#FPL OCD – Gameweek 23 Review: It is clear that, much to my disgust, I am Liverpool
Do you remember the Scooby Doo backgrounds? When the characters would run, and instead of a flowing set of images behind them, to cut costs we were treated to a few images and objects repeated, a seemingly endless loop, an almost claustrophobic recurrence, a sense of entrapment (I may be overdoing it slightly). My season has begun to feel like a Scooby Doo background. It is clear that, much to my disgust, I am Liverpool. Never falling into trouble, never plumbing the depths, yet never really threatening the top – always falling slightly short as the upper echelons come into view. I am worried that, if I am unable to break through into the elite, I will end the season wearing a t-shirt bearing the picture of a racist.
Despite my negative tone, I had a good week. 64 points, and a move from 40k to 25k. Sunday, with Lukaku, Ozil and Bellerin, was disappointing, but Saturday was rather excellent. One thing that has changed recently, much to my delight, is that I have started to get captaincy correct. My captains have reached double figures in 4 of the last 6 game weeks, and in the 2 that they failed, my whole team did poorly. This week, while my Evertonian heart screamed Lukaku, I followed the stats. Lukaku’s threat has dropped in recent weeks, while the best striker in the league is finally fit and firing. Before his injury, after his 25 pointer, I wrote on these pages that the armband would be permanently strapped to Aguero. I followed my own words, and entrusted Sergio with the captaincy for the first time since game week 8. He repaid me handsomely.
The real issue of the week was the player I chose to make way for Aguero. I stated last week that I was set on a straight Kane to Aguero move, no messing about. Well, of course I started to have doubts – how could I ditch an in form Harry Kane? One man in my front 3 was looking the weakest, and I decided he needed to go. In came Wijnaldum and Aguero, out went De Bruyne and…Ighalo. It was always a risk to sell one of the top scorers ahead of a plum home fixture, but Ighalo’s stats were on the wane, teams seemed to have found him out, and I could not bring myself to ditch either of Kane or Lukaku. Clinging onto Lukaku, whose stats are also declining, and who will now have a blank GW27, is already looking a mistake, but I have made my bed.
My plan when I made the transfer was to immediately put Wijnaldum, who struggles away from St James’, on the bench, and give Mahrez one last chance before his difficult run. However, looking again at the stats, I could not justify it. Mahrez’s decline was alarming, and Wijnaldum was leading the way for attacking midfielders, having shifted to a more advanced position in recent weeks. It was not catastrophic, but it did cost me 4 points. These are the calls that need to pay off if I am to crack the top 5-10k or higher. Well, at least I played Dele Alli…
What a glorious moment that was. A strange facet of FPL is that we can, at times, feel like we support a team with whom we have no affiliation. It is a sensation that I have experienced with Spurs recently, with Alderweireld, Alli and Kane all in my team (well, except when I devastatingly bench them…). Now, I was not watching the Spurs game live, but when I saw Alli’s goal… It is bizarre to feel a degree of pride for a footballer who does not play for your club and who you do not know, but I would struggle to believe an FPL player who claimed not to have felt a twinge of pride, a puffing out of the chest, a glow of affection, even a tear in the corner of the eye, at the exploits of one of their FPL squad. I am not merely referring to the points that they have gained, I mean at the player himself. It can even occur outside of a league game. If your star striker scored in a cup final, or in a key Champions League game, would you not feel a slight warmth? If Sergio Aguero, your trusted FPL captain, had scored the winner in the World Cup final, would you not be even a tiny bit proud? Liar.
Well, this is what I felt for Dele Alli. This went beyond the points; when I saw the youngster control, lob/swivel, and volley, I smiled. Here was a teenager scoring a goal worthy of Bergkamp, Ginola, Gascoigne or Le Tissier, and there he was, in my FPL team. Forget MK Dons, it felt like I had discovered him.
Yes, I know it’s stupid, but this is what the game does to us. It is an experience comparable to that of Football Manager. On Football Manager 2011, I had a multiple Champions League winning Everton side containing, among others, Azpilicueta and Yaya Sanogo (yes really). Azpilicueta was the world’s best right back, but Yaya Sanogo…he was something else. Europe’s top scorer for 8-10 consecutive years, World Player of the Year 5 years running, a 60 goal a season man. When Azpilicueta joined Chelsea, I felt proud, I felt like I had discovered him (of course that is absolute nonsense, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel it). He quickly became one of the league’s best full backs, and I was delighted – I had known that he would succeed. When Yaya Sanogo signed for Arsenal, there were raised eyebrows around the country. Who was this youngster? What was Wenger doing? I sat back, smiled, and waited for the goals and awards to flood in. I knew that, in a few years time, we would be lauding Sanogo as the best striker the league had ever seen. Then…well, let’s just leave that bit.
Anyway, that is how I feel with my FPL squad. I become attached to them – it’s strange but I can’t help it. It makes it difficult to part with players who have served me well, and it is a difficulty that I currently have. Lukaku and Mahrez are both underperforming, but those memories of the season linger, the thoughts of what good players they have been for my side. With Mahrez, my reasoning is that, having bought him so cheaply, I can afford to bench him – there is no one in his price bracket that could compete. He has a tough run, but there were signs of life again against Stoke. Lukaku? He has a plum fixture this week, but if he blanks? It may be time to say goodbye to Romelu. Already I have my eye on Charlie Austin, a mainstay of mine last year, and with Alexis Sanchez back, it could be the perfect move to free up some funds.
This week, I will try to save my transfer. I am left with only 1FT for the first time in over a month, and I intended to return to the flexibility of 2 instantly. It will give me leeway and options next week, as we head into the latter stages of the season. Once again, I am in a position at the front of the chasing pack, just behind the leaders, ready to make a move. I have to ensure that I don’t trip over my laces again.
*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.