[NOTE: Yup, I'm still tweaking the format for this Monday/Matchweek Wrap-up column. If you have any suggestions, I'm happy to hear them. The content is the content but I'm trying to come up with a nice wrapper/theme to pull it all together]
- La Liga in England - Hard to come to any conclusion other than that United and City are going to fight it out Barca/Real style for the league title. The impression I get from comments here on the blog, on Facebook, and elsewhere is that people think United still hold a little advantage but I have a hard time calling a leader between the two right now. Going to be fascinating watching them go back and forth all season, especially when it comes to derby time. The quality of the goals from Dzeko, Rooney, and AY would hold their own with the best of Messi, CRon, and the rest. The big question for United is whether DDG is up the the challenge. His saved PK will get the press but it was an ugly take while Walcott's goal was yet more evidence that he isn't the immediate stud that United supporters hoped for.
- February Already? - As great as things are going in Manchester they are that messed up in North London as Spurs and Arsenal have combined for 1 point and a -15 goal differential over their first 5 combined matches. Arsenal have typically waited until February the past couple years until revealing to us all that they aren't quite up to a run at the title. This season, we pretty much know already. United aren't as fragile and City can win multiple types of matches rather than being limited going forward. Spurs are in just as much trouble after looking THAT bad with the better part of their line-up healthy and playing at home. Could be as ugly a season in North London as it is a great one in Manchester.
- Who's Playing Rovers? - Things are going so badly that they couldn't even get a point at home when they had two PK chances. Not sure it gets any worse than that. Can you imagine what is going to happen when they play a good team? On the road? Even Torres (more on him later) might be able to score when Rovers visit Stamford Bridge. Next up, a date at Craven Cottage - time to stock up on Fulham players for those spots that aren't taken by City, United, and Arsenal players for the next matchweek.
- Do The Rules (or Mo Rules) Still Apply? If City and United are going to be this dominant, you may want to consider just holding on to guys like DDG, Silva, Dzeko, Aguero, AY, and Rooney (whichever you have at a reasonable price). Certainly isn't going to make for very exciting fantasy columns but it certainly seems like the thing to do. If you'd picked DDG, Silva, Dzeko, Aguero, AY, and Rooney (reasonably affordable with a combination of enablers and mid-priced fill-ins elsewhere) you'd be at 350+ without whatever points you got from your fill-ins. You'd only need 90 from those fill-ins over the three weeks to be in first place overall. Just saying, this season might be a little different due to the top-heavy nature of the Manchester Duopoly (yeah, I used duopoly in a sentence - correctly).
- Taarabt Arrives Just In Time To Frustrate - I only saw some of the QPR match but I can't say I was any more impressed with pre-season crush Taarabt than I was going into the match. That said, he went crazy on the phantom points and came up with a 15.5 for the weekend which looked fantastic until the Manchester explosions. The downside? We have no idea of what will become of his position as kick-taker and focal point of the QPR attack with Joey Barton and (theoretically) SWP on the way to Loftus Road. If you have him cheap, probably worth keeping him for another week since he's at home but I'm not sure I'd be buying him at retail at this point.
- Stingy NUFC - As you'll recall, I really enjoyed the work NUFC did over the summer to improve their squad and rid themselves of the dysfunctional/crazy factor that was always simmering just below the surface even last season when they played reasonably well. With only one goal allowed in three matches they appear to be building back to front. If they can find some goals, they could be a solid contender for 7th or 8th (reasonably the best they can hope for behind United, City, Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool, and Spurs).
- Failing Home Kick-takers - When you find reasonably priced guys who take kicks, are playing at home, and in matches that they should win it makes sense to choose them. When it works out as you thought and their teams actually do win the matches you expected them to win then you expect some points. Turns out RTay and Ben Watson were good for a combined 4 points despite those circumstances. Talk about annoying. It doesn't change my opinion on the value of that situation but it is incredibly frustrating when it goes wrong. Especially when it worked out so much better for the other - more expensive - home kick-takers (VDV, BFAY, and Adam).
- Picking Around the LIV Points - Speaking of guessing right on the way a match was going to turn out and STILL having little to show for it, I give you Liverpool. I correctly predicted that they'd be very good going forward and they'd probably concede a goal so you should go with their attacking players. The problem with translating my analysis to action was that I picked Suarez who missed a gilt-edged chance early only to see the points go predominantly to Adam. Just one of those days.
- Chelsea Debuts - We got our first look at Mata and Lukaku and all I can say is that Chelsea's future looks as impressive as their here and now (Lamps, Elk, Torres, Kalou, etc) looks unimpressive. Granted, the appearances for both were fairly brief and came with Norwich were already beaten but they both looked lively. It will be very interesting to see how AVB, who has no personal allegiance to any of Chelsea's veterans works the new guys in. Could be some unsettling times for players used to being no-doubt-about-it first choice players. In a side note, best blog wishes go out to long-time fantasy favorite Didier Drogba who took a nasty spill and is still at the hospital awaiting word on how serious the concussion is. Here's hoping it isn't any worse.
- Dead To Me - With all due respect to Stephen Colbert and his gimmick, Fernando Torres is now officially dead to me. I didn't pick him yesterday but on behalf of Jeremy and everyone else who picked him in a slot where they might have picked Dzeko, Rooney, di Santo, BFAY, or Adam I'm declaring him dead to the blog. He is truly earning his "next Shevchenko" nickname. You think Chelsea wishes they had spent the money on Suarez rather than giving it to Liverpool and letting them buy Suarez? How much better would Suarez (and Mata) look supporting Drogba/Lukaku in the 4-3-3 rather than watching Torres and Drogba try to co-exist in an awkward formation.
Bonus Item. The Wolves bandwagon is picking up steam with a fourth road point in two road matches. They're already a third of the way to their entire road point total from last season. I'm still committed to Arsenal 100% but I always pick a second team/storyline to follow and Wolves seem like they're going to fill that gap for me this season. In the past it has been Reading (promotion season), Norwich (because of Dean Ashton), WHU (ditto), and Watford (the BFAY debut season in the Prem). It is usually a team that is trying to come up from the bottom of the table and out-perform expectations. Last season's 16th place finishers look like this season's group after not quite being able to capitalize on my early interest last season. Of course, it doesn't hurt that they have a couple refugees from some of my second teams from seasons past (see Doyle, Kevin and Hunt, Stephen) as well as some fantasy favorites in Matt Jarvis and Jamie O'Hara.