How has your season been to this point friends? I'm currently in position 301 in the Beat The Bloggers league, and position 776,244 worldwide. It’s always my goal to be top 100,000, which I've accomplished nine of the past eleven years, so I've got some improvements to make.
Let's take at look back on the eleven weeks of Premier League action so far and see what we have learned.
1. Arsenal and Liverpool are who we think they are. These are two really good teams who at times play exhilarating football. However, they lack the consistency and defense required to challenge for the title. Of the top ten teams, currently only Watford have conceded more than these two. I had the privilege to witness the Gunners’ opening-day 4-3 victory over Leicester in person; it was an amazing experience. This was also the moment I knew that a return to the top four would be difficult. At the same time, Liverpool opened with a 3-3 draw against the aforementioned Watford, a sign that Virgil Van Dijk and others would be needed. They never arrived.
2. Manchester United can't get Paul Pogba back soon enough. Jose Mourinho is known for defense so it's not a major surprise his team has the league’s best defensive record. They have suffered offensively without the Frenchman, scoring 12 goals in the four games he played, 11 in the seven without him. Production from early season favorites Henrikh Mkhitaryan, and to a lesser degree Romelu Lukaku, has dried up. Miki had five assists playing with Pogba, but he has only one goal since.
3. Watford and Burnley have been great stories. These teams have done it in different ways but have been very effective. The top three are the only teams to concede fewer goals than Burnley, even after losing fantasy darling Tom Heaton. Nick Pope has filled in admirably between the sticks. Sixteen defenders in the league have played the full 90 minutes of every game this season, and three of them wear Burnley shirts. Burnley’s fourth defender (and high scorer), Stephen Ward, has been off the field for only ten minutes. Watford have played an exciting brand of football and have had eleven different scorers this season.
4. Everton and West Ham are major disappointments. After spending for players such as Michael Keane, Jordan Pickford, and Gylfi Sigurdsson, Everton were expected to challenge the big six this season. West Ham, while not expected to be top six, surely did not anticipate a relegation fight. Instead, Ronald Koeman and Slavan Bilic are unemployed, and fans of both teams are wondering what happened. These teams own the league’s worst defenses, which are coupled with numerous offensive players who have failed to live up to their billing.
5. Manchester City. I've owned Sergio Aguero, Gabriel Jesus, Kevin De Bruyne, Raheem Sterling, David Silva, and Nicolas Otamendi at different times this season. Leroy Sane is the top scoring player in the game, and he wasn’t even a starter in the early games. City provides fantasy owners two of the top five scoring FPL strikers, along with four of the top six midfielders. It's a guessing game who will be the main source of points each week but Pep Guardiola has provided us with a team that is must-see TV each week with several must-own players.
6. No adjustment is necessary for some. There's always a cliche that players need an adjustment period to the Premier League. Tell that to Alvaro Morata, Mohamed Salah, Richarlison, or Sead Kolasinac. Morata is the only one who isn't the leading points scorer for his team. The new recruits have adapted quite well and have forced us to consider them immediately or be left behind.
7. Promoted teams vote conservative. The new boys Brighton, Huddersfield, and Newcastle sit in positions 8, 10, and 11 respectively. Unlike some previous seasons’ promoted teams who were somewhat naive in trying to play an expansive attacking style out of the gate, these new boys have all taken a conservative approach. Keeping a solid shape, all three teams have managers who are somewhat risk averse.
This has worked well to this point, so these teams have provided managers with several low budget options to complete our rosters, especially in defense. Mathew Ryan, Shane Duffy, Jonas Lossl, Mathias Jorgensen, Rob Elliot, Jamaal Lascelles have done well. Further up the field, Matt Ritchie, Aaron Mooy, and Pascal Groβ have contributed and allowed us room to afford some Man City talent.
8. Heavy investment up top. The top 5 strikers in FPL at present are Aguero, Kane, Lukaku, Morata, and Jesus. Though all cost £10.3+, it would be wise to have at least two of these. There are several candidates for the third striker position with Tammy Abraham making a strong case presently.
9. Midfield is also dominated by expensive players, with Raheem Sterling the cheapest of the top six at £8.2 currently. Christian Eriksen has proven to be a good Kane alternative for those short on funds.
10. Variety at the back. Defenders have produced this season in many ways: Cesar Azpilicueta has assisted on five goals, Antonio Valencia and Phil Jones have kept eight clean sheets, plus Otamendi, Monreal, and Davies have 2 goals each.
11. The eleventh and final thing to discuss friends (after 11 game weeks), is how do we use what we learned so far? For me it means my wildcard will be used very soon to get many of the players discussed, so I need to find some quality low budget players to help afford the big money producers. I'm going to hope Paul Pogba returns soon, and my eyes will be on David Moyes to see if he takes West Ham to new lows.
The players I'm watching near-term are Charlie Daniels, Eden Hazard & Morata, Wilfred Zaha, Phil Jones & Lukaku, Jan Vertonghen & Kane.
What were the lessons you learned in the opening eleven weeks? Share with us in the comments below.