Summer stories that catch the eye (vol. 5)

With the game reopening and the release of the prices, the 5 asides series’ focus becomes the football summer stories that have an impact for the FPL community.

Each article will pick out 5 selected key themes we’ve identified in the meta recently.

This article focuses on the themes we’ve seen developing since the game launched last Wednesday.

1/ Big at the back

As Nick advocated both in his “offence to defence?” future trends article and on the pod, we’ve seen a thought revolution of sorts amongst many FPL managers, with a good number of four at the back set ups in early team posts on the forums and Twitter.

With the plethora of good options available near the top end of defenders with attractive fixtures and output, plus the heavyweights floating around as options up top, we’ve seen many focus on the top and bottom of their teams, leaving relatively little to spare in the middle.

As Nick explained in his article, the points per value for defenders in particular was a notable trend from last year, with it looking a cannier approach to get in Marcos Alonso at 6.5 rather than spending that amount on a midfielder.

This “hourglass” team value distribution curve is undoubtedly drawing admirers, but it will be interesting to see how many will experiment with it for a while yet shy away and revert to 3-4-3 once the season begins.

I personally have a back three, with the whole set up being Cedric (Nick’s convinced me to look at him) or Bertrand Trippier Dawson / Dunk 4.0, but I will have a look to see what I can build with 4 at the back next time I mess around with it, maybe even including “boring, boring” Milner, just so I can get a feel for how well that set up sits with me.

2/ 3-5-2 lost in a third striker deadzone

So they’ve been pretty savage with 3-5-2ers this year, with the cheapest striker I think we’d reasonable expect to play being Tammy Abraham (we looked at him here, prior to launch) at 5.5. There doesn’t seem to be an Adama Diomande character who is looking like he’ll be starting at 4.5 for a benched forward slot, with the likes of Daryl Murphy (NEW) and Ashley Fletcher (WHU) perhaps attracting disproportionate attention during preseason in case Rafa or Billic decide to give them a chance.

I did talk about opening with a 3-5-2, but, given the strong case for a good defence and also the lack of 4.5 3rd strikers who will play, I don’t think I can any more. I’m also worried it’s the recency effect in action, with my brain’s tendency to remember only very recent events perhaps emphasising the success I had with 3-5-2 in response to last season’s pricing meta compared to the usual 3-4-3. This sounds all well and good, but this was last season and this is a whole new blank page. This caused me to try to mess around a bit to debias myself and, bearing in mind the deadzone for cheap strikers (I mentioned Tomer Hemed at Brighton on the pod too, at 5.0 one to monitor), I feel like the risk of only have one playing bencher is a little too great early in the season, meaning that 3-5-2 is probably not really an option for now

Losing that 1.0 and paying 5.5 for a third striker, despite my dreadful prior history with them – cf. Salomon Rondon the blanktastic woodwork-bothering twit – means I’m considering other formations. I’ve defaulted to 3-4-3 again at the moment, preferring to pay 4.5 for Ruben Loftus-Cheek (mentioned below) as a 4th midfielder with Ritchie, for now, on the bench. Ritchie could become a 4.5 like new Watford signing Nat Chalobah or even just a 2pt “heir to Fletch” (Tom Carroll at Swansea or Jack Cork at Burnley look the two if you want that) to enable me to upgrade Tammy.

We’ll no doubt see 3-5-2 emerging as a formation option later in the season as prices rise and fall, and I’ll try to consider it on merit each time rather than let my positive feelings towards it guide my decisions.

3/ Trippiering up at the back

Time for a Trip!

The sale of Kyle Walker to Manchester City meant that many managers went onto their FPL accounts and transferred in Spurs right back Kieran Trippier straight away at 5.5. Mimicking his now ex-team mate’s price last season, Trippier – who finished the season with a flourish, registering well in the final Gameweeks – has the chance to make a mockery of his pricetag, and it looks like he can step up.

This could mean that Trippier – whose ownership on 15th July stands at 13.5% – becomes part of the majority of “involved” FPL managers’ squads. There have been a great many squads already including the right back from the very beginning and I’d only expect that to continue.

4/ Room for Kun?

Sorry mate

Neither of us can see past having Kane and Kaku in our front twos, which as a consequence that Kun is precluded (barring some sort of full frontal, all out balls out 4-3-3) from our lineups.

For me, I spoke about it on the pod and I just feel like it’s a tough choice that has to be made. As with 3-5-2, I’ve got to let go on my fond memories of Aguero – 5 goal Aguero, captain fantastic Aguero, AGUERRROOO! – and try to look at it rationally.

Kane finished last season with 29 goals, has scored an average of 25 goals a season over the last 3 seasons and has scored an average of 209 points per season. What makes last season’s haul all the more astonishing is that he did it – including a blitz of goals over the final two gameweeks – in just 30 appearances. People have said “oh yeah but Kane doesn’t score in August” and yes, the past performances would suggest that to be a viable view. However, it ignores the context: Kane was playing international football those last two summers, and resultantly had a very limited time to rest and recuperate. This season, he’s had a full summer off and will, in our view, be raring to go. Spurs will inevitably grow into Wembley, too.

The case for Kaku is a case of fixtures and form. As Ed noted in our fix up look sharp article on United, his shot accuracy was superior to Zlatan’s last year, and may, given the amount more chances he will be supplied at United compared to Everton, see red Rom race Kane for the golden boot once more and perhaps better his 25-goal haul last season. At 174 points per season over 5 seasons, he is only just below Kun’s average of 177 points per season, and 3 below his average goals per season at 17 to Kun’s 20. However at a superior team  we’re backing Kaku to get the next level. He also loves to play West Ham, United’s opponents in Gameweek 1 – he’s scored 9 against them, the most he’s scored against any team – meaning the combination of that, United’s kind opening schedules and the home game at Old Trafford is too tasty for me to resist. The armband is on – and I imagine will be staying on – Kaku. Currently in almost 1 in 2 teams, I think I’m riding that herd mentality of owning and captaining all the way to GW1. Nick is (madly, in my view) on Kane currently.

The upshot of this is that Kun has no place in our teams at the moment. It’s just that the other two options are simply a bit better, not that he is a bit worse or we rate him any less. At 11.5, the 1.5m deduction I think acknowledges the rotation minefield that could ensue at City, with Pep having to fit Kun, Jesus, KdB, B & D Silva, Sane, Sterling, Fernandinho, Yaya and the returning Gundogan in midfield and up top.  I have KdB myself, who is shockingly consistent. He got 199 last season and, as I worked out on the article prospecting the prospects of Bernardo Silva, the season before appeared in just 25 games according to WhoScored, achieving 131 points in FPL. This translates into a 5.24ppg would have seen him return, if he’d played 38 games… 199 points all over again! A massive 7 assists in the last 5 gameweeks – a ludicrous 21 overall – also serve as convincers.

I may well be wrong, but I don’t think I – nor Nick – are going to recant the Kane/Kaku two to build our teams around all of which ultimately means there’s no room in the inn for our beloved Kun.

5/ Let the bandwagons commence

We’ve already seen the proliferation of new Crystal Palace man Ruben Loftus Cheek as a 4.5 pick in many sides, either as the 5th midfielder or even starting in some squads.  I’m one who currently has him in my XI as a possible punt ahead of the nice opening home fixture with Huddersfield. Matt Ritchie is benched, given my ownership of Kane/Trippier. I’ve gotten on this earliest of bandwagons, with the possibility of a 4.5 enabler actually delivering some points above appearance a really nice shout at this early stage of our line up iterations.

I’m personally on the fence about RLC, despite owning him. The first consideration is the market’s volatility with the high amount of activity at the beginning with the peak of managers being active. If he doesn’t start for Palace, he could quickly be threatened with a price drop – an effect that only snowballs. Would I want to spend an early FT – or even a hit – in Gameweek 1 to protect my team value? I’m sure may would. Another issue against him is that Frank de Boer has said he wasn’t sure where the new boy will be deployed, which could, if he ends up at DM, posit him as a solid 2 point man (the “heir to Fletcher”, as Jack Cork and Tom Carroll are) rather than a 4.5 asset delivering points like Capoue was last year. The Dutchman said:

“He’s an attacking midfielder obviously, but with his attacking ability he could also be used as a sitting midfielder…We will have to see what is the best position for him and also what will be the best for the team.”

(quoted by

We’ll see bandwagons continue to ripple through the FPL community as we trundle towards the opening weekend, and have already seen the early signs of another forming with a possible Aaron Ramsey wagon spotted (is it 2013 all over again?), due to a goal in pre-season against Western Sydney Warriors and reports that he was “bombing forward”. The mention on the ScoutCast also seems to have driven some interest. I noticed this on one forum and within mere minutes saw Ramsey appearing in teams posted on Twitter. I’d witnessed the bandwagon start to roll.

We don’t know if these bandwagons will continue – I’d imagine 2 or 3 goals against luminaries of the footballing world akin to WSW will send some in the community into hysterical ecstasy – but they can be ones to watch, especially with no price rises currently.

Players like Ramsey are that toxic mix of being under-priced, having memorable stretches of past form and therefore presumably having the potential to return great points per value. That 7.0 pricetag, if Ramsey is indeed playing in an advanced role, is plucked from obscurity to suddenly seem very alluring.

However, I think we should temper our enthusiasm a little bit and see who else pops – and, invariably, others will pop – so we don’t become prisoners to confirmation bias (where you focus on evidence that proves a hypothesis you believe in, often discounting evidence to the contrary) and zero in on Ramsey if other alternatives are also looking chipper.

I do like Ramsey actually, for purely selfish reasons in that I think I’d like to have a player in the opening Friday night game, and will definitely keep monitoring him. I did say on the pod I might avoid Arsenal early on, but the factor of having some FPL involvement as the season kicks off could well see me plump for our Welsh wizard.

But I’ll try not to get sucked in to every bit of hype, despite apparently having done so above; I’m always mindful that for every Josh King there’s a Ilkay Gundogan.