At a time when so much in the world divides us, when nobody can agree on anything, when the fabric of our society is coming apart like a damp out of date cracker, it’s comforting when something comes along to unite us. And that something is Friday’s Fantasy League update. Pointless, flamboyantly immature, irrelevant fantasy football. But it gives us a warm glow, a sense of purpose and well-being. Well, I like it anyway.
This week’s photo is of our Erling in his fancy silky hand-woven PJs having an early Spring break. Commenting on his latest product endorsement, Erling said, These are the highest high quality silk night clobber, made of pure silk, giving you a silky experience at night. Or during the day if you wear then knocking around the house after training. They make my night sexy and glossy. I did the personalized design myself. Perhaps he lost his focus for a whilst, going 190 minutes without a goal until last night.
Whilst it’s not been a great week for Jeremy Clarkson, Frank Lampard, or Nadhim Zahawi, it was a very good week for Michael, who hit 97 points, thanks to the astute triple-captain Rashford who scooped 36 points. Close behind was Ron (96) and two Pauls (91).
Overall, it was a hefty week of scoring, which saw 73 points as the average points in the week, taking the cumulative average to 1,129 points. Of course, Michael stays top of the pops, and leading the January Manager of the Month too. The league isn’t won in January though…It’s shaping up better than the real Premier League!
Up in Granadaland, it’s all about the Reds and Blues, and the two cities that dominate the football chat. Everton are giving it a good go to get relegated by the end of February, Liverpool aiming for a top ten but nothing much more. Citeh, defeats at Southampton and the neighbours, means that for the first time in a long while, it’s United who are the swaggering, wisecracking, collar-up, big-coat-wearing, wrote-for-luck, love-will-tear-us-apart, our-kid, ‘ere-y’are Mancs in town. It looks like Erik ten Hag might actually know what he’s doing.
Evil Lord Ferg Time has moved on, the Glazers are selling up, and Wout Weghorst is riding into town to make things even more Dutch. With Casemiro striding around, Rashford shining bright, Ronaldo living the dream in Riyadh and Harry Maguire warming the bench, things are looking up.
Olise’s awesome late strike meant Erik ten Hag left Selhurst Park with a face on and put a serious dent in United’s emerging title ambitions. That and Casemiro’s attempt to send Zaha’s kneecap spinning around like a catherine wheel, the orange card he received enough to keep him out of the upcoming Arsenal defeat. Ah well, title dreams that last just over half a week are better than no championship dreams at all, and now at least United can get back to the day job of rebuilding the stadium, flinging large sums of money around to see what sticks, getting rid of the Glazers etc.
The latest shiny new thing on United’s shopping list Goncalo Ramos. It will require a bid of £105m to contractually jemmy the 21-year-old striker out of Benfica but given United have just been named as the fourth richest club in the world by Deloitte, and they’re rumoured to be soon taken over by Monaco tax exile and former Chelsea season-ticket holder Sir Jim ‘I’m Manchester Through and Through, Me’ Ratcliffe, that figure seems like chump change.
Pep’s XI are not as polished as he would like after defeats to Southampton and Yernited. Foden is off his game, João Cancelo is persona non grata, De Bruyne’s sat-nav is malfunctioning and Erling has gone 190 minutes without scoring before taking off his PJs and putting his footie shirt on again.
Meanwhile Jürgey has said Cody Gakpo is likely to be Liverpool’s only purchase in the January transfer window and got a right huff on when questioned further. Come on, do I have to tell the money story again? Where did that smile go with those nice white teeth? At Brighton, he looked to be pondering a running jump into the English Channel. Really bad groaned Jürgey. I can’t remember a worse game, he sobbed. I honestly can’t. And I mean all, not only Liverpool. I can’t remember.
Word’s been out for a while that The Red Machine isn’t working as it should, the engine is sputtering and not back up to full revs. The midfield trio of Henderson, Thiago and Fabinho that took Liverpool so close to impossible heights are doddering. Plenty of blame to go around. Why don’t Liverpool run like they used to? Just whose fault is Darwin Núñez? Jürgey has begun preparing the underside of a bus.
Links with a potential, rather opaque Qatari buyout have raised excitement among some Reds fans though not those who wish to associate their club with social justice. Perhaps an injection of petrodollar cash would allow Jude Bellingham to come in and immediately cure those midfield ills. And still, things could be worse. They could support Ever…
Meanwhile Chelsea look like a team of people waiting for a bus, daydreaming, whistling, checking their text messages, absent-mindedly fiddling with the change in their pockets while scratching the back of their trousers, etc. City took them to the cleaners without breaking sweat. And how is Chelsea complying with Financial Fair Play? They spent £278m in the summer transfer window and £172m so far in January.
Back in the day when my dad started watching football, the goal scorer got a quick handshake from the captain, then players returned to the centre. Back in the 1970s, we had rubbing and patting of the head of the scorer, which developed into hugging and jumping, then kissing. Now it’s like an orgy. Is scoring a goal better than sex? How would I know? I’ve not played football since I was 50. The rejoicing has increased considerably these days, the whole team goes potty, caressing and kissing the scorer, while the scorer praises the heavens or goes down on his knees, lost in bliss, before he gets swamped by his colleagues.
I was reading an interview with one of my favourites, and least starry, players, Ashley Barnes of Burnley. He was going on about the joy of scoring. In 200 Prem appearances he has scored 42 goals. At one point in the 19/20 season, he was the leading English-born scorer in the league – ahead of Harry Kane. I like Ash because of how he looks too,– his sort of scruffy dustbin-man figure with horrible hair is the total opposite of the lean and groomed Like Rashford and Sterling, as if on a conveyor belt, hair slicked, tasteful tattoos, all looking like David Beckham’s love child.
Scoring a goal is the best thing in the world, said Ash in the interview, because it’s the only thing you can’t control or predict. Most things in life you can work for or buy. But I can’t guarantee a goal. And when it comes, I can’t give that feeling to anyone. Only I can feel it and know it. I love it when my wife and kids are at the match and I score.
On the subject of family at the football, it’s now 23 years ago that I last took my mum to see Burnley at Turf Moor. We lost 0-5 to Gillingham. Wasn’t good, but the next game I said we’d be better. And we lost 0-6 to Manchester City. About ten minutes into the second half, she piped up, with her voice echoing around the North Stand, Ian, they’re going the other way now! To be fair, it wasn’t always obvious in those days which direction Burnley were going. Down, being the obvious answer
Onto weekend transfers, and Toney, Odegaard, March, Rashford and Shaw are the top five players transferred in, Trossard, Mitrovic, Salah, Darwin and Martinelli are the five top ejections. Ones to watch? Ferguson (Brighton), Ward-Prose, Havertz, Schar and Aurier.
And captain? Having failed to find the back of the net in three of his last four fixtures, it is time to change Erling as captain? He scored versus Spurs, and its Wolves at home at the weekend, so not the time for me to consider other options for the armband. He’s the focal point of one of the league’s best attacks, City are pretty reliable at home, and he has the potential to produce big hauls, so I’m sticking with him. Pep’s very public rant demanded a lot more from them after their comeback win against Spurs on Thursday and I expect a reaction, it’s got 6-0 written all over it.
Also, time to be cagey on your free transfers in gameweek 21. The gameweek 22 deadline isn’t until 630pm 3 February – next weekend is F A Cup – by which time we’ll know which two teams have reached the Carabao Cup final and also who’s done what on FA Cup fourth-round weekend. This will give us more information on the fixture schedule for Fantasy Premier League in terms of blank and double gameweeks, so having two free transfers to adjust your squad accordingly will be hugely beneficial.
Enjoy the weekend!