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FPL Week 14 Fantasy Player Picks: Sheepish

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Week 13 was a crushing blow for many managers across the FPL universe, especially for myself. How do we recover in week 14?

Pascal Gross - Brighton & Hove Albion - Premier League
Pascal Gross celebrated in August
Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images

Oh boy! I sure do owe you all an apology!

As a fantasy soccer analyst, it is my responsibility to provide viable insight into various player performances and expectations — to add value. The best thing I can do to help readers in their decision making process is to have an opinion — not just a general opinion, but, an opinion on every player, at every price point, for every match.

This thought has not always been my own. It was ingrained in my head after many years of reading my favorite fantasy article, at the time, twice a season: Matthew Berry’s Draft Day Manifesto. That article was my first foray into the draft-prep realm a little over a decade ago. Like many of the readers here, I was looking for some input toward draft strategy, to put my fantasy baseball team, originally, in the best shape possible to win my baseball league, similar to a mini-league by FPL measures.

That hobby then bled into American football, and Mat’s requisite Draft Day Manifesto for that. The most important takeaway learned in my early years was the importance of having an opinion on every player who could play a viable role on a given draft night. That lesson paid dividends in fantasy soccer, as well, especially when you consider the construct of the FPL game itself.

As an analyst in this space, the very best I can do is persuade you to change your opinion. That is all any “expert,” talking head, or fellow commentator can do. After that, any actions you take in regard to your team can be directly attributed to your own decisions. All I aim to do each week is to provide you with additional input to help you arrive at your final management decisions.

Which brings us back to the present, and my apology, which was actually last week. The revelation of Mendy’s surgery and lengthy absence had recently broke, and the next step was to make the transfer. The easy Manchester City options were already swirling throughout the community: Aymeric Laporte and Fabian Delph. The former had started every game for City this season, even netting one goal. But, for me, this move was fraught with risk.

As a proud flier of the year of the fullback flag, I could never adopt a central defender. That would be sacrilege! And, as often as we have seen Delph play in Mendy’s absence, there is still enough talent around the City grounds to create some uncertainty as to who the deputy would be — candidates included Oleksandr Zinchenko (which would be a travesty since he is slated in the midfield in FPL) and Danilo da Silva. So, the sensible choice was to wait until we saw what Pep had in store.

At that point, I had then narrowed my decision to five replacements: Ben Davies (TOT), Serge Aurier (TOT), Lucas Digne (EVE), Trent Alexander-Arnold (LIV), and Matt Doherty (WOL). The way my team was structured, since the deployment of my wildcard, starting-XI confidence was my first priority. For that reason, Davies and Aurier were ruled out. The intriguing part from the remaining three was that all of their values, at the time, were all £5.0m or less.

Given the premise of my Rate My Team piece, linked above, there is one of these defenders who clearly does not belong: Matt Doherty. Week 13 then confirmed my premise, much to my dismay and detriment, as T.A.A and Digne both went on to secure clean sheets. Alexander-Arnold even went on to lead all defenders in scoring. I know, this looks like a bitter tale of shoulda, coulda, woulda. But, it is more than that.

Given the precedent that I laid out for my strategy, how did I arrive at Doherty? It all comes down to two VERY bad statistical observations. By virtue of principle, picking Matt Doherty was already a violation of my prior analysis, which should have rendered my outlook for him moot — a clear avoid, in all cases. Then came worse analysis: I looked purely at fixtures. I am, admittedly, a believer in individual matchups, and weigh them a bit more than some of my colleagues, in deference to player form. But, I always advocate for the acknowledgement of form.

I completely disregarded it in this decision; I saw Huddersfield and Cardiff on the schedule and started counting Doherty bonus points in my head. Secondly, I looked at the worst statistic in the game: ownership percentage. Players do not perform in games with any respect to their ownership percentage.

Ownership percentage is not indicative of how a given player has, or will, perform. It is a stalking horse statistic. A player with an ownership level of 99.9% is equally as able to yield fantasy returns as a player owned by 0.1% of managers. And, I went on to use Doherty’s ownership level to convince myself to sign him. I based my decision on the notion of how many points the managers around me in the standing will score, rather than looking for a player who will score me the most points. It was a sheepish defensive posture, rather than a strong assertive evaluation of a player.

Now, I do not expect my picks, or analysis, to have 100% accuracy; I am not that naive. But, I would like to believe that my analysis, regardless of singular individual results, is right more times than it is wrong. From this platform, I am asked to play this game publicly, in fact I volunteered to do so. Coping with that early on in my tenure took a little bit of adjustment.

For the sake of the website, I openly explain my strategy, analysis, and decision making process. To lay out a strategy and follow it up with transfers that defy those premises is, in a word: dishonest (even to myself). It, at the root of the matter, it undermines my credibility. And, for those reasons, I am sorry. I have been sheepish.

Week 13 was punishing in many other ways, too. There is no better time to right past wrongs than the present. Here is where I am looking to make some gains in week 14:

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Goalkeeper

David De Gea, Manchester United (£5.7m)

Look out! United could be in the early stages of one of those dominating runs that propels them up to the top of the table in quick order. I am not ready to assert that they’ve hit full stride, especially offensively. But, I think the elements are there in defense. They kept a clean sheet against Crystal Palace last week. And, just yesterday, they managed to do the same in the Champions’ League. Southampton have only scored eight goals this season, and, Danny Ings’ status is still up in the air, which should only help De Gea’s case. I like the United defense this week.

Kepa Arrizabalaga, Chelsea (£5.5m)

After last week, Chelsea will begin a run of favorable games that could very well determine if they are outside contenders in the title race. Dropping any more points will see them fall back into rest of the pack status, and a fight to remain in Champions’ League contention. After much criticism from the manager, I would expect to see something close to the Chelsea defense that started the season.

Mathew Ryan, Brighton (£4.6m)

Ryan came within a penalty of securing a clean sheet for his owners last week. Brighton do lack a certain tenor when they go on the road. When you are headed to Huddersfield though, the odds are far less daunting.

Wayne Hennessey, Crystal Palace (£4.5m)

The next four games for Crystal Palace give Hennessey some appeal beyond this one week, which always helps in a recommendation. Burnley have been unable to sort themselves this season, both offensively and defensively. Facing a Palace team cheered by the home crowd, on the heels of a clean sheet versus Manchester United, is not a good spot for them to be in. The last four games for Palace have come against sides currently playing in Europe. A much easier test on Saturday should set the expectation level close to the results from last weekend.

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Defenders

Marcos Alonso, Chelsea (£7.1m)

With many of the premium defenders mired in tough clashes this weekend, Alonso and his Chelsea linemates stand out among the upper echelon Premier League defenders. Plus, they have a lot to prove following a thrashing from fellow London neighbors, Tottenham. Alonso is the second highest scoring player in the game, and this week’s matchup against Fulham offers him everything that has led him to the top of the points table. Chris Manfredi tabbed Alonso as the must have player over the holiday run, just yesterday.

Fabian Delph, Manchester City (£5.3m)

Delph is the man to fill the role of the injured Benjamin Mendy. A fullback by name alone, Delph does not possess attacking intent anywhere close to that of Mendy. That job will be handled by Leroy Sane. But, Delph slides in as the new cheap option in defense. That cannot be passed up from the league’s joint-top defense.

Luke Shaw, Manchester United (£5.0m)

Shaw missed out on last week’s game because of a suspension for yellow card accumulation. I spoke about the favorable spot for David De Gea; all of that applies here. I am still lukewarm on the United attack, which does limit some appeal, but a clean sheet par, and attacking returns would be gravy.

Matt Doherty, Wolverhampton (£4.9m)

It is hard to ignore the attacking contributions that Doherty has provided this season. More importantly, this game versus Cardiff could be the last chance for the Wolves defense to rally their loyal fantasy supporters prior to a bumpy schedule through the holiday period. This could be the last stand before a mass exodus of Wolves’ defensive assets.

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Midfielders

Eden Hazard, Chelsea (£11.1m)

Before everyone writes off the Belgian, it is worth noting that he is still the third highest scoring player in the game, joint with Mo Salah. Performances like the one against Tottenham are going to happen. And, coming against a fellow top-six side is a better way to blank, rather than any of the lower table sides. Managers should be hoping to see Olivier Giroud return to the starting lineup, to maximize his point potential. Regardless, though, Fulham still possess the worst defensive side in the Premier League.

Christian Eriksen, Tottenham (£9.2m)

As you may have seen earlier this week, Eriksen is my favorite player over the upcoming holiday period. I like the point potential behind his shooting and passing ability. With him missing so much time (including midweek rest in the Champions League win), I would expect him to be a likely candidate to start more often than not over this busy period, much like Harry Kane. Spurs have a crowded midfield, but who on their roster can replace Christian Eriksen? How did the Tottenham attack fair without him? Also, I am wary of falling back into the Delle Alli trap. Eriksen seems the much more consistent, and capable, point scorer.

Pascal Groß, Brighton (£6.7m)

Last year’s cult hero, Pascal Groß, finally returned from injury last week after a long absence. In his brief 298 minutes this season, the midfielder has scored one goal and earned the maximum bonus on one occasion. The low spot to date was the penalty miss against Fulham, which was his final game before injury. I would expect Groß to reclaim the PK role, should it arise. After all of last season’s exploits, a cool 164 points, Brighton have improved around him, which should instill some confidence about possible fantasy upside. At times, Groß appeared to be carry the team alone in 2017-18. But Glen Murray is currently humming along, and Anthony Knockaert has had a rebirth, following last year’s hangups. A healthy number-ten could propel Brighton’s attack to heights we have never seen over this current run in the Premier League. The upcoming fixtures are plenty ripe for the taking, as well.

Andros Townsend, Crystal Palace (£5.7m)

Andros Townsend is my out-of-the-box pick in midfield this week. Thus far this season, he has registered but a single goal. However, over the past five games, the Palace midfielder leads the team in shots on target (4) and attempted assists (8). Townsend is known for his ability cover every inch of grass on the pitch, finding spaces to get on the ball. Pit him against a leaky Burnley defense, and there is opportunity for Townsend make and take chances.

Callum Paterson, Cardiff (£5.2m)

If you are looking for someone near the bargain level, you could do much worse that Paterson. Playing in the striker role has paid dividends for Cardiff City lately. Over his last three game weeks, he has registered 8 shots. One of those ended up in the net, and another was deflected and for an FPL assist. His next four matches come against porous defenses. If anyone from Cardiff is likely to contribute in fantasy, it is hard to see it being anyone other than Paterson.

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Forward

Harry Kane, Tottenham (£12.3m)

That man, Harry Kane! I am decidedly opposed to owning expensive strikers, as I have stated many times. But, if there is one who tempts me, it is always the Spurs’ Englishman. I prefer him to every other striker in FPL, always. With the upcoming run of fixtures, a swap to Kane seems imminent. Being a week early to the party, visiting Arsenal for a North London derby should not be of much concern, as Arsenal’s defense has only kept one clean sheet this season. Getting him early will only mean more returns on the back end, later on in the season.

Olivier Giroud, Chelsea (£7.7m)

I would expect Morata’s run at center forward to have reached its end. If you own Hazard, you have a rooting interest in this as well. I am expecting Chelsea to take out their frustrations on Fulham this weekend, and Giroud will be the focal point in attack, taking and providing chances. Watch Chelsea’s Europa League lineup Thursday, as it could indicate his weekend’s starting forward.

Chris Wood, Burnley (£6.2m)

Over his past two starts, Wood has peppered the goal with nine total shots, four of which were on target. If the Burnley attack is going to come alive, the New Zealander looks to be the focal point. He was able to find the back of the net ten times in 2017-18.

Raul Jimenez, Wolves (£5.9m)

The Wolves forward’s contributions were finally recognized by the fantasy community last week, prior to the game with Huddersfield. Unfortunately, he was unable to convert any of his five shots into a goal; one was even cleared off the line. With his price quickly rising, he still represents the best of the regular starters at the lowest price tier.

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After a crushing Week 13, it is important to properly assess your team’s position heading into week fourteen. Before making any sheepish transfers, be sure to do the proper work and evaluate your possible moves on the players’ true merits, and your overall strategy. Or, you could find yourself just as dumbfounded as I was and reviewing my decision making process.

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Who are the potential targets you are looking at to make amends for a poor showing in week thirteen? Are you confident about how you arrived at your squad in the lead up to week thirteen? Are you taking a more long-term approach by rolling your transfer? Does the recent midweek action affect your decision-making in any way? How are you preparing for the crowded “festive period”? Let us know in the comments below!

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