Premier League 2020/21: FPL Gameweek 17 Fantasy Forecast
Ahead of each Gameweek in the Premier League, The Hype Train's team, Robert Austin, Sam Austin and Phil Jones, duel for FPL and league supremacy in predicting Premier League scores, as well as going head to head in picking a Scout Picks squad for each round of games. With the 2020/21 Premier League season we typically provide our Gameweek Forecast predictions, speculating how we think the first round of games will be played out - though ahead of Gameweek 17 we have chosen to go a different track and discuss the current state of the Premier League season and the impact it is having on the FPL. Welcome to the Forecast. All aboard.
Premier League 2020/21: FPL Gameweek 17 Forecast
Enjoy our FPL Forecast article, with each of our team forecasting how the Premier League will shape up this season and the challenges and pitfalls that is happening due to the Coronavirus pandemic. If you agree or want to challenge us on our point of view, get in touch with us on our main Twitter account, @RealHypeTrain.
The State of Premier League Football Ahead of Gameweek 17
There are so many things wrong with football in England right now, and the impact that has had on FPL. Like, a lot of things that just exhaust me. You may be like me, struggling for interest, or you may think better of the game. Who knows? But here are the problems currently facing the beautiful game:
COVID-19 Smoke and Mirrors:
The Premier League roughly said ‘We have full faith the procedures in place will ensure that all fixtures will be fulfilled as per scheduled’ is such a lie. First off, do they not realise that two games were postponed, and that saying one thing doesn’t mean the other thing didn’t happen? We’re not stupid, because the procedures clearly can’t prevent games being cancelled. They haven’t even rescheduled the Aston Villa vs. Newcastle game. If there are lots more games cancelled how will they fit them in 2021 with the FA Cup and Champions League competitions, and the already packed fixture lists? Say one thing and do another is now policy for the Premier League, which is amoral given the current climate.
COVID-19 Second Wave & Perceptions:
Right now, the league should be postponed/paused. The season should be pushed back two weeks, and it is the right thing to do. The second wave of COVID-19 in the UK is worse than the first one, and there are more positive tests than ever, with a staggering 18 people across the Premier League with a positive test alone in GW16. Not a single person in the Premier League is in a bubble. Players have wives, kids, and friends they see. The people attached to players have lives, they pick up their kids at school, go shopping, encounter other people.
Look at Ralph Hasenhüttl, he had to isolate because someone in his family got the virus. The same goes for the managers, kitchen staff, coaches, site managers. Not everyone abides by the COVID-19 procedures, even players, just look at Man City and Chelsea players doing what they want. If there was a true bubble then there wouldn’t be positive tests, and given the current climate, especially as Christmas was a giant mess in the UK, there will be more positive tests. More games will be postponed as COVID-19 breaches are easy to find their way into the Premier League.
Premier League Schedule & Injuries:
Football has been coming at viewers thick and fast. I must have watched football what must feel like every single day this month. There is a game for teams every couple of days, yeah it is Christmas, but even for Champions League teams the regular routine was league at weekend, Europe at midweek, league at weekend, cup game midweek. It’s endless, and too much of a good thing isn’t necessarily good for the product. Injuries have been piling up like never, just look at Sheffield United…the change of flow has rendered a once dynamic and defensively minded team into a team that cannot even kick a ball in a straight line, condemning them to the worst start in Premier League history.
I never thought I would see a team worse than Derby County’s 2008/09 performance. Liverpool have lost key men throughout the season, Chelsea players can’t stay fit, and the big culprit is muscle injuries. Players being suddenly injured has been something that has directly impacted FPL players, and I looked through my team…there were FOUR weeks so far that had a mysterious injury that ruled them out of the game. It is dictating transfers, and instead of playing the game properly, it is just keeping up with having a team that can play.
The Quality of the Premier League Football:
…is at an all-time low. The Premier League table is something of real confusion, because if you were to ask me five years ago my views on the table as it is right now, I would be like ‘What the hell happened?!’. In GW16 only one team scored more than two goals, with every other score either 1-0 or 1-1. There have been crazy stats made this season, like what I mentioned about The Blades start to the season. Another is that no team have won four consecutive games this season, or that the league is on track for the first time every for every team to lose a game by a margin of three goals, with only three teams remaining.
The lack of pre-season doesn’t help, and it is why teams aren’t gelling, or developing, with Chelsea as a prime example of this. They spent a fortune on big talent and the new players look out of sorts in Lampard’s system. Not having a pre-season has also made the injury crisis worse as players didn’t have any time to build up true fitness before the season started.
Supporters In and Out of Stadiums:
Seeing fans in the stadiums was great, even if I had reservations on people wearing chin diapers and not abiding by social distancing in goal celebrations, or at half-time, or when they left the stadium at the end of the matches - you know, when you're supposed to be mindful and give space to other people. It goes back to my first point of saying one thing and doing another, as the fans back, whilst being great to not hear synthetic noise on TV, showed a major problem and attitude toward COVID-19 in this country, and this was broadcasted on TV. Football looks bad when you got someone in a chin diaper on live TV, representing the Premier League. Supporters not being back has also changed the game, with most teams adopting different practices, and games failing to kick into the next gear. Few games have thrilled this season, and everything feels tame. Both of these factors just hurt football at this level.
The Fantasy Premier League (FPL):
I wasn’t big on any price change for the upcoming season, and I know my brother has spent time going into the ‘Community’ element of it below, but I will add one thing: when did it get so toxic? You can’t have an opinion without it getting shut down mercilessly. This isn’t a community, it has long transformed into a bunch of ‘elite’ accounts that charge memberships, and then a customer base of people they target. Have an opinion about this model? ‘Uh, Sam, you’re taking food out of people’s mouths you monster!!!’ It’s not all bad, there are still legitimate people and accounts I interact with that are decent people, but half of what I see is either people posting about being disappointed by getting into the top 100k of players or trying to put other players down. The other half is accounts and sponsors trying to make money, links to betting sites, paid articles, and flogging sponsored content as ‘real’ content. One percent is honest people, talking about the beautiful game.
This has gotten worse during the COVID-19 pandemic. It feels like trying to produce content is impossible in an environment that is now highly susceptible to change, and then you have accounts telling people everything is okay because they are worried about their number of paid subscribers. It’s not the community that I joined, which is why I tend to not talk much about the FPL anymore on socials, or in general. Combine that with what is going on with COVID-19 and it is just something that has pushed me to only looking at the FPL when I absolutely need to: picking my differentials or setting my team. I have social distanced myself from the FPL you could say.
Just how destructive was Gameweek 16?
My team was abysmal amidst half my team being called out of action for whatever reason: benched, rotated, dropped, postponements, injuries, yellow cards, clean sheet wipe-outs…you name it, it was in my team. My FPL team didn’t even score a single goal or make on assist…for the first time ever. Finishing on 18pts was a miracle with the Liverpool game yet to play when I had 5pts, with Robertson saving my bacon as without him I would have finished under 10pts.
I have struggled to get enthused about this season, and it has gotten progressively worse, to the level that it is now just a thing I do for a couple of minutes a week, and sometimes I have forgotten to set my team. GW16 won’t be an isolated incident.
Here are my wildcard/differential picks for GW17: EVE/WHU: Gylfi Sigurdsson (EVE, MID, £6.8mil, 1.8% ownership) MUN/AVL: Antony Martial (MUN, FWD, £8.7mil, 4.2% ownership) TOT/LEE: Rodrigo (LEE, FWD, £5.7mil, 2.6% ownership) CRY/SHU: Vincente Guaita (CRY, GK, £4.8mil, 3.1% ownership) BHA/WOL: Nélson Semedo (WOL, DEF, £5.4mil, 2.3% ownership) WBA/ARS: Bukayo Saka (ARS, MID, £5.2mil, 4.4% ownership) BUR/FUL: James Tarkowski (BUR, DEF, £5.3mil, 2.5% ownership) NEW/LEI: Harvey Barnes (LEI, MID, £6.7mil, 3.9% ownership) CHE/MCI: Raheem Sterling (MCI, MID, £11.4mil, 4.2% ownership) SOU/LIV: Nat Phillips (LIV, DEF, £4.0mil, 0.7% ownership)
The State of FPL Ahead of Gameweek 17
When the Premier League was forced to pause in March due to the emergence of the Coronavirus pandemic, we as a team at The Hype Train agreed in unison that we wouldn’t return to provide any form of coverage that inflated the Fantasy Premier League game. This was a morally driven choice as we didn’t feel it was right to pull paramount focus on something that when you boil it down, is a game that should take a couple minutes of your attention before a set deadline to pick a squad of players.
The hurdles were large to overcome last time out – no crowds, changing the substitution rule, only a few days before each FPL deadline, in-game chips wasted and fixtures rehashed due to cancelled fixtures, matches without any tempo, no European football, all totalling a new varient of lockdown Premier League football that created its only bubble of sorts. You then had to look closer to home – our enthusiasm for the game and the season had completely fizzled out and we didn’t see a real purpose behind continuing what we considered a futile effort.
For those of you who glance at our weekly fantasy football content, and those who have followed us since we started up in 2015, might be aware or not that despite being a Limited Company with all of our branding trademarked, we have never charged a penny for anyone to read the work we have produced on a regular basis, year after year. In fact, we have gone against the grain and refuted every approach to become a commercial entity, instead choosing to use our platform to raise money for charity, as well as self-financing our own football team.
In particular, we are massively against seedy and unregulated betting companies that are circling in shallow waters waiting for their moment to strike. They attach themselves to a lot of fantasy football content producers that have some form of following and larger businesses who will feed you the line that they ‘need to pay the bills’, when in truth this is a conscious decision to go to bed with these maligned individuals and groups. We’re all for entrepreneurs who make quality content getting their due, but there is a line between quality content, and content for the sake of business interests that changes content to a business interest and little else.
I’ve been fighting this wave of commercial for years now, and by that I mean that the conversation in most fantasy football forums/spaces/communities is increasingly becoming dictated by influencers who treat everyone as a potential customer ahead of being a human being first and foremost. One example is that when the season started, I attempted to engage a few accounts on Twitter that were either businesses or individuals making money, with both trying to shut me down for suggesting that I have concerns about the durability of the Premier League season due to Covid-19. The constant message to me was that this season would be a wild, fun and engaging season that would bring forth ‘positive challenges, with everyone having to play a different, varied game of FPL’. Everything always has to be designed to keeping the money moving. What these commercial interests were scared of was me hurting their profit margins by saying anything other than praise for something hidden behind a paywall, or sponsored by low-brow betting organisation.
I'm now at a point where I'm saying, without reservation, that all of those people/accounts/bots/companies/businessmen who chose to out me or try to us this platform to make a quick buck are dead wrong. This hasn't been a challenging FPL season, it's not been fun and the only positives have come back from player's Covid-19 tests.
The common theme I have endured is that when people (some, not all) are paying for monthly subscriptions, or embedded in to this culture, they’ll do anything in their power to overpower you with justification of their purchases – and what it means is that anyone outside of this ‘customer bubble’ is iced out for having a thought outside of one that they pay for. My comments this season in articles on this website and on social media, whilst not negative, have acted outside this monetary sphere, attempting to ask bigger questions about the future and sustainability of FPL and fantasy sports in a time when games with rigid procedures and deadlines are being desecrated and devalued due to the pandemic’s destructive nature.
The pursuit of money means that the conversation is driving from one Gameweek to the next with rapid speed, shutting down anyone who dares objects to their financial model, with their little poise for any thought or reflection on the game or its practises. That’s kind of where we are again – taking our time to ponder and reflect on the season as I’m getting wild flashbacks to March right now when I pulled the plug on the remainder of the season.
This all boiled over for me during Gameweek 16 – quite possibly the worst ever Gameweek ever in any form of a fantasy football game that I have ever played – a destructive week that has ultimately made my team scrap the thought of providing our typical ‘Forecast’ array of picks and selections this week – given the climate of the Premier League right now, it just isn’t worth wasting breath on any such selections.
Just how destructive was Gameweek 16?
At the top of the billing, I will state that Gameweek 16 was my worst ever week in FPL in 10+ years of playing the game. 12 points led me to a grand weekly ranking 7,678,987 out of 7,763,788 players. It is a remarkably low score that I’m already laughing about this, and plus I get it. Some weeks you have to finish at the bottom and this was just my turn to ride the misfortune of two fixtures being cancelled just hours before their intended kick-off. In life, you don’t always finish top and our competitive, you have off days and off weeks.
I’m not so sure I even consider this to be an ‘off week’ – seven of my players including my captain (Kane) and vice-captain (Son) were victims of the Everton/City and Spurs/Fulham fixtures that were wiped off the fixture list. What was an off week was getting nothing from the six players who did show up – Oliver Burke as a fifth substitute was my favourite player this week, coming off the bench during Sheffield United’s 1-0 loss to Burnley, only to be booked and get nothing, in the same game I had Charlie Taylor removed after just nine minutes due to a hamstring injury in a game which saw Burnley register a clean sheet.
The destructive force that I think is evident with this week, isn’t my own personal luck, I couldn’t care less about that and would be saying this even if I got 300 points, it is that this Gameweek had a similar feel when the league shut down in March – triple captains, bench boosts and other chips were wasted on players in fixtures that were cancelled. This entire round of game went a long way to invalidate the game and highlights how rigid and fragile the FPL’s structure is, a structure that should perhaps change so players in their masses aren’t penalised greatly – perhaps a ‘parachute payment’ chip should become available to players once a season when these events occur, boosting your team’s points, or matching the average score, for a single Gameweek should fixtures be greatly affected. Just something, anything, to not detract players away from the game.
Moreover, this personally bad Gameweek could have a double jeopardy as FPL players now get the chance to profit off of your misfortunes and now will get the chance to captain a Harry Kane of Heung-Min Son against Fulham at home when they neglected to do so in the first place – this game shouldn’t have a place for this double jeopardy but now it does as your mini-league rivals will potentially profit with more points due to your personal misfortune.
The football itself during Gameweek 16 was not at all what was expected either. Only Leeds scored more than a single goal (beating West Brom 5-0 away from home), with these festive fixtures barely entertaining and bearing no resemblance to the football at Christmas in years past.
The impact of Covid-19 in the UK has also come to a head during this time period, with heightened restrictions for people within the UK during the Christmas period were forced due to record number of infections and daily deaths, causing further havoc. We've yet to get a grip with the virus as people on this island, with large sections or socierty ever-resistent to follow guidelines from a hapless government as we try to balance the economy and our health - and yet despite vaccines beginning their cycle of deployment to our most vulnerable, we are a long way off a time of supposed normality when Covid threatens even elite sport that has all the money and influence to properly track, trace and manage.
For content creators, this Gameweek is a destructive force – not only will it make any wholesome, well-researched points about player selections and transfers turn to mush in a matter of seconds – there will be a trickle down effect if you choose to push ahead with content in the next weeks with everyone knowing that this could happen again. Just be cautious about how much time anyone spends writing about the pro’s and con’s of Harry Kane being captain, only for his fixture to be cancelled at the last. Any form of content – be it video, written, podcast, graphical or on a thread on Twitter will have any weight behind the point you're trying to make.
This game should be a reflection of the Premier League, not broken because of it, so we’ve decided to do our own circuit-breaker and abscond from giving anything other than a couple of wordy rants and musings about our experiences and trials surrounding the league campaign – it doesn’t warrant anything more in its current state.
I’ll end by saying that the Premier League’s statement about continuing, with the league having faith in its Covid protocols is just laughable – how can you have confidence that your fixtures can go ahead when fixtures have been cancelled?
Here’s to a better 2021…
From everyone here at The Hype Train, and on behalf of our football team, Hype Train FC, we wish everyone a great start to the new year. Here’s hoping we begin to see light at the end of the tunnel with the current state of the world and to brighter days in the footballing world. See you in the new decade.
Want to know more about The Hype Train?
The Hype Train is an entertainment website founded in 2015, specialising in Fantasy sports reporting, starting with Fantasy Premier League (FPL), before expanding to MLS Fantasy coverage in 2018.
We pride ourselves in providing beautiful graphics, statistics, in-depth analytical reporting and free weekly insight for hopeful players attempting to climb rankings tables. We are also occasional media reviewers, with a keen interest to review games, live sport, and professional wrestling.
In 2019, Hype Train Football Club was formed, becoming the first Fantasy Football website to take to the field. HTFC is a socially active team across social and web channels, providing regular match highlights, match reports, comprehensive player statistics and unique player profiles. We won both Goal of the Season Awards in the Berkshire and County FA regions, with Callum Parr-Jones winning the Berks & Bucks FA award, whilst Martin King won the PlaySport UK award.
The Hype Train were nominated and shortlisted for the 'Best Football Blog' in 2016 by the Football Bloggers Association at their annual Football Blogging Awards (The FBA's), and were again shortlisted as a finalist in 2019 in the 'Best Fantasy Football Blog' category.