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We need to talk.

It has become apparent to me that the effects of over a year of football without fans, combined with a year of COVID restrictions, has warped our perception of reality, particularly as it relates to the beautiful game.

The following are ‘perceptions’ that I have noted among the media and/or football fans in the past season, which when looked at in the cold light of day are clearly nonsensical, yet have been fervently debated with gusto as we’ve all lost leave of our senses:

• Man City’s win last night was one of the best by an English side away from home in Europe, ever.

• Trent Alexander-Arnold isn’t really all that good and should change position immediately.

• Chelsea are plucky underdogs and are so admirable for punching above their weight this season.

• Frank Lampard was hard done by, should have been given more time.

• All the English clubs that signed up to the Super League should be sold to new, minted, benevolent owners who are queuing up to save the day.

That’s just off the top of my head, too. There are more. We’ve stared at a warped, unreal product for too long, and have started to see and hear things that don’t exist. It’s the footballing equivalent of being thrown in the hole and left in complete darkness and silence for weeks on end. Your mind plays tricks on you, you hear things that aren’t real and see things that don’t exist.

And that, ladies and gents, explains what has happened to my FPL team this season.

Onto GW34!

Written by @NiallHawthorne

Defender: Stuart Dallas, Leeds United

Yes, once more into the breach for the riddle, the puzzle, the enigma that is Stuart Dallas. An easy ‘no-brainer’ game against Sheffield United or Fulham? Two points in each. Nightmare fixtures against City, United or Chelsea? 17 points, 6 points and 6 points respectively. We all benched him for at least one of those too, right?

No longer will he sit on my bench!

A trip to Brighton beckons this week, and the Seagulls have scored just once in their last four games and have blanked in front of goal on three consecutive occasions. This is a no-brainer!

Oh….

Midfielder: James Rodriguez, Everton

J-Rod is now four games back from his latest injury problems and he has returned a goal and an assist in that time.

This week he faces an Aston Villa side who have forgotten how to defend. 14 clean sheets in their first 26 games has now been followed by 0 clean sheets in their last 6 games, conceding 10 goals in that time. I never realised Jack Grealish was such an effective defensive midfielder!

Forward: Sergio Aguero, Manchester City

Once more into the breach, for old times sake.

With Manchester City fresh from THE GREATEST AWAY PERFORMANCE EVER BY AN ENGLISH CLUB (I won’t let this go for not even Hans Christian Andersen has written a fairy tale so outlandish), you can be absolutely certain that Pep Roulette will be in full effect this weekend.

There’s no chance that Sergio Aguero is going to depart Manchester City without banging at least once more, and I reckon he gets the nod this weekend as they face Crystal Palace. City battered the Eagles by four earlier in the season, so this could be a stroll for City.

Captain: Kelechi Iheanacho, Leicester City

If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.

Yet another double-digit haul from Iheanacho last time out to reward those who waited, and waited, and waited for their captain to take to the pitch.

This week he faces Southampton at St. Mary’s on a Friday night. Someone in the Premier League fixtures department has a cruel, wicked sense of humour. Let’s be honest, if it’s raining on Friday night, I half expect the Saints team to assume the foetal position and cry uncontrollably as the memories of their 9-0 annihilation come flooding back.

Outsider: Conor Townsend, West Bromwich Albion

£4.4m and owned by 0.1%.

4 clean sheets in his last 9 games. A guaranteed starter. Facing a Wolves side that are in freefall.

Your move….

They say that a week is a long time in politics.

Try football.

My preview for GW32 was bemoaning the fact that the week would drag on endlessly for fantasy football fans, and lose all meaning. Little did I know then that football itself would almost lose all meaning in the same week, thanks to the disgusting, greedy, myopic actions of power-hungry, capitalistic vultures that just happen to run many of the biggest and most loved football institutions in Europe.

Thankfully, even the most power-mad oligarchs realise that without the fans, football is nothing, and the pressure that fans all around Europe brought to bear on the owners of their beloved clubs managed to save our game, as daft, weighted and unfair as it is at present.

To the owners of Liverpool, Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal (!), Spurs (!!), Real Madrid, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, Juventus, AC Milan and Inter Milan, congratulations. You have made the intro to the FantasyYIRMA preview section, joining the illustrious list of other luminaries to grace this intro section, like Donald Trump and Boris Johnson. Nice company you’re now keeping.

Onto GW33!

Defender: Trent Alexander-Arnold, Liverpool

Forty points in his last four games which have included a goal, an assist, two clean sheets and outrageously, the maximum bonus points in all four games!

This week he has a Saturday lunchtime appointment against Newcastle United at Anfield. Now I must hold my hands up here and recognise on these pages the form of Newcastle in recent weeks. Just a single defeat in seven league games and two wins on the bounce have seen them ease clear of the relegation zone, and one more win would see them safe this season I reckon.

That won’t happen this weekend though as TAA continues to evolve his new position of RB / CAM in this Liverpool team (if you haven’t spotted that yet, watch this weekend…), so make the necessary budget adjustments and get him in your team.

Midfielder: Mason Greenwood, Manchester United

Here we have a player who is on fire, finally getting regular starts, and mistakenly labelled as a midfielder by the FPL overlords.

Who are we to look gift horses in the mouth?

Three starts in the last four GW’s has featured four goals and an assist in that run. This weekend he’s away to Leeds United, who I’m sure will continue wearing those ‘You’re all just greedy b*stards and we wanted an invite too’ t-shirts that they were chucking out for free at Elland Road last Monday night.

Forward: Ollie Watkins, Aston Villa

Dear Lord (or whatever deity floats your boat),

What have we done to anger you? Why have you forsaken us this week and lumbered us with rubbish forward options?

You have your own son Jesus playing at Wembley and you’ve arranged for Saint Harry of Kane to also take part (while nobbling him the week before, I notice), leaving a veritable drought of forward options for the thirty-third Sunday of Lent (a.k.a. GW33).

You have also smitten the hamstrings of Ings and Lacazette which has made me covet Benteke. That’s the 11th commandment you are tempting me to break! Thou must never covet Benteke!

I have prayed earnestly to you this week (thanks for ending the Super League stuff) and I believe you have sent me a sign. I saw a young man on the street do a trick on a skateboard, and it hit me.

Ollie, indeed.

Amen.

Captain: Kelechi Iheanacho, Leicester City

As this week is a mercifully short four days, time to keep a bit of jeopardy going right to the end by having your Captain play on Monday night.

Seven goals in his last five league starts (I’m writing this ahead of his GW32 fixture, ridiculously) as well as a goal in the FA Cup semi-final. He’s red hot and now faces Crystal Palace.

Leicester City are pushing for a Top 4 place and looking to stay sharp ahead of the FA Cup Final. Crystal Palace are the first team to hit the beach this season as they are safe from relegation, most of their squad are out of contract this summer, their manager is 148 years old and almost certain to finally retire at the end of the season, and basically may not give a fiddlers flute about this game.

Pile on!

Outsider: Willian Jose, Wolverhampton Wanderers

Mr. Jose has finally popped his proverbial goal-scoring cherry in the Premier League and has very little competition up front for Wolves, so may be worth a punt this week as he faces Burnley at Molineux this weekend. Burnley have very quietly landed themselves in a bit of a relegation fight, and there’s always one team that surprisingly drops late in the season.

Your move….

Gameweek 29 Preview: Bunch of Blankers

Hey!

Hey you!

Yes, I’m talking to you. Don’t skip past this bit and head straight to the ‘Forward’ tip seeking the next Kelechi Iheanacho hat-trick hero, I’m talking to you, like I do every week.

I may have picked up close to 100 new followers on Twitter thanks to my quite frankly outrageous tipping of Iheanacho in GW28 but how many Purple Monkey Dishwasher replies did I get? About five. If you don’t know what the hell I’m talking about, you’re proving my point.

Shame on you all. If you think my FPL tips are good, you should read the life tips I put in here most weeks. You might learn something useful that you can use outside of the Fantasy Football realm.

You’ve stopped reading already, haven’t you? Yeah….

Onto BGW29!

Written by Mr. @NiallHawthorne

Defender: Aaron Cresswell, West Ham United

With just four matches and eight teams to choose from this week, the selection of the top scoring defender in the game is a no-brainer, right?

Someone should ask Gareth Southgate that very same question as he quite inexplicably left young Cresswell out of his latest England squad. Clearly ten clean sheets and ten assists this season is just not good enough. I trust Southgate’s squad picking skills about as much as I trust his penalty taking skills.

Midfielder: Adam Lallana, Brighton & Hove Albion

I’ll tell you what I’ve learned in recent times – if you’re English and have a job in the Premier League, you get a far smoother ride from the media than those not English. Take Graham Potter for example, who, according to media pieces I’ve seen this week, is an amazing manager with an incredible philosophy, despite having Brighton hovering around the drop-zone after just 6 wins in 28 attempts.

This dovetails nicely with the arguments in recent years that English managers don’t get a fair go in the Premier League, and if trusted they’d be just as good as those not from England. Well the bottom six in the Premier League are all managed by Englishmen. Well, they were until Chris Wilder got sacked for having one of the worst Premier League records in a season, ever. A crying shame, by all accounts. Honestly!

One Englishman I do fancy to do the business for us this weekend is Adam Lallana who seems to have some modicum of fitness at last after completing consecutive 90 minutes for just the second time this season. A home game against Newcastle United awaits in a real relegation six-pointer at the AMEX. Whoever wins this one will deserve all the credit.

Boom and indeed Tish.

Forward: Michail Antonio, West Ham United

A very bold decision made by Michail Antonio this week, as he appears to have pledged his international allegiance to Jamaica rather than England.

The only reason this is noteworthy is that he’s now not like Harry Kane who can commit life-threatening tackles with impunity every week. Instead he’s now technically a ‘foreign’ striker and could be defined as a diving, cheating horrid git starting at 3.01pm this Sunday, March 21st.

Not that anyone cares in the FPL world as we don’t care if you’re from Blighty, Bulgaria or the moon, if you’re hauling. After recent goals against Spurs and City, I see no reason why Antonio won’t net against Arsenal.

Captain: Gareth Bale, Tottenham Hotspur

Before you mock and jeer, I have two words in my defence: Kelechi Iheanacho (last time, maybe…)

The thing with Gareth Bale is, he’s spent about three years not being a footballer, so it takes a bit of time to get back into the swing of things, rather than the swing of a golf club.

GW26 – 19 points. Bale is back baby!

GW26 – 2-point blank. Hah! He loves golf more than goals!

GW27 – 14 points. Could it be? Is it really him?

GW28 – 1 point. Hauled off before the hour. Useless. He’s a busted flush!

Or, and hear me out here, he could be building back up his fitness and relearning what it is to be a relentless FPL point-scoring machine, which he used to be. So BGW29 is against Villa on Sunday night, and another double-digit haul is coming.

Outsider: Dwight Gayle, Newcastle United

The emergence of Dwight Gayle each football season can be synchronised with the emergence of the Spring season. The birds are chirping, the grass is growing again, and Dwight Gayle starts to fancy it once more.

Your move….

Fantasy Football Preview: Purple Monkey Dishwasher

Written By @NiallHawthorne

You may be astonished to learn that this writer is in fact a supporter of Liverpool Football Club. I know, I’ll give you a moment to recover from the shock.

I had never witnessed my team lose five consecutive league games at Anfield, until this week. All this comes just a year after I saw the greatest Liverpool team of my lifetime capture a league title with the highest points total in the clubs’ history.

That’s bonkers.

It does teach us a very valuable life lesson though: Cherish the good times when they happen.

Too often when we find things going our way, we waste that time worrying about how we can make things better. I finished in the top 20k last season in FPL, and spent weeks bemoaning the fact that I couldn’t finish higher, couldn’t crack the top 10k. This season I can’t crack the top million, and I look back now and realise how good I had it.

Whether it’s in life, FPL or following the trials and tribulations of your football team, cherish the good times because you never know when they’ll be gone, possibly for good.

Onto GW27!

Defender: Lucas Digne, Everton

Clearly you should have at least one Manchester City defensive asset this week as they play twice and don’t really concede goals anymore, so I’m assuming that you have your Pep Guardiola voodoo doll ready to stick pins into as he breaks your FPL heart with nary a thought for your mental health, the monster.

Lucas Digne is someone you should consider squeezing in alongside those City players. In just 19 appearances this season he has 8 assists and 4 clean sheets, including three on the spin heading into GW27. While his fixture away to Chelsea looks tricky, Thomas Tuchel’s men have failed to score more than once in their last three appearances.

Tuchel against Ancelotti in a Top Four tussle could mean that goals are rarer than a Covid vaccine in a EU country.

*sigh*

Midfielder: Gareth Bale, Tottenham Hotspur

If there’s a chance, even the smallest tiniest chance, that the ‘old’ Gareth Bale is back then I defy you to give me a single reason why we all shouldn’t have him in our team immediately.

The signs are there. His performance against Burnley last week was bordering on vintage Bale. With Bruno Fernandes being deprived of penalties, and consequently Manchester United starting on one of their ‘Ole runs’ a swap from Bruno to Bale could be the masterstroke you require to win your mini-leagues and the admiration of all your peers (or be mocked mercilessly for being a damn fool).

Forward: Michail Antonio, West Ham United

Consecutive returns from fixtures against Spurs and Manchester City is ample evidence that Antonio should be firmly on your forward radar once more.

While he can be infuriatingly injury-prone (he’s missed nine league games this season) he has started eight of the last nine games.

This week he faces the ever-welcoming Leeds United defence who have conceded 44 goals this season, with only West Brom having a worst defensive record. More on that later.

Captain: Kevin De Bruyne, Manchester City

While you know that you’re going to be uttering Pep’s name in less than complementary terms this week, you must have KDB this week, surely?

A Manchester Derby that he’s nailed on to start, followed by a Southampton side that have developed a penchant for taking a walloping, this is the week when you stick KDB in and pray to all your Gods that Pep plays ball.

Oh, and he’s owned by less than 15% of players, which is stark raving bonkers if you think about it.

Outsider: Kyle Bartley, West Bromwich Albion

Stop laughing, I’m deadly serious!

Two clean sheets in his last three and this week he faces a Newcastle United side that have all their attackers injured (except for Joelinton but does he even count?) and Steve Bruce is picking on little Matt Ritchie on the training ground.

Big Sam needs a win here and the first step to winning a crucial relegation six-pointer is not to concede.

Your move….

Fantasy Football Preview: Doubles, Doubles and More Doubles

Double Gameweek 25: Official Fantasy Premier League

Fantasy Football Gameweek 23 Review: And Much More Important Things

Fantasy Football Gameweek 23: Brighton, United and a Southampton Defender?!

The Fantasy Review – Lads, Poopers and Lingard

FPL GW22 REVIEW – Written by @JackAGoodwin

It’s been a minute since we spoke. Since, I’ve ventured into writing about wrestling for Inside The Ropes. I’ve been positive with Covid and then fortunately recovered. I’ve spent a couple weeks in the top 10k of FPL only for my team to collapse following a poorly timed Wildcard.

Needless to say, it’s been eventful.

But you guys, smashing through GW’s quicker than Martial can hit the deck just thinking about contact! What are we up to now? GW22? Madness.

ED: Ladies & Gentlemen… Jack’s Back

Double Decadence

No, not the fantastic, beautiful, long-lost double crusted delight from Domino’s Pizza. But Double-Digit Dudes (copyrighting that, it feels right). 8 Players bagged double figures in GW22.

A 17-point haul for United pair Fernandes & Wan-Bissaka. This was Bruno’s 9th double digit haul of the season, AWB only his first in a steady season so far for the right back.

Just behind with 15 points was United fall guy Jesse Lingard who on his Hammers debut smashed home 2 goals. For just £5.9m and a couple tasty fixtures incoming it could be a punt to take (but only do so if Niall tells you it’s right).

Also on 15 was the ever-present Leicester defender James Justin, a whopping 28% of managers owns him so this was expected. He grabbed his 2nd goal of the season after a couple of blank GW’s. Fixtures are wavy at best though.

Martial grabbed 13pts with 2 goals (after blanking the last 5 GW’s), Brighton’s Alzate oddly scored 11 (I know, who!) and Maddison with yet again more returns took home 11pts in Leicester’s win over Fulham.

Last but not least, it was Palace’s Riedewald (only £4.4m and 0.9% owned) with 10pts after his goal against Newcastle. His game time is as rare as a day without a running update from Ryan, so it’s pretty rare indeed!

ED: Following a consistent knee problem, I had to take 3 days off running to try and let it recover. 3 Dark Days. I appreciate that information is not why you’re here, so if it’s of interest check out the FantasyYIRMA Running Blog over at….. nahhhh i’m not that bad (yet)

Point Poopers

The guys you love to hate. The ones who crapped all over your GW’s. The scum, FPL scum (for this GW). 7 players. SEVEN PLAYERS scored MINUS figures this GW. Yes you guessed it, Arsenal and Southampton.

Leading from the back it’s Bednarek. -7 points. MINUS SEVEN. The 10% owned Saints midfielder had one of the worst GW’s on record after he scored an own goal in the 9-0 drubbing at the hands of Man United, but that’s not all folks! Chuck in a red card! What. A. Day.

Fellow Saints defenders Ramsay and Stephens took home -3 points after the 9 goals conceded plus a yellow card each. Joined in the -3 point club by Arsenal villain David Luiz after his controversial red card against Wolves.

On level -2 we see Saints pair Bertrand and Jankewitz just behind Bernd Leno who after his red took home a cool -1 point for his 8.5% owners.

Return of The Lads

Form is everything in FPL, some pick it up, some drop it and fumble it all over the place until suddenly your in the Championship and still called Josh King.

Here’s a few select lads from GW22 who rose from the depths of poor form.

Hey lads, remember Dominic Calvert-Lewin? Last seen scoring against Burnley in GW11, he now has the baby-faced James Rodriguez delivering finesse all over the pitch again. DCL (as we love to call him because his name is annoyingly long) finally found the net once again after that 8 game barren period. United, City AND Liverpool in their next 4 matches…Unlikely you’re bringing him in.

It’s been 6 games since Marcus Rashford scored, now I know it was a weird result, but he looked sharp! A goal and an assist in the 9-0 win, they have a favorable next 3 games, but will you risk bringing him in now?

Wolves Joao Moutinho scored his first goal of the season and took home literally his first FPL returns of the season. After 7 assists last season, is this the revival of his 19/20 form? Or a blip in the Matrix. All I know is Wolves boss Nuno Santo looks a bit like Morpheus. Do with that what you will.

King of the screamers, Jonjo Shelvey is back! Scoring his first goal of the season against Palace. After his first assist last GW, is this a sign of a more attacking threat coming from Toon Dr Evil?

Form, Form & More Form

Some can’t be ignored, for good reason. Here are some of your top in-form players and how they got on this GW.

West Brom’s Matheus Pereira is arguably the most in form in the League, this apparently didn’t faze Sheffield who shut him out for the 1-point return. With Spurs and Man United up next are you prepared to keep hold of him? He scored a total of 2 points in the reverse fixtures.

Ilkay Gundogan is on a mad one. Who many thought was a defensive midfield player is suddenly cracking out FPL returns more than we see bloody syringes on our FPL timelines (thanks Bhuna). An assist this GW against Burnley which was actually his first of the season only adds to his 7 goals so far. I still believe he is related to Jimmy Carr, but that debate is for another day.

6 clean sheets on the bounce is bound to grab FPL attention, so City defenders Stones, Dias, Cancelo and Zinchenko are hot right now – only Pep Roulette getting in the way! With Liverpool, Spurs, Arsenal and Man United in the next 6 GW’s this will be the biggest test of their defense – MOST will stick with them, the attacking returns are just too attractive.

Finally I want to focus your attentions to Leeds midfielder, Raphinha. 4 goals 4 assists this season, half of which all coming in the last 3 GW’s alone. Including a goal this past GW against Everton. Leeds have kind fixtures, and with Bamford also firing it’s a great time to invest in the attack minded Prem newbies!

Differential Potential

Those FPL players who sit under 5% ownership but still returned! Are any of them worth looking at or was it just a one off like seeing the film Tenet, which, I guarantee if you decide to watch ever again in your life after first visit you may need to reconsider your life entirely – horrendous. Anyway…

1.5% owned Jesse Lingard, £5.9m, 15 point return on his West Ham debut. Invest.

4% owned Gabriel Jesus. Yeah, 2 goals in as many games but has the worlds most punchable face. Bin him.

0.6% owned Leandro Trossard from Brighton is (ironically) one of the only bright sparks in the squad. At just £5.7 he is slowly picking up form with the key assist in the win over Liverpool just after the goal scored to beat Spurs last GW. Coming up he has Burnley, Villa, Palace and West Brom. Real tempting to bring him in for those, an attack minded midfielder who if Brighton are going to score, he will be involved.

Billy Sharp? McTominay? Pepe? Benrahma? If you transfer these IN this week (and got this far in the review to even see this note) and they have attacking FPL returns in GW23 I will personally mail you some exclusive FPL stickers in the post. THAT’S how confident I am that they suck (in FPL).

Jack’s Final Fort (thought, but Northern)

Manchester United and Manchester City have confirmed that they’re up for the battle of not just Manchester this season. Leaving London (and Scouseland) in the dust for now.

Will it maintain? Most likely not, the biggest test for the Blue side of Mannie is this weekend against Liverpool who themselves are teetering on being out of the race after 2 defeats on the bounce.

GW22 we had FOUR 2-1 results, FOUR clean sheets and one being a record equaling 9-0. We saw “top six” Arsenal, Liverpool and Spurs drop points whilst Sheffield continue their fight to lift themselves off the bottom of the table.

Next week I predict….Villa to beat Arsenal, United drop points to Everton and Liverpool to finally pick it up a gear with a win over Man City – but I’ll leave Niall to work out how they’ll go about doing so!

Tata for now.

Written by @JackAGoodwin

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