Defensively Red, Offensively Blue

The 2019/20 FPL season is just under a month away, as Liverpool gears up to kick off against a new cream puff up from the Championship. Many are already touting the #ALWAYSCAPTAINSALAH on Twitter, as manager continue to tinker and tweet their RMTs. Doesn’t that get boring? I’ll admit, I just dropped a 15-man squad on Twitter, but I wasn’t looking for anyone to RMT, but an interesting idea that I haven’t seen floated in the FPL community. Does that mean it’s THAT stupid? Let’s see.

While I’ve dropped two podcasts for the second season of The Pitch & Pint Podcast, with a third in production, I’ve just started tinkering with my 15-man squad. I’ve got the beginnings of a spreadsheet started, along with the information I released last month regarding VAPM and how to apply it to any research and metrics used to help make player decisions.

Much like I’ve done the last few years, I am working on a starting XI for each possibly formation. Why not? One key to success I quoted yesterday in my Key to Success: FPL 2019/20 article was be flexible, “All the planning in the world won’t help if you are rigid when it comes to forcing your strategy or formation because it works in your plan.”

This initially starts with your player planning and deciding what formation you will start the season with. Many managers are already put off by start with the highly popular 3-4-3 because of the “value” seen last year in defenders. There is some question as to the viability and “value” when it comes to players like Aguero, Kane and Aubameyang. There is much excitement over the cheaper options of Wilson, Jimenez and King.

I’ve decided to build my squad like many mangers by starting the process with three players from Liverpool and three from Manchester City. That’s a fair chunk of your budget. Unlike many going with a conventional thought on how to select those six players, I’ve made it very simple. Liverpool defense, Man City attack.

As I write this, I have not had a drop of beer so don’t think I am drunk when it comes to this strategy. Instead of asking me why, I could respond “why not?” There is a good chance Man City will next in excess of 100 goals this season in the Premier League. In the last two years, City have score 95 and 106 goals, best Liverpool’s 89 and 84 totals. That’s not to say Reds players like Salah and Mane won’t get their goals, we know they will.

Man City posted 683 attempts on goal (445 inside the box) with 255 shots on target last season and 125 big chances taken. All statistics topped the league.

Defensively Man City were quite impressive defensively, but were second best to Liverpool, a team that conceded just 22 goals, posting 21 clean sheets, as Man City were one off both statistics. The big difference in the individual team categories comes to the Sky Blues and their ability to maintain possession. Looking at shots conceded numbers, inside the box, 147, outside the box, just 95 for a total of 238 and on target 81. All impressive, but defensive, they conceded just one more goal and lost out on one clean sheet.

The big difference in the defense was at the attacking end of the pitch, as Robertson and Alexander-Arnold combined for 25 assists! Van Dijk in his own right had four assists. Man City saw just 14 assists from their defenders combined! Mendy had 6 assists in just 900 minutes, due to injury.

Many managers are contemplating a 5-man defense, this is something I started with in the 2017/18 season (see this article) writing, “Continuing to have faith in the strong So’ton backline, I start with the treble again, looking for more offensive returns from any of my defenders.” I’ve got three 5-man defensive variations right now that center around double Liverpool with Man City, Chelsea and Everton rounding out the defense.

However, I’ve continued to look at the fixtures and the potential defensive returns and I’ve gone treble Liverpool defense. This way I don’t need to compromise one defender for another, the only down side, no Salah in my starting XI. Can I make up for that in the midfielder or forward position?

With the defense sorted, the midfield could potentially be all Man City depending on where you want to spread your budget. In the example above, I have selected Sterling over Aguero, but those two players are interchangeable on some levels, depending on how you view the forwards. I’ve also included De Bruyne, as he appears to be all value at £9.5 and Bernardo Silva.

There could be more funds allocated to the midfielder, depending on what I do with Lacazette. Based on Arsenal’s first two fixtures; new/BUR this could be a viable option, which would allow me to downgrade the Gunner ahead of GW3, away to Liverpool, followed by a home game against Spurs. Based on many variations of the FDR, Watford, Liverpool, Palace, Chelsea and Everton appear to have the best attacking fixtures. City falls in just behind Everton, but we all know Man City can and will score.

If I don’t trust the Gunners to get out of the blocks strong, Lacazette could be replaced by…and I hate to say this, Deulofeu. The out of position, Watford midfielder is just £6.5 with BHA/eve/WHU/new in their opening four games.  The other option, King also priced at £6.5 with SHU/avl in their first two game. Replacing Lacazette with either option would free up another £3.0 to allocate to the midfield bringing Eriksen, Sigurdsson and Fraser into the mix. There are quite a few variations to play with.

Is this putting your, proverbial eggs all in one basket, risky? Sure but no more risky then starting with a 5-man defense. I recall considering treble Liverpool last season as we approached the doubles and blanks, but never followed through with it but one thing remain constant. When looking for at defenders for clean sheets (not attacking returns), the Liverpool lads were always the top consideration!  To start the season, I see no reason to think they couldn’t come even closer to the 24 clean sheets set by Petr Cech of  Chelsea in 2004/05.

Can’t say I will stick with this idea, but I am not against it. It’s risky, but no more so then going without a premium forward or having to decided between Salah or Mane. Does Kane break duck in August this year or go goalless? So in some respect, I think the risk is reduced especially if both teams hit the ground running off their highly successful campaigns last season. Always looking for your thoughts. Am I crazy to follow though with this?

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