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?