Premier League: GW10 Retrospect

Late news to Gameweek 10 caught many managers by surprise when Poch informed fantasy managers that Harry Kane would miss the Man United fixture. This compounded by the “Pep-Go-Round” at Man City, it appears there are no guarantees in fantasy football. Then again, I think we all knew this going in, but play with fingers crossed every time we set out starting XI.

This week I took a comment that Dave from Burnley posted on Twitter and started Kane. Wise or not, it was worth the gamble, even though Kane sat out the entire match. We now wait to see where the the forward is come midweek and their UCL against Real Madrid. This could provide an indication of him being fit to face Crystal Palace. His replacement, Stephen Ward picked up 6 points with a CS against Newcastle on Monday. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

As for Gameweek 10, I went into Saturday with a -4 points, bringing in Richarlison as the second part of a 4-player swap that included Ben Davies and Jack Cork. In the end, I netted 4 points, which I look upon as a positive, especially with Davies role a bit in question with the return of Danny Rose. This was also my first hit of the season, something I really want to minimize this season after posting 39 negative hits (-156 points) last season. While Richarlison blanked on the week, he’s proven with worth with returns in the last 4 out of 5 games and good run of fixtures upcoming; ee/WHM/new.

It’s hard to be too surprised at Pascal Groß and his involvement with Brighton as he created a league high 95 chances last season in the Bundesliga for Ingolstadt. Brighton have score 10 goals this season of which Groß has been involved in 7 of them (2 goals / 5 assists). He continued with consistency in GW10 providing his third assists in the last 3 games and picking up 2 bonus points for a total of 7 points in the 1-1 draw with So’ton. Unfortuantely, Christian Eriksen didn’t fair as well, playing a deeper role, as we saw against Liverpool, Eriksen didn’t provide much of a spark for the Kane-less Spurs. That’s back to back blanks for Eriksen as Spurs face Palace this weekend. Intentions are to hold Eriksen as after GW12 and a visit to Arsenal, Spurs have a great run of fixtures; WBA/lei/wat/STO/BHA.

While Kane was included in the starting XI, I knew it was nothing more than a place holder. Partnering up front was Jesus and Jamie Vardy, while jury was out on Jesus and his minutes, it was a matter time before Vardy broke duck and scored. Jesus disappointed, nearly non-existent at times, as Aguero watched from the bench, but he didn’t gain any foothold with a disappointing 1 point performance. Vardy of the other hand, got on the board early with a goal, finishing with 8 points, his first return in 4 weeks.

As it has been much of the season, my score was bolstered by the 5-man defense, which continues to pay dividends. While not the most popular formation to run out, this was another example of attacking returns combined with clean sheets that pulled my gameweek from the doldrums. Lead by Sead Kolasinac, a goal, assist and 3 bonus points he finished the day on 14 points leading all scorers. This was his first attacking returns since GW4, while he was on my shortlist, I am reconsidering him but he’s got a tough run of fixtures; mci/TOT/bur/HUD/MNU.

New boy, Stephen Ward, as mentioned earlier picked up 6 points on a CS and Marcos Alonso might have bought himself another week providing a his third CS on the season, first in 5 gameweeks. At £6.9m, his not performing up to his price with just 2 goals, no assists and 3 clean sheets, Chelsea have Man United this week and Liverpool in GW13 and Arsenal in 22, aside from that it’s a sea of green. Might be too hard to ignore moving forward.

Aaron Cresswell nearly gave way this week for Davies, but was saved for a few more games, as Davies was no longer a reliable starter. While Cresswell does face Liverpool at home in GW11, he picked up his first assist of the season in just 45 minutes of work. Not sure if only 45 minutes of action is a cause for concern as he was substituted at halftime in favor of Arthur Masuaku. Cresswell leads all defenders with 72 crosses on the season with 12 chances created equating to 57 minutes per chance.

Not quite sure what is going on defensively for Man City, 2 goals to Stoke City and 2 goals to WBA, in two of the last three games might not be a cause for concern for the offensive juggernaut, but fantasy manager expectations are set higher. Both these matches should have been clean sheets, but left mangers scratching their heads. Kyle Walker has returned 7 weeks in a row! With 4 assists and 5 clean sheets Walker has scored 42 points. I am looking past his on goal in GW8, which negated his assist points. Yet City have a favorable run and Walker is a cornerstone in my current defensive minded formation.

On the week I finished with 52 points (after the -4 hit) and 6 points above the weekly average of 46. It was a green arrow moving up 175k spots to 954k. It’s now 3 greens in the last 4 weeks, but still playing catch up to my best rank on the season in GW8 at 634k.

The most frustrating part of this FPL season has been the poor captaincy output, scoring just 66 points (12.5% of overall score) on the season. GW7 and GW9 are the only weeks I scored double digit returns (26,10). This lack of points has resulted in my squad been stuck in a virtual quagmire around the million mark. Just 10 points a week over 10 gameweeks, totaling 100 points would put me just inside the top 5000! That’s how frustrating its been to start this fantasy season.

Interesting to note that one of my goals for the season was to average 60 pts/week. When I have been able to start a 5-2-3 formation, I have averaged 59.3 points. Unfortunately due to Pep, injuries and benched players only 4 games have finished with a 5-2-3. The 4-4-3, using Jack Stephens (automatic sub) off the bench in lieu of a fifth defender has produced just 47.5 points over the a 4-game period. GW10 was just the second time running out a 5-3-2, which is currently averaging 53.5 points.

Looking ahead, the 5-2-3 (or 5-3-2) seems to be losing its potential, as forwards are struggling. At City Jesus and Aguero appear to be in rotation, Kane is injured, Morata, still returning to full fitness hasn’t been impressive the last 2 games, while Lukaku has no goals in his last 3 (but does have 3 assists). The “power 3” seem to be losing favor as fantasy managers look to stacking the midfield.

As I wrote yesterday in FPL: 4-5-1 Viability?, could this be the next iteration in my fantasy formation? Running a few different scenarios I have been able to put forth a competitive 4-5-1 and 5-4-1 formation with Harry Kane leading the attack. However, Romelu Lukaku might be a stronger candidate, based solely on his consistency. While Kane has proven himself at Wembley in GW9 with a 16 point haul, giving him 4 double digit hauls on the season his consistency has yet to be seen. However, I feel Kane is more explosive than Lukaku. Currently Kane sits a single point ahead of the Belgian.

Risk with a lone forward could be high, but running out the likes of Eriksen, Salah and Hazard could reap huge rewards with budget midfielder Groß and Richarlison seemingly hitting stride and putting together fantasy points and consistency. Defensively, this squad mixes attacking defenders, Walker, Kolasinac and Cresswell with clean sheet viability in Ward and Jones. Only concern would be the lack of forwards on the bench with Oumar Niasse and Mama Biram Diouf. Niasse has been a part time player for the struggling Everton, while Diouf has 3 goals on the season but does play all 90 minutes.

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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.

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PREMIER LEAGUE: GW5 STARTING XI

Gameweek 5 is on the horizon and I have just activated my wild card. Offensively, my starting XI is strong with the likes of Eriksen and Mkhitaryan in the midfield and the “triple threat” up front with Kane, Jesus and Firmino. Defensively it’s been a change since the decision was made to start the season with a #5mandefence in a 5-2-3 formation. Through 4 weeks it’s been a good start, now to figure out how this damn captaincy thing works.

There were also some big changes made to the draft squad this week, attempting to capitalize on good underlying statistics and players who were yet to be picked up off the waiver wire or free agency. Mendy, really still available?

TRADITIONAL FPL STARTING XI

With the wild card activated I overhauled my 5 man defense. The big changes were dropping all 3 So’ton and 2 Man United defenders, opting to go with prominent wing backs in order to maximize my attack. My defense is now led my Marcos Alonso, who suddenly anchors the back five. However, it’s been the play of Ben Davies that has seen him rise in price as manager scrabble to bring him into their squads.

Elsewhere in my defense, I was planning on Sead Kolasinac, but with a tough fixture against Chelsea this week, I decided to bring Ben Mendy into my sqaud instead. At £0.5m more, I somewhat limited myself. After the addition of Aaron Cresswell, it was a punt on Liverpool youngster, Trent Alexander-Arnold at £4.5m.  I am hoping to get 2 games out of TAA before I turn for Harry Maguire at £5.0 to replace him. Longer term plans have Kolasinac slotting in.

The midfield and forward line remain unchanged. With Paul Pogba now injured, it’s up to Henrikh Mkhitaryan to run the Red Devil’s offense. Hopefully he can capitalize on a misguided Everton defense that hasn’t looked all that impressive through 4 weeks. Eriksen’s up against Swansea City at Wembley. No concerns with these two. One change that won’t effect my starters, I dropped Jack Colback in favor of Jack Cork, possibly with a £0.1m rise in his future.

Up front, I am very happy to see all this Twitter and pod talk about going big up front, which I have done since GW1. My triple threat features Harry Kane, Roberto Firmino and Gabriel Jesus. To think where I would be if I had gone with the majority and started Lukaku in place of Kane, known for his August hoodoo voodoo. Moving forward I think these three starters and don’t have much interest in bringing in Lukaku or Morata at this time.

I have gone with my head this week, not talking myself into Firmino again and have captained Harry Kane this week against Swansea. We will see how this starting XI pay off. I am expecting big returns from the defense. Hopefully the activation of the wild card will pay dividends.

FPL DRAFT STARTING XI

The draft team replace status quo last weekend in the 4th spot, but it was a poor week and needed some freshening up. I put in 6 waiver claims and was rewarded with 6 new players, of which 5 will feature in the starting XI this weekend.

Up front I had seen enough of Wayne Rooney and opted to bring in Christian Benteke. This move on the heels of Palace bringing in Roy Hodgson, hopefully it kick starts their offense. To partner with him up front, I added Joselu of Newcastle. His underlying stats, while probably unsustainable are strong and home to Stoke City could give him prime chance to pick up some good points. Aguero was pulled at the hour mark in their Thursday ECL match, so he could feature away to Watford this weekend. Might be a bit tougher than anticipated, as Marco Silva has the Hornets playing some good defense at home.

I am keeping my fingers crossed that the red card to Sadio Mane last weekend will give Philippe Coutinho his first start of the season. Drafted #2 overall, I have been struggling in the midfield, but now he’s got a chance to shine home to Burnley. He is partnered with Dele Alli home to Swansea this weekend.

Defensively Azpilicueta and Alderweireld are the only starters to retain their positions, yet last week Toby didn’t feature in my starting XI, but reappears for the GW5 match home to Swansea. Charlie Daniels reappears since his first departure after GW2. Bournemouth still not fairing well, but Daniels is attack minded and the Cherries are home to Brighton. Trent Alexander-Arnold and Ben Mendy both make their debut in the starting XI and both have favorable fixtures, home to Burnley and away to Watford respectively. Alexander-Arnold might not be a full time starter and if he doesn’t start I have Pedro lined up to replace him. This would mean I will be looking for another defender, possibly in the direction of Newcastle.

Hopefully these major changes in both fantasy squads pay off this weekend. I like the make up and feel of them, but would much rather all the luck in this word to put together a smashing weekend. Best of luck to all fantasy managers!

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FPL: Midweek Options

On the horizon, as we approach GW3, we see the first international break, followed by the close of the transfer window. The urge to activate our first wild card is high, based on two very inconsistent game weeks. Those managers who knee jerked for GW2 probably weren’t rewarded, as expected and now rank lower in the OR, looking to possibly salvage their season just 3 weeks into this season.

Sitting on 96 points, ranked 2.2m, I am 35 points off from where I was this time last FPL season, still contemplating my starting XI played for GW1, which included just a single Man United player, Antonio Valencia. With their fixtures, I initially planned Lukaku and Pogba but moved both these attacking players and went a different direction. That’s a massive difference of 61 points (assuming I captained Lukaku) pushing my total to 157 (26 point improvement over last season)! Yet decisions I made at this point have cost me.

Now midweek, what direction do we go for GW3? I burned my FT on Monday, knee jerking KDB out in favor of Eriksen, more for the £0.1m increase than paying attention to City’s away fixture to BOU. A wise fantasy manager would have held KDB, let the £0.1m slide, giving the midfielder a final opportunity before offloading the £10.0 price tag.

In defense of that move, I gained £0.1m (TV now £100.2), picking up Eriksen who faces Burnley at home, on he back of 3 assists to start the EPL campaign. Doubling up on Spurs worked to the advantage of many mangers last season, there appears to be similar appeal this term. We can debate who is better all season; Alli or Eriksen?

This same argument can be applied to Man United and their midfield duo of Pogba and Mkhitaryan. Both players are off to a smashing starts, boasting 23 and 21 points respectively. Couple that with the league’s top forward in Lukaku and it’s possible you run with two attacking doubles in your starting XI.

All this and we haven’t even touched on defense, other top teams or the fact we are still missing some big names due to health and fitness reasons; Coutinho (£8.9), Hazard (£10.5) and Sanchez (£11.9). This gives managers another reason to hold the course and not activate the wild card, as all three are impact players to their team, the league and FPL.

With only 2 weeks of game data to extrapolate, it’s difficult to formulate a short term plan. Which budget players will continue their strong starts and which will fade? As a Watford supporter, I am pleased with Marco Silva’s start to the season, behind the play of Richarlison (£6.0/15 pts.) and Doucouré (£5.1/12 pts.). New signee, Jesé started his Stoke City career with a goal and 231,000 managers have transferred him in. Aaron Mooy (£5.6) has made an early impact at Huddersfield, as the Australian bagged an assist and goal, along with 2 CS in the first two. Running a 5-2-3 currently, I have no budget to spare, using £4.5 midfielders.

Defensively, I took a big risk starting a 5-man defense, while it paid off in GW1 bagging 6 clean sheets, GW2 was an entirely different story. Backing a defensive line featuring So’ton’s, Yoshida, Bertrand and Cedric yielded just 7 points, after giving up 2 goals to a 10-man West Ham squad. Man City had good fixtures to start but the expected CS in GW2 ended up a 1-1 draw. Man United has exceeded expectations, scoring 8 goals, conceding zero. Hopefully the CS parade will continue with LEI/sto the next fixtures.

Valencia was my top defensive prospect at United, but hasn’t been played well, an average position in the middle of the pitch. It appears in a 4-man defense, Valencia isn’t getting as far forward, which will limit his attacking returns. Conversely, Marcos Alonso…well GW2 speaks for itself, as be scored a brace! Currently with £1.0m ITB, I could be convinced to downgrade Valencia to Bailly, banking £0.5m ITB and introduce Alonso for Bertrand.

Looking forward through Gameweek 5, I am after a defender who’s posted good form and fixtures against lower teams in the EPL. No surprise, So’ton is on top, but the likes of West Ham, Newcastle, West Brom, Brighton, Huddersfield and Crystal Palace all fit the bill. Based off back-to-back clean sheets, it’s Ahmed Hegazi (£4.7/23 pts.) who could be the budget defender to continue posting premium numbers. Mathias Jorgensen aka Zanka (£4.6/16 pts.) and Christopher Schindler (£4.5/15 pts.) are strong candidates. For Nick and Tom at WGTA, I also include Allan Nyom (£5.0/15 pts.) because of #nyomwatch!

Looking ahead an unknown still lurks on the sidelines. We have not seen Alexis Sanchez, Eden Hazard of Philippe Coutinho set foot on the pitch. All three players were instrumental in their team’s success in the 2016/17 season. Sanchez and Coutinho have been linked with moves away their club during this transfer window. However it appears both will remain with their respective clubs and feature in the starting XI. Hazard is returning to fitness after injury and will take his place to strengthen the Chelsea midfield. Prices being what they are, this just add 3 more high priced players to the mix to muddy the situation as we head towards the international break.

What options does this leave before the start of GW3? As mentioned earlier, activate the wild card. Personally, my team isn’t bad, I still have confidence in my starting XI, so I don’t want to activate it yet. The newly coined, ‘Free Hit Chip’ would allow me to shift players for GW3, as my team would revert back to a GW2 lineup at the end of the game week. Yet, some question surrounds when best to use this chip. Bye week? DGW? Christmas period? Week with strong clubs playing weaker ones?

Realistically, I am left with two options. First, do nothing. I used my weekly FT and will just run with the starting XI I currently have. Fixtures are good over the entire pitch, which leads me to believe I could post season high score. Second, look at taking a -4 point hit. Even though I still feature 3 So’ton defenders, a home fixture against Huddersfield could work in my favor. One hit option would be to move Cedric or Yoshida in favor of Hegazi. Not quite sold on the big Egyptian and his offensive abilities, but like Foster has bagged two CS to start the season.

As I toil away looking at the impending weekend, there is a high probability I won’t make any further move, including a -4 point hit. I will ride into GW3 high on the potential of what my starting XI could return based on their fixtures. This would allow me a 2-week period to decide how to move forward for the next 3 game weeks, keeping my fingers crossed none of my starting XI pick up a knock to futher complicate the situation.

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Premier League: GW1 Retrospect

In what began as a great game week on Saturday, turned into a bit of a horror show at the conclusion of the Sunday fixtures. Prior to the start of the EPL, like many mangers I spent many hours reading, researching and building my 15-man squad. The culmination of my planning came down to a Friday morning change moving from a 5-3-2 into a 5-2-3. Much of the risk still remained with 5 defenders and a potential lack of attack. With uncertainty surrounding GW1 players and clean sheets being a statistic anomaly, I sat back to watch and enjoy, as the beautiful game had returned.

Unlike the previous 4 season participating in FPL, I felt confident heading into GW1. Over the summer break I remained active in transfers, as well as discussion on players, formations and what we expected to happen in the 2017/18 EPL season. I created countless spreadsheets to help organize my thoughts, build various squads based on formations and put together a transfer plan through GW7. As I said in an earlier post, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” So without further ado, here’s how GW1 played out.

With great anticipation I settled in on Saturday morning in the states to get my fill of football. Unfortunately, NBC Sports has decided to making their Premiership coverage subscription based at $49.99 for a season pass. This means I will be lucky to see two games a day during the EPL season. Really unfortunately to lose the free coverage that we’ve seen since NBC decided to start covering the beautiful game. For me, I refuse to pay NBC for this “extra” coverage. Hopefully they come to their senses for next season, but for some reason I don’t see that happening.

Gameweek 1 began for me approximately 2 hours before ARS v LEI took to the pitch. What was known before kickoff, I was starting with 5 defenders. What I didn’t know, which Chelsea midfielder to start? Willian or Fabregas? Both were v7.0 and starting with the absence of Hazard in the starting Chelsea XI. The opening fixtures for Chelsea didn’t give me a warm and fuzzy feeling; BUR/tot/EVE/lei/ARS in the first 5 weeks. Along with the search for a midfielder, I had Alonso inserted (£7.0) as the anchor in my 5 at the back defense.

What could be viewed as a hasty, irrational move I transferred Lukaku out in favor of Jesus and Firmino. I had reaffirmed just days before that players above 30% TSB should be owned and considered template players. At the time I moved “Big Rom” his ownership was over 48%! The FFS Scoutcast provided a bit of doubt, the fact that Man United could go up 1-0 against WHM and set up shop defensively at home. Combine that with Jesus, who was phenomenal for City last year, could potentially put up 20+ goals this season, but at £1.0 less than Lukaku. While I didn’t really consider the 5-2-3, but had played around with it, I decided to finalize my team.

Along with shipping out Lukaku, I also said goodbye to Alonso. The front line of Jesus, Kane and Firmino looked great on paper. Defensively, I brought in my third So’ton defender, Cédric. I was living large and backing the Saints to provide a CS against Swansea. City away for new boys Brighton I tripled up though my starting XI. Yet, concern and doubt continued to creep into my head, was this the right move to make, away from Lukaku?

Saturday I could not have asked for a better showing from my defense. Starting Yoshida, Bertrand and Cédric with Kompany and Valencia at £28.0m. Between the pipes, I held steady with Foster as WBA took on the offensive minded Cherries. Planning paid off as I finished Saturday with 5 clean sheets and 3 bonus points (1 from Foster, 2 from Bertrand). Sunday took a minor hit as Jose playing 4 at the back and Valencia, fielded as a RB didn’t get many looks inside the box, but did feature down the right side. He also picked up a yellow card, but still finished the day on 5 points. So defensively I was perfect, 36 points!

Unfortunately problems were mounting as an uneasiness settled upon me. Firmino played outstanding for Liverpool rewarding managers with 12 points, on a goal/assist and 3 bonus points. It appears Firmino will also be on penalties without Milner featuring, scoring his first against Watford. Firmino was a solid addition with the Lukaku move and provided me a sense of reassurance.

The City pairing of KDB and Jesus, failed to really impress, while each got off 4 shots on target, neither returned points. KDB picked up 1 point for the CS against Brighton, but it was Kun Agüero with a goal. Hoenstly, I thought City would roll up 4 or 5 goals, but they saved it late for a 2-0 victory. Zaha and Palace were shell shocked by Huddersfield 3-0, as Palace didn’t get anything going and Zaha didn’t return, while picking up a knee injury that has him questionable for GW2 away to Liverpool.

Saturday saw my finished on 51 points, well on my way to the 60 point average I wanted over the course of the season. This set me up for the Sunday fixtures with Valencia and Kane to showcase my 5-2-3 and add to my total. Maybe I should have paid more attention to the fact that Kane remains goalless in August in the EPL, but the decision to include him to start the season was partially based on how strongly he finished last season. Spurs looked sharp, Kane had chances in the box; saved, post, offside denied him of three excellent chances. I also gave Kane the armband, so his 1 point doubled.

I spoke about the Captain’s Armband back in March and how I was “sorely disappointed” and “in 13 out of 27 weeks (48.1%) I owned and started the player who was recommend in website captain polls.” To start this season, the armband was on Lukaku before I transferred him, handing the captaincy to Kane, who was listed in many polls as the second choice option. If I would have held steady and not moved Lukaku I would have finished 25 point higher (Lukaku 26, Alonso 0, Fabregas -1).

While I was hoping to hold my GW2 transfer, the injury to Zaha might force my hand. With £1.5m ITB, I have options to replace Zaha, if indications are he’s not going to start against Liverpool. However I continue to keep an eye on Lukaku. That transfer finger is getting itchy and current TSB% of 50.5% is continuing to climb with swa/LEI/sto in the next 3 games. Yet I feel I can justify Jesus for £1.0m less with strong fixtures through GW10, that do include LIV/che in GW4 and GW7 respectively, teams that gave up 3 goals a piece in GW1. Could Kane take a one week pass in favor of Lukaku agsinst SWA?

Overall it was a terrible weekend on just 50 points, I am sitting at 1.9m in the overall standings and the 15 leagues I am in aren’t even worth talking about at this point. It will be a week filled with discussion and decisions before the start of GW2. With that sole FT burning a hole in my pocket the injury to Zaha could force a move. FPL is back!

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