Premier League: Hit Me!

It took just 10 weeks before I made the decision to take a -4 point hit last week. Looking ahead, the 5-2-3 formation is morphing into a 5-man midfielder, but it’s going to cost me a few points. Last week started the dominoes toppling, which should continue through the international break, into GW11. Ideally, this would have been a great time to activate the wild card, but that played out in GW5. By shifting players now, I feel I am setting myself up for a run through December.

As mentioned in my Think Differently series at Fantasy Football Geek, formation hasn’t been the issue, captaincy points have. Not so much poor decisions, but poor performances from premium players wearing the armband. Putting faith in my 5-man defense paid dividends through 10 weeks. The 5-2-3 formation has outproduced both 5-3-2 and 4-3-3 through 10 weeks. Due to benched players and injuries, automatically substitutions changed my intended 5-2-3.

Last week I lost faith in Ben Davies, transferring him for Stephen Ward. Burnley has a favorable schedule through GW16. While Spurs are solid through GW17, there is some risk of rotation, thus Davies was move, which helped free up my budget. The -4 hit came in the name of Richarlison, for Jack Cork. Unfortunately a 1 point return didn’t bode well but finished 4 points better than if I would have held the transfer.

This week continue the trend as I look to take another 4 point hit in conjunction with my FT. While Jesus has played well, I am done with Pep and the rotation at City. His £10.5 price and that of £4.5 of Dale Stephens allow me to introduce Mohammad Salah and Tammy Abraham with £0.3 ITB.

After the international break, I look towards GW12 and GW13 to continue the transition to a 5-4-1 (or 4-5-1).  Hazard was going to be one of the first players in, but ends up being the last piece for GW13, based on fixtures. GW12 sees Marcos Alonso giving his walking papers in favor of Charlie Daniels, while Sead Kolasinac drops out for Phil Jones due to fixtures.

These moves free up £2.4 to bring in Eden Hazard and Mame Biram Diouf to complete the change in GW13. The “Vardy Party” would be over and Tom Carroll would be sacrificed, but in return I would have a 15-man squad that all start for the holiday period, reducing the change of playing shorthanded.

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Premier League: GW10 Draft Retrospect

It was an off week for my draft squad as I scored just 30 points on the week and maintained my position in the league rankings, holding the number two spot. However, I dropped 35 points and now sit 67 points behind the top spot with many games still to play. I feel confident I can chip away at that lead.

The only active transfer I made this week was the introduction of Maya Yoshida for Aaron Cresswell. It was my belief So’ton had a better match up away to Brighton, while West Ham visited Crystal Palace. It was the wrong decision, as Yoshida didn’t feature and Wesley Hoedt started. Cresswell picked up his third assist on the season.

The injury to Philippe Coutinho had me shift my formation to a 5-4-1, as I opted to go with Sergio Aguero as the lone forward, forcing Tammy Abraham to the bench. Outside of Caesar Azpilcueta and David Luiz, who combined for 14 points, the defense was lackluster on the day. Ederson and Stones combined for just 2 points, while Toby Alderweireld didn’t return, giving up 1 goal to United in Spurs 1-0 loss. Looking ahead, Yoshida might not be the strongest plan, as there could be rotation in place.

It was Wilfried Zaha leading the midfield group with 7 points, following his second goal in the last 3 games against West Ham. Following the Spurs game next week, Palace go on a nice run of green fixtures. Dele Alli, Richarlison and Eric Maxim Chuopo-Moting all disappointed, with a combined 5 points. Richarlison wasted futher chances, but continues to lead the way with 35 shots from the midfield. My squad has struggled without Coutinho in the starting XI and there is no guarantee he will feature in GW11.

Up front, I was burnt by Pep, as Aguero didn’t see any time against West Brom, as  Jesus got 81 minutes. No longer are we assured that Aguero will feature in every City game, as Pep continue to be unpredictable in his lineup selection.

Looking ahead, Yoshida will be moved this week, hopefully picking up a new defender from the waiver wire, Friday. I’ve put three claims in; Charlie Daniels, Harry Maguire and Aaron Cresswell. Daniels appears to have the strongest run of fixtures, but Maguire (or Simpson) could be a surprised transfer. With the upcoming fixtures favorable for Spurs, I am on the fence with Toby Alderweireld. He hasn’t really impressed but after Arsenal in GW12, Spurs have a run of good fixtures; CRY/ars/WBA/lei/wat/STO/BHA.

Not sure what direction I will take for GW11, as options abound. I could stay with a 5-man defense, running out a 5-3-2 with Aguero and Abraham up front, moving Chuopo-Moting to the bench in favor of a fit, Coutinho. I like the look of my midfield right now. Depending on what Stoke City does, I could move Moting in favor of RLC, as Palace look at strong fixtures through GW19, after the GW11 match up away to Spurs.

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Scouting: Lost Time

Maybe I am making up for lost time as an adult since I never made it out of Cub Scout as a youth. While I enjoyed my 2 years in scouts during 4th and 5th grade, sports took precedent with me, when I moved into junior high I didn’t return to my pack. Now, 37 years later it appears I am making up for lost time, taking an active role in BSA Troop 93, located in Brentwood, California. Since March it’s been a busy transition period, learning how our troop functions, compared to that of a Cub Scout pack. With hours of leadership and training course now under my belt, I have years of scouting to look forward to.

Spending 3 years at the Quartermaster in Pack 1155, almost 2 years as a Den Leader I crossed over with my son earlier this year to Troop 93 with the intention of becoming an adult leader. It seemed to be a natural progression. I knew the Scoutmaster and one of the assistants from my days in Pack 1155, but what I didn’t know was how the troop function. I had taught my boys the essentials of gaining their Scout badge in the last few den meetings we had to finish the scouting year. We built our Arrows of Light and each scout began a new journey.

I felt I had a solid scouting background when my son and I joined Troop 93, but I felt like a fish out of water during the first few months. The Scoutmaster knew I wanted to be involved, but I didn’t take an active role, sitting back and watching how the leaders interacted with the boy led troop. I attended a committee meeting and was surprised at just how much work was coordinated behind the scenes. Unlike being a scout leader, committee duties looked too much like work.

It took the Scoutmaster to approach me, before I got on board (unofficially) as an Assistant Scoutmaster. Spending hours on My Scouting, completing basic adult training, prepared me for some of the duties I would fulfill. Paperwork was filled out to become a Merit Badge Counselor for aviation, cooking, digital technology, game design, geocaching, personal fitness, personal management, radio, signals, signs and codes and traffic safety. I saw this as the “first step” in developing myself as an adult leader.

With the exception of Summer Camp and canoeing at Don Pedro, I have attended all the camping trips this year. I have gained some practical experience while on these outings with the help of other adult leaders. However, I felt more training was required. It was my intention to enroll in Introduction to Outdoor Leadership Skills (IOLS) earlier this year, but it never fit in with my work schedule. It would actually be Wood Badge (W3-23-17) that would indoctrinate me, driving me to “do my best” in life, as in scouting. Wood Badge was amazing! You can read my experience and that of our patrol, as we took flight at Camp Herms during our session. Last weekend I completed IOLS to finally earn the ‘Trained’ badge on my uniform.

As a trained leader I look to the future and further training to make me stronger, more competent leader. Currently I have my eyes on becoming a Leave No Trace (LNT) trainer, as well as enrolling in some high adventure training (HAT). Now, after 6 months the boys have warmed up to me and I have found myself starting to help them in their rank advancement by signing off requirements. As part of my Wood Badge training, I wrote a few troop related tickets.

The first was to give our long standing troop their own identity. With the consent of the adult leadership I put together a Troop 93 Logo Design Competition. Final submissions were taken last week and this Wednesday the scouts will vote on what design will represent them on the back of their neckerchief. In order to become more “involved” with the troop, another ticket had me take responsibility as the Merit Badge Coordinator, responsible for maintaining the up to date list of counselors for scouts in our troop.

Another WB ticket was to facilitate a 20-mile hike for Troop 93, but with a few caveats. Three weeks ago we put in our hike to Los Vaqueros Reservoir, which took the better part of 7.5 hours, but 4 scouts finished the hike and were able to sign off their long hike for their Hiking Merit Badge. However, I am still short 3 items to complete this ticket, requiring attendance at the council roundtable, creating a flyer for distribution and inviting neighboring districts; Briones and Chief Solano.

After discussing this with another patrol member from Wood Badge and consulting the Scoutmaster, this ticket might be amended with the approval of my Troop Guide. I would like to plan a 20-mile hike to be held annually, as an option to the Fages Hike that takes place in early June. It would provide Scouts in the East Bay and surrounding districts a second opportunity to fulfill requirement 5 for their merit badge. It was also discussed that Troop 93 could sponsor the event, allowing the boys to manage aid stations along the 20-mile route.

Lastly, I developed a program I nicknamed COAL or Crossover Orientation for Adult Leaders. Not the most catchy of names, but it will allow new adults an overview of the troop, our expectations and give them a chance to get involved with Troop 93. There has been a good response from the adult leaders, as well as some of the committee members I have shared it with. Hopefully I will work with the New Member Coordinator to share this information with, as well as the new adults who will crossover to Troop 93 from Pack 1155.

 

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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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FPL: 4-5-1 Viability?

It was another weekend that didn’t allow me the luxury of watching any EPL games. Maybe that was a blessing in disguise, as overall scores appeared way down. I still laugh at all those managers who knee jerked, bringing in Aguero to over the nicked, Harry Kane. Talk about a tragic failure! Then captain him to boot! Double whammy! Thankfully, I kept faith in Harry, using an last minute idea from, Dave from Burnley. I started Kane, just on the off chance he made a short cameo. We know that didn’t happen, but will be pleased to get some points off the bench.

Moving forward it appears the balance of power has swung in support of the midfielders. Gone are the early days of the “power three” or “big 3 forwards” to anchor your fantasy team. We have seen more midfielders coming into form, as well as some budget performers who’s consistency is starting to pay off. Of course, the week I bring Richarlison in, he blanks. Damn! Did I mention I love this game?

So what is a fantasy manager running a 5-3-2 formation supposed to do? I mauled the idea over 2 weeks ago and instead of making changes to my squad I activated the Free Hit Chip, which resulted in a season low score of 36 points. Not what I was expecting. This week I took my first -4 point hit, moving Jack Cork for Richarlison. This move was the second part of two transfers, which saw Ben Davies out for Stephen Ward in. Going forward I believe Burnley has a great run of fixtures and Ward has been a pleasant surprise this season.

The addition of Richarlison had my starting XI line up as a 5-2-3, first time I have used that formation this season. As of Monday, before Burnley hosting Newcastle I have scored 47 overall points with Rob Elliot and Stephen Ward to play. This as the weekly average is just 39 points! Unfortunately, the injury to Kane is a cause for concern. Left out this week against the loss to Man United, Spurs looked toothless up front with Son, as Eriksen was relegated to a deeper midfield position. Hopefully the midweek UCL fixture against Real Madrid will shed light on his availability, home to Crystal Palace in GW11.

With very few forwards “in form” I was considering moving Jesus and Vardy for budget options. Names such as Abraham and Diouf were top of the list. Not sure I want to consider Glenn Murray, who’s three goals in the last 2 games has fantasy managers looking at his potential. He’s the third most transferred in forward for the week before the aforementioned Abraham and Diouf. Using these three forward would cost me £23.8m, leaving me £17.1m to spend in the midfield.

It’s not uncommon to play five midfielders, as the 3-5-2 is a rather “common” formation for many FPL managers. However, combine that with 4 defenders and a lone striker, it could be a risk many are unwilling to take. So far this season we have seen little consistency in the forward position, outside of Romelu Lukaku. While he’s not setting the net on fire, his 62 points are third best this season, just one point behind Harry Kane and 9 behind Leroy Sane’s total of 71 points. While I still feel Kane is more dynamic, offering a better chance of “big returns” it has been Lukaku who’s returned 8 out of 10 games this season.

Currently I feature Christian Eriksen, Pascal Groß and Richarlison as my 3-man midfield. With a stout, 5-man defense I have some hefty funds wrapped up in Marcos Alonso (£6.9) and Sead Kolasinac (£6.0). With his 14-point performance on Saturday, I am inclined to hold Kolasinac, which leaves Alonso, the fall guy to free up the necessary budget to build my 5-man midfielder.

The short list includes Eden Hazard. At 5.2% owned, his leadership and potential could be a BIG differential if his GW10 performance is any indication of his upcoming returns, as he recorded his first double digit (11 points) return of the season. At £10.6 he isn’t cheap, could fit into my 4-5-1 plans.

Liverpool has a run of good fixtures upcoming having just CHE in GW13 and ars in GW19, it’s all green for the Reds through Christmas. While I haven’t been a big Mo Salah fan, he’s been on of the best midfielders through 10 weeks. At £9.2, his 57 points trail those of Eriksen and Sane but has returned just once in the last 4 weeks. Bringing Salah and Hazard in together is possible, but unlikely as I would have to move Alonso. Even though he hasn’t produced I am not sure I am completely comfortable with that.

Other options would see Alonso being moved for Harry Maguire (£5.1m). We know Claude Puel take a defensive minded approach to his game plan and Maguire could benefit even home to Man City in GW12 and Spurs in GW14. This would free up enough budget to allow Raheem Sterling and Eden Hazard to round out my starting XI.

While Sterling isn’t my first choice from Man City, I would need to free up another £0.3m in order to secure David Silva. Without downgrading Kolasinac or Kyle Walker, I would need to make due with Sterling and the “Pep Carousel” until I further notice. I am keeping a close eye on Riyad Mahrez as well, a goal and 3 assists in his last 3 games, now playing in a more supporting roll for Jamie Vardy up front.

Regardless of the players that are transferred in, this plan will take a few weeks to implement, as I don’t intend of taking a big hit to bring them all in. I won’t be opposed to take a few more 4-point hits to expedite things in order to strengthen my midfield. For example, Hazard in GW12 against West Brom with an away fixture to Liverpool the following week. Sterling can wait until GW12, as City hosts Arsenal this coming weekend. And with Pep at the controls, who the hell knows if he will even start!

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