Six-time top 5k finisher Zøphar shares his thoughts on a turbulent Premier League season so far.
The dreaded first international break is finally over and another FPL weekend lays ahead. I had hoped the arrival of FIFA 21 was going to prove a distraction, but art ended up imitating Premier League life far too well, serving up relentless goal-fests and bringing me right back to the chaotic first month of Fantasy Football.
For someone who values a clean sheet and defensive solidity, this has been uncomfortable viewing on both fronts, and I am hoping that a more ‘normal’ order is restored in the coming few weeks, in FIFA via patches and in the Premier League with some good coaching.
Putting aside the avalanche of attacking hauls in Gameweeks 1-4, I decided to use this article to reflect upon some of the other interesting developments that have transpired thus far and their potential impact on the long road ahead.
Is Brewster worth his £4.5 millions?
Looking back over 10+ seasons of FPL , I can’t remember a single time we’ve had a first-choice striker available at the £4.5m base price. Perhaps Pavel Pogrebnyak back in the day but he was hardly a reliable pick, something I fully expect Brewster to become. A clinical finisher who has no interest in dropping deep and building up play, he is truly a gift from the FPL gods in a season where there are so many big hitters available.
As I mentioned on the FPL Wire pod, I don’t see Brewster purely as an eighth attacker or occasional sub. At a price of £4.5m, even if he only gets a return every third game, he’s more than justified his value.
Yes, Sheffield United do have several options up top, but this was a ‘statement’ signing from an otherwise prudent coach and in terms of goalscoring quality, Brewster promises to be head and shoulders above the others, so it’s hard to see him not cementing a spot in Wilder’s side early on at least.
Naturally, you could argue that it is worth spending a million odd more on another value pick such as the in-form Patrick Bamford (£5.8m) or Ollie Watkins (£5.9m). But I’d counter that you could also use that instead to upgrade the likes of Tyrick Mitchell (£4.1m), Jimmy Dunne (£4.0m) or another cut-price defender to Nelson Semedo (£5.5m) or Ben Chilwell (£5.6m), who are far more explosive picks. This quote from an excellent article by Hedge backs up the point (thanks for the heads-up, TopMarx!):
Overall, 0.5m spent upgrading at the back almost always nets you more points than spending it in midfield or attack. In the last three seasons, the best approach would have been to get the highest-scoring defenders, no matter the cost.
Bring on the budget differentials
Whilst there’s no shortage of premium options in midfield, it’s the budget boys that I find more interesting to consider. Daniel Podence (£5.6m) has proved a popular choice after his performance in the first two Gameweeks, but I am not so optimistic on his prospects going forward. Wolves struggled without Adama Traore (£6.4m) against Fulham and Pedro Neto’s (£5.5m) improving displays cast a shadow on Podence’s security of starts. His xG per 90 of 0.10 is hardly inspiring either. Fortunately, there are several other options in this bracket to pick from.
Ross Barkley (£5.9m)
Whilst the more world-weary FPL managers may already be rolling their eyes at the prospect of another annual Ross Barkley bandwagon, I think this year it really could be different. As my podcast co-host Lateriser mentioned, Barkley thrives on being a big fish in a small pond.
As the shot map from the Liverpool game shows below, he was playing almost as a support striker and actually got in far better positions than Jack Grealish (£7.1m). His xG/90 this season (0.39) is second only to Jorginho (£5.1m) (1.13), and this includes some minutes which he played for Chelsea where he was never going to see as much of the ball.
It has been a frankly maddening start to the season and a true test of mettle for seasoned FPL managers, so it is easy to get carried away with frustration. Despite many of us finding more ‘spare’ time than usual, due to the pandemic and work-from-home scenarios, it remains vital not to overthink and obsess with your squad. FPL is an incredible game, offering much-needed distraction in these difficult times. Of course, selling Son before a 20+ point haul definitely hurts, but it’s not the end of the world – so please do prioritise your mental health over chasing points!
If your squad is struggling, you’re certainly not alone – many of the world’s top players are in the same position. But it really is very early days, the vast majority of the season lies ahead of us, so don’t let one or two decisions that have had unusually high variance outcomes shake your confidence. Forwards will tire, defences will tighten, crowds may even come back at some point and proven quality will out (even without a patch from EA!). So keep faith in the tried-and-tested process that has delivered for you, a top 10k rank is very much achievable even if you are residing at four million in the world now.
Thanks for reading.
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