1. O Valencia- The Decemberists were on to something. Not only did Manchester United’s speedy number 25 hit top form just as the Christmas countdown began, but his performance on Saturday gave new meaning to the words “and you ran like a fool at my side.” Erm, Sam Ricketts. Dreamy musical allusions, however, have no place in the pragmatic, cut and thrust world of fantasy football. Here, statistics are king, particularly if they are over wrought, annoying and delivered in a high pitched, obnoxious tone. Well, here goes. No, I just can’t do it. Such was the quality of Valencia’s crossing that to cut his showing down to mere numbers would be both reductive and boring, a churlish attempt to quantify brilliance. Buy him.
2. Po-faced Andy Carroll deserves sympathy- There was a sense of inevitability about Andy Carroll’s clumsy first year at Anfield. His jersey is always too small for him. He is tall, ungainly and erratic. Capello seems to think he is a heavy drinker. Not even an alcohol induced stupor would see Newcastle United pay 20-million pounds for him, though. “The world that might have nourished this towering, peat-smelling specimen from English football’s withered folk past has now vanished, but still we parade him about under the main stage lights, his face a haunting mask of ancient confusion,” wrote Barney Ronay this week. Poor old Andy Carroll. The lad deserves a break, just not from you.
3. Back to the old days- With Paul Scholes and Thierry Henry settling in at Manchester United and Arsenal respectively, its tempting to say that the Premier League is returning to the good old days. All we need is for Ruud, Ronaldo and the Special One to fly over, and the spirit of 2005 will truly be evoked. With that in mind, Frank Lampard’s goal against Sunderland takes on a whole new meaning. It has been a couple years since anyone referred to Lampard as a twenty goals a year player, but if he continues to bundle home Fernando Torres misses, then the second half of the season could prove more profitable than the first.
4. The first sign of the Apocalypse- Luka Modric’s second goal of the season commands more fear than the combined forces of Hollywood, fundamentalist Christians and the entire Mayan civilization. For those of you not yet convinced that 2012 is the last year before the end of Earth, beware. Clouds billowed menacingly over White Hart Lane, as Modric passed to the ominous rhythm of thousands of drums. His goal was the culmination of 51 minutes of darkness and terror.
If the signs are to be believed, this as our last year of fantasy football. Don’t spoil it with laziness and indecision. Check injury reports every Thursday. And don’t sign Luka Modric.
5. Major League Soccer Gives Back- Late last week Aston Villa confirmed the signing of Robbie Keane. His move continues a trend that has seen both Landon Donovan (twice) and Thierry Henry forego their vacation time for two months of Premier League action. Keane, Donovan and Henry all played this weekend (with Donovan grabbing an assist) and with several high-profile fantasy names departing for the Africa Cup of Nations, the trio could come in handy. I can’t imagine that the big-wigs at LA Galaxy and New York Red Bulls are particularly pleased, but, for the purposes of our teams, the moves represent an opportunity to sign, criticize, sign again, indict, exonerate, captain, uncaptain, exploit, deride and venerate three more helpless players.