We are just over an hour away from the kickoff of game week 21. While many will already have their starting XI set and captain selected, I just made a transfer ahead of the game week. Now, it’s not uncommon to see many in the UK hold their transfer until game day. Here in the states, I usually get up minutes before the kickoff, so setting it the night before the game usually works better. Since I had to come into work early, I had too much time to listen to a few podcasts on the commute in, time to think and ponder decisions. Sometimes that can be a dangerous thing.
Before I discuss my starting XI for game week 21, let me try to rationalize my decision for using a “luxury” transfer to move out Ederson for Neil Etheridge. At £4.5 Etheridge is a true budget buy, owned by just 5.9% of FPL managers across FPL, but not selected in the top 1000. Lukasz Fabianski has been the budget darling for most of the year, as he’s on 79 points at a cost of £4.8 now. Over the last four weeks, Etheridge has made 21 saves, facing 29 shots., posted 2 clean sheets, a penalty save and a 72.4% save percentage.
While Cardiff has picked up back to back clean sheets and three points, but face a tough Spurs team at home this weekend. The only other top six team Cardiff will face will in game week 24, away to Arsenal. If they are to improve on their 16th place standing this is the run they will need to take advantage of. I’ve been high on Etheridge since early in the season. He’s looked the real deal for Cardiff. Smart, decisive, quick and good positioning have kept the Bluebirds in many games this season. He seemed like a logical budget selection and someone who wasn’t Fabianski.
Feeling confident…again, as game week 21 approaches, no has has been “green with envy” because of my weekly scores. The last four out of five weeks, I’ve seen red, losing 81k, since hitting a season high OR, enter the game week at 162k. It’s a solid starting XI with premiums through out, but just a run of bad luck. While I have plans for future moves, I’m also taking a patience approach, even thought Paul Pogba was a knee jerk in ahead of last week at £7.9 His tenure on my squad could be short lived. But that’s transfer talk, not starting XI discussion.
In goal, as I just mentioned, Neil Etheridge will get his first start in my team. He made five saves in a loss to Spurs back in game week 8. The possibility of no Heung-min Son and a Harry Kane that was noted as having a deeper role last week could pay dividends for Cardiff City. We’ve seen Spurs struggle to break down these lower league teams and feel Etheridge could be the next £4.5 goalkeeper managers move to. Won’t be the first start he gets in my starting XI.
It could be a long day defensively as I sticking to my double Liverpool defense with Andrew Robertson and Virgil van Dijk. Now you only need to look back at game week 8 and see a 0-0 draw when they played at the Eithad. Lots have changed since that game and Man City is rebounding from two losses in a row and a defense that has struggled since game week 11. To think Liverpool will shut out City would be crazy, but this is a defense that has conceded just 8 goals on the season.
Marcos Alonso rounds out my back three. Seen many managers talking shit and moving away from Alonso, to players like Lucas Digne, David Luiz and Trent Alexander-Arnold. All of these transfers are purely based on saving budget. Alonso is still a top attacking defender over the last 4 weeks with 4 goal attempts and still leading all defenders in goal attempts on the season. To move off him is crazy talk. He nets one or two of those five shots that hit the goal post and managers are looking how to get him in.
The midfield has been a challenge all season, but it appears I am slowly sorting it. I don’t feel Pogba is the “savior” many see him as. Many United supporters finger Jose as the “problem” however I look at Pogba and see a player not giving 100% in a professional capacity on the pitch, regardless of the manager. In his current run he’s posted 46 points in three games, compared to 51 in the previous 17 weeks. It is tough to look past their run of green fixtures through game week 29.
Other problems in my midfield include Felipe Anderson, who is hot one week, not the next and Richarlison, who after watching him last season is very streaky player. This is a combined £14.3 million owned by 59.3% and 65.1% of the top 1000 managers. Based on fixtures, I am more inclined to how the Everton man and upgrade Anderson, unless there is more consistency with the return of Marko Arnautovic. Ryan Fraser has outlive his usefulness on my squad. He’s been rested and played out of position as a wing back. Bournemouth are sitting comfortably now, but feel there are stronger options out there, but a case could be made to hold through game week 24.
Up front it’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Harry Kane. In all honesty, I didn’t expect to have both of these players in game week 21, but they have been returning goals…so it’s a bit difficult to get either of them out. Arsenal host Fulham, who are the league’s worst defense and Kane faces a tough Cardiff team, who’ve conceded 38 goals on the season.
A green arrow would be a great way to kickoff 2019, it’s been a challenging run through the festive period that started with a bang but ended with a bust. At some point the law of averages needs to swing in my favor, hopefully it starts this week.