Six weeks into the season and it’s time to update you all on how the Scout team are getting on in their first season of playing Fantasy League.
You may recall that I provided the lowdown on how the auction played out, as well as making some predictions (of sorts) in the form of gradings for each of the teams.
So, with almost one-sixth of the season gone, did I have the vaguest idea of what I was talking about or was it about as accurate as a tabloid horoscope? Without further ado, here’s the table as it currently stands:
I appreciate that it’s still very early days but I will sit back with a certain smugness when I look at the gradings I gave each manager and see that Geoff got the best grades overall (two As and a B).
That said, there really is nothing in it. Granted, the scoring system in Fantasy League means that fewer points are scored than in FPL, but one good weekend for anyone from sixth place upwards could see them go top and what should keep things interesting is that all the big-scoring players thus far are evenly spread around the teams so no one is currently looking a likely runaway winner.
As it is, Neale had been rock-bottom prior to last weekend but a week-topping score of 22 (despite his most expensive player, Sterling, as has been well-documented on this forum, warming the bench for the full 90 minutes against Watford), compared to Chris and Will’s dismal 1-pointer, saw him leapfrog the two of them and very much put himself back in contention.
This leads me neatly into a reminder of why, in my mind, no other form of fantasy football can get close to Fantasy League. There are no bandwagons and no template teams. Each team is unique and only David got aboard the Barnes Train (™Hindu Monkey).
As Greyhead’s excellent articles on the Great and the Good demonstrate, when it comes to FPL, there are huge similarities between the teams owned by those top managers. Where each manager sits in the Scout FPL mini-league is down to maybe three or four players per team (if that), and a good (or poor) captain choice. It’s hard to get excited when Mount scores because every other manager owns him.
Cue the breath of fresh air that is Fantasy League. Don’t get me wrong, I’m really getting into FPL and can appreciate it for the very different beast it is to auction-based fantasy football. But nothing can beat the feeling I get when I see that Aguero sits top of the points scoring table and know that I, and I alone, own him.
Equally, I can do nothing about the fact that Geoff owns Pukki, or Neale owns De Bruyne, and so, short of their suffering from temporary insanity and dropping their prized assets, I will just have to resort to deep breathing and meditation each time one of them scores a hatful of points.
I talked before about how it was a unique situation for me to be up against a group of managers where none of them had ever done a fantasy football auction before, and how I was quite taken aback not only with the way that they all took to it like fish to water but were acting like seasoned pros before the first couple of names had hit their teamsheets.
What’s equally impressive is that (again, to date), the auction prices by and large reflect the points potential of the respective players. Four of the top six players in terms of scores (Aguero, Aubameyang, Salah and De Bruyne) were in the top ten most expensive players at the auction, with only Abraham and Barnes significantly out-performing their prices of £5m and £2m respectively (in case you’re wondering, Pukki went for £10m, so still a relative bargain). As blasphemous as this may be, I don’t see Barnes continuing his heroics all season and ending with 30+ goals!
The main underperformers have been Kane (most expensive player at the auction but only joint 10th highest scorer with Mane and, surprisingly, Bernardo Silva) as well as the likes of Sigurdsson and Eriksen. It’s not even worth discussing defenders because parents of the average newborn get more clean sheets than have been around for the first six weeks of this season.
Just to further reinforce how closely-matched the teams are at present, I took a look at the best squad (to date) £100m could have bought at our auction, assuming that the price paid was the highest the bidding would have gone. The person with the following team would not only have had 183 points (and enjoyed 44 goals), more than double the 87 points of Geoff, but would undoubtedly be a multi-millionaire due to being able to pick winning lottery numbers at will:
In terms of our Fantasy League table, it reflects not only how well each manager did at that the auction but also their activity in the transfer market since the auction as this is where Geoff and Ted have justified their top billing.
Although the auction is the principal source of success for the season, you should not discount the benefits which can accrue from canny acquisitions of players over the course of the season, in particular the point between your auction and the start of the season, plus the opening weekends as new players come to light which were overlooked at the auction.
Not only have Geoff and Ted made six and four changes respectively, there have been some great free agents (players not bought at the auction) picked up such as Mount, Ceballos, Harry Wilson and Lanzini (I shan’t shame Geoff by pointing out that he got to Mount via Hudson-Odoi and then every Chelsea fan’s favourite penalty-taker, Ross Barkley).
Will has similarly been relatively prolific and has snapped up Iwobi, Maupay and Mendy whilst clearing out some of the dross, and yours truly got a bit trigger-happy last weekend and cleared out a lot of deadwood (Giroud, Murray and Fornals) to bring in Emerson (why?!), Cantwell and Ayew.
With our auction being two weeks before the season started, it was inevitable that some of the purchases were, with the benefit of hindsight, on the poor side. Whilst I’m contradicting what follows to a degree, there is no point holding onto players you picked up at the auction when it’s apparent that they won’t get anywhere near the starting XI.
So having just said that, I’m now going to reiterate a point which I’ve made before but which bears repeating: Fantasy League is all about playing the long game and kneejerk reactions to your player blanking for a few weeks is more likely to end in tears than it is a meteoric rise up the table.
This is different to dropping a player who hasn’t made the matchday squad for the past four weeks; this is about a player who just needs to break their duck, after which the goals could flow. Tammy Abraham is a great example of this. After he smashed the post in the opening game against Manchester United and then failed to score against Leicester, there may have been a temptation amongst his owners to ditch him, thereby missing seven goals in the subsequent three games.
Don’t forget that as soon as you drop a player, they don’t sit there in the ether, waiting for you to snap them back up as soon as they find their scoring boots. There will be a whole pool of managers waiting to pounce on your mistake as it’s rare that anyone is 100% happy with their team and isn’t carrying at least one passenger whom they could ship out to take a punt on the player you’ve just booted out after your patience dried up.
In FPL, the worst thing you face is a player gaining value between dropping him and getting him back; in Fantasy League, there are few things more galling than watching a player who once graced your team, and who you dropped in a moment of petulance, scoring week after week for another manager just because you got an itchy trigger finger.
That’s all for now but I’ll report back in a few weeks’ time with news of whether Geoff has retained his top spot, whether Neale has continued to shoot up the table, whether Chris has clawed his way off the bottom and, if so, whether Will finds himself in the position of ignominy. I’ll also look at tactics for acquiring new players in the aftermath of the auction. Au revoir….
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Lessons learned from Gameweek 6:
- Southampton 1-3 Bournemouth
- Leicester City 2-1 Tottenham Hotspur
- Burnley 2-0 Norwich City
- Everton 0-2 Sheffield United
- Manchester City 8-0 Watford
- Newcastle United 0-0 Brighton and Hove Albion
- Crystal Palace 1-1 Wolverhampton Wanderers
- West Ham United 2-0 Manchester United
- Arsenal 3-2 Aston Villa
- Chelsea 1-2 Liverpool