Greetings, another weekend beckons my fellow fantasians.
How was it for you? Last weekend saw benefit from having The Viking, Foden, Botman and Salah in your team, which helped Daniel smash 98 points into top spot, followed by Pete (85) and Princess Katie (84). As it was the fourth weekend of September, jostling for points was fierce, and we have Daniel (246), Pete (220) and Jelica (218) haranguing for the MoTM award. By some fluke of providence, Michael sits top of the league on 400 points, with Paul P (390) and Nikita (390) chasing in style.
I think we all had a better weekend than Sheffield United fans though. If there is one positive Sheffield United fans can cling to after the 0-8 drubbing by Newcastle, it’s that no team that has ever shipped eight or more goals in a Premier League match has ever gone on to be relegated that season. Unless, of course, you want to be pedantic and count Ipswich Town, who went down after losing 9-0 at Old Trafford in 1995. Or Forest, who finished rock-bottom of the table after losing 8-1 at United in 1999. Or Sheffield Wednesday, who dropped through the trapdoor at the end of a campaign in which they also lost 8-0 to Newcastle. Actually, the roll of ignominy looking back through time also includes Southampton (twice), Watford, Arsenal, Bournemouth, and Manchester City. Dare to dream, Blades fans, dare to dream!
This week’s photo is of Going to the Match, one of LS Lowry’s most famous paintings, of the old Burnden Park ground, home of Bolton Wanderers. Bolton played there between 1895 and 1997. It hosted the 1901 FA Cup Final Replay. On 9 March 1946 it was the scene of one of the worst disasters at a football ground where a crush resulted in the deaths of 33 people and injuries to hundreds of Bolton fans. The crowd was 85,000.
Liverpool watch Far be it from me to be digging Jürgen Klopp out of holes of his own making at a time when they have won five games on the run scoring three in each, and five successive league games too, nevertheless, as a humanitarian, I must help him out with his difficulties in getting the best out of Darwin Núñez. Kloppie has been speaking to young Darwin via an interpreter, in Portuguese. How much better would it have been to relay his instructions in Núñez’s native language, Spanish?
Sunday saw a whirling game of attacking thrust and counterthrust at Anfield, beating West Ham 3-1 and Núñez scored a belter. Liverpool’s manager had spent much of the second half cartwheeling down the touchline, trying to hide his beseeching of the fourth official or assistant referee like an enraged human wigwam by a glaring smile through his nice white teeth and mad man stare. Football is my weekend catharsis, a chance to expel all those pent‑up toxins, but sometimes it tips people over the edge.
It looks like Klopp has very quickly got Liverpool back to be City’s main rivals. Szoboszlai looks to be a decent signing. Salah played down the centre as a kind of free radical old-fashioned centre‑forward. Not a false 9 or a real No 9, just a kind of Salah nine, veering about the centre‑backs, chest puffed, legs whirring like a cartoon mouse, and looking utterly on fire. Towards the end of Sunday afternoon Jürgen could be seen with his arms outspread, a tableau of pathos and disbelief, bewildered to find himself misunderstood. He stomped away, still barking, and yelping and pointing. All to himself.
Worth watching Immediately improve your day by watching this dog halt a Mexican second division game by running off with the ball. An underdog story. 12 dribbles completed, solid performance. Better ball retention than United. Chelsea putting a bid in for £85m in January for the new Didier Dogba. Moves like Messi. Dog with ball
The Bank of Chelsea Since taking over Chelsea, Todd Boehly and Behdad Eghbali have spent so much money trying to emulate a certain Premier League club on the south coast that it’s a wonder they didn’t just buy Brighton in the first place. They hired Brighton’s manager and his team of five backroom staff, bought Cucurella, Sánchez and Caicedo , as well as poaching the Seagulls’ head of player recruitment, head of catering, the programme editor, and the car park attendant for the posh people’s cars in the Knightsbridge End (home) car park and valet centre. In all, Chelsea have contributed £220m+ to the Brighton war chest in the past 13 months – the cost of two Amex Stadiums, 84 Kaoru Mitomas or 44,000,000 consecutive goes on the speed demon of Brighton Palace Pier that is the Turbo Coaster (minimum height: 1m 03cm), £3 a ride.
Another Chelsea snippet worth sharing. Poch: The problem with confidence is we cannot buy it in the supermarket. It is about creating situations that can provide the trust and the confidence and the belief. With Mudryk, I like to play hitting the crossbar from outside the box. He said to me today ‘No, I’m not going to play any more with you because always you win. Today was the first time that we draw. So Poch can beat his £80m winger at the crossbar challenge. Sounds like money well spent.
Aston Villa shirts We all love an excuse, some have become popular idioms meaning something beyond the literal. For example, The dog ate my homework; the wrong type of snow; or I’m left-handed and flat-footed, shorthand for all kinds of indolent DIY incompetence. OK, that one’s particular to me, but you get my drift.
The football machine is receptive to them because it allows players and managers unwilling to take responsibility for their own ineptitude to blame officials instead. Happily, we’ve resolved all this with VAR, the loss of the total and unrivalled ecstasy we feel when our team scores a small price to pay for the certainty we now enjoy. But a new excuse has emerged, which no one could have predicted that in these days of breathables and base layers, this line would graduate from metaphorical to actual. Yet we learned of Villa’s complaint that their kits are too heavy, weighing them down and affecting performance.
The offending garments are made by Castore, which is also responsible for kitting out Andy Murray in some of the saddest garments ever seen. though, in their defence, Ben Stokes looks sound in a bucket hat. Demand better – premium performance is the company’s tagline which, though it takes a liberal approach to sense-making, is what the Villa players have done. The current shirts, the players say, cling to them like a second skin when they get hot and sweaty, creating a wet look which isn’t great for elite sport, and are heavy. Concerns have also been raised by Villa’s women’s team.
According to Brentford, who found a similar issue with their Umbro-made tops, this means players might carry as much as 500g extra during matches – a whopping 0.64766839% of their bodyweight. Which, of course, explains why Villa found themselves a disorganised rabble when they lost to Everton midweek, and their squad will, presumably, commit to jewellery removal, full-body waxes, and pre-match nose-picks, to ensure accurate passing, reliable finishing, and disciplined defending when at their desired match weight.
Who to pick for the weekend? Not Jadon Sancho (£6.3m). It’s been a tough week for the one-time wonderkid and England international, who has been banished from United’s first team by Erik ten Hag. And just to really rub it in, Erik has exiled him from the first team canteen too, forcing Sancho to eat breadcrumb coated turkey dinosaur twisters and spaghetti hoops with the club’s academy players. Luckily, Sancho was perfectly comfortable in the company of Dorito encrusted teenagers. Apparently, the issue is he oversleeps and turns up late for training because he plays FIFA online until the early hours of the morning with 12-year-olds from Vietnam.
Saka, Rice, Trossard, Martinelli, Saliba and Vieira are all injury doubts for Arsenal and a whole host of Newcastle players, including both Callum Wilson and Alexander Isak are scared of facing Burnley and feigning injury to stay at home Saturday afternoon. Do you go the whole hog for Kieran Trippier if you can afford him at £6.6m? Those three assists and three bonus points against Sheffield United proved exactly why he is worth the extra cash.
Anthony Gordon also looked in scintillating form in that game and with Harvey Barnes set for a spell on the sidelines, Gordon will continue as the regular starter on the left. He only costs £5.6m so could be handy when you are trying to squeeze the likes of Haaland, Salah, Son, and Trippier into your squad. James Ward-Prowse and Jarrod Bowen would be good signings this week for West Ham’s home game against Sheffield United as they have already delivered consistently this season against some tough opponents, and I think I’ll get them both into Burnley Reserves.
Gamble of the week? I think gamble of the week would be giving the captain’s armband to someone else rather than Haaland. He’ll probably get a double hattrick now I’ve said that away at Wolves. The only fly in the Erling ointment is persistent speculation emerging again this week that he has a release clause of £174m that will be activated in 2024. Real Madrid is already keen, having calculated that a transfer fee of £174m would work out at approximately 12p per goal,
Transfer deadline is 11am Saturday. Enjoy your transfer permutations and fumblings.