5-Man Defense Feasibility

Lots of talk on how to approach this FPL season, as August 11 is coming towards fantasy managers, like Mo Salah blazing down the right flank. It’s interesting to see some early teams and the run of formations popping up. No real surprise that a 3-4-3 still seems to garner most of the attention. This, along with a 3-5-2 provides the most attacking potential from a midfield and forward perspective, while the four and five defender formations haven’t garnered much support.
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Premier League: GW9 Retrospect

Preach patience. Don’t knee jerk. Save your chips. None of this sage advice was followed hours before the Friday kickoff of West Ham hosting Brighton. All the Man City talk, the return of Morata and big attacking returns had me seeing points pouring in Gameweek 9. Unfortunately, Pep struck, defenders didn’t deliver and not surprisingly, Harry Kane delivered a season high at home. It all equated to my worst point total of the season and knocked me 600k down the overall rankings.

On the back of two successive green arrows, I should have used my own advice and practiced patience. In fact hours before Friday’s fixture I was inclined to roll the transfer and double dip ahead of GW10. Twitter and pundits I follow got the better of me and in a moment of madness I activated the Free Hit Chip.

All the talk leading up the the gameweek had centered on the play of Man City, the attack (without Aguero) had been lethal. The play of Silva, De Bruyne, Sterling, Sane, Jesus, Otamendi and to a lesser extent, Walker had been posting great points in the past 6 weeks. Maybe I was lulled into a false sense of security, forgetting Pep’s penchant for rotation, because it hit big for Gameweek 9 as Jesus and Sterling were both left out of the starting XI.

Put bluntly, the Free Hit Chip failed. UP front, I went with the popular Twitter selections of Jesus, Lukaku and Morata, all who had good match ups. As mentioned, Jesus failed to see the pitch, Morata was pulled in favor of Batshuayi after 60 minutes and Lukaku blanked for his second game in a row. I will be thankful he picked up an assist, coupled with the armband he scored 10 points. Well off the pace of Kane’s 16 points.

With Sterling not starting or featuring, Tom Carroll was substituted and he was no better than my other two starters, Zaha and Eriksen who netted 5 points. Both players were coming off spectacular games the previous weeks, but failed to produce this gameweek.

Defensively, my week was foreshadowed by Joe Hart failing to keep his previous 4-week form, conceding 3 goals to Brighton. Doubling up on Jones, who exited after 22 minutes and Smalling, didn’t help as Man United failed to keep a CS, only the second time in the last 7 games. One bright spot was Maya Yoshida with a CS and 2 bonus points, he continues to post solid numbers for the So’ton defense. Kyle Walker kept it clean as well for another 6 points.

At weekend’s end, it was just 36 points, on a week that averaged 50 points. I lose nearly 600k spots, falling to 1.1m on 476 overall points. Thankfully my team has reverted back to  my GW8 lineup and while I continue to have some problems with my squad I will be looking to make some changes. If I would have heeded my own advice, I would have scored 58 points, on the back of Kane and his 16 point performance (most likely captained).

One thing is for certain, Harry Kane will be locked every weekend and captained from this gameweek out. His performance against Liverpool should have been expected based on previous performances at Wembley, the fact his underlying numbers have been very strong, but no returns to Burnley, Swansea and Bournemouth had me questioning the star forward. Those thoughts are now erased and he’s now a template starter for me.

While I didn’t use my GW9 advice, I am not going to make any rage transfers before Friday. Ben Davies is my biggest concern at the moment, for the second week in a row, he missed out on a fixture. Other concerns with my 5-man defense, the lack of output from 7.0M, Marcos Alonso. No returns since Chelsea’s last CS in GW5 and no goals or attacking returns since GW2, currently being outplayed by “Dave.” Kolansinac is another big wingback I was banking on for offensive returns, but the fact Alexis Sanchez plays on the left has Sead limited in his advances forward. At just 2 assists on the season, his 6.0m price tag is becoming unsustainable.

The midfield will be dependent on what I do with my 3-forward set. Vardy hasn’t been the answer, no returns in the last 4 games. Firmino had fallen out of favor for Liverpool with no returns in 6 weeks I can’t see him in my starting XI. Alvaro Morata was on my shortlist, for this week, but introduced him a week sooner. The result didn’t work out in my favor, but he’s still near the top of my list as Chelsea has great fixtures through GW21. Then there is Jesus. Jesus, what do I do with Jesus? We know Jesus and Aguero will have games in which they don’t play or feature off the bench. Are there enough points to shell out 10.5m or 11.6m for players who may not feature every game for 90 minutes? Looking like Silva and KDB are the only reliable attacking players.

Finally, my 2-man midfield, which I was high on 2 weeks ago and actually Pascal Groß is still in favor with another 6 point return in GW9. I don’t plan on moving Eriksen either, calling him “fixture proof,” this coming off a blank against Liverpool in which he featured in a deeper roll with Alli and Son playing the advanced positions. I don’t believe this will be the norm for Spurs and their attack.

As for the #5mandefence, my 5-2-3 formation might be coming to an end. As we have seen leading up to this week, the wing backs just aren’t producing, which has me looking at retaining a 5-man defense, but moving a forward to the midfield and running with a 5-3-2 with the introduction of Richarlison. Don’t want to jump the gun too early, so I will see how this week plays out before making necessary changes.

Premier League: GW8 Retrospect

Now 8 weeks into the FPL season and it continues to be unpredictable. From Man City scoring 29 goals through 8 weeks, including 19 goals in the last 4 games to Harry Kane’s feast or famine approach as his struggles continue at Wembley. Nothing has come easy this season for fantasy managers. However at the conclusion of yesterday’s match I will consider myself fortunate that I finished the week on 50 overall points, which was 9 points more than the weekly average. On the season, I am now at 634k, my highest overall rank to date, riding back to back green arrows.

Much like Harry Kane, I am feast or famine when it comes to defense, setup in a 5-2-3 formation. If my defense doesn’t provide clean sheet points I am going to struggle. Gameweek 8 was one of those week, save Fabianski shutting out Huddersfield 2-0 to record 6 points. Before kickoff I was already sporting zero from Ben Davies, who missed out due to illness. My remaining 4 defenders; Alonso, Cresswell, Kolasinac and Walker totaled 6 points. Was riding high on Walker, transferring him in for GW8 as he provided an assist, which was quickly nullified due to an own goal and City giving up 2 goals.

Davies is now a concern with Danny Rose coming back into fitness, the ECL match could be the final straw for him, as he has performed very well from the start of the season. The concerns don’t end there, as Kolasinac was unimpressive against Watford in their 2-1 loss, while Marcos Alonso, who’s still getting forward and shots on goals has just 1 clean sheets since GW3. Change is on the way defensively, something I didn’t want to do, but Davies is now short listed, pending the Spurs ECL match midweek.

The midfield duo of Pascal Groß and Christian Eriksen both returned in GW8. Groß picked up an assist in Brighton’s 1-1 draw against Everton. Their fixtures look good through GW12. At this point I am still considering keeping him, but their lack of offensive returns is a bit concerning. Eriksen, not the top midfielder continues to provide at a consistent rate. Finishing the gameweek on 11 points on the back of a goal, now 3 on the season and a CS, he secured 3 bonus points. However, the lack of returns from Kane, home at Wembley is a big concern, as is the Spurs upcoming fixtures; LIV/mnu/CRY/ars. While Palace is highly tempting based on their poor start to the season, I don’t see many goals in the other 3 fixtures. There is some thought to ship the Dane for greener… make that sky bluer patches with a Man City midfielder.

Up front it’s Dr. Jekyll, Mr. Hyde with Harry Kane, performing like a Ballon d’ Or footballer one week, followed by a League 2, has been the next. Owning him has been nothing short of frustrating. As I described in the beginning, it’s feast or famine and captaining him on a famine week has left many fantasy managers starving for points.

Jesus was the star of the show for the week, hitting for a brace and securing 3 bonus points, he finished on 13 points. I never considered him to don the captain’s armband, but with how easily City is scoring, he might be a candidate if Kane is playing home, at Wembley. The situation with Jesus is muddled further by the impending return of Aguero to the starting XI. Depending on home/away fixture, I would be willing to partner Jesus with Aguero. We have seen Jesus play the full 90 minutes just once. We will wait and see what the ECL match brings today for City.

My third forward, Jaime Vardy failed on Monday, to the point that Craig Shakespeare was fired. Just what that means for Leicester City is yet to be seen. The Foxes responded positively last season when he took the helm replacing Claudio Ranieri. I am considering holding Vardy with swa/EVE/sto to come. At 8.5m, Firmino is the only option I would consider, but have already walked that road earlier in the season and not sure I want to return to it until Sadio Mane is back in the starting XI for Liverpool.

The other option, which might be consider a stronger move would be the watch the fitness of Alvaro Morata and insert him into the squad. It will take a bit more of a shoehorn to fit him in, which would require dropping the consistent, Eriksen for the likes of Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting or Richarlison, both of whom were on my short list. Can’t forget Philippe Coutinho, who’s returned 28 points in the last 4 games since his return.

The other option to consider, move from a 5-2-3 formation to a 5-3-2, which is what I had planned to start the season with until a late change saw to go with 3 big forwards instead of two. While not a supporter of Tammy Abraham, as Swansea has a difficult time scoring, his price of 5.7m is hard to ignore and as a third off the bench could be worth it.

With a shortened week and ECL games midweek, it will be interesting to see the rotation of players from teams like Spurs, Liverpool, Chelsea, Man United and Man City. Having already missed the price rise this week, I am inclined to hold out until Thursday before making any changes, but I might end up with a -4 or -8 point hit, IF it can be justified. I do believe any Man City players will cover that hit, while providing a return.

FPL: Shell Shocked

It’s Monday morning in the states and I am looking forward to the Leicester City fixture, as I have a vested interested in the match since introducing Janie Vardy to my starting XI. Figured I would hold off one more day before providing my retrospect commentary, but it was weekend that shell shocked MANY fantasy managers. Aside from the failure of “Captain Kane” to deliver, as well as Blankaku, Palace impressed in their 2-1 victory home against Chelsea, while the juggernaut that is Man City rolled to a 7-2 win over Stoke City. The oddity that is the 2017/18 EPL season continues, we it’s not too early to look at what potential moves to make.

This is the first week I am considering taking a -4 point hit to make an additional transfer. It was my intention to limit taking point hits, but I do believe the form that City is in, that -4 could be made up very quickly, as nearly every offensive player is currently in form. Since Saturday I am have considering my options, as I have a plan in place. Eden Hazard blanking in his first full 90 minutes since returning has me concerned, especially with cheaper midfielder options at Man City. It’s just a matter of time before Hazard becomes a mainstay in fantasy squads, but that could hinge on the return of Alvaro Morata to the Blues starting XI. In fact, I was targeting him before I entertained thoughts of starting Hazard.

Of all the positions, midfield has many questions marks. Current starters in my 5-2-3 include Christian Eriksen, who is in form and Pascal Groß, who was brought in this week (in place of Mkhitaryan) as the first of a series of moves. Thankfully be returned 6 points and Huddersfield has a favorable schedule through GW11. However his stay could be short lived with the likes of Wilfried Zaha starting OOP as the lone forward for Palace. His play against Chelsea was crisp and dynamic and left the Blues defense standing still. Palace has new/WHU in their next two fixtures, before an away fixture to Spurs, followed by a nice run of games through GW19.

Eriksen’s status is up in the air, as Spurs continue to look dismay at Wembley (home) against BUR/SWA/BOU, just 3 goals in those games. Spurs hit a challenging group of fixtures, LIV/mnu/CRY/ars. Based on what we have seen from Spurs at home, I don’t expect big returns. Scoreless draws against Liverpool and United, a goal against Palace and another, no return or single goal against the Gunners. Not the best run, even with an in form Eriksen. The Palace game looks tempting, but overall their home form doesn’t warrant keeping him for this 4-game run. I suspect I will still move Eriksen heading into GW9.

Currently I have two Man City players in my starting XI, Kyle Walker, who was transferred in for GW8 and Jesus, who has been my third forward since the start of the year. Walker contributed with an assist against Stoke, but also gave up an own goal, which negated a return. His place in my starting XI is not in jeopardy at this time, but Jesus even hitting a brace on Saturday could be. Sergio Aguero impending return will send one player to the bench, its yet to be seen how Pep will play all these fantasy producing players. Many fantasy owners already brought in Raheem Sterling (15 points) before the price rise, but a strong case can also be made for Leroy Sane (10 points), David Silva (7 points) and Kevin De Bruyne (9 points). A strong run of fixtures and an unrelenting offense means tripling up on City could be a must!

My starting XI for GW9 weighs in the balance, with Jamie Vardy yet to play. At 8.5m he’s returned 5 goals on the season and 3 out of the last 4 games. With the likes of Alvaro Morata and Sergio Aguero returning from injury, Vardy’s spot could be up for grabs. With no rotation risk, Morata probably edges out Aguero, as it would be very risky to start both Jesus and Aguero, but it’s not out of the question. Continuing to back Harry Kane has been rewarding, but only when away from Wembley, his numbers at home have been terrible, 7 points in 4 games. These next 4 games could be critical, as I continue to keep the faith that Kane will deliver, home and away, especially when captained, but I have started looking at other options IF the decision to move Kane for 4 weeks becomes reality.

Defensively there are two concerns; Ben Davies and Sead Kolsanic. With Danny Rose nearly fitness, it’s yet to be seen what will happen to Davies, who’s been a very productive fantasy asset with 49 points on the season, bested only by Antonio Valencia (53 points). If it were not for CHE/tot in the next 2 of 3 for United, I would be boasting defensive coverage, but I recently move Phil Jones because of Liverpool and the upcoming unfavorable fixtures. A budget option could be in the works, but with more viable midfielders providing offensive returns, a change in formation could be warranted. I am more inclined to stick with Kolasinac, who didn’t have a great offensive game and really didn’t feature much in the box.

On the week I have a green arrow and hope that is strengthens my GW8 performance as we wait for Leicester hosting WBA later today. Vardy is the piece that could dictate my upcoming moves.

Premier League: GW7 Retrospect

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Premier League: GW6 Retrospect

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Premier League: Wild Card Revelation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Premier League: GW4 Retrospect

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FPL: …now for something completely different

For fantasy managers, the international break has been met with mixed emotions. Knowing there will be no EPL matches for 2 weeks makes the break even longer, but we can watch our players represent their nation and more importantly, remain fit. Unlike a majority of managers, I rode into the international break on a high, scoring 63 points, with areas I need to address.

While I haven’t put much time into FPL the past week, I have been dabbling on Twitter, while providing a second article for Fantasy Football Geek called, Thinking Differently in FPL. It explores the idea of running from the herd with a 5-2-3 formation. You can catch up with the first article, Thinking Differently: 5-3-2. With some time to kill and a wildcard still in my pocket, I have 1 FT to use this week as I ponder the next 4 weeks of action.

The current plan is to active the wildcard during the second international break in preparation for GW8. Looking forward at the strength of schedule, player statistics and having just 3 weeks of data to go on, one must remain open to adjustments. An idea I am considering is altering my 5-2-3 to a 4-5-1, to take advantage of the midfielders who appear to be stepping up and scoring the points.

Currently, I own Kane, Firmino and Jesus up front, but it’s not without concern. Coming out of the break I could see both Firmino and Jesus on the bench for GW4 because of the trips back to Europe from South America. Aguero would also be hit with a long flight, so who starts up from for City is anyone’s guess. I’m sure Pep doesn’t even know.

Looking at the next 13 weeks is a bit daunting, as so much can change in the span of just a few weeks. However, I believe it warrants a look to help in your long term planning, depending on how your plan and strategy are doing. With an total score of 159 points and an Overall Rank of 1.0m, I am not tearing up the league, conversely, I am in a better place than many other managers who entered the international break on a sour note.

I have a big concern over Gabriel Jesus and his starting status among the city XI. We have no idea what Pep is going to do. Based on the first 3 game weeks, Jesus has retained his starting position, while Aguero was relegated to the bench in GW3. City hasn’t been a lethal offensively as expected, just 5 goals to start the season. Both Jesus and Aguero have netted once. You can read more about expected goals (xG) from Nick at Transfer Hub. Great article on who should be returning and who is returning. While City isn’t listed in the article, I think we all agree they should have netted a bit more through 3 games.

The return of Coutinho to Liverpool, having failed to move during the transfer window will make that midfield even busier, which could equate to more rotation. Daniel Sturridge is currently healthy, potentially giving Firmino a run for his money as the lone forward. Firmino has 2 goals / 2assists in 3 games, to the 76 minutes and 1 goal of Sturridge. With both squads involved in ECL, rotation is a must. Will we see Jesus and Firmino remain viable options up front, safe from rotation?

Another option in order to minimize the rotation, a change in formation. Looking forward to GW7 and the activation of my wildcard I am putting together a 4-5-1 option. This formation would resolve a few problem areas.

First, I could rid myself of possibly two So’ton defenders. The re-signing of Virgil Van Dijk and the signing of Wesley Hoedt could mean the run out of Yoshida and Stephens are nearing an end. In the meantime, I would keep Bertrand and/or Cedric or introduce Hoedt to the back line. Based on fixtures, So’ton defense has a very good run of fixtures through GW11, with Man United their toughest opposition in GW6.

As I spoke about in previous articles, Vincent Kompany is on the short list to be moved. A single CS in 3 matches has caused a bit of frustration, but the next 5 out of 7 matches could provide some CS oppotunities outside of GW4 home to Liverpool and GW7 away to Chelsea. However he needs to be moved in order to free up budget to build our 5-man midfield.

Finally, Antonio Valencia. While I am not displeased with him, returning 20 points with 3 CS and 3 bonus points, his days could be numbered as well. After GW7 United will face a tough run of fixtures; liv/hud/TOT/che. In order to free up 0.5, I might swap Valencia for Bailly, which would help me introduce new defenders.

Defensively I am looking at teams who appear to have favorable matches and players who have put together a good start to their season. For the upcoming period, beginning GW7, four teams top the list based on the RMT tool at Fantasy Football Scout.

With So’ton already represented in my back line, it would require 4 additional defenders. Everton, Leicester City and Swansea City appear to have good fixtures, the could provide some defensive magic. Of these four, there are only 2 fixtures against a top opponent (ARS) out of 20 fixtures.

In order to field 5 midfielders I would introduce the following defenders to my starting XI; Harry Maguire, Kyle Naughton, Phil Jagiekla and Marcos Alonso. On paper, it appears to be a very good move to shore up some questionable fixtures if I maintained my 5-2-3 formation.

Between the posts, Elliot would remain as the alternate, but Ben Foster would lose his starting spot in favor of Lukasz Fabianski of Swansea. Through 3 games, Fabianski has recorded more saves (9 to 3) than Foster. Both have 2 CS to their name, but it’s been Foster conceding 1 goal to that of Fabianski’s 4 goals. There is a one-point difference between the two player, which favors Foster, but the schedule is the difference maker, which means a change in goalkeepers.

It’s the midfield that would see a considerable bump from a 2-man midfield to five starters. I would double up on Man United adding Paul Pogba to complement Henrikh Mkhitaryan. Considering I am not starting Romelu Lukaku, I figure I can gain more points from this duo than a streaky Lukaku.

To make up for dropping Roberto Firmino, I would add Mohammed Salah. While I haven’t been a very big supporter of Salah, you can’t deny his statistics through 3 games. Yet, he could be a rotation risk, as he played 29 minutes in GW2. The addition of Oxlade-Chamberlain from Arsenal and Coutinho remaining on board only makes that midfield more crowded, providing Klopp many options.

The final midfield spot would go to Gylfi Sigurdsson, now at Everton he looks as if he could provide a much needed spark for the Toffees. I believe he has stronger players around him at Everton than he did at Swansea, which could produce some better numbers. Again, his schedule looks very good to provide some good returns.

Up front I continue to back Harry Kane. Blame it on the curse or just poor luck but the underlying figures were amazing! He’s started September strong scoring in the England vs Malta fixture. He would represent my only starting forward, with Collin Quaner (HUD) and Freddie Ladapo (CRY) as 4.5 budget forwards. Ladapo could be the next in line, if Benteke were to be injured.

Starting GW8, this would be my 15-man squad as seen above. Much like the 5-2-3 I am currently fielding, feels strong. It does add a 6th attacker to the mix, going from 3 forwards and 2 midfielders to 5 midfielders and 1 forward.

Risky? Yup, very much so, but unlike a single goal ruining a CS for 3 So’ton defenders, I feel there are good potential returns from this midfield group. Kane would end up bring the main captaincy selection for this selected time frame. With 4 weeks to go before my planned WC, there are many things that could happen, but a plan is in place. This is also contingent on maintaining or exceeding a squad value of 100.3m.

Thoughts?

Premier League: 5-3-2 Update

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Premier League: 5-3-2 Midfield Rotation

With spare time at work, I have been working on FPL strategy and formation for the past week, while delving into conversation with other fantasy managers. With many “rate my team” (RMT) posts coming forward, I have spent more time on maximizing my squad based on a 5-3-2 formation. Not the preferred formation for FPL to the 3-4-3 or 3-5-2, it could warrant consideration, which I have given it this pre-season.

Based on a comment from Alex, a top 5k player, “never worried about this stuff. Play your best hand accordingly. Keep it simple and never overcomplicate.” Over complicate. Is that what all this preparation has been? Have I been over complicating the strategy and formation when I should be standing tried and true behind what works? Honestly, in the last 4 seasons the best I have finished has been 75k and struggling with a nasty run of red arrows that took the wind out of my sails after GW6.

This is the first season I have actively participated during the off season, joined the legions on Twitter (@w6onv) and been actively discussing players, formations and strategy on numerous post threads. It has the situation anything but clear, only adding to the confusion and questions that arise before the start of the 2017/18 EPL.

My strategy to start the season is to run out a 5-3-2 formation, with £30m spent on defenders and another £35.5 on forwards. This leaves me £33m to spend on the midfield. Can it be done? I know many will question the amount budgeted for defenders and provide alternatives to save £1.0 here or £0.5m there, in order to improve the midfield.


This 5-3-2 was the latest update to a defensive minded strategy. I splurged on Alonso and Valencia and opted for City’s captain, Vincent Kompany to anchor the defense. Cédric wasn’t without injury last year and wasn’t nailed on to start. This year with So’ton’s kind start to the season, he too could be a great option defensively. Trippier is my only concern, at £5.5 there are other potential options, but many fantasy managers figure he is nailed on as a starter since Kyle Walker has moved to City and Spurs haven’t added depth to this position. Up front, Lukaku and Kane, the two highest TSB% players in the game.

It’s the midfield, which can be called into question based on the remain budget to round out my starting XI. If you have followed the team building the past few days, I was excited to follow Firetog’s strategy from his article,  In Search Of The Best Fantasy Football Formation. While I initially planned on a rotation of £6.0 midfielders to line up next to Coutinho, I have opted to go a different route in order to put a stronger starting XI on the pitch.

As the adage goes, “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” In order to remain competitive to start the FPL season, the midfield will be a rotation of 3 players totaling £24.0m, as £9.0 is wrapped in two, bench players  who won’t see the pitch. This strategy doesn’t take into account the rise/fall of prices based on TSB% and performance and it capped at the starting budget of £100.0m. The only drawback this rotation, in the planning phase is Tadic GW6 when he’s home against Man United. Overall, out of 21 fixtures, 12 are home matches (57%).

The other caveat, just how will players like Tadic and Pogba perform? The underlying stats and supporting players are there for United and So’ton, but will they equate to fantasy points? One could interchange Henrik Mkhitaryan for Paul Pogba as both priced at £8.0m. Placing Coutinho, Alli and Willian in my starting XI doesn’t carry the same concern, all are proven EPL players, who are dynamic on the pitch and can provide big returns.

Planning and preparation are great, but this, like any strategy could fail. What I don’t want to be doing is chasing the hot bandwagon player after GW1 or GW2. With any luck I will be able to hold the activation of my wild card until GW7 and the second international break. Last year, like the top 500 managers in the world, I activated it for GW4. In the short term is yielded a positive return through GW8, seeing my overall rank climb to 29k before the wheels fell off. Regardless, I feel good about the plan and the starting XI that will take the pitch…at least today. We still have nearly 3 weeks before the season kick offs.

Premier League: Five at the Back GW 7-16

Just a week after initial prices were released for FPL, many managers are preparing their squads and dropping countless ‘RMT’ threads on different websites I visit. To date, I have yet to have anyone rate my team because with 3 weeks to go, rest assured my 15-player squad will change before the GW1 deadline. However I am still very supportive of a 5-3-2, based on the information from Firetog, titled In Search Of The Best Fantasy Football Formation. I wrote about him making the case to start 5-3-2, but more important than the formation, “success is more dependent on player selection and timing, transferring in players as they are about to hit form, getting lucky with captaincy and the making good bench rotation decisions.

While my starting XI isn’t set in stone, I feel I have a good defensive line to build around. While not the traditional 3-4-3 or 3-5-2, I center my squad around 2 premium defenders and a cast of medium priced defenders. Spearheading my attack, two premium priced forwards. It will be the midfield that ends up rotating with four players, each priced at £6.0, supporting a single premium midfielder. Risky? Sure, but the reward could be worth it.


Based on the £100.0 budget, here’s my starting XI. Currently, Milner and Walker about both question marks, as the transfer window is still open, both Liverpool and City are looking to add depth to the defensive positions which could see both of these options changed.

The key to success using this formation (outside of luck), are the available players rotating in the midfield. I have tentatively set up the first 16 weeks of the EPL based on strength of schedule (SoS), with an emphasis on HOME games and the fact each midfielder is priced at £6.0. What I haven’t taken into account at this point, team value (TV). Through GW7, I continue to use players priced at £6.0. We know prices will rise and fall depending on TSB% and the form players start the season with.

Currently I plan on activating my WC after GW7 to coincide with the second international break. With any luck I will hope to have a TV of £102.0m in order to allow for further player options. Barring injury or poor form, I don’t plan on move Lukaku or Kane, but there are many options available when you draft two of the highest priced forwards in the FPL game.

The midfield rotation depends on the success of Dusan Tadic (£6.5), who is featured predominately over the first 11 gameweeks. Underlying statistics identify him as an undervalued player, but his success is contingent on So’ton starting an in form forward; Austing, Gabbiadini or Long. This 9 week period featured a Chelsea midfielder in 7 of the 9 weeks. Priced at £7.0, Willian could be slotted into this rotation, but expectations are Eden Hazard will be back to his starting role, which calls into question just how much pitch Willian sees.

Junior Stanislas (£6.0) is another budget option who’s SoS improves starting GW8. Xherdan Shaqiri (£6.0) is another player who could end up seeing time in the midfield. Dynamic and on set pieces Stoke City’s schedule turns more favorable in GW7. Based on last season, I hope my TV is pushing £102.5m.

Even the above graphic isn’t complete, no reason to plan past the first gameweeks, as there are just too many variable that could change. Player form, value and injury are just a few factors that could derail this plan or having me looking elsewhere for starting talent.

As mentioned yesterday, having premium defenders and forwards allow for excellent options. My rotating midfielder could be reduce to three, if I decide to start a premium midfielder and a £7.0 option, such as Willian, Wilfried Zaha or Manuel Lanzini to start the season. With Harry Kane known to start August slow, a quick £1.0 could be saved start Sergio Agüero and £2.0 if I go with Alexandre Lacazette.

With 3 weeks to go before the start of the 2017/18 EPL season, jury is still out if I have the cajones to actually run with this idea to start the season. Based on the popularity of wing backs and premium defenders matching or outscoring medium priced midfielders, the potential of this formation and rotation is exciting. Be curious to hear your thoughts and comments.