Welcom back Fantasians
The international break really is time to sort out the garage, floss your teeth and check out possible new tariffs for the next time your electricity and gas (dual fuel) account comes up for renewal. It’s so boring. Southgate got pelters for picking various players whose repeated inclusion in his squads suggest they may be in possession of a compromising video of the England manager doing a tour of the Glenfiddich distillery while draped in a saltire and drunkenly belting out Flower of Scotland.
We had a qualifier v Ukraine, and then a friendly v Scotland. What’s the point of a friendly in week four of a new season when you then play nine established players rather than giving debuts to new potential players?
Elsewhere, 43-year-old Andorra centre-back Ildefons Lima, who made his international debut in the same month that OK Computer was released (June 1997), hung up his boots after 26 years representing his country. It can’t have been much fun in that defence, his record reads: World Cup PL62 W4 D3 L55 F22 A186; European Championships PL60 W1 D1 L58 F14 A169.
VAR Watch The crusade continues. After my soapbox moaning and groaning last week, the absence of Premier League action gave sight to a number of interesting incidents captured on video. Perhaps Howard Webb can help with a few baffling moments from the National League. First up Halifax’s Luke Summerfield gets a red card from the referee in their 1-1 draw with Southend in which he brushed the ref’s face accidentally. Compare and contrast with scenes at York City, where Boreham Wood keeper Nathan Ashmore was not even booked for this.
La Liga is home to some of the biggest names in world football, now it has signed up with the longest name in world football. Spain’s topflight has agreed a one-year shirt sponsorship deal with Welsh fifth-tier side Clwb Pel Droed Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch. That’s the name displayed on the club badge, although they go by the shortened version, Llanfairpwll.
La Liga will have its logo on the front of the north Welsh club’s home and away shirts (see photo). The Anglesey-based village club play in Division One of the North Wales Coast West League. They will wear their new La Liga shirts on Saturday when they host island rivals Holyhead Town.
Goal of the week goes to Mansfield’s Aaron Lewis, whose long-range volley in the win at Accrington was almost as glorious as the Lancashire hills visible behind the away end. This from Liechtenstein’s Sandro Wolfinger in their 1-2 loss against Bosnia wasn’t bad either.
Luton has formed a partnership with sports fashion platform Fancurve to create digitally wearable shirts. Yes, I know, but that’s what the press release said, and it got worse: As a Premier League team we are looking to build on technological innovation, introducing Hatters’ followers to officially licensed, non-replica club-branded shirts which fans can clothe their avatars in within the Metaverse. But they hadn’t finished: These photo-realistic custom collections are a series of high-end digital shirts functioning as fashion wearables and enriched media content to enable a hyper-immersive online fan experience.
It’s just nonsense, isn’t it? For me, the Metaverse will be a consensual hallucination experienced by billions of people who are connected through the internet akin to C21st emperor’s new clothes. Perhaps if Luton focused more on playing footy on the grass they’d do better? Why would I wish to live in an alternative digital universe as it runs parallel to my real life? I read the other day my avatar could buy a pair of trainers from Nike. Whatever next, a game where you pick a digital squad of players for fantasy money and play fantasy football on the internet?
Who to pick upfront? While scoring goals isn’t just about taking your chances, it is pretty integral to the job. Great scorers get good chances through their movement, anticipation and all-round ability, but also make the most of what they get. I’ve been looking at the analysis of expected goals (xG) numbers – excluding pens – to see who has been the most clinical.
Nearly 1m shots from Opta’s database are used to measure xG on a scale between zero and one, where zero represents a chance that is impossible to score, and one represents a chance that a player would be expected to score every time. Penalties are not included in the calculations.
Top attackers include Forest’s Taiwo Awoniyi’s who is the league’s best finisher, although he has only played 18 full games’ worth of minutes since the start of last season. Erling is not only getting chances but has maintained his finishing over far more minutes of football. Harry K had one of the most clinical seasons of his career before leaving for Bayern, scoring 50% more goals than expected last season (25 non-penalty goals from an xG of 16.6).
Evan Ferguson’s numbers are up there, although it’s still early days as the 18-year-old Brighton striker has only played 1000 minutes in the Premier League. At the other end, Arsenal strikers Jesus and Nketiah both get lots of chances, but neither have been particularly sharp in front of goal. Liverpool’s Darwin Nunez is also getting a good level of chances but has not yet been clinical at taking them. Is he a gamble worth considering for Liverpool’s trip to Wolves? He’s scored 19 points in the last two gameweeks and is a way into the Liverpool attack without having to break the bank for Salah.
So while Erling’s absolute numbers are top dog status, he has also played enough football to show that he is a statistical freak and anomaly, outscoring his already-outstanding xG numbers by 8 goals so far (34 non-penalty goals from an xG of 26.1). Anyway, I’m picking Lyle Foster of Burnley this weekend, he’s going to get four away at Forest.
This weekend the angst and anxiety return. If like me, you have had a pants start to the season after sweating cobs over diligently picking the Winning XI that has in fact been a Rather Poor XI, then you might well be tempted into a gameweek five wildcard. I have decided to hold fire because it is such a valuable chip and I don’t feel my squad is actually so bad that it needs a complete overhaul. Just.
If I ignore the injuries, the goalkeepers and my subs and just look at my ten starting outfield players they’re not so bad, lack of Brighton players is costing me and I need Marcus to come good. I’m thinking Son maybe worth a swap if Marcus doesn’t do better this weekend.
Captaincy is another hand wrangling dilemma. Erling has an away game at in-form West Ham. Do I bring in Son and give him the armband for Spurs’ home game against Sheffield United. They got lucky in the 5-2 fluky win at Burnley last time out, where Son matched Haaland’s 20 points in gameweek four with a hattrick, and I’d back him to haul in points again. Erling is obviously the safest captaincy bet, but I may just fancy taking a risk this week as I’m already well behind in the league.
Apart from that, if you’re feeling down, seek comfort in fast food and hot baths, not necessarily at the same time.
Transfer deadline is 11am Saturday.