Premier League: Life without Lukaku

“Nothing ventured, nothing gained,” or so the saying goes. As fantasy managers find something to pass the time this weekend, many are reviewing and preparing their squads for the upcoming DGW, as we have 9 week of play remaining. Riding the success of three green arrows into the international break, I feel my squad has turned the corner and I’ve gained nearly 500k spots, positioned at 1.1m with 1400 total points. Not ideal, but it’s been a challenging season. To think, I had this all figured out after GW6 sitting at 29k, on the back of three green arrows.

Bold moves may mark the start of GW30 as I prepare my strategy and transfers through GW34. I am without a WC, which I activated in GW21 to rebuild my team as I was struggling with just 3 green arrows out of the previous 10 weeks. While I am holding my FT until late next week, we wait and watch the international matches in hopes EPL players stay in form and more importantly, healthy. Seamus Coleman has already been lost for the rest of the season due to a broken leg. That is one transfer I hadn’t accounted for.

Plans for GW30 now include 3 transfers; Sanchez, Lukaku and Coleman out for Vardy, Mane and Fuchs. Yes, you read that right, I plan on moving the most in form forward, Lukaku. The next two matches are away to Livepool and Man United, two games in which he didn’t return points earlier in the year. In fact if you look over his Merseyside Derby stats, he has just two goals since joining Everton. His home performance is stronger than on the road, with 12 goals in 13 matches at home versus 8 goals in 14 matches on the road. He’a also created 3 more chances (20) at home than on the road. His shot accuracy remains constant at 66% in both cases.

Introducing Vardy will be the first time the Leicester man has made an appearance on my squad. His form and that of the Foxes has been lacking much of the year, as they push to stay clear of the relegation zone. Since Craig Shakespeare has taken the reins, Leicester has been undefeated in 4 games, advancing to the quarterfinals in the UCL and now 6 points clear of relegation. Vardy has been reborn, so to speak with returns in his last 3 games, including 3 goals. Up next for the Foxes, home tilts against Stoke City and Sunderland. Based on form and fixture, Vardy could put together to solid performances.

“The Vardy Experiment” will only be for 2 weeks, as I plan on getting Lukaku back for GW32, when the fixtures turn more favorable for Everton. As for Sanchez, Arsenal need his performance to excel in order to secure a top 4 finish. Much like Vardy, running a starting XI without Sanchez is a risk that I could take. Selected by just 26.2% of fantasy managers, does that make him essential? Fantasy Football Geek shows us that just 40% of the top FPL managers (10) he follows has Sanchez. Combine his number with that of the top 10k fantasy managers and Sanchez still misses the 50% cut for being “essential” in our fantasy squad. Conversely, Mane is owned by 90% of the top managers he followed and 54% of 10k manager, making his inclusion “essential.”

Statically, Sanchez has the advantage over Mane in many categories on the comparison matrix at Squawka.com. That doesn’t come as a surprise. Both midfielders have scored 34 points over the last 5 game weeks. Sanchez a bit more consistent with a single no return against Chelsea. Mane scored 29 points hitting braces in two games and no returns in the other 3 games. On the pitch, we all know Sanchez IS Arsenal, his involvement is key to their success. Mane is a cog in a talented midfield with Coutinho, Lallana, Miler, Wijnaldum and Firmino. You take a gamble when you transfer in one of the “big three” (Coutinho, Mane, Firmino) that they follow through from week to week with returns, while Sanchez carries a better consistency.

While I swore off Mane after last time, I swore I wouldn’t go without Sanchez after posting The Sanchez Effect. Now it appears the tables could be reversed…again! Thankfully we have another week to wait and watch, to work on our strategy to get through DGW34 and beyond. Sanchez due to his high price tag doesn’t allow me the necessary budget to make the necessary moves to get me through GW34. Mane, however, does. Not that I will let that sole fact be the deciding factor.

Premier League: GW29 Retrospect

Hopefully I haven’t spoke too soon, as it appears my season is turning around. GW29 marks the third week in a row I have received a green arrow. This is just the second time all season I have put a streak of this duration. With the international break forthcoming, hopefully my starting XI can keep the streak going into GW30. While it was a good showing in GW29, it could have been much better. The captain selection and injury coupled with an ineffective defender cost me a few points. Add to that the fact I took an -8 point hit (4th in 5 weeks) to get the necessary players in.

Over the last 3 weeks I have recorded scores of 69, 42 and 78 to improve my overall rankings by 445k,  from 1.6m to 1.1m. Currently on just 1400 points, I will need to average about 66 points/week in order to reach my updated goal of 2000 points. Not out of the question, but just when I feel I have the game figured out, it takes a turn and smacks me upside the head. I am trying to ignore what happened to my team the last time I put together my three green arrows, as it was followed by three red arrows and a drop of nearly 700k, which didn’t stop until GW27 following five red arrows.

The ankle injury to Kane with an unknown return date meant I held my forwards for another week, led by the red hot Lukaku. Unfortunately I made the decision not to captain him this week opting for Sanchez against West Brom. For 90 minutes of the game, it appeared to be the right decision, as Lukaku accounted for just a single assist. In extra time, Lukaku found the back of the net twice and finished the week on 16 points including 3 BPS. For a second week, Llorente was highly ineffective up front against Bournemouth returning nothing. All the hype and expectation of Gabbiadini lasted just 31 minutes when was removed with a groin injury.

Llorente now finds himself on that short list to be sold, even though Swansea have good fixtures over the next 4 out of 6 weeks. Potentially making his way into my squad will be Jamie Vardy, the Leicester front man scored his 3rd goal in 3 games with an 11 point return. Two outstanding match ups, Stoke and Sunderland both at home await after the break. My only concern at this point is coming up with the necessary budget to make this transfer happen. Currently I am 0.8m short. However Sanchez was withdrawn early due to injury.

Speaking of the midfielders, this was one of my most productive weeks all season long. Amazing to see the difference when there is some consistency at this position. Playing a 3-4-3 I started Alli, Eriksen, Sigurdsson and Sanchez with Snodgrass on the bench. After 7 straight weeks of returning points, it would Sigurdsson to let me down this week. In reality, Swansea was dominated all game long by the Cherries and had difficulty putting together any sort of sustained attack.

I tuned into the Spurs game with halftime approaching and was thrilled to see Eriksen and Alli each with a goal and expected this to continue in the second half. A bit of disappointment when I saw the final score of 2-1 in favor of Spurs and no further goals from my “dynamic duo.” Out of Arsenal’s blank week I decided to run out Sanchez with the captain’s armband. Guess I should have stuck to Lukaku, playing at home as opposed to Sanchez at WBA. After losing points on Sanchez throughout the year I felt confident with him. Sanchez returned a goal and 3 BPS for 9 points, which doubled to 18 points. This was a strong effort but bested by Lukaku in the late game.

Defensively I have improved with the addition of Coleman for GW23 and Valencia in GW29. Mawson is still a bit of a question mark, but with a dreadful performance on Saturday he might be relegated to my fourth starter. In Mawson, a manager must rely on his ability to score, as Swansea has managed only 4 CS on the season. Mawson had 4 goals in his last 9 games before Saturday. An own goal and conceding another, Alfie finished with a -1 point.

His defensive partners were much strong, led by Valencia who picked up an extra time strike for 8 points. Coleman and Everton finished off Hull with a CS and 6 points. It would be Burnley’s Tom Heaton to lead all my defenders with 10 points on the back of a CS and 3 BPS. Not sure Heaton will see the start in GW30 against Spurs, as Jakupovic will return to face WHU. The ineffectiveness of Brunt and ongoing injury to Friend are causing problems and limiting my options. I am transferring both players, however even with WBA’s tough schedule I would be willing to keep him over Friend. Watching Boro yesterday, I was impressed with the new look under Steve Agnew, so Friend (if and when healthy) could flourish in the starting XI. Yet if his calf injury continues I will be forced to move him in favor of another starter. Currently he’s listed as “MAjor Doubt” with a expected return of April 2, which means he might be available for GW30 vs Swansea.

As we work our way to GW34 and potential DGWs I am hoping to position my squad to take advantage of players with multiple games. Currently I have 7 players on my squad who will have DGWs but would like to increase that number to 9 or 10 players. Arsenal and So’ton lead the way, each with 3 games to make up due to blanks. Chelsea, Man U, Man City, Spurs, Leicester and Sunderland each have 2 games with Watford, WBA and Boro each having a single game. Opportunities are there, even without my second WC, it appears I have time to make the necessary transfers.

Sitting with two injuries and on eve of the international break, I can only hope that Sanchez and Gabbiadini either don’t play or are limited and return to their respective clubs ready to play. I don’t plan on making any snap decision until the night before GW30. The last thing I need is another player to down to injury during the break and be sidelined on their return to the EPL.

Premier League: GW28 Retrospect

Looking at my score 42 points, I shouldn’t be pleased with another sub par performance. On a weekend in which there were just 4 games played and running out just 10 starters, the weekend average came in at just 19 points. However, I took a -4 point hit to bring in Coutinho for Sterling, in hopes of his strong underlying stats pulling L’pool through the home match against Burnley. It was also a weekend I took a chance and strapped Coutinho with the captain’s armband. Actually my wife made the decision for me. Saturday after the matches I exclaimed, “So glad I didn’t captain Llorente, just one point.” Yet that statement came back to bite me in the ass when Coutinho played just 59 minutes and scored me just 1 point. Lukaku was never really in the running for me, to wear the armband, but in hindsight was the best option I had. On the back of GW27 and GW28 I have strung 2 green arrows together for the first time since GW5 and GW6! It’s been THAT long!

Starting up front I decided to run out Lukaku and the newly acquired Llorente, fresh off a brace last weekend. It should have been a good match up for Swansea, but Llorente fell to injury at 44 minutes and was substituted. Lukaku however returned has third goal in 3 weeks, along with an assist and 3 BPS as he totaled 12 points. Captained by 776k managers, I noticed this his score made up the bulk of their weekend final scores. With Gabbiadini transferred in on GW26, he’s played just a single game out of the last 3 weeks, but I’ve been high on him since his the move to So’ton. Expecting good returns after the Spurs match in GW29, as well as upcoming DGWs.

Speaking of Spurs, without an EPL match today, Harry Kane left after 32 minutes due to an ankle injury that could potentially end his season. Devastating news for Spurs fans, as well as managers, like myself who picked in him last week or were going to bring him in for GW29. That move, now on hold as we wait the outcome of the medical evaluation, but crutches and a boot were not a good sign. That opens up the door for another option up front. Do you bring Costa back? Two goals in his last 2 games. Defoe? Three good fixtures the next 3 weeks, but no returns since GW24. Deeney is always an option, at 6.8m, he’s found his form with 5 goals out of 6 games. Aguero? Giroud? Vardy? Are the Foxes for real? The news on Kane might mean it’s time to move back to a 3-5-2 with very strong midfield options.

Josh King was an option when I looked at my transfers before GW28. A favorable match up against West Ham, who has leaked goals all season. It appeared I made the right decision as King pushed his penalty shot wide right to start the game. I gave myself a small pat on the back for going with Coutinho instead in a home match against Burnley. Well, I found myself shaking my head in the aftermath, as King dropped a hat trick for 18 points and SHOULD of had 5 goals (when coupled with the Afobe PK that was saved). Even saw a website that had him as the top captain pick! Sticking with L’pool seems to be feast or famine, as I doubled up with Mane and Coutinho (captained) and got stuck with a combined 4 points! Didn’t think it could get much worse on the back of not captaining Llorente and the game King had. Snodgrass might be falling out of favor at West Ham as Feghouli and Antonio started. I am considering transferring him this week in favor of King, who could be used in spot starts. Snodgrass did come in at 60 minutes for a single point.

Sigurdsson was also on the short list to be captained, but felt there were better options. Even though Clement’s team took a step back this weekend in a 2-1 loss, Sigurdsson continue to produce results. It was his 4th straight game with an assist (7th straight return points),  3 goals and 6 assists in his last 9 games. Many had tagged Mane to have a big game coming off his game vs Arsenal, but like Coutinho, he disappointed mangers and didn’t return. However, after Man City in GW29, L’pool has a run of good matches to the end, starting with the Merseyside Derby in GW30.

Eriksen, in FA Cup action this week had 3 assists and a goal against Millwall. I am now considering doubling up with Alli again, which I did earlier in the year when Kane was rather ineffective up top. Not sure Janssen will be a direct replacement for Kane…could be Son. We will have to wait and see.

Defensively I am pleased with Coleman and Mawson, as both players returned points this weekend. Coleman provided an assist and Mawson a goal and a bonus point. A total of 14 points, but all is not as it appears defensively. Brunt needs to be moved, Friend is still injured and So’ton hasn’t kept a CS since GW11, which means Yoshida needs to go, even though he is my budget defender at 4.2m. Still considering doubling up on Everton defenders with Funes Mori but that move is still 3 weeks away. Walker at 6.4 would my highest price defender, but the possibility of no Kane up front, might damper that move. Chelsea was a “sure thing” but with no CS in the last 5 games they might see relief with Stoke and Palace in the next 2 weeks. Finally, Valencia flashes on my radar again, first time since I sold him for GW9. He’s returned 3 assists in his last 6 weeks coupled with 3 CS. Some questions need to be answered up front for United with Zlatan now suspended. But they do have 4 good matches coming up; MID (A), WBA (H), EVE (H) and SUN (A).

Hopefully these two green arrows are the start of the “good run” I have been chasing all season. Looking ahead, it’s time to start thinking about the DGWs, should be some productive players featured in GW34 (maybe GW37) that could push managers to finally activate that second WC and break out the triple captain chip. For me, moves will cost me more points as I look to make moves in order to my ascent up the global ranking. It hurts to take -4 and -8 point hits, but I’m always hopefully I can break even on these weekly moves. It’s been 11 moves the last 4 weeks costing me 24 points. Unfortunately, I have given up chasing the 75k finish I had last year. I would need a Leicester City miracle to break the top 100k. As long as I can finish strong, I will be pleased.

Captain’s Armband

Through 27 game weeks I have been sorely disappointed in my overall performance as an EPL fantasy manager. Much like fantasy (NFL) football, which I have participated in for 36 years, luck always plays a factor. This season luck has not been on my side, struggling through most weeks as I continue to look to turn my season around with just 11 weeks remaining. Initially I cited a single point during the season, which I transferred out Alexis Sanchez and felt as if that move cost me the season. After looking at the data and presenting it in the Sanchez Effect, last week, Sanchez has only earned an addition 59 points through 27 weeks an average of just 2.1 points/week. Not really what I expected. figuring the total would have been greater, I looked elsewhere to bottom line why my squad is doing poorly.

This week I turn my attention towards the captain’s armband, which is given to a player each week and doubles their point total. This decision has led to many average weeks being turned into great weeks. But how have I fared over 27 game weeks? Let’s check the numbers against who was  selected as captain and vice-captain and who were the recommended captain choices based on a poll totals from two different fantasy football sites I frequent.

When the numbers are viewed in a spreadsheet format the results provide a telling story that doesn’t really favor my decision on who to give the armband to. In 13 out of 27 weeks (48.1%) I owned and started the player who was recommend in website captain polls (WWW1 & WWW2). There were 5 weeks (18.5%) I owned the player selected in the website polls but selected a different player to captain. In just 9 weeks (33.3%) I didn’t own the poll captain selection with 6 of those weeks taking place since GW20.

In those 9 weeks if I would have owned the poll selected captain I would have scored an additional 80 points. It doesn’t come as a surprise that Alexis Sanchez accounted for 44 points. Sergio Aguero accounted for 30 points, while Harry Kane just 6 points. What this doesn’t take into account are players who had good weeks but weren’t tapped as the top poll captain selection or one of the Dream Team players for the week.

I believe what this chart tells me is that along with having poor luck this season, my decision making has been terrible. I look back on the season and ask myself, “Why did I start <insert player>?” Reading through my weekly Premier League Retrospect articles provides an insight I didn’t have last year. Some of the decisions were based on budget, while others were based on form and fixtures of players selected. This doesn’t come as a surprise but unlike last year I have not been able to establish any sort of consistency or even put together a 5-7 week run of green arrows. GW4 through GW6 has been the best run I’ve had all season, returns of 56, 69 and 69. GW2 and GW7 are the only times my final score exceeded 70 points with 72 and 78 respectively. It’s just been a difficult year. The last finger I can point before point it towards me would be examining defensive units, as we recall a clean sheet was hard to come by early in the season, which cost many manger points.

Premier League: GW27 Retrospect (Part 2)

How else do I sum up this first DGW, which I activated my Triple Captain Chip on Sergio Aguero? Disappointing…very disappointing. Much like my entire season, this single action reflects just how poorly my squad has played this season. While there have been some good decisions made, the frustration in seeing a player not perform has cost me more points and used up one of my most important chips. Add to that, the fact Pep decided to rest Raheem Sterling against Stoke, after chipping in with an assist days earlier versus Sunderland.

Depending on what fantasy sites you call upon to help, one that I fancy on a regular basis, Fantasy Football Geek indicates I have the proper players in place. “The core players are then 8: Aguero, Lukaku, Sigurdsson, Sterling, Mane, Coleman, Brunt and Alonso. Starting to look like more of a template now which is understandable going into the blank and double weeks.” The only difference being that I dropped Alonso in favor of Mawson, since he was playing. So it appears I am in good company when it comes to being frustrated.

Starting at the back, I missed Heaton being benched due to a late illness, which automatically slotted Jakupovic in as the starter at the conclusion of GW28. While he did get me a save bonus, it was nullified as Hull gave up 3 goals to Leicester. Moving forward, I still plan on sticking with this duo, as Jakupovic will start GW29, home to Swansea. In fact, I see 3-4 games in which Heaton will give way to Jakupovic based solely on match up. However two of those games are home matches and Burnley still plays very tough; Spurs in GW30 and Man U in GW34.

Defensively it was a nightmare…again! Just 3 points from my starting 3 defenders; Brunt, Coleman and Mawson. The only bench option would have been Yoshida, but he returned just 1 point as well. Still waiting on the health of Friend, but Boro has been leaking goals, even at home and don’t expect him to be much of a factor. Mawson was introduced for Alonso in order to free up the budget to bring Aguero in. I figured Swansea had a good shot at a clean sheet and Mawson has scored in 2 out of his last 5 games, yet Swansea has only kept 3 CS on the season. For Mawson it’s about his offensive production.

Brunt, Friend and Yoshida are on the short list to be moved. WBA has a nasty run of fixtures and I am looking to potentially double up on Everton, introducing Funes Mori with the next 2 matches at home against WBA and Hull City. Outside of the L’pool and Man U in GW30/GW31, Everton then face Leicester and Burnley at home. Four great home matches! At 4.8, I might keep Brunt just because he is an offensive threat, as a defender playing OOP as an attacking midfielder. I had planned on bringing Alonso back, but Chelsea hasn’t kept a CS in the last 5 games and Alonso had accounted for a single goal since GW21.

The midfield has been my Achilles heel all season long. Seemingly I am always a week early or week late when shuffling players. There has been no consistency in my midfield play all season and its reflected in my overall score of just 1292 points and the fact I am still globally ranked at 1.5m. Not where I expected to be.

My midfield has been settled for the past few weeks. Snodgrass, Mane and Sterling were brought in GW26 to couple with Eriksen, the longest tenured player since GW21 and Sigurdsson with Swansea now facing a favorable run. Out of GW27, Sterling will be the only player not to make the cut. The fact Pep will continue his rotation leaves Sterling as a risk, which will cost potential points. With the Spurs scoring 7 goals in the last 2 games Eriksen has picked up 13 points on 2 assists in GW27, his first points since GW21. He’s a catalyst for Spurs but his returns have me questioning his form but Spurs have a good schedule through the end of the season. Chances are with Spurs in form I will hold Eriksen through his spell.

As much as I don’t want a Liverpool midfielder I will stick with Mane into GW29. He comes off 13 points (goal/assist) in the 3-1 win over Arsenal. One tough match in GW29 away to Man City and after that…L’pool have a nice run of games through GW35. Sigurdsson also appears to have good fixtures ahead after picking up his third assist in as many games. Just want to see more goals from him. Snodgrass is currently on the outside looking in as my 5th midfielder. I have transitioned back to a 3-4-3 with the in form Gabbiadini now starting as my third.

I have been keeping an eye on Kamil Grosicki, since he made the move to Hull, I have been impressed with the Polish international, only problem is Hull doesn’t score much. That said, Grosicki has returned 2 assists in his last 2 games, along with a fair amount of dead ball responsibility. If I move for him it will be Snodgrass to make way.

Up front I am still feeling the effect of picking up Gabbiadini in GW26 with a blank, followed by another 2 weeks later. Not a wise move on my part, still he did return in GW27, which keeps him as an in form forward headed into GW29.

Due to the fact the Toffees had games the past 3 weeks I have been running with Lukaku, he secured his 6th goal in the past 3 games, in a 3-2 loss to Spurs. Two favorable home games against WBA and Hull means Lukaku will continue to see playing time. For GW30/GW31 it’s possible I will move him in favor of another as I don’t like the Liverpool and Man U match ups.

As for my “man crush” he completely crushed me and the other mangers who brought him in and activated the Triple Captain Chip. It wasn’t bad to see him pull 21 points after the Sunderland game, hoping he would add a goal or two to that tally. It was the exact opposite. Man City was flat and played to a 0-0 draw against Stoke City. The plan had backfired, even though the run up to the DGW indicated it was a great situation and Kun could potentially “go Newcastle” on either opponent. It comes as no surprise he will not factor into my squad in the near future. I am planning on shipping him out by Friday in favor of Fernando Llorente, who will most likely get the captain’s armband against Hull. GW29 could be interesting depending on how Llorente plays as the following week Swansea visit Bournemouth.

Harry Kane is on a very short list and most likely be brought in for GW29, depending on my budget. I don’t want to sacrifice Lukaku the next 2 weeks and want to hold Gabbiadini through GW32, after Spurs in GW28; Palace (H),  Bournemouth (H) and WBA (A). Potentially a GREAT differential leaving Kane (TSB 20.4%) sidelined in favor of lesser owned TSB 8.8% Gabbiadini and 10.4% Llorente. Not sure I have balls of steel to make that decision or not.

After Wenger’s decision to bench Sanchez in GW27 his spot in my starting XI is no longer guaranteed. Previously I mentioned the exclusion of Sanchez being my turning point in the season, one in which saw nothing but a string of red arrows. As the leading scorer, 187 points and at 11.5m, an uncertainty surrounds Alexis looking forward to GW29. Plans were to bring him in after the blanks game weeks, but that decision is now in doubt. Options to replace him; Hazard, 29 points in his last 4 games, Alli, 2 goals in his last 2 games or Pedro, 28 points in his last 3 games. Bringing in Hazard hits my budget, but would still allow me to move for Kane, leaving 1.0m ITB. Introducing Alli means I would triple up on Spurs with Eriksen and Kane. A risky move, but any offensive points SHOULD belong to me, right? Pedro at 7.1m isn’t a guaranteed starter, worse he rarely seens a full 90 minutes, finishing full games just twice (GW18 and GW21).

Premier League: The Sanchez Effect

Can a single player make or break your fantasy EPL season? While there isn’t a correct answer, I bring forth evidence in the case of Alexis Sanchez, carrying 187 points into GW28, leading all other player in fantasy football this season. With Copa América Centenario hosted in the United States for the first time, Chile saw their way through to defeat Argentina in the final on June 26. The EPL season kicked off on August 13 with international players returning from summer duties fatigued. Sanchez started the new season off slow with just 1 goal in his first 4 games and a knock after the 2-1 victory over So’ton in GW4.

Going through 27 weeks of statistics I did not start the season with Sanchez, opting for the big price tags of last year’s superstars, Riyad Mahrez (240 pts) and Dimitri Payet (171 pts), partnered with Dusan Tadic and EPL newcomer, Gastón Ramírez. N’Golo Kanté rounded out my midfield, starting on the bench after be categorized as a midfielder, from a defender last year at Leicester.

Sanchez: GW1 thru GW6 = 46 points

Sanchez GW7 thru GW11 = 26 points *

Sanchez WG12 thru GW14 = 38 points*

Sanchez GW15 thru GW20 = 33 points *

Sanchez GW21 thru GW25 = 40 points

Sanchez GW26 thru GW27 = 4 points (GW26 blank)

TOTAL 187 POINTS (* indicates player owned)

Returns were few and far between to start the season. Mahrez appeared to be starting where he left off last year with 8 points in GW1 but just 1 assist would follow over the next 9 game weeks. His tenure was short lived. Payet quickly picked up a knock after just 24 minutes and missed the next 2 game weeks, he too was transferred out. The combination of Tadic, Hazard and De Bruyne would only account for 20 points through GW6, while Sanchez would more than double that output with 46 points through the same period. In GW3, GW5 and GW6 Sanchez would record double digit returns of 16, 10 and 14 points (4 goals/3 assists). I had been a casualty of “The Sanchez Effect.”

Interestingly enough, at the conclusion of GW6 my global ranking was 29k! The highest I have recorded in nearly 4 years of playing fantasy EPL. So, did I miss his contribution? In some respect, I did. Total at the end of GW6 was 356 points or 59.3, just 0.7 short of my goal of 60 points/week. To start the season Sanchez scored 46 points through GW6, a difference of 26 points when compared to the three pronged attack of Tadic, Hazard and De Bruyne.

  • Tadic GW1 thru GW3 = 7 points *
  • Hazard GW4 thru GW5 = 3 points *
  • De Bruyne: GW6 = 10 points *

Those additional 26 points would put me at 382 points through GW6 (avg 63.6/points/week) and in a much stronger position two weeks after activating my WC. It wasn’t until GW7 that I introduced Sanchez to my starting XI. Not surprisingly, he fell out of form, with just a single double digit return in GW10 (13 pts.) against Sunderland.

The only period in which not owning Sanchez worked in my favor was introducing Sadio Mane for GW26 and GW27. Then again Arsenal didn’t play in GW26 and Sanchez was benched to start the match against Liverpool in GW27. You can track Sanchez in the list below.

Starting XI – Go ‘Orns

Tadic GW1 thru GW3 = 7 points *

Hazard GW4 thru GW5 = 3 points *

De Bruyne: GW6 = 10 points *

TOTAL = 20 POINTS (difference of 26 points)

Sanchez GW7 thru GW11 = 26 points *

Hazard GW12 thru GW14 = 15 points *

TOTAL 15 POINTS (difference of 23 points)

Sanchez GW15 thru GW20 = 33 points *

Ozil GW21 thru GW25 = 19 points  *

TOTAL = 19 POINTS (difference of 21 points)

Mane GW26 thru GW27 = 15 points *

TOTAL 15 POINTS (difference of -11 points)

TOTAL DIFFERENCE 59 POINTS (1249/1343)

GLOBAL RANKING: 1418120 794860 = 623260

Sanchez has been a key player for many this season, seen as a de facto captain on a weekly basis. Part of why I moved Sanchez was the lack of returns when I gave him the armband, it became frustrating week in, week out to see single digit returns. Many of the game weeks in which I owned Sanchez I missed out on the double digit returns, always questioning myself when it came to him.

Now 59 points through GW27 isn’t much. It would still put me behind of where I was last year at this time. 59 points is the difference between being ranked at 1.4m and 796k, a difference of 623k. One can

Premier League: GW27 Retrospect (Part 1)

It’s Sunday and just finished watching an unimpressive display by Man City and their 2-0 victory over Sunderland. Can’t say I was all too pleased with the performances of Aguero and Sterling, both added this week for a -8 because of the City’s DGW. Thankfully both returned points, but City did not dominate as I had expected them too. Unlucky for Sunderland who hit the goal frame numerous times and had one called back for offside or the score could have been different. However I figured Pep would try to run the score up but that was not what City appeared to have in mind on the pitch.

As for starting XI, I took an -8 point hit as indicated late Friday, after being persuaded to active the Triple Captain Chip on Aguero and his fixtures against Sunderland and Stoke City. Further discussion left in doubt the fitness, form or fixtures for future DGWs later in the year. Candidates to wear the TPC would be none other than Sanchez or Kane, but much can happen between GW27 and GW34, the next possible DGW. As it turns out, Sanchez didn’t start against Liverpool, which has many questioning Arsene Wenger’s decision to bench the Chilean. Not surprisingly Kane continues his blazing form with a brace against Everton, scoring 6 goals/1 assist in his last 4 games. I will look to be targeting him come GW29, most likely in place of Aguero. It’s not my intention to bring Costa back into the mix, with just 1 goal in his last 5 games.

For GW26 I “wasted” my FT on Gabbiadini with So’ton on a blank game week, resulting in another -8 point hit to bring in Snodgrass and Mane to have a full starting XI. The move appears to be paying off, as Gabbiadini continues his great form with a late goal (and 5 points) against WHU to give him 4 goals in 3 EPL games since joining. Lukaku was primed to be the top forward for GW26 through GW28, as Everton had 3 games during that period with no blanks. He continues his form by finding the back of the net against Spurs, giving him 6 goals/2 assists in his last 4 games. However come GW30 I might be looking to ship Lukaku with the Toffees facing Liverpool and Man U away. Many managers should be looking forward to  the next 2 home games as Lukaku face WBA and Hull City.

I said hello again to my “man crush” Kun Aguero after transferring him back in, after an absence from my squad since GW10! With just 4 goals since that time, it was one of my better decision this EPL season. Aguero just happened to wear the armband and carry the triple captain chip this week against Sunderland and Stoke City. I had no intentions of running Aguero out this week, but was persuaded after listening to a few podcasts and reading threads on the “why” and “why not” for Aguero this weekend. Originally I had Sterling slated to be my captain and not take the hit for Aguero, but changed my mind. It’s a case of I would rather be with Aguero than without this week, just on the off chance he goes off for big points. Can’t say a goal and 1 BPS is a great first of two games, but 21 points had boosted my weekly score to 61 points. His addition to my squad will be short lived, as I don’t plan on keeping him, opting for Kane come GW29.

Outside of Eriksen (2 points) I was pleased with the play of my midfield players. Sterling continued in his fine form with the assist on Aguero’s goal, as well as a CS totaling 6 points. Much like Aguero though, I don’t plan on sticking with Man City players, so his departure is imminent after the DGW. Mane might make the grade, but at 9.3m I am not sure I want to stick with him. Outside of Man City in GW29, L’pool has a great run to the end of the season and Mane has been the midfielder in form. Even with the price tag I might stick it out for a few more weeks. He finished the week with 13 points on a goal, assist and CS with 3 BPS! That’s 3 goal/1 assist in the last 3 games.

Sigurdsson has now returned in his last 7 of 8 games, 3 goals/5 assists and is still the key for Swansea. The schedule is kind with just Spurs and Man U still to come, he may stick around the rest of the season in my midfield. At 7.6m and his current form, he is worth the investment. Some thoughts of doubling up with Llorente up front for the short term as well.

Defensively, I brought in Mawson this week for Alonso in order to support the addition of Aguero. Chelsea has not secured a CS in the last 5 weeks with their match against WHU on Monday and just a single goal in the last 7 weeks. Difficult to run without Chelsea assets, which I will look at after GW28. Mawson didn’t impress as Swansea couldn’t keep a clean sheet, which tells me he needs to score to be a strong differential. Brunt and Coleman were the other starters in my 3-4-3 and each were held to a single point. Brunt is going to be moved, if not for GW28, then GW29, as WBA has a difficult run of fixtures through GW34. Thankfully I didn’t double up on Everton defenders, as I had plans to pick up Funes Mori, but didn’t like the Spurs match, as the Toffees go down in defeat 3-2. With Hull and WBA in the next 2, I might double up on their defense as I look for 2 clean shhets before Livepool and  Man U.

Oddly Heaton was left on the bench in favor the old man, Paul Robinson. Left me frustrated, but Jakupovic will be subbed in for this game week thus increasing my weekly total to 63 points on the back of 1 save point. I don’t favor Heaton next week against Liverpool and will run out Jakupovic against Swansea.

As it stands now I have nobody in the Monday game, but am already seeing a green arrow for the week. I feel pretty confident I will end this ugly run of red arrows and climb in the global rankings. Hopefully this spawns a bit of a run for me, as I continue to struggle with form. Looking ahead to GW28 it appears I will only run 10 starters out. As it stands now I have 8 starters, including Jakupovic, Coleman, Mawson and Brunt defensively. The midfield sees just Mane, Sigurdsson and Snodgrass to start, while up front it’s just Lukaku. The FT will be used for a midfielder. If not Sterling, then Eriksen in order to free up enough budget to bring in Kane and potentially Hazard to my starting XI, which would leave me with 0.3m ITB and 8.1m if I move Sterling the following week.

Currently I have my eye on Pedro as well, through the Palace game in GW30. Not sure I want to double up in the Blues midfield, but it’s an option I can look forward to. Currently he’s pegged as the starter, but usually sees an exit before 90 minutes. After the exclusion of Sanchez from Wenger’s starting XI, I am having second thoughts about him. Talented and sensational are only two words to describe his play this season for the Gunners, but could be paving a way for his exit? A bit of doubt in my mind is a scary thing, which now has me looking in the direction of Hazard as a replacement for Mane in a few weeks. More dynamic than Costa, we know what Hazard can do. Third in points from the midfield, he has 6 double digit hauls this season but has only returned in 2 out of the last 4 games. Looking at hiss remaining fixtures only City and United look to be the formidable opponents in GW 31 and GW33.

With two games remaining in GW27, we will see if any other questions are answered. Hopefully Kun and City come out to play against Stoke.

Premier League: GW26 Retrospect

I’ve started waving the white flag on the 2016-2017 EPL season at the conclusion of GW25. It appears that no matter what decision is made ends up costing me points and seeing my global ranking drop. After this week I found myself sitting at 1.6m with a weekly score of 55 points, 10 points over the average of 45 points. Not the first week I have found myself in this position, as the season continues to frustrate. Currently I am on a run of five red arrows that have seen my drop nearly 500k spots. Oddly enough, I’ve had just a single green in the last 8 week and it coincided with activating my WC in GW21.

What does a fantasy manager do at this point? It’s a very fine line, as the Fantasy Football Geek wrote this past week, “So during the season I’ve been taking a tale of defences, captains and 1 or 2 player differences making a huge difference.  Here is a great example of the latter.  6 of the 11 starters are the same, same captain and only 3 points difference in defence.  However 29 points difference in 2 players.  Kane 20 pts vs Benteke 2 pts and Eriksen 11 points vs Phillips 0 pts.  Now this is a bit of an exceptional case as the low scoring team has Ibra on the bench so the value comparison of the players isn’t fair but still.  2 players 29 points difference.” This is a great example, one in which I end up on the wrong end of the bench wondering where I went wrong.

Based on FFG’s ownership of players over 50% by top FPL managers he follows, I have 6 out of the 7 players; Lukaku, Sigurdsson, Phillips, Mane, Coleman, Brunt and Alonso. The only difference, I selected Eriksen (40% ownership) over Alli (80% ownership). While I am making some correct decisions, it’s the role of captain and the differential players that have cost me dearly over the course of 25 weeks. Just last week in Blanks & DGW I mentioned the turning point in the season was GW10 when I transferred out Sanchez. Oddly enough, GW10 was my last good and highest scoring week of 78 points.

I entered GW26 with a -8, making 2 transfers after muffing up my FT by selecting Gabbiadini with a blank for the week. Mane and Snodgrass were the other players to help cover the next 3 weeks due to blanks. Both players unimpressive got me a total of 4 points. All the talk about Mane being in form after a brace in GW25 and he comes out shooting blanks. Tired of relying on Liverpool midfielders, I still by an earlier comment, their midfield play has been very inconsistent all year long! I am already planning his transfer away in GW29 for Sanchez.

Phillips has been injured and I was hoping he might see the pitch, but ended up taking a zero. With very tough fixtures upcoming, he will be transferred out this week in favor of a midfielder to cover the next 2 weeks and to be used as a fifth starter, due to the addition of Gabbiadini and going back to a 3-4-3 formation. Mistakenly I kept the captain’s armband on Sigurdsson versus Chelsea, but he came through with an assist and 10 points. Eriksen had 2 assist, nearly a third and scored 11 points.

Up front it was difficult to watch Harry Kane net a hat trick and add an assist, while Costa and Lukaku each netted one goal, a total of 12 points. With Sigurdsson captained, I lost out on just 2 points. I am keeping hope alive that Gabbiadini will be that keystone player I have been yearning for in order to turn my season around and string together some green arrows, something I haven’t seen since GW4-GW6.

Defensively I am pleased with Coleman, 12 points on an assist and clean sheet. Alonso and Chelsea have been close the last 4 game weeks, giving up just a single goal each week, like Coleman, he’s a cornerstone on my defense. Brunt is short-lived, returning just 2 points this week, he will be sacrificed by GW29, like Phillips, he’s got a nasty run of schedules after GW29. Yoshida is my current 5th defender, had no game in GW26 and on a blank for GW28. Friend has been carrying a knock since GW23 and has not seen any playing time. At 4.3m I had hoped to have him as an option but it appears he will be moved for Alfie Mawson shortly.

Heaton and Jakupovic man the goal and I have run with Heaton since I picked him up with my WC in GW21. He’s played well against some of the bigger clubs, as managers rely on the save points as a budget goalkeeper. However with Liverpool and Spurs in GW28 and GW30, Jakupovic could see his first start home to Swansea and West Ham. The new look Tigers have played much better recently under Marco Silva and Jakupovic has been a key player for them.

Again, we point at the differentials; Yoshida, Friend, Gabbiadini, Snodgrass, Jakupovic and Eriksen. It’s been a challenging year in which the incorrect decision has usually come at a bit cost.

Premier League: Blanks & DGW

Advanced planning goes a long way when it comes to covering blanks and making the most of you DGWs or ‘double game weeks’. To date, I have not managed either very well. Coming out of GW20 I built a spreadsheet to help navigate the remain 18 weeks of the EPL season. It was built on current form, known schedules and FDR or ‘fixture difficultly rating’. It provided me an overview of starters, key match ups and potential starters. What it couldn’t account for were injuries and the knee injury to Danny Rose set in motion the domino tumbling.

While one injury shouldn’t cause the amount of havok it has, it’s completely put me off the last 6 weeks. It’s been a string of below average returns, 41, 32 , 43 and 40 points in the last 4 game weeks, finally moving Rose for Chris Brunt in GW24. During that time I have referenced my spreadsheet, but have relied more on pundits I follow online. Surprisingly, I have made moves or have the same key players as they speak of, yet my returns tend to fall short of the weekly average, which seems me continuing in a free fall…since GW6!

For GW21 I activated my second wild card, based on pundits, I was planning on holding it until the DGWs were announced. But on the back of only one green arrow out of 6 weeks, I felt it was necessary to retool my squad for GW21. All appeared well, returned 67 points for the week, best score since GW10, things were looking up, or so I thought. However I was still lacking one key EPL players, Alexis Sanchez.

Through the current period, I have owned Sanchez twice; transferring him in GW7 until GW12 and again from GW15 to GW20…for Lallana! *ugh* Yet, over the course of the season Sanchez has been the most explosive players, a cornerstone for well over 33% of fantasy managers. Yet the period I owned him were probably his lowest scoring on the season, 27 points and 31 points over both periods. Not great returns, but I found myself defaulting to him as captain, since the other options weren’t as strong. This was frustrating, as all but GW10 was a single digit return. I felt there were better options out there in the midfield.

Instead of supporting the Chilean, I thought I could spread what I would have invested in Sanchez through the rest of my squad. Yet for much of the season my midfield has struggled, seeing more ‘no returns’ that expected. Players who topped their position last year, like Mahrez became disposable. Tadic, Barkley and Antonio had been hot and cold. Stars the likes of De Bruyne and Hazard weren’t template players early on. Conversely, Capoue and Fer started the season very well, but have fallen off their torrid start. Decision making on my part has been poor and cost me my season high ranking of 26k.

Along with the activation of the second wild card in GW21 came a change in formation from a 3-4-3 to a 3-5-2. It appeared the number average and budget priced midfielders outweighed the price of a third forward, at least in my book. Diomande, Carroll, Iheanacho, Defoe, Rashford, Gray and Austin have spent time in the third forward spot. Austin won the starting role at So’ton and scored 6 goals in 9 games before succumbing to a shoulder injury against Palace in GW14. Defoe has been the best of the bunch with 138 points on the season he sits a point off Costa and just 7 off the pace of Ibrahimovic. Not bad for the Sunderland forward, who’s team sits in last place. Yet his consistency was a question on a squad that has scored only 24 goals on the season (that’s 3rd worst ahead of Hull City and Middlesbrough), Defoe has accounted for 12 of them and assisted on 3 others.

Since shifting to a 3-5-2, I said goodbye to the Zlatan/Costa partnership and his 11.5m allowed me to bulk up the midfield and splurge on the defense with a few premium defenders. It was becoming apparent that clean sheets were more of a regularity than at the start of the season. Chelsea was in the midst of a big CS run Spurs were playing well and Everton appeared to be hitting stride while lesser teams such as Burnley and Boro were tough to play against at home.

Yet like many of the moves I made this season it appeared I was a game week late, such as bringing in the “dynamic duo” of Alli/Eriksen and tripling up with Rose on defense. This was short lived due to the injury of Rose, followed by the lack of form of Alli, opting to keep Eriksen in the starting lineup because of spot kick responsibilities. Looking for that differential, I picked up Mesut Ozil, while not assisting as he did last year, I felt it was a worthwhile investment with just a 6.4% TSB. Yet since I added him in GW21, he returned just 19 points, 12 of which were scored in successive weeks (GW12 and GW13). At 9.4m he wasn’t playing up to his price or potential.

While I had hoped to resolve the midfield issues, I continued to struggle for consistency. GW21 was undoubtedly my best return, coming off my wild card with 36 points for my 5 starting midfielders (Eriksne, Alli, Ozil, Stanislas and Rodriguez). But those returns quickly dried up and it back to back to a string of no returns for Stanislas, who would go on to lose his starting spot, Phillips, who was transferred in for GW22 in the midst of poor form, but good fixtures, Eriksen, Ozil who would go into hibernation for the winter months and very little out of my “dynamic duo.”

Defensively, I was anchored by Azpilicueta not Alonso, which was a last minute decision during the activation of my wild card. Rumors of injury and the return of Nathan Ake to Chelsea saw my a bit gun shy on picking up Alonso. That too was the incorrect decision, as Alsonso dropped 21 points against Leicester in GW21 with returns of 6 and 8 points over the next few periods. I brought in Seamus Coleman and Chris Brunt, playing OOP for West Brom and finally added Marcus Alonso for GW25. Maya Yoshida was my fourth defender with George Friend injured. The potential for 4 clean sheets was there, but since GW21 I haven’t been rewarded as such.

Between the pipes I have stuck with Heaton since GW21, prior to that is Courtois for GW15 through GW19 and Foster to start the season to GW18. Heaton for his price has played amazing! Save points, bonus points and the occasional clean sheet, he has been an outstanding pick up this season, albeit a bit late for me. Backing him up I continue to support Jakupovic, who is the sole survivor since GW1. After losing his starting spot, he has made his way back into favor with Marco Silva coming aboard at Hull City and has started every game since GW21 in the new look Tigers earning 26 points in 5 games for just 4.1m.

Focusing on the upcoming 3 weeks (GW26-GW28), the FA Cup could throw us for a bit of a loop if Man City wins their replay against Huddersfield Town, they will be a DGW in GW27, something not many pundits expected. As for GW26, I am sitting with a full starting XI, not without taking -8 point hit, partly due to the fact I brought in Manolo Gabbiadini forgetting he had no GW26 match. In order to cover the late fitness check for George Friend I decided to run with 3 defenders’ Coleman, Alonso and Brunt. In the midfield I finally dropped Stanislas in favor of Snodgrass, as WHU has matches the next 3 weeks. In a surprise move I talked myself, well was convinced to pick up Mane, as Liverpool now has games in each of the 3 weeks as well. I dropped Ozil in place of him, which was my intended target in order to bring Sanchez in come GW29.

Not to get too far ahead of myself, the Mane move could pay off, coming off a brace and playing away to whipping boys, Leicester City and 2 weeks later against Burnley at home. In between those matches a home affair with the Gunners. So Mane is just a short term fix, unless of course he shines as Liverpool have good fixtures the rest of the way after GW29.

The other target for transfer could be Eriksen, who blanks in GW28, bringing about a DGW potentially in GW34 or GW37. Looking at GW28 I will be down 6 players; Alonso, Costa, Yoshida, Gabbiadini, Friend and Eriksen. That wasted FT on Gabbiadini appears it going to come back and bite me in the ass…twice, in GW26 and GW28. Considering I will have 2 FT before GW28 I should be able to cover upcoming holes defensive and up front.

Defensively, it won’t be difficult to fix, as I can move Friend or Yoshida, neither have great upcoming fixtures and at this point it would probably be Friend, just because of his fitness. Potential GW28 replacements include Alfie Lawson at Swansea, 4.5m, 3 goals in his last 6 games. Harry Maguire and Andre Robertson of Hull City make the short list with a match up against Swansea in GW28. Ramiro Funes Mori for Everton could be a short term replacement for GW28 against WBA and Hull the following week. John Stones at 4.7m could also get a look but City face a 3-week run of tough games; Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea starting in GW29, lets not forget about the potential GW27 DGW.

Trying to set myself after GW28, I want to move on a player I can use as a 4th defender if needed. All the above options are viable, based on match up. I have played a 4-5-1 and a 4-4-2 at times this season, so that 4th defender it vital to my squad. Trying to balance the short term blanks with the upcoming DGWs is challenging, especially with no WC remaining. However I still have all three chips to use. I am still expecting to turn my season around and string together a few green arrows. At this point I believe the top 75k is out of the question unless I have a few great weeks to stop this free fall.

Premier League: GW25 Retrospect

Not that this fact will provide any comfort this season, but I have identified the turning point of this season for my squad. For GW7 I brought in Sanchez for De Bruyne, who was injured, in an attempt to capture points from a star midfield player. From GW7 until GW12, Sanchez scored 27 points, just 4.5 pts/week recording a double digit return (13) in a 4-1 rout of Sunderland. This was quite possibly his worst run of the season through 25 weeks. However, being the intelligent (?) manager I am, the decision was made to reacquire Sanchez just 3 weeks later in GW15, holding him for a 5 week stretch, scoring 33 points or 6.6 pts/week.

For GW21 I activated my second WC and my infinite wisdom saw Sanchez sold in favor of…this hurts too…Adam Lallana, who had returned 3 goals in his last 6 games before I settled on Ozil as the direct replacement when the game week began. Needless to say, that move didn’t work out to my advantage. So why am I running without the league’s top scorer and cornerstone, with a TSB of 35.0%? I liken it to being ask a question by my wife and I answer, “I don’t know.” It baffles me to look back and wonder just what I was thinking. I would have been much better hold Sanchez though that tough spell during GW7 and GW12, as he is nothing short of a world-class talent.

This banter leads into GW25, one in which I felt my starting XI were playing in lead lined boots on the pitch. It was another week none of my starters returned a goal, thankfully Sigurdsson (captain) provided the lone assist. Taking an -8 point hit didn’t help introducing Lukaku, off his 4 goal game. Let down by him once again, yeah I know it was Boro at home. The other hit was Alonso for the injured Daniels. Chelsea flubbed this match up, giving up 1 to newly signed Robbie Brady. With Stanislas on the bench and no points expected today, I finished the week with the current average, 40 points as the free fall continues down the global rankings, now 1.5m.

I am still in search of consistency from my starting XI, who have shown glimpse of being above average, but more often than not, well below that mark. Just 7 out of 25 weeks has my squad scored over 60 points, with 3 of those coming in the first 5 weeks of the season. What I wouldn’t give to back to back green arrows, another rarity when I had 3 in a row from GW4-GW6. It’s been a very challenging season, looking for that spark to ignite my team.

Starting defensively this week, the injury to Rose a few weeks back, saw my defensive plans altered. While I didn’t want to rely on Yoshida, he has been in the starting lineup the past few weeks. This week taking a -8, including the introduction of Alonso to my squad, So’ton returned a CS, Yoshida with 6 points. Looking ahead clashes with Man U and Spurs might be a cause for concern, as well as missing GW26. Coleman was the defensive star with 7 points with the Toffee’s CS against Boro, along with a bonus point. Alonso, as well as Chelsea as a team was a let down away to Burnley in a 1-1 draw. The second time in three weeks Alonso didn’t have a return. I was hopefully Brunt’s run of form would continue, but a 2-2 draw against WHU saw his return fall to zero.

Between the sticks it was a toss up, Heaton home to Chelsea or Jakupovic away to Arsenal. I decided to stick with Heaton, who gave up 1 goal but salvaged a point on saves. Some great matches coming up for both keepers, might see a rotation over the next few weeks in order to maximize points. Hell, might not hurt to captain a keeper the way my season is playing out.

Oh where, oh where did the Spurs offense go? Doubling up on Eriksen and Alli came to an end, when I took a hit to move Alli and introduce Sigurdsson for the second time this season. This move paid off as I captained Siggy, who recorded a nice assist, finishing on 12 points. Of course he was out captained by Mane or Sanchez. Phillips, Eriksen and Ozil had nada…nothing, zero…zilch! Okay, Ozil got a single marker for a CS.

Up front saw Lukaku make a return to my starting XI, partnered with Costa. Expectations were high, even with Chelsea away to Burnley and Everton visiting Boro. Both defenses need to be given some credit, as they shut down both players. No returns for Costa or Lukaku but I will continue to hold and start both players.

Sometimes I wonder why I don’t practice what I preach when giving out advice on players to start or transfer. In my Premier League: GW23 Retrospect I noted the addition of Gabbiadini to So’ton, “I am also high on Manolo Gabbiadini, who transfers to So’tom from Napoli in Serie A…hopefully Gabbiadini makes an impact.” He has, 3 goals in 2 games has seen 52k managers (top forward) transfer him in this week, without So’ton playing a GW26 match. I still have woes facing me in the upcoming game week. With 3.4m ITB, Stanislas (possibly) out of favor, Phillips not in form and Ozil with just 2 assists in the last 7 games I am in search of another starter.

In a fit of rage, with my head in the fog I made my GW26 FT without thinking, bringing in Gabbiadini, while forgetting he didn’t have a fixture in the upcoming week. While I can’t take that mistake back, I will looking to take a -4 point hit and bring in the only player that makes sense at this time, Alexis Sanchez for Ozil, leaving me 1.1m in the bank. Before that move is made we need to see the results of the 5th round of the FA Cup, to be played this weekend. These results could dictate future transfers with teams blanking and being handed DGWs.

Premier League: GW24 Retrospect

It’s Saturday morning in the US and we are at half time of the early matches, but it only taken 13 minutes into the Chelsea vs Arsenal match to have the head shaking and questioning to begin. Why? I formulated a plan for the rest of the season, but at the first sign of adversity I didn’t follow through with it? That is my question to myself. Things have not gone according to plan the past two weeks, but the match ups for GW24 told another story. An unfortunate injury to Danny Rose, caused a change in defense, which used my FT for the week. With about 30 minutes remaining in the early games, I had to turn all by the Hull vs Liverpool match off. Go Tigers!

Sitting here Monday reflecting on GW23 I can’t seebeing anything but disappointed. Finished the week on just 43 points, seven short of the 51 point average. I can play the “shoulda, woulda, coulda” game all I want but if I had stuck to my plan, I would have taken a -4 point hit and introduced Alonso and Lukaku into the line for GW23. That didn’t happen for two reasons. First, I didn’t like the Chelsea match up against Arsenal. Felt WBA had a better chance at a CS and more points, so I picked up Brunt in place of Alonso. This move was a net +1 as Brunt scored 9 points, while Alonso scored 8 points. The move I didn’t make that cost me 21 points was not bringing in Lukaku for Ibrahimovic, a difference of 15 points, as Lukaku went for 4 goals and 3 BPS. Much like the Brunt decision, I felt Ibrahimovic had good underlying stats leading up to the match, although they drew against Hull and Stoke with no returns, Leicester away was a good chance for Zlatan to get back on track. I didn’t figure Lukaku going for 4 goals but do have plans for him in my starting XI, as Zlatan has a blank GW26.

Playing a 3-5-2 again this week with Costa and Ibrahimovic up front, which paid off, 8 points for Costa and 6 points for Ibrahimovic. Not bad returns but neither had the captain’s armband, which hurt my return. Last week I noted Manolo Gabbiadini for So’ton, who made his mark with his first EPL goal. At 6.5m I feel he is a real bargain and just what the Saints need up top without Austin available. The youngster, Jesus has sparkled! At 9.2m he doesn’t come cheap, but it appears he has dethroned the Argentine, Aguero as the go to forward for Pep. But let’s remember, it is Pep, there is still a risk of rotation with cup play and CL coming soon. Grab Jesus soon, as 101k managers have already done so and has seen his price increase 0.2m in 2 weeks.

With 5 playing across the midfielder, I am looking to shake things up in the next 2 weeks. Ozil is shortlisted to be move next week, I like the home match against Hull, but lay caution to the wind, Hull is playing some very good football right now and an upset wouldn’t be all that surprising. This is NOT the same Hull team that was playing for Mike Phelan. I watched this game and the movement and set piece responsibilities of Kamil Grosicki, at 5.5m, he looks to be a possible replacement for Snodgrass. Speaking of Snoddy, at 5.7m his stock is on the rise. Didn’t like where he was playing, but did chip in with an assist and 5 points. He’s got some good targets in Carroll and Valencia to aim for.

Elsewhere in my midfield, I still doubled up on Spurs with Alli and Eriksen. Alli got the armband, but returned a single marker for the CS, a total of 6 points, while Eriksen was on 3 points. I am still on the fence about carrying both players. Their upcoming fixtures look outstanding, facing a struggling Liverpool in GW25, their only tough matches will be Arsenal (H) in GW35 and Man U (H) in GW37 (cup play pending). I could be inclined to keep both assets and roll with them through the end of the season. I’ve had fleeting through of bringing back Sigurdsson and De Bruyne, but both have disappointed in their past stints on my squad. Could Hazard be hitting his stride again? Scored this week against the Gunners and took home 11 points.  With 4.2m ITB, I have room to make a few moves to improve my squad.

Phillips and Stanislas round out the midfield. Took a zero from Stanislas, as he didn’t see the pitch with the return of King to the starting lineup. Might be time for a change if Stanislas doesn’t play in GW25. Phillips I have planned through GW28 and Everton, but will look to find more favorable schedule after that point as WBA catches all the top teams through GW37. Obviously blanks and DGWs will play into potential starters, but feel safe with both Baggies  in the short term.

Plagued by injuries to Daniels, Friend and Rose, who I dropped for Brunt saw him team with Coleman and Yoshida as my starting defenders. Brunt carried the defense for 9 points, playing OOP down the left side. His tenure will be short term as the Baggies schedule goes south after GW28, but will give me coverage for what could potentially be a week of very few points. So’ton has frustrated….again and I got sucked in with the low price for Yoshida, matches with Burnley, Leicester, Swansea and West ham netted me just 9 points and 1 CS over that stretch. At the time of purchase he was a starter and a budget buy, with 4.2 ITB after moving Zlatan, I am inclined to bring in another premium defender, possibly doubling up on Chelsea or Everton or introducing Walker of Spurs. Coleman rounded out my starters as Everton gave up 3 goals, thankfully in the 6-3 dismantling of Bournemouth he bagged me an assist for 4 points. Jakupovic remains my bench keeper, but has turned in two CS performances against Man U and Liverpool in the last 2 games. Can he do it again away to Arsenal?

What is a fantasy manager in decline do? I have dropped another 200k now sitting at 1.4m! Not where I expected to be this deep into the season. Still well off last year’s point total with just 1152. It’s all but hopeless in the two mini leagues as I have held my ranking at 5th and 8th in both. Planning for GW25 I intended to bring in Alonso and Lukaku, not only for coverage but price increase, but missed the window. I have already taken a -4 point hit for GW25 as I brought both players in for the upcoming week. My squad value is just 102.6m, down nearly 1.0m from my high after GW17, like my rank it too continues to fall. Moving Zlatan has allowed me 4.2m in the bank, but if I start upgrading defenders and midfielders I must be honest and know I won’t get him back for the rest of the season. Possible replacements, Jesus (9.2m), Carroll (6.3m, carrying a knock), Defoe (7.8m) and Gabbiadini (6.5m).

Premier League: GW23 Retrospect

I’ve read comments on a regular basis about how challenging of a fantasy season it’s been to date, I cite a figure from FantasyFootballGeek and a manager he follows, “At present he has a 22k overall rank, an improvement in rank of 4k from the last gameweek of 26k. His total points are 1,286 after a good score of 40 this gameweek. Just to give you a bit of context his last 3 years overall rankings have been 1,450, 277 and 90.” Based on simple calculations, I am well off my pace of 2015-2016, a season I finished in the top 75k with a total score of 2170 points. Current score is 1109, which means I would need to average just over 70 points to hit that total again.

What have been missing (outside of consistency) is a run of good luck, in which I have scores that are above average, which yields green arrows. I had a great run just after the new year last year, which allowed me to jump up the rankings near 100k, thus making my goal to get inside the top 75k, which I accomplished. This season it’s been a 3-week run of green arrows from GW4 to GW6, which saw me in the top 29k and feeling confident about strategy and decision making. Since then, it’s been a season of frustration in an attempt to right the wrongs and score some points.

GW21 saw me activate my WC and retool my team based on current form and upcoming fixtures. Not that this is a new strategy, but I built a Excel spreadsheet in which to rank and follow players through the remainder of the season, which would allow me to see players I was watching for potential transfers. Decision making the last 3 weeks has been on par with what pundits have been saying, but the scoring has not been there. Let’s take a look at GW23 (if we must).

Since GW21 I have changed my formation, running a 3-5-2, since I was not able to get any consistency from a third forward. The mainstays up front have Costa and Ibrahimovic. Both players have been in form recently and Ibrahimovic was tasked with the captain’s armband for the weekend tilt against Hull City. Let’s just say, this isn’t the same Hull City that Mike Phelan had, even without Snodgrass and now Jakupovic in between the sticks, Hull has played differently and very well the past 2 weeks. They were able to befuddle Man U and my captain played out to a no return, just 4 points for Zlatan. If that wasn’t bad enough, Costa  brough in no points, thanks in part to a missed penalty. Just when you think it can’t get worse…it does. Diomande might be on the chopping list, as minutes are declining, the potential transfer would be Crouch, at 4.9m is in form!

On paper (which the game isn’t play on), the midfielder play looks great. In GW21 I doubled up on Spurs with Eriksen and Alli/. In the past 2 weeks Eriksen has returned just 5 points and I am considering moving him and possibly shaking up my forwards to bring in Kane. More on that in a minute. Eriksen is the 4th highest scoring midfielder, so he still warrants selection as Spurs have a great run of games (outside of Liverpool in GW25) through GW34! Alli has returned goals in the last 2 out of 3 games, but was held goalless against Sunderland, but got that all important 1 point for the CS *sarcasm*.

I have been toying with moving Ozil and replacing him with Sanchez, which means I would need to downgrade a defender. Knowing the teams as we do now, an argument could be made to run a 4-4-2 or a 5-4-1! While I don’t have data to back it up, it appears that defenders are scoring on a more regular basis than their midfielder or forward counterparts. That is my justification for possibly experimenting in the upcoming weeks. It’s bad that Arsenal got beat but Ozil didn’t return against Watford. My budget midfielders, Stanislas and Phillips didn’t return either, totaling 4 points. Stanilas’ days are numbered, had planned on replacing his in GW25 but the DGW and blanks game weeks will plan into upcoming plans.

Defensively, bringing in Coleman (for Azpilicueta) paid off with 5 points, this coming off double digit returns the previous 2 weeks. Honestly I expected a bit more from Everton against the Potters. Everton assets still look to be a good buy through GW29 (facing Spurs in GW27). A knee injury now see Rose out through the end of February, which has me looking to pick up Alonso a week early. I had planned on holding out Chelsea defenders until after the match with Arsenal. Then again, I didn’t expect a CS vs Liverpool either. My third defender was Yoshida but he failed on his bid for 6 points, as So’ton gave up a goal to Swansea. All I can do is shake my head in disbelief. Great match ups and just 7 points from my defenders.

Between the sticks, I have been very pleased with Heaton and his continued excellence! With no real intent to bench him, I do have Jakupovic, who put in an 11 point performance against Man U! He might see some playing time in the upcoming weeks. Heaton kept a CS, picked up a save point and 2 BPS for a total of 9 points. Not bad for a day’s work. Goalkeeper is the only position I don’t plan on changing the rest of the season.

My total of 32 points was 3 point fewer than the average of 35 points, which saw me tumble down to 1.2m in the global standings. This was the lowest point total since GW7 and I seem to have more questions than answers.

What is a fantasy manager to do? Frustrated as I am, must look forward and hope for a streak of luck. Thanks in part to the transfer window, I have a few newcomers to the EPL. First is Kamil Grosicki at Hull City, hopefully picking up where Snodgrass left off, as he departed for West Ham. Grosicki has better numbers than Snodgrass while playing with Rennes. As Maarco Silva continues to rework Hull City, Grosicki could play a major roll, at just 5.5m could be a bargain selection.

I am also high on Manolo Gabbiadini, who transfers to So’tom from Napoli in Serie A. Now maybe I am just remember his play on FIFA 17, but this gets So’ton a legitimate forward to replace Austin, who continues to recover from a shoulder injury. While numbers aren’t there to support this player, I think he is one to watch moving forward. It’s a mixed bag the Saints going forwards with many big clashes with top teams, defensively I think they are sound, but missing Austin up front, Long isn’t the answer, hopefully Gabbiadini makes an impact.

Finally Snodgass and his move to West Ham to replace the departure of Payet back to France is interesting. Playing for a struggling squad at Hull, Snodgrass put up 99 points, including 4 double digit hauls, was on dead balls and spot kicks, a true asset that made the Tigers go. Now he’s playing a similar role for the Hammers with better talent around him. His 27 minutes in a 4-0 loss to City he played in a holding roll alongside Noble with Antonio slotted as the false 9 behind Carroll. Going to give it a few games to see how West Ham and Snodgrass do.

So where do I go from here? I continue to scour the Internet, listening to pundits and other like-minded managers in an attempt to field the best starting XI possible. Confidence is now sliding south, as performance can only be described as sub-par with blank games weeks and DGW on the horizon, one can only hope for a change in luck to try and make gains.