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.

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