With Monday’s confirmation of the rescheduled Stoke vs Everton match falling into Gameweek 36, Fantasy managers can now take stock of the upcoming changes on the fixture list. Eight teams face blanks in Gameweek 34, two sides have doubles the following week, while Gameweek 36 will ensure the season winds down with plenty drama, as eight sides play a couple of matches apiece. Plenty planning is in order, then, and with that in mind, we take a look at the many strategies available over the next few Gameweeks, together with the factors to consider.
First of all, let’s analyse the best way to maximise our squads without the need to spend points on Fantasy Premier League (FPL) transfers to maximise Gameweek 36. Obviously, the more players you have in your squad for Gameweek 34, the less double Gameweek players you have already in place for Gameweek 36, leaving Fantasy managers with plenty of options in optimising their transfer plans.
Going into Gameweek 34, then, if you bank a free transfer, this means you have three free trades before Gameweek 36 kicks off. On this basis, the following applies *:
If you have seven players for Gameweek 34 – this means you have eight for double Gameweek 36. With three free transfers, you can have eleven double Gameweek 36 players.
If you have eight players for Gameweek 34 – this means you have seven for double Gameweek 36. With three free transfers, you can have ten double Gameweek 36 players.
If you have nine players for Gameweek 34 – this means you have six for double Gameweek 36. With three free transfers, you can have nine double Gameweek 36 players.
If you have 10 players for Gameweek 34 – this means you have five for double Gameweek 36. With three free transfers, you can have eight double Gameweek 36 players.
If you have 11 players for Gameweek 34 – this means you have four for double Gameweek 36. With three free transfers, you can have seven double Gameweek 36 players.
*Those teams currently without a goalkeeper for Gameweek 34 should perhaps look to acquire one to cover the blank. You can, after all, only play one keeper over the double fixtures.
If your plan is both not to take any hits and field 11 players for Gameweek 36, then, the ideal scenario would be to have seven players for Gameweek 34. Using your three free transfers, you can change three of those seven to double Gameweek 36 options.
Obviously, much is dependent on each Fantasy managers’ approach. If you’re already sitting with Wayne Rooney and Robin Van Persie and don’t want to get rid of either (understandably), you could plan in accordance with the above table – with both in your side for Gameweek 36, you’d be looking at nine double gameweek players, meaning you could field nine players in Gameweek 34 without needing to take a hit. Again, this depends on the current state of your squad. With three or possibly four free transfers available to managers between now and Gameweek 34, it affords you the chance to whip things into shape in accordance with your long-term plans.
Taking players who play in Gameweek 34 into Gameweek 36 is, of course, an option. You could field 11 players in Gameweek 34 but, as you’ve seen, that would limit the number of double Gameweek players you have without taking hits. You’ll need to resist the temptation to spend points to keep up with those who perhaps fielded fewer players in Gameweek 34. That might not be easy if your Gameweek 34 players flopped. As such, the selection of your Gameweek 34 lineup – with Gameweek 36 in mind, is crucial.
Teams to Consider
As mentioned, there are a variety of ways to approach the schedule ahead. What’s immediately noticeable by looking at the ticker is that three teams – Swansea, Sunderland and West Brom – all have decent home fixtures in Gameweek 34 and 36, for those who are reluctant to load up and radically change their squads.
The trio face two of the bottom six, with Sunderland approaching Gameweek 34 with the best home form, having won five of their last six at the Stadium of Light. Simon Mignolet, Michael Turner, Stephane Sessegnon, James McClean and Nicklas Bendtner are all likely to prosper ahead of visits from Wolves and Bolton.
Swansea and West Brom have been rather indifferent at home of late. Both sides have won just two of the last six in front of their own fans, scoring eight goals apiece in comparison to Sunderland’s tally of 11. Nevertheless, the likes of Steven Caulker, Gylfi Sigurdsson, Scott Sinclair and Danny Graham have the potential for points for Brendan Rodgers’ side, while Peter Odemwingie and Gareth McAuley offer promise from a Baggies perspective.
Players to Consider
Further analysis of the Gameweek 34 schedule reveals the following players as standout selections:
Vorm (BLA) Mignolet (WOL) Szczesny (WIG) Foster (QPR)
Evans (AVL) Vermaelen (WIG) Caulker (BLA) Turner (WOL) McAuley (QPR) Kompany (nor)
Valencia (AVL) Walcott (WIG) Sigurdsson (BLA) Sessegnon (WOL)Toure (nor)
Van Persie (WIG) Rooney (AVL) Graham (BLA) Bendtner (WOL) Odemwingie (QPR)
While we’ll all anticipate heavy scoring in Gameweek 36, the preceding set of fixtures is still a major factor – not least because Bolton have another double (SWA avl). The other consideration is that, while both Chelsea and Everton players look attractive in Gameweek 36, they both face very tough fixtures immediately beforehand – Chelsea travel to Arsenal, while Everton go to Old Trafford. In both cases, then, you’ll ideally want to wait to transfer their players in after Gameweek 35.
With four matches in two Gameweeks, Bolton should offer some returns, despite struggling for goals and clean sheets all season. They have the incentive to get wins and, in Ryo Miyaichi and Martin Petrov, have two budget midfielders who could prove profitable. At the back, Adam Bogdan and David Wheater also offer potential – Bogdan with save points, Wheater with his attacking threat. While these two would seem certain to play all four matches, the attacking assets – Petrov and Miyaichi included, will surely be subject to rotation during this period. This should be considered – you may only get three of the four matches from the majority of Bolton’s players.
Alex McLeish’s side don’t look out of the relegation dogfight just yet. Villa have plenty to play for, then, and have a match preceding their double Gameweek 35. The downside is that their Gameweek 34 fixture is a trip to Old Trafford – hardly likely to entice many Fantasy managers, given United’s current form. Anyone eyeing up the Villa squad is likely to hold fire until the following week, when a pair of home fixtures against Sunderland and Bolton look a little more appetising. Form is not on the side of McLeish’s men, though – a single home clean sheet since Gameweek 7 and five goals in their last seven overall makes it difficult to justify any of their Fantasy assets over the upcoming schedule. Andreas Weimann could be a real differential if he maintains his recent starting role, while Carlos Cuellar’s ability to return bonus at the back may sway some managers’ thinking, providing he can recover from a thigh problem – he’s apparently unlikely to return over Easter.
Gameweek 36 Planning Comes First
It’s a valid strategy to pick your Gameweek 36 lineup before assessing who you keep for Gameweek 34. Ask yourself – which players/team do wish to cover in Gameweek 36? Here’s our view on the best sources of points for the double fixtures in rank order based on form and fixtures…
- Tottenham (BLA bol)
- Chelsea (QPR NEW)
- Bolton (SWA avl/sun TOT)
- Everton (FUL stk)
- Newcastle (wig che)
- Liverpool (nor FUL)
- Stoke (ARS EVE)
- Fulham (eve liv)
Further Factors to Consider
Chelsea’s Cup Exploits
With Roberto Di Matteo’s side currently still in the FA Cup, Champions League and the battle for fourth, the Blues have heavy fixture congestion on the horizon. Roberto Di Matteo has already admitted he intends to rotate his squad to cover such a punishing schedule in order to combat fatigue. It’s difficult to anticipate just how many Chelsea players can be expected to participate in both their league games. Perhaps the likes of Petr Cech, John Terry and Ashley Cole at the back, though in terms of attack-minded talent, Juan Mata looks the safest option, with rotation likely to bite hard throughout the team
Tottenham’s Attacking Talent
Tottenham look to be the best source available – they play two relegation threatened sides and, with the battle for third with Arsenal, have the incentive to get results and the firepower to produce them. Having at least two attacking players from the Spurs squad looks advisable with Gareth Bale and Emmanuel Adebayor the obvious selections – they are surely nailed-on for both games – these two look to be the prime captain candidates for Gameweek 36 with Rafael Van der Vaart shaping up to be a likely differential, with some rotation risk. If you’re holding any of these going into Gameweek 34, your best bet is to bench them and keep safe for Gameweek 36, particularly with a trip to QPR in Gameweek 35.
Fulham’s Clint Dempsey is the big conundrum. He faces a blank in Gameweek 34 when other midfield assets face favourable fixtures – Gylfi Sigurdsson (BLA), Stephane Sessegnon/James McClean (WOL), Theo Walcott (WIG).
Arguably Sigurdsson or Sessegnon at home to Wolves and Bolton respectively, could outscore Dempsey who travels to Everton and Liverpool in Gameweek 36. You could also say the same about Walcott at Stoke, given his current form.
The problem here is that Dempsey bookends his double fixture with home matches with Wigan and Sunderland in Gameweeks 35 and 36. Sessegnon goes to Fulham and Sigurdsson United in Gameweek 37, although in Gameweek 35, the pair face Villa and Bolton respectively. Walcott meanwhile, bookends Gameweek 36 with home matches against Chelsea and Norwich.
Clearly there is a case for sacrificing Dempsey ahead of Gameweek 34, then – it’s a risk given that he could easily explode over his remaining home matches and even notch in his double fixture but, there are profitable options to consider elsewhere. If you have the funds, transferring Dempsey back in for Gameweek 35’s home fixture with Wigan is of course, a worthy tactic.
The Fulham Defence
While the Dempsey situation is debatable, a Fulham defender at Everton and Liverpool seems unlikely to fetch returns, whereas both Steven Caulker and Michael Turner seem well placed, with Thomas Vermaelen the big-hitting alternative. Those three may only have one fixture in Gameweek 36 but all three could easily outscore those with double fixtures. They also have strong fixtures in Gameweek 34 – swapping them in for your Fulham defender looks a good option, then.
City vs United
The Etihad showdown in Gameweek 36 gives owners of players from both Manchester club plenty to mull over. Jonny Evans’ owners, for example, will likely bench him, while Vincent Kompany could also drop to the bench for many or perhaps be sold on. Faith in the likes of Wayne Rooney or Sergio Aguero – given his home form – will perhaps see them earn a place in starting XIs, with Antonio Valencia’s form is also persuasive of a starting role for Gameweek 36. The option to sell Rooney for Adebayor looks viable, though. United follow the City game with a home clash against Swansea and a trip to Sunderland – the latter game looks far from straightforward. Adebayor, meanwhile, faces (BLA, bol) as Rooney travels to the Etihad and, with a trip to Villa and home clash against Fulham, could easily outscore Rooney over the double Gameweek and final two fixtures of the season – particularly if United have sealed the title with games to spare.
FA Cup Final Factor
Both Chelsea and Tottenham play their second match of the Gameweek on May 2 – just three days before the FA Cup Final. Whichever team wins their Semi Final may be prone to rotation, depending on the league situation; Chelsea may also be still in the Champions League running at this point, too, casting further doubts on their players. Everton and Liverpool both play their second match of the Gameweek on May 1, affording the victor of their Semi Final a four-day break before the Final takes place.
Gameweek 37 & 38
While we look for ways to maximise points returns from Gameweek 34 and 36, it’s also worth bearing in mind each side’s fixtures after the double Gameweek, in order to avoid being stuck with two or three players from teams with difficult schedules in the last fortnight of the campaign. Here’s a list of the fixtures awaiting those double Gameweek teams immediately after Gameweek 36, ranked in order of difficulty:
- Stoke – qpr, BOL
- Tottenham – avl, FUL
- Everton – wol, NEW
- Chelsea – liv, BLA
- Bolton – WBA, sto
- Liverpool – CHE, swa
- Fulham – SUN, tot
- Newcastle – MCI, eve
The problem with attempting to assess the difficulty of fixtures at this stage of the season is that, due to motivation, the form book can go out of the window. Those sides fighting for their lives will likely put up sterner opposition than those teams nestled comfortably to the bosom of mid table. While Stoke City on paper have the easiest pairing of fixtures, should QPR and Bolton still be scrapping for survival, then arguably the Potters could end up losing both matches.
Tottenham again look the best bet – both Villa and Fulham are likely to be playing for pride while Spurs may still be in with a shout for a Champions League placing. That combination suggests that we should see continued returns from Harry Redknapp’s attacking assets right to the end.
Everton also look favourable, particularly if Wolves are cast adrift by the time Gameweek 37 comes round. The final Goodison encounter with Newcastle could be a showpiece, with two form sides coming together for a fitting final showdown.
While Cup entanglements could disrupt the Chelsea lineup and motivation for their remaining league encounters, Bolton could be a dark horse prospect over their final two matches – particularly if they need points to save their Premier League status. Both the home game with West Brom and the trip to Stoke are games that present potential for returns.
There’s no time like the present to start planning for Gameweek 34 – we’ve outlined just a few of the possibly strategies on offer and hopefully most of the factors to consider. There’s no silver bullet, however. The best laid plans can be ripped up by the unexpected and, at this stage of the season, we should be prepared to pay little mind to form and prepare for shock results. It’s very difficult to anticipate the motivation, tactics and, of course, the teamsheets at play over the final Gameweeks. Even so, as Fantasy managers, we can put ourselves in the best position to benefit should form and logic fall win out.