To help you decide how to best approach the January Wildcard, FantasyYIRMA.com are running a series of articles looking at different perspectives.
Next up we are delighted to feature a guest post from the 2012/13 FPL #6 in the World @JulianZip
Julian led the way in FPL in 2012/13 including a 5 week consecutive run at #1 towards the end of the season!…Being from Australia and not getting to see as much of the Premier League as he’d like makes this even more impressive!!
Julian is also remarkably consistent achieving a top 1% finish in the 2013/14 season and is currently ranked #528 out of 3.5million. Having flirted with the top 100 this season already, it would come as no surprise to me to see him there again.
Julian epitomizes the stat based approach to the game and is a genuinely great guy to interact with on twitter
Make sure and drop a follow to @JulianZip on Twitter!
THE JANUARY WILDCARD!!
It’s a really messy time of the season with injuries, fatigue, suspensions, rotation, transfers and international tournaments all doing their bit to disrupt our FPL business as usual. On top of that, most of us have tinkered enough to work in many of the high performing players by now, or at the very least know who they are, so I’ve observed that the end result of the January wildcard period can be that our teams become all the more uniform. I think however, that provides a great opportunity to make some calculated moves to really differentiate your team if you’re trying to climb the rankings or make up a mini-league deficit.
The volume of marquee January transfer signings has declined in recent years, so in my opinion it is less necessary to wait and save your wildcard…but saying that, there are also decent arguments for holding off until later in January (especially if weather becomes a disruptive factor). If you have at least 3-4 problems or players you’ve wanted to ship out though, I say don’t be afraid to press the button as soon as you need to – I already have!
I do a variety of things when deciding on my wildcard team:
Firstly I scan through each Premier League squad and pick out the two or three best players from each team who I am going to consider. Then I’ll spend a little time using stats to cull that down, in particular I use individual stats for the attacking half – i.e. dashboards/heatmaps, key passes, shots on target and shots within the box; and then team stats for the defensive end – i.e. possession, shots conceded etc. Finally, since we all have access to the same stats and fixture lists, I try to think outside the box and make a couple of strategic choices. I’ll particularly be looking for value, utilising player ownership percentages, so a few players with low/medium ownership who may have the potential for a good scoring run (which will then lead to the inevitable rush to buy…). Being ahead of curve on just a few of those each season really helps.
When looking at fixtures, I am looking at about 6 or so games in advance (so at the moment I’m interested in about gameweeks 21-27 inclusive). During my best – and most dedicated – season, I went further than that and looked about 10-12 games ahead, and if you have the time and energy for it I’d say it’s worth doing, though you need to stay flexible, as you’ll inevitably have to revisit your best laid plans as injuries and suspensions never fail to surprise at some point.
Over the past 2-3 seasons I’ve almost exclusively used a low cost keeper home rotation, and this season was to begin with no exception. Heaton and Schmeichel provided a decent run of consecutive home games, with the odd (some would say lucky as hell!) good hauls like Heaton’s 15pts.
However, the budget keeper options look like less of a value proposition this season. Thinking back, Mannone, Speroni, McGregor and others in previous seasons at 4.5 a piece were great, but the game designers quickly adapted and adjusted most of their starting prices. In addition we don’t really have the promoted sides with the same surprising defensive resilience that we once saw from the likes of Hull and Crystal Palace for example.
Given Pellegrini’s defender rotation I’ve decided I will stick with the more expensive Joe Hart as my primary keeper (even though we’ve just seen he is not immune to a week on the bench, I think it will be less of an issue than the merry-go-round that Clichy and Kolarov will be).
That means my back up will rarely play, so I want to go as budget as possible. Looking forward to City’s away journey to Chelsea in gameweek 23, Costel Pantilimon seems a good choice, with a home game against Burnley.
Getting defenders sorted with the wildcard to me means more capacity to focus future weekly efforts and transfers on the front half of the pitch. The teams who have so far conceded the least shots per game are: Southampton (9.3pg), Arsenal (10.2pg), Chelsea (10.3pg – which is 7.9 at home where they lead), Man City (10.5pg) and Man United (10.8pg).
With City covered by Hart, the next team I definitely want defensive coverage from is Chelsea. It’s almost no doubt that one or two of the blues will be top 5 defensive scorers come the end of the season. Ivanovic is a personal FPL favourite, and a good choice based on field position and attacking intent, but with ownership still at about half as much John Terry (12% compared to 24%) is too hard to ignore. Terry has the highest bonus point system tally of all defenders, and is also second only to Hazard in the form score stakes. His run of goals will no doubt see that ownership soar, but until that gets out of hand, I’m jumping on board.
Neil Taylor and Andre Wisdom have served my team relatively well so far, and both have at least two/three playable games in the next six, so I will consider keeping them with the option that either can become a Sunderland defender in time for their favourable fixtures in week 23 and 25 if needed. Swansea and WBA are 8th and 10th in shots conceded at home, but the Swans are second last only to Leicester away from home, so I’ll need to make sure to get defender rotation working right.
Steven Taylor provides more dizzying highs and devastating lows than any other footballer, and the latest of that saga came in the space of a single game (I feel for the guy), so he’ll have to make his way out of my team. Burnley will be confident and playing for their lives at home so I’ll possibly take a gamble on the likes of Kieran Trippier for weeks 21, 23, and 24, though at 4.8 he is probably slightly overvalued for his 1.3 key passes per game.
I’ve considered Arsenal with good fixtures in weeks 21, 23, and 25, however none of their backline appear to stand out, and they seem too prone to calamity despite the aforementioned stat showing they are up there on conceding the least shots per game. So to work with my rotation my final spot will go to a Man United player, and I’m considering a gamble on Luke Shaw. That combo, with Terry playing every game, would give me a back 3 at home (or away with an easy fixture) for the next month or so.
The middle of the park is throwing up a few in-team choices: Hazard vs Fabregas; Sanchez vs Cazorla; David Silva vs Yaya. The last one seems simplest given the ACON tournament, though I expect Yaya when he is back to finish the season strongly, so I’ll be looking at bringing him in then (perhaps surprisingly to some of us, he was already before his goal this week the leading midfielder in shots per game).
I normally have a rule of only one player from each team per position, but this time I’m likely to go with both Eden Hazard and Cesc Fabregas. The pair of them will possibly end up in the top 5-10 FPL scorers by end of the year, and while they don’t always deliver together, it would be an unusual week if neither of them provided something. Costa has worried me at many points in the season, the almost constant cloud of injury, coupled with the kind of personality that deserves a red card or two each season, means I’m going to take a chance on life without him for a while. It will no doubt come back to bite at some point, but hopefully not too hard. If I was only selecting one of Hazard and Fabregas, I would most certainly keep Costa.
The Arsenal pair is possibly the toughest choice, but I’m going to keep Alexis Sanchez. I got him in very early, so price increase is a factor, but in addition his out of position prospects; more key passes per game (2.7 v 2.3); and fact that he is the leading midfielder for on target shots per game (1.3- tied for 8th overall), make him what I think is a sage choice. When Giroud is back however, it’s looking as though he combines better with Cazorla, so I’ll keep an eye on that.
Mid and low priced midfielders are relatively plentiful this season. Seasoned FPL campaigners will probably be giving a second look to the FPL stars of yesteryear now at bargain prices (remember when Lampard and Gerrard both cost double figures and were your no-brainer captain choice every other week?!). George Boyd at 4.6 is phenomenal value and will go into most squads, in particular with QPR, Palace and West Brom at home in the next four. For me it will probably be between him and Stewart Downing for the final spot. If I go with Downing that midfield five would give me four of the top 8 in key passes per game (and the leading crosser in Downing at 2.8 per game, aiming balls in at a great header of the ball), but importantly they all chip in with a good number of goals too themselves.
I plan to bring in Aguero as soon as practicable in 2015, likely very soon after he makes his obligatory 20-30 minute comeback cameo (which he’ll no doubt score in anyway). Until then, in his place I’m looking for a similarly priced striker, who I can straight swap him for. Many are looking at Falcao/Rooney given recent goals, and with United’s good fixtures set for weeks 22-25, it’s not a bad move. Rooney can be patchy though, and if you look at overall season transfers out, he is right up there, indicative I believe of how frustrating he can be.
Flying slightly under the radar (with lower ownership than Steven Naismith!) despite being number two in form points for forwards, is Robin Van Persie. I’m considering taking an expensive (kind of) gamble that United are going to continue out of their malaise and that opponents will now be looking to minimise some of Rooney’ and Falcao’s space, so RVP can hopefully pitch in with a few more goals.
With a big chunk of cash spent then, I’ll need budget partners for him, and for that I’m happy to keep Charlie Austin. At 4.1 shots per game with 2.3 of those in the penalty area, he is top five on both counts. QPR are not the most trustworthy of attacks, so I’m reluctant to captain him too many more times, but he’s been remarkably consistent, and at that price very worth it.
Andy Carroll’s stats give a reasonable basis for picking him in the budget striker role, but I think Downing is West Ham attacking cover enough. So given budget constraints and what his form and confidence must be like at the moment Harry Kane will likely get the final spot despite his ownership likely going through the roof even more this week.
One of the additional ways I try to think about each of my choices in the front half is… would I be able to captain this player if they had a good home fixture? If you have a viable choice of at least 7 potential captains, it allows a lot more flexibility to both form and fixtures, and if my experience is anything to go by, captain selections are at least 50% if not more, of the FPL battle.
Good luck to all of you with your choices, and as always thanks to Ryan at FantasyYIRMA for having me on his great site…and also for giving me something to do on a 10 hour long-haul flight!
Make sure and drop a follow to @JulianZip on Twitter!
* Actual final wildcard team may differ from team shown, I have 8 more days of tinkering