After the most shambolic couple of weeks, I’ve settled my fantasy league team down with a solid 77 points last weekend. I think it was Thales of Miletus In Ancient Greece who declared Whoever said money can’t buy happiness just doesn’t know where to go shopping, and I took this to heart this week. Cogito ergo whopping great sums. Now I’ve restacked my shelves, my first XI look much better, but time will tell.
Last weekend saw us all benefit from The Viking, 24 captain points from Erlang which helped Aleksa (2031 points) extend his lead on top spot, Michael (2018) and Ben (1997) trail in his wake. James B (85 – 36 from The Viking ), Tudor (81) and Rhys and Chris (80) were top scorers in the week. James S leads the haranguing for April’s MoTM award.
May I be the first of many otorhinolaryngology pedants to point out Aleksa’s success to date is based on having a squad with the stickiest out ears of all players in the league – check out Mings, Trippier and Erling. You can see Erling’s got massive outer ears, unless he has a perforated inside-out eardrum, in which case you can see the middle ear also. Bit of a worry if you can see his inner ear, or indeed if light comes out of the other side. So, Aleksa, spotted your strategy. Looking but not seeing is the hearing but not understanding of the eye. But that’s Arsene, a quote from his autobiography, whatever it means.
With the crisis klaxon currently hooting around half the teams in our league – i.e. those with less than 1900 points, I reached for some inspiration from P G Woodhouse who once said, in all crises of human affairs there are two broad courses open to a man – he can stay where he is or he can go elsewhere. However, this is my week, as I know Aleksa took his players for a team bonding break in Blackpool, building sandcastles, lying around on beach towels, sipping margaritas, and generally gadding about in the foamy surf. Have they blown it being complacent?
Triumph and disaster. That’s how Kipling described ‘life’s two impostors’ in the most quoted line from If, his paean to equanimity. These are the impostors Pep will be wrestling with in the next few weeks as he tries to finally win Big Cup with City, a journey that resumed with an aggregate victory against Bayern. With each passing year they don’t win it, City’s love-hate-need relationship with Big Cup gets more intense, and more scrutinised. At his pre-match press conference, Guardiola appealed for nuance and maturity, which was akin to asking people to get to know one another first at a Bacchanalian festival. The Bacchanalia were Roman festivals of Bacchus, the Greco-Roman god of wine, freedom, intoxication, and ecstasy. Sounds like every Burnley home game this season.
This is Guardiola’s seventh try with City, and his 11th since he won his second Big Cup with Barca in 2011. At times he has thought himself out of contention, so it’ll be interesting to see whether he tinkers against Real in the Semi as in the 2021 final against Chelsea, when he put an ingeniously subtle spin on the concept of subconscious self-loathing by picking a side without a specialist No 6 – the position Pep himself used to play, and arguably the most important position in any Pep team.
Craig Bellamy attacking John Arne Riise with a golf club, John Hartson booting Eyal Berkovic in the mush at West Ham’s training ground, Lee Bowyer and Kieron Dyer knocking seven bells out of each other during a game at St James’s Park. The history of football is littered with incidents of teammates getting their fight on in the kind of scenes commentators feel compelled to announce nobody wants to see, even though we know plenty of folk who’d pay good money for CCTV footage of a half-naked Norwegian being chased through a hotel corridor by a Welshman armed with a mashie-niblick and a sense of grievance.
Welcome Sadio Mané and Leroy Sané into football’s Fisticuffs Hall of Fame, when an on-field dispute that began during Bayern’s Big Cup first leg 0-3 defeat at the hands of City continued into the visitors’ dressing-room at the Etihad. Unable to settle his differences with Sané through the usual channels of teammate chat, Mané attempted to do so with a right hook, splitting his teammate’s lip. Slugger Sadio sat out their Bundesliga match against Hoffenheim on Das Naughty Step and fined an undisclosed amount of pocket money. But all is now well, as Thomas Tuchel was pleased to report that both players had trained together without the eruption of further violence, and that Mané had accepted the consequences for swinging that expensive haymaker. In a season disrupted by injury, Mané has struggled to scale the heights since leaving Liverpool last summer. The shot he landed on Sané was only the 12th time he’s hit the target this season.
I know in the past I’ve been accused on yammering on a bit too much about Man Utd and Ole Gunnar Solskjær and Herbert Bamlett’s 12 defeats in a row in 1930 and all that. Sorry. But just look! What can you do? Now I feel it’s time I switched my focus to Dirty Leeds after 1-5 and 1-6 successive home defeats. Let’s hope they continue with such tight defending for the rest of the season and end up relegated. More next week after a 0-6 weekend defeat to Fulham.
Football is important. It started with Galileo, his formula for the trajectory of a planet came in a flash of inspiration when he was playing head-tennis in the back yard of his Florence home. His discovery of the hyperbolic motion of a lightly inflated pigs’ bladder with cadence in the air was an obvious tactical choice to bolster any side struggling to put the ball through the air and in the back of the net. He too, played the game, but due to age, often played just the second half. Coming off the sub’s bench, proudly wearing Fermat’s Prime Number 17, Galileo solved the problem with superb positional sense using Pythagorean theory. Once he knew the incoming ball’s horizontal velocity u and vertical velocity v, he set y to be the perfect height off the ground for his volley then solve for x to discover where he should position himself.
Meanwhile, not many people realise Leon Trotsky took most of his early socialist political inspiration from football: The revolution will inevitably awaken in the British working class the deepest passions which have been created and focused on association football. The quote is genuine, taken from Trotsky’s 1925 Where is Britain Going? Every team needs to have some internal anger to fire up the passions, though expect plenty of red cards for dissent if Trotsky was a manager today. Finally, WWI poet Rupert Brooke anticipated the future demise of England’s national team every time we played Germany, notwithstanding our superiority when it mattered most on the battlefield. There’s some corner of a foreign field that is forever England he wrote. True, Beckham could take a good corner, but we never had anyone decent to meet them with a bullet header, so to speak.
We don’t have a megastore at Burnley, more a corner shop, on the corner of the ground. The shop is like a Sports Direct, jam packed with so much gear that there must be a Health & Safety issue on match days with so many people in there. I go just to keep warm. I’ve got home and away shirts since 1987/88, so not interested in the retro range, and also got dog collar & bowl, garden gnomes and Vinnie Kompany replica cap, so don’t really need anything. Last time out I spotted a duvet set celebrating our 1913 FA Cup victory, but I don’t think Mrs B would be keen. Janet, who is the manager of the Burnley shop knows all the transfer tittle-tattle, who punched who in training, and always tries to entice you to look into the bargain bin. £1 for last season’s socks.
There is always an air of bedlam at Burnley’s club shop. Two or three staff fail to serve the needs of 300 souls who have filtered in. Of course, if a home victory has been secured, the post-match euphoria creates an optimism and desire to enjoy the winning feeling into the evening with the purchase of a DVD to watch at home later. It’s the same we do on Amazon after having been to the pub. You remember those days? Club shops live outside of the rules of the capitalist economy. Prices are bonkers. A claret-coloured tee-shirt that would be £3 in Primark is £11.99 because it has ‘The Clarets’ and the club crest emblazoned on it. When I get to be a grandad, I’m going to spend a fortnight’s worth of pension on bibs, babysuits and anything small enough to fit my grandchild. I realise the club shop visit is part of our Saturday 3pm ritual, part of our Happy Place.
Tricky weekend beckons with three teams – City, United and Brighton – involved in the F A Cup semi finals, so just seven games in Gameweek 32 from Friday to Sunday. Transfer deadline is 630pm Friday. Gameweek 33 is Tuesday to Thursday with a full ten game series, so a big seven days beckon as we have just five rounds after this.