With so much uncertainty in Fantasy Premier League (FPL) right now, I think it is important to highlight that every season has rough and smooth moments.
I have certainly had my fair share of both so far and it will probably be helpful for you if I expand on the impact they had on my decision-making process.
After three green arrows in a row, I got a small red in Gameweek 17, which still leaves me very close to the top 10,000, so I really can’t complain about how things have gone so far. In fact, last season my overall ranking was around 600K after the festive period so I’m really happy that i managed to massively improve my mid-season ranking after struggling in the first half of 2019/20.
Both my captain Harry Kane (£11.0m) and his teammate Son Heung-min (£9.8m) justified my decision to put them in my wildcard team despite no double Gameweek for Tottenham. Delivering a total of 37 points against Leeds United, the Spurs duo basically carried my team in an otherwise disappointing showing from the rest of my players.
Since I’m going to activate my Free Hit chip in Gameweek 18, saving my free transfer was never an option, otherwise it would be lost as per the FPL rules. I considered selling Fabian Balbuena (£4.4m) after his no-show at St. Mary’s Stadium but, given the lack of decent alternatives, I decided to keep him, hoping he would regain his spot at the centre of West Ham’s defence in their trip to Goodison Park.
However, David Moyes had other plans and, after two clean sheets in a row for the Hammers, Balbuena doesn’t seem to be nailed anymore and he will certainly be one of the weakest spots in my team ahead of the double Gameweek.
Since I was fairly happy with the rest of my squad, I decided to buy Ollie Watkins (£6.1m) for the third time this season (more on that later) and sell Che Adams (£6.1m).
Even though I still consider Adams to be a decent option, I was a bit worried about Southampton’s attacking rotation now that Danny Ings (£8.3m) is back. At the same time, Watkins’ underlying numbers are considerably better than Adams’ and he always seems to play 90 minutes at the frontline of one of the most impressive attacking teams in the Premier League so far.
Despite his blank at Old Trafford, he keeps getting good chances to score and, with two great home matches in the Double Gameweek, I’m hoping he will finally live up to his potential.
MY SEASON’S ROUGHS AND SMOOTHS
Having almost reached mid-season and with the festive period already behind us, I think it’s a good time to look back and try to identify the success stories and the failures of my season so far and, hopefully, learn something from it. Let’s start with the bad news first:
Timo Werner (£9.2m) was one of the first names in my pre-season draft as soon as I knew he was priced at £9.5m. Having seen the levels he reached playing for RB Leipzig, there was no doubt in my mind that he would take the Premier League by storm, especially with a kind run of fixtures to start the season.
Even after a couple of poor performances from him, I wrote in my articles about my blinding faith that he would come good eventually. Well, that didn’t happen. I kept him in my team for the first twelve Gameweeks, until it became obvious that several other options were doing better for considerably less money.
He still averaged 4.8 points per match for me, which isn’t horrible but I was hoping for much more from someone who I thought would be almost essential in everyone’s team sooner or later.
I mostly blame Frank Lampard for this failure but I also blame myself for not cutting ties with him sooner than I did. There is a fine line between patience and stubbornness in FPL and I think it’s important to learn to identify which is which.
If someone had told me in pre-season that the Liverpool right-back would score a mere 21 points in the first eight Gameweeks, I would have had a hard time believing it. But Trent Alexander-Arnold (£7.3m) only delivered an assist and one clean sheet until he got injured and sold ahead of Gameweek 9.
Despite these shocking returns from someone who used to be one of the best value picks in FPL, I don’t think I made a mistake in holding him and, before his injury, I was even planning to keep him as a differential for as long as possible.
After all, he is still one of the most attacking full-backs in the league and plays for one of the strongest teams, even if the absence of Virgil van Dijk (£6.3m) means a severe hit in Liverpool’s clean sheet potential.
I went without him on my Wildcard due to lack of funds (investment in expensive midfielders and forwards seems crucial right now) but I’m sure he will be back in my team sooner rather than later.
As I mentioned above, Watkins is in my team for the third time already this season. Postponed matches and sudden double Gameweek announcements were the main factor for so much indecision from me but, at the same time, he is probably one of the most frustrating assets I have owned in several FPL seasons.
In the six Gameweeks I had Watkins in my team, he missed a penalty and countless chances to score, he had two disallowed goals due to marginal offsides spotted by VAR and still managed to deliver a double-digit haul after assisting three times against Crystal Palace.
For some reason, his body language doesn’t convince him yet and he is clearly lacking confidence in front of goal but priced at 6.1 million, nailed for 90 minutes and playing as the striker in a Jack Grealish team, I’m willing to be patient/stubborn with him for a bit longer.
The highest-scoring player in the game is the only one to be in my starting eleven in every Gameweek so far. Considerably underpriced in comparison with other expensive midfielders and rested in most Europa League matches, I never really found a reason to sell Son, not even in my recent wildcard.
His underlying expected numbers are not as good as some of the other more expensive options but Son is probably one of the most clinical finishers in the world. He has been crushing xG models for fun in the last four seasons and every time i see him preparing to shoot, I already know the likelihood of it being a goal is very high.
It’s likely I will have to sell him for Kevin De Bruyne (£11.7m) in the Double Gameweek though but it will certainly be more of a see you soon than a goodbye.
After so many hours trying to figure out which of Stuart Dallas (£4.8m) or Luke Ayling (£4.5m) would be the best pick among Leeds defenders, it’s really nice to see that wasted time paying off. I knew there was a chance Dallas could play a few games out of position and his attacking output was excellent whenever he played as a central midfielder in the Championship.
At the same time, I noticed that Ayling played quite a few games as a centre-back, which would hurt his average expected points if Marcelo Bielsa decided to go that route again this season.
Alongside Son, Dallas is the only player I still have in my squad since Gameweek 1 and it’s fair to say he has been a success story. Even though I only had him eight times in my starting eleven, he managed to average 4.8 points per start in my team. To put it in perspective, that was Werner’s average too and the Chelsea forward was more than twice as expensive as Dallas at the start of the season.
SOUTHAMPTON DEFENSIVE DOUBLE-UP
After watching the Saints conceding five goals against Tottenham in Gameweek 2 in shocking fashion, I seriously regretted starting the season with both Alex McCarthy (£4.7m) and Kyle Walker-Peters (£4.8m).
However, by Gameweek 15, Southampton accumulated six clean sheets and both of them averaged over four points per game started in my team, which is more than enough for such budget-friendly options.
This successful decision legitimates even more my long-time strategy of picking players based on their individual merit only, even if it sometimes means a defensive double-up.
It may increase variance but what really matters is expected value and, often, the best defensive picks belong to the same team, because fixtures are such an important part of defenders expected points.
FREE HIT PLANS
With a full FA Cup round still to be played and a few matches in risk of being postponed, I haven’t started tinkering with my Free Hit team just yet. However, it seems likely that tripling up in Arsenal, Manchester United and Man City is the way to go for anyone who will use this chip in Gameweek 18.
I’m sure the usual suspects Bruno Fernandes (£11.3m) and De Bruyne will be in almost everyone’s teams and Arsenal offers some decent cheap enablers such as Kieran Tierney (£5.4m) or Bukayo Saka (£5.3m) but all it takes is one injury or one cancelled match to change our plans, so I prefer to wait until next week to try to field the best Free Hit team I possibly can.
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