Premier League: 1st FPL Draft

Let’s get this out of the way, I won’t be adding a second draft team to my resume this EPL season. In fact, I was having reservations to even participate in yesterday’s draft, as the game is losing a bit of its luster and reminding me too much of fantasy (American) football, which features the same snake style draft in order to build your unique team.

As I watched the time count down to the start the of draft I waited to see my draft position and was pleased to be listed as #2. This meant I was ensured of adding a premium forward to build around. It wasn’t long after selecting Kun Aguero with the second pick overall, bypass the likes of Sanchez and Lukaku that I tabbed to another window on the PC to wait my second pick.

When I tabbed back to the draft it should me to be “away” and suddenly it was the 4th round! I had missed two rounds but hadn’t been away for more than about 60 seconds. Thankfully I saw this as a blessing in disguise, as I ended up with Dele Alli and Phillipe Coutinho in those rounds. Not sure I could have asked for anything better. Right?

With a good core built around these three players I watched the draft progress and concluded there were only 3 managers who were participating, thus the quick down and back in the draft where I was picking nearly back to back in quick succession.  Round 4 came down to either Defore or Benteke. Quickly weighing the different factors I selected the journeyman, Defoe as my second forward before returning in round 5 with Pedro. My team was coming together nicely and honestly better than I had hoped.

The decision was made prior to the draft not to select keepers or defenders until the final 7 selections of the draft. While it might mean I wouldn’t get the likes of Alonso, it didn’t really concern me knowing my defense would be rather stout and potentially have a good rotation between the pipes.

The next two rounds  saw Wayne Rooney and new boy, Davy Klassen join my squad. While neither will see much action after GW1, I felt both were some of the best talent remaining on the board as we hit the mid rounds. Speaking of Alonso, he was selected two picks after Klassen as the 49th player taken. Ahead of players such as Lanzini, Willian, Zaha, Ramsey and Fabergas. Lots of £7.0 midfielders, be curious to see how this works out in the draft game, as well as the traditional game.

With Aguero, Defoe and Rooney, my front line was set and I was looking to round out my final midfield position when the draft came back to me for the 54 selection in the draft. I turned to West Ham, and their talented midfield coming down to Lanzini and Arnautovic. While I like what Arnautovic brings to the Hammers from Stoke City, I felt more comfortable with Lanzini to have a break out year running that offense.

The midfield now complete, I looked at who would anchor my 5-man defense and turned to last year’s champions, Chelsea. While Cahill was top on my list, he was drafted prior to my selection of Azpilicueta. Kyle Walker was the other option, but I had some reservation of rotation, so passed for the Chelsea man. However the following round I picked up a former teammate of Walker’s in Alderweireld, which strengthened the defense that would start the season for me.

In reality, I wanted Vincent Kompany but failed to see him just down the list from Alderweireld. In retrospect, Kompany has struggled for fitness over the years, but as healthy Kompany will provide big returns, but can he stay healthy? With Spurs playing at Wembley this year, one can only hope they can repeat the season with 17 clean sheets, a feat I fear they won’t accomplish.

Continuing with defense I contemplated picking up the man without a team, so to speak, in van Dijk but his uncertainty didn’t sit well with me, as I know he won’t pull on a So’ton jersey this season and didn’t want that in my potential third starter. Other options I considered were Stones, who was a potential rotation risk and didn’t shine last season with City, Alderweireld’s partner, Trippier and Mustafi of Liverpool. Looking a few rounds ahead, I was hoping to secure the services of Ederson, so I bypassed Stones and took the Arsenal man, in hopes he’s cemented in a starting role for the Gunners. He played 26 games last season but also caught 11 yellow cards.

My last two defenders I felt were stronger attacking assets than the first three defenders I selected and was pleasantly surprised to see them in the later part of the draft. Charlie Daniels took up the fourth spot, as one of the top returning defenders last season with 134 points! Lastly, I went back to a favorite from 2 years ago from West Ham, Aaron Cresswell, who put up 133 points on 2 goals/4 assists and 11 clean sheets in 2015/16. Like how the Hammers are looking and feel he is real valued added to this squad.

In between the posts I was able to secure the services of the new boy, Ederson for City, a player I was considering when drafting defenders in the earlier rounds. I feel City could put up 18-20 clean sheets this season and Ederson will be a big part of that defensive success. Finally pick to finish out my 15-man squad was for Chelsea keeper, now at Bournemouth, Asmir Begovic. Much like Cresswell, he has been very successful in previous EPL season 144 and 136 points in the 2012/13 and 2013/14 seasons.

Pleased with my draft, I feel I have a very competitive team. I have not looked at the other 7 squads in my league, but feel I will be at or near the top all season long with quality and talent; Aguero, Alli, Coutinho, Alderweireld down the center of the pitch.

Here is the full team and how I anticipate I will run them out for GW1. With a solid bench, I will have many good options available. What I don’t like about the draft, the fact there are still playing coming and going in the EPL. Morata and Danilo are still not available in the game. That could potentially be crucial, the same could be said if someone of Sanchez of Countinho quality transferred out of the EPL, could potentially damage a team.

Currently, I cannot put a claim in for either player, but rest assured I would not hesitate to add that quality to an already strong draft team. Not sure how closely I will follow the draft game, as I feel I have the superior team in the league. We will see how I fair and I will follow it weekly with a retrospect, much like I do with the traditional game.

Fantasy EPL – DGW 37

This post will fall mainly on deaf ears since football (aka soccer) is not taken seriously in the United States. Sure, we have the MSL, USL and NASL but none of them compare to the game that’s played abroad, but I am not here to drag my soapbox out about the inferior play and leagues in America. This is about the fantasy aspect of football, which is big business, especially in the Barclay’s Premier League. Just like the NFL and countless leagues that pop up when the season rolls around, football in England takes center stage for a 38 week season.

Outside of hockey and basketball I have played fantasy sports since 1983, when I started my own fantasy football (NFL) league with 5 friends. So while my expertise flourished with stats, players and strategy, interest in the NFL has waned the past 10 years and while I still participate I do out of friendship for the guys I play with. It’s the EPL that has taken center stage for me, played on a very large scale with 3.7 million players taking part in the Fantasy Premier League. This is just the third season I have participated, but after 36 weeks I will post my best score to date based on a very hard to predict EPL season.

Compared to my past NFL expertise, I am a 3 year “newbie” to the fantasy world, sometimes learning the ropes, “the hard way.” Each year is a new experience, a new piece of the puzzle to implement in hopes or fielding the best 11 players on the pitch. Yet 2015-2016 has already seen the league turned upside down with Leicester City, a 5000-1 long shot winning the league. Past performances of top players have been questionable at best sometimes, but subscribing to “form over fixture” seems to hold true more often than not. In the past it was “the law of fantasy football averages” as it related to the NFL (read The Ogletree Factor). “This is a law that dictates there are only so many yards and TD’s to go around and mediocre guys who have really good weeks will have to have really bad weeks later on to average their stats out. It also works in reverse for good and/or great players. Those who have really bad weeks will have to have some really good ones to again, average it out by seasons end.”

Form over fixture is important, as hot players can quickly go cold, so being able to predict “who” will move is based purely on speculation. When it goes in your favor, you are genius! Sometimes a few weeks can make your break you entire fantasy season. For me, my season broke in week 9, on the heels of a 109 point week. thanks in part to Kun Aguero dropping a 5 goal performance on Newcastle which netted me 50 points! These two weeks were separated by the international break, which saw an injury to Aguero. I took a -2 hit point restructured my team transferring Aguero out and bringing in Graziano Pellè and Kevin De Bruyne, a move that accounted for just 4 points in week 9 and started a run of red arrows the next 5 out of 6 weeks.

At the end of week 8 I was ranked 65k, my highest ever ranking. After week 14 I sat at 583k, a drop of some 520k positions. I thought I turned the corner after consecutive green arrows in weeks 15 and 16 (66 & 69 points), but 72 points in week 17 saw another down arrow. Continuing to read the fantasy sites, take advice and participate in weekly polls, it was tough to see much change. The dynamics of my team continued to shift, I did however maintain a 3-5-2 formation, but hurt myself by playing my chips too early in the season. It makes great sense to hold these gems (all out attack, triple captain and bench booster) until the DGWs or double game weeks begain.

Entering week 34, the first DGW I was ranked 161k, coming off a solid 76 point performance, 20 points above the average. By this time, Aguero was back on the front line and Alexis Sanchez was transferred in. When the DGW ended I was score 139 (-4 points for 2 transfers), 60 points above the average. You can play the “what if…” game every week in fantasy sports. “What if I would have held my triple captain chip?” “What if I played my bench boost?” You can drive yourself to a white, padded room thinking about the “what if…” scenarios. I saw a green arrow and my highest rank, now 107k since week 9.

Since week 1 the team has changed considerable. In this game getting in on “the template” is imperative. The template are those players that many of the top 10k players own. What make one team flourish and the other flounder are those “differentials” you have on  your team, any given week that score to make a difference in finishing with a red, down arrow or a green, up arrow. Week 3 saw me burn my first wildcard (WC) in order to bring my team close to those players on the template but passed on Leicester City’s, Jamie Vardy for weeks on end during his 11-goal scoring streak. The use of that WC helped me gain 520k spots in just 4 weeks.

Now we stand on the edge of week 37, another DGW. Many owners have held onto some of their chips or even a WC and are preparing to make that final push to close out this strange year in the EPL. Entering this week with 2041 points, I have matched my best point total from 2013/2014 but 300 points off the overall leader. That equates to less than a 9 point/week difference. That’s a defender gaining a shutout or a midfielder being awarded 3 bonus point. Even easier points, holding the chips until the DGWs. Regardless of how the year ends up, I will end the year on a positive note, even if I happen to go tits up with two red arrows.

week37dgwAs for this week I am hoping for BIG things, taking a -20 point hit to field a team of 10 starters all playing in the DGW. It’s a big gamble, but 140-160 is a distinct possibility given the form of the players I transferred in. Like the end of any season, it becomes a crap shoot as manager rotate players or rest players depending on European matches left to play. However, confidence is high in this starting IX, just don’t like seeing Harry Kane on the bench, based purely on his potential. Then again I have been playing Kun Aguero nearly all year because of his explosive potential.

Chalk this year crazy year up to another learning experience, ending the year knowing more now than when I started the year. Using a few fantasy sites to my advantage, while going with gut instead of with the pundits. Ending in the top 100k will be an achievement but it will require a big leap forward to break into the top 10k next year, which is a more coveted position come the end of the year.

Fantasy Premier League 2015-2016

eplThe 2015-2016 Barclay’s English Premier League is upon us! Time for “football” fans to rejoice as the chase for the cup begins. There have been some big moves in the EPL this year, not surprisingly coming from the top teams; Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool and Arsenal. Yet we can’t forget the middle of the pack teams who make up a bulk of the action, as well as the newly promoted clubs; newcomers, AFC Bournemouth, Norwich City and Watford!

This is 4th year I have participated in Fantasy Premier League. While I haven’t done well in the past, it’s been a real learning experience. Much like jumping into fantasy football that is played in the US, following the NFL, it takes times, lots of studying in order to “get it right” the first time. Now I won’t say I have a got anything right when it comes to spending my £100 on 15 players that will make up my squad, Go’Orns (which is short for Go Hornets, the nick for Watford).

I have spent more time this year than I have the previous 4 years learning, studying and tinkering with my squad. Every time I finish a new article I find myself shuffling players in and out. Unlike NFL fantasy football, where you a waiver wire, you only get a single transfer (not including your wild cards) per week playing the EPL.. So getting your team correct starting gameweek 1 is very important. My confidence is running very high, as it usually does before the start of any fantasy league.

Injuries and fatigue from summer play have impacted a few notable players on the eve of kickoff. This has seen players like Alexis Sanchez, Sergio Agüero and Diego Costa, all questionable, all of whom were top scorers last season. I don’t know how many times I have shuffled my lineup with all three them on the pitch at one time or another the last month. Yet, as we look towards Man. U v Spurs, I think I have finally secured my lineup for the start of the season.

Goalkeepers: Petr Cech, ARS / Wayne Hennessy, CRY
There were two schools of thought for the man between the sticks, go cheap and rotate keepers on lower teams based on their strength of schedule. Initially this is how I was set up, but after further thought and consideration I decided I wanted a goalkeeper I could start and forget. The man to fill that position, Petr Cech, Arsenal, newly acquired from rival Chelsea. After relegation to a back up roll at Chelsea last season, Arsenal might have the final piece of the puzzle to challenge for a league title. No doubt Cech will take that defense to the next level with the likes of  Per “BFG” Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny anchoring the defense. Cech alone is with a 5-10 wins during the year and will increase the number of of shutouts Arsenal records this year. At £5.5 he didn’t come cheap, but I feel the extra money is well spent. Backup goalkeeper is Wayne Hennessy of Crystal Palace, I don’t expect to use him, but at £4.0 he will see some starts as Julian Speroni is injured to start the year.

Defenders: Laurent Koscielny, ARS / Nathaniel Clyne LIV, Aaron Cresswell, WHU / Robert Huth, LEI / Matt Targett SOU

Defenders, much like goalkeepers can be had cheap and with a good rotation could benefit you based on their weekly match ups. It comes as no surprise that Chelsea has the top three defenders based on price (Ivanovic, Terry and Cahill). At one point I decided to anchor my defense with Ivanovic, but soon realized that would leave me a few million pounds short through the midfield and up front. For much of the month I had Caesar Azpilicueta slotted as my route into the Chelsea defense, a rock solid performer who will undoubtedly see improvement this year from last. Yet it was just a few days ago I opted for Laurent Koscielny to anchor my defense. The reason why, falls to the man between the sticks, Petr Cech. Koscielny can perform on both ends of the pitch. He is prone to yellow cards, but 3 goals and 11 shutouts last year could potentially increase by the end of the season. Nathaniel Clyne moved to Liverpool and will control the right side, with ability to get up and down the field, he scored twice last year and added two assists with 13 clean sheets. At £5.5 he isn’t cheap, but could be worth every pound spent on his return. Aaron Cresswell rounds out my starting three, he played every minute of every game last year and recorded 129 points. With some questions in the Hammers midfield, Cresswell could improve on his 4 assists last year. Robert Huth and Aaron Targett round out my 5 defenders and currently I don’t plan on playing either of them unless there is an emergency.

Midfielders: Eden Hazard, CHE / Santi Cazorla, ARS / Victor Wanyama, SOU / Raheem Sterling, MCI / Jordan Henderson LIV

As expected the bulk of my £100 went into the midfield position, spending £40.5! If I were to adjust my forwards and save £1.5 to £2.0 I could conceivably be starting 5 midfielders. The thought has crossed my mind numerous times, but only realistically started looking at that option last night. Not sure I want to tinker too much with the lineup at this point. No surprised to see Hazard leading the group, high scorer last year and I don’t see him slowing down this year. He is a “must have” on your fantasy team. In a surprise move I decided to add Raheem Sterling, after his move to City, playing with a group of talented midfielders, Sterling could shine in his first season. It’s money well spent and he comes in £1.0 less than David Silva (another midfielder I had slotted a few times). I fully expect to sell Sterling when Aguero is healthy to strengthen my forwards, which means I will trade down for a second tier midfielder such as Yannick Bolasie from Palace or Matt Richie, Bournemouth. For a few weeks it was Mesut Özil in my starting five, finally playing in the 10 spot for the Gunners, but after further consideration I swapped him out and added Santi Cazorla, who is favored from the spot and free kicks. Behind Sanchez, he was the second highest scoring Gunner last year. I could see him clipping 200 points this year with the addition of a few more assists and an increase in shutouts, thanks to Cech. Since Liverpool didn’t keep Steven Gerrard, the armband was passed to Jordan Henderson, 162 last year topped the team. With new boys Firmino, Milner and Ibe, I do see Henderson being a 90 minute player. The addition of Benteke and Ings up front with a healthy (whenever that it) Sturridge and Henderson could come into his own this season for L’pool.  Victor Wanyama was my budget buy coming in at £4.5, while playing near 2400 minutes last year with 3 goals and 1 assist. Hopefully Wanyama won’t get lost with Tadic and Mané prowling the midfield for Southampton.

Forwards: Wayne Rooney MUN / Christian Benteke LIV / Callum Wilson BOU

This group has undergone many changes and might see one more revision before I finalize my starters for the weekend. Rooney was actually my third choice for a starting forward. Initially Agüero was penciled in as my starter, but after fatigue from Copa America this summer and the possibility of missing gameweek 1 I pulled him for Diego Costa (CHE), who’s start is in question because of a hamstring. So, Rooney it is. Playing back up top with a good complement of midfielders, Rooney could flourish this season, coming off a disappointing campaign last year. I will plan on selling Rooney when Agüero returns (along with Sterling). At one point it was Danny Ings slotted to start, but after Benteke made the move to Anfield, Ings fell by the wayside. But it was Romelu Lukaku who was going to partner with Rooney, but a hamstring injury might slow him. Benteke is a monster, who, when on is really on, but when off, can be a complete disaster. He’s got the midfield to feed him up front, so I will take a chance with Benteke as my #2. Third forward has been flip flopping between Troy Deeney of Watford and Callum Wilson of Bournemouth, both play for the newly promoted teams and while I favor Deeney because I am a Watford fan, I penciled in Wilson. Why? Wilson is the point of the attack for Bournemouth, while Deeney has Ighalo and Vydra in the mix. Still 3 years with 20+ goal season is how to deny, yet it was the lower league, but for now, Wilson gets the now. Hopefully one of these two bargain players end up being the new Charlie Austin.

I plan on a 3-4-3 lineup to start the season and have no money in the back. With any luck I will be able to hold on to my wildcard until Agüero returns. I don’t plan on rotating any players right now, but the rotation will show up in the defense first. Hopefully I can improve on my finish last year, but confidence is running very high, although there are still many unanswered questions.

Football Weekend….in the UK

It’s more often than not I wish we lived in the U.K. where the nation’s sport was football. No, not the American kind you find owners locking out players over their collective bargaining agreement and not being able to agree on $9 billion. That’s the NFL for you. This weekend kicked of the action in the English Premier League. Unfortunately being stuck at work on opening weekend I was only able to catch parts of about 4 games, along with highlights from the day.

For me the match of the day was Liverpool v. Sunderland. After the frustrating 2010-2011 season for L’pool it started off on the wrong foot with a draw against the Black Cats. After missing a penalty shot, Luis Suárez redeemed himself with a 12′ goal. That lead would last until 57′ minute when a beautiful volley found the far side of the goal from Sebastian Larsson. An early season goal that could end up being the goal of the year.

Not too surprising to see four games end in draws on Saturday, including the Gunners v. Newcastle and Joey Barton. Barton was deliberately stepped on by Alex Song, the officials missed it and that incident led to a later disagreement that involved Barton and Gervinho, who was red carded.

Today we will see how Manchester United starts against West Brom and Chelsea against Stoke City. Monday we will see other big off-season spenders, Manchester City v. Swansea City. It looks to be another great season in top flight football in the EPL. I plan to be very involved watching this season, as well as Serie A and the battle at the top in La Liga! Also great to know the Mexican League is very early to watch on Saturday afternoons. Viva Cruz Azul!

WWC: Not For Me

While I am a footie fan and follow the game worldwide, I am not a fan of the MLS, WPS or either the men’s or women’s USA national teams. Some individuals I talk to were surprised that I had no interest in watching the Women’s World Cup. Maybe it’s much like the WNBA, while their skills could be technically sound, watching them play is not my idea of exciting. I won’t deny what the women’s team have achieved in the past as they go for their third World Cup Championship (as I understand it).

As for the men’s team, their skill level is not on par with that of countries and clubs worldwide. There are some individual players who have made their livelihood playing abroad, for example Tim Howard, goalkeeper for Everton. Unfortunately after his little tirade when he was a sieve against Mexico I have lost much of the respect I had for one of the USA’s best players.

The game played in the states is not on par with the top leagues in countries like England, Spain, Italy just to name a few. Again, I have nothing to compare the women too since I have no idea the level of play of leagues outside the USA. I can’t even begin to comment on the WPS since the league is of no interest.

I am glad to see many non-soccer enthusiasts excited for the Women’s World Cup final, but I won’t be one of the many watching or really caring about the outcome of the game. For me the excitement begins with the new EPL season, August 13th with friendly matches kicking off this weekend.