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TDS Community Special: The Crystal Ball with Tom Dearing

Here at The Draft Society we’ve always said that what makes the draft game different is the community that is has fostered. It’s all love, baby. The support we get from each and every one of you every day of every week is beyond anything we could ever have imagined when we founded back in March of 2021. And whilst we’ll never be able to thank you all enough for this, we hope that we can give a little something back in the best way we know how: the Community Special.

Each week @the_innergeek will write up a personalised article for the league of one lucky winner. It’s your call on the topic. Whether it’s a Trade-Maker Special, a Gameweek Preview, or The Crystal Ball Breakdown, the Inner Geek has you covered. A word of warning, though: no punches will be pulled when the Inner Geek gets to work! This week’s winner is Tom Dearing, whose response to our Super Bowl-themed request for GIF’s probably summed up how a lot of us have felt in draft fantasy at one point in time! Anyway, the Crystal Ball analysis was chosen, so Tom, are you and your rivals ready to see into the future?

The Crystal Ball

We’re now past the halfway mark in the Premier League season, yet for you mere mortals, the end is still nowhere near in sight. For me, though, blessed as I am with my crystal ball, the end has been in sight since draft day. In fact, it is not so much “in sight” as it is “annoyingly obscuring my view of the rest of the world”. Time to remedy that. It goes without saying, but the following article WILL contain spoilers!

Before we begin, we need to take a look at the rosters. After all, how can you agree with my predictions if you don't know what they're based on?

The Rosters and Some Context

For those of you who continually miss the Sky Sports or ESPN coverage of this league, then here's a quick recap of the rosters, current league standings, and rules.

Tom's league is a straight up, 38-game league - no messing around with playoffs. There are 10 teams and the roster size is capped at 16 players. Default Fantrax Scoring is used, though there is one tweak in that minus points do not occur for goalkeepers and defenders with the first goal that is conceded (only with subsequent goals).

The Current Situation...

How It All Ends…

Enough with all the formalities - let's start seeing into the crystal ball! Here we go then, in reverse order (though if you can't stand to wait any longer, the final league standings are at the foot of the article!).

10th – Team Winner (current position: 10th)

Don’t get confused: this is a crystal ball, not a magic ball. It can’t and won’t turn water into wine, or in the case of Winner, a team of no-hopes into a team of relevance. Which is why the club currently in 10th place will end the season in the same sorry position. Had main man Romelu Lukaku been the Inter-version, rather than the United-version, things could have been different as the forward line would have held its own with many in the league. But the death knell for this side comes in the middle of the park. It’s a drab collection of options and ones that, outside of Tomas Soucek, can’t even be guaranteed to start every game. In fact, looking through the whole 16-man roster, there are only four players who you would say are guaranteed to start for their clubs (Alisson, Antonio Rudiger, Nelson Semedo, and Soucek). That is an impressive lack of reliability for a 10-team league.

9th – Ruck ‘Til You Scrum (current position: 9th)

How has this roster won seven games this season? It’s either a miracle or an indicator of some masterful waiver wire tactics by the manager. The Crystal Ball must have it down as the latter because, whilst this roster on paper looks far inferior to Team Winner (which is saying something!), RTYS will just about have enough to finish ahead of them and avoid the wooden spoon. The Leicester super-stack of Luke Thomas, James Maddison, Youri Tielemans, Wilfred Ndidi, Jamie Vardy, and Kelechi Iheanacho will prove pivotal on their day – especially with upcoming DGW’s – but there will also be times when this side struggles to amass even 40 points. Boom or bust will be the order of business from now on, and unfortunately for RTYS, it will be far more of the latter. (Side note: if this roster hasn’t acquired at least one of current free agents Said Benrahma, Roberto Firmino, or Luke Shaw by the time this is read, then the Crystal Ball may need a little shake to check that the wooden spoon really doesn’t belong to this side come May time).

8th – Men Behaving Chadli (current position: 5th)

Why do all the teams with great names have the worst rosters? Okay, so not quite “the worst” – the two above clearly hold that “honour” – but I rarely see a great team name and a great roster combined. Maybe the landing of a great team name induces complacency in a manager? Or perhaps those without the creative naming juices are more motivated to focus on their team? Anyway, I digress. Back to analysing. This is an excellent front four; one that has the potential to put an opponent to bed on their own if they start. But the defence and midfield are…how should we phrase it?... not cohesive to points scoring in draft fantasy. Penalty mastermind Cesar Azpilicueta is no longer playing at a DEF1 level (which he needs to on this roster), and whilst Bukayo Saka is very useful and Lucas Moura has his moments, there is not enough firepower in this midfield. Men Behaving Chadli slide down to 8th.

7th – Tea and Busquets (current position: 7th)

The trouble with Tea and Busquets’ roster is that it is too good. I don’t mean that in the usual sense of the phrase though. Rather, every player on this roster is decent and has fantasy value, but only Joao Cancelo and Mason Mount are “great”. There are 12 others on this side who, as the manager, you like too much to let go for free, but who aren’t going to win you games. Which means when Mount or Cancelo don’t play or perform (admittedly, a rarity in the latter’s case), it’s left to the likes of Harvey Barnes, Paul Pogba, and Odsonne Edouard to bring in a big performance…and those are far too infrequent. This sort of roster screams out for a couple of 2-for-1 trades. Could Ayew Being Served be tempted to let go of van Dijk for Ruben Dias? Would A Team Has No Name part with Jadon Sancho in exchange for Pogba and Edouard? Something that the Crystal Ball has not foreseen is needed if the side want to move from that 7 spot.

6th – Cabaye Me Love (current position: 6th)

Another cracking old school team name (and again, from a bottom-half team) is Cabaye Me Love. The club have a fab four almost up there with their namesake in the midfield – though Stuart Dallas’ injury is a considerable blow, particularly given the unorthodox approach of going very thin in this department. Whilst the previously uber-dependable Raphinha and Dwight McNeil both saw their game time surprisingly reduced last weekend, this will be a mere blip in what has been very good seasons for the two players. Still, reducing the unnecessary abundance of options up front – they have six forwards in total; all of whom sit in the top 100 of our latest Consensus Ranks – in order to strengthen elsewhere would be a wise move. A straight up Maxwel Cornet for Reece James trade with Ayew Being Served would make sense to both parties, and may make the Crystal Ball rethink this 6th placed prediction.

5th – A Team Has No Name (current position: 3rd)

Two wins currently separate A Team Has No Name in 3rd from Glen Hoggle in 8th; showing the congestion and competition for places in the middle of the pack. Unfortunately for ATHNN, they are currently overperforming. Not by a long shot, but enough so that they should be focusing on what’s below them, as opposed to having dreams about what’s above them. The defence, it should be said, is surprisingly legitimate. It may not look it when you read the names – Ethan Pinnock, James Tarkowski, Marcos Alonso, and Diogo Dalot – but this is the best collection of defenders in the league. The midfield is not bad, though as we enter the Champions League knockout stages, Kevin De Bruyne’s availability will be a constant cause of concern, but it is the forward four that halts the side from going any higher. Joshua King and Joao Pedro have seen Watford’s attacking verve sucked out of them Space Jam style with Roy Hodgson’s introduction, whilst Patrick Bamford has played just 21 minutes since September 17th. Ivan Toney can’t do it on his own, hence the 5th place finish.

4th – Glen Hoggle (current position: 8th)

The main movers in the league are Glen Hoggle, and before you ask, no, the owner of the Crystal Ball is not Eileen Drewery. The club’s predicted upturn in fortunes is purely a coincidence. Well, that and the fact that this roster has some excellent weapons in defence and midfield. The Liverpool duo of Trent Alexander-Arnold and Joel Matip will play well in a side that has kept 13 clean sheets in 24 league games, whilst a Manchester City quartet of Bernardo Silva, Phil Foden, Jack Grealish, and Ilkay Gundogan ensures that there’s always multiple players taking advantage of the league’s joint highest scoring team. The return to prominence of Cristiano Ronaldo will help Hoggle down the stretch, but there’s just not quite enough up top to see the club mix it with the big boys. Still, 4th is commendable.

3rd – McGinn and Tonic (current position: 4th)

Squeezing onto the podium is another of the ludicrously two-goalkeeper rostered sides, McGinn and Tonic. Why three teams in a ten man league feel the need to do this, I’ll never know. And not only that, but with Aaron Ramsdale and Robert Sanchez on the books, MG & T are holding two of the three best in the league (only Sa is better). It is some sadistic madness I tell you. Anyway, player-for-player, this may actually be the best roster in the league. It certainly has the best forward contingent in Michail Antonio, Harry Kane, Dominic Calvert-Lewin, and Wout Weghorst (the first three of those were ranked in the top 18 players back in pre-season). It is above average in defence and midfield too, but the roster balance is perhaps what’s caused the Crystal Ball to foresee only a 3rd placed finish. Just four midfielders is asking for trouble – particularly when none of them can be relied upon to start each week (yes, even Leandro Trossard is at the mercy of Potter-Ball). No amount of star quality in attack can save you if you’re fielding two midfield free agents most weeks.

2nd – Pinky and De Bruyne (current position: 2nd)

Second spot in this league is not the same as in most. Given how superior Ayew Being Served are of the chasing pack, this should be considered more as a celebration than a heartbreak. Key to this “victory” is flexibility. That and Mohamed Salah. Yep, the roster depth is nowhere near the level of McGinn and Tonic, but when you can put out Salah, Emiliano Buendia, Philippe Coutinho, and Andrew Robertson, and then have the freedom to dispense of four or five others in order to bring in the flavours of the week, you should be in good stead. The current hopes of a title challenge should need to be checked immediately, but that is not meant as an insult. I like this roster a lot – it has superstar talent and decent balance – it’s just nowhere near what we’re about to see.

1st – Ayew Being Served (current position: 1st)

Don’t adjust your sets (/screens?): what you see is correct. The league champions are the team being led by a forward duo of Ollie Watkins and Rodrigo. Do you know why? Because their midfield is the equivalent of Dre (Bruno Fernandes), Snoop (James Ward-Prowse), Mary J (Andros Townsend), Eminem (Jarrod Bowen), Fiddy (Martin Odegaard), and Kendrick Lamar (Conor Gallagher). Nobody is beating this combination. Fact. It’s a phenomenal set of options and it is supported by a defence that, pre-Trippier injury, would have been up there as one of the best in the league as well. Still, Ayew Being Served can roll out Virgil van Dijk, Reece James, Takehiro Tomiyasu, and one other in a 451 and be guaranteed to have a chance every gameweek. The Crystal Ball has them going 11 and 3 from here on in, which would make this title “race” akin to PSG’s annual procession to the Ligue 1 crown. Congratulation Ayew Being Served - very worthy champions!

The Final Whistle

So there we have it. The Crystal Ball has revealed its secrets. Tom, you and your league may as well do the old Championship Manager trick now and ‘Go on Holiday’ – the results have already been decided, the positions finalised, and the silverware handed out (and wooden spoon too…Team Winner…). It also means that you can now bring forward the end of season night out. You’re welcome.

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