Like most things in American pop culture, I’m a full year behind on this, and I know it. But I had the Popeye’s Chicken Sandwich for the first time ever yesterday. I know, I know — it’s not entirely my fault — the nearest Popeye’s is a good 40 miles away from my location, so I have to make a special trip to go do it, and try convincing your spouse that you need to drive 45 minutes each way this weekend for a damn chicken sandwich. I mean, I probably should’ve done so before now anyway, but look, you choose your battles, right?
On Sunday I took my kids for a socially-distant outdoor Father’s Day day-trip, and there was a Popeye’s at that location. It was my daughter’s idea to go. It was the best idea she’s ever had.
This was a life affirming meal, especially in the middle of a global pandemic that has already claimed over 100,000 lives in this country. There’s no way I’ll allow humanity to be wiped out by a novel viral infection — who would be left to make this chicken sandwich?
So the theme for today’s player ratings came easily enough, and I’m sure by now you’ve guessed what’s getting the top spot. Argue about the rest of the ratings, whatever. I’m right at the very least about the five-star category and you can’t convince me otherwise. Haters gonna hate, and I can’t hate this chicken.
Here are your player ratings to the theme of fast food chicken sandwiches.
5 stars: Popeye’s
The thing about the Popeye’s sandwich isn’t just the crust, which is crunchy and seasoned perfectly, or the chicken itself which is succulent and juicy white breast meat all the way through, or even the bun, which is brioche and pillow soft but with enough heft to stand up to the breading. It’s the pickles. The pickles are HUGE and THICK and TANGY. Other chicken sandwiches skimp on the pickles or go low-quality, so you may get a bunch but they’re substandard. Popeye’s nails the pickles, and that propels this from just a great meal to omg I will never stop eating this ever.
No Tottenham players were as good as the Popeye’s sandwich. None of them could be. Except Sonny, Sonny could be. But he wasn’t on Friday.
4.5 stars: Wendy’s Spicy Chicken
This is the only spicy chicken on this list, and some may call that cheating. After all, the Wendy’s homestyle chicken sandwich is fine, but it’s nothing spectacular. But the Spice in the Spicy Chicken elevates the entire sandwich greatly — it’s moderately hot, but not melt-your-face-off, and that extra peppery kick is exactly what it needs. The coating is less crunchy than others on this list, but the mayo is solid and the leaf lettuce and tomato are nice touches and cool the heat just the perfect amount. I love this sandwich. Before Popeye’s, I’d have stanned this as the consistent best chicken sandwich of any major chain.
Hugo Lloris (Community — 4.5): One of the best Spurs performers on the day, Hugo had one great save and one spectacular save to keep United out. His distribution was also very good. A fine day at the office.
Steven Bergwijn (Community — 4.0): Stevie was outstanding. He’s fast, good with the ball at his feet, smart, and absolutely rocketed his goal into the net, making Harry Maguire look silly in the process. He also was good with his distribution as evident by his lovely cross to the head of Son in the first half that should’ve made it 2-0 if not for a fine De Gea save.
4 stars: Chick-fil-A Chicken Sandich
Look, I’m not especially fond of Chick-fil-A overall, but I am pretty damn fond of their chicken. It’s kind of amazing that they can get that much flavor out of what’s basically just a bun, a piece of chicken, and two measly pickles. It’s delicious. But honestly, it’s that stupid pickle that puts it here and not higher on this list — two tiny pickles just won’t cut it, Chick-fil-A. I can (sometimes, see below) do without mayo, but I need that vinegary tang from the pickle. Stop being pickle-misers. And get a better bun that doesn’t turn to mush. Oh, and also open on Sunday. That said, I’ll still eat three of these, given the opportunity.
Son Heung-Min (Community — 3.0): I thought Sonny looked sharp and bright, especially early on. Looked good going forward and worked hard, though he tired late in the game. Had a lovely header that on another day might have found the back of the net. Should’ve moved up top in place of Kane late on, but you can’t have everything I guess.
3.5 stars: KFC Crispy Colonel
You’d think, being the pre-eminent fried chicken establishment in these here United States of America, that KFC would have a knock-em-dead chicken sandwich already in the pipe. So it’s confusing and a little baffling just how bad most of their chicken sandwiches actually are. The Crispy Colonel is the exception. It’s more like their fried chicken with a crispy, almost tooth-shatteringly crisp crust. What sets this apart from its competitors is the choice of sauce you can put on your chicken to customize it to the flavor profile you like. That’s neat. Still not as good as Popeye’s, though.
Davinson Sanchez (Community — 3.5): One of the expected starters in central defense, Davi looked solid and defended well against a high-powered United attack. Had a few nice tracking runs and tackles/blocks on Rashford over the course of the match.
Ben Davies (Community — 3.5): Perhaps the biggest surprise performance of the match. I didn’t expect much from Ben, but he stepped up and put in a very solid defensive performance, keeping James in check.
Eric Dier (Community — 3.0): Dier had a really nice match overall, so it’s a pity that he conceded the penalty that led to the draw. Pogba’s a load to handle in the best of circumstances and the penalty was suuuuuper soft. Maybe he could’ve done better, but I don’t fault him too much. The fact that he was as solid as he was in central defense was encouraging.
Moussa Sissoko (Community — 3.5): A workman-like effort that was actually pretty good in Mourinho’s defensive tactics, but he wasn’t very effective in progressing the ball upfield. A situation where his athleticism served him well and I wonder how he’d do beside a more creative passer like Ndombele.
3 stars: Arby’s Buttermilk Crispy Chicken Sandwich
I know, you don’t go to Arby’s for chicken, you go for the monster-sized shaved beef sandwiches, preferably smothered with cheese and Horsey sauce. But their chicken offering is cromulent. The patty is obviously pre-frozen and won’t hit the high notes, but the breading is serviceable and the toppings are a good compliment to the flavor. It’s not a sandwich I’ll seek out on most occasions, but it’s a perfectly acceptable chicken sandwich, a solid 3-star meal.
Serge Aurier (Community — 3.0): Serge didn’t get forward like he usually does because Mourinho’s tactics demanded more of a defensive role, and he was pretty solid in that role. Had a couple of minor “oops” moments and got lost on defense on occasion but nothing too egregious.
Erik Lamela (Community — 3.5): Slotted into the 10 in the absence of Dele and was overall a decent, murdery presence in midfield. Was trying things, even if it didn’t come off and had a few gloriously shitheady moments. Tired pretty quickly in the 2nd half. He’s better as an impact sub, but I wasn’t as down on his performance as many were.
Jose Mourinho (Community — 3.0): A vintage Mourinho defensive performance. This is pretty much the way you expect Mou’s teams to play. You may not LIKE it, but it was at least a cromulent tactical plan, executed decently well, and undone by a cheap, soft penalty. But yes, feel free to ding him for only using two subs (though you should also read his FULL comments on his rationale, which makes a bit more sense).
2.5 stars: Culver’s Crispy Chicken Sandwich
Culver’s makes a damn fine burger, so their chicken should be equally good, right? Well... kinda. Like Chick-fil-A, they serve their chicken without any sauce, and also like Chick-fil-A, the chicken has a nice flavor. However, unlike Chick-fil-A, this is a chicken that really REALLY needs sauce. The tomato and lettuce that comes with it is fine, but it’s not enough rescue what is a pretty dry breast of bird. Yes, you can order it with mayo and that helps, but these are chicken ratings with INTEGRITY, dammit, and special ordering is cheating. Sorry, Culver’s.
Harry Winks (Community — 3.0): Still a defensive sieve, and hung Eric Dier out to dry defensively for United’s goal. Didn’t seem to communicate well with Sissoko as both seemed hesitant as to whether they were the one who was supposed to progress the ball. This time, Winksy didn’t even have a high pass completion percentage to hang his hat on.
Gio Lo Celso (Community — 3.0): Didn’t really have time to make much of an impact, but also didn’t make any kind of an impact with the time that he did have. Would like to see him start in a more natural position vs. West Ham.
2 stars: McDonald’s McChicken Sandwich
Look, there was a period in the Before Times when this was just about the only chicken sandwich you could get, and back then we thought it was decent. But it really isn’t. I mean, it’s basically a giant McNugget, and if you like that kind of thing then fine, I won’t judge you, vaya con dios. It’s also $1 and for a dollar that places it on the positive end of the cost-benefit spectrum. You can get worse chicken sandwiches, but not for one buck. Still, let’s not pretend that this is actually a GOOD chicken sandwich. It’s just a good $1 chicken sandwich. so 2.5 stars is a pretty decent rating, all things considered. (Incidentally, I’m aware that McDonald’s has another, ostensibly tastier chicken sandwich, but since I haven’t actually tried it, it did not make these rankings.)
Gedson Fernandes (Community — 2.5): I really don’t know what to make of Gedson and am still shocked he came on as a sub and not Tanguy Ndombele. Right now he’s all skill, no results. Maybe there’s a good player in there somewhere, but I’m not seeing it right now. Thankfully (??) we have another year on loan to develop him further. Maybe he’ll get better.
1.5 stars: Burger King Original Crispy Chicken Sandwich
Burger King’s chicken sandwich was made to compete directly with McDonald’s. So if you’re familiar with the McChicken you kind of already know what you’re getting here. But where the McChicken is $1, the BK is over $4, and holy crap why are you spending that much money for what really should be a $1 chicken sandwich? BK should drop the price to $0.75, then we’ll REALLY have a race to the bottom chicken war going on. At least the price would be right.
Harry Kane (Community — 2.5): I don’t think I’ve ever seen Kane run less in a match, and I’ve seen him come back from two ankle injuries way too early. No shots on target, no touches in the box — he was just dropping SO deep and not running to get into good positions. Was utterly exhausted at 50 minutes and Mou left him out there to struggle through it. Some will hand-wave this performance away by correctly saying that it’s his first match back after six months away, but I’m becoming more and more convinced that this is just who he is now. And that’s sad.
1 star: Dairy Queen Crispy Chicken Sandwich
It kind of blows my mind that DQ thinks that people that aren’t coming to their restaurant solely to get Blizzards with an entire box of Oreo cookies mixed inside. I guess if those people exist they might hypothetically be interested in a chicken sandwich, right? They shouldn’t be. Don’t order this. Just get your Blizzard or your hot fudge sundae and get the hell out of there before they slip one of these things in your take-out bag while your head is turned.
No Tottenham players were as bad as the Dairy Queen Crispy Chicken Sandwich.
Tom Carroll Memorial Non-Rating:
The other 3 players on the bench that could’ve and should’ve come in but didn’t