Playing a season-long draft league is a very different proposition than playing daily, weekly or traditional salary-cap. The main reason? You can’t just pick which ever players you might like to set in your XI. Fantays Premier League draft requires keen dealing in the free agent market or direct dealing with your fellow managers to work out trades. The Togga Writer’s League is as 12-team League which held it’s draft ahead of Gameweek 18. Before a single ball had been kicked in anger, John Wallin and Todd Shenk had already consummated a blockbuster trade which saw Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Sadio Mane trade hands. This is the story of how that trade went down.

Todd: I was the one who initiated this trade by first offering a straight up swap of Raheem Sterling for Zlatan following some of John’s recent comments on the Rotowire Fantasy Soccer Podcast.

John: The first trade in from Todd didn’t do much for my squad. I’d made the decision to take Firmino in Round 1, after Sergio Aguero was nicked one pick ahead of mine by Neal Thurman in the draft. Forwards were clearly at a premium in scoring over the first 17 matches and I wasn’t willing to shift down from Zlatan to Sterling.  After a one-over of Todd’s lineup I rejected the deal and didn’t propose a counter-offer as we looked too similar to match-up well on a deal. Besides, we’d just had the draft and I wanted to see how my team played before making a move.

 

Todd: My goal in this was to get Zlatan and anything else was simply a bonus. For this season Zlatan has missed just one game after picking up five yellow cards and I don’t see him missing many more matches this season. Yes, he will probably get a rest at some point, but with the importance placed on Manchester United finishing in the top four, this is more likely to happen in a cup tournament like the FA Cup. This season he has been averaging 14.53 points per game and his 232.50 points is 9th most this season for all season as well as third most for forwards. Both of these stats put him behind Sadio Mane, but in recent weeks Zlatan has started to look better up front for United.

John: That Zlatan had fallen to my pick in the second round was a bit of a surprise. He went 15th, Kane and Lukaku had been selected in the picks directly before mine and Benteke went next. I’d have been on Sadio Mane here if I thought there would be a Top 20 Forward waiting for me in Round 3, but the draft hadn’t played out that way. In the end, my team finished with Firmino (Rd. 1), Zlatan (Rd. 2), Martial (Rd. 8), Giroud (Rd. 12), Sturridge (Rd. 13) and Batshuayi (Rd. 16). With that in mind, I knew I had a bit of flexibility if I wanted to trade and I hadn’t been able to secure three top defenders which I typically like to employ in  draft league.

Todd:  I know that he needed defensive cover while my own defense is solid enough with Shkodran Mustafi, Antonio Barragan, Erik Pieters, and Matthew Lowton. Yes, Charlie Daniels is having a career season, but Mustafi, when fit again, has every chance of being a top 20 defender.

Todd: After my offer for Sterling was rejected I instead offered Sterling and Shkodran Mustafi with a note that Mane would be available.

John: Todd’s counter with Mustafi peaked my interest despite the question marks around Mustafi’s fitness. Ultimately the fitness question led me to declining this deal as well. After I rejected the deal, I got a note back from Todd that other defenders would be available if I didn’t like Mustafi. With Danny Rose and Leighton Baines already in the fold, I looked to add a second piece to the deal that would be able to slot directly into my DEF3 spot. Mustafi’s hamstring injury concerned me as did his scoring history in Togga’s format. He has only five matches with double-figures in 12 attempts and his per match average is skewed by 23.75 points against Burnley. I don’t think there’s a question that, when 100% fit, Mustafi is a better FPL player than Daniels, but he hasn’t been so dominant that I could look past the hamstring. I sent back the Mane + Daniels proposal and added Muniesa to my side of the deal to make up the numbers thinking Muniesa is worth a flyer right now.

Todd: I felt that I could part with Mane because he will be out for several matches due to the AFCON and I have decent cover in midfield with Paul Pogba, Matt Phillips, Son Heung-Min, and Leroy Fer. My plan is to play a 3-4-3 for most of the season and my front three will consist of Zlatan, Raheem Sterling, and one of either Marko Arnautovic or Bojan. I wanted Zlatan on my team, but what really made the trade work out was how I felt about the rest of my team combined with what John needed for his team.I will add to all of this that, as a Manchester United supporter, my heart has certainly produced some confirmation bias. Being able to start United’s two best players in Pogba and Zlatan played a major role in wanting to make this trade. Parting ways with Mane, despite his FPL potential, certainly was an easy choice to rid my squad of any Liverpool influences. Now I just need to move along Sterling.

John: Ultimately this may have been a deal that gone done because of our respective biases and less because of the clear benefit to either of our squads. Acquiring Mane gave me Milner, Mane, Firmino and Sturridge – but acquiring LFC is the name of the game starting March 1.The Reds finish their calendar with Everton (H), Bournemouth (H), Stoke (a), West Brom (a), Palace (H), Watford (a), Saints (H), West Ham (a) and Boro (H), leaving my in prime position for a late push and primed for playoff football. And those points had better come because in Week 18 – just hours after finalizing this deal Zlatan turned in 40.5 for Todd Shenk’s Lancaster FC in his Week 18 match. Against me.