The final International Break of the year signals the end of the first stage of the season. The start of the campaign is officially over and the crucial second stage has begun.
Now the matches come thick and fast. Including their remaining Champions League fixtures and a Carabao Cup quarter final Manchester United face a daunting schedule of 14 games in just 45 days. Rivals Manchester City enjoy the luxury of one extra day of rest and those fortunate souls at Chelsea get 2. Even without Europe all Premier League teams will see their resources stretched this festive period.
While I can’t predict what Santa is bringing you for Christmas I do know exactly what you’re getting on Boxing Day. I’ll bet 10 bucks that when the teamsheets are in you get an earful off someone about modern players being unable to play twice a week when they’re on so much money. Yawn. If you’re really unlucky you may even get reminded that Aston Villa won the old First Division back in 1980/81 using just 14 players all season. And they played 42 League games! Yawn and double yawn. It’s 2017, Granddad. It’s rotation time. Welcome to FPL hell.
Rotation is an accepted part of the game nowadays. Across the entire Premier League last season only 11 players made the maximum 38 appearances. Back in 1981 that title winning Villa side alone had 7 ever presents. Imagine how easy Fantasy Football would have been then! Talk about set and forget!
In FPL Draft when your star player gets rested you’ve gotta take it in the chin and move on. Even the best players will receive a weekend off from time to time and if your team is over reliant on a couple of big hitters then you may find your weekly score taking a big hit of its own when they get temporarily benched. To make it worse when matches are every 3 days even minor injuries can cause an abscence of multiple Gameweeks. So how do you play it?
As pointed out by FPL Robinson there’s no point in stressing about which Man City players win a start in the Guardiola Tombola. But that doesn’t mean you should stop thinking about your Draft team and there are a few different ways to approach the hectic winter schedule.
THE LOW RISK APPROACH
One tactic is to surround your superstars with “guaranteed” starters from less heralded clubs. Backup your Philippe Coutinho’s and David Silva’s for the duration of the busy period with reliable yet unremarkable fantasy prospects like Oriol Romeu, Robbie Brady or Tom Ince. These steady 2pt machines start every game for their respective sides and will be autosubbed off your bench in case of emergency to “guarantee” that you don’t end up unable to field a full starting XI of points scoring players that Gameweek. In larger leagues these low upside options will be commonplace amongst draft teams purely out of necessity with such slim free agent pickings to choose from.
Personally though, the only way I’m picking up Tom Ince is if his Dad hacks into my laptop and steals my Username & Password. Even with such a low risk the potential reward from these players is so minimal that it’s unlikely to be enough to win your head to head matchup anyway. And imagine how you’ll feel if this “guaranteed” starter gets unexpectedly rested himself or injured in the warm up? You might as well have taken a chance on a riskier pick after all.
Sport is about winning and FPL Draft is no different. Unless you’re happy to finish last you shouldn’t be setting your team up based on the minimum points they will receive, and there are other options available that can carry you through to the New Year with potential for more points and certainly a lot more fun along the way.
THE STREAMING APPROACH
You should be streaming, or at least considering streaming, every week throughout the season but once the fixture schedule gets busier than an Amazon warehouse on Black Friday the short term pick up of players becomes almost essential.
Rather than have a consistent 2pt producer on your bench as month long cover for your star players, instead sit a different player with a favourable match up for each particular Gameweek. Even if these guys only come onto your bench for one Gameweek and then are immediately dropped without ever getting in your XI or scoring you points they have still offered a potentially higher upside and thus given you a better chance of a big score.
When you have a settled pair of first choice forwards that are scoring regularly or a midfield 3 that churn out the points week after week it can be easy to become complacent with your bench players because their scores don’t affect your team. Don’t carry any low scoring player in your squad and assume you don’t need them anyway. If your star striker gets unexpectedly rested and your backup is an out of favour Steve Mounie, a suspended Troy Deeney or an injured Wilfried Bony that complacency can cost you points and see you lose your head to head. Don’t let that happen to you.
You should stream for your bench players as if they will be making your starting XI each week, and that’s more important than ever at this time of year.
THE GAMBLER’S APPROACH
You’re looking for high quality cover for your star players, right? Well why not pick up some high quality cover?!
Cast your mind back to July 2017, a golden age of pre season wonderment that held few clues to the thrills that lay ahead in the footballing universe. Who could have foreseen the mind bendingly terrible Crystal Palace side of Frank De Boer, the thrilling emergence of Richarlison or the now legendary 35 minutes of world class play by Ruben Loftus-Cheek in an International Friendly that finished nil-nil. One thing that was perhaps a little easier to predict was that Guardiola’s second season at the Etihad might go reasonably well, especially when an already staggering array of talent was further bolstered by the signing of Portuguese midfielder Bernardo Silva from the AS Monaco side that had ripped up the Champions League in the previous campaign.
That Silva has been largely forgotten about since then is due to his limited game time and the cacophony of superlatives being thrown at the Citizens other attacking talents as they sweep all before them. But even in today’s landscape of unprecedented excess in the transfer market the idea that such a player as Silva can be bought from one of the continents best teams for a fee of €50M and then be nothing more than an afterthought is jarring. In 2016/17 Silva reached double figures for both goals and assists and is seen by many as the long term heir to the role that namesake David Silva has played with such immense class for City since 2010. The Spaniard is one of my all time favourite players and has been in imperious form, having set up 7 goals in 11 League starts which has already equalled his assists tally from the whole of last season.
But midfield sorceror David turns 32 in January and as stated earlier the runaway League leaders face 14 games in just 46 days. Surely this opens the door for his Portuguese apprentice? Such is the wealth of City’s talent that they are capable of scoring plenty whoever the personnel and Bernardo can find himself starting matches for a side averaging over 3 goals a game.
We can look elsewhere for high upside options too. How about Adam Lallana? Expected back from injury this week he joins one of the most competitive midfield units in the League. Game time is far from guaranteed but the former Saints man averaged 4.5 PPG last season across 34 appearances in a pre Mo Salah-powered Liverpool team.
A big story of Gameweek 11 was David Luiz’s omission from the Chelsea matchday squad and much less was said about the performance of Andreas Christensen in defence. After seeing a nice, round 0 minutes of action in the previous 3 League matches the Dane was brought in for one of the most important games of the year. Chelsea have a great run of fixtures ahead facing wba, SWA, NEW, whu, hud, SOU, eve, BHA and STK before the FA Cup 3rd round in January. Similarly to the Man City attack whoever plays in Chelsea’s defence has a good chance of decent points in this period.
These players and others like them are high risk pickups with potentially huge upsides. They come with the very real danger of being sat in the stands at the same time as your star men get rested. Could you live with knowing that some Gameweeks will see you without a full XI of scoring players? If you can then you will have starting level back ups playing for some of the best teams in the League.
Depending on your current roster such risks can be negated by Handcuffing a big player with his own obvious back up. Already have David Silva? Pick up Bernardo. Own Gary Cahill? Pick up Christensen or perhaps Rüdiger as well. The idea is that at least one of them will play each Gameweek and in the case of Chelsea’s defence maybe they both will. Can Alvaro Morata handle the punishing English footballing winter? Keep an eye on Michy Batshuayi’s fitness after his withdrawal from the Belgium squad.
To borrow from an old cliche you can’t win your FPL Draft league at Christmas but you can lose it. Be wary of holding on to injured players as just a 6 week layoff can see them miss up to 11 Gameweeks which is almost a third of the entire season. Stream wherever possible and make the most of a player’s form and fixtures even in the short term. We will have regular streaming tips here on FPL Draft Boss as we go along.
Just don’t be the one moaning about rotation in the modern game, put the effort in, spend the time making changes and make the inevitable rotation work for you. And if you want to win the Guardiola Tombola remember there is more than 1 Silva ticket…
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