Right, another FPL season is done and dusted. As per usual, there were plenty of surprises and curveballs thrown our way. So, while you FPL addicts are already pondering how to build next season's squad around Antoine Griezmann, it seemed a good time to pump the brakes a bit and reflect back on the season that was.
In the end, your faithful writer ended up with a respectable rank of 19k and change. Finishing inside the top 10k is always my target at the beginning of the season. I know it takes something special to finish any higher than that. But, inside the top 20k is still something to hang one's hat on. At the end of the season, the FPL game consisted of over 4.5 million managers. Even if one were to cut that number in half, taking into account the many "dead" teams that have been left unattended a long time ago, or desperate managers who create a new team every week under a different account just to try and get five minutes of fame with the highest round score in a given week -- if the game consisted of 2.25 million legit managers, a rank inside the top 20k means you've finished in the top 1%.
Still, I feel a bit let down by my own decision-making over the course of the season in one crucial area of the game -- getting the armband right. My armband success rate was abysmal and I can only imaging what rank I would have finished at had my success rate been merely bad. But it was worse than bad, it was creepy how consistently wrong I got it. I was nearing a point where I felt it more logical to throw five potential captain choices in a hat and just draw a name. It could not have been any less effective. But, that is the story of my season. Everyone has their own unique story to tell and I would love to hear about them over on Twitter as I ease into a much-needed offseason and recharge the batteries for another turn around the carousel.
So, to wrap things up on my FPL column, I figured it would be a good idea to reveal the heroes and villains of this FPL season at each position. Thank you so much for keeping up with the column this year. I was very appreciative of the emails I got from readers thanking me for helping them along the way. It was an emotional end to the season as a Spurs fan, watching the finale at White Hart Lane, seeing an end to the streak of St. Totteringham's Days and just feeling optimism for the future that is now put on pause for a couple of months. So, to see some emails come my way at the end of the season was a real treat. Let's say we do this thing again next season, eh? Until then, here are my thoughts on the best and worst players from FPL 2016/2017....
Hero - Tom Heaton
When Burnley approached the start of the 2016/2017 campaign, I had them pegged for another one-year cameo in the top flight. Looking at their acquisitions like Steven Defour and Johann Berg Gudmundsson, there just didn't appear to be enough of an upgrade from the version of the Clarets we saw two seasons ago. Only the goal-scoring exploits of Andre Gray in the Championship last season seemed to be the X-factor in their hopes for survival. Instead, it was the brilliant work of Heaton that was most responsible for Burnley's success and proof of that is his title of top-scorer among FPL keepers. What may surprise a few folks though, is that Turf Moor may not be quite the fortress we labeled it as. Heaton kept only 10 clean sheets on the year. You would think all but one or two came at home but in fact six were at home, while four were away. That said, he rarely made an error and the budding star that is Michael Keane helped anchor the line in front of him. Heaton proved once again that every season a budget keeper will find a way to be as productive as the premium ones.
Honorable mention - Jordan Pickford (despite missing virtually 1/4th of the season, Pickford finished second behind only Heaton in total saves)
Villain - Heurelho Gomes
Gomes was the closest thing to Heaton the FPL game had last season, thanks in part to a respectable eleven clean sheets and three penalty saves, which only aided in some additional bonus points. That fine season gave him a 5.0m price tag this time around and it proved to be .5m too much. Only seven clean sheets were kept in this campaign. Three of those came in successive weeks, three others in a span of four weeks. When you take out those small chunks of production, it was as bad an FPL season as any keeper in the mix.
Dishonorable mention - Claudio Bravo/Willy Caballero (neither were any better than Joe Hart would have been. Pep got it wrong at this position)
Hero - Marcos Alonso
Alonso did not crack Antonio Conte's XI until Gameweek 7 but, once he did, he was the ultimate game-changer, racking up attacking points at a rate on par with Leighton Baines in his heyday. Yes, Gary Cahill edged out his teammate by one point to take the crown of highest-scoring defender, but when you look at the production on a points-per-game basis, it is not even close. Alonso paced the league averaging 5.7 points per game. Vincent Kompany was next in that department, but missed 75% of the season. Seamus Coleman was next in line, though he missed about a third of the campaign. Next then was Cahill, who was just a tick under 1 point per game below Alonso at 4.8 ppg. Conte's shift to a 5-2-3 and inserting Alonso in the side was the turning point in Chelsea's season that would steer them on the path to the title.
If there was one area of the squad throughout the FPL community that was universally agreed upon as must-haves when the season began, it was Stones and Shaw, particularly Stones and his tantalizing 5.0m price tag. After all, the duo were considered the best of England's future at the center-back and full-back positions. The thought of having two seemingly nailed on representatives from the defense of both Manchester sides for a total of 10.5m seemed like a slam dunk, can't lose scenario. Well...that did not work. Shaw started the first five league games for the Red Devils when the season began, and would proceed to complete 90 minutes just once from then on. He has now carved out a reputation for being too injury-prone and Jose Mourinho had no qualms in questioning the young man's heart. Stones, meanwhile, earned credit for clean sheet points just once in the first 22 weeks of the season. He would later collect three more in a four-week stretch, but the entire FPL community had given up on him by that point.
Dishonorable mention - Hector Bellerin (a premium option that seemed too dangerous not to own took a step backward this season)
Hero - Josh King
Who is this guy? If you were to take a poll, you would find that most managers think King is an England product and are excited about his potential to step up for the Three Lions. Minor setback - he is Norwegian. His career in England began at the age of 16, joining the academy of Manchester United. We saw glimpses of his potential last season, when he scored a half a dozen goals, but no one could foresee the budding star racking up 16 goals like he did this season, 14 of which came from Week 19 on. In the second half of the campaign, you would be hard pressed to find a more consistent week-to-week goal scorer. To have that consistency, with the added benefit of being out-of-position and getting an extra point for each goal, along with a bargain price that was at one point as low as 5.3m, King just may deserve the crown for my FPL player of the year.
Honorable mention - Dele Alli (last year's midfield bargain had to prove his significant mark-up in price was valid and he did so with ease)
Between the reigning Bundesliga Player of the Year, the most expensive player ever bought with a complete box-to-box game and a wide-man with pace that has room to grow, fantasy managers were gushing over the attacking potential of Manchester United headed into this season, with Zlatan Ibrahimovic making the new group all the more appealing. While Jose Mourinho managed to add trophies in his first season, his league campaign was very disappointing, especially from an attacking perspective. They really struggled at Old Trafford, where it seemed every match entered halftime with a 0-0 score line. Juan Mata, thought to be the first player to get the boot when Mourinho took over, actually outperformed this trio of villains on a points per game basis.
Dishonorable mention - Riyad Mahrez (from Player of the Year with 17 goals and 11 assists to a meager 6 goals and 4 assists, Mahrez was actually outscored by teammate and defensive midfielder Wilfred Ndidi on a points per game basis)
Hero - Harry Kane
He's Tottenham's hero, he's England's hero, he's FPL's hero. Despite playing 800 fewer minutes than he did last season due to injury, Kane took a further step forward in his career, coming up just a goal shy of 30 and he took home his second consecutive Golden Boot. In the past decade of FPL action, it is usually the forward we look to as our armband candidate. At one point, it was Wayne Rooney or Robin van Persie. In recent seasons, the honor belonged to Sergio Aguero. The torch looks to have been passed to Kane going forward. He is the man you plug in first when you begin to build your Week 1 squad for next season. He manages to be both consistent and explosive. You want your FPL prospects to be one or the other. Kane is in that rarefied air of having it all.
Honorable mention - Gabriel Jesus (he only made 7 league starts since arriving in January but its clear to me he is an FPL force for the future)
Villain - Wilfried Bony
When it was announced that Stoke were getting Bony on loan, I bought into the hype. At the end of the summer window, his addition along with Joe Allen, playing with Xherdan Shaqiri and Marko Arnautovic out wide and Bojan in the hole, the Potters looked like the dark horse candidates to make noise and break into the top five or six. Boy, was that a giant flop. Mark Hughes gave Bony a run of nine straight starts immediately upon the striker's arrival and, while the first few weeks of disappointment could be chalked up to rust and a lack of competition with his time at Manchester City, by the end of that nine-start run, it was clear we were not going to see the Bony that made such a splash in his time with Swansea. After that run of nine starts, Bony went the rest of the season playing a total of seven minutes. SEVEN. He scored in only one league game, albeit a brace, back in Week 10 against his former club, Swansea. Bony has the build to be a successful striker in this league. He is strong and can finish in a variety of ways as was proven in the past, but his career has hit a stone wall.
Dishonorable mention - Manolo Gabbiadini (his big splash of a start to his Southampton career got us all excited, but proved to be a wasted investment during those crucial double gameweeks down the stretch)