In football, as in life, the only certainty is that nothing is certain. From golden goals and video refereeing to 30-minute halves and zero-gravity extra time (one of those might be made up), the landscape that surrounds our favourite sport is ever shifting.
Even things most people regard as immutable turn out not to be. Your club will always exist, unless your club is Wimbledon. The World Cup will take place every fourth summer, except when it won't.
The changes can be hard for traditionalists to swallow, but it could be worse. Take American sports, with their drafts, fly-by-night franchises and craven refusal to allow promotion and relegation between divisions. More pertinently, take the Expansion Draft that took place in the NHL last week.
There are nuances, but essentially a brand-new team – the Vegas Golden Knights – was conjured from thin air and added to the league. Not to replace another team, either: the league just went from 30 members to 31. And to form a squad, the newbies were allowed to simply pick one player from each of their competitors.
Clearly, this would be absolutely unthinkable in football. OR WOULD IT? Join me, ladies and gentlemen, in extending a warm welcome to the Premier League's newest force, the Cornwall Cavaliers...
In the NHL draft, the Golden Knights picked one player from every other team, within certain constraints, ending up with a roster of 30 players. There are six players on the ice at any one time (thanks, Wikipedia!), so that's quite a sizeable squad.
We know that modern football operates on a strict more-is-more philosophy, but to preserve the simplicity of the comparison, the Cavaliers will also take a single player from every other Premier League side, for a squad of 20. We'll leave the weekly rotation to the Devonians and other northern swines.
The default formation in ice hockey is 1-2-3: one goaltender, two defensemen (!) and three forwards. In order to ensure the Golden Knights picked enough players to cover those positions, they had to adhere to a ratio of 3:9:14 across those three broad positions in their draft picks.
To generate a comparable ratio for the Cavaliers, let us employ two ease-of-use stipulations: (1) that midfielders and forwards are grouped together in one category, thus allowing us to swerve confusion over wingers and Dele Alli, and (2) that the Cavs, being newcomers to elite-level football, have more important things to do than experiment with tactics and will therefore be playing with a conventional back four.
With that established, we know that the default formation employed by our team of upstarts, listing the goalkeeper too, will be 1-4-(two or three numbers that add up to six). With heartfelt apologies to Messrs Wilson, Cox et al, we'll call this 1-4-6. Which reminds me: must remember to check whether Luciano Spalletti has any long-forgotten Cornish roots.
The transition from formation ratio to squad ratio in the NHL was a fairly loose one (1:2:3 to 3:9:14), skewed towards the front of the rink. As our football squad is not as big in relative terms, common sense rather than cold mathematics shall be our guide: the formation ratio of 1:4:6 therefore becomes a squad ratio of 2:7:11. Let's just hope those goalkeepers aren't injury prone.
The Golden Knights were not allowed to simply cherry-pick the NHL's best players. No, the other franchises were given the chance to 'protect' their key performers, rendering them unavailable in the Expansion Draft. They had two options in this regard: (1) protect seven forwards, three defensemen and one goaltender, or (2) protect eight outfielders (forwards or defensemen) and one goaltender.
Now it's not all that obvious why anyone would go for option (2), given you're protecting two fewer players. Perhaps this was a good play for those teams with a stockpile of strength either at the front of the rink or the back. But to make things easier in the Premier League draft, we're going to abolish this second, more open-ended option, leaving just a ratio-based protection strategy.
Focussing on option (1), then, NHL teams were able to protect 11 players. The NHL has complex rules on squad size, but the simplified version is that teams can have a maximum of 23 players on their playing roster at any one time. Therefore, sides were able to protect just under half of their players.
The Premier League does have rules governing squad size, but the 25-man limit does not include Under-21 players, of which there are plenty. As such, a fairer yardstick is to look at the number of players each team used in the competition last season. The mean was 27.15 and given that both the median and mode were 27, that looks like the most appropriate number to go with here.
Just under half of that would be 13, but we're going to knock that down to 12. Why? Because the Cavs are only going to have a squad of 20 at the end of this, so will be at a disadvantage against squads with an average of 27 players (unlike the Golden Knights, who drafted more players than the maximum squad limit).
The NHL transition from formation ratio to protection ratio was 1:2:3 to 1:3:7. Two protection ratios present themselves for the Premier League: 1:3:8 and 1:4:7. Given that a number of Premier League teams play five at the back, and that we're counting wing-backs as defenders, the latter looks like the way to go.
(Note: the NHL has a couple of further rules about protected lists, involving "No Movement" contract clauses and certain youngsters who are exempt. I'm ignoring these because I want to go outside today.)
Player exposure requirements
Bad news for the Cavaliers' Premier League rivals: you can't just protect all of your top players. In the NHL Expansion Draft there were rules that meant teams had to 'expose' certain players to the market.
Each team had to expose: (1) a defenseman who played in 40 games the previous season or 70 in the previous two combined, (2) two forwards who met that sime criterion, and (3) something about goaltenders that I didn't really understand. Players with long-term injuries (60 consecutive games missed or a doctor's note – I'm paraphrasing here) could NOT be used to meet these requirements.
In short, ignoring the goalkeeper thing, each side had to put three semi-regular first-teamers into the mix. The NHL regular season is 82 games in length (we'll ignore the play-offs), so these were players who had appeared in just under half of their teams' games in the 2016/17 season, or a slightly smaller proportion over two years.
We'll leave the two-season average for the Premier League version and stipulate that the relevant players must have played 18 league matches last term. In fact, to root out the perennial five-minute men, we shall say that they have to have STARTED 18 matches. Or, if it's a newly promoted team, 22 Championship games.
Maintaining the NHL ratio (which seems to make sense in this case given the 1:4:6 formation breakdown we're assuming for the Cavs), this means that each other Premier League team must expose one defender and two midfielders/forwards who started at least 18 games last season (22 if they were in the Championship).
(Another disclaimer: we're going on squads as they are at the time of writing, only counting officially announced players. There are no restrictions relating to new signings, youngsters and so on.)
Who gets protected?
Rather than just choosing the protected players in house, we put the rules above to unofficial representatives of each Premier League club where possible. This, of course, was to guarantee impartiality. Well, complete partiality, really, but nothing that would unfairly favour the Cavaliers.
For the record, these definitely were not just the first friends, colleagues and acquaintances I thought of when looking at the empty pre-season table, and they all, without exception, understood my explanation of the draft without me having to repeat/clarify any part of it in a series of increasingly curt follow-up messages over the 48 hours that followed my initial batch email.
Protected: Petr Cech, Laurent Koscielny, Rob Holding, Nacho Monreal, Hector Bellerin, Granit Xhaka, Aaron Ramsey, Alex Iwobi, Santi Cazorla, Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez, Olivier Giroud
Exposed regulars: Shkodran Mustafi, Francis Coquelin, Theo Walcott
Other notable unprotected: David Ospina, Sead Kolasinac, Gabriel, Per Mertesacker, Kieran Gibbs, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Danny Welbeck
Laurent Koscielny is a shoo-in for protection, Nacho Monreal had a super season and Hector Bellerin can become one of Europe's best full-backs. So on that basis, Shkodran Mustafi gets exposed despite being a dependable player. Francis Coquelin joins him on the list and the last place goes to Theo Walcott rather than Alex Iwobi or Granit Xhaka, both of whom have room to improve.
Protected: Asmir Begovic, Steve Cook, Charlie Daniels, Adam Smith, Tyrone Mings, Harry Arter, Ryan Fraser, Lewis Cook, Marc Pugh, Joshua King, Benik Afobe, Callum Wilson
Exposed regulars: Simon Francis, Andrew Surman, Junior Stanislas
Other notable unprotected: Artur Boruc, Dan Gosling, Jordon Ibe
Simon Francis made a few howling errors last term so is the one regular defender to be exposed. Andrew Surman and Junior Stanislas were also fairly obvious choices given the other options were Harry Arter, Joshua King and Ryan Fraser.
Brighton – Ben Cove, Unibet
Protected: Matt Ryan, Lewis Dunk, Shane Duffy, Connor Goldson, Liam Rosenior, Dale Stephens, Anthony Knockheart, Glenn Murray, Sam Baldock, Solly March, Beram Kayal, Pascal Gross
Exposed regulars: Bruno, Steve Sidwell, Jiri Skalak
Other notable unprotected: Gaetan Bong, Jamie Murphy, Tomer Hemed, Oliver Norwood
"It's with a heavy heart that I place 36-year-old captain Bruno on the unprotected list, but his lack of speed on the turn could prove costly in the top flight. Cameroon international Gaetan Bong has flattered to deceive, while wingers Jiri Skalak and Jamie Murphy don't possess the technical ability to trouble defences at this level."
Burnley – Tyrone Marshall, Lancashire Telegraph
Protected: Tom Heaton, Stephen Ward, Michael Keane, Ben Mee, James Tarkowski, Jeff Hendrick, Scott Arfield, Robbie Brady, Johann Berg Gudmundsson, Andre Gray, Sam Vokes, Ashley Barnes
Exposed regulars: Matt Lowton, George Boyd, Dean Marney
Other notable unprotected: Steven Defour, Ashley Westwood
"The goalkeeper and defence picked itself all season so it’s fairly obvious who to protect, with Matt Lowton the unfortunate member of the back four. Only seven midfielders and attackers started 18 games for Burnley, so George Boyd and Dean Marney miss out on protection. Boyd will fall below Robbie Brady and Johann Berg Gudmundsson in the pecking order, while Marney is 33 and crocked."
Chelsea – Naz Kinsella, Goal.com
Protected: Thibaut Courtois, Cesar Azpilicueta, David Luiz, Victor Moses, Marcos Alonso, Eden Hazard, N'Golo Kante, Willian, Pedro, Cesc Fabregas, Michy Batshuayi, Tammy Abraham
Exposed regulars: Gary Cahill, Nemanja Matic, Diego Costa
Other notable unprotected: Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Nathaniel Chalobah Bertrand Traore
"Chelsea's transfer business would have to see them expose a key cog in the title winning machine, especially at the back. It would probably be wise to offload Diego Costa, who caused a reasonable amount of turmoil at the club last season, and Nemanja Matic."
Crystal Palace – Jim Daly, Five Year Plan fanzine
Protected: Julian Speroni, James Tomkins, Patrick van Aanholt, Scott Dann, Martin Kelly, Wilf Zaha, Christian Benteke, Yohan Cabaye, Luka Milivojevic, Jason Puncheon, Connor Wickham, Sullay Kaikai
Exposed regulars: Joel Ward, James McArthur, Andros Townsend
Other notable unprotected: Wayne Hennessey, Damien Delaney, Jeffrey Schlupp
"This has been incredibly confusing. To be honest, if I could have picked Wilf Zaha 12 times here, I would have."
Protected: Jordan Pickford, Seamus Coleman, Leighton Baines, Ashley Williams, Mason Holgate, Tom Davies, Idrissa Gueye, Davy Klaassen, Yannick Bolasie, Ross Barkley, Romelu Lukaku, Ademola Lookman
Exposed regulars: Phil Jagielka, Gareth Barry, Kevin Mirallas
Other notable unprotected: Maarten Stekelenburg, Ramiro Funes Mori, James McCarthy
Phil Jagielka and Gareth Barry are obvious choices for the exposed list due because retirement is looming. Of the remaining players who started 18 games, the only two realistic options were Ross Barkley and Kevin Mirallas. The former's future at Goodison Park is uncertain, but he's a brilliant player on his day and worth more than Mirallas.
Huddersfield – Sivan John, helpful Twitter person
Protected: Danny Ward, Tommy Smith, Christopher Schindler, Michael Hefele, Martin Cranie, Aaron Mooy, Elias Kachunga, Jonothan Hogg, Isiah Brown, Kasey Palmer, Laurent Depoitre, Philip Billing
Exposed regulars: Chris Lowe, Nahki Wells, Rajiv Van La Parra
"This was a tough choice considering we have only made one signing and several of our key starters were on loan with us last season. Chris Lowe is the unlucky man in defence because I wish my protect the first-choice centre-back pairing. Nahki Wells and Rajiv Van La Parra are the ones I'm letting go further forward; we have already brought Laurent Depoitre and I'm sure the club will look into more reinforcement in the coming months."
Protected: Kasper Schmeichel, Robert Huth, Christian Fuchs, Harry Maguire, Ben Chilwell, Danny Drinkwater, Wilfred Ndidi, Demarai Gray, Tom Lawrence, Riyad Mahrez, Jamie Vardy, Islam Slimani
Exposed regulars: Wes Morgan, Marc Albrighton, Shinji Okazaki
Other notable unprotected: Danny Simpson, Yohan Benalouane, Andy King
Wes Morgan's age works against him at the back, with new addition Harry Maguire afforded protection along with the promising Ben Chilwell. In midfield and attack, Marc Albrighton and Shinji Okazaki miss out, with Danny Drinkwater, Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez the only three others who made 18 starts.
Liverpool – Jim Boardman, Anfield Road
Protected: Simon Mignolet, Dejan Lovren, Joel Matip, Nathaniel Clyne, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Sadio Mane, Philippe Coutinho, Roberto Firmino, Adam Lallana, Georginio Wijnaldum, Mo Salah, Divock Origi
Exposed regulars: James Milner, Jordan Henderson, Emre Can
Other notable unprotected: Loris Karius, Alberto Moreno, Ragnar Klavan, Lucas Leiva, Daniel Sturridge
"There was a temptation to protect promising youngsters over established names, which is why Trent Alexander-Arnold got the nod over James Milner in defence. No explanation needed for protecting Sadio Mane, Philippe Coutinho, Roberto Firmino and Adam Lallana but Daniel Sturridge and Jordan Henderson’s injury woes meant they missed out. Emre Can is the unlucky odd man out due to the 18-starts rule."
Manchester City – Will Unwin, ITV Sport
Protected: Ederson, Vincent Kompany, Nicolas Otamendi, John Stones, Pablo Maffeo, Fernandinho, Ilkay Gundogan, David Silva, Kevin De Bruyne, Sergio Aguero, Gabriel Jesus, Leroy Sane
Exposed regulars: Aleksandr Kolarov, Yaya Toure, Raheem Sterling
Other notable unprotected: Joe Hart, Claudio Bravo, Bernardo Silva
"It's easy to select the goalkeeper as Claudio Bravo borders on incompetent and Joe Hart will never play for the club. City only have four senior defenders currently and Aleksandr Kolarov is by far the worst. Leaving out some of City's attackers was difficult but Raheem Sterling remains inconsistent while Yaya Toure is unlikely to complete a full season in the starting XI. I'll also back David over Bernardo due to longevity."
Manchester United – Alexander Netherton, freelance agitator
Protected: David De Gea, Antonio Valencia, Eric Bailly, Timothy Fosu-Mensah, Victor Lindelof, Paul Pogba, Juan Mata, Marcus Rashford, Ander Herrera, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Jesse Lingard, Ashley Young
Exposed regulars: Daley Blind, Anthony Martial, Michael Carrick
Other notable unprotected: Sergio Romero, Matteo Darmian, Chris Smalling, Phil Jones, Wayne Rooney, Luke Shaw, Marouane Fellaini
"Looking at United's squad, it's easier to think of players you wouldn't want to protect. Zlatan Ibrahimovic would have been protected had he stayed for another season, but David de Gea, Paul Pogba and Marcus Rashford are the only players that United actually need to keep hold of."
Newcastle – Tom Bridgen, childhood friend
Protected: Rob Elliot, Jamaal Lascelles, DeAndre Yedlin, Chancel Mbemba, Ciaran Clark, Jonjo Shelvey, Mo Diame, Isaac Hayden, Christian Atsu, Matt Ritchie, Ayoze Perez, Dwight Gayle
Exposed regulars: Paul Dummett, Jack Colback, Yoan Goufrann
Other notable unprotected: Tim Krul, Karl Darlow, Siem de Jong, Daryl Murphy, Aleksandar Mitrovic
"Though a hard worker in the centre of midfield, the premier league quality of Mo Diame, Jonjo Shelvey and Isaac Hayden sees Jack Colback give way. DeAndre Yedlin's speed, Ciaran Clark's experience and Jamaal Lascelles' presence means Paul Dummett is up for grabs. Whilst Yoan Gouffran is likeable and has a goal in him, Matt Ritchie and Christian Atsu are a step up."
Southampton – Rob Burnett, former Mirror online sports editor
Protected: Fraser Forster, Cedric Soares, Virgil van Dijk, Ryan Bertrand, Jack Stephens, Dusan Tadic, Oriol Romeu, Nathan Redmond, Manolo Gabbiadini, Shane Long, Jay Rodriguez, Charlie Austin
Exposed regulars: Maya Yoshida, James Ward-Prowse, Steven Davis
Other notable unprotected: Jordy Clasie, Sofiane Boufal, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg
"Maya Yoshida is clearly not a better player than Virgil van Dijk, Ryan Bertrand or Cedric Soares, and Jack Stephens has youth and potential on his side, so Maya has to go. There is also no room at the inn – and I say this with a very heavy heart – for James Ward-Prowse or Steven Davis. JWP is a great academy product but for someone with such brilliant dead ball ability, he fails to make it count for anything far too often. Davis' all-action displays in midfield are popular with fans, but Dusan Tadic, Oriol Romeu and Nathan Redmond all deliver more."
Protected: Jack Butland, Erik Pieters, Ryan Shawcross, Bruno Martins Indi, Glen Johnson, Charlie Adam, Giannelli Imbula, Darren Fletcher, Xherdan Shaqiri, Ramadan Sobhi, Bojan, Marko Arnautovic, Saido Berahino
Exposed regulars: Geoff Cameron, Glenn Whelan, Joe Allen
Other notable unprotected: Lee Grant, Peter Crouch
There's a bit of luck in defence: Geoff Cameron just sneaks over the 18-start threshold, so all the first-choice back four can be protected. But it's tougher further forward, with one of Joe Allen, Marko Arnautovic and Xherdan Shaqiri needing to be exposed. The Welshman is the unlucky man.
Swansea – Steven Carroll, SOS fanzine
Protected: Lukasz Fabianski, Alfie Mawson, Martin Olsson, Federico Fernandez, Angel Rangel, Gylfi Sigurdsson, Fernando Llorente, Leon Britton, Tom Carroll, Leroy Fer, Jordan Ayew, Luciano Narsingh
Exposed regulars: Kyle Naughton, Jack Cork, Wayne Routledge
Other notable unprotected: Jordi Amat, Ki Sung-Yueng, Bafetimbi Gomis
"This was a struggle – there were only around seven or eight that I definitely want to protect after an underwhelming season. Kyle Naughton, Jack Cork and Wayne Routledge are not protected because they all flattered to deceive last season. Many others did too, but those three started over 18 games last term and should be back-up at best."
Tottenham – Dan Fitch, TottenhamBlog
Protected: Hugo Lloris, Toby Alderweireld, Jan Vertonghen, Danny Rose, Kieran Trippier, Victor Wanyama, Eric Dier, Harry Winks, Erik Lamela, Dele Alli, Christian Eriksen, Harry Kane
Exposed regulars: Kyle Walker, Mouse Dembele, Heung-Min Son
Other notable unprotected: Michel Vorm, Ben Davies, Vincent Janssen
"The decision over which defender to cull was an easy one, as us Spurs fans have mentally prepared ourselves for the real-life loss of Kyle Walker this summer. But picking the midfielders and attackers to give up made Sophie’s Choice seem like a simple decision. Eventually I went for Heung-Min Son, while the persistent injuries of Mousa Dembele last season saw me fling him onto the scrapheap, despite his brilliance."
Watford – Mike Parkin, From the Rookery End podcast
Protected: Heurelho Gomes, Sebastian Prodl, Jose Holebas, Daryl Janmaat, Christian Kabasele, Abdoulaye Doucoure, Troy Deeney, Will Hughes, Isaac Success, Roberto Pereyra, Michael Folivi
Exposed regulars: Younes Kaboul, Nordin Amrabat, Etienne Capoue
Other notable unprotected: Costel Pantilimon, Miguel Britos, Tom Cleverley, Valon Behrami
"Young striker Michael Folivi is afforded protection despite his limited first-team exposure; his raw pace and talent make him one for the future. Younes Kaboul was a regular feature in the defensive unit, but suffered from all too frequent lapses of concentration, while winger Nordin Amrabat threatened plenty but delivered little. Etienne Capoue remains one of the most talented players on the Watford squad, but is prone to lengthy spells of poor form."
Protected: Ben Foster, Allan Nyom, Jonny Evans, Craig Dawson, Chris Brunt, Jake Livermore, James Morrison, Sam Field, James McClean, Matt Phillips, Salomon Rondon, Jonathan Leko
Exposed regulars: Gareth McAuley, Claudio Yacob, Nacer Chadli
Other notable exposed: James McClean, Hal Robson-Kanu
Gareth McAuley doesn't get protected because he's 37, while only five midfielders/attackers made 18 starts and are still at the club. Claudio Yacob misses out and it was a coin toss between Nacer Chadli and Matt Phillips.
Protected: Adrian, Jose Fonte, Aaron Cresswell, Winston Reid, Sam Byram, Mark Noble, Sofiane Feghouli, Manuel Lanzini, Ryan Snodgrass, Michael Antonio, Andre Ayew, Andy Carroll
Exposed regulars: James Collins, Pedro Obiang, Cheikhou Kouyate
Other notable exposed: Pablo Zabaleta, Angelo Ogbonna
With so many injuries last season, not many players made it to the 18-start mark. That means a key man has to be exposed: Cheikhou Kouyate is the fall guy, with Mark Noble too much of a club legend, Manuel Lanzini too classy and Michail Antonio a one-man attacking arsenal.
Here goes nothing, then. First comes the obvious question about selection strategy: do we raid the top teams for the best players out there regardless of position and figure the rest out later (this would probably leave the Cavs with quite an imbalanced squad) or adopt a more careful approach, spreading the gold dust throughout, even if it means missing out on some glamorous names?
Cornish pragmatism dictates that a balance must be struck between the two. So the Cavaliers will start with a couple of major names (which, looking at the list of players available, will likely be in the midfield/attack category) before easing into the rest of the selection process, filling up the remaining positions.
Our first pick should, logically, be the best Premier League player who is not protected. That looks very much like Diego Costa (Chelsea), a proven performer at this level and surely the perfect focal point in the final third. That means forgoing Gary Cahill and Nemanja Matic, but so be it.
Two more players of undoubted quality also demand to be snapped up for our midfield/attack at the outset. The first is Emre Can (Liverpool), one of two fantastic options kindly made available by our friends at Anfield. The German just edges out Jordan Henderson due to the latter's ongoing injury troubles and the age difference of four years between the pair.
Joining him is one of the most exciting young talents in Europe, Bernardo Silva (Manchester City). The 22-year-old was the victim of overcrowding in the City attack when it came to protection from the draft, but having shone by the seaside at Monaco, he can run matches for the Cavaliers for years to come.
So that's our first three picks in the bag. Predictably, they're all in midfield/attack, so it's already time to start thinking about filling up the other two categories. To do so, we first turn to some of the other Premier League bit hitters in search of some surplus quality.
Kyle Walker (Tottenham), one of the best full-backs in the division, is a welcome addition from rich pickings at Spurs. Mousa Dembele and Heung-Min Son were also in our thinking, but the expectation, having glanced through the player lists, is that those central midfield and winger roles will be easier to fill with players from clubs further down the Premier League table.
That line of thinking resurfaces when we look at the options at the Emirates and Old Trafford. From a wealth of handy options, Shkodran Mustafi (Arsenal) is our pick from Arsene Wenger's squad, giving us our first centre-back – and a very good one at that. Daley Blind (Manchester United) gets the nod over Chris Smalling due to his versatility – useful in a squad with only seven defenders – and the fact that he is fully in control of his limbs at most times. Michael Carrick (age), Anthony Martial (inconsistency) and Wayne Rooney (existential doom) miss out.
In cherry-picking those players from the top six clubs, we have already deprived ourselves of most of the good goalkeeping options out there. With no players being exposed in that position (that'll be the rule I couldn't be bothered to properly decipher – this is my bed and I'm now lying in it), we're reduced to scrabbling about for the best back-ups, and already Sergio Romero, David Ospina, Michel Vorm, Joe Hart and Claudio Bravo are off the table.
Ideally, the goalkeepers we do go for won't deprive us of any great outfield players. Which brings a couple of decent options into focus. Tim Krul (Newcastle) has been struggling with injuries and has had a couple of unfruitful loans back to the Netherlands, but we'll back the healing hands of the Cornish physios to restore some of the old lustre. If he does continue to struggle, Lee Grant (Stoke) has previous for standing in for months at a time and is a safe pair of hands in every sense.
Some players present themselves as obvious selections for the simple reason that there are no other attractive options available at their clubs. This is the case with Cheikhou Kouyate (West Ham), Ashley Westwood (Burnley) and Etienne Capoue (Watford), who bolster our central midfield options nicely alongside Can. Kouyate can play at the back when required, Westwood is handy passer of the ball and Capoue is a wildcard if nothing else.
Out wide, we can add a pair of international team-mates in Kevin Mirallas (Everton) and Nacer Chadli (West Brom). Both are on the inconsistent side but can trouble the best defenders on their day, while Andros Townsend (Crystal Palace), the poor man's Arjen Robben, can always be relied upon to take seven or eight shots from 30 yards out if a goal is required.
Again, the defence needs some attention. Two reliable performers from midtable, Danny Simpson (Leicester) and Maya Yoshida (Southampton), can be added to the fray, with the alternatives from both of their teams somewhat underwhelming. The same is certainly true of Simon Francis (Bournemouth), who is extra filler at centre-back.
We're yet to find back-up for Costa in attack, so we turn to the Liberty Stadium for a left-field selection. Bafetimbi Gomis (Swansea) had a fine season on loan at Marseille in 2016/17, scoring 20 league goals, so looks a more-than-competent back-up for our main man.
Two promoted sides remain. Chris Lowe (Huddersfield), a regular for the Terriers in the Championship and a synthpop legend to boot, conveniently fills the vacant spot for a back-up left-back, while Tomer Hemed (Brighton) can be our third-choice striker and water boy.
Goalkeepers: Tim Krul, Lee Grant
Defenders: Kyle Walker, Shkodran Mustafi, Daley Blind, Maya Yoshida, Danny Simpson, Simon Francis, Chris Lowe
Midfielders/attackers: Emre Can, Ashley Westwood, Etienne Capoue, Cheikhou Kouyate, Bernardo Silva, Nacer Chadli, Kevin Mirallas, Andros Townsend, Diego Costa, Bafetimbi Gomis, Tomer Hemed
And here they are with squad numbers, because obviously:
1. Tim Krul 2. Kyle Walker 3. Daley Blind 4. Shkodran Mustafi 5. Maya Yoshida 6. Emre Can 7. Kevin Mirallas 8. Cheikhou Kouyate 9. Diego Costa 10. Bernardo Silva 11. Andros Townsend 12. Danny Simpson 13. Lee Grant 14. Ashley Westwood 15. Bafetimbi Gomis 16. Simon Francis 17. Chris Lowe 18. Etienne Capoue 19. Nacer Chadli 20. Tomer Hemed
The Cornwall Cavaliers' first-choice XI
You know what? That's not actually a bad side. A bit thrown-together, perhaps, but then that was part of the brief. Perhaps this is just my Cornish bravado talking, but I think this team would do reasonably well in a 21-team Premier League... probably not European-places well, but definitely safe-by-mid-April well.
Beyond that, there is probably something to be said about the logistical complexity of American sports, with their franchises, drafts and expansions. Really, the most eloquent argument I can present is that this article is now 4,700 words long. Which I'm sure you'll agree is too long.
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