There is no margin for error in the title race, or rather a working yardstick measurement from last season does exist and the width of that margin was just over 1 cm, which you will admit for a title race is tight enough to drop a letter and respell. Tite.
How does this relate to your draft fantasy team, again? Fantasy points mainly come from the top of the table. While there will always be gems in the scrappier, more unsuccessful and less fashionable teams, usually league points correspond to a good ratio of “goals for” to “goals against.” Not to overly drop menacing, mathematical gang signs and all, but the more you have key players in the winning teams that are reaping respectable Premier League points returns, the better your chances of scooping up the once-removed draft fantasy points. No one’s taking anything away from the John McGinns, the Callum Wilsons, the Teemu Pukkis and others. No one’s casting aspersions in the general direction of one’s Milivojevics or one’s Nathan Redmonds or one’s Gylfi Sigurdssons. One’s most fervent wish is that one cherishes not only one’s Salahs, de Bruynes and Raheems but also the world’s Richarlisons, Raul Jimenez’ and Ryan Frasers.
Just saying, it often helps a player out in fantasy points if they’re at a team that doesn’t ship goals like freight or celebrate them as rare club milestones.
Seven wins in seven reveals Liverpool to be students of recent history, setting a brisk pace at the top, with memory of no room to breathe last season still fresh in mind. Manchester City, despite having financed the lecture halls of the tight-margins enlightenment and orchestrated the beauty and the severity of the lesson-giving, seems to have failed to register the meaning of the lesson, perhaps mistaking goal difference as the true religion.
(Pep Guardiola sings to himself incorrect words of a nonexistent nursery rhyme: “Lose by 1, win by 8/Lose by 2, win 80-thream/Merrily we row, row we row merrily/Rotation’s but a dream.” Klopp eyeballs anyone who looks about to interrupt the song to clarify the league points system to the Catalan, threatening off all comers.)
Both Top Two teams dominate completely. Briefly distracting from the normally on-message narrative, Norwich introduced a slightly unbelievable subarc wherein they defeated the most powerful team in the galaxy, but Manchester City then sort of erased it by winning 80thream at Watford, like setting off some futuristic memory-wiping electromagnetic pipe bomb. Liverpool nearly let slip a 3-0 lead against Salzburg, but that’s a whole different competition and they did still squeak it out. So while both the top two still more or less dominate completely, it may not be every single match, and not every victory will necessarily be a clean sheet, but just about any starter or almost-starter at either club is a good pick. None of their players will be available in the draft format for ten-team leagues, possibly even 8-team leagues, so we move on. (Maybe check to see if anyone dropped Allison.)
As for the best of the rest, it’s a bit of a free-for-all in the Top 7 Plus 1, with Leicester throwing a legitimate glove in the ring for third, where the club currently finds itself. The Top 7 isn’t a thing, incidentally, so by extension a Top 7 Plus 1 isn’t a thing, either, but even more so, since it’s dependent on the first speculative hypothetical turning out to be nonfiction. Now that that’s settled, in piping-hot The Brodge Is Back news, Brendan Rodgers has the side fit and firing in both attack and defense despite a challenging opening run of fixtures. Jamie Vardy and James Maddison stand out among standouts, making eye contact, taking names, reminding chatters of consequences, as per the Chat Something Bang Something Accord of 2015/2016. Youri Tielemans, Ayoze Perez, Jonny Evans, Ricardo Pereira, Ben Chilwell and Caglar Soyuncu all look set to continue points-gaining ways. Just maybe after the GW8 encounter with Liverpool, although Vardy won’t be too daunted by any opposition. Still, not ideal. After Liverpool, Leicester has a sea of kind fixtures poised to deliver rainbow-flavored joy to the Skittles and vodka faithful.
While the Foxes have defense and attack waving happily and fluffily like a small catlike wolf’s tail, at fourth-place Arsenal, you’d really only back one of the two. In case there is remotely any confusion, the attack. Anything affiliated with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is excellent. Anything not, file alongside The Decline and Fall of Western Civilization. Arsenal is in a race against itself to outscore goals conceded, and it’s neck and neck. (Current goal difference: +1—take that!) While most of the starting XI at Leicester look like solid picks, at Arsenal it’s Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette (injured), Pepe (still PL-unproven) and a few speculative youth picks. With Bukayo Saka, Reiss Nelson, Emile Smith-Rowe and Joe Willock emerging from the academy and making it onto the pitch more regularly, there could be opportunities. And Dani Ceballos could always channel his inner Burnley again. Mesut Özil could make a surprise return one day. Continuing to languish on the bench seems increasingly likely, however.
Arsenal is a top six team currently in the top four but chances are most of the clubs defenders are available for waivers. And with good reason. Rob Holding, Hector Bellerin and Kieran Tierney could possibly change that around, but it’s almost the second international break already. To expect the players to seal up one of the leakiest defenses in the league while also not aggravating the long-term and lingering side injuries each has been carrying…that’s a tall ask.
West Ham find themselves in lofty environs for the first stretch in a while. Productive forwards and midfielders abound, whether they be new signings (Sebastian Haller), like-a-new-signings (Andriy Yarmolenko) or players that never stopped being excellent (Felipe Anderson). One wonders if Marko Arnautovic wonders what it might have been. Especially with Lukasz Fabianski potentially out for a while, the attack holds more promise than the defense. West Ham seems the team currently in the top six that would be least likely to end the season even in the top seven, but time will tell.
Spurs haven’t fully gotten going yet, and the manager seems slightly unstable, but all the component parts exist to lurch back into Champions League final form when it does all theoretically click back into gear again. Complicating matters, the team did just get somewhat humiliated in the Champions league by a five-goal margin. Fear not, Lilywhites asset-holders. The attack remains solid and the rest of the outfit should come right in time. Hold the faith, even in light of European batterings. Or pillories in the press. Or from the manager himself. While Harry Kane and Christian Eriksen shine brightest, Tanguy Ndombele has earned more attacking returns than expected already, displaying an appeal most holding midfielders lack. Jan Vertonghen is back in the starting lineup, and may prove available in the waiver pool. Rescue him. Uncertainty at right back decreases the desirability of Serge Aurier and Kyle Walker-Peters.
Lampard loves all youth prospects not named Christian Pulisic. Lampard is the whistle-wearing megaphone bearer for the Chelsea Project Youth Academy Epicenter of Excellence, but liberal mindedness to England as the centre of excellence and the countenancing of foreign Croatian-American former Borussia Dortmund youth excellence scum are really quite different propositions. Perhaps having just turned 21 in mid-September, Christian Pulisic aged himself off the team sheet. Whatever the reason, he now spins long rambling yarns to a roomful of insta-grandkids about being the last dinosaur transfer signing to sully the fresh-faced Olympian Corinthian ideals of the club. Chelsea has enthusiastically supported all youth projects since presumably the very beginning. At the very least, long before any official bodies imposed a two-window transfer ban. Except it also possibly began shortly after the club spent £58 million on Pulisic during the January 2019 transfer window. At any rate, all players Lampard worked with or faced in the Championship seem like viable starting articles. Tammy Abraham and Mason Mount will likely have been gone for a while now, but perhaps Fikayo Tomori has gone overlooked.
Far-flung from the top four, or the current Top 7 inventoried above, Manchester United goes into GW8 in tenth. New signings Harry Maguire, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Daniel James have all turned out to be excellent—new recruits bedding in hasn’t been the problem. The problem is the rest of the team. Injury to attackers like Anthony Martial in light of non-replacement of Romelu Lukaku haven’t helped, nor have high-profile penalty misses. Manchester United could get it going and pull together a good run, but they don’t seem the team most likely. Conventional wisdom says that Manchester United won’t be bobbing at the water level of the split between halves in the table for long, but the team has had enough recent experience with subpar seasons to not put continued mediocrity completely out of the realm of possibility. Manchester United could very likely sack their manager due to club-worst records, which doesn’t scream investment, but it would be wisest not to count MUFC out quite yet.
The Top 7 will probably include Manchester United by season’s end, meaning another will drop out. (The Top 7 isn’t a thing, again.) This post has just assumed it will be West Ham United, but it could very easily be another.
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.