Looking Towards Gameweek GW24 – My Thoughts

Posted: January 10, 2020 in Uncategorized

As an FPL manager for over 12 seasons, it’s been quite a while since I’ve witnessed such excitement over a double gameweek containing just a single extra game. I guess that’s what happens when Premier League champions-elect Liverpool take centre stage as they travel to Wolves and West Ham over the space of 6 days in gameweek 24. Certainly, the phrase “quality over quantity” springs to mind as FPL managers gear up for what could be a monster score for multiple Liverpool assets.

In this article, I’m going to share some of my thought processes which have guided me toward the strategy that suits *my* team. One of the most crucial pieces of advice I can give to any FPL manager is that everyone’s team is different – you need to put in the work yourself to see which strategy suits YOUR team.

With that in mind, let’s begin!

Playing like it’s Gameweek 24 when it’s actually Gameweek 22.

As the buzz surrounding the double continues to increase, we are in danger of overlooking strong opportunities for gains that could be made over the next two gameweeks. In fact, I think there are more ranking gains to be made now over the next two matches than there are during the double itself when everyone will have similar players! Furthermore, by selecting some high-performing cheaper players over the next two weeks, we could be in a better position to add higher-caliber Liverpool assets when GW24 eventually comes. My initial instinct was to examine which transfers I could make to bring in a Liverpool defender this gameweek.  I’ll discuss why I am avoiding this in my next point, but for this week, my attention turns elsewhere.

As I look at the fixture planner plastered on my office wall, I note that there are a number of teams with extremely favourable fixtures over the next five gameweeks. I’m particularly interested in two sides that are primed to return for Fantasy managers – Everton and Watford.

Although Carlo Ancelotti’s arrival may have been tainted by the loss to Liverpool’s “reserve” side in the Carabao Cup, there is no denying that Everton offers us some fantastic FPL options over the next five gameweeks. I’ve targeted Dominic Calvert-Lewin (£5.9m, 5.8% TSB) and Mason Holgate (£4.4m, 0.9% TSB) as ones to consider.

I’ve already spoken about Watford’s Ismaïla Sarr (£6.2m, 0.9% TSB) last week but I think that Gerard Deulofeu (£6.1m, 2.6% TSB) is another interesting option. The Spaniard has two goals, one assist and three bonus points to his name over the last three matches. Spoiler alert: Sarr is likely to be my transfer in this gameweek instead of Lucas Moura so I’m not just recommending players that I am not backing myself. The common theme with these picks is a simple one – they are cheap, on form and playing for teams with excellent fixtures and good team form. They also free up funds for the moves I want to make and provide some excellent differentials.

These are just my own personal picks and the ones I am eyeing up this gameweek – there are plenty of other options to discover who will free up cash for Liverpool assets while tapping into teams with both cheap assets and good form/fixtures prior to the double. This, I feel, is one of the keys to navigating the next three gameweeks and beyond.

Finalizing GW24 options too early

Leading from the previous point, I’m quite happy to hold out on acquiring any more Liverpool assets until after GW23 has been completed. One of the most crucial assets we can leverage in FPL is one that we generate ourselves – the time to assess the information provided to us. By acting on incomplete information, we risk losing advantage against our rivals. I am going to hold out as long as possible before acquiring that third Liverpool player.

For the record, I currently have Salah and Mane so my the decision is likely to revolve around which defender I want to get into my team.  Liverpool face Spurs (A) and Manchester United (H) during that time and while I do think that the Merseysiders will win both games, I wouldn’t be surprised if both Mourinho and Solskjaer both put out teams that will stifle Liverpool and perhaps nick a goal. Granted, a Liverpool defensive asset may concede in both games and still register 15-20 points in total, but I’ll take my chances. That will allow me time to really look at all my options and react with as much information as possible. I risk the likes of Alexander-Arnold increasing in price ever further, but I am happy to pay a £0.2/0.3m premium for extra time to make the final decision.

It’s perfectly fine to have a good feel for the selection of players you might be getting in and work towards those transfers by freeing up funds where needed, but I’m personally going to acquire as much information as I can before pulling the trigger. We are one injury away from going back to square one in our planning. Again, do what’s best for your team…you may have a woeful defence and a Liverpool asset vs Spurs/United would be streets ahead of them!

Overthinking our Liverpool coverage options.

As Klopp’s men canter to an inevitable Premier League title, having three Liverpool players going into the double gameweek is the minimum buy-in required to be competitive. However, for many players, the task of choosing *which* three players is becoming more difficult due to the sheer volumes of articles, tables and opinions on the subject. Over the last number of days, I have read several compelling articles, threads and opinions which heavily recommend different Liverpool assets based on a particular set of stats or occurrences. I know I am not the only manager who finds himself looking at a dozen different coverage permutations (and that’s just in a single day)!

That being said, there’s one piece of information that the stats, the tables and the articles will not tell you – which asset will *actually* score the most. You can spend every second between now and 18:30 GMT on Tuesday, January 21st looking for the best options and find that it’s James Milner who gets 20 points while Salah gets 6 points. The realization of this fact hit me many years ago as I was studying poker and has saved me a great deal of stress. You can perform all the calculations you want to determine that you are well ahead in a given situation, but you can still lose. You may be 87% to win a poker hand and the wrong card hits on the river. You can’t get angry at that. You just put yourself in the position to win 87% of the time but you will lose in that situation 13% of the time. The main thing to take away is that, over thousands of similar instances, you will have won far more than you have lost. In FPL, all we can do is select who we think the best players are, but ANYTHING can happen over the course of a game. My goal for the double is to select a group of the best options from Liverpool and then select three from that best suit my squad’s long term structure – the key piece being that they are the ones that I *think* are most likely to return the huge scores.

This following isn’t exactly rocket science. As I look through the Liverpool squad, I have identified five options from which I can fill my three slots. The entire backline of Alexander-Arnold, Gomez, Van Dijk and Robertson are all worthy of a place in our teams but will leave Gomez out for now. I’ll explain why a little later. The defensive solidity which was such a hallmark of Liverpool’s performances last season is now evident once again. Further up the field, the selection Mane and Salah speak for themselves – they are FPL gold for the double.

I leave Gomez and Firmino out of my plans for now. For some people who may be reading, this might be plain wrong but I have my reasons. Starting with Gomez, I think he is a fantastic pick for the double if you are really struggling to acquire a second Liverpool defender or a third asset in total. He is about one million cheaper and while he does not have the attacking threat of the other three defenders, he will be in the mix for bonus if either of the games end 1-0 or 2-0 to Liverpool and none of the other defensive assets have scored an attacking return. Moving to Firmino, I am not saying that the Brazilian is a bad choice, but I feel that Liverpool’s listed defensive and midfield options are “best-in-class” for that position whereas Firmino is not when compared to other strikers. I will buy VVD or Mane, for example, and they will play every single game for me for at least the next seven gameweeks and I will not take them out because no one can touch them for returns or value.  On the other hand, Firmino is competing against incredible alternatives for one of just three forward positions in your squad compared to five defenders and five midfielders. The question I have asked myself is whether I think Firmino is someone I’d like in my squad long term over the likes of Vardy, Ings, Rashford, amongst others, for a price of £9.3m. My answer for my team is no.

Again, the main piece of advice here is “You do you, and let everyone else take care of their own teams”. Don’t rip the heart out of your squad and take unnecessary hits just because an FPL account tells you that you MUST own these exact three Liverpool players. A Mane/Salah double-up may easily suit someone looking to move away from faltering Spurs assets whereas the addition of Van Dijk or Gomez may be an easier route for those with an already-top heavy side including De Bruyne, Vardy and Rashford.

From all my analysis of the double and beyond, I personally think it’s hard to look past Mane and Alexander-Arnold as two of my three options, and certainly, if I was on a wildcard this week, they would be my first two picks. After that, I would be comfortable with any of the remaining three as Liverpool coverage for the next seven gameweeks.

  • Salah is actually a huge differential right now.
  • Robertson offers huge assist potential against a number of sides weak to changes and crosses conceded on his side.
  • Van Dijk’s needs one chance from a set-piece to net 15 points.

I already have Salah so I may just get in TAA for the double. Again, I’ll make that transfer before the double. However, I won’t overthink it. TAA is the better fit for me and I am not able to tell the future. Done.

Don’t try to be (too) clever…

If there is one lesson I have learned about myself in FPL is I know how to get myself out of a bad situation. In 12 years of playing, my worst ever result was about 75k in the world so my finishes have been hugely consistent regardless of how my season has fared overall. No matter how bad my rank is during the season, I have a good instinct to judge when to go with a differential and when to stick with the best options.  The urge is always there to try and look at some differential options in order to make up ground on rivals.

There is a time and a place for differentials but the process of selecting your three Liverpool assets is NOT one of them. Sure, picking Jordan Henderson over Mo Salah *might* just pay off, but it’s unlikely. Don’t be like one of the 7.5k managers who have transferred in Takumi Minamino this gameweek. I won’t lie – I assessed every option to see if I was missing something. I don’t think I am. Then again, I transferred out Alexander-Arnold for Aurier four weeks ago so what do I know!

The KISS principle applies here…Keep It Simple, Stupid!

But what about West Ham assets?

Actually, that’s right! West Ham also have a double. That brings me to my next topic…

There’s more to the FPL season than this one double fixture.

One of the most crucial determining factors when deciding my transfers are the fixtures before and, more importantly, after the double. Liverpool have a stunning run of five fixtures immediately after the double – visits to Norwich and Watford are sandwiched by home games against Southampton, West Ham and Bournemouth. My review of defensive and attacking stats for those five fixtures and the double indicate that double Liverpool defence could pay more dividends (particularly when you consider that it is far cheaper to have two Liverpool defenders and one midfielder than it is to have two midfielders and a defender – that £4-6m could bring in lots of points when distributed in 2-3 key positions).

That leads me to West Ham. Their double pits them against two of the best teams in the league. Leicester will be weakened defensively by the loss of Wilfred Ndidi who will be out of action for 3-4 weeks according to latest reports, but they are still a team that will look to compete for a Champions League place. After the double, they face Liverpool (again), Manchester City and Arsenal over the next five. That’s too rich for my blood. I’m not ruling out anyone right now. Fabianski might be an option in goals and Mark Noble’s penalty threat can never be ruled out, but I would be stunned if I actually go with an outfield player.

Recap

To summarize, GW24 is still over the horizon for me. I’ll be looking at transferring cheap players with form and fixtures over the next two gameweeks to make sure I can get the defender I want – TAA. Don’t be swayed by articles that tell you that you *must* have a particular trio and look at what is best for your squad.

Let’s be honest…we’ll all be cursing Alisson with his 30-point haul anyways.

Thanks for reading. If you have found this useful and want to continue to read/listen to my FPL ramblings, be sure to follow me @FPLStrategist and give the Tweet that all important RT!

Green arrows, everyone!

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