GW16 Transfers

Having a plan in place for the holiday period, I was confident in the direction my squad was taking. On the heels of starting the season using a 5-2-3 formation, my team flourished, while my captaincy selections were an Achilles heel that held me back from gaining improvement in the overall rank. A failed activation of the Free Hit Chip in Gameweek 9, 36 points (vs 58 if I didn’t play it) is the only blemish on an otherwise productive period since Gameweek 7 (8 out of 9 green arrows).
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GW15 Transfers

Just two days until the start of Gameweek 15 and we look forward to what potential changes or in form players would could introduce to give our squads a bump. For me, this was to be the week I dropped Jamie Vardy and Pascal Groß in favor of Oumar Niasse and Leroy Sané. However, Vardy scored last week against Spurs, while Niasse was still serving his suspension, Wayne Rooeny hit for a hat rick and Sané came up ill, which calls into question his availability for Gameweek 15.
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Gameweek 13 Transfers

Let’s go back to Saturday, Gameweek 12, the morning fixtures are in full swing and Callum Wilson has just netted his hat trick in the 84th minute of his first game back from injury. Two minutes earlier, Tammy Abraham goes down with a back injury and is substituted, his immediate playing status is in doubt.  During the Man City match I knee jerk Wilson in for Abraham, knowing I will get the £0.1 increase and a healthy starter, with potential, ahead of the holiday period.
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Attacking Question Marks

With time on my hands and a plan in the works, there are a list of players I am currently targeting to bring in, as well as other who remain on a watch list. Currently without a wild card, activated for GW5, I have taken my first consecutive 4 point hits of the season, in order to shift my 5-2-3 formation to one with more attacking potential. We have already seen the potential of running big at the back with premium wing backs. We have also experienced life with 3 big forwards. Now it appears the tide is turning and fantasy managers turn their attention to bolstering their midfield.
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FPL: Threeview

Now that the international break has officially began, what are fantasy managers supposed to do? First, get up. Back away from the keyboard and take a break. It’s been a volatile start to the 2017/18 season, after many managers thought they had things worked out with great GW1 results, only to be bitch-slapped back to reality with the struggles in GW3.

Unless you are chasing price rises over the break, more on that later, I would take a few days to forget about fantasy football and direct your energy elsewhere. All those lingering questions can be put on hold, return a few days later with a clear head, which could provide you a fresh view of your lineup dilemma.

While I don’t consider it a luxury, I did go into the international break on a high, scoring 63 points in GW3, without facing many glaring questions that need to be answered. The biggest concerns I have are:

  1. The ineffectiveness of the Man City attack and Pep’s rotation.
  2. Marcos Alonso not in my starting XI
  3. Harry Kane with 3 blanks, backed by massive underlying stats.

Realistically, I could end the piece here and go into GW4 feeling confident with my current starting XI. Entering the break with a single FT, I will hold it until all international matches are complete. If we are fortunate, players will return to their club team, injury free and ready to resume league play.

The word of the week has been “wildcard” for many FPL managers. Before you hit that button, consider the sage advice of Nick (@NickTriggerlips) at Transfer Hub, in his article, Why did you wildcard?The problem is there are very few real patterns that have formed…Most of the wildcard  Rate my teams that I am seeing look like a who’s who of last weeks point scorers.” Wise words, from a wise manager, the article is well worth a read.

I have continued to read articles at Fantasy Football Scout, Fantasy Football Geek, tune in the podcasts from Nick and Tom (@WGTA_FPL) at Who Got the Assist as well as, Josh and Brandon (@hailcheaters) at Always Cheating. One key piece this season has been the use of Twitter (@W6ONV) to promote discussion and decisions. This was something I missed out on the previous 4 seasons participating in FPL. This outlet has allowed more flowing discussion than some forum threads I have been involved in, which I feel have provided me with a more positive return when it comes to decision-making.

At the end of last season, one of my strategies this year would be to actively chase price increases. We have watched the ups and downs, while it appears more volatile than last season, the numbers really haven’t backed that statement. Based on price rises last year, I am still on track, gaining £0.1m/week through GW3. It has allowed me to maintain £1.0m ITB. At this point, with the “few real patterns” and uncertainty, I have decided to forego chasing and exercise patience with my starting XI.

Prior to the start of the season, I mapped out a plan for the first 7 weeks of action. While I didn’t plan to remain intact, it did give me some solace in knowing that a downturn in performance wouldn’t necessarily put me in a precarious position requiring the use of an extra hit or the use of my wildcard. From GW1, it’s been my intention to use the WC during the second international break, GW7.

This plan is still contingent on how players perform when action kicks off after this first break. Holding my head high, I feel confident that I can ride out these early season trends, one-week wonders and volatility until things calm. However, this thinking doesn’t solve my three problems areas that need to be addressed.

The ineffectiveness of the Man City attack and Pep’s rotation

My expectation on the City attack were high heading into the season with fixtures against new boys Brighton (A) and Bournemouth (H). Yet a 2-0 and 2-1 victories in those matches hasn’t provided much confidence in owning City attackers or defenders. I started the season with Kompany, De Bruyne and Jesus in my starting XI. Just 2 weeks in and let KDB go in favor of Christian Eriksen, due to his deep lying play and lack of creativity in the attacking third.

Up front, I didn’t go with “Big Rom” figuring I could score more points with a 3-man front spearheaded by the dynamic Gabriel Jesus (and Roberto Firmino). While Jesus has yet to play a full 90-minutes, he has netted a goal and has the potential to be Pep’s “go to forward.” But in the back of my mind lurks that uncertainty that says, “move him in favor of Alvaro Morata.” The “Aguero Factor” will always be in play with Pep, does he play up front with a single forward or run both Jesus and Aguero out? I don’t believe we will see a clear cut answer to this question. With Kun ended up benched against the Cherries, we could possibly see a reversal with a dejected Jesus on the bench when GW4 commences home to Liverpool. Bottom line, we don’t know.

Finally, Vincent Kompany, who’s been riddled with injuries the last few years, but is the heart of The Sky Blues defense. His clean sheet record tells you the story; 23. 30, 21, 22, 32 clean sheets between 2010-2015 with 8 goals over the period. His selection meant I would hedge my bet and not start with Marcos Alonso, as Chelsea had a mixture schedule to start the 2017/18 season. To date, City has disappointed at both ends of the pitch and Kompany is now playing on borrowed time.

Marcos Alonso not in my starting XI

In the preparation leading up to GW1, I had fully intended to include Marcos Alonso and Romelu Lukaku in my starting XI. Last minute information and a change of heart saw both players not included, After GW1, it appeared a wise move, as Chelsea underperformed and lost, 3-2, home to Burnley. However, our faith in the £7.0m wing back was restored the following with, as he hit for a brace, in a 2-1 away win against Spurs. Last week, it was  Chelsea’s first CS of the season. Indications are Alonso is back on track, justify his current price, £7.1m as a top defender in the EPL.

While many managers have gone with a budget 3-defender set in their 3-4-3 or 3-5-2 formations, I have spent big, knowing I could swap defenders without having budget constraints. Yet these premium defenders need to justify their inclusion to the starting XI with attacking returns, as well as the potential of CS.

Alonso heads my list of wants when it comes to transfers. While I want to maintain United coverage based on their fixtures out of the break, I look towards Kompany being the fall man in order to transfer Alonso in. The hesitation lies in the Chelsea’s fixtures out of the international break; lei/ARS/sto/MCI/cry/WAT. Based on the Gunners poor performance against Liverpool in GW3, the home fixture to Arsenal doesn’t concern me as much as the Battle of Manchester. Keep in mind some of Alonso’s statistics:

  • 56 touches in the final third
  • 34 passes received – final third
  • 84.4% pass completion rate
  • 23 passes – final third completion
  • 12 touches – penalty area
  • 135 minutes per goal
  • 8 attempts on goal
  • 3 shots inside box
  • 4 shots on goal
  • 33.8 minutes per chance

These figures rival midfielders in and above his price range. So his inclusion in my starting XI is becoming detrimental. This opinion also based on the fact I only start a 2-man midfield.

Harry Kane with 3 blanks, backed by massive underlying stats

We should have seen this coming, right? Harry Kane can’t score in August, so we were forewarned. Still with that lingering in the back of my mind I made the decision to purchase the £12.5 forward to lead my squad. As we all know, there were better options, but his underlying stats (a word I continue to abuse) are outstanding!

  • 26 touches in penalty box
  • 24 attempts on goal
  • 18 shots inside the box
  • 3 big chances
  • 11.3 minutes per chance
  • 25% shot accuracy

The above statistics highlight the success Kane has seen. Unfortunately the real fact remains, Lukaku has scored 3 goals, Kane zero. Of the figures above, Kane betters Lukaku in every category except, big chances (Lukaku has 4). While the August voodoo hoodoo continues to Harry I am backing him out of the international break.

Kane put August behind him and start firing on all cylinders with eve/SWA/whm/hud/BOU taking us to mid-October. Looking over the last 3 years in which Kane has scored 29, 25 and 21 goals, he has just 3 goals in September combined. Not impressive, but remember he picked up the malleolar injury last season and didn’t feature in the squad 2 years ago, until later in the season.

All indications are the back-to-back Golden Boot winner will return to form that saw him bag 8 goals in the final 3 games of the 2016/17 season. While I continue to read and hear banter about none of the top managers owning Kane, I am keeping the faith instead of introducing Lukaku to my squad out of the international break.

As you can see, I don’t have issues that require a restructuring of my team. With a strong showing going into the international break, I plan on looking forward and stringing a run of green arrows together in order to rise up the OR and the mini-leagues I participate in. Even on the outside (ranked 1.0m) looking in at the top 10k, I feel confident I have the proper pieces in place to challenge the next 4 weeks of the EPL season.

FPL: Cha-Cha-Changes

It’s never too early to look at potential changes in your FPL lineup. Right now, I am confident with my starting XI, which allows me a multitude of possibilities when it comes shifting players. However, I attempted to get a few new players in using a hypothetical wildcard and I came up £0.1m short. While I have already activated my FT for GW2, bringing in Henrikh Mkhitaryan for Wilfried Zaha, out due to injury, I am looking forward to next week.

After some consideration, discussion on Twitter and fantasy football websites, it appears I could be headed for a very early wild card. Prior to GW1, I was hoping to hold my WC until the second international break, GW7. Last 2 years I have activate my WC after GW4 with great success (in the short term). While my initial plans were set in motion for GW1, I reassured myself that my formation, FTs and WC needed to remain flexible. While I favor a 5-2-3 formation to start the 2017/18 EPL season, if the situation warrants I will shift to a more viable offense in order to chase points.

The current 5-2-3 featuring Firmino, Kane and Jesus up front provides a great feeling of confidence before the start of GW2. Underlying stats were strong for all 3 players, while Firmino was the only one who returned (12 pts.) Yet running without “Big Rom” Lukaku just doesn’t sit well. Much like tempting fate last year without Kane, especially those managers who went without when he came up BIG in the final games of the season. As pointed out by FPL Avenger (@FPLAvenger) regarding Lukaku, “He fires and you lose ground on 50% of managers. He blanks and you gain on 50% of managers.” Feels a bit like playing Russian, or in this case Belgian Roulette.

Introducing Lukaku was set in motion a series of transfer requiring an early wild card. At £11.6, in order to make the necessary room for Lukaku, I would give Firmino and Jesus their walking papers. My third forward would then role to the non-playing £4.5, Ollie McBurnie. This would shift my formation into a 5-3-2, requiring me to drop a budget midfielder and pick up a £5.5-£6.0 starter.

The introduction of Mkhitaryan for GW2 at £8.0 decreased my budget ITB to £0.5. With De Bruyne (£10.0) as my other starting midfielder, an attempt will be made to introduce Christian Eriksen (£9.5) for either Mkhitaryan or De Bruyne based on their GW2 performance. Knee jerk? Quite possibly but I don’t want to dig myself out of a very deep hole so early in the season. With very little data to go on, these moves aren’t risky based on how these players performed last season and appear to have started this season where they left off.

These moves are also contingent on Lukaku NOT rising in price after his GW2 performance. Away to Swansea, United could net a few goals, based on the number of big chances they gave up in GW1. It would also require my team value to increase by £0.1 by weekend’s end to cover the budget required. All these rising and falling prices could be irrelevant if I moved KDB, which would free up an addition £1.0.

For GW2, the knee jerk reaction isn’t great enough to cause me to activate the wild card because of Lukaku’s opening week brace. I still feel the personnel I have in my starting XI have great fixtures and based on their statistics from GW1 could return big points for the upcoming game week.

Premier League: Expectations

So we are just 3 minutes into the Arsenal vs. Leicester City fixture and Lacazette has already scored to give the Gunners the lead. While I decided against Lacazette to start the season, I have made other drastic changes to my lineup within the last 90 minutes before they were locked for the week. However, it’s not to late to show my GW1 squad and post, some goals for he upcoming season.

It’s been a month of research and tinkering, shuffling players in and out and deciding what formation I would favor to start the season. While I did put together a comprehensive article on rotating 3 budget defenders, based off Peter Blake and his excellent work at Mathematically Safe. However after FPL Towers announced prices, I decided to change my strategy this year after doing an article on alternative formations.

Oddly enough I never brought up the idea of running out a 5-3-2 or a 5-2-3 until I read Firetog’s article, In Search Of The Best Fantasy Football Formation. In some strange, Etienne Capoue start to last season, way I thought his article made sense and I concentrated my efforts on running out a 5 defender set, taking advantage of the good early schedules of teams like So’ton and Man United. I took Firetog’s article and did a series of posts on this uncommon formation.

Just today, about 2 hours prior to kickoff, I got a wild hair up my ass after listening to the latest shoutcast on FFS. While driving to work, I agreed with some of what the guys spoke about, but two things stood out. First, going with three So’ton defenders, based purely on their strength of schedule to start the season (SWA/WHM/hud/WAT/cry). I believe it was Luke who commented on this strategy.

The other comment that changed my mind and saw me transfer out Lukaku, was a comment from Andy and how Jose could potentially set up show defensively if Man United jumps out to a 1-0 lead over Swansea City. While he is a Man U supporter, the comment seemed to ring true, based on how the Red Devils played last season, posting many shutouts, but also many low scoring games. With that in mind, I moved Lukaku and Fabregas (or Willian) out of my squad in favor of Jesus (10.5) and Firmino (8.5) up front, while dropping my 5th midfielder to a non-playing 4.5 in Jack Colback. This provided me with this 15-man squad:

The formation, while unconventional feels good as we head into GW1. Maybe it’s the plan in place through GW7 that provides that (false) sense of security, knowing that one poor performance or injury could derail a month’s worth of effort and planning. But, that’s the life of a fantasy manager.

After finishing in the top 75k 2 seasons ago, I set that as my goal last season. While I failed miserably, after a poor 20 week run, in which I saw 15 red arrows, I did rebound, albeit too late to make a real change. However, I feel the experience I gained was invaluable in how I approached this season.

Read further posts and blogs, I enjoyed Rob Reid and his thoughts as we approached GW1 at Fantasy Football Geek. While it wasn’t the first time I had read one of his columns, I did note his goals and decided to use this as a “standard” as we are underway with GW1. With that said, here’s what I want to accomplish to consider this season successful.

 

  1. Top 10k finish in the Overall Rankings
  2. Average 60.0 points/week
  3. Survive 4 rounds in the cup
  4. Win my private H2H league

Not sure any of these are out of the realm of possibility. The top 10k OR will be the tough as my last 4 years finishes haven’t been impressive: 877k, 537k, 75k and 446k last season. So, while still new to the FPL, it feels different heading into GW1. Hopefully that translates into success to start the season.

Premier League: Me vs. Top 5 Managers

Now that we have had a week to digest Chelsea winning the EPL, Arsenal winning the FA Cup, Harry Kane winning the Golden Boot and the fact that Marco Silva was recently hired to guide Watford, it’s time to reflect deeper into the season. By no means did my squad, the Go ‘Orns have a successful season. However, I end the season with green arrows in 10 of the last 12 weeks, which featured a run of 8 green arrows in a row. To think I had this game figured out after GW6 when I was ranked 29k but the next 20 weeks did me in, finishing 446k in the overall rankings.

To dissect this season, I have decided to compare my finish to that of the top 5 winners in the 2016/17 FPL season in order to find the commonalities they shared when it comes to being a successful manager. It doesn’t take a mathematician to crunch the numbers and draw conclusions on my poor season. The spreadsheet is broken down into 5 categories, based on the information provided from FPL Statistico: actual points, captaincy, transfers, formations and squad stats, common players.

Actual Points: One goal at the start of a season wass to average 60 points per game week (PPGW). Last year I averaged 57.1 PPGW, just 2.89 off that average. When reviewing the season that was, it came down to making stronger captain selections and decreasing overall transfers. Averaging 60 PPGW will get you in the top 25k of most season. From that point it’s about the captains, transfers and differentials to make the difference. This season I averaged a paltry, 53.6 PPGW, down 3.5 points from last year. The struggle was real! But it doesn’t tell the entire story. The top 5 players in the world averaged 66.7 PPGW. Yet these numbers need to be broken down to yield failures and in their positions, the success they achieved.

Captaincy: Handing the captain’s armband to the incorrect player or taking a punt can be detrimental to your overall rank. On the season I earned 531 points by captains, a 13.97 average. Of the top 5 mangers, only one failed to achieve 700+ points (664) with their captain selections. Two managers recorded 755 points scored (29.45% of total score), while two others scored 713 points (27.86% of total score).  The underlying numbers show that Aguero, Lukaku and Sanchez were the favored captains with Ibrahimovic and Costa receiving an honorable mention. Looking at my squad, there were 4 weeks in which my captains totaled 14 points, with Coutinho being the biggest bust, 2 weeks captained and 4 total points. The one success I had was Bailly, captained for DGW34 with 24 points.

Transfers: I’ve already written an article on transfers, Premier League: Excessive Hits, in which I detail how all 72 transfers played out each week. The numbers were quite revealing, showing that while I might have been 20-30 points over the weekly average, my gain was far less that what I expected because of a -4, -8 or -12 point hit to my overall score with regards to players I transferred out. The top 5 managers averaged 3.89 point hit/week, with one manager only take a total point hit of 20 on the season! Impressive! Even more so the one manager who took just 39 hits over the season. With 152 hit points, I set myself up for failure, especially when you look at the raw numbers and see a total point gain of only 336 points. Two of the top five managers exceeded 400 points (407 & 429 points) on nearly half the total transfers that I took. Combined the top 5 managers totaled 144 hit points!

Formations: Is 3-4-3 better than a 3-5-2 when it comes to how you set your formation? Three of the top five managers heavily favored the 3-4-3 formation, while two others were split between 3-5-2 and 4-4-2, a tried an true classic at least on the pitch. The 3-4-3 formation was my favored. I did attempt to use the 3-5-2 six times after activating my WC in GW21. All managers averaged, regardless of formation averaged 63.42 points per week with a 4-4-2 formation yielding the highest average of 67.5 (12 times). There was a big discrepancy when it came to the Bench Boost (5-5-3), I scored just 139 points while the top 5 mangers average 183.6. The high score being 193 and the low 171.

Squad Stats: There really is no comparison in this category. While I had good players at times, overall position scores came in very low when comes to the top 5. I outscore just a single manager at the position of goalkeeper recording 159 points to his 138 points. Two managers exceeded 200 points (210 & 212) averaging over 5.5 PPG from this position. Defensively I struggled all season averaging 3.78 PPG (457 pts). All but one manager finished over a 4.0 average, while a single manager posted 625 points, 83 points clear of the next manager. This was a great year for midfielders with the top 5 recording nothing lower than 838 points and topping out at 909 points. Compare that to my squad with just 720 points. This with the majority of managers starting with a 3-4-3 formation. At forward I did beat one manager, scoring 583 points (5.89 avg) to his 546, still his PPG was higher 6.07 PPG versus 5.89. A score of 699 was the highest for all forwards (6.05 PPG).

Common Players: Looking through the top 5 teams I have compiled a list of 11 players based on game weeks played. No surprise that Sanchez tops the list with 126 appearances (25.2 avg) and 1672 points (13.26 avg),  while Lukaku is a distance second with 103 appearances (20.6 avg) and 1061 points (10.20 avg). Kane only had 44 appearances in these teams recording 669 points (15,20 avg). Sanchez and Lukaku were the only two players to feature in over 100 game weeks played by the top 5 managers. Aside from Sanchez’s dominance in the midfield, it was Hazard (73) and Eriksen (70) as the other top midfielders by appearance. Eriksen scored 503 points (7.18 avg) to that of Hazard’s 428 points (5.86) and Alli’s 416 points (7.42 avg). McAuley, one of three defenders to make this list had 93 appearances, Alonso, 78 appearances and Walker with 67 appearances. However Alonso finished with 420 points (5.86 avg) besting all other defenders.

Sanchez was the most captained player (10.8 avg) who scored the most bonus points (25.4 avg). However there is a large discrepancy when it comes to Sanchez on my squad, who was my top footballer with 132 points. I captained him 8 times but only received 6 bonus points, well off that bonus point average. Just going down the list of these players most I had were 1-2 points off the top 5 manager average. Also looking at the game weeks players none of my players exceed 19 weeks played, which was Costa, Eriksen was at 17 weeks players. Many of the top 5 managers had players exceeding 20 weeks played with one manager having two players who each played 31 game weeks for him. This tells me I need to either make better selections to start the season or be more patient with the premium players.

You can see the data on the spreadsheet. All the categories are taken from FPL Statistico. This all confirms what some pundits have been saying all year. Defensive players and captain’s armband can play a big role in the success of a season. Mistakes, such as excessive hits or gambling on a punt or two could prove futile.