#FPL OCD – Gameweek 22 Review: To the detriment of my health
Meh. We are used to dizzy highs and crippling lows in FPL, but there are some weeks when that is all you can really say. Meh. My week was fine. I scored 52 and rose 2.5k, the second closest I have come to an elusive grey arrow this season. The biggest scorers – Aguero, Eriksen, Daniels, Wijnaldum, Williams etc. – were not in my team, nor were they highly owned enough to make any real damage. 7 of my 11 blanked, with Mahrez managing to go 1 better/worse with a 1 pointer, the Stoke v Arsenal stalemate provided me with clean sheets for Butland and Bellerin, De Bruyne came in with an assist, and I achieved the all too rare trick of captaining my highest scoring player, with Kane (C) delivering 20 points. The week wasn’t bad, a green arrow is never bad, but it wasn’t anything to be telling the grandchildren.
I have stated numerous times that I am happy with my team, despite a disappointing few weeks, and while that is still largely true, it is manifest that issues are appearing. The huge elephant in the FPL room is the darling of the season, Riyad Mahrez. It is a problem that has been creeping up on us for a number of weeks, and the majority of us have turned a blind eye (at the time of writing, his ownership still stands at a mammoth 65.5%). We are, by and large, still clinging to the first half of the season Mahrez, but minor cracks are threatening to become chasms, and a few brave souls have taken the plunge and ditched the Algerian. He has now blanked in five consecutive games, and with any other player, his ownership would be plummeting.
However, I know the fear that takes hold with Mahrez. Just this week, I was assessing who to leave out of my 11. I finally settled on Ozil (a fine choice as it turned out), but logic did not point to the World Cup winner. Logic pointed to rooting Riyad Mahrez to the bench. His stats have fallen through the floor, he is not only not producing, he is not really even threatening. I had him there, Mahrez – 1st sub, but I couldn’t go through with it. The huge hauls of the season come flooding back, you see his ownership, and the thought presents itself – an early season Mahrez display and I am screwed. Ozil’s ownership exceeds 50% as well, but the same terror, for whatever reason, didn’t take over. I was a firm believer that I did not pay any attention to ownership, that I played my own game and what went on around me was irrelevant, but this week I slipped. I just couldn’t bench him with that plum fixture. This is the fear that takes hold when we contemplate not only benching, but selling. My selling price is 6.4 – can I do better than Mahrez in that bracket? If I sell and decide to buy back, it will cost me. Can I bring myself to do it? Whatever way I look at it, Mahrez’s form is a huge problem.
I have always been a ‘5th midfielder bench fodder’ type player, and I am struggling to acclimatise to such a strong front 8. I know that, logically, there is absolutely no downside to having a strong bench – it is better to have those players in your squad than not have them at all – but I have a growing concern that my midfield is not strong enough. Alli and Mahrez are now showing signs of inconsistency, and with the imminent return of Sanchez, one begins to wonder whether it is time to revert to a heavy hitting 4 man midfield. The issue here is that, contrary to early in the season, there is a dearth of consistent midfielders, while the forwards hit goal after goal. I have never strayed from 3-4-3 for any considerable period of time, always believing that the strikers will come to the fore, and it has happened again. Even the pricey midfielder of choice, Kevin De Bruyne, is not coming close to delivering frequent big scores. Before this week, the Belgian had blanked in 6 games out of 7 (you may remember that his one score came in the only week I did not own him). His assist may buy him more time, but he needs to start producing quickly to gain another lifeline, with Alexis Sanchez waiting in the wings.
The shift in power between midfield and attack has been noticeable. With Aguero fit and firing, there is a battle for the precious striker slots. This is another issue that I am faced with. I am getting Aguero this week, I cannot hold off any longer on my dear Sergio, and there is a clear frontrunner in the race to be sold. I will hold my hands up: I have timed my Ighalo purchase appallingly. The Watford man could not stop scoring all season, and finally, 2 weeks ago, I bit the bullet and hopped on-board (at the expense of Olivier Giroud – you may recall my despair). It has instantly become clear that my voodoo curse skills have destroyed Watford, and Ighalo has become a problem immediately after entering my squad. If I had unlimited money, he would be straight out for Aguero.
As you know, the issue is more complex than that. To switch Ighalo to Aguero, I would need to effectively decimate my team. It would require huge cutbacks elsewhere, likely going without both De Bruyne and Sanchez, bringing in a bench fodder 5th mid, playing Mahrez and Alli each week, and sacrificing a premium defender. I do not believe I can justify this overhaul, and have decided that one of my trusty big men – Kane or Lukaku – must make way. The form book says that Lukaku should go, but I know that that is off the back of two tough fixtures and, as someone resigned to watching Everton every week (much to the detriment of my health), I know that he is still playing well, and has been unlucky to blank. His schedule is much kinder than Kane’s so, with a heavy heart, I say goodbye to the Spurs man. Much like ditching Vardy earlier in the season (a decision, I would like to add, proven completely right – I just pulled the trigger a week or two early), I am aware that this has the potential to bite me badly. It is a risk, but one that feels necessary. I have held 2 free transfers for over a month now, and will only use one again this week. Double game weeks are coming into view on the horizon, and I must stay strong.
The big dilemmas, yet again, come from benching decisions. I got my calls right last week in the sense that I left virtually nothing on my bench; the setback was that most of my starting 11 produced nothing on the pitch. This week, I have tough calls in both defence and attack. As it stands (this could well change), I am benching Mahrez at home to Stoke, Bellerin at home to Chelsea, and Moreno away to Norwich. They could all deliver points, and my decisions could well change between now and Saturday. My finger hovers over the button all of the time – “get Mahrez on, get Mahrez on” my head screams. Am I man enough to bench the game’s highest points scorer*? We will have to wait and see.
*Almost certainly not.
Written by @JohnOC1991
John went to University, finished his degree, and got a good job in the City of London. He is now in the process of throwing it all away in favour of FPL, a game with no notable rewards for success. He firmly believes this to be the correct decision.