tsf.tech fantasy league update: gameweek 37

Ladies, Gentlemen, boys, and girls

It’s going down to the wire, the last throw of the dice, finger-nail biting stuff. No, more than that, toe-nail biting stuff. 545pm Sunday 16 May. It’s a two-horse race, Nick (2,436) and Michael (2,427). Aleksa is third (2,374) but needs a huge, huge weekend to close the gap.

A heady week of double-header fixtures saw Paul top dog on 141 points, a VAR decision ahead of Jelica (140) and Chris (140). Paul’s success came from Gvardiol inspired pick with  27 points. Others look to have messed up, their players already on the beach, building sandcastles, lying around on beach towels, sipping margaritas, and generally gadding about in the foamy surf.  Manager of the Month for May sees Paul (237), Aleksa (232) and Nick (226) leading the pack.

Nick puts his success down to having a string of goal magnets, bagging him valuable points across the front three.  Sorry to be a pedant but wouldn’t a goal magnet get stuck to the goal, rather as a fridge magnet sticks to a fridge? That would make them pretty useless as strikers, and offside nearly all of the time. Unless he was stuck to his own goal, when back defending corners, and that would be even worse. I think I worry about words too much.

Snooze fest…it’s City again As they wrapped up the title with twenty-three games to spare in December, the run-in simply toying with Arsenal and giving Liverpool false hope, leads us to this weekend and a pretend game of jeopardy. Assuming Guardiola isn’t tempted to walk off into the sunset like Kwai Chang Caine at the end of an episode of Kung Fu there is every reason to believe that with a bit of tinkering he will further fine-tune his already relentless winning machine with the double and then go again next season.

While City’s players, staff and supporters celebrate their fourth in a row and fifth title in six years, isn’t it time to ask what’s the point? Let’s be honest, City are the best team in England by a country mile, have some truly magnificent footballers as they should be with the cash spent, but Pep still has to make it happen – compared to Chelsea and Man Utd – so hats off to him for keeping the ambition and for ruining Jack Grealish’s career as he did Kalvin Phillips. Cole Palmer did the right thing.

Erling, clearly reeling from second-season syndrome after a staggering freshman year, scored just his, erm, wait … 33rd, 34th, 35th and 36th goals of the season v Wolves, trampolining at the far post to head home his second in a 5-1 demolition. He then got another two v Spurs in midweek, a reminder that he remains the biggest, meanest, scariest presence on the playground. City winning the league four times in a row is a serious achievement to be fair, it’s up there with Lance Armstrong winning seven tours on the bounce…..

On the other side of town Having made no secret of his displeasure at the squalid state of United’s dressing rooms last week, I shudder to think what new owner Big Jim made of the scenes at Old Trafford on Sunday. It rains a lot in Manchester, everyone knows that, but fans could be forgiven for hoping the roof over their prohibitively priced seats might prevent them from being soaked to the skin by the waterfalls which cascaded through its assorted holes and gaps as the heavens opened wider than their team’s defence.

Ratcliffe eschewed the opportunity to watch his team lift the Women’s FA Cup for the first time on a sunny afternoon in a comparatively palatial Wembley stadium, electing instead to watch their male counterparts slump to an ignominious defeat at the hands of Arsenal in as emphatic a 1-0 win as you’re ever likely to see against the sorry rabble masquerading as Man U. Amid an apocalyptic monsoon, a bad week for stand-in centre-half Casemiro got even worse while those in the stands were soaked to the skin by rainfall that dampened everything but their puzzlingly high spirits. It was a largely uneventful match, with the efforts of United’s fans to gee up their team being hugely impressive if entirely unsuccessful.

A blind man sat facing backwards on a galloping horse can see this is a poor United team,  the statistics now prove it. Erik ten Hag’s side have now lost more games than in any other Premier League season and could end the season with their lowest ever points tally and a negative goal difference. And while the Dutchman has blamed much of their misfortune on a knack-list that has left him with no option but to play the Brazilian with all the speed, agility, and awareness of an aged sloth in the heart of his defence, the contrast to City is stark.

Liverpool is handing out free boxes of tissues for Sunday’s farewell game for Jürgen Klopp. Jurgey has been clambering aboard his soapbox on his farewell tour, notably laying into TNT Sports. The German loves nothing more than a good grumble about the fact that following midweek games, his team occasionally play again on a Saturday lunchtime at the behest of a TV network who pay his employers extremely handsomely for the privilege of broadcasting these matches.

It is a deal which was reached with the full agreement of the Premier League clubs, including Liverpool, who will collectively trouser £6.7bn for the most recent deal agreed with Sky and TNT and – crucially – who vote to set the guidelines within which broadcasters operate when carving up the matches for broadcast. Have a word with your own board Jurgey. Klopp lit the fuse and hurled another stick of dynamite in the direction of TNT, going off on another one of his won’t-somebody-think-of-the-players rants in which he more or less blamed the TV stations for the fact no English teams made it past the quarterfinals of the Big Cup. He’s obviously  waiting for Amnesty International to intervene over the crime that is the 12.30pm Saturday kick-off.

For all their faults, the overpriced subscription fees, devil-may-care attitude to match-going fans and insistence on hiring bland pundits who are clearly biased against your team, TNT cannot realistically be held accountable for the fact that Liverpool went out of the junior Euro competition with a whimper this season. They are, however, entirely to blame for the fact that subscribers with more money than sense got to see the feeble surrender of Klopp’s side. But we will miss Jürgen, even after this week’s exhibition of chaos at Villa, his side’s attacking thrust cancelled out by a defence leakier than the Old Trafford roof. You have to go back to the blissful days of early March for Liverpool’s last clean sheet in the league put them four points clear. Carabao Cup success with the kids will remain the crowning point of Klopp’s farewell tour.

Sunday’s final match with Klopp at the helm will be a special occasion. When he inevitably lines up with his players post-match in front of the Kop, eight-and-a half years on from his first game, he will do so as the manager who brought a first Premier League title, Big Euro Cup glory after embarrassing Lionel Messi’s Barça, and a silly number of wins over Chelsea. Take away the shiny stuff and his stint is still memorable, such is the joy Klopp’s football brought not only to his supporters but the neutrals, too. Klopp will have a large grin on his face, and a bear hug for everyone. There will be final fist-pumps, as well as tears, and there won’t be any kicking off at 12.30pm. The perfect wave goodbye. Auf Wiedersehen, Jürgen.

VAR Premier League clubs will vote on whether to scrap VAR from next season at their AGM next month.  Wolves have formally submitted a resolution which will trigger a vote when the twenty member clubs meet in Harrogate on 6 June. The club said VAR was introduced in good faith but has led to numerous unintended negative consequences that are damaging the relationship between fans and football. The price we are paying for a small increase in accuracy is at odds with the spirit of our game say the Wolves statement. See the photo above for the full list of reasons in Wolves’ submission.

The Premier League said it acknowledged the concerns about VAR but fully supports the technology and will continue to work with referees’ body PGMOL to make improvements. Any rule changes need a two-thirds majority – 14 of the 20 clubs – to vote in favour.

Forest recently questioned the VAR official in a highly critical statement on social media after three penalty appeals were rejected in a 2-0 defeat at Everton last month. An independent Key Match Incident Panel later ruled Forest should have had one penalty from their three unsuccessful appeals. Another VAR mistake was at Old Trafford on Wednesday where Newcastle forward Anthony Gordon was denied a first-half penalty despite appearing to be caught by United’s Sofyan Amrabat. With Newcastle 0-1 behind at the time, on-field referee Rob Jones did not give a spot-kick and was then not told to review the incident by VAR official Jarred Gillett. You can see on the replay Amrabat goes down Gordon’s Achilles without touching the ball, and rips Gordon’s socks. What’s the point?

We’ll be back, but do we want to be? After a great 2022/23 season and promotion to the Premier League, Burnley are relegated. We’ll be back, but I’m not that bothered if we’re not to be honest. Sometimes, a year in the second tier can be restorative, and this season for Southampton that has undoubtedly been the case. And the question I’ve been debating with other Claret’s fans is: do we really want to return to the Premier League? I’ve got very mixed feelings about it. It’s a natural thing to want to be promoted to a higher league, to be in the top division, at the top table. But I think, for a lot of clubs now, unless they’ve never really been in the Premier League, there is a feeling of What’s the point? This season among the elite has often been a painful ordeal.

The enduring paradox of the Championship is that its wild entertainment is directly linked to the inherent desire to ascend to the riches of the Premier League. Many supporters, though, are deeply conflicted about membership of the top flight. They love being part of it, the excitement and global attention it bestows; but they also loathe its economic madness and, increasingly, the thankless task of competing among the elite. With all the points deductions, profit and sustainability regulations, VAR , it is really hard to do anything in the Premier League to compete. Is it a good place to be? While about half of all Premier League clubs’ seasons can be defined by fear of relegation, in the Championship every season about two thirds of teams begin the season with genuine aspirations of reaching the play-offs. And at this time of year the drama of the run-in is unparalleled.

But as the struggles of last season’s promoted clubs – Luton, Burnley and Sheffield United, who make up the top flight’s bottom three – highlights, the gulf between the leagues has become a chasm.  I’ve always been of the opinion that you should want to get promoted because, otherwise, what’s the point? I used to be one of those delusional optimists that thinks the next promotion will be different to the last. But it never is. Context clearly shapes attitudes in this debate. Ipswich Town, after more than two decades out of the topflight, will be rather different. But are there any hesitations about what the Premier League might inflict upon Kieran McKenna’s dynamic young side?

For me ahead of the short wait for the release of the Championship fixtures, we have a broken system. There’s a glass ceiling. Obviously, there’s a part of me that still wants my team to win every game. But actually, I’d like to win the Championship, and be the first club to ever politely decline the invitation to go up to the next level. The journey is better than the destination. Aside from the season we finished seventh and qualified for Europe, each has just been turning up, getting beat, trying to stay up, and then going again. That’s not the most fun in the world. The most fun in the world is going to Preston and winning along with 7,500 other Clarets fans making the 15-mile journey and tickets priced £20. Do I want to go up? I’d probably say yes. But I’m also not going to be crying if we don’t.

Once more with feeling There’s just one more fantasy deadline to remember – 230pm Sunday. Captain? This decision can make a huge difference in the last gameweek of the season. Erling, Foden or de Bruyne? An Arsenal midfielder at home to Everton as they hope to snatch the title on the final day? Cole Palmer at home to Bournemouth? Salah as Liverpool look to give Klopp a rousing send-off, and also maybe Mo’s final game before he darts off to Saudi? Son with Spurs against a Sheffield United defence that has conceded 101 goals in the league?

I guess you need to  target those teams that have something left to play for this season with Manchester City and Arsenal being the main cases in point. Arsenal has by far and away the best defence in the division, Ben White the most productive in terms of attacking returns with four goals and five assists this season but he’s also the most expensive at £6.1m. Bukayo Saka is still owned by more than half of the managers in the game so if you’re looking for a slight differential on that front then it’s Martin Odegaard at just over 17% ownership or Kai Havertz at under 10%. Saka has the advantage of being the penalty taker though.

Good luck everyone and a final blog next week celebrating the season and the winner of our league before I retire to the Championship. After all, what’s the point? I won’t be following the Premier League next season.

Ron Manager

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