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Written by @NiallHawthorne

The year 2020 is so far beyond weird that it’s laughable. It’s completely bonkers.

Who would have foreseen that the toughest opponent Marcus Rashford would face this season would be Boris bloody Johnson?

Who would have contemplated an entire nation going into mourning because a dolphin has gone off for a swim for a couple of weeks? (If you’re not Irish, google ‘Fungie’ and don’t judge us)

Who would have thought that the fabled Leicester City miracle season would be replicated within five years? Escape relegation by the skin of your teeth, start the next season like a steam-train, get talented yet under-achieving midfielders playing to their full potential, and unearth a lethal striker from the lower leagues….Aston Villa are willing the title this year…

As I said, bonkers! Onto GW6!

Defender: Max Kilman, Wolverhampton Wanderers

Nominative determinism is a powerful force. This is the term applied to people who end up doing for a living what their name has always suggested they should do.

  • Hubert Legal is a solicitor for the EU Council.
  • Daniel Snowman wrote a book about the polar regions.
  • A.J. Splatt and D. Weedon wrote a paper together about incontinence.

I’m not sure where the future is going to take Max Kilman, but if he turns out to be the world’s most prolific serial killer, it’s not really his fault, is it?

Before he heads down that road, he’s made a promising start to his Premier League career, with two clean sheets and an assist to his name in his first two appearances. He’s only £4.1m and owned by less than 7% of FPL players, so let’s all enjoy him before he develops a taste for a nice chianti and some fava beans.

Midfielder: Ross Barkley, Aston Villa

Ross Barkley has been holding onto the ‘promising’ tag longer than Boris Johnson has been holding the ‘buffoon’ tag. Eventually though, the tags change.

Ross is entering his TENTH premier league season, so we need to stop calling him promising, and admit that up to now he’s over-promised and under-delivered. Boris Johnson has stopped being bumbling and evolved into pure undiluted evil.

Barkley seems to have licence to bomb forward in this Villa system, and has plundered two goals in two games since he departed Stamford Bridge. He’s got three straightforward home games in the next four GW’s, and is owned by fewer than 3%.

Forward: Sergio Aguero, Manchester City  

WARNING! WARNING! WARNING!

This tip has a 50% chance of getting you 20+ points.

This tip has a 49% chance of getting you 1 point after an 89th minute cameo from the bench.

This tip has a 1% chance of getting you 0 points after Sergio Aguero is revealed to be a surprise entrant in ‘I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here’ before the weekend.

However, he’s owned by 2.1% of players, Manchester City have no fit strikers available, and you can just smell the potential.

You damn fool.

Captain: Mohamed Salah, Liverpool

Six goals and an assist. Two double digit hauls. One 20-point haul. All in just five games.

This weekend Liverpool welcome Sheffield United to Anfield, and this is a very different Sheffield United to last season’s Sheffield United. The Blades appear dull and blunt.

Much has been made of topsy-turvy start to the season by the reigning champions, however they have played five league games and never failed to score less than twice. Salah and friends were hauled off en masse before the hour mark in Amsterdam, surely with an eye on this clash. Liverpool may also, on a sub-conscious level at least, adopt a motto of ‘we’ll score one more than you’.

This could get very, very messy.

Outsider: Michy Batshuayi, Crystal Palace

Who else could I tip in a column that elaborates on how batsh*t mental this year is, than a player they call Batman?

With Jordan Ayew being all COVID-y, there’s a window of opportunity for Batshuayi to stake a claim for a permanent spot alongside Wilf Zaha. He threw in a cheeky assist in his first start last weekend, costs under £6.0m and is owned by less than 1%.

If you back Batman, you could be Robin a lead on your opponents.

I’ll get my coat.

Written by Niall Hawthorne.

Drop Niall a follow on twitter. Good thing about Twitter – you can always unfollow again later!

Niall Hawthorne has a strange view on most things.

Check out his blog for proof rantsofarebel.wordpress.com.

GW5 Review: Posted After The Final Whistle

Gameweek 5: Spurs, Sheffield United and WBA make the Preview

I think it’s fair to say that we are living through unprecedented times.

In fact, I can’t remember back to a time when things were precedented. I often find myself wondering how historians will view the times we are currently experiencing. How will they view the decisions made by our leaders and ourselves?

I have no doubt that one of the things that will confuse the bejaysus out of them is the decision to proceed with international football during a global pandemic….

The logic behind sending footballers out of their club ‘bubble’ around the globe to play international games that are as important as my opinion on Masterchef Australia (No Poh! No!), leading to an inevitable surge in positive COVID-19 cases which are then brought back into the club ‘bubble’, therefore possibly bursting the bubble of professional football happening at all….

Yeah, onto GW5!

Defender: George Baldock, Sheffield United

I’m not saying that The Blades have had a ropey start to the season, but right now Richard Osman has them written down as an answer on his desk. Yep, they’re pointless.

This weekend they face the only team below them in the table, as Fulham come calling. While The Cottagers racked up three goals at Elland Road in GW2, they’ve been firing blanks elsewhere.

I’ve had to ignore the fact that George’s surname references a very niche fetish, and focus instead on the fact that he has a knack of adding goals and assists to his clean sheet hauls. He’s already notched an assist this season, and he’s due a clean sheet.

Midfielder: Matheus Pereira, West Bromwich Albion

West Brom welcome Burnley to my gaff this weekend, so I may open the curtains to watch them in the garden.

Pereira has started the season strongly with a goal and a brace of assists thus far, and he faces Sean Dyche’s men who have conceded SEVEN goals in their two away games. SEVEN! Imagine conceding that many goals in two away games! What eejits!

Oh….

Forward: Neal Maupay, Brighton And Hove Albion

Here’s a player who is smashing it while flying under the radar of many.

Four goals and an assist already this season, adding to his ten-goal haul last season. He travels to Selhurst Park as The Seagulls take on The Eagles.

Based on knowledge of ornithology alone you’d fancy the Eagles, but have you seen how rowdy the Seagulls have become in recent years? They’d have your fish supper out of your hand and slap you across the face with their wing if you don’t have your wits about you.

Neal Maupay is a French seagull. Just imagine the attitude…

Captain: Harry Kane, Tottenham Hotspur

I’ve seen plenty of stats during this interminably daft international break about West Ham United and how sound defensively they have been. Their xGA is tiny, apparently. Their xGF is decent. Their xGEEKS is as yet unknown.

My fantasy football methodology is far more straightforward. Old Moyesey has self-isolated and rid himself of his COVIDness, so he’s back on the touchline and The Hammers are going to hell in a handcart once more.

Harry Kane will profit handsomely

Outsider: Rhian Brewster, Sheffield United

Whether you’re one of those (like me) who has had Rhian tucked up safely on the corner of your bench since the season started, or you’ve taken the plunge once you saw him move to Bramall Lane, welcome to the beginning of the ‘£4.5m Bloody Hell He’s A Bargain At That Price’ adventure.

The kid is a talent, and his first big chance is against at home to a team that has a habit of conceding three goals in every game.

All aboard!

Written by @NiallHawthorne

Written by Niall Hawthorne.

Drop Niall a follow on twitter. Good thing about Twitter – you can always unfollow again later!

Niall Hawthorne has a strange view on most things.

Check out his blog for proof rantsofarebel.wordpress.com.

GW3 Review: Posted After The Final Whistle

Liverpool, Manchester United and Christian Benteke (Yep) Make the Preview

Fantasy Football Review: Manchester United – the most in-form team in the Premier League??

Manchester United, Spurs and Watford Make The Preview

Sunderland ‘Til I Die : Lockdown Review

Fantasy Football – Gameweek 36 Review 2009/10

All or Nothing: Manchester City – Review (Amazon Prime)

All or Nothing: Manchester City (Amazon Prime)

Written by @JamesMartin013

There’s no football of any description – fantasy or otherwise – for at least the next few weeks, which leaves a desperate need for a sports fix. Belarusian league aside, most people are finding the best option to be sports books and documentaries. In the first of a new mini-series, James Martin suggests ‘All or Nothing: Manchester City’ might not be the answer…

There was much understandable excitement when Amazon Prime promised a behind-the-scenes look at Premier League champions Manchester City, but viewers were instead subjected to an eight-hour PR video.

The unrivalled access proved to be the only real draw of an otherwise drab eight-part series, which left a profound sense of dissatisfaction. While the footage did capture areas not usually open to the public, every shot seemed carefully curated to cultivate an image acceptable to the powers-that-be at The Etihad.

Some of this blandness undoubtedly derived from the relatively routine manner of much of City’s on-pitch success in the 2017/18 season, but even when things went wrong for the super-club the documentary failed to engross.

After the transfer team missed out on top target Virgil van Dijk to rivals Liverpool, the programme cut to the sporting director Txiki Begiristain ‘candidly’ musing that the eventual price paid was far too high to be good business. The episode entitled ‘Welcome to Hell’, dedicated to their Champions League exit at the hands of Klopp’s side, promised more. Even this was used to push the club’s agenda, however, placing huge focus on the bottles thrown at the team bus rather than the ultimate shortcomings on the pitch.

It is an inevitability that behaviours will be to some extent altered when cameras are pointed, but in a world where everyone is used to constant scrutiny it was reasonable to expect that the documentary would at least manage to give a relatively genuine and insightful portrayal of players and staff. Instead, I was constantly half-expecting manager Pep Guardiola to turn to camera, The Office-style, and deliver a well-worn cliché.

That is not to question his managerial talents, which shone through even in the sub-par production, but everybody choosing to watch this would have already been well aware of the gifted personnel lured to Manchester City following the 2008 takeover. The fundamental question about All or Nothing duly remains, even after eight long hours: what was the point?

The answer to that question may well lurk under the tailored veneer, and it is a worryingly insidious one. Miguel Delaney of The Independent has written at length on Manchester City’s so-called ‘sports-washing’. This is defined by Kate Allen, Director of Amnesty International UK, as: “wealthy regimes… [using] sport as a means to polish up their own tarnished images.”

Sheikh Mansour, City’s owner, is an Emirati royal prince. Nobody will watch the documentary and instantaneously forget that numerous human rights organisations have roundly condemned the UAE, but that is not the point of sports-washing. Rather the viewers are presented with a team that is forward-thinking in all aspects of its day-to-day running, and over time begin to associate this with Mansour and his family instead of what Human Rights Watch describes as ‘arbitrary detention’ and ‘forcible disappearances’.

The programme even depicts a progressive coach who stands up for political freedoms. Pep Guardiola can be seen wearing a yellow ribbon in protest at the denial of a Catalonian independence referendum – on a subconscious level, those watching start to doubt whether the people from whom he takes his salary can really be that bad when it comes to human rights.

All or Nothing was never going to delve into such waters. This does not automatically make it a failure, and precious few football clubs in the modern game can boast immunity from moral criticism, but soft propaganda rarely makes for enthralling television. There is only so long that viewers can be blinded by the veil being drawn back on the operations of a Premier League club – eventually they will notice that there is precious little substance.

This has only become more obvious in the time since the series was released. It did at least re-emphasise the strong appetite for sports documentaries, and Netflix went on to produce Sunderland ‘Til I Die: this was a truly compelling, raw insight into the heart and soul of a football club. The contrast to All or Nothing could hardly be more stark – true emotions were captured as viewers felt the anguish of Sunderland’s fans and saw it contrasted with the relative indifference of some of the senior professionals.

The unique opportunity to watch John Stones singing Wonderwall just doesn’t quite stack up in comparison.

Review written by James Martin

James is a sports journalist with a focus on football. He began writing for LFC Fans Corner over seven years ago, and has since been featured on the club website and The Independent among others. He graduated from Oxford in 2019, and holds the Gold Standard NCTJ Diploma in Journalism.
His portfolio can be found at http://jamesmartin013.journoportfolio.com
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