The Fantasy Football Blog week 18 – spreading festive cheer

Miles Reucroft is undertaking a different way of playing the ever popular Fantasy Football this season. To understand his methodology, read part one here. The Week 1 review is here, Week 2 transfers & preview here, Week 3 preview here, Week 4 preview here, Week 5 preview here, Week 6 preview here, Week 7 preview here, Week 8 preview here, Week 9 preview here, Week 10 preview here, Week 11 preview here. Week 12 preview here. Week 13 preview here. Week 14 preview here. Week 15 here. Week 16 here. Week 17 here.

Well, the rocket I served up last week had the desired effect and the boys forewent the usual festive excess, knuckled down and delivered some sparkling results on the pitch. We had slipped to 1,152,320th before St. Nicholas emptied his merry sack over FC Fakin’ Run Aboutabit HQ in the form of two sparkling baubles; scores of 80 and 69. They were enough to lift the mood and our position. We now lie nicely in 865,712th.

Captain Kane led the way. Having been less than impressed with his recent scoring exploits, he really delivered this Christmas. Six goals resulted in 68 points and it was a fine performance from our on-field leader.

Bobby Firmino and his pearly whites were inspired by their strike partner, the Brazilian helping himself to 24 points and justifying his transfer. He’s been a revelation, arguably our signing of the season.

Nicolas Otamendi might have something to say about the above statement and he also put in a shift this Christmas, shoring things up at the back with 15 points himself.

Owing to the tricky Christmas scheduling and editorial deadlines, Granit Xhaka is yet to play his second game, so things could get even better. Who knows?

It hasn’t all been good news, though. Kane and Firmino have papered over one or two cracks but it’s high time the attack came to the rescue of the rest of the side.

Kasper Schmeichel endured a torrid Christmas, but I’m keeping the faith for now. Joe Gomez, too, is struggling for consistency and Phil Jones hasn’t been the same since his knock. They live to play another week, though.

Charlie Austin came in last week, didn’t get a start, and got involved in some ugly business which has led to a suspension. I can’t stand by by his behaviour and he’s gone as quickly as he arrived.

“Let me guess, you want Charlie shipping straight back out?” says Gary, our player agent, as he answers my call.

“Merry Christmas to you, too,” I reply, “I take it you got that crystal ball you’ve been after then.”

“As soon as I saw the replay I knew,” says Gary. “No one wants to see that sort of thing. It sets a terrible example. Besides, I’ve had a call seeing if some business can be done and the offer is £6.1m.”

“£6.1m?!” I blurt out. “Get him out of here. No point him even coming back, I’ll get his locker cleared and his gear couriered wherever the hell he lands up. Whilst you’re selling, what can you get me for Ryan Bertrand?”

I’m a big fan of Ryan. He was one of the original cast, but his injury lay-off just seems to keep on getting pushed back and it’s resulting in chronic tactical inflexibility – I’ve had to play three at the back for a while now as we haven’t had a serviceable left back.

“I can get you £5.3m,” says Gary.

And with that, Austin and Bertrand have vanished into thin air. In anticipation of a busy January, I’m keen to keep some cash in reserve, so I don’t go extravagant on the replacements.

Aaron Cresswell is a solid option at left back who can also play left midfield if required. He’s also £0.2m cheaper than Bertrand.

Shinji Okazaki is a manager’s dream. He isn’t too costly, will play willingly wherever you tell him and won’t mind playing second fiddle to the refulgent forwards in the squad. At £5.5m, his acquisition leaves us with a cash reserve of £0.9m, which could prove handy over the coming weeks.

On the field, I’m making a couple of changes for this week. We’re sticking with the back three and the four man midfield, although KdB will play a roaming role in the centre of the park, linking midfield directly to attack and carving out opportunities for himself.

Kane, after his recent exploits, has earned a break. I’m wary of knackering him out, so he shifts to the bench, with Okazaki coming in for a debut alongside Firmino.

It means a change of captain for the first time this season, with vice-captain KdB taking on the honour with a man who has hugely impressed me, Otamendi, replacing him as VC.

Gomes replaces Schmeichel in goal, with Gomez, Otamendi and Jones making up the back three. Dave Silva and Richarlison will play the wider roles with Bakayoko and Xhaka performing their usual patrol duties in the middle.

I’m reluctant to change a winning team, but behaviour, fatigue and fixture congestion have necessitated it. Its good remind the lads that no one is a guaranteed starter in this team, too.

3-4-1-2

Gomes – Gomez, Otamendi, Jones – Richarlison, Xhaka, Bakayoko, Dave Silva – KdB – Okazaki, Firmino

Subs

Schmeichel, Kane, Maguire, Cresswell

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