In a very low scoring week I felt lucky to see a small green arrow for the second week in a row to start this season. To be honest, I can’t tell you another time that has happened in eight years playing FPL. While 45 points was quite unimpressive there is a confidence gain seeing that green triangle. On the season I’ve scored 153 points, which is 27 points off a weekly average of 60 points per week, which is a target I always shoot for. One factor leading to a poor start, in terms of overall points the fact we have seen just 12 clean sheets over the first three game weeks. Compare that to 14 during the 2019/20 season and 16 in the 2018/19 seasons. While Liverpool has just one clean sheets I’ve seen a total of five attacking returns that have helped my 5-man defense during this early part of the season.
While I started the season with treble Liverpool defense, based on the success we’ve see the last three seasons, I’ve struggled without the services of Mo Salah. Last week during my wild card, I decided to move off Trent Alexander-Arnold and brought in the Egyptian midfielder, as his increasing TSB% cannot be ignored. I feel that any combination of Virgil van Dijk, Andrew Robertson or TAA will net 350-380 points on the season. That is a great way to anchor a defense with no intentions of moving off these players except in case of injury of byes.
Last night during the Episode 62 of the FPL Roundtable, I floated the question to Gabe and Casey as to why we continue to see a decrease in the number of clean sheets to start this season. Unlike seasons prior to COVID, it takes time for a defense to come together and play as a cohesive unit. Even in the case of a strong defense like Liverpool, who posted just two clean sheets in the first 10 weeks last season but then posted 10 clean sheets in the next 16 games! Man City was better from the start, posting six clean sheets in the first 10 games, but just one more over the next 10 game weeks. So it’s always a crapshoot when you look for defenders based on their ability to keep clean sheets. We know these teams will undoubtedly top the Premier League in that category this season, but to reap those rewards, defensively and offensively you must stay on them through think and thin.
Last week during the wild card I shook up the back line, not my intention as I wanted to hold Matt Doherty but moved off Caesar Azpilicueta after a single due to his fitness level. Moving to Luca Digne in GW2 was a a knee jerk reaction to his GW1 performance, but he Frenchman played well in the ensuing game weeks, got a bit unlucky and finished with eight points over those two games. Doherty hasn’t looked the same player, now at Spurs under Jose Mourinho. I have no doubt he will continue to play well for Spurs, but feel there is a big uncertainty with the Spurs team right now and their defense hasn’t looked better, even with a healthy Hugo Lloris in goal.
The wild card introduced Nelson Semedo and Kyle Walker to the 5-man defense with intentions of moving to double City and Liverpool defense. With Man City transferring in Ruben Dias, it appears my future back like will include him and Aymeric Laporte out of the international break. Semedo and Wolves host a poor Fulham side and I expect a clean sheet. Digne and the Toffees host Brighton, while City travels to Elland Road. No decisions this week to move any defenders. City’s trip to Leeds is a bit concerning, as the Whites have scored eight goals in their first three games, including three against Liverpool.
Intentions this week are to roll the free transfer in order to give me two out of the international break, ahead of GW5. At that point, I will look at moving Walker and either Digne or Semedo, depending on what happens in GW4. Right now, based on fixtures I would rather roll the dice, retain Semedo through GW7 because of Wolves FDR. Digne would be transferred out with intentions of getting him back in GW8 with an away game at Fulham and a home game against Leeds.
Intentions were not to make this many defensive transfers to start the season but this is how its starting out. Now that it appears the attacking options are set with Mo Salah, Kevin De Bruyne and James Rodiguez in the midfield with Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Raul Jimenez up top I can make efforts to shore up a 5-man defense that I thought needs to be stronger in order to have a successful season.
WHAT HAVE I LEARNED
I was asked in a Twitter DM if I had learned anything through three weeks of play using a 5-man defense. The top piece of advice, which is probably applicable across all FPL, have patience. After Digne’s 1-point performance in GW2, I had thoughts of shipping him out. Why? I’ve stressed this point repeatedly that I need to stay true to the high priced, premium options at the back. Sure, there are cheaper options out there that could finish on similar points to the Liverpool or City lads. But we look over the last three years, these two teams have been the best defensive teams in the league, winning a combined three titles over that period.
Maybe I approached this strategy all wrong and should have considered building around strong midfield. Much like the defenders, I don’t have intentions of coming off Salah or KDB this season. We know what they bring to the game and will be at or near the top scorers at their positions. With the budget invested up top, I’ve got options, currently with 15.8 million to spend on two starting forwards. If I wanted to get really creative, I could ship out one of the forwards and shift the formation to a 5-4-1, which would leave me approximately 7.5 for a fourth starting midfielder.
Right now, there are no intentions to change the 5-3-2 formation. It’s going to be a wait and see game once I double up on the Man City defense and give it time to come together. There will be more insight and comments on this full time strategy as the season rolls on.