Who would win a Premier League five-a-side tournament?
Liverpool and Manchester City may have ruled the Premier League in recent seasons, but would the all-conquering duo be able to reproduce that dominance on a five-a-side pitch?
It’s an intriguing question. And it’s one that we’re unlikely to ever have a concrete answer for unless the solution to finishing the 2019-20 season is a colossal Masters Football style event involving all 20 teams.
If that does happen, then you heard it here first. But until then, here’s our attempt to work out who’d win in a fantasy Premier League five-a-side tournament, complete with a fully filled in tournament bracket. And just to stress, this is based on this writer’s opinion alone.
If we’re doing this properly, that means we need a draw bracket complete with a knockout-type format. Think the Champions League, but better and with a qualification round that involves actual competitive matches.
Our seeding system, based on the current league table, has pitched the bottom eight teams against each other in a bid to reach the main draw, with Southampton, Watford, Aston Villa and West Ham, all getting past their respective opponents.
While the quartet may be near the bottom of the Premier League, they do all boast exciting technical players like Nathan Redmond, Gerard Deulofeu, John McGinn and Manuel Lanzini who would thrive at five-a-side.
Now things start to get heat-up as the supposed big boys enter the fray. There’s no trouble for the likes of Man City, Man United and Leicester, who all breeze through, but some notable names have fallen by the wayside.
The inconsistency of Kepa and the wastefulness of Tammy Abraham sees Chelsea beaten by a Wolves side containing Ruben Neves, Adama Traore and Raul Jimenez in the first minor upset of the day.
Watford and Bournemouth, two sides filled with technical quality, ultimately bow out to a Mesut Ozil-inspired Arsenal and a combination of Alisson and Virgil van Dijk for Liverpool as two more notable names go through.
It’s not to be for Everton, though, who succumb first to the dazzling footwork of Allan Saint-Maximin and then the lottery of penalties as Steve Bruce’s entertainers (really) translate their FA Cup form into five-a-side.
Crystal Palace also march on thanks to the triple threat of Jordan Ayew, Andros Townsend and Wilfried Zaha up-front, with Spurs Jose Mourinho forced to concede that he’s not the special one in this arena.
Fuelled by energy drinks, Rod Stewart has made his way down to the local 5-a-side centre to conduct the quarter-final draw. Unfortunately, this draw is seeded, so his services aren’t required. Sorry, Rod.
First-up it’s Man City v Wolves. This was a close-run thing with Pep Guardiola’s men narrowly coming out on top thanks to Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva. Ederson’s contribution shouldn’t go unnoticed either.
Liverpool also go through to the semi-finals after a battling success against an Arsenal side which reverted to type and let itself down defensively. Mohamed Salah is a little Egyptian devil in smaller sided games.
Newcastle’s brave run also comes to an end against a Man United side inspired by the midfield duo of Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba, while Leicester are also halted by the streetwise brilliance of Crystal Palace.
The Foxes relied heavily on Youri Tielemans and James Maddison throughout the tournament. Jamie Vardy knows where the goal is, but the confines of five-a-side made it difficult for the marksman to create space.
Man City and Liverpool have enjoyed plenty of titanic battles in recent times – both in the Premier League and the Champions League – and usually it’s the Reds who land the odds in the head-to-head battles.
That’s often down to the incredible pressing capabilities of Jurgen Klopp’s side. But in the five-a-side arena, it’s City’s superior technical ability and quick footwork that sees them through to a date with destiny in the final.
With the aforementioned De Bruyne and Silva feeding Aguero, there’s only one winner. On club size and league position the second semi-final could be deemed as a bit of a mismatch.
But while Palace don’t score a lot of goals, they are tight defensively and boast a myriad of tricky forward players who are ideally suited to this format. Unfortunately for them, so too are Man United.
Fernandes, Pogba and Marcus Rashford make for a tricky front three, while the frame of David De Gea and presence of Harry Maguire at the back make for two imposing figures. It’s the Red Devils who squeak through.
You’ve seen the result in the draw bracket above. And could there really be any other winner? City’s pinpoint passing accuracy coupled with their slick movement made them a shoo-in for this five-a-side crown.
Their link-up play and overall technical ability makes them near impossible to beat on an eleven-a-side pitch, so just imagine how devastating they’d be in the confines of a smaller arena with Aguero up-front.
It’s not just that, though. Ederson is more than handy with his feet let alone his hands, while Aymeric Laporte is the perfect Guardiola centre-half. If we didn’t know any better, we’d say Guardiola had been preparing for a Premier League five-a-side tournament all along.
Do you agree with how our tournament panned out? Reckon your team has been harshly treated in our five-a-side fantasy land?
All odds and markets correct as of date of publication.