Another thrilling week of our fantasy league jamboree has passed and throw your hats in the air for Michael B who nailed once again the league leaders’ position on 1,528 points, continuing an impressive run in collecting points like the Liverpool goalkeeper collected the ball out of his night on one of those Special European Nights at Anfield. Scott (1,516) second and Ron (1,506) in third continue the pursuit with the pace of Wout Weghorst rampaging across the Old Trafford turf.
Top scorer in the week his beloved Bolton Wanderers got to Wembley in the Papa John’s Trophy was reigning champion Nick (88), with Ben (72) and Rhys (60) close by. After a bonanza week previously, points were concentrated around Rashford, Fernandez and Arsenal players. Is it time to swap Erling out as captain, or even drop him completely? As we enter the final week of February, Manager of the Month rankings are Ben (242), James S (242) and Nick (239).
So, who has Wout Weghorst in their team? He can’t get into the Burnley team, so we’ve sent him out on loan to Man United. How good does that sound? At Turf Moor last season, he started well but it just didn’t click. He had a decent World Cup, scored that cheeky goal for Holland, and from what I’ve seen and read he’s actually played well for United. But typical of what he was like for Burnley, good hold up play, good pressing, good passing, but all the finishing ability of a 55-year-old Sunday league goalkeeper. The amount of hate I’ve seen towards Weghorst from United fans though is disgraceful. The man works his socks off every game and seems to work in the ETH system.
This is George, the substitute, turning well. Mallender. Meadows heading it on. Tremendous spirit in this Hereford side. Radford. Radford again. Oh what a go-oa-l! Wh-aa-at a goal! Radford the scorer! Ronnie Radford! And the crowd, the crowd are invading the pitch, and now it will take some time to clear the field. What a tremendous shot by Radford. He got the ball back, and hit it from well outside the penalty area, and no goalkeeper in the world would have stopped that!
John Motson died this week, and to some of us of a certain vintage he was an integral part of our football upbringing. Bear in mind until Sky arrived in 1991, the only live televised game was the F A. Cup Final – one game a year – so we lived for the recorded highlights of MoTD and ITV’s The Big Match. His commentary of non-league Hereford United’s shock win over Newcastle from the 1972 FA Cup above doesn’t have the soundbites of Kenneth Wolstenholme’s 1966 World Cup Final They think it’s all over, it is now, or David Coleman’s iconic One-nil! but he was all about the sound of football. He kept it simple and just narrated what he saw.
His voice laid on top of the game like a comfort blanket as he delivered a constant throb of names, sequences and stats, punctured by excitable yelps of glee, perfectly capturing the ebb, flow and beauty of football. Consider them a series of tone poems, avant-garde experiments surreptitiously crowbarred into mainstream BBC programming, a bit like the Doctor Who theme. Delia Derbyshire in sheepskin. I hope that when he’s laid to rest, the vicar spends an appropriate portion of the eulogy pointing out that Motson is only the 17th person to be buried in this cemetery on a wet Wednesday morning in February, since post-war records began in 1946.
In the week we mourn the loss of commentator John Motson, I’m fed up of the nouvelle cuisine served up by the new breed of commentators and pundits. Pivot and XG? Overloads in wide areas? Inverted full-backs? Game-by-game basis? Low block? The footballing lexicon has changed and not for the better. Here are my top ten gripes so far this season.
- ‘Draft excluder’ describes the players who lies down behind a wall when a free kick is being taken. The actual phrase I heard was ‘This lad is quickly becoming one of the best draft excluders in the league.’ What? How?
- ‘Up top’. It is, and always has been, ‘Up front’. Why don’t they say ‘down bottom’ when talking about the defence?
- I’m getting sick of the term GOAT.
- ‘The keeper has no right to save that’. Yes, they do. It’s their job.
- ‘He’s hit it too well’. He hasn’t though, has he?
- ‘Favoured’ left/right foot. Either eliminate the left/right or eliminate favoured. Doesn’t need both. They’ve only got one of each, surely?
- Any combination of ‘He’s bought that foul…’, ‘He’s felt the contact and gone down’, ‘He’s been clever there’, ‘There was contact so he’s entitled to go down’ usually used in conjunction with Grealish – you mean he cheated?
- ‘Special European Nights at Anfield. I’ve really no idea what this means. Do they put on a special range of European food in the kiosks, paella nit pies, wienersnitsel not hot dogs?
- A manager’s philosophy and name of manager-ball – Kloppball, Pepball etc. What?
- ‘Hit the woodwork’. I went to my first game in 1968 and I don’t think I’ve been to a professional game since where the goalposts have been made of wood.
Say what you want about Liverpool this season but their ability to repeatedly find new depths to plumb with sonar-like precision has been consistent. They lost to Man U who had just been topped 0-4 at Brentford, defeated by Robin Hood’s random Forest rabble 0-1, all of whom had only just met each other five minutes before kick-off. They were also beaten by Brentford for the first time since 1938. They’ve been routed by Brighton and Wolves, lost at home to Leeds, yes Leeds. Oh Jürgen! How has it come to this?
Yet all that pales into insignificance after the 2-5 Euro panto farce against Real on one of those Special European Nights at Anfield. I must admit as I was enjoying my box of Maltesers and a Guinness as Liverpool hit 2-0, you thought this was one of those nights. And it was. But in reverse. It was a strange game, Liverpool were great for 15 minutes and appalling for the next 75, and extremely fortunate that the Real declared at five with a quarter of the match still to play. Had the European champions kept up the rate at which they were ripping through the home defence during the second half, the final score would have been 2-8. And Modric, what a player. But small mercies: at least Liverpool still hold the record for this season’s biggest Big Cup away win, the 7-1 rib tickler at Rangers.
Nothing lasts for ever. Teams have a sell-by date as Burnley showed last season after ten years under Dyche. Liverpool are not finishing fourth either Their run for four trophies last season is now a distant memory, the gig is up and start again, with new defenders, midfielders and attackers. So good luck with all that. Especially as it might now prove tricky to convince Jude Bellingham to pick them over a certain Spanish suitor who looks like holding onto the Big Cup Jürgen Klopp was in a proper funk over the defeat It wasn’t one of those Special European Nights at Anfield. We gave away all five goals he sobbed, before adding with a fistful of clutched straws The first half, besides the two goals we conceded, was pretty much the best we played all season.
Manchester United takeover stories aren’t what they were. Time was when they were all about outlandish promises made by Michael Knighton juggling footballs before a half-rapturous, half-bemused Stretford End, promising to spend £10m (ask your dad what that meant in 1989 money) on doing up the ground. Knighton’s bid failed and he slunk off to Carlisle.
Ratcliffe is now a frontrunner in the race to succeed the reviled American debt-guzzlers, and there would be none of the leveraged buyout jiggery-pokery that so besmirched the Glazers’ takeover. On a similar note, rival bidders Qatar stressed that they are absolutely definitely not directly connected to a reactionary government accused of multiple human rights abuses. That said, their bid is more likely to gain the support of the Shiny Things tendency among the fanbase before they slope off into the Super League thing where these teams think they belong. Given that the Glazers’ cash-siphoning has not prevented United from splurging huge sums on players in the past decade without much reward, it makes a certain sense for the Ineos head honcho to start with prudent no-nonsense promises. Of course Ineos and Ratcliffe – a lifelong United fan but a Chelsea Season ticket holder (that’s surely like a Vegan having a full-English every breakfast?) are also ardent proponents of fracking, but it won’t stop him hauling himself on to a moral high ground from which the Emir of Qatar can be seen somewhere in the valley below.
Meanwhile, keen to increase Everton’s tally of 16 Premier League goals this season, super-sleuth Sean Dyche is getting all funky and has said Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s car, mattress and sleep patterns will be looked at as part of a wide-ranging investigation into the striker’s fitness problems.
Onto this weekend and the dilemma, I’m wrestling with ahead of gameweek 25 is whether it’s worth swapping Erling out for a Liverpool attacker for the foreseeable future, and whether K deB is injured and like Erling, truly firing on all cylinders. K deB owners can do an easy straight switch to Mo Salah, but the real conundrum this week – do you take out Mr. Consistent for maybe Núñez hoping that they’ll hit a hot streak in their double gameweek against Palace and Wolves and bounce back angry from a Special European Night Debacle? Núñez has 11 goals and four assists in 28 games – 10 of which were substitute appearances season to date.
The Liverpool pair also have a double gameweek 29 with two away fixtures against City and Chelsea and could potentially face Fulham at Anfield before that in gameweek 28 if Leeds knock Fulham out of the Cup next wee.. That would give them seven fixtures over the next five gameweeks. That’s why I’m tempted to take the punt. Núñez faces competition from Jota and Firmino, but Salah, as a midfielder, gets an extra point for any goal or clean sheet and is also the penalty-taker although he is still waiting for Liverpool to be awarded their first spot-kick in the Premier League this season. It just depends what sort of response you expect from Jurgen’s men after their humiliation Tuesday night.
Brighton are a crucial team too. They blank in this gameweek but then double in gameweek 27 with fixtures against Leeds and Palace, they’re likely to blank in gameweek 28 and then double again in gameweek 29 against Brentford and Bournemouth. A Brighton triple-up picked from Estupinan, Mitoma, March, Mac Allister and Ferguson could work nicely. And what about Burnley old boy James Tarkowski now at Everton at £4.4m, he’s got a double gameweek against Villa and Arsenal, he’s guaranteed a fixture in gameweek 28 and the Everton defence looks far more secure since Dyche’s arrival. Tarky also offers a goal threat from set-pieces. Finally, Saka would be my pick of the Arsenal bunch although Nketiah is in my team currently. Blimey.
Don’t forget it’s a Friday night transfer deadline this evening at 6.30pm before Fulham’s game against Wolves.