How was it for you? A high scoring weekend for Alexa who now has OpenAI as his data partner and Sam Altman as his Data Scientist, nailing 65 points. It was the best week of his life in November. Lee (62) and Sasha (59) both continued their good recent run of recent points hauls, recently.
Sharing the lead in the league in the league leaders’ position on a leading points total 797 points is Mr Wright continuing an impressive run in collecting points like the magpies collecting shiny things in the early November mornings. Also, his beloved Bolton are enjoying a vertigo inducing run sitting top of League One, which is nice. Sat cosily alongside him as joint leader is Michael , I think the first time we’ve ever had a tie, with Nikita (785) in third. Rhys and Aleksa tied jointly on 175 points, just ahead of Lee (174) for the November manager of the month award.
Black Friday last weekend was the celebration of rabid consumerism which began in the USA, a means of rewarding citizens for getting through Thanksgiving by selling them cut-price electrical goods. A true C21st holiday, and having survived it, we were thrown back in at the deep end with City v Liverpool an absolute door-buster of an early Saturday game, and the reverse Mancs v Scousers game, Everton v Utd on the Sunday.
First plays second is a fixture that guarantees drama, outrage, and title-race repercussions; it’s almost too much too soon after we’ve crashed the online shopping trolley, like starting the tsf.tech Christmas Party playlist with Mr Brightside. Blues v Reds, Merseyside v Manchester. Nunez and Pep squaring up at the final whistle was my takeaway from Saturday. On Sunday, Everton’s first game since being hit with a 10-point FFP penalty was more about passion from the fans and a Boy Wonder goal. The Everton players must have had a large Sunday roast before the game such was their lethargy.
Oh, Everton! No sooner had Dyche’s beleaguered mob started picking up points than the FFP folks snatched them away, but their performance was tepid in the extreme. What nobody predicted was a goal of the season contender from Garnacho, whose astonishing acrobatic overhead howitzer prompted scenes of delirium in the away end. Can’t blame them! Here’s the link, complete with his faux-Renaldo celebration Garnacho.
Flying a banner over the Etihad on Saturday, before booing the Premier League anthem and holding up red cards reading Premier League: Corrupt showed the Everton fans’ frustration, but what exactly do they mean by corrupt? It’s the buzzword that accompanies every contentious VAR decision these days. With Premier League investigations still ongoing into two other teams in blue, it seems to carry some pretty loaded connotations.
If anything, it could be argued that the decision to slap one of their most established members with a 10-point deduction is evidence that the Premier League are even-handed. Let’s reserve judgment until we see what happens if City are found guilty of any or all of the 115 charges of rule-breaking levelled at them. Older readers will remember that City claim to be in possession of incontrovertible evidence that proves their innocence but for reasons best known to themselves and their lawyers, seem reluctant to make it public.
VAR In other news, a new set of VAR rules are coming into effect. It’s going to be a long weekend, isn’t it, added time of 20 minutes in each half beckons. You’ll doubtlessly be delighted to know that the Wise Men are now considering getting the VAR curtain-twitchers involved when corners and free-kicks are awarded too.
And then there is the sinbin idea, extending the trial from grass roots to more senior football to curb abuse of referees sin-bins. It works in rugby as the status of the referee is respected, his authority is not undermined by a mass protest of six players balling into his face as we often get in football. However, it’s another judgement call, and will the level of tolerance and inconsistencies from referees continue to differ and give us another Neville Soapbox tirade in each game? Currently, I feel many games are ruined by red cards, so this may temper such decisions.
Refs are not ethicists and if they are they should be consequentialists not deontological ones. Whether fractionally badly timed, clumsy or cynical it doesn’t matter, they just have to react to the severity of the challenge and its role in stopping a goal scoring opportunity.
Anyway, best use of VAR I’ve seen: Crossed the line
Terry Venables Football mourned the death of Terry Venables this week, across the land fans, pundits and players celebrated his life. Paul Hayward credits El Tel with saving English football from insularity, while Jonathan Liew remembers him as a football romantic who made every player feel like a star. Richard Williams’ obituary calls Venables one of the sharpest brains of his generation, while this wonderful gallery of images and video obituary offer an insight into the player, the manager and the personality.
Newcastle’s Gulf state derby against PSG captured the headlines. Having smashed the French 4-1 in the fixture at St James’ Park, Newcastle fans felt confident, although the list of absentees (12) was so long that celebrity Toon fans Ant and Dec would almost certainly get a game if they weren’t making an even bigger show of themselves in Australia. Cherubic academy graduates and gloved up substitute goalkeepers manned the bench.
There are, however, a few things in football that are not up for debate. We can all agree that Frank Lampard’s shot against Germany crossed the line, a binary decision. We can all agree that Arsenal’s fluorescent tiger-striped away kit belongs in a bin. And, like Eddie Howe, we can all agree that PSG should not have been awarded a penalty in injury time. The reasons why Livramento should not have been punished are many (the ball deflected first off his chest, his proximity to Dembélé, and the fact that his arm was in a natural running position). There is probably a wider discussion about VAR being fit for purpose, whether decisions being correct are more important than sucking the fun out of the game, whether we should care at all about the plight of two teams backed by Saudi and Qatari wealth…
But two important consequences have emerged from the fiasco. The first is that the VAR official, Tomasz Kwiatkowski, who recommended to review the on-field decision, has been stood down. The second is that Newcastle fan, Carl rang up TalkSport to say he had to turn his Christmas lights off after the match because it made him too miserable. An unfortunate incident with VAR in Paris. But let’s not forget the true winner: the petrochemical industry.
Barnsley v Wycombe winning goal was interesting. It’s the best goal I’ve scored! They were being slow with the ball, time-wasting. The lad’s gone down from the corner – the keeper – when no one’s touched him. Then the ref’s giving him the ball back and he’s waiting for me to come up to him … so I’ve probably nudged into him, yeah. There’s a little bit of contact but absolutely nowhere near enough to drop the ball and fall on the floor. There was no chance I wasn’t putting the ball in the back of the net. Kudos to the ref for seeing that and working out on the balance of play that it wasn’t a foul – scorer Sam Cosgrove.
If you see a more bizarre goal this season than Sam Cosgrove’s injury-time winner for Barnsley against Wycombe show me and I will happily eat my own socks – and I’ve been wearing them for at least a week. Cosgrove shoved the keeper over with both hands, how is that not a foul?!
F A Cup Second Round weekend is upon us and there are two games to watch York v Wigan on Friday on BBC Two (kick-off 745pm) and Alfreton v Walsall on Saturday on BBC One on Saturday (kick off 12:30pm). It’s ten years since Wigan defeated City in the final. Since then, Latics have bounced around the Championship and League One. Will they come a cropper at York, 19th in the National League? Part-time Alfreton, ninth in National League North, have never reached the third round. They will have to get past League Two Walsall if they are to make club history but will have the backing of 2,500 home fans in Derbyshire.
Ten non-league clubs – including Ramsgate from the eighth tier of English football – are one win from landing a potential lucrative FA Cup tie against Premier League opponents. They will join holders Man City, record 14-time winners Arsenal and Burnley – winners in 1914 and runners-up in 1947 and 1962 – in the draw for the third round if they win this weekend. There are 20 second-round matches over four days. Second-round winning teams receive £67,000 in prize money.
ITV are also showing live games on ITV1, ITVX and ITV4 Eastleigh v Reading, Wrexham v Yeovil Town, and AFC Wimbledon v Ramsgate. If you’ve not tuned in to these games previously, have a watch this weekend. Obviously, the quality of the football reflects the players and club status, but the passion, commitment, and effort you see is heart-warming, grass roots football is filled with honesty. And no VAR.
This non-league story caught my eye this week: WhitbyTown FC
Well, sitting in a cosy 22nd place in the league, there are at least 21 of you who can stop reading this week’s update and ignore anything I have to say about transfers and players you should have in your team, but for the three folks below me, here’s some free, charitable tips on transfer option to geta into the esteemed top twenty.
- Kelleher (Liverpool) £3.9m. Injury to Alisson can allow their back-up keeper to offer huge value. The Reds have conceded just one goal in their last five league matches at Anfield.
- Trippier (Newcastle) £7.0m. The delivery from free-kicks and corners could prove decisive for Newcastle’s encounter with Utd who have conceded 20 shots from set-pieces in the last four games.
- Zinchenko (Arsenal) £5.1m. Arsenal’s Ukrainian is the most-bought defender in Fantasy this week 133,000 new owners.
- Mee (Brentford) £4.8m Has just returned from injury, can deliver at both ends of the pitch, Mee combined three goals and two assists with 12 clean sheets last season.
- Mbeumo (Brentford) £7.0m Ranks top among midfielders in the last four weeks.
- Palmer (Chelsea) £5.3m Chelsea’s top-scoring player in Fantasy since making his first start in Gameweek 7, producing four goals, three assists and 45 points.
- Watkins (Aston Villa) £8.5m Villa’s talisman has seven goals, eight assists and just three blanks in his 13 league appearances.
- Justin Kluivert (Patrick’s lad, currently at Bournemouth) became the first player to score in the Premier League, La Liga, Serie A, Ligue 1, Eredivisie, and the Bundesliga. Not bad considering Kluivert is only 24. Worth a punt at £4.6m, although he’s only bagged 23 points this season.
Transfer deadline is Saturday 130pm.