You Can Open The Curtains Now, The Transfer Window Is Shut…

Perception can be a cruel mistress. The same fact can mean drastically different things to different people due to their perception of that fact.

Take the Summer Transfer Window business of Liverpool Football Club for instance. I can tell you for a fact that it is thus:

Transfers In

Transfers Out

Total Money Spent: £80,100,000

Total Money Received: £ 42,480,000

So there you have it, all the facts of the matter.

Yet if you printed off all the tweets where people discussed how they perceived these facts, and stacked them one on top of the other, the astronauts on the International Space Station would have enough paper to doodle for months.

As ever, there are extremes of perception in favour of, and against, the business done by LFC in this transfer window. There are those who would organise a #FSGOUT march through the centre of Liverpool with all the gusto of a white supremacist rally in America, while others would volunteer to throw rose petals under the feet of Michael Edwards as he strode to his car after work today.

FSG Out
Look at this f*ckwit…

It’s impossible to write an opinion-piece like this without my own perceptions seeping into these words, but then again you can’t read it without your own perceptions affecting your opinion of this piece, so let’s all agree to read this and never speak of it again, ok?

This has been a GOOD transfer window for LFC. There I’ve said it. If you can’t read the paragraphs below due to the quantity of spittle and bile all over your screen, then you should stop reading here….

It has not been a great transfer window however because one transfer didn’t happen, to address one area of ‘perceived’ weakness in the Liverpool team, namely the failure to capture Virgil Van Dijk from Southampton. This ‘failure’ (and I use that term loosely as I’m not sure you can deem it a failure if the club that owns the player simply refuses to play ball, particularly when you played with their ball without their permission first…) is all the more frustrating as it has been the single biggest issue in the minds of the LFC fans for longer than any other. However it hasn’t happened, no matter how upset you may be about it, and they continue with what they have, and what they have is better than what I hear many say.

VVD
A Saint Or A Sinner? 

I’m not going to name specific players because you all know who is considered a weakness in this Liverpool defence, but I am going to point out some FACTS to you about this Liverpool defence:

In the last TEN league games played, Liverpool have conceded SIX goals. Defensive issues? What defensive issues? Ahh, but hold on, I can actually hear you screaming ‘small sample size’, ‘selective bias’ and ‘FSG apologist f*cknut’, so let’s continue…

In the TEN league games prior, Liverpool conceded FIFTEEN goals. Defensive issues? Oh, aye, those defensive issues. Why didn’t you say so! There you go, proof positive that the failure to capture VVD will ensure this season ends in tears and that the transfer window was a busted flush.

Perception, eh? What a bitch. The FACTS of the matter are that Jurgen Klopp got fed up with his side conceding so many goals and tasked his coaching staff with sorting out the defensive performances. Therefore LFC go from 15 goals conceded in a ten game spell to 6 goals conceded in the next ten game spell with the exact same personnel, apart from Andrew Robertson’s fine debut at home to Palace a couple of weeks ago. You can still argue that it was a ‘nice run of fixtures’ or ‘sheer luck’, and that’s an argument that can be made. However anybody watching LFC over the past two seasons will have seen that Klopp improves players, so you could make a counter-argument that it just took longer for his magic to work on the defensive side of their game.

Any defence will obviously still have ‘off-days’ where you could , ooh I dunno, concede three goals away to Watford (HAH! Evidence that they’re shit in defence!) or concede three at home to Burnley (What? Chelsea? The Champions? Oh, but that’s just a fluke, right?).

Chelsea Burnley
Ropey Defence. LOOK AT THE EVIDENCE. 

It’s accepted wisdom that if you reduce the amount of goals conceded in a league season to below thirty, you’re almost certain to win the league. LFC have conceded 3 goals in 4 games, which extrapolated out over 38 games puts them on target to concede 28.5 goals. I’m already blaming Moreno for the .5 goal you know. I’m not saying that this level of defensive performance will happen, but stretching it out to the last ten games, they’re on target to concede 22.8 goals….I’ll stop now…

So time will tell if the Liverpool defence will continue to be the achilles heel of this team, but if you analyse last season (which I’m sure most of you have) it was the absence of Sadio Mane in January/February that many will tell you really hurt Liverpool. The team was used to (and perhaps accepted) conceding a goal a game when they were scoring three in reply, but when the goals dried up those goals meant losses and draws. In the event of an absence of Mane this season, the transfer window captures of Mo Salah, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Dominic Solanke should ensure that Liverpool continue to score two or more goals a game while the defence continues to leak more than the White House (or not, eh?). The start that Mo Salah has made to his Liverpool career should not be overlooked, as he has been simply sensational. In fact he’s been so prominent and successful in getting into attacking positions that I believe he needs to work on his finishing – that may sound like a negative, but it’s a real positive in that he could/should have had another couple of goals this season at least, and Liverpool have scored SEVEN in three games for crying out loud.

Salah
On your marks…Get set…Too late, I already won…

The full-back options open to Jurgen Klopp should be another reason why this transfer window should be considered a qualified success for LFC. Last season ended with an underwhelming Nathaniel ‘Patsy’ Clyne at right-back and a fish out of water James Milner at left-back. However now at the start of September with a rejuvenated Alberto Moreno battling with new acquisition (and seriously impressive clean-sheet keeping debutant) Andrew Robertson for the left-back slot, with Trent Alexander-Arnold and Joe Gomez seemingly locked in an incredibly high quality battle to the death to secure the right-back slot, with ‘Patsy’ Clyne humming ‘Crazy’ while rocking back and forth on the bench…

Of course the fact that the left-back slot is now so well covered means that James Milner has been freed to roam freely in the fresh green pastures of midfield, where he’s now battling Henderson, Can, Wijnaldum, Lallana, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Coutinho (steady…that’s a different blog) and from next season Naby Keita for one of the three midfield berths. Now I’m not sure if you can count as well as me but that’s EIGHT players (all of whom are a billion miles better than Kevin Stewart, and that’s not a slight on Kevin) battling for THREE places. Depth? A nuclear submarine could get lost in that depth.

There is now genuine competition for places in every part of the Liverpool team, even in goal. Just when it seemed that Mignolet had seen off Loris ‘Fandango’ Karius, Klopp drops one for the other in a move that I can only describe as ‘sharp’. It was a clear message to Mignolet to not let his standards drop for a second, lest Karius will usurp him in the blink of an eye. It’s quality management by Klopp who has worked out that a complacent Mignolet is a flappy Mignolet. He’ll have him on his toes so much this season Mignolet may well end up starring in Swan Lake at the Royal Albert Hall before May. He’d look good in a Desmond.

Simon Mignolet Yellow

So when I take a cold, calculated look at the ‘new’ squad as a whole, I feel that LFC fans should be satisfied with the business done. However I accept that others may not feel as sated, and that’s perfectly acceptable. What is not acceptable however is the vitriol that I see on Twitter from so-called LFC ‘fans‘ who ‘want what’s best‘ and won’t ‘accept failure‘. Let me make one thing clear to you all. If I see you on Twitter claiming to be a ‘fan‘ but aiming direct abuse at a player/owner/owner’s wife, I’m going to screenshot it and I’m going to start a new blog and highlight you to the world (or at least the 4 people who will read this). On a serious note, enough is enough. You don’t have to be happy-clappy and believe that all is well in the world of Liverpool Football Club, but abusing your own while claiming to be a ‘fan’ doesn’t wash with me. You have been warned.

Anyway, enough of the negativity, UP THE DEFENSIVELY IMPROVING GOOD TRANSFER WINDOW SCORING GOALS AT WILL CHAMPIONS LEAGUE GROUP STAGE REDS (utdigtwsgawclgsr…that acronym needs work)

 

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Liverpool 2-1 Burnley: The Ranting Rebel Ratings

 

Yes, I know there’s been another gap between ratings, but there’s another good reason for that…the work I had done with the lads before the Spurs game was nowhere near enough. I had foolishly thought that my motivational speeches and psychological guidance would see the lads flourish against the big teams AND the rest…but following the Leicester debacle, I realised my folly, and was back over to Melwood quicker than Jurgen could say ‘I want a refund, you cheeky Irish git’…

Simon Mignolet Yellow

Simon Mignolet:

 

One of my tips to Jurgen was to proclaim to the world that he didn’t need a new goalkeeper this summer, and here’s the logic:

  1. It will make the incumbent keepers feel a bit better about themselves, and should result in a boost of self-esteem, which would lead to a boost in performances
  2. If you publicly state that you’re looking for a new keeper, then every sodding keeper on planet earth will have an extra ‘0’ added onto their price tag and weekly wage demands.

Makes sense, right?

Simon took to the field on Sunday with his self-esteem at record new highs, which led to an unfortunate incident pre-match when Ragnar Klavan accidentally kicked his boot across the dressing room, leading to Migs roaring into his face “Don’t you know who I am? I’m the king of the world! I’m the greatest! I’m the glorious lovechild of Lev Yashin and Gordon Banks following a saucy encounter in a laboratory in Brussels in the late 80’s”.

Nothing like a bit of self-confidence, eh?

Thankfully Migs backed up his words on the pitch with a flawless display against a team that thought they had sussed out his (and his teammates) weaknesses. Long ball after long ball was humped towards the edge of Mignolet’s box, but time and again he came strongly (ooo-errr missus!), to fist cleanly (now stop it…) away.

I’m working on deflating his ego just a tad this week, after he tried to chat up nine of the other players wives with the same chat up line. ‘Belgium is famous for it’s waffles, do ya wanna taste my batter?’

Give me strength…

8/10 

Nathaniel Clyne

Nathaniel Clyne:

 

You may have noticed that Patsy has quite a bit of ink, pretty much from the neck down is covered in ‘body art’…or that’s what he wants you to think.

The truth is that Patsy is a bit, how shall I put this…’Hard Of Thinking’. In essence, he’s one Spice Girl short of a reunion tour, and all that ‘body art’ is actually notes, hints and tips on every aspect of his game.

Before you judge him, think back to your school days. Yep, we’ve all done it, writing notes/formula on our palms or shirt cuffs, or the name of that Welsh town with the longest name in the world on our penis….or maybe that’s just me who was able to fit it all in…in BLOCK CAPITALS….

So the next time you see Patsy hesitate when a quick cross is on, remember that it’s not his fault. He’s just searching for the instructions on what to do next.

Klavan got the blame for the goal conceded, but for me Patsy forgot to read the instruction on his left butt cheek that says ‘Cover and sweep behind the centre-backs when a striker peels off them’.

Unfortunately yesterday he played like all the notes were written in invisible ink. I’m not sure my words of wisdom were much use at half-time when I told him to ‘just bloody copy what the Burnley right-back did when he set up their goal’.

The single tear that rolled down his cheek will haunt me for a good few days y’know.

6/10. 

Klavan

Ragnar Klavan:

 

While our right-back has a brain function that buffers more than a porn video in 1997, our Estonian centre-half has the memory of a goldfish.

You would think that being absolutely roasted last August by a fella called Andre Gray might stick with you, but in the first half Ragnar played like he’d never seen the man before in his life, and made pretty much the exact same mistakes as he had at Turf Moor.

Incidentally, Turf Moor is Irish for ‘Big Turf’. I just realised that.

Anway, I digress. After half-time, when I pulled Ragnar aside and showed him You Tube clips of the beasting he got from Gray last August, y’know, to prove that it actually fecking happened, he had a moment of clarity and suddenly he knew what he had to do…so he did it.

Hale-fecking-liua.

In the second half he was big, strong and had Gray in his pocket for the remainder of his time on the pitch.

7/10

joel-matip

Joel Matip: 

To say that the heart of the Liverpool defence has been ‘changeable’ would be a bloody understatement. There’s been more changes in the Liverpool rearguard than there’s been Ed Sheeran songs in the Top 20 this week.

Joel was tasked with creating a ‘working relationship’ with Ragnar Klavan yesterday,  and deep down he knew this relationship was one of many he has to nurture. For a start, Dejan Lovren was peering down from the stands, waiting for his chance to show Joel some love, not to mention Shut Up Shop Ltd on the bench bursting to get back into a manly embrace with Joel, but it’s also the fact that Billy Joel had sung about this exact scenario in his 1986 song ‘A Matter Of Trust’….

 

Some love is just a lie of the heart
The cold remains of what began with a passionate start
And they may not want it to end
But it will it’s just a question of when
I’ve lived long enough to have learned
The closer you get to the fire the more you get burned
But that won’t happen to us
Cause it’s always been a matter of trust

Indeed, Joel has to build that trust with three different men this season, and that’s leaving aside the fact that Emre Can keeps butting in every five minutes, and he’s a hard man to ignore when you’re trying to build a relationship. I should know, my wife keeps drooling over him every 5 minutes.

I’ve said too much.

8/10

james-milner

James Milner: 

 

You know the ‘Bleep Test’?

That training exercise where you run from Point A to Point B before the buzzer goes at each end, which just speeds up as you get more knackered?

I believe that some of the world’s fittest athletes get to Level 14 before keeling over.

James Milner is currently at Level 863, and is still going. Up and down that left wing, trying to get a cross in before the buzzer goes, then back down the wing, trying to chase a ball into the oppositions flying forward, which they KEEP. BLOODY. PLAYING. BETWEEN. MILNER. AND. THE. CENTRE. BACK….

The poor man started the season standing 5’10” in his socks, and he’s now 5′ 8″ as his legs have been worn away.

But he just keeps running….

7/10

Emre Can

Emre Can: 

 

£35,000 a week might sound like a lot of money to me and you, but to Emre Can it’s a major bone of contention for him as he seeks to hammer out a new contract. He’s looking for around £70,000 a week (you’re hearing £100,000 a week, but you’ve got to highball first in any negotiation, right?).

I’m not saying that my motivational tactics with the lads work 100% of the time, but here’s what I tweeted at half-time:

Tweet 1

Within 15 minutes of that tweet, Jackie had hit a 25 yard daisy-cutting, worm-burning thunderbastard into the back of net at the Kop end, and then launched himself into a knee-slide celebration that made everyone over the age of 37 envious.

You’re welcome.

Leaving aside the ‘real world money’ argument, in modern football Emre Can has got to be worth £70,000 a week on a new contract, if only for the fact that a new contract increases his selling price if it ever comes to that. Sign him up Jurgen.

Oh, and stop playing silly buggers Emre. Good lad.

8/10

 Adam Lallana

Adam Lallana: 

 

 

What you may not know about Adam is that he’s quite insecure in himself.

He knows he’s got all the tools to be a top class footballer, but you might be surprised to know that footballers don’t always just think about football.

Adam is into his ‘looks’ because he’s compensating for his insecurities surrounding his appearance. That’s why he moisturises 19 times a day and why his skin holds more moisture than the Great Barrier Reef.

His performance yesterday, while not bad, was not up to it’s usual high standards, as Adam realised just before kick off that he was now playing in arguably the most handsome midfield in world football….and he soiled himself.

Jurgen tried to help by hugging him for 12 minutes straight, while stroking his hair, but it didn’t work, and now Jurgen can’t hold anything without it slipping right out of his grasp.

Nivea has a challenge on it’s hands. Does it try and make Adam more handsome, or does it take Gini/Emre into a back alley and smash their faces in?

Decision, decisions.

7/10.

Wijnaldum

Geordie Wine Gum:

 

Composure.

It’s a rare commodity.

When the most gorgeous woman in the bar approaches you and tells you she wants you right now, do you jauntily raise an eyebrow, smirk and tell her she’s made a wise decision, or do you shake uncontrollably, dribble like a teething baby and make a squeaky noise associated with pet toys?

Aye, exactly.

Gini showed incredible composure on the stroke of half-time as the ball ricocheted between him and Mee (no, not him and me, him and Mee. No, not me, Mee. Oh forget it…). While Mee stretched out a leg in vain (no, not me, Mee), and Ward charged towards him, and Heaton did his best starfish impression, Gini went all ‘Matrix’ and made the world pause…before slamming the ball into the net.

Gini is like ‘Hawkeye’ in the Avengers movies. The big names like Iron Man or Hulk or Thor with all their fancy moves tend to get all the attention, but when they don’t show up, the Avengers need someone else to come to the rescue. So as Phil/Bobby/Sadio have gone missing at various times this season, Gini has stepped up with goals against City/Chelsea/Arsenal and Burnley.

I know which one I prefer right now.

9/10

origi

Divock Origi:

 

Some said that this was a ‘huge chance’ for Divock and that he must grab it with both hands.

Some said that he blew his big chance.

Some talk an awful lot of guff.

Make no mistake about it, Bobby Firmino comes back into this team as soon as he’s fit, so nothing Divock did yesterday was ever going to change that. He knows it, and I know it, and you should know it.

That’s not to say that he didn’t do well though. While the Fantasy Football stats may only give him one assist, in the real world, he has two. It was his cross to Gini that set up the equaliser, as well as his pass to Emre that set up the winner.

What more can he do?

Well yes, of course he could score. I take your point. Alright, nobody likes a smartarse.

8/10.

coutinho

Philippe Coutinho:

Dearest Philippe,

Have you ever seen ‘The Three Amigos’ movie?

It’s a cracker, I highly recommend it. Chevy Chase, Steve Martin and Martin Short combine wonderfully to make you howl with laughter for 90 minutes.

However, I’ve found that when the ‘Three Amigos’ are seperated, they’re funny, but not THAT funny. I mean Chevy Chase can be downright annoying, Martin Short is barely noticeable and Steve Martin, while clearly a very funny man, needs someone opposite him to truly thrive.

I know that Bobby F was missing yesterday, but that can’t excuse that performance Phil. You were DIRE. I’ve never done this before, but yesterday I felt I had to. I tweeted about you Phil. I feel dirty, but strangely vindicated.

Tweet 2

I know you’re annoyed at Jurgen for hooking you, but as you can see now, it was all me Phil. I’m not sorry either. This ‘thing’ we have has to be a two-way street. Since your return from injury, it’s been all ‘take, take, take’ from you. What have you given me? Do I not deserve the very best? Is the magic gone between us Phil? Just say the word and I’ll be out of here! Just be honest with me Phil, that’s all I ask.

As always,

Love you,

Xxx

5/10

sadio-mane

Sadio Mane:

 

The one player I have to spend the least amount of time with is Sadio. He’s just got all the self-confidence you could want, and shows it out on the pitch. He was Liverpool’s only real threat during that woeful opening half, and he kept the Burnley defence on edge all match long.

On more than one occasion he was inches away from the perfect pass to set up a goal.

The thought of Sadio on top song against THAT City defence next weekend makes me happy.

8/10

Substitutes:

lucas

Shut Up Shop Ltd:

 

11 minutes left when the barriers came down, and they stayed firmly down until the full-time whistle.

Not only did Lucas shore things up, he also found himself rampaging forward with the ball at his feet, 30 yards from goal. Even he realised how daft that situation was…

7/10

ben-woodburn

Ben Woodburn:

 

How would you feel if you woke on Monday morning and remembered that you were brought on by Jurgen Klopp after an hour to replace Philippe Coutinho?

Aye, exactly. That’s why Ben is walking around with an 8 hour erection as I type. Ah, the miracle of youth.

He did pretty well too.

7/10

 


klopp-new

Manager: Jurgen Klopp: 

 

Right Jurgen, you’ve had the benefit of my presence before Spurs and now Burnley, so every other game this season will be degrees of each.

10 games to go. You’ll be fine for the next two, that’s a nailed on six points, but it’s the final 8 that will really tell us about this team: Bournemouth (fighting), Stoke (on the beach), West Brom (on the beach), Palace (probably on the beach by then), Watford (on the beach), Southampton (on the beach and we owe them one), West Ham (on the beach and a bit sh*t), Boro (in the Championship by then).

If you need me, you know where I am. You’ve already started using my advice, so keep it up. I like the whole ‘I don’t have a Plan B’ thing, that was beautiful. Just remember to pick Moreno every now and again and you’ll have everyone fooled. LOL.

7/10.

Note: If you enjoy the guff on this blog, you can find me on Twitter (@NiallHawthorne) or on Facebook (facebook.com/rantsofarebel)

Fantasy YIRMA GW38 Review: Captain Salah

Ladies and Gentlemen of the class of ’17/’18.
Captain Salah.
If I could offer you only one tip for the future, captaining Salah would be it.
The long term benefits of captaining Salah have been proved by scientists, whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience…
I will dispense this advice now.

Enjoy the power and beauty of Raheem Sterling; oh nevermind; you will not understand the power and beauty of Raheem Sterling until they have faded.
But trust me, in 20 years you’ll look back at the FPL statistics of Raheem Sterling and recall in a way you can’t grasp now how much possibility lay before you and how fabulous he really looked…
Shaqiri’s not as fat as you Imagine.

Don’t worry about the future; or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to fit Kane, Salah and DeBruyne into your team by chewing bubblegum.
The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind.
The kind that blindside you at 11.30am on some idle Saturday morning as the Gameweek Deadline looms.

Do one thing everyday that scares you.

Buy Charlie Adam.

Don’t be reckless with other people’s transfers, don’t put up with people who are reckless with yours.

Buy Pascal Gross.

Don’t waste your time on jealousy;
Sometimes you’re ahead,
Sometimes You’re behind.
The race is long, and in the end, it’s only with yourself. And 5,910,134 others.

Remember the Bonus Points you receive, forget the own goals;
If you Succeed in doing this, tell me how.

Keep your old team drafts, throw away your old bench boost failures.

Stretch…to buying Eriksen.

Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what you want to do with your team next week.
The most interesting people I know didn’t know at 11.30am what they wanted to do with their teams, some of the most interesting people I know still don’t at 11.35am.

Get plenty of Valencia.

Be kind to Firmino, you’ll miss him when he’s gone.

Maybe you’ll marry, maybe you won’t, maybe you’ll have children, maybe you won’t, maybe you’ll divorce at 40 because of your FPL obsession, maybe you’ll dance the funky chicken on your 75th wedding anniversary while checking your FPL score online.
Whatever you do, don’t Congratulate yourself too much or berate yourself either.
Your choices are half chance, so are everybody else’s.
Enjoy your team, Use it every way you can… Don’t be afraid of it, or what other people Think of it,
It’s the greatest team you’ll ever own…

Dance… even if you have nowhere to do it but in your own living room when your captain scores four.

Read the FantasyYIRMA Previews, even if you don’t follow them.

Do NOT read non FantasyYIRMA content, they will only make you feel ugly.

Get to know your mini-league rivals, you never know when they’ll be gone for good.

Be nice to your workmates;
They are the best link to your past FPL success and the people most likely to rub your face in it in the future.

Understand that seasons come and go, but for the precious few you should hold on.
Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle because the older you get, the more you need the people who know how good those new foreign players are.

Be in the top thousand places, but leave before it makes you hard;
Be outside the top million places, but leave before it makes you soft.

Travel (when the season is over)

Accept certain inalienable truths, player prices will rise, bonus points will screw you over, you too will get old, and when you do you’ll fantasize that when you were young player prices were reasonable, bonus points decisions were noble and children let their elders win.

Screw your elders.

Don’t expect anyone else to support you.
Maybe you had Coutinho, Maybe you had Suarez; but you never know when either one might run out.

Don’t mess too much with your team, or by the time you’re 40, you will look 85.

Be careful whose advice you buy, but, be patient with FantasyYIRMA who supply it. Advice is a form of nostalgia, dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it’s worth.

But trust me on Captaining Salah…

FantasyYIRMA GW36 Review: Getting yourself ‘Transfer-Window’ ready…

It’s that time of year again when the Sunday papers cram their supplements and pull-outs with a deluge of tips on getting ‘Beach-Body Ready’. They once again perpetuate the myth that a few lunges and squats combined with kale and papaya juice will turn the body you’ve been moulding since last November with pizza, chips, beer and crisps into a replica of Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson or Kelly Brook, all within four short weeks. It is of course an utter nonsense. Anyone who follows ‘The Rock’ on Twitter will know that his fitness regime would make US Marines walk away shaking their head in disbelief. I personally would much rather drool on my pillow at 3.30am and scratch my arse on my couch at 9.30pm rather than hit the gym and lift things heavier than the planet Venus. My body reflects this level of dedication too, and I’m comfortable with that. Yet clearly the media moguls put these supplements in each year because it helps sell the papers, which means there are LOADS of people out there that fall for this claptrap.

To be fair, the professional footballers of #FPL carry out a similar charade at this time of year as GW36 demonstrated clearly. Of course they’re all physically sculpted by virtue of being professional athletes, but many decide that they want to get ‘Transfer Window’ ready. Instead of lunges, squats, kale and papaya they spend a few weeks scoring goals, providing assists and showing a level of gumption and motivation that was bewilderingly absent between GW1 and GW35. Don’t believe me? Well here’s my proof:

Dusan Tadic had 3 goals and 3 assists in 33 GW’s in which he featured in almost all, yet has 3 goals since GW34. What’s that you say? His team may be relegated? He knows he’s better than the Championship, but needs to attract attention ahead of the Summer Transfer Window? Well whad’ya know…welcome to the party Dusan. If I were a Southampton fan I’d cheer every goal and assist between now and the end of the season while simultaneously giving him the finger. This isn’t ‘digging deep to save the club he loves’, this is ‘digging deep to save his own arse’.

There are FOUR Crystal Palace players who scored double digits in GW36, a statistic that has gasted my flabber completely. Now I’m not saying all four are mercenary like our good friend Dusan Tadic, but you have to wonder at their sudden motivation after a quite rotten season. Wilfried Zaha grew up around the corner from Selhurst Park, so he get’s an honorable exception with his 14 points, but Patrick Van Aanholt (13 points), Mamadou Sakho (12 points) and James McArthur (11 points) may well have realised that while their Premier League status is secure, they’re still being managed by The Hodge, and when you’re managed by The Hodge, you really want to get out of Dodge…

Leighton Baines (12 points) has missed almost half the season through injury, but since his return he has 43 points in 7 GW’s. Sure, he’s an Everton stalwart who must love the club after hanging around for so long, but he’s also spent half the season looking at Big Sam’s massive head, his jowls flapping in the wind as he chews what I can only presume is gum, but could quite easily be part of the enormous chip he has on his shoulder. There’s no harm in making yourself ‘Transfer Window’ ready for one last payday and to escape Big Sam’s gravy gulag is there? Idrissa Gueye (11 points) might be looking to hang onto Leighton’s coattails as he’s suddenly scored 24% of his full season points in the last three GW’s. Coincidence? As Buffy The Vampire Slayer once said:

Giles, there are two things I don’t believe in: coincidence and leprechauns

Quite.

Plenty have lauded the effect that Darren Moore has had on West Brom since he was placed in temporary charge following the unfortunate ‘incident’ we’ll just call Chunky-gate. Many have called for him to be given the job permanently when their inevitable relegation is finally confirmed, but I would advise that people start to view the recent Baggies Bounce through my eyes. Sure, Darren seems a lovely fella and the players seem happy to try harder for him…but right now they’re all trying harder for themselves, and themselves only. They’re doomed, they know it, and they know what the wages are like in the Championship compared to the Premier League. West Brom players right now are like the ‘gentleman’ in the ‘Titanic’ movie that wangled his way onto the lifeboat carrying a child that wasn’t his ahead of women and children that should have had been saved. Matt Phillips amassed 11 points against Newcastle, scoring only his second goal of the season while holding a 3 year old West Brom fan in full replica kit.

Titanic Man
You have to save me, I’m far too good to go down…

Cecil Fibreglass, sorry, Cesc Fabregas has had a disappointing season by his usual standards, but that can be explained. Y’see, a few months ago the Chelsea lads decided that Antonio Conte was annoying them and they fancied a new gaffer who might be nicer to them. So the Chelsea lads do what the Chelsea lads do and decided to down tools for a bit, like they did to Jose that time. Unfortunately for them the job they thought Conte would leave for has been taken by Roberto Mancini which means that the gaffer may be around next season after all, so a WhatsApp message was sent around advising everyone to start putting in a shift again. This explains the recent upturn in Chelsea form, and why Cecil scored 10 points this week.

Finally Paul Pogba (10 points) has been the subject of transfer rumours for months now. His relationship with Jose Mourinho is more complicated than a Mormon with 10 wives going on an episode of First Dates. Pogba’s recent upturn in form could be driven by his determination to convince Jose that he’s the man for the future…or it could be driven by his determination to be viewed as another De Bruyne / Salah when he’s flogged by Jose and then goes on to thrive in the future. Either way, he’s also ‘Transfer Window’ ready.

I normally discuss the Villains of the Week now, but in a way everyone I’ve discussed this week could be viewed as that…but for the record Pablo Zabaleta racked up his FOURTH negative points total of the season with -2 against Man City. I’m not saying he’s not ‘Transfer Window’ ready, but the blinds are drawn, the shutters are closed and he lives in a basement. Finally Marc Albrighton was sent off against Palace to score -2 points. He has an excuse though. It’s hard to play football when you’re wearing flip-flops with an inflatable ring around your midriff while drinking a Pina Colada through a straw. Here comes the summer!

FantasyYIRMA GW34 & 35 Review:

Predicting the end of times seems to be a bi-annual occurrence these days. You can’t go more than six months without some group of crackpots declaring that a random Wednesday is going to see the rapture descend upon us. Four horsemen. Earthquakes. Thanos. Volcanoes. Y’know, the usual feeling you get after 4 days on the tear at Cheltenham and seeing a trailer on YouTube while feeling like death. However I believe that we’re being protected from a grizzly end by a group of people that will always be there for us, always around to pick us up when we’re down, who will ensure that when all hope seems lost, new hope will spring eternal.

The Avengers? Nah, screw that lot, I’m talking about people that have been hailed since time immemorial. May I introduce to you…The Scripture Squad!

Jesus…16 points

Jesus

Mohamed…15 points

Mohamed

Moses…15 points

Moses

Giroud…well, he looks like a God, right? 14 points

Giroud

Captain Salah has been our hero all season long and nobody in their right mind doesn’t have Cap in their squad. Throw in his Scripture Squad buddies and the last couple of weeks would have seen you ascend up your mini-league tables to your rightful place at the right hand of…whoever is on your left.

Of course the Scripture Squad need allies who are good, but who just aren’t quite ‘superhero’ status yet. (Yes, this is a dig at Hawkeye, deal with it). Step forward Wilfried Zaha. He may have tanked at the Box Office when he got his big budget break at ‘The Theatre Of Dreams’, but he’s proven that in lower budget productions he can bring the crowd to their feet. 16 points in GW’s 34 & 35 may yet see him given one more blockbuster move.

Raheem Sterling amassed a huge 21 points, but there’s something preventing him from full graduation to superhero status. Is it the way he runs? Is it that he should really have had over 30 points? I’m going to compare him to Paul Rudd as Antman. Yes he has ‘skills’ but he’s small and still the guy we’ve all laughed at many, many times. Paul Rudd also appeared in Anchorman, and as a Liverpool fan every time I see Raheem on the TV I shout something that begins with ‘W’ and rhymes with Anchorman.

Ayoze Perez scored 14 points (with 12 points in GW33) but to have had the foresight to stick him in your squad for these last few weeks would have taken some serious ‘Vision’. Ashley Barnes also scored 14 points over the last couple of weeks and has 6 goals in his last 8 GW’s, after a modest season up to that point. Every superhero group needs a ‘plucky’ character, so let’s all hail ‘Plucky’ Barnes, a man with a cap for the Austrian U-20’s and who plays in shorts in Burnley from October – March every year. Now THAT is a Winter Soldier if ever I saw one.

The Scripture Squad have had a spiritual leader for many, many years, but alas he was destroyed last week by the fearful interglactic warlord they call #WengerOut. This has enraged his lead Gunner, Alexander Lacazette, who has taken his frustrations out on everyone and smashed 3 goals for 21 points.

The one they call ‘Guardiola’ has begun to produce FPL superheroes, but not everybody is impressed. The old school English pundits don’t care much for ‘Guardiola’, his philosophies and his different ways. 1,000 passes in a single match? They call him ‘Dr. Strange’, but he can change our very perception of football. For instance the speed with which his pupils rack up FPL points is incredible. David Silva – 10 pts in GW35. Bernardo Silva – 11 pts in GW35. Not just one, but two ‘QuickSilvas’.

However without the bad guys, there’d be no need for the Scripture Squad, and in GW’s 34 and 35, Planet FPL was under attack from another negative point tirade. Kevin Long betrayed those of us who trusted this budget defender who had been drafted in to plug the hole in the defensive Dyche constructed at Turf Moor. An own goal and a score of -1 left many casualties. However GW35 was to prove even more calamitous as two traitors led many of us into negative points. Martin Olsson thought he could pocket two pieces of Silva and get away with it against Man City, but in his 74 minutes of action he was punished by Jesus, conceded four and picked up a yellow card to give him -1 point. Joining him was Pablo Zabaleta who worships false Gods and believes in ‘The Moyesiah’. Such heresy was duly punished thanks to a 4 goal yellow card spanking at The Emirates.

FantasyYIRMA GW 33 Review:

The Smashing Pumpkins have a song called ‘Thirty-Three’. The last couple of verses go something like this:

I’ve journeyed here and there and back again
But in the same old haunts I still find my friends
Mysteries not ready to reveal
Sympathies I’m ready to return
I’ll make the effort, love can last forever
Graceful swans of never topple to the earth
Tomorrow’s just an excuse
And you can make it last, forever you
You can make it last, forever you
Well sorry Billy Corgan, but you can do one if you think I want Gameweek Thirty-Three to last forever…not with an average score of 32!
Mind you, some of the lyrics are pretty apt:
‘Mysteries not ready to reveal’ clearly applies to the inability of Lukaku, Aguero, Jesus, Morata, Firmino, Salah, Mane or Kane to score this week, but a little heads up would have been nice (and if Harry Kane is reading this you didn’t touch it so stop swearing on your daughters life, appealing to the FA and making yourself look like a tit you weird-fat-tongued-slack-jawed-desperate-freak).
‘Graceful swans of never topple to the earth’ nails Swansea’s inability to beat a hapless West Brom team too. Y’see? You can find hidden meaning in anything if you want to. That explains the science behind Nostradamus, Brexit, Donald Trump and all of my FantasyYIRMA work to date.
Top man this week was Danny Welbeck. I’m not saying that this came as a surprise, but his FPL scores this season have sounded like a roadie carrying out a sound check: ‘2,1,2,2,1,1,2,Testing (he certainly has been…)’. Two goals, an assist and 3 BPS saw him amass a huge 16 points to remind Arsenal fans that twice a season he really will come good for them.
Christian Eriksen and Paul Pogba both contributed two goals from midfield for their respective clubs and both picked up the maximum BPS to boot. However Eriksen scored one point more than Pogba because he looks like butter wouldn’t melt whereas Pogba had a blue and white hairdo when playing Manchester City, so had a point docked for being a silly sausage. It’s only fair.
Ayoze Perez is enjoying life all of a sudden and is starting to realise that Rafa Benitez can perform miracles – He can keep Newcastle in the Premier League with THAT squad, he can win a Champions League with Djimi Traore at left-back and he can get Ayoze Perez scoring on a regular basis. Rumours abound that Rafa will replace Ant for the upcoming series of ‘I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here’, and to be honest the only fly in the ointment is that Dec is struggling to get through auditions because he can’t stop hugging Rafa. Who can blame him? I’d hug him in a heartbeat. I’d hug him and squeeze him and I’d never let go…
A Chelsea defender and Palace midfielder both racked up double-digit points this week with Azpilicueta and Milivojevic both scoring and gaining the max BPS. You should know that I started typing this paragraph on Monday morning, and I’m finishing it on Tuesday morning because my fingers got tangled typing those names and the local A&E didn’t believe me when I told them what had happened. Whoever invented the QWERTY keyboard didn’t realise these lads would make their invention redundant. Ouch.
Jack Cork was the star of the show for Burnley because he’s called Cork. Everything about Cork is brilliant. I can’t say enough about how great Cork is. I pity everyone if they don’t think Cork is the best. Cork Rulez. (I may be from Cork btw…)
Jordan Pickford kept a clean sheet, made four saves and secured 3 BPS because he was facing Ings and Solanke instead of Firmino and Salah. Pffft, they really should have a rule in FPL for such an eventuality. It’s like Danny Willett winning the Masters because Jordan Spieth sh*t the bed. It happened, it’s in the history books but it doesn’t really count, y’know?
Finally Alexis Sanchez hit his second double-digit score in a row thanks to his assists against Manchester City in what was frankly the most hilarious football match of the season so far. I can’t recall ever bursting out laughing so often in my local as that match unfolded. The only thing funnier has been the ‘opinion’ pieces since proclaiming a ‘turning point’ for Jose or that the ‘gloss’ has been taken off the season for Manchester City. Good Lord, can we all not just appreciate a match when both teams are hilariously gash for a half each? The game’s gone…
Now for our ‘Villains Of The Week’ which has a trio of muppets who put on a show this week. Brighton had a midfielder receive his marching orders as they were locked at 1-1 with a fellow relegation rival, knowing that a winning goal would all but secure their survival in the Premier League. Yep, Davey is a Propper berk. He’s joined by two players from The Emirates who both got sent off for existing. Jack Stephens gently pushed over Jack Wilshere who was irritating him while Mohammed Elneny lightly brushed someone on the cheek, so naturally both had to go. Just think of the children who could be influenced by such behaviour, eh? As I said, the game’s gone…as are both players until May.

FantasyYIRMA GW32 Review:

There’s one life lesson that we should all pay heed to: If an Austrian man nicknamed ‘Arnie’ has a grudge against you, then be afraid…be very afraid. He could be a cyborg from the future looking to destroy/save the past/future (I’ll be honest, I was young watching the Terminator movies and I’m a bit hazy on the details).

It could also be a West Ham United player with bundles of talent but who sometimes lacks motivation…until he sees Mark ‘Sparky’ Hughes in the opposite dugout and decides that he has a point to prove. On Saturday Marko ‘Arnie’ Arnautovic terminated the last remaining shred of managerial credibility Mark Hughes possessed as he plundered 2 goals and 3 BPS against a sorry Saints side to keep the Hammers faithful happy (or at least quelled their urge to rampage…for a week at least).

So in summary, don’t annoy an Austrian named Arnie! Or any Austrian with a first name beginning with ‘A’, come to think of it…..

Before we move on from the London Stadium, we should also acknowledge the other two Hammers who bagged double-digit scores – Yes, THREE West Ham players scored double-digit scores! Who said rioting locals can’t motivate the players, eh? Arthur Masuaku will have been spitting chips at his recent 6-game ban (well, he was spitting something to get the ban in the first place), but he returned to register his fourth clean sheet and third assist as he cleared his throat loudly…to remind everyone he was back. Finally the favourite player of Nintendo’s iconic Italian plumber also racked up 10 points thanks to a goal and 2 BPS. Next time Super Mario finishes a level, just listen as he raises his fist in celebration and proclaims ‘Joao! Mario!’ at you…

Kasper Schmeichel is a player that I just can’t warm to I’m afraid. It’s nothing to do with him per se, it’s more to do with the fact that he reminds me of how old I’m getting. I can’t handle watching the sons of Premier League stars of my youth strut their stuff. Christ on a bike, I’m still waiting for his Dad to make a comeback for one last hurrah. Surely he wouldn’t do any worse than Wayne Hennessey, right? I remember watching Sky Sports in my teens and seeing a young Kasper playing ball in the Old Trafford tunnel with Tom Ince. They were about 7 years of age. At this rate I’m half expecting to see the grandson of John Barnes roaring down the wing for Liverpool as I unwrap one more Werther’s Original to gum on before I sip my cocoa and shuffle off this mortal coil. Anyway, I digress. Kasper saved a penalty against Brighton to preserve a clean sheet (something that’s harder to do as you get older I find…I’ve said too much) and grab 15 points for himself. Jaysus, his father must have been getting a million points a season in his prime, eh?

Spurs are having another outstanding season and over the last couple of games have decided to show Daniel Levy that he should take £120,000,000 for Harry Kane this summer as they clearly don’t need him. No, really. Three goals at Stamford Bridge, with two of them scored by the man they’re going to name part of their new stadium after. Forget ‘The Harry Kane Kiosk’, or the ‘Jan Vertonghen Veranda’. When the fans go for their refreshments in the new White Hart Lane, they’ll queue up for lukewarm Bovril and soggy pies in the Deli Alley. Honestly, if that doesn’t happen then Spurs should be disbanded as a club. The real Dele Alli scored a worldie followed by a scramble to ratchet up 15 points for the 11.9% of FPL players who kept the faith with him.

Speaking of ownership percentages and keeping the faith, just 2.9% of players own Alexis Sanchez. TWO POINT NINE PERCENT. Oh how the mighty have fallen, but with a price tag of £11.5m and a points return of 129 for the season, you can see why. In fact, while he scored 14 points with a goal, an assist and 3 BPS I still judge those stubborn enough to keep hold of him. You can spot these people in real life easily enough. They’re the ones at the penny drop machines in the arcades who plough £25.78 into the machine because there’s a bunch of pennies worth £0.58 ready to drop, and then celebrate when it finally happens. They also voted for Brexit and are most likely serving in Government right now. Oooh, that’s a good Freedom of Information request! Let’s see the FPL teams of the Tory Government! Bet that’ll be an eye-opener…

Our next weekly star is a player who I personally brought in and immediately handed the armband. Now I’m not bragging because I even tried to help everyone who follows me on Twitter. I put out a cryptic clue on Friday about this player, and those of you clever enough to have worked it out will have immediately bought him and reaped the rewards. Here’s the clue (and a reason why you should immediately follow me on Twitter):

Aubameyang Clue

Now let me break it down for you: Golden (Au) Ethnic Minority (BAME) Half Of A Chinese Philosophy (Yang); Au-BAME-Yang. Ta-da! (More) proof that I’m weird, and proud of it. Two goals and 3 BPS a handsome reward for all of you who followed my lead (for the record, nobody officially ‘got it’ on my timeline).

Final mentions for David Silva who is making a late run to make any coronation of Kevin de Bruyne as POTY look foolish, and Ben Chilwell who was once on the radar of Liverpool and could have been ‘Andy Robertson’. 11 points for each.

Nobody in negative points territory this week, which doesn’t make for a lengthy Villains of the Week section, but never fear because as my mother says…’There’s always one’. Step forward Mr. Glenn Murray, who missed a crucial penalty at home to Leicester City to drain his points total quicker than the bank account of a Bitcoin investor. Is there anything worse than a seagull ruining your weekend? When one sh*ts on you, it is NOT good luck, no matter what those ‘old wives’ say.

FantasyYIRMA GW 31 Review: All Hail The Egyptian King…

With just four matches taking place in GW31, the word ‘strategy’ was used frequently among the FPL community this week. Some had been planning for this for weeks, strategically bringing in crap players, sorry, players from teams such as Crystal Palace, Bournemouth and Huddersfield with this week in mind. Others were reaching for their ‘Free Hit’ chip and loading up on 12 crap players (Damn! Sorry!), players from ‘non-fashionable’ clubs to add to their three Liverpool sure-fire bankers. Yes, that says bankers. Some even chose the strategy of ‘doing nowt’, hoping that a team consisting of less than a handful of players might avoid a massive red arrow of doom.

Ironically none of the above strategies mattered…as long as you captained Salah. Don’t say this column didn’t warn you!

Mo Salah

The debate surrounding the ‘Footballer Of The Year’ award is going to come to a head in the coming weeks as the ‘De Bruyne / Salah’ debate rages on, where one party is going to be aggrieved no matter what the result. However in FPL world, the results are already in. All hail Mo Salah! Y’see in FPL it’s not about cups won, it’s about points won, and he’s now 83 points ahead of KDB this season. Yes the Belgian has a game in hand put he’d want to be putting in some shift to make up 83 points…

Against Watford we finally saw Mo Salah doing what he’s been threatening to do for quite a while – he tore an opponent a new one. 4 goals. An assist. 3 bps. TWENTY NINE POINTS (In the style of the old BBC Videprinter – ask yer Da).

The remaining stand-out players in GW31 all had ownership under 10% (which is becoming standard in this bloody game at this stage). James Tomkins scored over 20% of his full seasons points with a goal, clean sheet and 3 bps to break Huddersfield hearts and give Crystal Palace a chance of staying up this season. The b*stard (Sorry, not sorry). Cenk Tosun has responded to Sam Allardyce calling him ‘rubbish’ by being not rubbish and grabbing two goals at Stoke. I’m not saying he damaged Stoke irreparably, but he did a damn fine impression of a bull in a pottery shop to smash their hopes of staying up.

Andrew Robertson was purchased from Hull City for £8m last summer by Liverpool. Liverpool then sold Kevin Stewart to Hull City for £8m in return. THAT, Mr. Trump, is what you call ‘The Art Of The Deal’. In fact I’m ashamed to call it a ‘deal’. It’s blind robbery. A long-con of epic proportions. It would make Cambridge Analytica blush. Robertson’s cross for Mo Salah’s second was so beautiful that it can blind you by looking directly at it. I know of men who have left their wives and children to run off with that cross. It helped Mr. Robertson to 11 points. Swoon.

Jordon Ibe was also sold by Liverpool in the not too distant past and for the majority of the time since, it looked like Liverpool had once more gotten the best part of that deal. However Jordon grabbed his second goal of the season to go with his six assists to grab 10 points against the not so ‘boinging’ Baggies. With form like that Herr Klopp must be crying salty tears into his coffee when he considers he could have kept Ibe and not bought Salah….ahahahahahahahaahaaaa!!!!

Junior Stanislas has shown real form in recent weeks and another 10 point haul will have really pleased his Dad, Stanislas Stanislas. At least I think that’s what his Dad must be called, right? You get called Junior when you have the same name as your Dad? Maybe he’s called Senior Stanislas? Imagine if they brought that custom into Scandinavian culture, where I believe that your surname is derived from your fathers name. Henrik Larsson’s dad was called Lars. Anders Svensson’s dad was called Sven. Bring in the ‘Junior’ custom and in three generations you’d have everyone in Scandinavia and Iceland called Juniorsson. It would be a nightmare for football commentators in the 2042 World Cup.

Finally we have Luka MiliVanilli Millvilleneuve Milivojevic of Crystal Palace, a man who has 106 points for the season because he turns up and scores penalties. No really, that’s all he does. Assists? Pah! Luka laughs at the mere thought. He’s there for the penalties and nothing else interests him. He scored his 8th of the season out of 9 attempts. The one he missed? Oh, it just would have beaten Manchester City. No big deal….

So we come onto our GW 31 Hall Of Shame, and this week we have one ‘winner’. This is a man who has had an unbelievably sh*tty start to 2018. To begin with, he plays for Stoke. He started the year with Mark Hughes as his manager. He then had Paul Lambert take over. That’s bad right? Oh you haven’t seen anything yet. He sits on the bench or out of the squad most weeks, but when he does get his chance he has a public row with his teammates over who should take a crucial late penalty to defeat a relegation rival, misses the penalty, moves slower than tectonic plates to the rebound and costs his team a win. He then sits on his arse for a few more weeks, and gets ONE LAST CHANCE when he starts in another huge relegation battle against an Everton team who enjoy playing away as much as Theresa May enjoys EU Summits. After 29 minutes, with his team in the ascendancy he goes in studs up on Wayne Rooney to earn a straight red card. His team go on to lose another crucial game. Then, to round off his utter humiliation NASA find the ball that he blootered over the bar in the 2012 League Cup Final penalty shoot-out against Cardiff City. It’s on Mars. No, really, it is.

Mars Ball

Charlie Adam ladies and gentlemen. And you thought YOU had a hard weekend?

FantasyYIRMA GW 30 Review: From Russia With Love…

Regular readers of this column will know that I am firmly of the belief that this game of FPL trolls us, in a myriad of ways, and with no sense of justice or fairness. It’s almost certainly a complex Russian algorithm designed to drive over 5,000,000 of the global population to drink. Combine that with the Russian algorithms that got Trump elected, Brexit passed and Paddington 2 to be ignored for the Oscars, and it’s clear that the ‘Beast from the East’ is not a bloody snowstorm.

Kane got a point and injured. Aguero injured in training. Salah was crushed under the Mourinho bus. Chelsea clean sheet gone in the last minute. Davies not in the squad…As I stood on the ledge of the highest building in Cork I realised that I now know how those traders on Wall Street feel when the market crashes. However I also realised that I have a Free Hit and Triple Captain chip to play, so I’m still here ready to fight on.

Incredibly it’s one of the best weeks of the season for the quantity of players that hit double figures – a whopping 16 players scored 10 points or more. However just 4 of those players had ownership of more than 10%. Damn you Moscow!

David Silva had been absent in recent months due to the premature birth of his child, which as absence notes go is a bloody decent excuse. Hopefully things have worked out well in that situation, for David has returned to the Man City team with gusto, and his 16 point haul at The Britannia has brought his team to within 6 points of the title. He’s matched on that points total by Kenedy, the young Brazilian on loan from Chelsea. What’s that I hear you say? Young, talented and not getting a game for Chelsea? He’s the next De Bruyne! Salah! Lukaku! Well he did a decent impression of them this week with 2 goals and 3 bonus points.

I’m not saying that Arsenal have been in poor form, but Barnet (bottom of League 2 with 7 league wins) asked for a behind closed doors practice game to boost their players morale. People see that win over AC Milan as a sign that Arsenal still possess quality, and perhaps they do, but you should remember that AC Milan are playing Fabio Borini at right-back these days, so y’know…Anyway, a friend of mine is in a tight race in his FPL mini-league and took a punt this week when be brought in Peter Cech to face Watford. He was handsomely rewarded with a 15 point haul thanks to a clean sheet and a first ever penalty save at The Emirates. I asked my buddy how that left things in his mini-league and his response said it all: ‘Cech, mate’.

Chris Wood of Burnley scored 2 goals, provided an assist and picked up 3 bonus points, all in the space of 29 second half minutes at The London Stadium. You might think that’s impressive, but you should realise that one of those goals was assisted by West Ham fans invading the pitch, and the other was straight from a corner kick taken from the centre circle. To say things got out of hand on Saturday afternoon is an understatement. There were tense scenes as a large group of people gathered in front of Lady Brady looking for an improvement in their lives, something to give them hope for the future…but that’s all I can tell you about the next series of The Apprentice. She then went to watch West Ham play and you know the rest.

Finally the South Korean bid for World Domination (see last week’s column) continued as Son scored twice and racked up another 15 points. It’s rumoured that he’ll lead the ‘peace talks’ between Trump and Kim Jong-Un where he’ll immediately raise the average IQ by 147 points. There’s nothing that this boy can’t do.

Henrik Mkhitaryan scored 13 points as he continues to forge an impressive looking partnership with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Now it just took me 4 minutes to type that sentence so if these two do become a goal-scoring/assist-giving double act of note, than I propose nicknames. I’m open to suggestions, and you should send all ideas to @FantasyYIRMA, but I’ll start with Mickey and the PEA. He was joined on this points total by Serge Aurier who is the FPL equivalent of Russian Roulette. Sure, there’s a chance he’ll grab you points (26 in the last 3 games) but you just know he’s likely to deliver a red card at any minute. The perfect choice for those thrill-seekers out there.

Honourable mentions now for Mustafi, Baines, Rashford, Mahrez, Iheanacho, Shelvey (!), Alli, Willian and Iborra, but I don’t have the time and you don’t have the patience.

Onto our Villains Of The Week, and a strong group this time featuring four players in negative points territory. Young Jordan Ayew has caught the eye of 11.7% of FPL Players as he represents pretty good value for money…until this week when he was sent off after 10 minutes. -2 points for many of us who were also reeling from the Kane/Aguero/Salah/Davies debacle. Cheers Jordan, great timing!

Anthony Knockaert joined Ayew in the red card crucible at Goodison Park to grab himself -1 point and complete a pretty miserable day for the Seagulls. You know you’re having a bad day when you have two players in negative points territory and you’re only playing Everton! Joining his fellow ‘Gull’ is Gaetan Bong who grabbed an own goal to ‘earn’ his -1 point. He must have been dreading the Monday morning review from Chris Hughton. After all, the Seagulls had been flying so ‘high’. I’ll let you work that gag out yourself….

Finally we have Martin Kelly of Crystal Palace, singularly the unluckiest professional footballer playing today. I’m not even talking about his own goal at Stamford Bridge that condemned his side to another defeat and earned him -1 point. I’m talking about the fact that on two separate occasions he’s been at a club which has brought in Roy Hodgson as manager. Nobody deserves that.

@FantasyYIRMA GW 30 Preview: Peroni on Draft…

Hi! I’m @NiallHawthorne, and you  might remember me from such @FantasyYIRMA blogs as all the Gameweek Reviews this season and the now legendary (in my mind) Gameweek 12 Preview, where I tipped Alberto Moreno (6 Points), Xherdan Shaqiri (5 Points), Alvaro Morata (9 Points), Mo Salah (16 Points) and Callum Wilson (17 Points). How’d you like them onions, eh? So, y’know, you can heed the advice I’m about to convey…or not. Just don’t come crying to me Monday night (that applies if my tips are fantastic and you ignored them, or appalling and you followed them). Caveat Emptor! (No, he doesn’t play for Lazio, for F*CK sake…)

Defender: Jamaal Lascelles, Newcastle

If it’s not broken, don’t fix it. That’s some sage advice for you right there, and 18 GW’s ago I told you all to back a defender that was facing Southampton. Guess what? Yep! Rafa Benitez is preparing his troops to face Southampton, and his young padwan in the opposite dugout, Mauricio Pellegrino. These two have history; Pellegrino played for Benitez at Liverpool, then joined him as a young coach following his retirement. Rafa has remained ‘Rafa’ in the intervening years – he could likely coach the worst U-15 team in your area to beat West Brom on any given day – and his penchant for defensive strategy should see him in his element this weekend, as the Geordie defence face the worst attack in living memory. Jamaal Lascelles is the main man at St. James’ Park these days, and he’s nailed on for a clean sheet, while he also provides plenty of threat at set-pieces with three goals already this season.

Midfielder: Michail Antonio, West Ham

Yes, I know that the Hammers are muck, but you don’t want to play it safe all your life, do you? Come on, take a chance, roll the dice, spin the roulette wheel of life! While this choice is admittedly a risk due to The Moyesiah being an idiot of biblical proportions, Antonio’s recent form should guarantee him a start against Burnley at The London Stadium. A 6 point return in each of his last three GW’s, despite only starting one of those games, is impressive. Allied to this surge of form is the fact that Burnley hit 40 points with their victory last weekend, so they’re safe. Now I can’t tell you how I know this, but a credible source has told me that the Burnley squad have already hit the beach, mentally and physically. They’ve packed it in. Job done. So much so that the away kit they’re wearing against West Ham features Hawaiian shirts, sunglasses and flip-flops. You know what? They’re dead right too.

Forward: Jamie Vardy, Leicester City

He’s playing West Brom. West Bromwich Albion. The Baggies. They play at The Hawthorns and they’re so bad that even if it was my back garden, I wouldn’t open the curtains to watch. They’ve conceded 13 goals in their last 6 games, against attacking juggernauts like Southampton (chortle), Everton (guffaw), Huddersfield (snigger) and Watford (ROFL). The players don’t care anymore, and why would they when they’ve got Alan Pardew as manager, a man with as much charm, empathy, talent and self-awareness as Donald Trump? There ain’t no party like a Vardy party, and Jamie is going to be smashing into the Blue WKD on Saturday night celebrating a hat-trick.

Captain: Eden Hazard, Chelsea

Did you see the state of Hazard at The Etihad last week? Man dear, he was trudging around that pitch like a young teenager who just got caught watching porn before being thrown out onto the street to play football with his friends. I’m not saying he was moody, but the actual Moody’s ratings agency downgraded Antonio Conte’s stock from A- to Junk Bond status. Now THAT is moody. However the upside is that he has pent up frustration inside him, bubbling up like a Belgian beer, ready to froth over against a hapless opponent who just don’t have the testicular fortitude to withstand such an explosion. Oh hello Crystal Palace! How nice to see you! Palace have the backbone of jellyfish, as demonstrated in their last two outings against Spurs and United and Hazard is going to take it out on them. He’s going to destroy them.

Oh, but always Captain Salah. I had to say that.

Outsider: Jose Heriberto Izquierdo Mena, Brigton & Hove Albion

This midfield dynamo has risen to prominence in the last few weeks as Brighton have picked up 11 points from their last 5 games, with the Columbian bagging two goals and an assist in that run. He’s got pace, an eye for goal and a effervescence that makes me feel warm inside. He’s also playing Everton who are going to get relegated. You heard it here first.

Draft: Peroni. A beautiful pint on draft. Yes indeed. 

FantasyYIRMA GW 28 & 29 Review: The Premier League has got Seoul…

Due to the inclement weather, along with the inclement fixture list that put the last game of GW 28 on a Thursday bloody night, this is a review of GW’s 28 & 29 for your perusal. Like a common Bucky Barnes, I’ve just thawed out, so let’s get on with it, shall we?

Leroy Sane managed to escape the attentions of the Arsenal defence on Thursday night as he scored, assisted, racked up 13 points and generally made a bloody nuisance of himself at The Emirates, to heap the pressure on the beleaguered Arsene Wenger. It’s strange that the Arsenal defence failed to keep tabs on him – his hair would make the Jackson Five jealous. Speaking of which, his spiritual hair brother Mo Salah racked up another goal and assist to heap the pressure on the beleaguered David Moyes after his 10 point haul. To be fair though David Moyes has looked beleaguered since birth.

Emre Can also turned on the style at Anfield with a goal and assist and 13 points to remind everyone that his contract and future with Liverpool remain unsigned and unclear. Rumours that he was heard to be singing ‘Just One Cornetto’ in the showers after the game have yet to be substantiated. Romelu Lukaku is often accused of being just a flat-track bully and incapable of really turning up when playing rivals in the Top 4, so he must have enjoyed ramming those words down everyone’s throat as he plundered a goal and assist against Chelsea…who were in 5th at the time of kick-off. Ah well. He still scored 12 points.

It got pretty windy down at the Vitality Stadium on the South Coast. In fact, there was a howling Gayle, as Dwight bagged two goals and 13 points. It was a productive weekend for the ‘Budget Strikers’ as Glenn Murray smashed home two goals for 12 points and made it 10 Premier League goals for the season. He has to go to Russia y’know. Come on Gareth, make it happen.

One of the features of the Donald Trump ‘Presidency’ (and I use that term in the loosest possible sense) has been the supposed threat from North Korea. Intercontinental ballistic missiles (they’re like a Charlie Adam penalty, but not as dangerous) are supposedly capable of striking at any time, and the finger of a raving lunatic is on the launch button.  Kim Jong Un has a button too. As the ‘leaders’ of USA and North Korea goad each other with their petulantly childish attempts at International Diplomacy, I suspect that both have failed to realise that the real threat to capturing world domination is from an area just a few miles south of Pyongyang. Yep, South Korea are making a power grab on all fronts. First it was the Winter Olympics which showed how well they can organise and mobilise resources, and now they’ve decided to take the FPL world captive through Agents Son and Ki. The dastardly swines!

Heung Min Son is an old friend of this column, and he once more showed his class with a two-goal salvo to claim 3 BPS and 16 points against the Terriers. However it is the emergence of his countryman Ki Sung Yeung that makes me wonder what the South Koreans have up their sleeves next. Who knows, maybe they’ve invented a machine that can take all the snow and ice from their Winter Olympics in PyeongChang and dump it on us! Hang on….Anyway, back to the player with 13 points this week who is also a former member of The Urban Cookie Collective. Yes indeed, they had the Ki, they had the secret. 34 points in the last 4 GW’s from out of nowhere? The best kept secret in FPL has now been revealed.

As if this FPL game wasn’t content with allowing South Korean world domination, they also trolled us all with the 11 points gathered by Silva of Manchester City – except it wasn’t THAT Silva that 7.2% of us own. Indeed it was the lesser spotted Bernardo Silva (he of the 1.2% ownership) that stole the show.

Jack Butland gathered a very impressive 11 points following his display against Southampton where he kept a clean sheet, made 6 saves and got the 3 BPS. Of course it wasn’t a shock that he got all the Bonus Points this week, considering he also got them last week when he chucked one into his own net. They’re trolling us, I’m telling you…

Riyad Mahrez accumulated a miserable 2 points for 96 minutes of his match against Bouremouth last Saturday, but then decided to smash in a free-kick in the 97th minute to grab 10 points from the jaws of mediocrity. Following his recent temper-tantrum at not being allowed to sit on Manchester City’s bench for a squillion quid a week, he’s slowly made his way back into the team. However I’m convinced he’s only turning it on to keep potential suitors interested. Work hard for 90 minutes to help Leicester win? Sod that. He just smacks a thunderbastard in injury time to remind everyone he’s available in the summer. Probably.

Finally Mike van der Hoorn aroused the 0.6% of those of you who own him, and why not? His chiselled, rugged Dutch features allied with a goal and 2 BPS for a total of 10 points? I’m swooning at the mere thought.

As for the Villains of the Week, we start with one man in a particularly sticky situation. He’ll be chewing on his performance this week for a while yet. It’s no wonder he’s feeling blue. He’s reportedly asking his wife Delilah why, why, why did he get a red card? I can’t tell you who told me that, it’s a private leek. Ok, I’ll stop now. Congratulations to the Everton Captain and Wales stalwart Ashley Williams. Top work boyo!

James Collins is a man that likes to look good in public. His recent pitch-side appearance for Sky Sports dressed as an extra from Peeky Blinders was lauded/ridiculed in equal measure. But when you stand out from the crowd like that, you should really try to ensure that you do so for the right reasons when carrying out your day job. Alas a 4 goal humping at the hands of Liverpool, combined with a yellow card for a score of -1 is not the kind of ‘blinder’ that James hoped for.

He’s joined in the hall of ignominy by Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who had a glorious chance to get Arsenal back into the game against Manchester City (stop sniggering) but saw his penalty saved by Ederson, a man with more tattoos than skin. It didn’t plunge the Arsenal striker into negative point territory (he scored a big fat 0 points) but it did force his owners to all exclaim in unison “Aubameyang ya ding dong!”.

I’ll get my coat.

It’s very, very cold.

FantasyYIRMA GW 27 Review: How May We ‘Assist’ You?

Gameweek 27 will be remembered in FPL seasons to come as the week when most mini-leagues swung decisively, one way or t’other. While the average score for the week was 61 points (2nd highest this season behind the 62 point average in GW 20, stat fans!), there are many, many FPL Players who flirted with, reached or even smashed the 100 point barrier this week. It’s not hard to spot them, even if they’re not in your league or you don’t know them personally. They’re currently strutting around, tops off, tweaking their nipples (male and female players) with a grin as wide as the Thames, asking all in earshot “How was YOUR GW 27?”. I’m delighted for them, I really am. The smug B*STARDS.

Of course the majority of them have a certain Argentinian pocket rocket to thank for their chafed nipples as Sergio Aguero did what Sergio Aguero tends to do at least once a season – score more than three goals in a game. His 21 point haul leads the way this week. If you’re like me and have Aguero but didn’t put the armband on him, I understand what you’re feeling right now, I really do. After all, just 3 in 10 players have him in their squad. He’s actually a hell of a differential, especially when he scores 4 goals. I mean, Salah has over 1 in 2 owning him. It’s obvious in hindsight, right? RIGHT?

AAAAAAAAAAAAGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHH……………

Forrest Gump

On Monday night Eden Hazard decided that he wouldn’t mind if Antonio Conte hung around for a little while longer, so he turned it on against West Brom to bag himself two goals and 16 points. We can only speculate as to what prompted this sudden motivation from the temperamental Belgian, but I did note with interest that Alan ‘Chunky’ Pardew turned up at Stamford Bridge with the West Brom squad, his agent, his CV and some breath mints. The prospect of being managed by Pardew would be enough to motivate anyone into keeping their current manager in employment.

Regular readers will know that this is now the third GW review in which our old friend Steve Mounie has featured. He was one of the stars of GW 1, then disappeared off the radar until GW 16 when he once again reminded us all of his existence. In fact in my GW 16 review, I predicted that he wouldn’t be heard of again for quite a few weeks…

GW16 Prediction

Just out by 4 Gameweeks…so close and yet so far – like most of his shots. Sorry! Cheap shot – like most of his shots. Ooops, I did it again! Unlike Steve, who barely does it at all. I’ll stop now.

The next names on the weekly heroes list are Salah and De Bruyne, both with 13 points, but I don’t need to go on about them – they’re the best two players in the league by a street, and you should really own at least one of them (although De Bruyne is over-priced on a pound per point basis y’know. Just saying…).

Victor Moses is an interesting character, isn’t he? I mean, if you said to me five years ago that he’d be playing in defence for one of the most defensively tactically astute Italian managers in the game, I’d have had you arrested for heresy. Yet here he is, categorised as a defender and churning out a few double-digit scores thanks to 2 goals, 3 assists and 9 clean sheets this season. Yet he also churns out more than his fair share of 0’s, 1’s and 2’s in among the highlights. He also costs £6.4m. Quite how his 1.9% of owners have worked out how to balance these facts is beyond me, but they were rewarded this week.

Alex Pritchard is a new arrival in the Premier League with Huddersfield Town, arriving from Carrow Road last month. He has certainly made an impact with a goal, an assist and 12 points against Bournemouth, which was a huge boost for…well, nobody. Yep, 12 points are left floating away on the winds of change, as Pritchard has a grand total of 0.0% ownership in this FPL game of ours. FOR F*CK SAKE…

Finally a quick word about ‘Assists’, how utterly random they are, yet how incredibly important they are as they determine the fortunes of each and every one of us in this game. This weekend was a prime example. Roberto ‘Bobby’ Firmino provided arguably the assist of the season with his 45-degree lofted backheel assist for Mo Salah – an assist of such dazzling beauty that you’ll go blind if you stare directly at it. For this display of utter genius, Roberto Firmino was awarded the same amount of points as Aaron Creswell of West Ham, credited with an assist for Arnautovic thanks to…well…having the ball BLOOTERED against his shins by a defender. Yep, the ricochet off a Cresswell shin leads to a goal so both Cresswell and Firmino get the same reward. Similarly Kyle Naughton played a pass infield to Jordan Ayew who waved a toe at the ball, missed by an inch, and then Ki Sung-Yeung latched onto it to score. An utterly random moment of good fortune, but with the exact same reward. FPL, eh?

firmino

As for our Villains Of The Week, we have five likely lads to scrutinise. Simon Francis and Steve Cook both conceded four while getting booked at Huddersfield, which should actually be a crime rather than a score of -1, but I’ve not been elected to power…yet. Harry Maguire similarly endured a rough night at The Etihad in conceding five and picking up a booking for his score of -1, but hey, that’s happened to many players this season.

The two biggest villains however are Danny Simpson and Charlie Adam. Simpson (while taking a break from his ‘not very hilarious social media spat’ with Jamie Carragher), was introduced as a half-time substitute for Leicester City at The Etihad with the game finely poised at 1-1, and trudged off 45 minutes later after watching Sergio Aguero score 4 times, pee in his shoes and sleep with his wife, all of which earned him -1 points. Charlie Adam however plumbed new depths this week following his unfortunate last-minute, season-defining penalty miss, followed up by his ‘tectonic plates move faster’ follow up for the rebound, which he was beaten to by a Brighton defender who started his run from, well, Brighton, before clearing it off Charlie’s toe. There are some mundane ways of achieving a negative points tally in any given Gameweek, but as ever Charlie Adam always goes for the spectacular, and this time he succeeded.