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Season 2, Episode 41 of the Pitch & Pint Podcast recorded Sunday, June 2, Fantasy Football Law of Averages
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Hello and welcome to Episode 41 of the Pitch & Pint podcast, my name is Stephen and you can find me @6thGoal on Twitter.
The Pitch & Pint Podcast is one of many weekly podcasts dedicated to FPL and in the case of this pod…beer. If you are a new listener to the show, you can take a listen back to the previous episode, #40, Keys to the FPL Kingdom.
This will give you an idea of what I do on the show. Last week we discussed planning and strategy, having patience, while remaining flexible.
I gave some thoughts on building a strong GW1 squad, as well as setting preseason goals and finally discussed a raging debate in the community, luck vs skill.
As I mentioned at the end of last season, a new podcast/videocast/livecast is in the works called the FPL Roundtable that will feature FPL Tornado, FPL Lens and at times, our token Canadian, FPL Shark. Due to personal commitments, were not sure how often Garf will be able to join us.
Early last season, we were podcasting as part of the Academica Vertex team, but as the season wore on, we started to do our own thing, which has transformed into a video project called the FPL Roundtable
You can watch of what we did, as we recorded two episodes and posted on You Tube, just do a search for FPL Roundtable. Casey, Gabe, Garf and I are looking forward to a great season, hope you will be a part of it.
Now with business out of the way, let’s get started.
Before I get into the FPL topics for the week, I need to go back to the beginning and introduce myself.
I am not new to online shoutcasting or podcasting as the cool kids call it now. I produced my first content in 2001 called Radio Oz, as I took listeners back to the music of the1980s.
After taking a position on an amateur development team in 1999, I was involved with a Quake 3 project called Urban Terror and over the next 10 years I would provide public relations and coverage on the community through my weekly radio show, Urban Radio.
During those years I worked for a few online radio stations, covering eSports, such as the Team SportsCast Network and Radio iTG or Inside the Game.
I was the voice for online gaming coverage in Europe on Clanbase for Urban Terror and Medal of Honor, as well as many U.S. based leagues.
In 2005 I returned to the 80s with a show called Just Push Play, a 2-hour show dedicated to music, movies, television and video games from the 1980s.
If you have any desire to hear any of these podcasts, visit the6thfloor.com, they are all listed under Online Shoutcasting.
So that’s a bit of my backstory as we look towards kicking off the upcoming FPL season.
As for FPL, the 2019/20 season begins my 7th season participating in the fantasy game.
Last year represented my highest finish, 31k. Prior to that it was a 75k finish in the 2015/16 season.
In the first few years, I didn’t use any resources while playing the game and I didn’t have access to Premier League coverage like I do now in the US, having the ability to watch EVERY game, every weekend.
Being involved with the #FPLBeerClub on Twitter, I started a #30SecondBeerReview, to give the lads in the UK some idea of the quality craft beer in the US.
One thing led to another and now, just a bit over a year later I have some 200 reviews available. You can find all those reviews at 6thgoal.com listed under FPL Beer Club.
So that’s just a bit about me, FPL and the beer club.
Now let’s get the keys to the FPL.
KEYS TO THE FPL KINGDOM (03:46)
I spoke about building a strong GW1 team in the last podcast. Last season, I feel I had a few pieces in place to give me a good foothold on the start of the season.
Unfortunately, I lacked the patience after two weeks and a red arrow, hovering above a million in the OR after a 67- and 66-point week.
Patience. A factor I cited time and time again last year had yet to take hold and before I knew it, I had activated that first wild card ahead of GW3, a move that gained me 3 additional points that week. However, the success of a wild card isn’t based off a single week.
Like many other FPL managers, who put countless hours into building their squad, I hope to do it smarter this season.
Not sure if that is possible, especially with the lure of Twitter and the “herd mindset” when it comes to a piece of news about a player that gets the community buzzing.
One of my Keys to Success I wrote about last season centered around social media.
“Last season was my first using Twitter as my main source of FPL news.
Sometimes those tweets would lead me to a few websites and podcasts I respect and use to help make my decisions.
The problem with social media, it’s such a small cross section of the game.
Much like making my own decisions, I let social media dictate some strategic and weekly moves that left me hunched over and defeated because I would have prospered, had made my own decision.
There is much knowledge to be gleaned from social media, but tread cautiously and refer to the previous point.”
That previous point I referred to, “make your own decisions.”
One metric I will put more weight going into this season, after research and writing about last season is VAPM or value added per million.
VAPM is calculated by taking the PPM or points/matches, subtracting 2 and dividing by the price.
By deducting 2 from the PPM, we eliminate points earned off playing a minimum of 60 minutes.
This allows for a more meaningful comparison of two players, but even this metric has its shortcomings.
I wrote about VAPM and the success of some players in the article, Success in the Stats on 6thgoal.com recently.
I’ve also built a small spreadsheet to help me out over the course of the season, as I break down the 38-week season into manageable blocks
Like any stat or metric, none of them are perfect. They won’t make you an expert, nor will they guarantee you a successful FPL season.
Above everything else, I want my starting XI to be consistent. Last season I feel I did a good job avoiding bad weeks, where I was well under the weekly average.
Only five times last season did I score under the weekly average, but as FPL managers know, sometimes scoring the weekly average still results in a red arrow.
To be consistent, we need to bring in players that play consistent. While we love to see big scores and players posting double digit attacking returns, we do know that is not the norm in FPL.
Eden Hazard is a perfect case. He was the second highest scoring midfielder last season, behind Mo Salah with 238 points.
He posted 11 double digit returns, but also had 16 games with no attacking. The consummate FPL troll.
We can look back to the previous year and see all the attacking and defending stats we could want from every player in the FPL.
How do we approaching team build using metrics?
For now, I am going to keep the formation dynamic, but venture a guess I will start in a 3-4-3 or a 3-5-2, as they are typically the most used formations in the game.
This season I plan on backing VAPM ahead of the season to help me find those players who will score the necessary points each week to help me achieve my weekly and season goals.
Last few years I have used 60 PPG as my goal over the 38-week season. The 2018/19 season was the first time I exceeded that 60PPG average, posting a 61.39 PPG.
Unfortunately, it was big year for many and that 61 PPG in the past has seen managers end in the top 10k.
This year I am approaching the game a bit more aggressively, targeting 63 PPG as my goal.
Over 38 weeks, a 61 PPG average will score you 2318 points. To achieve a 63 PPG average (2394), you need to come up with an additional 76 points, which averages out to just 2 points a game. That’s less then an assist a game.
Easy to say and plan, but much more difficult to achieve. However, putting together a starting XI of consistent players could help you achieve some early success to make that goal easier to achieve.
That is where I plan on using VAPM. Now, based on the model example from the Reddit thread where I found VAPM.
Using 2300 points, which is just 33 fewer points then what I scored this past season. In a typical year could see you pushing for a top 10k finish.
Let’s assume our captain selections score us a conservative 500 points. Last season, I scored 542, so this is a nice round figure.
That leaves us with 1800 points scored without our captain points.
While there are 38 game weeks, this metric uses 40 to approximate double game weeks and points from chip usage.
Take the 1800 points divide it by 40 weeks and we get 45, which represents our points per week. Now subtract 22 points, as your starting XI play a minimum of 60 minutes and we need to score 23 additional points each week to achieve our 2300-point goal for the season.
To start last season, I had 17.5 million in bench playersand 82.5 invested in my starting XI.
So, 23 points divided by 82.5 million equals 0.28 points per million invested.
Again, it’s not a perfect system, some brought up different aspects not considered in the Reddit thread, but I do feel it holds some credence when it comes to looking at players to start the season.
I’ve started to narrow down my starting XI player pool based on statistics from this past season including, PPG and VAPM as key components.
Before I get into a short list of players, it’s time to pop the top on my first beer, here on The Pitch & Pint Podcast.
BEER REVIEW – CURIOSITY SIXTY-FIVE (09:45)
One of the best, if not the best breweries in the United States, is Tree House Brewing Company out of Charlton, Massachusetts.
Thankfully a handful of guys in the FPL Beer Club can now agree with me when it comes to the quality of the beer from this brewery.
The first Tree House beer I reviewed on Beer Advocate was In Perpetuity, June 8th, last year and Haze on February 2nd on the Untappd app.
Tree House Brewing Company is a located in Charlton, Massachusetts, approximately 60 miles west of Boston.
It is considered by some to be amongst the best breweries in the United States, including public beer-rating sites like Untappd (ranked 6th in the country) and Beer Advocate (with 3 out of the top ten beers in the country.
Founded in 2011, the brewery was originally located in Monson, Massachusetts, before a multimillion-dollar project which landed them at their current site in 2017.
Tree House is a non-distributing brewery—it is only available to buy on site—but given its popularity, lines at the brewery can run an hour or more on certain days.
Tree House is particularly known for their production of American-style IPAs and their stouts.
According to Gary Dzen, writer for the Boston Globe: “There’s something to know if you’ve never had a Tree House beer: they’re great, almost all of them, from the thick, milky stout to the piney Sap to Julius, which is probably the best IPA I’ve ever had.
If you’ve ever heard people describe beers as “soft” and didn’t quite grasp why, you will immediately see with Tree House, whose hoppy beers all maintain a delicate, melon-y quality I’ve never seen matched.“
In early 2013, Tree House commenced a brewing endeavor that continues unrelentingly today: The Curiosity Series.
From Tree House, “It is our outlet to hoppy creative freedom. What flavor profile would develop if we paired a 30% wheat malt bill with 100% Amarillo hops in the kettle and dry hop?
We found out with Curiosity Six. How would a 2-Row malt malt bill pair with Equinox Hops and drying American Ale Yeast? We’re not sure – it hasn’t happened yet.
But it will if the spirit moves us, we’ll find out with a future brew.
The Curiosity Series represents the joy of spontaneity and creativity in beer form – two things at the heart and soul of what Tree House represents.
In time, we intend to revisit some of these gems of Tree House’s past, while they continue forging our future.”
Today, I am fortunate to be reintroduced to the curiosity series.
The only previous iteration I have tasted, Curiosity 53 from November 2018.
Let’s pop the top on this 16 oz can…
Curiosity 65 pours a dense and dull light, custard yellow with a bold, creamy and complex 1-finger head that lingers with excellent retention.
The smell is an explosion of tropical and citrus include orange, tangerine, ripe pineapple, papaya, guava, mango and passion fruit with a slight hint of pine.
Creamy mouthfeel with a big fruit flavor on the palette that goes along with the nose, lots of citrus and tropical fruit, the hops come in a bit late, but linger through a slightly bitter finish.
Overall 65 is outstanding, all Galaxy hops in a double IPA for the first time paired with their singular house yeast.
It is buoyed by a simple grist of pale malt and an appreciable amount of oats!
The result of utilizing a substantial amount of Galaxy in both the kettle and dry hop.
I am fortunate enough to have Curiosity 66, 67 and shortly 68. An excellent continuing series from one of the best in the US. Tree House.
Let’s get back to the FPL discussion.
PLAYER POTENITAL (13:27)
In episode 40, I know I said I didn’t want to get into too much player news or price speculation.
Regardless of price, I think FPL managers can build a list of players to consider when the season.
That player list will be our starting point when we look at building a consistent starting XI that could give us the strong start to the season.
This list will potentially change when we see prices attached to players, probably sometime in July.
Going forward in this section, I will use a basis 0.35 as the average VAPM a player needs for an FPL manager to have a good season.
Any figure over that, the better their season.
Neil Etheridge was best goalkeeper on the year with a 0.46 VAPM, scoring 4.1 PPG.
His VAPM was 0.02 better then Alisson (0.44) and Hugo Lloris (0.44) but both averaged a higher PPG, Alisson a league leading 4.6 PPG and Lloris, 4.4 PPG.
Ederson was more of the middle of the road, based on VAPM finishing at 0.42 and 4.4 PPG.
The surprise goalkeeper, based on how Everton finished the season strong, posting 8 CS in the last 11 games, Jordan Pickford.
Quite unimpressive in the early part of the season, just 2 CS through 11 games, the Toffees really turned it around.
Pickford finished with a VAPM of 0.45 and a 4.2 PPG average.
Looking at the defenders, Liverpool was the class of the league. They posted 21 clean sheets on the season, while Andrew Robertson and Virgil van Dijk both outscored ALL forwards in the FPL game.
That is damn impressive!
It’s going to be tough to follow up that sort of production in the coming year, but I think this defense can improve on those numbers, especially if they get more consistency from their CB pairing with van Dijk.
Joe Gomez looked to be that player early in the season, starting 11 out of 14 games and posting 7 clean sheets.
The Liverpool defender ended up missing much of the rest of the season after ankle surgery when he crashed into the advertising boards at Turf Moor last December.
In his limited playing time, he posted 3.4 PPG and a 0.29 VAPM.
These numbers pale in comparison to that of Robertson, van Dijk and Trent Alexander-Arnold.
Using a very small sample set of the top 10 managers, the same sample set used through out this section, the three Liverpool players were the only defenders to finish above 5.2 PPG.
TAA led all defenders with 6.4 PPG and a 0.76 VAPM.
Robertson scored an average of 5.9 PPG or 0.58 VAPM. Finally, VvD, 5.5 PPG and a VAPM of 0.52.
All impressive from the best defense in the league last season.
Now, FPL managers owning all three probably won’t happen much next season, so we can increase that list when we look at the average PPG of the top 10 defenders by points, which ends up averaging 4.5 PPG.
Marcos Alonso looked great early on, but seemed to fall out of favor with Sarri, as Emerson got some starts, but also had a run of 20 games without an attacking return!
That said the Chelsea wingback still finished the season with 161 points, a 5.2 PPG average with a 0.52 VAPM.
With City defender, Ben Mendy going down after just 12 games, it was Aymeric Laporte who stepped up to average 5.1 PPG or 0.49 VAPM, as City posted 20 clean sheets.
Alonso’s playing partner, David Luiz posted a 4.6 PPG average with a 0.45 VAPM.
Laporte’s counterpart at City, Kyle Walker, while not as offensive, scoring just 1 goal and 1 assist average 4.5 PPG and a 0.39 VAPM.
Luca Digne, like Pickford seemed to sneak up and surprise many FPL managers last season.
While I never jumped on him, he finished with excellent numbers on the season including a 4.5 PPG average and a 0.46 VAPM.
It should be said that many of these defenders will start the season with a premium price tag, the same holds true for the goalkeepers, excluding Etheridge at this point, unless he finds a Premier League employer.
Depending on how you plan, premium players end up being the cornerstone of your starting XI.
The phrase, “you can’t own them all” rings true, especially last season when many managers were wondering how to fit in the likes of Salah and Kane, which comprised 25 million, a quarter of your total budget to start the season.
Rest assured it will more difficult to find that balance this season with many defenders coming off good seasons and midfielders who finished strong.
Let’s not forget FPL Towers penchant for shifting players positions. Something I am not in support of, nor will I ever consider Mo Salah, a forward. The same holds true for Deulofeu, who has always been a midfielder, even though he played OOP this season as a forward.
The top 10 midfielders based on points averaged 5.2 PPG.
After the top 4 midfielders; Raheem Sterling, Mo Salah, Sadio Mane and Eden Hazard, the PPG average decreases to a second tier, led by Paul Pogba at 5.1 PPG.
Sterling averaged 6.9 PPG and a 0.42 VAPM. Salah, based on his price wasn’t overly impressive, 6.8 PPG, but a VAPM that drops to 0.36, as his price really hurt him.
Mane’s 6.4 PPG was just a bit lower then Salah but had a higher VAPM at 0.43 at millions less.
An argument we heard much of last season when comparing and contrasting the two Reds midfielders.
I am not going to Hazard in any preplanning at this point, as Real Madrid are chasing the midfielder.
There will be other midfielders, based on their price that will be premium options. None of them were on par with this group, as Leroy Sane average 5.0 PPG with a 0.32 VAPM and Christian Eriksen with a 4.6 PPG and a 0.28 VAPM.
If the midfield list was small, the forward position didn’t get much better, as the mid-priced forwards outplayed many premium options.
When looking just a VAPM, Callum Wilson, 0.52, Salamon Rondon, 0.44 and Raul Ji-menez, 0.41 were the top forwards.
Forwards who averaged better then 5.5 were dominated by the premiums, as Sergio Aguero, 6.1 PPG lead the group, but his VAPM was only 0.34.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was on par with Aguero’s VAPM, but averaged 5.7 PPG, tied with Harry Kane, who struggled much of the season with injury, posting just a 0.29 VAPM.
It was Wilson who was the best of the bunch from a price perspective, as he averaged 5.6 PPG with a 0.52 VAPM.
Other notable forwards included Jamie Vardy, 5.1 PPG, a 0.34 VAPM. Alexandre Lacazette and Roberto Firmino posted the same numbers, 4.7 PPG and 0.29 VAPM.
Many of these players will be on the minds of FPL managers when prices are released.
Based on my research, I feel these will be the more consistent options to start the season. The other caveat being FDR and which teams have favorable or unfavorable schedules to start the season.
Going back to my 2300-point example, I need players to score 0.29 VAPM or better to achieve my goal.
If I were using VAPM exclusively based on last season, I would have 8 goalkeepers to select from,18 defenders, 21 midfielders and 12 forwards.
That alone narrows the field on players I should potentially start the season with.
Again, I stress the importance of doing your own research when it comes to players, their statistics and who you want to consider ahead of a new FPL season.
Let’s take a quick break and look at some beer news.
BEER NEWS – BEER ESCAPADES (20:52)
If you listened to any of the previous episodes of the podcast, you might have realized I am a bit of a beer snob when it comes to the craft beer I favor.
I don’t drink just any beer. I drink independent craft beer, but not just any independent, because I think brewers like Stone, Sierra, New Belgium, Founders, Deschutes, Dogfish Head (Now part of Boston Beer Co.) are just too big to be considered the kind craft I want to drink.
I also won’t drink beer that was once craft, now considered “crafty” owned by big beer such as; Ballast Point, Goose Island, Lagunitas, Saint Archer, 10 Barrel, Funky Buddha and Golden Road to name a few.
That said, beer is something that brings people together, just look at the 20 or so members of the FPL Beer Club. Guys from the US, Scotland, Ireland and the UK with a love of football, the sharing and drinking of beer.
My taste in beer has really matured over the last few years and honestly, I feel spoiled at times when it comes to the quality of beer I’ve been getting my hands on.
California is a mecca when it comes to craft breweries.
As of 2017, there are over 980 craft breweries in the state that contributed $8.2 billion to the state’s economy.
San Diego is arguably one of the best craft beer cities in the US, along with Portland, Oregon and Denver, Colorado.
However, living near San Francisco has allowed much diversity when it comes to local favorites, such as Pliny the Elder from Russian River, beer that some, especially those in the UK can’t get.
Yet, every few weeks I order 12 cans of beer from an acquaintance on Twitter, who does the legwork, stands in line and ships me beer from Tree House Brewing Company out of Massachusetts.
Odd I would spend some $100 on 12 cans, when there is so much good craft in California.
Sometimes, there is no price too high to pay when it comes to good craft beer. Tree House, is no exception.
This beer news section is also used to talk about my home brewing experiences, as I brew under the name, Contributing Factor Brewing.
You can check out what I have brewed on the website, contributingfactorbrewing.com. If you use the Untappd app, search for my brewery name.
I never knew the app did home brew or I would have posted the four previous batches I have brewed. That said, this last batch was the best of the bunch.
I recently finished a stout that was named by FPL Fly called Nuno’s Bearded Stout. It was a recipe based on the Fort Bragg based, North Coast Brewing Company’s stout, Old Rasputin.
Fly, along with a few other FPL Beer Club members will be receiving a bottle in the coming weeks. Can’t wait to share this home brewed goodness with them.
Last April I decided to get back into the home brew game, but it all started years before.
The year was 1994, Arlington, Texas was home, working for Greyhound Bus Lines, when a co-worker, Sonny introduced me to home brewing.
Not knowing much about beer, his home brewed, Rattlesnake Ale was excellent, compared to what I was drinking at the time.
Since I can’t recall any of the brands, it’s obvious none of it really stood out as exceptional.
In fact, this was the first time I was ever offered a home brewed beverage.
It was that ale that changed how I thought of beer.
Moving back to California and working in Los Angeles early in 1995, I rented an apartment with a good friend, fellow private pilot and co-worker.
It wasn’t long after I found a local home brew store in Torrance, California and stopped in one day.
Shades of the taste and complexity of the Rattlesnake Ale, Sonny gave me, I wanted to try my hand at brewing.
After inquiring and asking questions, I walked out with a load of brewing gear and a cherry wheat beer kit.
This recipe kit because I wanted something with a Samuel Adams type flavor.
While the Internet was available, I was still an AOL user and rarely started the browser to stray into this vast unknown.
Even so, I would venture a guess that information on brewing your own beer was limited.
Following the instructions, I recall setting up in the kitchen, as the entire process was long, rather complex and messy.
In the end I bottled two cases of a cherry wheat beer and let it ferment, then bottle condition.
Unfortunately, I was not impressed with the flavor once it I chilled and popped the cap on the first beer.
The second attempt I vaguely remember, in fact can’t recall the kit I purchased, but it remained bottled when I moved back to San Diego. My dreams of home brewing died with that second batch.
The increase in craft brewing has reignited my interest in trying my hand at home brewing again.
While enjoying the variety of craft beer we see in California, it’s a different world when you become the brewer. I’ve also had the opportunity to taste beers from Indiana, Michigan, Massachusetts, Vermont and places in between, which rank near the top, when we talk best beers in American.
The last few years, I’ve taken a real interest in craft beers, starting with hometown favorites from San Diego. Couldn’t ask for a better city with strong ties to craft brewing!
Always enjoy the beer talk, but let’s get back into FPL.
STARTING STRONG (26:07)
I questioned my decision-making last week in the ‘Building A GW1 Starting XI’ as I looked back on season.
I asked, “Why did I decide to start with these eleven players? What compelled me to put this squad together? Why wasn’t it stronger out of the box?”
Listening to part 2 of Planet FPL Live last Wednesday, I listened to Suj and James talk with Neil Murray, on Twitter @neilswmurrayFPL.
Scrolling through his tweets, I ran across some research he did, as he broke down “famous” FPL managers and how they started the season.
He says, “I looked back on the first 3 GW points totals of all the managers who finished above 500k and bracketed them using the following ORs:”
Using these ranges, I took the median 3 GW points totals from the players in that particular range.
Again, this is all from Neil, he said, “I then divided that median by 3 in order to get a GW average for that OR bracket for the first 3 GWs, here were my findings:
There’s clearly a trend in terms of how many points managers scored in their first 3GWs and where they ultimately finished.
The anomaly between 50-100K is a good reminder that a good start is not the be all or end all, but the overall trend indicates it certainly helps.
He concludes with, “A strong start to the season means you’ve likely picked a good team for GW1 & will therefore allow you to build value as you already own some of the top scoring players, this in turn sets you up for later in the season.
It also means you’ll likely have to take less hits.
By way of comparison, I started the season with 67, 66 and 57 for 190 points, an average of 63.3 PPG. Now that’s an average I would take over the course of 38 weeks, but when looking at Neil’s data is well off the pace of the top 100k.
If I compare this with winner, Adam Levy, he posted 220 points over the same period, an average of 73.3 PPG.
As I mentioned in the previous pod, “Getting off to a strong start is one of the top priorities this coming season, more than planning, remaining flexible and practicing patience.
While each of those are key, putting the best XI on the pitch should ensure you a strong start with more managers under you, then above you. The remaining pieces will fall into place. The hard part, who are those best XI?”
This all goes back to how statistics are interpreted by FPL managers, and where prices players come at to start the upcoming FPL season.
This will be one of my keys to success this season. Then again, at 63 PPG, through the first 3 weeks last season, I would be excited to hold that average through 38 game weeks.
Our final piece this week, some words on Watford.
WATFORD FINAL THOUGHT (XXXXX)
Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “life is a journey, not a destination.” I feel this fits Watford’s run through the Premier League season, while savoring the moments in our FA Cup run.
Along the way, as supporters we never stopped believing in our gaffer, our players…our club.
Watford had an amazing season, when compared to previous years, the Hornets posted their best season, 50 points in the Premier League, on the back of Javi Gracia and his leadership in his first full season.
As a supporter I’m proud of what the club achieved this season, starting off the season with four wins, a big come from behind victory against Spurs, 2-1.
It was great days on High Street and Vicarage Road this season, black and gold, flags and song. Good cheers on the back of a good season.
Looking back on the last 10 weeks of the season, this year was no better than last year for Watford, losing six games, including the last three to finish the season, dropping out of the top half of the league to finish 11th in the table.
Wolverhampton got their revenge at the Vic, 2-1. Chelsea dismantled us at Stamford Bridge, 3-0 and our final tune up game ahead of the FA Cup final, the lads played without a tenacity seen earlier in the season, not to get hurt, losing 4-1 to West Ham.
While things were not “golden” to finish the season, we had an eye on the cup final since early April and our extra time, come from behind win over Wolves, 3-2 in the semi-finals.
This was one of the high points on the season as a Watford fan. Doing Crystal Palace three times also comes to mind, as does the game week four, come from behind winner from Craig Cathcart, over Spurs, 2-1.
As an American, I’ve never had the opportunity to visit Watford, as Wembley Stadium is a bucket list item for the future.
Still the support I show for Watford has been unwavering this season. Heading into FA Cup Final, after watching Watford FC’s #ImageIf campaign on Twitter kept that flame of hope burning.
Realistically, no Premier League team was as good as Manchester City this season, our chances were always slim.
Big money can buy players, championship but it can’t buy heart, which is something that Watford supporters will always have.
Even waiting 35 years to return to Wembley Stadium and the FA Cup Final.
We knew the chips were stacked against us, but the fact remains, we were one of two teams out of 736 in the overall competition to be playing in the final game.
As I mentioned in a preview article, as well as on Planet #FPL Live, capitalizing on chances and putting balls on target were key for the Hornets.
We had some early chances from Roberto Pereyra and Gerard Deulofeu.
On target, but Ederson was determined to keep things clean for City.
Had we been able to score, would that have affected the flow of the game? Would it have made a difference after 90 minutes?
At the intermission, down 2-0 there was no coming back, especially against a Pep Guariola side as dominate as this.
At no point did Watford stop singing or enjoying the day.
While the real heart of the support was at Wembley Stadium, feelings across Twitter were quite the opposite, which frustrated on the day.
Many believe Wolves would have given City a better game.
That’s debatable, but Nuno and his players were watching, not playing.
Watford deserved to be in the finals but there would have been very few teams favored against the sky-blue juggernaut.
Looking ahead to next season, we’ve got a lot to be excited about.
There is a great nucleus in our starting XI that will return next season under Gracia.
If we need to point to a deficiency in our team, it’s our central defenders.
Adrian Mariappa has play 49 games in the last two seasons, the 32-year old will enter the final year of his contract.
Craig Cathcart, now 30 has been a mainstay in the starting XI since Watford won promotion in the 2014/15 season.
At one point, it appeared Christian Kabasele could be the central defender we were looking for, playing in 28 games in the 2017/18 season.
He started this season well, but a Boxing Day injury saw him sidelined. When he returned to fitness, his play was more a liability, costing us goals.
During the summer transfer period, this will be a key position for Gino Pozzo, Scott Duxbury and Javi Gracia.
Our inspirational leader and captain, Troy Deeney isn’t getting any younger, but had one of his best season’s in the Premier League partnering with Gerard Deulofeu.
His nine goals were second to Deulofeu on the season, but his presence on the pitch isn’t easy to replace.
Watford will accept bids on Roberto Pereyra and Abdoulaye Doucoure over the summer as well.
There have been rumors of both players leaving the club, Pereyra returning to Italy to play under former boss, Walter Mazzarri at Torino, as Doucoure was linked with PSG in the January transfer window.
Doucoure signed a contract through 2023, so Watford are under no pressure to sell.
Arsenal have also been rumored to be interested in Doucoure, as Aaron Ramsey departs to Italian champions, Juventus.
As we saw with Richarlison last season, if the right price comes, Watford is a business.
Having signed Deulofeu for £11.5 million this season, it would not be surprising to see teams come calling for his services.
Rumors out of Italy that Deulofeu wants to move back to AC Milan, but unlikely due to Milan’s sporting director resigning. This from Fabrizio Romano reporter for Sky Sports and The Guardian.
Watford want around 30 million for the Spaniard. This IS the Pozzo way, as a supporter, as we saw last year with the sale of Richarlison to Everton.
Watford is a business, so it could be one full season and done for Deulofeu.
Too early to say if success breeds success, but Watford should be in a great position to start the 2019/20 Premier League season.
Another off season under Gracia and this team will be stronger and ready to compete.
Andre Gray said it best after the loss to City, “We’ve just got to take it as one of those things and the gaffer said it, sometimes you’ve got to lose to win and that’s how we need to take it now and just come back next year a lot stronger.”
<queue Spanish Flea>
That’s it for Episode 41, thanks for listening.
As I was told in a Twitter DM the other day, “take some time off, away from FPL.” I did, one week and I am back, looking forward to the 2019/20 season.
All this information is preparation for the planning and strategy that will take place when the schedules come out and the prices drop.
It’s all for the love of the game and the FPL community.
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Thanks for listening to The Pitch & Pint Podcast, FPL from inside the six.