Manchester United’s victory over Chelsea on Monday evening and the subsequent FA Cup quarter-final draw means that we finally know the full extent of Blank Gameweek 31.
Just five Premier League matches will take place that weekend as a result of the clash with the FA Cup quarter-finals and ten clubs will be without a league fixture.
Those ten sides will face a Double Gameweek as a consequence, very possibly as soon as Gameweek 32 given that there is a convenient midweek after the already-scheduled matches that is free of any UEFA Champions League or Europa League action.
Gameweek 35 also looks primed to be a Double Gameweek and could even potentially absorb some of those cancelled Gameweek 31 games, though of course, the Premier League will have further fixtures to reschedule as a result of Gameweek 33’s clash with the FA Cup semi-finals.
As a result, we are operating under the assumption that the following will occur – though we emphatically stress that nothing has so far been confirmed regarding when the Double Gameweeks will take place:
Blank Gameweek 31 – five Premier League fixtures will be contested.
Double Gameweek 32 – ten Premier League fixtures will be initially contested, plus some/all of the additional five that were postponed from Gameweek 31.
Blank Gameweek 33 – between six and eight Premier League fixtures will be contested.
Double Gameweek 35 – ten Premier League fixtures will be contested, plus some/all of the additional two/three/four that were postponed from Gameweek 33 and potentially any other outstanding matches.
Chelsea and Brighton (whose Gameweek 27 meeting was postponed as a result of the clash with Sunday’s EFL Cup final) may enjoy an additional Double Gameweek or even a Triple Gameweek in Brighton’s case, depending on the Seagulls’ progression to the FA Cup semi-finals.
For quite some time now, we’ve preached a “wait and see” policy on chip strategy and stressed the importance of the FA Cup fifth round, given that the results of the cup ties in the weekend just gone have such an impact on Blank Gameweek 31 and beyond.
Now seems the right time to assess our options, however, so we’ve taken a look at a handful of chip strategies that Fantasy managers might consider for the weeks and months ahead.
There is no right or wrong way to deploy chips in FPL – at least, not until hindsight comes into play – and there are strategies beyond the ones outlined below that could prove to be more effective in the long-run.
Last season, Yusuf Shiekh Wildcarded in Gameweek 25, Bench Boosted in Gameweek 37 and used his Triple Captain chip in Gameweek 38 – and finished first in the world.
As is always the case with these things, the most favourable strategy will differ from manager to manager and may depend on your current set-up.
Build a team for GW31+33 / FH32 / WC34 / BB or TC35
This strategy entails steadily building a team of players using free transfers (and maybe a hit or two) between now and Gameweek 31, drafting in players who have a guaranteed fixture in Blank Gameweek 31 and, ideally, Blank Gameweek 33.
The Free Hit chip can then be used to cherry-pick 11 players who have attractive fixtures in Double Gameweek
Bench Boost or Triple Captain can then be used in Double Gameweek 35, with the remaining chip (if any) having to be used in a single Gameweek
- Good if you are already well on your way to fielding 11 players in Blank Gameweek 31 (e.g. already have perhaps five or more assets in your squad who have an unaffected fixture that weekend).
- This policy could ultimately save a valuable chip, as those Fantasy managers using Free Hit in Gameweek 31 may end up with a very similar starting XI given the (relative) lack of attractive fixtures to choose from.
- Building a team for Blank Gameweek 31 has the dual benefit of setting up for Blank Gameweek 33, too. There may be a cluster of clubs without a Premier League fixture in both – Wolves and Manchester United already fall into the camp.
- Players from Leicester, Liverpool, Bournemouth, West Ham, Huddersfield, Burnley, Chelsea and Everton can be targeted for Gameweek 31 in the knowledge that those clubs also have a fixture in Gameweek 33.
- The likes of Leicester, West Ham, Liverpool and Huddersfield have largely good fixtures anyway leading up to the Blank Gameweeks.
- An especially attractive strategy for those with low team value who don’t have a lot of money tied up in assets they may need to ditch (e.g. Paul Pogba or Raul Jimenez).
- Means that a decision can be made as late as possible on fit and firing Gameweek 32 players, with that Gameweek falling after the March international break.
- Means that Bench Boost or Triple Captain can’t be used in Gameweek 32, which may potentially be the biggest Double Gameweek of all.
- Means that one of the two above chips would have to be used in a mini-Double Gameweek or a regulation single Gameweek.
- With still a month to go before Gameweek 31, injury/suspension/loss of form could befall the players that are being stocked up on.
- Would likely mean having to avoid/gradually ditch in-form assets from the likes of Manchester United, Manchester City and Wolves in order to field 11 players in Gameweeks 31 and 33 (though up to three outfield players and a goalkeeper from these teams could, of course, be benched during their blanks).
- Those relying on team value for a later Wildcard may lose a considerable amount of money if ditching assets such as Doherty, Pogba, Marcus Rashford and Raul Jimenez as they build for Gameweeks 31 and 33.
A slight variation of this strategy is as follows:
Build a team for GW31 / WC32 / FH33 / BB or TC35
As above, this strategy entails gradually building a team of players using free transfers (and hits, if necessary) between now and Gameweek 31, drafting in players who have a guaranteed fixture in Blank Gameweek 31 – but not looking beyond that point.
The Wildcard can then be used to select 11 players who have attractive fixtures in Double Gameweek 32 and potentially again in Double Gameweek 35.
The Free Hit chip would be used for Blank Gameweek 33.
Bench Boost or Triple Captain can then be used in Double Gameweek 35, with the remaining chip (if any) having to be used in a single Gameweek or, if there is one, another mini-Double Gameweek involving Chelsea and Brighton.
Almost all of the same pros and cons for Strategy 1 apply to this method too, though in addition:
- Ensures a strong starting XI in Blank Gameweek 33, which will have more fixtures to choose from than Blank Gameweek 31.
- The gap between Double Gameweek 32 and Double Gameweek 35 is three weeks – meaning advanced stockpiling for the latter could be affected by subsequent injury/suspension/loss of form etc.
FH 31 / build for 32 and TC or BB / WC34 / TC or BB 35
This strategy entails gradually building a team of players using free transfers (and hits, if necessary) between now and Gameweek 32, focusing almost exclusively on players who have a double in Gameweek 32.
The Free Hit chip can then be used to select 11 players who have attractive fixtures in Blank Gameweek 31.
As in Strategy 1, the second Wildcard is deployed in Gameweek 34 ahead of Double Gameweek 35.
The Bench Boost and Triple Captain chips can be used in Double Gameweeks 32 and 35.
- Means that the Triple Captain and Bench Boost chips can each be used in a Double Gameweek, potentially raising the points ceiling for both of those weeks.
- Has the potential to retain high team value until the Wildcard, especially for those managers who have a lot of money tied up in the more popular assets from the likes of Wolves, Manchester United and Manchester City.
- Means managers can focus on the attractive fixtures leading up to Gameweek 31 without worrying about blanks. Manchester City’s forthcoming run (WHU, bou, WAT) could be fully exploited, while someone like Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang might be brought in for Gameweek 27 as a short-term punt.
- Managers can cherry-pick a Gameweek 31 squad and ensure a playing starting XI.
- As with Strategy 1, ensures a strong Double Gameweek 35 team/squad with transfers left relatively late in the day.
- Potentially severely weakened Gameweek 33 team, with focus being on Double Gameweek 32 and the Free Hit having already been used in Gameweek 31.
- Wolves v Manchester United is definitely off in Gameweek 33 – meaning that managers with numerous assets from these clubs who planned to keep hold of Messrs Pogba, Rashford and co may be struggling to cobble together a starting XI.
- Double Gameweek 32 occurs after the international break, meaning any plans to steadily build a squad for that round of fixtures could again be derailed by injury/suspension/loss of form given that much can happen in the intervening six weeks.
- With Liverpool, Leicester, West Ham and Chelsea all enjoying decent fixture runs in the coming weeks and months, managers may already own five, six, seven or even more players with a fixture in Blank Gameweek 31 as it is – leaving a question mark over how much worth the deployment of a Free Hit chip on the likes of Bournemouth and Burnley assets for one Gameweek really is.
A slight tweak to Strategy 3 would be to use Free Hit in Gameweek 33 instead of 31, with the decimated starting XI instead being in the latter.
Fantasy managers without their Triple Captain chips should be able to adopt and adapt any of the above strategies, though those without their Wildcard will likely have to sacrifice one of the Blank Gameweeks in order to get the most out of the Doubles: FH31 or FH33, build for 32 and 35, and TC/BB in 32/35 is one avenue for that group of FPL bosses.