Premier League: 8 Week Plan

This was supposed to have been the week I activated my wildcard. That happened 2 weeks ago and heading into this break, I am pleased with my squad’s performance. Riding high on 78 points, I have started formulating a plan to cover the next 8 weeks. While injuries play a big role, I have a contingency plan in place if players like Phil Jones or Alvaro Morata are not fully fit.

The best part of the international break was holding my GW7 transfer, giving me 2 FT moving forward. Thankfully I stuck it out with Phil Jones and was rewarded with a 6 point performance. However, as fixtures are turning for Manchester United, it appears Jones could be on the short list. He would be one of two moves in order to strengthen an already strong defense. In the eyes of some, overpriced.

Even the best laid plans, often go awry and fantasy is one of those with so many intricate variables, requiring 11 players to work together for success, but still rely on individual skill. While this 8-week plan is nothing more than a guideline, the only thing that has remained constant has been my penchant to use a 5-2-3 formation since GW1.

As I have stated in past articles on my site, as well as those posted at Fantasy Football Geek, the 5-2-3 has not been the weak link in my overall points of 390 and overall rank of 792k. The failure has occurred at my captaincy selections, seeing my best return last week, 26 points from Harry Kane. The prior 6 week were all single returns; 2, 1, 4, 4, 2, 6 for 19 points.

Through the early part of the season, we are reading and seeing more fantasy mangers moving away from a 3-5-2 and a 3-4-3, considering a 4-3-3. The wing back has been predominate, to start the season, as clean sheets have increased over this time last year. Defenders are seeing double digit returns and returning some good offensive points.

Up front, many premium forwards have been scoring good points; Lukaku, Morata, Kane, just to name a few. The question posed, “how do I fit in 3 heavy hitters up front?” During the preseason I consider two 5-2-3 formations that included Lukaku, Kane and Aguero as my starters with Trippier, Cedric, Bailly, Daniels and Alonso as my starting 5 defenders. Obviously with 35.5m in forwards and another 30.0m in defenders, it was budget midfielders in the starting XI; Willian and Zaha.

This fact alone was a cause for concern, as the team was out of balance and didn’t want to struggle in the midfield. While Kevin De Bruyne and Wilfried Zaha started GW1, their tenure was short lived. City struggled to score in the first few weeks and Zaha went off injured after GW1. Unlike many other personnel decisions this season, I wasted no time bringing in Henrikh Mkhitaryan in GW2. De Bruyne gave way a week later for Christian Eriksen. Now with both United and Spurs facing a tougher spell, both midfielders appear to be giving way to “budget options: while beefing up defensively and taking a stronger stand on the front line.

With GW8 on the horizon there are dueling thoughts on how to move forward. First idea is to use two budget midfielders, add a fifth big wing back and a third premium forward. The other thought is to spend 1.0m less on the defender, while upgrading to another marauding wing back and run with one premium and one budget midfielder.

Before my weekend leadership camping trip, I spent time working out both strategies. In fact I have put into place an 8-week plan to take my squad through GW16. While I don’t expect to see this plan out, it does give me a guideline to follow of which plans I am currently looking to invest in. Eden Hazard returning to fitness will be interesting to watch, but I would prefer Alvaro Morata, who’s fitness level doesn’t see him ready to return (listed at 50% chance to play). Still owned by 21%, we could see Morata slip another 0.1m before he’s ready for the starting XI.

Defensively, I am looking at strengthening an already strong presence by adding Kyle Walker, as Man City has a nice run of fixtures in the next 3 weeks and 7 out of the next 8 games. However each premium player comes at a cost, which for me is in the midfield. While many fantasy manager continue to promote the tried and true, 3-4-3, some have opted for a 4-3-3, sacrificing that fourth (budget?) midfielder for a stronger defense.

Continuing to promote and use a 5-2-3 formation, my midfield is considerably weaker than those of my fantasy counterparts, but overall I am pleased with how my formation has performed. Unfortunately to free up the necessary budget required to add a Morata/Hazard and Walker (or possibly Otamendi), I would have to sacrifice both Mkhitaryan and Eriksen. This, obviously doesn’t come without risk. Moving both current midfielders could leave me with Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting and Richarlison by GW10 if this decision is finalized.

Eriksen and Spurs have a tough run of games after they GW8 home clash against the Cherries. Dropping Eriksen temporary doesn’t really bother me, as there are other options out there, however I would love to get him back for the home fixture against Palace.

Overall, I have been very patient with my starting XI, as my bench players are all at 4.5. The only one to score more than 2 points all season was Dale Stephens of Brighton, when he picked up an assist and bonus point, so I don’t expect to make any changes in my bench fodder.

 

Premier League: GW7 Draft Retrospect

We are not 7 weeks into the EPL season and FPL Draft isn’t holding the sort of thrill and excitement I thought it would. Initially, I felt there could be some interesting aspects to the game. Considering I come from a fantasy (NFL) football background of 38 years, this draft game did show some early promise. To date, I am just not impressed. Maybe my thoughts would be different if the 8-team league I play in were local friends and not some unknown Internet alias.

That said, I climbed into 2nd place in my draft league after a strong-ish showing this past weekend scoring 44 points, which was second highest in the league. After 7 weeks I have scored 305 points, which is now 36 points off the top, which I expect to take in the coming weeks after the international break.

Its interesting to not as we get further along in the season, the more transactions I am taking through the week. I stated the week with 3 waiver claims; Hoedt, Chicharito, Mustafi. I ended up getting all three of the on Thursday and dropped Mendy (inj), Benteke (inj) and Lascelles. But that wasn’t enough, the merry-go-round continued into Friday, adding Niasse, Richarlison, A. Carroll, Cresswell and Choupo-Moting. In the end Richarlison and Niasse, along with Stones, Jese and Joselu were dropped.

On the week I started Fabianski in goal over Ederson because of the match up. Only a late goal by West Ham denied Fabianski his 4th clean sheet on the season, but he did scoop up a bonus point. Defensively, my squad is sound, as I started a 5-4-1, tripling up on West Ham. Mustafi, Cresswell, Alderweireld and Azpilicueta combined for 20 points, with only “Dave” not keeping a clean sheet in a 1-0 loss to Man City. My fifth starter was Hoedt, who was benched in favor of Van Dijk, which mean Pedro was slotted in.

The midfield looks good on paper, but Alli continues to struggle, posting another no return, while Coutinho continues to look good in the Liverpool midfield with another goal and 10 points. The new boy, Choupo-Moting (5 points) was a late add over Richarlison, but he secured an assist, his first of the season. Pedro was the first player on the bench and I had no intention of starting him against Man City but felt he had a better chance than Ritchie to gain points. I was wrong, Ritchie scored 2, Pedro, just 1 point.

With Aguero now sidelined and down a bench player, I moved both my struggling forwards and doubled up on West Ham; Hernandez and Carroll. That move failed to pay off as they combined for just 3 points. The Hammers still have some favorable fixtures; bur/BHA/cry out of the break, but I am not sure if they will retain their starting spots or not.

With 2 weeks to plan and make moves, the waiver wire is open until Friday, October 13, which means we have a lot of waiting to do. I have put in a claim for Fellaini, even though they face Liverpool out of the break, followed by Huddersfield. The other wire claim I put in is for David Luiz, somewhat surprised he is out there, as it SHOULD be a Chelsea CS when they come out of the break against Palace.

Premier League: GW7 Retrospect

Rebounding from a disappointing 51 points in GW6, Harry Kane’s clinical finishing powered my squad to a season high, 78 points this week. While everything has been smell roses, its comforting to head into the break on a green arrow that sees me at with 390 overall points ranked 792k. This after two red arrows in the previous weeks, but all isn’t well and this international break could prove interesting.

One constant this season has been my patience. There has been an effort not to “knee jerk” players because of a single bad performance. However, I still feel I was a week early on my wild card, but amazingly 2 weeks later all seems forgotten. This week I was toiling around Phil Jones and Jamie Vardy, both carrying knocks into Friday and there was some question about them starting. Jones was still a concern when I went to bed Friday evening, but I decided to role with him. Thankfully both started.

Defensively, the #5mandefence has been solid all season long. Now that the treble So’ton experiment is over, I had one of my best returns from the back five this week, with Ben Davies leading the way with 16 points (goal/assist/CS/BP). His 49 points puts him top of the league for defenders, ahead of the heavily priced, Marcos Alonso (32 points). Most managers knew it would be a tough fixture against City but his 2-goal performance in GW2 is nearly a fleeting thought, on the back of just 2 clean sheets this season. The good news, Chelsea has a favorable run in the next 3 fixures; cry/WAT/bou. Just MNU/liv stand in their way for a great run through GW21! It’s yet to be seen if Alonso will make it out of the international break. Based on fixtures, it’s hard to bet against the Spaniard.

Sead Kolasinac, Phil Jones and Aaron Cresswell all came up with clean sheets, a total of 18 points. Of the group, Kolasinac has the best short term fixtures; wat/eve/SWA, while Cresswell faces bur/BHA/cry. United and Spurs hit some tough fixtures through GW11 but the way both are playing, their inclusion could remain a constant in my 5-man defense. Still looking to introduce a Man City defender. Nicolas Otamendi doesn’t really pique my interest due to his penchant for yellow cards, which put John Stones at the top of the list, due in part to my budget. Currently priced at 5.6m, puts me 0.4m short without retooling my defenders, which could mean moving Alonso for teammate Caesar Azpilicueta, freeing up 0.4m.

It was a cruel late goal for West Ham that saw Lukasz Fabianski lose his 4th clean sheet of the season. He continues to rack up save points, earning another one in Sunday’s match. He will continue between the sticks out of the international break, HUD/LEI/ars, but could lose out in subsequent weeks to Rob Elliot who face CRY/bur/BOU.

The midfield duo of Christian Eriksen and Henrikh Mkhitaryan struggled both failed to return this week. For Eriksen is was his second no return in 3 weeks, while Mkhitaryan seen just one return in his last 4 weeks. Both Spurs (BOU/liv/mnu/CRY/ars) and United (liv/hud/TOT/che) face a tough run of games the next 4-5 gameweeks. Mkhitaryan (15 pts) has been outplayed by Mata (16 pts) and Fellaini (22 pts) in the last 3 games. He’s also been hooked in the last 3 games; 87 mins, 74 mins, 65 mins, while Fellaini has seen the full 90 minutes in Paul Pogba’s absence. One the whole, midfielders are struggling league wide.

If unproductive midfielders aren’t enough, the forwards seem to have gone from feast to famine in the blink of an eye. Behind Harry Kane’s brace, to go along with the armband, he finished on 26 points, but it could have been much more if Spurs kept pushing through 90 minutes. Kane was clinical in his approach and netted his third 13 point return of the season (3 out of the last 4 games). All of which have also been away from Wembley.

With Sergio Aguero now injured and out for 4 weeks, Alvaro Morata sidelined with a muscle injury, it’s Gabriel Jesus as the only pure forward left for Pep. His starting spot should be secure. Jesus picked up the only assist of the game, finishing with 5 points on the day. City’s fixtures now turn for the better; STO/BUT/wba. For GW6 moved Firmino in favor of Vardy, but he’s failed to return. However, he is carrying a hip injury, which could be cause for concern, but still better than Firmino not making the starting XI yesterday. Vardy stares at WBA/swa/EVE/sto in the next 4 games. This was the period I purchased him for, with an eye on bringing Firmino back in starting GW10.

While Romelu Lukaku has been the most consistent forward, much like Diego Costa last season, he’s form isn’t sparkling. While he has lasted every minute of every game, returning all but one game and doubling up in GW1, 60.3% of fantasy managers still own him. Yet his days as the de facto captain could be called into question. Still in fantasy football, consistency is a good thing, but right now I don’t plan on bringing the Belgian into my starting XI.

Comparing this season to last, I’m currently on 390 points, which is an increase of 14 points. Yet, looking at the overall rank, there is a huge disparity, as I currently sit at 792k this season, but 376 points last season saw me at 168k. To break the top 50k requires another 47 points and 38 points to get into the top 100k. Team value is currently 101.0m, which is ahead of where I was planning, but it’s down 0.9m from last season.

The 5-2-3 formation continues to flourish, as it’s been played 4 out of 7 gameweeks, averaging 59.3 points! Non-starters have shifted the formation to a 4-3-3 twice and a 5-3-2 once, both averaging 51 points. While the numbers aren’t all that impressive, it does prove that this season a 5-man defense, while risky does carry merit with midfielders struggling.

With 2 weeks off we wait with anticipation to see how our players fair over the international break. We keep our hopes high they all return fit and without injury. It’s also time to evaluate where we are and what we play on doing to improve our squads. For me, 2 FTs does provide me a few options. Lukaku is tempting, but with unfavorable fixtures, I just don’t see it happening.

Reading the Twitter feeds, as well as a shout from #1, Matthew Barrick, his 3-4-3 has Lukaku, Morata, Kane up top. More importantly, his midfield has 3 budget starters (Carroll, Brady, Ritchie) with Salah as his higher priced player. It’s something I am now considering, downgrading one of my big midfielders to free up some budget to potentially improve defensively and go bigger up top.

Premier League: GW6 Draft Retrospect

It was the best week on record this season for my draft squad, overall points of 59, which pushed me up the table to second place. It could take some time, as I now sit 31 points behind the leader, but we have much football to play.

The return of Coutinho to my squad has been welcomed, with 5 weeks of no returns, he got on the board with 13 points. Dele Alli returned 2 assists after going scoreless the past 3 games. New boy, Matt Ritchie was quiet and didn’t return. It was Pedro, on my bench who struck for 8 points, which could potentially push him up the ladder to start in GW7 against City.

Up front, Kun Aguero got it done with a goal and assist for 11 points. Joselu, who’s got great underlying stats, still couldn’t finish. An injury to Benteke will have been scrounging the wire for a #3 forward. My 5-2-3 is in jeopardy with injuries an lack of consistency up front.

Defensively it was Azpilicueta and Stone providing 20 points. “Dave” returned 2 assists for Chelsea, while Stones picked up a CS. Unfortunately, Mendy left after 26 minutes with a knee injury, his stats is unknown. After back to back returns, Lascelles and Newcastle was quiet.

Mendy is the main concern and I’ve already gone to the wire to replace him. I am aiming for Wesley Hoedt at So’ton, as the Saints still have some solid fixtures through GW11. Lascelles might be shortlisted as they face Liverpool, which means I would look towards Mustafi, with hosting Brighton this weekend.

Premier League: GW6 Retrospect

I have been avoiding any fantasy football sites and Twitter feeds this week. Frustrated and disgust has set in and we are just 6 weeks into the EPL season. The wild card has been more of a vex than revelation as we finalize plans for Gameweek 7. Thankfully, we can look ahead, but for now we look back at what COULD have been for GW6.

Gameweek 6 is being viewed as a failure or week that could have been. Been better. Been more productive. Jesus was started, but Pep rested him. Alonso hit with a yellow card saw just 56 minutes on the pitch. Kane hit for a brace, which was great, but I decided to captain Vardy. Speaking of Jamie, he missed a penalty. This was also the first week I reorganized the bench order and moved Dale Stephens to the second substitute, as he scored 6 points. Instead, Jack Cork came in for Jesus. *sigh*

Final score for GW6 was 51 points, 9 off the average of 60 points, which saw another red arrow, for the second consecutive week. I dropped 500k spots, now at 1.78k. The season continues with its twists and turns. I don’t believe anything is settled at this point. One thing remains consistent, I am showing more patience than I have the last few years. However, I probably should have kept Kane as my captain instead of flip flopping through my forwards, looking for an differential.

Defensively, I am pleased with my #5mandefence, but it was a rough one as Davies, Cresswell and Alonso accounted for just 2 points. I expected a low score from Cresswell, but Davies and Alonso were unexpected. Kolasinac and Jones responded well, each with a clean sheet, while Jones picked up 3 bonus points. Last week it was Fabianski’s time to shine against Spurs, but failed against Watford with just a single point.

At this point in time I don’t feel bad running out two starting midfielders, as many attacking returns are coming from the forwards. Eriksen picked up his second goal of the season, as well as 2 bonus points for 9 points. Mkhitaryan and the Red Devils could only slot one goal home against a stingy So’ton defense, unfortunately he didn’t feature any attacking returns.

Up front, the benching of Jesus was somewhat expected, but I opted to move Firmino for Vardy and with no other stong contender in the midfield, I was left with Jesus as the third starter. Kane continues to feature well on the road, hitting for his second brace in 3 games, finishing with 13 points. Vardy was brought in because of his prolific scoring the past 2 seasons against Liverpool (5 goals). The missed penalty would have been his third brace against the Reds, but it was saved. Couple that with a yellow card and his return was just 6 points with the captain’s armband.

Looking ahead, I feel my luck has to change. Every move I seem to make is counterproductive. Strangely enough I am still running the big wing backs, as well as three big forwards. The big forward line seems to be all the rage now.

I have two problems to address. Phil Jones is dinged, as well as Vardy (75% chance). While Jones has been solid for United this season, I might have to move him if he isn’t going to play. On the short list is Harry Maguire, sitting on 27 points for the season and the Foxes face Bournemouth.

While I hadn’t really considered Morata, he does have one thing going for him. He has no competition up front, unlike Jesus. That would be the sole reason to make the move to the Chelsea front man, as own Jesus and seeing him benched (like Kun was in GW3) with no appearance is cause for concern. With Chelsea facing City this weekend, I can’t see bringing him in before the international break.

Premier League: GW6 Starting XI

It’s Friday morning in the U.S. and as of now, my fantasy lineup continues unchanged, as I have not used my FT for the upcoming game week. This after 534k managers have opted to bring Kun Aguero in bless him with the captain’s armband after a hat trick against Watford last week. Honestly, it’s been a fleeting thought to follow the herd, but I am against turning on Kane. Sure, he has returned in only 1 of the first 5 game weeks, but the underlying numbers are just to strong. So for now, I will continue to keep him in my starting XI and most likely give him the armband…again!

TRADITIONAL FPL STARTING XI

Continuing up front, with Kane a mainstay in my attack, the forward line is unchanged, with Firmino and Jesus rounding out my front three. The option for the FT, which I have been considering is bringing in Jamie Vardy for Robert Firmino. Missing Sadio Mane, as meant that Firmino was playing out wide and at times deeper to help create. Liverpool face Leicester this weekend and Vardy was a “super sub” for me last in, when Lukaku was failing to score on the road.

This week it could be Super Jamie to the rescue again, as he has posted some good numbers against Liverpool the past few seasons. Since 2016, in three games against ‘Pool Vardy has netted 5 times! Indications are strong he could continue this trend, as 4 of 5 goals were home fixtures. If his services are required, he would earn the captain’s armband without hesitation. Kane has continued to be a frustrating selection. At 10.8 % TSB, Vardy could be considered a differential to forwards that include Kane, Lukaku and Aguero.

The midfielder continue to feature Christian Eriksen and Henrikh Mkhitaryan. Eriksen tasted his second no return weekend, last week, as Swansea frustrated Spurs, but he’s still the midfielder in form when compared to Alli. With Paul Pogba still sidelined due to injury, Mkhitaryan should feature as the attacking midfielder. He posted 9 points last week on 1 goal/1 assist. Against So’ton, I expect Man United to score early, then sit back and put the Saints away late, which has been a reoccurring theme this season.

After last weekend’s wild card activation, I look to build on a strong #5mandefence built around Alonso, Kolasinac and Davies. Many mangers lost out on Davies last week after his 14 point haul in GW4, as he failed to play last weekend. Against West Ham, he could see returns from both ends of the pitch. Speaking of West Ham, I was glad to welcome back Aaron Cresswell to the fold, as he was mainstay in my defense in 2015/2016 and 2014/2015. Tough fixture against Spurs, so something will have to give. Finally, the only hold over not to be given the axe, Phil Jones. United should have no problem defensively against So’ton, who can’t seem to muster a goal.

Between the pipes, I lost points last week after bring Lukasz Fabianski in, but no one could have predicted him to outperform Rob Elliot or Ben Foster, who I dropped. This week I turn to the Swansea stopper again, home to Watford.

FPL DRAFT STARTING XI

Unlike the traditional team, the draft team has continually undergone change since GW1, averaging 4 transactions a week! This week I look to maintain a similar strategy, running a 5-3-2 formation out, with 4 City players in the starting XI. For the week I brought in Matt Ritchie and John Stones to strengthen the 15-man squad.

Defensively, I could be set up for 5 clean sheets between Azpilicueta, Alderweireld, Lascelles and the City duo of Stones and Mendy. How these guys were still available was beyond me. Ederson gets the call in goal over Fabianski, which means I could be out a few bonus or save points, but City has the better chance at a CS.

Starting in the midfield, Alli and Coutinho, along with new boy Ritchie. Newcastle faces Brighton and Ritchie has been a hot commodity the past few weeks, so his prospects look promising. Pedro and Jese fill the bench.

Up front, I lucked out with Aguero, captializing on his big points hail last week. This week Joselu is introducded in favor of Hernandez. Much like Kane, Joslu tops that “goal imminent” table. hopefully this is the week he adds to his tally.

The 15-man squad is coming together nicely, but need a big haul in order to climb the table in front of me. While I don’t want to look ahead too far, I am already planning moves for next week.

FPL: Captain Conundrum

As Gameweek 6 comes into view, I take a look back at what has transpired the first 5 weeks in the EPL. For me, it’s been a strong start to the FPL season, while my overall score doesn’t tell the entire story, I carry a confident feeling into this weekend’s action. It was decided early in pre-season I was going to play an unconventional formation, after reading Firetog’s article, In Search Of The Best Fantasy Football Formation. This was the point in time I decided I was going to start a 5-man defense to begin the season.

As summer rolled on, with the transfer window in full effect I began concentrating my efforts on a 5-3-2 formation, with two options. Neither of those options materialized, as 2 hours before the start of the EPL season I made a rash decision to move Lukaku out, scrap the 5-3-2 and changed my strategy with a 5-2-3, which included Kane, Firmino and Jesus up front.

While we know the outcome of not owning Lukaku and the August woes of Kane this article brings into focus the struggles with the captain’s armband. Being the highest owned player in the FPL, it was no surprise that Lukaku topped the captaincy charts weekly. While many have moved Kane in favor of more “in form” forwards, I have continued to show support for him, based on the outstanding underlying statistics.

Thanks in part to FPL Statistico, the numbers don’t lie. There is no way to play with the numbers to shed a positive light on a poor captaincy situation. I’ve tried and failed every time I look for a silver lining when I prepare to don the captain’s armband. Through 5 weeks here are the players I have captained:

  1. Harry Kane (away NEW)
  2. Kevin De Bruyne (home EVE)
  3. Harry Kane (home BUR)
  4. Roberto Firmino (away MCI)
  5. Harry Kane (home SWA)

Without knowing any other information, the only captain that seems out of place is the armband on Firmino, away to City in GW4. All the rest would appear to be quality captain selections. Based more on how players like KDB and Kane finished the 2016/2017 season, there was little to discourage fantasy managers from tapping these players not have success early this season.

I can hear many already saying, “yeah, but Harry Kane can’t score in August.” Sure, it’s been documented that Kane hasn’t performed well in August. Couple that with the fact that Spurs are playing their home fixtures at the larger, Wembley Stadium. I chose to ignore both factors and include Kane in my starting XI. That’s an 18 point difference from Lukaku (non-captained points). Mistake? Sure, but that’s and article for another time.

Captain points have been tough to come by to date. Through 5 gameweeks my selections, as well as that by many other fantasy mangers, has yielded just 18 points (that’s a paltry 3.6 points/armband) or 6.9% of my overall score. The vice-captain selections haven’t fared much better, just 2 points better. Looking at each individual gameweek doesn’t reveal much when it comes to the “better” options when deciding on the armband.

The first week of the season it came down to four options, KDB, Jesus, Firmino or Kane. In my GW1 Retrospect I wrote, “To start this season, the armband was on Lukaku before I transferred him, handing the captaincy to Kane, who was listed in many polls as the second choice option. If I would have held steady and not moved Lukaku I would have finished 25 point higher.” Yet, moving Lukaku saw me change the formation from a 5-3-2 to a 5-2-3 in order to spend bigger on defense. Spurs were facing newly promoted Newcastle, the match up appeared favorable, unfortunately Kane was yellow carded, but played 90 minutes and scored just 2 points.

The following week, I moved from Kane as Spurs were home to Chelsea and didn’t like the match up. While Man City didn’t have a very impressive 2-0 win over Brighton to open then season, the captain selection came down to a shorter list; KDB, Jesus and Firmino. Backing City, I selection KDB. GW2 Retrospect read, “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.” De Bruyne did not return wearing the armband and finished the game with 4 points.

Gameweek 3 had the makings of  Spurs explosion, home to Burnley, who struggled on the road last season. In the Starting XI article I wrote, “Heading into GW3, with a Spurs double (Eriksen & Kane) home to Burnley, I feel confident big returns are possible from Wembley.” At this point, even with the August struggles I continue to back Kane wearing the armband. With City not posting big scores and Liverpool home to Arsenal, I played the favorable match up. The retrospect reflected, “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.” Yet, here we are heading into Gameweek 5 and I am struggling to move away from Kane. Firmino surprisingly posted 12 points this gameweek.

After failing to return two of the first three weeks, I changed gears and handed Robert Firmino the armband away to City. Chalk this up to stupidity, as I talked myself into Firmino and out of Kane as the week progressed. Thanks Twitter! No Vincent Kompany meant a weaker City defense, but that wasn’t the case, as City spanked a 10-man Liverpool, 5-0. Firmino left the game on 66 minutes and didn’t return. This, the first weekend in September and Kane broke duck for the brace! Too bad he was my vice-captain, as this should have been my first big haul with him wearing the arm band. Jesus also posted a brace, but I didn’t really consider him with, as I favored Liverpool to defeat City.

Being the glutton for punishment I am, I moved back to Kane for GW5, home to Swansea. Again, statistics in favor of Harry, underlying stats excellent, he couldn’t finish and the match ended in a scoreless draw. After GW4, I wrote, “Kane appears to have the August “Hoodoo Voodoo” behind him and will look to get on track to his third Golden Boot this weekend, away to Everton. Backed by ungodly statistics, I continue to have faith in Kane putting up big numbers.” Firmino and Jesus again, were considerations but I am mesmerized by Kane. Much like last year with Sanchez, I did not want to get caught moving Kane in and out of my lineup, so I decided to hold steady and keep the armband on him. For the week, it was another no return, just 4 points.

Bad luck? Bad decision making? Probably a bit of both. Interesting to consult FPL Statistico for some data. If I always captained my vice-captain, I would have score 40 points (an improvement of 22 points). After 5 weeks I would be on 273 points if I had captained the highest scorer between the captain and vice-captain. However if I captained the player with the most points each week on my squad, I would be on 310 overall points, which would put me in the top 58k.

Luck continues to play a factor in fantasy football. Not all managers get a sniff during the season, but a bit of luck can go a long way in your fantasy football season.

Premier League GW5 Draft Retrospect

While I was unavailable all weekend, it appeared my starting XI were off to a great start on Saturday behind the foot of Sergio Aguero who fired home 3 goals against Watford. However “it got complicated” on Sunday and while I had a fair score, when compared to the other 7 teams in my league, I struggled to gain any ground on those above me. Prior to the start of GW5 I made 6 moves bringing in new talent in hopes of trying to gain an advantage to close the gap on the top three teams.

Gameweek 5 wasn’t too kind, as I introduce 6 new players to my 15-man squad, 5 of which were inserted to the starting XI. The only exceptiong being Fabianski, because of his match up away to Spurs. Little did any fantasy manager know he would shutout Spurs and gain 11 points on the day! It was my hope that bringing new players in would put me in a better situation it chip away at the leaders this week. In fact, I did gain all the three managers above me in the standing, which sees me 41 points behind the top spot.

On the day, nearly half my points came from Kun Aguero, scoring 20 points on his 3 goals/1 assist game. Unfortunately, his new strike partners failed to return, as I brought in Christian Benteke and Joselu. The Benteke move was more to prevent another manager from picking him up, while Joselu, like Kane had some great underlying stats.

In the midfielder, Philippe Coutinho made his first start on the season, lasting 78 minutes but not returning. From what I heard, his position was a bit deeper than where we saw him last season. He partnered with Dele Alli, who gained one addition point because of the clean sheet against Swans. Jese and Mooy, on the bench were both ineffective on the weekend. Pedro left at halftime, as he picked up knock, scoring just a single points. Change could be necessary in the upcoming week.

Much like my traditional FPL team I have leaned towards a #5mandefence for much of the season. This week I brought in Trent Alexander-Arnold, Charlie Daniels and Ben Mendy, all as starters. TAA was a punt against Burnley, but was left with no return as the game finished 1-1. Daniels was brought in for Yoshida (8 points in GW5) against Brighton looked promising, but the attacking defender was left with no return, leaving me in a -6 deficit. Hegazi out for Mendy in was a wash, as both finished with clean sheets (6 points). Elliot started the week between the sticks and even with a save bonus, he scored just 3 points.

Overall I have scored 202 points, with 57 for the current game week. As noted I did gain points on all the managers above me, but still have some transactions forthcoming in order to strengthen my team. As of today I have put in two waiver claims.  The first claim is to move TAA in favor of John Stones, doubling up on Man City defenders. Ritchie is still on the free agency list and has 4 assists in the last 3 games and and Brighton in GW6. If no other manager claims him, I will bring in and move Mooy out. Pascal Groß is currently the highest (32 points) midfielder on the free agency list.

 

Premier League: GW5 Retrospect

Someone please tell me what the hell happened this weekend? Away at adult leadership training (Wood Badge), I did not have an opportunity to watch a snippet of football this weekend, but it can be summed up with one name. Harry Kane. *shakes head* The frustration continues this season as Harry fired yet ANOTHER blank against bottom dwellers, Swansea City, who ended with a 0-0 draw at Wembley. I am beginning to this stadium is NOT a favorable home for Spurs.

With wildcard activated late during the week, I transformed my defense into 4 wing backs, while doubling up on Manchester United. It felt as if my luck with a So’ton treble defensively was running dry and the addition of Hoedt and fit Van Dijk worried me. While I continue to hold faith in Man United, four new defenders were brought in.

We talk about the “knee jerk reaction” in fantasy football as it relates to managers pulling the trigger on a hot player, in order to gain a price rise or activating their wild card because their squad is under performing. In hindsight, the activate of my wild card was the epitome of “knee jerk” as I should have stayed the course, which would have resulted in 21 additional points! While not unhappy with my defenders, I just didn’t have a comfortable feeling about So’ton, even though their strength of schedule said otherwise.

Defensively my new prospects were exciting; Marcos Alonso, Adam Cresswell, Sead Kolasinac and Ben Davies. These defenders partnered with Phil Jones, the only player I retained due to budget constraints. The biggest loser of the weekend, after seeing an early price rise was Ben Davies, who missed out on the Wembley fixture against Swansea. I am sure the managers who transferred him were left empty and disappointed by his omission. This would be the second time, a defender was removed from my 5-2-3 and the end result was a 4-3-3.

While I have no complaints defensively as Alonso (6 pts.), Cresswell (9 pts.), Kolasinac (5 pts.) and Jones (6 pts) combined for 26 points, each recording a CS. Couldn’t ask for me. Unfortunately the 3 So’ton defenders and Valencia accounted for an additional 21 points! Davies coming off his 14 points explosion in GW4 found him benched for zero points. So the wild card failed me immediately, but still feel good about the defenders I am starting.

A silver lining, I did pick up Lukasz Fabianski with little intention on playing him vs Spurs, to which he responded with 11 points, outperforming Rob Elliot’s 3 point performance. Last 3 weeks, my bench keeper has outscored my start 26-7!

With Davies benched, Dale Stephens slotted in at midfield along side Eriksen and Mkhitaryan. Stephens returned an expected 2 points, while Eriksen just 3 points, in the 0-0 draw. It was Mkhitaryan, who scored and assisted for 9 points in the 4-0 United victory over Everton. No concerns are on my mind, as I like my midfield duo. Three more favorable fixtures for Spurs, with GW6 and GW7 away from Wembley.

Up front I continue to see Kane striking nothing! Nada! Coming off a brace against Everton, it appeared he was one of the best selections in GW5 facing a weak Swans side that had conceded big chances. Unfortunately fantasy managers were frustrated and foiled against by Kane. Now I contemplate what the next move with Kane is.

It’s becoming hit and miss with the forwards this season. One game you feel you have the right combination, the next week it appears all wrong. Kane wasn’t the only one to blank, Firmino did too! Jesus saw just 64 minutes, but was able to bag one goal (to that of Aguero’s hat trick) in a 6-0 drubbing of Watford.

On the day I finished 3 points off the weekend average of 58, scoring 55 points and receiving all red arrows, as I dropped 300k down to 1.2m in the overall rankings. The only green arrow I recorded was in the Always Cheating Patreon H2H League, where I move to 4-0-1 on the season, good for second (13th overall) place behind two 5-0-0 teams.

So where do I go from here? Captaincy points continue to he my Achilles heal, as I’ve record just 18 points over 5 weeks, a lowly average of 3.6 points from the armband. Kane doesn’t appear to be doing it at home, but has just a single away fixture (13 points) to make me believe he is still “in form” as a viable captain. Lukaku is still off my radar, but has returned a goal in 4 out of 5 games to start the season. Reminds me of the consistency of Diego Costa last season.

Firmino has 2 weeks to further prove himself, as I plan on moving him when Liverpool plays United and Spurs starting GW8. Jesus has been the most consistent of my forwards, 4 goals in the last 3 games, but with Aguero doing the hat this past weekend, puts some speculation that Pep could look to the Argentine in the near future as a lone forward.

Fixtures are turning for Chelsea after their 0-0 draw against the Gunners, they will face sto/MCI/cry/WAT/bou in the next 5 fixtures, as Morata now comes into the radar. With Kane’s price tag, the consistency of Lukaku would be welcomed, the only concern when Kane goes off, just how big will he go? Like last year, would you rather run with or without Sanchez, knowing his explosiveness? Kane is a loaded gun ready to go off, but when will he start hitting?

It will be a few days, but I honestly have no idea what to do with my forwards. I’ll think on it and read a few pundits and FPL Twitter feeds before I make any sort of change.

Premier League: Wild Card Revelation

The last 2 seasons I have burned my wild card early, after the first international break. While I did see an immediate return last year, the end result was devastating, recording red arrows the next 15 of 20 game weeks. By GW27, when the bleed stopped and I turned my season around, it was too late. I was unable to recover from a 1.5m overall ranking and salvage an acceptable season. However, it was a learning experience and I would like to believe the perseverance paid off and has made me a better manager moving forward.

This season I have made it a week further than I have the last 2 years as I now contemplate activating the first of two wildcards. Before GW1, the plan was to hold the transfer until after the second international break. I believe fantasy managers must remain flexible to all conditions and factors as we plan our strategies. For me, I currently have a plan in place through GW11. I don’t expect to hold true to the plan, but it gives me an idea as to what I would like to do.

On the drive into work today I caught the tail end of the FFScoutCast Ep 232, which I had started yesterday. As expected, the banter was top shelf with Mark continuing to get a rubbing from Granville, using his wild card on some questionable players. Take a listen if you haven’t. What caught my interest was some comments from AZ regarding, considering going 5 defenders instead of spending on budget midfielders who aren’t producing. Names he brought up; Alonso, Kolasinac, Davies and Mendy.

This comment has me reconsidering moving the wild card up and playing it this week to bring in more wing back options in to further my attack. While So’ton still have strong fixtures, their fantasy assets are a mess. I’ve been lucky in 2 weeks to get the triple CS from Bertrand, Cedric and Yoshida. While I haven’t been disappointed with Valencia (3 CS), his attacking returns haven’t really materialized to date. Last week Jones was brought in for the injured Kompany, but his tenure may be short lived.

So just what I am considering? It seems all the rage is being able to go big up front with 3 premium priced forwards. This is how it feels, as fantasy managers attempt to get a combination of Kane, Lukaku, Aguero, Jesus, Morata, Lacazette, Morata and Firmino up front, while remaining strong in the midfield, but knowing you will run budget midfielders who need to start, as well as budget defenders, potentially in a rotational capacity.

Starting the season with Kane, Jesus and Firmino, I feel confident these forwards will return on a regular basis. These three forward account for £31.3m. Based on my starting two midfielders, many will say I lack a potent attack with Eriksen and Mkhitaryan starting in my 5-2-3. However both are healthy and both have started the season very well. The other three midfielders  (Carroll, Stephens, Chalobah) are starters, but I don’t plan on using them if injury should occur.

The activation of the wild card will be tailored to my defensive needs, as this is where I have allocated nearly £29.0m! While the So’ton treble has been rewarding and their fixtures appear worthwhile, it’s time to move away and provide more attacking opportunities.

Current defensive set up feature So’ton and Man United, but So’ton has the better fixtures moving forward, as they play each other at Old Trafford in GW6. The addition of Wesley Hoedt and resigning of Virgil Van Dijk adds a question mark on the playing time of Yoshida, while Bertrand and Cedric should continue to be nailed on as starters. Yet, the Saints offensive threat has been terrible through 4 weeks. Conversely, United have scored 12 goals, while conceding 2 goals, but Valencia has failed to see attacking returns. With their fixtures getting a bit challenging, it’s time to look elsewhere.

If I do activate my wild card ahead of GW5, it will be focus around upgrading the defenders to wing backs. Alonso and Kolasinac were in my pre-season plans, but both were left out of the 15-man squad for GW1. Davies has been the hottest commodity defensively since Alonso’s brace in GW2 but priced much more favorably at £5.7m. Kolasinac would be brought in for his attacking prowess and possibly a few clean sheets if they can get their starting XI squared away. The final 2 spots could be a number of offensive players; Maguire, Jones, Cresswell, Dawson, McAuley, Cedric, Daniels. My plans will include Cresswell, as fixtures turn for West Ham, as I retain Jones for at least 2 more weeks before I look to move him for someone like Maguire.

So my starting XI if I wild card by Thursday would look like this:

Thoughts on this newly revised 5-2-3 formation? I feel it takes advantage of the strong forwards, as well as strong defenders, while being able to fit in a few premium options in the midfield. While I can’t own all those high priced players, this feels right.

Premier League: GW4 Draft Retrospect

The FPL Draft game just isn’t doing it for me. Chalk it up to 37 years playing fantasy (NFL) football, but I find this version of the game boring. No other way to explain it. After 4 weeks I am 4th in my league on 145 points overall. For GW4 is was a score of just 30 points, which meant I didn’t lose my current ranking, but 5th place is creeping close, now just 6 points back.

Prior to the start of the weekend games, I made two waiver moves in order to better my starting XI. In hindsight, the moves only accounted for 3 points. With Britos on a red card, I picked up Phil Jones. Unfortunately United couldn’t keep a CS and drew with Stoke City, 2-2. The other move was dropping Dusan Tadic in favor of Aaron Mooy, who didn’t return away to West Ham.

Defensively I was led by “Dave” aka Azpilicueta, backed by his second assist scored 7 points to lead all defensive players. Hegazi, Jones and Lössl accounted for an additional 2 points. Needless to say, Hegazi is now on a short list to move out. Why I didn’t play Alderweireld against Everton, I am not quite sure.

Still holding onto Coutinho, who should see his first EPL start in GW5. Midfield is where I am struggling, as it’s been a rotation of players through to find someone who may hit, based on fixtures. Jesé, Pedro and the aforementioned Mooy accounted for 6 points, with none of them returning. Alli gets a small bump as Spurs kept a clean sheet. Of the 5 midfielders, he is the one I expect to perform on a regular basis.

Up front, it’s been a challenge with Agüero, Hernandez and Rooney. A pair of goals for the later two, but they haven’t done anything lately. Currently, I am on the verge of moving Rooney, but Everton does trail to Old Trafford, as Wayne faces his old team. Revenge factor? Hernandez hasn’t looked good, then again neither have the Hammers. But who in the free agency pool is better? Not much, but I’ve been considering a move.

That leaves Kun Agüero to pull his weight, scoring 9 points on the back of a goal and assist. However those are his first points since GW1. It also appears Pep favors Jesus as well. I still expect good numbers from Kun the rest of the season, so he will remain a starter.

For the week I have already submitted 5 waiver claims in order to strengthen my team and potentially take a shot at 3rd place this weekend.

City is coming into form with some good fixtures. While I don’t expect much defensively from Pep’s boys, I will be looking for offensive returns from Mendy. Daniels would make his second appearance in my squad, as I had him from through GW3, opting for Britos that week. Mooy or Groß? Call this a knee jerk reaction to his 18 point haul in GW4. Brighton does have some favorable games. Ederson’s injury is a concern, but it will be Lössl making way (the graphic isn’t correct).

 

Premier League: GW4 Retrospect

Let me preface this week’s retrospect with the fact I have been very disappointed with the decision making related to the captaincy. All other factors being equal, the captain’s armband has eluded me  to date, causing me to lose approximately 58 points. Captain points have contributed to just 6.29% of my overall score.

With that being said, the 5-3-2 formation has been productive to date, with 2 out of the last 3 weeks being green arrows, as I have improved about 1.0m spots in the overall rankings, now to 980k. While I can’t definitively say the 5-2-3 can be competitive yet, I am considering not changing formation when I activate my wild card.

Due to a camping trip to Pinnacles National Park, I had no mobile service and finalized my lineup Friday evening (US time) and didn’t have a chance to check scores until Sunday afternoon. It was met with mixed emotions, I was above the weekly average with a small green arrow, but I didn’t captain Harry Kane, opting for Roberto Firmino. It’s my belief I talked myself into giving him the armband on Twitter all week long.

Play a #5mandefence with three So’ton defenders has been a risk I’ve been willing to take all season. Knowing just a single goal could rob me of 12 valuable points, I was willing to run with the Saint’s easy schedule to start the season. This week Watford, which appeared to be favorable match up for So’ton, finished 2-0, as Bertrand and Cedric each recorded a single point, while Yoshida didn’t feature.

The transfer of Phil Jones to my 5 man defense meant I was doubled up on United with Antonio Valencia. It amazes me while I still run out Valencia when he hasn’t provided much at all this season. While he does have 13 touches inside the penalty box, he’s generate just 3 shots, one of which has been on goal. He fall well behind the leader, Marcos Alonso with 10 attempts. United didn’t fair well away to Stoke, finishing 2-2. Much like GW2, no clean sheets, meant it was going to be a struggle this week.

Yoshida on the bench meant I lost my 5-2-3 when Tom Carroll was automatically substituted in at the conclusion of the game week. His 2 points didn’t go far, but it also changed my formation to a 4-3-3. On the season the 5-2-3 formation was averaging 53 points/week.

Ben Foster could be on his last leg as well, not that I am all that unhappy with West Brom, but looking ahead to fixtures the Baggies are going to hit a buzz saw starting GW10. Options are to start Rob Elliot, as the Toons have a solid run trough GW11. If I look to ship Foster when I activate my wild card, Lukasz Fabianski could be my new starting 4.5 keeper.

Mkhitaryan and Eriksen are my only starting midfielders in the 5-2-3 formation. Eriksen has been with me since the start and has paid dividends. This week it was a goal and CS (8 points), on the back of a strong international showing. Mkhitaryan, who had been leading the league with 5 assists was quiet, not returnin but got pushed out wide by Mourinho, which seemed to take him out of his game. Still moving forward I favor him through GW7.

However…I will watch the progress of Eden Hazard, returning from injury, as he might place in my squad. I could take a -4 point hit at any time or wait until I activate the wild card. His inclusion would require me to downgrade Valencia (to Bailly) and Mkhitaryan in order to give the the £10.5m price tag.

Currently I have £1.9m ITB and the weekly FT. As mentioned in the defenders section, Yoshida will make way for Davies this week, as Spurs are home to Swansea City. Currently ranked 980k, I am just 11 points off being in the top 500k and 36 points from 50k. Again, still pleased with the look and feel of this squad. GW6 may or many not yield the activation of of the wild card.