It’s a crisp December morning at London Town FC’s modest indoor training complex and spirits are unusually high thanks to a solid Gameweek 14 midweek haul of 46 points – a marked improvement on recent miserable displays, thanks primarily to 14 points from captain Emile Smith Rowe (Arsenal) and a dozen from Mason Mount (Chelsea).
Enigmatic Town manager Don Lonno had stuck with the same line-up that produced a meagre 25 points in Gameweek 13, in which Tottenham’s match at Burnley was snowed off, meaning zero points for Kane and Son. A win for Arsenal produced six points from Smith Rowe but just one from goal-starved Aubameyang. Brentford’s Rico Henry was the only other decent point-scorer, earning six thanks to a clean sheet against Everton. Chelsea failed to achieve that against Manchester United and Town’s three-man West Ham representation mustered just six points between them in losing to Manchester City. Crystal Palace’s Joel Ward was helpfully sent off.
Lonno deflected media suggestions that the lack of changes for Gameweek 14 was due solely to forgetfulness rather than shrewdly showing faith in his underperforming stars, insisting that “sometimes total relaxation is the best approach”. Sadly, though, the better showing was not enough to move the team up its domestic league table. Far from it.
Barring last minute dithering by Lonno – which, like rank incompetence, can never be ruled out – Town’s starting 11 for Gameweek 15 shows only one change, with Soucek returning having annoyingly scored nine non-counting points from the bench in midweek, and Palace’s Conor Gallagher dropping out ahead of the trip to Ralf Rangnick’s first match in charge at Old Trafford. Tierney is predicted to be restored to Arsenal’s line-up. Town’s captaincy has been restored to Kane. “I dare to dream,” said Lonno, defiantly.
The manager has made a modest foray into the transfer market, trading in the suspended Ward for Palace back four team mate Marc Geuhi in an attempt to shore up defensive options lately ravaged by real life injuries and demotions to the bench. As things stand, Geuhi will be a sub alongside Gallagher. Expect both to score hat tricks on Sunday.
Despite mounting pressure from the fans, Lonno remains ice-cool in public, perhaps confident that he has the backing of the board. Asked if he has realistic hopes of rising above fourth before the season’s end, he shrugged and said: “Fourth has a nice sound to it, like that river in Scotland, and anyway it will be enough to get into the Champions League next year.” Reporters left, shaking their heads sadly.
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