Well, there was a right-old brouhaha for top dog in the week, with Lee nailing top score with 76. Lee woke up after relaxing all season, and realised he could still get into the Fantasy Europa Conference ‘B’ League like his beloved Reds – although he has just Robertson from the available Leeverpool players in his fantasy team. Katie Kompany (74) and Paul (66) followed in hot pursuit in a low scoring week.
Nationally, top score of the week was 123 with a team comprising defence of Pope(11), Malacia (9), Ogbonna (9) and Semedo (9), Olise and Ayew from Palace (28 between them) in midfield plus Martinelli, Grealish and Billing (36), Haaland (12) and Kane (9) upfront completing an inspired choice.
Overall, Aleksa has dashed to the top of the pile with 1964 points, brushing people’s favourite Michael into second (1958) and Scott scrambling on 1944. With three rounds of games to go in April, the monthly manager of the month monthly award for the month of April is as wide open as the Leicester City defence and is currently headed by James S on 205 points, with Ben (196) and Aleksa (188) in the top three but anyone can still upset the applecart. As a reminder, winners of the accolade to date are:
August – Scott
September – Ron
October – Sasha
November – Cornel
December – Aleksa
January – Michael
February – Nick
March – Chris
Over the four-day Easter bank holiday weekend I downed the punditocracy social-media tools for 96 hours, the resulting peace and quiet acting as a form of cyberdouche, cleansing myself from every nook and cranny of the internet, a polemic irrigation. Ah, silent bliss. I was determined to eat my Easter eggs in peace so ignored the Sunday Anfield game too. The only thing I picked up this week was Man Utd bringing in tradespeople to repair those smashed windows as the owners threaten not to sell, one must conclude that the ‘Glazers Out’ protest had an ironic effect.
As Chelsea and Man City battle to reach the Champions League final, it just goes to show what can be achieved with self-belief, intelligent tactics, team spirit and billions and billions of pounds. Well, for City at least. It was an exciting night in the Champions League in Manchester on Tuesday as a Middle Eastern Investment Group enjoyed a comfortable win over Bayern. On Wednesday, a delusional American Billionaire lost to Spanish Galácticos Billionaire XI. Sad for supporters of US Billionaire teams in Manchester and Liverpool that it came down to this.
Looking like the Spanish Galácticos Billionaire XI or Middle Eastern Investment Group are the feckless dandies for the final, evidence enough that we’re dealing with preening aesthetes living high on the hog. Let’s wait for Saudi Geordies to join the throng next season. Anyway, this leaves the imperial Qatari state-funded sports empire that is PSG to look forward to next season’s magic of the Expedia Group Gazprom Heineken Mastercard Nissan Pepsico Santander Sony Big Cup. Football is all about cheering on your favourite Financial Institution that was clever and rich enough to buy all the best players and managers.
Pep has revealed things got a little bit crazy during City’s celebrations on Tuesday. At 11.30pm, 15 pizzas arrived and that was the best moment of the night, gushed Pep. I was not in perfect condition to decide which one – but all of them were so good. Erling ate three. Heady stuff.
Back to the Premier League, will it be Arsenal or City as Champions? For me, it’s going to be City. Was it ever in doubt? Such has been the serene, high-spec nature of City’s passage through the second half of the season that Pep’s success will likely continue until the moment he takes a three-year sabbatical at Plymouth Argyle.
City have conceded only 27 goals this season – 14 at home, 13 away. Guardiola turned 52 in January. His mid-life crisis innovation, his tactical red Maserati, has been to become an effective orthodox coach with Grealish and Stones coming good. We have the cleverness and the basic sporting joy of this team on the one hand, and on the other the fact City have the deepest squad, and can operate without financial constraints, but they play some great football.
In this context City’s early season chafing looks like false dramatic tension. Presented with a tide that sinks all other ships, City always had the players. And here again is the duality of City. The boundless resources, the basic weirdness of a nation state owning a football club for PR reasons, this all remains. And yet because football is a spectacle that will not be degraded, City have been able to do all this in a way that has been uplifting, and undeniably a work of skill and craft. If Aguero and Haaland had been upfront, well, it would have been over by December.
Want to order a scotch egg and a pint without leaving your table? There’s an app for that! And a carbon footprint too. Every digital usage, no matter how small, causes a carbon dioxide emission. The more you use, the bigger it gets, and between now and August, the Harry Kane Transfer Saga™ is going to leave a carbon footprint the size of Oceania. Every Tom, Dick and see, you can’t escape it, Harry, will have an opinion on where Kane should play football next season. He will be trending for longer than Harry Styles or The Spare Harry.
Sky Sport will be full every day of news that that HKTS, as jilted Spurs fans will come to know the news stream, has been seen getting into his car to drive to a place we already knew he was going. The most common assumption is that Kane will move to one of the Manchester clubs, as the weather, beer and curry houses are better than London, although Chelsea, PSG and Barca – Més que un debt – are also reportedly interested. While Kane still has 12 months left on his contract, he believes that he has a gentleman’s agreement allowing him to leave this summer. As the second gentleman in this agreement is Daniel Levy, I can’t foresee any tough negotiations getting in the way.
In a sport full of chancers, egomaniacs, hypocrites, deviants and mercenaries – and that’s just the Sky Sports pundits – Kane is one of the few genuinely good guys. Kane will win the PR war at a canter, but that will probably make Levy even more determined to win the saga, and everyone knows that’s the real quiz. There are still 105 days until the summer transfer window closes.
The leadership at Chelsea are not so insulated from reality in their respective Santa Monica billionaire lairs that they are unaware of the perception of them in the European game, that of big-talking Americans strolling into town and flashing the cash. The old Bundesliga acronym for dealing with the Premier League – ‘SEM’ (Stupid English Money) may have been replaced by ‘SCM’ (Stupid Chelsea Money) yet the ownership are unperturbed, notwithstanding that they recognise they have made a right mess of their takeover and wish things had turned out differently.
Their judgement is at stake, given that they decided, with the wealth of data at their disposal, that Potter was the coming man in coaching terms, a generational talent. That he now appears not to be leaves them back at the beginning as they consider the merits of Julian Nagelsmann. If he comes, he will be aided by a plethora of technical and sporting directors in Christopher Vivell, Paul Winstanley and Laurence Stewart. Chelsea should coin a collective noun for directors of football.
Looking to the weekend, and City play Leicester, which could get very messy indeed. Erling’s form and the fixture make the captaincy decision a formality in the upcoming Gameweek, he’s averaging 9.9 points per home start, and has scored a goal every 54 minutes at the Etihad in 2022/23, that’s 18 goals in 13 matches. Leicester have a very very very poor defensive record on the road against opponents high up in the table, conceding 20 goals across their five visits to the current top seven sides.
While it will take a very brave manager to look beyond Haaland for the armband, there are a few players who could outscore him. Haaland’s team-mate Riyad Mahrez (£7.3m) was rested from European duties in midweek and has a prolific record in home matches with Leicester, averaging 10 points and scoring in all three of those encounters. Martinelli and Kane have the form and fixtures to rival Haaland. Martinelli’s classification as a midfielder, earning him extra points for goals and clean sheets, arguably gives him the edge over Kane as the best alternative to Haaland.
Avoid Liverpool defenders is my secret tip. From the Rolls Royce of defence, Van Dijk is now more of a broken down, second-hand, failed MoT Sherpa Van in the Liverpool defence – not so much shooting fish in a barrel as shooting a hammerhead shark in a mop bucket, so glaringly obvious were their problems and deficiencies, and so often were they exploited by Arsenal last week.
Gameweek 31 deadline is at 11am on Saturday.