Premier League: Wild Card & DGW34 Starting XI

The past few years I have written an article that discusses the ‘SDM’ or “season defining moment” that made or mauled your season. I discussed this in Episode 25 of The Pitch & Pint Podcast (1:24). This season I tabbed not owning Kun Aguero in GW25 as that moment. Much like Aguero, Mo Salah has been in the spotlight all season, for his failed to reproduce his success many FPL managers rode to glory last season. It could be fingered as an ‘SDM’ from GW16 through GW23, his best run of the season, picking up six double digit hauls, including a hat trick in GW16.

Like many FPL managers, I’ve spent the better part of my free time (at work) fiddling with my wild card, which was activated last Friday. With a plan and strategy in place, it’s been rather uncomplicated, not rolling through many variations of my squad, preparing for the extra Brighton fixture in GW34 and the DGW35. This IS the business end of the season and since activating my plan, I’ve been six out of seven green arrows with a jump of 142k, currently sitting at 11,998! A best OR in six years of FPL.

However, all that work (and luck) could be undone with a poor game week, we all know that. Looking at many different Twitter teams this week, rolling out a few pods and taking in the regulars I listen to, has seemingly brought me full circle as the sun rises this Friday on the West Coast of the US.

The Harry Kane injury, while devastating, has also been a blessing, as it’s really opened up the direction many FPL are taking. Template, doesn’t appear to be so template. I do continue to monitor the ownership of the top 1000 managers using Fantasy Football Fix.  The logic behind this, own who they own (for the most part) and you are assured of a green arrow. There’s more to this line of thinking, but this isn’t the article to explain it, as I’ve done on The Pitch & Pint Podcast and in previous articles.

Listening to What the FPL this morning on my commute in, had me tinkering with me team. Not in the fact I was attempting to text and tinker, but felt a clarity come over me when Mo Salah was mentioned. It’s no surprise to see a a massive drop off, as he lost 594k managers in GW32. In six of the last seven week, Salah has lost 941k managers! Huge numbers, to go with a huge chunk of our budget. But…he scored last week. It was his first goal in eight games and third attacking return in four. From a Liverpool perspective, he is essential for their potential season winning performance. Is that also so for our fantasy team?

In a moment blinded by mid-season failure, Salah has taken his place back on my midfield throne, replacing the recently fit, Kevin De Bruyne. With £4.4 ITB, moving to Salah didn’t effect any other part of my 15-man squad. The loss of KDB means I am not backing Man City for the run in, from an attacking perspective, but have gone back in on Aymeric Laporte, a defender I carried for much too long, when City went dark and couldn’t keep it clean.

The move back to Salah is based on the numbers. Currently, he’s owned by 67.9% of managers in the top 1000. Now, that figure has dropped from in excess of 90% earlier in the season, but he’s still one of the most highly owned assets in the FPL game, especially in the group I watch. While the key statistic, goals, hasn’t been as plentiful as his teammate, Sadio Mane, the numbers are still excellent over the last six game week, irregardless of position on the pitch. He’s getting into the box, he’s getting shots on goal. Why not? Can’t be any more risky then FPL managers captaining Shane Duffy in DGW35. Can it?

WILD CARD SQUAD

Just inside of 3 hours before the deadline drops and it appears I am down to one decision to make. I feel confident in my starting XI, as well as those players asked to pick up some points when the Bench Boost chip is played in DGW35. Best part, I have £1.2 ITB with the possibility of rolling the FT in DGW35, which will set me up for the final three weeks of the season.

Starting at the back, Ben Foster was in the initial draft, but not wanting to waste an FT to get another GK to finish the year I’ve decided to start Angus Gunn and Mat Ryan. I will be able to double them next week and run Gunn confidently to finish the season.

Defensively, Liverpool will continue to anchor the back line, as I remain doubled up on Andrew Robertson and Virgil van Dijk. The Reds are in a “must win” situation and there are no other teams I can confidently back to post clean sheets. Both also carry attacking potential, as Robertson has 10 assists, while VVD has 3 goals and assists, always a threat from set pieces.

Aymeric Laporte was a late decision, but much like Pool, City is in a must win situation in order to win the Premier League (as well as Champions League and the FA Cup). After the injury to Ben Mendy, Laporte has become the defacto defender to buy into. Not much of an attacking threat, but city have posted 16 CS on the season including six out of the last seven games.

The final two defenders are not much more then bench fodder. I don’t buy into the “love fest” for Shane Duffy. He’s a good defender on a rather poor team with 5 goals and 2 assists but just one attacking return in the last 10 games. Doesn’t instill much confidence after DGW34, but there is no way I drop the armband on such a risky player. He’s got one week as a starter and will be included in the Bench Boost in DGW35. Finally Maya Yoshida, had his last season and he was nails when I started him, clean sheets, some attacking returns and bonus points. For a budget option, I feel he is better then either Jan Bednarek or Yan Valery, when it comes to be the most well rounded budget option from the Saints.

The midfield…oh what a mess! So many different directions FPL managers are going in an attempt to capitalize on the DGW35 but set themselves up for the rest of the season. From my initial draft Kevin De Bruyne had been a key for my wild card team. Just this morning, I’ve decided to move off the City man and back to Mo Salah, as he is assured of playing time and feel the goal last week is the start of a strong finish. It could be just as risky as captaining Duffy in DGW34.

The Harry Kane injury, as I said has been a blessing, as it now allows me to double up with Heung-min Son and Christian Eriksen, both who should be key players in the Spurs run in. They still have a UCL game at the Eithad Stadium but play four out of their last six games at home. No Kane did Son well earlier in the season, as he beached the “essential” levels for a number of weeks. This will hopefully push Eriksen a bit further forward, now at Dele Alli is struggling with a broken bone in his hand.

I round out the midfield with two players who were key in to their teams in the FA Cup Semifinal; Gerard Deulofeu and Diogo Jota. Both are in form and double in GW35. Both players are similar in their style of play, positioning on the pitch and statistics. They are both essential to their respective teams and should play crucial roles down the stretch as both teams need wins in order to secure the 7th spot in the league table to participate in Europe next season.

Up front, “LET THE VARDY PARTY ROLL ON!!!” Not since Leicester City’s championship season have a backed the Englishman as I have recently. His form is the best in the league and Brendan Rodgers appears to have the Foxes offense clicking at the right time of the season. Another team that could finish with a shot at Europa League as well (currently 7th). It’s 10 attacking returns in 11 games with Newcastle at home in GW34 and West Ham away in GW35. There is an outside possibility I hold him through the Arsenal home match for GW36.

This will be just the second week I’ve own Raul Jimenez. Now I had a scathing opinion of his celebration antics in the FA Cup Semifinal with that stupid mask and have lost a lot of respect for the Mexican, but you can’t argue with the success he’s had on the season. Wolves have excellent fixtures up to GW38 and Jimenez should benefit. Much like the midfield, I go back to Watford to round out my 15-man team, as I back our inspirational captain, Troy Deeney. He’s playing some of his best football, is having fun and has the team thinking they could finish in a Europa League spot and win the FA Cup.

STARTING XI

With a 15-man squad named, it comes down to a single decision, who is the last player to make the starting XI? It comes down to Deulofeu, Deeney or Jota. With Deulofeu still flagged, it’s between Deeney and Jota. Wolves are away to So’ton, while Watford host a defenseless Arsenal at Vicarage Road. Then there is the “cajones” that the Gunners lack, a comment Deeney made last season after a 2-1 come from behind victory. Based on the fact that Arsenal have conceded 28 goals away from the Emirates and not kept a clean sheet, I feel Deeney gets that final spot for DGW34.

I move off the 3-4-3 formation (13 times) that has been so successful for me this season, averaging 59.1 PPG for a 4-3-3 that has been used 7 times for an average of 60.3 PPG. Based on the starters I have and the formation used, I am estimating 75 points on the weekend, as I continue to look up at the top 10k with a strong desire to make it seven green arrows out of eight and keep this success headed in a positive direction.

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