Premier League: GW8 Draft Retrospect

It was a very off week for the draft team, much aligned with how the overall gameweek went for many in the traditional game. A overall score of 26 didn’t help my case, as I dropped down to third place, now 52 points off the top spot and just 5 points out of second place. All is not well with my squad, as I have been struggling to find offensive points with Aguero still sidelined due to injury. Thankfully I do feel I have strengthened my squad through transactions.

Defensively, Alderweireld was the only player to show up and return 7 points, on the back of a CS and a single bonus point. Chelsea losing to Palace saw Azpilicueta and Luiz combine for zero points, giving up an own goal and Luiz picking up a knock headed into GW9. Between the sticks, I thought City would keep it clean against Stoke, but Ederson gave up two goals, while Fabianski (bench) recorded his 4th CS of the season.

With the recent acquisitions of Richarlison and Chuopo-Moting, I look to play a 5-4-1 or a 4-5-1 to take advantage of some good midfielders. Richarlison was my top midfielder, picking up the assist. Alli and Coutinho each picked up a point for a CS and Pedro still not got on track with just a goal and assist on the season.

Up front, I moved Hernandez, but retained Carroll, even though he picked up a red last week. Thankfully he wasn’t starting as he took a -2. Aguero still injured resided on the bench with no intentions of dropping him. So it was Joselu making his second appearance in my squad. Great underlying statistics, but still came up with no attacking returns.

This week I have claims in for 3 new players in Tammy Abraham, John Stones and Wilfried Zaha, all of whom could make a start this week. Luiz is currently flagged with a calf injury, but going 4 at the back would not be a problem, given the players I will hopefully get when waivers is run.

It’s still early in the season and my squad if performing. The top squad is living off the likes of Lukakau, Mhkitaryan and Jones from United, as well as Eriksen. However this team is getting Morata back, which could only strengthen the hold on the top spot.

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: GW8 Starting XI

So the international break is over and we look to the horizon for Gameweek 8 with the thrill and excitement it will bring. Coming off a successful GW7, scoring 78 overall points I look to keep the ball rolling, so to speak to improve my position in mini leagues and my overall rank. Heading into the break I had 2 FTs to use, originally I had not planned on burning both of them this week, but after “thinking different” I decided on an alternate plan to what I had been planning during the break.

With questions still surrounding Alvaro Morata, I won’t be able to count on him until we see him hit and back on the pitch. Chelsea needs him as well, thankfully Eden Hazard is ready to play the full 90 minutes and could be leading the attack against a helpless Palace squad. Unfortunately, I don’t have the budget to get a Chelsea asset in this week, so I will miss out on a BIG differential IF Hazard goes off.

Running off a “master plan” I made two moves this week and shipped out Phil Jones and Henrikh Mkhitaryan, as United’s fixtures turn, but they still continue to post big numbers with 11 goals in their last 4 games. However the next 3 of 4 games United face tough competition away against liv, hud, TOT, che. In their place I introduce the final piece to my 5-man defense, Kyle Walker. He cost 1.4m more than Jones, which sees Brighton’s Pascal Groß join Eriksen in my 2-man midfielder of a 5-2-3 formation.

Risky? Yes, it is, but I am banking on a slate of clean sheets and potential Walker carries offensively. These two players the first move in a 4 week stretch that will introduce Hazard next week, in order to take advantage of very favorable fixtures. Still Morata’s fitness is key and depending on how Hazard plays will dictate what direction I will go.

With any luck, if things play out to my advantage I will have 2 FTs for GW11. As we know, there are no guarantees in football. Luck plays a key factor, even if we have quality players in our starting XI. I feel a certain confidence in my squad and with the lack of midfielders posting big scores I am fine running a 2-man midfield.

Coming tomorrow FPL Draft Team, after I see if my waiver claims come through.

Wood Badge: Part 2

It was with great anticipation 37 participants returned to Camp Herms in El Cerrito to finish up their 6-day Wood Badge (W3-23-17) training. The first portion of the course was taught September 15-17, if you missed any of the excite, you can relive it by reading Wood Badge: Part 1. Being part of the Bobwhite patrol, we had teleconferenced twice over the break in order to plan our approach to the weekend, as well as finalize our patrol presentation, which could be seen as a “final exam.” This break between sessions as gave each of us individually, time to work on our “ticket items” that would be worked on after the completion of the course.

Saturday started early, as campers started arriving prior to 7:00 AM in anticipation of hiking the rim to our camping area. The morning would actually begin once we finished the hike and began setting up our camp sites, down in the redwood grove. This meant the quicker we got organized we could depart on our hike. The Bobwhites were a bit tardy, as our final member arrived about 20 minutes late. But we donned our packs with a quick photo opportunity with Eric Gee before we set out.

Along the hike we learned more aspects of Lord Baden-Powell’s military service, life and his service to boys, which would end up being the basis of scouting in the United States. The hike was just over a mile, but was to represent a 5-mile hike. It was a beautiful morning as the sun rose, lighting shining and shimmering through the trees.

We wasted no time to set up camp when we dropped our packs on the large, grassy area, with Gilwell Field set up at the north end in preparation for our flags ceremony to open the weekend. Along with tents being pitched each patrol had to grab their stove, patrol box, propane tank and camp light, as we were assigned patrol areas, where we would meet and eat during the weekend.

Our first presentation covered the Leave No Trace principles, which is what our patrol presentation would cover. We also watched Venturing crews put on a skit about the “model camp.” Leave No Trace also features as one of my ticket items to complete my Wood Badge.

 One aspect I found interesting with this weekend as opposed to our first was the fact we were last or late to many of the calls of the Kudu. It’s wasn’t our intention to regularly be tardy. While Patrol Leader on Day 4, I was conscious of times, sometimes I wonder if we, as a patrol tried to do too much, especially when it came to our meals.We had a great meal plan, as Praveen provide some excellent Indian food, but we weren’t able to completely clean our patrol site after lunch and it was quite disorganized when we returned hours later for our patrol meeting and dinner. This seemed to be a trend for the Bobwhites, one that was a bit frustrating at times, as I felt we led by example the month prior.

Much of our training revolved around change, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. We learned the value of change and developed skills to lead it successfully. We learned how to coach versus mentor and have an appreciation for leading change through lifelong learning. We also tackled problem-solving, which was shared with other patrols, some were successful, while others not so. In the end we learned valuable lessons.

After lunch it was a presentation on Generations in Scouting by Quartermaster, Ken! We learned the generational differences as another aspect of diversity, considered how these differences impacted each group and finally, learned ways to work together across generations for a better future. It was another great presentation by our Wood Badge staff, whom we had grown to love and cherish for all they did.

Gilwell Field just after the Troop 1 flag ceremony

After getting an overview of problem-solving, patrols had the opportunity to solve a variety of different problems, given just 8 minutes for each. Thanks to the Venturing crews, they explained each problem and we, as a patrol had to solve it. Overall, we achieved a varying level of success over the 6 different problems. Given more time we could have been highly successful with 5 of the 6 problems, which required us putting principles we learned into action, practice teamwork and most of all HAVE FUN!

Our final piece for the day dealt with managing conflict from a leadership point of view. It opened with an image of Normal Rockwell’s painting, ‘The Scoutmaster’ where we saw a man deep in contemplation, his face serene and satisfied. Or was it?

We were provided different strategies in order to resolve conflict; bribery, concern, persuasion, interest, straightforwardness. We also took into consideration the group and how we could get them to accomplish what we, as leaders asked. They needed to know we, could be trusted and that we truly cared about them. Leaders who have experience are often looked upon to be reliable and an ally. Finally our resolution had to be the best decision for the group. One of the most important questions we learned to ask, “What do you want?”

Bobwhite’s camp set up for the weekend

We then put into practice what we learned and attempted to get the hand of our partner open. They had been told to make a fist and the other leader had to use one of the strategies we just learned. I went with the bribery option and started pulling out money in a feeble attempt. In the end I was unsuccessful, but did learn something about managing conflict. I failed to ask the simple question, “Would you open your hand please?”

Our patrol meeting preceded dinner and we worked on our ticket items to share with Rand, our Troop Guide. I felt confident in where I was with my tickets, with just one questionable ticket, which would be resolved later with help.

Dinner was amazing! Each patrol member doing their share of the work, while it was Praveen who took lead and fixed some great Indian cuisine for the Bobwhites to partake in. We had guests for dinner, just like we did for lunch and got to share stories and look at potential leadership opportunities at upcoming scouting events. I had the opportunity to talk to Debbie Roark, who is leading the next NYLT course at Camp Herms. I hinted I would be interested in being her Quartermaster for the week long event, time permitting of course. But it would be all the training leading up to the actual event, which would take away from my wife and son, as well as the obligations and responsibilities I have elsewhere in life. Still, I am keeping the door open for looking at this opportunity.

Day 4 closed around around our eco-friendly campfire near Gilwell Field, as each patrol got to perform two skits. As a troop we shared laughs, promoted friendships and watched the performances in to the evening.

Dinner with our guests, Linda Heasell and Scoutmaster, Steve Laren

The sun dawned on Camp Herms as it was leftovers for breakfast. As campers woke up, we took note of an early morning presentation on coaching and mentoring presented by Linda, who did a great job. We then had an opportunity to take the role of either Tom R. Sage, Venturing Legend or Megan Mecham. It was an interesting session going one on one in an attempt to resolve the problem. While I didn’t fail, I am not quite sure I succeeded, but from what I gathered in our wrap up discussion, I fared well.

As a troop, we headed towards the Quarry to meet Shaun, caretaker of the camp. It was time for our conservation project, work that is always needed around the camp. For our group we would be removing brush, spreading wood chips, picking up firewood, painting, sweeping and repairing wheelbarrows. The next 2 hours were spent working these projects, our patrol was assigned high on the ridge to fill a trailer with firewood and pile up branches to be chipped.

Prior to lunch it was a quick break and another presentation in the confines of the redwoods on self-assessment. The troop learned the importance of self-assessment in maximizing leadership potential. Self-assessment is also a valuable avenue for receiving feedback. Finally we built our own tools for self-assessment roles in Scouting and other leadership situations.

Following lunch we returned to the grove for what we had been preparing for nearly the entire session, our patrol presentation. Our patrol was awesome! We came up with a few ideas, which were submitted during the first 3-day session and was approved by the troop leadership. Our topic dealt with Outdoor Ethics and the Leave No Trace principles. We used a scouting song as the basis of our skit to review the seven principles to LNT. The performance was awesome! Mike too lead as our guitar playing narrator, while Lisa donned wings and a plume as our magical Bobwhite angel. Praveen, Matt and myself took the roles of different scouters, continually being scolded by the angel, while the narrator attempted to explain each principle.

After hours of sitting it was back to our patrol area, as each member spent time with the Troop Guide formulating their 5 ticket items in order to complete Wood Badge. The 6-days of class is only part of the experience. The 5 tickets require you to apply what you learn in order to achieve success. Thankfully my tickets were nearly complete, but they did (and still do) require some tweaking. In fact, as I write this, I might change one of them, after talking to the Scoutmaster in our troop.

Our final night together but we were without guests. Troop leadership left us on our own after reviewing our tickets. It was interesting to see by this time, now 5 days in that patrols were starting to intermingle more with each other. Just that morning we were provided a troop yell, thanks in part to the Fox Patrol, who was acting as the Program Patrol. Amazing to think it took 5 days to come together as a single unit.

Mike Oravec practicing before our presentation

The troop grew even closer that night as the Fox Patrol arranged and organized our own cracker barrel near the campfire. All the patrols took part as campers stood around talking, laughing and growing as Troop 1. It was an amazing night and it was unfortunate that the following morning would be our last together as a troop. Still many left that evening making a friend or two, with memories to carry home.

Day 6, our final hours at Camp Herms went by very quick, as the morning was remembered in part to the interfaith worship service provided by all the chaplin aides in the troop. While not a very religious individual, I am finding a new found interest and respect for faith and worship. This means I might be changing and growing as an individual and hopefully, as a leader. As we walked away from the service, it was time to break down camp in preparation of the Servant Leadership presentation.

Servant leadership was summed up by Robert Greenleaf in 1970, “It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. The difference manifests itself in the care taken by the servant—first to make sure that other people’s highest-priority needs are being served.” We as adult leaders, leader to create more leaders, not followers. It was one of the best presentations, in my opinion to this point, but the best, most powerful was yet to be revealed.

As noon approached the staff had the closing luncheon up at the lodge, as patrols made their way into the wooden room with troop leadership on hand, as the Quartermaster staff moved confident around in preparation for lunch. It felt good to be back in the lodge, where we first met. It would be the last time we gathered in there, together as Troop 1.

The final two presentations discussed leaving a legacy and summarized the enter session. For me, Craig Mizutani developed a very powerful and inspiring message. This was not the first time he had done this. During the first 3-day session, his message about change surrounding the characters in the movie, October Sky really hit home and left me teary-eyed at times, as I reflected on my life, my spouse, co-workers. I never want to hear my wife tell me again, “you won’t change.” I can. I will. The message for me hit home and was very personal.

The Bobwhites working on their ticket items with Troop Guide, Rand Mahoney

Craig discussed setting priorities; family, work come as no surprise were the “big rocks” while things such as the Internet, social media and yes, even fantasy sports were nothing more than grains of sand and rather insignificant when compared to big rocks and pebbles (read rock, pebbles sand analogy). His words again cut right through to my heart, knowing in my mind I need to make changes to be the person I should be and not the one who I currently am. Change. Again, there was that word, if you don’t like something change it! He told personal stories and how individual’s in his life left a lasting legacy on him and those who came in contact. I feel Craig has left a lasting impression on me, not only as an adult leader, but as a father and a spouse. Surely his words won’t be lost as I go forward to complete my Wood Badge training.

As 5:00 PM drew near, after the patrols had cleaned up the local around and the lodge, we gathered for one, final time at Gilwell Field. It was a somber mood, as Scoutmaster Laren delivered final words from the staff as our growth as Troop 1 over the 6-day course. It had been an amazing time. The flags were lowered, as the scoutmaster pulled the ax from the log and one final time asked that question, “Is there a beaver in the house…” This time each patrol was joined by staff based on their critter. Again, I found it tough to sing ‘Back to Gilwell’ as we truly had a wonderful time together.

I’ve got some more personal thoughts in the next piece in the Wood Badge series.