With just 12 teams set to play in Gameweek 35, many Fantasy Premier League (FPL) managers have pinpointed this round of fixtures as the ideal time to play their Free Hit chip.
While this has long been an accepted strategy among a sizeable section of the FPL community, there continues to be some confusion about the mechanics behind the chip.
With that in mind, we’ve put together this initial guide to the chip, before we start to look at player targets and squad building later this week.
First of all, let’s look at the problem solved by the Free Hit chip in Gameweek 35.
With the semi-finals of the FA Cup also taking place next weekend, we are limited to the following fixtures.
Gameweek 35 schedule
West Brom vs Liverpool
Watford vs Crystal Palace
Arsenal vs West Ham
Stoke vs Burnley
Man City vs Swansea
Everton vs Newcastle
That obviously means that squads could be almost decimated, with managers struggling to field a full XI, let alone one that can compete strongly.
Replacing last season’s All-Out Attack chip, the Free Hit chip can address this problem.
It affords us a chance to temporarily freshen up our 15-man squads for a single round of fixtures.
The Free Hit chip can be used just once in the season – just like the Wildcards, it can’t be cancelled when you hit confirm.
Similarly, any saved transfers carried over from the previous Gameweek will be nullified – effectively, then, we are back to a single free trade for the following round of fixtures.
As mentioned in this Premier League article at the start of the season, the Free Hit chip cannot be used to play the market – although you can replace every member of your squad for the Gameweek concerned, you do not benefit from any price changes from the new recruits.
This was an area of much discussion in our Hot Topic here.
Essentially, you should think of the Free Hit chip as a mini-wildcard, but one that you do not benefit from in terms of budget.
So if you want Raheem Sterling – the most bought player since last week’s deadline – in your Free Hit squad for the weekend encounter with Swansea City, get him in now and activate the chip to avoid missing any further price rises, particularly if you’re struggling for budget.
On the downside, though, even if he rises by 0.2, you can forget about making a 0.1 profit.
Once the Gameweek 35 deadline has passed, we will then revert to our original squad set-ups. Any price rises or falls that hit our original set of players in the previous Gameweek will then be reflected.
So, for example, if you traded out Romelu Lukaku on your Free Hit chip prior to a price fall, that subsequent drop will still be factored into your squad value on his return.
As mentioned, there is no way to play the market.
Also, when playing the Free Hit chip, any transfers already made prior to activation are included so any transfers costs or “hits” spent to this point will be refunded.
This kills the possibility that we can profit by bringing in players early as “standard” transfers, waiting until Saturday morning, pre-deadline, before confirming the Free Hit chip.
Every trade made in the Gameweek will be classed as part of the Free Hit chip, regardless of when it is made.
An early transfer only helps to avoid paying that little bit more for a player with your Free Hit funds should that player enjoy a likely price rise over the next few days.
With many Wildcards played ahead of Double Gameweeks 34 and 37, it’s perhaps likely, in terms of the current setup of our squads, that levels of interest in the Gameweek 35 big-hitters will centre on Mohamed Salah, who boasts an ownership of 57.6%.
Indeed, the Egyptian is one of a host of well-owned picks set to feature this upcoming weekend.
The likes of Kevin De Bruyne (21.9%) and Sterling (18.5%) joins Salah in the top three most owned midfielders, Nicolas Otamendi (26.1%) is the most popular defender, while Roberto Firmino (38.1%) is the number one forward, with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (12.4%) among the top six strikers.
With FPL interest in Gabriel Jesus and the Liverpool defence on the rise, the likes of Kevin Long (4.0), Luka Milivojevic (5.1) and Ayoze Perez (5.3) are also among the main targets for managers. All three offer in-form solutions for those with low team value scanning for budget buys.
Indeed, Free Hit managers will likely be spending big funds on a spread of heavy-hitters while filling at least three of the four bench slots with budget fodder and inactive players.
Our coverage of the Gameweek 35 Free Hit will continue over the week as we look to the best options in defence and attack. There will also be a members article which turns to our Opta data for further insight into possible solutions.