Thank goodness the Alexis Sanchez saga is now over.
Apart from being all anyone has seen on Twitter for the past month, the effect it has had on my fantasy team has been destructive having seen my star man left out of the last two Arsenal squads.
His exclusion in gameweek 23 proved to be fatal as, despite the best efforts of Callum Wilson, I fell to a 116.75-99 defeat to Andrew Russell, champion of the interestingly named “Vinegar strokes league” (yes, I do watch The League). Huge hauls from Manuel Lanzini (a player I have unsuccessfully attempted to acquire on numerous occasions) and Harry Kane condemned me to my 6th defeat of a fantastic season so far.
As we leave the halfway stage in the distance, I never expected to be leading the league of champions at this stage of the season.
Fantasy Gaffer compounded my misery with a whopping score of 190.5 to cut the gap to three points at the top. Squeaky bum time.
Every game is a must win at this stage of the season but my gameweek 24 matchup with CSSS Champion Greg Gordon was a really, really must win.
For the first time in quite a few weeks, I got myself a bit of good fortune. Greg has been flying high in recent weeks but the departure of Philippe Coutinho, coupled with the suspension of Alvaro Morata meant that my opponent’s lineup would also be depleted.
Shots of Alexis Sanchez in first team training for Arsenal on the Friday gave me a straw to clutch at in terms of his involvement in their squad to face Crystal Palace at The Emirates. Predictably, he had already played his last game for Arsenal and I was forced to piece together a makeshift 11 to try and maintain my slender lead at the top.
When I say makeshift, I mean it. For the first time in my Togga career, I was forced to play an unfashionable 5-4-1 formation as my only option of fielding a full starting eleven.
Amazingly, it worked wonders. I came away with a more than convincing victory, putting up my best score in this league to come away with a 148-67.75 victory. This would be a great time to hit top form once again as recent weeks have been…frustrating.
As a Liverpool fan, I can’t pretend to like that my prized fantasy football asset has joined our bitter rivals but I’ve just got to get on with it if I’ve got a chance of holding on to this lead.
As news of the imminent Sanchez transfer broke, I offered him out to the rest of the league to trade for. The replies I got didn’t surprise me at all! In a stubborn league that has only seen one completed trade all season, I wasn’t expecting to be inundated with worthy offers.
Alexandre Lacazette ended up being arguably the best offer I received but he’s done nowhere near enough since joining the Premier League to convince me that he will outscore Alexis between now and the end of the season.
The gaffer offered me Anthony Martial and Danny Welbeck. Never going to happen. The other offers aren’t even worth mentioning.
There will inevitably be a part of me in the last 14 weeks of the season (a very small part) that rejoices when Sanchez finds the back of the net for United. I really am counting down the weeks until the end of this season!
While I’ll never recommend a 5-4-1 formation in Play Togga or any fantasy format, here’s the list of defensive stars that did me proud in gameweek 24.
Willy Caballero – 17
If you don’t have Twitter, get it. If you can trawl through the vast amount of nonsense spouted on that website you’ll pick up the odd gem, just like I did on Friday night. Someone reported that Thibaut Courtois and Danny Drinkwater were doubts for Chelsea’s visit to Brighton so being someone who streams ‘keepers, I thought it’d be a good risk to whack The Blues understudy in. The article proved to be correct and I bagged myself 17 handy points out of nowhere.
Laurent Koscielny – 21.25
One of the best fantasy football feelings is seeing a defender you own pop up on the vidiprinter as they score a collector’s item (unless it’s Marcos Alonso of course). Koscielny bagged against Crystal Palace and was denied a clean sheet for good measure by a late consolation. Great return for the Frenchman who has been in Shkodran Mustafi’s shadow this season. If Arsenal revert to a back four like they did against Palace, this should see Koscielny’s defensive contribution rise once again.
Ben Davies – 16.75
Christian Eriksen’s omission saw Davies promoted to set piece duties and his pinpoint corner was headed in by Harry Kane for an easy 10 points. Two more key passes meant his minimal defensive contributions weren’t an issue and he came away with a very solid 16.75.
Phil Jones – 25.25
Where did this come from?! What a haul from Phil Jones. No goals scored, just a clean sheet accompanied by nine aerials won, five interceptions and 13 effective clearances. The aerial bombardment from Burnley meant Jones had to be everywhere in the last 10-15 minutes and that’s exactly where he was.
Steve Cook – 6.75
An unorthodox pick but Cook has been scoring well in recent weeks. His defensive contributions are through the roof which meant for good returns, helped by his goal against Brighton. Despite no clean sheets in the last three, Cook has managed 10, 20.25 and 13.25 which convinced me he was worth a pick up away at West Ham. Again, Bournemouth conceded but Cook still managed a respectable 6.75.
Jonjoe Kenny – 10
With the return of Seamus Coleman seemingly on the horizon, Kenny’s run in the team could be coming to an end very soon but he’s proved himself to be a very able deputy. Not afraid to put a tackle in, reading the game well and his energy going forward have made him a very good fantasy football option. Another decent outing here despite conceding a goal. Having said that, if Coleman is free in your league, now is the time to go and get him.
Leroy Sane – 15.5
If you haven’t already, go and watch Sane’s assist against Newcastle. Runs don’t get any mazier than this as he turned his defender inside out then inside and then out again before putting it on a plate for Sergio Aguero. A stunning player having a stunning season and my best pick of this year’s draft.
Wilfried Zaha – 4
I didn’t expect a lot from Wilf this week but his recent form has been excellent so I’ll let him off.
Xherdan Shaqiri – 20
Shaqiri is so good that this season that he was even shining under the leadership of Mark Hughes. Now he’s gone and a new man is in charge (even if it is Paul Lambert), Stoke could be revitalised and the Swiss trickster could be even better. Shaqiri was, as always, at the centre of everything Stoke did and looked hungry in a more central goal. His assist for Diouf’s goal was also absolutely outrageous. Delighted to own him and his trade value (if this league traded) is now at its peak.
Charlie Adam – 6
A last minute, panic pick up, Adam did a decent job with six points. His days of fantasy gold at Blackpool are long gone but he’s still useful for the odd week in. Nearly bagged an absolute screamer in the first half. Despite this, I’ve already dropped him but I’d be open to picking him up once more this week if needs be.
Callum Wilson – 5.5
Not his most effective week but I think Wilson is a great player to own. He finally looks back to his best following his long lay off and is playing like a player who thinks he’s in with a chance of getting on the plane to Russia with England this summer. If he’s available in your league, go and get him!
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