It has been such a strange start to the 2020/21 Fantasy Premier League season and there is a lot riding on Gameweek 4.
Except for a few usual suspects coming to the fore, most of Gameweek 3 seemed like an anomaly rather than the norm, although it is still very early in the campaign.
But keeping that in mind, I will continue to advise Fantasy managers to not to panic and keep calm. Remember, last week was probably the ideal kind of time to have a bad Gameweek given the low average.
I Wildcarded prior to Gameweek 3, scored a measly 35 points and currently hold an overall rank of 4.8 million. That said, I’m not particularly worried (yet) and those that Wildcarded recently should judge their new squad after at least its first five Gameweeks, not just one round.
But how long can I go without addressing the elephant in the room?
I am, of course, talking about penalties.
For those that aren’t aware, the Premier League was asked to be stricter and more in line with the other leagues for handball rules this season, which has resulted in considerably more spot-kicks than usual. Of the 20 awarded so far, six have been for handball.
But, we have already seen, after the chaos last week, that referees have been asked to be a little more lenient when it comes awarding penalties for handball from here on.
Under the new instructions, referees have been asked to consider the proximity of the player to the ball, his arm position and the amount of time he has to react.
This means that a player is likely to be penalised for handball if the arm is out from the body or if the ball has travelled a distance.
On top of that, if a player is using their arm for balance or protection then a penalty is less likely to be given, whereas a player’s arm blocking a direct shot on goal is more likely to be given. If a player has his arm above the shoulder, the penalty will still be awarded.
Given these new guidelines, the penalties awarded against Victor Lindelöf (£5.0m), Matt Doherty (£5.9m) and Joel Ward (£4.5m) would not likely have been awarded but the ones against Neal Maupay (£6.5m) and Eric Dier (£5.0m) would have still stood.
Dale Johnson from ESPN told us in his tweet that top leagues like the La Liga and the Serie A got awarded around 30 to 40 penalties more than the Premier League last season and, while I do expect the number to rise in England this year, I don’t think it will be drastic.
What this tells me is I need to realign my thinking with regards to penalties. While earlier I used thinking of a player being on a penalty as an added ‘bonus’, now I want to mentally give that player at least 10 to 15% more weightage in my head when making transfer and captaincy decisions.
However, that does not necessarily mean I opt for players like Callum Wilson (£6.4m) in my team because Newcastle are just not showing enough going forward in open play at the moment.
It also does not mean that I stop myself from picking players like Raheem Sterling (£11.5m) and Sadio Mané (£11.9m) in my team because that would mean giving way more attention to penalties than you should.
It just means that when debating Mohamed Salah (£12.1m) and Mané in my headm and if it’s a 50/50 call, the penalties will swing it for me this season. This wasn’t always the case for me last season.
Also, the only real predictability we have for these ‘random’ handballs for a team is if a team is spending a lot of time in the opposition attacking area.
My guess is that the penalty box touches of the final third touches a team has could be a good indicator of the ability of that team to win a penalty due to a handball.
This is in addition to the teams having players with the ability to draw fouls and win penalties because not much has changed with regards to the rules there.
Given these two factors, outside of the obvious candidates from Liverpool, Manchester City and Manchester United, I’m also looking at the likes of Richarlison (£8.0m) and Michail Antonio (£6.3m) more closely.
That’s enough on the subject of penalties and I for one hope that the Fantasy Premier League does not turn into the Fantasy Penalty League as it would take a lot of fun and eye-test assessment out of the game.
Another thing I want to talk about is that if you’re not really sure about what transfer to make this Gameweek, there’s no better time to save a transfer than the international break. As my co-host and fellow Pro Pundit Zøphar pointed out on this week’s episode of The FPL Wire, a lot of the national teams are playing three games in this period, so an extra transfer could be handy given the potential ‘injuries’ and in today’s world, ‘infections’.
Also, one more note with regards to teams like Manchester United and Manchester City, who have had a staggered pre-season and are visibly behind on sharpness when compared to other teams, I urge patience. This gap will only become thinner as more and more time passes and we should see all teams on similar levels of ‘fitness’ in the next two odd Gameweeks.
At the time of writing, I’m wondering whether to ship off Timo Werner (£9.4m) for the likes of Danny Ings (£8.4m) or Richarlison. Southampton have a really good fixture this Gameweek but the three games after don’t fill me with confidence.
Normally I wouldn’t worry too much about fixtures when it comes to Southampton but they are in the bottom half of the table for shots in the box so far and Ings had only a single shot against Burnley.
This, combined with Ralph Hasenhüttl’s quotes this week of taking a ‘defence first’ and the international break after this is making me lean towards banking my transfer. This could change before Saturday though.
“It wasn’t a good start to the season but we have focused our work this week on the defence and it was fantastic to see how much they had invested today.” – Ralph Hasenhüttl
In addition, I’ve got a close eye on Spurs assets who have good fixtures (Jose Mourinho has got his team playing well) and maybe some returning Manchester City strikers post the international break.
I’ve also got to bring Salah back in my team really soon but can’t sell my Manchester City midfielders before the Leeds game, which has the potential to be a very high scoring affair.
This is how my team looks this weekend. I’m likely to hand my armband to Sterling or Kevin De Bruyne (£11.6m) since Leeds’ high risk football might leave a lot of space for these Manchester City attackers.
Sitting at 4.8 million, surely this is the time for a green arrow to finally come my way and I’m expecting resurgence for my team starting this week. Here’s hoping I see you on the other side at the end of a much due good Gameweek.