The approach of Gameweek 12 of the FA Premier Fantasy Football League has presented more than the usual challenges for under-pressure London Town FC manager Don Lonno, whose mission is to demonstrate the capital city’s swaggering superiority by fielding only players from London clubs.
This self-imposed restraint, which means Lonno can select from just six of the 20 Premier League squads and severely limits his transfer market scope, has led to a recent dip in form after a promising start which saw Town rise to an impressive second place in its six-strong domestic league.
Now struggling to maintain even his customary mid-table mediocrity, Lonno blamed the poor form of Spurs for recent difficulties, along with mental fatigue. “Frankly, I’m so out of it I could end up signing some goalkeeper from Watford by mistake,” he told reporters midweek.
There has always been the necessary handful of top London teams for Lonno to cherry pick players from, but recent seasons have underlined his dependence on having a minimum of five London clubs in the top flight. There was a brief scare at the end of the 2019/20 season, with West Ham close to relegation – an outcome which would have left the London Town project dead in the water, literally unable to make up the numbers.
But the Hammers survived, and Fulham came up to increase the London contingent to six and widen Lonno’s options. And although Fulham went back down last year, they were replaced by the exciting, hungry Brentford.
Thus far, the fortunes of the London clubs have never aligned at a high enough level to give LTFC a shot at a proper title challenge. In 2019/20, Harry Kane, Tammy Abraham, and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang were strong, but not as strong as stars of certain northern clubs, and London lacked defenders of the quality of Liverpool’s, leaving the metropolitans some way short of elite.
Season 2020/21 looked more promising, as Kane and his Spurs colleague Son Heung-min made the leap from good to magnificent, and the David Moyes renaissance at West Ham producing some bargain buys. But it was hard to figure out which Chelsea defenders to trust, and all the highs were tempered by the shocking underperformance of Aubameyang and Co at Arsenal. This led to another mid-league finish, with Town squeezed between teams whose managers seem to either give it their all or next to nothing.
Until now, Lonno’s niche endeavour has been been known only to a handful of in-the-know east Londoners, primarily from Deepest Hackney. Now it’s going public.
The 2021/22 season so far
This year has seemed to be a case of more of the same for LTFC. In the early weeks, Chelsea’s Mason Mount and Romelu Lukaku, and West Ham’s Michail Antonio shared the caption’s armband and led from the front
Hammers Aaron Cresswell and Tomas Soucek racked up points, and Rico Henry helped Brentford deliver clean sheets. But Arsenal’s terrible start saw Aubameyang soak up funds for little return and poor Bukayo Saka still seemed out of sorts following the trauma of Euro 2020. From Gameweek 5, Lukaku delivered consecutive duds and the West Ham contingent hardly set the world alight.
So it was back to square one for Gameweek 10, though Crystal Palace’s Conor Gallagher and Arsenal’s Emile Smith-Rowe brought home the bacon for a decent week. In Gameweek 11, West Ham defeated the seemingly irrepressible Liverpool 3-2 in the real Premier League, yet Lonno’s Hammers trio mustered a mere four points between them. Captains’ points performances this season so far are ranked below, along with the team’s compared with the Fantasy Football global average.
One of Lonno’s assistants, who asked not to be named, commented that “the London Town strategy is all about risky differentials”. That was perhaps never truer than last weekend. As was to be expected, Gallagher scored big while sitting on the bench. The irony is barely perceptible.
Gameweek 12: Line-up and prediction
Ever the reckless optimist, Lonno has kept faith with Kane as captain and picked the injury-doubt Mount. The purchase of Reece James of Chelsea looks sound, though another bit of midweek business does seem to bear out the manager’s lately fragile state of mind (see above). Invited to explain, Lonno refused to be drawn, saying only that he accepts no responsibility for anything. Full Gameweek 12 line-up, including embarrassing bench, below.
More of this old nonsense next week.
Lorcan O’Dolles is a composite fictional construct partly of Irish descent. Don Lonno is in hiding.
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