Leicester City’s miracle Premier League winning campaign last season was remarkable and left football pundits scratching their heads.
Seven rounds into this season’s league however, The Foxes languish in 12th place with any sort of title defence seemingly impossible even at this stage.
But in the Fantasy Premier League world, a team that goes by the rather quirky name of ‘Victor Moses Lawn’, has turned heads with an extraordinary story of beating the odds of its own.
And while it was Leicester’s intensity, desire and energy that took them to the summit, this fantasy side benefits from their manager’s passive approach.
FPL manager Josh Lambourne sees his side sit eighth in the world (that’s out of nearly three million teams).
But, just wait – here’s the interesting bit – he’s not made a single transfer or changed his captain since the first matchday!
Tactical genius or just plain lucky? Either way, here’s how he pulled it off.
CAPTAIN FANTASY – KEVIN DE BRUYNE
The Belgian has been a hit in FPL ever since his arrival at Manchester City. He consistently scores points and even has Pep Guardiola’s respect who places him only a notch below Lionel Messi.
The City midfielder is currently the highest-scoring player in the game along with Alexis Sanchez with 49 points. Even with De Bruyne absent through injury, vice-captain Romelu Lukaku has deputised brilliantly.
However, even a team living a charmed life can suffer the odd blip and for Victor Moses Lawn, it came in the opening week when the Triple Captain chip was utilised on De Bruyne who only produced two points, amounting to six.
A WELL-BALANCED SQUAD
What immediately strikes you when you look at the Lawn XI is the fact that it doesn’t consist of the mainstream big-hitters.
Yes, it does have the likes of serial point winners De Bruyne, Dimitri Payet and Sanchez within its ranks but hasn’t spent big on Sergio Aguero or Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Instead, Josh has opted for a modest but effective front line in Jermaine Defoe and Romelu Lukaku with Everton’s Enner Valencia on the bench – a budget buy no doubt.
SCOUT: Those 6 points, plus potential bonus, take Lukaku to the top of the forward rankings. New owners incoming. pic.twitter.com/4POxHKhqKb— FPL (@OfficialFPL) September 30, 2016
A NORTH LONDON DEFENCE
Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal have seven clean sheets between them. That’s not too shabby, especially considering the nature of the Premier League this season with sides struggling in defence.
Petr Cech features between the sticks and with Hector Bellerin, Danny Rose, Kyle Walker and Laurent Koscielny making up the four-man defence, Victor Moses Lawn has defenders who will often chip in with a goal or assist as well.
With four assists and three goals between them so far, the defence has been churning out points nicely even if the men ahead of them have been doing most of the heavy lifting.
Here’s a pitch-view inspection of the team:
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1) VICTOR WANYAMA (TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR) – 8.3
Against a possession oriented Manchester City side, the midfielder was at his imposing best as he closed down the spaces and broke down play. He produced a fine save from Claudio Bravo with a shot from range.
2) DELE ALLI (TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR) – 7.6
Arguably his best performance this season, Alli took his chance expertly to make it 2-0 to the hosts in the first half. He also did supremely well to win the penalty in the second.
3) CALLUM WILSON (BOURNEMOUTH) – 7.6
Wilson opened the scoring against Watford, stabbing home from a Junior Stanislas cross.
7 - No player has scored more Premier League goals for Bournemouth than Callum Wilson. Deadly.— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) October 1, 2016
4) TOBY ALDERWEIRELD (TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR) – 7.6
The Tottenham defender had his hands full with the Premier League’s most lethal striker Sergio Aguero. However, he came through with flying colours, rarely affording the Argentine any space.
Toby Alderweireld's game by numbers vs. Man City:— Squawka Football (@Squawka) October 3, 2016
100% tackles won
78% pass accuracy
2 interceptions pic.twitter.com/PybOl7nwoO
5) WILLIAN (CHELSEA) – 7.6
The winger was a constant threat in the final third. He particularly came good in the second period and executed a delightful curled finish to break the deadlock.
Before yesterday’s game, Tottenham’s 4-1 victory over Manchester City from last season was beamed out on the White Hart Lane video screen.
It was notable for ending Harry Kane’s 748-minute goal drought and inflicting a third defeat in four games on Manuel Pellegrini’s City who were missing the injured Joe Hart, Vincent Kompany and Yaya Toure.
It was also a result in which Mauricio Pochettino’s Spurs gave a first indicator of what they’re capable ofin the wider context of the title race, having started with just two wins from their opening six matches.
Just over a year to the day later, the scoreline may not be as impressive but the performance and magnitude of the win far outstrips what Spurs were revelling in prior to kick-off.
For the 2-0 triumph came against a previously-unbeaten City side who have been playing the best football in the Premier League. It also was achieved without midfield fulcrums Eric Dier and Moussa Dembele as well as Kane.
This was as impressive a performance by anyone this term; outstripping Liverpool’s first 45 minutes at Arsenal, City against United in the Manchester derby and Pep Guardiola’s side dismantling of Bournemouth.
It may have owed an element of gratitude to Brendan Rodgers’ Celtic who showed with committed pressing and pace in attack, you can find faults in Guardiola’s initial blueprint, but unlike their Champions League wake-up call, City were never in this game.
Spurs played with a purpose in possession. Moving the ball quickly and playing off each other, creating space and attacking City’s defence at speed. But what was integral to the performance was what Tottenham did without the ball.
Pochettino’s intended approach was clear with the selection of Son Heung-Min ahead of Vincent Janssen. The Korean is a wide forward by trade but one who works relentlessly and possesses a real diligence in closing down defenders.
Heung-min Son has now been directly involved in 6 goals in just 4 Premier League games this season for Tottenham (4G,2A).— Squawka Football (@Squawka) October 2, 2016
On 🔥🔥🔥 pic.twitter.com/TIhrO9cb2i
Son’s willingness to not give City’s defence – plus goalkeeper Claudio Bravo – any time to get comfortable on the ball meant they were always hurried when trying to build possession.
In the 83rd minute after a serious afternoon’s graft, there he was, closing down Nicolas Otamendi and Pablo Zabaleta, before Fernandinho was rushed into a long ball forward, which was easily cut out.
Pochettino fielded his favoured three attacking midfielders in Dele Alli, Christian Eriksen and Erik Lamela, who in most sides would be nominal No10s; given a freedom to create.
They’re afforded that privilege when in possession, but without it they were dropping deeper, restricting Fernandinho’s balls into David Silva and Raheem Sterling and denying any space for passing lanes to open up.
Manchester City have completed just 65% of their passes.— Squawka Football (@Squawka) October 2, 2016
Their Premier League average this season is 85%.
Great pressure from Tottenham. pic.twitter.com/hCxreShYOi
Tottenham also possess the best centre-back pairing in the league in Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen. A symbiotic partnership yet to concede a league goal from open play this term and while Sergio Aguero had his moments, in the main, he was well-shackled.
Spurs’ challenge fell apart last season through fatigue and inexperience. Pochettino’s squad building has safeguarded the former fault – although the Champions League carries its own pitfalls – while his overall team structure and dynamic looks to only have improved over the course of time.
We won’t know how much these Spurs players have matured until the pressures of April and May, but it looks highly unlikely we’ll be denied the chance to find out.