Sunderland Analysis - Lots of Transfer Activity

I've already gone on record in thinking that NUFC are among the mid-table clubs that have done very well for themselves thus far.  They've gone from highly volatile and a bit long in the tooth to more solid if perhaps a little less potentially spectacular.  West Brom has quietly solidified themselves in the back with some solid acquisitions as well.  That brings us to Sunderland who have stepped up the pace dramatically in the last ten days with three (relatively) high profile signings in Connor Wickham, Seb Larsson, and Craig Gardner to go along with depth in Keiran Westwood and my new favorite Premier League player "Bishop Magic" Dong-won.

So, how to the new signings look? First of all, I really like the Wickham move.  Here's my logic:

Gardner Signs for Sunderland

photo courtesy

Gardner is a Black Cat | Latest Sunderland News | Team & Transfer News | Sunderland AFC | Sunderland
Steve Bruce has completed the signing of Craig Gardner from Birmingham City.

The Solihull-born 24-year-old joins Sunderland on a three-year contract for an undisclosed fee, becoming the Black Cats' third signing in just over 24 hours following the acquisitions of Connor Wickham and Ji Dong-Won...

He picked up a Carling Cup winners' medal and scored 10 goals in 37 appearances in all competitions during the campaign just ended, including a spectacular long-range strike against the Black Cats at St Andrew's in April.

Eight of those goals came in the Barclays Premier League, ranking the attack-minded player in the league's top ten midfielders in terms of goals scored.

I think this is a good signing for Sunderland and goes a long way towards replacing Jordan Henderson.  We've been fans of Gardners since he was listed as a defender in the Y! game but playing attacking midfield.  He had a brilliant start to last season, but as with Birmingham City as a whole, he faded as the year went along.

Coupled with some of their other signings, I would have to say that Sunderland is doing a really nice job of building a team of reasonably young players who still have a wealth of Premier League experience. With current players like Turner, Meyler, Campbell, Richardson and Bramble coming back to fitness Sunderland should be solidly mid-table again. Damning with faint praise, I know, but better than flirting with relegation.

I still worry that they're light in central midfield, with Lee Cattermole a liability rather than an asset, and on the left with Malbranque and KRich an ineffective duo and Bardsley a right-sided player. But maybe the aforementioned Myler or Riveros make their mark. Maybe Sessegnon settles into a wing role. Regardless, Bruce has pieces to play with coming into the new season.

"Bishop Magic" Dong-won

The original

ESPN Soccernet - On the Move - Love for Leighton
15.11 South Korea international Ji Dong-won has become Sunderland's second signing in as many days after completing his move from Chunnam Dragons.
I don't know much, if anything, about him but I do know that Sunderland need forwards and I'm going to love the nickname (which I should since I just gave it to him - hopefully no one beat me to the punch).  For those who don't know here's the Wikipedia version and his very own official website

How can you not love it?

David De Gea says farewell to Atletico Madrid

David De Gea in tears as new Manchester United keeper says farewell to Atletico Madrid | Mail Online
David De Gea broke down in floods of tears last night as he bade farewell to Atletico Madrid, just hours after his first interview as a Manchester United player.

Uh oh.

The last player I remember having such a hard time leaving his Spanish club was Arsenal's Jose Antonio Reyes. He too was in tears upon leaving Sevilla, where he had played since the age of 15. And despite the occasional flash of brilliance, he never settled into what was very much Thierry Henry's Arsenal team.

Now I'm not saying that De Gea is another Reyes. But what would worry me is that the United keeper job is SO high pressure.  It has chewed up and spit out the likes of Taibi, Carroll, Howard, and seemingly most recently Kuzszcak.  I know that the reviews of De Gea praise his mental strength, and I'm not going to judge based on this moment.

But still, it does give one a little pause.

The New Season Begins Tonight

Former Liverpool frontman set for Fulham debut - Fulham FC - Sport - Fulham Chronicle

Yes, indeed... there is Premier League action! Well, of a sort. Fulham take on "Faroe Islands part-timers" NSI Runavik tonight in a Europa League qualifier. Let's hear it for the Fair Play rules!

This is Martin Jol's first match in charge of Fulham and he'll be missing Carlos Salcido and Clint Dempsey who just played in the Gold Cup final. Otherwise, it seems much the same as they were at the end of last season with Dembele injured and Zamora likely to be on the bench. Lauri Dalla Valle, a youngster signed from Liverpool, could get a start up top in their absence.

So there you go. Team news in June. The wonder of it all!

Arsenal Away Kit

Designed by Ralph Lauren, via Alexander Julian's colour palette?

Exhibit A, tweeted by Mark Lomas:

Here's a pic of Arsenal's new turquoise & blue away kit to mark their 125th anniversary courtesy of @nikefootball than a minute ago via Twitpic Favorite Retweet Reply

Exhibit B, Polo Ralph Lauren Custom-Fit Dual Big Pony:

Exhibit C, Alexander Julian and the Charlotte Hornets uniform he designed in 1988:

Over-reaction to the US loss and Chicharito

Why Can't the U.S. Build a Soccer Star -

Funny thing about the emergence of Chicharito for Manchester United and Mexico.  Somehow the presence of one exceptional forward has given everyone the impression that the entire US system of player development is broken because, as the above article says, we haven't developed a superstar (which I'm pretty sure is code for dominant goal-scoring forward).  The implication is also that Mexico has it all figured out now that they've developed Hernandez and he is starting for one of the top few clubs in the world at a young age.  Here's the thing, if you look around the world, no one seems to have figured out the secret to regularly producing exceptional goal-scoring talent.  The implication seems to be that there is an assembly line of Chicharito clones ready to invade the football world while the US is turning out players who are barely good enough for MLS.  The evidence just doesn't point to this being the case.


Xherdan Shaqiri

Say it with me...

"Xherdan Shaqiri"

Yeah, I don't know how to pronounce it either. But that's an "All-Name Team" winner if I ever heard one! And it seems that he's been noticed in the U21 tournament. Neal posted about him yesterday, and today this shows up in my Twitter feed:

9 - Only Xherdan Shaquiri (10) created more chances from open play at U-21 Euros than Juan Mata who also recorded most assists (2). Spark.less than a minute ago via web Favorite Retweet Reply

He's been linked with Liverpool for a while now, and they could use someone like him in the midfield. He's a difference maker, and would play out wide - avoiding the congestion in the center. But the strongest rumours have him going to Hamburg as former Spurs and Chelsea man Frank Arnesen looks to reshape that club.

Giovani Dos Santos Goal

Johnny Two-Saints finishes off Chicharito's hard work and seals the Gold Cup final for Mexico.

The bandwagon is growing. Why shouldn't GDS be Rafael Van Der Vaart's understudy at Spurs? VDV can't finish matches because he's too fragile. Why not have GDS available with fresh legs to come into those matches? He plays the same free role that VDV excels at - albeit with a preference for the right, rather than the left, but it would allow for a substitution that wouldn't disrupt the formation or the style of play.

Random Weekend Thoughts

We take what we can get here at blog headquarters while we wait for either the next big transfer confirmation or the start of the season (or at least that joyous day when we get to start picking our teams for next season). In the meantime, here are some thoughts from a weekend that included the Euro U21 final, the Gold Cup final and a very interesting discussion on Facebook combined with Jeremy taunting (or baiting) me with a link on Twitter.

Levesque Goal Celebration

Last night, Seattle Sounders forward Roger Levesque - who just looks like a crazy person, but in a good way - unveiled a new goal celebration. It was quick, simple and brilliantly funny.

Get Microsoft Silverlight

Levesque, in his own words:
"That's something Mike Fucito and I have been working on for awhile now. I didn’t really expect it to knock the wind out of me."

See?  Crazy, but in a good way.

Tenuous EPL connection, if you need one: Kasey Keller and Teemu Tainio played while Thierry Henry missed the match through suspension.

Ashley Young to Manchester United Completed

Manchester United complete Ashley Young signing - ESPN Soccernet

So in a summer where teams seem to be focusing their attention (and money) on redundant players, we give you Ashley Young to Manchester United. 

For those who have been reading the blog for a while, you know we've had a long-standing love affair with him back to his days at Watford when he was a Yahoo! fantasy star for very little money.  We have enjoyed his time at Villa slightly less as his price has risen (along with his ego by all reports).  The question we're faced with is, "Why did United want him?"

It seems to me that AY and Nani are almost identical players.  Both play a hybrid left midfield/striker role.  Both are fairly fleet of foot.  Both serve the ball in well from both the run of play and set pieces.  Both score more than their fair share of goals from decent distance.  Neither is particularly inclined to track back and play defense.  Neither is known to be particularly "coach-able" although both have improved steadily despite this criticism being leveled at them.  Both are still on the upsides of their career - Nani is 24 and Young is 25.

So, why make the move for Young if you already have Nani? Here are a couple of thoughts:
  • The Rules - If they're essentially the same player, why not go with the one that helps satisfy the "homegrown" rule.
  • Money - They may have an offer on the table for Nani from a newly wealthy team on the continent of the PSG variety that will allow them to make a net profit on buying AY and selling Nani, who again, are essentially the same player.
  • Looking Ahead - It may be clear to United that Nani's intention is to leave at some point in the future so rather than get themselves into a CRon/Cesc-type situation, they decided to make the switch for a very similar player who really wants to be at United while Nani still has lots of value and other teams don't have as much leverage.
  • The Unknown - Despite his recent success, SAF has never really seemed sold on Nani to the extent of leaving him on the bench until the 70th minute in United's biggest match of the season.  Maybe SAF has decided to cut bait before the news gets out that he doesn't value Nani much and that there's something that has happened quietly behind the scenes that has paved the way for his exit from Old Trafford.
  • Depth - Perhaps last season's injury to Antonio Valencia has convinced SAF that he really needs three starting-caliber wide players for two spots and he finally has the money to do something about it after a few years of not having the money to spend.
I'm sure the answer is some combination of the answers above.  My only real question is why United have made a luxury purchase - Young - before they tie up the more important purchases that they need more desperately - goalkeeper, attacking midfielder, holding midfielder.

In any event, the downside for us fantasy players is the potential that Nani, Young, and Valencia all stay and we are forced to figure out who will play from week-to-week.  It would effectively crush the value of two very good premium midfielders.  If Young arrives and Nani leaves then Young's value probably stays about the same.  The real winner in all of this from a fantasy (and probably real life) standpoint is Albrighton who has to be seen as a no-doubt-about it first team choice regardless of what happens with Downing-to-Liverpool.

Jamie O'Hara Signs for Wolves

Hazing the new guy

Note: This was written yesterday, but didn't post for whatever reason.

Sky Sports is reporting that Wolves have finalized their long-expected signing of Jamie O'Hara from Spurs.
Owner-chairman Steve Morgan has revealed Wolves still have other targets in mind this summer after completing their move for Jamie O'Hara.

The Midlanders wrapped up a £5million deal for the midfielder on Tuesday, signing him from Tottenham on a five-year contract.

Reading centre-back Matt Mills, Wolves central defender Roger Johnson and Liverpool left-back Paul Konchesky are also thought to be on manager Mick McCarthy's wishlist.
This is a great move for both club and player. O'Hara finally knows where he will be playing - and that he will be playing regularly. And Wolves get a player that fits their style and their ethos, and who brings real skill to the midfield.  When healthy, Hunt, O'Hara, Henry, Guedioura and Jarvis - assuming Mick sticks with five across midfield - could be a real handful for opposing teams. There's a little speed, a lot of bite, and some talent in that group.

I wonder if this move spells the end of Milijas' time at Wolves. Aside from a good run mid-season, he hasn't even played regularly for McCarthy. I hope he could find a better fit somewhere else in the Premier League, though I suspect he'd find himself somewhere else. Turkey or Germany, perhaps.

Seb Larsson to Sunderland

Photo courtesy

Sunderland begin rebuilding their midfield.

Swede Larsson leaves Birmingham for Sunderland - Yahoo! Eurosport
Sunderland manager Steve Bruce has agreed to sign Swedish international Sebastian Larsson from his old club Birmingham City.
I think this is a good signing. Larsson has always produced when given extended runs in the team and he seems like the type of player that would respond well to Bruce's more player-friendly management style.

My concern would be that he's not a good fit for the current Sunderland side. It's hard to imagine him and Kieran Richardson playing inside-out wingers around Asamoah Gyan. Larsson just doesn't strike me as the type of player who will cut inside and run at players. He won't be replacing Welbeck, and he's a different player from the returning Campbell. He'll stick to his flank and send in beautiful crosses. That's what he does. But for that to be effective he needs someone on the end of those balls. It's no surprise that his best spell with Birmingham came in the Championship with Nicklas Bendtner also shining.

So I would expect the other shoe to drop and Sunderland to be buying the target forward they've been missing since they sold Kenwyne Jones and then Darren Bent. And, because nothing is more fun, let me start the rumour right now -- Sunderland will follow this purchase by buying Nicklas Bendtner from Arsenal.

Why not?

Sunderland sign Keiren Westwood

We've been banging on Liverpool for weeks now for signing players (good players, even) who don't fill a need. Now Sunderland seems to be making the same "mistake".

Sunderland sign goalkeeper Keiren Westwood - Chris Young column - Sunderland Echo
The 26-year-old Republic of Ireland keeper is the Black Cats’ first signing of the summer, having travelled up to Wearside at the start of the week to undergo a routine medical before putting pen to paper on a three-year contract yesterday...

But he will be a Sunderland player next season and likely to start the opening game against Liverpool at Anfield with number one keeper Black Cats keeper Craig Gordon still sidelined by injury and impressive prospect Simon Mignolet deemed to need more experience before pushing his own claims as a number one keeper.
I guess this is less an issue of adding redundancy and more of an admission that the Gordon transfer was a terrible piece of business.  Since he signed with Sunderland for £7 million (rising to 10) Brad Friedel, for example, has made two transfers - £2.5 million to Aston Villa and then free to Spurs.

Meanwhile Gordon has been injured more than he hasn't, Martin Fulop was shipped off to Ipswich, and now Mignolet looks set for what... a loan deal? I don't know how else he'll get the needed experience, but that would again leave Sunderland short of cover.

Anyway, news is news.  Westwood may be an interesting value play in some fantasy games, but in Yahoo! you're sitting on David De Gea all season, right?

McLeish Named Manger of Aston Villa

I'm on vacation, so maybe this is some sort of fever dream brought on by the Texas heat:

Aston Villa appoint McLeish as manager

Aston Villa appointed Alex McLeish as manager less than a week after the Scot triggered a legal dispute by quitting neighbours and arch-rivals Birmingham City by email.

The move to interview McLeish, who was unable to prevent Birmingham being relegated from the Premier League last season, resulted in protests at Villa Park this week by a number of die-hard fans.

This is just a stunning appointment and I'm having a hard time justifying to myself, much less seeing how Lerner can justify it to die-hard Aston Villa fans. Just ask Hodgson what it's like to work when the supporters don't support you. Hell, ask Houllier!

As for what this might mean for Villa next season, I would assume it solidifies their defence. They need a new keeper, but there are decent ones available within the Premier League. When Big Brad left I dismissed a return to Villa for Stoke's Sorensen, but now... anything is possible with the club! I would even expect to see Young, Luke (old Star Wars nickname joke) lining up at full back next season. He seems a prototypical McLeish project.

In midfield, read Nigel Reo-Coker and Petrov for Bowyer and Ferguson with Albrighton and Downing on the wings supporting Darren Bent. The one decision is does that last spot go to a forward or a midfielder. I would think that it goes to Gabby Agbonlahor, but I would ask him to drop off Bent, rather than trying to play alongside him. Otherwise, I wonder if McLeish could try going back to the Aleksander Hleb well one more time.  Injury stalled his Premier League return at Birmingham, but he did come along at the end of the season.  If McLeish wants to work with him again - and he would countenance working with McLeish again - he could be the bit of creativity in the middle of the park that Villa have lacked in recent seasons.

Going through the squad, it seems a no-lose proposition to take over Villa right now. They have talent and youth, even if they are losing the cream of their crop to clubs playing in Europe next season. But appointing the immediate former manager of their fiercest cross-town rivals? That, to me, seems like turning a no-lose situation into a no-win.

What's your take?

Analysis: Ba to NUFC

While Jeremy is our resident NUFC supporter, he is out of pocket this week so I'm going to take over with my thoughts on the transfer of Demba Ba from WHU to St. James' Park.  Taken as a move by itself, there is little to do other than like it a lot.  NUFC is desperate for strikers and Ba was very effective over the second half of last season at Upton Park.  If he can stay healthy, I don't have any trouble seeing him match the goal total of the man he is, in essence, replacing - Andy Carroll. 

What could go wrong with this move? A couple of things:

The Worst Hair This Side of Trump Coming to the Emirates

ESPN Soccernet - On The Move
15.31 We're hearing that Gervinho's move to Arsenal in a £10.5 million deal from Lille is all but a done deal. Confirmation imminent.

With the news that Gervinho is extremely likely to arrive at The Emirates, here are some quick thoughts.

The Player
My expectations range from "good" to "very good" as a player. He will add an element of speed that Arsenal only currently have when Walcott is healthy/playing/in form. He is also likely to be a little more refined than Theo which is nice. I don't think he will be a superstar in the Premier League but he certainly should be a more than solid contributor.

Playing Time
Here's the big question since Arsenal are already pretty well stocked with attackers who like to play in similar spaces. I think we can all agree that Bendtner is gone but he really didn't get much playing time when everyone was healthy so that doesn't open up much for Gervinho. That brings up the possibility that Gervinho is a preemptive move to replace one or more of the players rumored to be leaving. If the rumor mill is to be believed then Nasri is the most likely to need replacing but here's my theory: Gervinho looked to me, in limited viewing, like more of an Arshavin replacement as far as positioning on the field and skills than a Nasri replacement.

If you consider that Wenger essentially replaced Bendtner last season (with Chamakh) then this move could the the continuation of a trend in which he is buying logical replacements a year ahead rather than waiting until a player is gone to replace them. Arshavin and Gervinho could split that spot in the starting line-up this season with Arsh leaving in January or next summer once Wenger is comfortable that Gervinho is settled and up to the task.

Fantasy Value
If my assumption above is correct, this will be a really annoying situation for fantasy managers. Position-sharing is one of the more annoying things that we have to confront as we look to put our teams together. If I'm wrong and Arshavin is sold over the summer paving the way for Gervinho to start regularly then I'll be very excited about him in the Yahoo! format and at least somewhat excited about him in the format (where his initial price will inevitably be higher). I will be even more excited if he is listed as a midfielder in one or both formats.

Regardless of the above, I'm happy about this move although there are others that I'll be happier about (see, Samba, Cahill, and Hazard).

A Strange Summer Keeps Getting Stranger

Newcastle's Kevin Nolan having West Ham medical - Telegraph

I can see Nolan wanting to leave NUFC if they didn't match the valuation he expected after a great bounce-back season in the Premier League.  Two things that are shocking here:

First, he can't find a better opportunity than life in the Championship with West Ham next season.  He played well for the Magpies and there are certainly a bunch of Premier League teams who could use his goals if the transfer price is in the reported range (between WHU's initially rejected £1.5M number and today's suggested £4M number).  If he wanted to stay in the Prem it seems to me that he might consider Wolves, Villa, Stoke, Sunderland, or one of the newly promoted clubs as options before dropping down.

Second, the reports from @FFScout that Joey Barton is likely leaving as well.  These reports have been fairly frequent this summer as well but still surprising given that it would mean that NUFC had allowed its best three attacking players to leave over the last 6 or 7 months between Carroll, Barton, and Nolan.  I'm all for the notion of selling assets at the peak of their value but one has to wonder if NUFC can recruit similar options at lower prices heading into next season to ensure that they can score the goals necessary to stay up.  We shall see.

One possible theory on the Nolan leaving point.  His career is winding down regardless of how well he played last season and perhaps old friend Big Sam promised him some sort of runway from playing into management at West Ham (or wherever he is coaching by the time Nolan retires).  No inside knowledge on my part but about the only thing I can think of that would lead a player who could find himself a better option to voluntarily insert himself into the mess that is WHU in the Championship.

Nolan to West Ham

Newcastle captain Kevin Nolan set for West Ham after clubs agree fee

The Newcastle United captain Kevin Nolan is undergoing a medical at West Ham ahead of completing a move to the Championship club.

West Ham targeted Newcastle's top scorer from last season after he rejected a new contract at St James' Park. Newcastle dismissed an initial bid for the 28-year-old as "derisory", but accepted a subsequent offer.

Nolan, who has two years remaining on his Newcastle contract, will be reunited with the former Bolton manager Sam Allardyce at Upton Park if the deal goes through.

I'm not sure why Nolan wants this move. Obviously money is always an issue - perhaps always THE issue. And Nolan knows Big Sam. But does he really want to be the best player in the Championship again? Hasn't he been there, done that?

My MLS Bigamy Continues

I've written about my various soccer (and other sports)-related travels both here on the blog and in other forums as well.  I've also written about the dilemma that faces me as a native of Philadelphia who was living in DC when MLS started (without a Philadelphia team in the mix) and have been with DC United from the start.  Those two topics collided last weekend as I made my first trip to PPL Park in Chester, PA for my first Union home match since their home opener against DC United last season.
Nope, no telephoto lens - we were that close.

[For those who don't follow MLS or the stadium situations of the teams therein, the Union played their first ever home match and a bunch of others at Lincoln Financial Field - home of the NFL Eagles - until PPL Park was ready].

Going in, I was pretty excited for a few reasons:

Baines a target for Manchester City

...while Alexander Kolarov has convinced few so a new left-back might come in, possibly Leighton Baines.

What a strange, strange statement. I wonder if it gave the same pause to write that as I took in reading it?

Don't get me wrong - Baines has been great the last few years (and before that it was his play at Wigan that got him the big move to Everton in the first place). But a move to Manchester City is dictated by so much more than football. Is Baines really the sexy signing that will catapult City through the Champions League? I just can't imagine the brass at City are looking to Baines to solid up the team.

Not that they shouldn't... I just can't imagine that they would.

Ashley Young heads to Manchester United

UPDATE: More thoughts on the Ashley Young to Manchester United deal as it was just finalized (23 June) here.


Ashley Young heads to Manchester United but Phil Jones deal stalls | Football | The Guardian
Manchester United will officially sign Ashley Young when the Aston Villa forward returns from holiday later this month but their capture of Phil Jones from Blackburn Rovers has been delayed by a dispute over the defender's transfer fee...

Blackburn's owners, Venky's, have since said they do not have to accept a £16m transfer fee and, mindful of interest from Liverpool, Chelsea, Tottenham and Arsenal, believe he is worth more. Venky's have refused to transfer the player's registration and it may fall to lawyers to decide whether the wording in Jones' contract allows him to be sold at £16m or merely speak to clubs who meet that price. United are said to have no concerns that Jones' transfer will be completed and for £16m.

Young is believed to have agreed personal terms on an initial £16m move to Old Trafford from Villa Park but the transfer will not be formally announced until he has completed a medical.
We've been fans of Ashley Young since the beginning and coined "Blog Favorite" in his honor. Now he's moving on to the big, big time and we can't wait to see what it means for his career and for his fantasy production.

Of course, there are a lot of unanswered questions. Does this herald Nani's departure? Certainly we would expect Young to come in off the left and Valencia the right, with Rooney and Chicharito through the middle....

Heh! Maybe the questions have very clear answers. ;-)

The Jones situation will be interesting to monitor. Surely the likes of Liverpool (and others) will try to out-bid United and get Venky's blessing on a move. I would guess that Jones will have his mind set on United and will fight to end up there. But it will certainly give us something to write about for a while.

Analysis: Newcastle Signing Cabaye

BREAKING NEWS: Newcastle United sign Yohan Cabaye from Lille on five-year deal -

From the sounds of it, NUFC are preparing a bit of a midfield overhaul with Barton and Nolan's statuses in question, Ben Arfa coming back into the side and Cabaye on the way.  I've only seen Cabaye play for Lille sparingly but my sense is that he's Michael Carrick with a little more bite in the tackle.  He seems unlikely to make a major fantasy impact even if he is likely to play slightly further up the field than Carrick does for United.  With Tiote playing backstop, Cabaye might get up the field a bit but he certainly doesn't seem like a fit for a Scholes-like role immediately behind the forwards (the role Nolan currently has when he's not actually being deployed as a forward). 

Analysis: Overall, he sounds like a solid signing for the Magpies but for fantasy purposes, I'd stay away unless he shows something unexpected early.

UPDATE: Cabaye seems to be known as a penalty kick specialist. Good to know. -J

Transfer Analysis - June 8

Having completed their Sunderland tryouts, the players paused for a photo.

Phil Jones to Sign with Manchester United

It looks like we've had our first major day of transfer activity of the summer and if you are one who tends to call this silly season then you'll really have enjoyed today.  Not because the rumors were silly but because the actual transfers were silly which is always more fun than commenting on how silly baseless speculation might be.

Mexico 5 - 0 El Salvador

This is just great. The goals are fantastic. The announcer is fantastic. And it should appeal to the Premier League fan because:

  • Givoanni Dos Santos assist on the first goal. Iit wouldn't cound for fantasy purposes, but still.
  • Chicharito hat-trick
  • Salcido clean sheet

I may make it my campaign for the summer to get GDS some respect and to get him a place in Spurs' 2012-13 side.  My first effort at this particular windmill was last week on Twitter.

Watching #MX play in the #GoldCup. How is @giovanni2santos not the natural understudy to @rafvdvaart at @SpursOfficial?less than a minute ago via web Favorite Retweet Reply

Consider this attempt number two.

I wonder what Spurs fan Y!AM thinks of the idea.

Phil Jones to Sign with Manchester United

What, no hug goodbye? Alternate caption, "Samba just mad that Jones made the exit before he did."

Premier League - Jones 'undergoing United medical' - Yahoo! Eurosport
Blackburn Rovers defender Phil Jones is at Manchester United to undergo a medical, according to various reports on Wednesday afternoon.

Jones, 19, was supposed to travel with his England Under-21 team-mates to Denmark for the European Championship finals on Wednesday.

However, he has been given permission to go to Carrington and undergo the necessary tests before finalising a transfer to the Premier League champions.
This updates our earlier post about Liverpool's transfer activity. So it seems that they've lost Jones, the player that made sense for them, and nabbed Henderson, whom we don't see fitting into the side.

A few more quick thoughts:

  • Does this make Gary Cahill the next obvious target for Liverpool?
  • Long-term, United are banking on a Jones/Smalling pairing. But with Ferdinand/Vidic as the bedrock of today's Manchester United, will Jones find himself replacing Michael Carrick in the starting eleven?
  • What mid- to lower- table team is going get Johnny Evans next season, and can he rehabilitate his reputation?
  • Rovers now have the money to make Jermaine Jones' loan permanent. Is that a good thing? I just watched him last night play for the USA against Canada. He plays really well in stretches but can switch off at the wrong times and will lose the ball or make a bad pass. Turnovers in midfield are killer and I worry about his concentration.
  • At center-back, Rovers will need another players. Nelsen, Givet and Samba are ageing. The first two are becoming injury prone, and the latter isn't expected to be at the club come next season. Maybe Johnny Evans moves in the other direction?
What do you think of the deal?

I came up with the idea of charging $6.95 for it

Neal has done a remarkable job breaking down Mo's formula for success. It seems a bit churlish of me to say "I told you so", especially as it wasn't advice I ever followed - because I'm an idiot - but I told you so.
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!
Emphasis added.

There has been robust debate in the past about holding players at discounts versus selling for the best current match-up.  Has that argument been put to rest? And regardless, will we ever learn?

Mo Rules

I'm sure you have all read Jeremy's seminal post on the set of rules that we here at the blog tend to adhere to in guiding our picks throughout the season (and seasons).  [If you haven't, here's the link]  The problem is that for season after season Jeremy and I have both been very good at the Yahoo! game but neither of us have ever really reached the highest of heights - finishing in the single digits.  In an effort to do what Arsene Wenger seems unwilling to do, learn from past mistakes, I embarked on a bit of a research project as the season came to a close. 

With a Saturday morning available without matches to focus on, I compiled the week-to-week activities of our favorite blog ringer Mo [Team Name = Egypt] who finished 7th overall in an effort to figure out what he is doing differently than I am doing (and recommending).  The answers certainly challenged a few of the preconceived notions I had about how to succeed in the game.  They also convinced me that I have not gone far enough in exploiting some of the tendencies that I DO try to exploit (and pass along) as part of building my team. 

With that introduction, and apologies to Mo who doesn't know that I've been working on this, here are the things I've learned from going over how he assembled his team over the past season.  I'm not saying that this is the ONLY way to win and it may be that it isn't always a winning strategy.  Mo has consistently been very good at the game though so we should all learn the lessons that he has to teach.

Scouting Ahead

You may be wondering what I've been up to since the Premier League season ended a couple of weeks back.  Jeremy has been keeping the blog pressing forward with updates from the player and managerial transfer market while my fingers have taken a much needed break from writing long form editorials 3 or 4 times per week.  That isn't to say that I haven't been paying any attention at all to things related to the Premier League or fantasy.  In fact, I've had the opportunity to watch some really good players (many of them live) since last I wrote and now that I'm back from my latest trip, I'll fill you all in on what I've seen and how it may apply to next season and beyond.

Bothroyd on his way to Everton

Bothroyd on his way to Everton | The Sun |Sport|Football

Everton manager Moyes believes Bothroyd, 29, can be as successful as Jermaine Beckford, who was snapped up on a free from Leeds a year ago and went on to score 10 times in his first season.

"There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics."

The fact that Beckford scored ten times for Everton - only eight in the league - surprises me, but not as much as the lowered expectations of Moyes and Everton. If Bothroyd can only be as successful as Beckford - who looked lost in the Premier League for much of the season - then he won't be a very successful buy at all. And Everton will continue to rely on Louis Saha's goals... which they can't rely on, and haven't relied on. To the detriment of their league standing.

I know there are financial issues at play, but this just won't work in today's Premier League landscape. The likes of Spurs and Villa (not to mention Arsenal, Manchester City, and Liverpool) will be thrilled to read today's "news".

Liverpool Transfer Policy

Liverpool close in on Blackburn's Phil Jones and Sunderland's Jordan Henderson | Mail Online

I don't understand Liverpool's transfer policy.  Jones, maybe.  They need options at center back with Carragher getting older and Agger likely to move on.  But Henderson?  They already have two world-class players for the advanced central midfield position and one of their weaknesses last season was trying to shoehorn both Steven Gerrard and Raul Miereles into the same side. Now they want even more depth with Henderson?  It just doesn't seem to meet a need on their part. And as for the player himself, does he look forward to a bench role? Is it just money, or does he expect to oust one, or both of the aforementioned players out of the side?

All the Attention Going to his Head

Is it just me being out of the loop, or is Wayne Rooney's hair plugs not getting the attention it deserves?

Good for him for defusing the situation by being open and honest about it. But "Ew" and "Really?".

West Brom Sign Billy Jones

West Brom: Billy Jones backed to step up by Roy Hodgson - West Brom News - West Bromwich Albion - Sport - Birmingham Mail
He has been a mainstay of the North End team ever since and has earned a reputation as a tireless right-back who can play in a variety of positions, including central midfield.

Jones, who is 5ft 11in, is renowned for his ability to read the game and his strong tackling. He likes to get forward too.

UPDATE:  So, I've learned that Jones scored six goals last season!  Are there any PNE fans who can speak to his play? Does he take free- or penalty-kicks? Gareth Bale scored seven goals this year - he's only a defender for fantasy purposes - and he's the next best player in the world who isn't named Messi. Only two Premier League defenders, Hangeland, Huth, could only match that tally and Baines only got five including PKs.

Billy Jones is quickly approaching prospective +10 status for me.


Hodgson is wasting no time addressing his team's problem areas. First came the signing of center back Gareth McAuley, and now Jones. At right back, Jara showed that he wasn't up to the defensive side of things in the Premier League and Reid is a converted midfielder with a long injury history. It would seem that the job is Jones' to lose.

Spurs Sign Goalkeeper Brad Friedel

Tottenham Hotspur Sign Goalkeeper Brad Friedel -

Spurs have started their attempt to consolidate Europa League football for the immediate future (sorry, is that too realistic?) with the signing of Big Bad Brad Friedel (BBBF). There were times this season when Villa couldn't defend to save their lives, but I think that was more to do with the defence in front of him than his own play. We'll see how it turns out. He should be an upgrade from Gomes and give Spurs a steady foundation for league success. But he isn't getting younger, and again there were times this season when it just didn't click.

This means that likely Villa will sign a new keeper as well as Guzan may not be ready for prime-time yet. Expect them to put in a bid for Ali Al-Habsi. I wouldn't expect them to get reunited with Thomas Sorenson, but stranger things have happened. Maybe even Almunia? We'll have to wait and see.