Premier League: GWTF 2

Interesting to note how this season’s squad parallels last season’s through just 2 weeks into the EPL. This time last year after GW2 I was writing, “Bring on the green arrow, as I improved my overall position to 182k, jumping some 119k spots with 72 points this weekend.” It wasn’t until Gameweek 3 that my squad took a turn and scored just 39 points, following an “average” 59 points in GW1. This season after starting with 58 points, my squad returned just 38 points as the starting XI continued to struggle, yet there is continued support of some players based on their underlying statistics. The recent theme since a dismay Man City performance has been”wild card.” Do you or don’t you?

Unlike last season I am attempting to practice more patience with my starting XI than I had last year at this time. The GW2 transfer of Zaha was necessary, as his injury will hold him out of action for approximately 4 weeks. However, picking up Mkhitaryan was a perfect replacement, providing another 2 assists, now leads the league with 4. Prior to the start of the season I was hoping to roll the first FT over to GW2, which would allow 2 transfers as we approach GW3. Now, only Tuesday I have already activated my FT for GW3, finally losing patience with KDB and doubling up with Eriksen in my 2-man midfield. Knee jerk? Eh…possibly but Spurs face Burnley at home in GW3. More on Spurs later.

With heavy reliance on defense, the lack of a clean sheet from So’ton hurt any chance for a positive contribution. It wasn’t a complete loss, as Foster picked up his second CS on the season, as did Valencia, who doesn’t look as attack minded in a 4-back set for United. Thankfully Yoshida picked up a very late assist and 1 bonus point to salvage 5 points. The combination of Bertrand, Cedric and Kompany combined for 3 points. Still, I am high on Kompany, as long as he remains healthy, but didn’t expect City to bleed Rooney’s 200th goal yesterday at home. Their team might not be as fixture proof as once thought with some budget defenders outplaying premium players. Yet, let’s consider it’s been just 2 weeks.

In the middle of the field, the lack of Man City goals continues to frustrate managers. The offensive threat that City possess is impressive, unfortunately a 2-0 victory over BHA and a 1-1 draw against EVE hasn’t produced a feeling of security as it relates to the likes of De Bruyne and Jesus, both of which I have in my starting XI. Some reports of KDB playing deeper, allowing David Silva a more advanced position could shed a negative light on his potential, especially at £10.0. Returns of 3 and 4 (as I captained him in GW2) doesn’t bode well with the likes of Pogba, Mkhitaryan, Eriksen and Alli outplaying KDB at a cheaper price. I have no doubts City will click and when they do, we will all be looking at moving in their high priced talent. GW3 is away to BOU, returns likely!

In a knee jerk reaction to KDB not returning big against Everton I activated my FT and dropped him in favor of Eriksen, which saves me £0.5 and gives me £1.0 ITB. The move was predicated on Eriksen rising £0.1m this week, which as of Tuesday morning, hasn’t occurred. Knee jerk because of City’s strong match up against BOU in GW3. Looks at the statistics, Kane & Co. have some good numbers, which are hard to ignore. Much like last year, I can see doubling (or trebling) on Spurs and now Man United. The addition of Eriksen, now gives me double Spurs, Man United and Man City, while I still have treble defenders from So’ton.

As eluded to in previous pieces, just hours before GW1 I made the decision to change formations from a 5-3-2 to a 5-2-3 due to lack of quality midfielders around £7.0. I felt there were strong attacking options in a third forward, thus I introduced Jesus and Firmino and dropped Lukaku. Two weeks in, we know that was a mistake and I have toiled in that decision for nearly 3 weeks now. Jesus saw just 45 minutes as the Pep merry-go-round is spinning, while Kane…*sigh*…his August woes continue. There is a silver lining through. Most shots in GW2, Kane, 8. Most shots on target in GW2, Kane, 4. For the second week in a row, he clipped the post and left his owners, in a shriveled heap on the floor. Now back to back 1 point returns doesn’t fair well, especially with a £12.5 price tag, but I don’t expect his price to decrease, as his underlying stats are excellent!

So the question becomes, how long do you give Kane? Continued statistics have me continuing to back Kane as 248,000 managers have transferred him out since GW1, conversely 325,000 managers have brought Lukaku in. Looking ahead, Spurs have good fixtures; BUR/eve/SWA/whm/hud/BOU. No reason to to think Kane won’t net 5-7 goals in that span and put his August woes behind him as we move into September.

But what of Lukaku? Now at £11.6 with another price increase in the fold and favorable fixtures through GW7 (LEI/sto/EVE/sou/CRY) and with an astounding 56.7 TSB%, his ownership is a MUST. Yet, here I am looking at GW3 and I still don’t own the big Belgian. Not wanting to “knee jerk” and I holding out for one more week and the international break before activating my first wild card. That’s the plan if asked today. Again, this is another parallel to last season, when I wild carded for GW4 and saw positive short term rewards and a cluster of green arrows.

Based on what has transpired through 2 weeks, I figure I will score 72+ points this week heading into the break and consider my options at that point. “Knee jerk” has been the catchphrase the past few weeks and maybe pulling the trigger quickly on KDB (Monday) in favor of Eriksen will come back to bite me. Hopefully it works in my favor so I can head into the international break on a positive note. Still for he remainder of the week, barring injury I don’t plan on activating the wild card or taking a hit to bring hot, young talent (sounds like a p0rn ad) to my squad. That means Lukaku, Alonso and Trippier must wait another week.

FPL: What if…

It was well documents on T6F that the last minute change to my GW1 FPL starting XI was a knee jerk reaction to the first scoutcast of the season from the guys at Fantasy Football Scout. By no means do I blame them for my reaction to their information. The fault lies from within, as months of work, effort and planning fell by the wayside based on the “what if…” situations that surrounded Gameweek 1. In my mind I am still attempting to justify the reason why I opted for a 5-2-3 instead of the 5-3-2 that I had been working with predominately, in order to find a midfield rotation, that appear on paper at least to be the best option.

Goals by Lukaku the first few weeks, along with those from Pogba and Alonso highlight the misses from my squad because of this knee jerk reaction.  However moving Coutinho out before GW1 was a wise move as he continues to watch from the sidelines due to injury and the potential move to Barca. The injury to Zaha meant I had to use my FT in order to bring a viable #2 midfielder in. This was probably a blessing in disguise as I opted for Mkhitaryan, who currently leads the EPL in assists with 4 through two games.

What is really bizarre, the fact I did not start with any offensive Man United players. Both Lukaku and Pogba were slated for weeks in my squad. There was some question as to how attack-minded that Pogba would be and at £8.0, Mkhitaryan would have been another option. To start GW1 it was just Valencia who made the cut to start the season. Based on the early planning, Bailly (goal in GW2) was also in the starting XI in order to accommodate the £7.0 Alonso. The early Man United fixtures were excellent, as pundits had been discussing; WHM/swa/LEI/sto, to start the season. Yet it was De Bruyne at £10.0 who started as my premium midfielder, a player I really didn’t consider over the course of my planning.

So where do I go from here? I am still pleased with the 5 defender set, even though So’ton conceded twice to 10-man West Ham squad. Being trebled up at the back (Yoshida, Bertrand, Cedric) hurt, thankfully Yoshida picked up a late assist to salvage something from the Saints back line. The dominance of £7.0 Alonso through 2 weeks has been impressive to watch. Sure Chelsea got rolled by Burnley in GW1, but much like Kane, Alonso featured big in the attack down the right side. Could the outlay of £7.0 be worth it?

So’ton has hud/WAT/cry in the next 3 games, all of which could yield clean sheets. Could! Yet, it’s a high risk, high reward, where a single goal can mean the different between 18 points and 6 points. Shifting to Alonso now doesn’t appear lucrative with EVE/lei/ARS over the next 3 games. However the Blues looked good against Spurs on Sunday and there is no reason to believe they won’t tally multiple goal games in the next 3 fixtures.

Not owning Lukaku is weighing heavily. Much like the decision not to run with Pogba, this decision was borderline crazy. Looking at his GW1 TSB% and the fact Kane has struggled in August should have meant Lukaku in the starting XI, while playing the “wait and see game” with Kane. Unfortunately, I rolled the dice and so far have come up on the short end, based on just 2 weeks. All is not lost, Kane has some excellent underlying stats in his two early performances, I feel it’s a matter of time before he hits in August, GW3 fixture is home to Burnley.

Up front, the return of Sturridge for Liverpool saw Firmino drop a bit further to fill that midfield slot with Salah on the bench. Not a Salah fan and feel he’s going to struggle in the EPL this season. Still without Coutinho, Firmino ends up being that play maker Liverpool is missing if Sturridge can remain healthy. Jesus at City has possibly has two more weeks before he faces the transfer ax. Returning a single point in the first week and he faces Everton this week. The combined budget (£19.0) would allow me to downgrade KDB, giving me £29.0 to spend. This would also mean activating my WC before GW4. Something I was attempting to avoid going into the season.

Before all the dominoes begin to topple, we need to play out GW2 as Man City hosts Everton. A big output from City could sway my upcoming decisions on who will go and who will stay. Still I feel good about my squad, even though the numbers are representative of it.

Starting Eleven

Along with participating in the FPL game, as well as their new draft game, I decided to give the new online fantasy football league called Starting Eleven a change last week after hearing the Brandon and Josh interviewed Thomas Braun on a recent Always Cheating podcast. Gameweek 1 was highly successful, finishing 2nd in the world on Saturday. It appeared I might actually know a little something about fantasy football having having a great Saturday, but faltered on Sunday and didn’t fare as well. Still, the game and interactive experience was great, adding a new dimension to the fantasy game while watching along.

 

The game is simple and played on a daily basis, as long as there are 2 teams involved. As the manager you select your starting XI for that game day, along with assigning the captaincy. Once the games kickoff, you are allowed 3 transfers during that day. This is what makes Starting Eleven unique. If you are losing and your forward pulls up with an injury, you make a real time substitution!

Last week, I was a bit late to the party, as I made zero transfers on Saturday, due to a prior commitment, which nearly cost me the victory over Brandon at AC, hanging on to victory 167.7 to 165.3. Brandon on the other hand, made a late substitute in order get the upper hand and a chance to change the outcome.

Starting Eleven offers various single day game types; 1 vs 1, Winner Take All (WTA) 50/50 and Private Game. The 1 vs 1 is a head-to-head game against another manager with winner-take-all stakes. The WTA allows you to compete against a group of managers. The highest-scoring manager takes the entire prize pool. The 50/50 is similar to WTA, as it’s played against a group of managers with the top 50% winning prizes. Finally there’s the private game, played as a 1 vs 1 against a friend.

Currently all single day game types offer free contests, but cash prizes for U.S. and U.K. players is coming in Fall, 2017. This will allow managers to not only earn bragging rights, but take home a spot of cash for the managerial prowess. Until that time, games will be played free, learning the game and scoring system.

For more information drop by the Starting Eleven website and see what the app is all about. It’s great fun, while being more interactive than other fantasy games. Feel free to contact me on Twitter (@w6onv) if you would like a 1 vs 1 challenge.

FPL: Cha-Cha-Changes

It’s never too early to look at potential changes in your FPL lineup. Right now, I am confident with my starting XI, which allows me a multitude of possibilities when it comes shifting players. However, I attempted to get a few new players in using a hypothetical wildcard and I came up £0.1m short. While I have already activated my FT for GW2, bringing in Henrikh Mkhitaryan for Wilfried Zaha, out due to injury, I am looking forward to next week.

After some consideration, discussion on Twitter and fantasy football websites, it appears I could be headed for a very early wild card. Prior to GW1, I was hoping to hold my WC until the second international break, GW7. Last 2 years I have activate my WC after GW4 with great success (in the short term). While my initial plans were set in motion for GW1, I reassured myself that my formation, FTs and WC needed to remain flexible. While I favor a 5-2-3 formation to start the 2017/18 EPL season, if the situation warrants I will shift to a more viable offense in order to chase points.

The current 5-2-3 featuring Firmino, Kane and Jesus up front provides a great feeling of confidence before the start of GW2. Underlying stats were strong for all 3 players, while Firmino was the only one who returned (12 pts.) Yet running without “Big Rom” Lukaku just doesn’t sit well. Much like tempting fate last year without Kane, especially those managers who went without when he came up BIG in the final games of the season. As pointed out by FPL Avenger (@FPLAvenger) regarding Lukaku, “He fires and you lose ground on 50% of managers. He blanks and you gain on 50% of managers.” Feels a bit like playing Russian, or in this case Belgian Roulette.

Introducing Lukaku was set in motion a series of transfer requiring an early wild card. At £11.6, in order to make the necessary room for Lukaku, I would give Firmino and Jesus their walking papers. My third forward would then role to the non-playing £4.5, Ollie McBurnie. This would shift my formation into a 5-3-2, requiring me to drop a budget midfielder and pick up a £5.5-£6.0 starter.

The introduction of Mkhitaryan for GW2 at £8.0 decreased my budget ITB to £0.5. With De Bruyne (£10.0) as my other starting midfielder, an attempt will be made to introduce Christian Eriksen (£9.5) for either Mkhitaryan or De Bruyne based on their GW2 performance. Knee jerk? Quite possibly but I don’t want to dig myself out of a very deep hole so early in the season. With very little data to go on, these moves aren’t risky based on how these players performed last season and appear to have started this season where they left off.

These moves are also contingent on Lukaku NOT rising in price after his GW2 performance. Away to Swansea, United could net a few goals, based on the number of big chances they gave up in GW1. It would also require my team value to increase by £0.1 by weekend’s end to cover the budget required. All these rising and falling prices could be irrelevant if I moved KDB, which would free up an addition £1.0.

For GW2, the knee jerk reaction isn’t great enough to cause me to activate the wild card because of Lukaku’s opening week brace. I still feel the personnel I have in my starting XI have great fixtures and based on their statistics from GW1 could return big points for the upcoming game week.

FPL: Justification

A final score of 58 points for GW1 resulted in an “average” start to the fantasy season, much like last season, where I score 59 points. The overall ranking saw me start the season at 1.9m, compared to 303k in 2016/17. However, I have mixed feelings on how I have started. Obviously, the time and energy put in during the pre-season paid off in some respect. First, I am not unhappy scoring the weekly average after GW1. Second, I am pleased with how I built my team, running out a 5-2-3 formation, albeit a bit untested, since this was a last minute Friday change to a more stable 5-3-2. Finally, it’s the first game week, you can’t judge the entire season on what happened in GW1.

As I have said from the onset, averaging 60 points a week is one of my goals. At season’s end, that would give you a final score of 2280, before adding in captaincy and bonus points. This would also be my best season, if I were to score 2280, as 2015/16 I finished on 2170 and a 75k overall ranking, my best to date. If I were to based my season on GW1, then I am on track for the season. Maybe this is looking for that silver lining in an otherwise poor, when compared to the high scores of GW1, performance.

Maybe I point my finger as Firetog, community supporter and contributor at Fantasy Football Scout, who led me down that path less traveled, when I considered my 5-defender set. His piece, In Search Of The Best Fantasy Football Formation, had me in complete agreement with his assessment when considering formations for the upcoming FPL season. While the 3-4-3 and 3-5-2 will reign supreme when it comes to formation, lining up 7 attacking players, the 5-3-2 (5-2-3) appeared a viable alternate based on player prices and lack of “quality” buys in the midfield. After GW1 we do know a bit more who could be the potential Etienne Capoue for this season. Spending £28.0m was considerably more than a majority of managers, considering most would fill their backline with budget players at £4.5, looking for that £4.0 (Rangel, 19.7 TSB%) to free up another £0.5.

When considering formation for the upcoming FPL season, I leaned on his Firetog’s statistical information. While I considered all other formations including the popular 3-4-3 and 3-5-2, I concentrated my efforts on a 5-3-2 over most of the off season. There were 6 variations with different players, strategies and plans through GW7. During the off season every lineup featured two things in common, Lukaku and Kane up front and a defensive spending in excess of £28.0. Going big on defense meant the only real decisions I had to make were in the midfield.

Unfortunately, as the off season rolled into the pre-season with friendlies through out the world, Countinho (£9.0), my selection to lead my 3-man midfield was hampered with injury and linked to a Barca move when Neymar departed for PSG. Coutinho anchored two plans for the first 7 game weeks. First was Coutinho/Tadic and 3 – £6.0m midfielders. The other plan was Coutinho/Pogba and 3 – £6.0m midfielders. Both rotations featured similar names that would rotate weekly based on strength of schedule and home fixture; Tadic, Phillips, Ritchie, Ince, Knockaert, Groß and Carroll. Including Pogba, would mean losing one of the higher price defenders, something I wasn’t too keen on, but it was a possibility.

As pre-season continued and results/performance started rolling  I began looking at another option in my 5-3-2. Based on the defenders I selected I could start with Coutinho, Pobga and Willian in the midfielder for GW1. On paper it looked good. Like the £6.0m midfielder rotation, I was able to organize a plan that would allow me to transfer out a midfielder, while attempting to play home fixtures against weaker EPL opponents. The only issue I had with this rotation was the fact it heavily featured Tadic in my starting XI. While his underlying stats were good, realistically he under performed for much of last season. With Coutinho looking more and more of a question mark, it was time to look at another high priced midfielder to start the season.

Pogba and Mkhitaryan both were a cause for concern, as they under performed last season for Man United. The addition of Lukaku up top gave managers some confidence to select one, but to double up on United’s attack was questionable. The FFS scoutcast prior to GW1 made the decision for me and forced my hand to change up the midfield to start the season.

Coverage from So’ton and Man United were essential to start the season, as were assets from their noisy neighbors, Man City. Defensively I wanted So’ton, Man City, Man United and Chelsea to start the season, however the Blues early fixtures were cause for concern. As I mentioned on August 8, “Alonso has a big question mark next to his name.” He was the linchpin for a series of moves prior to GW1 that caused me to shift my thinking from a 5-3-2 to a 5-2-3 just hours before the kickoff of ARS v LEI.

Through all of July and early August, Lukaku was essential for my starting XI and his TSB%, over 48% confirmed that ownership. Yet, I decided to move Lukaku in conjunction with Alonso to free up budget in order to bring in De Bruyne for second City asset. Indications were good that the Citizens would roll up big numbers in the early weeks, starting with new boys, Brighton. KDB’s inclusion as the playmaker for City was warranted, as was his £10.0m price tag, after a great 2016/17 season (6 goals/21 assists).

The second part of the Alonso/Lukaku transfer brought Firmino and Jesus into the starting XI, which suddenly changed the 5-3-2 to the current 5-2-3. Not high on any third budget option, after being burned by Gabbiadini last season, if I wanted to play 3 forwards it would cost me a bit more. Jesus at £1.0m less than Lukaku, but with HUGE potential appeared to be a wise move. Lukaku, new team, Jose a bit defensive minded last season after going up 1-0, with Jesus and City going up against BHA. It was risky, but I made it happen, yet the TSB% of Lukaku didn’t sit well but I ignored it as we approached GW1.

Defensively, the decision NOT to include Alonso was difficult to make, but at £7.0m, I could use the budget elsewhere to strength my squad. In his place I added Bertrand to my starting defense, which now featured, Valencia, Kompany, Bertrand, Cedric and Yoshida. The treble coverage from So’ton, Man United and Man City, I was pleased with how this back five came together. I continued to go with Foster (WBA) in between the sticks with Elliot as his back up.

Not that I need to justify my starting XI, but it was a well thought out plan since reading Firetog’s article. Is it wrong to think this differently and go against what is consider commonplace in FPL, using a 3-4-3 or a 3-5-2 formation, maximizing your attacks, while using budget defenders to make the most of your £100.0m. As I stated before, I was pleased with the underlying stats of my starting XI, shots on targets, shots in the box, unlucky decisions that could have gone my way didn’t. Not sure it warrants a true knee jerk reaction like we are seeing across the fantasy world. Managers yanking Kane in favor of Lukaku. Moving the injury Zaha for the likes of £5.5m, Xhaxa or snatching up the big Egyptian, Hegazi, based on his first goal in since 2009, when he entered professional football. As I had read in the past, the 38 week fantasy season is a marathon, not a sprint. Early on I have decided to pace myself and not go out fast, only to burn out when I need to kick.