Saturday, August 2, 2014

All Things FPL Owner Statement - Tommy McMaster

Mission Statement: 

All Things FPL is a Fantasy Football website designed to give the best tips, advice, guides, statistics and tools we can possibly manage. This is all driven by our motivation to give you the best opportunity to achieve your goals and quests when you embark on your fantasy football season

Hi Fantasy Managers,

From all at we would like to take advantage of this opportunity to say hello. We are a Fantasy Football site solely dedicated to the best fantasy game around; Fantasy Premier League (FPL) and devote ourselves to provide the best resource around to aid fantasy managers. Founded in May 2013 by myself, quality rather than quantity of our content has been key to what we do and fantasy managers have responded kindly as the site saw incredible growth in our first season covering FPL. A 600% increase in readers was the result throughout the season. However there's no rest at "ATFPL" as we embrace the forthcoming season with some major enhancements for fantasy managers to enjoy which I will go into detail later on. To meet the demand we have grown as a group to a head count of 10 of which we come from all walks of life spanning the globe from Australia to America, Iceland to South Africa, India to the UK with one common drive; to do our best for our users. We believe to meet this aim we have to invest heavily in features for fantasy managers to exploit. This had led us to agreeing a three year contract with the number one online sports statistics provider OPTA Sports to deliver Premier League statistics designed and presented with Fantasy Football in mind. These tools have trickled out during the summer months with the end completion date set for Gameweek 1. Rest assured our final content and delivery method will not only be the best resource on the internet but also be the only fantasy football tailored Premier League statistics provider that offers this service for FREE for 2014. 

Our second objective for the site is to become the most comprehensive news resource around for fantasy managers. With this in mind we have extended our gameweek publications schedule to include several news related series be them injuries, reaction to events, transfers or team news to allow our users to be on the pulse of All Things Fantasy Premier League. Whatever news has happened and affects fantasy managers, we aim to cover it and cover to our exacting standards. Rest assured if it's not mentioned on this season, you don't need to know about it. This addition to our schedule has seen our gameweek publications grow to a confirmed 17 articles per standard gameweek, ranging from Gameweek Previews to Reviews, Player Differentials to Captaincy analysis or our Fantasy Football Watchlist to Club Fixture analysis. 

Our third objective is interaction. Interaction from the Fantasy Football community is crucial and opinions matter from every FPL player. To develop this users can access the comments boards on every article published as well as relaxing in our members lounge discussing the main talking points, pointing fellow fantasy managers to any statistical work of interest within the members area or just having a good friendly chat with fellow like-minded individuals who all have one common interest; Fantasy Football. Be sure our contributors are on hand to discuss throughout the season. To further increase this growing aspect of the site, the community can benefit from two members leagues, five head to head competition leagues and a cup knock-out competition. All combined a total grand prize pot of £2000 is available to the winners; the biggest fantasy premier league prize pot around. 

In summary, a fantasy manager that chooses to make their home for Fantasy Football for the 2014/15 season will have access to;

·  Player differentials article per gameweek for fantasy managers to find those hidden gems
·  The Fantasy Football Watchlist where form and fixtures are taken into account to show our top eight players in each position for fantasy managers to consider in any given gameweek.
·  Two Fixture analysis articles looking at both the top 4 clubs and worse 4 clubs in terms of their next six fixtures so you can plan ahead.
·  What We Learned, Gameweek review service
·  Friday Foreplay, Gameweek preview service
·  Be in the know - Team news
·  Fantasy Premier League news every weekday
·  Gameweek opinion. A list of five key areas a fantasy manager should scout while watching the weekend action
·  Two members only articles - Captain foresight, our captains pick article and our Weekend Notes picking out the best statistical displays from the gameweek
·  The ATFPL squad picks where we follow our own squad. We don't hide and live or die depending on the success of this team. It finished inside the top 0.5% of fantasy managers last season
·  Full blown Season Ticker where fantasy managers can either use our default values or customise the ticker to use your own thinking
·  A Player Price change predictor
·  A Predict my Score Tool to "Rate my team" against our predicted fantasy football points for each available player
·  A Player Comparison Tool to allow fantasy managers to compare two players directly against each other statistically
·  A Members Area Gameweek Match Zone showing exactly what happened in every 2014/15 season game played
·  Fantasy Football Numbers Zone showing key FPL statistics such as Points per game, home/away/overall, points per 90 minutes, number of clean sheets etc
·  Four Members Area OPTA Zones. Defensive, Creativity, Goal Threat and Positional information with every Premier League statistic needed by a fantasy manager. How many shots on target did player X have or how many touches of the ball in the final third did player Y have? the answer is now available.
·  OPTA Members Area Form Zone allowing fantasy managers to easily see which players are in form and those who aren't
·  Full interaction with the Fantasy Football community in our Members Lounge and comments board
·  £2000 prize pot to our members
·  8 leagues and 1 cup competition available to compete in
So why go anywhere else for your Fantasy Premier League needs?

Good luck for the season and your mini leagues,

Tommy McMaster
In Tommy We Trust
Founder and Chief Editor

Saturday, July 20, 2013

To Rotate or Not to Rotate - That is the Question (GK)

What's this Goalkeeper Rotation Strategy All About, Anyway?
Curiosity killed the cat.  That should be the subtitle of this article.  Most of the FPL lessons I've learned have been learned just a little too late.  Last year, my goalkeeper strategy ended up being laughable.  If it didn't take up too much space in this article and didn't make me look like such a complete idiot, I'd describe it and give you all a nice laugh.  Instead, I will tell you that I didn't know much about a goalkeeper rotation strategy until after last season ended and the creatures of the FPL world came stumbling out of their caves and started discussing season strategy in earnest over the past three weeks or so.

I unconsciously always "kinda" had a strategy in mind, but it was always something along the lines of "Well shit, what if __________ gets hurt and doesn't play; what the hell am I gonna do!?!"  That was about the extent of it.  Then a few weeks ago, as I started to dig deeper into "real" strategies to start the season with, I saw some mention of this goalkeeper rotation strategy, mostly focused on the idea of finding two budget keepers with a favorable home and away rotation schedule.  I had two immediate reactions.  The first was, "Brilliant; why didn't I think of that before!?"  The second was, "Wait a second, could that really work?"
My second question was brought on by the fact that when it comes to FPL, I more or less ascribe to the chaos theory; that anything can and will happen despite our best use of logic and rationale.  How else do you explain Jonathan Walters scoring two own goals and missing a penalty in one game last year or the fact that Ali Al-Habsi scored more than twice as many points in away fixtures than he did in home fixtures during the first 20 gameweeks of last season?
When it comes to a strategy of rotating keepers, my mind starts going crazy, mainly because rotating keepers involves something with the goalkeeping position that I don't like to spend much time on each gameweek; deciding on one keeper vs the other.  FPL is unpredictable enough as it is.  I've seen so many games where, expecting a team at home and in good form to win handily, I've been disappointed to see them lose.  Yes, the Readings of the world can march into the Etihad and put a spanking on the City boys just as easily as Guzan can save a penalty and grab a tenner at home to United.
In my mind, the concept of rotating keepers and relying on the home team keeper to have a better game than the away team keeper was fraught with conflict and uncertainty.  The concept made sense, but FPL addicts have short memories, and mine are full of gameweeks last season where I played the conventional wisdom of relying on home defenders who came up short, both against strong AND weak opponents, while my mini league rival snapped up a clean sheet with their Reading defender playing away to a much stronger team.   This worried me.  A lot.  With two keepers, one playing home and one playing away, I was scared at how many points I could potentially lose by picking the wrong guy and having a bucketload of points sitting on my bench.  The pain that that would cause was almost unthinkable.

So, with this new seemingly logical concept of a home/away budget goalkeeping strategy battling it out inside my head with my intuitive skepticism, I did what most people afflicted with crazy amounts of FPL curiosity would do; I created graphs and charts and spent way too much time over the past week going back through last year's stats to put this theory to the test.  After all, the difference in many mini leagues could be 15-20 points; a spread that easily could be covered by a good goalkeeping strategy vs the preposterously stupid approach I used last year.

My Research Approach

To test things out, I started by looking at the 20 goalkeepers who started gw1 during last year's 2012-2013 EPL season.  I used the assumption that most everyone utilizing a home/away rotation strategy were doing so to save important season-starting budget money, therefore I only looked at rotation combinations that would require an outlay of 9.5m or less.  I also only focused on the first 20 gameweeks of the season, figuring that this strategy starts out as primarily a way to make it to the January wildcard, where widespread changes could be made and the strategy could be changed if it wasn't working.

The first thing I looked at were how many games each of the gw1 starters played in during the first 20 gameweeks of last season.  The results were a little surprising.  Of the 20 keepers who started last year's season, the number of games each played in the first 20 weeks were as follows:

<10        3     Given, Green, Davis
10-15     7     Szczesny, Ruddy, Vorm, Federici, Friedel, DeGea, Foster
15-19     5     Schwarzer, Reina, Krul, Jaaskelainen, Cech
20          5     Mignolet, Begovic, Al-Habsi, Hart, Howard

This scared me right off the bat.  Relying on the home/away rotation strategy looked daunting considering that only half of the keepers who started the season featured in 15 or more games during the first 20 of the season.  That already meant that 10 of the keepers would have had to have been transferred out or you'd be left with one reliable keeper, essentially throwing out the home/away strategy.

So I then focused on the 8 keepers who played in 19-20 games during the first 20 gameweeks last season.  They were Mignolet, Schwarzer, Begovic, Jaaskelainen, Al-Habsi, Cech, Hart and Howard.  Only 5 of these 8 were priced at 5.0 or less, which meant they were the only 5 whose combinations I could look at to truly see how a home/away strategy would have worked last year.

Before getting into the detail of the specific keepers and the combinations that I would review, I looked at overall 20-game statistics for all of the keepers.  What I found there made this strategy look even less likely to come up with results that would impress me.  Here are a few quick stats that jumped out at me.  When looking specifically at the 20 keepers who started gw1 last year, there were 1,005 total points accumulated amongst them from gw1 to gw20.  Of those 1,005 total points, 534 were tallied by the home keeper, with 471 scored by the visitor.  That's a 53.13% to 46.87% spread; not exactly a stat that would cause you to jump on the home/away bandwagon.  All in all, home keepers averaged 3.543 points per game played vs 3.171 points per game played for the away keepers. At a difference of a little less than 0.4 pts per game, you're looking at an 8 point swing over the course of 20 games.  Not crazy exciting, is it?

Despite how the raw data looked, I still had not looked at how any of the data applied to the specific home/away rotation combinations that involved the 5 keepers in my study.  That was my next step.  What results would I find?  Whatever they were, I sure hoped they were worth the crazy amount of time that I had spent combing through the numbers AND the crazy amount of time you're spending following along with me through this lengthy article (if in fact you are still around - and I wouldn't blame you if you weren't; but hell, I did the research and I'm gonna follow it through;).

The Testing and The Results (Please Bear With Me)

Ok, so now it was crunch time.  Time to put this home/away goalkeeping strategy to the test.  Looking at the 5 keepers who were priced 5.0 or less, who could combine to create home/away strategies priced 9.5m or less, and who included only those keepers playing in at least 19 of the first 20 games, I had 7 potential combinations to look at.  They were:


My approach for the test was simple.  Using a strict home/away strategy, I determined that for gameweeks where one keeper played at home and the other played away, the home keeper would be used automatically (why else would a home/away strategy be used?).  For gameweeks in which both keepers played at home or both keepers played away, I selected the keeper who had the easier fixture based on my understanding and recollection of last season's form, table, etc. 

Here is how things panned out:


# of games allowing for home/away rotation:     7/20
# of games away keeper scored more points:      1/7
Points lost:                                                            2
Total Points:                                                          87
Cash Outlay:                                                         9.5m
Value:                                                                   9.158

# of games allowing for home/away rotation:     15/20
# of games away keeper scored more points:      6/15
Points lost:                                                           18
Total Points:                                                         87
Cash Outlay:                                                         9.5
Value:                                                                   9.158

# of games allowing for home/away rotation:     12/20
# of games away keeper scored more points:      5/12
Points lost:                                                           15
Total Points:                                                        76
Cash Outlay:                                                        9.5
Value:                                                                  8.000

# of games allowing for home/away rotation:    7/20
# of games away keeper scored more points:     3/7
Points lost:                                                          6
Total Points:                                                       68
Cash Outlay:                                                       9.5
Value:                                                                 7.158

Al Habsi/Begovic:
# of games allowing for home/away rotation:    12/20
# of games away keeper scored more points:     7/12
Points lost:                                                          31
Total Points:                                                       61
Cash Outlay:                                                       9.5
Value:                                                                 6.421

Al Habsi/Jaaskelainen:
# of games allowing for home/away rotation:   9/20
# of games away keeper scored more points:    3/9
Points lost:                                                         10
Total Points:                                                       73
Cash Outlay:                                                       9.5
Value:                                                                 7.684

# of games allowing for home/away rotation:    20/20
# of games away keeper scored more points:     9/20
Points lost:                                                          43
Total Points:                                                       79
Cash Outlay:                                                       9.0
Value:                                                                 8.778

The Results
So, we've made it this far.  I now had enough data to compare a strict set of home/away rotation combinations against the "find a guy you like and stick with him for every game" strategy; or as I sometimes like to refer to as the "big guy and nobody" approach.  Based on last year's data, here are some comparisons to look at:
(Please excuse the formatting; I still am having a tough time with this on the Blogger app)

  Goalkeepers                              Total Points              Cash Outlay                    Value

Begovic/nobody                               91                              8.5                              10.706
Mignolet/Begovic                             87                              9.5                                9.158
Mignolet/Jaaskelainen                     87                              9.5                                9.158
Jaaskelainen/nobody                        76                              8.5                               8.941
Mignolet/nobody                             79                              9.0                                8.778
Jaaskelainen/Begovic                      79                              9.0                                8.778
Schwarzer/Begovic                         76                               9.5                               8.000
Al Habsi/Jaaskelainen                     73                               9.5                               7.684
Cech/nobody                                   77                              10.5                              7.333
Schwarzer/Jaaskelainen                   68                              9.5                               7.158
Schwarzer/nobody                           63                              9.0                                7.000
Al Habsi/Begovic                            61                              9.5                                 6.421
Hart/nobody                                     70                              11.0                               6.364

These results leave me with a number of reactions.  First and foremost, it does seem that a home/away rotation strategy does seem to work better than picking one of the elite keepers and leaving them to their own devices.  Finding a cheap guy who has an exceptional year, as was the case for Begovic, is pretty much a good stroke of luck but one that I'm sure was received joyfully by those who picked him as their sole keeper last year.  The key seems to be finding low to mid priced guys who can be effective and either rotating them or relying on them to shoulder the load and peform the way that Jaaskelainen and Mignolet did last year (at least to get you through to the January wildcard).

Sadly for me, if you can withstand the gutpunches that will come as your away keeper outscores your home guy, the rotation strategy looks like a pretty good option, and one that I wil look at more closely as I put my squad together over the next couple of weeks.

The debates surrounding this strategy will continue, and each FPL manager will probably be able to find empirical data to support the way that they want to go.  Begovic's standout start and Al-Habsi's unlikely tally of 40 away points to 19 home points during the first half of last season are two pieces of data that could easily sway you away from the home/away rotation strategy, but the fact that home/away rotation strategies accounted for 2 of the top 3 point tallies in my test also shows that the rotation can work effectively.

In another interesting twist, it was odd to me that the Jaaskelainen/Begovic rotation option allowed for every single one of the first 20 games of the season to be played with a home/away rotation approach.  It was set up PERFECTLY for the home/away rotation.  However, a total of 43 points were lost when the away keeper outscored the home keeper, and the combination also resulted in 12 less points than Begovic scored on his own and only 3 more points than Jussi scored on his own.  Interesting to say the least.

At the end of the day, we'll all probably go with our gut anyway.

Okay, time for me to finally do some tinkering.. good luck everyone!
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P.S. Thanks for bearing with the inconsistent formatting.  I will clean that up later, along with adding some graphics. If you have any advice for me on how to fix formatting issues on please send them on.  It seems to have a mind of its own sometimes.... Cheers!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Here Comes the FPL Season - Are You Ready? (Thank You to my Twitter friends)

Wow..this is a biggie.  We're days away from the Fantasy Premier League season officially "starting", as the 2013-2014 prices get set and the 2.5 million members of FPL nation stop what they're doing and spread the word in droves, tweeting about bargain defenders, the astronomically high price of bringing RVP into your team, and wondering what everyone else is deciding; especially their perennial mini league rivals.
My introduction to FPL was memorable.  It was about a week and a half before the 2011-2012 season started and some friends of mine invited me to join their "mini-league".  I had no idea what the hell that meant, but abandoned the ESPN game I had played for the past two years and joined.  I put most of my team together, but like most people, had a few changes I wanted to make the day before the season started.  Haha.  The afternoon before the EPL/FPL season started I went to log in.... NOTHING.  Thank God I had put my team in place and only had a few changes I wanted to make, because NO ONE got into the site that day as far as I crashed and people who hadn't put their teams together at all were completely SOL; as the site did not come back up until after the deadline for GW1 had passed!  The FPL site apologized up and down, letting most leagues "restart" at GW2 and giving everyone a "free" WC to use between GW1 and GW2.  But the damage had been done.  I was not feeling all that great about FPL at that point.  As far as I was concerned, the problem had cast a dark cloud over the entire season, and having had no problems with the ESPN game the two prior seasons, over the entire FPL game itself.
Last year things were different.  Remembering the difficulties of the 2011-2012 season, I made a conscious effort to do my homework and prepare early.  Unfortunately for me, I was still a beginner, and my "homework" meant little more than buying a membership to Fantasy Football Scout, combing the Members Only section for player projections, and using the season-long projections as part of the basis for my gw1 squad selection.  It was the best I had at the time.  I spent hours on it; creating a spreadsheet showing almost every EPL player, their week by week projections, their starting prices, and their expected Points to Price ratios. I naively felt like I had really put a lot of thought into this all-important decision and that my mini-league rivals would be put to shame.
What a difference a year makes.  I'm still relatively a beginner, and I continue to learn more all the time.  Since finding Fantasy Football Scout and using it as the sole source of information and "scouting" to help in determining my 2012-2013 FPL squad, I joined Twitter last year and my experience with FPL changed entirely.  Instead of being an outsider almost a world away, sneaking momentary glimpses of the English Premier League through my tv set on Saturdays and Sundays and through the American studio hosts who also were almost a world away in both geography and understanding, I was actually talking to people IN ENGLAND; people who could go to an EPL game across town whenever they wanted.  For the first time ever, and through the medium that only Twitter could provide, I felt like the English Premier League was something that I was a PART OF.

I can't overemphasize the difference in how that felt.  It's like the difference between reading a history book about a Beatles concert and going back in time and being at the concert.  Twitter put me in touch with people who walked past the stadiums I watched on tv every day; people who experienced the world I watched through my television and could tell me what it was really like.  When a game-changing event happened on my tv, the very same afternoon I could read tweets from people who were right there at the game and who could tell me all about the things that can't be communicated through a television crew and a still camera.  It was as close as I could ever come to actually being there; and it was AWESOME.

I am forever indebted to my UK friends for bringing this world so much closer to me, and for teaching me things about FPL that I couldn't have learned otherwise.  The majority of people in America cannot fathom what being a football fanatic is like or even means.  Sadly, absent a few friends who understand what it's all about and fewer still who have agreed to come to a pub to watch a game or two, being a football fan in America is a solitary pursuit, but a pursuit shared with like-minded friends on Twitter quite easily.

Ok, so here we go with year 3.  Incrementally speaking it's only a one year difference, but experientially speaking this year feels different.  Sharing my passion for EPL/FPL with so many people who "live" EPL/FPL has been a game changer for me.  Unfortunately though, all of the great stuff I've learned through talking to so many knowledgeable fans has made FPL harder.  I've seen enough marginal players scoring or creating fantastic goals that it's easy to see many of them "going off" and "reaching their potential" or "having a breakout year".

The FPL site is rumored to be reset soon, and 2.5 million of us are going to be going absolutely crazy.  Twitter will be knocked off its hinges by all of us letting each other know that the site has gone live, updating each other with bargain price defenders, startup prices for players newly transferred into the EPL, players who have moved from one team to another, or who came in during last year's January transfer window and whose price is now "adjusted".

People say that very little work gets done on New Years Eve.  I would venture to bet that the day the FPL site "opens for business" is right up there and could give New Year's Eve a run for its money.  By all accounts it's only a few days away and will feel like Christmas in July.  I am not only extremely excited, I am also extremely grateful and thankful for Twitter and more importantly, all of my FPL fanatic friends who share my passion and graciously grant me a window into the world that I otherwise would only be able to see through my television screen.

Thanks to all of you who have welcomed the Yank and have helped me feel like I'm right there with you.  It's been amazing.

If you are new to FPL and are looking for helpful, enthusiastic, knowledgeable fans and players to learn from, please "follow" all 50 of the Twitter accounts that are included in my Twitter EPL/FPL list.  You can find them all right here; and they will not disappoint you:

I will follow up shortly with an FPL strategy article, exploring some of the questions that we all ask ourselves as we put together the 15-man squad that will set the tone of our FPL season.  Until then, CHEERS everyone....a heartfelt THANK YOU goes out to all of you; and you know who you are.


Please follow me on Twitter

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Mid-Summer FPL Status Report

It's agonizing, right? We're smack dab in the middle of the off-season, the official #FPL site has gone dark, the transfer window is officially open for business, and the only certainty is that there are roughly 2.5 million people sitting on the edge of their seats with all questions and no answers.

After sitting back and thinking for a moment, there are actually some things we do know, but they too are really only things we know about the past and the present; not the future.  These things too, as they relate to the FPL season to come, also lead directly to one place; more questions.

When it all boils down to it, there are three distinct variables that connect last season's FPL season with the season we all now anticipate. They are:

1) What happened last year
2) What has happened since the season ended
3) What is going to happen between today and August 17

What Happened Last Year

Wouldn't it be great if last season's performance was a direct indicator of how players would perform this year? I have no statistics to correlate one season's performance to the next, but it's only natural to look to the Van Persie's and the Michu's and the Bale's and the Lambert's and the Gerrard's and the Mata's and the Jaaskelainen's - Jasskelainen!?!? - to pay rich dividends this time around as well.

But what about the guys who came on strong at the end of last season? What about Coutinho and Sturridge and Kagawa and Lukaku? Will the strong end to the season carry forward through the long summer and into the first few fixtures of the season to come?

Although it's easy to assume that that is the case, things have definitely changed and will continue to change over the coming month and a half.  But just how much? Enough to make last season's statistics a mistaken indicator of what's to come? New managers, new players coming and going, World Cup qualifiers, Confederations Cup, pre-season tours, time off on holiday, stress surrounding potential contract extensions or transfer rumours. All of these things affect a player's outlook, attitude, and ability to gel with a new squad or manager. Some players are affected positively and some players are affected negatively.

How much will last year's performance influence the 15 guys you select to start your 2013-2014 FPL season with? Many FPL managers will struggle with this thought over the next 41 days, and I will be right there with you.

What's Happened Since the Season Ended

For all intents and purposes, the 2012-2013 English Premier League season ended quietly. Manchester United had long ago wrapped up their title and the bottom of the table was all but sorted. May 19, 2013 seems like forever ago.

Since then, 5 teams have undergone managerial changes - with 4 of them being in the top 6 sides. That leaves Arsene Wenger and Andre Villas-Boas as the only two managers in the top 6 to be leading their sides into the next campaign. Everyone else - Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea and Everton - all have managerial transitions to endure and the inevitable acclimitization period that such a change inherently brings with it. Make no mistake about it, these changes will impact these clubs as the new season gets underway. Don't forget DiCanio and Sunderland either - he has caused quite a stir both inside and outside the club with his sometimes unorthodox approach to managing professional football players.

In addition to the managerial changes and full-scale club transitions that they involve, there have been 101 confirmed transfers since the season ended on May 19. Of those 101 confirmed transfers, 43 have involved players moving into the EPL from a different league, 51 have involved players leaving the EPL, and 7 have involved players being transferred from one EPL team to another.  Keep in mind that the large majority of these 101 confirmed transfers have been confirmed during the past 6 days!

Notable transfers that may affect your FPL outlook as we make our way through the summer include:

Carroll from Liverpool to West Ham
Mignolet from Sunderland to Liverpool
Sanogo to Arsenal
Ratt to West Ham
Figueroa to Hull City
van Wolfswinkel to Norwich
Stekelenburg to Fulham
Navas to Manchester City
Fernandinho to Manchester City
Schurrle to Chelsea
Amat to Swansea
Kolo Toure from Manchester City to Liverpool
McGregor to Hull City
Mannone from Arsenal to Sunderland
Shelvey from Liverpool to Swansea
Anelka to West Brom
Van Ginkel to Chelsea
Paulinho to Tottenham

Again we're left with more questions than answers.

Which Carroll will show up for West Ham this season, having finally settled somewhere he feels wanted? Will Mannone start for Sunderland?  How will Schurrle and Van Ginkel fit in at Chelsea? Will Fulham's defense improve and make Stekelenburg a viable FPL option in goal?

How will Fernandinho and Navas slot in at City and where does that leave Dzeko, who conceivably would benefit greatly from Navas' ability to jet down the wing and lob crosses into the big man week after week? How will Shelvey's move affect last year's Newcomer of the Year, Mr. Michu, and his position on the pitch? What does Paulinho's move mean for Tottenham's midfield, specifically Sigurdsson, who was used sparingly following a pre-season full of significant hype following the arm-wrestling match between Rodgers and Villas-Boas?

How will Moyes respond to the unenviable scrutiny of following the most celebrated manager in the history of the English top division? How will the players respond? How will Martinez keep Everton's momentum going with the 3-4-3 formation he seems intent on installing (Seamus Coleman anyone?) How will the circus act that was Chelsea fan's relationship with their manager play out this year, now that the Chosen One has returned to the team he "has always loved"? Will Pellegrini bring stability to the clubhouse of millionaires that make up the Manchester City squad? What will happen to the poor Sunderland souls who are caught with any variation of sugar, natural form or not, pulsing through their systems following DiCanio's institution of modernly bizarre team rules?

How will new boys Cardiff City, Crystal Palace and Hull City fare? Are they worth investing in at any position?

It's only July 6. There are 41 days left until the season begins on August 17. Given the questions raised by the moves made to date and the changes that will have each of our heads spinning, there is still so much more to come that may completely change our approach to the new FPL season.

What Will Happen Between Now and August 17

The greatest league of the most popular sport in the world is never short of excitement. With no games being played there is really only one thing to keep the thousands of journalists whose careers revolve around the Premier League in business; transfer rumors. Log onto Twitter for 30 seconds and you're bound to run across a handful or a dozen of them.  It's what keeps the EPL world spinning on its axis between May and August. And the rumors are flying fast and furious.

The Thiago Alcantara move to Manchester United has been "confirmed" multiple times since shortly before he led Spain to the UEFA Under-21 European Championships earlier this summer. If that move ever materializes, coupled with Moyes' insistence that Rooney is going to stay at ManU this season, where does that leave those of us convinced that Kagawa finally seemed like he was beginning to settle in as a long-awaited and much-needed consistent midfield Manchester United FPL option as the season unfolded?

Will the John Ruddy rumored move to Chelsea materialize? Where will that leave Norwich? What in the world is going to happen with Suarez? Will the Higuain deal to Arsenal finally go through, and which Gonzalo will show up if it does?

And these are only the rumors we know about now! Many more will come, and unfortunately for those of us who are unsettled by this fact, the transfer window will stay open right up until gw3 of the coming season. I hate that!

So for now, there is a lot that we know, a lot that we don't know, and a lot that we don't yet know we don't know. The next 6 weeks are going to be a roller coaster; a roller coaster that many of us secretly enjoy because it includes the final pieces of the puzzle that all stews together in mid August to give us all of the information we'll have available to us for that all-important few days prior to August 17 when we finish fiddling, complete our tinkering, say a final good luck prayer, and click CONFIRM TEAM.

Enjoy it FPL'ers....I know I will.


Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Adios Carlitos - A Fond FPL Farewell?

You've probably read the news by now.  Little Carlitos "I don't want to warm-up" Tevez has agreed a move to Italian giants Juventus because "they wanted him more" than AC Milan did.  He leaves behind a newly reorganized Manchester City squad that drove FPL managers bonkers last year as crazy-man Roberto Mancini played musical chairs with virtually every position on the pitch.

Personally, Mancini scared me away from so many City players during #FPL season that Tevez's move away came as a breath of fresh air to me when I heard everything was finalized.  After initially admiring the work rate and tenacity Tevez showed following his move to Manchester United and the way he "stood up" to Sir Alex Ferguson when things went south and he flew the coop across town to City, it gradually dawned on me during his multiple excursions on the wrong side of sanity that it wasn't Sir Alex who had been the problem; it was Carlos.

So seeing Tevez move away initially seemed like just the kind of move that both Manchester City and us #FPL managers needed.  Freed from Mancini's unpredictability, the offloading of Tevez seemingly reduces the rotation risk of City's front line by a full 33% as it leaves those minutes to be filled by Sergio Aguero and/or Edin Dzeko, unless of course a third quality striker is brought in or recalled from loan who Pellegrini decides to drive us equally mad with.  But that remains to be seen.

City's forward rotation was great for City; don't get me wrong.  But it was an #FPL manager's nightmare.  Looking at the statistics from the 2012-2013 season, Mancini actually did a very good job of spreading the minutes around and keeping people fresh when they weren't injured.  Aguero, Tevez and Dzeko averaged 51, 63 and 48 minutes per gameweek respectively, a very even distribution, while scoring 5.6, 6.3 and 6.4 points per 90 minutes each.  On the face of it, Mancini did exactly what he should have done; keeping things fresh and maintaining consistent returns.

Despite the rotation, Tevez finished the year as City's up-front leader in both minutes played and points scored.  From a statistical perspective, he scored 6.35 points per game to Aguero's 5.60 and based on year-end values tallied 18.37 points per million pounds in price compared to Aguero's 10.90.  Financially speaking, Tevez was a bargain.  At 18.84 points per million pounds in price, so was Dzeko.

So maybe, purely from a numbers standpoint, City let the wrong guy leave.  Based purely on statistics, for what it's worth, the Tevez and Dzeko show, based on the 2012-2013 season, is more productive and profitable than an FPL Aguero-Dzeko combination.

When setting the City dynamic to the side and looking at Tevez strictly compared to other FPL forwards in his price bracket (9.2m at season end), he also outscored every forward in the 8.3 - 9.3m bracket quite handily.  Of Torres, Adebayor, Podolski, Carroll and Cisse, only Podolski even comes close to Tevez's points and value statistics.

So we're left, as oftentimes is the case, with a double-edged sword.  When looking at City coverage, Tevez's move to Juventus simplifies things and makes both Aguero and Dzeko much more attractive investments than they were last year (Dzeko statistically would be the guy to pick up due to his points/price ratio, but I have a sneaky suspicion Aguero will have a good year assuming he doesn't get assaulted in the 13th minute of the first fixture like he did last year).  At the same time, Tevez's outstanding performance in the mid-premium price bracket leaves a significant void to be filled by somebody.  Who that person will be is anyone's guess, as Tevez decidedly outperformed everyone else in that bracket last season.

At this point, only one thing is for sure.  Carlitos can show up and caddie at the British Open practice rounds all he wants, but no one will be getting any FPL points from him this time around.  He's going the way of Balotelli and Mancini, and taking all of the pointing, laughing and snickering with him.

Seeya Carlitos.  Good luck.

Please follow me on Twitter:  @EPLFanForLife

Monday, June 24, 2013

More Than Just a Game

So as the pre-season rumor mill keeps on circulating hot air, I thought it an opportune time to introduce myself and help everyone get to know more about this Walt guy behind the Twitter nickname.  Most of my acquaintances know I'm American, that the five hour time difference drives me completely crazy during the EPL season, and that I can get a little over-excited when talking about football in general and FPL in particular (especially when my team tanks and I scream all kinds of obscenities aimed at my team and the EPL squads they play for on Twitter).  Case in point; last season's Liverpool-West Brom match.

Last week I published an article talking about my childhood and upbringing and how I pretty much lived, ate and breathed soccer from the time I was 8 until my sophomore year in college, when I was faced with a difficulty that I have not yet posted about but that I really don't want to get into right now (maybe some other time).  It's impossible to downplay the role that soccer had in shaping my life.  I believe it was the single most important part of my childhood and teen years for many reasons.

First off, it kept me focused and taught me so many amazing life skills.  Through soccer I learned life lessons that often get talked about and poo-pooed but that really make a big difference in someone's life.  A parent or teacher can extoll the virtues of "practice makes perfect" a million times, each one of them going in one ear and out the other.  But put a soccer ball at your feet and what can often be disregarded as an empty life lesson springs to life.

Practice DOES make perfect. It also teaches perseverance.  And luckily I'm stubborn.  I look back at hour after hour and day after day of practice; stubborness; tenacity.  If while practicing juggling I could only get to 30 touches, I set a goal to get to 50.  And then I didn't stop until I got there.  Yeah, it got dark and yeah, there were other things that I could have been doing.  But I didn't want to do other things.  What I wanted more than anything in the world was to get to 50.  And once I got there I wanted to get to 75; then 100; then 200.  When you set a goal like that for yourself and you know that the only thing standing in the way between you and your goal is practice, the practice comes easy.  And so does the feeling of satisfaction when you get there.  The challenge is set and if you set challenges for yourself that can only be achieved by stretching yourself beyond your current capabilities, you not only constantly grow, but you also constantly reinforce belief in yourself.

In that way, growing up with a soccer ball was crazy meaningful.  It had the feeling of a game, but I was really teaching myself life lessons that would become a part of who I am and were instilled in me not by reading and comprehending, or listening and understanding, but by DOING and ACCOMPLISHING.  I had all the evidence I ever needed that if you tried hard enough to accomplish something, you could.  That the only thing standing in my way was the imagination I could use to come up with the next goal and the amount of effort I was willing to put forth to get there.  Good stuff for a little kid to learn.

It also taught me about teamwork.  No matter how good I was (and I was pretty good), there was no way I was going to win a game by myself.  I could influence the game, and oftentimes was able to affect the outcome of the game through my efforts, but I couldn't play all 11 positions at once; I needed my teammates and they needed me.  Because of my tenacity I was hard on my fellow players, but I never expected anything out of them that I didn't also expect from myself.  At times that was a problem, because I expected A LOT out of myself.  Through the hard work of practice and continuing to reach new goals, and through the understanding of how hard I needed to work to reach those goals, I could be a hell of a teammate in both a fun way and a not so fun way.  If I was going to sprint an extra 15 yards to cut off a passing angle, then you sure as shit better do your part and close him down or tighten up on the man you were marking.  I didn't bust my ass just for you to lay back and give the guy an easy outlet and a get out of jail free card.  And it worked both ways.  If I saw you put the effort in to shut down an angle, you bet your ass that I had your back. No question; every time.  To get the ball back, we had to work TOGETHER; in unison with one another.  We had to anticipate; know exactly where the other person was going to go and what they were going to do when they got there.  And I learned that the more you practiced at that with your teammates the better you got at it, and the more successful you were.  Another damn good thing for a person to learn while growing up.

It taught me to be competitive, aggressive and confident.  The most confident times of my life were times out on the soccer pitch; the place I felt most comfortable.  That was my territory; my wheelhouse.  If being good at soccer meant putting in the effort to do all of the things that were necessary to play my position, do my part, and be a part of a team, then I had succeeded before I had already begun, because effort and exertion and TRYING HARD were all firmly within my control; and I NEVER doubted my willingness to leave everything out on the field.  NEVER.

Looking back now, perhaps almost as important as the valuable life lessons I was learning without even realizing it, was the fact that it kept me busy and away from other things.  I never really knew about drugs and alcohol while growing up because they weren't a part of my life and they weren't out on the soccer field.  I had heard about them and heard rumors of people in school doing it, but I was so focused on soccer they never entered my mind and they stayed just that; "ideas" that other people did.  You couldn't get me away from soccer long enough to even turn my attention to them, let alone try and convince me that it would be more fun.  I had all the fun I needed.  I had set my sights on all the goals I ever wanted to accomplish.  If I was juggling 250 touches and wanted to get to 300, there was no way on Earth you could ever convince me that drinking a beer or smoking a cigarette or a joint would be just as fun or worthy of my attention.  I just simply never was tempted.  It was something I vaguely had heard of but was as much a part of my reality as the tooth fairy.

Unfortunately (or fortunately) for those who know me now, these lessons learned through playing the sport I love have stuck with me into adulthood.  I still expect a lot out of myself.  I still expect a lot out of others.  I still get disappointed and mad when I put forth effort towards something I know is the right thing to do and the right way to do it (cutting down that passing angle) and the person I'm working with doesn't put forth the same amount of effort and the finished product does not live up to the standards that I instinctively set.  It causes problems sometimes, because I know that what we end up with is something several levels below what it could be if we all did it thoroughly and properly.

But alas, that is not the subject of this article.

The title I created for my blog a few weeks ago when I set it up was  I didn't know it at the time, and this article has come completely by surprise (I actually sat down intending to write about something else), but in many ways, this is exactly what I wanted to accomplish when starting out.

I'm a parent now, and my children mean more to me than anything else on the face of this Earth.  I learned a lot from playing soccer, and almost everything I ever learned through playing soccer was positive.  THAT is what I want to get across.  THAT is why I am so passionate about the greatest sport in the world.  It's about not only the sport itself, but what it can mean to me individually, what it can mean to my children, and to any of the billions of people who play it and enjoy it around the world.  The details may be different for each of us, and the way that it puts a stamp on our lives may be different for each of us, but it's way more than watching a bunch of guys run around like crazy kicking a round ball.  It's life; and in soccer can be found so much about life that is good and positive and that makes things better for people.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

My Football (Soccer) Story

I remember being 8 years old and crying on my way to soccer registration.  My Mom and Dad thought it'd be a good first sport for me to get involved in.  I'm not sure why, because he was too young to play, but I remember my brother (18 months younger) crying too.  So I cried all the way to registration and was put on a team named The Rangers, coached by Mr. Sullivan; an older man whose main job was to line us up, take a big stick, and knock us in the groin to make sure that we had our "cups" on.

About 3/4 of the way through the very first game I somehow ended up on a breakaway, scored the game-winning goal in the 1-0 game, had Mr. Sullivan put me on his shoulders in victory, and I was hooked for good.  I soon became that kid that none of the other parents like; scoring multiple goals a game while people yelled at the coach to take me out of the game or make me stop.  I just loved it.  I wasn't cocky or arrogant but luckily grew up in a competitive neighborhood with kids who all were into sports and who pushed me and my brother to be as good as we could be.

So soccer quickly became my sport.  I played and practiced as often as I could; running drills and imagining I was one of the New York Cosmos; the team I grew up following and idolizing from the old NASL.  As a 9-year old, thanks to my Mom becoming good friends with someone in her tennis league who had a wealthy husband, we were given tickets in a luxury box (on my brother's birthday no less) to see Pele's last game as Santos came to town to play the Cosmos.  Pele played the first half with the Cosmos (I actually got to see my childhood hero score a goal) and the second half with Santos.  A day I'll never forget.

From that early age I continued to follow the Cosmos as they brought in international superstars like Carlos Alberto, Franz Beckenbauer, Vladislav Bogicevic, and Giorgio Chinaglia.  My dream in life at that time was to one day play for the Cosmos and have a license plate that read "COSMO12"; the number I wore for my travel team.  I never doubted that it would happen: I was too young to think that dreams wouldn't come true.

Then of course the NASL folded. My main outlet became the New York Arrows of the MISL, with stars like Shep Messing, Steve Zungul, and Branko Segota.  I remember Friday nights in middle school when my friends were trying to call me from the movie theatre or wherever they were and I was holed up in my room watching the Arrows play inside a makeshift hockey rink; loving the fact that there was no out of bounds and the ball could be played off the boards.  The smaller space required more skill and better ball control and I appreciated that.

I continued to play in high school, transferring from one high school to another between sophomore and junior years where I had to sit out the first 30 days of the season.  It was brutal but the waiting period was worth it.  I was dedicated, even during the 30 day waiting period, and resisted the urge to party and drink "during the season" even though I would find myself at parties where my teammates decided to have a good time and get wasted.  It was the summer between junior and senior seasons when an amazing stroke of fortune would happen.

Our soccer coach, a young guy just out of college who had played for our school as a student, left for a reason that I can't remember, and was replaced by a man named Rich Hunter.  None of us knew it at the time, but Mr. Hunter had most recently been the Head Coach at the University of Notre Dame; one of the most successful college soccer teams in the country; and here he was coming to our little town to coach the soccer team of St. Rose High School in Belmar, New Jersey.

I was one of the captains and Mr. Hunter had us believing from our summer training at the Silton Soccer Complex that we were capable of good things. The season started out okay and we gelled as the season wore on.  At the County Championships there were 16 teams selected and we just made it.  Seeded 16th, we started off by beating the number 1 seed, Jackson Township, on the way to performing well in the tournament and finding evidence that we could indeed do some pretty damn good things together.

The State Tournament started soon thereafter, and began with Regionals.  Straight off the confidence gained from the County Championships, we put together a string of good games and had fully solidified ourselves as a squad with quality up and down the pitch who were peaking at exactly the right time.  It was during the Regional SemiFinals against St. Joseph's of Metuchen when, in the middle of battling one of their players for a 50-50 ball, two of us leaned down to head a ball at chest level, his head below mine. He jerked his head up quickly and sharply, striking me squarely on the chin.  The jolt was a shock, but was followed by nothing more than a dull throbbing sensation.  It wasn't until halftime while walking off the pitch that a teammate told me I was bleeding.  I put my hand to my chin, looked down at a hand full of blood, and went to talk to the coach.  We were able to contain the bleeding, I finished the game, and my Mom forced me to go to the hospital.

The doctor gave me two options.  I could either have him stitch it up, or he could put a butterfly stitch on it and there was a chance it would heal without scarring too badly.  Either way, playing in the Regional Finals was an iffy prospect as he was concerned that due to the location of the cut that it could be reopened very easily; stitched or not.  Despite my Mom's protective worry and obvious concern, it was a no brainer; there was nothing that was going to stop me from playing the next game.

We won the Regional Finals, the big Band-Aid on my chin looked very funny, and it was time to start thinking about the State Championship game; just a week away at Trenton State College.  It would be our one and only game of the season on artificial turf; a prospect we didn't really know much about.  It would prove telling. 

13 busloads full of students followed us along the 30-mile route to Trenton State College that night.  The stands were full and the scene was electric.  My job was to man-mark our opponent's biggest threat, Chris Unger.  Chris was skillful, one of the best forwards we'd played against all season; and FAST.  Having reached our peak at the right time, and having the artificial turf work perfectly with our controlled, ball-on-the-ground, possession style of play, we ran riot that night, winning the State Championship 5-0.  It remains one of the best nights of my life.

I continued to play through college, earning All-Region Honorable Mention as a Freshman, but the highlight of my playing days was that night in November 1985 when the best team I've ever been a part of went out and decidedly made the most important night of our lives up until that point our own.  We were a team in every sense of the word; strong at all positions with no weakness; and our strengths complemented one another.  Looking back on it now, Bergen Catholic never had a chance.

The scar on my chin is still there and remains a source of pride.  To this day, every glance in the mirror reminds me of that season where the combination of an inspiring coach and a squad of quality players who first and foremost understood the importance of playing for one another created some well-earned and very awesome memories.

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