Premier League: GW3 Retrospect

Depending on what side of the ball you were own, your squad felt like the victorious Liverpool or more likely, Arsenal on the butt end of a 4-0 thumping. For me, I came through GW3 shining, as we head into the international break. I finished the week on 63 points, that’s 20 points better than the weekly average, but well of the high of 109 points (played bench boost).

When Saturday’actions came to a close, I had gained nearly 1.4m spots up to 828k and was sitting on 42 points from 7 players (avg. of 6 pts/player). This was well over the 17 point average, as Lukaku turned into Blankaku with 1.7m handing him the armband (this included the top 50 managers in the world). Thankfully, I could breath easy knowing I had Kane on Sunday to finish the game week.

Saturday was a good fantasy day, as I continue to live dangerously with a treble of So’ton defenders. Bertrand, Cedric and Yoshida combined for 18 points, that’s now 2 out of 3 game weeks in which the Saints have recorded a clean sheet. Out of the break they play WAT/cry, with the potential of 2 more CS. Valencia and United recorded their third CS of the season, while providing no attacking return, he did bank 3 bonus points for 9 points on the week and 20 points on the season.

Vincent Kompany, as well as the entire Man City team have disappointed. Last week I transferred KDB in favor of Eriksen. The clean sheet from Kompany away to Bournemouth, was shattered by a rock from Charlie Daniels, arguably the best goal on the season. City’s fixtures are mixed out of the break; LIV/wat/CRY/che, which now puts Kompany on the short list to be transferred. My only target, Marcos Alonso.

There are no illusions, Foster is my shot stopper and never had any inkling to start Rob Elliot. Newcastle has looked shaky at best on defense. Yet they did play West Ham, who seems to be the laugh stock of the EPL this season. Elliot tossed up 7 points on the bench, while WBA gave up a 77′ header to Crouch to spoil the clean sheet. Still high on the Baggies defense with bha/WHM out of the break before facing Arsenal.

Gameweek 3 was the first week for Eriksen in my starting XI. Again, expectations were high for Spurs against lowly Burnley at Wembley. Unfortunately, the Spurs lacked creativity and spark against the Clarets and Eriksen didn’t return any offensive points. Still, I feel good about this moving as the fixtures are solid through GW8; eve/SWA/whm/hud/BOU.

It’s been a pleasure to watch United playing such beautiful, flowing football with Pogba and my man, Mkhitaryan seemingly all over the pitch. It was a 5th assist for Mkhitaryan over 3 games, as he continues to be an enabler in the midfield. Still a bit light on the shooting stats, but if he continues to produce assists, he’s well worth his £8.1m price tag.

Seeing Aguero start on the bench in favor of Jesus, as the lone forward was awesome! His 21′ goal sparked further excitement of big returns, but it was not to be. He did however record 3 bonus points, finishing on 9 points for the game. Sunday it was Firmino, on a goal/assist and 3 bonus points who powered Liverpool to a 4-0 ass whooping of Arsenal!

The remainder of the weekend relied on Harry Kane. Captained again, he failed to return, but much like the previous two weeks, he had solid underlying stats. Not sure how much longer I can continue to promote this point and have with him in my starting XI. To date, I have scored just 6 points from my captain selections. I would of had better chances at captaining one of my 5 defenders to return! Even an average return on my captain selection would see me 20-30 points higher than where I currently sit with 159 total points.

With the international break upon us, we now have 2 weeks to prepare and make decision as it relates to our squad. Ask me today, I don’t plan on activating my WC. I don’t feel I have pressing issues that need to be addressed. Sure, Kane isn’t scoring, but his stats are there and we will be out of August in a few days. Defensively, I don’t plan on shifting my formation from a 5-man defense. However I might shift from a 5-2-3 to a 5-3-2, capitalizing on a plethora of midfielders who continue to return.

None of my league standings are overly impressive, however I do have green arrows all around, which is more than many other managers can say, headed into the break. I am just 11 points off my 2016/17 total to this point in the EPL season. Not stellar by any means, but considering the total scores of many managers this weekend I will continue to have a positive outlook.

The only negative I have to point to, outside of Kane not scoring, the fact I have only gained £0.2m to start the season. Prices have appeared more volatile to start the season, but historically, that statement doesn’t really stand up. Colback and Jesus have each lost £0.1, while only picked up £0.1m from Mkhitaryan. I do expect some price increases this week; Firmino, Mkhitaryan and potentially Foster.

Look for numerous updates as the international break starts. I have lots of thoughts on a variety of subjects. Also thanks to those on Twitter, as I feel I have received some better information and updates than from some of the forums I frequent.

Premier League: GW3 Starting XI

Figured being Friday, with nothing to do this evening I would add a new weekly feature to T6F called the Starting XI. Original, huh? This will be an overview of my traditional FPL squad, as well as the draft squad before the start of each week. Much of the discussion leading up to kickoff deals with transfer information, as well as a retrospect on what happened the previous week. Sometimes I talk through me team, as I did this week. With Twitter taking over where forums left off, I figure I have some more FPL to offer would be managers.

TRADITIONAL FPL STARTING XI

This week begins where last week left off, so to speak. The formation remains a non-standard 5-2-3, while I am not taking advantage in the attacking department, GW1 provided a glimpse of what COULD be if my defenders perform; 6 clean sheets, 1 assist and 3 bonus points for 38 points! Unfortunately GW2 was an indication of what WOULD happen if my So’ton treble give up, not one but 2 goals! They totaled 7 points, Kompany failed me at home for another single digit return but Foster and Valencia came through.

Heading into GW3, I had wrote about midweek options, not completely sold on activating my wild card, I had considered the Free Hit Chip, as well as a point hit. After some debate, research and discussion now was not the time to hit. In fact, I was probably a bit premature in pulling the trigger to move KDB in favor of Eriksen, as City are away to Bournemouth (15 goals and 1 against in the last 4 matches against the Cherries). Yet, Eriksen is a hot commodity and I wanted to get in on the price increase, so I finalized the transfer on Monday night.

With the transfer out of the way, I was pleased with the look and feel of my 5-2-3. While I am still positive, 96 points and a 2.2m overall ranking don’t sit very well, but I wasn’t the only manager to struggle in GW2. Again, it was a lack of attacking returns that caused despair.

Heading into GW3, with a Spurs double (Eriksen & Kane) home to Burnley, I feel confident big returns are possible from Wembley. I am also doubled up on Man United, yet I am still without Lukaku, as I figured I could see bigger returns from the duo of Firmino and Jesus than “Big Rom.” So far, it hasn’t really paid off.

After going down to 10-men, Jesus was “unfairly” substituted and KDB played more defensive, which could account for the lack of attacking returns. I don’t expect a lack of points this week from Jesus and expect Pep to play him 75+ minutes! Mkhitaryan is my sole attacking options from United, unless you consider Valencia in the mix, unfortunately his average positioning hasn’t been as attack as I would like to see. Thanks to Jose playing 4 at the back, he has been limited in his journeys forward.

Valencia and Kompany are the back end, doubling up on United and City. While I am a big Kompany fan, his matches could be numbered in favor of Alonso. As for Valencia, with £1.0m ITB, this could be a potential FT in the upcoming game weeks. However, uncertainty surrounds the treble So’ton defense. On paper the fixtures looks great; hud/WAT/cry/MNU/sto/NEW/WBA/bha/BUR. Outside of United, these all look to be great options for clean sheets. Realistically, we know that won’t happen. Just look back at GW2 and conceding 2 goals to a 10-man West Ham! Frustration!

While we can quote stats and speculate all we want, we don’t know how it will play out. I do believe my team is good for 80+ points this weekend. The defenders have the possibility to reproduce their GW1 magic with 6 CS, while all the attacking options should return.

FPL DRAFT STARTING XI

With the inaugural FPL Draft season underway, I am not impressed with the format. It reminds me too much of fantasy (NFL) football, a game I have spent 37 years playing and I am just tired of the format. Yet, being new and staying open-minded I jumped in a community league and was present for the draft. With half the managers on ‘auto draft’ I feel I made out with a strong 15-man squad.

While I won’t bore you with details from the first two game weeks, I scored 56 points and 24 points respectively. A total score of 80 puts me solidly in 3rd place, 15 points off 2nd place and 29 points from the top. This without my 2nd round selection, Coutinho. His Liverpool future is still up in the air, but after management turned down a huge Barca offer, it could be remaining at The Kop.

This week I look to rebound from a poor GW2, with the 5th best weekly score in the league it was time to hit the free agency trail. This week I made 5 transfers, three of which were waiver claims and two FA acquisitions this morning.

Looking to shore up a questionable attack, I was surprised the Chicharito was still available, facing a struggling Newcastle away could mean good things for the Mexican. It cost me Defoe, but the Cherries are struggling. With Pedro now fit, playing last week, I inserted him into the starting XI, pushed Tadic to the bench. The bench is where Rooney resides as well, not a fan, away to Chelsea, but I am finding it difficult to drop him, if I want to play a 3-4-3 or 3-5-2 in the future.

The other offensive player that was still a FA, Jese. With just a single match under his belt for Stoke and a goal, I snatched him up for Brady (BUR). Jese, once match fit should be well worth the acquisition.

Defensively I made three changes this week introducing Lössl for Begovic, Hegazi for Danilo and Britos for Daniels. Danilo was a question mark with a favorable fixture away to Bournemouth, but with Mendy nearly fit, rotation could begin. Hegazi has been the surprise defender for WBA this season on the back of a goal and 2 CS. Britos was a bit of a punt this week, but Marco Silva has the Hornets in 4th, playing some good footy. While he won’t be an every week player, I look for a good, solid return in GW3.

Core players I started the season with defensively include Azpilicueta and Alderweireld, as Yoshida was introduced for GW2. Ederson for City remains my main shot stopper but the addition of Lössl could see a rotation based on fixture and SoS.

Joining Jese and Pedro in the midfield this week is Alli. Drafted in the third round, Alli could be in contention for the top scoring midfielder this season, based on his statistics from last season. While I would love to couple him with Coutinho, we must play the waiting game until the window closes on transfers, however I could see him returning to the Liverpool starting XI in September.

Up front with Defoe now gone and the “Little Pea” plays second fiddle to Kun Aguero but feel I have a well rounded starting XI that should challenge for the top spot in my 8-team league. Expectations this weekend are high, as they were with my traditional squad. Defensively, I have the possibility of running the table with clean sheets, but feel Chelsea might concede one to Everton. On the attacking end of the pitch, 36 points isn’t a stretch based on the fixtures this weekend. At any rate I just hope to make up ground and move up in the overall standings.

FPL: Time to Hit

I believe I have seen the forest through the trees this morning, sitting here contemplating any further moves for GW3. Yesterday I wrote about midweek options, concluding the best option was to stand pat. Overnight, I reconsidered taking a -4 point hit, but it wasn’t until this morning I started interpolating the data.

Using the RMT tool at Fantasy Football Scout, I entered my 15-man squad based on my team ID. The results for the next 6 weeks weren’t overly surprising. Gameweek 3 and Gameweek 8 were the highest anticipated scores; 60.89 and 60.14, adding 342.99 points to my overall score, currently 96 points. This would be a weekly average of 54.87 points, well under my goal of 60 points/week.

Having already moved KDB in favor of Christian Eriksen, is there a -4 point hit that would make sense heading into the international break? Left with just two options, wanting to post just a -4 point hit, Antonio Valencia and Vincent Kompany top the list. Is it really wise to part with either defender so early in the season?

Using the Season Ticker, we can see the next 6 weeks for my defenders. Chelsea is also included, as Marcos Alonso would be the next player I introduce. So’ton and Man United both have strong fixtures through Gameweek 8. So’ton does face Man United in Gameweek 6, while United visits Liverpool in Gameweek 8. Man City has under performed to start this term at both ends of the pitch. At £6.0m Kompany would face Liverpool and Chelsea after the international break.

Valencia tops the group but more surprising, Alonso is third best with 22.18 points. Bertrand positioned second has the best schedule in the next 3 weeks, which could account for the high potential of clean sheets. Chelsea could face a stout match against Everton this weekend, but as attacking as Alonso has been, it could be another good weekend for the wing back.

Having already jettisoned KDB on Monday, in order to keep the point hit to -4, Kompany would have to give way. This would also be the fixture that Pep & Co. right the ship and fire on all cylinders and thump Bournemouth away. I feel the attacking returns, are higher with Alonso, especially being on free kicks, while the CS could lie with Kompany and City on the road.

Chelsea’s schedule doesn’t really improve until Gameweek 8, away to Palace. Can we count on attacking returns against the likes of Arsenal and Man City before the Blues schedule looks a bit kinder. There are currently no midfielders at £7.0 I desire in my starting XI. There are some good, short term, budget options that have started well, but not proven the likes of Alonso.

Keeping with my 5-2-3 formation, Alonso would transfer in, becoming a cornerstone in my defense. Kompany would be the defender giving way, which would leave me with Jesus as the only City asset remaining in my squad.

This point hit would leave me with a zero budget ahead of the international break, with a possibility of activating the wild card for GW4. In order to make this move worthwhile, an attacking return would be needed from Alonso, especially if both teams keep a clean sheet.

Thankfully we have one more day to mull over the option of “hitting it early!”

Premier League: GWTF 2

Interesting to note how this season’s squad parallels last season’s through just 2 weeks into the EPL. This time last year after GW2 I was writing, “Bring on the green arrow, as I improved my overall position to 182k, jumping some 119k spots with 72 points this weekend.” It wasn’t until Gameweek 3 that my squad took a turn and scored just 39 points, following an “average” 59 points in GW1. This season after starting with 58 points, my squad returned just 38 points as the starting XI continued to struggle, yet there is continued support of some players based on their underlying statistics. The recent theme since a dismay Man City performance has been”wild card.” Do you or don’t you?

Unlike last season I am attempting to practice more patience with my starting XI than I had last year at this time. The GW2 transfer of Zaha was necessary, as his injury will hold him out of action for approximately 4 weeks. However, picking up Mkhitaryan was a perfect replacement, providing another 2 assists, now leads the league with 4. Prior to the start of the season I was hoping to roll the first FT over to GW2, which would allow 2 transfers as we approach GW3. Now, only Tuesday I have already activated my FT for GW3, finally losing patience with KDB and doubling up with Eriksen in my 2-man midfield. Knee jerk? Eh…possibly but Spurs face Burnley at home in GW3. More on Spurs later.

With heavy reliance on defense, the lack of a clean sheet from So’ton hurt any chance for a positive contribution. It wasn’t a complete loss, as Foster picked up his second CS on the season, as did Valencia, who doesn’t look as attack minded in a 4-back set for United. Thankfully Yoshida picked up a very late assist and 1 bonus point to salvage 5 points. The combination of Bertrand, Cedric and Kompany combined for 3 points. Still, I am high on Kompany, as long as he remains healthy, but didn’t expect City to bleed Rooney’s 200th goal yesterday at home. Their team might not be as fixture proof as once thought with some budget defenders outplaying premium players. Yet, let’s consider it’s been just 2 weeks.

In the middle of the field, the lack of Man City goals continues to frustrate managers. The offensive threat that City possess is impressive, unfortunately a 2-0 victory over BHA and a 1-1 draw against EVE hasn’t produced a feeling of security as it relates to the likes of De Bruyne and Jesus, both of which I have in my starting XI. Some reports of KDB playing deeper, allowing David Silva a more advanced position could shed a negative light on his potential, especially at £10.0. Returns of 3 and 4 (as I captained him in GW2) doesn’t bode well with the likes of Pogba, Mkhitaryan, Eriksen and Alli outplaying KDB at a cheaper price. I have no doubts City will click and when they do, we will all be looking at moving in their high priced talent. GW3 is away to BOU, returns likely!

In a knee jerk reaction to KDB not returning big against Everton I activated my FT and dropped him in favor of Eriksen, which saves me £0.5 and gives me £1.0 ITB. The move was predicated on Eriksen rising £0.1m this week, which as of Tuesday morning, hasn’t occurred. Knee jerk because of City’s strong match up against BOU in GW3. Looks at the statistics, Kane & Co. have some good numbers, which are hard to ignore. Much like last year, I can see doubling (or trebling) on Spurs and now Man United. The addition of Eriksen, now gives me double Spurs, Man United and Man City, while I still have treble defenders from So’ton.

As eluded to in previous pieces, just hours before GW1 I made the decision to change formations from a 5-3-2 to a 5-2-3 due to lack of quality midfielders around £7.0. I felt there were strong attacking options in a third forward, thus I introduced Jesus and Firmino and dropped Lukaku. Two weeks in, we know that was a mistake and I have toiled in that decision for nearly 3 weeks now. Jesus saw just 45 minutes as the Pep merry-go-round is spinning, while Kane…*sigh*…his August woes continue. There is a silver lining through. Most shots in GW2, Kane, 8. Most shots on target in GW2, Kane, 4. For the second week in a row, he clipped the post and left his owners, in a shriveled heap on the floor. Now back to back 1 point returns doesn’t fair well, especially with a £12.5 price tag, but I don’t expect his price to decrease, as his underlying stats are excellent!

So the question becomes, how long do you give Kane? Continued statistics have me continuing to back Kane as 248,000 managers have transferred him out since GW1, conversely 325,000 managers have brought Lukaku in. Looking ahead, Spurs have good fixtures; BUR/eve/SWA/whm/hud/BOU. No reason to to think Kane won’t net 5-7 goals in that span and put his August woes behind him as we move into September.

But what of Lukaku? Now at £11.6 with another price increase in the fold and favorable fixtures through GW7 (LEI/sto/EVE/sou/CRY) and with an astounding 56.7 TSB%, his ownership is a MUST. Yet, here I am looking at GW3 and I still don’t own the big Belgian. Not wanting to “knee jerk” and I holding out for one more week and the international break before activating my first wild card. That’s the plan if asked today. Again, this is another parallel to last season, when I wild carded for GW4 and saw positive short term rewards and a cluster of green arrows.

Based on what has transpired through 2 weeks, I figure I will score 72+ points this week heading into the break and consider my options at that point. “Knee jerk” has been the catchphrase the past few weeks and maybe pulling the trigger quickly on KDB (Monday) in favor of Eriksen will come back to bite me. Hopefully it works in my favor so I can head into the international break on a positive note. Still for he remainder of the week, barring injury I don’t plan on activating the wild card or taking a hit to bring hot, young talent (sounds like a p0rn ad) to my squad. That means Lukaku, Alonso and Trippier must wait another week.

FPL: What if…

It was well documents on T6F that the last minute change to my GW1 FPL starting XI was a knee jerk reaction to the first scoutcast of the season from the guys at Fantasy Football Scout. By no means do I blame them for my reaction to their information. The fault lies from within, as months of work, effort and planning fell by the wayside based on the “what if…” situations that surrounded Gameweek 1. In my mind I am still attempting to justify the reason why I opted for a 5-2-3 instead of the 5-3-2 that I had been working with predominately, in order to find a midfield rotation, that appear on paper at least to be the best option.

Goals by Lukaku the first few weeks, along with those from Pogba and Alonso highlight the misses from my squad because of this knee jerk reaction.  However moving Coutinho out before GW1 was a wise move as he continues to watch from the sidelines due to injury and the potential move to Barca. The injury to Zaha meant I had to use my FT in order to bring a viable #2 midfielder in. This was probably a blessing in disguise as I opted for Mkhitaryan, who currently leads the EPL in assists with 4 through two games.

What is really bizarre, the fact I did not start with any offensive Man United players. Both Lukaku and Pogba were slated for weeks in my squad. There was some question as to how attack-minded that Pogba would be and at £8.0, Mkhitaryan would have been another option. To start GW1 it was just Valencia who made the cut to start the season. Based on the early planning, Bailly (goal in GW2) was also in the starting XI in order to accommodate the £7.0 Alonso. The early Man United fixtures were excellent, as pundits had been discussing; WHM/swa/LEI/sto, to start the season. Yet it was De Bruyne at £10.0 who started as my premium midfielder, a player I really didn’t consider over the course of my planning.

So where do I go from here? I am still pleased with the 5 defender set, even though So’ton conceded twice to 10-man West Ham squad. Being trebled up at the back (Yoshida, Bertrand, Cedric) hurt, thankfully Yoshida picked up a late assist to salvage something from the Saints back line. The dominance of £7.0 Alonso through 2 weeks has been impressive to watch. Sure Chelsea got rolled by Burnley in GW1, but much like Kane, Alonso featured big in the attack down the right side. Could the outlay of £7.0 be worth it?

So’ton has hud/WAT/cry in the next 3 games, all of which could yield clean sheets. Could! Yet, it’s a high risk, high reward, where a single goal can mean the different between 18 points and 6 points. Shifting to Alonso now doesn’t appear lucrative with EVE/lei/ARS over the next 3 games. However the Blues looked good against Spurs on Sunday and there is no reason to believe they won’t tally multiple goal games in the next 3 fixtures.

Not owning Lukaku is weighing heavily. Much like the decision not to run with Pogba, this decision was borderline crazy. Looking at his GW1 TSB% and the fact Kane has struggled in August should have meant Lukaku in the starting XI, while playing the “wait and see game” with Kane. Unfortunately, I rolled the dice and so far have come up on the short end, based on just 2 weeks. All is not lost, Kane has some excellent underlying stats in his two early performances, I feel it’s a matter of time before he hits in August, GW3 fixture is home to Burnley.

Up front, the return of Sturridge for Liverpool saw Firmino drop a bit further to fill that midfield slot with Salah on the bench. Not a Salah fan and feel he’s going to struggle in the EPL this season. Still without Coutinho, Firmino ends up being that play maker Liverpool is missing if Sturridge can remain healthy. Jesus at City has possibly has two more weeks before he faces the transfer ax. Returning a single point in the first week and he faces Everton this week. The combined budget (£19.0) would allow me to downgrade KDB, giving me £29.0 to spend. This would also mean activating my WC before GW4. Something I was attempting to avoid going into the season.

Before all the dominoes begin to topple, we need to play out GW2 as Man City hosts Everton. A big output from City could sway my upcoming decisions on who will go and who will stay. Still I feel good about my squad, even though the numbers are representative of it.

Starting Eleven

Along with participating in the FPL game, as well as their new draft game, I decided to give the new online fantasy football league called Starting Eleven a change last week after hearing the Brandon and Josh interviewed Thomas Braun on a recent Always Cheating podcast. Gameweek 1 was highly successful, finishing 2nd in the world on Saturday. It appeared I might actually know a little something about fantasy football having having a great Saturday, but faltered on Sunday and didn’t fare as well. Still, the game and interactive experience was great, adding a new dimension to the fantasy game while watching along.

 

The game is simple and played on a daily basis, as long as there are 2 teams involved. As the manager you select your starting XI for that game day, along with assigning the captaincy. Once the games kickoff, you are allowed 3 transfers during that day. This is what makes Starting Eleven unique. If you are losing and your forward pulls up with an injury, you make a real time substitution!

Last week, I was a bit late to the party, as I made zero transfers on Saturday, due to a prior commitment, which nearly cost me the victory over Brandon at AC, hanging on to victory 167.7 to 165.3. Brandon on the other hand, made a late substitute in order get the upper hand and a chance to change the outcome.

Starting Eleven offers various single day game types; 1 vs 1, Winner Take All (WTA) 50/50 and Private Game. The 1 vs 1 is a head-to-head game against another manager with winner-take-all stakes. The WTA allows you to compete against a group of managers. The highest-scoring manager takes the entire prize pool. The 50/50 is similar to WTA, as it’s played against a group of managers with the top 50% winning prizes. Finally there’s the private game, played as a 1 vs 1 against a friend.

Currently all single day game types offer free contests, but cash prizes for U.S. and U.K. players is coming in Fall, 2017. This will allow managers to not only earn bragging rights, but take home a spot of cash for the managerial prowess. Until that time, games will be played free, learning the game and scoring system.

For more information drop by the Starting Eleven website and see what the app is all about. It’s great fun, while being more interactive than other fantasy games. Feel free to contact me on Twitter (@w6onv) if you would like a 1 vs 1 challenge.

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.

FPL: Justification

A final score of 58 points for GW1 resulted in an “average” start to the fantasy season, much like last season, where I score 59 points. The overall ranking saw me start the season at 1.9m, compared to 303k in 2016/17. However, I have mixed feelings on how I have started. Obviously, the time and energy put in during the pre-season paid off in some respect. First, I am not unhappy scoring the weekly average after GW1. Second, I am pleased with how I built my team, running out a 5-2-3 formation, albeit a bit untested, since this was a last minute Friday change to a more stable 5-3-2. Finally, it’s the first game week, you can’t judge the entire season on what happened in GW1.

As I have said from the onset, averaging 60 points a week is one of my goals. At season’s end, that would give you a final score of 2280, before adding in captaincy and bonus points. This would also be my best season, if I were to score 2280, as 2015/16 I finished on 2170 and a 75k overall ranking, my best to date. If I were to based my season on GW1, then I am on track for the season. Maybe this is looking for that silver lining in an otherwise poor, when compared to the high scores of GW1, performance.

Maybe I point my finger as Firetog, community supporter and contributor at Fantasy Football Scout, who led me down that path less traveled, when I considered my 5-defender set. His piece, In Search Of The Best Fantasy Football Formation, had me in complete agreement with his assessment when considering formations for the upcoming FPL season. While the 3-4-3 and 3-5-2 will reign supreme when it comes to formation, lining up 7 attacking players, the 5-3-2 (5-2-3) appeared a viable alternate based on player prices and lack of “quality” buys in the midfield. After GW1 we do know a bit more who could be the potential Etienne Capoue for this season. Spending £28.0m was considerably more than a majority of managers, considering most would fill their backline with budget players at £4.5, looking for that £4.0 (Rangel, 19.7 TSB%) to free up another £0.5.

When considering formation for the upcoming FPL season, I leaned on his Firetog’s statistical information. While I considered all other formations including the popular 3-4-3 and 3-5-2, I concentrated my efforts on a 5-3-2 over most of the off season. There were 6 variations with different players, strategies and plans through GW7. During the off season every lineup featured two things in common, Lukaku and Kane up front and a defensive spending in excess of £28.0. Going big on defense meant the only real decisions I had to make were in the midfield.

Unfortunately, as the off season rolled into the pre-season with friendlies through out the world, Countinho (£9.0), my selection to lead my 3-man midfield was hampered with injury and linked to a Barca move when Neymar departed for PSG. Coutinho anchored two plans for the first 7 game weeks. First was Coutinho/Tadic and 3 – £6.0m midfielders. The other plan was Coutinho/Pogba and 3 – £6.0m midfielders. Both rotations featured similar names that would rotate weekly based on strength of schedule and home fixture; Tadic, Phillips, Ritchie, Ince, Knockaert, Groß and Carroll. Including Pogba, would mean losing one of the higher price defenders, something I wasn’t too keen on, but it was a possibility.

As pre-season continued and results/performance started rolling  I began looking at another option in my 5-3-2. Based on the defenders I selected I could start with Coutinho, Pobga and Willian in the midfielder for GW1. On paper it looked good. Like the £6.0m midfielder rotation, I was able to organize a plan that would allow me to transfer out a midfielder, while attempting to play home fixtures against weaker EPL opponents. The only issue I had with this rotation was the fact it heavily featured Tadic in my starting XI. While his underlying stats were good, realistically he under performed for much of last season. With Coutinho looking more and more of a question mark, it was time to look at another high priced midfielder to start the season.

Pogba and Mkhitaryan both were a cause for concern, as they under performed last season for Man United. The addition of Lukaku up top gave managers some confidence to select one, but to double up on United’s attack was questionable. The FFS scoutcast prior to GW1 made the decision for me and forced my hand to change up the midfield to start the season.

Coverage from So’ton and Man United were essential to start the season, as were assets from their noisy neighbors, Man City. Defensively I wanted So’ton, Man City, Man United and Chelsea to start the season, however the Blues early fixtures were cause for concern. As I mentioned on August 8, “Alonso has a big question mark next to his name.” He was the linchpin for a series of moves prior to GW1 that caused me to shift my thinking from a 5-3-2 to a 5-2-3 just hours before the kickoff of ARS v LEI.

Through all of July and early August, Lukaku was essential for my starting XI and his TSB%, over 48% confirmed that ownership. Yet, I decided to move Lukaku in conjunction with Alonso to free up budget in order to bring in De Bruyne for second City asset. Indications were good that the Citizens would roll up big numbers in the early weeks, starting with new boys, Brighton. KDB’s inclusion as the playmaker for City was warranted, as was his £10.0m price tag, after a great 2016/17 season (6 goals/21 assists).

The second part of the Alonso/Lukaku transfer brought Firmino and Jesus into the starting XI, which suddenly changed the 5-3-2 to the current 5-2-3. Not high on any third budget option, after being burned by Gabbiadini last season, if I wanted to play 3 forwards it would cost me a bit more. Jesus at £1.0m less than Lukaku, but with HUGE potential appeared to be a wise move. Lukaku, new team, Jose a bit defensive minded last season after going up 1-0, with Jesus and City going up against BHA. It was risky, but I made it happen, yet the TSB% of Lukaku didn’t sit well but I ignored it as we approached GW1.

Defensively, the decision NOT to include Alonso was difficult to make, but at £7.0m, I could use the budget elsewhere to strength my squad. In his place I added Bertrand to my starting defense, which now featured, Valencia, Kompany, Bertrand, Cedric and Yoshida. The treble coverage from So’ton, Man United and Man City, I was pleased with how this back five came together. I continued to go with Foster (WBA) in between the sticks with Elliot as his back up.

Not that I need to justify my starting XI, but it was a well thought out plan since reading Firetog’s article. Is it wrong to think this differently and go against what is consider commonplace in FPL, using a 3-4-3 or a 3-5-2 formation, maximizing your attacks, while using budget defenders to make the most of your £100.0m. As I stated before, I was pleased with the underlying stats of my starting XI, shots on targets, shots in the box, unlucky decisions that could have gone my way didn’t. Not sure it warrants a true knee jerk reaction like we are seeing across the fantasy world. Managers yanking Kane in favor of Lukaku. Moving the injury Zaha for the likes of £5.5m, Xhaxa or snatching up the big Egyptian, Hegazi, based on his first goal in since 2009, when he entered professional football. As I had read in the past, the 38 week fantasy season is a marathon, not a sprint. Early on I have decided to pace myself and not go out fast, only to burn out when I need to kick.

Premier League: GW2 Transfers

It’s Tuesady as we recover from the opening EPL weekend, which started off with a 7 goal stunner on Friday. But it’s not too early to start looking forward to what direction we want to take when it comes to our squad. Just finished listening to the podcast of Josh and Brandon at Always Cheating. Not sure how I missed out on their commentary and insight (since 2015) the past few years, but I enjoyed their pre-season banter so much, I decided to become a patreon support. Also beat Brandon this week in Starting Eleven on Saturday by 2.4 points.

While GW1 wasn’t all that it was cracked up for me in terms of points, just 58 to start the campaign. I am confident moving forward that I am avoiding the “knee jerk” reaction to major changes in formation or personnel. The injury to Zaha (£7.0), now confirmed out, up to 4 weeks means I must either active one of my substitutes;’ Tom Carroll or Dale Stephens or burn that first FT before Zaha’s value starts decreasing.

To be honest, with all the planning leading up to GW1, I really didn’t play out a 2-midfielder rotation with £1.5m ITB. It was my intention to run Zaha out through GW5 before looking for a replacement. That move was accelerated and I turned my attention towards the highest scoring team in GW1, Man United. It was my intention to have treble coverage from United at the start of the season, but in a flurry of activity, I transferred Lukaku and Pogba, changed formation and opted for KDB, Firmino and Jesus, saving that £1.5m ITB for future use. Something I had NEVER done before, much like playing 5 defenders at the back.

Last night, while standing in the bathroom, I checked FPL Statistics to see which players were topping the list of potential price increases. It came as no surprise to see Lukaku, with his 50.8% TSB, but just ahead of him was teammate, Mkhitaryan (£8.0). Prior to GW1, I was considering him or Pogba to start the season. Neither materialized and I went a different direction, as I felt KDB would score more in the short team based on the team offense and strength of schedule. With a few clicks, I made the change and brought in the Armenian for the injured Zaha. Didn’t want to lose value by holding Zaha, even on the off chance his knee isn’t an issue and he does indeed start GW2 against Liverpool.

Starting XI for Gameweek 2 is set, with the addition of Mkhitaryan to my squad. 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. The midfield contains two maestros, KDB and Mkhitaryan, who could feature prominently this weekend. Up front I run with the same three forwards, opting NOT to bring in Lukaku on a “knee jerk” and a -4 hit. Some questions could surround Firmino after their midweek UCL fixture against Hoffenheim, still I feel he will start for the Reds ahead of the again healthy, Sturridge.

My bench is still a concern. although Carroll is a starting for Swansea but will only be fielded when the Swans feature at home against weak opposition. Stephens, like Carroll, features in GW1 and played all 90 minutes, couldn’t ask for more. Truthfully neither will feature as I will put my budget and faith in the starting XI on the pitch.

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: 5-3-2 Update

It’s been 7 days since I actually looked at my squad, as I inadvertently took advice seen on a fantasy since and stopped shuffling players in an attempt to build the “perfect team.” However, the time away from my squad didn’t clarify any transfers or secure any starters. I did get a chance to view the Community Shield, result aside the performances, or lack thereof only continued to muddle the current situation, as we are just 3 days away from the Friday opener.

As I jumped back in with two feet yesterday, I have continued to work around the players in a 5-3-2 formation. While not conventional, as say the 3-4-3 or the 3-5-2, I have faith this formation could prove worthwhile to start the season. Lots have been made of the lack of clean sheets to start past season and while that could potentially happen, I feel confident in how I am setting up the start of the 2017/18 EPL season.

Since my last article, 5-3-2 Midfield Rotation, a few weeks backs, I really haven’t made any extreme changes to my squad, but there are questions that have gone unanswered and potential transfers to make before GW1 begins. Since the backbone of my squad is defense, I will start at the back. Here’s the current starting 5 defenders:

Alonso (£7.0m) still anchors my squad, as I have decided to double up on Man City starting Kompany (£6.0) and new boy, Danilo (£5.5). He was brought in after Trippier suffered an ankle injury and could be sidelined for a period of time. City has good fixtures to start the season and Danilo will see starting time with Mendy not quite ready to play. Yoshida (£5.0)has replaced Cédric (£5.0), as he has just rejoined the squad after the Confederations Cup and there is some question as to him starting. Yoshida provided good value last season, scoring goals, recording CS and gaining much needed bonus points. My final defender, Valencia (£6.5), who was upgraded from Bailly (£6.0), as he doesn’t provide much offensive threat, but is probably the strongest of the defenders for United not to be rotated.

As we head toward Friday, Alonso has a big question mark next to his name. Not because of his £7.0m price tag, but because of the poor defensive showing Chelsea has shown during pre-season. As a side note, it’s interesting that I seem to put more emphasis on poor performances during these early friendlies. Yet just like good performances, both can come back to bite you in the ass. The Chelsea defense is virtually unchanged, the addition of Rüdiger from Roma appears to strengthen the defense, starters on Sunday were unchanged.

Downgrading Alonso to a £6.0m or even a £5.5m would free up budget to potentially resolve a bigger problem in the midfield. Defensively, dropping Alonso from the starting XI would not give me any Chelsea defenders, not that it’s entirely a bad situation, as their early run of fixtures aren’t great (BUR, tot, EVE, lei, ARS, sto, MCI), playing 4 of the top 7 teams from last season. Replacements could include Kolasinac (£6.0m) or Bertrand (£5.5m), leaning toward the late based on So’ton outstanding early fixtures, but would also be doubling up on another set of defenders. Arsenal have a good opening 10 games, having to face LIV (A) in GW3 and  CHE (A) in GW5.

Saving as little as £1.0m would allow me to look for another option for the injured and potentially, off to Barca, Coutinho (£9.0m). Neymar moving to PSG could start a domino effect and the next one to fall could be Coutinho departing the Reds, leaving their squad without a rudder to guild them this season. This would put my squad in a bind as I don’t believe in Liverpool’s other £9.0m option, Salah, who makes his return to the the EPL, still unproven in the league. Sure, his numbers were solid in Serie A, but this is England and competition is more fierce and his Chelsea days were exactly productive for any number of reasons. None of the cheaper options look inviting to anchor the midfield.

With budget saved on the defense, I would look at a £9.5m-£10.0m in the midfield. I did have fleeting thoughts to double up on Spurs, selecting Eriksen over Alli. Both players are priced at £9.5m but do face CHE (H) and EVE (A) in GW2 and GW4. The other £9.5m option is Mané of L’pool. He would fill Coutinho’s spot nicely, but I don’t see him as the playmaker type but has the potential to put up solid numbers. Instead I am looking at City and De Bruyne (£10.0m). Probably the safest bet in the midfield, he commands a hefty price tag, but could be worth the investment considering the players he has around him. Not to mention he hit the goal post 9 times last season to along with his 6 goals and 21 assists.

Currently Pogba (£8.0), Willian or Fabergas (£7.0m) and two £4.5m, non-playing midfielders round out this position. As explained before, I plan on a rotating these midfielders in the early game weeks based on strength of schedule and home fixtures. The current rotation plan is through GW6:

Much of this is pure speculation and conjecture at this point, but I feel more confident going into GW1 with a plan of action, in an attempt to maximize points based on fixtures. Lots can change between GW1 and GW4 and I could be activating my WC by this period if the 5-3-2 formation is failing. However, if it’s rewarding me weekly and I’m climbing in the overall rankings (OR), I should see a rise in my overall team value (TV). By GW6 I am anticipating a TV of £101.6, based on last year’s data. However with this plan in place, I can’t chase those hot players weekly who’s price may be on the rise.

The ‘5 at the back‘ option is still alive and kicking and I feel very confident starting the season with it. It’s different but still conforms to some template players but the defenders will the differential as to how I start the season. The budget breakdown is as follows:

The budget breakdown is balanced and allows to move players in and out almost at will. There is enough allocated at each position that a simple 1 for 1 transfer could occur. The move for KDB over Coutinho, would allows 4 further moves, moving up the £10.0m price bracket. Currently, I don’t plan on moving Kane or Lukaku outside of injury. Alonso though, is the key. Do I keep him and run out Coutinho? Or move Alonso in favor of a cheaper So’ton option in the rear guard and start KDB. Questions still abound and Friday is quickly approaching.

Premier League: 1st FPL Draft

Let’s get this out of the way, I won’t be adding a second draft team to my resume this EPL season. In fact, I was having reservations to even participate in yesterday’s draft, as the game is losing a bit of its luster and reminding me too much of fantasy (American) football, which features the same snake style draft in order to build your unique team.

As I watched the time count down to the start the of draft I waited to see my draft position and was pleased to be listed as #2. This meant I was ensured of adding a premium forward to build around. It wasn’t long after selecting Kun Aguero with the second pick overall, bypass the likes of Sanchez and Lukaku that I tabbed to another window on the PC to wait my second pick.

When I tabbed back to the draft it should me to be “away” and suddenly it was the 4th round! I had missed two rounds but hadn’t been away for more than about 60 seconds. Thankfully I saw this as a blessing in disguise, as I ended up with Dele Alli and Phillipe Coutinho in those rounds. Not sure I could have asked for anything better. Right?

With a good core built around these three players I watched the draft progress and concluded there were only 3 managers who were participating, thus the quick down and back in the draft where I was picking nearly back to back in quick succession.  Round 4 came down to either Defore or Benteke. Quickly weighing the different factors I selected the journeyman, Defoe as my second forward before returning in round 5 with Pedro. My team was coming together nicely and honestly better than I had hoped.

The decision was made prior to the draft not to select keepers or defenders until the final 7 selections of the draft. While it might mean I wouldn’t get the likes of Alonso, it didn’t really concern me knowing my defense would be rather stout and potentially have a good rotation between the pipes.

The next two rounds  saw Wayne Rooney and new boy, Davy Klassen join my squad. While neither will see much action after GW1, I felt both were some of the best talent remaining on the board as we hit the mid rounds. Speaking of Alonso, he was selected two picks after Klassen as the 49th player taken. Ahead of players such as Lanzini, Willian, Zaha, Ramsey and Fabergas. Lots of £7.0 midfielders, be curious to see how this works out in the draft game, as well as the traditional game.

With Aguero, Defoe and Rooney, my front line was set and I was looking to round out my final midfield position when the draft came back to me for the 54 selection in the draft. I turned to West Ham, and their talented midfield coming down to Lanzini and Arnautovic. While I like what Arnautovic brings to the Hammers from Stoke City, I felt more comfortable with Lanzini to have a break out year running that offense.

The midfield now complete, I looked at who would anchor my 5-man defense and turned to last year’s champions, Chelsea. While Cahill was top on my list, he was drafted prior to my selection of Azpilicueta. Kyle Walker was the other option, but I had some reservation of rotation, so passed for the Chelsea man. However the following round I picked up a former teammate of Walker’s in Alderweireld, which strengthened the defense that would start the season for me.

In reality, I wanted Vincent Kompany but failed to see him just down the list from Alderweireld. In retrospect, Kompany has struggled for fitness over the years, but as healthy Kompany will provide big returns, but can he stay healthy? With Spurs playing at Wembley this year, one can only hope they can repeat the season with 17 clean sheets, a feat I fear they won’t accomplish.

Continuing with defense I contemplated picking up the man without a team, so to speak, in van Dijk but his uncertainty didn’t sit well with me, as I know he won’t pull on a So’ton jersey this season and didn’t want that in my potential third starter. Other options I considered were Stones, who was a potential rotation risk and didn’t shine last season with City, Alderweireld’s partner, Trippier and Mustafi of Liverpool. Looking a few rounds ahead, I was hoping to secure the services of Ederson, so I bypassed Stones and took the Arsenal man, in hopes he’s cemented in a starting role for the Gunners. He played 26 games last season but also caught 11 yellow cards.

My last two defenders I felt were stronger attacking assets than the first three defenders I selected and was pleasantly surprised to see them in the later part of the draft. Charlie Daniels took up the fourth spot, as one of the top returning defenders last season with 134 points! Lastly, I went back to a favorite from 2 years ago from West Ham, Aaron Cresswell, who put up 133 points on 2 goals/4 assists and 11 clean sheets in 2015/16. Like how the Hammers are looking and feel he is real valued added to this squad.

In between the posts I was able to secure the services of the new boy, Ederson for City, a player I was considering when drafting defenders in the earlier rounds. I feel City could put up 18-20 clean sheets this season and Ederson will be a big part of that defensive success. Finally pick to finish out my 15-man squad was for Chelsea keeper, now at Bournemouth, Asmir Begovic. Much like Cresswell, he has been very successful in previous EPL season 144 and 136 points in the 2012/13 and 2013/14 seasons.

Pleased with my draft, I feel I have a very competitive team. I have not looked at the other 7 squads in my league, but feel I will be at or near the top all season long with quality and talent; Aguero, Alli, Coutinho, Alderweireld down the center of the pitch.

Here is the full team and how I anticipate I will run them out for GW1. With a solid bench, I will have many good options available. What I don’t like about the draft, the fact there are still playing coming and going in the EPL. Morata and Danilo are still not available in the game. That could potentially be crucial, the same could be said if someone of Sanchez of Countinho quality transferred out of the EPL, could potentially damage a team.

Currently, I cannot put a claim in for either player, but rest assured I would not hesitate to add that quality to an already strong draft team. Not sure how closely I will follow the draft game, as I feel I have the superior team in the league. We will see how I fair and I will follow it weekly with a retrospect, much like I do with the traditional game.