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Trip Around the League: November 2018

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Sergio Ramos pins Mohamed Salah’s arm in a take-down tackle, dislocating Salah’s shoulder- Real Madrid v Liverpool - UEFA Champions League Final 2018
Hope this doesn’t happen again during the international break!
Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images

Who doesn’t love yet another interminable international break just months after an exhausting (and interminable) World Cup? Aren’t you riveted by the Nations Cup or League of Nations or whatever that bloody friendly tournament is called?

Just pray that our boys come home safe from faraway battles in faraway lands. No more torn ligaments after horror tackles by Hulk-like obscure defenders in countries that may or may not be home to Evil Mastermind Lairs from bad James Bond movies.

But it’s not all doom and gloom during the international breaks because they do afford us a wonderful opportunity to pause, rest, and take stock of where we are, where we’ve been and where we’re headed.

Yup, it’s time for the NMA Community’s favorite down-time column!

Let us go then you and I and take A Trip Around the League!

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ELITE SQUADS

These are the teams that will fight for the throne. In the end there can be only one!

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Manchester City

I mean… they’re missing Kevin De Bruyne, arguably a top 3-5 talent in World Futbol and they’re doing this? They’ve scored 36 goals (next closest is 27) and they’ve given up just five (tied with Liverpool for least). City are going to win the year. Easily. Even if they never do regain full health (just as KDB is about to return, Benjamin “unfulfilled promise” Mendy is down for the count with a mysterious sounding injury and subsequent surgery), Pep has built a fantastic machine. Just, wow… and, I love Ederson.

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Liverpool

They’re not missing anyone but they’ve been a tad disappointing, no? Alisson and the defenders have been really great and all, but the attack has let us down a few times. The Fulham performance, just before this break, was a bit of a downer with just two goals scored against the Cottagers’ invisible defenders. It’s hard to pinpoint the guiltiest of Liverpool’s attacking trident: Mo Salah has been 85% as good as he was last year, which is plenty; Sadio Mane started like a house on fire before cooling off dramatically; maybe it has been Roberto Firmino. He’s been meh. Let’s blame him for all that ails Liverpool.

Oh, yes. They’re still going to finish second. They’re a really good squad.

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Chelsea

I mean…Eden Hazard has taken the leap to undisputed greatness. He might be the second best player in the world behind only King Lionel Messi. He has been hurt of late which has robbed us of some high fantasy scores and has led to recency bias (as in, we’ve forgotten over the past four gameweeks how awesome Eden is!). If he’s not on your FPL team, fit him in! Run, don’t walk.

If any team can challenge City for the title (hint: no one can), it might be these guys. They’re a really good squad.

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NEXT LEVEL DOWN SQUADS

These are the teams that aspire to greatness but can’t quite get there.

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Tottenham

For fantasy purposes, it has been “Kieran Trippier and no others”. I’ll concede that Harry Kane does intrigue me the longer he goes “off template” in most leading FPL squads. But he’s expensive, and there is something about this Spurs season that feels a bit tired and uninspired. Is it me?

I’m still mad at Hugo Lloris for his poor decision-making off the field. Everyone deserves better.

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Arsenal

This is a very strange team. Talk about the halo effect at play! I bought in on Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Alexandre Lacazette to start my FPL campaign only to be crushingly disappointed before selling off. So now I think of Arsenal as this massively disappointing squad even though most of their premier stars (except Hey Mkhi!) have been pretty good. Maybe I should add some Gunner action to my FPL squad.

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Bournemouth

I don’t really believe it, but the math says they’re here so let’s put them here. Callum Wilson and Ryan Fraser have been elite FPL and EPL performers all year, and if you invested in them early enough, congratulations! I didn’t, so I’m not invested in this team at all. If I owned my own futbol team in real life, Nathan Ake is a player that I’d like to bring on board.

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STUCK IN THE MIDDLE WITH YOU SQUADS

These are the teams that are stuck in purgatory. Neither good nor bad but mostly meh.

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Manchester United

This is a disaster. Jose Mourinho is a good enough tactician that he can keep the wheels from officially falling off, but this team is a disaster. Paul Pogba is a disaster. Alexis Sanchez is a disaster. Romelu Lukaku is a disaster. They rely on a steady diet of Jesse Lingard and Chris Smalling, which, um, is nice and all but…

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Everton

They were a disaster last year, but they’re much better this year. The Icelandic Maestro Gylfi Sigurdsson has a clear(er) role than he did at any point in his wasted 2017-18 campaign. Leighton “so old” Baines has been replaced by far more alacrity in Lucas Digne. There’s also Richarlison’s class in attack, a resurgent Michael Keane on defense and just plain better all-around talent from players like Bernard and the approximately 101 Barcelona cast-offs that have joined Everton. I like!

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Leicester

Out of respect for the tragedy they suffered. I will just pass along the NMA community’s best wishes to all the good people who live and breathe Leicester City football.

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Wolverhampton

Late at night when I should be sleeping but instead get caught in pointlessly random thought exercises, I’ve often wondered how a credible national team would perform if thrown into the EPL. Now I know that Portugal’s national team would be “Stuck in the Middle With You”. Good, but ultimately not quite elite.

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VALUE SQUADS

These are the teams that only the most devoted home fans can love, but they get mined constantly by value-driven FPL managers

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Brighton

Brighton is the house that Maty Ryan and Glenn Murray are building. The foundations were built last year by Pascal Gross, who, like a drummer from Spinal Tap, has just poof-and-vanished. Also, Lewis Dunk is a player. He might have a shot at cracking future England tournament squads.

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West Ham

Having just referenced a band (Spinal Tap), let’s stay with that motif for a minute. Most every band is hugely reliant on one ingenious yet temperamental talent. If this mercurial talent goes away, the band goes from playing at sold-out stadiums to playing before the sad fireworks show at Nowhereville’s dog track. This is a long way of saying that if rumors that Marko “Sharko” Arnautovic wants to leave in January prove true, then it would be a very bad, no good terrible thing for the Hammers.

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Newcastle

Yup, I’m a big fan. And because this is my column I’m putting them here and not in the next section with all the strong relegation candidates, where they 100% belong. Who said life was fair?

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RELEGATION FODDER

Three of these six are sure to drop. No question about it!

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Burnley

I’m shocked they’re here after their fine display last season. Wait (looking at their every game XI)… ooooh, right. I’m not shocked they’re here after a fine display last year.

Arrgh, Joe Hart, Arrgh!!!!!

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Crystal Palace

They won’t be relegated, but they do need to solve their problems in attack. This might be the first team in history (an innovator, you say!) whose sole tactic is to win games by winning a penalty kick. This team is more reliant on Luka Milivojevic than any team is reliant on any one player in all of EPL.

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Southampton

Basically Crystal Palace without Luka Milivojevic.

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Cardiff

Relegated. Calum Paterson is a good value play for your FPL midfield y’all!

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Huddersfield

Relegated. Steve Mounie broke my heart.

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Fulham

Relegated. I don’t understand why. On paper they have some really good players. If any team can escape certain doom, Fulham might someway / somehow escape the drop. They just need to figure out how to remove the Cloak of Invisibility whenever they go for a defensive tackle or man marking venture. Can Claudio Ranieri work another miracle?

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And there you have it, what do you think? Did I get my ratings right? Was I unfair to any team(s)? Do you have a sneaky great FPL pick that you’d like to share with the NMA community? Is Henrikh Mkhitaryan worth the approximately 14,000 spellchecks I just had to go through to get his name right? Let us know in the comments below!

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