To mark the end of the 2010s, long-time site contributor and Wasting Your Wildcard author, David Wardale, talks us through his Fantasy Premier League assets of the decade – both good and bad.
The 2010s: the decade of memes, protests, more memes, Brexit, many, many more memes and VAR as a late-joining irritant, best served hot with memes.
And if you weren’t on the internet… but of course you were on the internet or you wouldn’t have been playing Fantasy Premier League. And if you weren’t playing FPL, this article (as well as life itself) would have little or no meaning.
FPL started the decade with its identity firmly in place and is about to finish it enjoying total Fantasy supremacy. Sort of like Jason Bourne, but without the dead girlfriend.
And as that supremacy is showing no signs of letting up – two million more managers have signed up since 2017 alone – it’s time to celebrate some of the players who have helped us survive the Fantasy decade more or less mentally intact.
It’s time to roll out the Fantasy Premier League Legends of the Decade.
Frank Lampard/Steven Gerrard
Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard could never get it together for England.
But in FPL, they were the most destructive footballing double act since Maradona and cocaine.
And while both were at their peak in the noughties, they still had enough in the tank to illuminate the early years of this decade as well.
Gerrard’s career actually spanned not one, but three Premier League decades. As in life, the middle years were his best, but he still offered a lot for FPL managers as he entered the twilight of his career.
In fact, arguably his best campaign was one of his last – the 2013/14 season in which he scored 13 goals and set up 13 more, bringing in 205 points from his 33 starts.
Unfortunately for him, he ended that one falling over in the most infamous of ways, described the next three months of his life as the worst ever and was never truly the same again.
Still, 17 league seasons, 500+ appearances and 120 goals was more than enough to make him a Fantasy favourite for the ages.
As for Lampard, he scored at least ten goals a season from 2010 to 2013 and netted 15 times and provided an assist from just 21 starts in the last of those campaigns.
He’s also bringing more Fantasy joy into our lives with all those under-priced Chelsea youngsters he keeps on playing now he’s a manager.
And it surely won’t be long before Gerrard joins him in the Premier League once again.
Significant Others: Robin Van Persie, Wayne Rooney.
The ‘Set And Forgets‘
Luis Suarez and Andy Carroll signed for Liverpool on the same day in January 2011 and their Premier League careers remained eerily similar, with the Uruguayan scoring roughly the same number of goals as the big fella picked up injuries.
Suarez was also a famed multi-tasker, as adept at biting or racially abusing a player as he was putting Norwich City to the sword again. And again. And again.
But we FPL managers are a morally bankrupt lot, so we were always happy to overlook his ‘little foibles’ as long as he brought in the points, which he did across most of his three and a half Premier League seasons.
He also made Daniel Sturridge look good, which no-one has managed since, except in a, yep, meme.
Suarez’s standout season was 2013/14, when he amassed 295 points – a record that only fellow Kop legend Mo Salah has surpassed during his 303-point wonder year of 2017/18.
The 2014 FPL winner Tom Fenley’s team name that season was ‘Captain Suarez!’. How right he was.
Once upon a time, long before he learned the only three Spanish words he’d ever need – ’18 holes please’ – Gareth Bale was a young left-back and dead-ball specialist at Southampton.
That was good Fantasy stuff in itself, and it got even better when he moved to Spurs and was transformed into a wing-back with a licence to get forward as much as possible – and all for around £5.0m.
But even when FPL gave up on that pretence and reclassified him as a midfielder, Bale continued to bring in the points during a golden start to the decade.
He warmed up with 195 of them in 2011/12 and peaked at 249 the following season before Real Madrid came calling and set about slowly ruining his reputation/honing his handicap.
In truth, Early Bale could sit in the next category as well, but during those two glorious seasons when he was a properly classified midfielder, if you didn’t have him, you were being had.
Two goals and one assist for Chelsea does not a Fantasy legend make.
One trip to Roma later and Liverpool’s new signing for the 2017/18 season instantly attracted some, while inspiring a shoulder-shrugging let’s-see-how-he’s-developed stance from the rest of us.
Thirty two goals and 12 assists followed as Mohamed Salah became the first (and so far only) player to break the 300-point barrier for an FPL season.
Ah yes, some said, but wait until he fails to live up to that second time around. Good point, if 259 points is a failure.
He’s been relatively subdued this term, but has still managed nine goals and four assists while coping with the sustained imprint of Hamza Choudhury’s boot on his ankle.
Now fully fit, another 200+ season looks as likely as Liverpool’s first ever Premier League title.
Sadio Mane might be making a strong claim to be the Reds’ must-have midfielder at present, but Salah deserves all the plaudits he’s received since returning to FPL and giving us more returns than a Whirlpool tumble dryer.
Significant Others: Harry Kane, at least one member of the Chelsea defence for the first half of the decade, a Burnley goalkeeper or two.
The Cheaps, The Cheerfuls And The Misclassifieds
Clint Dempsey‘s nickname is ‘Deuce’, apparently. He made it up himself, which is about as naff as driving round in a car with the number plate ‘L3G3ND’ or ‘T0P SHA66ER’.
But we would have let him get away with far worse during the 2011/12 season he had with Fulham.
The American topped FPL’s midfield charts that year, scoring 17 goals and bringing in 209 points. For context, that was just two points shy of the total managed by a new arrival to the Premier League who went by the name of Sergio Aguero.
Dempsey wasn’t actually that cheap. He’d done enough in previous seasons to be priced at £8.5m at the start of the campaign. He was worth a whopping £9.8m by the end of it.
His appeal came because he frequently played up front and produced consistent returns all year long, with seven assists and 22 bonus points to add to his goals.
He was also a trailblazer, paving the way for the likes of Gylfi Sigurdsson by swapping his big fish, small pond status for the cruel sea that is a move to Tottenham.
One year later, he was on his way to the Seattle Sounders.
Michu arrived at Swansea City for the 2012/13 season as the club’s replacement for the cruel sea-bound points machine Gylfi Sigurdsson.
The plan was for the Spaniard to operate behind a lone striker, hence his (entirely correct) classification as a midfielder.
But seeing as he was given the number nine shirt, it was only natural for him to have a go at being a forward, and it’s fair to say he took to the role rather well.
He started the season priced at £6.5m, but that rose to £7.4m in just four Gameweeks as he banged in four goals and everyone jumped on board.
By the time the season was done, he’d peaked at £8.5m on the back of 18 goals and three assists, although his form – and that of the side as a whole – dipped dramatically as the new year kicked in.
Only Gareth Bale, with 21, could top his goals record among midfielders that year.
Bale finished the season on 249 points, Michu on 190, but the Spaniard was so much cheaper and, to this day, has never been called ‘The Golfer’ by a scornful Real Madrid dressing room either.
So who’s the real winner there?
Bale. Definitely Bale.
Leicester City’s title-winning season captured the hearts of the world.
Jamie Vardy’s 24 goals and chav-to-riches backstory garnered most of the attention; something his wife knows a thing or two about as well.
But the real star was midfielder Riyad Mahrez.
He’d scraped past the 100-point mark in his debut season before making 2015/16 resoundingly his own.
Priced at just £5.5m when it all kicked off, he would have cost you £7.2m by the end. That was still a bargain, quite frankly, as he scored 17 goals, produced 11 assists and brought in 38 bonus points for good measure.
The result of all that was a 240-point total for the season which was a staggering 29 points better than anyone else in FPL, the ‘anyone elses’ being Vardy and Harry Kane.
Mahrez started like a train, with five double-figure hauls in the first six Gameweeks, and never looked back.
He was so good he could even afford to miss a couple of penalties, losing spot-kick duties to Vardy as a result, and still bring in an average of 6.6 points per game.
Mahrez has scored at least 100 points a season across his Premier League career, although the magic started to die once the title was won.
He was priced at a monstrous £9.5m the next year before a protracted transfer saga soured his Leicester legacy.
But he’ll always have 2015/16 and he remains the biggest bargain in FPL history.
Significant Other: John Lundstram. Yes, I know he’s a Fantasy legend to many already, but there’s still half a season to go and anything could still happen.
Trolls Without The LOLS
It all started so well…
A January 2017 signing, the Italian scored four goals in his first three matches for Southampton.
A groin injury didn’t stop us going big on him as we were confident he’d be back to full fitness for the double Gameweeks that were still to come.
And we were right – he was fit. Fit enough to stink out those doubles, and the rest of the season, with no goals from seven increasingly awful appearances.
He then scored three times in his first five starts of the next campaign, which was plenty enough for quite a few of us to be fooled yet again.
He managed two more goals all season and just one in 12 appearances the year after that.
By then, we were wise to Manolo. And so were Southampton, who binned him off to Sampdoria.
For a time, during the 2016/16 season, Odion Ighalo was Fantasy gold.
So cheap, so deadly, he scored on his Premier League debut for Watford and kept on banging them in for weeks on end.
And then he didn’t, enduring a 599-minute scoring drought that sadly proved the old adage ‘never trust a man whose first name sounds like a cinema’.
Still, the Nigerian striker ended his golden age with 15 goals, which earned him a new five-year contract with the Hornets.
His second season response? One goal and 15 scoreless games to round it all off. Watford’s response? Take the money and let him run to China.
Ighalo’s still there, despite a dubious claim that Barcelona were interested, but the devout Christian apparently gives much of his salary to help those less well off back home in Nigeria, so the mocking stops here.
All of AFC Bournemouth
Callum Wilson might be the leader of this particular pack, but nearly everyone who has played for Eddie Howe has managed to fool us over the years.
The problem with Bournemouth is that just when their players demand our attention, that’s the moment the team’s form goes south. Which, in their case, means the sea.
Even Wee Ryan Fraser, who racked up 181 points last season, is at it these days, with one goal and three assists from 19 appearances this time around.
And don’t get me started on their defenders, who kept three clean sheets in a row from Gameweek 9 to suck us all into the latest cherry trap, and have managed just one of them since.
Significant Others: For being trolls/legends in equal measure: Eden Hazard, Theo Walcott. For 100% pure trolldom: Steve Mounie and any Brighton player during a double Gameweek.
The Unassuming Hero
Everton’s decade has involved four times as many managers as they’ve had first-choice left-backs.
Lucas Digne, one of the two who’ve been regularly scooting up and down the flank for the Toffees since 2010, is currently injured, which has meant a return to action for one of FPL’s all-time greats.
Leighton Baines has been there and done it, almost always in alarmingly tight shorts and a haircut straight outta Modton, since 2006. For context, that was the year Harvey Elliott learned to go to the toilet by himself. Probably.
In 13 seasons of Fantasy service, he’s failed to score at least 100 points only four times, thanks to injuries and a debut campaign in which he missed out by just five points.
And in this decade, he’s topped the charts for defenders twice – in 2010/11 with 178 points and in 2012/13 with 177 – and managed 169 points to finish third in 2013/14.
On April 15, 2017, he became the first defender to reach 50 Premier League assists and now has 63 of them.
The fact he’s only managed 71 clean sheets is entirely down to being an Everton player, but who cares about that when he’s also a dead ball and penalty specialist because the resulting 32 goals more than offsets that.
Consistent, reliable, occasionally explosive and once, at the start of the 2011/12 season, horribly expensive at £8.0m, Baines has quietly gone about being a Fantasy legend for a very, very long time.
And he hasn’t quite finished yet.
Significant Others: David Silva, James Milner.
The Man For All Seasons
By the time this season is done, one man will have played in nine of the decade’s ten Premier League years.
Unless injuries intervene, he’ll have scored at least 100 FPL points in every single one of them. He’s topped 200 points three times and hit at least 20 goals in six of the eight full seasons to date.
He is the first name on many Fantasy managers’ August team sheets. He is a Fantasy legend. He is Sergio Aguero.
We all remember that goal, that AGUEROOOOO goal. We all remember the five he hit against Newcastle – five in 23 minutes lest we forget. And we all have our own particular Aguero moments because he’s been part and parcel of our Fantasy sides for so long and for such good reason.
Personally, I remember his Premier League debut against Swansea. I’d wanted to buy him as soon as he’d signed for City, but I thought I’d wait and see how he settled in.
He was on the bench for the Swansea game, so I smugly congratulated myself on my wise and seasoned decision.
Aguero came on after 59 minutes and set about making me look like the Fantasy fool that I am.
He scored with a tap-in nine minutes later, set up a goal for a team-mate and then smashed a 30-yarder into the net late on to round off the greatest 21-minute FPL debut of all time.
And what might have been lost in all the hype that surrounded it was that assist.
Because for a goalscorer supreme, Sergio Aguero is one hell of a team player.
He’s provided 59 assists to go with all those goals – more than double Harry Kane’s output, although to be fair, the Argentinian has been around that little bit longer.
He’s had to adapt his style to the stringent demands of his manager, endured Pep Roulette and the booms and busts of a cash-mad City.
And he’s still there. Still scoring, still providing, still excelling.
Sergio Aguero: the Fantasy man for all seasons and FPL’s true legend of the decade.
What do you think of David’s choices? Let us know below – as if you need any encouragement…
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