Now that the international break has officially began, what are fantasy managers supposed to do? First, get up. Back away from the keyboard and take a break. It’s been a volatile start to the 2017/18 season, after many managers thought they had things worked out with great GW1 results, only to be bitch-slapped back to reality with the struggles in GW3.
Unless you are chasing price rises over the break, more on that later, I would take a few days to forget about fantasy football and direct your energy elsewhere. All those lingering questions can be put on hold, return a few days later with a clear head, which could provide you a fresh view of your lineup dilemma.
While I don’t consider it a luxury, I did go into the international break on a high, scoring 63 points in GW3, without facing many glaring questions that need to be answered. The biggest concerns I have are:
- The ineffectiveness of the Man City attack and Pep’s rotation.
- Marcos Alonso not in my starting XI
- Harry Kane with 3 blanks, backed by massive underlying stats.
Realistically, I could end the piece here and go into GW4 feeling confident with my current starting XI. Entering the break with a single FT, I will hold it until all international matches are complete. If we are fortunate, players will return to their club team, injury free and ready to resume league play.
The word of the week has been “wildcard” for many FPL managers. Before you hit that button, consider the sage advice of Nick (@NickTriggerlips) at Transfer Hub, in his article, Why did you wildcard? “The problem is there are very few real patterns that have formed…Most of the wildcard Rate my teams that I am seeing look like a who’s who of last weeks point scorers.” Wise words, from a wise manager, the article is well worth a read.
I have continued to read articles at Fantasy Football Scout, Fantasy Football Geek, tune in the podcasts from Nick and Tom (@WGTA_FPL) at Who Got the Assist as well as, Josh and Brandon (@hailcheaters) at Always Cheating. One key piece this season has been the use of Twitter (@W6ONV) to promote discussion and decisions. This was something I missed out on the previous 4 seasons participating in FPL. This outlet has allowed more flowing discussion than some forum threads I have been involved in, which I feel have provided me with a more positive return when it comes to decision-making.
At the end of last season, one of my strategies this year would be to actively chase price increases. We have watched the ups and downs, while it appears more volatile than last season, the numbers really haven’t backed that statement. Based on price rises last year, I am still on track, gaining £0.1m/week through GW3. It has allowed me to maintain £1.0m ITB. At this point, with the “few real patterns” and uncertainty, I have decided to forego chasing and exercise patience with my starting XI.
Prior to the start of the season, I mapped out a plan for the first 7 weeks of action. While I didn’t plan to remain intact, it did give me some solace in knowing that a downturn in performance wouldn’t necessarily put me in a precarious position requiring the use of an extra hit or the use of my wildcard. From GW1, it’s been my intention to use the WC during the second international break, GW7.
This plan is still contingent on how players perform when action kicks off after this first break. Holding my head high, I feel confident that I can ride out these early season trends, one-week wonders and volatility until things calm. However, this thinking doesn’t solve my three problems areas that need to be addressed.
The ineffectiveness of the Man City attack and Pep’s rotation
My expectation on the City attack were high heading into the season with fixtures against new boys Brighton (A) and Bournemouth (H). Yet a 2-0 and 2-1 victories in those matches hasn’t provided much confidence in owning City attackers or defenders. I started the season with Kompany, De Bruyne and Jesus in my starting XI. Just 2 weeks in and let KDB go in favor of Christian Eriksen, due to his deep lying play and lack of creativity in the attacking third.
Up front, I didn’t go with “Big Rom” figuring I could score more points with a 3-man front spearheaded by the dynamic Gabriel Jesus (and Roberto Firmino). While Jesus has yet to play a full 90-minutes, he has netted a goal and has the potential to be Pep’s “go to forward.” But in the back of my mind lurks that uncertainty that says, “move him in favor of Alvaro Morata.” The “Aguero Factor” will always be in play with Pep, does he play up front with a single forward or run both Jesus and Aguero out? I don’t believe we will see a clear cut answer to this question. With Kun ended up benched against the Cherries, we could possibly see a reversal with a dejected Jesus on the bench when GW4 commences home to Liverpool. Bottom line, we don’t know.
Finally, Vincent Kompany, who’s been riddled with injuries the last few years, but is the heart of The Sky Blues defense. His clean sheet record tells you the story; 23. 30, 21, 22, 32 clean sheets between 2010-2015 with 8 goals over the period. His selection meant I would hedge my bet and not start with Marcos Alonso, as Chelsea had a mixture schedule to start the 2017/18 season. To date, City has disappointed at both ends of the pitch and Kompany is now playing on borrowed time.
Marcos Alonso not in my starting XI
In the preparation leading up to GW1, I had fully intended to include Marcos Alonso and Romelu Lukaku in my starting XI. Last minute information and a change of heart saw both players not included, After GW1, it appeared a wise move, as Chelsea underperformed and lost, 3-2, home to Burnley. However, our faith in the £7.0m wing back was restored the following with, as he hit for a brace, in a 2-1 away win against Spurs. Last week, it was Chelsea’s first CS of the season. Indications are Alonso is back on track, justify his current price, £7.1m as a top defender in the EPL.
While many managers have gone with a budget 3-defender set in their 3-4-3 or 3-5-2 formations, I have spent big, knowing I could swap defenders without having budget constraints. Yet these premium defenders need to justify their inclusion to the starting XI with attacking returns, as well as the potential of CS.
Alonso heads my list of wants when it comes to transfers. While I want to maintain United coverage based on their fixtures out of the break, I look towards Kompany being the fall man in order to transfer Alonso in. The hesitation lies in the Chelsea’s fixtures out of the international break; lei/ARS/sto/MCI/cry/WAT. Based on the Gunners poor performance against Liverpool in GW3, the home fixture to Arsenal doesn’t concern me as much as the Battle of Manchester. Keep in mind some of Alonso’s statistics:
- 56 touches in the final third
- 34 passes received – final third
- 84.4% pass completion rate
- 23 passes – final third completion
- 12 touches – penalty area
- 135 minutes per goal
- 8 attempts on goal
- 3 shots inside box
- 4 shots on goal
- 33.8 minutes per chance
These figures rival midfielders in and above his price range. So his inclusion in my starting XI is becoming detrimental. This opinion also based on the fact I only start a 2-man midfield.
Harry Kane with 3 blanks, backed by massive underlying stats
We should have seen this coming, right? Harry Kane can’t score in August, so we were forewarned. Still with that lingering in the back of my mind I made the decision to purchase the £12.5 forward to lead my squad. As we all know, there were better options, but his underlying stats (a word I continue to abuse) are outstanding!
- 26 touches in penalty box
- 24 attempts on goal
- 18 shots inside the box
- 3 big chances
- 11.3 minutes per chance
- 25% shot accuracy
The above statistics highlight the success Kane has seen. Unfortunately the real fact remains, Lukaku has scored 3 goals, Kane zero. Of the figures above, Kane betters Lukaku in every category except, big chances (Lukaku has 4). While the August voodoo hoodoo continues to Harry I am backing him out of the international break.
Kane put August behind him and start firing on all cylinders with eve/SWA/whm/hud/BOU taking us to mid-October. Looking over the last 3 years in which Kane has scored 29, 25 and 21 goals, he has just 3 goals in September combined. Not impressive, but remember he picked up the malleolar injury last season and didn’t feature in the squad 2 years ago, until later in the season.
All indications are the back-to-back Golden Boot winner will return to form that saw him bag 8 goals in the final 3 games of the 2016/17 season. While I continue to read and hear banter about none of the top managers owning Kane, I am keeping the faith instead of introducing Lukaku to my squad out of the international break.
As you can see, I don’t have issues that require a restructuring of my team. With a strong showing going into the international break, I plan on looking forward and stringing a run of green arrows together in order to rise up the OR and the mini-leagues I participate in. Even on the outside (ranked 1.0m) looking in at the top 10k, I feel confident I have the proper pieces in place to challenge the next 4 weeks of the EPL season.