Welcome to Heroes and Villains, a place where we look back at the Premier League action and try to figure out where our favourite footballers would fit in the storytelling universe. It would be super boring to just list a bunch of people under those two categories, so for this, we will be incorporating more than just the protagonist/antagonist labels.


I DECLARE THEE – KING SALAH

There must be tons of Liverpool supporters that are publically saying things like “there is a lot of the season left” and “we thought we had it when we were 10 points clear of City”. 

I get it. No one wants to look the fool. But at this point, let’s just drop the BS. It would be less annoying if you were bragging about it every day and people were selling black market ‘league-winner’ gear on Etsy. This team can theoretically win the league on Feb 29th, a scenario which will never happen since it would require City to lose all their matches in that time, but still, it is crazy that we can even say that. Essentially, Liverpool just have to win 10 of their remaining 16 matches. Given they haven’t lost yet, it doesn’t seem too much of a challenge.

 I’m not Liverpool fan by any means. In fact, they single-handedly (yes, this is a handball reference to the Champions League final) took away the only opportunity I’ve ever had to win a trophy. Over the last few years even, the Reds have moved into the number one spot in my hate list, even controversially surpassing Arsenal. 

Even though they mainly win because of VAR, I have to admit, and it really pains me to admit it, that this is one of the most impressive squads I’ve ever watched. Virgil Van Dijk is absolutely ridiculous and this dude brought that s*it to United this weekend. This man was worth every single (insert the smallest form of currency in your preferred financial system). 

Mo Salah – holy moly. What is there to say about this guy? Not only does he stop racism, giving away free stuff to those in need and try to cure cancer, he embarrasses opponents on a nightly basis. In the 93rd minute, Salah snuck behind the entire United defence (insert the largest form of currency in your preferred financial system) and poked a beauty past De Gea to give the Reds their second goal. All that is pretty normal stuff for Mo. But what happened next sent Anfield into a state of euphoria. 

Mo ripped his shirt into pieces. He literally tore it off his back. And if you look really closely, you might be able to see him symbolically ripping the contract extension Ole was hoping to receive. (Sorry pal, avoid the tele for the next four hours unless you want to hear how Pochettino is going to fix your team in six months.) This is one of the most iconic pictures I’ve ever seen. If I was Salah, I would print this photo on everything I own. When you came over for dinner, after clearing that last portion of lasagne, you’d see this picture. 

This moment has totally transformed my thoughts on Mo Salah. I thought he was some happy-go-lucky dude with a chubby little belly pouch. Not quite Winnie the Pooh size but more like if Paul Rudd got a perm and had a slight beer gut. But now? Mo is on some action hero level s*it. This photo could very easily have been the movie poster for the movie 300. 

SEE? IT WORKS EXACTLY THE SAME. 

 MOVE OVER, GERARD BUTLER!


Shoot Your Shot

I have watched just one Newcastle match this season. I wanted to die for the entire 90 minutes. Since I watched suffered through Joelinton (HIS ONLY FREAKING GOAL OF THE SEASON) kickstart the destruction of my manager and my beloved Spurs in late August, I have not given a single thought in my brain to Newcastle United football club. It would be fair to say I mostly forgot about their existence on the planet. And besides that graphic that flashed up reminding me that DeAndre Yedlin was on the club during a USMNT friendly (I seriously hope you never have to do this btw), there has been zero reasons to watch Steve Bruce’s lacklustre team. 

Besides having the homeless version of Zac Efron, Aston Villa are another squad you barely need to pay attention to. Dean Smith isn’t winning any awards with his football knowledge anytime soon, so you really aren’t missing much by skipping out on the Birmingham Boys. Although to be fair, I have heard Dean is a very nice guy so I will go easy on him.

So I wasn’t very surprised to look at the scores and see the Magpies down 2- zip or Watford leading Villa at halftime. But in no way was I ready for the twist when I looked at my cell towards the end of regulation.

Major Connor McGregor voice here: “Florian Lejeune? Ezri Konsa? Who the f@*! is that guy?” 

Ok, I know Nathan Ake-lite, Tyrone Mings, got the credit for the goal but Konso did all the work)

In a year with a runaway winner and a pretty boring middle of the pack fighting for a Europa spot, we need a little more of this type of stuff. You gotta love it when a team fights to the absolute last moment, giving everything they have, and coming away with a shocking result. Too often, teams hold back wary of the counter and don’t send everything forward. I’m reminded of my favourite line from the His Dark Material’s trilogy from cowboy Lee Scoresby: “It’d be a shame to die with a bullet left though.”

If you got ‘em, shoot ‘em. You never know what can happen until that final whistle blows.


Frank Lampard’s Mystery Box

Remember in 2015 when The Force Awakens opened in theatres? Sure, it was a blatant rip-off, almost shot for shot, from Episode IV: A New Hope but it still slaps hard. I remember watching the movie, with almost no prior interest in the Star Wars universe, and thinking about how bright the future was with this talented cast. Sure this team of Rey and Poe and Finn lacked experience, but damn did they bring the energy.

I had a similar feeling watching Frank Lampard and his young Chelsea squad in the fall. Despite the pressures of a transfer ban, the teams only signing American Christian Pulisic, the Blues rebounded from a 4-0 thumping by United and racked up some impressive results early on. Mount and Abraham thrashed the competition suffering only two league losses, to City and Liverpool, through December.

And then things got a bit dicey. Chelsea struggled with consistency. December proved a disaster. All of a sudden a team that looked a lock for Champions League football went 3-4. There were some flashes of greatness, like a dominant performance against Spurs and late magic against Arsenal, but also moments that made the fan base question. Much like the divisions amongst fans watching the commentary about the worthiness of the Skywalker legacy in 2017’s The Last Jedi, Chelsea supporters were triggered. 

Now? It’s not that Chelsea isn’t good. It’s what they could have been. Instead of continuing to play top quality football, they are a gigantic question mark each fixture. It’s like when determining the identity for his club, Frank reached out to the most confusing person in storytelling – JJ Abrams. 

JJ Abrams. Where do we begin? Many will recognize the name with his involvement in Cloverfield, the new(er) Star Trek movies, the television program Lost, and 2019’s Rise of Skywalker. What do all of those things have in common? The all started cool and made absolutely no sense by the end. 

You see friends, JJ believes in a storytelling technique called “the mystery box”. In short, he believes that “mystery is more important than knowledge” and “withholding information is better than revealing it”. Instead of doing things that making sense in relation to the character’s motivations, this guy believes it is better to shock you by sticking Jack-in-the-box toys throughout to keep you on your toes. Abrams took a near-flawless formula and unlimited potential from The Force Awakens and destroyed it in The Rise of Skywalker by overthinking, paying too much attention to public demands, and losing sight of the end goal – making a satisfying conclusion that made narrative sense.

This Chelsea squad is the definition of a mystery box. We have no way of predicting what they are going to do each week. They lost to Newcastle and barely hung on to draw a Gunner squad playing with 10 men since the 26th minute. Are there any fans feeling confident that this club can defeat Hull City easily in the FA Cup this week? Yikes. 

The funny thing about The Rise of Skywalker is how much money it is still going to make despite the overwhelmingly negative reviews. I guess it goes to show that success is really only dependent on your closest competitors’ crappy performance. (Yes, that is a shot at United, Wolves, Arsenal, and, especially, Tottenham). 


Until next week, just remember that we can all be a hero. Except you, David Luiz. Though you could have a nice career as a clown after your retirement this year!