The Sky approach to FPL – 2018/19 Season

Notes, Opinions, Posts

Introduction

Firstly, let me go all the way back to the beginning of how this whole thing started, so that I can then explain how it was applied it practice.

Since stumbling along the Sky game, I’ve been far more successful and consistent at it than I have with the Official FPL game. For one reason or another it just suits me, and I’ve managed to finish with some very reasonable ranks over the years – Top 500 (2015/16), Just outside the top 100 (2016/17), and 37th (2017/18). And for anyone wondering, I finished 328th this year (2018/19).

This led me to question why it was that I had been so inconsistent with the official game, breaking down both formats in order to ascertain what I was doing differently in Sky, and then applying the findings to FPL.

Now I realise that the blog posts for the experiment dried up back in GW15, as work commitments and  time constraints sadly made it difficult to continue with the full focus that it deserved. But, for anyone that doesn’t already know from my twitter account, the team finished with an overall rank of 48th in the world, and no.1 in Wales!

That absolutely blows my mind considering it started as nothing more than an experiment born out of a need to try something different! In that respect, I think it’s safe to say that it turned out to be a resounding success. However, that’s not to say it was a perfect season by any means. Luck definitely played its part at times, and some fairly obvious (and no doubt relatable) mistakes were made.

That being said, I felt it only right to share my findings with the FPL community that encouraged and supported me to see it through. I’m hoping my notes below will indicate what worked, what didn’t, and maybe provide you with something to take away from what has been a truly eventful season for me personally.

NOTES – Sky vs FPL

Major differences (Sky v FPL):

  • Starting 11 v Squad of 15
  • MoM & bonus ‘targets’ (passes, tackles, SoT, save) v BPS ‘best 3’
  • 40 transfer limit v FT & hits
  • Transfer flexibility (mid to fwd, etc) v Like-for-like
  • No chips v Chips
  • Daily v Weekly captaincy
  • Fixed prices v Price rises/falls
  • Some positional differences (e.g Salah & Son fwds in Sky, Zaha a mid)

Similarities:

  • Double points for captain picks
  • Bonus factors can be indicative of BPS earners
  • Overhaul = Wildcard

Summary of Sky strategies to be applied:

  • Focus on starting 11 – minimise the need for a bench
  • Wildcard gw5 to mimic 1st Overhaul – set team for first 4 weeks only?!
  • Wildcard gw27 to mimic 2nd Overhaul – questionable timing?
  • Allow for 40 transfers
  • Formations – be flexible & follow the value
  • Pick GKs & defenders for the long term
  • Don’t be afraid to start cheap GKs & defenders
  • Watch out for regular bonus earners
  • Ignore price changes
  • Be patient

Additional Notes

Focus on starting 11 – minimise the need for a bench

  • Think there’s too much emphasis put on rotation.
  • Focussing transfers on the starting 11 very rarely meant carrying long-term injuries, reducing the need for the bench players to pick up the slack.
  • Removed the usual benching headaches e.g. Backing a 6.0m defender (plus 4.0 bench option) each & every week, as opposed to trying to 2nd guess which of two 4.5/5.0m rotation options to play. How often do we get that right/wrong??
  • Optimises working capital i.e. focussing more of the budget on the starting 11 means its working harder for the team on a weekly basis. Whereas an extra 0.5-1.0m on the bench might only earn you a few extra points every now & again.
  • If constantly relying on bench players, need to weigh up if thats actually a plausible strategy, or whether it means you have a less than optimal starting 11?
  • Despite trying, its impossible to completely ignore the bench as it’s part of the fundamental game structure.
  • That being said, in emergencies e.g. when you need to give yourself time to assess minor injuries, the benefits of a solid 4.0/4.5 bench option that can come on for 2-3 points is seriously underestimated.

Wildcard after GW4 to mimic 1st Sky Overhaul

  • Setting a team up for just the first 4 weeks has certain benefits.
  • Allows for a proactive approach, with initial squad selection concentrated on teams with good opening fixtures.
  • Can do this in the confidence that if you get you’re initial team wrong, you’ll be rectifying it quickly.
  • Possibility to steal a march on managers who set-up with a more ‘long-term’ view (started well & was never outside the top 100k all season).
  • Starting 11s were becoming stable by GW4 (New signings thrown straight in? Have budget options emerged?).
  • Early fixtures & stats give an indication of potential form & value (e.g Doherty, Wilson & Fraser)
  • Provided the ability to jump on emerging trends early (fullbacks e.g. RAM).
  • The above are based on 1 season of success only, so realise a GW4-5 WC may not always be the optimum use from year to year. Need a bigger sample size.
  • However, consider whether a ‘holding it just in case’ strategy is maximising the use of one of the games most powerful chips?

Self-imposed 40 transfer limit

  • “It’s only minus 4″……..Unlimited availability of transfer hits can subliminally promote unnecessary risk taking. These add up over time if used excessively.
  • Forces a more patient approach i.e. rather than just being a minus 4, two transfers are 5% of your total allocation. Get those wrong & suddenly that becomes 10% to rectify it. So “think twice, transfer once”.
  • Learn to rely on a core that you are happy to play week in, week out, regardless of fixtures.
  • Less inclined to rush blindly into bandwagons. If unsure, give yourself an extra week or two to assess.
  • Look to maximise each transfer. Planning becomes more strategic in terms of identifying ideal captaincy changes & fixture swings.
  • Contemplate if juggling premium assets is worth it? Held each of the primary captaincy options for 30+ gameweeks – Salah (35) & Aguero (30).
  • Pick GKs & defenders for the long term in order to save transfers for the higher risk/reward attackers, as these positions are more susceptible to variances in form and rotation.
  • Focussing on number of transfers, rather than the cost of hits, meant making multiple transfers were viewed more positively.
  • This change in perspective opens up greater opportunities to attack fixtures i.e. taking hits can be extremely beneficial if used strategically. (Took 6 hits this season, each of which were followed by significant jumps in OR in the GWs that followed). 
  • Finished the season having used 39 transfers.

Formations – be flexible & follow the value

  • Too much focus on set formations (usually either 3-4-3 or 3-5-2)
  • FPL not as flexible as Sky, but can still allow value to dictate formation.
  • Sky allows transfers between positions (e.g. a mid to a fwd, a fwd to a def, etc). Gets you thinking about value across the whole spectrum of players, not just within the positions themselves.
  • Heard arguments that direct comparisons across positions aren’t possible in FPL as you have to consider the second player in the trade-off.
  • However, this is not necessarily the case if 2nd player will always be a bench player e.g. if a 6.5 defender is providing greater value than a 6.5 mid, & the 2nd player in both scenario’s is bench fodder, then it can be considered a like-for-like comparison & be indicative of whether a formation switch would be useful.
  • May require the sacrifice of a transfer, so is more difficult to do later in the season when transfers are low. Wildcard weeks are the ideal opportunity to make use of such comparisons.

Chips

  • Aside from the wildcards, I believe too much emphasis is placed on the value of the other chips, & their use around DGWs.
  • Can attempt to plan as best as possible, but actual results are very hit & miss.
  • Triple captained Sane in DGW25 for a total of 3 points when there was little indication of him being dropped. Whereas Salah scored 57 points for those who used it in single GW36.
  • At the start of the season I expected a score of 16-24 to be an acceptable bench boost score.
  • Managed 16 from the BB in DGW35. This was acheived with 2 single GW players on the bench, and without spending any additonal funds it.
  • Accept it gives you the best possible chance at a decent outcome for the BB, but using it in a DGW with 4 DGW players is far from essential.
  • The free hit is the most valuable of the 3 chips, as navigating the complicated blank and double gameweek scenarios is extremely difficult without it.
  • However, you’ll still do well to gain any advantage over other top players that have saved it for the same purpose (scored 93 in DGW32, yet ended with a red arrow)   
  • Received a red arrow in every gameweek that I played one of these chips, yet still finished in the top 50.
  • This indicates that getting the captaincy and transfers right are far more important than the chips in acheiving a high overall rank.

Wildcard after GW26 to mimic 2nd Sky Overhaul

  • This was the worst part of following the Sky format, as ended up wildcarding into the weekend of the Carabao Cup final.
  • Its use made very little sense from a strategic standpoint, but should have predicted this given that Sky’s 2nd overhaul often feels forced and unecessary.
  • Made just 7 changes, with only 4 being to the actual starting 11. Even reversed one of those the following week to get a City player back.
  • Was blindly guessing at the effects of two rounds of FA Cup fixtures, whereas those that played it later had much more information to base decisions on.
  • Have to concede defeat on this one, as saving it for later was easily the better strategy for FPL. Would have saved some hits around the blanks and doubles.
  • Did prevent me from going all in on Brighton for the doubles though, so not a total loss.

Ignoring price changes

  • Price changes can adversely affect decision making.
  • Often forces early transfers, especially in the early stages of the season.
  • Ignoring changes ensures you can gather as much information as possible before making transfers, reducing the chances of picking any injured players.
  • Argument for needing to build team value, but this will happen naturally from just holding players while in good form. (Finished with a TV of 106.9, and a season high of 107.5 around GW29).
  • Also makes transferring out players who have built up value less complicated. The actual value isn’t released until a player is sold anyway, & if you’re considering selling it’s because you’ve either identified an issue (drop off in form or fixture swing), or a greater opportunity elsewhere.
  • May miss out on the odd 0.1 rise, or be priced out of a player, but the added information is worth more.

Team Performance Summary

  • Overall Rank: 48
  • Total transfers: 39
  • Overall points: 2,538
  • Average GW points: 66.79
  • Best GW score: 121 (GW36)
  • Total captain points: 567
  • Captain success: 27/38 (72%)
  • Captain contribution: 23% of total
  • Most captain points: Salah (246pts)
  • Most points (inc captain): Salah (363pts)
  • Preferred formation: 4-3-3
  • Total no. of players: 60 (including bench & FH)
  • No. players held for 10+ games: 23
  • Starting XI held for 10+ games: 17
  • Longest starting GKs (# GWs): Fabianski (19), Patricio (10), Lloris (5)
  • Longest starting Defs (# GWs): Robertson (37), Alonso (22), VvD (15)
  • Longest starting Mids (# GWs): Salah (35), Hazard (17), Sterling (17)
  • Longest serving Fwds (# GWs): Aguero (30), Wilson (19), Jimenez (18)
  • Bench warmers (# GWs): Hamer (22), Bennett (20), Ward (22) Hojbjerg (28)
  • Average total bench cost: £17.0m
  • Triple captaincy points: 3 (Sane – GW25)
  • Free hit points: 93 (GW32)
  • Bench Boost points: 16 (GW35 – Boruc, Bennett, Hojbjerg, Lascelles)

 

GW15 – Bench….What Bench?

Blog Team, Posts

Transfers Remaining: 30/40

GW14 Summary

Not a bad week for the team considering the rest and rotation that was mooted going into the weekend. Concerns over Hazard’s injury meant that I took the plunge and moved him on for the in-form Raheem Sterling. The City winger has been imperious in recent weeks, and despite maintaining a place on my watchlist for months, had been ignored for far too long. He could easily turn out to be this years Mo Salah and given how that turned out last season, it’s a train that I didn’t want to miss.

With house renovations underway though, I do regret rushing into the decision. Not in terms of getting Sterling in (he outscored Hazard by 3 points so I’m already up on the deal), but in terms of who I was removing. Despite the doubts, all the information suggested that Hazard would play against Fulham, so in hindsight I can’t help but feel that Salah may have been the way to go. Klopp looks to have changed things at Liverpool, having reduced the levels of pressing and tweaking the positioning of both Firmino and Salah. But despite it gaining the desired results, it just doesn’t seem to favour either player in an FPL sense. For the first time this season, I feel like he’s just not producing enough for his £13m outlay, and considering the value available elsewhere, will be something that will need monitoring going forward.

Regardless, an overall score of 66 was a pleasant surprise given that captain for the week Aguero missed out through injury. It’s becoming a bit of a theme for the blog team now, but it was the defence that once again bailed me out with a massive 37 points, helped in part by Wan-Bissaka replacing Aguero from the bench. And what can I say about that Van Dijk assist with practically the last kick of the final game of the weekend? Totally unbelievable (even he had given it up), but I’ll certainly take it. Just a shame his teammate Salah couldn’t contribute as my vice-captain. No matter though, 17 points above the average pushes me back towards that top 1k after drifting out of it the week before.

Rotation Ahead?

Two days on and we’re already back to it as the Christmas fixture pile-up begins in earnest. Including last weekend, there are SEVEN gameweeks for us FPL managers to navigate throughout the month of December; eight if you add-on the usual New Years day games. And that’s just the Premier league. There’s European and domestic cup ties to be fitted in amongst that!

Even by Premier League standards, that’s a ridiculous stretch, and its the period of the season I’ve been dreading the most. Changes will be made to line-ups en-masse as the likes of Pep, Jurgen, Jose et al. attempt to keep their teams fit and fresh, and all you’ll hear from experienced FPL managers in the community is to “make sure you have a good bench”. It’s great advice, if not common sense, and it’s definitely something I’ll be looking to do in my personal team (Aguero and Bennett are out for anyone that’s interested).

However, having taken the Sky FF approach for the blog team and completely ignored the bench since the Wildcard after GW4, this month is going to be a pretty big problem. I got lucky with Wan-Bissaka this week having had him since GW1 anyway, but the likes of Danny Ward and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg are unlikely to provide much in the way of back-up. Arguably the money saved on such a budget bench has helped get the starting XI to its current rank, but I have the feeling that December will be a case of taking any slide on the chin as the more flexible teams around me prove their worth.

If I can offer any wisdom at all over this period, it’s to accept that rotation is inevitable and realise that it’s not just your team that suffers. If one of your big name players misses out, chances are a big proportion of active players are in the same situation and you’re probably no worse off for it. The Sky game forces you to learn that fairly quickly, and the sooner you’re able to make peace with it, the less stressful the game tends to become.

Watchlist

I’ve not managed to maintain the watchlist of players as much as I’d hoped recently, so I apologise for that. The list of players has also dwindled slightly as the team has taken shape, so that will be something I need to review in the coming weeks. However, the players on there do still appear to be relevant so I’ll continue to base my transfers upon this group. The not so recently updated list can be found here.

GW15 – Transfers

Due to the sheer number of games coming, I’m fairly glad that I’ve managed to keep the self-imposed transfer limit to a minimum up to now. As stated above, December will be difficult for everyone, so with 30 transfers remaining there should be enough scope to make a few changes and keep the team as competitive as possible this month.

That being said, I have two in mind for this week. Firstly, I think I need to address the issue of Sergio Aguero. He missed out on the weekend, and looks almost certain to miss out again midweek. While Pep has given little indication that there’s a serious problem, the fact that he seems likely to now miss two games on the bounce suggests there might just be something more to it, much like the Mendy situation earlier in the season. Plus, with such an able deputy in Gabriel Jesus waiting in the wings to ease the burden anyway, it seems wise to alleviate the risk and move him on for now.

The obvious replacement at this time would seem to be Harry Kane. Spurs have excellent fixtures and has little/no risk of rotation, making him a strong captaincy option each week. His underlying stats have been improving, and also has a history of hat-tricks during the Christmas period. No brainer right? The problem is, I removed him from the watchlist a few weeks back as something just doesn’t seem right with him, and nothing I’ve seen recently has changed my opinion of that. He hasn’t been the same since his injury last season, continues to drop deep to collect the ball, and seems to be shooting from distance in the main. For £12.4m, that’s not good enough at the moment, especially while some of his peers are performing for less.

So who comes in instead? That would be the only Gunner on my watchlist – Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Since coming to the league almost a year ago, he’s played 27 games, netting 20 goals (nobody has more), 7 assists, and 28 bonus for a total of 178 FPL points. Narrowing that timeline further, he has 10 goals, 3 assists and 16 bonus in his last 11 matches – not bad for someone still relatively new to the league! Fresh off a brace against Spurs in the North London derby, he’s the form striker in the league and comes in at a more budget friendly £11.0m at the time of writing, making the move from Aguero a simple one. Arsenal also have a fixture swing coming now, which see’s them face Man Utd, Huddersfield, Southampton, and Burnley in the next four. It’s very feasible that he could match Kane through this tough period so I’m happy to take my chances with Auba until Kane can convince me otherwise.

The second transfer is one I wasn’t planning on, but feel could now be necessary. I generally hate making goalkeeper transfers, but the form of Wolves has forced me to rethink the position. There’s no denying Patricio is an excellent GK, but teams apparently seem to have finally figured Wolves out. The fixtures are mixed at best for the forseeable future, and there have been no clean sheets in the last six games. The losses to both Huddersfield and Cardiff in the last two have only served to compound my thinking that he needs to be moved on.

It’s an easy decision here though. Lukasz Fabianski has outscored Patricio this season, despite only registering 2 clean sheets thus far. He’s a monster in terms of saves, having made 57 for a total of 16 save points. Given that the West Ham defence give up so many chances to opposing teams, that also means that he’s always in contention to pick up bonus points, leading the way for goalkeepers with 8, and second only to Anderson and Arnauovic (9 each) within the Hammers lineup. As highlighted by the watchlist, what makes him the stand out GK now is his fixtures. West Ham top the fixture ticker for defensive difficulty between now and GW21, which would comfortably see us through the festive period and into mid-January.

Captaincy

An easy selection given I’ve avoided the temptation to get Kane. Mo Salah is 2nd for goal attempts behind Aguero this season, and comes up against a Burnley side that have conceded 37 more shots, and 27 more shots in the box than anyone else in the league. Surely that should present the Liverpool forward with plenty of opportunities to get back on the scoresheet, and the bookies tend to agree having him as 1.73 to score anytime. Only Kane has shorter odds this week.

B2BF4810-7D96-4D18-8A5C-7A07FF698286Transfers Remaining: 28/40

A Statistical Overview GW1-12: Forwards

Opinions, Stats

The final international break of the year is almost over so I thought I’d take a look back at the  basic statistics and key performance indicators from GW1-12 that I tend to use when creating the watchlist and making transfers. Yesterday was the midfielders, so today it’s on to the forwards.

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The Basic Stats

Goals:

  1. Aguero (8)
  2. Aubameyang (7)
  3. Wilson, Murray, Kane (6)

Assists:

  1. Wilson (7)
  2. Aguero (6)
  3. Jimenez (5)

Bonus Points System:

  1. Aguero (308)
  2. Aubameyang (254)
  3. Wilson (220)

Bonus Points:

  1. Aubameyang (11)
  2. Kane (10)
  3. Aguero, Arnautovic (9)

Sky MoM Awards:

  1. Lacazete (2)

The Underlying Stats

Goal Attempts:

  1. Aguero (54)
  2. Mitrovic (43)
  3. Kane (40)
  4. Jimenez (35)
  5. Ings (33)

Shots In the Box:

  1. Aguero (41)
  2. Wilson, Kane (31)
  3. Mitrovic (30)
  4. Ings (27)
  5. Jimenez (25)

Shots on Target:

  1. Kane (20)
  2. Aguero (19)
  3. Arnautovic (16)
  4. Mitrovic, Jimenez, Morata (14)
  5. Wilson (13)

Chances Created:

  1. Aguero (19)
  2. Jimenez, Wilson, Firmino (17)
  3. Ings (15)
  4. Arnautovic, Perez, Vietto (14)
  5. Giroud, Lacazette, Zaha (13)

Big Chances Created*:

  1. Wilson (7)
  2. Jimenez, Deeney (4)
  3. Aguero, Firmino, Vietto, Giroud, Josh King (3)
  4. Ings, Arnautovic, Kane, Aubameyang, Mitrovic, Success, Iheanacho, Jesus, Vardy (6)

*defined as providing an opportunity where the receiving player would reasonably be expected to score and manages to get a shot away.

Touches in the Opposition’s Penalty Area:

  1. Aguero (90)
  2. Wilson (81)
  3. Arnautovic (76)
  4. Kane (67)
  5. Lacazette (62)

Successful Tackles:

  1. Firmino, Lacazette (11)
  2. Vietto (8)
  3. Zaha, Ings, Jimenez, Success (7)
  4. Arnautovic, Joselu, Ayew (6)
  5. Aguero, Deeney, Vardy, Iheanacho, Perez, Morata (5)

Successful Passes:

  1. Firmino (339)
  2. Aguero (251)
  3. Jimenez (250)
  4. Mitrovic (233)
  5. Arnautovic (214)

Opinion

What’s plain to see from the stats above is just how much of a standout option Aguero has become amongst forwards. Ranking first for goals, goal attempts, shots in the box, and touches in the box; he also features heavily on the creative side. In fact, he is first in the league for total goal involvements with 14, and can only be bettered by Alonso and Hazard in terms of points. Unlike in recent seasons where he’s seen regular rotation with Gabriel Jesus, Aguero finally seems to have nailed down a starting spot under Pep too. Having been named in the lineup for all 12 league games, he’s delivered an average of 6.7 points per game thus far. That level of consistency means he’s a captaincy option most weeks, and makes him the go to striker for any fantasy manager.

The other major talking point to note is the distinct lack of other forwards from the ‘top 6’ teams amongst the stats. Rotation, poor form, and the value being provided by the strikers on ‘lesser’ teams, have rendered them as almost complete non-entities as far as inclusion in our teams go. Even multiple golden boot winner Harry Kane, whose stats have shown a glimmer of improvement in recent weeks, has struggled to impose himself as an option due to his restrictive price tag. Of course this could change in future with fixture swings and the like, but there’s just no justifiable reason to spend £12.3m when you can get comparable performances from the likes of Wilson (£6.8m) and Jimenez (£5.8) at such discount prices.

I’ve got to be honest, I can’t ever remember a season whereby the premium forwards have struggled in such a way. They have always been the main staple of my FPL side, and the focus of almost every captaincy decision; yet this season is just different somehow. Defiantly sticking by the headline acts hasn’t been working, and realising the value to be derived elsewhere has been more important than ever.

It would take a braver manager than me to do so, but there’s even an argument for losing Aguero and rolling with the likes of Wilson, Jimenez and Arnautovic for a ridiculous bargain cost of under £20m…….it is Black Friday afterall!!

All stats are per the Official FPL and Sky FF websites

A Statistical Overview GW1-12: Midfielders

Opinions, Stats

The final international break of the year is almost over so I thought I’d take a look back at the  basic statistics and key performance indicators from GW1-12 that I tend to use when creating the watchlist and making transfers. Yesterday was the defenders, so today it’s on to the midfielders.

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The Basic Stats

Goals:

  1. Hazard (7)
  2. Richarlison, Mane, Salah, Sterling, Martial (6)
  3. Sigurdsson, Pereyra (5)

Assists:

  1. Fraser (6)
  2. Gudmundsson, Sterling, Sane (5)
  3. Ramsey, Hazard, Salah, Shaqiri, Doucoure (4)

Bonus Points System:

  1. Hazard (291)
  2. Fraser (276)
  3. David Silva (264)

Bonus Points:

  1. Hazard (13)
  2. Mane, Martial (11)
  3. Fraser (10)

Sky MoM Awards:

  1. Hazard, David Silva, Fraser, Pereyra, Richarlison, Maddison (3)
  2. Milner, Sigurdsson, Sterling, Barkley, Hojbjerg, Doucoure, Salah* (2)

*Salah is classified as a forward in Sky FF

The Underlying Stats

Goal Attempts:

  1. Salah (48)
  2. Schurrle (37)
  3. Pogba (36)
  4. Neves (32)
  5. Hazard (30)

Shots In the Box:

  1. Salah (33)
  2. Mane (21)
  3. Hazard, Sterling (20)
  4. Mahrez, David Silva, Pereyra (18)
  5. Richarlison, Paterson (16)

Shots on Target:

  1. Salah, Pogba (19)
  2. Mane (14)
  3. Hazard, Sterling, Schurrle (13)
  4. Mahrez (11)
  5. David Silva, Richarlison, Walcott, Sigurdsson (10)

Chances Created:

  1. David Silva, Willian (34)
  2. Fraser (32)
  3. Hazard (31)
  4. Sigurdsson (30)
  5. Seri (27)

Big Chances Created*:

  1. Fraser (13)
  2. Hazard (10)
  3. David Silva (7)
  4. Willian, Bernardo Silva, Maddison (6)
  5. Salah, Sigurdsson (5)

*defined as providing an opportunity where the receiving player would reasonably be expected to score and manages to get a shot away.

Touches in the Opposition’s Penalty Area:

  1. Sterling (104)
  2. Salah (98)
  3. David Silva (77)
  4. Hazard (64)
  5. Sane (61)

Successful Tackles:

  1. Gueye (34)
  2. Milivojevic (28)
  3. Ndidi (27)
  4. Billing (25)
  5. Mooy (23)

Successful Passes:

  1. Jorginho (1,082)
  2. Xhaka (817)
  3. Fernandinho (747)
  4. Seri (622)
  5. David Silva, Kante (615)

Opinion

I guess the main takeaway from the stats above is just how dominant the premium midfielders are. And, let’s face it, that shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise. We all know the qualities possessed by the likes of Salah, Hazard & Sterling; they are world-class and have the previous history to back up current performances. If you’ve managed to fit all three into your team, you’ll likely be a happy manager about now.

Therein lies the problem though. Unlike with the supposedly ‘Premium’ defenders, FPL towers have realised the importance of these midfielders and priced them accordingly. Salah & Sterling in particular have seen significant price rises from last season, and thus provided one of the major talking points of the season……..can we go without Mo Salah?

I visited this issue earlier in the season & looking the stats, my opinion still hasn’t changed. That £13.0m may be a big chunk of your budget, and his strike partner Mane may have managed to match him closely thus far, but we are talking about forgoing a player who is close to matching his stats from last years record-breaking season. Say what you like about Liverpool’s seemingly stuttering attack, but Salah is far and away the leader in terms of the chances he is getting and everything seems to point to a huge score being just around the corner.

There will always be the argument for what you could do with the extra funds, but given the value available in other positions, I just don’t see where you would spend it. Beyond the top three, there is very little to separate the rest in terms of points, and the mid-price midfielders are easily being matched by the ‘premium’ defenders who actually cost less. However, if you do feel the need to look past them, then the stats do throw up a few standout performers.

At only £6.2m, Ryan Fraser is currently providing the best value in the game, topping the charts for the most big chances created and assists. I have no doubt that his output will regress given Bournemouth’s toughening fixtures, but I’m happy to go on record and predict that he’ll still exceed expectations for a player of that price. After all, Bournemouth are never afraid to attack and are 5th in terms of goals scored this season, sitting above the likes of Man Utd, Spurs and Everton.

The other standout comes in the form of David Silva. If anyone is looking for an alternative to Sterling in the City midfield, then he is definitely your man. Much has been said about his age, the need to manage his minutes, and the infamous Pep rotation. But the stats show that the little Magician has proved more influential than ever, missing only 2 games from 12. And at the ripe old age of 32, he seems to have added a greater level of goal threat to his game to help his cause. Sterling may still have the edge on the goal scoring front, having notched 6 to Silva’s 4, but the difference in the underlying numbers is minimal due to the Spaniard’s exceptional creativity. If you don’t need Sterling’s explosiveness for the captaincy, then Silva could more than fill the void.

The final considerations for me are the Everton duo of Richarlison and Sigurdsson. Completely different players in terms of style and influence, yet they can hardly be separated.  6 goals and 1 assist for Rich, compared to 5 goals and 2 assists for Siggy, amounts to a difference of only 2 points. Those of you following the watchlist will know that I’ve flip-flopped between the two for the last few weeks, but I think the predicted shift to the striker position, and better numbers in front of goal, has finally sealed the deal for the cheaper Brazilian.

As for the rest of the options, I’m sure at some point they will all have their merits. However, if you haven’t noticed already, I’ve been swayed by the consistency of those ‘premium’ defenders and won’t be moving away from that anytime soon….if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!!!

All stats are per the Official FPL and Sky FF websites

A Statistical Overview GW1-12: Defenders

Opinions, Stats

The final international break of the year is almost over so I thought I’d take a look back at the  basic statistics and key performance indicators from GW1-12 that I tend to use when creating the watchlist and making transfers. Yesterday was the goalkeepers, so today it’s on to the defenders.

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The Basic Stats

Clean Sheets:

  1. Laporte, Robertson (7)
  2. Walker, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Gomez, Van Dijk, Alonso, Azpilicueta, Luiz, Rudiger (6)
  3. Alderweireld (5)

Goals:

  1. Bamba, Duffy, Dunk, Holebas, Maguire, Tarkowski (2)
  2. 31 defenders have scored just the single goal so I won’t list them all. However, the most popular options include Alonso, Laporte, Walker, Trippier, Doherty, Jonny, R.Peirera, Balbuena, Keane.

Assists:

  1. Alonso (7)
  2. Mendy (6)
  3. Bellerin, Trippier, Holebas (4)

Bonus Points System:

  1. Alonso (322)
  2. Robertson (290)
  3. Rudiger (270)

Bonus Points:

  1. Alonso (14)
  2. Robertson (12)
  3. Doherty, Wan-Bissaka, Keane (9)

Sky MoM Awards:

  1. Doherty, Van Dijk, Wan-Bissaka, Ake (2)

The Underlying Stats

Goal Attempts:

  1. Alonso (21)
  2. Doherty (19)
  3. Keane (16)
  4. Rudiger (15)
  5. Van Aanholt (14)

Shots In the Box:

  1. Keane (16)
  2. Doherty (15)
  3. Alonso, Balbuena (13)
  4. Bamba (12)
  5. Ake, Maguire (11)

Shots on Target:

  1. Doherty (9)
  2. Maguire (8)
  3. Keane, Rudiger, Shaw, Cook (5)

Chances Created:

  1. Holebas (21)
  2. Digne (20)
  3. Trippier (19)
  4. Doherty (17)
  5. Bertrand (16)

Successful Tackles:

  1. Wan-Bissaka (30)
  2. Pereira (26)
  3. Lowton (22)
  4. Robertson, Le Marchand (17)
  5. Azpilicueta, Alexander-Arnold, Mustafi, Bamba, Diop, Jonny (16)

Successful Passes:

  1. Laporte (988)
  2. Rudiger (905)
  3. Luiz (880)
  4. Van Dijk (794)
  5. Azpilicueta (737)

Opinion

As with the goalkeepers, it’s the same names that are cropping up time and time again throughout the various categories. It’s not particularly difficult to see why the likes of Alonso and Robertson top the defender charts, and it’s pretty easy for me to say they are practically a must own at this point.………because these two are absolutely must own as far as I’m concerned, and here’s why.

Defenders are all too often seen as the less glamorous position in the game, and over the years I’ve seen them relatively ignored. Filling the entire defence with £4.5-5.0m options used to be template, and something I’ve regularly been guilty of as I took up the never-ending pursuit of landing the most explosive attacking players in the game. However, like it not, the game has changed both on the field, and for FPL.

Yes, Alonso and Robertson come with very premium price tags for a defender. And yes, there will always be the obvious argument that the money could be better used elsewhere (as it was in seasons past). But, ignoring their classification as defenders for a moment, why would you not want to own two of the highest scoring players in the game? Surely that is the whole point of the entire game, no? In fact, Alonso is currently THE highest scoring player for only £7.1m, whereas Robertson can be bettered by only a handful of players, none of which come in cheaper than his £6.5m price tag. If you’re looking for value, then there it is plain as day!

As for the stats themselves, I must say that my opinion has changed dramatically in terms of defenders in recent years. It might be an unpopular point of view, but I don’t actually think they mean too much. As Fantasy managers, we can often try to be too clever, over complicating things by constantly searching for value via that extra attacking potential, and often ignoring the obvious – the clean sheets.

In fact, it’s happening now with those searching for a Mendy replacement. Twitter is currently full of people arguing in favour of defenders like Everton’s Digne because he’s “only £4.8m” and “creates so many chances” for a defender. However, the reality is that Digne has only registered 1 assist from all those chances, and Everton have only kept 3 clean sheets in the 12 games so far. Over 38 games that might amount to 3 assists and 9 clean sheets; a decent return which seems fairly reasonable given Everton managed 10 last year.

However, when you compare that to the other main contender in Laporte (who hardly features in the stats above), the difference is obvious. He has 1 goal to his name, has established himself as the first choice centre-back within the best team/defence in the league, and City are well on their way to matching last year’s total of 18 clean sheets having registered 7 already. Ignoring any other potential attacking returns, that will equate to nearly double the points of Digne, while providing a level of points equivalent to that of a 15+ goal a season striker. So for just over a £1m more in price, I know who I would rather have.

Again, I know the usual arguments will rear up in that Digne is cheap enough to rotate in and out, but chances are that the other players he’s rotating with will be of a similar mould. Of course this could just be the Sky Player in me trying desperately to conserve transfers, and I accept that there are many ways to play game. But, instead of wasting time and effort chasing the next cheap “potential” for points as indicated by the stats, why not just plug in the likes of Alonso, Robertson and Laporte for the rest of the season and call it a job well done!

All stats are per the Official FPL and Sky FF websites

A Statistical Overview GW1-12: Goalkeepers

Opinions, Stats

The blog posts have been a bit thin on the ground recently but I thought I’d come back with a slight change of pace. Anyone who follows the blog team on twitter will have already seen its rise to a rank of 658 overall, so instead of reviewing its performance again, I thought I’d take a look back at the basic statistics and key performance indicators that I tend to use when creating the watchlist and making transfers.

Over the next few days, I’ll look at each position individually in the hope that it might help myself and others to identify the players who have been coming to the fore over the first 12 gameweeks. Today, it’s the goalkeepers.

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The Stats

Clean Sheets:

  1. Alisson, Ederson (7)
  2. Kepa (6)
  3. Begovic, Patricio, Dubravka, Lloris, McCarthy, Schmeichel (4)

Saves:

  1. Hart (53)
  2. Fabianski (51)
  3. Ryan (46)

Save Points:

  1. Fabianski (15)
  2. Hart (14)
  3. Ryan (13)

Penalty Saves:

  1. Etheridge, Pickford (2)
  2. Hart, Hennessey, Bettinelli (1)

Bonus Points System:

  1. Hart (258)
  2. Alisson (244)
  3. Pickford (234)

Bonus Points:

  1. Ryan, Pickford, Fabianski (7)
  2. Hart (6)
  3. Dubravka, McCarthy, Lloris (5)

Sky MoM Awards:

  1. Patricio (2)
  2. Hart, Pickford, Ryan, Lloris, Cech, Leno (1)

Opinion

Earlier in the season, I discussed the benefits of opting for a £4.5m goalkeeper over the alternative premium options, and nothing from these stats has yet to convince me otherwise. Yes, Ederson and Alisson sit atop the standings due to their team’s ability to keep clean sheets, and I’m certainly not disputing that will likely finish there come May. However, every other indicator suggests that the budget options can perhaps keep pace via other means. The likes of Hart, Ryan and Fabianski are dominating in terms of saves/bonus points and are more than making up for their lack of clean sheets (3,3 and 1 respectively).

In fact, of the current top 10, only four cost £5.0 and above, and only three come from one the league’s top six teams. So, given the outfield options available from the likes of City and Liverpool, and with a spread of only 10 points between the remainder of the top 10, I would argue that you could still save £1m here without compromising the performance of your team. 

 

All stats are per the Official FPL and Sky FF websites

GW8 – Time for Kane?

Blog Team, Posts

Transfers Remaining: 35/40

GW7 – Wildcard success….continued

After a week of consolidation in GW6, it was great to see the team kick on again in GW7 . A score of 68 was 17 points above the average and enough to push the team up around 8,500 places in the overall rankings. It’s also the 3rd consecutive green arrow since wildcarding, which tells me that the timing of it was well suited to this particular team.

In attack, Eden Hazard maintained his excellent form with a goal and 3 bonus points against Liverpool. He’s now the no.1 player in-game and has managed 33 points in the three weeks since joining the blog team. His scores have often been inconsistent in the past, but he seems to be thriving in Sarri’s system and another 200-250 point season is not beyond the realm of possibility on current form. In my opinion, he’s as close to a must own as you can have at the moment.

As for the rest of the team, they continued to pitch in from all areas. Aguero kept up his consistent start to the season with another goal and 2 bonus points to extend the teams 100% captaincy record. Zaha and Wilson both managed an assist a piece, and maybe should have got more. Trippier pulled in the score that he came so close to getting the week before, and although I hadn’t expected much from Robertson and Alonso in defensive terms, it was disappointing to lose Alonso’s clean sheet so late on.

One of the most pleasing things to come out of the wildcard has been the form of Rui Patricio. I discussed the issue of premium goalkeepers prior to wildcard game, and the Wolves stopper has done nothing but reaffirm my belief that the money can be better used elsewhere. A combination of clean sheets, saves, and bonus points has seen Patricio out-score the other top 10 goalkeepers over the last 3 gameweeks. Only Ederson of City has been able to match his 19 points over that timeframe and it’s taken a perfect record of 3 clean sheets, so there’s very little justification for the extra £1m outlay.

Transfer deliberations

Last weekend went down to the wire in terms of my transfer for the gameweek. I weighed the pro’s and cons, followed the news, and watched the forums right up to the deadline, but in the end I just couldn’t shake the nagging doubt over David Silva and Pep’s rotation roulette. At the time, bringing Richarlison in as a replacement made complete sense given his plum fixture against a leaky Fulham. Unfortunately, despite registering 5 shots on goal, he was unable to make his mark and the transfer provided a zero point net gain as Silva duly started for City without return.

That’s not to say the transfer was wasted, as the Brazilian is a relatively long-term pick for the team. In retrospect though, I do feel that I could have shown greater patience with a player of Silva’s quality, and I undoubtedly would have under normal circumstances. However, with me taking the Sky approach to the game of not having a bench to provide cover, I felt the increasing pressure to remove that element of doubt. By the time the deadline had ticked down, I had cracked and make another precious transfer.

Watchlist

I’ve now managed to review and maintain the watchlist of players based upon the stats I gather, as well as those who pass the eye-test from the games I get to watch. Anyone who follows me on twitter will have seen the updates I made after last weekend, but for anyone who missed it, the updated list can be found here.

GW8 – Transfers: The Sky v FPL approach

As with last weeks transfer, it’s becoming increasingly obvious just how much the Sky approach to transfers actually differs to that of a normal FPL player.

Up to this point, most of the transfers I’ve had to make have been reactionary and have been dictated by injury, suspension and rotation worry. Yet this week provided the opportunity to finally attack the fixtures with the emergence of Harry Kane. While the other major captaincy options from Liverpool and Man City face up to each other on Sunday, Spurs come up against a Cardiff side that has conceded a league high of 16 goals, 14 of which being in the last 4 games. Couple that with the fact that Kane seems to have picked up some form in recent weeks (3 goals in his last 2 games) and he’s the obvious pick for the armband. So, with money in the bank to spare, bringing him into the blog team was a no brainer right?

Again, had this been a standard FPL approach, then Kane would now be sitting front and centre as the focal point of the team. In fact, I even took a 4 point hit to bring him into my personal team last week in anticipation of his games against Huddersfield and Cardiff. However, with transfers at a premium under the Sky approach, a more careful consideration was required.

Not owning Kane could really hurt the overall rank come Saturday afternoon, but bringing him in now would have to come at the expense of one Sergio Aguero, who is currently spearheading a free scoring City team that is capable of decimating anyone on their day. Yes, I could transfer him in just for the Cardiff game, and then bring back Aguero further down the line……no problem. But that would cost me 2 transfers at least, while tying up the extra £1.3m that could be used to strengthen the team in other areas.

Also, a big focus of the Sky game is on the captaincy, and looking ahead at the fixtures I just can’t see myself captaining Kane after Saturday. It would take until GW15 before he would be a consideration for the armband ahead of the likes of Salah, Aguero, and Hazard. So can spending £12.5m on a future non-captain option be justified for the sake of one week? I guess I’ll find out on Saturday after coming out from behind the sofa, but for now I’m sticking to the longer term game plan.

That being said, the transfer for this week is with the future in mind. Wilf Zaha has yet to set the league alight with his usual explosive performances, and is now entering a horrific run of fixtures that includes Wolves, Everton, Arsenal, Chelsea, Spurs and Man Utd. With Palace yet to score a single goal at home, it’s difficult to see fortunes improving for Zaha, so he has been replaced by a new addition to the watchlist in Marko Arnautovic. The talismanic Austrian is in fine form after dominating Man Utd last week, and in total contrast to Palace, West Ham’s fixtures are easing considerably. Of last seasons big 6, the Hammers face only Spurs & Man City between now and early January, so they have the perfect opportunity to extend their improving results.

Captaincy

A fairly straight-forward decision on the captaincy this week. For the first time this season, the Aguero/Salah rotation will be broken as Eden Hazard takes the armband. Games like Liverpool versus City can go either way and are extremely difficult to predict, so despite being top scorer in the game, the Belgian gets it by default against a Southampton team that has conceded 7 in the last 4 games.

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Transfers Remaining: 34/40

GW7 – Catching up……

Blog Team, Posts

Apologies for missing a few weeks guys. It’s unfortunate, but sometimes work (and life in general) just gets in the way of fantasy football.

Anyway, this will hopefully just be a quick catch up post to fill you in on how the blog team has been doing these past few weeks.

GW5 – Wildcard Success

Readers who also follow me on twitter will know that I deliberated long and hard over the FPL overhaul team during the international break, and was aware that many of you were doing the same. Therefore, I hope my last post managed to address some of the relevant issues and maybe provided some help along the way.

In respect of the wildcard team itself -and following on from that post – I ditched my premium goalkeeper in Ederson, bought into the left-back revolution by getting Alonso, and held on to Mo Salah. I backed the watchlist heavily by bringing in Patrico, Hazard, David Silva and Callum Wilson into the starting eleven, while also tidying up the bench.

Now, I realise that part of this whole SkyFF strategy was to ignore the bench, as that format doesn’t have one at all. However, one of the first points I noted when starting out on this experiment was that minimal funds would be spent on the bench, in order to allocate the maximum funds available to the starting eleven. Therefore, with the emergence of another playing £4.0m defender in Ryan Bennett, along with the value lost by Hojbjerg in the opening weeks, it meant it was possible to get another £0.6m onto the field. As far as I’m concerned, it would have been remiss of me to use the wildcard and not take that opportunity.

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A score of 83 was an ideal start for the new lineup. With the average being only 47 for the GW5, that saw the team leap a considerable 70k back up the rankings to sit around 23k overall, and correct its recent slide between GW3 and GW4.

While Eden Hazard blew Cardiff away with a hat-trick and Sky MoM performance, almost everyone else pitched in with at least some sort of return. The unlikely trio of Alonso, Robertson and Salah were the only ones who struggled, but I’ll admit that I did get somewhat fortunate with Bennett coming in for Mendy. There had been no reports or suggestions of an injury to the City left-back at that point, otherwise he would have been ditched on the wildcard, so to still get a clean sheet in his place just goes to highlight the strengths of a fully playing bench…………regardless of whether you aim to use it.

GW6 – Consolidation

After the highs of GW5, I was happy to see the team just about manage to consolidate the gains by finishing just 8 points above the gameweek average.

 

 

Transfers Remaining: 36/40

Maintaining that rank would once again come at a cost though. Frustratingly, it seems like I’m making a transfer every week just to cover some sort of injury or suspension, and that curse struck again as the Mendy situation rumbled on. Was it his knee, his ankle, his 5th metatarsal? Only Pep knew and he wasn’t telling, so at the very last-minute, Trippier was drafted in from the watchlist for his games against Brighton, Huddersfield, and Cardiff. It would have been a perfect move too had Spurs kept their heads deep into injury time. Still, I’ll take the assist points thank you very much.

It’s becoming repetitive now, but the defence continues to pull me back from the brink on a weekly basis. However, it’s not the ‘Big 3’ that have impressed me the most, although they’ve undoubtedly played a big part. No, it’s young Aaron Wan-Bissaka at Palace that’s stolen the show ahead of his premium counterparts. GW6 saw him register his 3rd clean sheet and maximum bonus, as well as a 3rd tackle and 2nd MoM bonus in Sky. In fact, he’s currently averaging 5.6 points per appearance and that includes a sending off – amazing value for a player that started the season at just £4.0m.

As for the captaincy, the Salah/Aguero rotation continues to reap rewards. It was a close call between the two (as is always the case), but the team is yet to come out on the wrong side of that choice with Aguero not quite as prolific away from the Etihad. Given that so many people took the ‘No Salah’ option on their wildcard, I’m actually a little disappointed that he didn’t further punish those that lost the faith in the Egyptian, especially having seen the opportunities that came his way.

Watchlist

I’ve been maintaining a watchlist of players based upon the stats I gather, as well as those who pass the eye-test from the games I get to watch. Many of these players came into the side on the wildcard so it’s taking some time to re-form, especially as I was away last weekend and didn’t see any football. For anyone that’s interested, the previous list can be found here.

GW7 – Transfers

Going back to Pep and City, they provided yet another source of frustration last weekend by leaving David Silva’s magic touch on the bench in a game where they duly ran riot over Cardiff. The fact that he was deemed surplus to requirements in a game that they were expected to win big is a now a worry, especially as his replacements cleaned up in his absence. With a must win game in the Champions League on Wednesday, and a trip to Anfield to follow, will Pep even bother to risk him against Brighton in GW7? Another week, another City based headache!!!!

With the wildcard played, and a transfer already used on Mendy since, I had hoped to preserve my transfer count over the coming weeks. Strictly speaking, I should be holding onto Silva against lower league opposition as there’s every chance that if he plays, he scores well. That’s the smart play, but that nagging feeling of doubt is there and I can’t seem to shake it.

The other problem I have, is that his likely replacements have their own good fixtures this week, ramping up the pressure to the move earlier than anticipated. Richarlison returned from his ban against Arsenal and looked impressive, taking 4 shots with 2 being on target. In GW7 he comes up against a Fulham side that have allowed a league high of 43 shots on target, and only Cardiff & Huddersfield have conceded more than their 13 goals. With Marco Silva talking up his potential to play as a striker, he’s definitely a huge draw this week.

The other player catching my eye is Heung Min Son. He returned to the Spurs starting line-up last week after his exertions with South Korea, and I expect him to keep his place with Eriksen having been ruled out through injury (note: reports since are suggesting Dele Alli will also miss out). He had 3 attempts on goal versus Brighton, and comes up against Both Huddersfield and Cardiff in the next two. As stated above, they have conceded the most goals in the league so Son couldn’t ask for a better run to get his season underway. The only problem with Son is the competition he faces for starts from the likes of Lucas Moura and the fit again Erik Lamela. In a limited transfer game, that makes him far from an ideal target, but could those immediate fixtures offset that?

As of yet, I’m yet to make either move as I stubbornly debate the merits of holding onto David Silva. That steadily reducing transfer number is really putting me off, but should I make any moves then I will post this on twitter nearer to the deadline. Another week going to the wire!!!!

Captaincy

Another straight-forward decision on the captaincy this week. No player has taken more than Sergio Aguero’s 31 shots and his record at home is unrivalled. In his last 10 starts at the Etihad, Aguero has registered 14 goals and 3 assists, and comes up against a Brighton team without a win in their last 16 away games. With my other captaincy options facing each other this weekend in Hazard and Salah, Aguero is the obvious choice to improve on his 4 goals so far this season.

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Transfers Remaining: 36/40

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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GW4 – A Quick Review

Blog Team

I must say, it was very much another average gameweek to take the team into the seemingly endless and dull international break. Thankfully, the Sky game is now in its first overhaul period, which means for this FPL team it’s also Wildcard time!

Transfers Remaining: 37/40

Gameweek 4 Summary

A promising start which exceeded all expectations seems to have really hit the buffers in GW3 and GW4. An uninspiring 47, for another fall in rank of around 24k, wasn’t quite the way I had hoped to bounce back from last weeks below par effort. I know these sorts of weeks often happen, and have been playing fantasy football long enough to know that generally everyone suffers when they do, but it almost feels like the FPL gods are trying to redress the balance after allowing us to set off with a bang.

Since those red cards for Wan-Bissaka and Richarlison in gameweeks 2 and 3 (thanks guys….sigh!!), the team has really suffered a drop off in form that not even a few transfers have been able to abate. Of the three changes made, only Mendy has produced a score more than 2; a record that is radically in need of changing if this experiment is going to succeed.

Last weeks transfer of Mkhitaryan produced nothing more than a one minute cameo, and this weeks ‘obvious’ move for Walcott ended in tears as he hobbled from the field before reaching that magic 60 minute mark. In fact, when it comes to old Theo, history tells us that nothing is ever obvious apart from his ability to pick up injuries, and I really should have listened! Plus, the surprise news of an injury to Wilf Zaha just compounded issues, as we all know that Palace are seemingly incapable of winning without him these days and they duly delivered.

All things considered, I guess I should count myself lucky that the team has managed to tread water through another difficult week, and that once again it was the defence that has kept me afloat. With an assist apiece, both Mendy and Robertson have developed a knack of picking up points even when their respective teams concede (….well-played Alisson), so having only a single clean sheet from Luiz was far from the disaster it should have been. Actually, combined with another 2 bonus points for the Chelsea man, the team continues to edge closer to an average of 5 points per defender, so it’s no wonder that people are starting to focus on the ‘left-back revolution’. Even without Alonso, that’s almost the equivalent of a clean sheet for every defender, every week, for 4 straight weeks for the blog team – that’s astonishing stuff!!

Unsurprisingly given the no-shows mentioned above, it was a fairly sub-standard showing from the team’s attackers this week. Aguero’s history versus Newcastle is why he was handed the armband, so stats of zero shots on target and a solitary assist is far below what was expected from a striker whose team finished the game with over 78% possession. Never the less, I’m happy that this obligatory attacking return against the Magpies maintained a 100% record for the captaincy picks over the first 4 weeks.

For the second time in four weeks, Sadio Mane was the star of the show. He put away the Robertson assist for his 4th goal in as many games, and gained another 3 bonus points in the process. That takes his overall bonus tally to 8, which already equals his output from the entirety of last season. Seeing as Mo has yet to register a single bonus in FPL, this goes a long way to giving the Community’s ‘No Salah’ movement further credibility. For £3m less of an outlay, can Mane really continue to outperform the ‘Egyptian King’?? Personally, I’m not so sure, but there’s definitely a decision to be made for those on a wildcard!

Gameweek 1-4 Review

Despite not hitting any great heights during the last two weeks, a total score of 273 has the team averaging just over 68 points a week. This is likely to be unsustainable given the parameters of this experiment, but given that last years FPL winner finished with an average of around 66 then I have to be happy with how things have gone so far. It’s quite difficult to assess what would constitute a successful score at this early stage, but if I can manage to keep the team somewhere around a 50 point weekly average then that should hopefully give me a decent finish.

Watchlist

For the past few weeks I’ve been maintaining a watchlist of players based upon the stats I gather, as well as those who pass the eye-test from the games I get to watch. Anyone who follows me on twitter will have seen the updates I made after the last weekend of fixtures, but for anyone who missed it, the updated list can be found here.

GW5 – Transfers

As I mentioned earlier, the Sky game is currently in its first overhaul period. That means the blog team has its wildcard active, and is in a constant state of flux. After nearly two weeks of tinkering, there are still plenty of decisions remaining unresolved and much will depend on the upcoming manager press conferences to hopefully clarify some injury situations. Because of this, I won’t detail the changes I’m looking at just yet, but suffice to say, the majority of the players will have come from the watchlist.

I will try to put out another post before the weekend to give my views on the major issues facing wildcarders, and to reveal the final team.

Note of Thanks

Since starting the blog back in August, the response from the readers and the twitter community have been amazing. In just over a month, the twitter account alone has managed over 100 new followers, so I can’t thank everyone enough for their continued support. Cheers all!

 

 

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