I was a huge fan of NBC’s hilarious college sitcom Community and awesome action spy romance comedy Chuck. However, every year by the time May came around the atmosphere was absolutely nail-biting given the constant uncertainty regarding whether the shows would return that fall. Each season finale felt like it could be a series ender, but then the reprieve came and the shows returned...until, of course, suddenly they didn’t. By that time, the actual series finales both felt not only sad, but anticlimactic.
Things have run a parallel course with Sunderland, which has walked the tightrope each of the last five seasons, managing to escape with Houdini-esque flair just outside of the relegation zone at every turn from 2012-13 through 2015-16. This time around, though, the usual flirting with disaster took a plunge into absolute heartbreak. Sure, the relegation is well-deserved as well as being anticlimactic along the lines of the aforementioned NBC programs of yore, but that doesn’t make it any less painful for all the poor Sunderland folks out there. Grab your hankies, all, and give a nose blowing salute to the sad sack Black Cats’ fans.
In the same vein, bid adieu to Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney and Chelsea’s John Terry, who look to say farewell after long, storied careers following in the recent legendary footsteps of Liverpool’s Steven Gerrard and Chelsea’s Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard (notwithstanding the latter’s cameo with Manchester City).
As we approach the close of another fascinating season, take a gander at some fun facts:
- For the second campaign in a row, a team has come from mid- to low-table to win the ultimate trophy (Leicester City was 14th in 2014-15, Chelsea 10th in 2015-16). Fair to say Chelsea doing so wasn’t quite as much of a surprise, though. But is there any chance of that happening next season, too?
- Second place Tottenham currently leads the league in goal differential and if that holds it would be for the second straight season despite failing to win the title either time, having finished in third place in 2015-16. Spurs had four fewer wins than Leicester City last season and currently also have four fewer than Chelsea. Apparently wins matter more than goal differential.
- With Harry Kane, Dele Alli, Christian Eriksen and Son Heung-Min’s amazing offensive exploits, the remarkable performance of Tottenham’s defense has gotten short shrift. Spurs have allowed a brilliantly miserly 25 goals through 37 games. If they allow one goal or nab a clean sheet in the finale, they would be by themselves the tightest defense since Manchester United and Chelsea conceded only 24 times each in 2008-09. (Chelsea allowed 27 in 2013-14.)
- If Liverpool or Manchester City fail to oblige, Arsenal could fail to reach the Champions League for the first time since 1997-98. At least there would be a chance at a consolation prize in the form of the F.A. Cup title.
- If the Gunners fails to finish in the top four and Manchester City holds on, that would leave the Citizens as the only team to do so each of the last seven seasons.
- After finishing in the top three every season from 1991-92 to 2012-13, Manchester United is set to finish outside the top four for the third time in four seasons. However, winning the Europa League title could fetch a return to Champions League.
- Liverpool is set to make a top four finish for the first time since 2013-14 and only the second time since 2009-10.
- Harry Kane is poised to become the second repeat Golden Boot winner since Thierry Henry’s three straight from 2003-04 through 2005-06, following Robin Van Persie’s feat in 2011-12 and 2012-13.
- Jamie Vardy’s performance has fallen off markedly from the 24 goals he nabbed in the dream championship campaign for Leicester City, but his output of 12 goals is still far above that of the 5 scores he managed in 2014-15. By way of comparison, take a look at Riyad Mahrez’s three seasons in the Premier League: 4 goals and 3 assists in 2014-15, 17 goals and 11 assists in 2015-16, 6 goals and 3 assists in 2016-17. Last season looks to be an outlier for Mahrez much more so than for Vardy.
- Surely we all remember Hull City’s shock start to the season with two wins, followed by a loss and a draw. Six points from the first two games, seven points from the first four games...but then things fell as expected as the Tigers drifted into relegation.
- In a similar vein, only on an individual player level, just as surely we all remember Watford’s Etienne Capoue becoming the breakout fantasy star with four goals and an assist in the first five games...then coming back to Earth, tallying only three more goals with no helpers in the subsequent 31 games.
- Bournemouth’s Joshua King scored only 2 goals in his first 17 games this season. He followed that up with 14 goals in his past 19 games. If you picked him up midseason, you are loving life.
- The inverse of King perhaps tellingly is a poor Sunderland player. Jermain Defoe notched 14 goals in his first 24 games, but has managed only one score in his past 13 games as the team’s offense completely crashed. If you stayed with him too long, you felt the pain.
- Alexis Sanchez has the Official fantasy title sewn up with 255 points thus far as Eden Hazard is a distant 40 points behind.
- In Fantrax, Gylffi Sigurdsson leads with 477 points, but Alexis is right on his tail at 466. Can a player stuck on the 17th place team really hold on to win the Fantrax fantasy scoring title?
After notching 180 points in Official and 239 in Fantrax for the glorious double GW37, I was feeling pretty good. I’m not sure where I finished in the Official Bloggers league, because it lists the scores before any points penalties (I’m at 192 before a 12-point transfer hit) and also sorts by overall score, not by scores for the week. Insanely, though, my Fantrax tally was only good for 50th place in the NMA league, with Krul Summer FC leading the way with a truly impressive haul of 287 points! Nine fantasy squads had at least 275 points and 41 were over 250...to quote Pavement, wowee zowee!!! As for actual NMA bloggers, Stall put me to shame with 208 in Official and 278 in Fantrax...just glad I didn’t play you in the head-to-head league, pal!
I’m currently #63 in the Official league and #48 in the Fantrax league. I’m not sure about Official, but I know that’s not anywhere close to where I finished last season in Fantrax (#12 or thereabouts). From that perspective, it’s been a disappointing season. But given that I started so horribly in both (from what I recall, I was generally between #100 and #150 in the Fantrax league for the first half of the season), the strong second half push puts things in a much rosier perspective. Official does allow for sorting by month, so consider my private league ranks by month: 5, 2, 4, 5, 4, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1. I was the Joshua King of fantasy, which is much better than being Jermain Defoe, right? Show Me Da Mane in Official and Team CptJack4 in Fantrax, you two are Chelsea! (Assuming you both hold onto your leads, of course. Best of luck in that regard! If I jinx either of you, sorry.)
We’ve only got one game for each team this time, so if you’re looking to make up a big points difference in your private league, it’s going to be tricky. But keep your hopes up, you never know. As we saw with the heroics of Harry Kane and Alexis Sanchez last week, sometimes all it takes is captaining the right player.
Arsenal v. Everton
Burnley v. West Ham
Chelsea v. Sunderland
Leicester City v. Bournemouth
Liverpool v. Middlesbrough
Manchester United v. Crystal Palace
Swansea City v. West Brom
Watford v. Manchester City
My fantasy teams:
OFFICIAL: Cech / Alonso, Bertrand, Monreal, Stephens / King, Sanchez (V), Sigurdsson, Son / Jesus, Kane (C) [BENCH: Lloris / Gabbiadini, Moses, Clichy]
FANTRAX: Mignolet / Davies, Holding, Stephens / Coutinho, Fabregas, Ramsey, Redmond / Jesus, Kane, Sanchez
All the games take place simultaneously, so which one are you focused on the most? Which others will you keep an eye on? How are you doing in your leagues and which players do you need to carry you to glory?
Who is your fantasy MVP this season?
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