Let’s quickly look back at last week’s picks. Eric Dier was on his way to a handy clean sheet before bandwagon troll Riyad Mahrez stepped in and ruined everything. Aleksander Kolarov was sensational though, netting a crucial goal and clean sheet as well as maximum BP’s for a beautiful 15-pointer. Just for good measure, Gael Clichy didn’t even make the bench.
Onto this week’s selections…
So this week I am going to suggest that your POD pick is not to bring a certain player in, but instead to hold a player that everyone is trading out due to their bad start. Whether it’s Wayne Rooney, Harry Kane, James Milner or Raheem Sterling, holding onto this player while everyone throws them in the trash could prove to be a beautiful differential for your side. Let me explain why.
Many of the Aussies reading this will be familiar with the game Real Dream Team. For those in the dark, RDT is a fantasy game based on Australian Rules Football. It is incredibly complex and has a lot of fanatical players. I recently read a fascinating article where the author picks a team that you could have started the season with containing some cheap premiums, some mid-pricers and a handful of rookies. If you had left this team alone, not made a single trade all year, not touched your subs and left the captaincy on Todd Goldstein, you would currently be sitting over 1000 points clear at the top of the overall rankings! Now it would be completely impossible to nail all these breakout players in your starting team but it is the fact that you wouldn’t ever have to touch the team again that really took my attention.
Blown away by this revelation, I tried to apply a similar thought process to FPL. Here is a team that you could have started the 2014/15 season with for exactly 100m:
Ivanovic – Terry – Clyne
Hazard (C) – Sanchez – Silva – Sigurdsson
Aguero – Austin – Kane
(Bertrand – Boyd – PVA – Elliot)
If you had left this team alone, not made a single transfer, not shuffled the subs around and left the captaincy on Hazard you would have gained 2250 points from your starting XI which would see you ranked around 3000 (top 0.1% in the competition!). Now that alone should be fascinating enough but this doesn’t even account for substitute scores! Remember that Kane didn’t really establish himself until autumn, Aguero missed a big chunk of the season through injury and pretty much everyone in the team missed a few games here and there. So these players would have picked up the replacement scores from Bertrand, PVA and Boyd, which were often sizeable. I have no way of working out who would replace who on what week but I guess there would be enough added scores to take the overall score of the team to 2300+. The guy who topped my mini-league last year scored 2288 points for an overall ranking of 1143, so based on that I can safely say that this team would have been comfortably in the top 1000!
Think about it. Not one single trade all year and a top 1k finish. Now obviously you would have to be some kind of alien savant to actually pick that team from the start but that is not the point. The main thing we can learn from this is to have patience with your players. The top players will almost invariably get a big total score come season’s end, they might just make you wait for it. Hazard had a slow start but became the top scorer in the game. Sanchez had a slow start and became the 3rd highest scorer. Aguero missed a chunk of games but still ranked 2nd overall. Kane only played 2/3 of a season but he was a top-5 player. The lesson to be learnt here is to pick guys you think will do well and then back yourself in. We are only on GW3 and the transfers people are making are just staggering. Proven guns like Rooney (Although he does look rough), Hazard, Sterling etc. are being shipped out en masse to accommodate hyped form players like Mahrez, Payet and Ayew. It boggles the mind.
Case in point. Last year I started the season without Ivanovic. After a few weeks I couldn’t handle seeing his huge returns and high ownership so I bought him in. I held him for about 7 or 8 weeks which included a red card, no attacking returns and only a couple of clean sheets. Disgusted, I rage-traded him out of my side only to watch him pick up again and slowly churn his way to becoming the highest scoring defender of the season. I must have got less than 10% of his points despite owning him for about 20% of the season. If I had backed myself in and just left Ivanovic there I would have got a splendid 179 points and saved myself all manner of stress and headaches rotating cheaper defenders in and out of my team.
You also have to remember that scores balance out over the season. Currently a lot of people are looking to trade out Matt Ritchie after the Bournemouth winger failed to register any returns in the first 3 games. A sideways trade to the in-form Riyad Mahrez makes perfect sense you might think? Well perhaps not. Both Ritchie and Mahrez play as principal creative midfielders in adventurous but probably bottom-half sides. They are both on set pieces and a lot of the attacking play goes through them. Based on the FPL careers of guys like Adam Johnson, Jason Puncheon and Stewart Downing, we can estimate that these types of players should average around 130 points if they play a full season. If that were to be the case then Mahrez has already scored 35 points so should only score 95 points from now until the end of the year. Ritchie however, has only got 5 points so far so should bring in 125 points for the rest of the season. Still looking like a good trade? Even if we think Mahrez is on track for 150 points and Ritchie just 120, they would both be expected to provide 115 points from now on, making the trade illogical. Now obviously we have no idea what will happen with these guys. There is a chance that Mahrez gets 200+ and Ritchie scrapes to 80. Who knows? All we can go on is history and common-sense and both those things would tell us that Mahrez cannot keep this up while Ritchie is due some points. The Mahrez ship is sailing, the Ritchie ship is still in the harbour awaiting passengers.
In case you aren’t convinced, look at what happened with Callum Wilson at the weekend. A popular pre-season pick, Wilson blanked his first two games (which included a trip to Anfield) causing over 60,000 coaches to knee-jerk him out of their side. He duly responded with a devastating hat-trick and 17-point haul, showing the doubters that maybe we should be giving players more than two games to adjust to the premiership. I have no sympathy for the Wilson-sellers and with Bournemouth’s fixtures looking quite tasty, I would highly recommend holding Matt Ritchie for similar reasons.
*Haters gonna hate*
Now don’t get me wrong, not every player will turn it round and come good. There will always be unexpected failures and it’s very important to get off promptly. I’d certainly be concerned about Rooney, Ivanovic and Pelle right now. But as for Sterling, Memphis, Kane, Hazard and a few others, you might want to consider having a little faith and trusting your own pre-season judgement. Base your decisions on what you see happening on the pitch and not the actual scores they get.
So pick an under-performing player who you desperately want to get rid of but is actually playing ok. Hold them, see where they are in 6 weeks time and then calculate how many points you would have lost trading them out to chase some random Slovakian playmaker that you wouldn’t even recognize in the supermarket. Unless you can say hand on heart that a certain player is the real deal, just hold off and be patient. Back in your picks and hold off the trade button.
Now I wouldn’t leave you guys without an actual player to consider so let me very quickly give you a handy POD to drool over. Xherdan Shaqiri is a world-class talent- Bayern Munich do not take random punts on average players. He may not have fulfilled his potential so far in his career but if he does, watch out. I purposely watched the Norwich-Stoke game at the weekend just to see the Swiss maestro in action and I was so impressed I put him into my team straight away. He was a class apart from everybody else and registered a nice assist and 7-point return. Stoke’s fixtures are brilliant for the next 5 or 6 weeks and Shaqiri looks set to have a big say in proceedings. It’s always risky to pick a player new in the premiership, but this guy is something special. I am making a call right now that he will NOT be starting the 16/17 season at Stoke City.
Shakira, not to be confused with Shaqiri. Or Charlie Adam.
Good luck for GW4 people!