EPL Fantasy Forecast

31 10 2008

I’m a giant fantasy nut.  No, not Dungeons and Dragons-style.  And not NSFW-style.  But fantasy sports.  I’m currently in no less than 7 leagues.  Three NFL pools, one NHL, one MLB, one NBA and one EPL.  In fact, I flew to Edmonton in large part so I could participate live in a NBA pool that’s been running for 6 years now with a bunch of friends from my university days.  Thanks to the internet, fantasy sports has grown immensely.  The first pools I ever participated in were far more archaic.  I remember filling out a form in The Province newspaper before every hockey season, where you had to choose one guy per box of 5 players and then mail it in to them.  Every week, they would post the top 100, and I recall one year making the top 30 or so.  In high school, me and some friends conducted an NBA fantasy draft.  Every Tuesday when The Province would print the total stats, I would spend my entire morning classes tallying up the totals.  By lunch, I was near assaulted as my fellow poolies would run over to see the total scores.

But as I said, thankfully, the internet has made things far more efficient.  There are countless pools you can join and writers whose job is to talk specifically about fantasy stats.  Unfortunately, fantasy soccer is lagging behind the other sports.  It’s much more difficult to find insight on soccer fantasy stats.  Premierleague.com, which has a great fantasy league that I have joined (1st in the Whitecaps league, 5th in the Team 1040 league, thank you very much), has one writer called The Pundit, but that’s about it.

So I am here to change that.  Every Friday (and Tuesdays when the Prem are playing midweek), I will post some thoughts on players you might want to look at for the coming weeks – players on the upswing or ‘buy-low’ types.  If you aren’t signed up to a league, I recommend the Team 1040 one: sign up at http://fantasy.premierleague.com and join the league with the code: 345327-124472.

So without further ado…

Players to target:

Robinho (Manchester City): After City shocked the Prem and scooped up Robhino at the close of the transfer season, many pegged this squad to challenge the big 4.  They have been wildly inconsistent thus far, beating Portsmouth 6-0 and then losing to Wigan the next week, and knocking off Stoke 3-0 then losing 2-0 to Middlesbrough a few days later.  Inconsistencies aside, this team will find their form and already score a boatload of goals.  As Robinho learns his role on the team, he is only going to get better, and I predict his hat-trick last weekend is a sign of things to come.  His next three oponents include bottom-dwellers Bolton and Spurs, followed by the surprising Hull City.

Jump on the Robinho bandwagon now, before his price soars.

Chelsea: Other than a setback to Liverpool, Chelsea have scored 10 goals in October.  With injuries to stars such as Carvalho, Essien, Ballack, Cole and Drogba, it’s a testament to this side’s depth that they can continue to fill the onion bag.  This is a perfect time to snatch up players that are seeing an increase in playing time.  While Lampard is the obvious name here, Anelka is making the most of the increased playing time, with three goals in his last five matches.  Likewise, Florent Malouda has two goals and two assists in his last three and has seen the full 90 minutes in his two of his previous three outings.  Meanwhile, you can consider Deco to be fully back from his injury, having played major minutes in the last two.  Before his injury, he had two goals, so look for him to regain his striking touch in the coming weeks.

Fulham: Guess which team sits amongst the big 4 in terms of goals conceded?  Little Fulham have only allowed eight goals this season, and with upcoming matches against Everton, Newcastle, Tottenham and Liverpool (all middle of the road in offensive production), that trend should continue.  That makes any of their defenders – including Hangeland and Konchesky – a bargain pickup.  Keeper Mark Schwarzer is also a consistent producer and should remain a top keeper throughout the season.

Tottenham Hotspur: This team is still a ways away from turning things around.  On Wednesday, they looked woefully inept against Arsenal and needed two late-game strikes to salvage a tie.  But teams always respond well to a new coach, at least at the outset, and Harry Redknapp is one of the best in the biz at firing up his troops.  Tough matches ahead versus Liverpool and Manchester City, but this still might be a nice time to buy low on what is clearly a talented roster.  Pavlyuchenko, Modric, Bentley and Jenas are all strong buys right now.





An ode to Winger

31 10 2008

We have a Whitecaps Movember Facebook group now set up.  Visit http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=42869489497 to join.

In honor of our Movember push, Winger has graciously adopted a stache (well, with the help of Photoshop).  This also marks a good time to toast the fantastic mascot, after another season of keeping fans entertained and ball kids pestered.

Apparently we used to have a Gorilla as a mascot.  I have no idea why, but this video kills me.  I laugh every time I watch it.  Notice how the Whitecaps gorilla is just standing on the sideline watching the game.  Like a regular person interested in the action, who just happens to be a gorilla.  I love it.





Ma-Material Girls

30 10 2008

Well it seems that as the guys at Whitecaps headquarters are busy preparing for Movember, almost every gal is off to Madonna tonight. Have fun!





Movember

30 10 2008

I am proud to announce that the Whitecaps staff will be participating in Movember.

Movember (the month formerly known as November) is a charity event held during November each year to raise money and awareness for the Prostate Cancer Research Center of Canada.

At the start of Movember guys begin with a clean shaven face. The Movember participants, known as Mo Bros, have the remainder of the month to grow and groom a moustache. Part fundraising initiative, part PR campaign, Movember was a huge success in Vancouver last year, and looks to gain even more ‘tuft’ this year.

Did you know that every year around 24,700 Canadian men are diagnosed with prostate cancer and about 4,300 die of the disease, making it the number one cancer threat to Canadian men? Unlike women, men typically are reluctant to see a doctor or go for regular medical checkups. The aim of Movember is to change this attitude. Make men’s health fun by putting the moustache back on the face of Canadian men and raising some serious funds for prostate cancer.

The roster thus far is pretty impressive, led by our own President, Bob Lenarduzzi. So keep your eyes out for our Facebook group, as well as a story on whitecapsfc.com. There’s bound to be some glorious pictures in the coming weeks.





EPL midweek

30 10 2008

Nice to see Liverpool eke one out against Portsmouth. Pompey have a tremendous and still somewhat underrated defense and they seemed to seal up open spaces pretty quickly. But Liverpool are almost like a boa constrictor, in that they slowly exert more and more pressure as the game wears on. Their penchant for late-game goals is less a matter of heroicism and more a matter of style, as Rafa prefers a tight, defensive battle and continual pressure.

The match of the day, however, has to be Arsenal 4 – Tottenham 4. What a derby! After Bentley scored on a great shot from 35 yards out, it was pretty much all Arsenal the rest of the way. With 3-1 and 4-2 leads, it seemed yet another hapless loss for Spurs was in the offing. But Spurs scored two tremendous goals in the final minutes and new skipper ‘Arry Redknapp escaped with something to build on for the lowly squad. The full highlights are here. Next up for Mr. Redknapp – table topper Liverpool. Should be for an interesting matchup.





No longer designated player-less on Seattle

28 10 2008

Well if you haven’t already heard, Freddie Ljungberg has signed for Seattle. I like this acquisition for a number of reasons. First, Freddie can still play. He showed that at the Euro this summer, as he was voted MVP for team Sweden. He’s only 31 so should have a few more productive seasons in him. He’s a great character which is always important when starting a new franchise. And unlike Beckham, who excels more from dead ball and crossing situations, Ljungberg is a far more potent scorer. As an attacking mid, he will truly be the backbone for this squad.

Clearly, with Ljungberg and local boy Kasey Keller in the fold, Sounders FC are off to a great start. But they are also doing well off the field. Season ticket sales are strong, currently over 17,000. I especially like their interective ticketing webpage. In addition to the usual features such as highlightable seating map and views from each section, you can also hover over each section and see what percentage of current ticket holders like to sing/chant and stand. That can be helpful for a young guy like me, an older fan or a dad looking to buy tickets for his whole family. It also tells you who the favoured European club is in each section and any local soccer clubs your fellow sectionmates play in. You can even answer these questions yourself and the site will show you which sections are most suitable for you.

Overall you have to come away impressed with the Sounders kick off to their MLS life. Creativity will always score high in my books, but more than that, every move seems to be calculated toward creating a rabid and loyal fanbase first. For soccer to grow on this continent, that’s precisely the approach that’s needed.





Top o’ the table to ye

27 10 2008

My beloved Liverpool made a giant statement of their intentions to battle for the league table this season, with a deserved 1-0 victory at Stamford Bridge.

What makes this start so improbably for the Reds is the way in which they’ve tallied their victories. Fernando Torres has been brilliant when fit, but he’s missed 3 matches already. Robbie Keane’s work rate will never be questioned, but he has failed to score in league play thus far. Even the incomparable Steven Gerrard has been plagued by injury woes for much of the season and only has one tally to his credit.

But after a few years of Champions League success, Rafa’s squad are starting to bring that clutch play in Europe over to the Prem. Late comebacks against ‘Boro, Man City and Wigan have been inspiring, despite not always showing their best form. And for once, the team looks mentally strong enough to stand up to United and Chelsea, evidenced by their convincing wins in both teams’ parks.

It is still far too early to get excited, but most seasons, Liverpool are trying to climb back into the top 4 after a slow start. With world class goalkeeping, a defense that is arguably the best in the league (and wait until we get Skrtel back) and timely contributions up front (Kuyt has been tranformed), this team is finally starting to demonstrate those vital intangibles.

Of course, Liverpool aren’t the only surprises at the top of the table in Europe.