Friday, August 28, 2009

EPL Fantasy Draft Review

OK, time for a little fantasy football draft analysis. The fantasy football here would be English football in the English Premier League. It's tough to find a quality EPL fantasy league as all of them are salary cap based, so my friends and I created a league with a traditional American football format. We have 11 teams in the league which is a very good amount. You get points for goals, shutouts, assists, team of the week and negative for goals against and red cards. Each team has 16 players - 11 starters, 5 reserves - so by the end you are dipping into some little known players, but at the same time you don't need Burnley backup defenders or anything like that.
Last year I won the league with a drafted team of ....
Cesc Fabregas
Theo Walcott
Andy Johnson
Aaron Lennon
Gary Neville
Ryan Nelson
Scott Carson
Tom Huddlestone
Leighton Baines
Ben Haim
Steven Pienaar
El -Hadji Douif

And an ending team of
James Beattie
Tim Howard
Curtis Davies
K. Richardson
Sol Campbell
Jonny Evans
Mikel Silvestre

Yeah, so half of my team at the end of the season were players I originally drafted, and I would say other tops teams would have around the same % of original players. Thus, picking up quality players and I'm pretty sure most of my pickups were drafted this year, some in high rounds, is just as important as the draft.
But anyways, we will look at this years draft and criticise some people.

Here is how the draft went

Round 1
1. Steven Gerrard (Liverpool) - New edition Carlo stole Stevie G from Worth. Smart pick as Gerrard was the Fantasy LeaguePlayer of the Season last year
2. Fernando Torres (Liverpool)- Best forward in the league?
3. Frank Lampard (Chelsea) - Obvious pick, could've went #1, will have triple digit points again this fantasy season
4. Wayne Rooney (Man U) - This would've been my top pick, especially because I don't pick Liverpool players, but I feel Rooney is due for his huge year.
5. Nicolas Anelka (Chelsea) - Last year's leading goal scorer. Will be solid, but maybe not as dynamic as Rooney, Torres, or Robinho
6. Robin Van Persie (Arsenal) - This manager does not take Chelsea, Man U, Tottenham or Liverpool players, so Arsenal's best player is an obvious choice, probably glad he didn't get a higher pick.
7. Adrei Arshavin (Arsenal) - Took the league by storm last season even though it was only for half the year. Great midfielder pick
8. Emmauel Adebayor (Man City) - Great striker, but a bit of a risk because City has a load of quality stikers.
9. Didier Droga (Chelsea) - slipped this far due to injury problems and possible move to Inter Milan, but could end up the leading goal scorer.
10. Cesc Fabregas (Arsenal) - Injuries and possible move to Barca make him slid this far, but everything Arsenal does goes through him.
11. Robinho (Man City) The steal of the draft last year in the 11th round (cuz he was on Real Madrid). Good pick at the end of the first round. Will start every game, albeit as more of a winger than an out-and-out striker.

Round 2
12. Rio Ferdinand (MAN U)- Surprised to see him go so high. I would've thought Terry or Vidic would be the first defender taken.
13. Berbatov (MAN U) - Huge disappointment last year, but I see him settling in at Man U, especially in the absense of Tevez
14. John Terry (Chelsea) - Strong pick at 14, one of a handful of marque defenders in the league.
15. Ashley Young (Aston Villa) - I love Ashley Young, think he will have an even better year than last, a steal at midfielder.

16. Gabriel Agbonlahor (Aston Villa) - Not a big fan of this pick. I see Agbonlahor getting similar points to Young, but Young is much more valuable due to his midfielder status.
17. Theo Walcott (Arsenal) - One of my favorites, but might be taken a round or so early.
18.Vidic (Man U) - Strong pick, good steal for last season's top scoring defender
19. Peter Cech (Chelsea) - First goalie taken, will get lots of shut-outs, probably more valuable than Van der Sar to to the latter's injury.
20.Patrice Evra (Man U) One of the Big Four defender you can pencil in to start every game. Wouldn't have been my choice, but I can't hate on it.
21. Dirk Kuyt (LIV) - Scored a lot of points last year, and this year his midfield eligibilty makes him even stronger. Watch out.
22. Pepe Reina (LIV) - Perphaps a little high, not sure if Liverpool is as strong desensively as in past years.

There you go, I won't bore you with every round. I'll just look at my team and some high and low light picks. Interesting note, only 6 teams were represented in the first 22 picks. and the next 3 rounds would only bring in two more teams (Everton and Fulham). Definitely a top-heavy league.

My Picks
1 (10 overall) Cesc Fabregas
2 (13) Berbatov
3 (32) Gael Clicy - Possible a bit high, but I see him as Arsenal's best defender. I really wanted Ashley Cole here, but he was taken the pick before.
4 (35) Jolean Lescott - Everton at the time, now Man City. Will that matter?
5. (54) Gareth Barry - Not sure about this one.
6. (57) John O'Shea - Quality Man Defender, will get lots of starts
7. (76) Robbie Keane - Got some ridicule for this pick, but at the end of the season I will stand by it.
8. (79) Micah Richards - last starting Man City Defender and looking at the other picks in this round - Deco, Giovanni, Shorey, C. Cole, C. Davies, Yobo, Carrick, Dempsey, Crouch, Nasri - I think I won this round. (Is Micah Richards the English version of me?)
9. (98) Michael Ballack - Good pick up for round 9
10. (101) Stuart Downing - Injured, but will boast the team come December
11. (120) Phil Neville - another Everton defender, most people forget about him
12. (123) Andy Johnson - Only player I have had all three years, got him round 2, round 6, now round 12.
13. (142) - Abu Diaby
14. (145) - Lucas Neill
15. (164) Jussi Jaaskalinen
16. (167) David Silva - didn't catch my Robinho this year

I am not as confident in my team this year as last. The league seems to be much more even as people are more used to it. But, i'm sure it will be spread out eventually. I really like my picks 7-9, but am uncertain about 3-6. I'll again need to steal pickups.

Here are some steals I saw in the draft
Ricardo Carvalho - Taken in mid 5th round, when Alex, his backup, was taking with the 1st pick in the 4th round and the other three starting Chelsea defenders were taking in the 2nd and 3rd rounds.
Yakubu - Another 5th round steal, when the last two years he was taken in the second round
Aaron Lennon - Taken mid 7th round. Don't be surprised if this guy is the 5th best midfielder in the league. I should've taken him over Barry.

John Pantsil and Aaron Hughes - Two Fulham defenders, the rest of the starters went in rounds 4, 6 , and 9.
Jonny Evans and Wes Brown - Two Man U defenders taken back to back in the 13th round, both could start regularly
Charles N'Zogbia - nice to get a reliable midfielder in the 15th round

Not So Clever Picks
Rosicky and Eduardo in the 5th round. About two rounds too early for each
Jo - 6th round - 3rd choice striker on a team that plays one striker
Daniel Agger - 7th round - not sure if he will play at all
Danny Murphy - 7th round - a reliable midfielder, but probably could've got him much later
Zhirkov - 7th round - will he play at Chelsea or be another Alexi Smertin/Tiago?
Titus Bramble - 13th round - Hmm, team of the week in the first week, -4 the second week, more like I expected
Daniel Sturridge 14th round - Might as well have picked Tab Ramos

From the looks for peoples teams I see Jesse and Carlo struggling.
I like Dustin's team, but I think his tandem up top of Kevin Davies and Eduardo is too weak.
Despite the high number of Croatians, I really like Nik's team.
Worth should do well again, if only because he puts in much effort. Might be to relient on Liverpool, just like BJ is too relient on Arsenal.
Raubert has a marked improvement on last years team and could challenge if he gets rid of some of his dead weight.
Junkie has a strong squad, but that Alex pick may hurt. Too early to call out the teams to beat. It'll be another fun year!

Friday, August 14, 2009

2009/2010 English Premier League Preview

Exciting time! The English Premier League starts tomorrow, so before I get into my fantasy league review, I thought I would give you a nice little preview of this year's English Premier League. It's always a bit premature to make any predictions before the end of the transfer window at the end of the month, but all give it a try anyways.

A few of the big stories are the massive amounts of money coming in from the UEA to Manchester City, Christiano Ronaldo leaving to Real Madrid, the Rafa/Fergie feud, and the relative weakness of the bottom half of the league.

Here are my picks. Enjoy.

1. Chelsea – This pick may be a bit of a surprise, but I like Chelsea. They have only added a few role players, but that is what they need. You shouldn’t take too much stock in the preseason, but Chelsea has looked pretty good. Drogba seems ready and committed, Anelka looks like a video game player, and Lampard and Terry are always more than solid. I look for Chelsea to continue their Hiddink form under Ancelotti. They will get back Ricardo Carvalho and Joe Cole, both who missed much of last season due to injury.

Player to watch: Ivanovic – This young kid looks pretty solid. He can play in the central or on the wing and may soon take the place of Bosingwa

2. Manchester United – Champions for the past 3 years will now have questions with the loss of Ronaldo and Tevez. Still an amazing team capable of winning the league and the Champion’s League. Look for Rooney to step up and for Berbatov to have a much better season than last. Defense and ‘keeper (once Van der Sar is back) are the best in the league. What also sets Man U apart is its array of young talent. You have Jonny Evans, Rafael, his brother, and a few young strikers who are ready to step in and perform at a high level on any given day. Carrick is a stud in midfield who makes things happen and watching Michael Owen will certainly be interesting.

Player to watch: Vidic – An amazing defender, in the Premier League Top XI if you ask me. This guy defends and scores on set pieces, definitely has over taken Rio Ferdinand as the heart of the Man U defense

3. Liverpool – Lots of hype for Liverpool in the last few years. They were very close last season, but their away woes, especially against lower level teams have really prevented them from taking the top spot. One could argue that they have the best striker (Torres), best midfielder (Gerrard), and best keeper (Reina), but I still do not think they have enough depth to take the title. Their defense, always impressive, is very much based on a strong team aspect, rather than individual brilliance you see from other top teams, but the constant changing of the starting XI, similar to Ranieri a while ago at Chelsea, could cause inconsistency.

Player to watch: Beneyoun – This guy always seems to pop up in the right place at the right time. Constant motor, big game player

4. Manchester City –

I think it is time, for the first time since 2005, for a new team to enter the top 4. No more “big four”. I was skeptical of Man City last year. The sprayed a lot of money all over the place, but not that wisely. This summer was a different story. They obtained proven Premier League players – Tevez, Adebayor, Toure, Barry, Santa Cruz. I think Barry will be the key, holding things down in the middle, distributing to all the strikers and goal scorers. Too many stars? Could be a problem. And I see the defense preventing them from seriously challenging for the title.

Player to Watch: Tevez – let’s see if he can return to his West Ham dominance.

5. Arsenal – I can’t remember years when multiple top teams – Man U, Arsenal, Villa – seemingly got worse, losing players and not really buying any top notch replacements. Arsenal have lost two of their top players – Toure and Adebayor – and should again be marked by the inconsistency that plagued them last season and saw them barely manage 4th place. They still have loads of young talented, fun to watch players – Fabregas, Arshavin, Van Persie, Walcott – but I believe they do not have the toughness to maintain their champions league spot.

Player to watch: Arshavin – Eduardo – Croatian Sensation. Only played a few games last year, but if healthy, watch for him to score loads of goals as he does for Croatia.

6. Tottenham – It seems like every year Tottenham spend lots of money and have aspirations to challenge the top four and end up being utterly disappointing. I hate to say it but I think Harry Redknapp is finally shifting the Spurs in the correct directions. 4 solid strikers with the addition of Peter Crouch. A strong midfield with Modric and Lennon playing well. And the defensive woes that plagued them during the first half of last season seemed to be righted as well. Again I am looking at the form of the end of last season, so I see the Spurs taking 6th

Player to watch: Aaron Lennon – this kid is sick. So much speed down the wing

7. Everton – I hate to say this, as most of my readers know Everton are my team, but Everton have added little this summer except for a bit more audaciousness to their hair. Save maybe Hibbert, the first choice starting 11 is as solid as any. Everton are definitely a TEAM, all playing equally well and equally hard with a tremendous work ethic instilled by manager David Moyes. But lack of depth and injuries from last campaign will see Everton start very slowly, much like last year. Starting without Arteta and Jagielka will hurt. I hope to see a hungry Yak as usually, but missing 10 months is a long time. Lescott will not leave. Baines is stepping it up and hopefully Yak, Jo, and Saha can put some goals in the net.

Player to Watch: Pienaar – Stephen Pienaar was on fire at the end of last year, providing the allusive playmaker the Toffees needed. He continued this great play in the Confederations Cup, so look for another exciting season for Pienaar

Americans: 1

8. Aston Villa – They challenged for the top four for much of last year, but the loss of Barry and Laursen will hurt a lot. Great attacking options – Heskey, Carew, Young, Agbonlahor, Milner – but not a great goal scoring team, seem to falter in the big games. You got to love two American goalies, but defense is a big question mark. I don’t see the same success as last year.

Player to watch: Ashley Young – another great young attacking winger. Will he keep newboy Downing out of the lineup?

Americans: 2

9. Fulham - Fulham definitely over-achieved last year and should enjoy their European football while it lasts. Defense keeps them in most games and often times they only need one goal to take the three points. Solid mid-table team

Player to watch – Mark Schwarzer – one of the best ‘keepers in the world

Americans: 1

10. Sunderland- Look for Steve Bruce to turn Sunderland into a dependable mid-table side. Two nice new additions with Darren Bent, who seems to score everywhere he goes no matter how much playing time or if the coach likes him or not, and U-21 midfielder Lee Cattermole. Nothing special really, flying the flag for the Northwest now, and shouldn’t need to sweat it out on the final day of the season.

Player to watch: Kenwyne Jones – This Trinidadin has strength, pace, and quality in the air and solid dreds.

11. West Ham – I’m not buying all the Zola hype. I see average defense, and average midfield, and an average at best strikeforce. There is a lot of excitement at Upton Park, but I’m not really sure why.

Player to watch: hmm, it will be fun to see how many matches Dean Ashton plays

Americans: 1

12. Bolton - The mediocrity continues. Bolton are solid. They play route 1 football with Kevin Davies up top and have an adequate back line with the addition of Zat Knight, but are really lacking in the midfield. Nothing too exciting, but with the second half of the league so poor, should really not be in the relegation fight.

Player to watch – Matthew Taylor – this guy scores lots of quality goals.

13. Stoke – Defied many by staying up rather easy last season and finishing 12th. Similar to Everton before Moyes sans Big Dunc – hard work, route 1 football, strong workmen in the midfield and solid D. Beattie and Fuller are quality strikers.

Player to watch – Rory Delap – he makes throw-ins exciting!

14. Birmingham – This team has a enough Premiership rejects – Lee Carsley, Lee Bowyer, Marcus Bent, Kevin Phillips, James McFadden, Stephen Carr, Stuart Parnaby, Franck Queudrue, Liam Ridgewell – to field an entire side. That should be enough to stay up.

Player to watch: Barry Ferguson – watch for profane hand signs from the sideline

15. Blackburn – Wow, pretty unremarkable here. Decent in a few spots with Gamst Pedersen and McCarthy, but lacking flair and play making overall. Can’t even tell you who starts in the midfield. Look for the Rovers to remain in the relegation fight the entire season.

Player to watch: Christopher Samba – he is a massive man at the center of the D, but also gets the occasion start up top when changes are needed

16. Wigan – Each year I expect Wigan to be relegated, but they over perform and are usually not even in the discussion. I expect them to be in the discussion, but I see their defense and ‘keeper to allow them to stay in the Premier League for another season.

Player to Watch: Jason Scotland - 2nd leading scorer in the Championship last year oh, and Titus Bramble. Will he get more goals or own goals? Tough one.

17. Portsmouth – Many of the experts are picking Pompey to go down. I think they will be very close, selling top striker Peter Crouch and top defender and midfielder Glen Johnson. But that money is going to debts, not to bettering the squad. Goals will be very, very tough to come by. Look for the veteran, albeit slow and old back line of David James, Sol Campbell, and Sylvan Distan to keep them up.

Player to Watch: Piquionne – Goals need to come from somewhere and this could be the source

18. Burnley – I don’t know much about Burnley. They could be like last year’s Stoke or last year’s West Brom. I don’t think they have enough class to stay up

19. Wolves – Wolves start the year at the bottom of the table (last alphabetically). Will they end there? It’s a distinct possibility. They are hoping they will fair better than their previous and only time in the Premiership, 2003-2004, finishing dead last.

Player to watch: Sylvan Ebanks-Blake

20. Hull City –

Only once this decade has the team that finished 17th the previous year been relegated. Look for Hull to pull a West Brom and be the second. I just don’t see a strong enough side. In fact, the team was rather dreadful the final 5 months. Hopefully Jozy Altidore will get some much need playing time.

Player to Watch: Jozy

Americans: 1

Game on