Friday, January 20, 2017

Sinking Saints

Right now this post was meant to go out a day earlier but I’ve managed to contract some sort of hybrid of malaria, gonorrhea and man flu so I’ve not been at my best of late. A club who’ve also not been at their best is Southampton (nice segway that wasn’t it?) and today I’m gonna be looking into what’s gone wrong for the Saints this season.
The Saints have got a cracking side haven't they?
Now the St Mary’s side have been one of the consistent improvers since coming back into the Premier League in 2012. In their first season they finished a respectable 14th with Nigel Adkins/Mauricio Pochettino at the helm of the club. Then when Pochettino had a full season in charge the Saints finished in 8th place, I can still remember that lethal attacking trio of Lallana, Lambert and Rodriguez from this season.

The Argentine then moved to Tottenham leaving behind some big shoes for Ronald Koeman to fill. The Dutchman stepped up to the task, getting Southampton to 7th and then 6th in his two years with the club, both years managing to get The Saints Europa League football.

But this season under Claude Puel, the south coast side currently find themselves 13th in the league, gaining 12 points from their last 10 games. Possible reasons for this drop could be Southampton’s transfer dealings, their new manager or even the damage that the Europa League sometimes does to teams.
The new boss, the big cheese, el numero uno, Mr Big, The Godfather,
The Bourne Identity, Edward Scissorhands...where am I going with this?
I’ll start by looking into how they’ve gone on in the transfer market. In the Summer, Southampton let go of Victor Wanyama, Sadio Mane and Graziano Pelle. Admittedly losing players of this calibre would have some effect on your side I personally don’t think this is the sole reason for their decline.

Southampton in recent history have had great success in selling players for huge fees and replacing them with players of similar quality for a fraction of the price. In the 15/16 season they sold Schneiderlin for (allegedly) £24 million and Clyne for £12.5 million. These were replaced with Romeu and Clasie, 2 very underrated central midfielders and Cedric Soares, another player who is shockingly underrated.

Similarly in the 14/15 season they let the likes of Lambert (£4 million), Lallana (£25 million) and Luke Shaw (£30 million) go, only to replace them with the likes of Dusan Tadic (£10.9 mil), Graziano Pelle (£8 mil), Sadio Mane (£11.8 mil) and Ryan Bertrand (£10 mil). Some absolute bargains there if ever I’ve seen them! Whoever is in charge of Southampton’s transfers deserves a medal

Now some people may say that their luck has run out but for me they’ve made intelligent signings this season in Redmond and Hojbjerg. I’ve liked Redmond ever since I saw him play for Birmingham in the Europa League a couple of years ago, in my opinion he’s as good as Mane but won’t get perceived as that as he’s English. Hojbjerg on the other hand is unknown to me, looks good from what I’ve seen and could potentially be world class.
~ Sofiane Boufal was another signing but I’ve not seen enough of him to make a decision. I’m sure he’ll be class though ~

The Europa League is the next thing I want to look at. Now I’m one of the people that believe that the Europa League can completely destroy some teams seasons. It happened with Everton last season, Newcastle a couple of years back and it only seems to happen when teams don’t have enough depth in their squad to handle with the added fixtures.

As for Southampton though I don’t think this is the case. With one of the best youth systems in the country and their constant “lack of fear” to use young players in the senior set up, I think The Saints are strong enough to deal with the added pressure of the Europa League.

The last thing I want to review is the manager. Claude Puel came from Ligue 1 after an impressive season last year with OGC Nice, bringing with him a different style of play than Southampton are used to.

I always remember The Saints playing high pressure football, looking to win the ball back as quickly as possible and start another attack. It was a style that was embedded right down to their youth level which again shows why their youth academy has produced so many good players over the years.
~ Side note: it baffles me that clubs have their youth academy play a different style of football to the senior squad. When clubs do this though it shows no clear plan for the future…~

Puel has come in now and has began playing with a much deeper line, inviting pressure only to hit teams on the break. When you use this tactic against the rock and roll football of Liverpool it works...when you use this tactic against the high pressure football that Everton have adopted under’ll get smashed.

For me the difference in tactics from Koeman and Pochettino to Claude Puel is the main factor in Southampton’s drop this season. It’s not that he’s a bad manager, it’s just that he isn’t the right fit for Southampton at this point in time.

So what can the St Mary’s side do to turn their luck around? Well for me they need a new holding midfielder player. I’m guessing most Southampton fans would be happy with who they currently have but last season they were making a lot more interceptions in the middle of the park.
Who would the SOTON fans prefer in their midfield?
Jordy Clasie was making an impressive 2.5 interceptions per game while Victor Wanyama was making an equally impressive 2.3 interceptions per game. This season though Romeu is leading the way in midfield (2.2 per game) whereas the likes of Hojbjerg (1.1) and Clasie (0.9) aren’t quite making the same impact as the holding midfielders last season. This could be down to the new tactic of soaking up pressure.

I also think this may relieve some of the pressure that's on the strikers at the moment. Winning the ball back in midfield and then starting an attack quickly will create more chances for the strikers to work with. And it’s not as Southampton have dreadful strikers.

Shane Long is currently going through a poor spell in front of goal and Jay Rodriguez is looking good but still not the natural goalscorer that The Saints are looking for. For me Charlie Austin is the answer just as long as they can keep him fit. If they were going to sign a striker though, I would suggest Andre Gray from Burnley. Fast, powerful striker who looks lethal given the chances.

Last player they’ll need is a centre back to replace their current captain Jose Fonte. This guy for me is a Southampton legend. He’s a class centre half. To have gone from playing League 1 football to winning the Euro’s with you country in just 7 years is incredible. Even though he’s pissed off a lot of fans trying to force this move I do hope he’s given a big send off.
Love him or hate him he's been class through and through.

But anyways enough about the bad points let's have a look at the good points for Southampton this season! They’re through to the fourth round of the FA Cup facing up against Arsenal, They’re 1-0 up on aggregate against Liverpool in the League Cup semi-final, their youth academy is still firing out wonderkids like McQueen and Sims, they could potentially go ninth in the league if they beat Leicester on Sunday and finally their only 3 points worse off than they were last season…

...Hang on, 3 points worse off? At this time last season they were 12th in the league and still managed to finish 6th? So there might not even be a problem at Southampton? Then why the fuck have I just spent all this time writing this post? God sake…

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Cheers for reading.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Guardiola's Lost His Pep

Today’s post is going to be about the greatest manager in the history of football...who only has 1 tactic which only works when he has eleven of the best players in the world and the gulf in class between his team and every other team in the league is so great he might as well be playing against Sunday League football teams.

Yes of course I’m talking about Pep Guardiola, the “genius” who has been stealing credit for Barcelona’s passing style of play ever since he started his managerial career back in 2007. In his 9 years of being a manager he’s won 6 league titles, 4 domestic titles and 2 Champions League titles...and last night got his arse handed to him after a 4-0 defeat by Everton.
The greatest manager ever? Yeah right...
My biggest question regarding Pep is who’s he won all these titles with? Now I actually called it before he joined City that he would struggle in the Premier League as no club really dominates the league year on year like in Germany (for proof of this please see ‘Managerial Merry-Go-Round’ post). Admittedly Spain has Real Madrid and Atletico as well as Barcelona but you have to say that anyone could’ve won La Liga with that Barcelona team.
~ Seriously anyone! Stuart Pearce, Steve Keane, Alan Irvine...anyone! ~

When you look at the teams he’s inherited you have to wonder how he was ever considered the best. At Barcelona he started life with a top class goalie in Victor Valdes, an experienced Carles Puyol, a creative master Andres Iniesta alongside arguably Spain’s best ever player Xavi, all of which ,barring Valdes had just come back from winning Euro 2008. Add to this two experienced goalscorers in Eto’o and Henry and throw in a 21 year old who would go on to become, in some eyes the best player in world football, Lionel Messi.
~ Side note: give Pep credit though he did bring Busquets up to the full Barcelona team. I’m not a big fan of the holding midfielder but you can’t argue he’s been a mainstay in the heart of the Catalan’s midfield. ~

He then goes onto German powerhouses Bayern Munich in 2013. A side that had been in the Champions League final 3 out of their last 4 years previous to Pep, actually winning it just the season before. Inheriting players such as Robben, Ribery, Kroos, Schweinsteiger, Lahm, Muller, Mandzukic and Nueur. A great side, especially when you have to play against ‘Das Dog und Duck F.C’ most weeks…
Pep Guardiola's win rate with City is currently 59.38%..
Not bad unless compared to his Barcelona (72.47%) or Munich (75.16%) days.
Now he’s finally come crashing down to Earth have to deal with the likes of Otamendi who can’t defend and is just their to kick folk, Fernandinho who is just a worse version of Lucas Leiva, Fernando who is just a worse Fernandinho, Jesus Navas who thinks that having pace is enough to make you world class and Fabian Delph who is only there simply because he’s English…

Not to mention Raheem Sterling who was labelled as Man City’s version of Lionel Messi at the beginning of the season...yeah if Messi had no touch, no strength, couldn’t cross nor shoot then yeah he’s Messi. You’d think if City were trying to reach their English quota they’d at least sign some better English players like Jonjo Shelvey or Wes Brown. At least given a contract extension to Richard Wright.

Now last night must have been a bitter pill to swallow for the Spaniard, losing 4-0 to a seemingly inconsistent Everton side. I have to give credit to Everton as they were phenomenal, the young lads Davies and Holgate need mentions as they dominated players who are considered some of the best in the division. But still when you’re team aren’t performing well you don’t just sit back and accept it as fate…

You don’t just sit there sulking as if there’s nothing more you can do. The players look to you to make a decision, to manage the team. Once that second went in the City manager seemingly lost his pep (see what I did there) and let the game take it’s course…
Is he sulking or thinking hard how to turn the game around?
I personally would have brought on Iheanacho for Sterling instead of Zabaleta, changing the system from 4-2-3-1 to a 4-3-3 with Iheanacho, Aguero and De Bruyne as the attacking 3. Dropping Silva deeper would let him pull the strings in a less crowded environment, possibly pulling either Davies or Barry out of their midfield line. I’d have made this change cause the Argentine wasn’t going to grab any goals but for me Sterling was very poor on the day only playing 1 key pass in 90 minutes according to

If the game still wasn’t going my way I’d have most likely took off De Bruyne. The Belgian made 2 key passes for the Citizens but was almost completely ineffective, especially in the second half. Looking at the subs I’d have probably brought on maybe Kolarov? Good for a set piece and can whip in a half decent cross I suppose. I know my suggestion for De Bruyne for Kolarov isn’t an ideal substitution but frankly Willy Caballero is probably a better winger than Jesus Navas…

Now I understand that City brought Pep in to take them to that next level in the Champions League but frankly at this rate he may need to win it if he wants to even be in tournament next season. The Sky Blues are currently 5th, outside the Champions League spots, 2 points behind Arsenal in 4th.

Now we all know how difficult it is knocking Arsenal out of the top four so City have a mountain to climb just to reach their bare minimum requirement. Not only that but they also have their noisy neighbours, Manchester United fast approaching from the rear, only 2 points off them in 6th. A defeat in City’s next game against high flyers Tottenham could see the Premier Leagues richest club in a mid table scrap for the Europa League.

They’ve got a big round of 16 tie against the current Ligue 1 leaders Monaco and I hope for the City fans’ sake that they improve before this tie. Guardiola needs to make some big signings before then though and I mean big. The likes of Modric or Kroos or Vidal are needed to shore up some sloppy passing from midfield as well as providing workrate that lacking from the likes of Yaya Toure.

Anyways that’s it from me today, you can guarantee that City go on a none stop winning streak from now until the end of the season, winning the League, FA Cup and Champions League in the process. Won’t I look a right twat then.

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Cheers for reading.

Friday, January 13, 2017

They Had Payet. Dimitri Payet.

What an ugly affair this turned out to be eh. I’m guessing most football fans know what I’m talking about but for the small percentage who don’t I’ll fill you in with one sentence; *ahem* Dimitri Payet wants to leave West Ham…
Dimitri Payet joined West Ham back in 2015 helping them reach 7th.
Last term the Frenchman had an absolute stormer of a season, gaining 15 goals and 17 assists in all competitions. He was West Ham’s main creative threat that saw them challenging for a European spot which they eventually got (albeit in the qualifying rounds of the Europa League).

He took this form into the European Championships in France last Summer, scoring some vital (and world class) goals to help his national side reach the final only to be beaten by Fernando Santos’ Portugal side.Now whilst Payet was playing for his country, West Ham were still busy at work bringing in players that would compliment Payet as well as take some of the pressure off his shoulders as being the main man the Hammers rely on.

Feghouli, Nordtveit and Arbeloa were seemed like good free agent signings from top European clubs as well as signing Lanzini on a permanent deal after impressing last year and bringing in Andre Ayew from Swansea for a hulking £20.5 million.

But after poor start to the season, the side in claret and blue found themselves in the relegation places, even at one point conceding 14 goals in just 4 games. Normally teams at least have the excuse of Europa League football for a bad season but West Ham were knocked out in the 2nd qualifying round by Astra Giurgiu.

Now West Ham are 13th in the table and after losing 2-0 at home to Manchester, Bilic is questioning the Frenchman’s commitment to the club. The other day The Irons boss had a ‘clear the air’ meeting with Payet only to find out that he no longer wants to play for West Ham…

Now I’ve read rumours saying he’s being tapped up my other clubs and that he was upset that a bid of £10 million from Marseille was rejected but at the end of the day that does not give him the right to turn his back on the club. I remember him scoring that absolute pearler against Romania in the first game of the Euro’s and crying when he got took off.
An emotional start to Euro 2016.
He knew at that time the year before he was a nobody, was struggling to find form, in-and-out of his national side and now look at him. One of the big hitters for his country, adored all around the world as being one of the most skilled players, and who does he have to thank for this turn around…?

Well you’d think he’d be at least a bit grateful towards West Ham United for playing such a big part in turning his career around but yesterday he showed the players, the manager, the fans and the entire club a complete lack of respect as he refused to play. Bit of a joke when you’re the highest paid player at the club. Fully deserved the £250,000 fine he received for it.

Now I’ve spoken to a couple of Hammers and got a bit of a feel for how they’re thinking right now and it’s clear as daylight that they’re not happy. Some saying they never want to see him in a shirt again, some saying if he changed his mind they’d welcome him back with open arms...none quite going for my suggestion of bringing back Kevin Nolan but hey-ho it’s their loss.

Now I personally didn’t think he was doing that bad at first. Yeah West Ham aren’t doing as well as they did last year but it’s unfair to expect Payet to put in the same level of performances as he did last season. But most Hammers told me he looked bored, unmotivated and just overall tired. Understandable after the Euro’s. Still despite this I thought it my duty to do a little research into how he’d been performing this season.

According to, Payet had an average of 3.9 key passes per game. When compared to some of the best creative players in the league it is quite a surprising stat considering West Ham’s league position. He plays more key passes per game than the likes of Hazard (2.3 per game), De Bruyne (3.1), Silva (2.5), Coutinho (2.5) and even Ozil (2.6).
Payet also makes an average of 2.6 dribbles per game, only beaten by Hazard (4.6).
(De Bruyne 1.2, Silva 1.2, Coutinho 2.5, Ozil 1.3.)
That stat does show that Payet is still carrying the team from a creative standpoint. If he was promised that the weight would be lifted off his shoulders with the new signings you can kinda understand why he may be annoyed.
~ Side note: I can’t stress enough though that what he has done is completely wrong! If you have any issues you need to air it out with the manager like a professional, not refuse to play like a child~

After reading the stats on WhoScored I thought briefly that Bilic has only confronted Payet because he’s worried about losing his job. If that was the case I’m sure he’d have nothing to worry about, he’s a great manager who has a connection with the fans and I’m sure the board know that. But with the fans saying it's his workrate being called into question, that just blew my theory out the water.

Now Payet looks set to leave West Ham. Bilic has said he’s not going in January so the Frenchman will most likely be going in the Summer. West Ham have already rejected a second bid of £20 million from Marseille which in my opinion should have been accepted. Payet is 30, looking for a way out, just let him see out his remaining years where he wants to be. £20 mil for a 30 year old is silly money to reject, although there have been rumours Marseille are willing to go up to £30 million.

The next question on West Ham fans’ minds is who to replace him with? For me they should be looking at in form, creative players. Gylfi Sigurdsson would be a good signing but West ham would more than likely have to pay well over the odds to prise him from Swansea. Conor Hourihane and Alan Judge are creative players from the league below, would be a gamble bringing them up to the Prem but with both of them in their prime there’s no better time to bring them up.

For me though the perfect replacement (well almost perfect) would be Matt Phillips from West Brom. Most people may be thinking ‘fuck off’ but when you look at how he’s been performing for West Brom this season you’ll understand why Tony Pulis’ side are currently 9th in the League.

He’s currently second on the Premier League top assists list, having only 1 less assist than Kevin De Bruyne, is a two footed player with the ability to play on either wing and has formed a lethal partnership with Rondon which could potentially be replicated with Andy Carroll. At 25 I think he’d be an ideal signing as long as the board don’t do their usual “£2.55 and a bag of monster munch” offers.

Anyways the last thing I want to say regarding Payet is that I’m gutted it's come to this. After only 1 season with the Hammers he was already down in the history books as a West Ham and Premier League legend and to spoil it for himself like's painful to see.

I know a few fans will forgive him if he changes his mind and I seriously hope he does, the Premier League is stronger with him in it than without it. My favourite goal of his was that free kick against Palace. He’s the only player I can think of who can kick a ball into row Z and it still end up in the top corner. How does that even happen? Just world class.
He kicks it 10 yard over and 10 yard's it end up in the top corner?!
Hopefully this whole issue is resolved with as little pain as possible, I’m sure Payet will realise his unprofessionalism in the coming weeks and begin to show his commitment once again. Hopefully the fans will forgive him and applaud him as he leaves to see out his years in France. Until then’s gonna be a bumpy ride for Payet.

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Cheers for reading.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

The Greatest 5-a-side Team to Grace Football Ever. Ever!

I know what you’re all thinking; ‘finally The Penalty King is back writing his blog, my life is complete once again…’ and to those people I say ‘I’ve told you before, get out my garden!’. We’ll see how long I last this time.

Anyways onto my main topic today. I, like most people reading this play 5 or 6-a-side. I’m imagining most people’s teams will be better than mine as we are currently bottom of a 6 team league after gaining 3 points from 10 games, really living up to our name of ‘So Bad FC’...

Since my team is so bad it got me thinking of who I would have in my 5-a-side team in an ideal world. So here are my two possible 5-a-side team, one from teams in the top half of the Prem and the other from the bottom half.
~ Side note: in future I may do another of these using football legends, players from different leagues, etc, but for today I am just looking at currently Premier League players. ~

Hugo Lloris & Lee Grant.
Look at me, putting a picture in one of my posts for the first time ever.
First off is the number 1, my position, the goalie. Now I like to consider myself a bit of a well rounded keeper. My catching is ok, my communication is ok, I’m ok shot stopper...but in 5-a-side you don’t really need any of those qualities.

You always find the best keepers in a 5-a-side league are the ones that pull off the most ridiculous saves. The ones where you’ve carved a team, one-on-one with the keeper, put the ball past him but just before it goes over the line he somehow grows a third arm and tips it around the post.

The two keepers I think encapsulate this trait the best has to be Lloris and Grant. Lloris is arguably the best keeper in the league and is up there as one of the best in the world and one of the reasons he’s rated so highly is because he makes ridiculous saves that no human has a right to save.

My other choice, Lee Grant, should have been playing Premier League football years ago. Me being a Wednesday fan I know a lot about him and am ecstatic he’s finally been given a chance in England’s top division. He’s incredibly agile (especially for a 33 year old) and as most people have seen from his Stoke performances has the ability to make world class saves that he has no right getting to.

Defensive Player
Virgil Van Dijk & Ryan Shawcross.
Whoa! Two pictures in the same post. I might need to go lie down with all this excitement going on.
Now as far as I’m concerned every 5-a-side team has at least 1 player who just sits and defends constantly. It’s normally either someone who is about 8ft tall thinking “I might win some header” (even though there’s a head high rule) or it’s just your best player, who is just lazy as fuck. Now admittedly those traits don’t really describe the two players I’ve picked but I must say these two for me are the two of the best out an out defenders in the Premier League.

The Saint’s Dutch centre back, Virgil Van Dijk, is currently one of my favourite defenders. I was adamant that he would be a huge flop when he arrived from Celtic in 2015 and boy has proven me wrong. Very rarely beaten on the floor and in the air, he is a proper old fashioned centre half and I have to say Southampton will be very lucky to keep him the European big dogs come sniffing.

Stoke City captain, Ryan Shawcross, might come as a bit of a surprise to some people but for me this lad is what is needed for this role, just an out-and-out defender. Since joining Stoke all those years ago he’s become the heartbeat of Stoke’s backline, he’s Strong in the air as well as on the deck which would make him a nightmare for the opposition on a 5-a-side pitch.

Work Horse
N’Golo Kante & Mark Noble.
And its a hat trick of pictures. And it only took me 2 years to find out how to add them...
This position for me is the most important in 5-a-side. You need that one player who is will to support the attack when you’re attacking and also have an engine to sprint back when you’re side is defending. I have to say, the one thing that pisses me off more than anything is seeing the “work horse” walking back.

There is always one player in your league who gets to every second ball; everyone says he’s shit but he’s the one just silently going about his game, recovering the ball and just going again.Speed, strength and a good engine are preferred for this position but I have to say the most important trait is intelligence. This player just needs to be able to read a game. This player is essentially going to be a version of the lazy as fuck defender who isn’t actually lazy.

Now people who have read my blog before know I rate N’Golo Kante so highly. For me he was the unsung hero of the Premier League last season and is the only footballer I can think of who can play in a three-man midfield on his own. He’s shown a bit more of his attacking side with Chelsea this season which means I would be mad to leave him out of this team. I was considering James Milner briefly but I feel Kante is just a class above.

Mark Noble is my second choice as a work horse. He’s made a career out of being industrious, winning the ball back and just playing it simple. How this lad has never had an England cap baffles me especially considering the likes of his former team mate Carlton Cole had 3 for the Lions...

The Number 10
Ross Barkley & Robert Snodgrass.
Maybe I should actually be writing important information in these captions, like stats and stuff...
In 5-a-side you rely most of all on your creative players. This player would need to be fast, strong, good touch, good vision, basically the player who can grab a game by the scruff of the neck and carry teams single handedly. My team’s ‘number 10’ is a lad called Drew...and Jesus Christ you can tell when he’s not playing…

My choice for this player from the top half teams was Ross Barkley which might surprise some people as there is a lot of class among other teams e.g. Hazard, De Bruyne, Coutinho, etc. But in my opinion Barkley is a class act. Poor last season in a below-par Martinez side, he’s now putting in some class performances for the Toffee’s and I think his pace, strength and all round creativity would make him lethal on a 5-a-side pitch.

As for the bottom half of the table teams I picked Hull’s Robert Snodgrass. Again this one might be a surprise to some people with the quality in the bottom half; Sigurdsson, Cabaye and even Dimitri Payet. I’ll give credit to Payet, he carried The Hammers last year but this year it looks like the Scot, Snodgrass is the one having to do all the carrying. Not the fastest player in the world but his work rate and creative ability will more than make up for it.
~ Side Note: Wes Hoolahan probably would’ve been here is Norwich were still in the Premier League. I would also like to add that I typed ‘Sigurdsson’ right the first time without even Googling his name. Boom. ~

The Striker
Romelu Lukaku & Jermain Defoe.
Might have a lasagna tonight...I'm starving.
This is it, the last piece of the puzzle. Your main goal threat. The striker. Now for me in 5-a-side your striker just needs 1 of 2 traits. He needs to be either really strong, or really fast. I’ve played against strikers at 5-a-side who couldn’t hit a barn door with a shovel but have the enough strength/pace to get themselves into 20-25 goalscoring opportunities every game (yes my team really is that shit).

Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku was my first choice. It was a tough choice between him and Diego Costa but Lukaku just pipped him as he has strength and pace in abundance. He is criticized at times for not being able to link up with midfielders well enough but like I said before, in 5-a-side that means nothing.

My choice from the bottom half of the table is the Premier League legend that is Jermain Defoe. A striker that would probably have scored twice as many goals if he’d gone to Manchester United or Chelsea or the like. You always get that one player in your league who’s in his 40’s/50’s who’s still banging them in and Defoe is like a Premier League version. Bags of pace which is rare for someone who’s quickly approaching his 52nd birthday. It’ll be a sad day when this lad retires.
And that is it. Please feel free to comment below or Tweet me what your team would be and what you think of my selection.

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Cheers for reading.