Wildcard Conundrums

Opinions

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With the coming of international break boredom, so begins Sky Fantasy Football’s first overhaul period. It’s a welcome opportunity to revamp the team; ditching your duds without a semblance of remorse, and more importantly, without your transfer count taking a single hit. If that sounds familiar to the FPL players among you, it’s essentially the wildcard, but without having the choice of when to play it.

Now, for those that have been following the journey so far, you will be aware that the whole point of this blog is to see if I can play FPL successfully using a Sky based method. That includes adopting its transfer limits and game structure, so guess what people – the blog team’s first wildcard is………..

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For the past two weeks, I’ve been organising notes, scouring the stats, listening to podcasts, and for what? To rip up two teams that have actually started the season pretty well – top 1k in Sky and top 100k in FPL! I’m gutted it’s come around so quickly to be honest, but I suppose it’s better than having to chase down a bad start.

So, as I sit here awaiting the manager press conferences before pondering those final few decisions, I thought I would address some of the dilemmas that managers like myself might be currently facing.

Premium Goalkeepers

My starting strategy was to get a premium set and forget option, and I’ve been on Ederson since day 1. A sure-fire way to avoid Pep’s defensive rotation and £0.5m cheaper than De Gea, that was a no-brainer right?!

Apparently not. Despite getting an assist in GW2, he sits only 6th for GK’s with a single clean sheet and 5 saves across four gameweeks. Don’t get me wrong, I have no doubt that he’ll be up there come the end of the season, but when the likes of McCarthy (2nd) and Hart (4th) cost £1m less, have more clean sheets, and have picked up an extra 6 points each for 20+ saves alone, then that £5.5m price tag is becoming harder and harder to justify.

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In fact, apart from Alisson (who has just shown he has the odd howler in him), none of the premium options are proving their worth. Of the top 10 GKs, 6 started the season at a budget friendly £4.5m, and only 3 come from the usual ‘top 6’ teams. Plus, it just so happens that those 3 teams are Man City, Liverpool and Chelsea – arguably the most attacking in the league – and owning a GK from one of them prevents us from getting a third attacker should they be required.

There is definite value to be found elsewhere in that GK bracket, so Ederson just has to go for me.

The Left-back Revolution

A glance at the overall standings is enough for anyone to notice that there’s some sort of revolution happening. Of the current top 5 scorers in the game, four are defenders who apparently apply their trade at left-back, although I’d argue that their heat-maps tell us otherwise.

Alonso, Mendy, Robertson and Holebas are playing like wingers and are currently averaging between 8-11 points per game through a combination of both defensive and attacking returns. That’s a ridiculous level of scoring, and aside from Holebas, I just can’t see the others regressing all that much given how their respective teams have shaped up in these early stages.

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For anyone on a Wildcard, I would strongly recommend trying to squeeze in at least two of these flying wing-backs, if not all three. Luckily for me, I’ve had Robertson in from the start, and I spent a precious transfer on getting Mendy in GW2 just to curtail the damage. However, with limiting my use of transfers until now, I’ve had to watch from afar as Alonso has demolished everything in front of him. His 1 goal, 5 assists, 2 clean sheets and 9 bonus points have been a real rank killer, as he’s blitzed his way to the being the top scorer in the game.

Spoiler alert……..he’s one that is definitely coming in on my wildcard!

Mo Salah or No Salah?

The biggest dilemma facing those on a Wildcard is can we go without Mo Salah? That £13.0m is a big chunk of the budget, and with Liverpool entering a pretty rough stretch of fixtures that includes Spurs, Chelsea and City in three of the next four league games (not to mention a few European ties with PSG and Napoli), is it really that unthinkable?

The waters are muddied even further when you look at the performances of his Senegalese strike partner. After Alonso, Sadie Mane currently sits 2nd in the overall standings courtesy of his 4 goals and 8 bonus points, and has outscored last years top scorer by 39 points to 27. For a £3.0m saving at the time of writing, its easy to see why many in the community believe he could provide adequate Liverpool attacking cover over that difficult stretch.

Having looked at a wildcard draft without Salah in it, I must admit I’m tempted. That £3.0m difference could mean a Mane and David Silva, as opposed to a Salah and Neves, and the squad unequivocally looks far more balanced for it. However, my problem is this – we are talking about forgoing a man who broke all sorts of records last season, and despite being outscored by Mane so far, has still registered 2 goals and 2 assists.

However, once we delve further into the underlying stats, it becomes clear that Salah abandoners may be acting a little hastily.  He dominates in every category, having had more big chances (5), more shots in the box (12), more shots on target (7), and more attempted assists (13) than any of his midfield counterparts. Even those difficult league fixtures shouldn’t be too off-putting given that Salah scored 7 goals in eight matches against them in all competitions last season.

I can’t help but feel that had the Egyptian taken one or two more of those big chances, then we wouldn’t even be entertaining the idea of life without him. Put simply, going without Salah would be a huge decision at this early stage of the season and it’s one I’m not prepared to make just yet. Everything seems to point to a huge score being just around the corner, and I for one want to have him in my team when it happens.

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