“It isn’t enough to think outside the box. Thinking is passive. Get used to acting outside the box.” – Timothy Ferriss
The quote above quite accurately sums up how I like to approach Fantasy Football. However, this season is making it harder to act outside the box and be successful.
It’s been a decent couple of weeks for me, as I moved off of bottom place in Greyhead’s “The Great and The Good” series – and moved up around 200,000 places to join some better company in most of my mini-leagues. David and Andy are both in my sights and, thankfully, I’ve overtaken my fellow TopGuns presenter, Luke. Hoorah!
My resurgence has however come at a time where I’ve played quite “dullard”. I haven’t taken any real risks. I dropped Tammy Abraham (£7.9m) for Danny Ings (£6.3m) when his injury was announced.
I’ve brought in John Lundstram (£5.1m) (finally!). I’ve been a bit jammy in getting Martin Kelly (£4.3m) (hardly the sexiest option) and his points off my bench… and bar this week, where I indulged in a bit of a punt on Dele Alli (£8.7m), I’ve been a regular captainer of Jamie Vardy (£10.1m).
In fact, with Vardy continuing his monstrous run of form, decisions of captaincy are made easy, and this has been an area that I have been pretty woeful in this season. When you try and do something different, it seems as though you get punished.
Last week, Luke took a punt on giving the armband to Lundstram, and was rewarded with a one-point captain. This week, I decided to back myself and go for Alli in the hope that he could outscore his English compatriot; I was wrong, and the decision cost me four points. Not a major problem, but they all count at the end of the season.
In fact, Gameweek 15 saw Vardy attract 58% of the captain poll vote on Fantasy Football Scout. Wilfred Zaha (£6.8m), Sadio Mané (£12.3m), Kevin De Bruyne (£10.2m), Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (£10.9m), Raheem Sterling (£11.8m), Mohamed Salah (£12.2m) and Christian Pulisic (£7.5m) were the only players to get over 2% of the vote. Out of all of these options, all but Mané blanked. Ouch for anyone who took a punt.
In Gameweek 16, Vardy was actually only second in the poll. However, out of the top ten “best” options, only Harry Kane (£10.9m) outscored him. Again, people were punished for acting outside of the box.
At the moment, moving the captaincy away from Vardy means you are banking on two things – one, your player actually delivering points (which is proving a lottery), and two, Vardy blanking so you actually get some benefit from it. For those betting against Vardy each week, those four, five, six points that you are missing out on each week are likely mounting up.
The trouble is, when you take the captaincy out of the equation, people in my position have to find other ways of making up ground. However, the rest of our squads are so damn settled, with players such as Lundstram, Trent Alexander-Arnold (£7.3m), Mané, De Bruyne, Çaglar Söyüncü (£5.1m) etc. all featuring heavily in almost every team I see bandied around on the boards and on Twitter – and rightly so. These players are delivering returns when there appears to be only a small pool of players who are regularly doing so. The question then becomes: where and how can we start thinking a bit differently?
The biggest differentiator I’m seeing in people’s teams at the moment comes in the shape of which strikers are being paired with Vardy. In fact, I’ll go as far as to say that the biggest decision going into the Christmas period is which three strikers do we get into our team.
There are a number of forwards in form at the moment, which is making this decision an important – and tricky – one.
Abraham came straight back into the Chelsea team at the first opportunity and delivered a mighty 13-point haul for those that kept patience with him. A blank then followed against a resurgent Everton, but the Golden Boot contender will hope that was just a blip – as will his loyal army of managers.
Those, like me, who made the switch to Ings, must be feeling pretty smug despite Tammy’s quick return from injury. A frankly incredible run of five goals in five games, coupled with bonus points in all but one of these, is making a mockery of his price tag. Managers are flocking to the Saints man and, with West Ham and Villa to come, it’s hard to argue. But after that, could his time be over? Chelsea, Crystal Palace, Tottenham and Leicester are next up. Nasty.
Raùl Jiménez (£7.5m) is actually falling in price, despite only one blank in his last six appearances. He has struggled for any real explosive returns this season though, with only one double-digit score back in Gameweek 8. However, this consistency is hard to find; are managers simply thinking the grass is greener even though he is a nice safe pick to hold on to?
Marcus Rashford (£8.9m) is another name on everyone’s lips. He may be playing out of position, with Anthony Martial (£7.6m) the preferred man up top, but having just broken 100 points – and with returns in seven of the last eight games – it’s hard to begrudge those who are going for him.
I have to admit, I’ve not considered Rashford for my own team, and constantly find myself looking the way of Martial. The fixtures look great right up until Gameweek 23 and, really, an attacker from the in-form Red Devils looks a shrewd investment. I think one of these two players is a good idea for anyone over the festive schedule.
And then there are the options for the braver managers amongst us. Kane showed what he can do with a 16-point haul, making a mockery of my criticism of him on the latest Scoutcasts. Aubameyang – shunned from my own team – still has ten goals this season, and his strike partner Alexandre Lacazette (£9.3m) has five goals despite playing only 661 minutes at the time of writing, and looks to be the focal point of the Arsenal attack. If Arsenal can get their act together, you have to assume the goals will start flowing.
Finally, it might also be wise to consider the budget strikers, such as Lys Mousset (£5.1m), Neil Maupay (£5.8m), Diogo Jota (£6.1m) and Jordan Ayew (£5.1m). These players have all put themselves in real contention for our teams too, and seeing these names in people’s teams are unlikely to raise many eyebrows, given the form and/or fixtures of these players. There truly is a plethora of talent for us to consider. I honestly cannot remember a time when so many strikers were vying for our attention.
It seems to me that juggling in-form strikers will be key to making progress over Christmas, and not being afraid to weave in and out of the aforementioned options may prove fruitful as we look to take advantage of congested fixtures and swings during a busy period.
Personally, I am rocking my trio of Abraham, Vardy and Ings. But as soon as the fixtures turn for Ings, I’ll be moving him on. I don’t like to sell an in-form player, but in a season where there are a few ways to really stamp your mark on the team – and with so many strikers scoring goals – I’m hoping that the loyalists are punished, and my shiny new forward, whoever it may be, will be a nice gift just in time for Christmas.
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.
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