This article looks at the current state of play regarding likely blank and double Gameweeks caused by FA Cup involvement.
I’ve also made a number of assumptions for this article, mainly that the re-arrangement of the postponed games will follow the same principles as in the last few seasons, with fixtures being moved in blocks to midweeks where there are no Champions League or Europa League fixtures.
This is also largely aimed at those who still have their second Wild Card, Free Hit and Bench Boost chips to play. I’ve treated the Triple Captain chip as a secondary consideration as it can be used in a double- Gameweek without any real need for forward planning.
Where I have talked about fixtures that are ‘likely to go ahead’, these assume that the higher placed team in the league will win each un-played FA Cup fixture.
Gameweek 31 – the next set of fixtures with blanks.
Any team that has reached the FA Cup Quarter-Final will cause a blank this week. Just four to five games may take place this Gameweek.
- Going ahead: Stoke-vs-Everton, Liverpool v Watford.
- Likely to go ahead: Bournemouth v WBA, Huddersfield v Crystal Palace
Gameweek 34 – likely double Gameweek
It is likely that fixtures postponed from Gameweek 31 will be played here.
Gameweek 35 – another likely to involve blanks.
Any team that has reached the FA Cup Semi-Final is set to cause a blank this week. If four Premier League teams reach the semi-finals, expect only six to seven games to be played.
- Going ahead: Arsenal v West Ham, Everton v Newcastle, Stoke v Burnley, Watford v Crystal Palace, and two other fixtures.
- Likely to go ahead: West Brom v Liverpool.
Gameweek 37 – likely double Gameweek
All un-played fixtures must be played this week. This is set to include all Gameweek 35 fixtures.
Another possible blank: Arsenal vs Man City will be moved from Gameweek 28 if their FA Cup fifth round tie with Wigan goes to a replay.
To maximise players in each game week, you would need to significantly change your team between the blanks and its corresponding double.
Given how close together the blanks and doubles are, the Wild Card and Free Hit chips could be the best to make the changes to your team to avoid hits and maximise returns between Gameweek 31 (blanks) and Gameweek 34 (doubles), and Gameweek 35 (blanks) and Gameweek 37 (doubles).
This suggests that the best strategy should be to use one of these two chips to negotiate each pair of blank and double Gameweeks.
Here are some possible strategies:
1. Free Hit in blank Gameweek 31, Bench Boost in double Gameweek 34, Wild Card in blank Gameweek 35 (Triple-Captain in double-GW37):
Build a Bench-Boost double Gameweek 34 team using free transfers over a number of weeks. Use the Free Hit Chip in Gameweek 31, as you would have very few players active that week. After the double Gameweek 34 Bench-Boost, you will probably lack blank- Gameweek 35 players and so you would Wild Card that Gameweek 35 to a team that could navigate the season run in.
- PROs: you can ignore Gameweek 31 planning; a wide selection of players should have a double Gameweek 34, so you are not too limited in your Gameweeks 25-33 picks.
- CONs: Could limit the number of players available in either blank Gameweek 35 or double Gameweek 37; late Wild Card could be seen as a waste.
- Optimum situation: Few of the top Premier League teams make the FA Cup Semi-Final. This allows a squad to be built using the Wild Card in Gameweek 35 that can field eleven starters that week and still have a good selection of double Gameweek 37 players. The lack of Gameweek 28 blanks hinders this strategy.
2. Free Hit in blank Gameweek 31, Wild Card in Gameweek 36, Bench-boost in either double Gameweeks 34 or 37 (Triple-Captain in the other)
This is a variation on first strategy, where you to build a team that is strong in both double Gameweek 34 and blank Gameweek 35. This allows you to Wild Card in Gameweek 36 to maximise double Gameweek 37 players. This is likely to be better suited to Bench Boost in Gameweek 37 as, when using the Wild Card, you do not need to get any player with a single fixture in Gameweek 37 to cover the associated blank in Gameweek 35.
- PROs: you can ignore Gameweek 31 planning; field a strong team in double Gameweek 37.
- CONs: Could limit the number of players available in either double Gameweek 34 or blank Gameweek 35, and it is more difficult to build your team as you need to know the FA Cup Quarter-Final results; late Wild Card could be seen as a waste.
- Optimum situation: if double Gameweek 37 looks like the better double- for Bench-boost, and/or, there are good options for double Gameweek 34 that do not blank in Gameweek 35 (e.g. Gameweek 31 opponents of those in the FA Cup Quarter-Final, and teams that made the FA Cup Quarter-Final but not the Semi-Final).
3. Wild Card Gameweek 32 or 33, Free Hit Gameweek 35, Bench-boost in either double Gameweek 34 or 37 (Triple-Captain in the other):
This requires you to navigate blank Gameweek 31 with free transfers (and hits). You can use your Wild Card in Gameweek 32 or 33 to get a whole squad with double Gameweek players in both 34 and 37, and use the Free Hit chip to navigate blank Gameweek 35.
- PROs: Should maximise double Gameweek 34, blank Gameweek 35 and double Gameweek 37 players; earlier wildcard.
- CONs: potentially very weak in blank Gameweek 31, and around then if you have to carry sub-optimal players.
- Optimum situation: If there are very few games in blank Gameweek 31, as you can cover the likely point scorers with your existing Liverpool players, a selection of cheap bench/rotation players and a couple of Free Transfers. The Free Hit in Gameweek 35 is best where a lot of the top teams make the FA Cup Semi-Final, and so have doubles in both Gameweeks 34 and 37.
My view is that using the Bench Boost chip in double Gameweek 34 will be the best option simply because that is the week that is likely to have the most fixtures. This leaves Gameweek 37 as the best week for the Triple Captain chip.
The current consensus seems to be that Gameweek 31 is the best time to use the Free Hit. However, I think that – with Man City looking to have secured the Premier League title then the Sky Blues, as well as Manchester United, Chelsea, and Tottenham are going to focus more on the FA Cup than in previous years. If this focus (and the luck of the draw) leads to progress for at least three of these teams to the FA Cup Semi-Final, there could be a lot of strong Fantasy Premier League options with double Gameweeks in both 34 and 37, but blanks in Gameweek 35. If this happens, I think that trying to navigate the earlier blank with Free Transfers and hits (as in previous years before the free-hit chip) and using the Free Hit in Gameweek 35 is the best strategy, though it is not without risk.
When you plan to use your Free Hit and Bench Boost chips affects which players you should be starting to target with your free transfers. I’d suggest deciding when to use your chips as soon as possible, so that you know whether you should be transfering in players with a Gameweek 31 fixture or not. Also, I’d suggest saving a free transfer in Gameweek 27, ahead of the FA Cup fifth Round fixtures.
What strategy are you thinking of using? Could there be other interesting variations, such as using the Free Hit in a double Gameweek? What are people who have already used the Wild Card or Free Hit thinking of doing? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.