Merry Christmas! Easily my favourite time of the year with premier league games coming thicker and faster than ever. It’s great. And it’s good for seeing family and friends and enjoying time with the people you love. As long as they’ve left before the 7.45 kick off…
Two gameweeks have commenced and concluded in the six days surrounding Christmas with plenty of headaches caused by hangovers and squad rotation in equal measure.
Gameweek 19 signalled the halfway stage of this season and my Champions League team was pitted against the Forcekin League Champion (also known as Jon), a tough match up against the man who leads the chasing pack in 3rd.
I’ve spoken all year about my love for Pascal Groß as he has turned out to be my best differential draft pick in my original league (my first one was Dimi Payet. That went quite well), but in this case he turned out to be my nemesis, turning in a crucial 23 points which condemned me to another defeat (119.25-96.75).
Thankfully for me, my main rival Fantasy Gaffer suffered a second consecutive defeat to let me off the hook and ensure the gap remained six points.
Halfway there. At 15 wins and 4 losses, my team has performed way beyond expectations against the highest calibre of Togga opposition. I originally set a target of a top half position but with a healthy leading position after 19 weeks, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t excited for another title push.
The second half of my season started against Icelandic opposition (we know what happened last time Iceland faced England in a football competition) Ari Jons.
Ari came into the matchup at the foot of the table. Bye week? Not at all.
Ari has been by far and away the unluckiest player in the league. Incredibly, despite his lowly position, only myself and Fantasy Gaffer have scored more fantasy points than him. I was in for another tough match up going into Boxing Day.
The turkey sandwiches would have to wait.
Simon Mignolet – 16
If I could start the goalkeeper facing Swansea City in a match up each week, I would. To say they are shot shy would be an understatement but they somehow managed four attempts at Mignolet’s goal to contribute to his impressive 16 point haul. Eight points was the expected return, to double that was very nice indeed.
Laurent Koscielny – 2.5
The worst thing about Laurent Koscielny is Shkodran Mustafi. The Gunners are a much better defence outfit when the German is fit but that’s because he heads, tackles and blocks absolutely everything, meaning Koscielny has to make do with a the odd defensive contribution. He’s probably my DEF1 so a return of 2.5 against relegation threatened Crystal Palace is far from ideal.
Phil Jones – 4.25
Watching Burnley net twice at Old Trafford pleased the Liverpool supporter inside me but frustrated the fantasy football manager. Jones is United’s best and most active defender when fit so I’ll be looking to hold on to him for the foreseeable future.
Luke Shaw – 5
Double United defence. Not good. Shaw is a great fantasy asset when fit (his fitness being the main issue here), easily a top tier defender. His defensive and attacking contributions are top notch. His five point score was disappointing but included a booking and two goals conceded.
Leroy Sane – 1
Well this was annoying. My Boxing Day exploits saw me stuck in snow in Huddersfield without mobile reception (I challenge you to find a better excuse), meaning I was unable to plan a backup for if Sane was rested at Newcastle on the 27th. Of course, Leroy lost the game of Pep Roulette and I was forced to start him. A very short cameo included two aerials won. That’s it.
Xherdan Shaqiri – 13.5
The Swiss magician continues to be a revelation. Early in the season I was looking to trade high but now Shaqiri is a permanent fixture in my team. A haul of 13.5 without a goal or assist shows how important he is to a poor Stoke team.
Wilfred Zaha – 14
Wilfred Zaha is Crystal Palace. His team were abject during an uneventful first half against Arsenal the other night but as soon as he decided he wanted to play, so did Palace. An early assist for Andros Townsend was the highlight of another virtuoso display, despite a loss for his team. Zaha is unstoppable and it’ll be fascinating to see how he performs against the future Champions this week. Must be due a move this summer.
Ryan Fraser – 8.5
Originally a one week pick up but with Bournemouth’s injury crisis far from letting up, Fraser may stay for one more. The pocket Scottish playmaker is always busy, ideal for the advanced scoring system of Togga. Any repeat of his performance against Liverpool last season when he faces the other Merseyside club this weekend.
Georgino Wijnaldum – 10
Another one week pick up. A solid and unspectacular ten pointer. I’m expecting more Klopp rotation against Leicester City this weekend, meaning he has already been dropped in favour of watford’s Andre Carrillo.
Callum Wilson – 16
My differential, hat trick scoring pick of gameweek 12 returned to the team this week and produced the goods once again thanks to a late, late equaliser against West Ham. I needed it too as it meant I went into the late games on Boxing Day on par with my opponent.
Alexis Sanchez – 35
Raheem Sterling’s strike at Newcastle meant I went into the last game of the gameweek with a deficit of 12.5, meaning I needed a decent return from the Crystal Palace v Arsenal on Thursday night. Step forward Alexis Sanchez. My main man had an acceptable score of 8.5 at half time but the deficit still stood at 5 points thanks to my opponent’s players in the same game. Two moments of individual magic in four second half minutes sealed a dramatic, late 125.75-102.25. A 35 point haul when it matters. I love that guy.
As if a dramatic win wasn’t good enough, Fantasy Gaffer narrowly lost another dramatic matchup against my gameweek 19 conquerer, meaning my lead is now at a healthy nine points.
Merry Christmas indeed.
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