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.
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!
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.