Premier League: GW18 Retrospect

Coming off the worst stretch of games this year that saw my post back to back red arrows and a slide out of the top 100k was frustrating. Over the course of 15 game weeks it had been a slow and methodical climb up the OR, to find myself in rarefied air at 81k. By best rank, next to the 75k I finished in 2015/16. However, the ascension suffered a setback with just 45 points in game week 15, followed by just 40 points the following week. Well off my self imposed average of 60 points.

At this point in previous seasons, I would have knee jerk players who scores in one or both of the previous weeks. Maybe I’ve matured and gained some experience over the last few years, but I made the decision to roll out the same starting XI for game week 18. This would allow me two free transfers ahead of game week 19 and I was still playing a wait and see game with my forwards; Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Harry Kane.

To this point of the season, defense had been my go to savior, as I had rolled up 42 clean sheets on the season. While I don’t know how that number stacks up with teams in the top 1000, I haven’t found too many other managers with that total. Conversely, my goals and PPG in the midfield have suffered, as numbers have been well off the pace of even average FPL teams. That said, the decision to sell Mo Salah has paid off since game week 14 and I’ve been pleased with the play of Leroy Sane, Aubameyang and Kane, all who came in as part of the transfer.

Entering game week 18, I was confident I was fielding a strong team, while there are still some lingering issues in the midfield, it was my hope the defense and forwards would make up for those shortcomings. While midfielders are on my holiday shopping list, I was leaving it up to the high priced forwards to make good or make gone.  Aubameyang finished with 13 points, while Kane and Spurs dominated Everton, finishing with 15 points. This was the level of production expected from this duo. Unfortunately, Friday night I came off Aubameyang, shifting the captaincy to Sane after some discussion with the lads I podcast with at Academica Vertex.

Defensively, I got off to a grand start on Friday, as Liverpool did the business, 0-2 at Molineux. Double clean sheets for Andrew Robertson and Virgil van Dijk were choice, but it was the goal from van Dijk that had me cheering, as he picked up his third attacking in five games! Heading into the weekend I was 21 points up! That was a positive, as Man City would underestimate Palace and get beat, 3-1, gaining just two points from Ederson and Aymeric Laporte. Marcos Alonso, sold off by some 87k managers this week would concede a single goal and hit the woodwork for the fifth time this season. He currently leads the league in the “missed it by that much” award.

How differently would managers be looking at Alonso had he netted even two or three of this missed big chances. Arguably, he’s one of the top two defenders in the league (based on FPL points). He’s dropped in price from £7.1 to £6.9, unjustly, I feel. While the sell off continues, he’s been playing well but Chelsea, much like City haven’t been able to keep even a clean sheet. Combined, they have kept a single clean sheet. Looking at fixture, both teams have excellent runs. If I were to look at a possibly Alonso replacement, what direction does one go?

Being doubled up on Liverpool, I won’t consider Alexander-Arnold. I own van Dijk and Laporte, both who have better statistics over the last four weeks than Alonso. Matt Doherty of Lucas Digne would be top choices, but I don’t believe Everton have clean sheets in them. I still feel Chelsea and City will post more clean sheets than Everton, even if I look short term.

The midfield continues to be an Achilles heel, as it’s been much of the season. Salah was replaced by Sane, who came out flat against Palace. I doubt he will ever get the captain’s armband again this season. While he’s a dynamic player, he didn’t step up against rather average team. He did have chances, but all went begging. That said, I do plan on keeping him in my starting XI. Felipe Anderson had a tough go against Watford, but came up with nothing. It was just Ryan Fraser, off the bench providing an assist as my midfield three finished on just 10 points.

Thankfully I rebounded nicely with 65 points and a green arrow as I attempt to get back into the top 100k by the end of Boxing Day, as I still 11 points shy of that mark. Currently ranked 136k, I enter game week 19 with 2 FTs but nothing in the bank.

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