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Festivus Airing of Grievances: An Article About Nothing

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The Festivus holiday comes once each year, allowing us to freely air all of our grievances, even those fantasy football related.

Marcos Alonso - Chelsea FC - Premier League
Marcos Alonso reacts to his latest rejection by the woodwork.
Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

On December 18, 1997, in an episode titled ‘The Strike,’ the writers and producers of television’s Seinfeld created a comedic resolution to a plot-line that turned into a cult holiday among the many Seinfeld fans at the time. That holiday is called Festivus. Aside from the many lasting quotes and phrases, namely “yada, yada, yada” and “no soup for you!”, Festivus is one of the most recognizable culturally influential byproducts of the show. The simple utterance of the word Festivus points directly to one singular point within the realm of pop culture, whether the person is a die hard fan or not. The prominence that Seinfeld eventually rose to carried with it a societal impact so strong that even the lay-people were able to identify with the show’s greatest of references.

Festivus, per the show’s depiction, is celebrated on December 23rd each year. Christmas famously has its tree, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa have their menorahs, while Festivus has the Festivus Pole, unadorned of course. The primary traditions include activities such as: a feast, the airing of grievances, and feats of strength. While I cannot, unfortunately, share in a feast with any/all of you, my thoughts to come are a veritable smorgasbord of word choice, phraseology, and some fantasy analysis on the side.

As we celebrate Fantasy Premier League here at Never Manage Alone, we must first designate our celebratory mascot, our Festivus Pole. Luckily, the Premier League tracks this for us. And, while I would not call the particular player ‘unadorned,’ some commentary on his recent play has him trending in that direction sadly (and incorrectly). Currently leading the Premier League in shots hitting the woodwork (with 5) is Marcos Alonso (£7.1m), defender from Chelsea. In their game Saturday versus Leicester, fittingly enough, Alonso extended his lead, hitting the post in a one-on-one with Kasper Schmeichel left dead to rights. The Spaniard currently ranks second in FPL scoring among defenders, maintaining the most expensive price tag for the position.

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With that task completed, we move on to the activities at hand: the airing of grievances and the feats of strength. The airing of grievances is simple concept; I am going to go around the Premier League informing each team of what most aggrieves me and many other fantasy managers. And, while this is a fantasy soccer blog, each feat of strength will be a key, or standout, player who caught my eye during the first half of the season. So, without further to do, let the airing of grievances begin!

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Arsenal

While the appointment of Unai Emery has been productive from a fantasy sense, some more consistency with the starting lineup would be greatly appreciated. The current issues with the Arsenal midfield are quite vexing, whether it is Mesut Ozil, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, or Aaron Ramsey. However, these non-performers have forced production, to the advantage of fantasy managers, from the forward and defensive lines. We still remain flabbergasted by the inability to feature both Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang simultaneously on a regular basis.

As for the defenders, please, please, please, can we find some combination of formidable starters, and stick with it. This team should not be conceding goals in the quantity, or manner, in which they have been. I am aware of the injury issues that have plagued the back line. By the way, might I suggest you look into the history of the club and see if the club may have been cursed at some point? This is a regular problem that is unique to Arsenal, season after season. Perhaps the training ground was built on the former graveyard of some indigenous people, or something?

Feat of Strength

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was surrounded by plenty of questions coming into this season. His arrival last season was successful by all accounts, on aggregate. The flourish with which he ended the season last year equaled his pedigree and expectations over a small sample size. This season’s uncertainty was whether or not he could perform to that level for an entire campaign. Could he equal the returns of other top strikers in the Premier League? He has answered that question resoundingly so far. He currently leads all scorers with twelve goals this season, following his brace today, putting him on pace to surpass the 20 goal benchmark. He is the only forward to surpass 100 points thus far into the FPL season.

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Bournemouth

It is hard to find anything to complain about, given the first-half performance of the Cherries. The greatest concern of fantasy managers, and the real manager of course, is the defensive display. There are plenty of other teams with poor defenses capable of producing a budget-friendly goalkeeper. Clean sheets are the best reward, but simple save points would provide a differential option in goal.

Feat of Strength

With last season’s lack of a third striker, Callum Wilson has been a revelation among the budget striker options. Having the second-highest point total across all forwards, his price and production have catapulted him into the rarefied air of those few players deserving of the label Must-own, or Essential. A bonus shout out to Adam Fraser for many of the same reasons.

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Brighton

What have you done with last year’s Pascal Groß? He has scored only once this season, and that from the penalty spot. And do not get me started on penalties, as he has missed two others and PK duties with them. Those now fall to Glenn Murray. In Groß’s absence, Anthony Knockaert looked to be emerging to relevance, but he was then inexplicably put into an ill-defined rotation of sorts, squashing any fantasy value he may have developed.

The ability to rely on Brighton defenders for the probably clean sheet has evaporated. Shane Duffy continues to get his head on the ends of an abnormally large number of set-pieces, salvaging his value. Yet his recent red card has rendered him useless. While he can finally return in week 19, Lewis Dunk will now exit for a game, further damaging what few clean sheet prospects exist. And, do you think you could look into packing some of that home-field advantage, whatever it may be, and bringing a little of it on the road with you?

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Feat of Strength

It is another forward, believe it or not! With the excitement surrounding a few of the commodities returning from last year’s successful season, Glen Murray has salvaged the disappointing fantasy results from the Seagulls, collectively. There is not much to say other than the man scores goals, eight to this point. Hopefully Murray’s form can continue throughout the return fixtures in 2019.

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Burnley

There does not seem to be any reason to reiterate the obvious disappointments surrounding the start to Burnley’s season. What happened to that stalwart defense? After double-digit clean sheets last season, fantasy managers expected continued success from that end of the pitch, at the very least, this season. The lack of success from your greatest strength has put the overall fantasy value of your team in real peril.

Robbie Brady and Johann Berg Gudmundsson have each had issues. We hope to see Brady return to the promising form he showed prior to the long-term injury he suffered last season. Gudmundsson has shown flashes of inspiration, but the lack of quality surrounding him has hampered his ability to produce at a consistent level for fantasy purposes. And then there are the strikers, an absolute fantasy wasteland.

Feat of Strength

Of all people to be the strength of this side, few would have thought Joe Hart to be the man. Of the keepers who started the season at £4.5m, he ranks second to Fabianski in total scoring. Across all goaltenders, he is tied for second in bonus points earned. If Burnley can rediscover defensive form, the Englishman could become the budget keeper to own.

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Cardiff City

The Bluebirds have been who we thought they were, for the most part. As a newly promoted side, the results have been typical of most promoted sides. You have given managers an out-of-position striker, one who has performed even. It would be rude to complain about anything too much. Some better, regular, service into Callum Paterson does not seem like an overly objectionable request.

Feat of Strength

Callum Paterson is the only Cardiff player worthy of ownership at the moment. Playing as the central forward, Paterson has managed four goals in his brief spell leading the line.

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Chelsea

Like Emery above, acquiring Maurizio Sarri was supposed to unlock fantasy value that had been restricted by Antonio Conte. Where has this fantasy value gone? Does it even exist? Of the nailed-on midfielders, Mateo Kovacic, N’Golo Kante, and Jorginho have zero fantasy value. All the while, they take up highly coveted playing time from promising players wasting away on the bench, like Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Ross Barkley. The inability to find a regular number-nine, for the umteenth time, has forced unnecessary rotation for the previously established midfield options, Pedro and Willian namely.

The statistics say that they have done well. They are tied for second in total clean sheets, but they should be better. The many ways they’ve surrendered goals to lose clean sheets has been comedic. Past results indicate how strong this defense should be, but the inconsistency of these performances is worrying.

Feat of Strength

It cannot be anyone other than Eden Hazard. You could layout a foundation for a solid Marcos Alonso argument though. The Belgian has had to play the role of supplier and provider as the catalyst for everything Chelsea do in the attack, to the tune of eight goals and nine assists, which lead the league. Coming into week eighteen, Hazard led all players in fantasy scoring.

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Crystal Palace

For what this team has been in modern times, for what they have invested in their on-field product, all that fantasy managers ask, nay demand, is some more consistency in the team’s performance. The long spells of underachievement provide little confidence for those willing to invest. Finally, managers across the globe beg that you let Lord Sorloth (nickname credited to the gentlemen at Always Cheating) reign over the Palace attack, forevermore! #UnleashSorloth

Feat of Strength

Starting the season as a simple yet perfect defensive enabler, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, of £4.0m fame, has been the delight of defensive lines everywhere. He has taken part in all six of Palace’s clean sheets. Among the Crystal Palace team, he ranks second in bonus points. Those nine points rank tied for sixth among all defenders, though. It has been more than enough value for a player who started the season at the bare minimum cost.

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Everton

The lack of a true goal scorer is holding this team back, in both real life and fantasy. Richarlison is an outstanding option to place in the striker’s role. What he has shown in his brief stint as a Premier League player should breed both optimism and caution. His on-field qualites — things like pace, instinct, and positioning — provide a fantasy outlook that overflows with upside. The caution applies to one specific area of his game, and frankly the most important: finishing. We witnessed a long stretch last season, and recurring glimpses this season, where he has not shown the clinical quality that the world’s best attacking talents have. Fellow midfielder, Gylfi Sigurdsson, has returned to something close to his elite Swansea days. What’s up with the penalties lately? It will be interesting to see who takes the next chance for the Toffees.

Feat of Strength

Under new manager Marco Silva, club legend Leighton Baines has been forced to the bench. In his stead, the young Frenchman, Lucas Digne, patrols the left flank. The style of Digne’s game has all the traits that we adore in the league’s best fullbacks. If the defense continues to strengthen, and if the attack becomes more cohesive, Digne will become a common name in a large percent of fantasy rosters.

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Fulham

The Cottagers are a complete disaster. The defense is on pace to be the worst defense in Premier League history. For Fulham fans, there is hope for a turnaround under new manager Claudio Ranieri. The last drops of optimism have dried up in conjunction with the Fulham goals.

Feat of Strength

Everyone who plays against them. Enough said.

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Huddersfield

David Wagner’s men have come into their second season of Premier League football nearly unchanged from last season’s squad. None of their additions during the summer transfer period have taken hold, and Huddersfield will continue to fight the immense gravity of the relegation zone. Their best player, Aaron Mooy, is expected to miss a lengthy period of time through injury. The same plagues that starved the Huddersfield attack in 2017-18, are repeating themselves. Festivus Pole nominee Steve Mounie is still looking to put it all together as the number-nine. Winter is coming for the Terriers in more than the literal sense.

Feat of Strength

Christopher Schindler leads all Terriers in scoring. The defense has shown some stronger rigidity of late, so there could be some differential value here if that continues. Every time Huddersfield have kept a clean sheet, he has found his way into the bonus.

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Leicester

The Foxes are still looking someone to fill the void that Riyad Mahrez left. James Maddison is still acclimating to the league. Jamie Vardy has been a quagmire to this point, absent honestly. If he does not get going, Leicester are going nowhere. You will not find any complaints about the defense here. Of course, everybody wants more clean sheets, but Leicester have done the defensive job with as much regularity as you can expect.

Feat of Strength

Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, RIP :(

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Liverpool

Bobby Firmino’s performance to date has been quintessential milk-carton material. Sadio Mane has been more bust than boom this year. If Jurgen Klopp would quit his fullback rotation, Liverpool assets would be fantasy gold. How much negative can there be surrounding the league leaders?

Feat of Strength

MO SALAH. The £13.0m cost does not matter when you are talking about the best and most consistent player in FPL. Following his tenth goal (against Wolves on Friday), the Egyptian wizard once again leads all fantasy players in points. I predict he will be there at season’s end for a second straight FPL MVP. Since the 2014-15 season, only one other midfielder has had a season of 20+ goals, the furthest the database at fplAnalytics.com goes back. With his goal in week 18, Salah is back on pace for his second consecutive 20+ goal campaign as a midfielder, and 24 seems likely at this point. The suggestion that he should be sold for the cash surplus or “underachieving” is stupid, bad analysis. Shut up.

For the record, the other midfielder to score 20+ goals in a season, within the database’s records, was Alexis Sanchez in 2016-17.

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Manchester City

The Citizens are right behind Liverpool in the table, and right behind them alphabetically too. It seems fitting. Saying that the City defense is in tatters is an exaggeration, but something is amiss, having just lost a clean sheet for the eighth consecutive game. Kyle Walker is not really a defender and never has been. At center back, Aymeric Laporte and John Stones (especially Stones) continue to develop, making the mistakes one expects from growing players. Nicolas Otamendi is just David Luiz wearing a lighter blue jersey. The kind of mistakes these players make do not always have major implications on the game results, Saturday’s display notwithstanding, but their impact in fantasy could not be felt more. It is good to see Ederson has stopped tackling opposing attackers in the box for no reason.

Up front the consternation can now begin between the Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus backers. Just what fantasy managers need, another position exposed to large amounts of rotation. The roulette wheel continues to spin in the midfield. Fantasy managers have trouble deciding on the right combination of three players for their teams. How do you think Pep feels having to pick five every week?

Feat of Strength

After missing the World Cup with Germany, and only starting eleven of eighteen matches, Leroy Sane has proven to be a driving factor in the Manchester attack. It will be interesting to see what happens to Sane when Benjamin Mendy returns. But, he is the hot hand in fantasy right now; I recommend getting as many of those points as possible while you can.

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Manchester United

Jose Mourinho was fired this week, so anything I was going to complain about no longer applies. However, United, regardless of manager or players, should be keeping clean sheets.

Feat of Strength

Well...um...TBD. My Paul Pogba hype train is getting ready to leave the station. Tickets are still available.

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Newcastle

This is another one of those teams with a completely flawed position. For the Magpies, the midfield is a minefield. The danger with this mass of players is that the fantasy relevant ones have tantalizing upside. Despite seeing and knowing what these players are, it is so easy to buy in, myself included, only to be snakebitten on the backside of the results. The defense has not improved following the strong close to the 2017-18 season. Newcastle is, at its core, the Salomon Rondon and Ayoze Perez show, featuring Martin Dubravka, though he is priced out of the goalie market, sadly. Can we please get this team sold so Rafa Benitez can turn them into a top ten powerhouse? Thank you.

Feat of Strength

Salomon Rondon has provided a reliable attacker at the top of the lineup. While he will not take the majority of chances in a given game, Rondon has shown the clinical ability to put away the chances a proper striker needs to when playing in a team with the tactical style of Newcastle.

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Southampton

Keeping Mark Hughes on board as manager was a giant mistake, full stop. Ralph Hasenhuttl has the Saints playing competitively after only two weeks. This could be a turnaround to watch.

Feat of Strength

If he can stay healthy, then Danny Ings looks to be the real deal, especially for a bargain-bin striker. Seven goals in thirteen games is a rate that fantasy managers clamor for, especially at £5.5m.

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Tottenham

For other top teams in the Premier League, we are complaining about rotation. Tottenham are not the team to do that when healthy. Sadly, they have not had a single stand out player emerge in all those unchallenged minutes. Heung-Min Son could be something, but he is about to miss another extended stint of time for international duty. Harry Kane needs a break. If you managers are unwilling to spend the 13.0m for Salah, suggesting you spend the £12.5m for Kane is indefensible, and irresponsible.

Feat of Strength

This would be Heung-Min Son, if he were not leaving for the Asian Games in January. The first least objectionable alternative is Christian Eriksen. Despite the number on his back, he is the play-making number-ten for this team. Health has really set him back this year, on aggregate. Kane cannot score when he is not on the pitch; so for Kane to score, Eriksen is must be the player to provide the desired service.

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Watford

What do you know, another team with a striker problem. The current talent is not good enough, plain and simple. Jose Holebas provides so much to the attack he counts as a budget friendly defender, despite the porous nature of their defense. Javi Gracia could almost get away with playing eleven midfielders. He has nine listed on his roster, add Holebas and the healthiest of Daryl Janmaat or Kiko Femenia, and then you have something that fantasy managers might be interested in. Until then, managers will pick around the meager options of Gerard Deulofeu, Roberto Pereyra, and Abdoulaye Doucoure.

Feat of Strength

Roberto Pereyra leads the team in fantasy scoring. So he wins, I guess.

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West Ham

I know the fixtures are good, but the Hammers just cannot defend. This is a sentiment that dates back to my first experiences with the Premier League. It is still true to this day. Everything Manuel Pellegrini has done on the other half of the pitch has been divine.

Feat of Strength

Felipe Anderson’s acclimation to the Premier League took only a few weeks. Since Marko Arnautovic went down with his injury, Anderson has shouldered the load, running up a tally of six goals and three assists en route to establishing himself as the focal point of the Hammers potent attack.

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Wolverhampton

Matt Doherty continues to defy doubters, specifically myself. I will be watching where the chips fall for him now that he is a £5.0m asset. There are still reasons to be skeptical from my vantage point. Wolves have been disappointing from a defensive perspective when you look at the recent form. Going forward, they have provided goals, but they have yet to score more than two in a game this season. The midfield has been the pitfall of this team. The production has not been there to support the attack.

Feat of Strength

Raul Jimenez has contributed to 11 of Wolves’ 19 goals this season, from a fantasy perspective. It would be poor, logically, to not consider the attacker with a contribution ratio above 50%. He has been Bobby Firmino-lite — the cheap but acceptable knock-off or store-brand.

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In conclusion, the opportunity to air my grievances for all to see gives me hope that I can hit the reset button as we start the second half of the season. This is as clean as the slate will be until the next season launches around July. I hope this has been more entertaining and informative than a guy just complaining about the Fantasy Premier League.

Happy Holidays to you, and to yours. But most of all, on this day, happy Festivus!

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Are there any grievances that I missed? Be sure to let us all know in the comments below; after all, to “air” is human!

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