Premier League Review: All The Goals

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Gerrard Could Face Newcastle in Two Weeks

Sky Sports | Football | Premier League | News | Gerrard making progress

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard could return to training on Monday after making good progress in his rehabilitation from a hamstring injury...

Gerrard will not play any part in their Europa League tie against Steaua Bucharest or in Monday's match at home to Aston Villa, but could face Newcastle five days' later.

'Steven's going well. He's back running, though not back in training,' the club's head of sports medicine Dr Peter Brukner said

'He's certainly looking good to play the Newcastle game, which has been our target all along.

We've been here before

... alternate title, "First time as tragedy, second time as farce."

In comments we were asked, "Is there any arguement for keeping VDV @ 6?".  I was reminded that there is an argument, and it was made, and debated ad naseum, last season when Didier Drogba was set to miss a month of league games while playing for the Ivory Coast.

The best encapsulation of the argument was probably over at Y!AM's site.
There have been some excellent posts in the comments and chat in the chat room regarding the game's top scorer; specifically by those who still own him at 10.66. The dilemma people are facing is whether to hang on to Didier Drogba during the African Cup of Nations, where he is likely to miss 4 Chelsea games.

Now, I had already assumed that I would sell him as I didn't think I could afford to take 4 weeks of zeros, but J Dunn and The Tigers have looked at the stats in detail and come up with some very interesting analysis.
Basically the idea was that Drogba at a discount would return more points over the course of the season than any replacement, even with four more game weeks and that analysis proved pretty much correct.  Now Van Der Vaart has been an awesome fantasy player.  And there is no definitive word yet on the extent of his injury.  But if, as rumored, he is out for a month, there is a lot of competition in midfield and a lot of points to be had for not too much money.  But that's probably the topic of another, longer, post.

Carragher faces month out

BBC Sport - Football - Liverpool's Jamie Carragher faces month out with injury
Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher is likely to be sidelined for a month after dislocating a shoulder.

The Reds vice-captain picked up the injury in Sunday's 2-1 defeat by Tottenham at White Hart Lane.

"It's very bad," said manager Roy Hodgson after the match. "It's a disappointing thing to happen on his 450th appearance in the Premier League.

"We'll now be without him and Steven Gerrard and they are the lifeblood of our club."

Skipper Gerrard missed the match with a hamstring problem he suffered in the 84th minute of England's 2-1 friendly defeat to France on 17 November.

The midfielder is expected to be out for between three and four weeks.

This is bad news for Liverpool and anyone betting on them keeping clean sheets. However, in midfield Meireles will continue to be a good option at a still reasonable 8.5. And an observation... Maxi Rodriguez is playing up alongside the strikers and may be well worth a punt as a 9.29 midfielder. I don't know that I want both him and Meireles in my team, but at home to a young and struggling Villa team... maybe. We're all looking for Van Der Vaart replacments, aren't we?

First Impressions and Second Thoughts - Week 14

Dimitar Berbatov is, in some ways, a perfect poster boy for this season's Premier League campaign.  In a season where unpredictable is being redefined, he is about as unpredictable a player as there is in the league.  I have written a fair number of unkind words about Berbs this season so I want to make this clear first off - he is a talented player.  The only reason he's worth writing unkind words about is because he manages to get such inconsistent results from his considerable talents.  If you look at either his real life stats (leading the Premier League in goals scored for the season now) or his fantasy stats (he's third in overall points among strikers) you're definitely missing a large part of the picture.  What do I mean?
  • He has only scored one away goal this season (vs. Everton early in September).
  • He famously went 10 matches in all competitions without scoring up to yesterday.
  • His goals have come almost exclusively come against teams that are struggling mightily.  His victims: NUFC (their first match back in the Prem); West Ham (bottom of the table); Everton (were on 1 point from their first three matches at the time); Liverpool (in the middle of a variety of crises at the time); and Rovers (sitting 14th) - hardly the last 8 of the Champions League.  
  • Between his three goals against Liverpool and his five against Rovers he exceeded 5 fantasy points (Yahoo scoring system) exactly ZERO times.
So, what to make of this? The best I can come up with is that Berbs is what Drogba and Chelsea are frequently accused of being and that is a flat track bully.  He picks on the weaker kids and when the level of competition rises, he shrinks to the point where he pretty much disappears.  Given that Berbs' profile is the exact opposite of the typical Ferguson player (comes up big when the stakes are the highest) it seems to me that Sir Alex would be best served cashing in on Berbatov's flashy output from this weekend with a January sale - if he could sell him today, that would probably be even better business.  All of the above said, cheers to any fantasy managers who saw Berbs' outburst coming and got on the bandwagon while avoiding his long drought.  Oh, and Blackpool are coming to Old Trafford next so it wouldn't be shocking to see him keep his goal-scoring going into next weekend.

So, what else happened this weekend?

Weather threat to Newcastle-Chelsea

Weather threat to Newcastle's Premier League clash with Chelsea | Mail Online
'Staff at Newcastle United are doing everything they can today to ensure that despite the heavy snowfall, tomorrow's Barclay's Premier League game with Chelsea can go ahead as scheduled.

'Aside from the task of making the pitch area playable, health and safety concerns are being addressed too.

'The club is working closely with Newcastle City Council and extra staff have been brought in to help make public areas in and around the ground safe and accessible.'

Update: False alarm. The game goes off as planned... But Chelsea haven't really turned up yet and Newcastle lead 1-0 through Carroll.

No Live Chat Today

My apologies but too much going on here at the house hosting relatives for the holiday weekend here in the States.  I hope everyone enjoys the matches and we'll be back with a live chat for the next Saturday matches.

Cheers - Neal

Egypt Speaks, You Listen

Although Neal and I are hip deep in this stuff every day, sometimes it doesn't seem like we're actually doing that well. We're usually in the top 5% of teams, but it has been a while since either of us were knocking it out of the park - to mix sports metaphors - on any regular basis.

One friend of the blog (FOB) who has been killing it for the last month or so is Mohamed Kileeny. Mohamed participated in our Liverpool Round-table before the season started and now finds himself in the top 50 teams overall. Mohamed rotates the majority of his team week-to-week, looking for the best match-ups rather than holding players long-term. And he has an uncanny knack for finding the week's random goal-scorer be they MGP, Huth, Crouch or Evra -- just to name the ones from the past month!

I've solicited Mo's (I hope you don't mind if we call you Mo) help and asked him to preview the week for us. Here's a little insight into how one of the top players approaches his team:

Injuries and Suspensions

With a house full of relatives there isn't really a lot of time for analysis but please consider this to be at least a solid resource that will help you catalog the injuries and suspensions in the Premier League for this weekend.

  • Cesc/Eboue/Vermaelen - Just when you thought the list might really get smaller, it gets larger again.
  • Albrighton/Heskey/SPet/Reo-coker/Sidwell -  With Collins back, the big issue will be central midfield
  • Zamora/Dembele/AJ - This presumably means Dempsey will start at forward instead of midfield.
  • Gardner - Hard to believe he's Brum's leading scorer but he's out.
  • Fletcher plus the long termers - Not much missing for ManYoo this weekend really.
  • Harewood - Out for six weeks making Varney a first team choice
  • Williamson/Coloccini/Barton - That's a lot of suspensions which can't help with Chelsea coming to town.
  • Lamps/Zhirkov/Essien - Still thin for Chelsea which could be made worse if Terry and Alex go from "doubtful" to "out" 
  • Fellaini - Last match of his suspension - fortunately for Everton Brunt is still doubtful for WBA as well.
  • Gerrard - Spurs vs. Liverpool could be missing two of the biggest names with Gerrard definitely out an VDV apparently a "major doubt" with an ankle issue.  
  • Pennant - He's not all the way "out" but it certainly sounds unlikely that he'll make it in time.
  • Zabaleta - Suspended for accumulation but Balotelli is back from his suspension and might be solid value in Citeh's attack.
  • Bramble/Turner - Not a good sign when your two best defenders are out for the most congested 5 or 6 weeks of the year.  Those who were excited about Gordon, you might want to reconsider.  The good news is that Gyan seems likely to return from his thigh strain that pissed off fantasy managers like me who had no idea he'd be out last Monday.
  • Rodallega/Alcaraz - Both suspended in the wake of their defeat to ManYoo.  Not good to be Wigan, playing on the road, and missing two of 11 first choice players.
OK, I hope that is enough to get everyone through the selection process.  I'll try to be around for as much "Live Chat" as I can be tomorrow but with relatives still here, it will be a match-time decision.  Regardless, enjoy the matches. 

The Week Ahead - Thanksgiving Edition

Well, I've already used up the "things to give thanks for" gimmick and was even forced to throw out a "things not to be thankful for" addendum yesterday in the wake of Arsenal's toothless loss to Braga.  Here are a few additional thoughts after I've had a night to sleep on that outcome and read the comments:
  • Vela was fouled in the box and it wasn't really close - I'm not sure why the referee didn't award a penalty but the expression on his face certainly gave me the impression he wasn't going to allow the match to be decided by a penalty. 
  • There's no reason that it SHOULD have had to be decided by a penalty.  As one of our readers pointed pointed out in the comments, Arsenal enjoyed a lot of possession but it really wasn't dangerous possession.  Arsenal play plenty of matches where they are attacking constantly and they've earned the "profligate" moniker by not scoring from a number of good chances but yesterday wasn't one of them.  It wasn't that they didn't cash in on great chances, the problem was that all of their possession didn't lead to great chances this time around.  That is a much bigger problem in my mind than having long stretches of ineffectiveness around the goal and it has marked Arsenal's poor showings this season, not just this match. 
  • I haven't seen this written anywhere else yet but you have to wonder if - due to his proclivity to be injured fairly regularly - this summer will be the time to cash in on Fab4.  If he comes back from his hamstring worry healthy and plays the rest of the season without incident then you can forget I wrote this but it seems like it will be hard to build a title-winning side around a lynch-pin that is only available and playing at his best about 2/3rds of the time.  
  • Finally, moving on to Chelsea - it was an impressive effort for a very young side to come back from a goal down and win in Europe.  I'm still not particularly impressed by Chelsea's young players but this is the sort of experience that will start to give them the confidence they need to assert themselves more when they get their chances in matches that matter more.
With that, we return to our weekly analysis of the fantasy slate.

Things I'm NOT Thankful For

We can start the list with Arsenal's last 120 minutes of football - choking away a 2-0 lead to Spurs and the listless 2-0 loss to Braga in the Champions League that takes them from "could have guaranteed qualification" two CL matches ago to "could miss out" in a pretty short span.  Oh, and why is it that Wenger continues to roll out a clearly not fully healthy Cesc?  He's playing poorly.  Let him rest and get healthy. 

First Impressions and Second Thoughts - Week 13

With Thanksgiving upon us here in the States and the sting of Arsenal's come-from-ahead loss to Spurs fading a little bit due to a 4-0 weekend in NFL and the Eagles beating the Giants on Sunday night, I'm feeling a "things to be thankful for" gimmick coming on.  Rather than our usual format, we'll cover each team in the TOP HALF of the Premier League and discuss what they have to be thankful for.  We'll close each comment out with a thought about what each team HOPES to be thankful for by the time we get around to our next gimmick column at Christmas.  OK, maybe the holiday thing is a bit overdone as a theme (I'm sure you'll see something similar elsewhere about all manner of sports and other topics this week) but the alternative is me bitching and moaning about Arsenal's loss for about 1000 words and none of us want that so here we go.

Light Blogging This Week

It's a holiday week here in the Colonies so there will be less blogging than usual.  We'll have some sort of combined Week Ahead/Injuries & Suspensions in the run-up to the weekend's match-ups and other musings as time allows.

Happy Thanksgiving to all who celebrate it, and best of luck to all regardless.

The Barn Door Live - Week 13

Replay after the jump.


It's late.  I'm tired.  And I may, or may not have been drinking.  Isn't having a blog great?  Anyway, here are some random thoughts from a day of Friday trading:

  • If I were a betting man I wouldn't be playing fantasy football.  I'd also bet that Brunt will not make the Stoke match.  It seems like he could play if needed, but that it's just not worth the risk of aggravating he groin injury and going from missing one match to missing weeks.  If Brunt doesn't play, I think it devalues Odemwingie slightly, but is good news for James Morrison and Graeme Dorrans who will be asked to be West Brom's creative players.
  • Jerome Boateng is either over his injury problems or did his ankle playing for Germany and is out for the Fulham match.  I can't get a straight answer from the internets one way or another.  I like him at 4-something, but with Kolarov now in the side too I don't want to have all my defensive eggs in one basket. Though, on the other hand, Citeh are one of the better defensive teams... so it's a nice basket.  But what is Friday trading for if not to make stupid player decisions?  So welcome Martin Skrtel to the team.  Hopefully Liverpool can contain bottom-side West Ham at Anfield this weekend.  I honestly have no idea what to make to this game or know what to expect, but I've got Skrtel and Torres in the hopes that Liverpool's class and home-field advantage can overcome the scrappy, but frankly horrible Hammers.
  • Hernandez?  He'll either float around aimlessly for 60 minutes before being replaced by Rooney... or he'll knock in a brace.  I'm guessing it's the former, but I'm too scared of the latter happening and my not having him.  So I bought him.  And now I'm hoping for the latter.  But still scared.
  • On the larger ManU/Wigan issues... ManU should win this easily and to nil.  At least ManU of old - or of any year in the Premier League era - would.  This year you would almost bet on HRod and N'zog making it much more interesting.  Almost.
  • Gordon.  Dear god, here's hoping that doesn't blow up in my face.  Keepers this week are a total crap-shoot.  Anyone from Carson at under 4 to Cech over 13 could give you 14 or -4 points this week.  
  • Chamow.  He should be a great pick, but see Hernandez above.  He'll either score two or do f' all.  Hell, in the Wolves match, he did both!  What to think?  Other than it's the weekend to wait and get RVP and Defoe on the barn door.
  • I had one other point... but can't remember what it was.
Thanks for indulging me.  Good luck this weekend to everyone.  And no, I'm not pullling a Spealman - getting drunk and failing to save a full team.  I hit "Save Changes".  I just don't know if the changes were advisable.
Gordon - Skrtel Kolarov WBrown - Milijas Nani VDV Albrighton - Hernandez Torres Gyan

Injuries and Suspensions

Well, the injury crisis at Chelsea was apparently somewhat overstated with Alex looking like he'll be able to play and Terry being readied for mid-week.  The dire predictions about the value of CHE's cheaper defenders (and Cech) appear to be a bit overblown.  That said, Zhirkov is apparently ruled out and there's a choice to be made between Bosingwa and Ferreira at right back.  So, there's definitely a better chance of a clean sheet now but the uncertainty now lies with selection. 

In other news, the takeover at Rovers is complete.  It will be interesting to see how the league's first Indian owners approach their investment in a club.  Is there the possibility that Rovers could become the unofficial club of India in the same way that all Americans have a soft spot for Fulham due to the number of American players who have (and currently) play there? India isn't ready to start supplying Premier League players but if Rovers could carve out a niche, it could be an opportunity to capture an over-sized portion of interest from a huge country that is growing incredibly quickly from an economic standpoint that is paralleled by a rising interest in the Premier League as well.  For those of our readers in India, I'd be curious to hear if Indian ownership makes you even slightly more interested in following Rovers.  If it doesn't right now, is there anything that would?

Finally, we welcome TheScore to our blogging family.  The start-up Irish sports site has asked Jeremy and I to derive a more general version of "The Week Ahead" appropriate for people playing any fantasy game for their site and our first installment was published this morning.  Check it and the rest of the site out.  If you like what you see, remember to hit the "Like" button - it's always important to show some traction when you're launching a new media property and advertisers like to see things like that.

OK, on to the injuries:

The Week Ahead

So, first things first.  Thanks to everyone who took part in the spirited debate over Gareth Bale this week.  We've been doing this for a long time now and with the possible exception of some of the season preview discussions, this was definitely the most lively and entertaining discussion we've had in the comments.  I appreciated those of you who agreed with my assessment and I also appreciated the passion and articulation of alternative points of view from those who think I'm b@tsh!t crazy for questioning Bale's fantasy value.  Keep it coming, I'll be the first one to admit that there are multiple ways to look at fantasy selection and my way doesn't always work for everyone.

Outside of a spirited debate on a very specific topic, there is one broader notion that this debate pointed out to me that represents a flaw in the way I tend to rate players on a week-to-week basis.  That flaw is the lack of the sort of differentiation that using a three fold rating system (e.g., Buy, Hold, and Sell) that would make it easier to speak with equal relevance to people who already have a player on their roster as well as people who are thinking of buying at the current retail price.  If this was my full time job, then there's not question that every player (or at least every player worth even considering a little bit) would need to get such a rating each week.  As it turns out, I have a full time job and as a result, don't have time to rate roughly 250 players (starters plus potential rotational starters) each week.  What I will try to do is point out where I can when I'm suggesting that a player is value at his CURRENT price vs. where I think you should drop him even if you have him at a discount.

What do I mean? As was WELL covered in the comments, there's an argument to be made for Bale at 12 and many people who bought in Week 1 and left him alone have him for.  I could see the logic in keeping him at that price.  That said, with less than 25% of teams owning Bale, most of our readers need to know what to do about him THIS WEEK and his CURRENT price - they can't go back and get him at 12.  So, going forward, I'll try to mention some players who are worth keeping at a discount (e.g., VDV under 6 despite the occasional niggling injury or tough match-up) vs. players who are probably not worth it even WITH a discount (e.g., Drogba or Malouda for about the last three weeks).  Hopefully, this will improve the quality of the recommendations and make them relevant for more readers.  Oh, and if someone has the money available to make this my day job, I'll be happy to provide Buy/Hold/Sell ratings for everyone each week.

OK, on to the week at hand.

Adam hopes to face Wolves

Sky Sports | Blackpool News | Football | Premier League | Adam hopes to face Wolves:

More injury uncertainty from the international schedule.
Charlie Adam is hopeful of being fit for Blackpool's clash with Wolves despite picking up a knock on international duty.

The classy midfielder was forced to limp off midway through the second half of Scotland's 3-0 win over Faroe Islands on Tuesday night with a knee problem.

It was feared the knee injury could sideline Adam for this weekend's home clash with Wolves, but the former Rangers man is optimistic of recovering in time.

'I am a wee bit sore and stiff in the knee, but I should be okay and hopefully be alright for Saturday,' Adam told Sky Sports News."

Gerrard Injury Scare

BBC Sport - Football - Live - Wednesday's football
2144: Bad news for England and Liverpool - Steven Gerrard looks like he's done his hamstring in making a tackle and will be replaced by Peter Crouch.

Driving the Bandwagon: Jordan Henderson

Just remember that the Jordan Henderson bandwagon started here, at the beginning of the season.  In fact, based on his performances at the tail-end of LAST season I was picking him for my fantasy team in week one.

Fantasy Premier League Blog: The One Where Jeremy Picks a Team
Jeremy Spitzberg: there he is...
Jeremy Spitzberg: jordan henderson, 6.19
Jeremy Spitzberg: one please
And I talked him up in the comments of our Sunderland Season Preview.
I have a soccer crush on Jordan Henderson, and he's in my week 1 team. He should play wide left or center mid and will be a creative player taking kicks.
While he's been disappointing for fantasy - okay returns, but not value for money - I'm happy to see him get England honors today.

Joe Hart to miss friendly

Joe Hart ruled out of England friendly - Joe Hart to miss England v France friendly
England goalkeeper Joe Hart will miss Wednesday night’s friendly match against France at Wembley.

The 23-year-old Manchester City man suffered a back spasm during a training session with the national team and has now returned to Eastlands for treatment on the problem.

Hart is facing a race against time to be available for City’s trip to Fulham on Sunday, and his absence would lead to a rare start for current backup Shay Given

Alex and Terry out for Months

ALEX SIDELINED FOR SIX TO EIGHT WEEKS | Latest Chelsea News | Team & Transfer News | Chelsea FC | Chelsea
Alex has withdrawn from the Brazil squad to play Argentina this week and will undergo surgery on his knee.

Further... investigation via arthroscopic surgery is required on the player's right knee. That will take place over the coming days.

He is expected to be out for approximately six to eight weeks.
This, of course, is compounded by John Terry's indefinite absence due to "a long-term nerve problem in his right leg.
‘Basically, I am trying whatever is suggested. I’m at my wits’ end. I know I won’t play on Saturday against Birmingham City, but beyond that there are no clues. It could be weeks, it could be months.
So mighty Chelsea's starting center-back pairing is... right-back Paulo Ferreira and right-back Branislav Ivanovic!?!?!

Torres injury update

Roy Hodgson hit by January freeze as Liverpool owner rules out transfer spending spree | Mail Online
Torres has at least been given the all-clear by Spain's medical team, after arriving with an ankle ligament strain, and assured he will be fit to face West Ham at Anfield on Saturday.
This is surprisingly definitive. Hopefully the news won't change, or equivocate, later in the week.

On Bale

Well, I said nice things about Spurs (deservedly) and ManYoo (also deservedly) and wasn't particularly enamored with Arsenal's performance despite their win and yet the shouts of "you're biased" still came ringing in the comments section of "First Impressions and Second Thoughts."  Honestly, I'm coming to enjoy it a bit so keep it up.  To the extent that I have time, I'll continue to discuss my (non-biased) rationale for my opinions.  The main subject of displeasure this time around was the fact that I called out Bale as still not being fantasy value on a weekend where the Bale fantasy apologists were still glowing from his 29 point, 2 goal effort.  For those who still don't believe me that you should have sold him weeks ago despite this past weekend's outburst, here are the numbers:

Since Bale's last major outburst in Week 2 (33.5 points), he has been averaging 10 points/match and has cost approximately 15.  Over the course of 11 matches, you've gotten approximately 110 points from him at the combined cost of about 165.  For those of you who had Bale from the beginning of the season, you got those same 110 points for a cost of about 132.  So, what else could you have had for your money over that stretch that leads me to believe that you should have spent differently?

Torres ankle injury

Fernando Torres suffered ankle injury in Liverpool's defeat at Stoke | Football |

Liverpool have confirmed that their striker Fernando Torres has suffered an ankle ligament strain but will still report for international duty with Spain this week.

The Spain forward required treatment during the second half of yesterday's 2-0 Premier League defeat at Stoke but still completed the 90 minutes.

Torres will now be assessed by Spain's medical staff ahead of Wednesday's friendly against Portugal in Lisbon.

Expect lots of "should be fit to play" and "may be ready" and "doing everything they can to have star striker ready" etc. Just don't expect any definitive news on whether or not you should hold this otherwise no-brainer pick or gut him to buy Ngog.

First Impressions and Second Thoughts - Week 12

Just when you think you're getting a sense of what's going on in the Premier League, the script flips and a weekend completely surprises you.  As I sit here watching the Premier League weekend wind down as Sunderland lead Chelsea 2-0 at the Bridge in the second half, I'm sure you won't be surprised to learn that I have some thoughts on what has just gone on.  Without much further ado (aside from a potential interruption for another goal in this match), here are those thoughts:

The Barn Door Live - Week 12

Welcome to the chat everyone, should be an interesting weekend as always...

... and boy howdy, was it ever!!  Recap after the jump.

Injuries and Suspensions

Premier League team news - Barclays Premier League - ESPN Soccernet

The biggest news going seems to be the never ending list of injuries accumulating at Spurs.  Is there something in the water in North London? Do Spurs think the way to copy Arsenal's success is to emulate their yearly injury crises? Whatever the reason, it certainly isn't going to help Spurs end their 4 match winless streak in the Prem.  That and more below:

The Week Ahead

With so much fixture congestion, there's a lot to get to this week and precious little time in which to do it.  In an effort to make things a little more compact, here are a few thoughts from mid-week before we dive into the analysis for this week.

Eyeing the Schedule

Football - Premier League - Standing - Home - 2010-2011 - Day 12 - Yahoo! Eurosport

Holding Drogba, but enticed by the match-up that Tevez has as well as his cheaper price tag. So a quick look at the tables.

BRM and SUN are about the same on the road, though BRM just a bit more likely to concede and score.
  • SUN 5 for/10 against
  • BRM 8 for/12 against

But CHE is absolutely clinical at home, while MAC's cautious approach isn't just away from Eastlands.
  • CHE are 17 for/0 against at home
  • MAC only 7 for/5 against at home

So on that, I think it's worth it to keep Drogba and look for enabling players elsewhere - especially at goalkeeper.

Barton Faces Restrospective Ban

DTotD: Joey Barton punches Morten Gamst Pedersen - Dirty Tackle - World Soccer - Yahoo! Sports

Skip to 3:46.

It's a good thing the games are coming thick and fast now as I'm assuming he'll have played Fulham before any action can be taken. But this punch deserves a ban. Then again, so did THud's lashing out against Bolton, and he got off. So we'll see.

And just when I was marvelling that Barton's run of early-season yellow cards hadn't amounted to anything further.

UPDATE: Barton charged by FA
An FA statement said: "Newcastle United FC midfielder Joey Barton has today been charged with violent conduct by the FA following an incident in his side's fixture with Blackburn Rovers FC on Wednesday 10 November.

"Barton has until 6pm on Friday 12 November to reply to the charge and under the FA's fast-track regulations, may admit the charge and accept a standard three-match suspension."

If Barton decides to contest the charge, the hearing would be next week, meaning he would be free to feature in Newcastle's game against Fulham on Saturday.
What should NUFC do? I would think they contest the charge if just to keep the momentum going with another unchanged starting XI. That would also give them another week to work in Danny Guthrie or Wayne Routledge into the team and work on how that would impact their approach. Guthrie would be the choice if they need someone to take set pieces, but he hasn't even made the bench in their last few matches. Routledge has at least been on the bench and was a substitute last night against Blackburn. He would give NUFC width, especially as Barton is supposedly playing on the right of midfield. But then NUFC would be looking for someone to take set pieces. It's been their only offensive threat, and missing Barton on kicks would be a big loss to them over the course of the next (or next plus one) three matches.

Or can they solve both problems with... Ryan Taylor?!?!?!

Newcastle midfielder Joey Barton has admitted a charge of violent conduct and apologised to Morten Gamst Pedersen for the punch that will earn him a three-match ban...
Barton will miss Saturday's Barclays Premier League clash with Fulham and the following two games against Bolton and Chelsea.

Midweek Review - Day One

Day One in the books, and I'm as happy as Sylvie in the photo above. 46 points from Begovic, Van Der Vaart and Gyan. Day Two looks to me much more interesting, with the Manchester derby very much at the forefront - including the Nani's possible early return from injury.

But first a brief look back at yesterday.

Excuses, excuses

Didier Drogba has been suffering from malaria, Chelsea reveal | Football |
Carlo Ancelotti, the Chelsea manager, has revealed that his striker Didier Drogba has just recovered from a bout of malaria, a disease the club are helping to fight.

The Ivory Coast striker has been on the Chelsea sidelines in recent weeks. This was put down to a virus and the player was only fit enough to be a second-half substitute against Liverpool on Sunday.

But today Ancelotti revealed: "Didier has had problems. He had a virus and lost power in training. We now know what he had was malaria. He was given some time off and came back with malaria.

"Now he's OK and will be back, immediately, in his best condition. He suffered because he was not 100 per cent but after the treatment he will be better."
UPDATE: I should have been clearer. All indications are that he will start against Fulham.
Drogba will start against Fulham tomorrow as Chelsea go into the match determined to bounce back from their defeat at Anfield which has left them just two points clear of Manchester United.

Chelsea will hand late fitness tests to Nicolas Anelka (back) and Alex (knee), but Michael Essien is fit again after a toe injury.

LATER UPDATE: More information from Carlo, via Chelsea's website:
The manager did say Petr Cech will start in goal and that Salomon Kalou, Didier Drogba and Florent Malouda will be the attacking force, with Essien and John Mikel Obi sat in midfield.

Early Team News

Here's what caught my eye this early (Pacific Standard Time) morning.

Premier League - Evra taunts City; Giggs ruled out - Yahoo! Eurosport
Sir Alex Ferguson has confirmed he expects Owen Hargreaves to be out of action for up to five weeks with the hamstring injury he suffered against Wolves on Saturday - and also ruled Ryan Giggs out of the derby...

"Ryan is out," said the Scot.

The news on Nani was not much better either.

Although there is an outside chance the Portugal winger may recover from the groin injury he suffered in last week's Champions League triumph over Bursaspor, Ferguson is dubious about Nani's prospects of facing City.

"Nani is doubtful," said Ferguson. "At this stage it doesn't look as if he will make it.

Manchester United is also struggling with a "virus that has swept the Manchester United camp". Maybe Tevez isn't a bad idea this week.

Benjani adds to Blackburn's woes
Benjani suffered a hamstring injury against Wigan at the weekend and joins Steven Nzonzi, Vince Grella and Keith Andrews on the sidelines.

El Hadji Diouf is doubtful with a groin problem and may not start.

Bent out of England clash
Sunderland striker Darren Bent is out of England's friendly clash with France next week after a scan confirmed he has a grade one hamstring injury.

The 26-year-old is expected to be sidelined for up to three weeks with the problem

Mulumbu misses Hammers clash
...and Jara, maybe Shorey and possibly even Reid and Morrison.

More Uncertainty

Football365 | All The News | Football News | WENGER: FABREGAS WAS RESTRICTED
Wenger will also assess the fitness of Samir Nasri ahead of Wednesday's game at Wolves after the midfielder was replaced early in the second half against the Magpies.

The Arsenal manager commented: 'Samir has a calf problem that will be assessed tomorrow (Monday). We think it is small.'

The (Mid)Week Ahead

Let me clear up a few things from the "First Impressions..." column.  First, let me apologize to Liverpool supporters about the omission of Liverpool.  I was hoping to get to a longer feature about them later last night but it didn't happen.

If I'd included something about them it would have looked something like this:

Rafael van der Vaart may be hamstrung for Sunderland

Tottenham's Rafael van der Vaart may be hamstrung for Sunderland visit | Football |

... andDBent definitely is.
Rafael van der Vaart remains a doubt for Tottenham's league game against Sunderland tomorrow with a hamstring injury. The Dutchman is still struggling with the strain that kept him out of Saturday's 4-2 defeat at Bolton...

Sunderland also have major injury concerns, with Darren Bent likely to be sidelined for several weeks by the hamstring injury which kept him out of Saturday's 2-0 victory over Stoke.
So don't say we didn't warn you, Nicolas Attara.

In Praise of the Friday Trade that Never Happened

Jeremy Spitzberg: drogba/gyan?
Jeremy Spitzberg: how about dbent/berba king?
That would have been a 30-point mistake and I would still be in a horrible mood this morning.

First Impressions and Second Thoughts - Week 11

Can you say "unmitigated disaster" for your favorite blogger? I know I certainly can after this disaster of a weekend.  The only good news, a chance to reload and wipe this one off the books come Tuesday.  Arsenal lost to NUFC.  ManYoo won despite playing terribly.  My entire fantasy team decided it was the weekend not to show up.  I honestly can't think of a single bit of upside to write about. 

The Barn Door Live - Week 11

OK, I'm back from Rallying for Sanity and/or Fear and ready for our now-traditional live chat.

My line-up is Fab21, Bale, Zhirkov, Salcido, VDV (at a large discount), FloMal (fingers crossed), Adam, Brunt, Obertan, Drogba, and Chicharito

Replay after the jump.

A Glimpse Inside

A glimpse inside my Friday, in blog round-table fashion.  You'll see a lot of back-and-forth, some hemming-and-hawing, a fair bit of over-thinking and a pinch of... well, a lot more over-thinking.  In the end, I think my team will look like this this weekend:

PRobbo // Bale Zhirkov Boateng // VDV Brunt Walcott Obertan // Drogba Hernandez Gyan

Or maybe...

Fabianski // Bale Zhirkov Boateng // VDV Brunt Milijas Obertan // Drogba Hernandez Gyan

As for how I got here (where ever that is)...

Malouda fit for Liverpool trip

UPDATE:  Here's Ancelotti's quote, from
"I can give you nine men: Cech, Ivanovic, Alex, Terry, Cole, Mikel, Zhirkov, Anelka, Drogba. Malouda or Kalou, Essien or Ramires," Ancelotti said.
So FloMa is 50/50 with Kalou and Ramires is challenging Essien's spot, not Zhirkov's.


Premier League - Malouda fit for Liverpool trip - Yahoo! Eurosport
Chelsea's top scorer Florent Malouda will be fit to face Liverpool this weekend despite manager Carlo Ancelotti claiming on Thursday that he was injured.

The Italian backtracked from his earlier analysis on Friday, in which he said the ankle injury sustained in the win over Blackburn last week would keep the Frenchman sidelined.

"Malouda is available to play, he has recovered very well" said the Chelsea boss, adding that the striker would be in the starting line-up.

Ancelotti also changed his mind over the fitness of Frank Lampard, who had been expected to be fit in time for the trip to Anfield.

"He is not available for this game, we have to take time again," said Ancelotti. "Next week finally he will be ready.

File this under "make up your damn mind, but thanks for the heads up".

Injuries and Suspensions

So, the information starts trickling in and it is up to us to make some sense of it.  Before I get to the Injuries and Suspensions post though, I figured I'd check in with Major League Soccer since I had the occasion to do so last night for the first time since the beginning of the season.  Don't get me wrong, I'm not a snob about these things but if you saw DC United play this season, you'll realize why I couldn't stomach the idea of going out of my way to watch them play live (which now requires a 45+ minute drive for me) or even on TV.  I tuned in to the playoff match between New York Red Bulls and the San Jose Earthquakes and I have to say I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of play.  It wasn't up to the standard of the Premier League by any stretch of the imagination but it was certainly very watchable.  Did I enjoy it more because old friend Bobby Convey (fellow Philadelphian, former DC United player, and subject of some good stories told to me by the head of marketing at Reading FC from his time in the Prem and Championship with the Royals) scored two goals and got the winning assist? Definitely.  Even more so because New York lost despite fielding three "designated players" (for those not familiar read "really expensive guys from Europe")? Even more so.  Here are a couple observations:
  • Funny to see that the move down to MLS hasn't made TH14 any better at heading the ball - he missed a fantastic opportunity to tie the match in the late going but didn't even put it on frame from about 4 yards out.  Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose. (Look at me breaking out a few years of being a mediocre French student).
  • 17 year old forward Juan Aqudelo looks like he's going to be really good.  He just kept making things happen.  Very interesting to see the next generation of USMNT players starting to emerge.  
  • For those interested in learning a few names before they hit Europe, here are some names that will become the next few who start appearing in the rumor mill - Aqudelo, Andy Najar (M, DC United), Tim Ream (CB, New York), and Omar Gonzalez (CB, LA Galaxy).  All are eligible to play for the USA and seem likely to have the upside to attract interest from England, Spain, Italy, and/or Germany in the next two to three years.  
OK, on to the injuries and suspensions and analysis of what it all means:

The Week Ahead

Within every season, there is a tipping point at which the big story concerning both the action on the pitch and fantasy team selection is injuries.  This particular season, this seems to be that week.  Sure there have been big injuries to Rooney, Torres, Lampard, and a few others for weeks now (along with the usual long list of Arsenal attackers and Spurs central defenders) but this week we push beyond those one-off injuries to each team to additional key injuries to each "big" team that could radically impact their ability to perform as we've come to expect.  This injuries also open up opportunities for less expensive players to step up onto the big fantasy stage and either make risk-loving fantasy managers very happy or ready to rip out their hair.

Malouda out of Liverpool Match

REACTION: FIRST GOAL THE KEY | Latest Chelsea News | Team & Transfer News | Chelsea FC | Chelsea
'Malouda has a twist on his ankle, not a big problem but he is not able to play against Liverpool, the week after yes, and we hope Frank can play.'
Leaving Brunt as my only midfielder set to play this weekend. Argh! I'm assuming this makes Kalou a hot fantasy property.


Nani and Fletcher to miss Wolves clash
Sir Alex Ferguson has ruled Nani and Darren Fletcher out of Saturday's Premier League encounter with Wolves.

The pair both picked up injuries during the3-0 win over Bursaspor in Turkey.

And whilst it is hoped the damage is not too serious, it is enough to keep two of Ferguson's most important players out of a key domestic encounter.

"Unfortunately, Nani has a groin injury and is out for Saturday," confirmed Ferguson.

Balotelli looking to reach the top
Balotelli endured a disappointing first Barclays Premier League start in the defeat to Wolves on Saturday, but could get another chance to impress in Thursday's Europa League clash with Lech Poznan if he shakes off a knock to the thigh in time.

Two weeks out for Joe Cole
Joe Cole will be out for two weeks following the hamstring injury he sustained in Liverpool's 1-0 win over Bolton on Sunday...

That means Cole will miss out on facing his old club Chelsea at Anfield on Sunday.

Injured Fabregas out of Arsenal's trip to Donetsk
Arsenal will not risk skipper Cesc Fabregas against Shakhtar Donetsk in the Champions League on Wednesday after the Spaniard strained a hamstring against West Ham United at the weekend...

"Cesc will not travel," Wenger told Arsenal's website ( "It's a mixture of caution and his hamstring. We cannot take the gamble. He has a good chance to play (against Newcastle) on Sunday but tomorrow would be a risk."

Alex Song is also doubtful for the Group H clash with a calf strain, as are Andrei Arshavin and Denilson who have groin injuries.

Spurs make it White Hot Lane for holders Inter
Spurs fans were buoyed before kickoff when Van der Vaart was declared fit after tweaking a hamstring on Saturday.

Besides scoring the opening goal he was also at the heart of most of Spurs attacks during a 45-minute appearance before going off at halftime.


I know what you're thinking... "What does all this mean?"

And I wish I had good answers. Nani's situation is the most troublesome for me. Van Der Vaart I have so cheaply that it's worth keeping him even if he is out for a game or two. But Nani, while I have him at a discount, is still a significant investment and I'm leaning towards selling him. Not only will he miss the match against Wolves, but there are midweek games (a new gameweek for Y!, however) so you wonder if he'll be fit to play in the Manchester derby on Wednesday.  Fabregas is seemingly likely to play so is a good investment, but maybe Nasri is a better bet - he's healthier [at time of writing] and has been scoring well for fantasy.  We'll see if he plays, and if so how he fares, in the Ukraine today.

As for the man of the moment, Gareth Bale, he hasn't transferred his Champions League form to the Premier League recently.  But if Van Der Vaart does miss any time then Bale could be right back on set-piece duty and the offense will once again run through him on the left rather than Van Der Vaart through the middle.  Playing at Bolton and then home to Sunderland is a bit of mixed bag, especially after yesterday's exertions.  But I might consider backing him, even at just under 15.


Two game weeks have always been a bit of a double-edged sword for us here at the blog.  On one hand, they add some much needed complexity to the usual task of blogging about a single week's worth of match-ups.  On the other hand, they make that column really difficult to write because you have to account for injuries, rotations, and multiple match-ups for each team and player that you're considering.  In anticipation of our first two-match week of the season, I sent an email to "The Powers That Be" at Yahoo to confirm that it would indeed be a two-game week and much to my surprise, the answer was "no" - they are doing away with two-match weeks (at least the scheduled ones) for this season.  Since our email exchange, they have posted the official announcement on the game's main page.  This means three things to be aware of:

1) We'll only be commenting on the weekend matches in TWA and I&S

2) We'll try to turn around a second post on Sunday evening or Monday morning to get you ready for the midweek matches - hopefully, injury reports and updates will be readily available in time for us to incorporate them.

3) I assume that the transfer cut off for mid-week matches will be late Monday/early Tuesday depending on where you live.

Should be an interesting week as we see a new wrinkle in our (mostly) beloved fantasy game.

Cheers - Neal

First Impressions and Second Thoughts - First Quarter of the Season

This past weekend, I was lucky enough to be able to attend Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert's Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear on the National Mall here in Washington, DC.  For those of you living outside of the US (or under a rock in the US), here's a brief summation from Jon Stewart toward the end of the rally...
"What exactly was this? This was not a rally to ridicule people of faith. Or people of activism or to look down our noses at the heartland or passionate argument or to suggest that times are not difficult and that we have nothing to fear. They are and we do. But we live now in hard times, not end times. And we can have animus and not be enemies.
"I feel strangely, calmly good, because the image of Americans that is reflected back to us by our political and media process is false," Stewart went on to say. "Sanity will always be in the eye of the beholder. To see you here today and the kind of people that you are, has restored mine."
First off, the event was a blast.  The entertainment - we got to see Ozzy, Yusef, Sheryl Crow, Kid Rock, the O'Jays, John Legend, and more plus plenty of comedy from the hosts - was amazing and brought together in a pretty funny way. The message was equally fantastic and made better by the fact that the crowd seemed to live by the "Sanity" motto and managed to be very civil to each other despite a LOT of people in a space not made to hold nearly that many.  The other thing that the rally did, was it inspired my latest gimmick that comes just in time for the Premier League Season to hit the quarter pole.  Here is our review of each team with one item that should help supporters "restore sanity" and one that should "cause fear", we'll see how it goes but it's certainly better than trotting out the obvious Halloween ploy.


  • Two weeks out for Joe Cole Joe Cole will be out for two weeks following the hamstring injury he sustained in Liverpool's 1-0 win over Bolton on Sunday.
  • Cesc out of Shakhtar clash - Cesc Fabregas will miss Arsenal's Champions League clash with Shakhtar Donetsk because of a hamstring injury.
  • Noble out for a month West Ham United Mark Noble is ruled out for up to a month after undergoing surgery for appendicitis.

I see increased fantasy value for Victor Obinna and Samir Nasri.

Van Der Vaart Back in Training

Sky Sports | Tottenham Hotspur News | Football | Premier League | Double boost for Spurs
Rafael van der Vaart and Tom Huddlestone have handed Tottenham a double boost ahead of their UEFA Champions League clash with Inter Milan.

The key Spurs duo were rated as injury doubts for Tuesday's Group A clash at White Hart Lane as Harry Redknapp's men prepare to tackle the reigning champions once again.

Summer signing Van Der Vaart, who has made a huge impact following his £8million arrival from Real Madrid, limped out of Saturday's 2-0 defeat at Manchester Unitedwith a hamstring injury 13 minutes from time.

And midfielder Huddlestone has been suffering from a groin problem which forced him to miss the Old Trafford reverse having already sat out the 1-1 draw at home to Everton on 23rd October.

But the duo were both in training with Tottenham on Monday, raising hopes that they could be involved against Rafa Benitez's side in midweek.