A pundit or footy manager can collect and crunch all the data they would like as it relates to players, their past activity, current form and upcoming fixtures. In the end, there is no right or wrong answer when it comes to playing your wild card (WC). This year I activated my WC during GW4, scored just 56 points and left 17 points on the bench. Not one of my better scores, but did start a run of three green arrows, which took me to 29k at the end of GW6. In the 4 years I have been participating in fantasy football, this has been my best global ranking to date. Since that time, my squad, scoring and transfers have been another story as I have struggled mightily on and off the pitch in order to bring consistency to my squad.
We are just a week into 2017 as GW21 looms on the horizon as teams square off in the EFL Cup this weekend, it has allowed me to crunch numbers, read articles and bounce ideas off other FPL managers. If I were truly serious about activating my WC for GW21 I would have done it at the conclusion of GW20 in order to take advantage of the price increases in players like Alli and Eriksen, potentially I could have picked up 0.5m if I would have pulled the trigger instead of pussyfooting around the idea of using the damn thing. The other side of the coin, wait until the league cup games conclude to see if there are any further injuries to deal with. That COULD have been accomplished even if I had played my WC last Saturday or Sunday. In a way I lost out but still hold the card, begging the question, “Do I activate my WC?”
I have spent the better part of 2 days, while at work building a spreadsheet covering the next 8 game weeks, adding player names to round out my squad of 15 players. Initially I started with the team you see to the right. Recent transfers have not paid off. GW15 I took a -12 point hit for Sanchez, Courtois, Lovren and Iheanacho. Over the next 4 weeks I added Jones, Carroll, Ibrahimovic and Rodriguez. Nearly half of my team I picked up based on recent form or speculation, as with Jones, Cedric and Rodriguez. This was also the second time I have had the big Swede on my squad, as I moved him in GW6 for Aguero. Capoue and McAuley are currently the longest tenured players on my squad since GW4. There has been quite a bit of activity over 20 weeks, spending -48 points in added transfers. Now, based on another manager who exchanged points for profit. Ibrahim M on FFG said,”…with a team value of 107.4m…I’ve also managed to get a good position (I intend to stop taking point hits around GW28! Currently I’ve made 48 transfers in 20 GWs) and just use the value built to get a great side.” 107.4m compared to my 103.0m, Ibrahim has capitalized on the early transfers in order to add value to his squad.
As we start the new year my squad is well off the pace I set last year, when I finished in the top 75k with 2170 points, best returns I have had. This year I wanted to average 60 points a week and was once pace through GW6 before the wheels fell of dropping me from 29k to 1.1m! Scores of 24, 33 and 26 from GW7 to GW9 saw the majority of that change, nearly 750k. Although I did play a few cards properly as my team value has gone from 101.6 to 103.1 (high of 103.6 in GW17). In the last 14 weeks I have recorded 10 red arrows, that alone tells the story. So the choice for me is the play my WC for GW21.
After reviewing my squad I started playing with transfers of players I wanted to bring in. There would be a total of 13 new players being introduced, oddly enough none of players I have tentatively plan have been on my squad in the previous 20 weeks. Again, we talk about consistent returns both defensive and offensive, neither of which I have had until I picked up Courtois on the tail end of Chelsea’s winning streak. The spreadsheet is broken down by position, primarily using the FDR or Fixture Difficulty Ranking. Current form also played into my decisions taking into account the budget I have to work with. The individual charts are displayed below for each position.
GOALIES: While I didn’t want to give up Courtois, as he’s reliable between the sticks and a great option for CS, his price point (5.9m) is just too high. The obvious choice became Heaton, just 5 fewer points than Courtois, but 1.0m cheaper. Before his injury, Pickford at 3.9 was to the backup option, but with his return not slated until February I could hold Jakupovic at 3.9 (who doesn’t play) or look for a budget keeper for a possible rotation depending on fixtures
OPTIONS – Grant/Randolph/Forster/Hennessey/Foster: I started the season with Foster and did a fine job before WBA ran into problems keeping CS, which saw him transferred out in favor of Courtois. As a backup, Forster and Foster priced themselves out contention, however Foster does have two excellent match ups, Sunderland (H) and Bournemouth (H) over the next 8 weeks. Only Spurs in GW21 is a cause for concern.
Hennessey isn’t really a consideration due to Big Sam taking control at Palace. Things can only improve defensive for them, but outside of Spurs in GW28, Palace has a nice run of games on which to build. That left Randolph, who finalized his transfer to West Ham and has planted himself as the starter for the Hammers. While their defense hasn’t been overly impressive this year, Randolph has put together a few good games, 2 CS since taking the starting jog in GW12 and 5 save points over the last 4 weeks. Randolph does have one bonus going for him, his fixtures fits better with Heaton than Grant.
DEFENDERS: Defenders were added based on form and upcoming fixtures, just like the goalies. Now that we are 20 weeks in, there is more clarity when it comes to teams with the best potential to put up a CS. Chelsea tops that list, as three of the top five defenders (total points) are Blues. Regardless of fixtures Alonso is a given. Based on his play this season and returns, Daniels (88 points) will become a cornerstone of my newly formed defense, although not the only Cherries player with potential for returns. Finally Baines, who combines staunch defense with an offensive presence to round out my starting defense.
OPTIONS – See chart: I have listed a total of 10 defenders from which to build, looking for starters, who are budget buys but still see 90 minutes. One of the more popular selections this year has been Amat at 4.1, but his returns and the play of Swansea hasn’t been impressive but does allow a manager to save a few million. Currently I have Brunt and Friend rounding out my defensive five. Brunt, returned from injury and started playing 90 minutes during GW10. Currently has 2 goals and 3 assists but more importantly is playing OOP for West Brom as a midfielder (much like Dier did last year for Spurs). McAuley had been my defender of choice for WBA (4 goals), but Brunt provides a better return on investment moving forward.
Lovren is an interesting option, while a Liverpool fan, their over the next 8 weeks is a mix of good and bad. Three great match ups with Swansea (H), Hull (A) and Burnley (H) intermixed with Man U (A), Chelsea (H), Spurs (H) and Arsenal (H). At 5.0m it could be budget better spent elsewhere than using him sparingly over the next 8 weeks. After GW29, now that’s another article. I was high on Jones after reading few articles and seeing him getting 90 minutes and CS, but he missed out on the Boro game, which was a cause for concern. Yet over the holiday period, rest was required. I still believe he’s the best Man U option heading forward. There were also thought of doubling up on Bournemouth defenders selecting Ake along with Daniels, 5 good fixtures over the next 8 weeks with Hull tantalizing in GW21. Not sure I want to limit my bench options as I still hold on Bench Boost chip. Reid, Pieters and a Southampton defender round out my list. Originally I started with Cedric, as he was tapped by a pundit site going forward. But limited action over the holiday period and now a head injury has me rethinking the S’hampton option but four of the next five weeks are favorable for the Saints.
MIDFIELDERS: The midfield has been a virtual mess this season! Seemingly I was always a step behind the big scorers, most notably Hazard and Sanchez. Many armbands have been handed out at this position as well, with very little return. While I would love to have Arsenal coverage, outside of Sanchez there are no players that impress me. In order to upgrade my entire squad I have made the decision to “dump the chumps” and go without Hazard and Sanchez. While I would like to say that decision will span the remainder of the season, we will have to wait and see what happens.
It probably comes as no surprise that I am leaping on the Spurs bandwagon with Alli and Eriksen. Not a big supporter of doubling up, especially in the midfield. It’s a bit of a stretch, especially with the run both players are experiencing, but their upcoming looks favorable outside of Man City and Liverpool through GW28. It’s been talked about all season to have Liverpool coverage. Of course the week I pick up Coutinho, he goes out injured, hasn’t returned since. I didn’t see much consistency in the group, but Liverpool is the highest scoring team in the EPL, so coverage seems to be a logical move. With Mane gone to AFCON and Firmino a bit out of my price range I will start Lallana as my third. At 7.7m he’s cheaper than the aforementioned players and just 7 points behind Mane in total score (113 compared to 105). The fourth starter is slated to be Phillips of WBA. I have watched him for many weeks, but with Hazard and Sanchez on the books, I could not fit him into a fourth or fifth midfield spot due to budget constraints. As my differential I selected Stanislas with an ownership of just 1.2%. Bournemouth has a great short term schedule; Hull (A), Watford (H), Crystal Palace (H).
OPTIONS – See chart: Five other players at varying price points make the short list of potential players to make my squad. Cabaye and Puncheon head the list. With Zaha gone to AFCON, the focus will most likely shift in order to feed Benteke the ball. Cabaye ends up ahead of Puncheon by virtue of dead ball situation and on penalties. Schedule looks favorable and Big Sam will hopefully make a difference not only on defense but up front. Allen/Adam of Stoke were included, even though I have been running with Allen since GW9 as my fourth midfielder, at time productive but just just 1 goal and 1 assist in the last 10 games. Adam not better, but his form is a bit stronger in recent games. Their schedule is a fixed bag through GW28. De Roon was purely a budget selection, at 4.4m he’s been a starter since GW4 and has returned 2 goals, 2 assists. Not my top Boro midfielder, but the only one who fit in my budget. Finally, I look back at Antonio at West Ham, a player I picked up for GW4 and held for 5 weeks but after just 2 weeks he fell flat, as did the Hammers. His overall stats aren’t impressive, but West Ham looks to be turning things around offensively.
FORWARDS: The only players remaining after the axe, Costa and Ibrahimovic. No real big surprise here, underlying stats are excellent, both players are in form and usually get a full 90 minutes, not pulled 10 minutes before full time. Costa has been the more consistent of the two forwards, returning in all but 3 games this season. Ibrahimovic returned for a second stint with my squad, when I dropped him during GW6. A model of consistency since GW11, returning in all but one game. Regardless of schedule difficulty these players will start every game.
OPTIONS – See chart: The third forward is still up in the air, even though Defoe is the current selection. Amazing to see what he has done for Sunderland, as poorly as they have been, he’s score 11 or the team’s 19 goals and assisted in 3 others! If Sunderland scores, chances are Defoe was it. Yet Sunderland has a mixed schedule, having to face Spurs, Man City as well as Southampton and Everton. Currently, Negredo sits as my third starter based on the FDR (see below). Underlying stats are not impressive, just 5 goals and 4 assists on the season with just a brace in the last 7 weeks. He is currently seen as a short term buy for the next 3 weeks. Rondon and Gray are both budget options that fit in into my squad. Outside of Spurs in GW21, Rondon appears to have some better fixtures especially home to Sunderland and Bournemouth. Gray faces Hull, Swansea and Sunderland. Origi is a question mark with Sturridge back in the starting XI for L’pool. Three tasty fixtures; Swansea, Hull and Burnley but I don’t see him playing 90 minutes or seeing much action.
The higher budget options are Aguero, Lukaku and Benteke. After reading an article from a well respected manager, I had a fleeting through to follow his potential lead and bring in Aguero to partner with Costa and Ibrahimovic. Aguero is such a dynamic player, more so than counterparts but Pep seems to have happened this year and Aguero isn’t enjoying as much success as he had last year. That would also mean cheaper options in the midfield, something I am not willing to run with at this time. Benteke could be labeled more as a sinking ship than a good buy right now. While carrying a shoulder knock, he hasn’t returned in his last 5 games and with Zaha at AFCON, service could be slim. Yet Puncheon, Townsend and Cabaye might be the answer under the newly appoint manger, Big Sam. Jury is still out. but fixtures looking inviting from GW23-27. Lukaku hasn’t shown much consistency this year going goalless in his first 3 weeks and then another no return between GW11-14. Not listed on my spreadsheet, Giroud. At 8.6m I can’t budget him in without take a hit in the midfield. So along with Aguero and Benteke, it’s a nice to have a wish list, but these aren’t realistic options.
In conclusion, I should of pulled the trigger immediately after GW20 in order to take advantage of the price increases over this 2 week period. I didn’t and to date, I haven’t gained any increase in my budget. Over the last 10 days or so, some of the players included above have been mentioned in different footie articles I have read. Not that will amount to anything, but it’s good to know I am on the same page as some of the pundits I follow.