No Kane, No Lukaku, No Problems? 22-Week Update
Written by @JamesMartin013
James Martin is a man on a mission – His self-imposed challenge this season was to compete in #FPL this season without picking either Harry Kane or Romelu Lukaku… You can read how his team is currently doing and how this experiment is panning out. You can also go back and read part 1 and 2 of this mini-series and read why the **** James is doing this in the first place!
The halfway mark in the season has come and gone, and there is still no sign of Kane or Lukaku in my fantasy team. Even more significantly, the first double gameweek – featuring Tottenham, no less – has passed without any particular incident. Frankly, this is a minor miracle: while managers flocked in their hundreds of thousands to give Kane the triple-captaincy, I doubled up on the Tottenham defence, got in Alli, and hid behind the sofa. The somewhat unfortunate withdrawal of Sanchez after 58 minutes in the first game and the Obiang wonder-strike in the second prevented a good week from being great, but a leap of around 150,000 places was more than I dared to hope for going into the gameweek. As it stands, Chicken Tikka MoSalah sits inside the top 400,000 for the first time since gameweek 4. Not something to write home about, perhaps, but enough to further validate the strategy – and apparently enough to warrant a blog post to the internet at large.
Of course, this upturn in fortunes is largely down to the wholly unconvincing form of Romelu Lukaku. After an annoyingly prolific start, the United frontman has managed just two goals in his last eight; he was also forced to sit out all but thirteen minutes of the two most recent games, following a concussion suffered early on against Southampton. Despite this slump, he is still owned by nearly a quarter of all players: £11.3 million is a very significant chunk of the budget to be taken up by somebody offering such average returns, and conversely a very significant saving to invest elsewhere for those who have opted against him. In my team, the money is probably best viewed as funding investment in Kevin De Bruyne – this is somewhat arbitrary, in that he is one of a number of ‘premium’ players in the squad alongside Morata, Salah and Sterling, but Morata is essentially a Kane alternative and of the three premium midfielders De Bruyne is the principle differential from those who have opted for the big guns up front. His high starting price, combined with a natural inclination of many fantasy managers towards wingers rather than central playmakers, has kept the Belgian’s ownership well below that of the other two; he is even owned by fewer managers than Lukaku, despite outscoring his compatriot to the tune of around forty points. This has been a big part of my recent progress under the no Kane/Lukaku strategy.
As expected, the ‘no Kane’ limb of the idea is the one causing the more problems. I may have got through the double gameweek unscathed, but this did come on the back of consecutive hattricks for the English marksman – Burnley and Southampton were on the receiving end, but the real victim was my fantasy team. The striker’s ownership is only a little shy of 50%, so in the blink of an eye almost half of managers had a seventeen-point headstart on me for two weeks running. This is before his popularity as a captain pick is factored into the equation. There was some consolation in the fact that people who were giving Kane the armband were not going for Salah, so his returns of 10 and 9 respectively kept my head above water; the performances of Firmino and the inspired selection of Ederson, who kept two clean sheets and saved a penalty, also prevented calamity. Nonetheless, another strong showing from Kane in the double gameweek would have brought my season to a grinding halt – Alli’s squandering of the first chance laid on by the striker, only to tap in the rebound, was nothing short of heroic. Such slices of luck cannot be relied upon to keep Harry down forever, though: normal service will likely be resumed before long, and when it does I need to be able to rely on my alternative.
As has been the case throughout the season, it is this part of the team that is proving the hardest to nail down. Firmino has been a near-permanent fixture in the second striker slot, and has been a great success, but the truly premium forward has yet to properly pay off for me. Aguero, Jesus, Lacazette and Morata have all taken stints in the role: it recently occurred to me that any one of these would have done at least a decent job had I just picked one and stuck with them, but with the chopping and changing I’ve probably managed to lose out on points. With that in mind, I decided to give Morata a proper run in my team – this could hardly have been worse-timed, as he picked up a knock and then proceeded to showcase some truly horrific form over the next two fixtures. However, the underlying statistics show that he should start finding the back of the net again soon – the plan going forward is to stand firm in the face of his tumbling price for at least the next couple of gameweeks, and re-assess from there if he is still struggling. He has a nice run of fixtures on the horizon, so with any luck he will be able to recapture some of the returns he was putting up at the start of the season.
Morata woes aside, though, there really isn’t much ground for complaint. The big savings from eschewing Kane and Lukaku have generally been invested on premium options that are delivering at similar or better rates, and even most of the budget punts have paid off to some extent – Loftus-Cheek has posted some handy numbers, and I’ve definitely made worse rogue picks than Demarai Gray. There is only one further thought to add – agreeing to stick to this strategy at the start of the season has thrown up an interesting benefit that I simply hadn’t envisaged. Quite apart from the personnel involved, a self-imposed rule against tinkering with a particular aspect of the team has saved me points simply by preventing me from jumping on short-term trends a week too late. Without the rule, Kane would almost certainly have come in for the double gameweek only to blank; Firmino would likely have been in and out a lot too, and the erratic nature of his returns mean it would have been very plausible to own him for significant periods but miss his points altogether. Even if the self-imposed Kane ban is relaxed for next season, I will certainly continue to heed its lessons about not tinkering too heavily.
Follow James on Twitter @JamesMartin013