Premier League: DGW36 Plan

Amazing the amount of variables to take into account, when just a few short weeks ago when I posted Premier League: Seeing Double and my plans for the run in to DGW36 and DGW37. With change in the wind, injuries on the pitch and questions surrounding form, formation and fixtures I have taken a risky route over the next few weeks.

Just 5 players remain from the plan I formulated prior to GW33. With already have played my WC in GW21, it would be a string of hits in order to get the proper personnel in place to take advantage of the DGWs. Original thought was to triple up on Man City, but the injury to Aguero and the rotation risk of Sane tempered my transfers. However the return of Jesus has sparked interest in City for DGW37.

Before moving ahead, let’s take a look at DGW36 and who isn’t in my starting XI or even on my squad. The two most notable names, Gabbiadini and Sanchez. Based on recent form, neither deserve a starting spot. Since returning from injury Gabbiadini hasn’t been the same offensive threat we saw when he made his move from Serie A. Even when at Napoli he wasn’t a prolific scorer; 5 goals in 23 games last year and just 3 goals in 13 this season before the transfer.

So’ton’s DGW schedule isn’t kind, facing Liverpool (A) and Arsenal (H) in GW36 followed by Middlesbrough (A) and Man United (H) in GW37. I fancy that the Boro match up is their only favorable fixture, a team they defeated just 1-0 back in GW15. Rumors of discontent are running through the team, as well as the impending return of Austin from injury and the veteran, Long off the bench to steal minutes.

The exclusion of Sanchez doesn’t come without risk, the league’s top scorer (214) has been omitted, in fact I didn’t have him included when I wrote up my original plan during GW33. Earlier this season, I felt Sanchez was indispensable (read Sanchez Effect) and before running the stats, felt NOT including Sanchez was a reason for my lack of performance. The reality of the situation, he would have contributed approximately 59 points over the gameweeks I didn’t have him versus the players I did start in his place.

The last 6 weeks have been his worst run of the season, with just a single return in GW33 (7 pts). How does he warrant a place in the starting XI? Wenger is now experimenting with formation, Sanchez is still playing wide left, but is he just playing out of the season before moving on? Based on the reverse fixtures against Man United and So’ton, he totaled just 2 points! Looking ahead to GW37 he posted returns of 5 and 13 against Stoke City and Sunderland. If fantasy managers see that sort of return in GW37 using the triple captain chip, they should be elated. However I feel there are stronger, in form players to start in the midfield. The one component you can’t take away from Sanchez is his explosiveness.

For GW36 I have taken a 12 point hit. That hurts, it’s bad enough I have been on a nasty string of -8 points hit (6 out of last 7 weeks), which feels as if it has become the norm. Unfortunately, these hits come at a cost of limiting my climb up the global rankings. However the returns have been positive with just a single red arrow since GW27, last week in GW35. Still sitting at 651k, is considerable lower than I anticipated to be at this point in the year. Still, take the good with the bad and look forward to the next fixture. I finger a poor run of form starting GW8 through GW13 as a reason for my current ranking.

As for the GW36 squad the changes have come up front, as I moved out Benteke and Gabbiadini this week in favor of Costa and Jesus. To free up enough budget, I said good bye to Zaha and brought in Fraser from Bournemouth. The other addition this week was introducing Stephens for Gibson and getting his price bump early in the week.

Costa now pairs with Hazard for the double and a great run in through the end of the season, with just a single away game remaining. He picked up just his third double of the season in GW34 but his form seems to be returning.

Jesus seemed to be a no brainer, as Aguero limped off the pitch last week after a solid performance with a groin injury. Jesus returning to pitch after injury has looked great in just 2 appearances. Dynamic and excitable and very favorable fixtures to finish the season. This kid could post some great returns before the season is up. Games include Palace (H), Leicester (H), West Brom (H) and Watford (A). He will also wear the armband for my squad this weekend.

The inclusion of Costa, Jesus and Stephens set me up for DGW37 leaving just 4 players who don’t have a DGW next week. When the transfer window opens for DGW37 I will look towards upgrading my defenders. Bailly and van Aanholt will be out and I’ll be looking at Man City and Chelsea defenders. It doesn’t appear I will have the budget to include one from each team. The decision will hinge on what I do with Jakupovic. The sole player remaining from GW1 will possibly be move for either Cech or Courtois. If I get Courtois, then it will be the budget defender, Holgate with no DGW to fill the final defender slot.

Premier League: DGW Double Take

Leading up to DGW34 I had been planning, scheming and strategizing on how to navigate GW34, GW36 and GW37. With DGW34 in the books, I have a solid core group of players to carry me through the end of the season. My previous article, Seeing Double had me favoring a Man City trio, not paying much attention to Arsenal or So’ton, each who play 4 games in GW36 and GW37. Injuries and a rethink seemingly have brought me full circle and now I have established, what I feel, is a good plan. Still, we need to get through GW35, but here’s how things are laid out.

GW35
OUT: Lukaku, Llorente
IN: Afobe, Benteke

Notes: While neither player have a DGW remaining, both are in form and feel they deserve to be in the starting XI. Benteke has Burnley (H) this weekend and Hull (H) in GW37, that’s enough for me. Man City hasn’t been all that impressive on defense, and Palace could nip a goal or two in that match. Afobe may seem an odd pick, but a budget forward, has 5 returns in the last 7 games, which includes 3 goals. Remaining fixtures include Sunderland (A), Stoke (H), Burnley (H) and Leiceter (A). We know Eddie Howe loves his offense, Bournemouth are safe, goals could fly! His inclusion frees up budget for use in DGW36.

GW36
OUT: Zaha, Gibson
IN: Sanchez, Holgate

Notes: Still high on Zaha, but I need to free up a midfield position in order to bring Sanchez in, who’s potential is too much to pass up. After GW35, it could be feast or famine for the Chilean, but DGW37 holds hope, Stoke (A) and Sunderland (H). It’s a case of I would rather be with, than without on the off chance he scores big. To free up the remaining funds, Holgate (4.1m) comes in with CS potential in GW36 and GW37.

This is what my squad looks like for GW36, which would carry over to DGW37.

Not sure what Big Sam’s intentions are with van Aanholt. I picked him up for DGW34, but saw limited play in just one game. Injuries have taken a toll on the Palace defense, but Schlupp still holds a starting spot. Depending on taking another hit in GW36, van Aanholt could make way for Jagielka, who was in my original plans, like Holgate has CS potential in GW36 and GW37, plus has some offensive prowess with 3 goals on the season. Fuchs, Yoshida and Bailly will constitute the rest of the defensive line due to DGW37.

We are still a few weeks out from DGW37, anything is possible. Not too surprising to see how drastically plans have changed in the matter of 10 days, when I posted Seeing Double. The possibility of City players still exists, but with the uncertainty surrouding who to start, they have all taken a seat on the bench for now. We will wait and see what GW35 brings before formulating a new plan…if needed.

Premier League: Seeing Double

The current EPL season comes down to two weeks, as managers either planned or are scrambling to navigate the the DGWs in GW34 and GW37. Many managers have held their second WC and Triple Captain Chip until GW36 in order to maximize their opportunity for a big return. For me, I activated my WC in GW21 and my Triple Captain Card was applied to Aguero in GW27 for just 27 points. Managers were hoping to Sanchez would continue his run of form and triple captain him against Stoke City and Sunderland in GW37, but based on his last 3 fixtures (before GW33), it appears he might not be the best option.

Here is my current squad as of GW33, before any transfers for GW34:

Since GW25 I have made 16 transfers with seven 8 point hits during this period. My season turned the corner in GW27, when I started a run of 7 green arrows that has seen my global ranking climb 947k to 682k! This run of success has me pushing for the top spot in both mini leagues, where I sit in 2nd and 5th place.

With the help of Navigating the Double Game Weeks I formulated my strategy for the rest of the season. Using this article as a template I started looking forward to DGW34 and DGW37 in an attempt to maximize returns to end the season on a strong run. While it’s not the best DGW plan, moving forward without a WC means I miss out on potential points or risk take a -4 or -8 point hit in order to see a higher return each week. So far the additional transfers I have made have equated to a positive return of 15 points over those 7 weeks. Not great, but at least I wasn’t negative.

GAMEWEEK 34
Transfer OUT: Grosicki, Hazard, Mawson
Transfer IN: King, Sane, Van Aanholt

Notes: Transferring Hazard will free up the addition budget I require to kick off this strategy. While they do have a favorable DGW in GW37, I feel there are stronger midfielder available with better fixtures. Grosicki, has been good for Hull, at home. While the Tigers need help, there has not been enough scoring to justify retaining his services. Mawson served his purpose, picked up a few goals, but Swansea is struggling…still. No DGWs and a mixed schedule, didn’t like those prospects.

King and Sane come in on good form, more importantly with good fixtures ahead of them. King could be seen as a questionable selection with no DGWs but home matches against MID, STK and BUR. After GW34, City has a great looking schedule, thus the inclusion of Sane, who will face CRY, LEI, WBA at home and MID and WAT on the road with a DGW in GW37. Van Aanholt, back from injury could be a strong differential candidate. While the fixtures for DGW34 don’t justify it, his style of play could benefit Palace against Liverpool. His inclusion is based on GW35 and GW37 home to BUR and HUL.

GAMEWEEK 35
Transfer OUT: Llorente, Eriksen, Lukaku
Transfer IN: Gabbiadini, Sterling, Aguero

Notes: What could be seen as questionable transfers come to the forefront in this week. Llorente has been a waste of space, injured for 2 weeks and no returns in 4 weeks. Eriksen, really? Even now I have a hard time making this transfer happen, as he has been fantastic this season! Good returns since GW26 and a challenging DGW in DG37, I would rather hold Alli and Kane as the attacking pieces of my squad. Finally Lukaku, the Belgian has been outstanding…at home but atrocious on the road, just 12 points in his last 4 away fixtures. With 3 of the last 6 on the road and a home match against Chelsea, I can’t justify keeping him in the starting XI.

Gabbiadini hit the EPL in grand form, 4 goals in 3 EPL games before succumbing to injury. He’s got DGWs in GW36 against LIV (A), ARS (H) and GW37 against MID (A) and MNU (H). Sterling will come in to partner with Sane for City with LEI and WBA at home in DGW37. Aguero is the final piece of this offensive puzzle, but not sure if that piece will fit, with the word that Jesus could be returning. That could call into question Aguero and his playing time or worse, rotation. It is Pep in charge, but with no UCL and Aguero in form, Jesus might be called upon from the bench. Thankfully I have a few weeks to wait and watch.

GAMEWEEK 36
Transfer OUT: Gibson, Heaton
Transfer IN: Vertonghen, Courtois

Notes: The defense gets an overhaul, as Gibson makes way with no DGW in GW37 and a terrible schedule after GW34 there were better options. Heaton has been masterful between the sticks and with good fixtures to finish the season, like Gibson Burnley doesn’t have a DGW.

Vertonghen comes in for the final 3 weeks of the season, away to WHU and WBA and a DGW in GW37 against MNU (H) and LEI (A). He’s the cornerstone of the Spurs defense, his inclusion could be questionable depending on the return of Rose. Courtois, currently injured, returns to my squad as Chelsea look to win the EPL Championship. Three out of the last four games are at home with WBA and WAT in DGW37.

GAMEWEEK 37
Transfer OUT: Fuchs
Transfer IN: Monreal

Notes: The final piece is put into place, as Fuchs makes way for Monreal, who faces STK (A) and SUN (H) in DGW37. Arguably the best DGW fixtures in GW37. Not much for Arsenal defenders this year, at least Monreal gets forward in that wing back position.

CONCLUSION

The team above costs me 103.5m, leaving me with 0.7m ITB for unexpected changed. As I mentioned earlier, this plan looks great on paper, but how it actually plays out is another story. Potential injuries, falling out of form or the return of players from injury could change my strategy. I don’t move forward without concerns, most notably the “second coming” of Jesus at City. Not including Hazard (30.6%), Sanchez (24.8%) and Lukaku (46.9%) is risky, all are highly owned and all have been in form, Sanchez for much of the season, excluding the last 4 weeks. For DGW37, this gives me 8 players with two games, which potentially could be 9 players if I select Gabbiadini over King or Zaha.

While I don’t have it on paper yet, I am working on a contingency plan, which could include Townsend or a Chelsea defender. Up front if Aguero becomes a rotation risk I will make the move back to Ibrahimovic, but United’s DGW37 is tough; TOT (A) and SOU (A).

It’s a risky proposition, but many fantasy managers wait for the DGWs in order to make their moves, activating this WC and chips. Final note, speaking of chips, I only have my bench boost and all out attack remaining, as I played by triple captain chip back in GW27 on Aguero. GW35 I will plan on using my AOA chip nd GW37 will feature the bench boost.

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: 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.

Fantasy EPL – DGW 37

This post will fall mainly on deaf ears since football (aka soccer) is not taken seriously in the United States. Sure, we have the MSL, USL and NASL but none of them compare to the game that’s played abroad, but I am not here to drag my soapbox out about the inferior play and leagues in America. This is about the fantasy aspect of football, which is big business, especially in the Barclay’s Premier League. Just like the NFL and countless leagues that pop up when the season rolls around, football in England takes center stage for a 38 week season.

Outside of hockey and basketball I have played fantasy sports since 1983, when I started my own fantasy football (NFL) league with 5 friends. So while my expertise flourished with stats, players and strategy, interest in the NFL has waned the past 10 years and while I still participate I do out of friendship for the guys I play with. It’s the EPL that has taken center stage for me, played on a very large scale with 3.7 million players taking part in the Fantasy Premier League. This is just the third season I have participated, but after 36 weeks I will post my best score to date based on a very hard to predict EPL season.

Compared to my past NFL expertise, I am a 3 year “newbie” to the fantasy world, sometimes learning the ropes, “the hard way.” Each year is a new experience, a new piece of the puzzle to implement in hopes or fielding the best 11 players on the pitch. Yet 2015-2016 has already seen the league turned upside down with Leicester City, a 5000-1 long shot winning the league. Past performances of top players have been questionable at best sometimes, but subscribing to “form over fixture” seems to hold true more often than not. In the past it was “the law of fantasy football averages” as it related to the NFL (read The Ogletree Factor). “This is a law that dictates there are only so many yards and TD’s to go around and mediocre guys who have really good weeks will have to have really bad weeks later on to average their stats out. It also works in reverse for good and/or great players. Those who have really bad weeks will have to have some really good ones to again, average it out by seasons end.”

Form over fixture is important, as hot players can quickly go cold, so being able to predict “who” will move is based purely on speculation. When it goes in your favor, you are genius! Sometimes a few weeks can make your break you entire fantasy season. For me, my season broke in week 9, on the heels of a 109 point week. thanks in part to Kun Aguero dropping a 5 goal performance on Newcastle which netted me 50 points! These two weeks were separated by the international break, which saw an injury to Aguero. I took a -2 hit point restructured my team transferring Aguero out and bringing in Graziano Pellè and Kevin De Bruyne, a move that accounted for just 4 points in week 9 and started a run of red arrows the next 5 out of 6 weeks.

At the end of week 8 I was ranked 65k, my highest ever ranking. After week 14 I sat at 583k, a drop of some 520k positions. I thought I turned the corner after consecutive green arrows in weeks 15 and 16 (66 & 69 points), but 72 points in week 17 saw another down arrow. Continuing to read the fantasy sites, take advice and participate in weekly polls, it was tough to see much change. The dynamics of my team continued to shift, I did however maintain a 3-5-2 formation, but hurt myself by playing my chips too early in the season. It makes great sense to hold these gems (all out attack, triple captain and bench booster) until the DGWs or double game weeks begain.

Entering week 34, the first DGW I was ranked 161k, coming off a solid 76 point performance, 20 points above the average. By this time, Aguero was back on the front line and Alexis Sanchez was transferred in. When the DGW ended I was score 139 (-4 points for 2 transfers), 60 points above the average. You can play the “what if…” game every week in fantasy sports. “What if I would have held my triple captain chip?” “What if I played my bench boost?” You can drive yourself to a white, padded room thinking about the “what if…” scenarios. I saw a green arrow and my highest rank, now 107k since week 9.

Since week 1 the team has changed considerable. In this game getting in on “the template” is imperative. The template are those players that many of the top 10k players own. What make one team flourish and the other flounder are those “differentials” you have on  your team, any given week that score to make a difference in finishing with a red, down arrow or a green, up arrow. Week 3 saw me burn my first wildcard (WC) in order to bring my team close to those players on the template but passed on Leicester City’s, Jamie Vardy for weeks on end during his 11-goal scoring streak. The use of that WC helped me gain 520k spots in just 4 weeks.

Now we stand on the edge of week 37, another DGW. Many owners have held onto some of their chips or even a WC and are preparing to make that final push to close out this strange year in the EPL. Entering this week with 2041 points, I have matched my best point total from 2013/2014 but 300 points off the overall leader. That equates to less than a 9 point/week difference. That’s a defender gaining a shutout or a midfielder being awarded 3 bonus point. Even easier points, holding the chips until the DGWs. Regardless of how the year ends up, I will end the year on a positive note, even if I happen to go tits up with two red arrows.

week37dgwAs for this week I am hoping for BIG things, taking a -20 point hit to field a team of 10 starters all playing in the DGW. It’s a big gamble, but 140-160 is a distinct possibility given the form of the players I transferred in. Like the end of any season, it becomes a crap shoot as manager rotate players or rest players depending on European matches left to play. However, confidence is high in this starting IX, just don’t like seeing Harry Kane on the bench, based purely on his potential. Then again I have been playing Kun Aguero nearly all year because of his explosive potential.

Chalk this year crazy year up to another learning experience, ending the year knowing more now than when I started the year. Using a few fantasy sites to my advantage, while going with gut instead of with the pundits. Ending in the top 100k will be an achievement but it will require a big leap forward to break into the top 10k next year, which is a more coveted position come the end of the year.