While we’re still in the international break I thought I’d try something a little different for my article this week.
I threw open some questions to the Fantasy Premier League (FPL) community on Twitter and will be addressing a few important issues with my answers.
Those include: how to deal with this madness, coping with a poor start, player value, Manchester City assets, taking cash out of defence and under the radar picks.
Q1: Lack of crowds, leads to more goals, leads to more temptation to chase those involved. What should an FPL manager do to stay sane in this chaos? A plan is useful but what are the essential items in that plan that you would suggest? (from @benchickens)
What we as FPL managers should not do is panic and simply just enjoy the chaos. In my opinion, the essential items in the plan are as follows
- Differentiate between the norm and the anomaly – We saw that Southampton kept a naïve high line against Tottenham Hotspur which led to a 5-2 battering. Manchester United were completely outrun in midfield and the reason Spurs scored six goals at Old Trafford was not just because of their attacking prowess. This was one of the worst displays I have personally seen by United, especially in defence, and I don’t think other backlines will be as obliging. What do we learn from this? Looking at the underlying numbers, Spurs also created a lot of chances against Newcastle United, which indicates they are in good attacking form. This makes both Harry Kane (£10.6m) and Heung-Min Son (£9.0m) good picks in their own right, given how sharp they look and how strong their underlying numbers are. Although they have an appealing next four fixtures, I would be very surprised if they continue to be as explosive and expectations should be tempered there. At the moment, a lot of the Spurs counter attacks are resulting in goals but that is very difficult to sustain in my opinion.
- Continue sticking to the process – As FPL managers, not much has changed. We are still going to react to the fixtures. We still need to pay attention to the underlying numbers more than the actual goals and assists because they are a greater predictor of future results. We still need to rely on the eye-test. There are, however, a couple of issues we should reconsider. Teams such as Aston Villa, West Ham United and Everton have recruited well and improved their playing styles. And given the new penalty rules, players with spot-kick duties should be weighted slightly higher when considering our transfers.
- Reflect, don’t react – I have seen a lot of over-reaction, with many managers looking to remove cash from defence and spend it up front. What we don’t realise is that real-life managers are also seeing the same defensive frailties. When Southampton got thrashed by Leicester last season, it led to a big upturn in their performance. The same happened this season, as the Saints have kept back-to-back clean sheets after losing big to Spurs. Jurgen Klopp is one of the best managers in Europe and it would be naïve of us to think that he is not going to address Liverpool’s defensive frailties after their loss to Aston Villa.
- Sleep on it – When we don’t own those players who are getting big hauls, it’s human nature to make reactionary decisions. But more often than not, these decisions have a tendency to be irrational. I am sitting at a rank of 4.6 million and it wasn’t easy viewing during Gameweek 4 when so many players hauled and I didn’t catch any of them. I decided to not react immediately but sleep on it. The next day I realised that I was just at the wrong end of variance. Just talking about my team alone, Raheem Sterling (£11.5m), Raul Jiménez (£8.6m) and Nelson Semedo (£5.5m) all missed one on ones and Kevin De Bruyne (£11.6m) hit the post. Upon reflection, I realised that eventually variance should even out. This gives me confidence in my team and my decision-making is less clouded once I’ve slept on it.
Q2: What’s your take on Manchester City? Nothing for De Bruyne in the past two Gameweeks and his underlying statistics aren’t brilliant. Does he improve with Gabriel Jesus (£9.5m) returning or would Wildcarding him out be a wise move? (from @joesheard)
I’d urge more patience. De Bruyne was unlucky to not score from a free-kick against Leeds, where he ended up hitting the post. The problem against Leeds, in my opinion, was that Man City have never been so tested physically, which led to some poor decision-making from their end in the second half. In addition, due to playing with Phil Foden (£6.6m), who isn’t exactly a defensive minded player, De Bruyne had to do more defensive work than expected because Rodri (£5.5m) just isn’t as efficient as Fernandinho (£5.5m) when it comes to the defensive duties. The Belgian played further up the pitch once Fernandinho was subbed on and I get the feeling that once Ilkay Gundogan (£5.4m) is fit, De Bruyne’s burden defensively will reduce. Both the Man City strikers are not far away from a return, either. And to put things into context, we are talking about a team that has been the highest scorers in the league in the past three seasons. They have scored 100 goals twice in the past three seasons. Their attackers still remain some of the most dangerous FPL assets in the league. Speaking of De Bruyne’s numbers, he has still created the most chances in the league so I wouldn’t be too worried. I expect him to be a better asset than last season, particularly if he’s on penalties.
Kevin De Bruyne during Manchester City’s recent loss to Leicester City
Q3: Is Team Value as important as some seem to suggest? (from @chiplesschaps)
I do feel that the importance of team value is blown out of proportion in the FPL Community. There are a few factors I’d like to touch on.
First of all, building team value should only matter in the first half of the season. The importance of team value diminishes with each passing Gameweek since there are fewer fixtures where you might need that extra £0.1m more to get your ideal player. I’ve always thought having £0.5m or £1.0m less than your competition only means that you need to find a value pick in one single position and there is never a guarantee that the more expensive pick is going to be the better one. Look at the Liverpool full backs, for example. Trent Alexander-Arnold (£7.5m) costs £0.5m more than Andrew Robertson (£7.0m) but the latter has scored five points more. There are many such examples across the league and you just need to back your ability to find a ‘value bargain’ in one position.
Trent Alexander-Arnold celebrates during Project Restart
Secondly, there is also a danger of holding onto a pick too long because of attached value. I have a tendency to switch big hitters on a consistent basis without paying too much attention to value. This helps me gain an advantage over ‘price-conscious’ FPL managers where I am able to sell highly-owned players and pick up explosive differentials with a good run of fixtures. When I pick up a player at a higher price compared to most others, I don’t mind it at all. In fact, I feel that I have a lack of fear when it comes to selling that player and it allows me to play fixtures and form more freely. The point being that you need to make sure you don’t hold onto a player longer than you should only because of value. Maybe to balance things out, what you can do is have a few positions where you can decide to accumulate value and a few where you are never looking at the purchase price, which allows you to play the game freely. This season more than ever we have seen a few random last-minute dropouts due to covid, which is greater reason to delay transfers as much as possible. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t make early transfers but showing more restraint than usual, particularly when there are a few midweek games, will definitely help. If you’re an FPL manager that loves building team value, I’d recommend tempering that a little more than usual this season.
Q4: I see that you’ve started the season really poorly. Do you usually start this bad? When do you know if you’re going to have a good season or not?
No, I haven’t had such a poor start to a season before. My answer to your last question is you’re not going to gain anything out of knowing whether you are having a good season or not. This is a game we play for fun and the best thing about the end of a poor Gameweek is the optimism and hope before the start of the next one. All we can do in between these two is make some informed decisions and hope they come off. That’s all there is to it, so enjoy the game you’re playing and don’t overthink it too much.
Q5: Are there any players with very promising underlying stats who are also taking up good positions who have underperformed in terms of FPL points that could be good under the radar picks for those looking to make up ground? (from @Murchif)
Leandro Trossard (£6.0m) is 2.2% ownership and is a very good pick. Brighton look like a different team this season and should have scored a few more goals than they have. They hit the post five times against Man Utd, three of which were by Trossard. They are top five in the league for shots and big chances and their next five fixtures are Crystal Palace (a), West Brom (h), Spurs (a), Burnley (h) and Aston Villa (a).
Trossard is playing in a very advanced position this season and seems nailed. Only four midfielders have more shots (two of whom are the Liverpool premium midfielders) and he’s in the top 10 midfielders for chances created as well. Based on these numbers, as well as the eye-test, I like him as a pick. Aston Villa pair Ross Barkley (£5.9m) and Ollie Watkins (£5.9m) both have ownership under 5% and their next three fixtures are Leicester (a), Leeds United (h) and Southampton (h). I could potentially see some points there as well.
Trossard celebrates scoring for Brighton last season
I hope you enjoy this article format. Do let me know what you think about this format in the comments section. Good luck for the Gameweek!
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