2 weeks ago
Every year we have a number of narratives that rear their heads as the season progresses. Stories and theories that seem to take hold in a Fantasy Premier League manager's mind and convince them that what they are hearing is true, even if that 'fact' sounds like complete nonsense. It usually only takes someone a few minutes to step back and analyse the 'fact' in front of them and come to the conclusion that what they are reading is nonsense.
And yet, as a collective, we love a narrative. Something that helps to explain the complicated world of football. Sometimes, what we see as a complicated world, is actually fairly simple. In this article, I will round up some of the more ridiculous narratives and takes that have developed as the season has gone on. And April 1st is just the perfect time to do it.
That's right. There were people out there saying that Manchester City were a better all-round team when Kevin De Bruyne was injured for a spell this season. The Belgian is one of, if not, the best midfielder in the world. He scores goals, creates goals and can win games by himself if needed. Yet some people saw the fact that Man City won all five games he missed this year as a reason to downplay the midfielder's credentials. Manchester City did beat Liverpool and Everton in that run, but they also beat Sheffield United, West Brom, Burnley and Everton. All teams that you would expect them to beat comfortably anyway.
To suggest that losing a player of De Bruyne's calibre makes a team stronger is ludicrous. He has shown in the Champion's League what a difference he can make when he plays. This is one of those moments where looking at stats can make you blind to the obvious. Manchester City are a much better team with the Belgian playmaker in the side and should always be considered in Fantasy Football. Don't believe the narrative.
Unfortunately, there is a small modicum of truth in this. Fernandes has failed to score in some crucial games this season and managers in fantasy football games have started to lose faith in him on the big occasions. What this doesn't tell you, however, is how important a player he is even when he isn't returning. It also doesn't factor in the fact that he scored a penalty against Manchester City to help end their winning run. It also doesn't factor in that he is capabale of the sublime and can score against any opposition. It also doesn't factor in the key goals he has scored in other competitions this season.
Let's be straight, the Portuguese maestro has transformed United like Eric Cantona did in the 1990s. His influence on every game he plays and his ability to influence games is unrivaled in the league. His penalty-taking duties, and ability to convert them, means he has the ability to return against any opposition, and I am certain he will show us this before the season ends. Believe in Bruno.
Brighton and Hove Albion have been undergoing a transformation with Graham Potter, that much is sure. They play some attractive, attacking football at times but do, so very often, flatter to deceive. Fans and managers alike can be tricked into thinking that this attractive style of play means they are collecting positive results from their matches and slowly edging away from the relegation zone. Unfortunately, this isn't always the case. For all of their fancy play and eye-pleasing football, Brighton have only won seven games this year.
They have scored 32 goals, comfortably putting them amongst the worst scorers in the league, and have a horrible ability to lose games that they really should win. Whether this is a managerial weakness or a mental block of the players, it is too soon to tell. Do not be fooled by the long hair and high heels, this lady is nothing but ugly inside and shouldn't be trusted with your car keys.
The problem with Mo Salah is the ridiculously high ceiling he has set himself. The season totals he has acquired for the previous seasons have spoilt us and made us believe that we should expect this every year. Even if Liverpool were firing on all cylinders this year, which they most certainly are not, it is hard to imagine a player performing that consistently so many years in a row. What we have this year is a Liverpool side in complete disarray and a manager that is starting to look like his previous self at Borussia Dortmund.
Yet, while all this is going on, the Egyptian talisman has racked up seventeen goals, four assists and five double-digit hauls. He has had some blank stretches here and there, mainly due to Liverpool's inability to create chances, but he has always shown up with a brace just as you think he is finished. Whether he is worth the price tag FPL has given him this year is another topic, but anyone that suggests he is having a bad year needs to get their eyes tested.
Let's get one thing straight, in no way am I saying that Dominic Calvert-Lewin does not score all of his goals inside the box. He does, and he is very good at it. In fact, he scores most of his goals inside the six-yard box which is impressive in itself. What I am arguing for here is the assumption that doing this on a regular basis is not a skill.
Anyone that has played football at any level can attest to the fact that scoring goals is the hardest thing to do in football. If it was easy to score tap-ins every game, then everyone would be doing it. The England striker has found a knack for being in the right place at the right time on a consistent basis and this should be applauded. Filippo Inzaghi made a career of this and is still loved in his country. Let's stop downplaying the achievements of an English striker doing well in his native league.
This feels a little mean as this narrative started before the season began. Preseason is a time where opinions and facts start to merge into one and managers everywhere will have you believe that they have it all sussed. Fantasy Premier League decided to reclassify various players this year and one of them was the talismanic Arsenal striker/winger.
Having watched him tear up the league last year while playing as a striker in FPL, many believed that Aubameyang could rival De Bruyne and Salah for the top points scorer award by the end of the season. Some managers out there still weren't sure about Arteta and his constant need to tinker with his side. What we have seen so far is Aubameyang failing to meet his potential while scoring only nine goals and creating one assist. You'll struggle to find the Gabon international in any active FPL teams and rightly so.
I am going to hold my hands up here and say that I thought this would be the case this year. Having watched Leeds gain promotion from the Championship, it was obvious that Bamford looked good in the team. He scored a fair amount of goals and seemed to really understand the system and the role he was being asked to play. My issue was that, where Leeds could create a fair amount of chance in a lower division, they would really struggle to create that many chances in the Premier League. I was wrong.
Leeds have, in fact, taken to the Premier League like a duck to water. Signing Raphinha has ensured that their chance creation rate has stayed at a remarkably high level and Bamford has lapped up the opportunities. He still misses a fair amount of chances, but he has also scored fourteen goals this year and collected nine assists. Just phenomenal from a player that started out at £5.5m. It just goes to show that none of us really know how teams will take to the Premier League.
Oh. My. God. This is one of the debates that will live on well past I have finished playing Fantasy Premier League. xG and xA are the numerical values of a players performance in a game. xG stands for expected goals, xA stands for expected assists. Some people absolutely love to use these statistics and plan their transfers and captaincies based on them.
Great managers, however, will use xG and xA as well as various other factors to help them decide their moves. With any system, there are serious flaws with the xG and xA model. For instance, it doesn't take into account the person's ability. So Sergio Aguero would have a specific xG for a shot and that would be the exact same as Barry from Cornwall. Which makes little to no sense. Do yourself a favour and look at the stats, but don't bet your life savings that it will yield results.
Do not let anyone take a win away from you. If you are having a season to remember and find yourself in the upper echelons of the rank table, then bask in the glow of glory. People will always try and make people feel less valued, especially if those people themselves have had a bad year.
Yes, there have been some very unlucky moments for some managers. Games being postponed at the last minute and double game weeks and blank game weeks being moved after weeks of planning is not pleasant. But this is a season-long game where mistakes and inconveniences can be reversed easily. If you have had some luck and things have gone your way, then just remember that other managers will have some luck at some point too, they have just forgotten or would rather not mention it.
Are there any other bad takes I haven't mentioned? I would love to hear some more as I am sure I've missed some excellent ones off of my list. Let me know or comment on my twitter feed. You can find me at @fplmode.
I have been playing Fantasy Premier League for almost 13 seasons, with multiple top 100k finishes. I still enjoy the start of every season as if it was my first. Always make sure you're enjoying the game!