Az discusses last season’s rise from a seven-figure rank to just outside the top 10k as he bids to arrest a slow start in 2020/21.
Sitting at an overall rank of 1,817,850 at the time of writing, it’s fair to say that this season hasn’t gone exactly as planned.
Looking at my Gameweek history from the 2019/20 campaign, it’s quite surprising just how similar my starts in this season and last have been.
After Gameweek 11 last year, I was ranked around two million in the world, with a team value about the same as it is for me now (£102.3m).
I remember feeling exactly as I do now, ooking around at other peoples’ teams and wondering how I am going to catch up.
But I did. After Gameweek 11, I hit green arrows in 11 out of the subsequent 12 Gameweeks. My rank was around the 100,000 mark by Gameweek 24, and I ended up finishing just outside of the top 10k (17,456) after a bit of a fail with a final-day Free Hit.
In true BlackBox style, I’m going to think of how to drag myself out of the mire. By reflecting on last season and what worked, I’ll hopefully be able to pinpoint what it was that worked for me.
As a bit of extra research, I’ve even gone back and watched some of the old Scoutcast videos from last season. It’s nice to see my mood generally lift as the Gameweeks go on and I propel myself up the ranks!
One thing that stands out from watching the videos was that I accepted mistakes I’d made and worked on correcting them, even at the cost of point hits.
I’d bought in Callum Hudson-Odoi (£5.7m) in around Gameweek 9 and he wasn’t getting games. So I took a -4 and upgraded him to James Maddison (£7.6m) – if only I’d thought of doing something similar to this week…
Maddison did OK for me, but I noticed that he was playing very deep. So once again, I took a hit to take him out and in came Jack Grealish (£7.8m). This proved to be a bit of a masterstroke, as Jack scored heavily over Christmas. He wasn’t a huge differential at the time, just like he isn’t now, but his steady stream of points was very useful in my rise.
Another error I corrected was the move from Ricardo Pereira (£5.9m) to Çaglar Söyüncü (£5.3m). While this was quite sideways transfer, it freed up some funds and Söyüncü more than matched Pereira over Christmas despite a much kinder price tag. The extra cash helped me upgrade other areas of my squad.
Looking at my team now, I think I’ve made a pretty big error with Riyad Mahrez (£8.3m) – which won’t surprise a lot of you reading this.
When I’m in the market for some consistency and reliable point scorers, Mahrez, quite simply, does not offer this. You never know when he’s going to blank when he’s going to haul – or even when he’ll be subbed off early or on the bench.
My feeling going into the next game is that I can’t sell him before West Brom at home, but he and Neal Maupay (£6.1m) will be leaving my team whatever happens ahead of Gameweek 14. See ya Neal, and thanks for nothing (literally).
How one transfer can change your whole season
I had forgotten how big the impact that moving Tammy Abraham (£7.2m) to Danny Ings (£8.4m) had on my season until I watched the Scoutcast back and saw his return of points in my team over Christmas.
I can’t remember a player having a more pronounced effect on my season than Ings. Put simply, I bought in a player who consistently scored nine pointers every week for £6.0m (at the time).
Until this point, my transfers had been a mixed bag. But, this one transfer changed my entire fortunes.
When the opportunity came knocking in the form of a highly owned player (Abraham) getting injured, getting Ings in was a very savvy move.
Looking at how strong the “template” is now, it will only take one injury to shake things up. This is an opportunity for people like me who invest so much time in the game to make the best decision possible and hopefully find a gem of a player to take me up the ranks.
It’s about being patient, waiting for an opportunity to differentiate ourselves, but not forcing it. Spurs’ fixture swing in Gameweek 16 looks like a good start – and might it be time to drop Grealish at the same time when things start getting quite tough for them?
Steady returns from a captain
Another thing I noted from the Scoutcast videos was just how important it was for me to start sticking the armband on a captain who delivered at least something, week in week out. Jamie Vardy (£10.3m) and Ings were great options last season for this because they found a way to get either a goal or an assist in nearly every fixture they played in over Christmas.
This season, the trio (or even quadruple) of Bruno Fernandes (£11.0m), Mohamed Salah (£12.3m), Kevin De Bruyne (£11.9m) and Harry Kane (£10.9m) is so strong for exactly this reason. It is, quite simply, hard to imagine any of them blanking in any game they start. This makes them all fantastic captaincy options.
The biggest thing here, and to coin the phrase from fellow Top Gun Luke, is that these players have so many insurances that mean they are so highly likely to get points. The penalty and free-kick factor mean that these guys don’t need to have a good game to score points – just look at Salah this week against Fulham as an example.
Chasing huge hauls from the likes of Mahrez or even (to a lesser extent) Son Heung-min (£9.6m) seems unwise when we have these four players capable of getting a double-digit score in any week. While the aforementioned assets can easily rack up big hauls, they just don’t have as many routes into getting something out of a game as the others, which in my mind, makes them less attractive captaincy picks.
However, on the note of the holy trinity…
One thing that strikes me with the holy trinity/quintessential quartet is that you can’t captain them all every week. In my mind, providing you have a clear plan for who to captain in a given week, owning them all isn’t essential and can mean that you are “priced out” of decent mid-priced players who may hit some form over Christmas.
Ings is a good example, especially as Southampton look red hot at the moment. But also perhaps the likes of Trent Alexander-Arnold (£7.2m), Andy Robertson (£7.2m) an an out-of-position Wilfred Zaha (£7.5m) may be impossible to move for if you go too heavy in premium-priced players.
This is a tough one because we do have the likes of Thomas Soucek (£5.0m) offering himself as one of the best “enablers” we’ve ever seen and not a huge amount of mid-priced options currently on the market. This means that I am not completely writing off those that have chosen to fill their team with the most expensive players.
But the landscape may yet change and we even saw a new option emerge in the form of James Maddison (£7.0m), who none of us was considering before.
I think over Christmas we’re going to start seeing some more players start to emerge, as, at the moment, it all feels like everyone’s team is the same without much room to manoeuvre. I’m going to stay relatively “balanced”, not tear my team up to ensure I have four heavy hitters and hope that the shrewd acquisitions of mid-priced players can have the same impact that it did for me last season.
However, I’m not being stubborn. Things can change – maybe they already have – and I need to stay alert and ready to be flexible in case I’m wrong.
Good luck everyone in the Gameweeks ahead. If you’re having a good start to the season, that’s awesome. But if you are struggling like me, I hope this article has at least given you some hope that things can turn around.
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