This week, the boys put the finishing touches on this year’s free hit debate. They also review GW33 in FPL as only they can. Brian J also teaches Dave and Scott how to say Caglar Soyuncu.
This week, Scott takes a shot at so-called managerial touchline bans.
This week, the boys review the weekend portion of GW32 and tackle the hard FPL questions: Aguero or Sterling? Salah or no? Hazard or no? What should you do with the cup-shortened GW33 coming up? Hear discussion on this amidst all the usual fun on this week’s pod!
This week, Scott takes a shot at US Soccer -- what he has seen on TV at the top of the system and what he has experienced in person at the bottom of the system at the local youth levels.
If you prefer to read a written transcript of this monologue, scroll below the Soundcloud link below.
Hello. My name is Scott, and today, I'm going to take a shot at US Soccer. On that dreaded night, well over a year ago, Taylor Twellman went viral. You remember the night -- the night that the United States was knocked out of the 2018 World Cup after losing to Trinidad & Tobago. Twellman lost it over all the issues facing US Soccer, and now that the U.S. Men's National Team had been eliminated from the most important tournament in the world, all those issues were spilling out.
One of his main issues was over the "pay to play" system. In the U.S., kids (or rather, their parents/guardians) have to pay a fee in order to be allowed on a soccer team. It has the effect of reserving soccer as a sport for elitist kids only, recreational rather than developmental.
The night of the Twellman rant was less than two years ago, and it received mostly rave reviews. Fans of US Soccer wanted change -- saw the need for change -- and Twellman was the voice they could rally behind. One of those fans was me.
Not enough time has passed since that night to see any kind of real change, but fans continue to be discouraged. Yes, there's a new head of US Soccer, Carlos Cordeiro, and yes, there's a new General Manager in Earnie Stewart. No one really knows what the General Manager's job is; after all, we've never had one before. So far, all he's really done is hire -- finally -- a new manager in Gregg Berhalter to lead the Men's National Team. The lack of progress is frustrating.
But that's at the top of the system. Everyone with common sense knows that real change is going to have to happen from the ground up as well. Sadly, I've now seen firsthand what that looks like, and let me just say that our future is dim.
During the winter, my wife and I offered a list of possible activities to our four kids. Our instructions were simple. Pick one thing that you want to do as your spring activity. I was a proud dad when three of the four picked soccer. Our area in Central Virginia has a youth soccer league that is tied into the US Soccer system.
The entrance fee is $90. Twellman's viral rant and the phrase "pay to play" was in my head as we paid the fee for three kids. I don't necessarily want to pay into a broken system, but I wanted my kids to enjoy an activity that they themselves had chosen to play.
Little did I know how broken this system is.
The website is horrible. The communication -- non-existent. Even worse, with the first practices less than a week away, I started to get emails that all three of my kids' teams needed volunteer coaches. Wait a minute, I thought. I'm paying for my kids to play in a developmental soccer league, and now I'm also being asked to coach them? Me? Someone who didn't play organized soccer beyond the age of 7?
I mean, sure, if preparing to coach includes watching lots of Premier League and Champions League football and hosting a weekly FPL podcast as a hobby, then yes, I've been preparing to coach football for about 12 years. Sadly, I don't think it does.
As I record this, each of my three kids has a coach, and none of them is me. However, each coach -- like I would have been -- seems to be a reluctant parent volunteer.
In closing, I want to be fair. My experience is with one small unorganized part of the whole system. I don't want to assume that all parts of the system are this bad. Plus, none of my kids are going to be the next Landon Donovan or Alex Morgan. I get that, too.
I just can't escape this awful feeling, though. I can see the top of the system on TV, and it's ugly right now. I can see the bottom of the system in my everyday life, and it's no better.
I have no expectations that the system will improve at all during my lifetime -- not even during 2026 when he host the World Cup. Instead, I just keep thinking that when it comes to soccer in the United States, this is why we can't have nice things.
This week, the boys discuss the Free Hit as the Premier League continues its unbalanced spring schedule. Who made the GW31 Dream Team? Was the Free Hit in GW31 the right play? What should you do if you want to use it in GW32? Find out this and much, much more on this week's episode!
I’m sitting here typing this with less than 24 hours until the start of Gameweek 31. It’s a small week in the Premier League, thanks to the FA Cup quarterfinals (which I plan on ignoring). Of the 15 players in my lineup, only 8 have a match, so I definitely plan to use my Free Hit chip. What I don’t know yet — but will by the end of this post — is how to use it.
What Is the Free Hit Chip?
The Free Hit chip is something you, as an FPL player, get to play once in a season. It gives you the ability to give yourself a completely different team with unlimited transfers; you just have to stay within your budget. The catch is that your team reverts back to what it was before you used the Free Hit after the gameweek is over.
In other words, your changes with this chip only last for one gameweek.
Originally, this chip was designed for this upcoming gameweek, when the Premier League faces a reduced schedule. However, since its creation two years ago, some FPL players have found that they prefer to do damage control on this reduced gameweek and use the Free Hit when they can play a lineup of players on double gameweeks later in the season.
The route you decide to take will be based on 1) how you feel about your reduced lineup during GW31 and 2) how much value you put into double gameweeks.
Free Hit in the Premier League’s Gameweek 31
Back to me. I have to play this chip; I have left myself no other choice. Before I decide how to do that, though, I need to make my predictions for the match results. After all, since the Free Hit only applies for one week, it basically means that my squad should reflect what I think the GW31 Dream Team is going to look like.
For instance, if I think that Chelsea is going to defeat Everton, then I shouldn’t play an Everton defender or goalkeeper. If I think the result will be 0-0, however, then I want defenders from both clubs.
Here are the matches for Gameweek 31:
Bournemouth - Newcastle (BOUNEW)
Burnley - Leicester (BURLEI)
West Ham - Huddersfield (WHUHUD)
Fulham - Liverpool (FULLIV)
Everton - Chelsea (EVECHE)
Weird things always happen. Unexpected players score goals and get clean sheets (and get placed on the bench rather than starting). Because of that, I’m nervous to just do the obvious things. After all, what if Fulham nick a goal off Liverpool? It could happen. Huddersfield could also defeat West Ham 2-1. Probably not, but it could happen.
It’s definitely possible to overthink this.
My GW31 Free Hit Plan
With that said, here’s my best guesses as to what will actually happen:
BOUNEW will have goals from both clubs, so I want to guess the goal scorers and avoid the defenses.
BURLEI could go either way. Vardy’s effort until new manager Brendan Rodgers has been outstanding, and the new manager bump for Leicester is still in effect.
You have to assume West Ham will get a clean sheet against Huddersfield, right? Right?
Liverpool is going to score lots of goals and probably get a clean sheet. Maybe. In this case, it’s all about maximizing the points per pound.
EVECHE is completely unpredictable. Makes me want to avoid this match altogether. With that said, I’m probably going with Hazard (because he’s Hazard) and maybe Lucas Digne (because you never know when he’ll send a free kick into the goal).
After all of my laboring, here’s my squad.
GK - Fabianski (WHU) - It was hard to leave Alisson from Liverpool, but if the result is the same, I want to use the additional money elsewhere in my squad. Ben Hamer (HUD) is on my bench as the cheapest GK in FPL.
D - Rice (WHU), Ogbonna (WHU), and TAA (LIV) - This is all about maximizing the clean sheet points. Tarkowski (BUR) and Stankowski (HUD) are on my bench as subs I don’t plan to use.
M - Salah (LIV), Mane (LIV), Fraser (HUD), Brooks (HUD), Hazard (CHE) - If I don’t score big here, then I quit. The tough choice is captain. Currently, the in-form Mane is my captain with Salah my vice-captain.
F - Vardy (LEI) and Wilson (BOU) - These guys are set up to score goals. If anyone in my squad doesn’t play, I feel good with Rondon (NEW) in my first spot on the bench.
Here’s to hoping this is the GW31 dream team!
This week, the boys renew the annual Free Hit debate as they look back to GW30 and look ahead to GW31 in the Premier League and in FPL. Is Raul essential to your lineup? Are Valery and Tielemans FPL studs or duds? Which Liverpool players should you have right now? Find out these answers and much more on this week’s pod!
This week, Scott accuses Premier League execs of greed and shows how it will keep them from doing what is in everyone’s best interests to make the league just a little bit better.
Brian and David do their best to compensate for Scott's absence as they try to cover the myriad of talking points of this Game Week. There is a Seamus Curse, a How To Say, and a never ending Arsenal Moment. Tuning in to just to hear Dave's crappy sick voice is somthing as well. Join us as we cover all the things, as only we can.
Since GW28 occurred in the middle of a week, sandwiched between GW27 and GW29, we, your humble podcast co-hosts, cannot review the GW28 Dream Team in Fantasy Premier League (FPL) in our usual way. Instead, we will do so right here! Here’s what you need to know about the highest scorers from the past gameweek as you prep your GW29 lineup.
Goalkeeper: Angus Gunn (SOU) - You are certainly not counting on this happening again any time soon. His 7 points came against Fulham. The Saints play at Manchester United next.
Defender: Virgil van Dijk, Trent Alexander-Arnold, and Andy Robertson (LIV) - You weren’t expecting all these goals and assists, but this match certainly does tilt the Reds defender debate into the direction of yes.
Defender: Fabian Schar (NEW) - This guy’s back on the list! Still not convinced that two large weeks mean that he should be transferred into anyone’s lineups, but he is certainly trying to make things interesting.
Defender: Cesar Azpilicueta (CHE) - He still plays for Chelsea.
Midfielder: Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Mesut Ozil (ARS) - Whoa now. Mkhi is no longer a one-week wonder. A 14 and a 16 in back-to-back weeks has to get your attention. Of course, he’s now entering into a North London Derby, so who knows what’s next? Ozil? He’s still a one-week wonder. I’m not expecting much from him.
Midfielder: Gylfi Sigurdsson (EVE) - Now this is the Gylfi we love! He’s still in wait-and-see status, though.
Midfielder: Sadio Mane (LIV) - All right, I think we have to call it. Mane is winning the Salah v. Mane Debate. Which means that you should triple captain Mo Salah this coming week.
Forward: Romelu Lukaku (MUN) - Your lone forward is Romelu Lukaku. If he is going to be another forward option, then I don’t know what to tell you. There are already so many to choose from. For now, stay away from Rom and see what happens.
More matches are already on the way! Enjoy!
This week, the boys take their weekly tour through the Premier League and FPL, examining GW27. You will hear a new intro that is all about us, we launch our new FSFC Patreon Page, and Brian (new mini-league leader) almost doubles the league average with a very good fantasy week. We think this will be the most fun you have all week listening to FPL analysis!
In our last post, I (Scott) discussed the challenges in Fantasy Premier League (FPL) for the upcoming month. Those challenges begin in earnest this coming weekend when only eight of the 10 matches will be played. Because of the Carabao Cup final, Chelsea, Manchester City, Brighton, and Everton will not see Premier League action.
The madness, however, does not stop there. With each passing FA Cup match from this past weekend, it seemed, another Premier League match from Gameweek 31 disappeared.
Gameweek 31 will be played on March 16 and 17. As of the time of this post’s writing, five of the 10 matches are scheduled to be played (if Chelsea defeats Manchester United in the FA Cup, that number drops to four). What is an FPL player to do?
The Free Hit Chip Described
New FPL players might see that Free Hit chip on their FPL apps and wonder when would be a good time to use that. The question is a matter of debate.
For those who don’t yet know, the Free Hit chip allows an FPL player to make an unlimited number of moves for a particular gameweek — just like with the two Wildcard chips — as long as the player stays within his or her funds to spend.
The difference, however, with the Free Hit chip is that the change lasts for just one gameweek. After the Free Hit chip is played, your squad will go back to what it was the previous week.
When to Play the Free Hit
As I said, this is a matter of debate. Let’s start by discussing when you should NOT play the Free Hit: Gameweek 27. Yes, there are 4 clubs not playing, and yes, two of them are Manchester City and Chelsea. Who cares? Surely, you can field a reasonable squad, even without taking any -4s.
I suppose someone out there could make a good justification for playing the chip this weekend, but for most of us, we should hold onto it.
That leaves two other options: Gameweek 31, or whenever all those matches from Gameweek 31 are rescheduled.
With only 8 (or 10) clubs in action for Gameweek 31, we know that your options for fielding a squad will be limited. If you happen to have enough players to field a squad (with minimal -4 transfers required), you may not need to play it during GW31.
Most FPL players, however, will need to. Which is okay! This is the scenario for which the Free Hit chip was created!
Alternative Free Hit Option
The alternative is to take the hit in GW31 but minimize it as much as possible. Meanwhile, you save the Free Hit chip for when those double gameweeks are going to occur. At some point soon, we will know who will have double gameweeks and when these GW31 matches are rescheduled.
Some FPL owners like to save the Free Hit for when they can maximize double gameweeks. It’s an interesting alternative, but we — and other experts out there — have written about the danger of the allure of the double gameweek before.
So when should you play the Free Hit? Probably not this coming weekend (GW27). Conventional wisdom says to play it during GW31, but keep an eye on when those gameweek’s matches are rescheduled. You might find an alternative GW that works even better.
This week, the boys take their weekly tour through the Premier League and FPL, examining GW26. You will hear all about Pogba, Rashford, Salah, Mane, Aguero, Son, and many, many more. Along the way, there will be some fun with James McArthur, Lewis Dunk, Sead Kolasinac, and Kepa, too. We think this will be the most fun you have all week listening to FPL analysis!
This week, Scott examines the qualities of leadership and then determines which of the top six managers have them...and which ones don't.
The monologue is provided below for your reading pleasure. If you want to listen to the monologue as recorded for our podcast feed, click within the Soundcloud block at the bottom of the page.
Hello, my name is Scott. Today, I'm going to take a shot at bad leadership. In my full-time job, I have the privilege of leading a department that employs more than 100 people. During this experience, I have learned a lot about how to lead, manage, and motivate fellow professionals so that they will perform for me and my department, and help us all to succeed along the way.
I do not say this to elevate myself. Instead, I want to demonstrate that I speak from at least a little bit of experience about how leadership works in general. And while I've never managed a football club, I believe I can still speak to bad leadership in general when I see it.
Managing a professional football club is an interesting career. At the risk of oversimplification, a manager has to excel in two key areas in order to succeed in his position.
First, he must be able to excel tactically. He needs to know how he wants to play against each opponent with the squad of players that he has in order to maximize the potential of the overall team. If the transfer window is open, he needs to know what players he needs to bring in so that his club will succeed at an even higher level in future matches.
The second thing a manager needs to do is to lead his personnel. A manager might have excellent tactics, but it means nothing if his players are not willing to put forth their maximum effort to play for him and his system.
This is not always easy, for a variety of reasons. First, a manager is one person. There are 20-30 players playing for him. When things go wrong, which is easier to get rid of -- the one manager or the 30 players?
Jose Mourinho learned this lesson once again at Manchester United earlier this season. When things went wrong, did they transfer Pogba out in the January window? No. How about the other 15 players who were underperforming? No. They sacked Mourinho. That's how things work.
At many professional clubs, the players are making more money than their managers. When that is the case, a manager lacks the authority to make his player do what he wants him to do; he certainly cannot do it in an authoritarian way. This is why you don't see very many managers succeed at the top levels who are dictators to their players.
That leaves an approach in which a manager works through his players to accomplish the results that everyone mutually wants. That manager needs to work harder than his players. This shows those players that the manager is bought in and wants to see them succeed.
Along the way, he needs to convince them that his system works. Those players have to believe that, if they just follow their manager, they will win.
The manager needs to listen. If a player has a question about how he should fulfill his role, the manager needs to answer it with depth and with conviction. If a player questions the system, the manager can't feel threatened. He needs to be able to explain WHY his way is the best way.
There is a give-and-take involved in the manager-player relationship. Everyone should know that the manager gets to make the final decision, but he needs to show his players that he is willing to listen to ideas and communicate why he is doing what he does.
The top 6 clubs provide fascinating case studies in leadership. No one doubts that Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp demand near-perfection from their players, and yet, players love to play for them. Pep and Jurgen both have the most withering looks when they are angry, but they are also the first to embrace their players when they want to communicate positivity.
For all of the news Spurs have made by not making any transfers now for over a year, have you noticed any of the current players show frustration at their manager? Does anyone look like they are not bought in to what Mauricio Pochettino is doing to lead his team? He is an example of a term you often hear; he is a "man-manager."
Those three managers are positive case studies. One that is still playing out in front of us is Arsenal. After decades of Arsene Wenger, Unai Emery is now in his first season at manager. Emery is attempting to mold the club in his image -- something that takes at least 2-3 years to do. At times he makes decisions that frustrate ardent Arsenal fans, but it is clear that he is attempting to do something.
So far, the players seem to be playing for him -- well, except for the ones that aren't, like Ozil and maybe Ramsey. Will they stay with their manager? Will the fans? Even if they finish 5th this season? They should. Emery has shown that he deserves a real chance, but sadly, real chances take longer than most clubs are willing to give. Luckily, no one is more patient than Arsenal, so there's hope.
That brings us to Manchester United and Chelsea. I'll start with Chelsea and their manager Mauricio Sarri. Sarri is old-school. He has a specific style of play that works when the right players are in the right positions. Sarri, however, does not have that. He joined Chelsea late in the summer, and has only had the opportunity to bring in a couple of players who fit his system. Every one else -- the players he inherited -- are struggling to figure it out each week.
Meanwhile, Sarri does not seem to be a nice man. He's an emotionally detached, set in his ways, chain smoker who tends to berate his players when they fail. He has chosen the dictatorial route of leadership.
For all the reasons discussed earlier, that will not work. His players will just take the route of least resistance in their attempts to outlast him. They already know that they can do that. They will do whatever it takes to just survive until the sack. It wouldn't surprise me if it already happens before the end of this season.
That's what Manchester United's players did. Mourinho was a dictator, and he lost his players. The players literally waited it out. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was put in charge as a caretaker manager, and he let them have the freedom that they wanted -- maybe even that they needed in order to perform at their best.
There is no doubting the fact that the players have responded to the change in a positive way. The players are all having fun again, and their performances prove it -- no one more so than Pogba.
But he should be careful. It's arguable as to whether or not Solskjaer is actually in charge. If Pogba doesn't put in any effort in an upcoming match and ol' Ole decides to bench him, how will Paul respond? Will he respect his manager's authority and learn from his mistake? Maybe. It would depend on whether or not Ole Gunnar has the other leadership skills that I described earlier. If he doesn't, then all he will be is the next Antonio Conte.
These types of leadership skills are not always evident in public. It's up to Solskjaer's boss at the club to determine why he is getting the results that he is. If he's just being a caretaker manager -- letting the players play, which, because of their talent, is working for now -- he should not be brought back next season. However, if he is a truly good leader who is currently leading the likes of Pogba, Rashford, and De Gea, then he should be kept.
Great leaders are hard to find. The Premier League has some, though. Pep, Klopp, and Poch...add in Nuno and Eddie Howe from the middle of the table as well. And there's more, of course.
The jury is still out on Unai Emery and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. But not Mauricio Sarri. He's terrible. It's not entirely his fault. The players at Chelsea have known for decades that they are in charge. Ultimately, though, no squad can have sustained success if the players are in charge. Every squad needs a leader. For Chelsea, Sarri is not that guy.
If you are a regular reader of this blog, you know that we tend to break down the Premier League schedule into mini-segments. During the first half of the season, that happens around international breaks and the condensed holiday fixtures. In spring, it happens because of The FA Cup and League Cup (currently called the Carabao Cup).
Clubs who advance through those knockout tournaments are unable to also play their previously scheduled Premier League matches. It creates a need for rescheduled fixtures, which leads to “blank gameweeks” and “double gameweeks.”
Double gameweeks are like a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow for Fantasy Premier League (FPL) owners. The siren song of 180 minutes, as opposed to the usual 90, for players to score FPL points is hard to resist. As we saw with Manchester City this past week, however, they rarely lead to a payoff in the end.
One thing is certain, though. If your player is guaranteed to play 0 minutes during a blank gameweek, you don’t want him in your FPL lineup. That’s why you have to pay attention to the spring schedule to stay ahead of your competitors and keep getting those green arrows.
To help you, here’s a brief primer on the next month of gameweeks in the Premier League:
Gameweek 26 - From 2/9-2/11 (Saturday-Monday), we will be treated to a regular gameweek, complete with a City-Chelsea matchup on Sunday afternoon.
Gameweek 27 - After a weekend off, we get 8 matches from 2/22-2/24 (Friday-Sunday), thanks to the Carabao Cup final between City and Chelsea. Those two clubs, along with their scheduled PL opponents — Brighton and Everton, will not have a match during GW27. Be prepared.
Gameweek 28 - All 20 clubs will play in this gameweek, but it’s being held on 2/26-2/27 (Tuesday-Wednesday) — another midweek gameweek. Those are often hard to predict, due to the short layoff between GW27 and GW28.
Gameweek 29 - We are back to normal, with all 20 clubs playing on the weekend, 3/2-3/3 (Saturday-Sunday). However, this will mark a third Premier League match for all clubs in one 7-9 days. Predictability may be low once again.
Somehow, the challenges of these spring schedules just makes the game that much more fun, doesn’t it? Enjoy!
This week, the boys recap GW25 in the Premier League and let Dave brag about his almost-100 in FPL. They also tour the top 6, discuss the gameweek’s dream team, and play a new round of Stud or Dud.
The January transfer window in the Premier League is always a bit slow. This year was no exception. It was hard to come up with a top 10 for this post. The reality is that — given how little time is left in the season — it is hard for January transfers to make a huge impact in a new home.
One or two usually do, though. The clubs of these players all hope their guy will. Here’s my (Scott’s) prediction as to who it will be:
10. Dominic Solanke (BOU) - He has been at two top 6 clubs already in his young career. That hasn’t necessarily been a sure sign of greatness (see: Jordon Ibe), but sometimes it means good things (see: Nathan Ake). It’s not overstating it to think that this is going to be a defining 4 months for his career.
9. Jason Puncheon (HUD) - Terriers fans want me to say Karlan Grant here, but I don’t think so. You have a new manager saying all the right things about wanting to stay up, and Puncheon is a veteran who doesn’t know where his career will go from here. He should be motivated. He has the ability to provide a spark, and his presence could inspire something. I’m not guessing it will, but it could.
8. Oumar Niasse (CAR) - What he showed for Everton in flashes justifies his place on this list. Cardiff need him up front. Is he ready to step right in and perform? Why were Everton willing to sell him? It seems just as possible that he will not play for Cardiff either, but if he does…
7. Youri Tielemans (LEI) - He put up some individual stats on a bad Monaco team earlier this season. If he can find a place in Leicester’s ever-shifting midfield, good things are possible.
6. Miguel Almiron (NEW) - My fellow Americans are angry with me now. He dominated MLS! He has enormous potential! Why is he so low on your list? While he should feature in Rafa’s lineup once his work permit issue is sorted out, it’s still asking a bit much of him to come right in and perform in the Premier League. See me about Almiron in August when he’s had some time to acclimate. Then I’ll transfer him in.
5. Ryan Babel (FUL) - I, too, made fun of this deal when it was announced, but come on. You are just as impressed as I am so far. He’s another motivated veteran — and those are two words that always carry potential for results. It may not last, but he may be the first January transfer that you also transfer in.
4. Peter Crouch (BUR) - See Puncheon, Jason and Babel, Ryan under “Motivated Veteran.” You will always rank higher when you have done it before. Crouch has done it in the Premier League before.
3. Denis Suarez (ARS) - This is the first of a different type of January transfer that brings hope. It’s the kind that reunites a player with his former manager. Emery has struggled to find the right lineup at times this season. When he does find it, Arsenal have been magic. If Suarez provides a spark, look out.
2. Michy Batshuayi (CRY) - This was one of those transfers that made watching the news on Deadline Day feel a little more worth it. Palace swooped in and got Bats, someone who was able to score when he played for Chelsea. His opportunities were so few, though. He should get more for Palace. He has to fit in alongside Zaha, though. If he doesn’t, he’ll just be another Max Meyer.
1. Gonzalo Higuain (CHE) - I know the early returns have been…mixed, at best. Chelsea may be a train wreck waiting to happen as Sarri seems to be at “locker room destruction” phase in record time for a Chelsea manager. Still, here’s a legitimate star playing for a familiar manager. There’s a reason why 1% of FPL owners transferred him in before a single minute played in the league. Don’t count him out yet. He’s too good.
This week, the boys record a few words before going on their Warm Weather Business Trip. Is Higuain FPL relevant now? How quickly will Son start playing again for Spurs? How important is that double gameweek for City? Find out in this abbreviated pod!
This week, the boys review GW23, letting you know who on the gameweek’s dream team is worthy of being in your FPL lineup. Additionally, they answer questions like the following: How did Spurs do without Son or Kane? (Mixed reviews.) Should Hazard owners be nervous? (Dave says no. And then yes). What will Pepology give us next? (We won’t lie to you. We don’t really know either.) Learn this and much more on this week’s pod!
NOTE: Here is the transcript of this week’s “Scott’s Shot,” a 5-minute monologue where Scott takes a shot at someone or something. We liked this one so much that we decided to publish it on our website as well. If you haven’t heard the audio version in our podcast feed yet, we have posted the link at the bottom of this post. Thanks!
Hello, my name is Scott. My voice is back, and so is desire to take a shot at someone. This week, it's going to be the oversimplifiers. It may not be a word, but it's my target for this week. The oversimplifiers.
As humans, we have this natural desire to simplify things down to labels that we can easily understand: felon, lesbian, Christian, immigrant. It creates narrow points of view that are not always helpful, holistic, or even accurate.
This is true for things that matter in life, like religion and politics. And it's equally true for things of lesser importance that still matter to us, like Premier League football.
Now, I know that the last thing you probably want to hear within our podcast feed is yet another argument about whether or not Mo Salah is a diver. That's why I chose to talk about it here, and it will be the last time (maybe) that I bring it up for a while. However, I feel like the debate that continues to rage on about Salah can actually help us be better people in general.
Think about this for a moment: What exactly is a diver? The easy answer is someone who dives. But what exactly is a dive? This is where I propose that things get tricky.
Last week, when Dave and I discussed this subject, I suggested that there are two scenarios that need to be broken out. There are plays where players go down without contact in an attempt to get a call. And there are plays where players receive contact and then go down in an attempt to get a call.
The first play is clearly a dive. Another term for this is simulation, which is the right term for faking contact. I am in agreement with all of you listening -- I assume -- that this is a dive and worthy of a yellow card (at least).
The second play? This is where we may differ. I suggest that this is where your oversimplified label, diver, becomes inaccurate.
Take the first match of this past weekend, Wolves v. Leicester. Diogo Jota had an incredible match. His game-winning goal in injury time was an emotional moment. Lost in that moment, however, is what happened less than a minute before that. Jota was dribbing toward goal, received contact, attempted to fight through it, and in the end, his run came to nothing. When the color commentator on the world feed watched the replay, he said that Jota would have probably given the referee something to think about if he had gone down.
Now, obviously, this became a moot point in reality when Jota scored seconds later. However, what if he hadn't? What if the match ended 3-3? Is Jota better for being tough and fighting through the potentially illegal tackles in order to score? You might give him moral points, but those do no good in the Premier League table. You could have argued, in this revisionist history scenario, that he had cost his team two points.
Fortunately for him, Wolves, and all that is fair in this world, the result turned out much different.
Back to Salah. He took a different approach. Mamadou Sakho kicked him in the leg while Salah possessed the ball. It wasn't a terrible kick. It wasn't enough to knock Salah down, but it was contact. Possibly a foul. What did Salah do? He went down, even though he didn't have to.
Now, does that make Salah a diver? Maybe. Have you settled on your definition of diving yet? If you want to include a play like this, then you have just opened the definition of diving up to plays that would encapsulate more than 100 players in the Premier League. Because now you have to include any play that involves contact and a player going down unnecessarily. Don't we see that just about every match?
If that's what you want as a definition, great. Just be sure to call it out every time you see it. Not just when one player does it.
The reality is that referees usually require a player falling to the pitch before blowing the whistle. So when a player is conditioned to do that to get a call, is it wrong? Is it diving? Or is it good strategy?
In this case against Crystal Palace, Mo Salah didn't get the call. But what if he had? Just like he did in previous matches when he was fouled in the box? It would have been good strategy then. To be clear, I didn't love seeing Mo drop to the pitch when he did. But I get why he did it.
Listeners of this podcast, can we please be different than the masses? Can we avoid quick takes that oversimplify players into one word? Can we use our eyes to watch and then our brains to think through what we are watching? Can we see the complexities of the beautiful game for what they are? Complexities that are not to be simplified?
It's what you want whenever someone tries to condense you down into a label. You are more than just a...insert label here. So are our favorite footballers.
If you insist on giving Salah a label anyway, let's not call him a diver. I propose dropper. Mo Salah, because of the way he goes down after contact, is a dropper. Yeah, that works for me.