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Season 2, Episode 48 of the Pitch & Pint Podcast recorded Monday, September 09, 2019, No Sangia For Javi
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Hello and welcome to Episode 48 of the Pitch & Pint podcast, my name is Stephen and you can find me @6thGoal on Twitter.
It’s Tuesday and we have about 3 days until the Premier League gets back to business with GW5.
To be honest, I didn’t watch any games or frequent Twitter much since dropping Episode 47 of the pod.
It was time to step away from the game and community and take some time off.
Might sound odd, just 4 weeks into a 38-week season, but I believe the international break came at the right time, at least for me.
As I mentioned in the last show, we can’t let the game overshadow life.
I consider myself quite active in the community, writing for a few web sites, including my own, as well as producing this pod and convening with Gabe, Casey and Garf on the FPL Roundtable.
If you want to listen to the entire take of life before FPL, just listen to the first 10 minutes or so of the Episode 47: Wild On Break.
Now with business out of the way, let’s get started.
This week, it’s time to look ahead to the next 4-week period, as the next international break comes after GW8.
As mentioned last week, I already cashed in my wild card ahead of GW3, based off 2 weeks of game data, but I won’t know how successful it is for another 8 weeks or so.
This time last year I rolled into the international break with 3 more points then this season and on a red arrow.
Interesting to see some parallels through 4 weeks, hopefully out of the break it’s a string of green arrows to start that climb up the OR.
Today we will look at the dismissal of Watford’s managers, Javi Gracia.
That was about the only topic I commented on when I replied to Mr. WP on Twitter.
Ahead of the break I also pointed out players and teams to consider out of the break, we will get a bit more in depth as to how to move forward.
I’ll take a quick check at the top 1000 managers for GW4 and see if that can tell us what GW5 might look like.
Finally, I’ll talk about my starting XI and strategy going forward as we look to GW8 and the second international break.
All that and some beer talk, today on the Pitch & Pint Podcast.
Let’s get started at Vicarage Road and the firing of Javi Gracia.
WATFORD – GRACIA FIRING (02:26)
After the most successful season in Watford’s history, it was a shock to read the news on Twitter, last Saturday, as Mr. WP posted Gracia!!!!!! with a lot of exclamation marks.
You know that empty feeling you get in your stomach, that’s what I had before I even looked further into the tweet.
It’s an unfortunate situation, as Gino Pozzo and Scott Duxbury reacted negatively to the start of this season, on the back of just 1 point after 4 game weeks.
Last year, this time the Hornets were 4-0, tied for first and everyone was on cloud nine.
This season, the start couldn’t have been much worse.
Currently Watford is in 20th, looking up at 19 teams and struggling for attacking returns, while conceding too many.
He came in as a relatively unknown on January 21, 2018 as he took the reins after Marco Silva was dismissed.
Gracia lasted 66 games (57 EPL games) for Watford with a 25-13-28 record.
2017/18 – 4-3-7 (14)
2018/19 – 14-8-16 (38)
2019/20 – 0-1-4 (5)
Many non-supporters could look at the firing as anticipated, for a club that had a great running getting to the FA Cup Final.
While not our most glorious moment, it was the first time since Graham Taylor in 1984 the Hornets reach the finals.
The experience and run are something any Watford supporter will never forget.
Even though I don’t live in the UK or have ever been to a game, it was great feeling seeing the Hornets play some good, inspired football, overcome the odds to play Man City.
Even in the 2018/19 season, the team wasn’t all that successful.
Yes, we finished on a team high 50 points for 11th place on the season, which could have been so much more based on how the season began.
Anticipation was high as Javi Gracia took control in his first full year.
The start to last year, inspiring but the next 11 games after a 4-0 start was disappointing, but patented Watford.
Ove the next 12 games, just 2 wins, for 8 points and 7 losses.
This sort of losing streak had been patented Watford, but usually happening during the season half of the season.
Maybe it was pressure that got to the lads but Gracia was able to turn the team around heading into December.
There were some tough results later that season a few 0-0 draws against Burnley and Brighton with a few 1 goal decisions that didn’t go their resulting in a single point or zero points.
As late as GW35, Watford was still in contention for a Europa League spot after taking 4 points the previous weeks, giving them 2 wins in the 4 weeks.
It would be a rematch with Wolves that saw the Hornets lose 3-in-a-row to end the season, conceding 9 goals, scoring just 2.
This off season, by appearance showed promised. Pozzo and Duxbury brought in Craig Dawson, to improve a leaky defense.
The late addition of Danny Welbeck on a free gave the Hornets more depth and experience on the front line.
By all accounts, based on previous experience probably the best forward Watford has.
The Hornets also added winger, Ismaila Sarr, for a record signing of £30 million!
All excellent additions that, on paper improved the team.
However, a poor start to the season exposed Watford’s smoke and mirrors, loses to Brighton, Everton and West Ham hit Gracia and supporters hard.
Last season, there was no individual bigger then the team and they played that way all season long.
Even in some of the losses, the team put in a strong performance, but couldn’t capitalize on opportunities.
Gerard Deulofeu was a prime example with a 36.7% shot accuracy and a goal conversion rate of 16.7% for the OOP midfielder partnering with Troy Deeney.
It could be said Javi Gracia overachieved with the squad he had last season.
After a disappointing 26 games with Marco Silva, Gracia was inspiring when he came to Watford.
He bought into the Pozzo way or doing business, was well liked by management, players and supporters alike.
He brought “professionalism and his positive attitude” as written by Ryan Grey in a recent article, as he was “happy to work within the Pozzo model, he got on with coaching the players and never kicked up much of a fuss in public or criticised anyone.”
Much like Silva, Gracia started to be criticized with team selection amid a poor start to this season, sticking to his guns and starting players who weren’t performing.
He would always say he had faith, not just in his starting XI, but those players off the bench.
Yet new lads, Welbeck and Sarr have combined for just 33 minutes, in parts of 3 games for the Hornets.
Gracia talked about finding balance, but that something the Hornets have struggled with through 4 games this season, a far fry from our form to start last year.
The dismal came as a surprise to Gracia, “I want to express my surprise after completing the best season in Watford’s history.”
He finished his statement with, “I respect this decision and I’d like to reassure the excelent (sic) relationship I have with Gino Pozzo and Filippo Giraldi, and this is not going to change despite my abrupt exit of the club. I am grateful to this club for allowing me to manage this great club in the Premier League.”
“I want to thank every single person who works for this club and has made my everyday very easy. My gratefulness and love for this club will be eternal. And finally, I want to thank the fans for supporting me the way they did from day 1, until my last. I will always wish the fans and these players the best.”
In steps a Watford retread, why management went this direction, I am not sure.
Quique Sanchez Flores joined Watford in 2015, after the Hornets gained promotion to the Premier League.
In his 44-games in charge, he led the team to a 13th place finish with a 12-9-17 record. 10 points above the relegation zone.
He also got Watford to the FA Cup semifinals, losing 2-1 to Crystal Palace.
He departed at the end of the season, as the 5th manager over a 12-month period.
My opinion, this had been in the works for some weeks to find a new manager.
Just moments after Gracia was let go, Sanchez Flores was announced.
QSF is now the 10th manager since the Pozzo’s took control of Watford in 2012.
While he signed a 2-year contract, it will be very interesting to see what happens at the end of this season.
In his first go around, Watford management didn’t agree with QSF and his view on the 2015/16 season.
Supporter Ed Perchard wrote of Gracia, “He’s been let down by the tentative recruitment of players to bolster his squad, let down by both the footballing gods and the footballing God complex that is VAR, and let down by a hasty decision that focuses too much on results with undue consideration to more intangible outcomes.”
Not sure how Sanchez Flores slots into the picture, with a dismissal, you look for someone who can move the team forward, not play a similar system with similar results.
That won’t be tolerated, by fans or management if this poor outcome of games continues and Watford find them on 6-8 losses by the next international break.
My support for Watford is unwavering, but there will be some tough times ahead for the Golden Boys, hopefully a new coaching philosophy will inject some life into a rather lifeless team after 4 weeks into the season.
Now with that bad news out of the way, let’s get into something a bit more exciting to get the show on track.
BEER REVIEW – MOTHER PUCKER (09:34)
It was a special time for me, opening two boxes of Irish and UK craft beers from PadFul and Dude Abides last month, thanks in part to the FPL Beer Mule for schlepping it across the pond.
Today it’s the third beer, this time an Irish craft beer from Rye River brewing out Celbridge, Ireland.
Thanks to The Dude Abides for this haul of beers that included Mother Pucker, today’s beer review.
The story of the Rye River Brewing Company began back in 2013 with the introduction of the McGargles brand. Rye River have grown both their team and product range since then.
Based in Celbridge, Kildare the brewery employs over 40 people.
They now produce a range of over twenty beers under the Solas, Crafty Brewing Company, Grafters and McGargles brands
In 2017, Rye River opened the brewery to the public.
Their Brewery Tour allows you to witness each step of the brewing process first hand, from the milling of the malt to the bottling of some of your favorite beers.
After which, you will get the chance to sample some of our multi-award-winning brews in a brand-new visitor experience area directly overlooking the brewery.
Mother Pucker is a 4.4% seasonal blackberry sour.
Described on the website, “This fruited sour is loaded with so much Blackberry, we have started to question if it’s still a beer! Fresh, Tart, Crushable.”
Let’s pop the top on this 16-ounce can of Mother Pucker from Rye River.
Mother Pucker pours a deep, dark berry purple, which has a thick appearance and a strong finger and a half of white head, which doesn’t last long, leaving no visible lacing.
The smell…is crisp and clean, as expected from a sour with a big red wine component with just a hint of blackberry.
Let’s see how it goes down…yum, it’s nice, Light and tart across the palette. Reminds me a bit more of a carbonated sangria than a sour.
As it warms just a bit there is a profound raisin flavor on the back end of this blackberry sour.
Overall, this is a nice sour.
Truly crafted, unique and thoroughly enjoyable.
Now with my Rye River poured and reviewed, let’s look at the top 1000 managers.
TOP 1000 Managers (11:46)
If this is your first time listening to The Pitch & Pint Podcast, one of the groups I closely follow, the top 1000 managers in the game.
Why? If you want to be considered one of the best, then you need to watch who this group plays.
Last year, I was able to keep pace with this group, which usually rewarded me weekly with a green arrow.
Before we look at players, here are some of the numbers from the league.
Average team value (TV) across FPL is 100.1, while the top 1000 is a million higher at 101.1.
Currently I am sitting at 101.8 headed out of the break.
I mentioned that 6% of the top 1000 activated their WC ahead of GW4, with 6.7% following suite across FPL.
I expect both those number to double coming out of the break.
When looking at the starting XI and bench players of the top 1000, I’ve got 8 of those players owned by that group of managers.
Now, some have hinted I am copying this group and will make zero progress up the OR.
I say to each their own, this is different then an FPL manager who was using the #ELITE64, telling his viewers to build their team like these managers.
Based on the numbers, Teemu Pukki is owned by 91.1% and Raheem Sterling, 94.7% across the top 1000.
That’s about a close to essential as you can get.
Essential is a word FPL managers don’t like but if either play go off for a big haul, chances are you will be left behind.
Sterling’s ownership number and not starting with him were both reasons behind activating my wild card early.
I also picked up Pukki on the WC, so I see both players contributing positively going forward.
One game I don’t play, the “Salah or Mane” game.
Mo Salah is owned by 78.4% in the top 1k and 43.7% across FPL.
Borderline essential with such a high top 1k ownership, but Mane 18.4% of managers across FPL have decided to save one million and run with Mane.
Again, looking at ownership, you could potentially cover a haul by Mane, but Salah will punish non-owners.
Defensively, it’s been a shit show.
Many FPL managers backed Liverpool and City, going as far as to run out treble Liverpool or double down on both teams.
Through 4 games, Palace, Everton and City are the only teams with 2 clean sheets a piece.
Pretty discouraging numbers.
18 total clean sheets out of 40 games played. Right now, I am not back ANY premium defenders until we start to see more consistency.
In fact, I moved any defender 6.0 million or higher, which included van Dijk to start the season.
VVD holds the second highest ownership in the top 1k at 43.7%, just behind Lucas Dinge at 49.5%.
Across FPL, there is a HUGE discrepancy, as VVD is owned by 50.8% with Digne dropping to 26.5%.
Up front, if you started with budget or moderately priced forwards you would be having a solid season.
Pukki was started by only 148k managers in GW1, compared to the 2.5 million in GW4.
Ashley Barnes has been the other forward who’s been excellent through 4 weeks. Owned by 15.2% in the top 1k, that ownership drops to 10.2% across FPL.
Obviously, managers are approaching Barnes with some apprehension.
I’ll get into more on player selection moving forward later in the show.
Time for some beer news.
BEER NEWS – TOP 10 CITIES FOR BEER (13:07)
Now, I know many listeners to this pod are UK based, while much of my news continues to be US based.
It’s a tough line to toe in order to satisfy both groups of listeners.
While I try my best, craft beer information out of the UK is a bit more difficult to put into context, compared to that in the US, an industry I follow more closely.
Today, from Jess Baker at craftbeer.com comes the 10 best cities for beer lovers.
Now, just an opinion before I break into this list and comments from the piece.
Based on numbers off Beer Advocate, the US is home to over 7000 breweries!
That number could potentially increase by 1000 through 2019.
Compare that to the UK, the number is a third of what’s in the US, with about 2000.
Numbers aside, here in the US, it’s amazing to see small local, craft breweries pop up in all sorts of communities.
Where I live, we are about to get our second craft brewery, as the first one, which was a grille and brewery closed in 2015 due to hard times, moving about 20 miles east and reopening under a new name.
The size and complexity of these breweries vary, of course, but it’s amazing to see new venues popping up.
We now have 3 craft beer establishments where I live as well, so more is better for those who enjoy craft beer.
This article comes from apartmentguide.com that gives a new listing to the 10 best US cities for beer lovers in the US.
Now I am a biased motherfucker when it comes to craft, as California is a great state for craft, up and down the coast.
The rankings are based on cities with populations of 50000 people and at least 5 breweries.
Second, calculating the number of breweries per 100,000 people in specific locations.
By no means scientific.
“The website’s top city for beer lovers in 2019 was Asheville, North Carolina.
Asheville is no stranger to best beer city nods. The town nestled in the southeast part of the Appalachians caters to people who love the outdoors, live music, fall foliage, artistry, and of course, craft beer.
The city’s easily-walkable South Slope area is dotted with brewpubs and breweries, along with several downtown hotels and online rentals, giving beer lovers the ability to enjoy an Asheville beercation without needing to rely on a car.”
Sorry Asheville, but North Carolina doesn’t excite me as a “beercation.”
Again, the numbers and list are skewed based on how they calculated the results.
Neither does it excite me to read Asheville is the eastern HQ for New Belgium, who doesn’t have an impressive craft list and Sierra Nevada Brewing, while a pioneer I don’t seek out as good craft.
Rounding out the top 10
Greenville, South Carolina
Fort Collins, Colorado
I do agree with Portland, Maine. Some EXCELLENT beer from this part of the country.
I would also give the nod to Kalamazoo, Michigan, home to Bell’s Brewery.
Vista, California is interesting. Now I recall Vista growing up, not much there, but as population of San Diego county increased it pushed people further from the downtown area.
Nearly 100 of California’s craft breweries are located in San Diego county, of which 12 with more coming are located in Vista.
So craft is an integral part to any community, large or small.
You can read the article, as I will link it in the show notes.
Now back to FPL, as we look forward out of the break at teams and players we might need to watch.
OUT OF THE BREAK (19:08)
Out of the break managers will be in a few different categories, those who activated their wild card.
Those who rolled a transfer headed into the break and those who have one transfer.
It’s possible that some managers are already burned their transfer before the international games, possibly to catch a price rise, but risking player injury.
Seeing that activated my wild card ahead of GW3, I am not looking to overhaul my team out of the break.
I do have two transfers, as well as two players flagged, one being Aaron Wan-Bissaka, who didn’t feature on international duty and should be good to start in GW5.
I talked about the top attacking over a 4-week period out of the break that includes:
Depending on where you are looking, you could also drop in Man City, Bournemouth and Everton.
Man City and Liverpool you can bank on all season long, regardless of FDR.
Defensively, the list is similar:
Now, I am not as high on defenders as I was before the season started, even Liverpool or City.
Arsenal, Everton and Bournemouth are ones to watch, but I think there are still many questions to be answered by the Gunners and Cherries.
Burnley is bha/NOR/avl/EVE, goals should continue to comes for the Clarets making Ashley Barnes (6.7) a great selection moving forward.
The forward has scored 27 points on the back of 4 goals and 4 bonus points.
The midfield, those who are healthy don’t look to represent worthwhile value, so I skip all them and look at their defense.
Burnley have conceded 6 goals, but I like them to possibly post 2-3 CS over this stretch.
12% of FPL managers are on Nick Pope and there could be some potential for a defensive double, as they have options at 5.0 with Mee and Tarkowski, 4.6 for Pieters and 4.5 with Lowton.
Spurs are a bit more of a question mark, Harry Kane leads the team with 23 goals, on 3 goals just 3 bonus points, looking questionable at time.
Spurs are home to CRY/lei/SOU/bha, like Burnley have a good run of fixtures over the next 4, with the likes of Palace to potentially slow them down.
The trade deadline over, Christian Eriksen (8.8) will play a key role going forward, he picked up his first goal in GW4, but will be the provider to keep Kane fed.
Erik Lamela has a goal and 2 assists, filling into that midfield that had Erisken not playing and Dele Alli gaining fitness.
The band back together, it will be interesting to see how Lamela fits in. If he starts, 6.0 is a good price.
Defensively, I won’t go near this team, outside of maybe Hugo Lloris. They haven’t looked good, but continue to score, yet be scored upon.
On paper, Aston Villa appear to have a good run, home to WHU/ars/BUR/nor.
Not sure it’s as straight forward as it appears, as the Hammers have played some inspired football recently, as have the Gunners, while Burnley has been free scoring.
Not sure I factor Wesley (6.0) or midfielder, John McGinn (5.5) very high on my want list.
This team hasn’t looked at that impressive, one win in 4 games and in 18th.
McGinn would be my selection, if I needed to round out my midfield.
Defensively, they have conceded 6 goals, on par with Spurs.
Tyronne Mings, their top scorer with 16 points and should be the defender racking up the bonus points.
I don’t see any CS in this stretch of 4 games, which makes their inclusion in this list, suspect.
Can we back West Ham? Currently 7th in the table on 7 points and 6 goals, many managers have had their heads turned by Seb Haller (7.5), who’s hit for 3 goals in his last 2 games, tied with Kane on 23 points.
He’s looked the part against Watford and Norwich City and now go to avl/MUN/bou/CRY.
Again, the question mark in the next four games, Palace, are they for real on defense?
United suspect from the start have some injury concerns with Luke Shaw sidelined, which make their defense a bit suspect.
Their midfielder could be seen as interesting with Manual Lanzini (6.5) and Andriy Yarmolenko (5.9), who look dangerous last year before injury.
Lanzini is the playmaker, thus half a million more, currently on 18 points.
I feel Felipe Anderson is a bit of a stretch at 6.9, as he was rarely consistent last season, but it will be Lanzini as the key, serving up balls for the attackers to finish.
Defensively, I avoided Fabianski because of his 5.0 price tag, which means Arthur Masuaka and Issa Diop are of the options.
Both are 4.5 million but feel that United and Bournemouth will score against them and not all that confident slotting a Hammer in my starting XI.
Finally, Arsenal, this was a club we went back and forth with on defense last season and seen some questions with this season.
Leno, the set and forget in goal at 5.0 on 14 points.
It’s been Ainsley Maitland-Niles (5.1) the top defender on 16 points, playing all 90 minutes in the first four.
However, I do like the 5.4 Sead Kolasinac, as Nacho Monreal has join Real Sociedad.
The Gunners face a struggling Watford at the Vic, AVL/mun/BOU.
Some good games that could see a CS or two.
In attack, it’s a three headed beast with Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette and now Nicholas Pepe.
Unai Emery has some heavy rotation in the midfield, so it’s not quite given that any of their midfielders could get regular starts.
Dani Ceballos at 5.7, on 15 points is where many FPL managers want to turn, as he’s played a part in each game, but 90 minutes just once.
Pepe should be a regular starter, opposite Aubameyang on the right side, he shows real promise the more minutes he gets in the Premier League.
Most of these players I touched on in the previous episode and will attempt to get them in over the next 4 weeks.
For me, the strategy appears to be straight forward, but I’ve got a hard on to get Aguero in.
TEAM & STRATEGY (25:16)
Ahead of GW5 I sit on 232 points at 935k with a red arrow going into the break.
Two very subpar weeks, GW2 and 4 scoring 38 and 48 that have put me in this situation, but it’s not unlike last season, as I am just 3 points off the pace from last season, wild carding in GW3 and putting together a nice run that would help fuel a climb to the top 11k.
I’ve been running a 3-5-2 that last 3 weeks and could potential seek to fall back into a 3-4-3, if I can make a move for another cut rate forward in Ashley Barnes.
Right now, it’s Kane and Pukki leading my 2-man attack with Conor Wickham nothing but bench fodder.
I don’t want to compromise a midfield of Salah, Sterling, KDB, Mount and Cantwell, who rotates with Lundstram, depending on fixtures.
That means I need to look at shift budget out of my back line that features AWB, Michael Keane and Zinchenko.
Two lines of thought, upgrade Wickham to Barnes or upgrade Kane to Aguero, but lose Zinchenko, leaving me with no City defenders, but three City attackers.
Should be a no brainer, right?
Pukki is intersting, as he’s home to City, sorry Canary fan, I don’t see Pukki scoring this week, making it 2 games in a row without a return.
Pukki has a good run after City, bur/cry/AVL/bou on to be be book ended with United in GW10.
Kane at home to Palace, who’s been staunch on defense, but are they really for real?
Kane has only 1 goal in the last 6 games against Palace going back to 2017. Viable?
His hat trick on international duty says yes, but his stats are very average.
11 penalty touches, well off the pace of Rashford (25), Firmino (23), Aubameyang and Augero (21).
Just 2 goals, that’s a brace in GW1, late. Aguero on 6, Pukki 5 and Barnes with 4.
Total attempts, a disappointing 5, compared to Rashford (16), Barnes (15), Pukki (14), Aguero, Aubameyang and Firmino (13).
So at 11.0 million, is he worth the outlay of cash for what little returns we’ve seen?
Fixtures say yes, home to CRY/lei/SOU/bha/WAT, there’s got to be 4-5 goals in that span, if not all against Watford, right?
So with 2 transfers, I would need to move Zinchenko downgrading to 4.4 defender, in Femenia or Cathcart, upgrading Kane to Aguero for this GW.
Pukki, think Norwich have no chance, so he’s a blank this week.
The other move, hold Kane and do the hokey cokey, dropping Pukki and bringing in Barnes.
The problem? I’ve got nothing ITB and would make just 0.1 on Pukki, but wouldn’t have the budget to buy him back.
Might not be all bad as Burnley has a nice run through GW9, overlook Chelsea in 10 and they are solid until GW14.
That means I would overlook my defense and their lack of CS potential, run out Keane, AWB and Lundstram, as the Blades hit a tough stretch through GW13.
However none of the defensive showings have been strong enough to hold steady with premiums in my opinion. Would rather take the attacking points and hope for the random CS or bonus points to 9-12 points off a back 3 and GK.
My planning takes me through GW8 and the second international break.
Looking at plans moving forward, if I can’t bring Aguero into the equation, I take solace in knowing 39.7% of the top 1k own both Sterling and KDB, like I do. Means I could potentially hold Kane and risk not owning Aguero.
Yet, Norwich and Watford are damn tasty fixtures to miss out on if you don’t own Aguero.
This week is key and needs to be a bounce back week to help push me up the OR and back to a weekly average over 60 PPG.
It’s been 2 captain failures in the last 3 games but could be Sterling of KDB grabbing the arm band this weekend.
That’s it for Episode 48, thanks for listening.
It’s been a great break, but time to get back on that horse called FPL.
Watch for a Watford article at Planet FPL on the firing of Javi Gracia.
I’ll also be providing some articles on 6thgoal.com surrounding my transfer plan and starting XI.
I will also be writing the preview of WAT v ARS.
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Thanks for listening to The Pitch & Pint Podcast, FPL from inside the six.