tsf.tech fantasy league update: gameweek 28

Another Friday beckons my fellow fantasians.

I’ve been in the garden this week, photo is of two new additions to the borders.

A week where you needed to score 100 points to count, congratulations to Ben (105 – 32 Brighton points and captain Toney 26), James S (104) and Nikita (101) who filled their checkout points baskets to the brim and were the top three pointsters in the week.

Michael continues his relentless pursuit of the cheap plastic trophy the winner of the league receives with 1,758 points, a resurgent Scott nipped into second spot on 1,737 and new father Chris (1,732) sits in third surrounded by nappies, unused and used. Scrambling for the Manager of the Month award for March are Chris (157), James S (149) and Ben (145).

The week has been dominated by an opinion tweeted by a BBC sport presenter regarding a callous new illegal migration bill that somehow became more newsworthy than the cruel, ill-conceived and appalling bill itself. Gary Lineker (in the interests of democracy delete one of  A: woke, leftie snowflake B: thoughtful humanitarian and compassionate man) generated levels of outrage when he quite reasonably described the government’s small boats policy as ‘immeasurably cruel’ and ‘using language not dissimilar to that used by Germany in the 30s’.

No sooner had Gary pressed send when certain pompous bastions of the establishment began chucking their pearls of wisdom at him, calling for the Match of the Day presenter’s head. Rather worryingly, Lineker’s tweet, rather than the bill it criticised, was somehow deemed worthy enough to become the lead news item on the news and got plenty of airtime. As amused and/or bemused by the palaver he had caused, Lineker has weathered the media storm. I await his trademark wry Match of the Day intro and sign-off with interest, suspecting at least one or both will be extremely mischievous, especially as Vinnie will put one over Pep in his first return game. The absolute state of it.

We had Billy Big Cup football this week – Hull 1 Burnley 3 was the highlight for me – but elsewhere we got the full-cream, posh-triple-fried chips, bangs-and-whistles version of The Man City Show and a 7-0 hammering of Leipzig. I have a theory. Liverpool beat Utd 7-0 then lost 0-1 to Bournemouth. City will match this – City 7 Leipzig 0, followed by a 0-1 defeat this weekend to Burnley in the Cup. If not, then at least Erling should be rested having got enough goals already this week thank you very much.

Pep’s paean to Billy Big Cup, a tournament that has remained tantalisingly out of reach during his decade in Munich and Manchester started with a relaxed petal-strewn reverie could only last so long in his presser this week. He smiled about his striker hitting five, he parped, tapping his nose and winking. He then lamented the social media folk who apparently know better than he does, then shared with us his frustration that his idol, Julia Roberts, came to Manchester six years ago but went to Old Trafford and not the Etihad.

But soon enough a darker mood set in as he came back from this dreamlike state and he snapped back into business mode and began free-associating some random words… We are better … they will be better … figure out what we’re going to do … adjust a few things… more control… play a bit better… transition… a coin… it can go in your favour… maybe we need to break more of the game … maybe we don’t. The sort of jumpy monologue, one could argue, that betrays an all-encompassing desire for that elusive valedictory Billy Big Cup – and contains worrying signs that he may be overthinking things. Poor Pep. He may be a tactical genius whose coaching has won titles across Europe, but he’s also just a boy standing in front of a girl, just asking Julia Roberts to love him.

Liverpool stepped warily into the lions’ den at the Bernabéu holding neither whip nor chair. Three goals down to Spanish giants, Jurgey grasped at any straw within reach, however wispy. This particular iteration of Real Madrid (1956-2023) are serial winners. If last year’s Billy Big Cup final was a pipe dream, this was a whole mega-oil-refinery distribution system of delusion and needed Darwin Núñez to locate his inner Erling. He’s still looking for it on the coach home.

Jürgen’s cranial apertures steamed as usual but let’s be honest, it was an impotent and abject performance from Liverpool. For me as a neutral, it infused a profound sadness, a sense of fin de siècle, the realisation that it’s the end of the line for one of the great Liverpool sides. At one point, Oxlade-Chamberlain, under no pressure whatsoever, passed the ball to nobody. As it slowly trundled through acres of empty space and ended going out for a throw, he gesticulated an embarrassed apology to Klopp, who responded with a resigned and knowing nod. With Liverpool next expected to play European football in 2037, time for a makeover of some significance. Really nice touch from Real to play YNWA at the end I thought. So that leaves City and Chelsea in the Billy Big Cup and United in the Big Vase. Let’s hope United draw Ludogorets in the next round. If you rearrange the letters of Ludogorets, you get ‘good result’. It’s to be hoped they don’t draw a side in the next round called Shutstiler

There are many reasons why, as kids, we fell in love with football. The sights, the smells, the songs, the crowd, the throng queuing up to get into the ground, the anticipation, pies, personalities, the away fans, the incredible skill/dazzling ineptitude of your team, the drama, the suspense, the speed, the sense of occasion, the sense of belonging, the community, the explosions of emotion. Then along came VAR, aiming to increase the percentage of correct decisions from 95% to 99% – should be possible to fathom, remove human error. But it’s impossible to fathom, and we have grown up adults unable to cope because their Big Team didn’t win, taking to Twitter citing bias, corruption and vendetta; embittered players and managers blaming officials to misdirect from their own failings. Some fans are thicker than a submarine door, but some do have a point as the flow of the game has been sacrificed and with it the unbridled, incomparable ecstasy that follows the scoring of a goal, the greatest feeling known to humanity, until VAR says you can lose your self-control and wail like a banshee.

A football match is never lost because of a refereeing decision. Officials make errors, it happens in every walk of life, so it is the job of players and managers – who make them too – to render them irrelevant. This point was noted by Erik ten Hag after United were denied what looked a clear penalty when drawing with Palace. You have to accept the decisions from VAR, from the referees. I look in the mirror, I look to my team, I look to my own managing and coaching and I say invest more for the second goal then you avoid situations where you are dependent on VAR and the referee. I’m starting to like Erik, a worrying confession. He may be a good addition to Vinnie’s coaching team next year. But the events of last weekend indicated yet again that VAR has not had the desired effect, ceding far too much for far too little when, instead, all we needed to do to maintain the sense of wonder we had as kids was just stop acting like kids.

Now don’t get me wrong, we’ve had plenty of losing games in our household given Burnley’s history, not many this year I must admit, but over the Covid period it didn’t hurt quite as much watching televised games, as I just throw stuff at the television and don’t have the car journey home to let the defeat fester as the car windows steam up. Hopefully we won’t have the 0-5 result travelling back on Saturday from the Etihad which we’ve endured four times in recent seasons. Car journeys home after a defeat are like the melancholy of rain on a tent.  Solace is hard to find.  The travel back home helps you reflect. For a moment you turn the 0-3 back to…well, it could have been 1-0 to us really…with the dramatic reconstruction of your own MoTD highlights in your head. This is enjoyable because of the preposterousness of it all, a remainder that investing such a depth of emotion in your team is a little ridiculous.

Defeat is therapeutic, it grounds us, it gives reason to our anger, frustration, rationale to the terrible mood you’re in for the moment, and sometimes the weekend. It can be put right in just seven days with a win in the next game. No counsellor works at such speed. Bad news at work or in the family is nothing in comparison to a 0-5 at the Etihad, but a defeat can be cleansing. Stay with me on this. There was strange warmth in the fourth 0-5 pasting in succession at Manchester Moneybags FC. With each conceded goal I moved through the stages of defeat: annoyance but hope of a quick equaliser (0-1); perplexity at why the lads are so poor today (0-2); anger: just sort out the bloody defence (0-3); pride that everyone on our team has a better haircut than Foden (0-4); Our away fans Our 7,500 have out sung this lot’s 40,000 AGAIN (0-5).

Onto the weekend and just one PL fixture on Friday, five on Saturday, one Sunday as its Cup QF weekend. According to the BBC’s occasionally staffed sport department – solidarity, sisters and brothers – Dominic Calvert-Lewin will miss Everton’s trip to Chelsea after ‘feeling something’ in training – existentialism revealed as part of Sean Dyche’s new sports science regime? That’s the extent of my transfer advice – deadline is 630pm Friday – as my squad of fifteen has eight players either involved in cup games, giving the back lawn a first mow of the year, or an afternoon at the Trafford Centre and not involved in a league game.

Enjoy your weekend


We’re ready to talk...

Wherever you are on your startup journey, get in touch and let’s unpack your thinking together and see where we can help turn your idea into a reality.