Really. I am better than this.

Usually I save an article like this for the end of the season, as I look back on the season, the highlights and failures over a 38 week season. However, I feel like I need to justify my position, if not to the community, to myself. While I am still green to FPL, playing in just my 5th year, fantasy sports is nothing new. I have spent 37 years playing NFL fantasy football and the goals are the same. Score the most points. Win. Have fun.
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#KANEXIT Comparison

Gameweek 13 was the final week I owned Harry Kane, as I began my #KANEXIT strategy weeks before Hall of Famer, Jay Egersdorff made his video discussing the logic and strategy behind it. Kane was scoreless in the last 3 games before hitting for a goal in a 1-1 draw with WBA. It was time to move the high priced forward and shift my budget to premium midfielders, a position that had been posting consistent returns.
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FPL Observations

Maybe we should rename this FPL season to WTF? Might be more fitting, as there is been no consistency in this young season after 11 Gameweeks. There has been a great deal of frustration for fantasy managers, just when you think you’ve made a great transfer, they get benched by Pep the following week or don’t return.  It’s been a very difficult year to read and we still have 28 weeks of games to come.
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FPL: Captain Conundrum

As Gameweek 6 comes into view, I take a look back at what has transpired the first 5 weeks in the EPL. For me, it’s been a strong start to the FPL season, while my overall score doesn’t tell the entire story, I carry a confident feeling into this weekend’s action. It was decided early in pre-season I was going to play an unconventional formation, after reading Firetog’s article, In Search Of The Best Fantasy Football Formation. This was the point in time I decided I was going to start a 5-man defense to begin the season.

As summer rolled on, with the transfer window in full effect I began concentrating my efforts on a 5-3-2 formation, with two options. Neither of those options materialized, as 2 hours before the start of the EPL season I made a rash decision to move Lukaku out, scrap the 5-3-2 and changed my strategy with a 5-2-3, which included Kane, Firmino and Jesus up front.

While we know the outcome of not owning Lukaku and the August woes of Kane this article brings into focus the struggles with the captain’s armband. Being the highest owned player in the FPL, it was no surprise that Lukaku topped the captaincy charts weekly. While many have moved Kane in favor of more “in form” forwards, I have continued to show support for him, based on the outstanding underlying statistics.

Thanks in part to FPL Statistico, the numbers don’t lie. There is no way to play with the numbers to shed a positive light on a poor captaincy situation. I’ve tried and failed every time I look for a silver lining when I prepare to don the captain’s armband. Through 5 weeks here are the players I have captained:

  1. Harry Kane (away NEW)
  2. Kevin De Bruyne (home EVE)
  3. Harry Kane (home BUR)
  4. Roberto Firmino (away MCI)
  5. Harry Kane (home SWA)

Without knowing any other information, the only captain that seems out of place is the armband on Firmino, away to City in GW4. All the rest would appear to be quality captain selections. Based more on how players like KDB and Kane finished the 2016/2017 season, there was little to discourage fantasy managers from tapping these players not have success early this season.

I can hear many already saying, “yeah, but Harry Kane can’t score in August.” Sure, it’s been documented that Kane hasn’t performed well in August. Couple that with the fact that Spurs are playing their home fixtures at the larger, Wembley Stadium. I chose to ignore both factors and include Kane in my starting XI. That’s an 18 point difference from Lukaku (non-captained points). Mistake? Sure, but that’s and article for another time.

Captain points have been tough to come by to date. Through 5 gameweeks my selections, as well as that by many other fantasy mangers, has yielded just 18 points (that’s a paltry 3.6 points/armband) or 6.9% of my overall score. The vice-captain selections haven’t fared much better, just 2 points better. Looking at each individual gameweek doesn’t reveal much when it comes to the “better” options when deciding on the armband.

The first week of the season it came down to four options, KDB, Jesus, Firmino or Kane. In my GW1 Retrospect I wrote, “To start this season, the armband was on Lukaku before I transferred him, handing the captaincy to Kane, who was listed in many polls as the second choice option. If I would have held steady and not moved Lukaku I would have finished 25 point higher.” Yet, moving Lukaku saw me change the formation from a 5-3-2 to a 5-2-3 in order to spend bigger on defense. Spurs were facing newly promoted Newcastle, the match up appeared favorable, unfortunately Kane was yellow carded, but played 90 minutes and scored just 2 points.

The following week, I moved from Kane as Spurs were home to Chelsea and didn’t like the match up. While Man City didn’t have a very impressive 2-0 win over Brighton to open then season, the captain selection came down to a shorter list; KDB, Jesus and Firmino. Backing City, I selection KDB. GW2 Retrospect read, “Some reports of KDB playing deeper, allowing David Silva a more advanced position could shed a negative light on his potential, especially at £10.0. Returns of 3 and 4 (as I captained him in GW2) doesn’t bode well with the likes of Pogba, Mkhitaryan, Eriksen and Alli outplaying KDB at a cheaper price.” De Bruyne did not return wearing the armband and finished the game with 4 points.

Gameweek 3 had the makings of  Spurs explosion, home to Burnley, who struggled on the road last season. In the Starting XI article I wrote, “Heading into GW3, with a Spurs double (Eriksen & Kane) home to Burnley, I feel confident big returns are possible from Wembley.” At this point, even with the August struggles I continue to back Kane wearing the armband. With City not posting big scores and Liverpool home to Arsenal, I played the favorable match up. The retrospect reflected, “Captained again, he failed to return, but much like the previous two weeks, he had solid underlying stats. Not sure how much longer I can continue to promote this point and have with him in my starting XI.” Yet, here we are heading into Gameweek 5 and I am struggling to move away from Kane. Firmino surprisingly posted 12 points this gameweek.

After failing to return two of the first three weeks, I changed gears and handed Robert Firmino the armband away to City. Chalk this up to stupidity, as I talked myself into Firmino and out of Kane as the week progressed. Thanks Twitter! No Vincent Kompany meant a weaker City defense, but that wasn’t the case, as City spanked a 10-man Liverpool, 5-0. Firmino left the game on 66 minutes and didn’t return. This, the first weekend in September and Kane broke duck for the brace! Too bad he was my vice-captain, as this should have been my first big haul with him wearing the arm band. Jesus also posted a brace, but I didn’t really consider him with, as I favored Liverpool to defeat City.

Being the glutton for punishment I am, I moved back to Kane for GW5, home to Swansea. Again, statistics in favor of Harry, underlying stats excellent, he couldn’t finish and the match ended in a scoreless draw. After GW4, I wrote, “Kane appears to have the August “Hoodoo Voodoo” behind him and will look to get on track to his third Golden Boot this weekend, away to Everton. Backed by ungodly statistics, I continue to have faith in Kane putting up big numbers.” Firmino and Jesus again, were considerations but I am mesmerized by Kane. Much like last year with Sanchez, I did not want to get caught moving Kane in and out of my lineup, so I decided to hold steady and keep the armband on him. For the week, it was another no return, just 4 points.

Bad luck? Bad decision making? Probably a bit of both. Interesting to consult FPL Statistico for some data. If I always captained my vice-captain, I would have score 40 points (an improvement of 22 points). After 5 weeks I would be on 273 points if I had captained the highest scorer between the captain and vice-captain. However if I captained the player with the most points each week on my squad, I would be on 310 overall points, which would put me in the top 58k.

Luck continues to play a factor in fantasy football. Not all managers get a sniff during the season, but a bit of luck can go a long way in your fantasy football season.

Premier League: Excessive Hits

Over the course of the EPL season I have been attempting to justify my poor performance; EuroCup 2017 fatigue, inconsistency with big name players and lackluster defenses, not selecting the right players, but through it all one constant has remained. Hits. Hits. And more hits. For the season I have 72 total transfers, an addition 37 transfers over the course of the season for 148 points! When I look at my Overall Points (1949 thru GW37) and my Overall Rank (517,067) it comes as no surprise why I have struggled. It wasn’t until I started to break down the numbers using FPL Statistico that I realized why I didn’t climb in the global rankings as I thought I would.

The numbers appear staggering when you realized what that -4 or -8 point hit truly costs when you look at the numbers on a week by week basis. Let’s take a look at GW6. I transferred De Bruyne, Snodgrass and Aguero in for Hazard, Cazorla and Ibrahimovic out.

I started De Bruyne and Aguero, who I captained, while Snodgrass was the budget midfielder. Together they finished the week with 38 points. Of those I transferred out, they combined for 7 points for a difference of 31 points. Since Snodgrass didn’t start, I gained only 36 with my two starters but also took an -8 point hit and netted 28 points. That was an example of a worthwhile -8 point hit.

Unfortunately we must take the bad with the good and over the course of the year I had 11 weeks in which that extra transfer(s) didn’t pay off, resulting in a negative result or no gain. The worst example was GW35. I took an -8 point hit to bring in Benteke, Gabbiadini and Caballero for Llorente, Lukaku and Heaton.

Aside from a bad week for the incoming transfers, those I transferred out scored 7 points more. Once we add in the -8 point hit, I finished the week with a -15 points. It would have been more advantageous to hold those three players for another week. Yet, that is a chance you take when you look at taking a hit. On paper, Man City looked like a good bet for goals and a clean sheet, but Middlesbrough played them to a 2-2 draw. Gabbiadini against Hull City was substituted off at 58 minutes, while Benteke finished with a yellow card and was substituted at 70 minutes against Burnley. This after 3 goals in the last 2 weeks.

Starting with GW25 I took 100 points in hits, averaging -8.3 points a week. Not ideal by any means and it has cost me in the overall rankings, but I’ve had fun. From GW27 through GW34 I recorded 8 weeks of green arrows and improved my overall rank by 977k. Here’s how that 8 week run played out when the points were broken down.

During this 8 week snapshot there was just one week in which I finished with a negative return, GW28, which was -1 point. Overall I added 78 points to my overall total, by far the best run I had of the entire season. Interesting to note that the only other green arrow run I had on the season was from GW4 through GW6, which looks oddly similar to that of this late season push. The difference in the point hits, I activated my first Wild Card for GW5 but still took an -8 point hit the following week. Not the best use of the Wild Card, but at the conclusion of GW6 I was ranked in the top 29k!

Overall, I gained 180 total points on transfers which cost me points. Divide that up over 37 weeks and it averages out to 4.73 points per week. Not a great average by an measure. As cited above, sometimes the extra hit(s) paid off, but in 12 weeks it was a net zero or minus points. Just 8 weeks provided a double digit advantage when taking hits (including both WCs). Any net result that was less than 9 points would have me rethink making that extra transfer for a week. You can view all 38 weeks of the spreadsheet here. By far the extra hits contributed to not exceeding my score from 2015/16 of 2170 points, finishing the season with 2024, well off where I wanted to be.

Captain’s Armband

Through 27 game weeks I have been sorely disappointed in my overall performance as an EPL fantasy manager. Much like fantasy (NFL) football, which I have participated in for 36 years, luck always plays a factor. This season luck has not been on my side, struggling through most weeks as I continue to look to turn my season around with just 11 weeks remaining. Initially I cited a single point during the season, which I transferred out Alexis Sanchez and felt as if that move cost me the season. After looking at the data and presenting it in the Sanchez Effect, last week, Sanchez has only earned an addition 59 points through 27 weeks an average of just 2.1 points/week. Not really what I expected. figuring the total would have been greater, I looked elsewhere to bottom line why my squad is doing poorly.

This week I turn my attention towards the captain’s armband, which is given to a player each week and doubles their point total. This decision has led to many average weeks being turned into great weeks. But how have I fared over 27 game weeks? Let’s check the numbers against who was  selected as captain and vice-captain and who were the recommended captain choices based on a poll totals from two different fantasy football sites I frequent.

When the numbers are viewed in a spreadsheet format the results provide a telling story that doesn’t really favor my decision on who to give the armband to. In 13 out of 27 weeks (48.1%) I owned and started the player who was recommend in website captain polls (WWW1 & WWW2). There were 5 weeks (18.5%) I owned the player selected in the website polls but selected a different player to captain. In just 9 weeks (33.3%) I didn’t own the poll captain selection with 6 of those weeks taking place since GW20.

In those 9 weeks if I would have owned the poll selected captain I would have scored an additional 80 points. It doesn’t come as a surprise that Alexis Sanchez accounted for 44 points. Sergio Aguero accounted for 30 points, while Harry Kane just 6 points. What this doesn’t take into account are players who had good weeks but weren’t tapped as the top poll captain selection or one of the Dream Team players for the week.

I believe what this chart tells me is that along with having poor luck this season, my decision making has been terrible. I look back on the season and ask myself, “Why did I start <insert player>?” Reading through my weekly Premier League Retrospect articles provides an insight I didn’t have last year. Some of the decisions were based on budget, while others were based on form and fixtures of players selected. This doesn’t come as a surprise but unlike last year I have not been able to establish any sort of consistency or even put together a 5-7 week run of green arrows. GW4 through GW6 has been the best run I’ve had all season, returns of 56, 69 and 69. GW2 and GW7 are the only times my final score exceeded 70 points with 72 and 78 respectively. It’s just been a difficult year. The last finger I can point before point it towards me would be examining defensive units, as we recall a clean sheet was hard to come by early in the season, which cost many manger points.

Premier League: The Sanchez Effect

Can a single player make or break your fantasy EPL season? While there isn’t a correct answer, I bring forth evidence in the case of Alexis Sanchez, carrying 187 points into GW28, leading all other player in fantasy football this season. With Copa América Centenario hosted in the United States for the first time, Chile saw their way through to defeat Argentina in the final on June 26. The EPL season kicked off on August 13 with international players returning from summer duties fatigued. Sanchez started the new season off slow with just 1 goal in his first 4 games and a knock after the 2-1 victory over So’ton in GW4.

Going through 27 weeks of statistics I did not start the season with Sanchez, opting for the big price tags of last year’s superstars, Riyad Mahrez (240 pts) and Dimitri Payet (171 pts), partnered with Dusan Tadic and EPL newcomer, Gastón Ramírez. N’Golo Kanté rounded out my midfield, starting on the bench after be categorized as a midfielder, from a defender last year at Leicester.

Sanchez: GW1 thru GW6 = 46 points

Sanchez GW7 thru GW11 = 26 points *

Sanchez WG12 thru GW14 = 38 points*

Sanchez GW15 thru GW20 = 33 points *

Sanchez GW21 thru GW25 = 40 points

Sanchez GW26 thru GW27 = 4 points (GW26 blank)

TOTAL 187 POINTS (* indicates player owned)

Returns were few and far between to start the season. Mahrez appeared to be starting where he left off last year with 8 points in GW1 but just 1 assist would follow over the next 9 game weeks. His tenure was short lived. Payet quickly picked up a knock after just 24 minutes and missed the next 2 game weeks, he too was transferred out. The combination of Tadic, Hazard and De Bruyne would only account for 20 points through GW6, while Sanchez would more than double that output with 46 points through the same period. In GW3, GW5 and GW6 Sanchez would record double digit returns of 16, 10 and 14 points (4 goals/3 assists). I had been a casualty of “The Sanchez Effect.”

Interestingly enough, at the conclusion of GW6 my global ranking was 29k! The highest I have recorded in nearly 4 years of playing fantasy EPL. So, did I miss his contribution? In some respect, I did. Total at the end of GW6 was 356 points or 59.3, just 0.7 short of my goal of 60 points/week. To start the season Sanchez scored 46 points through GW6, a difference of 26 points when compared to the three pronged attack of Tadic, Hazard and De Bruyne.

  • Tadic GW1 thru GW3 = 7 points *
  • Hazard GW4 thru GW5 = 3 points *
  • De Bruyne: GW6 = 10 points *

Those additional 26 points would put me at 382 points through GW6 (avg 63.6/points/week) and in a much stronger position two weeks after activating my WC. It wasn’t until GW7 that I introduced Sanchez to my starting XI. Not surprisingly, he fell out of form, with just a single double digit return in GW10 (13 pts.) against Sunderland.

The only period in which not owning Sanchez worked in my favor was introducing Sadio Mane for GW26 and GW27. Then again Arsenal didn’t play in GW26 and Sanchez was benched to start the match against Liverpool in GW27. You can track Sanchez in the list below.

Starting XI – Go ‘Orns

Tadic GW1 thru GW3 = 7 points *

Hazard GW4 thru GW5 = 3 points *

De Bruyne: GW6 = 10 points *

TOTAL = 20 POINTS (difference of 26 points)

Sanchez GW7 thru GW11 = 26 points *

Hazard GW12 thru GW14 = 15 points *

TOTAL 15 POINTS (difference of 23 points)

Sanchez GW15 thru GW20 = 33 points *

Ozil GW21 thru GW25 = 19 points  *

TOTAL = 19 POINTS (difference of 21 points)

Mane GW26 thru GW27 = 15 points *

TOTAL 15 POINTS (difference of -11 points)

TOTAL DIFFERENCE 59 POINTS (1249/1343)

GLOBAL RANKING: 1418120 794860 = 623260

Sanchez has been a key player for many this season, seen as a de facto captain on a weekly basis. Part of why I moved Sanchez was the lack of returns when I gave him the armband, it became frustrating week in, week out to see single digit returns. Many of the game weeks in which I owned Sanchez I missed out on the double digit returns, always questioning myself when it came to him.

Now 59 points through GW27 isn’t much. It would still put me behind of where I was last year at this time. 59 points is the difference between being ranked at 1.4m and 796k, a difference of 623k. One can