As FPL is in the second international break is here and many aren’t looking forward to a weekend without Premier League action. After last week’s dismal performance, I am glad we have a week off to reflect on the previous eight weeks and what we face out of the break, as the holiday fixtures loom on the horizon. While it’s never fun to head into a break on a red arrow that’s just what I did scoring 49 points, just one short of the 50 point weekly average.
As I enter my sixth year participating in fantasy football, sometimes I wonder if I have learned anything from the previous seasons. This year hasn’t started off as well as last season, but I feel more comfortable with my 15-man squad and strategy as we head into the second international break. That wasn’t the case last year, as I burned through my wild card and more notably felt I needed to use my free transfers weekly in an attempt to keep up. Rarely did I consider rolling a transfer and holding a non-performing players, something I have been akin to this season. Some fantasy managers make the game appear easy, it’s not. Like any other fantasy sports game, there’s a degree of luck present that is relative to your overall rank.
This season after eight game weeks I have seen an 13.6% improvement in overall points (465 vs 409) and a 13.25% increase in overall rank (634k v 550k). Prior to the start of the season, the most important number I wanted to achieve was an weekly point per game (PPG) average of 60 points. Through eight week of the 2018/19 season I am less than two points (1.875) off my goal of 60 PPG. Over the season if I can maintain this average, combined with captain points and chips, this could put me in position to finish in the top 1% or thereabouts.
When I look at my squad there are some pre-season decisions that have worked to my advantage but failed on a few premium priced players that have seen the midfield and forward positions struggle. Two decisions culminated in one big error, as I started the season with Manchester United’s, David De Gea, off a rather poor showing during the 2018 World Cup and priced at £6.0 to start the season, the most expensive goalkeeper. Based on going “big” in the midfielder, I decided to start a budget forward line with Wilfried Zaha and Marko Arnautovic, coupled with a non-playing £4.5 player.
As we saw, United and De Gea struggled mightily, in fact with the turmoil at Old Trafford, I don’t want to invest in ANY of their assets. I knew the risk involved not starting with a Kun Aguero, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang or Romelu Lukaku, all priced at £11.0 to start the season. The combination of Aguero’s early success and the failure of De Gea put me at a disadvantage. It took just two weeks to realize Aguero should have been considered a “must own” to start the season.
The ineffectiveness of Christian Eriksen and Pascal Groß only intensified the need for positive change in my squad, which lead to an early wild card. Earlier than what I had planned, earmarked for the first international break. It’s been five weeks since I activated my first wild card and I based on the numbers, I don’t believe it worked out to my advantage. The biggest problem was the loss of the in-form, Richarlison to a red card, which meant an unnecessary transfer just a week after the wild card. As they say, “two wrongs don’t make a right” and adding Theo Walcott only intensified the problem, as I knee jerked the midfielder in, over the “fear of missing out” or “FOMO.”
While the game isn’t played on paper, fantasy managers love their statistics and metrics, by which players are measured and decisions rendered. This year I took a liking to a metric called VAPM or “value added per minute.” The metric appeared to provide the best available player to help you achieve your week PPG goal. Ahead of the season, I followed the metric, but other decisions were factored in. FDR or “fixture difficult rating” played a role in the selection process as well, attempting to start players with favorable fixtures such as players from Crystal Palace, Liverpool and Manchester City.
Using FPL Statistico, it’s no surprise to see my stumbling block to start the season. The ineffectiveness of midfielders and forwards in my starting XI. To put it into perspective, my defenders have scored a total of 180 points, an average of 6.21. Combined, midfielders and forwards have scored 196 points, an average of 3.84.
While my forwards have scored just 96 points, it’s the midfield we look at when it comes to a bulk of our fantasy points. At just 3.23 PPG (100 points) my midfielders are struggling, but the reason is apparent. Mo Salah was the cornerstone of my fantasy team, priced at £13.0, fantasy managers had high expectations for him after his record-breaking season last year.
His performance this season reminds of all of the “underlying stats” Harry Kane posted last season, but was unlucky not to find the goal, based on the numbers. Salah was tough to read early, as Sadio Mane was outplaying him at nearly £3.0 less, Salah returned 8,9 and 8 points in his first three games. Since then, he’s posted one return, gameweek 6. After his second no return against Spurs, his ownership went off a cliff. Over a million managers have transferred him out over the last four weeks.
After three consecutive returns, in limited minutes over the first two weeks, Eden Hazard was being overlooked until he hit for 11 points against Bournemouth. Those fantasy mangers looking for a reason to move away from Salah found their short term savior. Over 1.4 millions managers have moved on Hazard, scoring 47 points over the last 5 weeks, rising £0.6 during that time. Shades of 2016/17 for the Belgian, as he leads all players on 74 points. Is there any sign of slowing him down?
This midfield appears to loaded with premium options, one who is apparently ready to return to action, Kevin De Bruyne. The Man City midfielder has missed all but 30 minutes of the season, now £0.3 cheaper at £9.7 could become a differential for a few weeks, as his ownership is just 3.6%. How do managers add De Bruyne to a midfield that already includes Hazard and Mane?
For me, I am still stuck on Salah, even after his hamstring injury suffered playing for Egypt. Salah is down another 238k managers, which could mean another price drop is on the way before game week 9 action starts. Even if he is deemed fit, Klopp could rest the Egyptian, as Liverpool travel to Huddersfield, not a game he probably needs Salah for. It’s a risky play either way.
This could introduce Xheridan Shaqiri into the equation, at £7.0 with Salah and Milner both flagged for injuries, the Swiss international could get a run of games. If not for Salah, then for Milner, but Klopp had options ahead of him. Could he play Roberto Firmino OOP as a midfielder and start Daniel Sturridge, who’s posted 2 goals on the season? Could Naby Keita or Eric Lallana get a run out? We don’t know what direction this story will take us.
While the midfield has been a minefield, its been the on again, off again success of my forward that have caused much frustration. Just when I think I am ready to transfer Aguero out, he brings an attacking return, making me rethink my strategy moving forward. Even now with City facing Spurs and Man United in the next four week, I am looking at Burnley and Southampton as excellent opportunities to bring attacking returns. Beyond that run of four fixtures it’s whu/BOU/wat before a date with Chelsea in game week 16.
It could be said that Arsenal assets are the way to go with Lacazette and Aubameyang. Lacazette (48 points) has returns in his last seven games, hitting for his first brace in game week 8. Aubameyang (43 points) scored a brace and assist ahead of the break, as Arsenal look at team in form. Ahead lies some tricky fixtures LEI/cry/LIV/WOL/bou. While they might not be able to keep it clean at the back, this pairing should continue to score goals for the Gunners, with Lacazette being the more consistent, but Aubameyang having the higher ceiling.
With little intention to move Aguero, I am pricing myself out of a second premium forward, so my attention turns to the budget players. Topping the list…no, not Alexsandr Mitrovic (£6.9), but Glenn Murray (£6.6). I am just not sold on Fulham being a good team. Their defense is worst in the league and if Mitrovic doesn’t deliver, chances are high the Cottagers don’t score. So stop Mitrovic, you stop Fulham. Add to that Brighton have a better run of fixtures through December and you save £0.4 going Murray, who is their best and only option up front. Brighton’s also been in the Premier League an extra year and know what it takes. Fulham, had their “swan song,” which I believe it now over and their real team will take shape.
Zaha has one week left before Palace fixtures going in the toilet. Murray is being lined up, but I can’t over look Raul Jimenez (£5.6) of Wolves. Just 4 points behind Murray for £1.0 less, with returns in his last four games. While Murray has the fixtures, Wolves do face TOT/ars in the upcoming game weeks.
There are no clear cut answers, regardless of the number of transfer you have ahead of the game week or if you are on the wild card. Injuries and FDR will play into your upcoming moves, but I don’t want to what to knee jerk Salah out at this point. He is that first domino that needs to fall, which will set in motion a strategy to play out over the next 3-4 weeks that could lay the foundation for my run through the end of the season.