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Who would make the team sheet in an Avengers XI?

Sunday 22nd April 2018

Over the years there have been countless Avengers. The comic book’s writers rotated through heroes to keep storylines fresh. Even the film franchise has moved characters in and out of the lineup. Of all Marvel’s titles, only the X-Men have seen more heroes come and go. There isn’t an X-Men flick on the horizon, however. Thus, with nothing but time on my hands, I’ve carefully selected an Avengers XI to take the pitch against all comers.

Powers and personality were taken into account when deciding positions. Appearances in films were (sort of) a must. For purposes of this exercise, Captain America: Civil War is being treated as an Avengers movie. Only Mark Ruffalo’s Hulk and Chris Hemsworth’s Thor were absent from the core group of seven, so I’m using my Geek Out of Jail Free card on that one.

Without further preamble, Avengers Assemble!

Manager: Jarvis

I know. You think I’ve screwed up already. Jarvis was a computer program. His function was to do as instructed by Tony Stark, not tell everyone else what to do. That’s Nick Fury’s job.

In the beginning, that’s how it was. Fury managed the team and Jarvis, having been transformed into the android Vision by Ultron in the franchise’s second film, was the goalkeeper.

The problem was Vision was far too polite to marshal the defence. Frustrated with being unable to convince the unflappable AI of the need for a little passion, the SHIELD boss traded places with the mild-mannered machine, ordering him to coordinate the team’s movement from the appropriately named technical area. His duty is to make certain the side keeps its shape, which, by the way, is a 3-4-3. Meanwhile, as is his wont, the Commander liberally employed a specifically explicit word to express his expectations to the rearguard.

Goalkeeper: Nick Fury

That’s right mother-bleep-. I’m between the sticks now. Y’all better get your superpowered asses in line or there’ll be some mother-bleep-in’ changes to all you mother-bleep--!

That’s more like it. Now we’ve got a proper goalkeeper.

Centre Backs: Donald Blake, Steve Rogers, Carol Danvers

I may have forgotten to mention I’ll be using alter egos to fill in the team sheet. If you’re not up to speed with who’s who in that regard, I'll help you catch up. You may also notice the team is co-ed. I’m all about the equality.

So the blond guy with the cane (Blake is it?) looks like he isn’t too quick. The problem is if you try to attack from the left, he’ll just tap that walking stick on the turf and turn into the Mighty Thor. The God of Thunder will put the hammer down on any movement to his side. Plus, now you have to play in the rain. Bonus: Donald Blake is an MD. He can double as the physio when needed.

Maybe the Sheila on the other side will be easier. Except she’s Captain Marvel. Half-alien. Strong. Fast. Can fly. What’s that? How did she make the squad? She hasn’t been in any Marvel movies yet. No, you’re right; she hasn’t. The Captain Marvel flick is scheduled for 2019. Sorry. Geek Out of Jail Free card again.

Moving on, everyone knows the guy in the middle. His secret identity was outed decades ago. Even if he isn’t allowed to bring the shield on the pitch, Captain America is the perfect Avenger to play centrally in a back three. Strong, agile, tactically aware, commanding, he will keep everyone in line and on point without the potty mouth. Even though there are two captains on the pitch, he’s the one who wears the armband.

Right Wing Back: Clint Barton

Another hero who isn’t permitted to bring his accoutrements on the pitch, Hawkeye’s skills nonetheless translate exceedingly well to football. They do for most activities. Remember, he took up golf for a while. Kept shooting 18. His service into the box would be inch-perfect each and every time. Add to that the fact no opponent could afford to foul any Avenger within sight of goal. Doing so would be suicide. Every free kick would find the back of the net. The rumour mill is churning with concern because Hawkeye hasn't appeared in any previews or posters for Infinity War. No matter. He belongs on this team and he's in it.

Left Wing Back: Peter Parker

The Avengers are also happy to promote from the youth team. Parker is young and inexperienced.  He waffles between moments of cockiness and insecurity. Teammates tease he should be the keeper because he can make his own goal. Fury keeps telling him to "get back on the left flank and stop letting everyone bully you, you little mother--bleep--". Yes, he used that word even with the young lad.

When focused, Spiderman is exceptionally strong on the ball. His webwork gets him up and down the left flank with surprising speed. He can stop any attacker in his tracks. As well, his instinct for danger is uncanny. It’s utterly impossible to sneak past him.

Defensive Mid: Bruce Banner

Whenever opponents think they can get away with overloading the middle or pressing high, Cap has two words for them.

Hulk, smash.

The risk of playing Banner is that he goes in the book. If an opponent can bait him into taking a yellow, a second will surely follow. Very few opponents are willing to take matters that far, however. The price is rather steep.

Attacking Mid: Natasha Romanov

Every team would love to have a gifted trequartista pulling the strings. Someone who can find her teammates with incise passing or take defenders on herself when necessary. The Black Widow carries it a step further. Her play on and off the ball is so subtle, defenders who think they have closed her down suddenly find themselves hopelessly out of position. Opponents trying to bring the ball out from the back inevitably play into her hands. Ask Loki (again) how devious she is.

Left Wing: T’Challa

Powerful, fast, an intelligent reader of the game, possessed with an extremely competitive spirit, the King of Wakanda is too good to be shunted out to the flank. He should be leading the line. That's what he would tell you. His one weakness, though, is putting himself before the team. Leading a nation places demands on a hero’s time but the Black Panther will always be marginalised until he makes himself completely available.

Right Wing: Scott Lang

A born thief, Ant-Man is invaluable in a side that presses high to win the ball. He makes an inordinate amount of timely interceptions. Lang will nick the ball right off the feet of a defender trying to work out of the corner. He’s not the type of player Jose Mourinho would want in his lineup, though. The knock against Lang is that he often "disappears" in matches. Opponents can’t take his apparent absence for granted, however. He tends to come up big just when needed. Very big.

Centre Forward: Tony Stark

The billionaire playboy is another talent whose ego hinders his progress. As well, his off-the-pitch antics can be a distraction. At one point or another, he rubs everyone in the team the wrong way, whether it’s T’Challa, Cap, or the Black Widow. Nevertheless, he can be relied upon in critical moments. It’s worth remembering that Iron Man scored the only goal, at the death, in the original Avengers film, breaking through the Chitauri defence to put a nuclear missile in the back of the net. That said, his insistence on eating shawarma before every match is an odd superstition.

Whether this lineup can handle whatever Thanos throws at it in the Infinity War remains to be seen. The rumour mill has also been churning with suggestions that Nick Fury may have a very deep bench for this one. Did he make a signing or two before donning the gloves? We’ll soon find out. Enjoy the movie.

Martin Palazzotto

The former editor of World Football Columns, Martin contributes frequently to Stretty News and is the author of the short story collection strange bOUnce. He has appeared in several other blogs which, sadly, have ceased to exist. He is old and likes to bring out defunct. Although football is his primary passion, the geezer enjoys many sports and pop culture forms. Expect them to intrude upon his meanderings for It's Round and It's White.

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