You'd think that with this much time between matches I'd have had plenty of time to write one of my typical (long) posts. As it turns out, the international break came at a good time for me because I was completely swamped at work for the last two weeks and it continues today with the kick-off of yet another project. With that in mind, I'm going to go with a stripped down version of The Week Ahead. For the person who suggested about two weeks ago that I go on too long anyway, you get your wish for at least one week. I'll be fairly brief.
Because I can't completely resist an intro, I'm going to do a mini-rant on the one match I watched over the international break - the USA vs. France. I was struck at how high our expectations have gotten here in the States. The analysts on ESPN went on and on (and on) about the fact that Klinsmann didn't have the US performing nearly well enough, especially going forward. I'm not trying to be a Klinsmann apologist at this point. I like the fact that he was the choice but there isn't enough of a sample, in my opinion to make any judgments about how well or poorly he's done so far. The thing that shocked me?
OUR ANALYSTS HAVE GOTTEN TO THE POINT OF BEING CRITICAL OF OUR NATIONAL TEAM WHEN THEY'RE IN PARIS PLAYING A TOP TEN TEAM IN THE WORLD ON THEIR HOME FIELD.
Oh, and our best attacker - Landon Donovan - wasn't playing.
Just an amazing turn of events for a country that was happy to win home matches against Panama and Jamaica not too long ago.
I'm curious if the talent is currently on hand for any manager to live up to those sorts of expectations if that is indeed the new standard. A word to our analysts though, just because ESPN has decided to take soccer seriously, it doesn't mean we're automatically going to be a world power immediately. The way the analysts are talking, they certainly seem to think that's the case.
OK, on to the Week Ahead in fantasy EPL:
The Schedule - where the advantages lie:
Arsenal @ Norwich - Arsenal still aren't 100% trustworthy but since the Blackburn disaster they've been solid in dispatching the teams they're supposed to beat. Verdict - Advantage Arsenal Attackers.
Everton vs. Wolves - One must-win at home against Wigan is not enough to get you excited about Wolves again - Everton should cruise here. Verdict - Advantage Everton (both sides of the ball).
Man United @ Swansea - As much as we've all been impressed by Vorm, Rangel, et al it's hard to see them stopping United even if United continue to sputter a little bit. Verdict - Advantage United Defense.
Spurs vs. Aston Villa - Spurs just keep on rolling along. I don't see a clean sheet but I see a fairly comfortable win. Verdict - Advantage Spurs Attackers.
Chelsea vs. Liverpool - I see goals, lots of goals. Verdict - Advantage Attackers on Both Sides.
- RvP - Is the right question "Can you afford him?" or is it "Can you afford NOT to have him?" - I'm still not sure but I'm shading toward the latter after starting the season the other way.
- Welbeck - Assuming United continues with Rooney withdrawn then Welbeck is a solid bet to return some value. Hernandez is the better player but his price-to-production rate isn't very good so far this season.
- Bellamy - If Suarez is suspended then Bellamy could be great value in a potentially high scoring match-up. If, as seems likely, the Suarez affair takes longer than this week to resolve then Suarez is a strong bet here instead albeit a more expensive one.
- Walters - Home to QPR seems like a solid time to play someone and somehow Walters has been Stoke's best fantasy striker thus far this season.
- Bendtner - A little more expensive than Walters but also a better player, especially when playing at home to Fulham.
- Manchester City Forwards - I'm honestly not sure enough where the points (or even the playing time) might happen among the three options so I'm a little wary of taking up a place with any of the three right now.
- Silva - Pretty sure he'll play and be his typically awesome self.
- Ramires - I'm back on the bandwagon after a few weeks off.
- Kuyt - Another potential beneficiary of a Suarez suspension if it were to happen. If not this week then soon after as it is Thursday and it sounds like Liverpool will go through the process of a hearing - hard to imagine that happening by the weekend.
- Sessegnon - Larsson has been slightly more productive but he's also more expensive. If you're looking for value then I'd go with Sess. If you have the extra money then Larsson probably makes more sense.
- Rodwell/Coleman - He's still very cheap and while he isn't listed as a defender anymore, he's probably worth a look at home against Wolves if you need an enabler who might produce something as well. Coleman is a slightly more expensive version of the same thing with slightly more chance of producing. Oh, if they were only both still defenders.
- Moses - If ever there was a weekend to pick a Wigan player (and I'm not saying there is) then this would be it.
- Kaboul - Coming off a bit of a disaster - OG + YC - he's cheap and playing at home against average opposition.
- Heitinga - Always a risk for a card but there is some upside based on match-up this weekend and he is fairly cheap which I like in my defenders.
- Fabio - Just kidding - he has officially entered dead-to-me territory - I will not be fooled again by reports that he may start.
- Woodgate - Look for Stoke to get back to being mean at the back after two weeks of Pulis yelling at them after a sub-par performance. Woodgate is a cheap way to get in on that action.