FPL: Justification

A final score of 58 points for GW1 resulted in an “average” start to the fantasy season, much like last season, where I score 59 points. The overall ranking saw me start the season at 1.9m, compared to 303k in 2016/17. However, I have mixed feelings on how I have started. Obviously, the time and energy put in during the pre-season paid off in some respect. First, I am not unhappy scoring the weekly average after GW1. Second, I am pleased with how I built my team, running out a 5-2-3 formation, albeit a bit untested, since this was a last minute Friday change to a more stable 5-3-2. Finally, it’s the first game week, you can’t judge the entire season on what happened in GW1.

As I have said from the onset, averaging 60 points a week is one of my goals. At season’s end, that would give you a final score of 2280, before adding in captaincy and bonus points. This would also be my best season, if I were to score 2280, as 2015/16 I finished on 2170 and a 75k overall ranking, my best to date. If I were to based my season on GW1, then I am on track for the season. Maybe this is looking for that silver lining in an otherwise poor, when compared to the high scores of GW1, performance.

Maybe I point my finger as Firetog, community supporter and contributor at Fantasy Football Scout, who led me down that path less traveled, when I considered my 5-defender set. His piece, In Search Of The Best Fantasy Football Formation, had me in complete agreement with his assessment when considering formations for the upcoming FPL season. While the 3-4-3 and 3-5-2 will reign supreme when it comes to formation, lining up 7 attacking players, the 5-3-2 (5-2-3) appeared a viable alternate based on player prices and lack of “quality” buys in the midfield. After GW1 we do know a bit more who could be the potential Etienne Capoue for this season. Spending £28.0m was considerably more than a majority of managers, considering most would fill their backline with budget players at £4.5, looking for that £4.0 (Rangel, 19.7 TSB%) to free up another £0.5.

When considering formation for the upcoming FPL season, I leaned on his Firetog’s statistical information. While I considered all other formations including the popular 3-4-3 and 3-5-2, I concentrated my efforts on a 5-3-2 over most of the off season. There were 6 variations with different players, strategies and plans through GW7. During the off season every lineup featured two things in common, Lukaku and Kane up front and a defensive spending in excess of £28.0. Going big on defense meant the only real decisions I had to make were in the midfield.

Unfortunately, as the off season rolled into the pre-season with friendlies through out the world, Countinho (£9.0), my selection to lead my 3-man midfield was hampered with injury and linked to a Barca move when Neymar departed for PSG. Coutinho anchored two plans for the first 7 game weeks. First was Coutinho/Tadic and 3 – £6.0m midfielders. The other plan was Coutinho/Pogba and 3 – £6.0m midfielders. Both rotations featured similar names that would rotate weekly based on strength of schedule and home fixture; Tadic, Phillips, Ritchie, Ince, Knockaert, Groß and Carroll. Including Pogba, would mean losing one of the higher price defenders, something I wasn’t too keen on, but it was a possibility.

As pre-season continued and results/performance started rolling  I began looking at another option in my 5-3-2. Based on the defenders I selected I could start with Coutinho, Pobga and Willian in the midfielder for GW1. On paper it looked good. Like the £6.0m midfielder rotation, I was able to organize a plan that would allow me to transfer out a midfielder, while attempting to play home fixtures against weaker EPL opponents. The only issue I had with this rotation was the fact it heavily featured Tadic in my starting XI. While his underlying stats were good, realistically he under performed for much of last season. With Coutinho looking more and more of a question mark, it was time to look at another high priced midfielder to start the season.

Pogba and Mkhitaryan both were a cause for concern, as they under performed last season for Man United. The addition of Lukaku up top gave managers some confidence to select one, but to double up on United’s attack was questionable. The FFS scoutcast prior to GW1 made the decision for me and forced my hand to change up the midfield to start the season.

Coverage from So’ton and Man United were essential to start the season, as were assets from their noisy neighbors, Man City. Defensively I wanted So’ton, Man City, Man United and Chelsea to start the season, however the Blues early fixtures were cause for concern. As I mentioned on August 8, “Alonso has a big question mark next to his name.” He was the linchpin for a series of moves prior to GW1 that caused me to shift my thinking from a 5-3-2 to a 5-2-3 just hours before the kickoff of ARS v LEI.

Through all of July and early August, Lukaku was essential for my starting XI and his TSB%, over 48% confirmed that ownership. Yet, I decided to move Lukaku in conjunction with Alonso to free up budget in order to bring in De Bruyne for second City asset. Indications were good that the Citizens would roll up big numbers in the early weeks, starting with new boys, Brighton. KDB’s inclusion as the playmaker for City was warranted, as was his £10.0m price tag, after a great 2016/17 season (6 goals/21 assists).

The second part of the Alonso/Lukaku transfer brought Firmino and Jesus into the starting XI, which suddenly changed the 5-3-2 to the current 5-2-3. Not high on any third budget option, after being burned by Gabbiadini last season, if I wanted to play 3 forwards it would cost me a bit more. Jesus at £1.0m less than Lukaku, but with HUGE potential appeared to be a wise move. Lukaku, new team, Jose a bit defensive minded last season after going up 1-0, with Jesus and City going up against BHA. It was risky, but I made it happen, yet the TSB% of Lukaku didn’t sit well but I ignored it as we approached GW1.

Defensively, the decision NOT to include Alonso was difficult to make, but at £7.0m, I could use the budget elsewhere to strength my squad. In his place I added Bertrand to my starting defense, which now featured, Valencia, Kompany, Bertrand, Cedric and Yoshida. The treble coverage from So’ton, Man United and Man City, I was pleased with how this back five came together. I continued to go with Foster (WBA) in between the sticks with Elliot as his back up.

Not that I need to justify my starting XI, but it was a well thought out plan since reading Firetog’s article. Is it wrong to think this differently and go against what is consider commonplace in FPL, using a 3-4-3 or a 3-5-2 formation, maximizing your attacks, while using budget defenders to make the most of your £100.0m. As I stated before, I was pleased with the underlying stats of my starting XI, shots on targets, shots in the box, unlucky decisions that could have gone my way didn’t. Not sure it warrants a true knee jerk reaction like we are seeing across the fantasy world. Managers yanking Kane in favor of Lukaku. Moving the injury Zaha for the likes of £5.5m, Xhaxa or snatching up the big Egyptian, Hegazi, based on his first goal in since 2009, when he entered professional football. As I had read in the past, the 38 week fantasy season is a marathon, not a sprint. Early on I have decided to pace myself and not go out fast, only to burn out when I need to kick.