We thought long and hard about just going with the banter option of simply listing the Tottenham starting XI against Villa but decided we are just about better than that.
So instead, as is customary, it’s the cold hard numbers of the WhoScored algorithm picking the team but we did piss about very, very slightly with positions to get a second Spurs player in because we weren’t having only one of them making the team after that nonsense.
GK: Hugo Lloris (Tottenham) – 5.03
The first game back after the World Cup for the Spurs and France captain. It didn’t go well, with general uncertainty the order of the day before a massive dropped bollock for the opening goal as he spilled Douglas Luiz’s tame long-range shot at the feet of Ollie Watkins.
Graeme Souness was among those unimpressed.
RB: Luke Ayling (Leeds) – 6.28
A pretty solid new year weekend for right-backs, even in the teams that were conspicuously bad. Ayling can consider himself unfortunate given Leeds’ admirable defensive effort to thwart Newcastle. But if you get booked, complete barely half your passes and win zero tackles in a game where your three fellow defenders made three, four and four respectively, you’re asking for the number-crunchers to give you a kicking.
LB: Jordan Zemura (Bournemouth) – 5.67
A pass completion rate barely above 50% won’t get you very far, especially in a nominally defensive role in which you contribute zero tackles or clearances and a solitary interception during a 2-0 home defeat.
CB: Ben Davies (Tottenham) – 5.88
Is it right or even really fair to ask Ben Davies, clearly a left-back or LCB in a three, to play in a two-man central defence? Obviously not. But answer this: is it more or less fair than inexplicably only having one Spurs player in this team after that performance against Villa? Because that was the alternative, and we simply couldn’t have it.
CB: Wout Faes (Leicester) – 5.15
So today we’ve learned that the algorithm isn’t a big fan of centre-backs scoring two own goals before half-time. Every day’s a school day.
CM: Billy Gilmour (Brighton) – 5.68
Gilmour has played 102 minutes of Premier League football for Brighton and 90 of those were against Arsenal on New Year’s Eve. That feels harsh. He was wildly and entirely overrun by the Gunners midfield because of course he was. Weird to have expected anything else.
CM: Harrison Reed (Fulham) – 6.05
Philip Billing (5.70) gets let off on a technicality for lasting only 37 minutes of Bournemouth’s limp 2-0 home defeat to Palace, although it was already 2-0 by the time he departed the scene. He’s a lucky, injured boy. So in steps Harrison Reed despite Fulham eventually getting the job done against bottom-of-the-table Southampton.
ACM: Adam Lallana (Brighton) – 5.71
Playing against Arsenal is hard even if it isn’t your first Premier League start of the season.
LW: Harvey Barnes (Leicester) – 6.03
Barely saw the ball against Liverpool and was sloppy with it on the few occasions it did come his way. Neither of these things help your cause.
RW: Solly March (Brighton) – 5.79
Starting to think the WhoScored algorithm needs a setting that automatically adds half a point if you’re playing Arsenal. Seems only fair. Ridiculous that Brighton’s players have been judged just as coldly by the number-crunchers as players who had the good fortune to play against teams who are average, or shit, or Tottenham.
CF: Dominic Solanke (Bournemouth) – 5.90
Had a ‘better’ game than strike partner Kieffer Moore in every single way apart from all the aerials the big loon won – five compared to Solanke’s zero – and the algorithm loves an aerial. Even if your pass completion rate is a pitiful 43.8%. Which means it’s Solanke who takes a place in the team of shame this weekend.