Fantasy Premier League (FPL) Gameweeks are passing by fast, so this is going to be a freestyle ramble about the things that have been on my mind.
I’ve had a fairly decent start, sitting on 365 points and ranked at 296,393. If at all you’re worried about rank at this stage, don’t be. The numbers are very condensed and there will be some significant jumps and falls in the next few weeks. A mere 47 points is the difference between 10k and 500k at the moment which, if you ask me, is nothing. It is a points difference that can be recovered in two to three Gameweeks. I’ve seen certain managers 50 points ahead of me and the difference so far has been two alternative £4.5m defenders and one captaincy. Those are the margins we are talking about right now.
GAMEWEEK 8 WILDCARD
I think I’ve made up my mind about a Gameweek 8 Wildcard as things stand. My team is in decent shape at present and I’ve been chatting with my fellow Pro Pundit and co-host Zophar about this, as well. One important point he makes is that he’s not yet confident about the amount of information we have available to us as things stand and the correct ‘team structure’ when it comes to building a team for the Wildcard, especially when it comes down to the number of premiums we go ahead with.
These are very valid points that he makes and I’m trying to make a mental note to myself about making sure my structure is flexible enough should I want to switch between two premiums and three later in the season. I have only given it a fleeting thought at the moment and will consider it in more depth when I am actually building my Wildcard team.
Even philosophically and from a strategy point of view, I like the idea of Wildcarding in Gameweek 8 for the main reason that I am an impatient manager and don’t like being behind in the game. I think if I am not Wildcarding, more often than not I will be making ‘band-aid’ transfers and not opportunistic moves. I love making these luxury transfers and that isn’t possible if I am ‘behind the game’. It does rely on me getting the Wildcard right but that is the risk you take.
I also like the idea of having two weeks to absorb as much information as possible and weighing up a bunch of players. In addition to that, there are some prominent fixture shifts for Chelsea, Manchester City, Southampton, Arsenal, Aston Villa, Leeds United, Tottenham Hotspur and Crystal Palace, all of whom I want to consider while building my Wildcard.
There is no one way or right way to play this game though, so if you are the more patient kind that thrives on playing the long game, a Gameweek 15 Wildcard before Manchester United’s incredible run of matches and setting up the bench before the fixture congestion does seem like a good time to play it. I am also trying to be open-minded to it and will see if the next two Gameweeks change my mind.
I also want to talk a little bit about Marcos Alonso (£5.8m), who looked outstanding against Spurs. For me, he’s pretty much Chelsea’s second-best attacker and was so heavily involved in all of their moves. It will be interesting to see who plays in the game against Southampton in Gameweek 7 after back-to-back matches for Chelsea against Manchester City and Juventus. I do feel like re-iterating Thomas Tuchel’s quotes that Tom Freeman cited in his Scout Notes.
“[Chilwell] came from a Champions League win and from 90 minutes and a strong performance [in the final] and had a good end of the season in general. Then it was individually for him a tough Euros because there were chances I think when he thought he could have played, and he did not. It was hard for him to totally relax and to get this personal disappointment, that he would never put out on the team, off his shoulders. And when he arrived here [for pre-season] I felt he was a bit mentally tired, a bit still worrying about the situation.
“Marcos was here the whole pre-season, he did every single training session and he took this opportunity and was so, so great with such huge quality and attitude. So, Marcos was crucial for us from the first day in training and then he delivered in Chilly’s position. And these are our two specialists for the same position, so this is a tough competition for both of them. We had talks with Chilly about the situation. There are no further worries for Chilly, he has to be patient and keep on training.” – Thomas Tuchel on Ben Chilwell and Marcos Alonso
The line “…and then he delivered in Chilly’s position” makes me think that Alonso is the first choice until his performances drop (while scouring through the Chelsea forums, fans do expect it to happen eventually). That said, I think Alonso is a fine punt and one you can afford if the other four players in your defence are reliable, nailed picks. I think he’s worth the upside as long as you know the risks. We will learn a lot in the next two Gameweeks anyway.
For those that bought Reece James (£5.6m) and are not feeling great about that move, I wouldn’t worry. I would still pick him over Antonio Rudiger (£5.6m) if I was asked this week. I think there were two reasons behind him not playing against Spurs. Either Tuchel was offering extra protection against the counter-threat of Spurs (lopsided wingbacks with Alonso attacking more than the other wing-back) or it was just James not being in the right frame of mind after being the victim of a robbery. In my head, James is definitely the better pick compared to Rudiger despite the German being more nailed because of the run of fixtures Chelsea are going to embark upon. I think they will need more attacking impetus rather than protection in those games and I would be surprised if James doesn’t play a huge chunk of those matches.
As always, it comes down to risk balance in your squad and in your defence. If I owned a Reece James, I’d balance it with a Ruben Dias (£6.1m) rather than a Joao Cancelo (£6.0m). If you do want to go with both Cancelo and James, make sure you have nailed fourth and fifth defenders in your squad.
GAMEWEEK 6 CAPTAINCY
Before ending this article, I do want to touch upon captaincy a little bit. As things stand, there are no wrong picks between Cristiano Ronaldo (£12.7m), Mohamed Salah (£12.6m) and Michail Antonio (£7.9m). I’ll just talk about the factors in my head while I’m debating this.
Being a Manchester United fan, I somehow just trust Liverpool’s attack more than I trust ours. And that is because we’re a ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ team. On our day we are capable of putting four goals past anyone but we’re just as likely to have an off day. Maybe I’m underestimating the attacking credentials of our team. But what I have noticed is we don’t have sustained periods of domination. They are more in small spurts but they are very lethal.
Liverpool have been on another level when it comes to attacking play and could have had plenty of goals in the last couple of games. They do control matches better than Manchester United.
Ronaldo’s stats have been absolutely amazing in this short period. Perhaps he is more talismanic than Salah who does have Diogo Jota (£7.7m) and Sadio Mane (£11.9m) to share points with? That said, this is the best I’ve seen Salah play in a long time. In addition to his normal goal threat, he’s also getting headed chances, has been very creative as well and in general, just looks so sharp.
Both Aston Villa and Brentford have good defensive statistics so far but their fixtures have been pretty decent. Villa did face Chelsea and that 3-0 scoreline did flatter the Blues. Brentford haven’t faced anyone like Liverpool just yet and we don’t know how the well-oiled 3-5-2 will cope with that Reds’ attack. How much will home advantage come into play, as well?
Antonio has had amazing underlying numbers for a year and a half and is playing one of the most porous defences in the league (potentially without a fit centre-back) and somehow I am still not considering him as much as I should. He’s a really good bet but worth pointing out that he might not be on penalties. A case of price bias?
I find it interesting that our Deputy Editor, Tom Freeman, who is a Villa fan, is currently favouring Ronaldo as well. Maybe it is a tendency of me being a United supporter and not trusting my team as much as I should. As things stand, I am currently on Salah but in no way is this my final decision. I do want to reiterate, though, that I don’t think there are incorrect calls this weekend with the armband. It’s that tight.
In case you want more analysis, do check out this week’s episode of The FPL Wire below. We discuss strategy and the state of play in depth.