Premier League: Wildcard Revelation

The last 2 seasons I have burned my wild card early, after the first international break. While I did see an immediate return last year, the end result was devastating, recording red arrows the next 15 of 20 game weeks. By GW27, when the bleed stopped and I turned my season around, it was too late. I was unable to recover from a 1.5m overall ranking and salvage an acceptable season. However, it was a learning experience and I would like to believe the perseverance paid off and has made me a better manager moving forward.

This season I have made it a week further than I have the last 2 years as I now contemplate activating the first of two wildcards. Before GW1, the plan was to hold the transfer until after the second international break. I believe fantasy managers must remain flexible to all conditions and factors as we plan our strategies. For me, I currently have a plan in place through GW11. I don’t expect to hold true to the plan, but it gives me an idea as to what I would like to do.

On the drive into work today I caught the tail end of the FFScoutCast Ep 232, which I had started yesterday. As expected, the banter was top shelf with Mark continuing to get a rubbing from Granville, using his wild card on some questionable players. Take a listen if you haven’t. What caught my interest was some comments from AZ regarding, considering going 5 defenders instead of spending on budget midfielders who aren’t producing. Names he brought up; Alonso, Kolasinac, Davies and Mendy.

This comment has me reconsidering moving the wild card up and playing it this week to bring in more wing back options in to further my attack. While So’ton still have strong fixtures, their fantasy assets are a mess. I’ve been lucky in 2 weeks to get the triple CS from Bertrand, Cedric and Yoshida. While I haven’t been disappointed with Valencia (3 CS), his attacking returns haven’t really materialized to date. Last week Jones was brought in for the injured Kompany, but his tenure may be short lived.

So just what I am considering? It seems all the rage is being able to go big up front with 3 premium priced forwards. This is how it feels, as fantasy managers attempt to get a combination of Kane, Lukaku, Aguero, Jesus, Morata, Lacazette, Morata and Firmino up front, while remaining strong in the midfield, but knowing you will run budget midfielders who need to start, as well as budget defenders, potentially in a rotational capacity.

Starting the season with Kane, Jesus and Firmino, I feel confident these forwards will return on a regular basis. These three forward account for £31.3m. Based on my starting two midfielders, many will say I lack a potent attack with Eriksen and Mkhitaryan starting in my 5-2-3. However both are healthy and both have started the season very well. The other three midfielders  (Carroll, Stephens, Chalobah) are starters, but I don’t plan on using them if injury should occur.

The activation of the wild card will be tailored to my defensive needs, as this is where I have allocated nearly £29.0m! While the So’ton treble has been rewarding and their fixtures appear worthwhile, it’s time to move away and provide more attacking opportunities.

Current defensive set up feature So’ton and Man United, but So’ton has the better fixtures moving forward, as they play each other at Old Trafford in GW6. The addition of Wesley Hoedt and resigning of Virgil Van Dijk adds a question mark on the playing time of Yoshida, while Bertrand and Cedric should continue to be nailed on as starters. Yet, the Saints offensive threat has been terrible through 4 weeks. Conversely, United have scored 12 goals, while conceding 2 goals, but Valencia has failed to see attacking returns. With their fixtures getting a bit challenging, it’s time to look elsewhere.

If I do activate my wild card ahead of GW5, it will be focus around upgrading the defenders to wing backs. Alonso and Kolasinac were in my pre-season plans, but both were left out of the 15-man squad for GW1. Davies has been the hottest commodity defensively since Alonso’s brace in GW2 but priced much more favorably at £5.7m. Kolasinac would be brought in for his attacking prowess and possibly a few clean sheets if they can get their starting XI squared away. The final 2 spots could be a number of offensive players; Maguire, Jones, Cresswell, Dawson, McAuley, Cedric, Daniels. My plans will include Cresswell, as fixtures turn for West Ham, as I retain Jones for at least 2 more weeks before I look to move him for someone like Maguire.

So my starting XI if I wild card by Thursday would look like this:

Thoughts on this newly revised 5-2-3 formation? I feel it takes advantage of the strong forwards, as well as strong defenders, while being able to fit in a few premium options in the midfield. While I can’t own all those high priced players, this feels right.

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.

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?