The week in Fantasy Premier League: Do you need to wildcard before it’s too late?

Last week’s truncated set of fixtures left some Fantasy Premier League managers delighted. Others... not so much.

The Gameweek average score of 19 points doesn’t tell the whole story. Basically, those who had both Romelu Lukaku (EVE, 10.3) and Joshua King (5.6) flourished - pretty much everyone else was left facing those dreaded “red arrows”.

And it was standing room only in the GW28 Hall of Shame. West Ham's Manuel Lanzini and Andy Carroll returned two points each. Robert Snodgrass didn't even play.

FPL managers who picked Leighton Baines over Seamus Coleman tore their last remaining hairs out as he departed at half-time, taking his likely clean-sheet points with him.

They all pale into insignificance however compared to Phillipe Coutinho, who pulled off the ultimate FPL troll move - running to the bench to deny his loyal owners that precious point.

If only he had displayed that kind of awareness and pace earlier in the match. Honestly - it’s almost as if these players don’t care about helping us win our work mini-leagues!

So as the dust settled on the Double-Blank Gameweek madness, FPL managers are now surveying the landscape - and it has taken on a distinctly post-apocalyptic look for many.

And when that happens, there’s usually only one thing for it...

    Is your team wildcard-ready?

While it’s always worthwhile being self-aware enough to avoid that ultimate FPL sin - “rage wildcarding” - you have to be equally honest enough with yourself to admit that the time is right to go back to the drawing board. 

For those poor souls who couldn’t wait bring in Harry Kane before he picked up that nasty-looking injury against Millwall, the wildcard could save them hit points and better still - help that awful gaffe to go unnoticed!

The wildcard is also an efficient and satisfying way for managers to clear out any lingering Man City and West Brom liabilities in one fell swoop.

Thinking more long-term, managers who still have their Triple Captain and Bench Boost chips could benefit from a strategy rethink, too.

Up until now, the prospect of the “bumper” Double Gameweek 37 convinced many to keep their wildcard in order to draft in a full squad of DGW players in GW36, before playing their Bench Boost in GW37 - thus having an “extra” eight players.

 

This still has merit, but as all the meticulous planning for the Blanks and Double Gameweek has taught us (again) - we can end up being too clever for our own good in this game sometimes.

Looking ahead, GW37 is actually starting to look more like the week for a Triple Captain.

Although nothing is certain yet, the penultimate week of the FPL season is likely to see Chelsea play West Brom and either Watford or Southampton, with Arsenal set to face Stoke and either Sunderland or Leicester. Man City facing both West Brom and Leicester at The Emirates is a possibility also.

Outside of GW37, we could be looking at Zlatan Ibrahimovic (MUN, 11.4) against Burnley and either Southampton or Man City - both away - in GW34.

Arsenal’s other DGW against Southampton is likely to be rescheduled for GW35/36, where they face tough fixtures against Spurs and Man United

Not too appealing, is it?

Also, by playing the wildcard now, FPL managers would (in theory, at least) stand to benefit from it for the nine Gameweeks, as opposed to toughing it out until GW36 - by which time your minileague leader may be out of reach.

For those looking to take the plunge, the emergence of under-the-radar players like Ben Davies (TOT, 4.7), Ashley Barnes (BUR, 4.5), Geoff Cameron (STO, 4.2) and Jack Stephens (SOU, 4.0), as well as more established enablers like Tom Carroll (SWA, 4.3), Jordan Pickford (SUN, 4.1) and Alfie Mawson (SWA, 4.6) and should help free up funds for big-name players elsewhere.

 

    Time to bring in Double Gameweek players?

Even if you’re not wildcarding, the prospect of future Double Gameweeks should certainly inform - but not shackle - your upcoming transfer plans.

Just because Arsenal, Man United and Southampton all have two Double Gameweeks doesn’t mean you should be bringing in those players wholesale.

Outside of Alexis Sánchez (ARS, 11.5) and a post-suspension Zlatan Ibrahimovic (MUN, 11.4), it’s hard to see which Arsenal and United players, if any, can offer consistent points returns at the moment.  

When it comes to Southampton, the fact that their extra games come against United and Chelsea dampens their appeal somewhat. The free-scoring Manolo Gabbiadini (SOU, 6.8) is an easy pick, but it would take a brave manager to trust him with the armband over some of the more established names.

Chelsea, Spurs, Man City, Watford, Leicester, Palace, Boro and Sunderland can all look forward to one DGW. Most if not all of them should happen in GW37 - so you have some time to prepare.

We all know the familiar names to pick from these, but Leicester’s resurgence has led to renewed focus on their players.

It could work, but what effect the unprecedented combination of a Champions League campaign and a relegation battle has on team selection is really anyone’s guess.

Liverpool, Everton, WBA, Stoke, West Ham, Bournemouth, Swansea and Hull won’t have DGWs, but that’s not to say they should be off-limits over the remainder of the season.

Swansea and West Ham enjoy favourable fixtures in the short term, and it would be folly to rule out players like Manuel Lanzini (WHU, 6.4) and Gylfi Sigurdsson (SWA, 7.7).

 

Elsewhere, FPL managers can look to bring in players at optimum times, with fixtures set to turn more favourable for Liverpool in GW31, as well as for Everton and Bournemouth in GW32 and GW34 respectively.

Or it could be best to just leave everything well alone, as this tweet rather depressingly illustrates…

 

    QUICK TIP

Every season, without fail, sees “on the beach syndrome” take hold: mid-table teams switch off once that psychologically significant 40-point mark is reached, while relegation battlers start looking like world-beaters.

Bear this in mind when bringing in players for the long haul - particularly defenders.

Right now, West Brom are the only team with the holiday brochures out, but could we see the likes of Stoke, West Ham and Southampton join them soon?

Conversely, players from bottom-six teams with a bit of quality about them like Hull and Swansea could offer real value.

 

    BUY

Despite the fact that Tottenham tend to score less in Kane’s absence, an obliging fixture list makes Spurs attacking cover an absolute must.

While Dele Alli (TOT, 8.7) and Christian Eriksen (TOT, 8.6) are safe options, the 4%-owned Son Heung-min (TOT, 6.8) could be the one to go for.

The South Korean announced himself in emphatic style with hat-trick after replacing Kane against Millwall and at just £6.8m, the price is certainly right.

Of course he’s not without risk, but let’s face it - if you’re not willing to take a chance on a cheap, out-of-position midfielder starting up front for Spurs, you're probably playing this game a little too safe.

 

    TRY

If you’re hoping for instant returns and can’t wait for Gabbianini to get past that Spurs tie, Troy Deeney (WAT, 6.8) is an interesting alternative.

The burly striker seems to thrive during the relegation run-in. He’s scored five in his last six games and Watford’s next three fixtures (Palace, Sunderland and West Brom) could hardly be more favourable.

 

    GOODBYE

 

West Brom players.

Yep, all of them - even Gareth McAuley (WBA, 5.2).

For a Tony Pulis side, they’ve been remarkably poor at keeping clean sheets (five all season!). Now that 40points-itis has hit and fixtures have gone south, there’s really no case for holding them.


 

By Ken Rooney

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