It’s been a tough season so far.
Liverpool and Manchester City may be the top two sides in the Premier League table, which I think we all envisaged during pre-season, but it’s safe to say that both teams have disappointed us from a Fantasy Premier League (FPL) perspective.
Jurgen Klopp’s men have won all their games but have kept just two clean sheets, much to the chagrin of those of us who doubled up on their defence.
Pep Guardiola’s defending champions have endured defensive issues of their own and as Fantasy managers, we can count ourselves a tad unlucky as injuries to Alisson Becker (£5.8m) and Aymeric Laporte (£6.3m) have exacerbated the problems.
To compound matters further, captaincy has been an absolute nightmare.
I’ve always believed that the armband should be trusted to players who play for title-chasing/top four teams. In the past, I have turned to options such as Robin Van Persie, Luis Suarez, Frank Lampard and in keeping with this rule this year, I have only captained one of Raheem Sterling (£12.1m) and Mohamed Salah (£12.5m) every week,
This has, obviously, been disastrous for me.
Gameweek 8 saw me scrape only 33 points as, like many of you, I struggle to find traction in a what has proved to be a strange season.
Like many of you, it’s a fairly template squad, that didn’t look too bad on paper. I even had two free transfers (FT) to sort it out. There were a few players I wanted to get rid of –
1. Tom Heaton (£4.5m) – Villa are conceding too many good quality shots and ‘big chances’ with the fixtures about to turn for the worse.
2. Lucas Digne (£6.0m) – Everton look all over the shop and despite having good chance creation statistics, the Frenchman is not delivering.
3. Andrew Robertson (£6.9m) – Liverpool play Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur and Man. City in three of their next four and the Scot’s attacking output has dipped significantly from last season. I’m happy to hold Trent Alexander-Arnold (£7.2m) but a double up does not seem justified.
4. Nicolas Otamendi (£5.6m) – The Argentinian’s display against Wolves was one of the worst I have seen from a Premier League centre-back and as long as he is part of that Man. City defence, I don’t see too many clean sheets. John Stones (£5.3m) appears to be back in training as well.
5. Mohamed Salah ((£12.5m) – Was 50-50 about selling him, but a possible injury pushes me towards Sadio Mané (£11.7m). He does not look the same player of two seasons ago with teams possibly figuring him out more.
6. Todd Cantwell (£4.9m) – Norwich’s away form meant that an attacking double up was too much. He was a fourth midfielder in my setup, not a fifth.
7. Teemu Pukki (£7.1m) – An alarming dip in output over the last four Gameweeks which saw the Finland international register only four shots on target meant that his spot was up for grabs
8. Mason Greenwood (£4.4m) – Despite various statements hyping him up, Ole Gunnar Solskjær does not seem to fancy the young lad and any chance of regular game-time seems slim.
I am a firm believer that in order to get the most use of your wildcard, you need to use it early. I had initially made a plan to save it for Liverpool’s possible blank week in Gameweek 18 (due to the Club World Cup) but sitting at a 1.2m overall rank made me worry about falling further behind the pack.
Just because my team didn’t look rubbish didn’t mean that it was great. I decided to activate the wildcard on Sunday night and strangely enough, I haven’t made any changes to this first draft that I came up with on Monday:
Only five players survived from the initial team:
- Trent Alexander-Arnold (£7.2m)
- John Lundstram (£4.5m)
- Kevin De Bruyne (£10.0m)
- Raheem Sterling (£12.1m)
- Tammy Abraham (£7.7m)
My selection process for each new asset is listed below –
Nick Pope (£4.7m)
I’m a firm believer in cheap goalkeepers and rather than go for a home/away rotation strategy, I prefer to set and forget as with the latter strategy there is a chance of missing a big haul away to a top-six side.
For shot-stoppers, the metric I like to use is expected goals conceded (xGC) (Expected goals conceded) in combination with shots faced.
As the Fantasy Football Scout Members Area Table shows, the Clarets are ranked fourth-best for xGC so far this season with a score of 9.05.
However, they are eighth-worst for shots allowed with 110 which indicates to me that though they are conceding a lot of shots, these are low-quality chances which means more possibility of saves.
Mat Ryan (£4.6m), the other alternative, had faced fewer shots but had a higher xGC which means fewer saves and more goals conceded.
Just to give non-members an idea of what is available within the Fantasy Football Scout Members Area, I have included the tables that helped me choose Pope below. However, the tables later in the article will be available only to those who have signed up to Membership for 2019/20.
Michael McGovern (£4.0m)
The only playing £4.0 goalkeeper currently, although I am aware he’s a short-term option. Unlike last year, loaned out players seem to be losing value rather quickly so there was no point risking value loss with Frederick Woodman (£4.0m).
Çağlar Söyüncü (£4.7m)
Leicester’s excellent run of matches stood out and they have been posting impressive defensive numbers too, sitting at third in the xGC table above. While I would have loved to get Ricardo Pereira (£6.2m), the budget friendly price tag for the Turk meant that he was a shoo-in.
Fikayo Tomori (£4.7m)
Another a fixture-based selection, with Chelsea sitting fourth in the defensive difficulty ticker. Although the Blues have conceded 14 goals, the fact that they sit fifth in the xGC table, above Manchester City indicates that the defence is shoring up. A bargain at 4.7m.
Diego Rico (£4.2m)
Sadio Mané (£11.7m)
I decided that I wouldn’t be captaining a Liverpool player for the next four Gameweeks but still wanted some attacking coverage so Sadio Mané (£11.7m) seemed like a viable downgrade from Salah, at least in the short-term. Easy upgrade back if needed in the future.
Mason Mount (£6.8m)
Someone who I really should have picked up earlier in the season, the midfielder is a bargain even at his now £6.8m price and he seems to be one of the most nailed-on picks in an attacking Chelsea side.
James Maddison (£7.2m)
A Leicester attacker seemed necessary given their incredible run of fixtures, and I’m a sucker for a set piece taker. Although Maddison’s 11 chances created isn’t that great, his 21 shots is fourth highest amongst midfielders and he should be involved in most of the Foxes’ attacking play. I would have loved to get Jamie Vardy (£9.0m) instead but the price tag proved a deterrent.
Callum Wilson (£7.9m)
The obvious lure for Wilson is the immediate fixture against Norwich who look like an absolute calamity at the back. I am very tempted to captain the Cherries man next week given difficult fixtures (on paper at least) for Salah and Sterling.
Aaron Connolly (£4.5m)
Admittedly, I knew little about the Irishman prior to his brace against Spurs but if he can match up to the hype that’s been built around him and nail down a spot in an attacking Brighton side, he’s a great sub option along with Lundstram and Rico.
I believe I have valid reasons for each of these selections and am unlikely to change any of these players unless we get any news that de Bruyne is out for a further period.
I was tempted to change Sterling for Sergio Agüero (£12.2m) given the two home games Manchester City have after the Crystal Palace fixture but the Argentina coach’s recent statement about his fitness have made me put my faith in Raheem.
No Arsenal attacking coverage is a concern but I don’t fancy anyone other than Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (£11.1m) and I can’t squeeze him in without selling one of KDB/Mané/Sterling, who I still have more faith in.
Going forward, I look forward to sharing my thoughts with you regularly on the plans for my team as well as further musings on issues relevant to Fantasy Managers.
An FPL veteran of 10 seasons, Utkarsh Dalmia has been a member of the site right since 2009 and has finished in the top 5k in six of those campaigns, with a best finish of 17th in 2010. A Chelsea fan based in India, he relies heavily on statistics for his FPL decision-making process.
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