It was another week in which benches played an important part. Jamie Vardy missed out again and now has a yellow flag next to his name amid rumours of a calf problem. Given it’s FA Cup weekend, there’s plenty of time for a recovery and it’s not time to panic. Most of us lucked out in one way or another in his absence. Commonplace was either Todd Cantwell or Jack Grealish coming into play from the bench – or a Liverpool midfielder being promoted to captain – OR BOTH. Game of Stones’ score improved by 18 points as a result of both Mane and Cantwell contributing more than expected.
Edgbaston won the week with 73 points. They benefited from a Sadio Mane vice captain pick while taking a standard Martin Kelly two-pointer to fill Vardy’s place. They had also held their wildcard until the final possible week and decided to jump on the Watford bandwagon now Nigel Pearson has got them playing. Christian Kabasele’s sending off and -1 point score didn’t matter too much alongside Gerard Deulefeu’s 12 point haul, supplementing other double figure totals from the aforementioned Mane and Cantwell, as well as Mo Salah.
Manager of the week – Edgbaston – Micheal Dinneen – 73 points
Player of the week – Mark Noble – West Ham United – 14 points
Bargain of the week – Sokratis Papastathopoulos – Arsenal – 13 points
Twat of the week – Diego Rico – Bournemouth – -1 points
Top of the table – But Da Pitch Ain’t 1 – Trev Reams – 1295 points
Only three teams have lead Buckets this season and each have found themselves at the top over the festive fixtures. Da Pitch have regained top spot following their performance over New Year. Neil Madrid had climbed back to the top after the weekend’s fixtures, claiming the lead back from Perfidious Albion, who’d risen back to the summit after the Boxing Day games. They form a breakaway top four with The Craggy Islanders, separated by 10 points and just over 40 points clear of the chasing pack.
Manager of the week – Romeoshondavan – Rob Hewer – 86 points
A couple of big hitters offered up good captain choices this week. Romeo’s could have gone with either Kane, PEA or Sane and they’d still have posted a decent score and climbed the league. They opted for Son, who was their highest scorer – and why wouldn’t he have been? He’s outscored everyone else over the last six weeks by some distance. Shame he’s buggering off to the Asian Cup, although I guess we should be grateful that he had his departure delayed. So we get one more gameweek out of him. If you haven’t got him now, there’s probably not much point in going there.
Player of the week – Troy Deeney – Watford – 15 points
It played out like a basketball game for a period in the first half, then everyone got bored of that and started hacking lumps out of each other. Bournemouth, despite having what seems like a good season, really can’t defend for toffee. Only Burnley, Cardiff and Fulham have conceded more. Even Huddersfield scored against them. They let in four and five in their last two games and now three against Watford and two to Deeney.
Bargain of the week – Angus Gunn – Southampton – 11 points
Surprisingly drafted in ahead of Alex McCarthy who I wouldn’t say has been in bad form of late. If anything he’s been the reason that Southampton have kept some defeats looking semi-respectable. However, I’m all for an even cheaper goalkeeper getting a run of starts. Check also Vicente Guaita’s promotion to Palace number one and David Button’s temporary residence as the Brighton keeper of choice.
Twat of the week – Christopher Schindler – Huddersfield Town – -3 points
Huddersfield’s season looks doomed. Luckily the game Schindler will miss as a resulkt of this sending off is the FA Cup game at thew weekend. He’s arguably been their best source of points and that’s really pushing it. Only four of their players top the £5 million barrier and still no-one wants them.
December manager of the month AND manager of the week – Shoelace Untied – Caroline Strong – 477 points AND 83 points
It might be the biggest manager of the month total ever. It’s the biggest monthly prize ever and it goes to Shoelace, who seemingly piled every effort into winning it much like they did with the Buckets Cup last season. To make extra sure, although it wasn’t needed, they played their bench boost in the last gameweek. That did guarantee them of the manager of the week prize and should earn them a bye into the first round proper of the cup. They took an almighty risk with a 16 point hit, particularly as the five players that came in only scored 11 points between them. A poor week for We Are Ayling, Shoelace’s nearest challengers and long time leaders of the December table, meant that net loss didn’t matter either.
A bad week for Hazard holders was exacerbated by the fact that Willian ended as the week’s top scorer whilst the Belgian warmed the bench. Those opting for Hazard as captain might have had better luck elsewhere as he didn’t even take to the field. I doubt that’d be much consolation as Chelsea ripped through a poor Stoke team with Willian claiming a goal and two assists. Hazard is bound to have been in among the points – guaranteed in fact – as Willian’s goal was from the penalty spot.
Bargain of the week – Ryan Fraser – 15 points
Popped up with two goals to claim Bournemouth’s first win since Gameweek 12. Bournemouth aren’t offering much this season. The fact that Asmir Begovic is their top scorer with 69 points says a lot. He comes out on top only by virtue of having played every minute and not by the countless clean sheets he’s kept (4). The goals and assists seem to be being spread around a much changing team. Fraser wasn’t able to follow up this brace due to picking up an injury, but hardly any team have escaped the punishing festive schedule, no matter how hard they’ve tried to rotate, without picking up injuries to key players. Salah, Silva, De Bruyne, Kane, Lukaku and Coutinho are all doubtful for the first fixtures of the new year.
Twat of the week – James McLean – -1 points
McLean is surprisingly low on twat awards over the years. This might be his first. He’s easily one of the most wind-up-able players in the league and likes a tasty meaningless challenge. His crime this time was to come on with 18 minutes of the game remaining, pick up his obligatory yellow, then score an own goal.
Goal of the week – Danny Drinkwater. £35 million apparently. 59s in.
There were plenty of big scores around this week thanks to many of our elite players and popular captain choices getting in among the points. Covincing wins for Chelsea, Arsenal and Spurs, all with clean sheets, almost guaranteed a good captain score. Unless you’d picked Diego Costa. If you’d plumped for any of the other usual suspects – Hazard, Pedro, Eriksen, Alli, Kane, Sanchez or Ozil – you’d have bagged yourself a good double figure total.
The most profitable of those was Harry Kane, whose patchy form has seen him drop in and out of teams all season. He’s on an upward slope at the moment with six in four. Cue a rush of transfers in ahead of next week, probably in place of Costa – probably ahead of his next dip in form.
Not many Buckets teams are carrying Kane at the moment. Release The Hounds are. They made him captain. They scored 108 points. It moves them up nine places in the league. It also guarantees them a place in the first round proper of the Buckets Cup. But best of all, it puts them in the lead for the highest weekly score, eclipsing The Craggy Islanders’ 104 points from gameweek 14. Congratulations to them. For now. Those double gameweeks aren’t far away.
If only RTH had Marcos Alonso in their defence. I suggested a few weeks ago the possibility of captaining a Chelsea defender. I don’t think anyone has been brave enough to do that yet. Two goals, a clean sheet and top bonus marks equals 21 points as a defender and that equals this seasons highest weekly player score. He’s a dream fanstasy defender, spending most of the time in the opposition’s third, yet racking up the clean sheet points that come largely courtesy of his buddies in the back three. But now at £6.5 million he’s going to be a bit of a squeeze to get in unless you’re willing to sacrifice elsewhere.
Player of the week – Marcos Alonso – 21 points. Two goals and a clean sheet>better than a hat trick.
Bargain of the week – Abel Hernandez – 13 points. Hull need this guy to stay fit.
Donkey of the week – Gareth McAuley – -3 points. Should have beena City player.
Goal of thew week – Andy Carroll. The GOTS contenders are coming thick and fast now.
Spurs v West Brom Burnley v Southampton Hull v Bournemouth Sunderland v Stoke Swansea v Arsenal Watford v Middlesbrough West Ham v Crystal Palace Leicester v Chelsea Everton v Man City Man Utd v Liverpool
Last weekend’s break for the FA Cup reminded me that we’re only a few weeks away from the start of our own cup competition. The Buckets Cup returns in gameweek 24 – that’s the weekend beginning the 4th February. I’ll explain how the draw is going to be made. All the details are on the Buckets Cup link as well.
The deal is that we need 42 teams to play in the preliminary round to create a round of 32 for the first round proper. That means 11 of you get a bye. FC Caligula are in the hat already as last year’s winners. The other ten will be made up of the 10 highest scoring gameweek winners up to and including gameweek 23.
At the moment those lucky 10 teams are The Craggy Islanders, Yeboah’s Right Foot, Joey Bosa, DJ’s Trail Blazers, To Elland Back, Rico United, Racing Club Skegness, Jarvis FC, Upper Bullens and Pudding and Pie. Pudding and Pie are most at risk with the lowest score of the ten. If someone beats their 77 points between now and gameweek 23, they’re in the prelim with all the other dropkicks.
If your cup run takes you as far as gameweek 26, you’ll have the League Cup final to contend with. The semi final first legs were played this week. Manchester United will take a 2-0 lead to Hull for their second leg, while Southampton edged Liverpool 1-0 in their home tie. It’ll probably be difficult for Hull to claw back the two goal deficit, but the other game is still very much in the balance. Anyway, gameweek 26 will be an eight fixture affair whatever happens. A Liverpool/United final would see Manchester City and Leicester also get the week off. If Southampton make it, Arsenal miss a week. Definitely worth keeping those possibilities in mind, especially if the temptation to play your new wildcard gets too much before then. You don’t want to be up League Cup shit creek without any transfer paddles.
As for previewing this week – Watford v Boro will probably be 0-0.