Premier League: GW4 Draft Retrospect

The FPL Draft game just isn’t doing it for me. Chalk it up to 37 years playing fantasy (NFL) football, but I find this version of the game boring. No other way to explain it. After 4 weeks I am 4th in my league on 145 points overall. For GW4 is was a score of just 30 points, which meant I didn’t lose my current ranking, but 5th place is creeping close, now just 6 points back.

Prior to the start of the weekend games, I made two waiver moves in order to better my starting XI. In hindsight, the moves only accounted for 3 points. With Britos on a red card, I picked up Phil Jones. Unfortunately United couldn’t keep a CS and drew with Stoke City, 2-2. The other move was dropping Dusan Tadic in favor of Aaron Mooy, who didn’t return away to West Ham.

Defensively I was led by “Dave” aka Azpilicueta, backed by his second assist scored 7 points to lead all defensive players. Hegazi, Jones and Lössl accounted for an additional 2 points. Needless to say, Hegazi is now on a short list to move out. Why I didn’t play Alderweireld against Everton, I am not quite sure.

Still holding onto Coutinho, who should see his first EPL start in GW5. Midfield is where I am struggling, as it’s been a rotation of players through to find someone who may hit, based on fixtures. Jesé, Pedro and the aforementioned Mooy accounted for 6 points, with none of them returning. Alli gets a small bump as Spurs kept a clean sheet. Of the 5 midfielders, he is the one I expect to perform on a regular basis.

Up front, it’s been a challenge with Agüero, Hernandez and Rooney. A pair of goals for the later two, but they haven’t done anything lately. Currently, I am on the verge of moving Rooney, but Everton does trail to Old Trafford, as Wayne faces his old team. Revenge factor? Hernandez hasn’t looked good, then again neither have the Hammers. But who in the free agency pool is better? Not much, but I’ve been considering a move.

That leaves Kun Agüero to pull his weight, scoring 9 points on the back of a goal and assist. However those are his first points since GW1. It also appears Pep favors Jesus as well. I still expect good numbers from Kun the rest of the season, so he will remain a starter.

For the week I have already submitted 5 waiver claims in order to strengthen my team and potentially take a shot at 3rd place this weekend.

City is coming into form with some good fixtures. While I don’t expect much defensively from Pep’s boys, I will be looking for offensive returns from Mendy. Daniels would make his second appearance in my squad, as I had him from through GW3, opting for Britos that week. Mooy or Groß? Call this a knee jerk reaction to his 18 point haul in GW4. Brighton does have some favorable games. Ederson’s injury is a concern, but it will be Lössl making way (the graphic isn’t correct).

 

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.

Wild Card Urgency

Remember when you were a kid and you had $5 burning a hole in your pocket? That’s how I’m feeling,  continuing to hold my wild card after many were activated last weekend. Looking forward, the tentative plan is to activate for GW6, but that could be postponed. Currently, I am just 22 (204 vs 226) points off where I was this point last season, but 600k lower in the overall rankings. Unlike last year, I don’t feel an urgency to make massive changes. There are some players, looking ahead that I want to move, while a few others are on my watch list to make the 15-man squad.

The 5-2-3 (#5mandefence) formation has been solid this season, so no complaints about not having a 4th or 5th midfielder or a consistent third forward. While I do need to address my defense, it’s not all that urgent.  Maya Yoshida relegated to bench could bring the “So’ton 3” to an end. While they have returned a CS in just two of the first four fixtures, it was a risk I was willing to take. I might even keep three So’ton defenders through GW11, their fixtures are THAT good. Now if they could only score a goal.

Yoshida could lose his place in my starting XI this week, as the FT will go towards replacing him. With the signing of Hoedt and Van Dijk, making an appearance with the U-23’s, his days and those of Jack Stephens could be numbered. Who do we replace him with?

Currently I have £1.9m ITB and a squad value of £100.2 (£0.2m lower than where I expected to be). There is just a short list of replacements for Yoshida. Marcos Alonso had been heading that list (2 goals/1 assist, 1 CS) for a few weeks, Chelsea’s fixtures are improving but still have ARS/MCI/MNU/liv through GW18. Ben Davies has matched Alonso with two, 14 point returns on the back of 1 goal, 2 assists and 2 CS. A staggering £1.4m difference in price and better immediate fixtures could mean holding Alonso for just a bit longer.

The problem with Spurs has been playing at Wembley Stadium, where they have conceded 1 goal in each of their home matches, while remaining perfect on the road with 2 clean sheets. Facing the likes of SWA and BOU at home should provide great CS potential. Away, HUD is ranked 15th, while WHU is ranked 20th in attack based on Sqwaka statistics. Could be a great time to invest in Spurs defense!

So the short term is resolved, Yoshida out, Davies in, which now gives me Kane/Eriksen/Davies as the treble moves from So’ton to Spurs, to go along with Man United. Based on the team comparison above, I will be tempted to bring in Alonso after GW7 against MCI.

I don’t believe you can discount So’ton at this point. Outside of GW6, home against Man United, their schedule is still very favorable; cry/MUN/stk/NEW/WBA/bha/BUR. Not sure if Newcastle is for real or not, but they have 2 CS in their last 2 fixtures with good looking run forthcoming, only LIV to challenge in GW7.

Unless I feel a need to change formation, I have no problems with my 5 attackers. The 2-man midfield of Eriksen and Mkhitaryan have been solid, so has the play of Firmino, Jesus and Kane up front. Although, 3 blanks by Kane to start the season has been tough to swallow, he’s now just 2 goals back of Lukaku.

I would like to add Eden Hazard to my starting XI, but I believe it could come at a cost of either Eriksen or Jesus. Right now, I am not keen on moving either player. A change in formation would also necessitate the addition of a third premium midfielder. Consideration has been made moving forward to move to a 4-4-3. But realistically with no glaring problems, I have an issues changing from my 5-2-3.

 

PREMIER LEAGUE: GW4 STARTING XI

It’s been an extra week off for fantasy manager as we head towards GW4 and a return of the EPL! International matches are now in the books and there were some gutty performances throughout the world. This break has provided time to reflect and strategize the coming game weeks. My current plan is to activate the wildcard for GW6, giving me 2 more weeks to run with a 5-2-3, potentially banking 2 FT and hoping for a £0.2, team value increase.

TRADITIONAL FPL STARTING XI

Opting not to activate my wildcard, I had one FT available for any changes to my 15-man squad. Initially I had planned on introducing Marcos Alonso, but failure to see any price increases over the break has me stuck £0.1m short of his £7.1m price tag. It’s my belief that Alonso is “essential” to fantasy squads, yet many mangers are balking at his high price.

While Newcastle and Brighton seemingly have better defensive schedules than Man United, the fact United has yet to concede through 3 games, saw me bring in Phil Jones. His inclusion this week is merely temporary as we play out the next few weeks, in anticipation of my wildcard. United will face sto/EVE/sou and partner with Valencia, as I double up. It also means I maintain 3 So’ton defenders (home to Watford), in search of a third CS in the first 4 games. Foster will earn his 4th start, away to BHA. I feel confident with this group of defenders the next 2 weeks.

Mhkitaryan transferred in GW2, while Eriksen was introduced for GW3. This will be the first week I have maintained the same 2-man midfield for consecutive games. Eriksen was absolutely nasty during the international break, 2 goals/3 assists over two games. This bodes well as Spurs are away to Everton and with September here, means Kane should benefit from Eriksen’s blistering form.

With 10 goals on the season to start the season, Man United has been the hottest team on the pitch, thanks in part to 5 assist Henrikh Mkhitaryan. He and the Red Devils will look to continue their torrid pace away to Stoke City. Based on the Sqwaka data, Mkhitaryan bests teammate, Paul Pogba in assists (1.67/gm), key passes (3/gm) and chances created (4.67/gm). Yet, it’s Pogba who’s got the better shooting statistics.

Entering GW4 I have some concern up front, while I still have faith in Firmino, Jesus and most notably Kane, the first two players are flying back late from international duty in South America. As hot as Firmino has been, I don’t see Klopp starting Sturrdge in his place. As for Pep, who the hell knows, as both Jesus and Aguero have long trips in order to represent City this weekend against Liverpool.

Kane appears to have the August “Hoodoo Voodoo” behind him and will look to get on track to his third Golden Boot this weekend, away to Everton. Backed by ungodly statistics, I continue to have faith in Kane putting up big numbers. To date, it’s been a string of no returns and 2 yellow cards, but can’t deny the 22 attempts he’s had in 3 weeks.

FPL DRAFT STARTING XI

Moving to the draft game, I still spend very little time and maintain little interest in this style of fantasy game for football. Currently I head into GW4 with an unchanged 15-man squad. I have put a waiver wire claims in for Serge Aurier and Phil Jones, who would replace Miguel Britos. The squad still appears to be finding their feet as their combined performances hasn’t been overly impressive to date. Teams like West Ham and Everton will see their fixtures improve, while there could be some competition defensively for So’ton and WBA assets.

I change the formation for GW4 from a 5-3-2 to a 4-3-3. Britos currently suspended is on the bench giving me a back four comprised of Azpilicueta, Alderweireld, Yoshida and Hegazi. All have favorable fixturs with So’ton and WBA carrying he best chance at clean sheets. As poor as West Ham has been, I tap Lossl to keep a CS and record some save bonus points for Huddersfield.

With Stoke City home to United, I make a questionable decision to bench Jese in favor of going with 3 forwards for the game week. Jese is still trying to find his fitness, but more importantly United hasn’t conceded to date. This leaves me with Tadic, Alli (middle finger and all) and Pedro to be the creative influence in the middle of the pitch. Still considering a play for Mooy in place of Tadic, even with So’ton in a great run of fixtures, Mooy appears to be more instrumental, carrying better form into GW4.

The wildcard I still have is Phillipe Coutinho. Just what will he do for Liverpool is anyone’s guess. Rumor has it he doesn’t want to feature in the ECL for the Reds as he looks ahead to possible inclusion for another team if he leaves in the January transfer window. The Liverpool midfield is already crowded, but they could benefit from his inclusion in the starting XI. He’s listed at a ‘75% chance of playing – lack of fitness’ but featured for Brazil during the break. Go figure! Currently, he’s on the bench for the 4th consecutive week.

Up front, Aguero is tapped to start, going back to a 3-man front line with Hernandez and Rooney. Vokes and Okazaki present two interesting options, but fixture for both Everton and West Ham are improving, which has me holding both players. Rooney and Hernandez have both found the net twice and could feature this weekend as well.

Sitting in 4th, 32 points from the leader and a red arrow from last week, I will look to turn things around before we look to make further changes in the starting lineup.

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?