This was supposed to have been the week I activated my wildcard. That happened 2 weeks ago and heading into this break, I am pleased with my squad’s performance. Riding high on 78 points, I have started formulating a plan to cover the next 8 weeks. While injuries play a big role, I have a contingency plan in place if players like Phil Jones or Alvaro Morata are not fully fit.
The best part of the international break was holding my GW7 transfer, giving me 2 FT moving forward. Thankfully I stuck it out with Phil Jones and was rewarded with a 6 point performance. However, as fixtures are turning for Manchester United, it appears Jones could be on the short list. He would be one of two moves in order to strengthen an already strong defense. In the eyes of some, overpriced.
Even the best laid plans, often go awry and fantasy is one of those with so many intricate variables, requiring 11 players to work together for success, but still rely on individual skill. While this 8-week plan is nothing more than a guideline, the only thing that has remained constant has been my penchant to use a 5-2-3 formation since GW1.
As I have stated in past articles on my site, as well as those posted at Fantasy Football Geek, the 5-2-3 has not been the weak link in my overall points of 390 and overall rank of 792k. The failure has occurred at my captaincy selections, seeing my best return last week, 26 points from Harry Kane. The prior 6 week were all single returns; 2, 1, 4, 4, 2, 6 for 19 points.
Through the early part of the season, we are reading and seeing more fantasy mangers moving away from a 3-5-2 and a 3-4-3, considering a 4-3-3. The wing back has been predominate, to start the season, as clean sheets have increased over this time last year. Defenders are seeing double digit returns and returning some good offensive points.
Up front, many premium forwards have been scoring good points; Lukaku, Morata, Kane, just to name a few. The question posed, “how do I fit in 3 heavy hitters up front?” During the preseason I consider two 5-2-3 formations that included Lukaku, Kane and Aguero as my starters with Trippier, Cedric, Bailly, Daniels and Alonso as my starting 5 defenders. Obviously with 35.5m in forwards and another 30.0m in defenders, it was budget midfielders in the starting XI; Willian and Zaha.
This fact alone was a cause for concern, as the team was out of balance and didn’t want to struggle in the midfield. While Kevin De Bruyne and Wilfried Zaha started GW1, their tenure was short lived. City struggled to score in the first few weeks and Zaha went off injured after GW1. Unlike many other personnel decisions this season, I wasted no time bringing in Henrikh Mkhitaryan in GW2. De Bruyne gave way a week later for Christian Eriksen. Now with both United and Spurs facing a tougher spell, both midfielders appear to be giving way to “budget options: while beefing up defensively and taking a stronger stand on the front line.
With GW8 on the horizon there are dueling thoughts on how to move forward. First idea is to use two budget midfielders, add a fifth big wing back and a third premium forward. The other thought is to spend 1.0m less on the defender, while upgrading to another marauding wing back and run with one premium and one budget midfielder.
Before my weekend leadership camping trip, I spent time working out both strategies. In fact I have put into place an 8-week plan to take my squad through GW16. While I don’t expect to see this plan out, it does give me a guideline to follow of which plans I am currently looking to invest in. Eden Hazard returning to fitness will be interesting to watch, but I would prefer Alvaro Morata, who’s fitness level doesn’t see him ready to return (listed at 50% chance to play). Still owned by 21%, we could see Morata slip another 0.1m before he’s ready for the starting XI.
Defensively, I am looking at strengthening an already strong presence by adding Kyle Walker, as Man City has a nice run of fixtures in the next 3 weeks and 7 out of the next 8 games. However each premium player comes at a cost, which for me is in the midfield. While many fantasy manager continue to promote the tried and true, 3-4-3, some have opted for a 4-3-3, sacrificing that fourth (budget?) midfielder for a stronger defense.
Continuing to promote and use a 5-2-3 formation, my midfield is considerably weaker than those of my fantasy counterparts, but overall I am pleased with how my formation has performed. Unfortunately to free up the necessary budget required to add a Morata/Hazard and Walker (or possibly Otamendi), I would have to sacrifice both Mkhitaryan and Eriksen. This, obviously doesn’t come without risk. Moving both current midfielders could leave me with Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting and Richarlison by GW10 if this decision is finalized.
Eriksen and Spurs have a tough run of games after they GW8 home clash against the Cherries. Dropping Eriksen temporary doesn’t really bother me, as there are other options out there, however I would love to get him back for the home fixture against Palace.
Overall, I have been very patient with my starting XI, as my bench players are all at 4.5. The only one to score more than 2 points all season was Dale Stephens of Brighton, when he picked up an assist and bonus point, so I don’t expect to make any changes in my bench fodder.