Transfers Remaining: 30/40
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.
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.
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.
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.
Transfers Remaining: 28/40