This is the point of the season when all H-E-double hockey sticks break loose. Coming into GW 34 feels just like the time when, as a student driver, I tried to merge into a freeway for the first time.
There I was, rolling in on the on-ramp at 20 mph while through-traffic passed me at 70-80 mph (115-130+ kph). It seemed an impossible task, but I know now it was because of my approach. Thankfully, other drivers steered clear (were they afraid of clueless li’l ol’ me?). I quickly learned two lessons: When you’re in those seemingly impossible moments, the best strategy is not to panic but rather to go with the flow — just go — things will slow down for you (as your life flashes before your eyes) and you will make sense of the ebb and flow.
I also learned to look and plan ahead. After all of the ink (electrons?) that we’ve spent prepping for this week, I hope you’re all merging into this week at 120+ kph with confidence. If not, hold on — it could be a bumpy ride, but we will get through it together.
If you are a Togga player, this week is fairly straightforward with all 20 teams playing a game each because Togga (and Fantrax +Bench) is punting mid-week rescheduled games into next week (watch out for the Tuesday deadline before BRI v TOT !).
On the other hand if you are an Official FPL manager, you’re in a DGW and have been maneuvering for weeks, shifting toward DGW players weekly, and thinking about when to exploit Free Hit and/or Bench Boost chips — and also agonizing over the Mo Salah conundrum (keep in your XI despite injury worries, CL distractions and lack of DGW action?).
Yes, it has been a long and challenging week full of hard decisions. But here we are: Saturday morning and games are about to kick off. Why don’t we all just take a moment, sit back, relax, inhale through the nose and exhale from the mouth a few times... find our center, count to ten and just... let... go. Oh, and if that doesn’t float your boat, then “Don’t worry, have a homebrew.”
Everything is in its right place.
The Early Game
Ernest Hemingway once said that bankruptcy happens “gradually and then suddenly”. And so has relegation for the Saints. For years now they’ve lost talent (mostly to Liverpool) and somehow they were able to replenish it on the cheap. No more. It’s been a case of diminishing returns in terms of talent for Southampton, and it has finally caught up with them. There isn’t much to love from this team these days, other than cheap/available gambles like Alex McCarthy, Cedric Soares, Charlie Austin and former Spotlight prospect James Ward-Prowse.
Chelsea, as always, features some attractive players like Cesar Azpilicueta, Marcos Alonso, Willian and (in Togga) Eden Hazard. I like most Blues this weekend despite my suspicion that this game could end 2-2.
The Middle Games
Here’s something I didn’t think I’d write at the beginning of this term: Burnley are playing for Europe. I did, however, imagine a world where I’d write that Leicester were in that scenario, but alas, the opposite is true. Well done Burnley!
This weekend, I’ll be watching James Tarkowski, Aaron Lennon (oh how you disappointed me last week), the Icelander Gudmunsson (reports are he’s a lot healthier and could feature), as well as Chris Wood and Ashley Barnes. I’m also riveted by the fight for Burnley’s goal between the two England keeper prospects Tom Heaton and Nick “The Young” Pope.
For the Foxes, I continue all-in on Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez, and have no issues if anyone plays Harry Maguire and/or Ben Chilwell this GW, regardless of format.
Wilfried Zaha and 21 others.
This game offers a goldmine of less-heralded players who could have big fantasy weeks. For Huddersfield Aaron Mooy and Steve Mounie are the most likely candidates. For Watford, there are arguably a few more interesting options including the in-form Roberto Pereyra, the not-in-form Troy Deeney, the in-so-so-form Will Hughes, and the defender-as-a-forward Kiko Femenia. Pick one or two from this bunch and pray for rain.
At first sight, this game seems like a cure for insomnia. But on closer inspection, there are some interesting aspects here. For starters, Everton are HORRIBLE away from Goodison Park. Second, Swansea really need a win as they remain a little too close to the relegation zone. Third, Alfie Mawson and Jordan Pickford both have to impress to keep their England squad and team dreams alive ahead of the World Cup.
Liverpool v Bournemouth
I mean, if we are being honest with ourselves over here, we’ll all be glued to the TV to see how many goals the golden-boot-candidate Lionel Cristiano “Mohamed Salah” Ronaldo Messi can score against the exposed defense of an overly aggressive Bournemouth side.
The Late Game
Among the scariest words in the world should be some coherent combination of: “City” and “Guardiola” and “eliminated” and “losing streak” and “nothing else to play for”. I’m reading waaaay too many stories that place Spurs in the position of furthering City’s slide. I’m not buying it. Be afraid, very afraid.
If Spurs are not careful, they could be routed. They’re in for the game of their lives, and if they are complacent or unprepared, they’ll be gored like some hapless matador in an Ernest Hemingway story (nice way to tie the opening Hemingway reference, right?).
However, fantasy managers will be drooling over Kane’s golden-boot response to Salah’s earlier performance (good or bad).
And live from your screen it’s Saturday Chaaat! Regardless of partisan attachment, there should be plenty to excite, right? Post the XIs and give us your play-by-play + instant analysis; we are hungry and we want it all! Let’s gooooooo!