Premier League: GW21 Retrospect

It say its been anything but easy, over this festive period would be an understatement. What started out as my best season out of 6 years playing FPL, turned drastic, as I hit the doldrums starting in game week 16 with four out of five red arrows, dropping from 81k to 162k, in what appeared to be a blink of the eye. Unlike other times during the season, you couldn’t dwell on the red, but look ahead to next game week, which was also a few days away.

While I won’t say an equilibrium has been restored, I did pick up my third green arrow in the last eight weeks on the back of 70 points in game week 21, which saw FPL managers average just 54 points. That saw me recover what I lost in the last four weeks, as I sit just 6 points shy of the top 100k. A testament to having patience playing the fantasy game.

Now, some credit is due to Casey and Gabe, you might know them as FPL_Tornado and FPLLens on Twitter, as we’d discussed strategy and our teams chemistry in previous episodes of the Academica Vertex. Patience has paid off as three of the last four game weeks have returned in point returns of 65, 68 and now 70 points. Now with 2019 here, we look forward the the January transfer window and potential player movement.

Ahead of the Friday fixture, I made a last minute decision to transfer out Man City’s, Ederson. I’d held on about as long as possible, as they hosted Liverpool this weekend. Of all the goalkeepers to select from , I dropped from a premium to a budget option and selected Neil Etheridge at Cardiff City.

Now it’s not the most popular option, but the kid’s been good this season, especially making a name for himself the first three weeks of the season making back to back penalty saves, posting 28 points and two clean sheets! However, Cardiff City struggled, as expected for a newly promoted team, but Etheridge has all the tools to be an excellent Premier League goalkeeper.

Knowing they were playing Spurs in game week 21, didn’t garner much confidence in selecting him, but felt he was going to be a better option going forward, as Cardiff had a favorable run and they would need some wins and possibly clean sheets to set them to hit that coveted 40 points to remain in the Premier League. On the day, I lost a single points, as Ederson scored 2 points.

He could be the next £4.5 option at the position. Selected by just 8.0% of managers and on 89 points, tied with Kepa for second with overall points, he could be that enabler between the posts that managers are looking for. He’s got the skills, he’s got the fixtures, makes saves and overall a damn good goalkeeper.

Defensively, I knew it was going to be a struggle this week. Had confidence in Chelsea keeping it clean, which they did and Marcos Alonso picked up the CS and two bonus points. Still high on Alonso as he’s the top ranked defender in the FPL game. Why managers continue to move him out of their starting XI is crazy. He’s a set and forget. What many managers see are cheaper players going on runs, like Matt Doherty or Luca Digne. When their attacking returns dry up, their teams don’t keep clean sheets with any regularity and become 2-point defenders. At this point, I wouldn’t even swap Alonso for Luiz. Both get the clean sheet points, but Alonso ticks over for the attacking returns, with 7 assists compared to Luiz’s one.

Liverpool had a tough call visiting City at the Eithad. While the previous fixture had been 0-0, I didn’t honestly think they would play out to another scoreless game. They didn’t, City went on to win 2-1, but Virgil van Dijk didn’t return, but Andrew Robertson picked up an assist and bonus point to finish on 5 points. More than I expected from this duo, which helped.

Honestly, the only defensive decision I had this week was setting my bench.  Jonny Otto or Aaron Wan-Bissaka as my first sub? In the end, I set Otto first and AWB, second. There was a fleeting thought to start both, as Ryan Fraser and Callum Wilson hadn’t been playing or returning, but knowing they were playing Watford, I felt more confident in an attacking return. Oddly enough, Wolves hosting Palace, but I wasn’t such how the game would end. Felt Wolves had the better chance, in the end I was wrong, but wouldn’t have got points off the bench either way.

This festive period was feast or famine or so it seemed. Never could I get all players to return on a regular basis. One week it would be the defenders and forwards returning, the next week it was the midfield. This week Ryan Fraser on the back of a goal, assist and two bonus points finished on 12 points. He outscored Felipe Anderson, Paul Pogba (not a surprise) and Richarlison, who combined for 7 points on the day.

Pogba, we knew he was due a BIG letdown and Newcastle didn’t fail.  In fact I made note of this on Twitter when I commented on Freddo’s post.

Looking ahead, I don’t feel Pogba will have a spot on my  team. I am sure that leaves all United fans shaking their heads in disbelief, but feel there are better options out there, that will provide more consistent returns. In fact, I had no faith in the “best midfielder in the world” this last weekend and he didn’t let me down.

While I started the season with no premium forwards, it only took two weeks before I realized I would be hiding behind the couch weekly, if I didn’t get one in. I brought in Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Harry Kane ahead of game week 15. The cost, Mo Salah, Marko Arnautovic and Sergio Aguero. However, since making the transfer its paid off, as Aubs and Kane continue to get the business done.

They did this week, as well as Callum Wilson. Yes, that Callum Wilson, he is STILL on my 15-man roster, as I had other more important issues to fix.  That is what happens when you have patience, it sometimes pays off. But you can also look at it as being lucky because I had been looking to move for Wilson and Fraser for a few weeks but needed a bit more ITB to pick up a premium midfielder. On the week, Kane, captained finished with 12 points, Aubameyang, 18 points and Wilson with 6 points. A combined 36 points, just over half of my weekly points that carried my team.

All in all, it feels great going into a cup weekend on a high note, starting the new year with a big green up, gaining 46k in the overall rank. Now the challenge remains the same, parlay consistent performances into green arrows.

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