tsf.tech fantasy league update: gameweek 4.5

Greetings fellow fantasians

How was it for you? For Pete T who nailed 102 points, it was the best week of his life. Ever. His first team (Liverpool) battered Villa, his second team (Stockport) scored a last-minute equaliser versus Crawley, moving from 2-0, to 2-3, to 3-3, and Ewan Ferguson’s hat-trick secured him 17 points. Jelica and Lee also had a decent week with 95 points, followed by Nikita (94). Leading the league in the league leaders’ position on 282 points is Nikita, continuing an impressive run in collecting points like the squirrels collecting conkers in the early September mornings. Michael (280) is in second and Paul P (267) in third. We now have an international break for Nikita to remain in pole position with bragging rights.

What happened this week? Liverpool’s Dominik Szoboszlai became the fourth Hungarian to score in the Premier League at the weekend, after Zoltán Gera, Tamás Priskin and Ákos Buzsáky. Mouthful to pronounce and also a test of my knowledge of Microsoft Word non-English character options when typing.

After an entertaining game at Arsenal, it is alleged a man apparently tried to stick his nut on Roy Keane after the game. Video footage of the incident shows the alleged assailant being pinned to a door by Keane’s burly fellow pundit Micah Richards, who was trying to defuse the situation. While Richards was sweating over how he’d keep Roy back if he decided to retaliate, the police were called, and a 42-year-old man arrested. Keane suffered no physical harm, other than a slight bruise to his shoulder on which his alleged assailant broke his nose, although the hammer-blow to his ego at being bailed out by a colleague 17 years his junior is a wound that could take some time to heal.

Meanwhile the 2022 Crisis Cup is off to a flyer. First up it looked to be a shoe-in for Sean Dyche, winner by the end of October, but hold that thought, Newcastle have lost their last three games and Eddie is twitchy, Eric TH is looking over his shoulder judging by the tetchy post-match interview at Arsenal, and Chelsea are stuttering for Poch after a 0-1 at home to Forest. Jürgen looks safe after a decent start for Liverpool, but the crisis klaxon is currently hooting loudly for several managers.

This week’s photo is of my proud winners’ medal in the original competition run by the Daily Telegraph from 2001/2002. Just gave it a hearty polish this week to see it would bring me some luck.

Saudi news Jordan Henderson made the news this week by trying to reposition his move to Saudi and reaffirm his support of the communities he advocated for when at Liverpool. He said he didn’t go to Saudi for the money but really likes air-conditioned shopping malls. Former Chelsea defender John Terry is on the verge of joining Al-Shabab to make his managerial breakthrough, and Everton have sold Demarai Gray to Al-Ettifaq. The slow drift is getting stronger. Mo Salah continues to be linked to Al-Ittihad, a £200m move didn’t happen as the Saudi transfer window closed, but I bet he’s off next summer. Jürgen is adamant no amount of Saudi dosh will convince Liverpool to sell Mo. It would be Liverpool’s biggest ever sale, eclipsing that of Coutinho for £146m.

Transfer Window watch The trolley dash transfer window slammed shut, and Everton were busy – just not in the way fans hoped. The departures of Iwobi, Cannon and Maupay meant a squad that was already wafer thin became rice paper thin and only a couple of injuries away from a crisis. Saturday’s bench of only seven players, including two goalkeepers, highlights the issue. The money recouped from player sales reflects well from a business perspective but rather alarmingly, not a penny was reinvested on deadline day. Also doing a ‘buy-now-pay-next-year’ deal for Beto further emphasises Everton’s dire position. Lack of secured stadium funding and suspected cash flow issues means Everton are in a sell-to-survive mode. With Demarai Gray also leaving, the road being mapped out until January appears to be a rocky one for Sean Dyche.

VAR Referees’ chief Howard Webb says Man City’s second goal in their 5-1 win over Fulham on Saturday should not have counted. Ake’s goal should have been ruled out as Webb believes Akanji was standing in an offside position, causing goalkeeper Bernd Leno to hesitate. This season referees’ body the PGMOL and the Premier League are releasing in-game audio from officials, catch it, it’s insightful. From the outset I think this should have been disallowed. It certainly appears Akanji has an impact on the goalkeeper who seems to hesitate said Webb on the first episode of Match Officials: Mic’d Up, shown on Sky Sports.

The programme shares the live conversation from the match, which is both a good and bad thing, giving transparency but also highlighting errors. For example, VAR Tony Harrington upheld referee Michael Oliver’s decision of a goal.

VAR Harrington: Checking the goal, checking the goal. He’s [Akanji] definitely in an offside position. Has he made an obvious action to impact on the ability of the goalkeeper? He’s moving out of the way of the ball.

Assistant VAR Adam Nunn: In my opinion he makes a full-length save. For me it’s subjective, there’s potential impact on the keeper, but does it clearly impact the keeper? I think the keeper sees the ball the whole way.

VAR Harrington: So the keeper sees it, there’s no difference, we’re happy. Check complete?

AVAR Nunn: Personally, I’m happy for check complete.

VAR Harrington: OK, check complete, check complete.

Webb’s response: These are not always easy to call because you’re trying to get two pieces of information together – is the player offside, and then the consequence of being in that position. From the outset I think this should have been disallowed. It certainly appears Akanji has an impact on Leno the goalkeeper who seems to hesitate. I think it’s a clear situation of offside, unfortunately it wasn’t identified on the day. This was an error.

These conversations do little more than further fuel the flames of fan paranoia about VAR, the shortcomings of VAR technology and the inadequacies or human frailties of those tasked with using it. Given that VAR was originally introduced to eliminate glaring officiating errors, not add to them, such is its increasingly pernicious influence, that football’s laws are continuously being tailored to work in sync with the technology when it should be the other way around. Sprinting defenders must now put their arms behind their backs in unnatural positions in order to avoid being penalised.

The frankly baffling decision by ref Michael Oliver to allow Aké’s goal for City to stand didn’t need VAR, it was obvious to anyone with even a nodding acquaintance with the laws of football that teammate Akanji was standing in an offside position, clearly impeding the Fulham keeper’s decision-making process and view of proceedings. Even with the benefit of multiple replays, Oliver, his assistant and the Stockley Park brains trust somehow arrived at the conclusion that Akanji wasn’t in the way and the goal stood. Oh, and hang on, even Erling said it was offside.

While Webb’s words will come as scant consolation to Fulham, who were level with City and playing well before visibly deflating in the face of Aké’s goal, they do conjure up quite the image. Oh to be a fly on the wall when Webb, Oliver and other referees sit down for the weekly self-help group review. Of course, like all such meetings, they’ll sit in a circle, nobody’s view of anyone else will be impeded. Where do we go from here re VAR with such open disagreement on something as obvious as offside, and why are people overruling the tech?

Man U in the goo United shares have seen their biggest ever one-day fall after a report that the Glazers are going to pause the sale of the club. The shares fell by 18% after reports the two potential buyers had matched the asking price (£10bn), but Glazer’s advisors disputed this, saying neither Sheikh Jassim of Qatar nor British billionaire Sir Jim Ratcliffe had come close to offering that amount, adding the Glazer family may try again next year to sell the club when they hoped to attract more bidders. The share price fall wiped $750m off United’s stock market valuation to $3.2bn. The Glazer family bought United in 2005 for $790m. Since the takeover the club has paid the Glazers £1bn on interest, loan repayments, plus dividends –  but the club has also spent £1.2bn on transfers.

Looking forward to the weekend More than 1.2m managers have already played their first Wildcard of 2023/24, so I asked you for your thoughts in your start to the season. Here are a few of your comments:

Aleksa: Everyone seems to be panicking and extremely reactionary, but I’m quietly confident. My underlying stats are really positive. I won last year, I just need to redevelop that winning mentality and some composure in nets, attack, midfield and defence. If Enzo hadn’t missed a penalty and Jackson taken his chance against Forest, I’d be third.

Nick: I need to be patient, I will not get success back over night. The plan pre-season got completely smashed by injuries to key players, so I am putting youngsters in that would normally be integrated slowly. Saturday showed that some need more time. This manager knows what he is doing but needs time.

Katie: I seem to create my own apocalypse, each weekend seems to be frying pan to fire. I can’t summon the bravery to turn on Match of the Day. I don’t know any of the new players. Look at West Ham, Palace, Brentford. I need to go shopping in London.

Paul B: Anybody who thinks a whole new team of players would instantly click were kidding themselves. Right now, I am are where Arsenal were a couple of years back. I’m happy the short-term fixes are done and building for the future, even if the here and now is painful. Confident of a top six finish come end of the season.

While four rounds of matches is a small sample size, there have been plenty of lessons to take away to ponder over eight days until the competition recommences. Erling has immediately shown why he is the default captain, standing at the summit of the player standings on 39 points. Nonetheless, it is midfielders who have dominated the overall player standings to underline why the 3-5-2 formation has been so popular in Fantasy this season. Of the 31 players to deliver 20 points in the opening four weeks, 15 are midfielders, and eight of the 13 players to return 25+ points are midfielders, compared with four forwards and one defender. 

James Maddison and Son Heung-min are among those top-performing midfielders, Spurs under new coach Postecoglou look good. Bryan Mbeumo and Raheem Sterling also have the form and fixtures to reward any new backers. At the back, however, a significant drop in clean sheets has been seen. Only 14 clean sheets have been recorded in 2023/24, down 33% from the first four weeks of 2022/23. Should the current trend continue, defenders who boast a strong attacking threat could be more crucial than ever.

Rasmus Højlund anyone? As if the pressure of playing up front for United wasn’t enough for a 20-year-old, some folks have labelled the young Dane Erling Haaland 2.0. While ETH isn’t one of them, he made it clear in no uncertain terms what he expects from the striker.  At United you have to perform, every position, every player, every game he declared. As well as having a vaguely similar name, Højlund is also blond, tall, quick and Scandinavian but has some way to go before he even comes close to matching his prototype in terms of ruthlessness in front of goal.

Jadon Sancho anyone? Not included in the squad for the Arsenal game because his performance in training was not up to scratch, in a Social Media outburst, Sancho said he believes he has been a scapegoat for a long time. A more private exchange of views between player and manager in the coming days is due, when Sancho will presumably be invited to clear either the air or his training-ground locker. Whilst Martial may look fractured like a bag of broken biscuits that’s been battered about with a meat hammer, who do you pick from United?

I hope most of you continue to battle hard with your Fantasy selections and permutations and not cheesed off with the lack of success to date. Interesting phrase, ‘being cheesed off’. The cheese is off. Doesn’t make sense. Cheese, after all, is great. Particularly, say, a decent crumbly Lancashire cheddar, or some creamy Taleggio. Even Yarg has its uses. Nutritionally imperfect, but ever so tasty.

Transfer deadline is 11am Saturday 16 September. Any help with my striker dilemma: should I keep faith with Jesus or is Darwin the natural selection….?

Anyway, the Rugby Union World Cup starts today as an alternative to a fairly bland set of Euro Championship qualifiers for the footballing home nations. Remember, rugby is a game played by men who spend 80 minutes trying not to look injured and play the game honestly; football is a game played by men who spend 90 minutes trying to look injured and not play the game honestly. Just my opinion…

Ron Manager

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