If I were a Premier League manager, I would have been fired after just 14 games. It’s been that sort of year and we still have 24 games remaining in the 2016-2017 season. To date, I have only had 2 green arrows in the last 7 weeks, seeing my global ranking fall 799k! That’s what will happen when your weekly average dips from 60.6 points to 42.1 points. Challenged and frustrated doesn’t begin to describe how I have been feeling since seeing red. Literally every move I make seems to be counter-productive, either costing me points, resulting in injury or loss of form. Case in point, the addition of Coutinho for GW11 scores 11 points, but follows up the next 2 weeks with a total of 3 points and now is injured with no return date. Hazard, picked up for GW12, coming off back to back double digit returns only to follow up with 6 points the next weeks. Most recently, Kane picked up for GW13 after returns of 8 and 13 the last 2 weeks to score just 2 points.
On paper my team has appeared strong from GW1, yet just 2 players remain since the start of the season, Valencia and Foster. Still player selection hasn’t been bad, Mahrez, Payet, Ibrahimovic and Aguero were just four names to start the season for me. Things looked grand by GW6, I had tripled up on Man City with KDB, Sterling and Aguero resulting in 42 points! Defoe went for the double, but there was still concerns to address in the midfield and more importantly, defensively.
Player selection between the sticks and on defense has been very difficult this year. Even the pundits talk about the lack of clean sheets. Although after 13 weeks, we have begun to see some trends, such as Chelsea running off 6 in a row. But they have been the exception, but the standard this season. Last week was my best defensive showing to date, 24 points, Foster/McAuley 12 points, van Aanholt 12 points and Williams 2 points. Again, this has been the exception, not the standard when it comes to defense returns. Many teams have shown up for 60-70 minutes only to leak in a single goal in the dying minutes. Man City for example has conceded 1 goal in 9 games this season. West Brom and Man U have conceded a single goal in 6 games over the same time frame. So the clean sheets have been close, resulting in a possible 6 points to just 2 points. Through it all, I have stuck with Foster and Valencia, picking up Willams and McAuley for GW4 to represent my defense. Although in a spot start, van Aanholt picked up 10 in GW12.
The recent addition of Cholebas (GW9) hasn’t quite paid off with just 12 points returned, follwoed by -2 points and then a suspension, returning zero in GW13 vs Stoke playing just 55 minutes and picking up a yellow card. While the budget defender has been popular this year there is still something to be said about paying a premium price for a top defender. No surprise to see 3 of the top 5 defenders (Cahill, Azpilicueta and Alonso) from Chelsea, yet all start at 6.2m. Arsenal have been strong defensively with Koscielny (6.6m) and Bellerin (6.5m) rounding out the top 5 defenders. I have taken the budget option, with Valencia at 5.4 being my highest priced defender but have considered adding a higher priced defender to the mix when the next WC becomes available. Williams is now on the short list to be replaced, as Everton can’t seem to keep anyone out of the net, conceding 7 in their last 3 games. Valencia has 3 CS this year, no assists or goals and has been on the short list for some time but haven’t really found another player with his potential to replace him with. I have however started looking at adding a Southampton defender; Fonte or van Dijk.
Midfielders has been the most volatile position all season. Early returns from Capoue and Fer made them “must have players” early on, while some of the higher priced players; Payet, Hazard and Sanchez didn’t pay off. Ever week I think I have found the best combination at the position, only to end up with 2 point returns from the starting 4 players. De Bruyne has been the only mainstay since GW7. Sterling, Walcott, Sanchez, Rashford, Snodgrass and Antonio have all come and gone, at a price, since that time. Without Aguero up front, I still believe Man City coverage is warranted, thus KDB won’t be going anywhere this season. Although we have seen some good games from Gundogan and Toure, who might be back in the mix in the City midfield.
I have read a few articles on Hazard vs Sanchez, priced at 10.2 and 11.3 separated by a single point (88 vs 87). Can you have both in your starting midfield? Is one better to have than the other? Can you do without either? So many questions, but based on their performance and history it appears one of the two should be starting. Originally it was Hazard, picked up for GW4, which unfortunately started his run of no returns through GW7. He was dropped in GW6 in favor of De Bruyne, who lasted just a week being replaced by Sanchez. The midfield has been a revolving door! Things aren’t as they appear, missing out on many big performances from different midfielders, probably taking a bigger point hit than in returns. It was my hope to this season to bag a transfer or two and roll with the same starting XI for a few weeks, but that hasn’t happened to date. I don’t believe the current players; Capoue, Hazard, De Bruyne, Coutinho and Allen are the right combination.
The ankle injury to Coutinho could be long term, currently ‘No Return Date’ is showing at Physioroom.com and running without an 8.6m midfielder in the starting XI doesn’t work to my advantage. The logical transfer would be Firmino for Coutinho for GW14. Firmino did pick up a knock, but shows a December 4 return date, chances are good he starts versus Bournemouth. No other premium midfielder really jumps out. Walcott picked up a late goal on Sunday but it was his first return since GW8. Sigurdsson has been in great form the last 4 weeks, 2 goals and 3 assists. After a tilit with Spurs in GW14, Swansea have a great run of fixtures. It might be the time to buy the Icelander.
Up front there was a lot of speculation that Aguero and Ibrahimovic were “must have players” at the start of the season. Early on it appeared that was as both players returned 3 goals in 2 weeks. Then both players seemed lost their form and returns were spotty. Aguero picked things up starting in GW10, recording 5 goals over 4 games, while Zlatan picked up 4 goals in the next 10 weeks. Oddly enough it was Aguero who made way first when I used my WC for GW4, replacing him with Zaza and Defoe. I ran with Zlatan for 6 weeks (36 points) before picking Aguero back up. Neither player were very consistent and I tired with Man City not scoring and shipped off Aguero a second time in favor of the inconsistent, Lukaku, which came back to bite my in the ass. Just this last week Lukaku made way for Kane. Kane now partners with Costa (picked up GW10) and Austin up front. After picking up 4 yellow cards, I held off considering Costa, but his goal scoring has been the most consistent this season and too hard to avoid not starting, thus I grabbed him GW10 for Defoe. Returns of 5 and 9 for Costa and Austin, were a bit lower than expected, but with only 37 points this week I will take points wherever I can get them.
GW13 was a forgettable one, much like GW3, 7, 8 and 9, as mentioned, just 37 points and another 222k drop to 828k. The injury to Coutinho after just 33 minutes, while being captain hurt my point total. De Bruyne not starting was a bit unexpected, after a midweek CL match, while Hazard and Capoue were just ineffective. Defensively I expected 24 points this week, with Foster/McAuley, Valencia and Cholebas all recording shut outs. Each leaked a single goal in their matches and that 24 dropped to 14 points. Thankfully McAuley scored his second goal of the season and picked up 3 BPS. Up front, Kane didn’t score, while Costa added an assist (5 points) and Austin scored just 42 seconds into the game.