Rather than opening this week's column with some over-arching theme coming out of Week 5, I'm going to open it with what we think is some exciting news for Never Manage Alone. We are getting a redesign in the very near future (and quite possibly by the time you read this post). The redesign goes far beyond a "new coat of paint", there has been a lot of work done to improve the performance of the back end both for us as authors and for you whether you are reading, commenting, or contributing via FanPosts and FanShots.
For those of you who participate in our live chats while matches are going on, it is our expectation that things should be MUCH cleaner and faster from a technical point of view. I know we've all been frustrated from time-to-time with the performance of the comment threads and we are told this should improve things.
Another key improvement will be our ability to easily import content from the many other high quality SBNation blogs in the network (300+ across all sports and topics). This should allow us to incorporate more articles written about topics like starting line-up analysis, injury updates, and transfer analysis from blogs that are focused entirely on the team being impacted. We will still have to spend some time to go out and get these articles but we won't need to send you clicking all across the web to get to those articles, they'll be presented in our user interface so you'll be able to get right back to the Never Manage Alone content you are used to.
Finally, the new design gives us a LOT more flexibility when it comes to the content you see when you first arrive at the site. The "blog" format where every story is essentially treated equally is very limiting, especially for a site like ours where there are some key features that everyone is probably interested in and some very important news (injuries, etc.) that shouldn't be pushed down the page because of a marginally interesting news topic. There is room for both but the redesigned publishing tools will give us the option to feature the most important stories right up front regardless of when they were published.
As with any redesign, we're sure there will be some things that take some getting used to and even some things that you'll end up liking less than the "old way". We hope that you give the new look and feel a chance and provide any comments/criticism in a constructive way.
After the jump you can see an example of what one of the new SBNation home pages will look like as well as the meat of the analysis on what we learned from Week 5 in the Prem:
Arsenal - Arsenal's strong start to the season seems to be for real. So too Santi Cazorla's ability to create fantasy points out of thin air. The most amazing realization I had watching the match against City was the improvement in the play of Per Mertesacker between last season (when he looked completely out of place physically) and this season (when he always seems to be in the right place at the right time). The mistake for City's goal wasn't a happy thing but the fact that they were the better team against the defending champs away is pretty impressive. We'll find out even more against Chelsea next weekend.
Aston Villa - Darren Bent briefly reminded us that he is alive and doubled his point total for the season but aside from that, Villa were a fantasy manager's nightmare against a newly promoted side that was looking for it's first win. Either this is a home/away thing (possible) or last week was a complete anomaly for Villa. Either way, I'd be wary at this point.
Chelsea - The concern for fantasy managers is that this is the second weekend in a row that Chelsea were bullied by a big team. They managed to pull this one out but it wasn't pretty in real life or for fantasy attackers. In the Yahoo format, there was only 1 attacking player (Juan Mata) who scored higher than 5 points. That's not good and certainly a few major steps down from the first few weeks. With a match against less physically imposing Arsenal this coming weekend, it will be instructive to see if Chelsea reverts to being a flowing side or if the league has figured out how to blunt the Mata/Hazard attacking duo.
Everton - THE story of the start of the season so far, the Toffees appear to be the front-runners to the title of "This season's Newcastle" awarded to the unexpected team making a run at the Top Four despite a significant disadvantage in depth and financial resources. Since Everton were pioneers in this category before giving it over to Reading, West Ham, Aston Villa, and Newcastle, we should probably call it "This year's Everton" but since they're every year's Everton, that might just get confusing. The question heading into this coming weekend against Southampton is "How much Everton is too much?" and how loud will the collective wail be if this is the weekend Everton chooses to slip? (FYI, I'm currently on Howard, Baines, Fellaini, and Mirallas while anticipating looking at Pienaar and/or Jelavic later in the week).
Fulham - As negatives go, Wigan not being very good overpowered Fulham not being very good on the road leading to a rare Fulham away win. Dimitar Berbatov was in equally rare form by having a big (Yahoo) fantasy day without scoring a goal and Damien Duff continues on his scorching fantasy pace as well (both formats). It's all enough to make you wonder if it is 2012 or 2006. Outside of those two, the production dropped significantly but Bryan Ruiz continues to be quietly effective.
Liverpool - Reams (or their digital equivalent) have already been written about this match so I won't go crazy with the details. As a fantasy manager I'm still wary of Liverpool despite their impressive early display. Outside of Gerrard (definitely worth it this weekend) and Suarez (not worth it but at least productive) no one else on the team is making a dent fantasy-wise. Raheem Sterling is returning more than his cost on average but unless you really need the money (for someone like Leighton Baines this week) the obligation of a potentially productive midfield slot for an enabler doesn't seem worth it to me.
Manchester City - They just haven't found the right mix yet this season and fantasy managers are left to count the cost. Mancini's rotation policy feels like it is going to be the next major aggravation in the lives of fantasy managers as few of his players seem like no-doubt selections (Hart, Kompany, Silva, Toure, and Aguero plus MAYBE Garcia appears to be the list - everyone else is a doubt at this point depending on mid-week obligations, health and whim).
Manchester United - Talk about a win that leaves you cold as a supporter and/or a fantasy manager. Manchester United got completely WORKED by a Liverpool team that has been struggling mightily all season. Patrice Evra was clearly not able to keep up with a 17 year old. Robin van Persie scored but was still a crappy fantasy investment. Vidic was revealed too late to be unable to play more than once a week at this point. Only those who kept the faith with Rafael were likely pleased with their selection of a United player. Kagawa was solid and returned more than his year-opening price but he certainly hasn't been the super-productive bargain we'd hoped for. His spot is certainly open on my roster at this point if the right opportunity presents itself.
Newcastle United - It feels like the opening weeks of 2011-2012 all over again as we say Demba Ba! Demba Ba! Demba Ba! Apparently he and Papiss Cisse only have one vial of Austin Powers' Mojo between the two of them and it's back to being Ba's turn. Hatem Ben Arfa also continues to add at least a little consistency to his game making the two of them very attractive for their upcoming date with Reading. The clean sheet gave a nice boost to defenders who have been struggling thus far this campaign but the rest of the attackers (Cisse, Cabaye, etc.) remain disappointing so far this year.
Norwich City - Robert Snodgrass came back to earth a bit but continued to be one of the few bright spots fantasy-wise for the Canaries. No other regular starter is averaging more than 5 fantasy points/match in the Yahoo format. With Snod's price still in double digits, it is going to be hard to look at Norwich for fantasy purposes most weeks. Where have you gone Grant Holt (averaging 1.6 points/match)?
Queens Park Rangers - They lost to Spurs but dominated large stretches of the match and appear to have something between Esteban Granero and and Alejandro Faurlin. Neither have been special from a fantasy standpoint yet but the duo might get more interesting when the opposition is less talented than Chelsea or Spurs. It will be very interesting to see how they can impact the home match this coming weekend with West Ham. They may or may not get the points themselves but they seem like they're the fulcrum that could lead to fantasy points accumulating somewhere on the QPR roster.
Reading - If something doesn't change, I'm going to need to come up with new ways to say "these guys stink" just to keep things interesting for myself. Hard to write the same thing about the same team across multiple columns multiple times per week. What do I mean? Their LEADING fantasy scorer this past weekend had 5.5 points. Yuck!
Southampton - The Killer Ls doesn't really have a ring to it so we'll have to work on some sort of nickname for Lambert and Lallana especially if they continue to produce like they have. Lambert has been the runaway star but for fantasy managers late to the party, Lallana is where the value is at right now because his price hasn't skyrocketed the way Lambert's has. We'll see if they have what it takes to slow down the rocketship that is currently Everton. Outside of those two, there really isn't much to consider among the Saints players for fantasy purposes - Clyne had a nice match but unless you think he'll keep scoring goals, his non-goalscoring production hasn't been remarkable thus far this season.
Stoke City - Can't say we learned much about Stoke this past weekend that we didn't know already. They gave Chelsea a tough match but weren't good enough to either win or put up many fantasy points. Sometimes it's OK to admit that there was nothing to be learned from a situation and this was one of those.
Sunderland - All meaningful talk about Sunderland and fantasy soccer has to revolve around Steven Fletcher at this point and how you feel about the following facts: 1) He seems to score every time he touches it; 2) He doesn't touch it that often; 3) His price his risen significantly; and 4) He scored and didn't return his value this past weekend. I am willing to concede that he is the living embodiment of Wenger's "Fox in the Box" but at a certain point, the disaster if he misses or doesn't get his one opportunity is a forward that costs 14+ and produces almost nothing.
Swansea City - The air went out of that balloon quickly, didn't it? There were a lot of people in our Saturday chat preparing to jump off of the Michu bandwagon. I'll admit that he hasn't been up to the Gylfi Sigurdsson standard over the past two match weeks but for those considering dropping a midfielder that costs them 5.67, has scored 4 goals in 5 matches and was in the middle of the action but unsuccessful against an Everton team that is just killing it right now, do you think your standards are just a little bit high? I get ditching the rest with the defense in flux but mark my words, you'll regret dropping Michu. He's STILL the 8th highest scoring midfielder in the game after 2 crappy weeks and you have him at a bargain. Unless and until his string of poor performances extends significantly (say, an entire month), you'd be wise not to overreact.
Tottenham - Jermain Defoe remains the only playable fantasy player on the team. Gareth Bale finally had a weekend worthy of his price but until we see more than one and until Spurs stop looking a shadow of the team that inserted themselves in the title discussion for the first half of last season, I'd be wary of spending on him. The saddest thing of all here was over the weekend having to answer "Has the move to Spurs killed Gylfi Sigurdsson's fantasy value entirely?" with a "yes". It gave me no pleasure to say it, but is there any other reasonable conclusion after 5 weeks totaling 17.5 points?
West Bromwich Albion - Turned out I was right to be wary of being too invested in WBA against Reading. James Morrison did just fine tallying 11 and moving up to the 7th spot in overall fantasy scoring among midfielders in the Yahoo format (all those who guessed that would the case after 5 matches, raise your hands). Gareth McAuley (mediocre return despite CS) and Shane Long (didn't start) were mistakes. I scared myself off of the player I've been wanting to go with all season - Romelu Lukaku - who is currently 17th overall in forward scoring despite exactly one start. Oh, and all those who put your hands up two sentences ago, you're liars...except you Mrs. Morrison.
West Ham United - The Kevin Nolan train kept rolling but the Jussi car definitely went off the rails in Week 5. For those holding Jussi after two amazing weeks of production, you gave some of it back for being greedy. It would have been even worse for Jussi if not for Nolan's stoppage time equalizer that turned -8 into -5 which isn't good but points is points. As with so many other mid-table (or slightly worse) teams, West Ham will take you only as far as match-ups and a little luck, there don't appear to be any season-long keepers to be had.
Wigan Athletic - Other than Kone 2012's goal-fueled production numbers (yes, that joke is already played out but this is Wigan AND the end of the column so I'm tired and unable to come up with anything more clever to say), these guys were Reading which ain't good.
We hope you enjoy the redesign when it hits!