In his latest Pro Pundits piece, Az bemoans anticlimactic captaincies, disappointing differentials – and his failure to acquire a certain Sheffield United “defender”.
“Learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t live long enough to make them all yourself.” – Matthew Syed, Black Box Thinking
Another fortnight passes, as does a rotten Gameweek and (finally!) a decent one.
Christmas is widely regarded as the season of joy – the antithesis of my own season of woe – but it does seem fitting time to reflect, once again, on my 2019/20 campaign so far.
Jamie Vardy (£9.6m), one of the main protagonists of my previous article and Fantasy Premier League top goalscorer at the time of writing, has finally come into my team and delivered me 30 points (one as captain) in two weeks.
Mason Mount (£6.8m), a player who I was rueing selling, has only managed one assist in three games (although of course, Callum Hudson-Odoi (£5.8m) has managed just three substitute appearances in as many matches, and a booking!).
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (£11.0m) has finally got me a goal and is still in place for the two best fixtures out there (Southampton and Norwich).
N’Golo Kanté (£5.0m) is back and Chelsea are already looking more solid, so I’m hoping for some more clean sheets from Fikayo Tomori (£4.8m).
Looking at my team, I believe I have reason for optimism going forward.
Of course, it hasn’t all been rosy. If I see one more mention of “Lord” John Lundstram (£4.9m), I may have to deactivate my account. It seems like myself and Andy are the only ones who don’t have the Sheffield United defender-turned-midfielder but I was put off at the start of the season due to his lack of minutes in 2018/19 and Sheffield United’s spending spree on supposedly “better” options.
On my Wildcard, the allure of a “strong” defence featuring Trent Alexander-Arnold (£7.2m), Ricardo Pereira (£6.3m) and Nicolas Otamendi (£5.2m) – supplemented by the budget Diego Rico (£4.2m) and Tomori, who I thought was an absolute steal at £4.5m – meant there was no room at the inn for Lundstram.
I wasn’t even worried going into the Burnley game but of course, I had my head in my hands when they announced that Lundstram had scored. When I heard he had scored his second of the match, I just had to laugh. I’m still laughing now. Kind of.
I think the £4.0m defender, or a £4.5m midfielder in form, is a player who you just need to jump on at the earliest opportunity.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka (£5.4m) was one of my star players last season (although I often had to look at his points sat on my bench) and £4.5m midfielders like 2016/17-era Etienne Capoue (now £4.8m) are players you shouldn’t even be considering to put in your starting XI, but always end up coming in and do an amazing job for you. If they really go off the boil, most of the time you can sell them at a £0.4m/£0.5m profit but, for the most part, you just keep them in your team until the end of the season. They really are “set and forget”.
I should have prioritised Lundstram on the Wildcard. His ownership, position, and price rises made him too attractive an option to ignore. With a great run of fixtures coming up, a £4.0m defender who couldn’t even get a game in the Championship is now one of my most sought-after targets. It’s an amazing game we play.
I now sit at the lofty heights of a 1.2 million rank, having plunged to the depths of two million just a week ago. Having achieved a pretty tasty (and much coveted) 700k rank rise, I’m reminded of the importance of playing your own game.
The Fantasy Scout/Twitter template feels particularly strong this year. Players like Nick Pope (£4.7m), Lundstram, Mount, Sadio Mané (£12.1m), Kevin De Bruyne (£10.2m), Vardy and Tammy Abraham (£8.0m) seem to be in every team that’s being bandied around. This can leave you thinking that you need some big differentials to climb the ranks.
Well actually, I’ve got most of these players, and my “differentials” in Hudson-Odoi, John McGinn (£5.8m) and Aubameyang have all failed to deliver. And yet, I was still able to get a healthy green arrow. Chasing shadows and binning perfectly good players to try and strike gold often does more harm than good.
It’s also reinforced the importance of getting that captaincy pick right. Obviously, it is unachievable for mere mortals like me, but the fact is that if I had captained my highest-scoring player each week, I would be ranked at just over 1k. That’s over a million places higher than where I am now. That, to me, is crazy.
The captaincy is something I’ve always struggled with – I can remember a handful of great captain picks over the years (Sergio Aguero‘s five goals vs Spurs, and an Alexis Sanchez hat-trick against West Ham) but actually, whenever I’ve rolled the dice (looking at you, Jesse Lingard) I’ve been burned.
This season however, it seems like you get burned when you play the logical game. Looking at my selections, it’s been an over-reliance on Raheem Sterling (£12.0m) that’s really hurt me. He’s been in great form for club and country – but this has not been turning into FPL points.
Well now I’ve seen through my plan which I had come up with weeks ago when I Wildcarded. Raheem is gone for the more reliable Mané. Can I see myself captaining anyone other than Vardy or Mané between now and Christmas? I doubt it.
City, much like my captain picks throughout my FPL career, seem too inconsistent to trust. I wonder if they are really focusing on the Champions League this year and, with Liverpool seemingly out of sight after just 13 Gameweeks, I wonder if there will be more disappointment for those that continue to back their assets with the armband.
In terms of my plans going forward, I’m putting more eggs in the Leicester basket. The Foxes don’t have the worry of Champions League rotation – and their performances and results have been nothing short of exceptional.
I’ve got to move out some of my deadwood. Hudson-Odoi has gone, and one of my favourite players in the league – a certain James Maddison (£7.5m) – is in. To fund this, I’ve had to downgrade Pereira, who has done okay for me, but is not living up to his £6.3m price tag. He leaves for the much more affordable Çağlar Söyüncü (£4.9m), who is looking like a steal at under £5.0m.
McGinn is next on the chopping block, and it’s likely that Aubameyang will be the man to fund an upgrade – after he has played against Southampton and Norwich. I’m hoping that he will deliver some solid returns in these games.
I wouldn’t be advising anyone to buy him but, if you have him, you’ve got to hold now. He won the Golden Boot last season and, if he has any hope of wrestling it off Vardy or Abraham, he needs to deliver in the next two matches. If he can bang in some goals, my rank should be more respectable by the time I write my next article… unless “Lord Lundstram” strikes again, that is.
Az has been a contributor to the site and Scoutcast guest for many years. The Brighton and Hove Albion supporter has three top 10k finishes to his name in a long Fantasy career, the best of which was a rank of 817 in the 2017/18 season.
Nominated for ‘Best in Fantasy Football – Editorial’ at the Football Content Awards 2020
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