Now the FA Cup has been decided, the play offs have finished and the list of 20 Premier League Clubs for 2015/16 has been reached, I consider this season closed! I will now endeavour to take you through the key moments of the season touching on some highs and lows for myself and pick out some key tweets from the FPL community from a gameweek that blew us all away.
Let’s take ourselves back several months to Saturday 16th August 2014, the date that excites most people about FPL, the start of the Fantasy Premier League. Weeks of preparation, anticipation, research and sleepless nights amounted to this very day. I remember it well this season as I was halfway through a 128 mile bike ride from Leeds to Liverpool and I woke up in a grotty B&B with little 4g and scrambled my way through the tweets and feeds to see if any alerting news occurred through the night. We were setting off for the last leg of the ride at 0830 so it was paramount I was comfortable with my team. Ross Barkley Injured was the main headline. I wonder how many missed this and kept him in their team, quite a few I recall. Thankfully I had not entrusted the young Englishman in my Fantasy Fifteen so it was all locked in with Sigurdsson on my bench, yes I was one of those!
Before we delve through the thirty eight gameweeks of FPL history let’s look to see how similar the FPL Champion, Simon March’s, team was from GW1 to GW38. He had confidence in the West Brom defence from the start with Foster in between the sticks yet ending with his understudy, Myhill in GW38, albeit on the bench. We can also see that Chester, from Hull, started and scored for Simon in GW1 and McShane finished the season with the champion picking up a clean sheet in the process. Patrick Van Aanholt was present in both squads even though the Dutchman was transferred out twice before landing a role in the Champions XV in the last gameweek. It is clear to see that picking the right players in the first gameweek gives you a great chance of winning as the top five FPL managers that finished the season all recorded scores significantly higher than the average in GW1.
Hands up if you also benched Sigurdsson, or bought Ashley Young based on his pre-season form? How many trusted the £16 million Chelsea transfer ‘flop’, Filipe Luis, who failed to score more than 2 FPL points until GW16. All these were mistakes made by many that didn’t provide a great start to their seasons. Whilst many managers were planning their next move others were calculating how to disperse of Young and Luis whilst trying to improve elsewhere.
As the season started to hit full speed, it was Chelsea who were setting the tone. Two men in particular, Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas were racking up the points. Coming from La Liga to the Premier League doesn’t always pay dividend straight away but this duo hit the right note with Costa scoring 7 from 6 with Cesc feeding him 4 times in as many games. Man City also proved they were contenders with their star men Sergio Aguero and David Silva delivering the goods early on and the writing was clearly on the wall as Frank Lampard smashed one past his departed club Chelsea early on in GW5.
The gameweeks came rapidly and the next milestone in this glorious season was gameweek 8. Some say this was the gameweek that made the season. I myself tweeted before the deadline stating “This GW would make or break people’s seasons!” Only wish I had invested in the Southampton dominance that we saw. With 4 assists and a goal, Dušan Tadić, made FPL history with a score of 23 points alone! Aguero netted 4 against Spurs in a 4-0 mid-morning thriller with Baines, Sanchez and Sakho all picking up big points. The average in this massacre was only 49 which meant those with a Tadic or Aguero captain shot up the global ranks. One of those managers was Ashil Parekh, of Blue Ash FC, who ranked first in Gameweek 8 moving from 79,747 to 182 in one gameweek and eventually finished on 642. It is only fair we share his team sheet once more!
After the exuberance or dispiriting gameweek 8 it was full steam ahead as the run up to Christmas began. In previous seasons at this time, the pack was re shuffled and games re arranged due to adverse weather or other competition clashes with the EPL. This was not the case this season as there wasn’t a blank or double gameweek to be seen for some time. Consistency is key within this period as we all try to make it to the January Wildcard with respectable scores and injury free squads. If the first eight weeks of the season was all about Aguero and Costa, the 2nd stint seemed to swing to attacking midfielders as Costa’s goals dried up to only 3 in 9 and Aguero’ s plight was cut short after a 6 minute cameo at Eastland’s against Everton. The Argentine would be out for the rest of the year and a portion of the next as many managers acted promptly and cashed out! Attentions turned away from these stars and forward to Eden Hazard and Alexis Sanchez. In the next 8 games this duo racked up 163 points between them. Hazard (69) scored in four consecutive home games, then assisting in the next 3 back to back making him a very reliable captaincy choice. Alexis (94) repaid those that stuck with him by achieving 45 points over just 3 gameweeks, leaving everyone else scratching round for change to bring in these two powerhouses.
The Boxing Day round of fixtures is one I always look forward to as all 20 clubs kick off on the same day which seldom transpires. You might have been thinking that a certain Harry Kane has been forgotten about in this round up so far but for me, his dominance was about to peak over the Christmas period. With Aguero in sick bay and at a huge price, the obvious change to make was to bring in the under 21 star making a shed load of cash in the process. He was given his chance in gameweek 11 as he played his first 90 minutes of the season. Spurs triumphed away from home and it was Kane and Eriksen that delivered which meant this for me was the start of Kane’s advance. His next 3 games were all blanks and many ditched Kane before his chance was given however Boxing Day saw him end a 3 game scoring run with his 5th goal of the season with an assist to boot. He then pressed on and 2015 started with a bang scoring 9 goals in his next 9 games. Costa continued to score handsomely with 4 goals in 3 games until an injury forced the Spaniard out for a few games.
The next 8 games really do shape your season, taking you up to May which is classed as the business end of the ordeal. This period saw some double gameweeks coming into the fray and the FPL geeks kindly spread these over a consistent timeline. With doubles in 28, 31, 34 and 37 it was good news for those that used their wildcards but disaster for those who held tight. In previous seasons double gameweeks have seen scores soar past 150 points due to the amount of teams playing twice however this season no double gameweek saw more than 12 games meaning the chance of a sky high points haul was remote. Whilst Kane and Hazard continued their excellent form we saw major differentials from Aston Villa and QPR. In DGW31 Villa scored 4 goals and QPR found the back of the net an uncharacteristic 7 times. Christian Benteke, Matty Phillips and Charlie Austin owners were dancing in the street as these players were the unlikely source of the double gameweek cream. 3 gameweeks later it was Chelsea, Leicester, Liverpool and Hull’s turn to play twice and the explosion of Villa and QPR previously sent FPL managers in a DGW craze. Stocking up on Liverpool and Chelsea players was the word on the line yet conversely this was the downfall of many as Liverpool failed to score in either match and Chelsea only converted three times. Drogba, Ramires and Terry found the net meaning a favourable Hazard captain was a wasted choice. Next up was DGW37 and with an inconsistent pattern to these freaks of FPL nature, trepidation was prevalent amongst the community. An FPL season wouldn’t be the same without a Sunderland double gameweek and this one didn’t disappoint. The Black Cats needed 2 draws in both games to survive and it was clear to see they played for that. This gameweek was my personal highlight as I invested in 2 Sunderland defenders and their keeper bringing me 43 points from the trio alone. As Arsenal scored only once and Sunderland kept 2 clean sheets it was again a case of mistaken identity as this double gameweek failed to deliver.
So the FPL season was nearly over and all that was left was for some, the most important week and for others, a bit of fun. Like Boxing Day all 20 teams lined up on the same day, this time at the same time which made it even more exciting. We saw Newcastle stay up at Hull City’s expense, a 4-1 bombardment from Arsenal, a 5-1 demolition by Leicester and a 6-1 laceration of Liverpool by Stoke City! Not many predicted these results which goes to show that the last day of the season is very much a lottery. I’ll leave you with a picture of the FPL team of the season. I’m sure at some point all of you have rejoiced and regretted players in this list and learnt key lessons from the 2014/15 Fantasy Premier League.
Now it’s time to sit back, watch the Champions League final, take a breath and get ready for the next instalment of FPL. The 17th June 2015 is when the fixtures are released for next season where defensive planning will be the talk of the town. Its crystal that this season has been an exciting, emotional and enthralling one for myself and the FPL community and I’m sure next season will not let us down.