As a fantasy manager my run of success came to an abrupt end after Gameweek 16, posting a season low, 35 points. As a Watford supporter, its been a run of frustration since the 4-2 loss in Gameweek 9 to Chelsea, a match in which we were up 2-1 into the 70′ minute. The past 2 gameweeks have a trend developing in FPL, which mirrors the struggles Watford have faced since that Chelsea loss. Subsequent losses to Stoke City, the come from behind win by Everton, coupled with the 1-0 heatbreaker at Burnley and yesterday’s collapse in the final minutes to drop more points, 2-1 away to Palace.
While my fantasy squad, the Go ‘Orns (id#27599) were riding high on the back of 8 successive green arrows, gaining nearly 1 millions spots in the overall ranking, it appears the wheels are coming off. In place, a strategy to shift focus to mercurial midfielder hasn’t gone as planned with players like Eden Hazard and Aaron Ramsey. The one contingency I had no strategy for is rearing it’s ugly head. Injuries!
While the festive period always brings rotation, players are succumbing to injury at an alarming rate. Last weekend, I lost Aaron Ramsey due to a hamstring. Alvaro Morata was left out of the starting XI, claiming a back injury. This week, Stephen Ward went off after 40 minutes with a knee injury. Richarlison also walked off in the 83′ holding his groin, his start this weekend it now marred by a question mark.
Much like Watford, who claim 10 players injured, which leads the EPL, fantasy managers have been pushed to the limits continually, being reminded to have a 3-man deep bench of starting players. In what could be called a “knee jerk” reaction, I took a -4 hit this week to move Aaron Ramsey (expected return Dec 22) for Philippe Coutinho. Heading into Gameweek 18, the injury concern shifts to Richarlison, as we await word from Marco Silva on his availability this weekend, home to Huddersfield.
More concerning is the possibility of running out an undesirable formation with Charlie Austin and Callum Wilson leading the attack. Neither of who were expected to feature as a regular starter. Morata is still flagged as we conclude Gameweek 17 today, as he flagged at “50%” for Saturday’s home clash against So’ton. However, PhysioRoom doesn’t show any Chelsea players injured, while Premier Injuries has him listed at 50% as well. Maybe we wait on Ben Dinnery to provide an injury update ahead of the weekend.
Defensively, Stephen Ward is a big concern, now priced at £5.2, he’s been spectacular for Burnley this season posting 76 points on the back 1 goal, 1 assist, 7 clean sheets and 9 bonus points. He’s listed with “no return date” but it could be time to move Burnley assets with a tough run after Brighton; TOT/mnu/hud/LIV/cry/MNU/new/MCI.
Watford however, continues to sail on a sea of green; HUD/bha/LEI/SWA before visiting Man City. Dropping 15 points in games they were leading or tied doesn’t bode well for the Hornets as they have tumbled to 9th in the overall standing, with the ever improving Everton just 3 points behind them. Combine the injuries with the suspensions and none of thes upcoming 4 fixtures are going to be easy, as Watford need to remain focused for 90 minutes.
The play in the midfield let the Hornets down after Richarlison was removed for Kiko Femenia, in order to strengthen the defense. However, the second yellow for a poor challenge by Tom Cleverley, turned the tide for Palace, behind their fans they took advantage of the 10-man Watford. There was too much space in the midfield, which Palace capitalized on pushing them to a 2-1 victory.
While it’s “just one gameweek” both Watford and my FPL squad need to reevaluate and come back strong this weekend. Injuries and rotation will continue to play a key roll as we move through December, but decision making needs to improved on both accounts. No need to dive in on a poor challenge or knee jerk a 1-week non-performing player out of the starting XI.