Rooney avoids FA charge

Photograph: Newspics Ltd/BBC. Courtesy

Rooney avoids FA charge - Yahoo! Eurosport
Wayne Rooney has avoided punishment for catching Wigan's James McCarthy with his elbow despite referee Mark Clattenburg having only a peripheral view of the incident.

The Football Association have been told by Clattenburg that he feels he administered the appropriate action, which leaves the governing body powerless to launch disciplinary proceedings against the 25-year-old.
Imagine a just universe where Rooney is sent off and takes a minus-6 for his double game week and I feel SO GOOD about not gutting my fantasy team to buy him. And then remember that we live a cruel, harsh reality where justice is dead and Rooney is on 18pts for the week with a game in hand. :-(

Barn Door Preview

Since people seemed to enjoy the debut version of this column, here is a second go at what I'll be looking at going into the weekend.

The big item is that EVE and BRM are two-gamers next matchweek. Both are reasonably attractive with one home and one away match against mediocre-at-best opposition. I'd favor Birmingham slightly due to their momentum but not a huge advantage in that direction. I'm particularly looking at Bentley, Foster, Howard, Zigic, Bily, Coleman, and the BRM D as serious options on the BD. I'd say I was looking at Cahill too but he appears to be out this week so no BDing necessary.

Elsewhere, Chelsea has a favorable match-up against Adam-less BPL. Definitely time to add Luiz if you haven't already. Hard to say who to watch in the Chelsea attack really - none of them have looked great.

The other strong match-up is Citeh hosting Wigan. We'll have to see how they sort out their line-up but it seems likely that you'll want to have a quick BD trigger in case Tevez, Dzeko, Silva, or Yaya have a big weekend this weekend.

Injuries and Suspensions

Welcome to blogging from sunny Tampa, FL where I'm spending a weekend going to the beach, hanging out with my wife's siblings and going to see my beloved Phillies in a Spring Training game before heading back up to what we hope is the tail end of winter in Northern Virginia. Honestly, there just isn't too much to report on the injury front. Here's a quick recap...

- Just a reminder that MAN has two matches and ARS, BRM, and TOT have none
- Adam is suspended for two matches.
- Citeh's defense is fairly depleted with Kompany, Richards, and de Jong all in various states of doubtfulness.
- Rio is still out making Smalling a great bet against Wigan and maybe for some bonus points against Chelsea.

For those who are pondering what to do with Adam, my suggestion is to see Jeremy's post related Bentley and others who will have two matches in the weeks to come. Adam has already had his runs of double weeks.

That's about all from temporary blog headquarters in Tampa. I'm guessing there isn't likely to be a live chat tomorrow. Family obligations and all that.

The Week Ahead - Carling Cup Championship Edition

Memory is a funny thing.  At its best it allows us to relive fond memories of friends, events, and times gone by as we sip our favorite adult beverages and look out at the ocean or sunset or something similarly suitable for recalling such things.  At its worst, it fools us into thinking that things are still the way they were when an impression was formed.  What do I mean?

At its best, memory allows Liverpool fans to remember fondly the days when they were a dominant force in English football which probably helps them cope with the fact that this hasn't actually true for a number of years.  That's what brand, tradition and a lifetime of memories (fueled by highlights packages, sports radio, and stories from your elders) can do on the upside.

At its worst, memory causes fantasy managers to get suckered into wasting roster spots on fading forces like Giggs and Scholes because they see "ManYoo playing twice" and remember the days not so long ago when both were among the best players in the Premier League.  Then they see what appear to be relatively inexpensive prices (at least compared to years past) for the two and think - how could it go wrong?

How it could go wrong is pretty simple:
  • Giggs - He has only started 17 matches total in all competitions this season and only twice in that time has he started two in a span of less than seven days - of those two times only once did he complete both matches.  With two goals and four assists to show for his Premier League exploits this season, any realistic hope of an exceptional fantasy performance rests more on fond memories than any empirical analysis.
  • Scholes - He has started the same 17 total matches in all competitions and one ups Giggs on the number of "back-to-back" matches he's started (3) and played the full 90 in (2).  Still with yellow cards (8) doubling his combined total of goals (1) and assists (3) you have to wonder why you'd bother at any price.
If you're thinking of spending the 10+ on Giggs then you should probably find a way to add an extra defender to your line-up and move up to 13 and buy Vidic who is as close to guaranteed to start both matches and has a much higher points/match average.  The only way I'll sanction the Scholes purchase is if it is done entirely to afford other players who WILL do something useful for you (he IS coming in at a Carew-like 2.92).

I know I usually wait to talk about specific players but I went straight from the comments section of one of Jeremy's posts to this and I felt that it couldn't be ignored.  Now back to your regularly scheduled fantasy analysis.

Thursday Thoughts

Is that the worst title for a post ever? Alliteration aside (Oops... I did it again), there's just no excuse for it. So let's forgo the usual long preamble (sorry, Neal) and just get into it, shall we?

Adam Suspended for Two Matches

Adam to miss BPL's next TWO matches - FYI RT @FOXSoccerTrax: CAUTION Adam (Blackpool) And that brings a suspension.less than a minute ago via yoono

He'll miss @Wolves (shame) and Chelsea (where you might not have wanted him anyway).

Van Persie and Koscielny out of Stoke game

Van Persie and Koscielny out of Stoke game | News Archive | News |
Robin van Persie and Laurent Koscielny will miss the crucial Premier League game with Stoke on Wednesday night.

The Dutch striker has a hamstring problem while the French defender is suffering from a back complaint. However both injuries are short-term and the pair may recover in time for the Carling Cup Final on Sunday.

Abou Diaby (calf) is injured but he is still suspended anyway.

Sad face for fantasy managers with Arsenal players in their line-ups... and this week that's a lot of us. I have Szczesny and van Persie so I'm light up front and vulnerable at the back. The only consolation, perhaps, is that I have Carew. So hopefully if Stoke do score it's through him.

And speaking of Stoke,
Matthew Etherington looks set to miss the Barclays Premier League clash with Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium due to a fresh injury concern.

Etherington shook off a hamstring strain to play in Saturday's 3-0 FA Cup fifth-round win over Brighton, only to be taken off with a back injury understood to be linked to a defect in his jawline
.Can someone explain that one to me?

Van Der Vaart Re-injury

Photo of Sylvie to follow.

Rafael van der Vaart suffered a recurrence of his calf injury in training and will miss Spurs' match at Blackpool. than a minute ago via bitly

Belgium's Golden Generation?

At the same time I was contemplating the lack of a Brazilian super-duper-star at the peak of his powers, another thought related to a national team occurred to me.  It felt like I'd been hearing about a lot of Belgians either being very good players or being seriously high-end prospects.  For a country of just over 10 million people that is currently ranked 57th in the FIFA rankings you are left to wonder if they'll be the surprise package of Euro 2012 or WC2014.  What has me jumping on the bandwagon before Euro qualification has kicked into gear? Here's a quick look.

Great Spine
You often hear that you can't have a great team unless you are solid through the middle.  So how do the Belgians stack up down the middle? Let's take a look:

Sczcesny's got a squeezebox

With apologies to The Who, and thanks to

Djourou sidelined for FA Cup tie

Djourou sidelined for FA Cup tie at Orient | News Archive | News |
Johan Djourou will miss Arsenal’s trip to Leyton Orient on Sunday.

The centre half hurt his back in Wednesday’s stunning comeback over Barcelona and is sidelined for the FA Cup Fifth Round tie at Brisbane Road.

Theo Walcott is expected to recover from a mild hamstring problem while everyone else can be classed as suffering from only “bumps and bruises”. Bacary Sagna is available after suspension but Abou Diaby is still banned.

Arsenal are in the middle of four games in four competitions over 11 days so, as expected, Wenger will make changes. Djourou is the only enforced absentee but Marouane Chamakh will be added to the squad after missing out against Barcelona.

Not that we can do anything about it, but I know a lot of us fantasy managers are following along hoping our Arsenal players will line up against Stoke on Wednesday.

Sam Ricketts Achilles Injury

Premier League - Serious injury for Ricketts - Yahoo! Eurosport
Bolton boss Owen Coyle's joy at seeing his side secure a place in the last 16 of the FA Cup was tempered by the loss of another defender to injury after Sam Ricketts damaged his Achilles at Wigan.

Ricketts went to ground in the second half at the DW Stadium while tracking Latics substitute Victor Moses and had to be carried off on a stretcher.

"He has damaged his Achilles and it doesn't look great at this time," said Coyle...

"The medical team think it could be quite severe and we hope that is not the scenario, but the way it is looking right now, I think it is going to be a lengthy period of time.

For fantasy managers, Marcos Alonso is the likely option as Steinsson is injured as well. his replacement is likely to be Gretar Steinsson, who is listed in Y!'s game at a reasonable 5.67. Bolton's upcoming Premier League fixtures include @Newcastle, home to Aston Villa, @Manchester United before easing up with @Birmingham City, home to West Ham United, @Fulham.

Catching My Breath: ARS/BARCA Thoughts

I have to admit to two frailties related to writing about soccer that likely separate me (and not in a good way) from those lucky enough to do this as their primary source of income.  First, I can't stay away from the internet/instant messaging/SMS/etc. during matches - they don't even have to be terribly important ones.  If I'd been trying, I couldn't have stayed away from Birmingham and Newcastle the other day just because I had two players on my fantasy team playing in the match.  Second, once I know the outcome of the match, I generally can't bring myself to watch it on TiVo/DVR later on.  This second part is particularly poor form as there is likely important insight I'm missing out on by not going back and seeing what is happening that doesn't show up in the statistics or the match report.  What young and on-the-rise player or players are playing better than reported or conversely, which players of strong reputation are fading faster than we expected (I'm looking at you Gerrard and Lampard). I'm not proud of these things but in a life where I have a day job, a wife, and occasionally a social life I have to make some hard choices and not watching matches on DVR is one of them.

I relay those failings so I can tell this story.  Yesterday afternoon, when Arsenal vs. Barca was on live, I had work commitments and couldn't watch live.  I followed parts of it via Twitter updates when I could but I wasn't even able to follow via a "textcast" stream which would be my usual fallback.  Since the game "sounded" amazing via Twitter I figured I'd better watch later on DVR just to see what everyone was so excited about and because, you know, ARSENAL CAME FROM BEHIND TO BEAT BARCA!  Fortunately, despite the apparent self-awareness stated in the first paragraph, I tend to DVR big matches in hopes that this will be the time I keep myself from the results.  Here's some thoughts from my view-after-the-fact:

Wilshere Wants To Follow Fabregas' Lead

[EDITOR NOTE: Welcome new contributor Tyler Stellman to the blog family. He comes to us having written most recently for His first contribution is below and it was written before Arsenal's Champions League match with Barca today. That said, I think it becomes much more interesting in light of Wilshere's exceptional performance in that match. He looked a lot like Cesc the season before he added goal-scoring to his bag of tricks. Enjoy and thanks to Tyler for his contribution.]

Arsenal wonderkid Jack Wilshere has revealed he aims to follow Arsenal captain and teammate’s Cesc Fabregas lead in becoming a star midfielder for the Premier League side.

And Wilshere admits he has taken tips from Arsenal captain Fabregas, who won the World Cup with Spain in the summer and was controversially shown in a Barcelona kit soon after.

"Watching Cesc when he was younger and I was younger was the perfect opportunity to learn from him," said Wilshere according to The Guardian.

"Around the training ground he is helpful and when he is on the pitch he is telling me things to do. He tells me that I am not going to play every week, like he did, and that I have got to break through slowly and then get hopefully get in [to the team permanently]."

Wilshere was sent on a loan spell at Bolton last season, which proved to be helpful for the Hertfordshire born player. Bolton’s rough style of play did not necessarily suit Wilshere’s finesse style but the young midfielder left an impression on the team with fine performances against top opposition such as Chelsea.

“I think I had to go out on loan last year because there are world-class players at Arsenal and I had to get some games. I came back more experienced and stronger, and if you play regularly it makes it it easier for you," he explained.

“Playing for England was brilliant, a nice experience, and hopefully I can get some more games but at the moment I am just trying to concentrate on playing in the Arsenal first team.

“Sometimes I just had to pinch myself sitting in the changing room next to Wayne Rooney and Steven Gerrard. I was just happy to get on [as a second-half substitute].”

The young star went on to praise his club captain.

“For me, in the position he plays, Cesc is the best player in the world,” he added.

“That is shown with all the interest from the clubs who want him and people talking about him. That is what I want to be like – he is the perfect player to learn from.

“He is always talking to you – he is a good leader as well as a good player. Hopefully I can follow in his footsteps, to be as good as him would be nice.”

With Wilshere growing in both form and confidence and Fabregas rumored to be edging towards the exit door, Wilshere may have to take the lead off his mentor and captain sooner rather than later.

-Tyler Stellman

Steven Gerrard misses trip to Sparta Prague

Steven Gerrard misses Liverpool's Europa League trip to Sparta Prague | Football |
The Liverpool captain, Steven Gerrard, was not included in the squad which travelled to the Czech Republic to face Sparta Prague as he continues to recover from a groin injury.

The centre-back Daniel Agger was also left behind with a similar problem but the manager, Kenny Dalglish, did include the youngster Raheem Sterling."

Still a long time before their match at West Ham, but something(s) to watch.

One in, one out for United

Twos ships...

Premier League - Valencia trains, Park blow for Utd - Yahoo! Eurosport
Manchester United have been boosted by Antonio Valencia's return to training only five months after he suffered a horrific broken ankle in a Champions League draw with Rangers - although fellow winger Park Ji-sung was ruled out for a month with a hamstring problem.

...Sir Alex Ferguson confirmed that he had begun training with the reserve squad, tempering the blow that Park would miss another month following his absence on South Korea Asian Cup duty.
Don't get your hopes up for Valencia's return to Premier League action just yet. In fact, I would expect that we'd see both returning about the same time.

For United, that means that Nani is unlikely to be rotated (reverse-jinx!) and that Giggs is going to have to keep playing regularly even as matches start to come thick and fast. SAF has been reluctant to play Giggs more than once a week over the last few seasons, so maybe we see Obertan now and again. Though he's never produced much in his limited chances, the young Frenchman will be an interesting option for fantasy managers with his 4.76 price tag.

Team News

Tottenham Hotspur manager Harry Redknapp received welcome news on Monday when midfielder Rafael van der Vaart was passed fit for Tuesday's Champions League last 16, first-leg game against AC Milan.

Van der Vaart missed Saturday's 2-1 win over Sunderland with a calf strain and with several other midfielders absent Redknapp was desperately hoping the Dutchman would recover.

Gareth Bale, who scored a hat-trick last time Spurs were in the city, when they lost 4-3 to Inter in the group phase, misses the game with a back injury and Jermaine Jenas is suspended.

Luka Modric is struggling to make the starting side as he recovers from an operation to remove his appendix less than two weeks ago.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger will not be "stupid" by rushing back midfielder Samir Nasri for Wednesday's Champions League last 16 first-leg match against Barcelona, the Frenchman said on Monday.

"I will not take a crazy gamble," Wenger said of his compatriot Nasri, who he admitted is "physically ready" after a two-week layoff with a hamstring injury.

"He has worked very hard in the last week...just there is a risk to have a setback," Wenger added on the club's website ( before saying Nasri would have tests on Monday and Tuesday.

And finally...
Birmingham boss Alex McLeish has no fresh injury worries as his side search for a third successive Barclays Premier League win against Newcastle on Tuesday night...

Former Newcastle striker Obafemi Martins could start again while Cameron Jerome is also in contention. McLeish has a full squad to choose from with the exception of long-term injury victims James McFadden and Scott Dann.

Fantastic Financial Analysis on Chelsea and Financial Fair Play

The Swiss Ramble: Chelsea's Financial Fair Play Challenge

I'm sure Jeremy is rolling his eyes somewhere (or he will as soon as he clicks through and sees what I'm linking to).  First, I feel obligated to let you know this is a really long post.  That said, it is exceptionally well written and lays out not only specific information related to Chelsea's finances and their potential standing vs. UEFA's upcoming Financial Fair Play rules but also gives the reader a really solid understanding of those FFP rules.  He doesn't go into other clubs that might be impacted but you can start to imagine for yourselves.  Also, there is some information related to the cost side of the business that readers were mentioning in the Deloitte Money Table posts last week.  I'm sure this one won't be for everyone but for those who are interested in this part of the game, it is a must read.  Did I mention that it is really well written?

Cheers - Neal

First Impressions and Second Thoughts - Manchester Derby Weekend

Nani's Reaction Upon Reading Our Review Below
Before we get to the specifics related to the Premier League action on the field.  I'm going to start out with a random thought that I had over the weekend.  As these soccer-related thoughts usually do, it ended up being an SMS conversation with Jeremy which was interesting enough that we both thought that it was worth using as the opening for a column.  Then, when I saw that Ronaldo (the Brazilian one) was set to announce his retirement from professional football tomorrow, I knew it was Karma telling me that I had found the right opener for First Impressions.  What was the thought?

What happened to the Brazilians? I watched the International Friendly between Brazil and France this past week and it got my brain to thinking (yes, it happens from time to time) - how is it that there are no Brazilian superstars?  There are lots of very, very good Brazilian players in the game right now and even some who might be considered among the very best at their positions in the world.  That said, there isn't a Brazilian player who demands you say "WOW" as a result of his performances.  On the eve of Ronaldo's retirement, we are left wondering who the heir to the recent run of attacking superstars - Romario, Ronaldo, and Ronaldinho might be.

If you start listing the world's best attacking players you have to go a long way before you'd get to a Brazilian based on performance (as opposed to reputation).  The list of the best attackers has to start with Messi and that other Ronaldo fellow and then you start talking about Sneijder, Drogba, Ibra, Xavi, Iniesta, and others before you'd get to the first Brazilian on your list.  So what happened? Kaka was supposed to be the headliner of his generation but he's been pretty invisible for about 18 months now.  Robinho was supposed to be the "next Henry" combining pace, shooting, passing, and dribbling ability but he's been through just about every big club in Europe and no one really seems to want him.  Pato was supposed to be the "next big thing" after those two but his last two seasons have been derailed.  His strike rate for Milan has been very strong but he's only played a total of 35 league matches across the two seasons.  Not exactly the stuff of legends.

Oddly, the only place that Brazilians can claim to be at the absolute top of their professions is in the back.  Alves and Maicon are both exceptional players. That said, it isn't often that an outside defender can really be considered a superstar.  Roberto Carlos was the exception to this rule but neither Alves nor Maicon are up to that standard.  There are also very good Brazilian central defenders but again, you wouldn't say that there are any absolute superstars among them.  Very, very good? Definitely, but you wouldn't necessarily pick any Brazilian defender over Vidic if you were starting a team from scratch.

So what happened? Is it just one of those things?  A slight downward trend that will be remedied in a couple of years when the "next big thing" comes along?  Is it that the rest of the world - most notably Africa - are catching up to the Brazilians and making the difference between the best Brazilians and the best of the rest not seem so big? I can't claim to have an answer but as I watched Sandro try to adapt to life in the Prem and added to that the fact that he was playing for his country in mid-week, I could help but think about the fact that this isn't the Brazil of the last 25 or 30 years.  Any thoughts from you guys on why?

OK, with that international football aside out of the way, here are some observations on the weekend that was in the Prem:

Meireles Withdrawn Due To Virus

Dalglish on Raul, Wigan and Luis - Liverpool FC

Pretty far down the in this article they mention that Raul Meireles' issue was a virus, not a knock of any sort, he should be good to go by the time we get to the next matchweek.  Just a note for anyone trying to decide if they want to keep him or not.  Fortunately for those who were going to BD him, his price didn't go up after his goal so he's still pretty reasonably priced.

Hope you had a good day.  The games were great and we had a fantastic live chat.

Cheers - Neal

Wayne Rooney's Bicycle Kick Goal

Photo courtesy: @BryanAGraham

The best part of the photo are the looks on the other's faces. Kompany and Toure in fear, and Scholes in hope.

And the video:

"Wayne Rooney... what a goal!"

Great moment.

The Barn Door Live - Manchester Derby Edition

Barn Door Watch: A Quick Look Ahead

I'm going to try to bring back the BD watch in a modified format.  Here is what I'll be thinking about as soon as line-ups lock in for the current match-week:

  • RSC is healthy? - how do he and Rovers look?  They're @AST next which isn't great but it isn't horrible either.
  • Carling Cup Final Impact - TOT/ARS and CHE/BRM have both been postponed for the next match week due to the ARS/BRM Carling Cup Final.  They have not yet been re-scheduled.  This makes TOT, ARS, and BRM idle for the purposes of fantasy next match week.  It makes Chelsea one-gamers. 
  • ManYoo Two Matches - Granted the second one is @CHE but with the first one being @WIG it seems like you'll want to shift resources from BRM/ARS/TOT to MAN.  Rooney, Berbs, Nani, and maybe Smalling if the Rio and Evans injuries persist.
  • Citeh Second - If you're not convinced by United's two matches then Citeh (home against Fulham) are probably the next best bet from match-up standpoint. Tevez, Silva, and maybe one of the defenders are the highlights.
  • Luiz Watch - Assuming he's going to be a great addition for the balance of the season, does he do enough on Saturday to force you to BD him for the next match week or can you wait until after the ManYoo match? 
  • Liverpool Third - Liverpool travel to WHU which represents the third best match-up advantage of the next match week for my money.  Meireles Suarez, Kelly and Reina are worth looking at.
There will surely be more BD candidates as the matches unfold but hopefully this will help you organize your thoughts before the chaos starts up.

Cheers - Neal

Helpful Insight from Wenger

Image courtesy: Paul Blank/

Football365 | All The News | Football News | WENGER PUTS WOLVES CLASH FIRST

Looks like he's focusing on the league and will worry about Barca next week.  Good news for those betting on RvP, Cesc, Walcott, Djourou, and/or Szczesny.

Injuries and Suspensions

Premier League team news - ESPN Soccernet

Here are my fantasy-related thoughts on the injury news which can be found in more detail on the other side of the link above.

  • Smalling In - With Rio and Evans out, Smalling will deputize at CB.  #ChinkInArmor
  • de Jong Doubtful - There may be more goals than you think in this match with Rio and de Jong both potentially out. #WeakenedSpines
  • Saha Out - He made it easy on managers who were contemplating keeping him for the one match week by injuring himself significantly. #Fragile
  • Luiz Starts - Unless he's a disaster, you have to think this will be CHE's preferred defensive group ACole - JT - Luiz - Ivanovic. #NoRotationPlease
  • Bale/VDV/Modric Out - Crouch is doubtful as well plus long term injuries to King, Woody, and Kaboul.  Not good times.  #IsThisSpursOrArsenal?
  • Kelly Passed Fit - For those holding Kelly, it looks like he'll at least get LIV's one match this week. #Recovered
  • RSC Healthy - We'll see how long it lasts but file this away as one to pay attention to over the weekend. #BDWatch
  • Martins Included - With Martins included in the squad, there is still uncertainty about how much he'll play in the first match against Stoke. #TwoMonthLayoff
  • ARS Injuries - RvP is healthy (shocking so quickly after bowing out of Holland squad), Djourou back, Diaby/Sicky out.  #AllGoodNews
Join us bright and early for the Manchester Derby Live Chat right here on this very web page.  We'll stick around for Arsenal and all of the other matches after that.  Have a great weekend if we don't see you on the chat, comments section, Twitter (@nealjthurman and @jspitzberg), Facebook, or well, you get the idea.

Tweets of Interest

This one's for @nealjthurman, the latest to be sucked into the wonderful world of Twitter.

Rafael van der Vaart, Gareth Bale, and Luka Modric all out of the trip to Sunderland. than a minute ago via web

Louis Saha has a hamstring injury and will not play for Everton this weekend. than a minute ago via TweetDeck

David Luiz will get a full debut for Chelsea when they travel to Fulham on Valentines night. than a minute ago via web

INJURY NEWS: Cesc and RVP recovered from illness and fit to face Wolves. than a minute ago via web

INJURY NEWS: Djourou is fit, Denilson back, Rosicky unavailable, Diaby banned: than a minute ago via web

Ferdinand and Evans miss the Manchester derby, city are expected to be unchanged. than a minute ago via web

You can follow me @jspitzberg and get your fantasy Premier League news at Fantasy EPL Twitter List, which is featured to the right.

The Week Ahead - Manchester Derby Edition

Funny, I've only made the commitment to tweeting in the last 24 hours but already I feel more connected to people.  Maybe it has to do with the fact that I gained a lot of Twitter followers (and thank you to everyone who decided to follow me @nealjthurman) while I was sleeping last night while our Facebook following has slowed to a small steady growth.  Don't get me wrong, steady growth toward 3000 "Likes" is great but tripling your number of followers FEELS like a more significant accomplishment even if the number isn't that impressive.  In any event, for those who haven't embraced the Twitter, you should give it a try.

Moving in a completely non-sequential manner, I have two follow-up thoughts to the Deloitte Money Table posts from yesterday.  The first is that those leaving comments related to profitability are correct.  Revenue is only a part of the equation.  I'm guessing that part of the issue for Deloitte is that due to varying ownership structures and the sporadic availability of "bottom line" data I'd guess that a real accounting of profitability of all clubs would be more difficult than just compiling revenue figures.  I may be wrong but it certainly seems that way.  The public companies must of course disclose their profitability but I'm not sure there's any obligation for the Glazers or Abramovic or any other private group to disclose their profits.  Revenues are easier to get at since most of those figures are available from other sources if the clubs don't cooperate.  In any event, I'd enjoy the opportunity to get profitability numbers as well (although there's little doubt who would sit atop that table).

My second thought is an ironic one.  The lagging reputations of German clubs, especially vs. the big Italian clubs.  Germany has more people, a much stronger economy, and I'm not aware that they support a culture of corruption and match-fixing.  That said, outside of Bayern Munich, you'd be hard-pressed to guess which German club might finish second in revenue in a given season and the movement - two clubs out of the Top 20 and two new ones in - seem to indicate that there is little consistency.  The Deloitte report mentions that the pay TV market in Germany isn't terribly mature compared to the other countries.  That said, despite knowing a LOT of soccer fanatics, I can't think of anyone who isn't German who really spends much time thinking about German clubs outside of perhaps a big Champions League match.  German clubs rarely compete financially for huge names.  When people mention the best leagues in the world, they inevitably mention England, Spain, and Italy in some order.

Is it the weather? Is it still residual bitterness/dislike from the World Wars? Is it that the Germans, despite their aggressive tendencies in the first half of the 1900s, didn't leave behind a legacy of German-speaking countries around the world that are obvious targets for expansion?

I'm particularly interested in the comparison between the popularity of German and Italian clubs.  I think we can all understand that England and Spain have logical advantages stemming from the large English and Spanish-speaking populations around the world.  With that head start, they have been able to afford better players and the relative popularity of those leagues has grown.  Why I don't understand the gap between Germany and Italy is that it isn't like there's a great imbalance between non-natives elsewhere in the world who speak one language or the other.  Both national teams are extremely successful.  Both national teams play an uncompromising style that neutrals are likely to call "technical" or "effective" rather than "stylish".  Is it that the Germans are more conservative with their money and more cautious about taking the risks that would improve their revenue streams abroad?

In any event, those are the thoughts I had once I moved beyond the summary articles I linked on the blog yesterday and actually read the full report.  I hope you enjoyed that.  If not, I promise that there won't be any additional economic analysis in the immediate term unless someone has a great insight in the comments section or I'm asked a question I feel like I have a useful and interesting answer for. 

We now return you to your previously scheduled fantasy analysis:

Quick follow-up on medium-sized club finances

Player sales help save Everton from £22m loss | Football | The Guardian

About 15 seconds after I hit "publish" on the previous post that ended with me asking about what people knew about medium-sized club finances - I saw this (hat tip @epltalk) link that at least started answering the question for a couple mid-table English clubs.  They primarily focus on Everton's finances and how much their health in the last fiscal year hinged on the sale of Lescott to Citeh for what was really an obscene profit.  You have to admit that this isn't exactly something that Everton can count on every year (although the likely sale of Rodwell in the not too distant future is likely to produce a similar boon).  The other disturbing not is that these numbers came in a year when they finished a "disappointing" 8th.  With Everton firmly rooted farther down the table this season and no high-profit sale thus far, you wonder how the numbers will look next year.  Not pretty, huh?

The Money Table

Real Madrid, Barcelona top soccer's money list - Soccer -

The Premier League big boys (now including Citeh) are still adding revenue despite the global economic woes.  What this article doesn't discuss (and I think it should) is how things are going for the less famous clubs around Europe.  We know about the issues at places like Pompey or Crystal Palace but I'd be very interested to learn more about how mid-table clubs like Everton, Aston Villa, or Newcastle are doing in light of the economy.  How about the equivalent clubs in Spain where the broadcast rights are handled differently than they are in England where everyone in the Prem gets a roughly equivalent piece of the TV rights pie?  Yes, these are the things I think about when I'm not particularly interested in International Friendlies. 

Any thoughts? Does anyone care? Or is it just me?


We here at the fantasy blog have always considered ourselves fairly enlightened when it comes to technology and social media.  We may not be bleeding edge but between the blog, a fairly active Facebook page, the live chats on (most) EPL Saturdays, and our day jobs (we're both gainfully employed because we know more than a little about the Interwebs) we feel pretty good about our social media chops.  That said, the one social media channel that we've lagged behind on is Twitter.  In an effort to remedy this, I'm trying to tweet more frequently (almost entirely but not exclusively on soccer-related topics).  If you're interested in following me, you can find me at @nealjthurman.

Since I haven't asked Jeremy if he's interested in having his Twitter account shared, I'll let him read and either post a similar note or post his in the comments section here - hint ;-)
@jspitzberg (hint taken).  I've also created a Fantasy EPL list that you can see on the right-hand side of the blog.  You can follow it directly at

Cheers - Neal

A Little More Intellectual Than Our Average Post

When Should a Soccer Manager Insert His Subs? -

Continuing with the theme from yesterday of advanced analysis, we bring you a link to a post from perhaps the most interesting blog in the world.  The authors of Freakonomics and SuperFreakonomics bring together a cast of contributors that inevitably provide something interesting for you to contemplate.  It isn't always the most useful knowledge ever but chances are that at the very least it will make for solid cocktail party conversation topic.  This post as the title suggests discusses a statistical study of when substitutions were made and what timing seemed to lead to the most success for managers of teams that are trailing.

Worth a read (and worth adding the RSS feed to whatever you use to consume RSS feeds).

Enjoy the international friendlies and hope for good injury news.

Djourou back training in a week

Image via Wikipedia

Swiss FA: Djourou back training in a week 08 February 2011 - 16:11 |
[A] statement from the Swiss FA confirms that the player received only bruising to his knee and could be back for Arsenal inside seven days. Diagnosis of the problem is thought to have initially been delayed by swelling and bruising which has since subsided.

Sebastian Squillaci, who replaced Djourou on Saturday, is expected to play alongside Laurent Koscielny against Wolves this weekend before Arsene Wenger decides whether to risk Djourou against Barcelona in the Champions League first knock-out round on Wednesday.
Great news for Arsenal, and for fantasy mangaers who own Szczesny.

Martins set for debut

Martins set for debut | Birmingham City - EatSleepSport
Obafemi Martins has been given the green light to make his Birmingham debut and is set to be in Saturday's squad to face Stoke...

However, the Nigeria international has now been given the go-ahead to play and is expected to be involved when Birmingham look for another vital win against the Potters this weekend...

"We're looking for Oba to come in and make an impact right away," said McLeish.

He's cheap and has a great history in the Premier League. I would definitely look to OBAFEMI! if you weren't able to get Carew on the barn door... or even if you did!

Detailed Analysis of ManYoo vs. Wolves

BBC - Football Tactics: Are Manchester United lacking a midfield spark?

This is the sort of article that makes a blogger wish he had access to much more the sort of detailed data, statistics, and tools that larger media outlets (like BBC) can afford.  I don't know if the ultimate conclusions are really any surprise - it doesn't take a ton of data to know that ManYoo need better central midfielders and that Wovles have been very organized against the big clubs that they've beaten.  That said, reality doesn't always match up with common sense so it's nice to see that such a detailed analysis backs up what we've been saying all along.

The one amazing stat that they mention at the bottom of the piece is that "Fletcher, Carrick, and Anderson make up three of the six central midfielders from the top five clubs who have taken the least number of shots. (John Mikel Obi, Nigel de Jong, and Wilson Palacios are the other three).  This strikes me in two ways - one, it isn't good for United to have three players in this category and the other is that in the absence of the stat being called out as "shots per game" or "shots per minute played" you have to wonder how much it has to do with United's midfield rotation more so than the proclivity of those three gentlemen to shoot.  I think of Mikel, de Jong and Palacios (until recently) as guaranteed starters while I'd never be confident betting on Fletcher/Carrick/Anderson to start any given match. The writer managed to bury the headline a bit by waiting until the next to last sentence of the article to mention that United's midfield averages about half as many attempts on goal compared to Arsenal and just more than a third the attempts of Spurs.

Some interesting reading while we're getting past the mid-week international friendlies.

First Impressions and Second Thoughts - Super Bowl Weekend

Wow, what a weekend for football of all varieties.  The kind with the round ball started things off with a shockingly interesting match between Stoke and Sunderland and just kept getting better (or at least more entertaining) from there.  Top it off with the oblong football and the final game of the season that was competitive until the very end.  Throw in a great 40th birthday party for one of our original blog readers and teammates from our respective playing days that included a bunch of old friends that we don't get to see nearly often enough.  Cheers to Art and Jen for putting on a great party.  As you might imagine, I was somewhat less excited about the party that NUFC sparked in a variety of quarters with their epic comeback.  OK, on to the review of the weekend that was in the Prem:

The Barn Door Live - Super Bowl Edition

Injuries and Suspensions

Premier League team news - ESPN Soccernet

Not all the news is in yet but here are the big headlines we have so far...

  • Muntari in line for his debut for Sunderland #BDWatch
  • Adam will have a late fitness test which could lead to Andy Reid's value going up #BFAR
  • Richards out making Boateng more valuable but de Jong faces a fitness test which reduces the value of the entire Citeh defense #intimidator
  • Odemwingie back and Dorrens possible which should boost Albion's attack significantly #KeyPlayers
  • Song/Nasri out, Walcott/Squillaci back - should have enough firepower to win but worried about the defense without Song #leaky
  • Pienaar back, Bale/Modric out - I guess we'll find out if the Pienaar acquisition was worthwhile - this is his chance to shine. #CriticalWeekend
  • RSC still out - 'nuff said #Boo
  • Rafael pushing to come back from what SoccerNet calls "a bout of concussion" #LearnEnglish
  • Martins visa is still not set #Bureaucracy
  • Torres and Luiz both available to start #Cavalry
  • Cahill is back for Everton #NeededGoals
Not TOO much excitement to be had really which is nice for fantasy managers fretting over their line-ups at the last minute.  Good luck with your final selections and unless something unexpected comes up, I'll see those of you who are interested on the Live Chat tomorrow - if you haven't checked it out before, you should - it's a great group and a fun way to get more out of watching the matches.

Torres dilemma for Ancelotti

... and by extension, fantasy managers:

Torres dilemma for Ancelotti - Yahoo! Eurosport
Chelsea boss Carlo Ancelotti has yet to decide whether to start Fernando Torres in Sunday's Barclays Premier League clash against Liverpool.

Ancelotti confirmed his £50million signing was available against his former club but was considering introducing him from the bench.

A decision also needed to be made on new defender David Luiz, who was not expected back in London until Saturday after returning to Portugal, while Alex (knee), Yury Zhirkov (calf) and Yossi Benayoun (Achilles) were still sidelined.

The Week Ahead - Super Bowl Edition

With just about every media outlet here in the States focused entirely on the biggest sporting event of the year (that's the Super Bowl in our version of football for the uninitiated), I have to say I'm really enjoying the fact that I have something else to focus on.  The midweek matches were interesting.  My fantasy team did reasonably well.  And most importantly, I'm not suffering the same fate as NFL-only types who will wait two weeks between games with nothing but fluff and over-analysis to fill the time.  Speaking of over analysis, Jeremy and I got off on an IM tangent yesterday about the relegation race.  It got me thinking that outside of the title race, we hadn't checked in on the real standings in a while. So, before we get to the usual fantasy analysis, we'll spend a little time on the 4th Champions League spot and the relegation battle.

The Fourth Champions League Spot
Early in the window, specifically right after Citeh got Dzeko and then Bale got injured, it was easy to get sucked into the notion that Chelsea and Spurs would be fighting it out for the final spot.  So, what's happened since then? Citeh has continued to show that they are less than the sum of their very expensive parts.  It isn't hard to see them slipping.  They currently occupy the third spot but they have played one more match than any of the teams around them in the standings.  If they don't figure out how to maximize their talent, they could be on the outside looking in. 

Chelsea are going in exactly the opposite direction.  After weeks of malaise, they seem to be regaining the momentum they had early in the season.  They aren't exactly the dominating force that was winning 6-0 regularly but they're getting closer.  The momentum gained with the purchase of Torres and Luiz seems likely to keep things going in the right direction.  The bigger question is whether they are too far out for an assault on the top.  Hard to imagine them not making the top four at this point.

Finally, what to make of Spurs.  Their manager seems resigned to the fifth spot.  Or at least he's managing expectations against the fact that there's a very good chance that they will end up fifth. That said, if they win the match they have in hand then they're only two points shy of Citeh with plenty of time left to make up that difference.  With their ignominious exit from the FA Cup behind them, they only have two fronts to fight on which should help while Citeh still have the league, Europa Cup, and FA Cup (assuming they win their replay) to contend with.  There's no reason to think Spurs are out of the race for fourth, especially if Bale returns to fitness in short order.  If they can't make up the two points in the standings to a team that has shown that they will drop points to bad teams, then they don't deserve to be in the Champions League.

All that said, I favor Spurs slightly over Citeh to sneak into the fourth spot. There's just something about the Citeh team that leaves me flat.  Outside of Tevez, they just don't seem to have much passion for the game.  They're just showing up and playing which given their talent may be enough most of the time but they just don't show up frequently enough for me.  Spurs are guilty of boneheaded errors that cost them points but they generally seem like they want it.  I'll take pretty talented and wanting it over very talented and not caring that much every time. 

Since my Fourth Place section ran a bit longer than I thought it would (shocking, I know), I'll try to keep this one brief so we're going Twitter-style - 140 characters or less on each team that I consider to still be in the relegation battle. (Incidentally, I think Fulham secured staying up with their win yesterday - not guaranteed safety mind you but it's starting to feel pretty safe at the Cottage).

Blackpool - They have one more run of surprising results and they're safe - Reid and Beattie will be important here.  #PrettySafe

Villa - DBent will more than repay his price.  Lots of options in midfield now with Makoun and Bradley joining.  #GoodMomentum

Everton - In more danger than they should be.  Hard to see them going down but the remaining schedule is tough.  #WillBeClose

West Brom - Definitely on the wane but they have one important thing that will separate them - a strong goal scorer.  #OdemToTheRescue

Birmingham - As much as I love Bentley and Martins, I don't think they did enough.  I see bad things ahead. #Drop

WHU - Of their 24 points, half have come since December 18th.  Seems like things are going in the right direction. #Survival

Wigan - I can't think of any reason that things would get any better for the Latics.  #Drop

Wolves - Things just aren't falling in their favor this season on the field.  I've liked the moves they've made but they just don't seem to have any luck.  #Drop

So there you have it, I'm guessing the bottom five (in order) will be WHU, EVE, BRM, WOL, WIG.  Not a single newly promoted side "yoyo-ing" back down. Now, on to the fantasy analysis...

NFL Soccer Jerseys

NFL Soccer Jerseys - Imgur

These are great. We know there's some cross-over between fantasy EPL and NFL players, and with the NFL Super Bowl (think FA Cup Final, but for League honours) this weekend it seems appropriate to share. Be sure to check them all out.

Gary Neville Retires

Good luck, and God speed.

Modric out

Where's a Sistine Chapel Photoshop filter when you need one?

Tottenham dealt Luka Modric appendix blow - ESPN Soccernet
Tottenham's title challenge has suffered a fresh blow with the news Luka Modric is facing two weeks on the sidelines after undergoing surgery on his appendix.

Croatian star Modric has been a shining light for Spurs, with his craft in the middle of the park sparking their efforts both domestically and in Europe. But he was rushed to hospital for emergency surgery to remove his appendix on Tuesday and is facing time out as he recovers.

Modric could now miss Spurs' Champions League last-16 first leg at AC Milan on February 15 and is definitely out of Wednesday's Premier League game at Blackburn, Saturday's home clash with Bolton and the following weekend's trip to Sunderland.
This week I sold Van der Vaart for Fabregas. Yes, it was a stupid move and has already back-fired on me. But this confirms the sentiment that Spurs are stalled or in a bit of turmoil. They're now without Bale and Modric in midfield and are so thin at the back that they're likely to field Bassong and Woodgate against Rovers today.

It sure would be interesting to see O'Hara and Bentley take the opportunity to play some first team matches for Spurs, but yes, they've been loaned out to Birmingham and Wolves, respectively. It's going to be up to Jenas and Krancjar (Free Nico!) - and Spurs' misfiring strikers, of course - to take the burden off VDV.

Interesting times.

Arsenal Injured Again

Arsenal Football Club News | Football365 | Premier League | DOUBLE BLOW FOR GUNNERS
Arsenal have two more injury worries to contend with after Alex Song and Theo Walcott picked up knocks against Everton on Tuesday night.

Defensive midfielder Song is struggling with a leg problem having been inadvertently kicked by team-mate Laurent Koscielny during the Gunners' 2-1 win at Emirates Stadium and replaced by Abou Diaby.

Young winger Walcott, meanwhile, completed the full 90 minutes but was left nursing an ankle problem after the final whistle.

This comes on top of the other news that,
Samir Nasri picked up a hamstring problem in Sunday's FA Cup win over Huddersfield.

Wenger has confirmed the French star will be out for three weeks after undergoing a scan on the injury, meaning he will miss the Gunners' crucial UEFA Champions League tie against Barcelona at the Emirates on February 16th.
... and,
Arsenal goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski is set to be sidelined for the rest of the season.

The Poland international damaged his shoulder earlier this term and he aggravated the problem during a warm-up ahead of their match with Manchester City.

Now Fabianski is having surgery which is set to sideline him for the remainder of the season.

So Szczesny it is, for the long-term. And Arshavin, Diaby and 'Sicky will have roles to play too. But Arsenal will be without their most (more) defensively-minded midfielder, perhaps forcing Wilshere and maybe Fabregas a little further away from goal.

Transfer Deadline Roundtable

In which we talk at length, briefly, about Torres, Carroll, Liverpool, Chelsea, and... West Ham?

Neal Thurman: Carroll for 35M? Really?
Jeremy Spitzberg: seems a bit desperate, doesn't it?
Neal Thurman: really does
Jeremy Spitzberg: how did it get to the point where LIV have no strikers other than Torres
Jeremy Spitzberg: when they've been without Torres for such long stretches?
Neal Thurman: exactly
Neal Thurman: shouldn't Suarez be filling in that gap?
Jeremy Spitzberg: when was the last time someone came from the Dutch league and prospered?
Jeremy Spitzberg: who wasn't Dutch (RVN, RVP)
Neal Thurman: Ruud? RvP
Jeremy Spitzberg: jinx
Neal Thurman: um
Neal Thurman: um
Jeremy Spitzberg: kezman? maccarone? alves?
Jeremy Spitzberg: kuyt? ;-)
Neal Thurman: agreed across the board