Premier League: GW25 Retrospect

Not that this fact will provide any comfort this season, but I have identified the turning point of this season for my squad. For GW7 I brought in Sanchez for De Bruyne, who was injured, in an attempt to capture points from a star midfield player. From GW7 until GW12, Sanchez scored 27 points, just 4.5 pts/week recording a double digit return (13) in a 4-1 rout of Sunderland. This was quite possibly his worst run of the season through 25 weeks. However, being the intelligent (?) manager I am, the decision was made to reacquire Sanchez just 3 weeks later in GW15, holding him for a 5 week stretch, scoring 33 points or 6.6 pts/week.

For GW21 I activated my second WC and my infinite wisdom saw Sanchez sold in favor of…this hurts too…Adam Lallana, who had returned 3 goals in his last 6 games before I settled on Ozil as the direct replacement when the game week began. Needless to say, that move didn’t work out to my advantage. So why am I running without the league’s top scorer and cornerstone, with a TSB of 35.0%? I liken it to being ask a question by my wife and I answer, “I don’t know.” It baffles me to look back and wonder just what I was thinking. I would have been much better hold Sanchez though that tough spell during GW7 and GW12, as he is nothing short of a world-class talent.

This banter leads into GW25, one in which I felt my starting XI were playing in lead lined boots on the pitch. It was another week none of my starters returned a goal, thankfully Sigurdsson (captain) provided the lone assist. Taking an -8 point hit didn’t help introducing Lukaku, off his 4 goal game. Let down by him once again, yeah I know it was Boro at home. The other hit was Alonso for the injured Daniels. Chelsea flubbed this match up, giving up 1 to newly signed Robbie Brady. With Stanislas on the bench and no points expected today, I finished the week with the current average, 40 points as the free fall continues down the global rankings, now 1.5m.

I am still in search of consistency from my starting XI, who have shown glimpse of being above average, but more often than not, well below that mark. Just 7 out of 25 weeks has my squad scored over 60 points, with 3 of those coming in the first 5 weeks of the season. What I wouldn’t give to back to back green arrows, another rarity when I had 3 in a row from GW4-GW6. It’s been a very challenging season, looking for that spark to ignite my team.

Starting defensively this week, the injury to Rose a few weeks back, saw my defensive plans altered. While I didn’t want to rely on Yoshida, he has been in the starting lineup the past few weeks. This week taking a -8, including the introduction of Alonso to my squad, So’ton returned a CS, Yoshida with 6 points. Looking ahead clashes with Man U and Spurs might be a cause for concern, as well as missing GW26. Coleman was the defensive star with 7 points with the Toffee’s CS against Boro, along with a bonus point. Alonso, as well as Chelsea as a team was a let down away to Burnley in a 1-1 draw. The second time in three weeks Alonso didn’t have a return. I was hopefully Brunt’s run of form would continue, but a 2-2 draw against WHU saw his return fall to zero.

Between the sticks it was a toss up, Heaton home to Chelsea or Jakupovic away to Arsenal. I decided to stick with Heaton, who gave up 1 goal but salvaged a point on saves. Some great matches coming up for both keepers, might see a rotation over the next few weeks in order to maximize points. Hell, might not hurt to captain a keeper the way my season is playing out.

Oh where, oh where did the Spurs offense go? Doubling up on Eriksen and Alli came to an end, when I took a hit to move Alli and introduce Sigurdsson for the second time this season. This move paid off as I captained Siggy, who recorded a nice assist, finishing on 12 points. Of course he was out captained by Mane or Sanchez. Phillips, Eriksen and Ozil had nada…nothing, zero…zilch! Okay, Ozil got a single marker for a CS.

Up front saw Lukaku make a return to my starting XI, partnered with Costa. Expectations were high, even with Chelsea away to Burnley and Everton visiting Boro. Both defenses need to be given some credit, as they shut down both players. No returns for Costa or Lukaku but I will continue to hold and start both players.

Sometimes I wonder why I don’t practice what I preach when giving out advice on players to start or transfer. In my Premier League: GW23 Retrospect I noted the addition of Gabbiadini to So’ton, “I am also high on Manolo Gabbiadini, who transfers to So’tom from Napoli in Serie A…hopefully Gabbiadini makes an impact.” He has, 3 goals in 2 games has seen 52k managers (top forward) transfer him in this week, without So’ton playing a GW26 match. I still have woes facing me in the upcoming game week. With 3.4m ITB, Stanislas (possibly) out of favor, Phillips not in form and Ozil with just 2 assists in the last 7 games I am in search of another starter.

In a fit of rage, with my head in the fog I made my GW26 FT without thinking, bringing in Gabbiadini, while forgetting he didn’t have a fixture in the upcoming week. While I can’t take that mistake back, I will looking to take a -4 point hit and bring in the only player that makes sense at this time, Alexis Sanchez for Ozil, leaving me 1.1m in the bank. Before that move is made we need to see the results of the 5th round of the FA Cup, to be played this weekend. These results could dictate future transfers with teams blanking and being handed DGWs.

Premier League: GW24 Retrospect

It’s Saturday morning in the US and we are at half time of the early matches, but it only taken 13 minutes into the Chelsea vs Arsenal match to have the head shaking and questioning to begin. Why? I formulated a plan for the rest of the season, but at the first sign of adversity I didn’t follow through with it? That is my question to myself. Things have not gone according to plan the past two weeks, but the match ups for GW24 told another story. An unfortunate injury to Danny Rose, caused a change in defense, which used my FT for the week. With about 30 minutes remaining in the early games, I had to turn all by the Hull vs Liverpool match off. Go Tigers!

Sitting here Monday reflecting on GW23 I can’t seebeing anything but disappointed. Finished the week on just 43 points, seven short of the 51 point average. I can play the “shoulda, woulda, coulda” game all I want but if I had stuck to my plan, I would have taken a -4 point hit and introduced Alonso and Lukaku into the line for GW23. That didn’t happen for two reasons. First, I didn’t like the Chelsea match up against Arsenal. Felt WBA had a better chance at a CS and more points, so I picked up Brunt in place of Alonso. This move was a net +1 as Brunt scored 9 points, while Alonso scored 8 points. The move I didn’t make that cost me 21 points was not bringing in Lukaku for Ibrahimovic, a difference of 15 points, as Lukaku went for 4 goals and 3 BPS. Much like the Brunt decision, I felt Ibrahimovic had good underlying stats leading up to the match, although they drew against Hull and Stoke with no returns, Leicester away was a good chance for Zlatan to get back on track. I didn’t figure Lukaku going for 4 goals but do have plans for him in my starting XI, as Zlatan has a blank GW26.

Playing a 3-5-2 again this week with Costa and Ibrahimovic up front, which paid off, 8 points for Costa and 6 points for Ibrahimovic. Not bad returns but neither had the captain’s armband, which hurt my return. Last week I noted Manolo Gabbiadini for So’ton, who made his mark with his first EPL goal. At 6.5m I feel he is a real bargain and just what the Saints need up top without Austin available. The youngster, Jesus has sparkled! At 9.2m he doesn’t come cheap, but it appears he has dethroned the Argentine, Aguero as the go to forward for Pep. But let’s remember, it is Pep, there is still a risk of rotation with cup play and CL coming soon. Grab Jesus soon, as 101k managers have already done so and has seen his price increase 0.2m in 2 weeks.

With 5 playing across the midfielder, I am looking to shake things up in the next 2 weeks. Ozil is shortlisted to be move next week, I like the home match against Hull, but lay caution to the wind, Hull is playing some very good football right now and an upset wouldn’t be all that surprising. This is NOT the same Hull team that was playing for Mike Phelan. I watched this game and the movement and set piece responsibilities of Kamil Grosicki, at 5.5m, he looks to be a possible replacement for Snodgrass. Speaking of Snoddy, at 5.7m his stock is on the rise. Didn’t like where he was playing, but did chip in with an assist and 5 points. He’s got some good targets in Carroll and Valencia to aim for.

Elsewhere in my midfield, I still doubled up on Spurs with Alli and Eriksen. Alli got the armband, but returned a single marker for the CS, a total of 6 points, while Eriksen was on 3 points. I am still on the fence about carrying both players. Their upcoming fixtures look outstanding, facing a struggling Liverpool in GW25, their only tough matches will be Arsenal (H) in GW35 and Man U (H) in GW37 (cup play pending). I could be inclined to keep both assets and roll with them through the end of the season. I’ve had fleeting through of bringing back Sigurdsson and De Bruyne, but both have disappointed in their past stints on my squad. Could Hazard be hitting his stride again? Scored this week against the Gunners and took home 11 points.  With 4.2m ITB, I have room to make a few moves to improve my squad.

Phillips and Stanislas round out the midfield. Took a zero from Stanislas, as he didn’t see the pitch with the return of King to the starting lineup. Might be time for a change if Stanislas doesn’t play in GW25. Phillips I have planned through GW28 and Everton, but will look to find more favorable schedule after that point as WBA catches all the top teams through GW37. Obviously blanks and DGWs will play into potential starters, but feel safe with both Baggies  in the short term.

Plagued by injuries to Daniels, Friend and Rose, who I dropped for Brunt saw him team with Coleman and Yoshida as my starting defenders. Brunt carried the defense for 9 points, playing OOP down the left side. His tenure will be short term as the Baggies schedule goes south after GW28, but will give me coverage for what could potentially be a week of very few points. So’ton has frustrated….again and I got sucked in with the low price for Yoshida, matches with Burnley, Leicester, Swansea and West ham netted me just 9 points and 1 CS over that stretch. At the time of purchase he was a starter and a budget buy, with 4.2 ITB after moving Zlatan, I am inclined to bring in another premium defender, possibly doubling up on Chelsea or Everton or introducing Walker of Spurs. Coleman rounded out my starters as Everton gave up 3 goals, thankfully in the 6-3 dismantling of Bournemouth he bagged me an assist for 4 points. Jakupovic remains my bench keeper, but has turned in two CS performances against Man U and Liverpool in the last 2 games. Can he do it again away to Arsenal?

What is a fantasy manager in decline do? I have dropped another 200k now sitting at 1.4m! Not where I expected to be this deep into the season. Still well off last year’s point total with just 1152. It’s all but hopeless in the two mini leagues as I have held my ranking at 5th and 8th in both. Planning for GW25 I intended to bring in Alonso and Lukaku, not only for coverage but price increase, but missed the window. I have already taken a -4 point hit for GW25 as I brought both players in for the upcoming week. My squad value is just 102.6m, down nearly 1.0m from my high after GW17, like my rank it too continues to fall. Moving Zlatan has allowed me 4.2m in the bank, but if I start upgrading defenders and midfielders I must be honest and know I won’t get him back for the rest of the season. Possible replacements, Jesus (9.2m), Carroll (6.3m, carrying a knock), Defoe (7.8m) and Gabbiadini (6.5m).

Premier League: GW23 Retrospect

I’ve read comments on a regular basis about how challenging of a fantasy season it’s been to date, I cite a figure from FantasyFootballGeek and a manager he follows, “At present he has a 22k overall rank, an improvement in rank of 4k from the last gameweek of 26k. His total points are 1,286 after a good score of 40 this gameweek. Just to give you a bit of context his last 3 years overall rankings have been 1,450, 277 and 90.” Based on simple calculations, I am well off my pace of 2015-2016, a season I finished in the top 75k with a total score of 2170 points. Current score is 1109, which means I would need to average just over 70 points to hit that total again.

What have been missing (outside of consistency) is a run of good luck, in which I have scores that are above average, which yields green arrows. I had a great run just after the new year last year, which allowed me to jump up the rankings near 100k, thus making my goal to get inside the top 75k, which I accomplished. This season it’s been a 3-week run of green arrows from GW4 to GW6, which saw me in the top 29k and feeling confident about strategy and decision making. Since then, it’s been a season of frustration in an attempt to right the wrongs and score some points.

GW21 saw me activate my WC and retool my team based on current form and upcoming fixtures. Not that this is a new strategy, but I built a Excel spreadsheet in which to rank and follow players through the remainder of the season, which would allow me to see players I was watching for potential transfers. Decision making the last 3 weeks has been on par with what pundits have been saying, but the scoring has not been there. Let’s take a look at GW23 (if we must).

Since GW21 I have changed my formation, running a 3-5-2, since I was not able to get any consistency from a third forward. The mainstays up front have Costa and Ibrahimovic. Both players have been in form recently and Ibrahimovic was tasked with the captain’s armband for the weekend tilt against Hull City. Let’s just say, this isn’t the same Hull City that Mike Phelan had, even without Snodgrass and now Jakupovic in between the sticks, Hull has played differently and very well the past 2 weeks. They were able to befuddle Man U and my captain played out to a no return, just 4 points for Zlatan. If that wasn’t bad enough, Costa  brough in no points, thanks in part to a missed penalty. Just when you think it can’t get worse…it does. Diomande might be on the chopping list, as minutes are declining, the potential transfer would be Crouch, at 4.9m is in form!

On paper (which the game isn’t play on), the midfielder play looks great. In GW21 I doubled up on Spurs with Eriksen and Alli/. In the past 2 weeks Eriksen has returned just 5 points and I am considering moving him and possibly shaking up my forwards to bring in Kane. More on that in a minute. Eriksen is the 4th highest scoring midfielder, so he still warrants selection as Spurs have a great run of games (outside of Liverpool in GW25) through GW34! Alli has returned goals in the last 2 out of 3 games, but was held goalless against Sunderland, but got that all important 1 point for the CS *sarcasm*.

I have been toying with moving Ozil and replacing him with Sanchez, which means I would need to downgrade a defender. Knowing the teams as we do now, an argument could be made to run a 4-4-2 or a 5-4-1! While I don’t have data to back it up, it appears that defenders are scoring on a more regular basis than their midfielder or forward counterparts. That is my justification for possibly experimenting in the upcoming weeks. It’s bad that Arsenal got beat but Ozil didn’t return against Watford. My budget midfielders, Stanislas and Phillips didn’t return either, totaling 4 points. Stanilas’ days are numbered, had planned on replacing his in GW25 but the DGW and blanks game weeks will plan into upcoming plans.

Defensively, bringing in Coleman (for Azpilicueta) paid off with 5 points, this coming off double digit returns the previous 2 weeks. Honestly I expected a bit more from Everton against the Potters. Everton assets still look to be a good buy through GW29 (facing Spurs in GW27). A knee injury now see Rose out through the end of February, which has me looking to pick up Alonso a week early. I had planned on holding out Chelsea defenders until after the match with Arsenal. Then again, I didn’t expect a CS vs Liverpool either. My third defender was Yoshida but he failed on his bid for 6 points, as So’ton gave up a goal to Swansea. All I can do is shake my head in disbelief. Great match ups and just 7 points from my defenders.

Between the sticks, I have been very pleased with Heaton and his continued excellence! With no real intent to bench him, I do have Jakupovic, who put in an 11 point performance against Man U! He might see some playing time in the upcoming weeks. Heaton kept a CS, picked up a save point and 2 BPS for a total of 9 points. Not bad for a day’s work. Goalkeeper is the only position I don’t plan on changing the rest of the season.

My total of 32 points was 3 point fewer than the average of 35 points, which saw me tumble down to 1.2m in the global standings. This was the lowest point total since GW7 and I seem to have more questions than answers.

What is a fantasy manager to do? Frustrated as I am, must look forward and hope for a streak of luck. Thanks in part to the transfer window, I have a few newcomers to the EPL. First is Kamil Grosicki at Hull City, hopefully picking up where Snodgrass left off, as he departed for West Ham. Grosicki has better numbers than Snodgrass while playing with Rennes. As Maarco Silva continues to rework Hull City, Grosicki could play a major roll, at just 5.5m could be a bargain selection.

I am also high on Manolo Gabbiadini, who transfers to So’tom from Napoli in Serie A. Now maybe I am just remember his play on FIFA 17, but this gets So’ton a legitimate forward to replace Austin, who continues to recover from a shoulder injury. While numbers aren’t there to support this player, I think he is one to watch moving forward. It’s a mixed bag the Saints going forwards with many big clashes with top teams, defensively I think they are sound, but missing Austin up front, Long isn’t the answer, hopefully Gabbiadini makes an impact.

Finally Snodgass and his move to West Ham to replace the departure of Payet back to France is interesting. Playing for a struggling squad at Hull, Snodgrass put up 99 points, including 4 double digit hauls, was on dead balls and spot kicks, a true asset that made the Tigers go. Now he’s playing a similar role for the Hammers with better talent around him. His 27 minutes in a 4-0 loss to City he played in a holding roll alongside Noble with Antonio slotted as the false 9 behind Carroll. Going to give it a few games to see how West Ham and Snodgrass do.

So where do I go from here? I continue to scour the Internet, listening to pundits and other like-minded managers in an attempt to field the best starting XI possible. Confidence is now sliding south, as performance can only be described as sub-par with blank games weeks and DGW on the horizon, one can only hope for a change in luck to try and make gains.

Premier League: GW21 Retrospect

With GW21 in the books I recorded my third highest score of the year, 67 points. Not all that impressive given the fact I made the decision to play my wild card (WC) ahead of this week’s fixtures. Although this decision was made late, I missed out on major moves in terms of prices increases, which would have benefited me going forward. Between GW20 and GW21 my value dropped from 103.1m to 101.6m! I was a bit shocked by this movement, but decided to stick with the decision to WC.

It had been some time since my squad played well and rewarded me with a good (above average, 60 points) week. I was coming off two red arrows, five out of the last seven. Something was missing, along with consistency and I spent the better part of the week mulling over stats, formations, input from community managers and pundits before deciding on my squad. The squad I decided upon made sense…to me at least and moving forward looked strong on paper, injuries  and DGWs aside.

A few days prior to kickoff I posted Wild Card: Hold or Activate. I then followed through for the rest of the season putting together a strength of schedule, indicating potentially good match ups. From there I began looking forward with possible transfers from GW21 to GW28.

This week debuted my newly built squad built to be played as a 3-5-2, which was a change in formation from the 3-4-3 I had been playing since the season began. The decision that facilitated this was the fact that many of the third forwards would be a budget buy in the 6.8m to 6.2m price range. On paper, there are some good options; Rondon, Negredo, Gray, Origi, Llorente, just to name a few but their underlying stats and consistency leave a bit to be desired. My thought process was to spend as little as possible for a third forward, using that savings to upgrade my defense and midfield. Diomande at 4.5 for Hull, a full time starter is who I decided upon. He’s only got 2 goals on the season, but played well in GW21, I don’t expect to use him, so it’s a good budget buy.

Up front 22.9m of pure striking power and consistency over the last 10 games; Costa and Ibrahimovic. Unfortunately I missed the late Friday news that Costa was not going to start against Leicester, followed by the China rumors or else I would have offloaded him for Giroud, Defoe or Kane (in that order). So my 3-5-2 ended up being a 4-5-1 as Diomande was my third sub. Still Ibrahimovic rewarded me with a goal and 7 points. Now the Costa watch is on for this week.

In the midfield the only player I temporarily retained was Rodriguez with the intention of moving him for GW26. Southampton still looking for goals and while J-Rod didn’t start, he saw 23 minutes of action. Not what I was hoping for. Probably would have been better off with Lallana, but didn’t like the Man U match up. I also rolled the dice with Eriksen and Alli, both returned’ 10 and 12 points respectively as Spurs rolled to a 4-0 victory. Too bad it was Kane as the big winner with the hat trick. Stanislas was my budget midfielder with a good match up and now on pens, which he finished to score 7 points. He too will be short lived as I am already planning his transfer as well. Finally, Ozil, who returned to the starting lineup for the Gunners after an illness. He’s got some excellent numbers and feel he will play an important role going forward for Arsenal and their bid at the championship. He did return an assist and CS in 78 minutes.

Defensively I set up with Rose, Daniels and Azpilicueta as my starting three with Friend and Yoshida my two budget defenders on the bench. This week was particularly tough as I selected Daniels ahead of Friend because of the match up with Hull. Bournemouth then gave up 3 goals to Hull City, while Friend and Boro kept a clean sheet versus Watford. Not quite sure all is right with Southampton, as their defense is a shambles, yet I held out hope they would turn things around and start providing clean sheets. Burnley away looked good, but a late free kick from Barton killed any hope of a CS for Yoshida.

As for the starters, Rose looked sharp down the left side all game long and feel this was a great selection, he picked up an assist and 6 points. As mentioned, Daniels was my second starter against Hull but that didn’t work out, just a single point. Finally, the decision was Alonso or Azpilicueta as my starter and final defender. The rumors of Ake being recalled to Chelsea because of a potential long term injury to Alonso saw me select Azpilicueta. Usually I would be happy with a CS and 6 point return, but the 21 Alonso returned was excellent!

In goal, I made the change from Courtois to Heaton, solely based on budget and save points. Heaton is now just 1 point off Courtois for 1.0m less.  I retained the services of Jakupovic, who took his starting job back for Hull. He looked sharp in goal, conceding just a spot kick. I have two possible weeks upcoming to play him, based on match up. Not yet decided if I will stick with Heaton or go with a rotation for those two weeks.

Overall, 67 points and green arrows all around. I am finally back to 946k and moving up. Hopefully this is the start of a positive change for the new year. I need to string toward a few good weeks to get back to winning ways. As mentioned before I have the next 7 weeks transfers planned out, the Costa concern could be addressed this week as I had not planned on making any transfers and banking one for my transfer in GW26. GW26 is also looking it might be the best opportunity to play by AOA chip as all players have good match up except Ibrahimovic who faces Spurs. The only possible move will be held in check until we received further news on Costa, his injury and potential move to China. If that happens I probably won’t move any of my Spurs players and opt to pick up Giroud as Arsenal face Burnley (H) and Watford (H).

Wild Card: Hold or Activate

A pundit or footy manager can collect and crunch all the data they would like as it relates to players, their past activity, current form and upcoming fixtures. In the end, there is no right or wrong answer when it comes to playing your wild card (WC). This year I activated my WC during GW4, scored just 56 points and left 17 points on the bench. Not one of my better scores, but did start a run of three green arrows, which took me to 29k at the end of GW6. In the 4 years I have been participating in fantasy football, this has been my best global ranking to date. Since that time, my squad, scoring and transfers have been another story as I have struggled mightily on and off the pitch in order to bring consistency to my squad.

We are just a week into 2017 as GW21 looms on the horizon as teams square off in the EFL Cup this weekend, it has allowed me to crunch numbers, read articles and bounce ideas off other FPL managers. If I were truly serious about activating my WC for GW21 I would have done it at the conclusion of GW20 in order to take advantage of the price increases in players like Alli and Eriksen, potentially I could have picked up 0.5m if I would have pulled the trigger instead of pussyfooting around the idea of using the damn thing. The other side of the coin, wait until the league cup games conclude to see if there are any further injuries to deal with. That COULD have been accomplished even if I had played my WC last Saturday or Sunday. In a way I lost out but still hold the card, begging the question, “Do I activate my WC?”

I have spent the better part of 2 days, while at work building a spreadsheet covering the next 8 game weeks, adding player names to round out my squad of 15 players. Initially I started with the team you see to the right. Recent transfers have not paid off. GW15 I took a -12 point hit for Sanchez, Courtois, Lovren and Iheanacho. Over the next 4 weeks I added Jones, Carroll, Ibrahimovic and Rodriguez. Nearly half of my team I picked up based on recent form or speculation, as with Jones, Cedric and Rodriguez. This was also the second time I have had the big Swede on my squad, as I moved him in GW6 for Aguero. Capoue and McAuley are currently the longest tenured players on my squad since GW4. There has been quite a bit of activity over 20 weeks, spending -48 points in added transfers. Now, based on another manager who exchanged points for profit. Ibrahim M on FFG said,”…with a team value of 107.4m…I’ve also managed to get a good position (I intend to stop taking point hits around GW28! Currently I’ve made 48 transfers in 20 GWs) and just use the value built to get a great side.” 107.4m compared to my 103.0m, Ibrahim has capitalized on the early transfers in order to add value to his squad.

As we start the new year my squad is well off the pace I set last year, when I finished in the top 75k with 2170 points, best returns I have had. This year I wanted to average 60 points a week and was once pace through GW6 before the wheels fell of dropping me from 29k to 1.1m! Scores of 24, 33 and 26 from GW7 to GW9 saw the majority of that change, nearly 750k. Although I did play a few cards properly as my team value has gone from 101.6 to 103.1 (high of 103.6 in GW17). In the last 14 weeks I have recorded 10 red arrows, that alone tells the story. So the choice for me is the play my WC for GW21.

After reviewing my squad I started playing with transfers of players I wanted to bring in. There would be a total of 13 new players being introduced, oddly enough none of players I have tentatively plan have been on my squad in the previous 20 weeks. Again, we talk about consistent returns both defensive and offensive, neither of which I have had until I picked up Courtois on the tail end of Chelsea’s winning streak. The spreadsheet is broken down by position, primarily using the FDR or Fixture Difficulty Ranking. Current form also played into my decisions taking into account the budget I have to work with. The individual charts are displayed below for each position.

GOALIES: While I didn’t want to give up Courtois, as he’s reliable between the sticks and a great option for CS, his price point (5.9m) is just too high. The obvious choice became Heaton, just 5 fewer points than Courtois, but 1.0m cheaper. Before his injury, Pickford at 3.9 was to the backup option, but with his return not slated until February I could hold Jakupovic at 3.9 (who doesn’t play) or look for a budget keeper for a possible rotation depending on fixtures

OPTIONS – Grant/Randolph/Forster/Hennessey/Foster: I started the season with Foster and did a fine job before WBA ran into problems keeping CS, which saw him transferred out in favor of Courtois. As a backup, Forster and Foster priced themselves out contention, however Foster does have two excellent match ups, Sunderland (H) and Bournemouth (H) over the next 8 weeks. Only Spurs in GW21 is a cause for concern.

Hennessey isn’t really a consideration due to Big Sam taking control at Palace. Things can only improve defensive for them, but outside of Spurs in GW28, Palace has a nice run of games on which to build. That left Randolph, who finalized his transfer to West Ham and has planted himself as the starter for the Hammers. While their defense hasn’t been overly impressive this year, Randolph has put together a few good games, 2 CS since taking the starting jog in GW12 and 5 save points over the last 4 weeks. Randolph does have one bonus going for him, his fixtures fits better with Heaton than Grant.

DEFENDERS: Defenders were added based on form and upcoming fixtures, just like the goalies. Now that we are 20 weeks in, there is more clarity when it comes to teams with the best potential to put up a CS. Chelsea tops that list, as three of the top five defenders (total points) are Blues. Regardless of fixtures Alonso is a given. Based on his play this season and returns, Daniels (88 points) will become a cornerstone of my newly formed defense, although not the only Cherries player with potential for returns. Finally Baines, who combines staunch defense with an offensive presence to round out my starting defense.

OPTIONS – See chart: I have listed a total of 10 defenders from which to build, looking for starters, who are budget buys but still see 90 minutes. One of the more popular selections this year has been Amat at 4.1, but his returns and the play of Swansea hasn’t been impressive but does allow a manager to save a few million. Currently I have Brunt and Friend rounding out my defensive five. Brunt, returned from injury and started playing 90 minutes during GW10. Currently has 2 goals and 3 assists but more importantly is playing OOP for West Brom as a midfielder (much like Dier did last year for Spurs). McAuley had been my defender of choice for WBA (4 goals), but Brunt provides a better return on investment moving forward.

Lovren is an interesting option, while a Liverpool fan, their over the next 8 weeks is a mix of good and bad. Three great match ups with Swansea (H), Hull (A) and Burnley (H) intermixed with Man U (A), Chelsea (H), Spurs (H) and Arsenal (H). At 5.0m it could be budget better spent elsewhere than using him sparingly over the next 8 weeks. After GW29, now that’s another article. I was high on Jones after reading  few articles and seeing him getting 90 minutes and CS, but he missed out on the Boro game, which was a cause for concern. Yet over the holiday period, rest was required. I still believe he’s the best Man U option heading forward. There were also thought of doubling up on Bournemouth defenders selecting Ake along with Daniels, 5 good fixtures over the next 8 weeks with Hull tantalizing in GW21. Not sure I want to limit my bench options as I still hold on Bench Boost chip. Reid, Pieters and a Southampton defender round out my list. Originally I started with Cedric, as he was tapped by a pundit site going forward. But limited action over the holiday period and now a head injury has me rethinking the S’hampton option but four of the next five weeks are favorable for the Saints.

MIDFIELDERS: The midfield has been a virtual mess this season! Seemingly I was always a step behind the big scorers, most notably Hazard and Sanchez. Many armbands have been handed out at this position as well, with very little return. While I would love to have Arsenal coverage, outside of Sanchez there are no players that impress me. In order to upgrade my entire squad I have made the decision to “dump the chumps” and go without Hazard and Sanchez. While I would like to say that decision will span the remainder of the season, we will have to wait and see what happens.

It probably comes as no surprise that I am leaping on the Spurs bandwagon with Alli and Eriksen. Not a big supporter of doubling up, especially in the midfield. It’s a bit of a stretch, especially with the run both players are experiencing, but their upcoming looks favorable outside of Man City and Liverpool through GW28. It’s been talked about all season to have Liverpool coverage. Of course the week I pick up Coutinho, he goes out injured, hasn’t returned since. I didn’t see much consistency in the group, but Liverpool is the highest scoring team in the EPL, so coverage seems to be a logical move. With Mane gone to AFCON and Firmino a bit out of my price range I will start Lallana as my third. At 7.7m he’s cheaper than the aforementioned players and just 7 points behind Mane in total score (113 compared to 105). The fourth starter is slated to be Phillips of WBA. I have watched him for many weeks, but with Hazard and Sanchez on the books, I could not fit him into a fourth or fifth midfield spot due to budget constraints. As my differential I selected Stanislas with an ownership of just 1.2%.  Bournemouth has a great short term schedule; Hull (A), Watford (H), Crystal Palace (H).

OPTIONS – See chart: Five other players at varying price points make the short list of potential players to make my squad. Cabaye and Puncheon head the list. With Zaha gone to AFCON, the focus will most likely shift in order to feed Benteke the ball. Cabaye ends up ahead of Puncheon by virtue of dead ball situation and on penalties. Schedule looks favorable and Big Sam will hopefully make a difference not only on defense but up front. Allen/Adam of Stoke were included, even though I have been running with Allen since GW9 as my fourth midfielder, at time productive but just just 1 goal and 1 assist in the last 10 games. Adam not better, but his form is a bit stronger in recent games.  Their schedule is a fixed bag through GW28. De Roon was purely a budget selection, at 4.4m he’s been a starter since GW4 and has returned 2 goals, 2 assists. Not my top Boro midfielder, but the only one who fit in my budget. Finally, I look back at Antonio at West Ham, a player I picked up for GW4 and held for 5 weeks but after just 2 weeks he fell flat, as did the Hammers. His overall stats aren’t impressive, but West Ham looks to be turning things around offensively.

FORWARDS: The only players remaining after the axe, Costa and Ibrahimovic. No real big surprise here, underlying stats are excellent, both players are in form and usually get a full 90 minutes, not pulled 10 minutes before full time. Costa has been the more consistent of the two forwards, returning in all but 3 games this season. Ibrahimovic returned for a second stint with my squad, when I dropped him during GW6. A model of consistency since GW11, returning in all but one game. Regardless of schedule difficulty these players will start every game.

OPTIONS – See chart: The third forward is still up in the air, even though Defoe is the current selection. Amazing to see what he has done for Sunderland, as poorly as they have been, he’s score 11 or the team’s 19 goals and assisted in 3 others! If Sunderland scores, chances are Defoe was it. Yet Sunderland has a mixed schedule, having to face Spurs, Man City as well as Southampton and Everton. Currently, Negredo sits as my third starter based on the FDR (see below). Underlying stats are not impressive, just 5 goals and 4 assists on the season with just a brace in the last 7 weeks. He is currently seen as a short term buy for the next 3 weeks. Rondon and Gray are both budget options that fit in into my squad. Outside of Spurs in GW21, Rondon appears to have some better fixtures especially home to Sunderland and Bournemouth. Gray faces Hull, Swansea and Sunderland. Origi is a question mark with Sturridge back in the starting XI for L’pool. Three tasty fixtures; Swansea, Hull and Burnley but I don’t see him playing 90 minutes or seeing much action.

The higher budget options are Aguero, Lukaku and Benteke. After reading an article from a well respected manager, I had a fleeting through to follow his potential lead and bring in Aguero to partner with Costa and Ibrahimovic. Aguero is such a dynamic player, more so than counterparts but Pep seems to have happened this year and Aguero isn’t enjoying as much success as he had last year. That would also mean cheaper options in the midfield, something I am not willing to run with at this time. Benteke could be labeled more as a sinking ship than a good buy right now. While carrying a shoulder knock, he hasn’t returned in his last 5 games and with Zaha at AFCON, service could be slim. Yet Puncheon, Townsend and Cabaye might be the answer under the newly appoint manger, Big Sam. Jury is still out. but fixtures looking inviting from GW23-27. Lukaku hasn’t shown much consistency this year going goalless in his first 3 weeks and then another no return between GW11-14. Not listed on my spreadsheet, Giroud. At 8.6m I can’t budget him in without take a hit in the midfield. So along with Aguero and Benteke, it’s a nice to have a wish list, but these aren’t realistic options.

In conclusion, I should of pulled the trigger immediately after GW20 in order to take advantage of the price increases over this 2 week period. I didn’t and to date, I haven’t gained any increase in my budget. Over the last 10 days or so, some of the players included above have been mentioned in different footie articles I have read. Not that will amount to anything, but it’s good to know I am on the same page as some of the pundits I follow.