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from Reuters Soccer Blog:

January sale shopping looks tricky for Premier League big four

I have my shopping list for the January sales but my need for a new desk-lamp is not as important as the requirements of the Premier League’s big four.

I’d say I could get my lamp quite cheap if I employ the Arsene Wenger technique of shopping around, making sure I get good value for money.

The thing is, Wenger needs a proven goalscorer now if he wants to win the Premier League and he doesn’t really have a lot of time to dwell on choices otherwise all the best ones will be gone, thankfully this shouldn’t be an issue with my lamp.

Reports say Bordeaux’s Marouane Chamakh is desperate to join but Wenger is more likely to wait until the end of the season when he is out of contract to snap him up for free rather than pay the money now to have him in January.

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

UPDATE: A festive round of predictions

SOCCER-SPAIN/MONDAY UPDATE: The games really are coming thick and fast. We have only just worked out the weekend scores and now they all play again just two days later.

Who'd be a Premier League footballer at Christmas? Well, I wouldn't mind money for a Ferrari.

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

UPDATE: Quantum theories of score prediction won’t help you now, Mr Bond

torres.jpgMONDAY UPDATE: A truly appalling week for the panel. Admittedly, it was hard to predict Manchester United losing 1-0 at home to Aston Villa and Chelsea's 3-3 home draw with Everton but nevertheless it was dreadful.

Some serious soul searching must go on in the coming weeks whilst eating our mincepies and finding yet another pair of socks when opening our Christmas presents.

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

Arsenal emerge as shining light in Champions League

Out of eight Spanish and English teams playing in the Champions League this week, only Arsenal were victorious.

Was this a blip for the two powerhouses, or is it another indication that Europe's top club competition is becoming more balanced?

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

North London derby offers little hope to prediction paupers (UPDATE)

******Monday morning update, by Kevin Fylan: This was the weekend that the Reuters Soccer Blog panel struck back. Mark Meadows managed a stonking 22 points from the 10 games, the first time we've really had a score to shout about. Can anyone beat that? Leader Patrick Johnston got a solid 13, while Neil Maidment has made a great leap forward with 18. In any other week, Neil...******Remember, you bag five points for getting the score spot on, and just one if you got the result right but the wrong score. Here's our updated league table. Where do you stand?******Reuters Soccer Blog panel: Patrick Johnston 105, Mitch Phillips 89, Paul Radford 87, Mike Collett 76, Simon Evans 74, Mark Meadows 72, Kevin Fylan 71, Miles Evans 70, Julien Pretot 69, Neil Maidment 62, Asia Sports Desk 53, Justin Palmer 38, Martyn Herman 20, Sonia Oxley 10 (plus belated bonus from last week, =15)******Original post from Friday: It's that time of the week again. Yes time to humiliate ourselves by hopelessly trying to guess which Liverpool side will turn up, how many players will be out with swine flu and whether Dimitar Berbatov will actually resemble the good player he is supposed to be.******Apart from Mitch Phillips, who downright cheated, last weekend's Premier League predictions contest was a sad tale of woe for all and this time it looks just as tricky.******Arsenal v Tottenham Hotspur is always a feisty affair, just ask any North Londoner (not that there will be many on the pitch). ******Even avid Spurs fans (you know who you are) would be hard pressed to deny that Arsenal play the most beautiful football in England but Tottenham are seriously threatening to break into that top four this term and what better way to show your worth that to win away at the Gunners.******The derby will be our double pointer for this week. Remember one point for the correct result and a massive five for the correct score.******Below are the running scores for our not-so-expert panel at Reuters Soccer Blog Heights followed by this weekend's fixtures and our predictions. Please play along in the comments and see if you can rival our top contributors like Chipking, Sean and maid.******Playing Saturday:******Arsenal v Tottenham Hotspur: Patrick Johnston 5-2, Mitch Phillips 2-2, Paul Radford 2-0, Simon Evans 1-2, Mike Collett 2-3, Kevin Fylan 2-4, Miles Evans 3-1, Julien Pretot 3-1, Mark Meadows 1-1, Asia Sports Desk 3-1, Neil Maidment 2-1, Justin Palmer 2-2, Martyn Herman 3-1, Soxley 2-2******Bolton Wanderers v Chelsea: Patrick Johnston 1-2, Mitch Phillips 1-1, Paul Radford 0-3, Simon Evans 1-2, Mike Collett 0-2, Kevin Fylan 1-2, Miles Evans 2-2, Julien Pretot 0-2, Mark Meadows 1-2, Asia Sports Desk 1-3, Neil Maidment 0-2, Justin Palmer 1-1, Martyn Herman 0-2, Soxley 0-2******Burnley v Hull City: Patrick Johnston 2-0, Mitch Phillips 2-1, Paul Radford 2-0, Simon Evans 3-2, Mike Collett 4-1, Kevin Fylan 2-1, Miles Evans 1-1, Julien Pretot 1-1, Mark Meadows 2-0, Asia Sports Desk 1-2, Neil Maidment 2-0, Justin Palmer 1-1, Martyn Herman 2-1, Soxley 1-1 ******Everton v Aston Villa: Patrick Johnston 1-1, Mitch Phillips 1-1, Paul Radford 1-2, Simon Evans 1-2, Mike Collett 1-2, Kevin Fylan 1-0, Miles Evans 2-2, Julien Pretot 1-1, Mark Meadows1-1, Asia Sports Desk 1-2, Neil Maidment 1-1, Justin Palmer 2-0, Martyn Herman 2-2, Soxley 1-1            ******Fulham v Liverpool: Patrick Johnston 1-0, Mitch Phillips 2-2, Paul Radford 1-2, Simon Evans 0-1, Mike Collett 1-2, Kevin Fylan 2-1, Miles Evans 0-1, Julien Pretot 1-2, Mark Meadows 1-1, Asia Sports Desk 1-4, Neil Maidment 1-2, Justin Palmer 2-3, Martyn Herman 2-1, Soxley 0-2            ******Portsmouth v Wigan Athletic: Patrick Johnston 1-1, Mitch Phillips 2-0, Paul Radford 1-2, Simon Evans 2-2, Mike Collett 2-1, Kevin Fylan 0-1, Miles Evans 1-2, Julien Pretot 1-0, Mark Meadows 0-0, Asia Sports Desk 0-1, Neil Maidment 1-2, Justin Palmer 0-0, Martyn Herman 1-1, Soxley 0-1         ******Stoke City v Wolverhampton Wanderers: Patrick Johnston 3-0, Mitch Phillips 2-0, Paul Radford 2-0, Simon Evans 2-1, Mike Collett 1-1, Kevin Fylan 2-0, Miles Evans 4-1, Julien Pretot 2-1, Mark Meadows 1-1, Asia Sports Desk 1-1, Neil Maidment 3-1, Justin Palmer 3-1, Martyn Herman 0-0, Soxley 0-0******Sunderland v West Ham United: Patrick Johnston 2-1, Mitch Phillips 2-0, Paul Radford 3-1, Simon Evans 2-1, Mike Collett 3-1, Kevin Fylan 0-0, Miles Evans 1-2, Julien Pretot 2-0, Mark Meadows 2-2, Asia Sports Desk 1-1, Neil Maidment 2-2, Justin Palmer 0-1, Martyn Herman 1-2, Soxley 3-2******Manchester United v Blackburn Rovers: Patrick Johnston 2-1, Mitch Phillips 3-1, Paul Radford 1-0, Simon Evans 5-0, Mike Collett 3-0, Kevin Fylan 4-0, Miles Evans 2-0, Julien Pretot 4-0, Mark Meadows 2-0, Asia Sports Desk 3-0, Neil Maidment 3-0, Justin Palmer 3-0, Martyn Herman 1-0, Soxley 2-1          ******Playing on Sunday:*** Birmingham City v Manchester City: Patrick Johnston 0-1, Mitch Phillips 2-1, Paul Radford 0-3, Simon Evans 0-2, Mike Collett 1-1, Kevin Fylan 1-2, Miles Evans 1-2, Julien Pretot 2-2, Mark Meadows 1-2, Asia Sports Desk 0-3, Neil Maidment 1-3, Justin Palmer 1-2, Martyn Herman 0-3, Soxley 1-2******PHOTO: Robbie Keane (L) of Tottenham Hotspur is tackled by Arsenal's Bacary Sagna during their English Premier League soccer match at White Hart Lane in London February 8, 2009. REUTERS/Eddie Keogh

The importance of keeping talent in reserve

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Maintaining the strength in depth to cope with injury crises is as crucial for the management of a top-class team as it is difficult to master, writes William James.

The recent experience of England’s rugby team is testament to this after being forced to pick a squad without twelve regular members.

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

UPDATE – The painful art of score prediction — round 10

So it was an even worse week than usual. Ok, there were some surprise results but generally it was pitiful, some panelists only picked up one point and even most of our outside contributors struggled despite showing us up in recent weeks.

On behalf of all of us, I'd like to point out that the Premier League is more evenly balanced than it has been for a while (see Kevin's blog) so we have a slight excuse....

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

Soccer scores and the power of the pub

Let's be honest here, people, predicting the English football scores has proved to be a lot trickier than many of us imagined.

You'd have thought that the frankly obsessive interest most of us here at Reuters Soccer Blog Heights take in football would see us approach this competition with the pitiless, sweeping brilliance of Celta Vigo in their 'EuroCelta' heydey of 1998-2000*.

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

Can you out-predict Reuters Soccer Blog?

It's that time of the week again, folks. The best brains at Reuters Soccer Blog are off, so it's just the usual crew of no-hopers here to embarrass ourselves trying to predict the outcome of the weekend Premier League action, and with no help from that lottery bobbins bloke.

To recap: with one point available for getting a correct result -- and make that a whopping five for the correct score -- there are at least 50 points up for grabs each week. Given that most teams have played five matches the total number of points a perfect tipster would have got by now would be well over 200.

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

Panel predictions: how low can you go?

The best and brightest here at Reuters Soccer Blog continue to show they'd struggle to tip their own hats in a stiff breeze, let alone a correct score in the Premier League.

Our leader, Paul Radford, managed an unhappy three points this week ... and look, who's that chap who has sneaked through to replace him at the top? That was not the most impressive display of the week, however ... for that look at one Julien Pretot, our new signing from the Paris bureau who leapt in with a 14 in his first week!

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