Wigan messes everything up: One of the beautiful things about football is its capacity to surprise. Giant-killers make the FA Cup – England’s oldest football competition, now sponsored by an American beer company – so much more than just a multiple-round, single-elimination challenge tournament. The underdog is always the best story, and an underdog’s victory is usually a victory for humanity. But when Gareth Bale (9.8) is your captain, and Gareth Bale is playing against Wigan at White Hart Lane, and Gareth Bale is expected to score goals (plural) against Wigan at White Hart Lane, then, well, you’d like the underdog to just lie down and embrace total destruction, because when Gareth Bale is your captain and the underdog isn’t destroyed – indeed, when the underdog does the destroying – it’s not a victory for humanity; it’s a disaster for your fantasy team.
Is it time to give up on Torres?: I want to keep Torres (9.8) around – just for old times’ sake. All those goals; the telepathic understanding with Steven Gerrard (9.4), whose inability to hold a position usually makes telepathic understandings impossible, since you can’t know where someone’s going to be when that someone doesn’t know either; the flowing locks; Nemanja Vidic; the Benitez years; the 4-1 at Old Trafford; Nemanja Vidic; the undying love for Atletico Madrid; Nemanja Vidic… I miss the old Fernando.
RvP is worth the money: Robin van Persie (13.5) is the most expensive player in the fantasy game. He’s the equivalent of 3.07 Sammy Ameobis (4.4). He’s the Premier League’s sharpest, most talented star. He’s already scored eight goals and notched a handful of assists. Most tellingly, Manchester United is top of the Prem, and that’s despite Wayne Rooney’s (11.8) form.
Which winger is best?: Manchester United has always produced brilliant wingers: Giggs, Ronaldo, Kanchelskis — the list goes on (but it doesn’t include David Beckham). For the first time this season, all of United’s wide men are fit and hungry to perform, with the exception of Nani (8.3), who by all accounts has one foot in St. Petersburg. Against Arsenal, Ashley Young (8.2) was particularly impressive. Then again, it was only Arsenal. A week and a half ago, Young made his return from injury in a match whose overwhelming controversy has totally, well, overwhelmed Ashley Young’s Return From Injury, which is a shame, because he’s inching closer to top form.
Something’s happening in Norwich: Norwich City is unbeaten in four games, and that’s fairly miraculous. Virtually every City player has the same name – R. Bennett (3.9) and E. Bennett (4.8) and L. Barnett (3.9); J. Ruddy (4.5) and D. Rudd (4.0) – which must make on-field communication a bit of a hassle. (Admittedly, Rudd and Ruddy are both goalkeepers, Ryan Bennett barely plays, and teammates generally use each other’s first names, but still.) On Saturday, Norwich benefited from what I like to call The Magic Leeds Connection – Snodgrass (5.8) to Johnson (4.7) to goal. Jonny Howson (4.7) watched politely from the bench. Chris Hughton punched the air. Tony Pulis complained about diving. All is right with the world.
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