I’m not one to make big statements but my gameweek 29 matchup was my biggest in my three seasons of playing Togga.
Labelling my third and final battle with Fantasy Gaffer as a “must win” game would be like saying Mo Salah has scored a few goals this season or that Arsenal “could do with a win in the league”. Obvious.
My record of 22 wins and 6 losses would be good enough for a very handsome lead in most leagues but The Gaffer has been clinging on to my coat tails all season. A win for him would see him move one win behind me and set up an incredibly tense final nine weeks of the season. Another victory for me would mean a nine point gap at the top with 27 points left to play for.
In all honesty, I’d chalked this off as a loss before it started, as is my naturally pessimistic outlook. The Gaffer boasted a defence including Virgil Van Dijk and Serge Aurier, two potential top 10 defenders, while he has also been able to welcome Riyad Mahrez back in from the cold. His sharpest weapon(s) however, come in the form of Roberto Firmino and Mo Salah who welcomed an uninspiring Newcastle United as their next victims in GW29. It was always going to be a tall order.
It is also fair to say my preparation for the gameweek was far from ideal as the Togga waiver system crashed on Friday. As I waited for a solution, a league rival managed to nick in and take Nathan Redmond and Jose Holebas from under my nose, leaving me…frustrated.Embed from Getty Images
Nevertheless, I enjoyed a great start to the gameweek in the opening match of the weekend between Burnley and Everton. I picked up Stephen Ward in a tactical pick to cancel out what I thought would be a comfortable clean sheet for Ben Mee who is owned by The Gaffer. Cenk Tosun ensured that it was not a move I needed to make. Thankfully, I also own Johann Berg Gudmundsson, who was ticking along nicely on eight points before he whipped in a wicked cross for Chris Wood to head home the winner. Gudmundsson has been a fantastic Togga asset this season, managing double figure returns in seven out of the last nine gameweeks. His latest assist gave me a healthy 22.75-5.5 lead going into the 3pm kick offs. Early days.
The 3pm games proved to be uneventful in this particular match up. Serge Aurier enjoyed the freedom of the right flank against Huddersfield at Wembley, meaning his score kept ticking along for The Gaffer, while Xherdan Shaqiri continue to look like my biggest threat, completing five key passes.
Thanks to West Brom’s horrendous run of form, I thought I’d jump on the bandwagon for the week by stacking Watford, fielding four Hornets players. Orestis Karnezis a relatively trouble free afternoon and returned a much needed clean sheet, but Andre Carrillo and Etienne Capoue proved to be less effective, scoring an underwhelming 8.5 and 5 points respectively.
I very nearly regretted benching GW28 match winner Troy Deeney last week so made sure to start him this week, and just as my lead looked to be falling away, Watford’s talisman struck again to give me a much needed cushion. Hero.
But as is often the case in Togga, my joy lasted just over ten minutes as disaster struck in the shape of Mahrez. Leicester’s main man followed Deeney’s lead and dragged his team through a difficult afternoon, rescuing a draw with a pinpoint free kick. Great news for Fantasy Gaffer who cut the lead to 14 points with his dynamic duo left to play.
As a Liverpool fan, it’s been bitter sweet (mostly sweet) watching Salah tear up Premier League defences, knowing that he’s also been dragging my main title rival to victory after victory at my expense.
His customary goal came as no surprise but I celebrated it with a little bit of regret. Firmino’s second half assist then put The Gaffer firmly in control of the matchup, handing him a 16.5 lead going into Sunday.
Ahead of the Liverpool game I made a move of my own which proved to be crucial in the match up. I originally had Laurent Koscielny ready for Arsenal’s trip to Brighton but made another tactical move in bringing in Dejan Lovren, confident that Van Dijk would bring a clean sheet for The Gaffer. My hunch proved correct and was made even sweeter when Arsenal collapsed (again), meaning the transfer gained me 15.5 points. Crucial.Embed from Getty Images
Sunday saw the beginning of a straight shoot out: The electric Leroy Sane and the new, shackled Alexis Sanchez went into battle with Togga beast Luka Milivojevic and the enigmatic Anthony Martial, starting with a disadvantage of 16.5 points.
This is exactly how head to head fantasy football should be; going down to the wire against a great opponent. In truth, I was pleased just to still be in it.
Man City v Chelsea on March the 4th 2018 won’t be remembered as a classic (that’s an understatement) but Sane was arguably the one bright spark on the game, keeping up his great form since returning from his recent injury. Due to my participation in a ridiculous number of leagues (three), I was in the slightly uncomfortable position of owning Sane in one matchup and facing him in another. Either way, he was a joy to watch once again and registered an impressive, crucial 16 points without a goal or assist, largely thanks to eight successful dribbles. Unplayable.
Sane’s haul ensured the gap was just half a point going into the final game of the weekend. Massive. I was handed another boost by rumours that Martial hadn’t travelled with the squad which would ensure a straight shoot out between Sanchez and Milivojevic. After refreshing my Twitter feed numerous times, it was finally confirmed that the Frenchman had stayed back in Manchester, giving the advantage back to me for the first time since approximately 4.50pm on Saturday.
Milivojevic is a bit of a Togga beast due to his liking for interceptions, tackles and penalty taking. Thankfully for me, he decided to stay away from the ball on Monday, registering only 3.5 points, clearing the way for Sanchez to do his thing. Whatever that is nowadays.
I’m still far from convinced by Sanchez at United but he just about did enough to secure a crucial victory for me. A fortunate assist contributed to an 11.5 point performance which led me to my third victory over Fantasy Gaffer and took me nine points clear at the top of the table.
The Gaffer is a great opponent with a team I still believe is better than mine. This was, however, a huge moment in the title race. It’s far from over but I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t thought about winning this League of Champions. Once or twice at least.
I still can’t actually believe I’m top…
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