combine the trophies with living in a more beautiful climate and I can see why you might make the choice. Ronaldo made a similar choice presumably for the money and I'm sure he's got more of that for his time in Madrid despite the lack of any actual success. Hard to see him having spent any, ahem, quality time with Kim Kardashian in Manchester - there are some places even reality stars won't go.

So, what does Wayne Rooney want? Who knows? But a wise man once said, when in doubt, follow the money. I can't pretend to know why anyone would care about making the next million when they already have more than they could spend in multiple lifetimes. On the otherhand, maybe that lack of competitiveness on my part (and insufficient footspeed) is why I'm not playing professionally somewhere. Maybe part of being THAT competitive is needing to make the most money.

One final thought on a storyline that I haven't seen written yet. What happens if Rooney is reunited with one of his former strike partners in either Madrid on the other side of Manchester? The Rooney/Ronaldo partnership relegated Rooney to being an excellent supporting player in the drama while CRon became a World Player of the Year candidate. Hard to see Rooney being up for that again. Even less attractive was the Rooney/Tevez partnership that saw Tevez minimized (short joke totally intentional). Hard to see that reunion playing well at Casa Tevez. I'm not saying those teams shouldn't go after Rooney but they should think twice about the impact.

OK, on to the week to come:

Rooney wants to leave United

Ferguson says Rooney wants to leave United - - SI.com
Wayne Rooney's desire to walk out on Manchester United has left the Premier League club facing the loss of a third world-class attacker in two years and its bewildered manager Alex Ferguson in a state of shock.

Ferguson said he was "dumbfounded'' at Rooney's decision not to enter into negotiations about extending his contract beyond the summer of 2012.

"We just don't know what's changed the boy's mind... I was shocked,'' said Ferguson. "I had a meeting with the boy and he reiterated what his agent had said. He wanted to go.'"
There's so much to this story that is being parsed elsewhere, so I'll try to take a fantasy manager's approach to this first.

Kirkland to Play

When last we saw the Captain...

Hat tip to Y!FF reader Alex who notes that:
Captain Kirkland will not be a zero next week (probably minus) as Wigan play Bolton and Al Habsi will not be allowed to play against his 'parent' club.
Kirkland was on my provisional team as I'm trying to squeeze in both Drogba and Tevez at forward. Now I have to decide if I'm happy with this news or not. At first blush, Wigan have been much better defensively recently, but that could entirely be down to Al-Habsi's form.

There are no dull weeks in fantasy English Premier League play, are there?

Ramires Returns to England

RAMIRES JOINS THE INJURY LIST | Latest Chelsea News | Team & Transfer News | Chelsea FC | Chelsea
Carlo Ancelotti will be without Ramires for the Spartak Moscow game, after the midfielder picked up a knock on his ankle in Saturday's goalless draw with Aston Villa.

The Brazilian travelled to Russia but will not be fully recovered in time and will return to England for treatment, where he will join Alex, Jose Bosingwa, Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard.

Despite these absences Ancelotti feels he will be able to field a strong side against Spartak in the Luzhniki Stadium, and is buoyed by the return of Salomon Kalou, who trained with his team-mates on the artificial surface on a chilly Moscow Monday.

This doesn't sound like a serious injury, and if Lampard can return for the Wolves match it won't be a serious loss for Chelsea. However, should neither player recover in time it might be a boost for fantasy managers. Next in line would be Yuri Zhirkov, who in the Yahoo! game is listed as a bargain basement defender.

For me, this is especially interesting as my current cheap defender is Jerome Boateng who limped out of the match as City limped past Blackpool. We'll have to see how severe the injury was - or it might have been whiplash from tracking Blackpool's runners all match - but either way his place looks to be in doubt with Richards returning and replacing him.

First Impressions and Second Thoughts - Week 8

I'm headed out of town tomorrow so I'll make this a quick one (or at least as quick as I can make anything).

The Barn Door Live - Week 8

OK, I decided to bite the bullet and keep Drogba despite his absence. The 4+ discount is too good to pass up and I honestly wasn't in love with any of the other changes I would have been able to afford. Drogs has been the best player in the league by far so far this year and I'm going to count on the fact that he'll continue to be so and make up for his illness this week.

My starting line-up is: Hart, Bale, Salcido, Boateng, VDV, Adam, Barton, FloMal, Drogba, Dembele (he's back!), and di Santo

Replay after the jump.

I hate the Interwebs

Express.co.uk - Home of the Daily and Sunday Express | Sport | Football

Carlos Tevez will be rested either tomorrow or in the Europa League on Thursday after he complained of being exhausted.

Really? Now I have to wonder if this is true, and if so why would they rest him for the League game? Maybe he's not even back from Argentina yet. Who knows? Have you seen Tevez?

If Drogba weren't ill - he'll only miss one game - this would be an issue. And maybe it shouldn't be. Should I just suck it up and take the goose egg for the week? On the other hand, I'm trailing and need to make up ground. But at what cost temporary advancement?

ARGH! Bad place. Stepping away from the internet for a bit.

Late Injury Post

OK, I'm finally back where I can post to the blog so here are some broader comments than what I was able to get out this morning at the crack of dawn here on the East Coast of the US. First things first, the link to the consolidated SoccerNet listing of injuries, suspensions, and players coming back.

  • Drogba - We covered it earlier. Out with an illness. Kalkuta seems to be the fill-in which makes him (Kalkuta) at least somewhat interesting.
  • Cesc, RvP, Sagna, Verm, Koscielny, Ramsey - The list is getting shorter with Walcott and Bendtner coming back into the frame. With so many key contributors out or in question, I'm going to be very careful about picking any of Arsenal's expensive players. Just hard to know if they'll be worth the money.
  • Duff and Etuhu - Duff is always a question mark and rarely worth the price but many have had Etuhu as an "enabler" so worth noting that you'll be getting less than usual (his one goal-scoring match aside) if you decide to keep him.
  • Spurs CBs - Hard to have much of an idea what's going to go on there with so many coming back from injury (Gallas and Kaboul) or questionable with long-standing injuries (King).
  • Ben Arfa - I didn't think anyone forgot that he was hurt given the nature of the injury but a solid reminder that Barton should be back to taking the vast majority of kicks with HBA sidelined.
  • Agbonlahor - You weren't going to pick him vs. Chelsea (I don't think) but he's out so you don't have to worry about it. Chelsea's defenders/Cech go up in value because they're much better equipped to deal with Carew/Heskey than they are the speedy Agbonlahor.
  • Fellaini - A yellow card magnet in a derby match with a ton on the line? Not a likely selection anyway but worth pointing out anyway
  • Jagielka/Pienaar - Also just a reminder
In Doubt
  • Odemwingie - I hate giving him up but with his participation in question and the opposition strong(ish) it seems like the logical thing to do. Best case, he comes on as a sub, doesn't do much and his prices comes down a bit.
  • Theo/Bendtner - They're in the squad but seem unlikely to start so proceed with caution.
  • Darren Bent - He is called a "major doubt" and Bruce mentioned that he thought that Gyan could fill Bent's spot reasonably well. Definitely makes Gyan a potentially interesting option if you're looking for an inexpensive striker who is better than di Santo.

Early Injury News

I'm in meetings just about all day so I'll get some important news out before I head in. Either Jeremy or I will get back later in the day to do a more complete update but for now:

  1. DROGBA IS OUT - it is only an "illness" so there likely aren't any long term implications here but regardless of what price you have him at, this is a big decision. For those who ditched him a few weeks back, your move looks much better now.
  2. Also out for Chelsea - Lamps, Alex, Sturridge, Kalou, and Yossi meaning they'll be going with Cech, Ferreira, Ivanovic, Terry, Cole, Mikel, Ramires, Essien, Kakuta, FloMal, and the Elk. In my mind, this makes Kakuta a pretty interesting option at 6.28 and the Elk a strong bargain if you want to bail on Drogs.
  3. Koscielny is out - Apparently he has a back problem seemingly out of nowhere. We should probably assume that Squillaci and Djourou will play. Both central defenders are pretty affordable but my take is that the injury diminishes the value of all of Arsenal's back line including Fabianski/Almunia.

The Week Ahead - Week 8

It's sort of an odd week here at Blog Headquarters. I have to admit that I'm feeling somewhat detached from the Premier League right about now. Between the long international break that featured very little interesting news outside of the seemingly neverending Liverpool saga and the usual injury news, it's just sort of been "blah". Contrast that with the excitement of the baseball playoffs (my Phillies dispatched the Cincinnati Reds in 3 straight games) and the relentlessness of the NFL schedule (where the Eagles are OK but my 4 fantasy teams are a combined 14-5-1, not so bad for a soccer guy). Honestly, the big Premier League-related highlight for me was getting an article published on USA.Arsenal.com and then having the main Arsenal Twitter feed promote it. The lesson? The world moves fast and two weeks away from something can seem like forever.

So, consider this column my effort to completely re-engage with the Premier League. As always, we'll cover the injuries in-depth on Friday but for today, we'll only cover them to the extent that the knowledge we have for certain impacts our recommended picks.

Premier League Round Up

Following on from our earlier, extensive list of injuries suffered and overcome on international duty and our dilligent follow-up work, here's more news and notes from around the English Premier League.

Odemwingie and Thomas Major doubts for trip to Manchester United

The curse of the POTM award strikes again!

Birmingham Mail - Sport - West Bromwich Albion - West Brom News - West Brom: Major doubts for trip to Manchester United

PETER Odemwingie and Jerome Thomas are both major doubts for West Brom's weekend trip to Manchester United - as Roberto Di Matteo considers loaning out Ishmael Miller.

Odemwingie and Thomas, both of whom scored in the recent 3-2 win at Arsenal, have yet to train since picking up knee and calf injuries respectively.

Di Matteo believes the duo are unlikely to make Saturday’s game at Old Trafford unless they resume training in the next day or so.

Reds duo suffer injuries

Caption contest?

Reds duo suffer injuries - Yahoo! Eurosport

Our contractually-obligated daily Liverpool posting.

Dirk Kuyt and Daniel Agger have been injured on international duty giving Liverpool boss Roy Hodgson more to worry about ahead of the Merseyside derby on Sunday.

Kuyt's injury could be the more serious as he lasted only 29 minutes of Holland's game against Sweden before leaving with what appeared to be a bad ankle injury.

Agger, making his comeback from a groin problem, lasted only 39 minutes of Denmark's game against Cyprus.

In a subsequent article, Yahoo!UK continues:

Bent Injury Blow

Still a favorite Darren Bent moment. Besides, it's not a real post these days if we don't allude to Liverpool.

Sunderland - Bent Injury Blow
SAFC striker Darren Bent has had to pull out from the England squad due to an injury sustained in training...

Sunderland fans will be hoping the injury, described as a 'groin injury' will be minor and he will recover in time to face Blackburn a week today and especially the Tyne-Wear Derby on 31st October.
If not, Gyan at 6.39 becomes an intriguing choice.

Sagna set for three weeks out

Arsenal defender Bacary Sagna set for three week on sidelines with thigh injury | Mail Online

Arsenal and France defender Bacary Sagna expects to be on the sidelines for another three weeks as he continues his recovery from a left thigh injury.

The 27-year-old is sitting out Les Bleus' Euro 2012 qualifying double header against Romania and Luxembourg due to the problem, and does not plan to rush his return.

He told French television programme Stade 2: 'It's okay. I'm currently in rehabilitation. It will take three weeks. I'll take my time to get back.'

That seismic shift you feel is everyone who owns Etuhu selling him and buying Eboue who is a 4.79 midfielder.

Premier League Round Up

Stoke City goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen hoping to return against Bolton Wanderers

Terry Assessment to Continue

Knee injury rules Doyle out

Liverpool striker Fernando Torres doubt for derby

Lennon ruled out of England game, Downing in

Jean Beausejour to miss Birmingham's trip to Arsenal

Injured Jagielka ruled out

Arsenal buoyed by imminent return of Cesc Fábregas and Theo Walcott

Frank Lampard optimistic of return for Chelsea's match at Aston Villa

Pavlyuchenko Blow for Russia

Finally, lost in this week's "blogasm" over Liverpool FC, I think we've lost sight of another similar, if not spectacular issue. Manchester United just reported financial statements that were about as bad as Liverpool's. They are also coming off a weekend where they benched their in-form striker and came away from another road trip with another draw. Were Liverpool not such a grease-fire of a club at the moment, I think SAF and Manchester United would be feeling a lot more heat.

'arry Joins Our Blog Roundtable on Liverpool

Redknapp: Hicks and Gillett have done nothing wrong - Barclays Premier League - ESPN Soccernet

OK, he probably has no idea who we are but in the comments found on the other side of the link above, 'arry provides some interesting fodder for the notion that the owners weren't at fault for Liverpool's current plight. 

Unintentional Comedy

Free Matthew Upson!

Premier League - 'No rush' over Upson contract - Yahoo! Eurosport

This is perhaps the most unintentionally hilarious article of the season to date.
West Ham co-owner David Gold is not panicking about the prospect of losing Matthew Upson on a free transfer and would be happy to wait until the end of the season for the England defender to commit his future to the club.
I wouldn't imagine they're too worried. Upson has been awful and is the "leader" of an awful defence.
Upson is unlikely to put pen to paper on his new deal until West Ham's Barclays Premier League status looks more secure given that he will need to be playing top-flight football to make England's Euro 2012 squad.
The irony here is that said status won't be secure despite, or because of, his "best" efforts. As for Euro 2012, he'll be 33 years old with a history of serious injury. Does anyone really think he'll be in line for place in the squad? His contemporaries include the incumbents Terry and Ferdinand. And England are producing potential center halves at quite a clip these days - Turner and Bramble (yes, I said it!) at Sunderland; Shawcross at Stoke; Cahill at Bolton; Smalling at Manchester United; Richards; Rodwell; etc...
Losing Upson would be a big blow to the Londoners, who have built their defence around the centre-half since he arrived from Birmingham in a £6million deal in January 2007.
14 goals allowed this season, only one better than league worst Blackpool. Big blow, indeed.
"Matthew is always welcome to come to me and talk about it. The fact that we're bottom of the league makes it a bit difficult but it's no rush for neither him nor us."
Translation: "I won't laugh him out of my office, but really, he's not going to be here next season."

Gera hoping for wing role

Gear back in the good old days, on the right wing for West Brom

Sky Sports | Football | Premier League | News | Gera hoping for wing role
Fulham forward Zoltan Gera is hoping to play out wide more under Mark Hughes, rather than in an advanced position.

Gera does not believe his style of play is suited to a striker role which Hughes demands, whereas he does enjoy operating out wide.

The talented schemer believes that with a little patience and hard work he can become a regular under Hughes.

"I really enjoy training but (Hughes') tactics differ from Roy Hodgson's," he told skysports.com. "Hughes wants a strong striker who can run into the space and hold the ball, but I'm not that kind of player.
Evidence, from the horse's mouth, what fantasy managers could have told you years ago. Gera doesn't enjoy playing through the middle. That's why, despite the attraction of a relatively cheap midfielder lining un "in the hole" as a second striker, the move never paid off for Fulham or fantasy managers.

Want to Know More About Liverpool's New Owner?

For those of you who are into the Twitter, here is John Henry's Twitter handle.  Nothing yet about the Liverpool acquisition (probably because it isn't final yet) but this might give you some insight into how he is thinking about the team as things do go formal.


 I'm sure those who are fans of Liverpool will like the fact that he seems to combine the business acumen to accumulate enough of a fortune to purchase two iconic franchises on either side of the Atlantic as well as paying attention to wins and losses and reacting to them in the same way a fan might (granted, a very restrained fan who doesn't tend to use profanity or rip players/managers).

He's not quite Mark Cuban but at least he isn't Hicks.

Anyway, just something I thought I'd pass along while I'm watching the first game of the Phillies World Series campaign 2010 (Halladay looking AWESOME so far!).

Cheers - Neal

Simpson ready to return

Sky Sports | Football | Premier League | News | Simpson ready to return
Danny Simpson is eyeing a recall to the Newcastle starting XI after breezing through a comeback game.

The full-back, who has been sidelined for six months with an ankle problem, stepped up his return with a run out in a behind-closed-doors clash with Aston Villa on Tuesday.

He was able to get 75 much-needed minutes under his belt in that contest and has experienced no adverse reaction to his first outing of the season.

Simpson is likely to be held back in the reserves until he recovers his full match sharpness, but the 23-year-old is delighted to be back in the frame.

Doesn't sound like he'll make the home match againt Wigan (shame) but one to watch in upcoming weeks.

Big News At Anfield

So, it would appear that the big news that Liverpool supporters everywhere have been waiting for - a buyer has been found and there seem to be only some minor formalities standing between LFC and new ownership.  So, here's a quick rundown of what we know and are reasonably able to project (keeping in mind that it really can't get worse - the question is how much better can it get and how quickly?):

The Facts
The Tom John Henry-led New England Sports Ventures (which also includes investment from the New York Times Company) owns the Boston Red Sox.

Mr. Henry's personal fortune (significantly under $1 Billion) is probably not what Liverpool fans are looking for - he's no Saudi oil heir or Internet gazillionaire.

He has had success in his ownership of running the Red Sox which went from being a much beloved but ultimately unsuccessful team over the course of 80+ years to winning two championships shortly after he took over.  

The Opinion
This is not going to be a Chelsea/Man Citeh approach where Henry/NESV is just going to throw money at every player that moves.  The rise of the Red Sox was predicated on innovation in the use of statistical analysis in evaluating players and finding relative bargains based on how other clubs were evaluating players.  I won't get into the details because if you don't know about baseball, it will all be a bit too arcane and if you are into baseball, you probably already know the "Money Ball" story and how it moved from Oakland to Boston.

What I see for Liverpool is a similar version of the same approach.  Henry will likely be very low visibility and he will likely try to find the Liverpool equivalent of Theo Epstein the "whiz kid" General Manager who is widely credited with building the Red Sox.  My sense is that Liverpool will approach success closer to the way Arsenal have under Wenger than any other model I can think of.  They are unlikely to compete for the biggest names but they'll develop their own formula for winning and look to buy undervalued players that fit that system.  From time to time, they'll compete for a big name that fits their system particularly well but they aren't going to go after every big name player and then try to figure out how to align those players once they're in place (we're looking at you Citeh).

Overall, I think this is a great outcome for Citeh Liverpool in the long term.  It may not satisfy the desire for a huge spending spree in January but I think it puts in the foundation for long term success.  I'd expect things to start looking up but a mid-table finish this season.  Next season, I'd expect a return to Europa Cup followed by a serious challenge for Champions League in two seasons and a serious run at the Premier League title within the next four or five years.

First Impressions and Second Thoughts - Week 7

Sadly, I didn't get to watch as much match action as I usually do this past weekend.  I saw all of ManYoo @ Sunderland, I saw much of Citeh vs. NUFC, and I moved quickly through Arsenal @ Chelsea to get a sense of the biggest match of the weekend.  Of course, despite having to be at the office for most of the weekend, I did manage to follow along via BBC text casts so it isn't like I'm entirely ignorant of what went on elsewhere.  I just didn't see it all (or at least most of it) for myself on TV.  Here are some random thoughts from the weekend that was in the Premier League - some specifically targeted at fantasy managers and some more general observations about the league and its players:

Alex Doubt for Villa Match

ALEX WITHDRAWN FROM BRAZIL SQUAD | Latest Chelsea News | Team & Transfer News | Chelsea FC | Chelsea
[Alex]underwent medical assessment on a thigh muscle injury sustained in the closing moments of Sunday's win over Arsenal, after he had scored Chelsea's second goal.

It is estimated he will be out for three weeks.
Thanks to a yellow card in his substitute appearance at the weekend, Ferreira is back down to 6.14. Of course we'll also be monitoring Bosingwa's return, which is rumoured to be the Villa match. He's just 6.59 and would be a tasty addition to your fantasy side if he is indeed Chelsea's number one number two.

Tevez furious with Mancini's negative tactics

Carlos Tevez furious with Roberto Mancini's negative tactics at City | Football | The Guardian
Carlos Tevez's volatile relationship with Roberto Mancini has descended into open hostility after a furious row between the Manchester City manager and captain at half-time of Sunday's 2-1 defeat of Newcastle United.

The argument began when Mancini overheard Tevez making a derogatory comment in Spanish and challenged him about it. The argument quick escalated while other team-mates watched in silence as the two men lost their temper. Tevez blamed Mancini for a poor first-half performance, complaining about his tactics and saying the Italian was getting it wrong by being too negative. Tevez has been playing as the lone attacker in a side featuring three holding midfielders and, despite scoring five times, the striker is believed to be increasingly frustrated about the lack of chances coming his way.

Mancini, who has shown an increasingly tough edge this season, saw it as his authority being undermined and responded aggressively, reminding Tevez that he was under orders to follow team instructions and should not be questioning his manager in such a way.

A bit of pause for those looking to draft Tevez on his own, or as a cheaper alternative to Drogba. Tevez has played, and played well, under Mancini. But is he immune from rotation? Is he going to be available against Blackpool after having been gone on international duty? Argentina play later this week in Japan, and then Tevez is seemingly headed home.
Mancini agreed to Tevez's request to take an extra day off after the international break so that he can visit his daughter who is currently in South America.
This probably tempest in a teapot stuff, but hey... it's the international break and we're looking for anything to keep our interest.

Torres injury update

For anyone *cough*Mike*cough* who is still betting on Liverpool these days:

Liverpool Echo - Liverpool FC - News - Fernando Torres injury update - Liverpool FC star faces groin injury scan
FERNANDO TORRES will have a scan this afternoon to determine the extent of his groin injury.

The Liverpool striker was at Melwood on Monday morning to have the problem assessed and the initial diagnosis is that it is a strain rather than a tear.

No Live Chat Today

Unfortunately, my day job has intervened and I will be in the office both this morning (Saturday) and tomorrow morning when I'd rather be watching the full slate of Premier League matches and hosting our usual Live Chat.  We should be back at our regularly scheduled time when the Week 7 matches kick off.

Cheers - Neal

Injuries and Suspensions

Premier League team news - Barclays Premier League - ESPN Soccernet

  • Craig Gardner - Suspended via straight red card after a great opening to the season #ShockLeadingScorer
  • Adlene Guedioura - Finally went positive for the fantasy year with 4.5 points last week and then had his leg broken - out 4 to 6 months #JustGettingStarted
  • Stephen Hunt - Back in training but still not ready to go #Waiting
  • David Dunn - Hamstring...again #SongRemainsTheSame
  • Kieran Richardson - Hamstring...again #NotThatYouCare
  • Wayne Rooney - Played golf midweek but apparently not fit (physically? mentally?) to start for United #OddSaga
  • Gabriel Agbonlahor - Apparently he needs groin surgery and will be out for a while #Ouch
  • Moussa Dembele - Still not ready to return meaning Fulham will have two midfielders lining up as forwards this weekend #GeraContinues
  • Pablo Zabaleta - Tweaked his hammy in Europa Cup action #Boyata?Lescott?
  • Paul Konchesky, Fabio Aurelio, and Daniel Agger - All out meaning Liverpool might actually be missing Insua this weekend #AvoidKellyAnyway
  • Frank Lampard - From hernia issues to groin issues - not fun times #EssienStillTheMan
  • Salomon Kalou/Yossi Benayoun - Both out but you weren't bringing them in anyway #UselessInfo
  • Cesc Fabregas, Kieran Gibbs, Manuel Almunia, Thomas Vermaelen, Nicklas Bendtner, Aaron Ramsey, Theo Walcott, and Robin van Persie - A holding midfielder, right back, and center back away from an excellent starting XI and all injured.  #Sigh
Dreaded Fitness Test
  • Tony Hibbert - He has trained all week after being out last weekend #ColemanQuestionable
  • Ricardo Fuller - What they fail to mention is that he wasn't starting even when healthy #ThirdStriker
  • Jermaine Pennant - Still in the process of recovery and no definitive word on whether he will play this weekend #WaitOneMoreWeek
  • Rio Ferdinand (plus Carrick and Anderson) - They've been really bad without him so the value of all ManYoo defenders and EvdS are tied to his presence #LinchPin
  • Ledley King - Groin...knees...the usual #SongRemainsTheSame
Back from Injury/Suspension
  • Craig Gordon - No word on whether Mignolet will keep his spot or whether Gordon will win it back #DoesntMatter
  • Richard Dunne - Not sure why he WOULDN'T go straight back into the line-up but we've never understood Houlier #TurningTheCorner
  • Gary Cahill - Back from suspension #Boost
  • Kieron Dyer - At least he changed it up last week and was ill instead of injured #Yawn