Missing Persons, Crisis Clubs

Manchester City did not authorize this recent plot line for the movie it consented to star in. Neither would Spurs or Manchester United have expected to get ejected from the studio lot so rudely and brazenly—and easily, really. Owners of Paul Pogba, Christian Eriksen and even Harry Kane may feel aggrieved if they employed a first draft pick for the privilege. Similarly, those who parted with an early pick to snap up Aymeric Laporte, Kyle Walker or Éderson may feel short-changed by not only fewer-than-expected clean sheets but also by more-than-expected multi-goal losses. All these players would still be expected to right the ships in time.

Manchester United and Tottenham are all mixed up, disoriented and discombobulated. After some disappointing results, United held Liverpool to a 1-1 draw, while Spurs and Watford rolled snake eyes as well. This means all four teams are theoretically exactly equal—no diff’rence between ‘em—which sort of throws the league table on its head. It is also not really true… The league table shows the teams in 1st, 7th, 14th and 20th, respectively. That’s a freakishly balanced interval from first to last right there, from alpha to omega in perfectly spaced symmetry. Expect Daniel James to continue powering the MUFC ship forward. But who else is propels the craft alongside? One of Marcus Rashford or Anthony Martial will need to re-emerge. (Check to see if Andreas Pereira may be available, if he appeals.) New signings at Spurs could turn fortunes around, but it’s too early yet to know how Giovanni Lo Celso and Ryan Sessegnon will affect fortunes.

Brendan Rodgers has third place in the dental vise grip of his bionic teeth, and the schedule offers the Foxes the fixtures to keep it up. They are not in crisis, unless everything was meant to be spearheaded by Ayoze Pérez and it’s a problem that Jamie Vardy has channeled his form and consistency from a couple years back and the goals that never left have returned. In the supply line to the Chatbanger, Youri Tielemans and James Maddison offer the rare commodity of a quality midfield attackers who are actually listed as midfielders in the game. Çaglar Söyüncü may still lurk loiteringly around the waiver pool, managers’ fear of having to pronounce his name aloud keeping them at bay.

Chelsea, in the process of “finding itself” during a walkabout gap year, enjoys the rave reviews it has been getting for complying with its disciplinary transfer ban and exploring the cavernous ranks of the players the club never it thought it would actually resort to using. All the new stars will have been picked up by now, but Callum Hudson-Odoi could still be kicking around. At this point, someone may even have dropped Christian Pulisic, who shouldn’t be left for dead just yet. One wonders when Michy Batshuayi or Olivier Giroud may get a regular runout in the side, although Lampard’s preferences now seem clear.

At Arsenal, it’s really kind of an encore performance of déjà vu all over again, with league player pools likely stacked to the gills with its discarded defenders. The introductions of returned players Hector Bellerín, Rob Holding and Kieran Tierney may change defensive fortunes at the club and provide some names and faces for your depleted back line, if you think the Gunners won’t in fact concede in every match forever onward. Nicholas Pepe will also have felt hugely encouraged by a midweek brace in the Europa League.

And all the while, Liverpool has tuned in what seems a live-action rebroadcast of an old ‘70s classic. It knows all the lines and has a grin as wide as seven Klopps. It may have some fluttering butterflies in the old tum-tum. The seven giant-toothed grins may have a touch of the forced-march uncomfortable to them, but a 6-point lead is a 6-point lead (even if it was more recently an 8-point lead). Anyone is the starting XI is a good pick. They are also all picked, but former Gunner Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain may yet have a say in the rest of the Liverpool season, if a couple Champions League goals are any indication. Phil Foden got sent off midweek against Atalanta with a second yellow. Does that increase his chances in the domestic league? Of the two, the AOC route seems the more trustworthy of the two, but that’s between players trying to break into two of the best midfields and attacks in Europe,   

It used to be that Crystal Palace was bereft of talent, with the exception of Wilfried Zaha. Now it’s almost the opposite, with Zaha seemingly checked out. Will he rediscover something approaching re-engagement? A January move to another English side? None of the above? Should we always have known Jordan Ayewwas the superior option?

Everton were supposed to gobble up all the points and possibly engorge themselves on a Top 6 finish at season’s end. This is not currently looking likely. Moise Kean has not taken the league by storm yet, but together with Alex Iwobi, the new boys can and should work out.

Watford have a few good fixtures, so it could be time to legitimately put some faith behind the mercurial talents of Gerard Deulofeu or Abdoulaye Doucouré. Maybe even a defender, who have had barely a sniff at relevance this term.

Nathan Redmond was supposed to be one of the driving engines of the Southampton Hassenhuttl revolution. Che Adams, as well. Neither have been. But also the revolution has not happened as advertised anyway. Danny Ings has proven a proposition, in what almost seems the wrong calendar year.

Wolves are difficult to pin down. They can keep a clean sheet against Manchester City but continually confound any expectations in the easy wins department. Adama Traore could be great if he nails down a full time role. It’s hard to know who plays the full 90 in any given match, though. Patrick Cutrone has been logging more minutes.

Sheffield United defenders look solid. All its defenders have scored well, particularly the ones in some versions of the game like John Lundstram that aren’t actually defenders… (To clarify, in mimic of reality, Lundstram is listed as a MID in Real Fantasy.) One of Enda Stevens, Jack O’Connell, George Baldock, John Egan or Chris Basham could offer solidity and success to any weak spots in your back line. And don’t forget ‘keeper Dean Henderson.

Teemu Pukki, Emiliano Buendía, Todd Cantwell and the rest of the Norwich attack, they’ve proven that there’s lightning nearby if there’re enough bottles handy—it’s just hard predicting precisely when, where and how many. So when they went and battled to a nil-nil with Bournemouth, it was a head-shaker. A scoreless draw with the other high-scoring team that gifts goals for fun was not what they expected, perhaps not what they deserved, but it’s what they got. Although a victory over Manchester City seems like it should reap triple-axle performance bonus points in the league table, sadly for Norwich City, it does not. They look capable of springing huge surprises, particularly opening the occasional can of whoop-ass on a cocky heavy hitter, but they can’t seem to unlock the recipe to the routine win.

Aston Villa has a degree of credibility in both attack and defense but beware—the club also has one of the most brutal schedules upcoming. Only Crystal Palace has a worse road to hoe for the next few.

GW10 will have new changes to the narrative—it’s the way this all works. We wait to see who will applaud the script revisions both hands and who holds their head in both hands.

Stay tuned, fantasy sports fans.

The Wormburner is a column that plays the draft format on Real Fantasy Football (realff.co.uk). It did not get its annual copy of the Premier League script. Please give a shout to @The_Wormburner at your earliest Twitter convenience if you manage to track one down.