With 6 weeks of the season to go I’m afraid the time has come to concede the office league title.
As predicted, Game week 29 proved to be the pivotal week and since then things have steadily spiralled out of control. We now sit around 100 points off the top so points pride is the only thing left to play for in season 20/21.
Last week we managed 46 in a fixture set average of 41 which seems ok, but it paints a far from realistic picture of the week’s true goings on. 38 of the 46 points scored were only from 2 players, Lacazette (captain) and Allan Saint-Maximin. On the card we had 3 big fat zero’s and 4 one’s. Unbelievably really. How we managed an above average score is beyond anyone’s belief.
Again, pep’s rotation policy has left us short for which I have to hold my hand up. I’ve had opportunities to change and take pep’s boys out of the lineup and have stalled. The buck stops with the manager and I take that on the chin. What we can’t account for, however, is things like the Dominic Calvert-Lewin exclusion – No team news or red flags. As far as we are concerned he should of played and didn’t.
We move on. The target now is to get to the magic 2000 point mark and try and sneak back into the top 1 million worldwide. All the while trying to cut the gap at the top by as much as possible.
First thing to point out is Spurs have a double game week with their opponents being Everton and Southampton respectively. All sounds great but remember, lads… IT’S SPURS, perennial failure merchants when you think all is rosey. That being said, Kane captain is surely a move the vast majority will go with this week.
Elsewhere *takes a deep breathe* Man United at home to Burnley, Arsenal home to Fulham, Chelsea home to Brighton, Leicester home to West Brom and City at Villa all have the makings of points and could be conducive to a lucrative high scoring week. A 100 point week is not beyond the realms of possibility should the results go as most would predict.
THIS WEEK’S PICKS.
Having basically given up on the title, the pressure is off now as we look to enjoy the end of the season. In a way it’s a bit of a relief and the players can now go out and express themselves, hopefully proving to myself, the board and the fans they deserve a place in the squad next season. However, in saying the is pressure off and all that, we still start this week on a -4, making 2 enforced changes. Some things will never change.
Out comes DCL to be replaced by Edison Cavani whilst Ben Chilwell replaces the other crock Aaron Cresswell in defence. Providing Cavani plays, our front 3 looks very strong as the Uruguayan hitman partners captain Kane and Lacazette at the top end of the pitch. And guess what, we still include 3 City players despite the previous weeks failings. Sorry, not sorry.
TOON representation remains at 2 in the form of Allan Saint-Maximin and Joe Willock to continue the accumulation of points, what ever that target maybe.
It feels like a long time ago and the dust has settled but the disappointment lingers. As predicted, game week 29 was truly awful and has subsequently left us nearly 60 points behind the office leader with only 8 gameweek’s left to play.
With a -8 starting point our lads only managed 21 points for the week with Harry Kane bagging 14 of them. It makes for truly dire reading and is possibly my worst ever return for a fixture set in FPL history. Putting my faith in Newcastle players was a monumental mistake and definitely a case of the heart ruling over the head, an absolute FPL no no. Like Steve Bruce, I have become the fantasy April fool.
If we add a little more context however, the game week average was only 25. In normal circumstances our score wouldn’t have been too bad. The problem was, my 2 main title rivals scored a very impressive 71 and 61 respectively. An average week for them would’ve made our average score week totally fine. Would having Son fit have made that much of a difference to us? With that gap in score lines, probably not.
We did feel this week would be a poor one from our point of view. The fixtures or lack of, the availability of our squad, it all had the hallmarks of a nightmare incoming and so it proved. Obviously the key factor was not being able to foresee the points deficit we now have to claw back, I was thinking it was going to be around the 30 mark. DOUBLE THAT. DISASTER.
We need to get the player’s heads up, take our medicine and move on. There’s still a lot of points to play for and our rivals in question will have to make changes going forward. Yes, we will have to take a few risks but the aim now is to claw 10 points per week back. How? I’m not sure but it’s only a captains pick difference and is by no means impossible. We may have to look down the differentials route in the coming weeks and you know what, I love trying to find the gems. This season we’ve had a pretty good record in the regard.
As bad as our game week 29 was, the squad we have does still look decent for the upcoming fixtures. Our biggest concern, as always, is Manchester City and Pep Guardiola. This week is no different and trying to predict the rotation will be made harder by the fact they have a Champions League match in midweek. With the league all but wrapped up, you’ve got to think the Easter eggs will be firmly placed in the European basket. Is it even worth having City players in your squad at this stage? Definitely a question to be answered.
Man United at home to Brighton and Chelsea at home to West Brom look the pick of GW30, I would predict Bruno Fernandes will be a lot of managers captain this week and quite possibly mine. Do I take the risk and go for a differential though? Food for thought.
THIS WEEK’S PICKS
Only 1 transfer this week despite the game week 29 debacle. Importantly, there’s no minus hits in hope that the others have made changes and we already start to eat away at the deficit.
The change is Calvert-Lewin (home to Crystal Palace) coming in for Vydra which many would agree is a no brainer.
We now have a relatively strong bench which has enabled us to retain the Manchester City players. KDB and Gundugan will be in my XI but in the event of Pep roulette we should have decent auto back up subs.
I have played it safe with the skipper and gone with Bruno, while Kane takes the vice. In terms of our TOON representatives, Willock and Fraser will sit on the bench. The magpie’s form is abysmal and they don’t look like they’ll get another point, I just couldn’t afford (negative points wise) to replace them.
Or not for our fantasy football guys. As game weeks go that is possibly the worst the I’ve ever experienced. 2 matches postponed and in those matches I had 6 players involved including Kane my captain. That’s a big fat zero for each player of those players.
Not only that, we took a -8 prior, making 3 transfers. At one point during the round, the scoreboard read -4 points and 5 players already played – half the team. If you don’t laugh you’d cry. It’s Unbelievable, unprecedented and to say I’m feeling despondent at this moment in time would be an understatement. But for the sake of the club, players and back room staff we need to get our heads up, move on and quickly.
A slight silver lining came in the fact that quite a lot of managers were in a similar boat and, thanks in no due part to my subs bench and the form of Bruno Fernandes, the lads rallied late and salvaged 30 points. It’s definitely 2 consolation goals when you’re 6 nil down but at least it was something – a bit of fight and spirit, something we can work on.
We drop to 5th in the table, our lowest position of the season. What’s the next move, I’m not sure. More games could fall victim to the Covid crisis.
Looking ahead to this week is like staring into the abyss and pure uncertainty. You’ve got to feel the Man City match is again under threat. Should it go ahead you then have to battle it out with Pep and his selection. My advice, which I learned in the harshest of manners last week, is to get city players out your squad and fast. In way I’m hoping their game v Chelsea remains on, I’ve removed most of my city employees and my rivals have quite a few Chelsea players in their lineups.
Man United at home to Villa is a match I’ll be looking to pinpoint. The form of Fernandes and Rashford is about as good as it gets in the league at present. A little outsider would be Arsenal away at West Brom, the gunners have won their last 2 matches whilst the baggies come into it on the back of a home drubbing off Leeds. If you have the balls to get the Arsenal lads in, there could be some reward there.
I’m looking for a good bounce back score to get back into the mix but I’ve actually got my eye on gameweek’s 18+19 which could be crucial in the title race.
THIS WEEK’S PICKS.
I’ve take another -4 again this week. Not ideal but it’s far to early to be wasting the 2nd wildcard yet. As mentioned earlier, I’ve tried to remove my Manchester City players. Out comes Mahrez and in comes Marcus Rashford. Simple reasoning, the form of Rashford and the fact that the city match may not go ahead. Not to mention city’s tricky away fixture at Chelsea.
I’ve also got a TOON man back in. I said come the new year that a black and white strip would be back in my lineup so in comes Callum Wilson once again. He replaces Cavani who, although he is top class, I can’t guarantee he’ll play week in week out. I’m actually putting my recent fantasy football bad luck down to the fact I haven’t had Toon players in my team recently so there you go, it’s an ethos that has served me so well in the past and one I should never have tampered with – Big point week incoming🙃
My captain will be fernandes because he’s just a fantasy football dream at the moment, producing every week. Kane vice, let’s hope the Tottenham game gets the go ahead this time round.
Who fancies trying to land £100 for Christmas from a starting stake of £10?
We’ve had pretty much no luck with the accumulators this season and I don’t hold much optimism until full crowds are allowed back into the stadiums to be honest. So we going down a different track for the next week or so.
I’m looking to turn £10 into £100 with a series of single bets. The odds for each bet will be around evens, rolling over the winnings at each stage until we reach the tonne mark. It should take 4 or 5 bets and I want it completed in time for the turkey being served. I did a similar challenge in the summer and completed it, albeit with shorter odds and more stages.
Admittedly, stage 1 does carry a fair element of risk but Fulham have been an open book in the Premier League this season whilst Newcastle’s last match had 7 goals in it. The form of Calum Wilson has been a positive also, the striker has been involved in 10 goals so far this season scoring 7 of those. An early goal in this one and the flood gates could open at either end.
OVERVIEW: Another week and another foray into the wild world of Premier League fantasy football.
I’ll start by getting the elephant out the room early. As a result of the gap between the last gameweek’s 12 and 13 being so small, the leader of our office mini league forgot to make changes with the silent treatment working an absolute dream. He had 2 injured players in his line up and a default selected captain, there couldn’t be much worse scenarios. So, when opportunities come knocking you need to open the door with both hands and accept that gift. Did our boys take that chance? DID THEY F**K!?! We only managed to cut his lead by a measly 5 points, us scoring 39 and them 34. It feels like a massive open goal missed and and chance to go back top squandered but we cannot dwell and need to move on.
To be honest, it was a low scoring game week all round and we weren’t terrible by any stretch of the imagination – The average score only being 42. Obviously with the circumstances just mentioned it feels like a bad defeat but in terms of the bigger picture we are in a steady place – Only 20 so points behind and we have 2 free transfers to play with in GW14.
Looking ahead there’s a real mixture of fixtures this coming gameweek. There’s no match where you would say ‘that’s guaranteed points’ but in the same token, there’s no match you wouldn’t stay clear of.
For me, the pick of the bunch would have to be Chelsea v West Ham and Man United v Leeds with outside mentions for Newcastle at home to Fulham and Brighton entertaining Sheffield United. A big problem fixture, definitely in terms of my side and I’m sure many others, is Spurs against Leicester. The conundrum on my part being that I need Kane and Son to continue their great form knowing that comes at the expense of my goalkeeper picking up points.
My goalkeeper is actually an interesting point. It’s the only position in the squad that has been a mainstay throughout, even going back to last season. Kasper Schmeichel has been in all this season and all last which I suppose is testament to way Leicester play. I’ve never considered taking him out either. The reason being to get someone better is going to be a big budget hit and to put a lesser priced player in would potentially end in massive points losses. He’s seems to balance the scales perfectly and if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. So, my questions for you guys this week is..
Who are your mainstay players? And why?
This is the player you wouldn’t or can’t replace. Your go to guy who has your loyalty till the death. Your Nico Kranjar to your Harry Redknapp. I’m interested to know.
Now, can I finally get rid of Kilman, let’s find out.
THIS WEEK’S PICKS: Two free transfers available this week and we’ve used them both with things are unravelling for our TOON ARMY players. We are now down to just one!! As Saint-Maximum’s injury return date is not specified, I couldn’t have him clogging up the bench any longer. I’ve replaced the French wing wizard with the more pragmatic cheaper priced Oriol Romeu of Southampton. This is basically to free up funds to finally replace Kilman. Has it worked? YES IT HAS. In comes Tariq Lamptey of Brighton. The flying wing back has been a revelation for south coast club this season and, with a tasty home fixture again bottom side Sheff United coming up, is the perfect fit.
My plan of a few weeks ago of having a more balanced all round squad is now completely out the window. It’s all about the XI on the pitch. If I have to take minus points in future weeks, so be it. That’s the risk I’m willing to take. A good manager is always learning and can adapt where necessary.
In terms of captain’s pick this week, I’m seriously struggling. De Bruyne played midweek which makes him a serious pep resting risk. Fernandes has, somewhat conveniently, underperformed since I bought him in but home to Leeds, it’s tempting. Do I go with the form of Kane or Son knowing they have a potential banana skin against Leicester. Or do I go total left field and go with someone like Welbeck who has a inviting home fixture against Sheff United? NOT A CLUE so I’ve gone with Kane as provisional skipper which, of course, is subject to change right up to the 11am deadline Saturday morning. I’ve just got a sneaky feeling the skipper selection is going to be crucial this week, no one stands out as an automatic pick which makes the choosing very difficult and problematic.
Fernandez is the only surviving TOON player in the squad. Sad times but very necessary at this stage. The Toon boys will be back soon, I promise.
Six teenage lads are crammed into a bite-sized bedroom. Two around the PC, malfunctioning the motherboard by illegally downloading mp3’s as the others sit on the edge of the single bed staring, fully concentrated at a box Beko TV. It’s not PES or eFootball, It’s Pro Evo on the PlayStation 2 – The one with Colina on the front. Hours upon hours of winner stays on or round robin format and the glory days of football gaming. It was simplistic and that was key. There weren’t updates, coins, packs, points or any other pointless money grabbing gimmicks – Just the game, a 10 minute 90 minutes on the pitch.
To be clear this isn’t a FIFA versus PES who did what to who, rather a plight summary of the 2 franchises. Having tried to play the ‘next-genFIFA’ in the last week or so I feel compelled to write this, I don’t give a scripted sweaty last minute winner which is better. I just want a good football game to play – A game that will excite, bring realism without sucking the fun out of the sport, that crucial fine balance. Other than the historically great PES Master League which still delivers some magical moments, I’m struggling. When I look back to those days of old, all I remember is joy. Very limited scripting, no buying wins in bulk, just great multiplayer on a level playing field and seasoned career modes to boot.
We are now 3 whole generations of console beyond those halcyon Pro Evo days and I’ve remained a constant throughout, buying all the PES games on release and most FIFA’s – some of which have been god awful, on both’s behalf. Whether football games were genuinely better in the early 2000’s or whether I’m wearing my teenage rose tinted spectacles with Pro Evo pride leaves a large scope for debate but, I would hope 20 years from now there are absolutely no doubts and no looking back. Games, in general, should be miles ahead of a previous generational period as the technology advances with the passing years. We may still have our own preferences or favourite console era’s but it should never be better from a gaming or technical perspective, the latest product should always be the best in that regard.
WHERE WE’RE AT
This year EA have at least tried to deliver a next gen version of FIFA 21 as opposed to Konami’s gap year previous gen ‘seasonupdate.’
Intially, I took this as a chickening out on Konami’s part but looking deeper, we are obviously in the midst of a global pandemic, we cut some slack. Also, having played FIFA 21 on PS5 and having seen the funny graphic comparisons with FIFA 17 which have emerged online, maybe the Japanese developer’s decision is, in fact, justified – more time will tell. Konami, by not releasing this year, now have the pressure of making their new version of Pro Evo, PES, Efootball, whatever they decide to call it next, absolutely flawless having given themselves that extra time cushion. You can’t help but feel it’s make or break for the entire Pro Evolution Soccer franchise.
FIFA, love it or loath it, is the juggernaut of football gaming which is fantastic if you’re a large Electronic Arts shareholder. Not so great for us – the consumer. It’s now at the point where no matter what footballing spectacle they put out in front of us, millions of copies will be, and are, sold worldwide come what may.
EA have the licenses, the fanbase but what they are currently offering on the pitch is, for me, very substandard – taking into consideration the substantial resources they have at their disposal.
It’s shockingly scripted with often clunky gameplay and the rip off roulette pack opening culture stinks of pure greed. With a budget as big as EA’s we should be seeing giant strides year in year out. All we actually see is updated transfer window rosters, a few tweaks to the menu screens and changes to whatever soundtracks are hot in the charts that year – A season update?
The FIFA online servers are usually decent. You can get matched up pretty much straight away – mainly because of the amount of people playing the game at any given time. And 9 times out of 10 you’ll get a lag free experience.
The problem you get online however, is a human one – your opponent. The player who doesn’t actually play the game as football but as just another video game. Basically looking to find any shortcut to win. The high through ball has been a cheat for many years, the unrealistic, overplayed skill moves and the mother off all controller based rage, the sweaty cutback. This fault isn’t necessarily with EA but it still makes me think twice about logging in. The point at which you can lay blame at the developers door is the incessant and relentless scripting. You know the score, usually 0-1 last minute after you’ve spent 10 minutes battering your opponent. The FIFA force field comes into affect and its impossible to score, even when you revert to the anti-football tactics mentioned above. Even when you actually get that win, your victories are usually tinged with the feeling of guilt – The computer helped you in some way and that there’s some poor lad or lass at the other end currently contemplating dropping their disc directly in the bin or worse, having to clean the bits of an expensive control pad from their bedroom floor after it connected full force with a wall. It’s a true nightmare at times – but, in the end, we always return for more. The Fifa juggernaut.
I do find selecting the lesser teams does actually serve up a better experience when playing FIFA online. You find more like-minded football gamers looking for a proper football match whereby the result is secondary. Being a Newcastle fan, this is where is becomes easy for me – Newcastle are shit but I love being the toon and playing at St.James park, the stadium detail is excellent. FIFA is pretty good at matching similarly poor teams and player ratings. You can have some pretty decent matches that way but the bottom line is avoid picking Barcelona, PSG, Real Madrid, Bayern – you get the gist, try Hull City.
There’s actually alot to like about FIFA. I’ve focused on the negatives – mainly because of the EA budget, there shouldn’t be as many down sides. I’ve seen and read an increasing number of not so favourable reviews that may make the developer sit up and notice that they are sleep walking through the same old motions season after season. I would love to see them push the boat out and give the game a reshfreshing overhaul but I suspect that, while sales remain high, you’ve got more chance of ‘packing’ team of the year Lionel Messi from a freebie.
Pro Evolution Soccer, at first glance, is an awful game. The layout, the menu’s, the unlicensed teams, players and commentary – which is muted from minute one.
And playing online, I’ve found, is near impossible. I’m not exaggerating when I say the very first Pro Evo you could play online, 5 I think it was, had better match making facilities and connectivity. That was 15 or so years ago with an ethernet cable into your (my specifically bought Netgear) router. In 2020, the era of super fast fibre broadband, it shouldn’t be too difficult to have a lag free ElClassico, should it? Hugely frustrating – a word that sums up the majority of my football gaming career.
One time, not so long ago, my mate and I spent an hour trying to figure out how to set up a Co-op 2v2 match. After much deliberating with Google and a number of Youtube tutorials we finally used the rocket science like instructions to manage it. In the end, the lag experienced made it an tremendous exercise in the art of time wasting – Never again. What’s worse this year is that PS5 users have been experiencing slow down offline too. Why, oh why, Konami.
So why do I keep going back I hear you ask?
Simple, PES does still bring that element of magic on the pitch – where it truly matters. If you can open your mind enough to see past the bullshit and take it for what is it then you can still have a great time – especially on the legendary Master League. Taking a team of duff no hopers, building a weird emotional bond with each player and struggling through division 2 together and beyond still brings a superb sense of achievement. It maybe a bit of a dated format of dodgy cutscenes and cliches and in need of some serious refreshment but it has stopped me ditching football games altogether in the past few years.
Then, theres still that euphoric feeling of volleying a 25 yard cannon ball into the top corner which is one of the features Konami has managed to maintain throughout the franchise’s 26 year existence. The balance of frequency, it not happening all the time but knowing it could at any given time. Make sense? It’s a hard one to describe but it’s just right and it’s that feeling, like scoring a real life goal, you could never replicate with FIFA.
Also, the editing system, especially for PlayStation users, is brilliant and one that helps alleviate those licensing problems.
IF TWO BECAME ONE
The problem with both football games is simple. One offers everything off the pitch and the other on it, put them together and you’d have a pretty solid package but both developers seem content to cash in on the extra added in game purchases without any consideration to the actual game of football. I can understand why they have to do this but that doesn’t help a football purist seek the perfection he needs. In fact, having to lower our own football gaming standards and expectations is where we’re currently at and that’s a shame.
So where does each franchise go from here? For Fifa, it’ll probably be more of the same. Keep churning it out every September, minimal changes and watch the EA bank balance continue to expand. There’s no real need to mix it up it up, the formula has succeeded. It’s dull and samey – will I buy it? Probably. I’m a sucker for football, EA wins.
As for PES, as mentioned earlier, this next 12-18 months do seem critical. By delaying a proper next generation release, they have basically told the footballing world that having an extra year to work on things will help them produce something, the likes of which, we have never had on the virtual pitch before. They have set themselves up for a mighty fall should they not be able to pull it off. As a Pro Evo fan I hope they succeed and I’m eager to see what they come up with – some menu screens that don’t hurt your eyes would be a good start.
In terms of what could make either game better, other than the ironing out of the obvious previously stated problems, I would love to see an online multi-player Master League/career mode. The format would be along the lines of Football Manager but in console form. You, along with 2 to 8 players each have your own team and complete as the career moves along, battling it out for signings, leagues, cups etc. Each player would have say a week to play a block of their matches, maybe a virtual month’s worth and arrange to play against each other as and when the fixtures required. How hard would that be for EA or Konami to set up? Surely not so difficult, considering the amount of hours they waste on the Ultimate Team/My Team nonsense. They could even add their money grabbing extras within that format should they so please and it would put a refreshing spin on either career mode. Any chance?
For now, I’ll continue to play the Master League with my beloved Tyneside. That is, until I get the by-monthly urge to try FIFA again, play at St.James’ Park – maybe it’s changed a little? A couple of hours, maybe days later, it’s the same and it’s back to Master League or sometimes nothing at all for a period. That’s been the recurring pattern of the last few years but, in truth, I’m desperate for the two games to be great and to get equal satisfaction from both – and not just on one mode. I get the feeling that’s a long way away but one can only yearn for better days ahead for the virtually beautiful game.