Ben Crabtree is the reigning Fantasy Premier League (FPL) champion, but the defence of his title is not going well.
There are a number of reasons for that, although one particular quirk of his playing style is not helping one bit.
In the latest in a series of exclusive articles for Fantasy Football Scout, Ben details the selectorial issue at the heart of this season’s struggles.
From the very beginning of my Fantasy Football management career, I decided to let heart rule head and only pick players for my squad that I liked.
This decree allowed me to support my Fantasy team without any guilt or conflicting conscience issues. In short, this meant having a minimum of one Everton player and never picking a Liverpool one.
Throughout the years, I’ve been able to compete well in my mini-leagues – and at the top of what I consider my main league with a friend who also plays with the same morals/handicap.
After finishing 88k in my first season, six of the next seven concluded with a top 50k finish. The other was a 354k disappointment which coincided with Luis Suarez scoring 31 goals, contributing an abundance of assists and being an easy captain pick in 90% of Gameweeks for the majority of managers.
All in all, my style of playing Fantasy Premier League (FPL) only ever felt like a major restriction in one season out of eight.
It’s fair to say, that’s now twice in nine.
Mohamed Salah’s pre-season form was a concern, but it’s been a disaster for me since the campaign started.
The number of goals he’s scored has meant it feels like I start each week 10 to 15 points behind everyone and in every match it seems he could have scored one or two more.
In the majority of teams I look at, not many have captained Salah until very recently. I imagine the people in the top 100 started captaining him a while back.
Spells of Philippe Coutinho form, along with Alvaro Morata injuries and a suspension coinciding with Roberto Firmino hauls, have also contributed to my downfall.
But nothing has hit quite as hard as Salah’s relentlessness.
While the punishment might be self-inflicted, I still never see a time when I put myself in the position where I’ll be happy to see Salah, or any Liverpool player, score heavily.
FPL affects how I watch football, and while I’m content to ‘support’ Man United or Chelsea at times where I’ve co-owned their players, it won’t happen with Liverpool.
Down with the Decorations
In the weeks leading up to Christmas, I was concerned about rotation as I had Chancel Mbemba and Oumar Niasse, who hardly play, along with a few defenders who had difficult matches over the festive period.
As Charlie Daniels’ good run of fixtures came to an end, I had the money to upgrade him to Marcos Alonso.
I wasn’t set on it, but knowing he’s got the potential to single-handedly ensure a good week, I was closely monitoring the situation.
Victor Moses had just come back from injury, encouraging a thought that he could move to left wing-back in some matches as Chelsea fans weren’t happy with Alonso’s form and in the crucial week, the Spaniard Alonso was subbed off on 54 minutes.
So because of great Christmas fixtures, a cheap price and with a knack for securing bonus, I unfortunately and disastrously decided to pick Kiko Feminia.
The money was spent elsewhere, so it’s only now that I’m getting Alonso in – 53 points later than ideal.
This, along with the untimely Sead Kolasinac snubbing, was my Christmas sob story.
There were better days from transferring in the likes of Nick Pope, Jonjoe Kenny and Phil Jones, with earlier transfers of Raheem Sterling and Harry Kane proving particularly rewarding.
A couple of Ruben Loftus-Cheek assists and bringing Romelu Lukaku in for consecutive returns kept me ticking over, but a low-scoring Gameweek 21 was compounded with a 14-point haul, or 28-point captain smash for a lot of people, courtesy of a Salah brace.
Double Gameweek 22 got off to a good start, with Marko Arnautovic and Dele Alli putting in the groundwork for something special. But in the end, the Son Heung-min goal was a blow and I was left rueing not leaving the armband on Alli instead of Kane.
Over Christmas, my Overall Rank temporarily jumped up to 500k (yes, I’m that far down) at one point, but a few Salah-assisted red arrows have put me back at 1.1m.
The season goal looks like being updated again, finishing in the top 250k maybe.
Moving into 2018, and my FPL New Year’s resolution is to recruit the likes of Alonso, Jesse Lingard, Sergio Aguero, Cenk Tosun and possibly Kevin De Bruyne, Paul Pogba or Riyad Mahrez.
I’m tempted by a temporary switch from Kane to Aguero, but Morata’s Sunday league form suggests that’s the better, although costlier, move.
Unwavering blind faith makes me want to get on board the Tosun wagon from the off, while dealing with some midfield issues such as Richarlison’s and Leroy Sane’s form, plus the nearly 22 million invested in Spurs assets who are close to some tough fixtures.
I’m slightly tempted by a Wildcard this week, with my thinking that although the double Gameweeks near the end of the season are generally a better time to unleash this, maybe the points accrued over the next 11 weeks up to Gameweek 34 would better the points gained in the Wildcard-plus-Bench-Boost weeks.
For those doubles, I’d have plenty of time to plan, and there are generally a lot of teams with two fixtures so I’d still be competitive.
I’m unlikely to do this, but it was a thought as a way of quickly getting the players I now want.
Maybe the mulled wine is just not fully out of my system yet.
Making better transfers and the correct captain calls will always be the way to climb up the ranks, and if Liverpool players do well, then I’ll just have to take it on the chin.
In the past, it’s not been a problem to the point that first overall was proven to be possible in a season where Liverpool finished fourth.
Hopefully next season things will swing back in that direction.
No Salah means more problems and possibly a write-off season from day one.
Saying that, a friend who also plays the same ‘style’ game as me is currently 144 points ahead, with a 37k overall rank.
First place couldn’t be my benchmark this year, but another season in the top 50k looked like it was very much achievable until Salah arrived.