2019/20 Premier League: Starting XI

It’s Friday and after recording Episode 46: Don’t Panic on the Pitch & Pint Podcast, being called out on Thursday on Episode 6: Hold It Now, Hit It, by co-hosts on the FPL Roundtable, I finally confessed that I activated my wild card late Monday night after the Wolves vs Man United game. We can debate the reasoning all season, but the thought process was explained in the article 2019/20 Premier League: GW3 Transfers. I seem to be following in the footsteps of last season, when I activated the wild at the same time, ahead of GW3. This year, it was the fact I did not own Raheem Sterling, owned by 97.6% of managers in the top 1000! Big ownership number, I could not ignore.

“The more things change, the more they continue to be same thing, ” said Frenchman, Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr in 1848. That can be applied to my newly created FPL team after the decision to activate the first wild card late Monday night. There was no panic. There was no interest in catching price rises. The concern centered around ownership statistics from Fantasy Football Fix of the top 1000 managers in the game. This is data I continue to use when looking forward to my weekly transfers. This group usually has an average weekly score that are a few points above what is averaged over all of the FPL. The rational, you maintain a score close to the top 1000 and you will have a very successful season.

Reviewing the numbers while preparing my last podcast, I was somewhat surprised at a 97.6% ownership of Sterling. I can’t recall a time last season I saw an ownership number so high. While I don’t toss around the term, “must own” on a regular basis, this is about as close as it gets! This numbers spoke volumes, so it was one the reasons I decided to activate the wild and restructure my starting XI and bench.

GOALKEEPER

One position that wasn’t changed, Nick Pope remains my £4.5 starter, as Burnley travel to Molineux this weekend against Wolves. This isn’t the same club we saw last year, after just two games, as Europa League seems to be taking a bit of a toll. Only 14 goal attempts, 4 on target shots and one goal through two games. Could be a great time for Burnley to play them, save points and a few bonus points could be a possibility. David Button remains the non-playing back up.

DEFENDERS

One position that got a major overhaul to help fund the Sterling move was the defense. Maybe moving Liverpool defenders is consider premature, as I owned Andrew Robertson and Virgil van Dijk. After two weeks, conceding two goals, there was some cause for concern that Adrian isn’t going to help that defense. While van Dijk had picked up a goal, Robertson was yet to find an attacking return and neither had posted a clean sheet. That was concern for the next 4-6 games.

The only starting defender to make the grade, Oleksandr Zinchenko at City, but his status will continue to watched, as Ben Mendy continues to work on his fitness, but rest assured he will be back in the starting XI, which could make Zinchenko expendable in the coming month.

Unlike last season, I did not start with Aaron Wan-Bissaka, after his big money move to Man United, I was not sold on that defense being improved and after how poorly United finished the season, more was needed to be seen before buying in on their defense. AWB continues to play well and should pick up more BPS than his playing partner, Harry Maguire, which was one reason I moved on the youngster over Slabhead.

Looking at Everton, I had a difficult time buying in on the Toffees defense. They hit a great stretch last season with six clean sheets in a row, finishing with 8 over the last 13 weeks and that trend has continued with two CS to start the 2019/20 season. Marco Silva isn’t a defensive minded manager, which continues to be a concern, but he’s got more talent available then what he had at Hull City of Watford. While I couldn’t afford Lucas Digne, it was a handful of £5.5 options I was considering; Yerry Mina, Michael Keane and Seamus Coleman. I lost out on Mina, as his price increased by £0.1, leaving Coleman and Keane. I made the decision that Keane would be more favored to pick up bonus points, he was brought in as my second starter on defense.

On the bench Martin Kelly of Palace and I decided to swap out Michael Johnson of West Ham for Sheffield United’s hot property, John Lundstram, off a goal and clean sheet in GW2. Lundstram could conceivably rotate with Todd Cantwell in the midfield, depending on the fixture.

MIDFIELDERS

The wild card was used to bolster an already strong midfield that included Mo Salah and Kevin De Bruyne.  Yet, ahead of GW3, Salah is the most transferred out player in the game (367k), with 3.6% of ownership grabbing a £1.0 savings and going with Sadio Mane. Ownership figures of Salah are still excellent, 41.2% of the top 1000 and 45.3% across FPL, while Mane is owned by jsut 3.7% of the top 1000 and 14.2% across FPL. Bottom line, I can’t be hurt by Mane, like I could be by Salah, if he hit and I did not own him.

As I mentioned, Sterling comes in as I now double up on the City attack with KDB, a move that I do like, as I continue to feel that the Sky Blues outscore all other teams for a third year in a row! Along with Sterling I also took the opportunity to bring in Mason Mount and Todd Cantwell. It was a bit upsetting to transfer Anthony Martial out, after a few price rises and goals in the first two games, but it was the only way to get Sterling in. At £7.7 Martial is too expensive to get back into my starting XI as I would have to downgrade two of the £5.5 defenders.

I am high on Mount, the Chelsea midfielder has looked sharp in the first two games, but more importantly appears he is playing hard to keep his starting role under Frank Lampard, whom he played for last season at Derby County. He’s looked better then Ross Barkley who was dropped last weekend ahead of Leicester City. If Mount slows down it’s an easy downgrade to either John McGinn or Dani Ceballos, if they continue to play well. Final midfielder, Todd Cantwell, I swapped £4.5 midfielders, as Norwich City Cantwell has stats on his side, but both clubs have challenging fixtures.

FORWARDS

Maybe I gave up on Raul Jimenez too soon, just a few games into the season, but there was a reason. Last year, I did not hop on the bandwagon that was Jimenez and lost out on some great price increases and lots of points. This year, I didn’t want to be late to the “Pukki Party, ” so I swapped the Mexican for the Finn and saved a bit of budget to put back into the midfield. Pukki putting up some good statistics and is coming off a 3-goal game against Newcastle. Harry Kane remains unchanged, leading my starting XI with no intentions to come off the English international.

GW3 EXPECTATIONS

Fixtures look much improved over last week, which can only be described as a “shit show” that resulted in a 38-point week. Not all bad, I am on 122 points for the season, which is a 61 point weekly average, a number I will take all season long! Looking at my starting XI, I will run out a 4-4-2 this week, as Lundstram starting instead of Cantwell.

There could be an offensive explosion for City against Bournemouth, as well as Spurs hosting Newcastle. Defensively, three of my starting four defenders are in line for clean sheets (MCI, EVE, MUN). Not sold on the Blades defense yet, as they play Leicester City, who are just wanting to unleash a flurry of goals, but have yet to make that happen.

This could be a 75-80 point week, as long as my premium players hit. The armband was a toss up this week, as I considered Kane, at home, after Pukki dropped three goals at St. James’ last weekend. Kane could potentially do the saw with Newcastle visiting. However, I opted for the more popular selection in Sterling, who’s feasted on Cherries since 2015. There was a very compelling case made for KDB as well on Twitter. It’s a punt, but the statistics were there to back the play.

Good luck to all FPL managers this week. Many your arrows be green!

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