The Barn Door Live

Injuries and Suspensions

Premier League team news - ESPN Soccernet

  • Sturridge and Steinsson are both doubtful for Bolton which is certainly a bummer for fantasy managers - Sturridge has been great (and still leads Torres 7 goals to one meaningless goal since the Transfer Window closed). Steinsson is a bummer because he's a cheap way to get in on Bolton's potential CS against Rovers who have been bad since their ownership/managerial change. [Thought: PRobbo switches to the right and Alonso gets in at (attacking) left-back. -jeremy]
  • Eth is confirmed out for the match at Blackpool - Pennant becomes even more attractive as the percentage of kicks that come his way increases. [Thought: Whelan is a NICE enabler. Under 3 and likely to take some percentage of corners. -jeremy]
  • Sunderland are missing all of their forwards which should push Sessegnon up as a great fill-in option - the bitch of it all is that he isn't listed in the game so while he WOULD be a great option, Yahoo! has shown their weakness in never adding him. [Thought: Malbranque likely to start behind the "forward" and may be your way in if you fancy Sunderland. And if you do, why? -jeremy]
  • Zamora and AJ are both "pushing" for starts - no idea what that is going to translate to other than "I'd avoid the situation" [Thought: Shame as I'm liking Eidur "Iceman" Gudjohnsen as an enabler this week. Eidur and Steed... what is this, 2002 all over again?. -jeremy]
  • Brunt, Thomas and Reid are out for WBA which will hurt their attack against Villa. [Thought: Jara and Vela become relevant, but Cox isn't listed. He's been sessegnoned. -jeremy]
  • Old blog favorite fallen on hard times Mikel Arteta has a chance to come back into the squad - this one is worth watching but more for next week than this one. [Thought: Beckford or Osman in this one. -jeremy]
  • THud is doubtful along with Corluka and Kranjcar with BAE definitely out of action.
  • SEB appears unlikely to return joining Doyle on the sidelines as Wolves see it all slipping away. [Thought: As Neal suggested in The Week Ahead, load up on your BRM defenders. Maybe Larsson as well. -jeremy]
  • Carroll seems likely but not definite to return for the NUFC match. [Thought: I'm thinking this is another SAF 'resting' Rooney @Everton. It works in Liverpool's favor if Carroll misses this one. I'm in on Suarez and Kuyt. Don't trust that Maxi was anything but a flash in the pan -jeremy]
  • No useful news on the Citeh line-up other than confirming that Tevez will definitely NOT play.

The Week Ahead - Matchweek 35

It took a while but good things finally happened for (most) fantasy managers who went with two-gamers over the stalwarts from places like Chelsea and Arsenal who were still on their roster from a week ago. There were certainly pitfalls with Zamora, SEB, and eventually Eth being limited by injury (I had all three). Despite those pitfalls some combination of the highly regarded two-gamers - Sturridge, Dempsey, KJones, Pennant, Schwarzer, Begovic, Hangeland, Shawcross, etc - won the day. Even with almost no contribution from the three injured players I ended the week over 100 which is pretty solid when compared with the the one-game alternatives (unless you knew Maxi was going to get a hat trick).

I guess my point is that if you play it smart and limit yourself to guys who at least have a chance to be solid fantasy contributors in any individual match, you're likely to be happy to have those guys for two matches over more talented players over one match. Occasionally it doesn't work out (see the Birmingham disaster of a month or so ago) but much more often than not it will.

Was it sweating bullets on Saturday evening when it was clear that the first round of matches was all but useless? Definitely. Do I feel a lot better now that the second set of matches has been played and it turned out much better? Even more so.

Just something to keep in mind as you look forward to next week when again, there will be a limited number of teams (this time two) who will play two matches. The good news is that the teams are better - Manchester City and Spurs. The bad news is that they play each other in what might be the most unpredictable pairing in the league right now. Still, my inclination is to start thinking about my two-game strategy now rather than thinking that I might want to ignore the two-game thing entirely.

History Repeating

In your history books

Check out this post from the blog's first month back in 2004:
Fantasy Premier League Blog: The Roman Empire

We love the Fantasy EPL mentality that Mr. Abromavich has brought to Chelsea, but we're not sure he's picking the right guys up front. To prove our point, we'll be tracking the fantasy totals of Roman/Jose's current strikers against the ones they've kindly loaned out to their rivals (specifically Carlton Cole and Mikael Forssell). Even with a 3 striker to 2 advantage the Banished lead those still around by the narrow margin of 21.60 to 20.40.

After Week 1:

The Most Favored:
D. Drogba - 5.30
E. Gudjohnsen - 10.20
M. Kezmen - 4.90

The Banished:
C. Cole - 16.70
M. Forssell - 4.90

And now compare today's situation where Neal is giving us weekly updates on the respective goal tallies of Torres (1) and Sturridge (7).

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même.


Thanks to 101GreatGoals for the clips.

Update: The comparisons come easy. Watch the first goal in this collection and tell me who did it better?


Season over for Ireland

Not that it ever really got started.

BBC Sport - Season over for Newcastle United's Stephen Ireland
Newcastle United have confirmed midfielder Stephen Ireland will miss the remainder of the Premier League season with an ankle injury.

But there's another enabler taken off the board.

Sturridge a doubt

Sturridge a doubt for Trotters - Yahoo! Eurosport

Bolton manager Owen Coyle is hoping striker Daniel Sturridge will have recovered from an ankle knock in time for Tuesday's Barclays Premier League trip to Fulham.

The on-loan Chelsea man scored his seventh goal in nine games in Sunday's 2-1 win over Arsenal but was forced off with the problem late in the game.

That would be a real kick in the teeth for fantasy managers. His ownership percentage jumped from 4% to 9% for this double week so clearly a lot of us have gotten on the bandwagon. However, 90% of teams don't have him - and points is points - so we're hopeful he'll play.

Meanwhile Zamora should be back for Fulham. Stoke lose Fuller but could get Carew back. And of course, SEB is a doubt for Wolves.

Update from Owen Coyle via
"Daniel Sturridge limped off near the end and we will give him until the last minute to see if he is available, and hopefully he is.

"Fingers crossed we will have the same squad, with 21 players in contention given that Ricardo Gardner, Robbie Blake and Marcos Alonso narrowly missed out on Sunday.

"We will look to pick the best team available."

Ebanks-Blake doubt for Wolves

Ebanks-Blake doubt for Wolves - Yahoo! Eurosport
Wolves striker Sylvan Ebanks-Blake is a major doubt for the Barclays Premier League derby with Stoke at the Britannia Stadium.

Ebanks-Blake suffered a recurrence of a hamstring injury after appearing as a substitute during the weekend home draw with Fulham, after initially suffering the injury in the previous game against Everton when he came off at half-time.

How many of you went with SEB? I'm too gun-shy when it comes to injury doubts so I stayed clear. Looks like it may work out for me this time. Maybe.

The Barn Door Live

Barn Door Watch

We're back to one match per team next week and have some big clashes at the top as an added bonus.  Arsenal host Manchester United and Chelsea host Spurs.  I generally go a bit overboard in avoiding clashes at the top and given what I've seen from Arsenal at home and United on the road, I'm pretty inclined to continue that pattern with that match.  Chelsea are more attractive hosting Spurs in my mind because Chelsea are scoring more and Spurs are wilting against strong attacks as the season winds down.

In other match-ups I'll be anticipating...
  • The big opportunity is Citeh hosting West Ham - I don't know if Tevez has a chance to be back for this one but seems likely that Citeh will score some goals in this one.  I'll definitely be looking at Johnson, Silva, Balotelli, etc. on the BD
  • The second match-up that catches my eye is Liverpool hosting NUFC.  I'm never quite sure what to make of NUFC but you have to like Carroll's chances of terrorizing his former side.  The only bummer is that Suarez's retail price has (predictably) skyrocketed.  I'll also be watching Liverpool's kids to see if any of them are likely to a) continue deputizing and b) produce decent points.
  • Birmingham vs. Wolves feels like a defensive struggle (or maybe I'd be better off putting it as "a struggle to generate any offense").  In any event, I'm very likely to scout this one for defenders and keepers.  Hennessey is of particular interest given his price.
  • My final note will be for those who loaded up on Fulham (Schwarzer, Dempsey, Zamora, etc.) for the two-match week this week - I wouldn't drop those players too quickly.  With a trip to the Stadium of Light coming up next, keeping some or all of them isn't the worst idea ever.

A Financial Win For Liverpool

Liverpool land Premier League record £25m-a-year kit deal -

Signing with an unknown (at least in football) brand apparently has its benefits.  Having gone to a lacrosse-mad college (Johns Hopkins) in a lacrosse-mad town (Baltimore) I've heard of Warrior Sports from their core lacrosse business.  I wouldn't have guessed that they'd try to make the leap into football but it sounds like parent New Balance is looking to a relationship with John Henry and Fenway Sports Group to elevate themselves beyond their current niche in running and lacrosse via Warrior.  It will be interesting to see what happens with Warrior Sports next. 

From a Liverpool standpoint, this can be seen as nothing but a huge win.  Nearly doubling the revenue that the shirt sponsorship brings in looks like it will mean the equivalent of a very nice player transfer per season for the duration of the deal.  £12 to £13 million won't sign you a superstar player but it will certainly allow you to sign an extra Gary Cahill-type player at the back or perhaps an above average left back with some money left over for a wide player.  And it means you have the financial flexibility to do that one additional time EACH YEAR compared to what they were looking at with a renewal of their deal with adidas - presumably at similar terms.

Interesting way to get the summer started.

Injuries and Suspensions

Here are the important notes from the team news focused mostly on the two-match teams:
  • Bolton - Not sure how to feel about the supposition that the "weary trio" of MPet, Elmander, and Klasnic will make way for Sturridge, Mark Davies, and Matty Taylor.  Sturridge will have a spot because he's been awesome and was only out due to being Cup tied.  As for the others, I wouldn't worry too much about any of them.
  • Fulham - They look to be at nearly full health minus I&S All Star Damien Duff who looks like he'll definitely miss the first match of Fulham's two and is probably unlikely at best for the second.
  • Stoke - Not much injury news for Stoke other than the assertion that Begovic will return to the starting line-up after making way for Sorensen in the FA Cup Semi-Final last weekend. 
  • Wolves - The important news is that SEB was in training yesterday and presumably will be again today after leaving the Everton match two weeks ago with a hamstring complaint.  With a general lack of alternatives up front and a desperate need for points you have to imagine he'll be starting.
What does all of the above mean? Mostly that injuries and suspensions - at least the ones we know about going into the weekend - won't make much of an impact on your starting line-up.  If you're looking more to the promising one-gamers, here are some key notes from those teams:
  • Chelsea - Alex and Ramires are definitely out with ACole a question.  The BBC team report indicates that Ancelotti "hinted he will make changes" which could put Drogs and Kalou at risk of sitting in favor of Elk and Nando.  Makes me VERY nervous.
  • Man United - Not much here with Berbs a slight doubt, Scholes out on suspension, and Rafael back.
  • Arsenal - The only injuries of note (aside from the long term ones) are to Diaby and Rosicky and I hope you weren't looking to add them to your line-up.
  • Citeh - Tevez and Micah Richards are still out but that's about it from the injury front.  Not much indication on rotation policy and who is likely to play which is frustrating.
  • Liverpool - No useful news on Carroll, Carra, or Aurellio who are all listed as "doubts" which pretty much kills the value of both those players and their potential replacements.
  • Spurs - Bale is listed as a major doubt after coming off early against Arsenal.  He looked pretty beat up so I'd be surprised to see him play.
Again, not a lot to really impact the one-gamers you likely want in your line-up.  The only potential impact comes from Ancelotti's cagey statements about line-up changes.

Look for "Barn Door Watch" a little later in the day and then a Live Chat as usual on Saturday.

The Week Ahead - Matchweek 34

I wish I could say that anything that unfolded in the North London Derby yesterday surprised me but I honestly can't. As much as I and other Arsenal supporters might wish it to be otherwise, the current incarnation of the club just isn't ready to cope with high pressure situations. Until they sprinkle some seasoning in with the young talent, they will remain a group with unrealized potential. I won't say that they are underachievers because while there is talent there, they have ended up the season doing what pretty much everyone figured they would. They're near the top but not good enough to win the league. The agonizing that has gone on in the press about them stems mostly from the fact that the flaws are obvious and fixable given Arsenal's resources, reputation, and location. That the flaws have gone ignored and generally unacknowledged makes people a bit crazy.

On the other side of the field, Spurs are to borrow a phrase from Dennis Green, lately of the NFL's Arizona Cardinals, "what we thought they were" as well. They have some standout talents to score in big matches but just aren't good enough at the back to ensure that they don't concede more than they score in such situations. The other big problem is that their standout talents are also seemingly very frail. We're talking Robin van Persie frail. van der Vaart has always been that way and Bale's brief career as a starter has been interrupted by significant injury layoffs at an alarming rate.

The upside is that when they get together these two sides put on a heck of a show. The downside is that both fan bases are going to continue to feel somewhat tortured unless more effective solutions can be found for the problems that have dogged both sides for at least the last few years.

We'll move on to suggesting some specific remedies once the fantasy season is over and the thoughts of all good Premier League writers move to transfer targets and squad transformation.

And with that we move from rant to your regularly scheduled fantasy analysis of the coming week:

Timing Is Everything

Just figured I'd post a quick note as we got ready for the midweek matches to get started. The weekend gave us pretty much what we expected. Points from Drogs, FloMal, and Lamps but not too much from Torres and Elk. Kalou was the surprise package and Cech was the early disappointment.

Birmingham, as we expected, handled Sunderland and have managers feeling pretty good about things. The question is whether they end up getting much out of those same players in midweek against Chelsea on the road. The big disappointment was SuperKev who barely even showed up on the score sheet.

Arsenal did what Arsenal has done recently. RvP was worth the money but there wasn't as much value as you might have hoped for.

Two odd things about the upcoming week - one, the teams with two matches didn't play last weekend at all. The second is that most of them did very well the weekend before last despite not being exceptional teams so the prices of their best players is a little over-inflated. This will make life pretty difficult come the end of the week when you're making your decisions.

Finally, to the title of this post. There were a lot of comments killing me for the perceived slight toward Michael Carrick. I felt the reaction was overly harsh and apparently Mr. Carrick agreed with me and decided to conspire with Mr. Berbatov to give away the FA Cup semi-final. Berbs should have rendered Carrick's blunder irrelevant by scoring on his two rock solid chances but Carrick showed the depths of his mediocrity by gifting Citeh their only goal and thus their place in the FA Cup Final. Sometimes life just works out when you've given an opinion that not everyone agrees with.

The Barn Door Live

Barn Door Watch

I don't tend to do a lot of name dropping or anything like that related to my day job but I will today because it will help explain the lateness of this post.  One of my clients was invited to demonstrate something we did for them at a Cyber Security event hosted by the White House (yes, THAT White House).  My client invited me and one of my co-workers along as well which was kind of cool.  I'm guessing most of you don't care but it was sort of fun for me to see one of the projects I've worked on get some high level recognition.

OK, enough with the excuses and on to the look ahead to the Barn Door that we'll all be contemplating over the weekend as the matches unfold and we look to optimize our teams for the next match week. 

Once again, the schedule is an odd one with everyone playing once and four teams playing twice. Here's the thing, the teams that are playing twice are going to test the skills and abilities of fantasy managers everywhere because, how to say this nicely, none of them are exactly challenging for a spot in Europe.  The other quirk is that NONE OF THEM ARE PLAYING THIS WEEKEND.  So really, there isn't much need to spend a lot of mental effort on the BD (which is nice). 

If you do want a little look ahead just to have something to read and to consider one-gamers you might want to keep amongst the two-gamers, here are some thoughts.

So, here are the two-gamers and a quick review of the value each team is likely to deliver:

The Week Ahead - Matchweek 33

Interesting reaction to the post on Charlie Adam.  I saw a lot of support for Michael Carrick from people who wanted to claim that because he has won titles and started lots of matches that he's an excellent player.  The second most frequent source of criticism was that I was letting my pro-Arsenal bias show through in the type of midfielders I tend to prefer.  I would like to dispute both notions.  And clarify my comments about Carrick and Adam.

First, on Carrick.  Please check your facts - he hasn't started more than 24 matches in the league for United since 2006-07, his first year with the club.  He has played 19 matches for them this season. He has been the definition of a squad player.  He doesn't have any single outstanding skill.  His passing is above average but not exceptional.  He doesn't score.  He doesn't tackle particularly well.  He isn't fleet of foot.  He isn't seen as the organizer of the defense.  About once per season he takes an exceptional shot from long range.  He is a squad player, no more.  He is fortunate to be a squad player on an excellent team.

Now, lest we forget, he was purchased for £18 Million.  If you bought Carrick for say £5 Million and got a squad player who can start 20-odd matches then that's some good business.  If you pay £18 Million you're looking for someone you expect to start just about every match and make a noticeable contribution more than once in a blue moon. 

This is the root of the comparison to Charlie Adam.  I don't think Adam or Carrick would be bad players for any of the bigger teams that I listed.  What I said was that I thought he'd be a disappointment for any of those teams given the amount of money that they would undoubtedly have to pay for him.  The exceptional things that he does for Blackpool are already being done by other people at United, Liverpool, and Spurs.

Could Adam make the same contribution that Carrick has made to United? Sure.  Is that worth £18 Million (or even the more likely fee of around £12 Million)? I wouldn't think so.  I'd think any of the clubs I mentioned would be far better served going with other options - specifically options who price won't be artificially inflated by results that they are never going to see.

I appreciate that it is easy to make the connection between my support of Arsenal and any criticism I make of players who play for other teams - especially United or Spurs - but the mere fact of my support for Arsenal doesn't mean that it drives everything that I write.  I'd bet that if you got an honest answer from Sir Alex that he'd be disappointed in the results of his purchase of Carrick.  Not because Carrick doesn't have a role to play but because he paid WAY too much money to get him.

Arsenal Get Four Back

Injured quartet may return to face Liverpool | News Archive | News |
Arsène Wenger hopes to have four players back for the visit of Liverpool this weekend.

Johan Djourou (shoulder) and Wojciech Szczesny (finger) were last seen departing major cup ties against Manchester United and Barcelona respectively and both face fitness tests ahead of Sunday's Premier League clash.

Alex Song (knee) and Denilson (toe) could return to bolster Arsenal's midfield but Bacary Sagna (knee) is a major doubt while goalkeeper Manuel Almunia (knee) is also doubtful.

So in addition to Szczesny and Djourou as possible 2-gamers, Eboue remains a viable option. Especially if you got him at last week's price.

The Forgotten Two-Gamers

Of course I mean Birmingham City. With Arsenal and Chelsea the marquee teams playing two this game week, it's easy to overlook the "other" Blues. But they have a good home match against Sunderland at the weekend before travelling to a less than rampart Chelsea.  It's at least worth a closer look at their squad as there may be some bargains - and some pitfalls - from the Second City Players.

Barn Door Team

Here we go again.

My barn door team after the weekend looks like this:

Progressive changes (regressive possibly, I'll leave that to you) after the jump.

Adam Buyers Beware

As I sit watching David Silva come on for James Milner in the last 30 minutes of the Liverpool blowout of City today, I had a thought. We've seen Roy Hodgson rediscover both his mojo and his "proper depth" in the Premier League over the last two months. We've seen Milner (and Barry) struggle to justify their prices at a "big club" over the months since they came over from Villa. We've seen Scott Parker rediscover himself at West Ham. You get the idea.

What's my point? Some players (and managers) are meant to be big fish in little ponds while others are prepared to move on to bigger stages. The mere fact of being very good in the Premier League for a modest club is not enough to imply that you are likely to be ready for a step up.

This brings us to the case of Charlie Adam. First things first, I really like watching Adam play and I like it even more because he's been a rock for my fantasy team for most of the season at a very reasonable price. This isn't a diatribe against Charlie Adam. My worry for him is that he's not really big club material.

Why do I say that? His game will change if he moves up a few steps in the same sort of way that Uncle Woy's job changed when he moved from Fulham to Liverpool. Technically the job description is the same but that's only until you get to the fine print.

Say Adam moves to Liverpool, Spurs, or United (the three most frequently mentioned options), here's how his value will diminish:
  • Free Kicks - much of Adam's value to Blackpool is on set pieces - he takes really good ones that lead to much needed goals.  At the clubs mentioned above you can't really see him taking kicks over Bale, Modric, Nani, Giggs, Gerrard, Meireles, or Suarez can you? 
  • Possession/Creativity - Another major part of Adam's value is that he has a lot of the ball in the middle of the park for Blackpool and makes the incisive passes that often lead to the goals that have kept Blackpool at least alive and kicking for staying up.  At the clubs above - specifically Liverpool and Spurs - there are midfielders in Modric and Meireles who already do an excellent job in that role.  Again, Adam would be a nice back-up plan but would hardly be worth the money.
  • Penalties -  Adam gets a bunch of his goals for Blackpool from the spot so while the total of 9 goals from a midfielder looks nice the fact that six of them are from the spot means that his value is based in great part on the fact that he'd be the main taker.  As above, it seems unlikely that Adam would be the choice at United/Spurs/Liverpool over the current cast of characters.  3 goals and 6 assists don't look quite as good as 9 goals and 6 assists, huh?
  • Position - My sense is that Adam's best position is as a poor man's Alonso from the best days of Rafa's Liverpool.  He isn't a "Scholes-type" tucked in behind the forwards and he isn't a Makelele/Keane-like holding destroyer.  The best comparison might be Michael Carrick who was good for adequate Spurs teams but has similarly struggled with the move up in competition.
So there you have it, is Charlie Adam the next Michael Carrick?  Big transfer fee but unable to cut it at a top club? What say you?

Arsenal Takeover Pending?

BBC Sport - Football - Stan Kroenke set for Arsenal takeover deal

From the sounds of this article on Arsenal is about to be taken over by Stan Kroenke who also owns some or all of the Denver Nuggets (basketball), Colorado Avalanche (hockey), St. Louis Rams (American Football), and Colorado Rapids (Major League Soccer).  The Rapids are the reigning Major League Soccer champions. 

I could make an attempt to give a rundown of Kroenke's history as a team owner but whatever I come up with would never hold a candle to the treatment The Swiss Ramble gave it last year so here's the link to that post

Great information.  The thing that sticks out the most for me?
  • Looks like Wenger is good with it - that's a solid start.
  • He doesn't seem likely to be a bull in a China shop.
  • He isn't likely to finance the acquisition with debt.
  • He does seem capable of bringing his knowledge of globalizing revenue streams to the table which seems like something Arsenal has lagged on compared to United, Chelsea, Barca, and Real and DEFINITELY compared to the major American sports which are much less popular globally in general but pull in a pretty solid amount of revenue.
  • Finally, and most importantly, I like the idea that he might push Arsenal toward an American Tour over a summer in the not too distant future.  I like seeing United, Barca, Milan, et al when they come but I'd much rather spend that time and money on Arsenal than any of those.
Hope you're enjoying the weekend.

Friday Trading

In my infinite capacity to mess with a good thing, and in clear violation of the fantasy rules, I've made the following trades today:
  • Howard to Carson. I don't trust any of the cheaper keepers, but West Brom is coming off a six-match unbeaten streak. They are on the road against a Sunderland team in dire form and may see this match as their last chance for points for a while with Chelsea and @Spurs next on the schedule.
  • Walker to Heitinga.  I may regret selling Walker as he is such a good attacking fullback.  But he hasn't been bringing in the fantasy points recently and I don't trust the Villa defence to keep it clean against anyone.  Heitinga should play in Everton's midfield against a limited, but dangerous Wolves side.  In the end, this one came down to price.
  • Valencia to Hitzlsperger.  Like the above trade I can argue for the rules here. Hitz was playing well and taking kicks for West Ham before the poor showing against Manchester United.  Valencia has been rumoured to be getting some sort of a rest against Fulham, which is enough to make me nervous.  But in the end, this move also came down to price as I needed the money for...
  • Osman to Fabregas.  Osman has been playing well for me but the siren song of Arsenal @Blackpool, coupled with their double match week next week was enough to lure me over to Fabregas.  Wenger says he will start against the Tangerines, and hopefully he can put on a show on the seaside.
Any last minute trades for you?

Barn Door Live

Barn Door Watch

The two-gamers return next match week and as such, so does the need to be particularly vigilant on the Barn Door so you don't get shut out of some inexpensive two-match goodness.  Here's what you need to know:

Two Gamers
  • Chelsea - and neither of their matches (@WBA and BRM) are exceptionally difficult.  Time to find a way to get some of their expensive players on board.
  • Arsenal - but their matches (LIV and @TOT) are much tougher so I wouldn't get TOO excited.
  • Birmingham - and they have a mixed bag of SUN (who are playing really badly) and @CHE which is going to be a lot tougher.
No Games
  • Stoke
  • Wolves
  • Bolton
  • Citeh
  • Fulham
No huge losses among the teams that won't be playing really.  I'm not saying there aren't any good fantasy players to be had on those teams but there certainly aren't many long term keepers that you'd have to make the decision to ditch or not.  Maybe Kolarov (but I'd keep him if you've had him all season) but otherwise these are teams that you only pick on a match-up-by-match-up basis.

Players to Watch
  • Drogba/Lamps/Cech/Luiz/Torres
  • RvP
  • Gardner
  • Adam - he's only a one-gamer but he's home to Wigan
  • Others if they're healthy - Zigic, Walcott, Martins, whomever from Everton turns up healthy in the attack (they're only 1 gamers but they're home to Rovers)

Injuries and Suspensions

Here is the list of important players who are either "Out," "Doubtful," or back from either suspension or injury.

  • Song, Sagna, and the usual suspects - Arsenal continues to be weakened severely at the back with Clichy the only first choice option in the back six (GK, four defenders, and holding midfielder).  Even second choice HM Denilson is out.  Hard to keep out the goals that way.
  • Nolan/Tiote/Perch - Why am I high on Villa's chances? That's a lot of suspended talent for NUFC.  Especially Tiote who has been integral to their defensive efforts when they have played well.
  • Bentley - Not a terribly promising weekend for him if he were healthy but he isn't
  • Jiranek - Not sure why you'd be thinking about him but if you were, don't.
  • Doyle - SEB likely to continue to deputize
  • Rooney - I'm pretty sure we're all aware of this one.
  • Evans - Also suspended meaning that Smalling is really the only option if Rio is rested between Champions League matches.
  • Rafael - Started off the season the more advanced of the twins but Fabio seems to have rocketed ahead more recently.
  • Bramble - Amazing that this is even relevant but testament to how far he's come.
  • Campbell - Frazier that is and just making sure you know since SUN have a solid match-up.
  • Walcott - I'd LOVE to pick him against Blackpool's speed-challenged defense but there isn't enough chance of him playing to warrant the spend.
  • Zigic/Oba - Lots of questions around the Birmingham attack with Bentley definitely out and these two question marks.  
  • Rodwell/Coleman/Cahill - More reasons to like Wolves' chances at home.
  • Duff - I'm sure you weren't high on him on the road at Old Trafford but he's up to his old tricks again and uncertain to play.
  • Lennon - Fill in your own joke here related to his mid-week issues.
  • Clark/Albrighton - Not definitely starting but more likely than they were last weekend.  I'd still watch myself in both cases but at least worth thinking about.
  • MGP - With Birmingham in disarray his return could mean good things for Rovers who need the three points.
  • Kightly - I've been waiting for him to stay healthy since Wolves came back up to the Premier League - will this be the time he starts and shows his fantasy potential?
  • Scholes - Just so you know, no reason to take an action here.
  • Carew/Pennant - Stoke's attack is much more interesting with an additional battering ram up top and a second strong crosser of the ball.
  • KRich - I'm not endorsing him as a pick but he should be back and available if you think he'll recapture his form of a month or so ago.
  • Bardsley/Onuoha - More reason to think Sunderland will be more solid this weekend than they were in being undressed by Citeh last weekend.

The Week Ahead - Slacker Edition

I have to admit it, I'm having a lot of trouble getting motivated to focus on fantasy over the last couple of weeks. Maybe it is the fact that we've been doing this for 8 months. Maybe it is the hangover from Arsenal crashing out of contention on all four fronts. Maybe it is related to the warmer weather combined with baseball and MLS starting up and still holding so much promise. I'm guessing its mostly the Arsenal thing with a small sprinkle of the other factors as well.

Like most of the managers around the league, the end of this season has me thinking about next season and what can be done to improve what we do and how we enjoy the fantasy games available to us.

The BEST option would be to create our own fantasy game that improves on the experiences currently offered by the "big two" ( and Yahoo! UK). Unfortunately, that best option is expensive and time consuming so unless there's someone out there with money to spend that believes that there is a market for a better fantasy Premier League experience, we'll have to move on to the next best thing.

The problem is that I'm not sure what the "next best thing" might be. The first thing that springs to my mind is a competition more like American-style fantasy football where those who are interested join a league, pay an entry fee with the winners (maybe the "top four") winning some percentage of the pot.

My intuition tells me that there is a need for both long term prizes like the one suggested above and short term prizes that will keep people motivated as the season wears on. As an example, in our private league, I already know I'm not going to finish above third unless one or both of the top two leave a player out of the line-up for the next four weeks. There is some pride on the line since I'm currently in fourth and would like to beat Jeremy out for third but with no tangible outcome associated with that other than a few boasting IMs over the summer that really isn't enough motivation.

Here is my thought. Since I clearly don't have the answer here, I'd like to hear from our readers. Is there interest in some sort of a premium league that would take your performance from the Yahoo game and translate it into another competition? If so, what ideas do you have for the sort of competition that would keep the fun going throughout the entire season?

I have one idea that I'll throw out there that might provide a different experience. Rather than having a "Cup" competition (AM,, and others already do that) or a private group where we exactly follow the scoring system of the overall game ( and others do that). Maybe we could put teams in to "leagues" and play schedules within those individual leagues. The first few teams in each league would win prize money. It wouldn't entirely eliminate the problem of teams being out of the running for prizes toward the end of the season but it would likely increase the probability of more teams staying in the race longer.

So, what do you think? Do you like that idea? Would you participate? Would you contribute an entry fee to be involved? If not that specific idea, what else would be of interest. I'm very much open to ideas to increase our collective enjoyment of what we're spending our leisure time on.

Van Der Saar denies injury worry

Warming up, just in case.

Van Der Saar denies injury worry - Yahoo! Eurosport

Edwin van der Sar has played down fears he suffered a recurrence of his groin injury during Manchester United's Champions League win at Chelsea...

However, the former Ajax man, United's shoot-out hero in the final against Chelsea three years ago, insists it is not a serious problem.

"When I dived to save a shot from Torres, I went 105% for my take-off," he revealed. "My calf gave way a little bit and I ended up with cramp.

"I didn't train a lot in the last couple of weeks, so maybe it was a bit of tiredness or something."

We probably won't have any good information one way or another before kick-off, but I wouldn't be too surprised to see Kuszczak play against Fulham this weekend. And at 4.97, it might be worth the gamble. The American options at that price range scare me. So maybe this is the way to go.

Your thoughts?

Jeremy's Dream Getting Closer

LeBron James to take part ownership of Liverpool FC · The Score

A while back, Jeremy wrote about American sports stars and how they might line up in soccer if they chose the beautiful game rather than whichever game they currently play to make their millions (and millions).  I can't say I remember where he had LeBron James in the line-up [outside mid. -J] or if he even did at all but I'm pretty sure the answer wasn't "The Owner's Box" but in fact, that's how it is going to work out in the real world. 

James is taking a small stake in Fenway Sports Group (which also owns the Boston Red Sox and a NASCAR team) in return for FSG becoming his worldwide marketing representation (or something like that). 

Could we see LeBron showing up in the Director's Box at Anfield one of these days? Possible although it would presumably be early in the season as the NBA and Premier League schedules overlap for the most part with few breaks in the NBA schedule after October that would allow for time to fly to the UK and back between matches without missing practice time.  Still, it can't hurt to have LeBron as part of Team Liverpool as they continue to break into new markets and gain brand awareness in places like China and India. 

I just saw a Tweet urging those of us who write about soccer to "cool it" related to this topic but at the top of the major domestic leagues marketing ploys like this, if successful, can help boost a team's ancillary revenues in foreign markets which in turn would help with additional money for transfers and wages. 

JayZ (who owns a similarly minor percentage) helps recruit players and do PR for the New Jersey Nets and I'm sure there are other similar examples.

Is this a huge story? Not really.  Is it worthy of mentioning? Sure.

Dejan Stankovic wonder goal

You can't be late to an Inter Milan match these days without missing something incredible. This past weekend it was an early scrambled goal from Pato and AC Milan and yesterday... well, yesterday there was this:

h/t Off the Post

Barn Door Team

Not that sticking with my Barn Door team last week was very successful -- or successful at all! -- but here's this week's version:

  • Howard. What's the opposite of what you are looking for in a fantasy keeper?  That would be THo this season.  Everton haven't been consisten winners, which hurts your keeper's value.  But even when they win, Howard has a knack for letting in the soft goal.  Or more than one.  He's been in the red (minus points) more weeks than he's earned points.  Of course, that's why he's cheap.  And cheap is very attractive in a keeper.  And he's playing at Wolves, who have lost their leading scorer and just got hammered by Newcastle United.  So hope springs eternal, but I'm really not sure that this is a good pick
  • Valencia and Hernandez.  Am I buying a false view of these players based on West Ham's ineptitude?  I'm probably only owning them for a week as they have an FA Cup semifinal the following week instead of a league match, but they are home to Fulham.  They are also in Champions League action against Chelsea on either side of this match, which could easily become a trap game.  Valencia's barn door price makes him an attractive midfield option, and the other best opition at Hernandez's price range is Sturridge who also misses the following week for an FA Cup semi.
  • Lampard.  See above re: the Champions League.
  • van Persie. Have Arsenal just collapsed?  Is it redeemable?  If so, it's going to be against Blackpool who are increasingly vulnerable.  At 9, returning 7 per week would be acceptable.  At 18 it really isn't.  He's probably staying in the team because the matchup is just too good, but also because I can't quite get to Nani without making other sacrifices.  But I will admit to have looked at what to do with the $10 that RvP to Sturridge would net.  For instance, maybe a real goalkeeper.

First Impressions, Second Thoughts

Straight from the sources today.

Liverpool fear that Gerrard and Agger could miss the rest of season. Johnson is likely to be out for up to a month. than a minute ago via web

Pablo Zabaleta was expected to return to Manchester on Monday, after extending his stay at Argentina over the weekend. than a minute ago via web

Harry Redknapp confirms Gareth Bale will play, provided no problem after training. Pienaar out, Kranjcar (foot) doubtfulless than a minute ago via web

Hi, u have probably heard that i had a car accident this morning. I'm absolutely fine, nothing to worry about. THese things happen.less than a minute ago via web

If Rooney does get the mind-boggling two-game ban, he'll miss the home game with Fulham and the FA Cup semi-final against City at Wembley.less than a minute ago via web

Thanks for all the get well messages! Hopefully won't be too long but a torn hammy, isn't good news!!!less than a minute ago via ÜberSocial

Interesting Speculation To Kick Off The Week

Soccer: Is Drogba headed to MLS? - ESPN

Even more interesting in this article where "well-placed sources" indicate that Drogba's representatives have feelers out about joining MLS is the fact that MLS's "major market teams" were listed as New York Red Bulls, LA Galaxy, and Seattle Sounders.  Huh? I know Seattle is a reasonable-sized city and the fan support is exceptional but calling Seattle a major market on par with New York and LA seems pretty silly.  Even more so for a writer who is apparently out of NYC. 

It would be very interesting to see Drogba come to MLS although I have a hard time believing that he will venture State-side only two seasons removed from being the run-away leading scorer in the Premier League.  I'd expect one more contract - maybe two years in length - somewhere in Europe before he heads this way.  Maybe I'm wrong but if Real Madrid is willing to pay to have K2 on their roster then I can't imagine they wouldn't much rather have Drogba as a replacement once the K2 loan runs out. 

I will say that I do enjoy the mere fact that this article wasn't laughed out of the building immediately.  Certainly a sign of something good for MLS even if I don't believe it will come true.

The Barn Door Live

Barn Door Watch

As we look past this week to next week the schedule has some tantalizing options for fantasy managers.  The only downside is that the players who are likely the most interesting are already pretty expensive.  The main attraction will be Chelsea hosting Wigan.  There will certainly be doubts about who Chelsea will start at forward so that's a potential issue but you at least want to give yourself options, especially if Nando breaks out of his rut this weekend. You also want to be tracking guys like Luiz on the relative bargain side and midfielders Lampard and FloMal who are expensive but potentially worth it at home against Wigan.

With Spurs and United also at home against moderate opposition there will be no shortage of expensive options that might get more expensive that you should be tracking.  Potentially more interesting from a value standpoint will be Sunderland's attackers and specifically Gyan.  They face WBA at the Stadium of Light which means that you have the worst defense in the league playing on the road.  With Gyan under 9, you want to make room for him right away if there's any chance his prices goes up. Henderson is also reasonably priced and might be worth a look on the Barn Door.

That's about as much as I can say I'm really looking forward to on the BD but I'm sure a number of other alternatives will present themselves as the matches unfold.