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A Trip Around the League: Handball!

Life’s a penalty because VAR caught you with your hand in the cookie jar!

Southampton v Tottenham Hotspur - Premier League
Son and Kane: Simply the best, better than all the rest!
Photo by Tottenham Hotspur FC/Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images

Welcome back to your favorite international-break downtime column; it’s been a while!

The last time I saw you all, the VAR singularity hadn’t yet occurred, a global plague was a bad Hollywood movie plot, and fans were packed into stadiums singing songs (that remind us of the good times... songs that remind us of the better times).

But alas, much like they say about nuclear fallout — that only cockroaches would remain and thus inherit the world — the international break is still with us, even in a world that looks nothing as it did before (new SAT analogy: International Breaks are to futbol as cockroaches are to the End of Days : Dreaded, unwanted survivors).

But, we don’t cry over spilled milk here. We embrace reality!

And the reality is that while your favorite and most treasured FPL assets are out avoiding whack-a-knee defenders coached by Sensei Kreese disciples somewhere out there in many of the most unpronounceable foreign outposts we never knew existed, we just get to sit back and thankfully not think about VAR!

2013 Rhode Island Comic Con - Day 1
Sensei Kreese and his assistant Johnny Lawrence have developed a ruthless defensive tactic for international games!
Photo by Bobby Bank/WireImage

...Let’s just pray that “Sweep the Leg” — the revolutionary defensive tactic first developed by Sensei Kreese and his assistant mastermind Johnny Lawrence, and then employed by many faraway national teams against your most prized FPL attacking assets — doesn’t, um, sweep the league the way back threes did after World Cup 2014!


So as we continue to enjoy the international break and not think about VAR...

Bad Robot!

...Crap! I’m thinking about VAR!

Let’s try this again. Better this time!


It has been quite the start to the season, hasn’t it? We’ve learned so many wonderful new facts so far. For example, Liverpool may be secretly horrible at defending, and David Moyes is a magician. Speaking of magic, defenders are now expected to have 360-degree vision and would be best served by surgically amputating their arms. We also learned/confirmed that Jamie Vardy does not in fact need any shots on target, or none from open play in order to win another Golden Boot. We also learned that it is possible to be relegated before a ball is kicked in anger, what with Fulham suffering the drop before the first whistle in this new season.

But enough with the macro analysis, let’s delve into the micro! In English, please? Yep, this means that the time’s here to go on a tour and visit each Premier League team (and Fulham too) and say hi to some of our most beloved FPL friends.

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


Elite Squads


[You are about to enter another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound, but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land of imagination. Next stop, The Twilight Zone!]

Aston Villa 2 : 7 Liverpool, game-week 4. There is nothing at all to worry about with Liverpool. They are dominating as they should, easily beating relegation-fodder Villa.

Seven goals for Liverpool and they only gave up two when the game had long been decided, and Klopp rested his stars. Very, very easy win for Liverpool. Wait, what?!? A Game-week 4 2:7 loss that can only be explained... in The Twilight Zone!


Manchester City

Speaking of The Twilight Zone... Man City beat Leicester 5-2 in GW-3, right?

And perma-captain KDB hasn’t blanked in the last two GWs, right?

Just pinching myself to make sure I’m not dreaming! Let’s confirm by visiting...



Leicester beat Man City 5-2 in GW3???

[Freaking out]

And the Foxes lost 0-3 to West Ham in GW4???

[Insanely freaked out]

Get me out of here! Somebody, help! Anybody!!!!

Also, is it coincidence that the player with the most penalties taken so far is named “Jamie VAR-dy”?

This, my friends, can only be explained in The Twilight Zone.


Mehlite Squads

Manchester United

What in the Red Devils has gotten into this squad?

For one, their attack was never as good as the eye test had led us to believe. Also, most of their attackers wildly outperformed their expected metrics last term — chief among them Mason Greenwood who scored a full order of magnitude more goals than his expected goals (xG) metrics!

Then there is Bruno Fernandes, aka “Bruno Penandes” who is basically Luka Milivojevic circa 2018-19 with slightly better wingers.

If I were to invest in any United asset, the only one I would consider is Marcus Rashford based on his advanced metrics.

But really, I am not shopping at Old Trafford until they sack that spectacular failure that is Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

Big Man U welcome to Edinson Cavani and Alex Telles, by the way!



Kane-to-Son is a FIFA cheat code come to life, and soon Gareth Bale will add to that mix.

Buy, buy, buy!

Let’s check in with Jose Mourinho to see how happy he is with his team’s offensive explosion:

Manchester United v Tottenham Hotspur - Premier League
Mourinho loves his new attack!
Photo by Ash Donelon/Manchester United via Getty Images

Yup, Jose is happy! (never, ever call him “Ho-Say” though, or that smile will’s “Show-say”!)



Speaking of fun and games...let’s start the Partey...just not in FPL! Spider-Man Aubameyang has been a bit of a bust in the early going and other than maybe Hector Bellerin, there isn’t much to interest me. In real life, this is a squad that is firmly in the midst of the Mikel Arteta Process, and it all seems to be going as it should.



If I were a guidance counselor and Chelsea were my client, I would say:

“Find some role clarity. Don’t multitask. You have too much going on and are thus unable to prioritize!”

As an FPL manager this translates to only left-back Ben Chilwell as an interesting FPL asset so far. He’s the only one with a clear role and playing in his optimal position. Everyone else needs more time to settle into their role.


Europa League Try Out Squads


I see a bad moon rising!

Objectively speaking, they haven’t been great, have they? Really, sorta kinda boring, no? Just like my report on the Wolves. Boring.



Speaking of boring, let’s have some fun! This is probably my favorite XI in England this year. Unlike Chelsea, everyone has a clear role to play and they are very professionally managed. This translates very well into FPL assets, and there are at least five that I like: DCL, Richarlison, James Rodriguez, Lucas Digne and Seamus Coleman.

Everton v Brighton & Hove Albion - Premier League
Fun Times at the DCL Disco!
Photo by Peter Byrne - Pool/Getty Images

The Toffees can challenge for a Champions League spot if they can upgrade at two positions: a centre half to pair with Michael Keane (Yerry Mina doesn’t cut it and the jury is out on new arrival Ben Godfrey) and, lets be honest here, a goalkeeper to challenge Argh Joe Hart v2.0 Argh (his parents call him Jordan Pickford)...newly transferred Robin Olsen is the Swedish Joe Hart/Jordan Pickford.


Stuck in the Middle with You Squads

Aston Villa

I am not going to hedge here: this is the year Jack Grealish becomes firmly established as an elite talent. His hair is still terrible, but the player is legit. He will star for England’s upcoming Euro and World Cup squads — it’ll be Jack and ten others.

...Um, did Villa really beat Liverpool 7-2? No way that really happened, right? Right?

Crystal Palace

Now that Palace is getting younger and more exciting, it will soon be time to bid farewell to a good servant in the form of Roy Hodgson. Truth be told, this team is navigating a very tricky transition very well, unlike say, Burnley. The Eagles’ aging/uninspiring core is being nicely complemented by a new group of young and talented futbolers like Eze Eberichi, Michy “The Batman” Batshuayi, Tyrick Mitchell, Nathan Ferguson and Jamie Tartt.

If they can continue to retain want-away Wilfried Zaha from wrecking team dynamics, and if they can continue to coax production from wily vet Andros Townsend, then this team is nicely set up for the 2021-22 season when Ted Lasso is formally appointed as Head Futbol Coach of the Crystal Palace Futbol Team.

2016 Steve Nash Foundation Showdown
Ted Lasso would be a great next futbol head coach for the Crystal Palace futbol team. Just don’t offer him tea!
Photo by Monica Schipper/WireImage

Did I get you with Jamie Tartt? Check out my young Palace player rundown above if you want to know!



Let’s settle a great debate in FPL circles: Che Adams, keep or toss?

First, the facts: Che Adams has started all four matches, played 333 minutes, scored no goals and assisted one.

Next, we look at his expected goals (xG) and expected assists (xA) metrics. Per, Adams is expected to have scored 2.26 goals and 0.56 assists. In other words, Adams has badly underperformed in the goal-scoring department. Danny Ings in comparison has over-performed his expected metrics, having scored three goals against an expected 1.72. Looking at their respective 2020/21 Understat player radar data, Che Adams comes out ahead across most metrics except, as we’ve already shared, actual goals scored.

At a price that is significantly cheaper than Ings, I think the data shows us that Adams can provide adequate coverage for the Saints attack as they enter a decent run of fixtures. Verdict: Keep Che!


West Ham

In a season with practically no clean sheets, the Hammers have two in four matches. Problem is, I already beat this Twilight Zone thing to death and I have no other explanation.

My hot FPL take: Michail Antonio, with his current price drop, is the steal of the year if he stays healthy. All hail Michail!



I must confess, what with this pandemic and quarantine, my hair has grown mighty long. I’ve struggled to figure out what to do with my new Rockstar locks. Thankfully the Peacocks are now in the Premiership, and they strut an awesome assortment of Peacock-worthy hairdos to emulate for my post-lockdown look.

Let’s have a look at what Bielsa’s boys have to offer:

Leeds United v Hull City - Carabao Cup Second Round
Kalvin “The Man Bun” Phillips!
Photo by James Williamson - AMA/Getty Images

Very nice Kalvin! Let’s take a look at another good option:

Sheffield United v Leeds United - Premier League
Luke “Top-Knot” Ayling
Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Wow, yeah, sweet look Luke. One more please:

Leeds United v Fulham - Premier League
Jack “The Ponytail” Harrison!
Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Great job Jack!

Let’s take a poll: Who wore it best at Leeds United?


Who Wore it Best?

This poll is closed

  • 0%
    Kalvin "Man Bun" Phillips
    (0 votes)
  • 60%
    Luke "Top-Knot" Ayling
    (3 votes)
  • 40%
    Jack "The Ponytail" Harrison
    (2 votes)
5 votes total Vote Now



Speaking of dreamy things, at our next stop, FPL dreams are made of these:

Leandro Trossard, Tariq Lamptey, Neal Maupay, Yves Bissouma (yes, I am conveniently forgetting his violent red card. Sue me!) and maybe even Steven Alzate.


We Could Go Down Squads

Newcastle United

That game-week 3 match against Spurs — the one with Eric Dier’s “handball” and Callum Wilson’s game-tying penalty in the last second of the game...

...Newcastle’s MVP / GOAT for 2020-21 is not one of the four new transfers (Wilson, Ryan Fraser, Jamal Lewis and Jeff Hendrick). Nope, the most valuable contributor to Newcastle’s season so far has been:

VAR is the greatest Newcastle asset since Alan Shearer!

VAR! (or maybe Karl Darlow). The VAR singularity is upon us.



Perhaps it’s smoke and not fire. Perhaps it’s fire but not quite a conflagration. Maybe it’s just the embers of a fire at Burn-ley. Ernest Hemingway warned us about this sort of thing when he said that bankruptcy happens gradually and then suddenly. Same with relegation: it happens suddenly after gradual signs of deterioration.

The facts are crystal clear: The Clarets are old, they are a thin squad, their game-plan and tactics have not evolved with the times, and their long-ball game is now a total outlier. To be fair, Sean Dyche is a very good professional futbol manager, and there is some talent in this roster with the likes of Nick “The not-quite-as Young” Pope, James Tarkowski, Dwight McNeil, and Chris Wood among the better Premier League players in their respective roles. But of these, only Wood and maybe Tarkowski are viable FPL assets. After that, you’re sifting through a flaming pile of budget enablers (and Pope’s oddly inflated price). I worry, Burnley. I worry.


Sheffield United

[Left intentionally blank]

Just like their attack.

Very much on the relegation watch-list.


West Brom

Matheus Pereira looks like a player, but WBA are awful at professional futbol playing in England.

I’d love to name one other player on their squad who isn’t Pereira or Grady Díangana, or Diang, or whatever his bloody name is (Grady is the new Jose Holebas/Cholevas)... anyway, I can’t name any other WBA players.

As bad as the Baggies are, and make no mistake, they are spectacularly awful, they are not the worst team in the Premier League because...


As Good as Relegated!


[As told by Reality to Fulham futbol fans, players and management]:

“All those dreams you had, all those plans and expectations. Well, they’re gonna have to be put on hold for now. I’m telling you this because I want you to know the truth. For the rest of this season, you will lose every game and it will not be a close competition. You are already relegated unless you fire Scott Parker with immediate effect.”

Brentford v Fulham - Carabao Cup Fourth Round
How bad is Scott Parker? He’s unspeakably awful.
Photo by Glyn Kirk - Pool/Getty Images

Fulham being our last stop, I want to end our tour on a positive note. So let’s say something positive about the Lillywhites...


(thinking harder)

Um, fears of Mitrovic red cards were wildly unfounded. Mitrovic gets a passing grade for his conduct on the futbol pitch!


Welcome back from your Trip Around the League!

Without further ado, I now invite New England Patriots head football coach Bill Belichick to regale us with his closing remarks.

Super Bowl LIV - San Francisco 49ers v Kansas City Chiefs
Coach Belichick is this column’s official keynote closer.
Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Quoth Coach Belichick: “On to Game-week five.”

Thanks Bill.

Enjoy the break, NMA friends, and thank you for your time!


What do you all think? What would you add? What would you have left out? Please tell us in the comments below!