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Old 08-05-2015, 09:59 PM   #1
the phantom
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Eye Arda Cup Football 2015

The most anticipated sporting event in all of Arda is upon us- it's time for Arda Cup 2015!

Fans from Valinor to Rhun have been looking forward to this since the thrilling 2013 tournament reached its conclusion. AC 2013 saw the Wights and Wolves of Tol-In-Gaurhoth break through for a title at long last, winning a hard-fought championship match against Feanor and AC Beleriand.

As always we have a crack team of writers set to provide thrilling match reports and expert editorials on behalf of Arda Kicker Magazine (AKM), Tar-Eldar Network Television (TENT), Middle Earth Sports Programing Network (MESPN), and The Two Towers Network (TTN), but of course other writers are welcome to provide their analysis as the tournament rolls along. (That means all of you can commentate.)

The teams, rosters, and groupings will be unveiled in the coming days, and the Phantasy thread is already up and running (that's where you'll pick your players for points etc.). So get ready people- the fun and games starts soon!

********
********

If you're new and want to take a peek at the previous tournament to see what this thing is-
Arda Cup 2013
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Old 08-08-2015, 08:16 AM   #2
Kuruharan
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Boots Serious and Pompous News Program Music Plays

“Good evening and welcome to The Underground, coming to you from Underground. Filling in for your usual anchor yet again tonight I am Editor-in-Chief Kuruharan.”

*Kuruharan’s face assumes an expression of pious concern along with a faint touch of snide condescension.*

“Our usual anchor Chrysophylax is still on his months long bender following his defeat in the Ten Year Anniversary Extravaganza Werewolf Game. We have an APB out for him and hope to have him apprehended and chained back to this desk where he belongs soon.”

*Kuruharan looks directly into the camera with profound seriousness and his voice assumes a tone of majestic bombast.*

“Now for our top story this evening. Eru, in his capacity as Chairman of the Arda Cup Committee held a press conference today to announce the 2015 Arda Cup. This announcement was greeted with wide jubilation. Sadly, this jubilation was overshadowed by the controversy sparked by his next announcements.

The first controversial announcement was that Eru is founding a parent organization to the ACC which will be known as the Arda Football Federation or ArFF. Eru has appointed himself Captain-General of ArFF. A reporter who questioned by what authority Eru could do this instantly exploded. ArFF is intended to be a coordinating and oversight body to Football in general in Arda beyond the narrower scope of the ACC.

The second controversial announcement was that Eru, in view of his new responsibilities in ArFF, is leaving the position of Chairman of the ACC."

*screen goes to image of Eru during the press conference…or at least it tries too…mostly it just picks up blinding light*

“I take these steps after no small deliberation. I strongly believe they will improve the conditions of football throughout Arda.”

*screen goes back to Kuruharan who continues to stare fixedly into the camera and whose face and tone strike a severe note as if all one holds dear is about to be placed in great peril*

“The controversy erupted when Eru announced his choice for the new Chair of the ACC. His choice for Chair is Mr. The Phantom, a man who needs no introduction.

For further analysis, we go now to our reporter on the scene. For undisclosed reasons our usual reporter is…unavailable, so our reporter on the scene is…me!”

*Kuruharan puts on a hat.*

“Thank you Kuru, and may I just say that was some excellent anchoring just now.”

*Kuruharan takes off hat.*

“You may say that, Haran.”

*Kuruharan puts on hat.*

“Then let us consider it said. Pandemonium erupted in the conference room at the announcement of the appointment of Mr. The Phantom. A full scale riot broke out when Eru announced that Mr. The Phantom would also be his No. 2 at ArFF. We spoke to some of the rioters to get their feelings on the subject.”

*screen goes to an image of Melkor’s baleful face*

“I want to go on the record as saying that I fully support the creation of the ArFF. What I object to is the monopolization of power in any hands other than mine! I should have been made Captain-General of ArFF and Chair of the ACC!!”

*screen goes to an image of Sauron as he sets fire to a pile of chairs*

“I agree with Melkor regarding the creation of ArFF. However, I think I should have been made Captain-General and would have made the Witch-King Chair of the ACC. That is the way forward for Arda football…that and violent acts of hooliganism. I mean, if we are going to have a player-owner be running this show, it may as well be someone the people know they can trust."

*screen goes to an image of Faenor standing on top of a burning car*

“This is yet another example of the oppression to be expected of those in authority! I see no need for this so-called ArFF. I even question the need for an ACC! It was bad enough when Eru was in charge, but to make one of my on field rivals our dictator?! This is too much!! This is the very definition of a conflict of interest!! I mean, look at the extent I had to go to in order to get the focus back on me where it belongs!”

*screen goes back to Kuruharan with a hat on*

“The Dorwinion Riot Police were deployed to restore order, which they did in short order. This lead to today’s final startling revelation. Mr. The Phantom recently, and very mysteriously, became King of Dorwinion. We obtained an exclusive interview with this vastly powerful individual shortly after the suppression of the riots.”

*screen goes to the phantom*

“It was what the people wanted. It may also be part of the Next Phase of a plan I began in the Ten Year Anniversary Extravaganza Werewolf Game.”

“Would you care to elaborate on this?”

*the phantom’s eyes shine under his hood*

“No.”

*screen goes back to Kuruharan with a hat on who stares deeply into the camera*

“Back to you…Me.”
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Old 08-09-2015, 06:48 AM   #3
Nilpaurion Felagund
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Pipe ArdaCup.com Stats Report presents the worst and the best contracts of 2013.

Before the Arda Cup 2015 preseason madness of transfers and friendlies begins, ArdaCup.com writer Adam 'not the economist' Smith looks back at the worst and the best signings of Arda Cup 2013.

(The contents of this article have not been reviewed or endorsed by ArdaCup.com. All opinions expressed by Adam Smith are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of ArdaCup.com or its staff, parent company, partners, or sponsors. His sources are not known to ArdaCup.com and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an Arda Cup accredited member of the media.

Yeah, there's a reason we place this disclaimer only in his articles.)

____________________

If there's one lesson you need to learn about the nature of contracts after the 2013 edition of the Arda Cup, it's that context is everything.

Oh, and that Curufin is a max-salary player. So two things, actually.

Anyway, take Beren. In 2012 he was, dollar-for-dollar, the best player in the Cup. He was as prolific a goalscorer as any top-flight attacking midfielder and as excellent a ball-winner as any top-flight holding midfielder. In 2013 he was a bust; his numbers across the board dropped despite the $1 million salary bump. He didn't score at all (he had five in 2012) and covered less ground per game. The only metric in which he performed better was assists (2 in 2013 compared to 1 in 2012), but you wouldn't say that a top-tier team depends on Beren for assists, right?

But consider this: Whereas both 2012 AC Beleriand and 2013 Inter had Arda-class strike partnerships up top (Fëanor/Eöl and Maedhros/Fingon, respectively), AC Bel also had a championship-calibre central defence and holding midfielder (Imlach/Rochallor and Bregolas conceded seven goals in seven games, with three clean sheets, on the way to a third place finish.) Inter's CB pairing were, shall we say, Ent-like in their mobility without being Ent-like in their command of the air. (Gorlim, in particular, was the subject of a YouTír anti-highlight video of his defending that had been since, sadly, taken down.)

So, if you're Beren, and your team had a decent attack and a shaky backline, what would you do? Of course he spent more time helping his defence. But that nullified his greatest strength: his energy, paired with his ball-winning ability and his technique, allowed him to be everywhere all at once. In 2013, his goalward runs started almost ten metres deeper than they did in 2012; because of that, his markers were much closer to him once he reached the penalty box. (All stats from the ArdaCup.com Player Tracking data.) It's harder to pop up in unexpected places and be open to shoot when the defence can see you coming from much further away.

We could say the same for the other players on the list. None of them are bad players—in fact, you could argue that they're all top-ten players in their position. The problem lay with the context in which they played.

A note on the list: You could argue that there were players who were worse relative to their salaries and their team's wage bill (Saruman, Varda, and Eorl come to mind), but those teams were generally matched up against superior teams. It's bad team-building for, say, Imladris to give Varda more than a fifth of their total outlay, but they weren't getting past Angband, Tol-in-Gaurhoth, or Angfauglith even if Varda single-handedly carried their defence (no matter what a captive blogger might have said). The players on this list were on teams that had been considered contenders; a better performance from them could have pushed their teams further.

Without further ado, here are the five worst contracts of Arda Cup 2013:

5. Beren (Inter Beleriand): $13 million
Already much covered above. One reader sent a letter to present his hypothesis regarding his subpar 2013:
I believe that Beren's decline in Inter was not due to anything football-related—not the inadequate central midfield and defence—nor to anything off the field—the, ahem, distraction Lúthien might have presented. It all had to do with the fact that, as we've seen three years running, Eru hates Himring.
-William, CA
Well, it certainly is an interesting hypothesis.
4. Celebrimbor (Dwarves United): $18 million
If you got out of your group last year because of your defence and an unexpected source of goals, and then you decided, 'We can do that again this year!' without, I don't know, finding a new unexpected source of goals, what did you expect would happen?

I understand, Celebrimbor—it's not entirely your fault that opposing teams were wiser to your late runs to the penalty box for those snapshots, and that your team decided that hoofing the ball to Legolas to take on an entire back line was a reasonable attacking strategy. It's just that you're part of a back four that conceded six goals in three games, and you just had one assist in those three games. There are 18 million other reasons as well.
3. Ulmo (The Sea): $17 million
Another highly paid defender from another defensive team. The Sea managed to keep a clean sheet against FC Valinor (in a friendly) and hold Tirion to one goal, but they also conceded to Minas Tirith. Even Nargothrond—legendary twice-conceded-five-goals-in-a-single-game Nargothrond—kept a clean sheet against Minas Tirith.
2. Smaug (Erebor): $18 million
I get it. Erebor's defence took a massive step backward: eight goals conceded in seven games during 2012 to six goals conceded in three games the year after. Smaug had two goals and an assist in three games, which is decent, I guess. I get it. But all they had to do to advance was win that match against Misty Mts. He's the one they looked to when they need a goal. He took up almost a fifth of their payroll. He should have stepped up.
And the worst contract of 2013:

1. Gothmog (Angfauglith): $18 million
I can't wait for the hate mail from Angband, Thangorodrim, and Utumno to come pouring in. I had two dragons in the last list, and now I have a dragon and a Balrog as first and second.

But Angfauglith's defence were doing their job, allowing just three goals in three games. Scoring just once against Imladris, and then getting denied by Angband—that's on the goalscorers, right? And in this team, Gothmog was it—Ecthelion was playing right back the year before (besides, he's more a provider), and Angfauglith's midfield is, as the kids would say, LOL.

Then again, in 2012, Gothmog had Maeglin, Duilin, and Meleth feeding him while taking away some of the defence's attention. He scored five in four games then. Context really is everything.
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Last edited by Nilpaurion Felagund; 08-13-2015 at 09:10 AM. Reason: Misty Mts, not Mirkwood.
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Old 08-11-2015, 07:55 AM   #4
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Pipe ArdaCup.com Stats Report presents the worst and the best contracts of 2013.

Before the Arda Cup 2015 preseason madness of transfers and friendlies begins, ArdaCup.com writer Adam 'not the economist' Smith looks back at the worst and the best signings of Arda Cup 2013.

(The contents of this article have not been reviewed or endorsed by ArdaCup.com. All opinions expressed by Adam Smith are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of ArdaCup.com or its staff, parent company, partners, or sponsors. His sources are not known to ArdaCup.com and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an Arda Cup accredited member of the media.

Don't worry, there's a reason we place this disclaimer only in his articles.)

____________________

If there's one lesson you need to learn about the nature of contracts after the 2013 edition of the Arda Cup, it's that Curufin is a max-salary player.

Oh, and that context is everything. So two things, actually.

With that out of the way, I need to apologise to some of our readers. There has been a lot of chaos behind the scenes here at the headquarters of ArdaCup.com as well as our parent company, Tar-Eldar Television Network. Because of [redacted —ArdaCup.com editor], our office address has actually changed, and a clerical error meant that none of the letters sent to our old address were forwarded to me. William's letter from the last article was actually sent immediately after Inter's painful loss to Gondolin. So sorry to all the orcs, trolls, and goblins—I've read none of the hate mail and death threats you've sent after reading my 2013 Worst Contracts column.

Anyway, just to make sure that I'm doing my job this time, here are average salary figures from the 2013 Arda Cup:
Average salary of an Arda Cup player: $7.5 million
Average salary of an Arda Cup player in a round of sixteen team: $8.2 million
Average salary of an Arda Cup player in a quarterfinalist: $9.1 million
Average salary of an Arda Cup player in a semifinalist: $9.1 million
Average salary of an Arda Cup player in a finalist: $8.7 million
Salaries across the board have decreased by $300 000 per player, but 2013's quarterfinalists earned $400 000 more than in 2012. Most surprising is that the average salary of a finalist is lower than that of a semifinalist. Actually, it's not so surprising once you read the rest of my article (hint: who won the Cup in 2013?)

Since I'm not an economist, I won't go into any further discussion of that—let's leave the problem of maintaining competitiveness vs profit generation to others. Instead, I shall continue with the five best contracts of 2013:

5. Grishnákh (Barad-dûr): $5 million
The Black Tower rarely had a problem with attack—pair Sauron up with a decent finisher or two and that's a steady supply of goals. Their problems were more on the other end of the pitch, a problem they addressed in 2013 with the addition of the Blue Wizards. But one cannot underrate Grishnákh's star turn as a catalyst of their defensive improvement. His 78.95% save rate over four games is good for eighth best in the whole tournament. The problem is if he can maintain this form—remember that, in 2012, Beorn was the rising star of goalkeepers; in 2013, he had the eighth worst save rate.
4. Marach (AC Beleriand): $9 million
Now talk about a championship-level goalkeeper. Many would argue that Marach had an easier time than many goalkeepers, with Fingolfin commanding a back four that featured the strong centre back pairing of Imlach and Rochallor in front of him. But he did more than mind the posts and catch stray shots—AC Beleriand's high pressing game depended on his command of a third of the pitch. Remember that he almost conceded a goal to Dwarves United's Gimli because he was trying to clear a ball near the halfway line. It takes talent to play that insane style and commit very few mistakes, but Marach just does. A shotstopper of that skillset and with a save rate of 80.65% is a bargain at $9 million.
3. Eöl (AC Beleriand): $15 million
Another gem from AC Beleriand. Eöl scored four and provided four goals in seven games. Only Túrin, Fëanor, and Curufin have eight combined goals and assists. That's good company.
2. PhantomWolf (Tol-in-Gaurhoth): $10 million
TiG's players could have screwed up this best contracts list a bit, what with some of their best performers under contract for $10 million or less, but they seem to be operating under the 'whole is greater than the sum of parts' philosophy—see what happened to NogWolf after he left for Eriador. So we'll acknowledge their underpaid players by putting on the list the one player who could have been on any team. PhantomWolf has contacts with the powers of the game, from Gandalf to Galadriel to even Manwë himself, but year after year he turns up for the Wolves. He was the best midfielder in the 2013 tournament and the best TiG attacker as well, scoring four and creating three goals to lead the Werewolves to Cup victory.
1. Curufin (FC Valinor): $14 million
If you're among the people in Arda who don't think Curufin's is the best contract in Arda, I have a message for you: Please don't embarrass yourself any further. He's proven for two straight years that he's worth $20+ million to any team. He has matched (even once exceeded) the production of two-star max-contract forwards Túrin and Fëanor. He's worth at least $6 million more than what FC Val is paying him—maybe more. Twenty-four million for a perennial Golden Boot contender, a sure six goals every tournament? Sure. Where do I sign?
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Last edited by Nilpaurion Felagund; 08-14-2015 at 08:20 PM. Reason: Marach, not Imlach. Also, no Arda Cup last year. ;_;
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Old 08-14-2015, 12:30 PM   #5
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1420! Surviving on a low-budget

The Two Towers Network
~Boro88

The Arda Cup has returned and it's shaping up to be another competitive and exciting year. The Two Towers Network brings balanced coverage to all teams in the tournament. The topic for today though isn't going to be on the glitzy big-spenders, but being able to compete and find success on a tight budget. What are the keys to surviving on a low budget and rattling the major world powers, with deep pockets to attract top-flight talent? The challenges seems larger, and there's much less room for error, but it can be done! Without further ado here are the teams this year with the lowest budgets:

Shire-Bree United (51)
Mordor (54)
Gondor (63)
The Barrow-Downs (63)
Arnor (68)
Minas Tirith (68)
Rohan (69)
Wilderland (72)
Isengard (72)
Imladris (73)


1. Stabile Leadership

Starting at every level of the organization you need stability and confidence in your leadership. Owners need to be on the same page with their manager, managers with the team captains, and captains with the rest of the club. Too much tension and in-fighting between owners and management will trickle down to the players, and one sour apple in the locker room can torpedo a whole team. Team work is a must-have for any low-budget team, to make up for the lesser talent you need team-work. Easier said than done, when the manager is trying to build a competitive squad with limited funds, but it's that simple.

Gondor, Arnor, Minas Tirith, Rohan, and Imladris tend to exemplify this characteristic. All clubs that traditionally don't go through drastic ownership changes, and a constant coaching carousel. They play with a team-first, mistake-free focus that can translate to wins. Interestingly, Gondor tried a strategy of paying every player the same exact wage to stress the point of teamwork above individual stars. And they did find success, particularly in 2012. The problem comes in, when you find success and players outperform their contracts it's only natural to look for more money. When it comes down to it, you can't please everyone and sacrifices have to be made when you're forced to a low-budget (more on this later).

You could include Mordor as well under a "stabile organization" umbrella. It doesn't get anymore stabile than majority share-holder Sauron. And all the baddies do tend to play together when there is an enemy to go up against, but there is more of a chance for dissension than there are in the clubs mentioned above. Also practices get flat out chaotic and sloppy, because there is no "man" or "elf" enemy on the other side of the pitch to fight against, it's just orcs, and trolls, and dead-men coming to blows and starting fights. So generally they don't practice much, if at all.

An example of dysfunction and what NOT to do can bee seen in Shire-Bree United. I don't even know how they fielded a squad this year they could honestly say they were "proud" to get into this tournament and would compete in it? There are so many varying owners with different interest, different beliefs in how tactically games should be won. If their roster looks like a mess of varying parts and races (but with no true "captain" on the pitch. The best player is an anonymous Nazgul, who make solid followers but bad leaders), than just look at their ownership situation:

Breeland - 20%
Norbury Sport - 20%
Shire - 15%
Hobbiton - 15%
The Barrow-Downs Community - 15%
Elrond - 10%
Gondor's Union of Honest Workers - 5%

The principle owners Breeland and Norbury Sport believe tension has made it impossible to hold onto good talent they had in the past when they were able to have success in the tournament, like Gandalf and Aragorn. They would like to spend a bit more in at least keeping the better talent playing for The Shire-Bree United, but grumble about the stingy gentry from Hobbiton and the Shire make it difficult.

A frequent patron of the Green Dragon, and supporter of Shire-Bree, Gaffer Gamgee, pretty much told the tale of the current dysfunction within the Shire-Bree United ownership groups and their head-bumping:

"Well once Bilbo walked away from the game completely, the void was replaced by erm...more traditional...hobbits. They don't trust anyone outside their own tiny border. They say it's bad enough to put up with influence from a few strange Bucklanders, why do queer folk [The Barrow-Downs Community] and foreigners [Norbury Sport, Elrond, Gondor] have a share in their team. This is Shire-Bree United what business is it of Elrond and Gondor to have a slice? And make no mistake, these hobbits resist the foreign owners at every step."

So, you need team-work from the very top of the organization down to the players, and without it, I doubt a team on a low-budget can get past this first marker and survive. However, stabile leadership is only the first step. It actually takes finding the right talent, at the right price to truly have success on a tight-wallet.

2. At least 1 quality striker.

Plain and simple, at this level you need to score goals. I'm not saying you need the scoring powers of Curufin-Celegorm, Turin-Beleg, Miriel-Feanor-Aredhel. That's way too much money for the low-budge teams. I am saying though you can't rely solely on a tactically-sound, team-oriented defense to keep a clean sheet. Not at this level, not with the strikers in this tournament. You're going to have to score goals. Wilderland and The Barrow-Downs have probably addressed this need best with their striking partnerships of Scatha-Thranduil and Witch-King-Bombadil respectively.

However, it's also about not OVERspending to get your proven goal-scorers, because a complete squad needs to be sound defensively to succeed as well, and you can see how teams on a tight budget start losing hope. Wilderland has 40% of their budget tied up in their two quality strikers. I'm guessing, despite being worthy goal-scorers that's too much cost for 2 offensive players, when they've pretty much neglected the mid-field and are relying on some untested defenders and a warg to keep other teams off the board. The Witch-King and Bombadil cost 22 million for the pair, which can arguably produce just as many goals as Scatha-Thranduil, but at 6 million less. So, The Barrow-Downs gets props there, as well as putting a defense together organized around the Barrow-Wight and another DownerWight and DownerWolf. I'm not too worried about the weaker mid-field, because Bombadil when his head is in the game, can hold possession all on his own, and the Witch-King who always has his head in the game is capable of holding the ball upfront on his own as well.

I also like the look of Arnor's pair of strikers, Elendil and Araphor. On his own, Elendil is a pretty major disappointment, but with help he's a tall target. And Araphor, well, I have no idea how it happens, but Araphor is known for late-game big time goals when his team needs a result. To get both of them for a total of 17 million is a reasonable price for a low-budget team.

The other low-budget teams (Shire-Bree, Mordor Gondor, Minas Tirith, Rohan, Isengard, and Imladris) fail to meet this criteria of having a proven goal-scorer. They all have the capability of getting a goal now and then to probably justify their salary, but that's not enough. Not nearly good enough. Rohan and Isengard just fail miserably when it comes to who they've trusted to provide the bulk of their scoring...Helm and Quickbeam respectively. They'll have issues scoring in this tournament for sure.

3. 1 quality Central Defender.

You can get by on an organized defensive effort, against some of the Arda teams that will lead to wins, but against most in this tournament you'll need 1 lockdown central defender. Capable of captaining the defense and shutting down the opponents best striker. I'm not talking about stopping the Miriel's, Feanor's or Turin's. Most don't have their pretty much unstoppable goal-scoring ability when they have it around the goal. I'm talking about the tier below them...Gothmog, Maedhros, Fingon, Scatha, Earendil, Ar Pharazon, Durin's Bane...just to name a few. They're all capable of going on a tear in a game against poor defenses, but they can be shut out of a match with a quality defender.

Imladris addressed this criteria the best with 2 wise signings in Celeborn and Arwen. Celeborn's foresight paired with Arwen's athleticism and footwork are good defenders for a good price. Arnor's also got a similar pair (but of lesser quality than Imladris) with Malbeth and a defense Nazgul. TTN also likes Radagast for Isengard, who has actually contained some of the most potent scorers (while playing for Mirkwood in 2009).

4. Stay on the Straight Road

This kind of ties into Point #1, but instead of consistency from an organizational level, this is talking about consistency from a tactical and roster-building level. Know the tactics you want to play, that make the most of your squad's strengths and downplay its weaknesses. You don't have the money to fill every need on the team, but with 1 quality striker, and 1 quality defender, you can fill a roster with decent team-driven players at a cheap price. As long as there is stabile leadership that gets everyone on the same page and same goals, then you truly have a low-budget squad that can survive against the big spenders.

Arnor knows what it wants to do tactically. Play a possession defense and win games late when the opponent has worn down or maybe lost just a little bit of effort and focus. And they know if they play their game that way, with a little bit of luck, they can be successful. Imladris also won't stray from the tactics they know best. Build an attack from the defense first. They have the lockdown defenders to do it, I'm just not convinced in their striking pair of Elladan & Elrohir, particularly when you look at their mid-field too.

Gondor and Minas Tirith had the interesting strategy of paying everyone the same salary and they were successful that year. But as mentioned previously, once people get a touch of success on a low-budget side you can't please everyone. You have to choose do I pay more to Eldacar and Anarion, because without their goal-scoring we don't win? But then you can't afford to keep your best defender, Cirion. So, Gondor is banking on playing mistake-free defense, but without a quality central defender, it won't matter when they athletically just can't run, nor have the strength to hold off most attacks.

Wilderland and the Barrow-Downs are going to try to flat outscore their opponents. And that's where the owners invested the money on the teams. If they stick to those tactics they may shake up the groups and cause problems. If they try to play a Gondor-style game, they will fail and fail miserably. Rohan looks to me, to be in a rebuilding/unsure where to go state, and that doesn't bode well. They should get out and run on the open plains with their athletic youngsters and horses...but they're not organized in a formation to suggest that's the style they're going to play this year. There is good, young talent on the team, but it looks to be a case of they're not organized to play best to those strengths.

I will conclude this article by saying, teams that are forced to contend on a lower-budget, whatever Shire-Bree United did this year...DO THE COMPLETE OPPOSITE! Unfortunately that team just looks like a dysfunctional mess in the ownership, and it's reflected into a roster of random parts and pieces. They have no bonafide captain to bring it all together. And I have no clue what tactics they are trying to employ to win matches...unless if it's their intention to be a disorganized jumble of players just running around and trying to shoot from everywhere on the field, no matter how far away or hopeless of a position they're in to shoot!
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Old 08-19-2015, 10:03 AM   #6
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Boots Serious and Pompous News Program Music Plays

“Good evening and welcome to The Underground, coming to you from Underground. Filling in for your usual anchor yet AGAIN tonight I am Editor-in-Chief Kuruharan.”

"Now for tonight's top story; to better serve the residents of Dorwinion, the Underground News Network as reached an affiliation agreement with the government of Dorwinion regarding a local station. The station will be known as the Phantom Underground News. We here at the Underground look forward to this opportunity to better serve our viewers in Dorwinion."

"For tonight's second story, practices for the 2015 Arda Cup are now underway. Strangely, one of the teams doesn't even have a full roster yet. For more on this story we turn to our P.U.N. correspondent, Philip McPhantom. Philip!"

*camera goes to a shot of Philip McPhantom outside The Barrow Downs team practice facility*

"Thank you, Kuru. And may I just say that I am quite pleased to be here on P.U.N. I feel this was a natural transition for me as I was just finished an engagement in the theater where I was in a play on words."

"The Barrow Downs team is currently short three players on the roster. Additionally, the team is adjusting to practicing in a new facility to which the squad relocated during the off season. I am told it was a moving experience for the club."

"I spoke to several of the players regarding the current situation."

*camera goes to a shot of River Woman*

River Woman: While this situation is regrettable, the players just have to focus on getting ready for the Cup and put aside these distractions.

Philip McPhantom: So the team does not at all perceive their chances this year as being all wet?

*camera goes back to Philip McPhantom*

"River Woman had no further comment. I later spoke to the Witch-king."

*camera goes to a shot of the Witch King*

Philip McPhantom: Does the team feel at all harassed or ridden a bit ragged by these turns of events?

The Witch-King: SHRIEEEEEEEEEEEEEK

*camera goes back to Philip McPhantom who has a serious expression on his face as if a great profundity had just been delivered*

"Back to you, Kuru."
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Old 08-22-2015, 12:43 PM   #7
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MESPN Breaking News: FULL ROSTERS AND GROUPINGS RELEASED!

There will be plenty of time for analysis later. For right now, let's just get all the information into the hands of the public as soon as possible.

The Groups

Group A @ Dol Guldur & Lothlorien

Dwarves United
Misty Mountains
The Sea
Wilderland

Group B @ Eglarest & Brithombar

Angband
Doriath
Erebor
The Havens

Group C @ Edoras & Dunharrow

Hithlum
Isengard
Rohan
Tol-In-Gaurhoth

Group D @ Annuminas & Norbury

Anfauglith
Arnor
Gondolin
Real Valinor

Group E @ Rivendell & Ost-in-Edhil

Anduin
Inter Beleriand
Imladris
Minas Tirith

Group F @ Michel Delving & The Barrow-Downs

Armenelos
Mordor
Valimar
The Barrow-Downs

Group G @ Tirion & Alqualonde

AC Beleriand
Nargothrond
Tirion
FC Valinor

Group H @ Weathertop & Bree

Barad-Dur
Eriador
Gondor
Shire-Bree United

The Rosters

Anduin (94)
GK Amroth (5)
DF Grimbeorn (9)
DF Lenwe (3)
DF Felarof (5)
DF Fram (10)
MF Minalcar (6)
MF Isildur (10)
MF Boromir II (11)
MF Haldir (9)
MF *Eorl (14)
FW Beorn (12)

Angband (94)
GK *Ungoliant (16)
DF Ulwarth (3)
DF Balrog#1 (12)
DF Umuiyan (5)
DF *Morgoth (20)
MF Uldor (3)
MF Ulfast (3)
MF Ulfang (4)
MF Oikeroi (6)
FW Telvildo (8)
FW *Ancalagon (14)

Anfauglith (93)
GK Haldir (4)
DF Draugluin (9)
DF Balrog#2 (12)
DF Ecthelion (10)
DF *Balrog#3 (12)
MF Gelmir (3)
MF Gorgol (3)
MF Borlach (3)
MF Borlad (3)
FW Thuringwethil (14)
FW *Gothmog (17)

Armenelos (92)
GK Tar Atanamir (10)
DF Tar Calmacil (6)
DF Tar Palantir (7)
DF Tar Telperien (7)
MF Tar Meneldur (7)
MF Tar Telemmaite (6)
MF Tar Miriel (6)
MF Tar Ancalimon (7)
MF *Elros (13)
FW Ar Adunakhor (10)
FW Ar Pharazon (13)

Arnor (68)
GK Arvedui (8)
DF Earendur (3)
DF Valandur (3)
DF Nazgul#5 (9)
DF Malbeth (8)
MF Malvegil (3)
MF Argeleb I (4)
MF Arassuil (6)
MF Earnur (7)
FW Araphor (7)
FW Elendil (10)

Barad-Dur (88)
GK Grishnakh (6)
DF Fellbeast #1 (3)
DF Mouth (8)
DF Pallando (11)
DF Alatar (11)
MF Gothmog II (5)
MF Herumor (3)
MF Beruthiel (4)
MF Castamir (7)
MF Khamul (10)
FW *Sauron (20)

AC Beleriand (106)
GK Marach (10)
DF Arroch (2)
DF Haleth (7)
DF Balrog#4 (12)
DF *Hurin (14)
MF Denethor (3)
MF Annael (5)
MF Tuor (10)
FW Angrod (11)
FW Aegnor (11)
FW **Feanor (21)

Inter Beleriand (95)
GK *Huan (15)
DF Imlach (4)
DF NilpWight (4)
DF Beren (12)
MF Hunthor (2)
MF Bor (3)
MF Baragund (3)
MF Luthien (12)
MF *Hador (13)
FW Fingon (13)
FW *Maedhros (14)

Doriath (86)
GK Dior (6)
DF Galathil (2)
DF Carcharoth (10)
DF Elwing (6)
DF *Melian (13)
MF Nellas (3)
MF Saeros (3)
MF Daeron (5)
MF *Eol (15)
FW Elwe (14)
FW Mablung (9)

Dwarves United (89)
GK *Galadriel (14)
DF Azaghal (5)
DF Shadowfax (5)
DF Aule (16)
DF *Gandalf (14)
MF Thorin (5)
MF Narvi (6)
MF Gamil Zirak (4)
MF Telchar (4)
MF Durin (6)
FW Legolas (10)

Erebor (77)
GK Brand (3)
DF Fellbeast#2 (3)
DF Meneldor (8)
DF Nazgul #3 (8)
DF Girion (8)
MF Balin (3)
MF Bain (3)
MF Dain (5)
MF Bard (8)
FW Nazgul #7 (10)
FW Smaug (18)

Eriador (104)
GK *Elrond (20)
DF Asfaloth (4)
DF Arantar (5)
DF Erestor (8)
DF *Celebrimbor (18)
MF Araphant (4)
MF Arveleg (6)
MF NogWight (6)
MF Gildor (7)
MF *Glorfindel (13)
FW Gil-galad (13)

Gondolin (85)
GK Rog (8)
DF Penlod (6)
DF Voronwe (7)
DF Galdor (5)
MF Aranwe (3)
MF Egalmoth (6)
MF Elemmakil (4)
MF Duilin (7)
MF Idril (9)
FW Turgon (12)
FW *Maeglin (18)

Gondor (63)
GK Adrahil (5)
DF Galadil (4)
DF Hyarmendacil II (5)
DF Eldarion (5)
MF Calimehtar (5)
MF Galador (4)
MF Turambar (6)
MF Meneldil (6)
MF Romendacil (7)
MF *Anarion (11)
FW Eldacar (9)

Hithlum (100)
GK Huor (10)
DF Galdor (5)
DF Rochallor (4)
DF Gundor (5)
DF Balrog#5 (13)
MF Forweg (3)
MF Aradan (4)
MF Morwen (6)
MF *Fingolfin (15)
FW Beleg (15)
FW **Turin (20)

Imladris (73)
GK Aragorn (10)
DF Roheryn (3)
DF Galdor (4)
DF Arwen (10)
DF *Celeborn (11)
MF Ohtar (2)
MF Celebrian (5)
MF Lindir (3)
MF Arahael (5)
FW Elladan (10)
FW Elrohir (10)

Isengard (72)
GK Theoden (7)
DF Snowmane (3)
DF Beechbone (3)
DF Meriadoc (3)
DF Radagast (11)
MF Lurtz (3)
MF Mauhur (3)
MF Ulguk (4)
MF Treebeard (10)
MF *Saruman (15)
FW Quickbeam (10)

Minas Tirith (68)
GK Denethor II (7)
DF Imrahil (6)
DF Ecthelion II (6)
DF Ostoher (6)
MF Herion (6)
MF Pelendur (6)
MF Earnil II (6)
MF Tarondor (6)
MF Telumehtar (6)
MF Mardil (7)
FW Boromir I (6)

Misty Mts (80)
GK Chief Wolf (4)
DF Caradhras (7)
DF William (4)
DF Landroval (8)
DF Gwaihir (12)
MF Watcher (5)
MF Great Goblin (5)
MF Orophin (6)
MF Rumil (6)
MF Azog (8)
FW *Durin’s Bane (15)

Mordor (54)
GK Silent Watcher (2)
DF Fellbeast #3 (3)
DF Mumakil (2)
DF Radbug (3)
DF Shagrat (4)
MF Gorbag (3)
MF Angamaite (3)
MF Nazgul #1 (8)
MF Sangahyando (3)
MF Nazgul #2 (8)
FW Shelob (10)

Nargothrond (78)
GK Barahir (7)
DF Guillen (4)
DF Baran (3)
DF Arminas (4)
DF Beor (7)
MF Gelmir (3)
MF Andreth (4)
MF Nienor (7)
MF *Glaurung (15)
FW Gwindor (10)
FW *Finrod (14)

Rohan (69)
GK Hama (3)
DF Firefoot (3)
DF Ghan-buri-Ghan (3)
DF Erkenbrand (3)
DF Cirion (7)
MF Aldor (6)
MF King Dead (8)
MF Eowyn (9)
MF Eomer (11)
MF Faramir (9)
FW Helm (7)

Shire-Bree United (51)
GK Halbarad (5)
DF Fellbeast#4 (2)
DF Nazgul #4 (8)
DF Peregrin (3)
DF Beregond (5)
MF Butterbur (2)
MF Bandobras (4)
MF Golfimbul (3)
MF Ferny (2)
MF Wormtongue (5)
FW Nazgul#6 (8)

The Havens (77)
GK Amandil (6)
DF Ar Gimilzor (6)
DF Ciryandil (6)
DF Imrazor (5)
DF *Olwe (10)
MF Eriol (5)
MF Mithrellas (3)
MF Earwen (4)
MF Ar Zimrathan (8)
MF *Cirdan (10)
FW Falastur (9)

The Sea (100)
GK *Hyarmendacil I (8)
DF Salmar (9)
DF Ciryatur (5)
DF Uinen (9)
DF *Ulmo (16)
MF Earnil I (7)
MF Tar Cirytan (7)
MF Veantur (7)
MF Tar Aldarion (8)
MF Osse (9)
FW *Earendil (15)

Tirion (94)
GK Finarfin (9)
DF Pengolodh (3)
DF Amrod (9)
DF Amras (9)
DF *Caranthir (11)
MF Anaire (3)
MF Rumil (4)
MF Mahtan (10)
MF Ingwe (11)
FW Aredhel (12)
FW *Finwe (13)

Valimar (109)
GK *Manwe (15)
DF Este (8)
DF Vana (8)
DF Namo (14)
DF *Eonwe (14)
MF Elenwe (3)
MF Amarie (4)
MF Ilmare (7)
MF Vaire (8)
MF Tilion (12)
FW *Arien (16)

FC Valinor (106)
GK Orome (14)
DF Nahar (5)
DF Findis (3)
DF Maglor (11)
DF *Varda (14)
MF Elemmire (4)
MF Indis (7)
MF Argon (9)
MF *Yavanna (12)
FW Celegorm (11)
FW *Curufin (16)

Real Valinor (99)
GK Nienna (10)
DF Irime (3)
DF Thorondor (13)
DF Irmo (9)
DF *Tulkas (13)
MF Quennar (3)
MF Enerdhil (4)
MF Ingwion (7)
MF Nessa (11)
FW Nerdanel (12)
FW *Miriel (14)

Wilderland (72)
GK Great Warg (5)
DF Finglas (3)
DF Skinbark (3)
DF Oropher (5)
DF Vorondil (7)
MF Iminye (4)
MF Fimbrethil (4)
MF Imin (5)
MF Bolg (8)
FW Thranduil (14)
FW *Scatha (14)

The Barrow-Downs (63)
GK Lumpkin (2)
DF River Woman (3)
DF MormWolf (6)
DF McCabWight (3)
DF Barrow-Wight (10)
MF Goldberry (3)
MF SallyWight (3)
MF Hookbill (6)
MF Argeleb II (5)
FW Bombadil (9)
FW Witch King (13)

Tol In Gaurhoth (90)
GK *ShastaWolf (11)
DF Edrahil (6)
DF KuruWight (3)
DF InzilWolf (10)
DF *BoroWolf (11)
MF GwathWight (3)
MF Finduilas (9)
MF Orodreth (11)
MF *PhantomWolf (12)
FW NerWight (4)
FW *LegateWolf (10)
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Old 08-25-2015, 11:36 AM   #8
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MESPN Take on Off-season Losses and Acquisitions
Philip McPhantom, MESPN News

Everyone's heard that they shouldn't second-guess themselves, or that their first instinct is often correct. Well, after seeing the official rosters, this is the first reaction our football panel had to each squad and whether or not they improved from last season. (Note: Below each squad next to the dollar signs is how this year's payroll compares to last year.)

--------

Anduin (94)
GK Amroth (5)
DF Grimbeorn (9)
DF Lenwe (3)
DF Felarof (5)
DF Fram (10)
MF Minalcar (6)
MF Isildur (10)
MF Boromir II (11)
MF Haldir (9)
MF *Eorl (14)
FW Beorn (12)

$$: +11
Verdict: They are obviously serious about taking a step forward this year with a double-digit increase to salary. They were disappointed to lose Celeborn, but gaining both Beorn and Isildur makes their overall change an advantage. They’re hoping the slight position shuffles will pay off as well (Grimbeorn to the rear, Haldir-Boro swap). Anduin looks better this year, but the position swaps will have to pay off to be 11 million better.

Angband (94)
GK *Ungoliant (16)
DF Ulwarth (3)
DF Balrog#1 (12)
DF Umuiyan (5)
DF *Morgoth (20)
MF Uldor (3)
MF Ulfast (3)
MF Ulfang (4)
MF Oikeroi (6)
FW Telvildo (8)
FW *Ancalagon (14)

$$: +3
Verdict: Very little change here—just putting Ungoliant in place of the departed Carcharoth and swapping the Balrog and Umuiyan. Given Ungoliant’s eight sticky limbs she’s probably a slight upgrade over the temperamental Carcharoth, though the wolf was capable of heroics when switched on. Our favorite change is the swap, as the Balrog makes a better centre-back while Umuiyan ought to do well farther forward and outside. It looks like the already good squad took a step forward, and for only a 3 million increase.

Anfauglith (93)
GK Haldir (4)
DF Draugluin (9)
DF Balrog#2 (12)
DF Ecthelion (10)
DF *Balrog#3 (12)
MF Gelmir (3)
MF Gorgol (3)
MF Borlach (3)
MF Borlad (3)
FW Thuringwethil (14)
FW *Gothmog (17)

$$: +6
Verdict: They lost some quality in goal (Haldir in Ungoliant out), but their philosophy is that Haldir won’t face a ton of quality shots considering their defensive emphasis and athletes at the rear. Moving Ecthelion back and adding Draugluin definitely makes their back four among the best (some think the best), and signing Thuringwethil to play up front with Gothmog was a major victory. Overall they are better and they aren’t paying a ton extra for it.

Armenelos (92)
GK Tar Atanamir (10)
DF Tar Calmacil (6)
DF Tar Palantir (7)
DF Tar Telperien (7)
MF Tar Meneldur (7)
MF Tar Telemmaite (6)
MF Tar Miriel (6)
MF Tar Ancalimon (7)
MF *Elros (13)
FW Ar Adunakhor (10)
FW Ar Pharazon (13)

$$: -3
Verdict: The only change was very minor—Ar Gimilzor heading to Havens and Tar Meneldur coming over from The Sea. A team that lost in the quarters to the eventual champ 2-1 doesn’t need to change much obviously, but such inaction is still surprising, though perhaps they attempted a deal that didn’t finalize. They’re essentially the same squad, but for a tiny bit less money, and we suppose that’s a little step forward.

Arnor (68)
GK Arvedui (8)
DF Earendur (3)
DF Valandur (3)
DF Nazgul#5 (9)
DF Malbeth (8)
MF Malvegil (3)
MF Argeleb I (4)
MF Arassuil (6)
MF Earnur (7)
FW Araphor (7)
FW Elendil (10)

$$: 0
Verdict: Their payroll was stationary, but their roster not so. Losing the Witch King hurts, but they tried to make up for it by moving Elendil up to striker and bringing in a Nazgul to replace him on defense, and trying out Earnur in the midfield. Like their salary, they probably broke even.

Barad-Dur (88)
GK Grishnakh (6)
DF Fellbeast #1 (3)
DF Mouth (8)
DF Pallando (11)
DF Alatar (11)
MF Gothmog II (5)
MF Herumor (3)
MF Beruthiel (4)
MF Castamir (7)
MF Khamul (10)
FW *Sauron (20)

$$: +14
Verdict: Sauron’s doing great financially and he actually spent some money this year, picking up Mouth and Goth II and adding Khamul to help with the attack. It’s definitely a step forward for Barad-Dur while still managing to stay below the 90s with payroll.

AC Beleriand (106)
GK Marach (10)
DF Arroch (2)
DF Haleth (7)
DF Balrog#4 (12)
DF *Hurin (14)
MF Denethor (3)
MF Annael (5)
MF Tuor (10)
FW Angrod (11)
FW Aegnor (11)
FW **Feanor (21)

$$: -2
Verdict: After their success we knew it’d be tough to keep everyone paid as they’re close to the dreaded luxury tax (which kicks in at 110 mill). Fingolfin and Rochallor are gone from the defense but they brought in Hurin and Arroch to fill the holes. Ulrad and Imlach are gone in exchange for Annael and Haleth, while Tuor will be asked to replace Eol’s offensive production. They’ve also shifted formations, fixing Feanor more firmly in the middle and asking the twins to attack from the flanks. Just as they’ve very slightly gone down in payroll, we judge them to have taken a little step back as a squad, but still in elite company of course.

Inter Beleriand (95)
GK *Huan (15)
DF Imlach (4)
DF NilpWight (4)
DF Beren (12)
MF Hunthor (2)
MF Bor (3)
MF Baragund (3)
MF Luthien (12)
MF *Hador (13)
FW Fingon (13)
FW *Maedhros (14)

$$: +14
Verdict: They’re banking on a big year after hiking their payroll so much. They flipped the positioning of Beren and Luthien which is interesting, and they’ve added Hador for punch at the front and NilpWight and Huan to shore up the defense, and also switched to a back three. This squad definitely took a couple strides forward.

Doriath (86)
GK Dior (6)
DF Galathil (2)
DF Carcharoth (10)
DF Elwing (6)
DF *Melian (13)
MF Nellas (3)
MF Saeros (3)
MF Daeron (5)
MF *Eol (15)
FW Elwe (14)
FW Mablung (9)

$$: +16
Verdict: Another big mover here—Doriath made the biggest budget increase of the off-season. They brought in Carcharoth for his athletic prowess at the rear and signed creator Eol after his excellent run with AC last season. Getting an elite talent on both ends is a big victory for a squad and Doriath has to be pleased—and they’re still under 90 mill.

Dwarves United (89)
GK *Galadriel (14)
DF Azaghal (5)
DF Shadowfax (5)
DF Aule (16)
DF *Gandalf (14)
MF Thorin (5)
MF Narvi (6)
MF Gamil Zirak (4)
MF Telchar (4)
MF Durin (6)
FW Legolas (10)

$$: +3
Verdict: Losing Celebrimbor was huge, but they breathed a sigh of relief when they replaced him with Gandalf and Shadowfax. Getting two for one means their defense will be as sturdy as ever. What they were really looking for was help at the front though, and they didn’t manage it, thus we’ll call their offseason was a wash.

Erebor (77)
GK Brand (3)
DF Fellbeast#2 (3)
DF Meneldor (8)
DF Nazgul #3 (8)
DF Girion (8)
MF Balin (3)
MF Bain (3)
MF Dain (5)
MF Bard (8)
FW Nazgul #7 (10)
FW Smaug (18)

$$: -17
Verdict: After losing Thranduil and Gwaihir the season before, this season they’ve lost Beorn, Bolg, and Landroval. As their payroll drops their overall talent does as well, leaving their remaining stars to carry more of the load. They’ve only gone down since their semifinal run and they perhaps need a financially successful year to turn things around with new signings.

Eriador (104)
GK *Elrond (20)
DF Asfaloth (4)
DF Arantar (5)
DF Erestor (8)
DF *Celebrimbor (18)
MF Araphant (4)
MF Arveleg (6)
MF NogWight (6)
MF Gildor (7)
MF *Glorfindel (13)
FW Gil-galad (13)

$$: +1
Verdict: Gone are Aragorn, Arwen, and Isildur, but they’ve added Erestor, Gildor, and Celebrimbor to replace them, and moved Gil-galad from defense to offense. Overall it looks near a wash talent-wise but we think perhaps it’s a better fit to their other personnel and scheme now.

Gondolin (85)
GK Rog (8)
DF Penlod (6)
DF Voronwe (7)
DF Galdor (5)
MF Aranwe (3)
MF Egalmoth (6)
MF Elemmakil (4)
MF Duilin (7)
MF Idril (9)
FW Turgon (12)
FW *Maeglin (18)

$$: +1
Verdict: Bringing in Voronwe for Salgant and Turgon for Tuor isn’t major, but is perhaps a slight advantage overall (about 1 million advantage according to the payroll). A larger change is their shift to 3-5-2, but without another elite player they’re not on level with the heavies. They’re only in the 80s so they have the cap space.

Gondor (63)
GK Adrahil (5)
DF Galadil (4)
DF Hyarmendacil II (5)
DF Eldarion (5)
MF Calimehtar (5)
MF Galador (4)
MF Turambar (6)
MF Meneldil (6)
MF Romendacil (7)
MF *Anarion (11)
FW Eldacar (9)

$$: -7
Verdict: Their payroll is now 21 mill below two seasons ago, but this year at least they didn’t take a hard fall talent-wise, as they primarily traded a couple even talents and kept everything else the same. If they manage to advance out of groups they’ll make some nice cash and be set up to be aggressive with next year’s signings.

Hithlum (100)
GK Huor (10)
DF Galdor (5)
DF Rochallor (4)
DF Gundor (5)
DF Balrog#5 (13)
MF Forweg (3)
MF Aradan (4)
MF Morwen (6)
MF *Fingolfin (15)
FW Beleg (15)
FW **Turin (20)

$$: -1
Verdict: After making a huge leap forward last season Hithlum has evened out, losing Hurin, Hador, and Arroch but bringing in Fingolfin, Forweg, and Rochallor. The team looks to have taken a small step back in talent, but the other top teams are facing similar situations thus they haven’t lost ground to most.

Imladris (73)
GK Aragorn (10)
DF Roheryn (3)
DF Galdor (4)
DF Arwen (10)
DF *Celeborn (11)
MF Ohtar (2)
MF Celebrian (5)
MF Lindir (3)
MF Arahael (5)
FW Elladan (10)
FW Elrohir (10)

$$: +4
Verdict: Varda and Erestor are gone, but Celeborn, Aragorn, Arwen, and Roheryn are in to pick up the slack. Imladris looks to have widened their talent base while only adding a bit to payroll, so it’s an offseason win.

Isengard (72)
GK Theoden (7)
DF Snowmane (3)
DF Beechbone (3)
DF Meriadoc (3)
DF Radagast (11)
MF Lurtz (3)
MF Mauhur (3)
MF Ulguk (4)
MF Treebeard (10)
MF *Saruman (15)
FW Quickbeam (10)

$$: +6
Verdict: This cheapo squad has risen into the 70s now, so perhaps they are concerned with more than making a quick buck. Theoden, Snowmane, Meriadoc, and Radagast have been added at the back, while Treebeard has been planted in the midfield for the departing Wormtongue and Nazgul. Overall this looks like a step in the right direction.

Minas Tirith (68)
GK Denethor II (7)
DF Imrahil (6)
DF Ecthelion II (6)
DF Ostoher (6)
MF Herion (6)
MF Pelendur (6)
MF Earnil II (6)
MF Tarondor (6)
MF Telumehtar (6)
MF Mardil (7)
FW Boromir I (6)

$$: -8
Verdict: They lost the Eomer-Firefoot duo to their native Rohan and they took Cirion with them, so what’s left is more budget friendly but with a lower ceiling. The Tower of Guard is always solid, but to challenge the big-hitters they need to diversify and bring in some free agents. They have good financial backing so they really should have a higher payroll.

Misty Mts (80)
GK Chief Wolf (4)
DF Caradhras (7)
DF William (4)
DF Landroval (8)
DF Gwaihir (12)
MF Watcher (5)
MF Great Goblin (5)
MF Orophin (6)
MF Rumil (6)
MF Azog (8)
FW *Durin’s Bane (15)

$$: +4
Verdict: They increased budget last year and again this season, inching up to keep Gwaihir and Chief Wolf and bringing in Landroval instead of Narvi. With the Elven brothers moving up the offense should be relatively unchanged and Watcher moving into the midfield may be smart, but we question paying for a second eagle defender when their on-the-ball defense could’ve used help. We’ll see if the +4 was worth it.

Mordor (54)
GK Silent Watcher (2)
DF Fellbeast #3 (3)
DF Mumakil (2)
DF Radbug (3)
DF Shagrat (4)
MF Gorbag (3)
MF Angamaite (3)
MF Nazgul #1 (8)
MF Sangahyando (3)
MF Nazgul #2 (8)
FW Shelob (10)

$$: +3
Verdict: A bit of trading with Barad-Dur (aka Sauron’s A Team) has left them without Mouth and Goth II, adding Sangahyando and Radbug to replace them. That’s not an upgrade, and the price inflation is rather to meet the new league minimum (2 mill) and keep their twin Nazgul in the midfield. Obviously Sauron is using this team as a place-holder, and we’ll see if next year The Arda Cup Committee tries to squeeze them into the competition by raising the overall salary minimum.

Nargothrond (78)
GK Barahir (7)
DF Guillen (4)
DF Baran (3)
DF Arminas (4)
DF Beor (7)
MF Gelmir (3)
MF Andreth (4)
MF Nienor (7)
MF *Glaurung (15)
FW Gwindor (10)
FW *Finrod (14)

$$: -11
Verdict: Orodreth and Finduilas were lured away by TIG while Andreth and Gelmir are the new faces. That’s a dropoff and the payroll reflects it, but they hope a bit of reorganization (e.g. Glaurung to midfield) will yield better results. That may be, but they still can’t match the glory of their old teams unless they untie the checkbook strings and commit to defense the way they have with the attack.

Rohan (69)
GK Hama (3)
DF Firefoot (3)
DF Ghan-buri-Ghan (3)
DF Erkenbrand (3)
DF Cirion (7)
MF Aldor (6)
MF King Dead (8)
MF Eowyn (9)
MF Eomer (11)
MF Faramir (9)
FW Helm (7)

$$: +3
Verdict: Theoden is gone to Isengard, but Eomer, Ghan-buri, and others have come to fill the gap. Overall the team looks to be slightly improved, thus a match to their increase. But to equal the success of two years ago they’ll need to snag the likes of Eorl and Gandalf again.

Shire-Bree United (51)
GK Halbarad (5)
DF Fellbeast#4 (2)
DF Nazgul #4 (8)
DF Peregrin (3)
DF Beregond (5)
MF Butterbur (2)
MF Bandobras (4)
MF Golfimbul (3)
MF Ferny (2)
MF Wormtongue (5)
FW Nazgul#6 (8)

$$: -17
Verdict: A huge dive for SBUnt, becoming the lowest payroll squad in the tournament. Gandalf, Shadowfax, Gildor, Khamul, probably their best players last year—have all moved on, and that’s too much for a team like SBUnt to replace. On the plus side they’re guaranteed to finish in the black financially this year so perhaps they’ll be able to be aggressive with signings next season.

The Havens (77)
GK Amandil (6)
DF Ar Gimilzor (6)
DF Ciryandil (6)
DF Imrazor (5)
DF *Olwe (10)
MF Eriol (5)
MF Mithrellas (3)
MF Earwen (4)
MF Ar Zimrathan (8)
MF *Cirdan (10)
FW Falastur (9)

$$: -2
Verdict: Ar Gimilzor has come in to shore up the back line while Ar Zimrathan has moved up into the midfield, but overall Havens is a step back after losing the scoring of Earendil. The good news is they’re solid despite being under 80 mill, so if they can have a respectable season they can make serious strides in the offseason.

The Sea (100)
GK *Hyarmendacil I (8)
DF Salmar (9)
DF Ciryatur (5)
DF Uinen (9)
DF *Ulmo (16)
MF Earnil I (7)
MF Tar Cirytan (7)
MF Veantur (7)
MF Tar Aldarion (8)
MF Osse (9)
FW *Earendil (15)

$$: 0
Verdict: Trading Voronwe and Tar Meneldur for Ciryatur and Earnil I was smart, as the difference between them is only slight and it saved them enough money to bring in Earendil to give them some needed scoring spark. To further add to the attack they moved Osse to the front, which ought to bring better balance to the squad. Considering they added zero payroll The Sea had a nice offseason.

Tirion (94)
GK Finarfin (9)
DF Pengolodh (3)
DF Amrod (9)
DF Amras (9)
DF *Caranthir (11)
MF Anaire (3)
MF Rumil (4)
MF Mahtan (10)
MF Ingwe (11)
FW Aredhel (12)
FW *Finwe (13)

$$: +11
Verdict: A significantly higher payroll this year for Tirion who doesn’t want to be the little brother to the Valinor powers. Adding Pengolodh at the rear and Ingwe to the midfield is a nice touch and in keeping with their playing philosophy.

Valimar (109)
GK *Manwe (15)
DF Este (8)
DF Vana (8)
DF Namo (14)
DF *Eonwe (14)
MF Elenwe (3)
MF Amarie (4)
MF Ilmare (7)
MF Vaire (8)
MF Tilion (12)
FW *Arien (16)

$$: +7
Verdict: The Valar are all-in this year with the highest payroll around, just 1 mill short of the luxury tax cap. Bringing in Tilion to support Arien on the attack is certainly a plus, and adding Eonwe to strengthen the back in front of Manwe means they’ve overall stepped up to another level. But with a payroll that high they can’t afford to be ousted early.

FC Valinor (106)
GK Orome (14)
DF Nahar (5)
DF Findis (3)
DF Maglor (11)
DF *Varda (14)
MF Elemmire (4)
MF Indis (7)
MF Argon (9)
MF *Yavanna (12)
FW Celegorm (11)
FW *Curufin (16)

$$: -1
Verdict: Losing Eonwe, Thorondor, and Huan at the rear hurts, but they’ve brought in Varda, Nahar, and Orome in order not to fall from their accustomed perch. The front four remains unchanged, thus the overall squad only took a small slip, particularly if Orome plays well between the posts.

Real Valinor (99)
GK Nienna (10)
DF Irime (3)
DF Thorondor (13)
DF Irmo (9)
DF *Tulkas (13)
MF Quennar (3)
MF Enerdhil (4)
MF Ingwion (7)
MF Nessa (11)
FW Nerdanel (12)
FW *Miriel (14)

$$: -2
Verdict: They lost Orome from the front and didn’t replace him, electing to try Miriel and Nerdanel as twin forwards. They also moved Tulkas out of goal to make up for the departed Tilion, and they brought in Irmo and Thorondor to further strengthen the defense while moving Ingwion into the midfield. They might’ve broken even for slightly less money, which would be an off-season win.

Wilderland (72)
GK Great Warg (5)
DF Finglas (3)
DF Skinbark (3)
DF Oropher (5)
DF Vorondil (7)
MF Iminye (4)
MF Fimbrethil (4)
MF Imin (5)
MF Bolg (8)
FW Thranduil (14)
FW *Scatha (14)

$$: -3
Verdict: They lost their Nazgul presence as well as Radagast and added Vorondil and Bolg, so a little step back in salary and talent. If their investors can finish ahead this season Wilderland will be in a nice position given the wide array of people/things on which to draw.

The Barrow-Downs (63)
GK Lumpkin (2)
DF River Woman (3)
DF MormWolf (6)
DF McCabWight (3)
DF Barrow-Wight (10)
MF Goldberry (3)
MF SallyWight (3)
MF Hookbill (6)
MF Argeleb II (5)
FW Bombadil (9)
FW Witch King (13)

$$: +13
Verdict: A big jump forward for BDs, adding WKing to the attack, a Werewolf and Wight to the defense, and Argeleb to the midfield. Once an afterthought, this year they have perhaps crossed the line into being a squad that can truly challenge most of the field—quite nice for a cost-effective squad.

Tol In Gaurhoth (90)
GK *ShastaWolf (11)
DF Edrahil (6)
DF KuruWight (3)
DF InzilWolf (10)
DF *BoroWolf (11)
MF GwathWight (3)
MF Finduilas (9)
MF Orodreth (11)
MF *PhantomWolf (12)
FW NerWight (4)
FW *LegateWolf (10)

$$: +6
Verdict: Thanks to being flush with cash after their title, TIG has continued the upward trend, bumping some of their returning Wolves up a couple mill (and deservedly so). Losing athletes the caliber of Thuringwethil and Draugluin hurts their chances to repeat, but they still have athletes of their own, and bringing in Orodreth, Finduilas, and Edrahil should compliment them.
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Old 08-29-2015, 07:17 AM   #9
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Two Towers Network - Group A Preview
-Boro88

Today the TTN previews all 8 groups and how I think each group will shake out this year. We'll look back at every teams' 2013 performances, additions and subtractions in free agency, and whether the roster moves have improved the teams' chances this year.

*Note to readers: Team Name (Round team was knocked out in 2013 ; Goals scored - Goals conceded)

GROUP A

Dwarves United (Group ; 2-6)
-Additions: MF Narvi, MF Thorin, DF Gandalf, DF Shadowfax
-Losses: DF Celebrimbor, MF Fili, MF Kili, MF Gimli

Dwarves United defense should be even more solid than 2013's. Losing Celebrimbor but adding 2 key defenders - Gandalf and Shadowfax - has to be considered a win. Their defense suffered in 2013 because Celebrimbor and Aule had to give too much attention to aiding a weak offense and they still only managed to put 2 goals in! Helping their chances this year is playing a group with later age heroes (2013 they were in a group with all 1st Age opponents). So even if the defenders have to come down to help the offense, I can't see them conceding 6 goals in 3 matches this year, not when matched up against the other teams in Group A. TTN gives them an early edge to finish 2nd, but the tale remains the same with this team...it will never be a serious championship contender until they bring in more talent on the offense.

Misty Mountains (Round of 16 ; 5-7)
-Additions: DF Landroval
-Losses: MF Narvi

Misty Mountains is the only team in Group A to make it out of the Group Stage in 2013. It seems they spent the offseason period believing the players they already had were going to be good enough going forward as they only made one move. Bringing in Landroval and then moving the Watcher to MF to make up for the departure of Narvi. A "staying put" strategy would be considered acceptable if Misty Mountains was a championship contender but they weren't in 2013. Defense will be marginally better, by making room for Landroval and putting the Watcher in as a defensive MF. Their offense took a few steps back though, because Narvi is a capable attacking MF, so TTN views their offseason strategy of "staying put" as a mistake, and their roster move as a net loss. Doubtful they make it out of their group this year.

The Sea (Group ; 5-4)
-Additions: FW Earendil, MF Earnil I, DF Ciryatur
-Losses: FW Tar Minastir, MF Tar Meneldur, MF Voronwe

The Sea didn't lose a match in their group last Arda Cup, but they still couldn't get out of their group (Nargothrond and Tirion advanced). So, they were certainly in a tougher group in 2013, compared to this year, they have to be considered the favorites to win Group A. With The Sea's payroll, if they can't make a deep run this year then this team has a serious lack in spirit, because the talent is there in every position. Ulmo leading a cool professional defense moved a tumultuous Osse to an attacking MF position, which TTN believes he's better suited. At least on this team Osse is a better fit and freedom to be his own Maiar in the attack, instead of feeling restrained by Ulmo in the defense. Then replacing Tar Minastir with Earendil, they didn't lose any talent at the FW position, and arguably it's an improvement. Payroll remained the same and on paper the roster is improved. Now they better show it on the pitch.

Wilderland (Group ; 6-6)
-Additions: MF Bolg, DF Vorondil
-Losses: MF Nazgul #3, DF Radagast

Wilderland did well to keep the key players on the team, Scatha and Thranduil. They make a good pair of strikers. They elected to swap out some of their supporting players, which isn't likely to improve the team, but they didn't lose one of their deadly strikers, so there is no increased burden on either one to score more. Like The Sea, Wilderland didn't lose a match in 2013 it was just unfortunately 3 draws (against Erebor, Eriador, and Misty Mountains) wasn't good enough to advance out of their group. The overall focus of Group A leans to the defense, so draws may be good enough to advance from this group. And with the tiebreaker being goal differential and goals scored, you have to like Wilderland's edge in a tiebreaker situation. Their 6 goals in 3 games in 2013 was the most amongst the other teams in this group. They'll contend for a Top 2 spot in Group A, but still the roster looks a season or 2 away from being a legit title contender (if that's what the investing parties are going after)
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Old 08-29-2015, 09:01 AM   #10
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Two Towers Network - Group B Preview
-Boro88

*Team Name (Round team was knocked out in 2013 ; Goals scored - Goals conceded)*

GROUP B

Angband (Round of 16 ; 6-5)
-Additions: GK Ungoliant
-Losses: GK Carcharoth

Angband was the only team in Group B to make it into the playoffs in 2013, although fans might be grumbling with their team getting bounced from the last 2 Arda Cups in the Round of 16. It seems like it's been 3 Ages since Angband had title contender and Morgoth can't be pleased about it. Although, one couldn't tell by Angband's offseason this year. Normally Angband is one of the biggest players and roster shake-ups in free agency, but they only elected to trade GK. Ungoliant typically doesn't have as great of day saving goals as Carcharoth can have, but also isn't prone to the real stinkers like Carcharoth. So, I'll favor the steadier Ungoliant over an erratic Carcharoth, and call Angband's 1 roster move a win. We'll just have to wait and see if switching the defensive positions of Uimuyan and Balrog #1 works out as Morgoth desires. It's surprising Angband elected to "stay put" considering they haven't had as much success as they would like, but unlike the Misty Mountains, at least their 1 move improved the team. You have to favor their chances of advancing out of Group B. It has been the first knock out round they haven't been able to get past lately, and they better soon.

Doriath (Group ; 2-6)
-Additions: MF Eol, DF Carcharoth
-Losses: MF Galadhon, DF Nimloth

Doriath made a pair of moves to show they want a contender this year. They obviously had to invest more money in the club but anytime you ad Eol to a team that only scored 2 goals in 2013, and Carcharoth to a defense that conceded 6, both areas are going to be improved this year. Angband is still too big of a power for Doriath to beat, but TTN favors Doriath for 2nd in Group B. When you look at what Erebor's done in slashing payroll and The Havens, who lost their best player, but still basically kept the same payroll. Doriath spent more, but it was in a pair of smart investments that significantly improved the talent, both offensively and defensively.

Erebor (Group ; 4-6)
-Additions: MF Bain, MF Balin, DF Nazgul #3, DF Fellbeast #2
-Losses: MF Bolg, DF Landroval, DF Thorin, GK Beorn

Erebor continues to lose their best players to other clubs and filling the holes with lesser talent. Erebor appears to be pleased with their championship run from 2012 and are now retooling and regrouping to hopefully make another run in the future. As it stands this year, they continue to lose too many of their top players to make a championship run this year. They aren't completely dead and buried in this group, however. Their talent up front (Smaug and Nazgul #7) remains the same from 2013, it's the defense where most of the changes took place. When you break it down, the Fellbeast takes Landroval's place as the aerial defender and a Nazgul replaces Thorin. So, they may have cut payroll, but how much did they lose defensively? The question will be if Brand who moved out of his MF position from 2013, can fill Beorn's shoes between the posts. Angband and Doriath are the better teams, but they shouldn't look at Erebor as an easy meal simply because Erebor's been slashing payroll.

The Havens (Group ; 4-6)
-Additions: DF Ar Gimilzor, DF Ciryandil
-Losses: FW Earendil, DF Annael

I'm going to be far less kind on The Havens moves, because I just don't understand how you lose your best player (Earendil) and still not even manage to save that much money? Ar Gimilzor and Ciryandil will bolster the defense, but they've found no viable replacement for Earendil and elected to move Falastur out of the MF down to be their lone striker. A vanilla defense, with a vanilla offense...it's just a team that has the look of finishing at the bottom of Group B. They saved 2 million in payroll, but I say lost big time in talent. If I had to put a monetary value of the talent lost, I'd say 12 million. So they should have saved more, but they didn't, making it a horrible offseason for The Havens.
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Old 08-30-2015, 12:36 AM   #11
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Silmaril Breaking news.

Palantir network giant Menel Media Group acquires Tar-Eldar Network Television, now rebranded as MenelSport

Taniquetil - Vanyarin oligarch 'Rupert' Mardacil announced earlier today the successful acquisition of the sports channel Tar-Eldar Network Television for his palantir network Menel Media Group.

'People keep saying that I'm no fun,' said Mardacil in his press conference. '"Why are your channels full of news about war and politics, Rupert? Why can't you find something more lighthearted?" Well, I've got a slice of football now, people. I hope that's fun enough for you.'

Tar-Eldar Network Television (henceforth known as MenelSport) holds exclusive rights to the live showing of the Elvish Premier League, Ainu Liga, the Úvanima Serie A, and the Deathless Champions League, as well as part of the TV rights to the Arda Cup.

Included in the acquisition is the website ArdaCup.com, which has now changed ownership twice in three years.

Mardacil, who is said by multiple reliable sources to be 'richer than Eru', refuses to disclose how much he has paid to acquire the sports channel.

'I don't want to scare any of you. Especially the mathematicians and the economists,' he said with a wink.

Former TENT employees view the acquisition in a generally positive light.

'That means I'm free, right? No more debt?' said sports blogger Felagundion before he was tased and dragged off by a security person.

'Well, the sudden change of address allowed me to escape death threats from Angband,' said Adam Smith, who denies being a Scottish economist.

'Normal services resume tomorrow,' said Elenrod, the host of footballing talk show The Matchday. 'See you then.'

(Agence Felagundion Presse)
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Old 08-30-2015, 09:19 AM   #12
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Two Towers Network - Group C Preview
-Boro88

*Team Name (Round team was knocked out in 2013 ; Goals scored - Goals conceded)*

GROUP C

Group C features 2 teams who made it to the final 2 matches (Tol-in-Gaurhoth the Champions, and Hithlum the Bronze match) and 2 teams eliminated in the Group stage. And despite several changes to all the teams TTN sees the same fate playing out...TIG and Hithlum will advance, Rohan and Isengard get left behind.

Hithlum (4th Place ; 16-12)
-Additions: MF Fingolfin, MF Forweg, DF Rochallor
-Losses: FW Hurin, MF Hador, DF Arroch

Hithlum is never an elite defense, usually just good enough to concede less goals than what the amazing duo of Turin and Beleg can produce. Swapping one horse for another doesn't weaken the defense, but no one should expect anything different from a defense that's "just good enough." They bring in Fingolfin to address the losses of Hurin and Hador. Fingolfin is a solid attacking MF, and of course there's still Turin and Beleg. However, they lost talent in the offense... Turin-Beleg-Fingolfin is not quite as dangerous looking as Turin-Hurin-Beleg-Hador. Still the trio will produce many goals and should with relative ease advance out of Group C, but it'll be hard to improve on their 4th place finish from 2013, unless the best partnership in all of Arda have a magical tournament.

Isengard (Group ; 2-8)
-Additions: DF Radagast, DF Meriadoc, DF Snowmane, GK Théoden
-Losses: MF Wormtongue, MF Nazgul #5, MF Lugdush, MF Wulf

Isengard perhaps has some of the most drastic shake up in the off-season. With several players changing positions and Saruman revamping the entire defense. A team that conceded 8 goals in 3 matches in 2013 definitely needed addressed. The additions do improve the defense, but by how much? They won't concede 8 goals this year, but Isengard also had a serious lack in scoring and I don't see bringing Treebeard down to the MF improving the goal-scoring. Isengard will get left out of the playoffs again, but they had a positive offseason and appear to be going in the right direction.

Rohan (Group ; 1-5)
-Additions: MF Eomer, DF Cirion, DF Ghan-buri-Ghan, DF Firefoot
-Losses: MF Brytta, DF Snowmane, DF Windfola, GK Théoden

Rohan also made many changes, but overall the talent on the roster is improved, and they're still one of the "low-budget" teams keeping their salary under 70 mil. Eomer takes Brytta's place in the MF, and that is an improvement. Then Rohan gets Cirion, Ghan, and Firefoot to replace Snowmane and Windfola, improving the defense. Hama steps in between the posts for Théoden, and that is a little bit of a loss, but with a better defense in front of him, the difference is negligible. As I mentioned in the "Surviving on a Low-Budget" article, I think the biggest issue holding Rohan back is how the team is organized. With Helm as the lone striker, he should be in the MF. The "Hammerfoot's" skills are better on set pieces or when delivering crosses and long blasts into the opponent's box, and occasionally being able to hammer home a long shot. Eomer and Eowyn should be the pair of FW who can work in tandem and run into open lanes. Rohan's 4-5-1 formation just doesn't fit the talent on the roster. IF they went to a 4-4-2...with Cirion and Firefoot additions improving the defense, Faramir commanding the MF with Helm to deliver set pieces, and Eomer and Eowyn as the FWs? That just looks like a much better formation, fitting the strengths of the roster.

Tol-in-Gaurhoth (Champion ; 15-5)
-Additions: MF Orodreth, MF Finduilas, DF Edrahil
-Losses: FW Thuringwethil, DF NilpWolf, DF Drauglin

I haven't included the changing new wolves and wights on this years TIG squad, since the depth of the TIG community is unrivalled when they tryout for the national team the competition is intense. I do include NilpWolf in the losses, since he has departed for Inter Beleriand. A defense that only gave up 5 goals in 7 matches has lost quite of bit of it's ferocious bite with both NilpWolf and Drauglin leaving and only getting Edrahil to replace them. There's no sugar-coating the fact the defense is weaker. BoroWolf had a solid 2013 campaign, but now being expected to fill in NilpWolf's paws and we're not too far removed from BoroWolf's 2012 debacle of getting sent off with a red card against The Downer squad and TIG not even making the playoffs. Don't get me wrong there is still excellent talent on this team, and the wolves have enough to get through this group (and I give them good chances to win this group over Hithlum). But TIG is fresh off a championship, so the necessary focus to repeat might be off, combined with the loss of defensive talent, I'm not seeing a back-to-back champion.
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Old 08-30-2015, 10:53 AM   #13
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Two Towers Network - Group D Preview
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*Team Name (Round team was knocked out in 2013 ; Goals scored - Goals conceded)*

GROUP D

This is perhaps one of hardest groups to predict. It features three 1st Age clubs that are investing considerable amounts of money to win, and all have a great strength, but a glaring weakness that could be their undoing. Then there's the low budget Arnor team, that always remains scrappy and competitive despite being vastly outspent by the other 3. In 2013 Arnor and Gondolin made the Round of 16, Real Valinor were quarterfinalists, and Anfauglith missed the playoffs but made additions to (they hope) improve their offense and put them in this year. Yes, this is a tough group to call...

Anfauglith (Group ; 2-3)
-Additions: FW Thuringwethil, MF Borlad, DF Draugluin
-Losses: MF Bor, MF Rian, GK Ungoliant

Anfauglith kept their stellar pair of Balrog defenders then added Draugluin and moved Ecthelion back to the defense. So, this defensive groups is just as intimidating and powerful as ever, perhaps even better. Then they add Thuringwethil to pair with Gothmog and on paper that partnership will be better than Gothmog and Ecthelion from 2013. So, in theory a defense that only conceded 3 goals in 3 matches should be better, and a better striking partnership should mean Anfauglith produces more goals? Not so fast. The loss of Ungoliant and getting replaced by an untested Haldir leaves one question mark. And is the MF good enough to supply the better pair of FWs with quality passes and better scoring opportunities? They weren't in 2013, leaving another question mark as to whether they will be able to this year.

Arnor (Round of 16 ; 4-5)
-Additions: MF Earnur, DF Nazgul #5
-Losses: FW Witch-king, MF Arantar

Any investors with limited funds need to emulate Arnor's philosophy. I mean just each and every year they manage to put together a competitive roster for a fraction of the cost of the big spenders. Unfortunately Arnor's run into the difficult task this year to win in a group of all 1st Age team and that may be too much for this sturdy and veteran group of Men from the North. Add to it the loss of the Witch-King and I don't see their offense scoring enough goals. Elendil drops down to pair with Araphor, but that's the weakest FW partnership in Group D. They have the spirit and fight to get a result and effect which 2 teams do get out of this group, but Arnor's not good enough to be in the Top 2. It won't be this year, but don't divert from your philosophy and you'll find yourselves back in the title hunt soon enough!

Gondolin (Round of 16 ; 6-9)
-Additions: FW Turgon, DF Voronwe
-Losses: FW Tuor, MF Salgant

Turgon's in and Tuor's out so Gondolin hasn't lost anything in the offense. Since they still maintain Maeglin, Duilin, and Idril the offense will be fine. The problem is Gondolin did nothing to address their defense and goalie situation that conceded 9 goals in 4 matches in 2013. And in this group containing the striking pairs Gothmog-Thuringwethil and Miriel-Nerdanel, I can't see how Gondolin will be able to keep these opponents off the scoreboard. As mentioned, Anfauglith has its own question marks with their roster, making it nearly impossible to call a victor. Anfauglith-Gondolin should be one of the premier and most exciting matches in group play this tournament,

Real Valinor (Quarterfinals ; 10-4)
-Additions: DF Irmo, DF Thorondor, DF Irime
-Losses: FW Orome, DF Tilion, DF Nahar

I think Real Valinor got considerable weaker this year. They brought payroll below the 100 million mark, but it's still quite high and they lost two solid talents with Orome and Tilion and just didn't replace them with enough in return. This is still a playoff team, simply because Miriel and Nerdanel are more than capable of picking up the loss of Orome as Real Valinor goes from 3 FWs down to 2. And Tulkas moves out of GK to take Tilion's place as the top defender, which he's also more than capable of filling Tilion's spot. Nienna moves to GK. So, really they shuffled some pieces around and still have the top talent in each position to fill the voids left by Orome, Tilion, and Nahar. But the additions just aren't enough for Real Valinor if they hope to improve on their Quarterfinals appearance from 2013. They should have enough to get through this group, but it'll be tough, and TTN places emphasis on should, since it's by no means certain.
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Old 08-30-2015, 05:53 PM   #14
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*Team Name (Round team was knocked out in 2013 ; Goals scored - Goals conceded)*

GROUP E

Anduin (Round of 16 ; 6-4)
-Additions: FW Beorn, MF Isildur
-Subtractions: MF Leod, DF Celeborn

Anduin's trying to make a push this year with their offseason signings and increased payroll. They're taking a few risks and everyone will just have to wait and see if Anduin's increased spending will pay off. The loss of Celeborn weakens a stout defense that only surrendered 4 goals in 4 games. However, working in Anduin's favor is having arguably the deepest mid-field in the tournament. Eorl, Haldir, Boromir II and Isildur are all capable of putting the ball in the back of the net and won't have to rely solely on one player to produce the offense. The sturdier mid-field play and keeping possession should offset the loss of Celeborn at the back. There's another risk taken with making Beorn the lone FW. However, TTN believes this is Beorn's natural position and best fits for his skills set. Beorn is best when he's in a berserk bear-form, and as a GK he showed a lot of inconsistency. As an aggressive lone FW, he should be in a berserker frenzy often and always looking to push the action.

Inter Beleriand (Group ; 5-6)
-Additions: MF Hador, MF Bor, DF NilpWight, DF Imlach, DF Huan
-Subtractions: MF Haleth, MF Forweg, DF Gorlim, DF Haldad, GK Turgon

Inter Beleriand were the biggest movers this offseason and are clearly trying to show the Arda world they are not AC Beleriand's "little brothers." The best player you lost was Turgon (GK) but bring in a better goalie (Huan) and also manage to sign Hador from offensive power-house Hithlum, then poach defensive specialist Nilp from the Championship TIG squad. And still have the funds to sign Bor and Imlach who can fill in supporting roles. Inter Beleriand has added quality to every position and looks poised to make a deep run this year. The investors not only spent, but spent their money well. I'm not sure it's going to be quite enough for a championship this year, but there is championship pedigree up and down this roster. Inter Beleriand had arguably the best offseason and still managed to keep payroll under 100 million.

Imladris (Group ; 1-6)
-Additions: MF Ohtar, DF Celeborn, DF Arwen, DF Roheryn, GK Aragorn
-Subtractions: MF Figwit, MF Gilraen, DF Varda, DF Erestor, GK Valandil

The loss of Varda and Erestor was huge for Imladris because it forced the owners to reload their defense. They found worthy replacements so their defensive talent shouldn't drop off. But those losses means Imladris couldn't focus on bringing in a stronger MF player to help their offense, which only scored once in three matches! Granted in 2013 Imladris was in perhaps the toughest defensive group (Angband, Anfauglith, TIG all ferocious and nasty defenses). They may be better suited against the teams in Group E, but I'm not convinced it will lead to enough goals to get the results needed to advance. Anduin's MF is vastly superior to Imladris' and Inter Beleriand is just top-to-bottom a better roster.

Minas Tirith (Group ; 1-7)
-Additions: MF Pelendur, MF Herion, DF Ostoher, DF Imrahil
-Subtractions: MF Eomer, DF Cirion, DF Firefoot, DF Earnur

I won't sugar-coat this analysis either, Minas Tirith are the whipping boys of this group and were losers in the offseason. 2013 they were in a group of death and vastly outclassed by Nargothrond, Tirion, and The Sea. However, their future isn't looking much brighter this year. They lost some of their top players and replaced them with well...nobodies. Even Imladris on a low-budget managed to attract some talent to bolster the losses of their stars. Statistically they may end up better than that 1 goal scored and 7 conceded from 2013, but only because they're not in a hellacious "group of death" this year. It's a mirage. Minas Tirith is in worse shape than it was in 2013.
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Old 08-31-2015, 04:48 AM   #15
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Pipe The Matchday: A MenelSport football talk show

Elenrod: Today: the staggering numbers. And no, not those numbers. After 629 days of waiting, 352 players form 32 teams, play 64 matches, for the sake of one trophy. It’s the return of the Arda Cup. The Matchday opens with a preview of the Arda Cup group stage, and we do so in stunning fashion, with not three, not four, but five pundits on the panel! First off, we have, finally a phantasy winner, Maikalomion of ArdaCup.com Stats Report.

Maika: Mae govannen. Yeah, I finally got that monkey off my back.

Elenrod: And the man who continues to deny being an economist, Adam Smith.

Adam: Noswaith dda. That's Welsh for ‘good evening.’ Not Scottish, mind.

Elenrod: And no, dear viewers, he hasn’t escaped us: captive blogger Felagundion.

Felagundion: I thought I was free.

Elenrod: Apologies, Felagundion, but you just fit so well in the show. And now we have two guests, because that's how special this show is. First, now a regular in the show, Iorithil of Quenta Noldorin Sport.

Iorithil: Before anyone asks, I’ve no book to promote. I’m still in the process of writing one.

Adam: Haha, defensive much? But glad you’re back.

Elenrod: And… joining the panel for the first time, to provide us with a Middle-earth perspective to things, it’s Louis of The Orthanc Times.

Louis: Hello, all. Glad to get the call-up.

Elenrod: And welcome to you. Now let’s begin with our preview, starting with Group A: Dwarves United, Misty Mts, The Sea, and Wilderland. Who would advance, who would be left behind?

Iorithil: On paper, the Sea are better than the rest of the group, but…

Adam: Yeah, their quality has not yet translated to success in the Cup. To be fair, they’ve been in somewhat tight groups in 2012 and ’13, so maybe this time they’ll finally take nine points from nine?

Felagundion: As for second, the Dwarves have the second highest wage bill, and they’re slightly more talented than the other two groups, but again…

Louis: I think Misty Mts will pip them to second place. They’ve got goals in them, and I’m sure they can contain Dwarf U’s attack.

Maika: I agree. We’ve seen for many years now that, overall, a good attack gives a team a better chance of getting out of the group than a good defence. That’s why Wilderland have a chance to put a scare on someone, with their Scatha-Thranduil-Bolg front line.

Iorithil: I somewhat agree that it’ll be down to that Dwarf U-Misty Mts fixture, but I’m afraid of the effect of refereeing decisions and the hatred both teams have for each other might have on that match.

Louis: Oh, I forgot about that. Especially now that there’s no Narvi on the Misty Mts to perhaps soften the Dwarves’ temper.

Elenrod: So to sum it up, we have:

Group A
  1. The Sea
  2. Misty Mts
  3. Dwarves United
  4. Wilderland

Elenrod: On to Group B, then. Angband, Doriath, Erebor, and the Havens.

Adam: A bonafide Arda Cup giant and a bunch of second-tier teams. And I have no favourite among said second-tier teams.

Felagundion: I think you can safely drop the Havens from the choices. They’ve had a massive drop in quality. Their best players, Círdan and Olwë, are probably the fourth- or fifth-best midfielder and defender in this group.

Iorithil: I agree with Felagundion. Doriath have a better squad, top to bottom, than the Havens, and Erebor have a much better attack. In fact, I think what their attack does to Doriath and how quickly Doriath’s front line gels are the keys to the group.

Maika: Doriath have now, in Eöl and Daeron, two top-drawer playmakers. And the Dark-Elf can score. You’d probably all disagree, but I think he’s the best attacking player in this group.

Louis: …Hm, the Dragons are better scorers, true, but overall, yeah. But do bear in mind he’s been playing with Fëanor for two years now.

Maika: But he also did contribute to 2011 Doriath’s title run. He’s a good player, especially when surrounded by good players… and he’s surrounded by good players in Doriath.

Adam: I dunno, man. Mablung had that hat trick against Nargothrond in 2012, but he’s not come even remotely close to a scoring form like that ever since. Maybe it’s just Nargothrond’s defence. Sorry, Fel.

Felagundion: That’s okay. It’s true, anyway.

Elenrod: To cap it off, your thoughts about the group?

Maika: Angband and Doriath.

Louis: I fancy Angband and Erebor.

Adam: I agree with Louis.

Iorithil: Hm, losing Bolg and Beorn will be a blow for Erebor, and Doriath have the better defence. Angband and Doriath.

Felagundion: The better teams on both ends, and with higher payrolls: Angband and Doriath.

Group B
  1. Angband
  2. Doriath
  3. Erebor
  4. The Havens

Elenrod: Moving on to Group C. We have Hithlum, Isengard, Rohan, and Tol-in-Gaurhoth.

Felagundion: I think this’ll be a short one.

Louis: Yup, it’d be Rohan and Isengard. …I kid, I kid. The Wolves and Hithlum, in that order.

Adam: I mean, what do you expect the Middle-earth teams to do? Would any of their players get into Hithlum or TiG? Cirion as a left-back for Hithlum? Maybe?

Elenrod: Who’ll take third place though? And would any of them have a chance against Hithlum?

Iorithil: To answer the second question first, no. And Isengard would edge Rohan for the higher consolation slot.

Elenrod: That was a short one indeed.

Group C
  1. Tol-in-Gaurhoth
  2. Hithlum
  3. Isengard
  4. Rohan

Elenrod: I suppose Group D wouldn’t be that foregone, with Anfauglith, Arnor, Gondolin, and Real Valinor in it.

Louis: We should probably get this out it of the way: Arnor have a chance. With Super Araphor they always have a chance, but realistically…

Adam: Real take the top spot, and Anfauglith and Gondolin have an almight battle for the second spot. I think Anfauglith would just about edge the Hidden City.

Felagundion: But didn’t you just say that 2013 Anfauglith’s midfield was, and I quote, ‘LOL’? Guess what: they haven’t addressed it. And they lost Ungoliant!

Adam: Hmm, okay. Fair enough.

Maika: They lost Rian over the summer, who was their best midfielder.

Adam: That’s like choosing which Kardashian you like best. But carry on.

Maika: And Gondolin’s switch to a 3-5-2, with Idril and Elemmakil perfectly suited to own the flanks, matches up well against the Gasping Dust’s 4-4-2, especially since they have no wide midfielder of note to help overload Gondolin’s wing-backs.

Iorithil: Yeah, I think Gondolin are, by a small margin, the second best team in this group.

Elenrod: So to cap it off:

Group D
  1. Real Valinor
  2. Gondolin
  3. Anfauglith
  4. Arnor

Elenrod: Group E, then. And this is one of the groups whose games you can view exclusively here on MenelSport. Anduin, Imladris, Inter Beleriand, and Minas Tirith are the teams in this group.

Adam: Hahaha, I just want to watch how Inter would screw this up. Surely they’ll make it out of the group this time, right?

Louis: Anduin’s the only team who could challenge them here, and on paper they’re much better than the Riverfolk.

Maika: Inter’s another team that’s switched to a 3-5-2. Their central midfield’s much weaker than Gondolin’s, but that shouldn’t be tested much in this group. And they have a much better defence—Imlach, NilpWight, and Beren, all proven players, forming a back three, with Lúthien and Hador bombing down the wings.

Felagundion: And you didn’t mention that they’ve somehow acquired the walking ticket to the semi-final, Huan. Wow. I bet that’s what turned NilpWolf’s head. He wouldn’t have transferred to such an star-crossed club otherwise.

Iorithil: I agree with TTN’s assessment of Minas Tirith. They’re a mess. They’ve lost three of their four stars, with Cirion, Éomer, and Firefoot moving to Rohan. Mardil won’t be enough to give this bunch a win against the rest of the group. I think they’d be hard-pressed to get even a point against Imladris.

Louis: Of course, Imladris aren’t in any good shape themselves. They’ve got no proven striker, or any goalscorer, in their squad. If the Stewards manage to keep a clean sheet against them—well, they’re probably not scoring on Imladris, either, but at least that’s a point.

Elenrod: So barring a karmic conspiracy, this group’s likely to end up:

Group E
  1. Inter Beleriand
  2. Anduin
  3. Imladris
  4. Minas Tirith

Elenrod: Let’s proceed to Group F, featuring Armenelos, Mordor, Valimar, and the Barrow-Downs.

Adam: Another group with two heavyweights, though one of them is flaky. But not to the extent of Inter though; Inter’s ability to wilt under pressure is just special.

Felagundion: Valimar won’t give quarter to Mordor or the Downers though, and Arien just burns lesser teams.

Iorithil: I agree. As long as Arien’s on that squad, they’re not a normal Manwë team. What is more worrying are the Downer’s forwards, the Witch-king and Bombadil. You get them on their day, they just score on you. Are the two favourites ready to shoot back if that happens? I think yes.

Louis: Well, Wiki’s far more consistent, but yeah. Him and SallyWight give them the firepower to scare certain teams, especially if Bombadil’s feeling it.

Maika: As for Royals vs Powers… We’ve been through this in 2013, too, right? I’m reversing my prediction from that time: Armenelos have a chance to top the group, but I think Valimar are the better team.

Group F
  1. Valimar
  2. Armenelos
  3. The Barrow-Downs
  4. Mordor

Elenrod: Group G, another group covered exclusively by MenelSport. And what a group it is: AC Beleriand, Nargothrond, Tirion, and FC Valinor. All four teams made it out of their group in 2013, with AC Bel and FC Val ending up as runner-up and bronze medallists, respectively.

Felagundion: When we lost Orodreth and Finduilas and failed to bring in players of higher quality, I’ve given up. Just please, don’t concede five goals to AC Bel. Or to Tirion. Or to Curufin. I mean, FC Val.

Maika: Well, AC Bel have lost a lot of continuity. The Imlach-Rochallor pairing was the bedrock of their defence, and can Húrin be as good a back-line leader as Fingolfin was? They also lost Eöl’s ability to complement Fëanor and the wingers, but they did get Tuor as a replacement.

Iorithil: Tuor’s more comfortable as target man, though, using his height to win headers and knock down balls for other attackers. Maybe they’ll have Fëanor and Tuor switching like him and Eöl used to do, except that it’s the Fëanor starting up front this time.

Elenrod: Okay, questions: who’ll top the group, and do Tirion and Nargothrond have a chance?

Felagundion: I’d be happy if the Cave Elves concede less than six goals total, never mind their points, and never mind if they get out of the group.

Adam: As for Tirion, they won’t give up, and they’ve kept a lot of continuity on both ends. But—

Louis: Fëanor and Curufin.

Adam: Exactly.

Maika: I think FC Val will top the group. They’re out for vengeance, and even though they’ve also replaced much of their defenders, at least they have the more settled midfield.

Group G
  1. FC Valinor
  2. AC Beleriand
  3. Tirion
  4. Nargothrond

Elenrod: And finally, we have Group H, featuring Middle-earth’s Barad-dûr, Eriador, Gondor, and Shire-Bree United.

Louis: There’s just no looking past Eriador and Barad-dûr. Gondor and the Black Tower were qualification rivals in 2013, sharing a group with FC Valinor, but whereas Sauron’s squad become increasingly improved, Gondor have steadily taken a step back. And Shire-Bree United are just a shambles, as a team and an organisation, as shown by that TTN exclusive.

Iorithil: Gondor have failed to build up from that 2012 knockout round run, failed to build up on the foundation given by their attackers Anárion and Eldacar. It didn’t help that Anárion was out of form in 2013. I wonder how he’d be this year.

Felagundion: I’m just shocked that Sauron’s bought an actual team, with actual defenders and midfielders, and that he has a chance of making it to the quarter-final while Nargothrond get destroyed at the group stage. Just kill me now.

Adam: Well, if they’re making the quarter-final, they’d have to beat the first seed of Group A, because Eriador’s not likely to concede first place in this group.

Maika: I agree, they just have better talent across the board. I wonder if NogWight’s gelled with the team this time. With Gil-galad learning the ropes of lone striker play, an extra attacker would ease the burden on Glorfindel.

Group H
  1. Eriador
  2. Barad-dûr
  3. Gondor
  4. Shire-Bree United

Elenrod: All right, then. Before we end, I’d like to ask you for any prediction for this upcoming Arda Cup. Last time around, Maika predicted three out of four semi-finalists correctly.

Adam: Oh yeah? Well, I predict that the two Beleriands and two Valinors will be this year’s final four.

Maika: Haha, that’s what I had as well. Although TiG and Hithlum… A possible Wolves-Real quarter-final clash will be something to behold.

Nilpaurion: As for me, if Nargothrond get a point—or, Eru forbid, three—I’ll be over the moon.

Iorithil: Again, I just want the games to start. I’m not any good at that long-term prediction business.

Louis: Same for me.

Elenrod: Haha, well then. Thank you, dear viewers, for seeing another episode of the Matchday to the end. We’ll be back next week with our predictions for the first round of fixtures, as well as phantasy advice. Until then; bye for now.
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Old 08-31-2015, 10:57 AM   #16
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Boots Less serious and more sporty music plays

Kuruharan: Good evening and welcome to Underground Football! I am your host Kuruharan. Joining us tonight is an entity who needs no introduction...or perhaps maybe he does. Some know him as Melkor, King of the World. Others still know him as Morgoth, Great Enemy of the World. Still others say that he is, in fact, a small post box just outside Droxford in rural Hampshire. So, two out of three strains of opinion hold that this guy is important! Let's welcome, Morgoth!

Morgoth: Thank you! Let me just say that I object to your use of that name, that it is a great honor for you to host me here this evening, and lastly I wish to once and for all put to rest these rumors that I am a mailbox in rural Hampshire! I've had to hold five press conferences this year alone to refute these ridiculous rumors!!! I am clearly no mailbox!

Kuruharan: So you say, but we will have to look at the evidence. First, though, do you have any comments on the rumors that were circulating last year that you are, in fact, a cleverly disguised passenger car on the Vivek Express in India that runs between Dibrugarh and Kanyakumari?

Morgoth: Those preposterous rumors were definitely put to rest in a statement by Indian Railways in September of last year.

Kuruharan: And do you also deny that you are a smokestack on a factory in Shanghai, China?

Morgoth: I do love a good smokestack...but I deny that. Next you will be saying that there is a rumor that I am a patch of snow on Aconcagua in the Andes!

Kuruharan: An excellent idea! We will flesh that rumor out at once! But, to come to the topic of tonight's interview, you were one of the harshest critics of Eru's decision to make King the Phantom I of Dorwinion, blessed be his reign, the Chair of the Arda Cup Committee. Would you care to elaborate on the nature of your objections?

Morgoth: If Eru is going to insist on making a player the Chair of the Committee, that player should be me! I was the first of all the Ainur, I should be in charge! I have lots of ideas about how to reform football in ways that will suit me!

Kuruharan: Is it true that you attempted to meet with Eru to express your concerns?

Morgoth: Yes...I was told that he didn't have time to meet with confused and overly ambitious railway cars. I was hoping that the statement by Indian Railways would have sorted the matter out but I still have not heard back from his secretary.

Kuruharan: The Underground managed to obtain this statement from King the Phantom regarding this situation. It reads in part, "I understand there is some kind of deranged mailbox in southern England (wherever that is) who thinks he is a smokestack in China (wherever that is) who is complaining about my appointment as Chair of the ACC. All I can say is that if one unbalanced mailbox is the only one complaining, I must be doing a pretty good job."

Morgoth: This won't be the last of this!!! They will be sorry they slighted ME, Master of the Fates of the Arda Cup! And...and Sauron's complaining too!!!!! I'm not the only one!!
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Old 09-01-2015, 10:25 AM   #17
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Two Towers Network - Group F Preview
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*Team Name (Round team was knocked out in 2013 ; Goals scored - Goals conceded)*

GROUP F

We continue on with previewing the groups with a look at Group F today. The teams making up Group F are 2 perenniel powerhouses and quarterfinalists from 2013, and 2 low-budget squads still looking for an opportunity of breaking through to the playoff barrier.

Armenelos (Quarterfinals ; 8-6)
-Additions: MF Tar Meneldur
-Subtractions: MF Ar Gimilzor

Armenelos virtually changed nothing in the offseason, just swapping out a pair of defensive mid-fielders Tar Meneldur in for Ar Gimilzor. The Numenoreans are champions, plain and simple, and always in a hunt for the title. It is no different this year, but one must think if they want to improve on their 2013 performance they had to do more. The defense relies on ball control and team work, so it'll be solid and reliable as always under Tar Telperien and Tar Atanamir, but it's no longer elite. On sheer pride, skill, and experience I can't see how Mordor or The Barrow-downs could possibly knock Armenelos out of a playoff berth. Despite this feeling Armenelos should be doining more, they always seem to be contenders for the quarter-finals and even further.

Mordor (Group ; 4-3)
-Additions: MF Sangahyando, MF Angamaite, DF Radbug
-Subtractions: MF Mouth, DF Gothmog II, DF Fellbeast #4

I feel like the only reason this team exists is to ensure, no matter how poorly it performs, it always makes a profit and then Sauron can invest that profit into his "other" Mordor team. That at least seems to be evident this year, where Sauron bolstered his Barad-dur roster and pretty much poached the best players from this Mordor team. I'm not sure how fans of this team feel about being a money-maker for another club, but I guess it makes no difference to them if there's one "home" team to cheer for and is doing well. Mordor remained competitive and nearly advanced in 2013 in a group with all Middle-earth clubs. But contesting the powers of the World, and the full might and wealth of the greatest kingdom of Men is not going to happen.

The Barrow-Downs (Group ; 3-6)
-Additions: FW Witch-King, MF Argeleb II
-Subtractions: MF Lalwende MP, GK Alien

The Barrow-Downs has made quite a few respectable changes to their roster last couple years and the team seems serious about competing. If Armenelos and Valimar get careless and haughty they can't overlook the Barrow-Downs this year. Their striker partnership can go on a tear of goals because they match up well against the other teams. The Witch-King I expect will flex his dominance over the inferior Mordor team. And when Bombadil has his head in the match (which there is no question he will, the question is what happens to the Barrow-Downs when he doesn't? Because that's also certain to happen), he has terrorized the Valar and Numenoreans before. He'll have to, because as dominating as the Witch-King will bew against Mordor, he'll shrivel into nothing against the greater powers.

Valimar (Quarterfinals ; 7-6)
-Additions: MF Tilion, DF Eonwe
-Subtractions: MF Ingwe, MF Irmo

Well this is the Valar team that's all in and have the highest payroll of all 32 clubs. We've seen these high priced Manwe teams fail before, due to complacency and inaction. However, I agree with MenelSport's assessment that with Arien and Tilion left to their own devices in their attacking positions, I can't see Valimar getting bitten again by their past failures from being dreadfully conservative. They'll still play excellent defense, and conservative with a lead, but Arien and Tilion have a far greater ability to score a quick goal if needed, than Manwe's teams have been able to show in the past. Still, a foul air of failure hangs over this team, and that simply can't happen to Valimar this year.
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Old 09-01-2015, 11:30 AM   #18
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Eye

Scenarios: Best Case and Worst Case
MESPN Football Round Table Results

We here at MESPN asked some of our Football round table contributors to come up with best and worst-case scenarios for each team in the field. In the best-case scenarios the rule-of-thumb for advancement is that a squad is allowed to pull one reasonable upset, one other team is allowed to pull an upset (allowing them to face the weaker squad or allow them to advance in first position), and the group opposite them is allowed to have one squad finish out of position (again, allowing for a weaker opponent). Essentially this guarantees the best-case somewhat probable scenario.

And just because one squad has a higher “BEST” does not mean that squad is superior head-to-head. It may just indicate a combination of a tough group and a likely tough playoff draw.

With worst-case it’s a bit more art than science, as technically anyone can be left out in the cold after the group stage. But to add a bit of diversity in answers, we’re going with more conventional logic and not assuming multiple upsets.

So anyway, not true best/worsts here, but rather with likelihood factored in.

GROUP A
Dwarves United
BEST—quarterfinals
WORST—eliminated in-group

Misty Mts
BEST—quarterfinals
WORST—eliminated in-group

The Sea
BEST—Champion
WORST—1st round playoffs

Wilderland
BEST—quarterfinals
WORST—eliminated in-group

Comments: Everyone agreed that The Sea would be going forward—they’re too solid top to bottom and more threatening on offense after adding Earendil and moving Osse forward, and have the size to negate the likes of Durin’s Bane and Scatha in group, plus the patience and tactical execution to keep the pressure on even the Dwarves United defense. Basically we can’t see them getting upset more than once, and we also can’t see one of the other three clearly separating themselves from the rest of the pack to take advantage (i.e. setting up a 3-team tie with 6 points & going forward alongside the squad that upset Sea). We gave them a best-case of Champion because we feel they have the talent and approach to go far. We wouldn’t like their chances of running a playoff gauntlet of Eriador-Angband-TIG-FCVal or similar, but frankly no team has a good chance of pulling that off, thus we are willing to give the “champ” designation because The Sea has as good a chance as anyone, particularly as odds are good of drawing an opponent they’ll be clearly favored against in the opening round (unlike Group B or F for instance where even winning the group will likely put you up against a tournament favorite).

We gave the other three a best-case of the quarters, assuming that (1) The Sea will claim one spot, and (2) the second-finisher will likely be facing Eriador in the opening round. The best chance of seeing the quarters would be to upset The Sea or to have Eriador get upset in their group and thus pushed out of the top qualifying spot. They’d probably root for Gondor to qualify ahead of Barad-Dur on account of Sauron, but either would be a fight.

GROUP B

Angband
BEST—Champion
WORST—1st round playoffs

Doriath
BEST—semifinals
WORST—eliminated in-group

Erebor
BEST—1st round playoffs
WORST—eliminated in-group

The Havens
BEST—quarterfinals
WORST—eliminated in-group

Comments: We debated on Angband’s “champ” designation. They nearly defeated last year’s runner-up, AC Beleriand, and we felt that the slight tweaking to their lineup in the offseason is a step forward. But while we liked the team on paper, we were aware that winning their group will put them against the Group G runner-up, and Group G is definitely this year’s “group of death”. The prospect of facing AC Beleriand or FC Valinor in the opening round nearly made us subtract one round from Angband’s best case and knock them down to runner-up, but in the end we felt that they deserved the “champ” label since they do possess the talent to make a run through anyone. A couple of our panelists listed them as head-to-head favorites against all the Group G power squads anyway, meaning that beating them, while tough, would not technically qualify as an upset.

The other three squads all have a shot at advancing with Angband. Erebor has defenders comfortable marking Ancalagon and Havens and Doriath might both be vulnerable to a hot day by Smaug, Havens is the steadiest and would be able to effectively switch tactics depending on where the game stands, while Doriath has the overall difficult to contain offense now that they’ve brought the creative Eol into their midfield and can feed him quickly, plus Melian always organizes a solid defense.

We all agreed that Erebor wouldn’t be escaping the first round, as they simply aren’t equipped to defend the attacks a Group G squad would bring. Even the 3rd and 4th ranked Group G squads (Tirion & Nargothrond) would likely be trouble given the ability of Finwe, Finrod, etc. to make long runs and beat defenders on the dribble, and Erebor’s aerial defenders don’t exactly excel at that. The Havens is more capable of controlling the pace and defending as a team, so they would have the ability to escape the first playoff if they got a fortunate matchup, but beyond that is a stretch. Doriath however we designated as “semis” because the athleticism of Carcharoth and Melian and sound play at the rear combined with the striking ability of Elwe and Mablung and the defense-breaking runs/passes from Eol give Doriath a puncher’s chance at pulling a real upset even if they don’t draw a weaker opponent.

GROUP C

Hithlum
BEST—Champion
WORST—1st round playoffs

Isengard
BEST—1st round playoffs
WORST—eliminated in-group

Rohan
BEST—eliminated in-group
WORST—eliminated in-group

Tol-In-Gaurhoth
BEST—Champion
WORST—quarterfinals

Comments: Two real contenders here, and that makes it next to impossible for the other two squads to count on a run. We gave Isengard the nod over Rohan to have a shot to pull the shocker, primarily thanks to the tough-to-contain Saruman working with the twin Ents up front. With Saruman’s accuracy feeding their size and power a sudden goal is always a threat. Frankly, though, we think Isengard can’t keep Hithlum or TIG off the scoreboard, but we didn’t want to give a “no chance” to both non-favorite best cases.

We judged Hithlum and TIG both to be worthy of the “champ” designation. TIG is obvious—they are the defending champs, and though they lost the extremely talented Draugluin and Thuringwethil they managed to nab an Elvish trio (Orodreth, Finduilas, Edrahil), and we think they’ll be a good fit. While the former duo brought amazing athleticism, TIG isn’t exactly short on that trait, thus filling in the gaps with heady players with decent ball skills that distribute well seems a good solution. Hithlum has the proven Turin/Beleg up front supported this year by newcomer Fingolfin, so obviously they can score on anyone. At the back they’re basically the same as last year, and though it was their defense that let them down against TIG in last year it’s good enough to allow their offense to outscore the opposition. Finishing 1st or 2nd in this group might not make a difference depending on who wins Group F, though TIG is likely keen to avoid Valimar as they really have Armenelos’s number whereas Valimar tends to play motivated against beast-laden squads.

GROUP D

Anfauglith
BEST—runner-up
WORST—eliminated in-group

Arnor
BEST—eliminated in-group
WORST—eliminated in-group

Gondolin
BEST—quarterfinals
WORST—eliminated in-group

Real Valinor
BEST—Champion
WORST—1st round playoffs

Comments: We had some definite disagreements on our expert panel regarding Group D. Three of us actually saw Anfauglith with the most potential, but there were a couple doubters that thought the midfield was too suspect and that as amazing as the defense is Haldir doesn’t have what it takes to make the big saves late in the playoffs. Thus we compromised and said “runner-up” and labeled them as the potential upset victim of the talented third-place squad, Gondolin.

Arnor is often the underdog everyone loves to root for, but we think the order is too tall in this group. Real has proven championship-quality talent and Anfauglith is looking better than ever, and a solid Gondolin led by elite scorer Maeglin can never be counted out. We gave Gondolin quarters as best-case on the grounds that Maeglin and the offense can potentially carry the team out of group and past on opening round clash, but the deck is stacked too far against them to expect more—not without adding another piece (which it’s too late to do this year).

Regarding Real’s lineup shuffle, we like Tulkas moving out of the goal and having the potential to mark elite scorers before they can get their shot, and we expect Nienna to at least be solid between the posts. We’re split on whether bumping Miriel and Nerdanel to the very front will work—they did very well supporting a threatening striker, but perhaps they can make it work, playing an offense similar to AC last year where depending on the situation they slide to the wings and provide pinpoint feeds or on transitional opportunities they stick to the center to receive it, utilizing their flare for fantastic first-touches.

GROUP E

Anduin
BEST—semifinals
WORST—eliminated in-group

Inter Beleriand
BEST—runner-up
WORST—1st round playoffs

Imladris
BEST—1st round playoffs
WORST—eliminated in-group

Minas Tirith
BEST—eliminated in-group
WORST—eliminated in-group

Comments: Our panelists found themselves split a few times in this group. While a couple felt Inter was a legitimate threat to win the cup, the rest were tentative to bank on a group newly come together, particularly with the potential of facing Anfauglith in the first playoff round, a squad that looks uniquely equipped to stifle Inter’s dangerous-looking offense. In fact two of our panelists thought Anduin would look better against Anfauglith due to their fantastic midfield advantage and the presence of monster-stopper Fram and the speed and size of Grimbeorn and Felarof at the rear.

Of the remaining two we saw Imladris as the squad with the hope of supplanting one of the group favorites. As solid as Minas Tirith is, we felt their speed/quickness at the back was less than Imladris and that would be a problem against Inter, not to mention their careful ball-control attack would be better at attacking Anduin than set pieces and such that the Gondorians execute so well. But of course their position could easily change if MT wins the head-to-head. No matter what, we certainly don’t like their odds of both escaping their group and defeating their Group D counterpart.

GROUP F

Armenelos
BEST—semifinals
WORST—eliminated in-group

Mordor
BEST—eliminated in-group
WORST—eliminated in-group

Valimar
BEST—Champion
WORST—1st round playoffs

The Barrow-Downs
BEST—quarterfinals
WORST—eliminated in-group

Comments: The entire panel agreed that Valimar was the team to beat here. With Eonwe joining the defense and the long-awaited Arien-Tilion pairing up front Valimar is looking tough this year, and it helps that two of their opponents in-group feature Nazgul and similar, meaning that Manwe and company will have the on-switch flipped. Armenelos is definitely the other primary threat, but the presence of Nazgul always has a chance of creeping mortals slightly off their game, thus they are the team we picked to be susceptible to the upset.

Barrow-Downs is the team likely the pull the upset. After years of seemingly being an afterthought, the Downers should be taken seriously this year, featuring an offense with real scoring flare and a defense shored up by a Werewolf. If they happened to slip into the playoffs we have to give them a shot at pulling off a big upset, but asking them to go beyond the quarters is too much for this year with Valimar in group and TIG or Hithlum likely waiting in the first round and quality beyond of course.

GROUP G

AC Beleriand
BEST—Champion
WORST—1st round playoffs

Nargothrond
BEST—eliminated in-group
WORST—eliminated in-group

Tirion
BEST—semifinals
WORST—eliminated in-group

FC Valinor
BEST—Champion
WORST—eliminated in-group

Comments: Ouch, this group hurts to look at. Even with the offensive firepower Nargothrond has we’re writing off their chances—this group is just too tough. Tirion has the best chance at an upset, with skill and pace up and down the lineup. It’s particularly a luxury to have three sons of Feanor at the rear to help contain their father and brothers on AC and FC.

Between AC and FC, both obviously have the guns to shoot for the title, but we gave AC the nod to guaranteed go forward because no one could imagine Feanor exiting in groups—he just has that aura where you can believe he’ll conjure any sort of magic to avoid elimination. Both FC and AC will have an eye on Group B, hoping to avoid a first round clash with Angband. Not that these squads can’t beat anyone, but there are easier ways to start a title run. The match between AC and FC will likely decide the group, and will doubtless be one of the most anticipated group-play matches.

GROUP H

Barad-Dur
BEST—semifinals
WORST—eliminated in-group

Eriador
BEST—Champion
WORST—1st round playoffs

Gondor
BEST—quarterfinals
WORST—eliminated in-group

Shire-Bree United
BEST—eliminated in-group
WORST—eliminated in-group

Comments: Eriador is of course the favorite here, with a redesigned offense and the addition of Celebrimbor to the back we can’t imagine them left out in the cold in groups. Their primary worry is avoiding The Sea in the first round. After that it’ll probably be top teams, but Eriador has the proven mettle to be considered a true contender.

Barad-Dur’s non-star pieces might be victimized against the great powers, but you never know when Sauron will single-handedly make up for it with good play and strategy, thus we considered them a threat to make a run to the semis, pulling off an upset along the way. Gondor we judged capable of getting past their long-time rivals, but asking more than one upset of them in the playoffs seemed unlikely considering the potential first and second round foes. Shire-Bree meanwhile is the write-off squad of this group—they’ve let too many players slip away from them the past couple years.

---------------------------------------------------
Contributors- Philip McPhantom (MESPN Lead Football Coordinator), Ruharg the Red (Monster Magazine Lead Sports Editor), Ar-Tar-Aradil (Westernesse Weekly sports writer, NAAF President), Adanel (Football wise-woman for Dor-Lomin Athletic Digest), Finwanoro (Football columnist for The Tirion Times and MESPN) Haldan (MESPN Gondor League correspondent), Arvagil (MESPN CLF & Eriador League correspondent), Glain (Sports Editor for Dwarf Diversions Magazine), Mortakh (Football columnist for The Minas Morgul Monitor and MESPN)
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Old 09-03-2015, 10:37 AM   #19
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Two Towers Network - Group G Preview
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*Team Name (Round team was knocked out in 2013 ; Goals scored - Goals conceded)*

GROUP G

This grouping is just insanity...the 2013 runner-up, 2013 Bronze medalist and the other two went to the Round of 16. This year two are getting left out of the playoffs. The biggest question is did Nargothrond and Tirion improve enough from their 2013 team to knock out perennial championship contenders AC Beleriand and FC Valinor?

AC Beleriand (Runner-up ; 16-6)
-Additions: MF Tuor, MF Annael, DF Hurin, DF Haleth, DF Arroch
-Subtractions: FW Eol, MF Ulrad, DF Fingolfin, DF Rochallor, DF Imlach

Outside of Feanor, AC Beleriand looks quite vulnerable and beatable this year. As difficult as this group is it's nearly impossible to go against a team with Feanor. Even on a team of lesser elves and men (2011 Lothlorien) Feanor got them to the quarters. I think the problem for AC this year is this group is all 1st age foes containing Feanor's forefathers and sons and kin. Tuor replaces Eol as the creator, and that's a step back. And the shake up the stout defensive stability by losing Fingolfin, Imlach, and Rochallor, and plugging in an unproven group of defenders, Hurin, Haleth and Arroch. If they're banking on the incoming group gelling just as well as the outgoing group of defenders, I think they're taking a mighty gamble. In summary, they lose some quality on defense, lose more quality on offense...but there's still Feanor.

Nargothrond (Round of 16 ; 9-9)
-Additions: MF Andreth, MF Gelmir
-Subtractions: MF Finduilas, GK Orodreth

Nargothrond will be one of the challengers looking in from the outside, but I didn't see them do enough defensively to be able to knock out FC Valinor or AC Beleriand. AC might have lost some of their important key pieces, and replaced them with lesser talent, but they still got enough in return, and when combined with being able to keep their best players, they're going to be tough. It's kind of the same story for Nargothrond, they lost some important pieces, and got lesser talen to replace, but managed to keep their stars (Finrod, Gwindor, Glaurung). However, their trio of stars on offense are a step below FC and AC...and not to mention the Nargothrond defense which went completely neglected in the offseason.

Tirion (Round of 16 ; 6-5)
-Additions: MF Ingwe, DF Pengolodh
-Subtractions: MF Eldalote ; DF Irime

Tirion are the more likely challengers in this group. Finarfin commands a more cautious and conservative style, but Finwe and Aredhel are deadly goal scorers, and Caranthir is the best defender in the group. We'll see if he can contain Feanor, but he'll come up big to nullify Curufin in the battle of steel against steel. At this point it's looking like a 3-team battle for two spots. as Nargothrond just didn't do enough on defense to seriously compete with these 3. Tirion has a puncher's chance though to knock out one of the biggest spenders with their talent and balanced roster.

FC Valinor (Bronze ; 15-5)
-Additions: DF Varda, DF Nahar, GK Orome
-Subtractions: DF Eonwe, DF Thorondor, GK Huan

FC Valinor's front remains the same (Curufin, Celegorm, Yavanna, and Argon) all return and there's no reason to think they won't perform just as deadly as 2013. Where AC Beleriand lost a key piece to their offense, FC Valinor kept everyone and opted to retool on defense. The loss of Eonwe and Thorondor should be nullified by Varda and Nahar, both are worthy fill-ins to address the 2 departing defenders. The unknown is going to be Orome. As the sure-pawed hound is a top keeper, Orome is a premier huntsman and it's right to question if his skills aren't better suited to the midfield or forward positions. Although, behind a steady and solid defense, Orome might be able to perform just as well as Huan. I would favor FC Valinor as being a surer bet to advance than AC Beleriand, with an offense that remained the same and with a defense that has new faces, but are comparable to the the ones they replaced.
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Old 09-04-2015, 09:48 AM   #20
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Two Towers Network - Group H Preview
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*Team Name (Round team was knocked out in 2013 ; Goals scored - Goals conceded)*


GROUP H

Barad-dur (Round of 16 ; 4-4)
-Additions: MF Khamul, MF Gothmog II, DF The Mouth
-Subtractions: MF Angamaite, MF Sangahyando, DF Fellbeast #2

Sauron's invested much more money this season than ever before, but he's also been protecting his investment by keeping a dirt cheap Mordor roster to absorb any losses if Barad-dur falls in the group stage. Although, I can't see that happening, Sauron's added better talent with each offseason move (as you would hope when spending 14 million more. Khamul, Castamir, and Beruthiel are an aggressive MF and each one can put it into the net so all the scoring isn't on Sauron's broad, dark, shoulders. I think their MF is deeper and more solid than Eriador's. Herumor and Gothmog II can focus on their defensive MF responsibilities, as they shouldn't have to aid the front-4 in scoring. The Mouth gets added to the defense, with already the 2 blue wizards and the defense suddenly looks solid. Grishnakh is a bargain at goalie, TTN seriously likes this team as 1st-place finishers, even ahead of Eriador this year.

Eriador (Quarterfinals ; 4-3)
-Additions: MF Gildor, DF Celebrimbor, DF Erestor, DF Arantar
-Subtractions: FW Isildur, MF Arador, DF Aragorn, DF Arwen

There's still Elrond and the additions of Celebrimbor and Erestor means a team that only surrendered 3 goals in 5 matches hasn't lost anything defensively. There was a severe lack of goal scoring and chances created by Eriador. 4 goals in 5 matches really tells the whole story. Gil-galad comes down to take Isildur's spot and he's a comparable player. Gil-galad and Glorfindel are great finishers, but Eriador's issue is they just don't create enough chances in a match (they prefer playing defense and counter-attacking) to score multiple goals. Eriador continues to have a top-3 defense and the best goalie in all of Arda, but I like Barad-dur's front 4 far more than Eriador's. And it's important to finish 1st in this group, because assuming Group A goes as predicted (The Sea comfortably winning the group), Eriador plays a similar game to The Sea's, but The Sea plays it better and has the better athletes.

Gondor (Group ; 3-4)
-Additions: MF Galador, DF Hyarmendacil II, GK Adrahil
-Subtractions: MF Ciryandil, DF Earnil I, GK Imrahil

What chance for Gondor to upset at least 1 of the 2 Middle-earth powers? I don't think very high. For their low-budget they are by no means an awful team. They won't be blown off the pitch by anyone in this group, meaning they'll be in every match. And a grudge match with their rival Barad-dur, could spark unpredictable glory and magic for Gondor. It's going to be hard to get through Gondor's stout MF, they all play well together, distribute the ball effectively, and there are certainly worse finishers than Eldacar and Anarion in the front. It's a really suspect back-3 and goal-keeping for Gondor this year though. Apply pressure to their back-line and they will crumble relatively easy, it's just they're well protected by a mid-field that's in sync and don't make mistakes throwing away possession.

Shire-Bree Utd (Group ; 2-7)
-Additions: MF Wormtongue, MF Golfimbul, DF Beregond, DF Peregrin
-Subtractions: FW Khamul, MF Gandalf, DF Shadowfax, DF Gildor

I won't add much more to what I already reported in my exclusive on the low-budget squads. Even though this team will finish in the black this year, the owners are all going to need come to the table and have an eye-opening moment, or they'll just never attract the talent they need to make this squad competitive again. They may give Gondor a decent game, because there's a couple Nazgul on the team to disturb the kingdom of Men. But those anonymous Nazgul, being S-B United's best players, are going to be completely ineffective against Eriador and Barad-dur.
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Old 09-10-2015, 07:54 AM   #21
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Pipe The Matchday: A MenelSport football talk show

Elenrod: Today: The Matchday goes meta. We’re playing a fictional game within a fictional game; it’s our special phantasy edition. With us today is someone perfectly suited to answer all you phantasy questions, it’s our tactics guru, Maikalomion.

Maika: Mae govannen.

Elenrod: And with him is someone who may or may not be similarly suited, but he has plenty of opinion. It’s the non-economist, Adam Smith.

Adam: Are you saying in a roundabout way that I’m rubbish at phantasy sport?

Elenrod: All I’m saying is that whether right or wrong, you have plenty to say about tactics and teams and players.

Felagundion: And it needs to be said that you’ve been in the bottom half of phantasy standings ever since I was imprisoned here.

Elenrod: And that’s our captive blogger, Felagundion, who will add a nuanced feel to the discussion.

Felagundion: All I’m saying is, Finrod should be a lock in any phantasy team. And I’m not letting go of Tar-Míriel until Armenelos are eliminated.

Elenrod: And that’s exactly the nuance you add. Now, let’s get the discussion rolling. What do you consider first when building a team?

Adam: First thing to remember is that group stage phantasy is a different animal to knockout round phantasy. In the group stage, you have unlimited substitutions so you can exploit certain match-ups.

Maika: That’s correct. Whereas in the knockout rounds, you have to be careful about teams being eliminated, and given the dearth of substitutions, you have to choose from more teams so that a sudden elimination won’t ruin your squad.

Elenrod: All right, so that’s something to keep in mind. How about building the actual team?

Maika: Adam said something about exploiting certain matchups, and that’s what you do. You find teams weak on one side of the ball, be it attack or defence, and see if they’re matched up against a team that’s great on the opposite side of the ball.

Felagundion: Ha, so something like FC Val’s attack against Nargothrond's defence?

Maika: That’s right. So Curufin, Celegorm, Yavanna, or Argon would be excellent additions to your squad.

Adam: Curufin, definitely. It’ll be helpful to check who’s up against proven talent like him, Túrin, Fëanor, Elrond, and Huan. Will that team stop those attackers or score against those goalkeepers?

Felagundion: So Shire-Bree, who has no established goalscorer, facing Eriador, is another fixture to exploit?

Maika: That’s right. Elrond’s definitely in my team, and probably one or two defenders from Eriador as well.

Adam: Speaking of defenders, it’s better to pick full-backs or tall centre-backs who are target of set pieces—basically defenders listed lower down the roster.

Elenrod: Okay, but Celebrimbor has a star. You already have two stars used up in Curufin and Elrond, only have two more to spare. Would you really use up that star for an attacking full-back?

Adam: In the early stages, it’s safest to put your stars into the forward and goalkeeper slot.

Maika: A really consistent scoring midfielder can also be considered for star usage.

Felagundion: And since Shire-Bree’s defence is no good either, Glorfindel’s an easy choice.

Elenrod: But that leaves you with three more defensive slots to fill. From what I’m seeing, it feels easier to pick attackers than defenders.

Felagundion: Well, Imladris have no established goalscorer as well, and Anduin’s defence could be great.

Adam: The Havens as well, although I feel uneasy about Erebor’s defence. And Círdan has those days when he can make defenders look silly.

Elenrod: So, do I pick a few from one team and a few from another, or do I pick all three defenders from one team?

Adam: Of course, if you’re using a 3-6-1, you only need one more defender. But I don’t think I can pick six attacking midfielders matched up against bad defences for this round. Having a star limit hampers your selection further.

Maika: Generally, 4-3-3 is the best formation to use. It’s a dirty little secret within the phantasy community that midfielders aren’t really a good source of points. Forwards score, defenders get points for just being in a team that concede one or less goal, but midfielders get less benefit from a clean sheet and they’re not generally at the end of attacking chances.

Felagundion: Picking three midfielders that won’t hurt you is a key here, I guess. There’s already Glorfindel and Argon from above, so at least this selection’s on the way there.

Maika: Going back to the original question, I prefer to stack my defenders around two great defensive teams matched up against goal-starved opposition. So I’m completing my back line with Fram, Felarof, and Grimbeorn.

Elenrod: Why Grimbeorn over Lenwë?

Maika: Ah, I guess because he seems more likely to attack than the Elf, despite being the deepest defender.

Felagundion: Denethor’s fuming that you still haven’t picked on his team yet.

Adam: Hahaha, that defence against a generally excellent Inter attack. That’s Maedhros, Fingon, Lúthien, or Hador to choose from.

Elenrod: I think that’s our Matchday 1 phantasy squad complete, I think?

Matchday’s Munchers
GK *Elrond (Eriador)
DF Erestor (Eriador)
DF Grimbeorn (Anduin)
DF Felarof (Anduin)
DF Fram (Anduin)
MF Lúthien (Inter Beleriand)
MF Argon (FC Valinor)
MF *Glorfindel (Eriador)
FW Fingon (Inter Beleriand)
FW *Maedhros (Inter Beleriand)
FW *Curufin (FC Valinor)

Felagundion: And then you just to do the same for the next matchday?

Maika: That’s correct. Which is why the fixture list is so important for your phantasy squad-building.

Elenrod: Now, how about the predictions?

Felagundion: Leading goalscorer and phantasy forward leader seems easy. You just check if Fëanor, Túrin, or Curufin’s team have a chance of making the semi-final.

Adam: Phantasy midfielder becomes a bit tricky, but you just pick a top-tier attacking midfielder from a team that would play seven games. Yavanna or Argon from FC Val, Tuor from AC Bel, Fingolfin from Hithlum, PhantomWolf from TiG, or Hador from Inter.

Maika: Of course, you should also take group opposition into account; if a team owns a group, then those players from other teams have to catch up. Hithlum, for example, are up against two minnows in Isengard and Rohan, so Túrin and Fingolfin seem like safe picks.

Elenrod: And how about lead provider? Is there a science to that one?

Adam: Ah, that one you just hope for the best. Picking a player from a team with a Golden Boot contender seems safest. That means Yavanna, Beleg, Fingolfin, or flipping a coin with Angrod or Aegnor.

Maika: There’s also Nerdanel or Nessa, who’s providing for an excellent goalscorer in Míriel.

Elenrod: Let’s now move on to the other side of the game, keeping the ball out of the goal. How would you pick phantasy goalkeeper or defender?

Felagundion: Defender is even more of a coin-flip than midfielder. I’ve never got that one right.

Maika: Haha, well, for that one the early rounds seem to matter more, because the further you go into the tournament, the better the opposition are, and the scarcer clean sheets become. So those great defensive teams put into groups with few goalscorers are at an advantage.

Adam: Alternatively, you can also go for defenders who score or assist, but there’s no way to predict that.

Maika: There’s Valimar against Mordor and the Barrow-Downs (and Armenelos, I must say.) There’s also Hithlum and the Wolves against Isengard and Rohan (and each other, sadly.)

Felagundion: So the best choice really is Inter against a decent Anduin squad as well as craptastic Imladris and the Stewards. Huan!

Adam: I guess him and Beren, then.

Elenrod: So putting them all together.
  • Goals leader: Túrin (Hithlum)
  • Assists leader: Beleg (Hithlum)
  • Phantasy GK: Huan (Inter Beleriand)
  • Phantasy DF: Beren (Inter Beleriand)
  • Phantasy MF: Fingolfin (Hithlum)
  • Phantasy FW: Curufin (FC Valinor)

Elenrod: We’ll leave predicting the tournament winner to you, dear viewers. Now, finally, the 100-million-dollar team.

Adam: First of all, the most important positions here are goalkeepers and forwards. You save up money on other areas for these positions.

Maika: That’s correct. Also, having players who’d be in seven games helps a lot, so choosing your four semi-finalists is crucial.

Elenrod: But that leaves you with only eight players to choose from.

Felagundion: I guess best quarterfinalists with a chance of upsetting one of the four would fill in the rest. That means FC Val, AC Bel, Hithlum or Inter, and Real or the Wolves.

Adam: Inter seem the weakest from that bunch, so as much as possible, I’d choose just one player from them.

Maika: But of course, the predictions for phantasy leaders will also play into this. That means if you get it right, it benefits both your team and your prediction points. I’d have to pick Huan and another defender from Inter.

Elenrod: Why not Beren? You predicted he’d be the phantasy leader for defenders.

Felagundion: He’s worth thrice as much as Imlach or NilpWight. Would he score significantly more than them?

Adam: That’s right, Fel. Those eight million will come in handy. As for the rest of the back line—again, we’re sticking to a 4-3-3—the cheapest defenders from AC Bel, Real, and TiG would do nicely.

Elenrod: Why not one from FCV as well?

Adam: Curufin and Argon.

Felagundion: That sounds about right.

Elenrod: And why a 4-3-3 and not a 3-4-3? Having more midfielders seems better.

Maika: But good attacking midfielders are expensive, and non-scoring, non-assisting midfielders provide fewer points than a defender from a team that concedes few goals.

Elenrod: Ah, that makes sense.

Felagundion: Picking the forwards is my favourite part of this. If you pick two cheap midfielders from any of the teams above, you can cram in the three Golden Boot contenders. Túrin, Fëanor, and Curufin are good for at least 60 points.

Maika: A more balanced approach would be to replace the first two with Beleg and Míriel and then selecting a better midfielder. You can only afford one more, though, mind.

Adam: If you want all your three midfielders to be solid ones, you’d have to replace Huan with Amroth (second best goalie in that creampuff group) for 7 million in savings. You can use that to pick that third good midfielder and just make up defence points by picking up an additional defender from Inter.

Elenrod: So to cap it off, here are the three teams you have chosen:

Adam’s All-Out Attack (100)
GK *Huan (Inter Beleriand) - 15
DF Arroch (AC Beleriand) - 2
DF Irimë (Real Valinor) - 3
DF KuruWight (Tol-in-Gaurhoth) - 3
DF NilpWight (Inter Beleriand) - 4
MF GwathWight (Tol-in-Gaurhoth) - 3
MF Aradan (Hithlum) - 4
MF Argon (FC Valinor) - 9
FW *Curufin (FC Valinor) - 16
FW **Túrin (Hithlum) - 20
FW **Fëanor (AC Beleriand) - 21

Stats Bomb (99)
GK *Huan (Inter Beleriand) - 15
DF Arroch (AC Beleriand) - 2
DF Irimë (Real Valinor) - 3
DF KuruWight (Tol-in-Gaurhoth) - 3
DF NilpWight (Inter Beleriand) - 4
MF Morwen (Hithlum) - 6
MF Argon (FC Valinor) - 9
MF *PhantomWolf (Tol-in-Gaurhoth) - 12
FW Beleg (Hithlum) - 15
FW *Míriel (Real Valinor) - 14
FW *Curufin (FC Valinor) - 16

I Want Freedom (100)
GK Amroth (Anduin) - 5
DF Irimë (Real Valinor) - 3
DF KuruWight (Tol-in-Gaurhoth) - 3
DF Imlach (Inter Beleriand) - 4
DF NilpWight (Inter Beleriand) - 4
MF Argon (FC Valinor) - 9
MF *PhantomWolf (Tol-in-Gaurhoth) - 12
MF *Fingolfin (Hithlum) - 15
FW Beleg (Hithlum) - 15
FW *Míriel (Real Valinor) - 14
FW *Curufin (FC Valinor) - 16

Elenrod: You’re not using up that spare million, Maika?

Maika: Nope, that’s fine.

Felagundion: I wish you got extra points every million saved. I’d still beat the both of you, mind.

Elenrod: That looks like something to look forward to. And speaking of looking forward, we’ll leave you viewers looking forward to our next show, because that’s it from us for now. Thanks to our regular pundits: Maika, Adam, and Fel. See you all after the opening round.
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Last edited by Nilpaurion Felagund; 09-10-2015 at 08:31 AM. Reason: The centred choices look awkward; replaced Argon in Phantasy MF with Fingolfin.
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Old 11-03-2015, 11:03 PM   #22
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TTN's Arda Cup '15 Ultimate Guide

The Arda Cup has finally returned and The Two Towers Network's tournament analysis is going to be better than ever. We combed through all previous Arda Cups and rated every player by position and past performance. If anyone is interested in seeing the complete player ratings, shoot me a message, and I'll send the file. To publish every players' ratings would get quite tiresome and lengthy, so for the purposes of our guide, we just averaged everything out and rated the teams 1-32 in the categories of Offense, Defense, and Goalkeeping. Every year there are new players and others trying new positions, so some of the ratings are going to be guesswork (educated guesses based on the top analysts and statisticians).

*Note on the Tol-in-Gaurhoth team: The TIG team usually sees the biggest roster turnovers since various wolves and wights rotate in-and-out over the years. But their a deep community means no matter which wolf or wight makes the tournament roster, they're pretty much the same in ability and skill. So for example, this year NerWight is in the #2 FW position, and to rank her amongst all the FWs we used the stats from the #2 FW position from every previous TIG Arda Cup roster*

TTN's Preview focused on the roster moves from 2013 and how that could impact each team in 2015. This series will be our ultimate guide to the rosters, groups, and tourney predictions.

GROUP A

4th.Misty Mountains - (OFF: 20, DEF: 20, GK: 25)

Simply the weakest roster in nearly every category from the group. Group A looks like it's going to be dominated by the defenses and goal keepers. Their goalie, Chief Wolf, is ranked the 25th best goalie, which just isn't good enough compared to the rest of the group. Their best defensive player is Gwaihir, but the great Eagle never cracked the top-30 amongst defenders. There are some serious offensive deficiencies with the 2 group favorites, so the Misty Mountains will bruise up their opponents attackers. The big trouble is Gwaihir, Landroval, and Caradhras are well suited to containing aerial threats, but what are the going to do about Thranduil (Wilderland), Earendil (The Sea), and Legolas (Dwarves Utd)? You can't place the half-wit Troll on them, or they'll be playing with 10 by the intermission. They might have a chance in a poor defensive group with Durin's Bane and Azog leading the offense. Those two aren't scrubs, but there's no one else able to score. Rumil and Orophin are possession mid-fielders not scorers, and not at all creative in the attack. The defenses in this group are perfectly equipped to shutdown a rogue balrog and an orc. For not really changing their roster much, Misty Mountains took several steps back.

3rd. Wilderland (OFF: 16, DEF: 23, GK: 21)

The fight for 2nd place is extremely tough to call. Do you go with the best offensive team in the group, or 2 of top defenses in the tournament? TTN's going with the defenses, because we've rated them in the Top-6 and to break their defenses down, you need to be a great offense. Wilderland isn't, when you average all their attacking players' stats they're quite mediocre. The silver-lining is Scatha and Thranduil have had their best seasons when paired together. So perhaps they can find some old 2009-Mirkwood magic in that duo again, but I'm not seeing it. Bolg adds a 3rd scoring threat that the Misty Mountains doesn't have, but ultimately that's still not good enough to push them into even sniffing the Top-10 in offense. Wilderland's goalie situation is virtually the same as Misty Mountains, the Great Warg isn't consistent enough to give a championship performance every single match. He can be dominant in a single-match, but for a set of matches? The warg can't be relied upon unless playing behind a sturdier defense. And when it comes to their defense, Wilderland's the weakest in the group. It's hard to predict what impact newcomer Vorondil will have, but whatever impact it is, probably isn't good enough. Oropher is their best defender, but the highest rating he achieved was 33 (in 2011), and that's still worse than Gwaihir's highest (30 in 2012). Finglas and Beechbone can't even crack the top-100 when we're talking about only on average 120 defenders/per year.

2nd. Dwarves United (OFF: 28, DEF: 6, GK: 6)

I won't further beat the dead horse that is Dwarves United severe inability to score goals. That's not going to change this year, the question is are they good enough defensively to advance ahead of Wilderland and Misty Mountains? Yes. Let's start with their GK, Galadriel. Every year she puts up the numbers to be a Top-8 goalie. There was only 1 year, for an inexplicable reason she gave an awful performance and was rated 26th only saving 66.7%. The biggest criticism to Galadriel's teams is she wants to be the dominant personality and rules the team with a negative iron fist. I don't think that's a problem with Dwarves United, because she's not ruling team Lorien, she's on a team with mostly Dwarves and Ainur. Everyone knows Galadriel has a soft-spot for Dwarves, and Gandalf is one of the few people she has ever defected to. Now let's examine this defense. It's a defense that is perfectly equipped to handle the threats on Misty Mountains and Wilderland. They have a Balrog-stopper and architect to the downfall of a dragon and a fearless, tireless horse that is only better when paired with its White Rider. The weakest defender is Azaghal (and he's still rated in the Top 50% - overall 60th) and can be a compliment to handling whatever literal and figurative firepower Scatha and Durin's Bane can conjure. Then there's still Aule! As a pure defender, Aule's arguably weaker than Azaghal. A significant factor in Aule's higher rating is, as a defender he has a creative offensive mind that looks to start quick counter attacks. He's by no means a bad defender, but all we mean is he's not suited to be a primary defensive stopper. He's more balanced and has the mind to start a counter, which will fit perfectly considering Gandalf, Shadowfax, and Azaghal are better focusing on defensive responsibilities.

1st. The Sea (OFF: 17, DEF: 4, GK: 11)

Which leaves The Sea as TTN's Group A winners. In the group stage, you know in the previous 6 Arda Cups, Ulmo's team was only beaten once? I didn't stutter. ONE TIME (in just strictly the group stage) has Ulmo's team fallen. A record of 8 wins, 9 draws, 1 loss in group stage matches. Bottomline is Ulmo's teams are insanely tough to beat in the group. The problem with The Sea lately is despite putting up superior stats and not LOSING, they inexplicably get bounced out of tournaments early, or can't get out of their group because there is a lack of spirit to play to win. There's been an aura of nonchalance and carelessness in The Sea's performance. They just don't seem to have the proper motivation to advance, despite having superior talent and statistically dominant (particularly when it comes to defense). It's a blessing they always remain cool and professional, but also a curse because they never achieve that passion and will to win. There's no reason The Sea shouldn't take 1st place in this group, even when you consider they won't have any desperate motivations to win it. They just shouldn't be beat by of the rosters from a lesser age. ArdaCup.com was quite bold in calling Ulmo the 3rd highest overpaid player. There is some validity in how Ulmo hasn't delivered in terms of results since 2010, but there has been a little arm-twisting in the stats. Ulmo always has one of the stingiest defenses, but ArdaCup.com just looks at the goals against as their defensive rating, and that's a bit deceptive. You have to factor in the goalkeeper as well, and Voronwe was a big problem for The Sea in 2012. Hyarmendacil (TTN rates 11th GK this year) is a significan improvement. You also have to factor in Ulmo was likely contributing too much to the offense in order to score enough goals. Signing Earendil, and letting the reigns loose on Osse to create their offense (plus still keeping some sturdy Numenoreans) should mean Ulmo can return to what he does best, focusing on defense.
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Old 11-10-2015, 12:32 PM   #23
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TTN's Arda Cup '15 Ultimate Guide

GROUP B

4th. The Havens (OFF: 29, DEF: 24, GK: 13)

The Havens' best player is their keeper, Amandil. He's a solid stopper, but TTN projects he can only save between low 70 to mid 70 %, and that's not good enough to be in the Top 10. For The Havens to advance the rest of the roster is pretty weak and only an elite goalie will make up for the deficiencies in the rest of the team. The attack relies on a quick rhythm passing game, but The Haven's problem becomes they have no consistent finisher who can put it into the net. Falastur is rated near the very bottom of our rankings and Cirdan is a good aerial threat, but the defenses in this group are all able to control the skies (Erebor - Meneldor and a fellbeast, Doriath has Carcharoth's exceptional leaping ability, Angband and their Balrog). Olwe leads the defense with 3 stout Numenoreans, so they'll be hard to wear down, but they're not great defensive stoppers. Their defense won't be pushed around, but that won't stop Doriath's creativity with Eol and Angband's evil power from scoring, and in the end it's a matter of if you can't keep your goal clean, will your offense be able to outscore the opponent?

3rd. Erebor (OFF: 21, DEF: 21, GK: 27)

For as much as Erebor has cut payroll, they've been wise in keeping costs under control and still keeping a competitive team. Erebor could be the dark horse in Group B, but the Achilles heel of the team will be their undoing - GK Brand. It'll be fortunate if he saves 60%. Until Erebor invests more in improving their goalie, they can't advance. With that said, Erebor's not going to be an easy snack in this group. Girion leads the defense and he can defend well against beasts and monsters. Paired with a tireless and fearless Nazgul, and 2 defenders to control the aerial threats, Erebor has a diverse defense that can stand up to various threats. On offense, Smaug and a Nazgul aren't going to go goal crazy, but they are nearly impossible to shut out. The problem remains Brand, Doriath is similar in having a balanced team and diverse defense, but they just have better talent. And while Dior is only an average GK, that's still a significant difference from a woeful Brand.

2nd Doriath (OFF: 19, DEF: 13, GK: 17)

Doriath's fielded a decent team this year, but they won't be any talk of serious championship contenders until investing in a better GK and better FWs. Dior is just average enough to stop enough goals, and will be bolstered behind a strong defense. Melian's foresight and spiritual power puts her up near the top of defenders, right up there with Morgoth. Her supporting cast just isn't quite up there with Morgoth's supporting cast. Carcharoth's got all the ability of its werewolf cousins from the Isle, but doesn't have the ability of a Balrog. Doriath's forwards aren't in the same area code as Angband's, and from our TTN ranks Smaug and Nazzgul 7 are better. Now we've ranked Doriath's overall offense slightly ahead of Erebor's because of the addition of Eol. Eol's creativity makes him the #1 ranked midfielder this year. Some might argue how much was Eol's productivity boosted by Feanor and how much does it drop off with Mablung and Thingol? As Eol's most productive years have come with a top rated striker (whether that's with Feanor, Turin, or Maeglin) and he simply won't have that this year with Doriath. It's good enough to advance out of Group B, but Doriath won't be making any deep tournament runs until signing a better FW and/or GK.


1st. Angband (OFF: 7, DEF: 11, GK: 3)

Angband will win games from their fearsome defense and spider between the posts. When it comes to goalies, Ungoliant is 1-teir below Elrond, which is no slight to the spider, Elrond's in a class of his own, Ungoliant will still save at least 80% of shots on target. Morgoth is one of the premier defenders, and then comes one of the Balrog's always rated in that 12-20 range amongst defenders. Angband's going to be able to stop most teams from scoring. After a few years of being outshined by its fellow dragons, Ancalagon has been reborn to having the hottest fire. Ancalagon knows how to power it past the keepers. Telvildo brings dexterity and elusiveness to pair with Ancalagon's power. Morgoth prides playing lockdown defense, but Angband will be able to score at least one on anyone and 2 goals on most. The problem for Angband hasn't been winning their group, it's been the playoffs. Many would argue they've consistently underperformed by getting beat in the 1st knock out round, and it won't be any easier this time, as they'll have to face whoever comes out of the "group of death" in the 1st playoff round. We'll see if putting Ungoliant back in goal is enough.
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Old 11-16-2015, 08:32 AM   #24
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GROUP C

4th. Rohan (OFF: 30, DEF: 27, GK: 28)

Coming in with one of the cheapest payrolls Rohan is one of the weakest teams in the tournament. It's a cast of secondary and minor characters they're out of position. They might get a win against rivals Isengard, but Rohan's nowhere near good enough to beat the 2013 champions of Tol-in-Gaurhoth, and the 4th place finishers Hithlum. Hama started the 2010 friendlies as a GK on fire, stopping everything coming his way, then he came crashing back to reality when the real matches began saving only 12 of 19 for The Wold. The offense is marginally better than Isengard's because of a deeper MF, and as poor as Helm is as a lone FW, Quickbeam is even rated worse. There's not much more to add, they don't have the payroll to compete and it's reflected in their roster. We will give them props over Shire-Bree United, but that's it.

3rd. Isengard (OFF: 31, DEF: 22, GK: 14)

Saruman gets credit for poaching Théoden from Rohan, which will stabilize their goal situation. Théoden's been wildly inconsistent, which makes him hard to rank. 2 years he's been rated the 2nd best goalie with save percentages over 85%...and 2 years he's been near the bottom (25th) saving under 66.7%. It's a case of feast or famine for the King of Rohan, be that as it may, he's still performed better than Hama even in his worst years. Saruman made another wise signing with Radagast, besides the ferocious defense-wolves Radagast is the best defender in the group. He's even been better than Balrog #5 from Hithlum, even though the difference isn't by much. Radagast's best defensive rating 24 (the Balrog's 29), his worst 71 (the Balrog's 79). Isengard's defense is diverse with a wizard, a hobbit, a tree, and a horse. So it appears Saruman is trying to build a defense that can stop a diverse offense, but the stats all point to Radagast being their only quality defender. Their offense is one of the worst, why Saruman continues to believe a living tree will provide enough scoring power I have no idea. For as wise as he has been shoring up the defense, Saruman remains their only offensive weapon and that won't be enough in this group.

2nd. Tol-in-Gaurhoth (OFF: 6, DEF: 7, GK: 8)

Tol-in-Gaurhoth is more balanced than Hithlum, in the fact they are strong at every position and the wolves are just superior athletes. I just feel the losses of NilpWolf, Drauglin, and Thuringwethil, combined with a reunion of Turin and Beleg, are too much for the defending champions to overcome. They're no doubt a playoff team and with the right spirit, can find themselves back in the semis, but they've lost too much of their edge and bite with key departures and filled them with lesser talent. Of course we must not forget the restrictions placed on wolves from the Isle...they are limited to only 4 wolf-players and all teams are required to have a "Tolkien canon representative" on the roster. That limits the wolves ability of filling departures with more wolves and wights from their unlimited talent base. Well, they can either mope and sulk about their unfair treatment by the Arda Competitions Committee, or they can show some pride that they'll still beat anyone in their path, regardless of unfair roster restrictions.

1st. Hithlum (OFF: 1, DEF: 19, GK: 9)

Feanor is the #1 FW in all of Arda, Turin is #2. The reason we've ranked Hithlum as the best offensive team however is because of Beleg. Beleg is better than Angrod and Aegnor, and the fact is Turin and Beleg is the best tandem in all of Arda. Stats don't lie, those two have their best years when they are playing together. Add Fingolfin as an attacking mid-fielder and Hithlum is clearly the #1 offense. The question is going to be the defense. They will concede goals and likely at least 1 every match. Balrog #5 isn't a poor defender, but amongst the other Balrog defenders he's the lowest ranked. Galdor and Gundor are strong and usually just good enough to slow down the opponent's offenses enough to get positive results, but they also make pretty crucial blunders in defense to give away games. Huor had one atrocious year where he ended being rated the 30th GK (2011 Anfauglith with a horrid 57.1 save%), but all other years he was stout, getting rankings of 6th, 11th, and 6th). Perhaps Huor didn't have the right motivation playing for Anfauglith? Whatever the case in 2011, we don't predict Huor having such a terrible time playing for his homeland's team again. History says, playing for Hithlum, Huor will save 73% to 77%. They'll be a tough team to beat, especially in the playoffs in penalty kick scenarios.
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GROUP D

4th. Arnor (OFF: 24, DEF: 15, GK: 19)

Arnor finds themselves in a group of First Age powerhouses. They've been in this position before and played admirably but still ended up eliminated. The Northern Rangers are experts at playing above their talent level and rising to the occasion against greater teams. But this year they're not playing a passive Valar, they're up against the greatest of Noldor firepower (Maeglin and Turgon, Miriel and Nerdanel) and one of the mightiest duo's the "Evils" can put together in Gothmog and Thuringwethil. Every team in this group has serious question marks when it comes to GK. Arvedui is the most experienced and arguably the best in Group D, but his stats just don't support he'll vault into being a Top-10 goalie. The defense is battle-tested and stingy, but it's inconceivable they can hold out indefinitely against the offensive powerhouses in this group. And while Arnor's offense is capable of late game heroics to baffle the footballing world, it can't consistently score twice a match, which is what will be needed for Arnor to advance in this trio of First Age buzz-saws. They will impact which 2 teams advance, but they won't be one of the two to advance.

3rd. Gondolin (OFF: 5, DEF: 25, GK: 24)

Maeglin is certainly a Top-8 FW, and you can make the case he's in the Top-5 discussion. Maeglin puts together one of the most impressive resume's in the playoffs in all of Arda. "In the playoffs" is an important qualifier though, because he can be absent in the group matches. Going against Anfauglith and Real Valinor though I don't think we'll see an absent Maeglin this year. He'll need playoff heroics for Gondolin to advance, and TTN will watch this group with great enthusiasm, because the performances promise to be a classic. Where Gondolin falls short is their defense leaks big time and Rog is often left with too little help. He's too mediocre behind such a porous defense. When he was behind Ulmo's Vinyamar defense, there was nothing getting through Rog, but his weaknesses are too easily exploited behind this Gondolin defense. Their only hope is psycho-Maeglin willing Gondolin to victory. Which is not impossible, but when that's the only odds in your favor, we'll take the teams that have a few more paths to victory.

2nd. Anfauglith (OFF: 13, DEF: 2, GK: 31)

Anfauglith has perhaps constructed the mightiest and tightest defense ever. I just have no idea what to expect from Haldir taking GK position for the first time. If we base it the Lord of the Haladin's performances in other positions, you can't expect much, but he will get enough protection from the defense. I will bet 2 Balrogs, a werewolf, and a great Lord of Gondolin, can stop whatever offense teams are able to throw at them. So, what's the problem? Why does Anfauglith seem to underperform and this team falls apart year after year? Some say it's the way Morgoth treats the team as a "little brother" and feeder program to the "Big Boys" Angband. It's a team trying to win respect, but so far they haven't played to earn it. More objective football minds will argue the offense has been way too pathetic and disjointed to help this superb lock-down defense. Gothmog doesn't live up to his contract, but is it all on the Balrog, when the mid-field leaves a lot to be desired in supplying him with enough goal-scoring chances? Gothmog is a proven finisher at the front. You don't put in Top-10 performances (10th in 2008, 9th in 2010) and not know how to put the ball in the net. There is validity to Arda.com having Gothmog as the #1 worst contract. The balrog is overpriced for what he brings to the team. Gothmog is capable of Top-10 performances for FWs, but we rank him in that 15-20 range, because he's had more performances outside the Top-10 (and even once outside the Top-20) than inside the Top-10. I think this year Anfauglith found a winning duo though with Gothmog and Thuringwethil. TTN's not saying there in anyway near the same universe as Turin-Beleg, Miriel-Nerdanel, Curufin-Celegorm..but it does suggest a better partnership than Gothmog-Ecthelion. Those two were goal-scorers, neither one are good providers and when together you can tell the offense wasn't in sync. Both times the Gothmog-Ecthelion duo failed (2009 and 2013). Thuringwethil is a better provider in the passing game and will feed Gothmog with better opportunities than he's had before.

1st. Real Valinor (OFF: 4, DEF: 9, GK: 18)

Real Valinor has top talent at every level of the pitch, but their depth and players besides the handful of stars are vulnerable and beatable. Nienna is a decent keeper, but once she loses confidence it unravels for her. Nienna can't put past mistakes behind her and let go of her grief after her confidence is shaken. Tulkas is probably best suited as a defender, and the best individual defender in this group. He will take the opponent's top scoring threat completely out of the game, every time. Thorondor is risky because the eagle is rather card happy and we'll see if Irmo can trap his opponents in a catatonic dream-state. Real Valinor's defense is beatable, it's just easier said than done, when you know your primary scoring threat will be neutralized by Tulkas. I don't think there's a defense able to keep Miriel-Nerdanel-Nessa off the board. Their skill together is just sublime, and rivals the Turin-Beleg duo. However, I think the days when they could just flat outscore opponents are past, and Real Valinor will have to stick with the same balanced approach to get far in this year's Arda Cup.
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