The full extent of Blank Gameweek 31 is now known after the completion of Wednesday’s FA Cup fifth round ties.
Just four Premier League matches will take place that weekend as a result of the clash with the FA Cup quarter-finals and 12 clubs will be without a league fixture.
Those dozen sides will face at least one Double Gameweek as a consequence, with two of the 12 clubs – Aston Villa and Sheffield United – already having another fixture that needs to be rescheduled (their Gameweek 28 meeting, which was postponed due to the clash with the EFL Cup final).
The Premier League will have further fixtures to rearrange (a maximum of four) as a result of Gameweek 34’s clash with the FA Cup semi-finals.
Gameweeks 34 and 37 look primed to be Double Gameweeks, although the extent of them is still unknown and likely won’t be until after Gameweek 31.
On top of this, we have a mini-Double Gameweek 29 to consider, with Manchester City and Arsenal in action twice.
WHAT WE KNOW
Double Gameweek 29 – a normal Gameweek for 18 Premier League sides and a double for Arsenal and Manchester City.
Blank Gameweek 31 – four Premier League fixtures will be contested and 12 teams will blank.
Double Gameweek 34 – between six and eight Premier League fixtures will be initially contested on their scheduled weekend dates, while the free midweek afterwards may absorb some of the outstanding fixtures from Gameweeks 28/31/34.
Double Gameweek 37 – ten Premier League fixtures will be contested as scheduled, plus the remaining outstanding fixtures from Gameweeks 28/31/34.
Aston Villa and Sheffield United may enjoy an additional Double Gameweek beyond the ones outlined above, depending on the results of the FA Cup quarter-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 approaches that Fantasy managers might consider for the weeks and months ahead.
There are plenty of strategies beyond the ones outlined below that could prove to be more effective in the long-run and, as is always the case with these things, the most favourable approach will differ from manager to manager and will depend on your current set-up.
May we also point you in the direction of Fantasy Football Scout user NOMONEY‘s excellent Hot Topic, which runs down a total of 17 different options depending on your current situation.
Current Chip Usage
The graphics below come from Ragabolly’s LiveFPL.net site, which details all manner of information on Fantasy Premier League chip usage and player ownership.
Rather than look at the overall picture, which is clouded by millions of ‘ghost teams’, we have focused on the top 10,000 FPL managers, given that the vast majority of them (if not all) will be ‘active’.
Only 11.8% of the top 10k have a full complement of chips left to use, while around one in 20 of this elite group have already maxed out their allowance.
Just over one in three have used their second Wildcard, while almost three-quarters of the FPL managers studied have burned their Triple Captain chip – Liverpool’s Double Gameweek 24 accounting for a sizeable chunk of that.
THREE/FOUR CHIPS REMAINING
This analysis will initially focus on those Fantasy managers with the Wildcard, Bench Boost and Free Hit chips still available, given that it appears to be the most common situation based on the findings above.
FREE TRANSFERS TO GW31 / WC32 / BB34 / FH37
This strategy entails steadily building a team of players using free transfers (and maybe a hit or two), drafting in players who have a guaranteed fixture in Blank Gameweek 31.
The ‘dead-ended’ team can then be Wildcarded in Gameweek 32,
The Bench Boost can subsequently be used in Double Gameweek 34, with the Free Hit then deployed in order to cherry-pick 11 players who have attractive fixtures in Double Gameweek 37.
There is more on a similar strategy (Wildcard in Gameweek 33 being the exception) in a Community article from FPL Virgin here.
- Good if you are already well on your way to fielding 11 players (or somewhere near that figure) in Blank Gameweek 31, e.g. already have perhaps six 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.
- The likes of Liverpool and Wolves have largely good fixtures anyway leading up to the Blank Gameweek, so could be tripled-up on in advance.
- 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 for Blank Gameweek 31.
- Means that a decision on which players to Wildcard can be left until after Gameweek 31, when the full Double Gameweek 34/37 picture will likely be known.
- A Free Hit in Gameweek 37 can be used to cherry-pick the best options for that Double Gameweek, which could be crucial given the rotation/motivation issues that sometimes dog the late season.
- Double Gameweek 34 seems set to be the smaller of the two Double Gameweeks, so a Bench Boost would perhaps not have the same clout as in Gameweek 37.
- Stocking up on Gameweek 31 players perhaps means avoiding more than one or two Arsenal and Manchester City assets for their Double Gameweek 29, given that those two clubs are without a fixture in Blank Gameweek 31.
- Would likely mean having to now avoid/ditch in-form assets from the likes of Everton, Manchester United and Sheffield United in order to field 11 (or as close to that number) players in Gameweeks 31.
- Those relying on team value for a later Wildcard may lose a considerable amount of money if ditching assets as they build for Gameweek 31.
- Precious little time to react to the confirmed Gameweek 31 fixtures after the midweek FA Cup results (e.g. Norwich v Everton is now postponed, when many thought it could be part of Gameweek 31).
BUILD A TEAM FOR/IGNORE GW31 / FH34 / WC35 or 36 / BB37
This strategy perhaps places less focus on Blank Gameweek 31 and shifts more attention to the Doubles.
Free transfers are used to navigate the coming weeks before a Free Hit is used to select 11 players who have attractive fixtures in the potential Double Gameweek 34.
The Wildcard could then be used to set up for a Bench Boost in Double Gameweek 37.
- Good if you are already well on your way to fielding a competitive line-up in Blank Gameweek 31 or, alternatively, if you don’t place a great deal of emphasis on a Gameweek with only four fixtures, given the lack of choice available.
- Gives the best possible chance of getting out strong starting XIs in Double Gameweeks 34 and 37.
- The Bench Boost chip would be used for what is anticipated to be the biggest Double Gameweek of the season.
- By ignoring or placing less focus on Gameweek 31, Arsenal assets can be bought for Double Gameweek 29 and kept for their favourable fixtures around Blank Gameweek 31 (e.g. the Gunners face Norwich City at home in Gameweek 32).
- The likes of Liverpool and Wolves have largely good fixtures anyway leading up to Blank Gameweek 31 and beyond (except for the Reds’ clash with Manchester City in Gameweek 32), so could be tripled-up on in advance.
- Using a Wildcard so late into the campaign gives only three or four weeks of points with which to benefit from.
- A potentially severely weakened Gameweek 31 team, with the focus being on the matches beyond and before that.
- Double Gameweek 34 might be a very small Double Gameweek (we won’t know that until the March international break), so the benefit of using the Free Hit might be limited considering that other managers could easily build towards having a competitive XI without it.
- As with using any chip in Gameweek 34 (most strategies will have this downside), up to eight clubs will only be in action in the midweek after the deadline – so team news will be in short supply for those teams.
FH31 / WC32-33 or 35-36 / BB34 or 37
This strategy places a lot of focus on Gameweek 31 and will almost certainly ensure 11 playing options, given that emergency substitutes with an unaffected Premier League fixture could be stockpiled too.
The strategy could then go several ways, with one possibility being a Wildcard before Bench Boosting in the biggest Double Gameweek of the campaign (e.g. WC35 or 36, BB37).
Free transfers would be used to navigate the coming weeks before a Gameweek 35/36 Wildcard.
Alternatively, a Wildcard might be desperately needed in Gameweek 32 or 33.
In that situation, free transfers would be required to prepare for Double Gameweek 37.
- Practically ensures a full playing XI in Gameweek 31, which is especially helpful for those FPL managers who currently only have a handful of players with an unaffected fixture.
- Arsenal and Manchester City assets can be bought ahead of Double Gameweek 29 in the knowledge that it doesn’t matter about their Gameweek 31 blank.
- In-form players from the likes of Everton and Manchester United can also be snapped up, again because a Blank Gameweek 31 can be dealt with by using the Free Hit chip.
- Wildcarding immediately before a Bench Boost in a Double Gameweek gives the best possible chance of getting a competitive squad out, given the risk of rotation/injuries etc by doing otherwise.
- A Gameweek 32 or 33 Wildcard has seven or six Gameweeks to make a positive impact, rather than a chip deployed later in the campaign.
- A small pool of attractive players with which to choose from in Gameweek 31.
- Most of the more appealing Gameweek 31 players will likely already be owned by those not using their Free Hit chip (the likes of Mohamed Salah, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Sadio Mane, Raul Jimenez and a Wolves defender).
- A Gameweek 32/33 Wildcard means that Double Gameweek 37 would have to be dealt with mostly by free transfers, when rotation and motivation could be key factors for the teams involved and assets we thought could excel at the back-end of the season might be less appealing than thought.
- A Gameweek 35/36 Wildcard gives only three or four weeks of points with which to benefit from.
WC29 / FH34 / BB37
Similar to Strategy 2, with the big exception being the immediate deployment of the second Wildcard.
‘The Jarvish Strategy’ maximises the Double Gameweek 29 for Arsenal and Manchester City assets and also allows for Blank Gameweek 31 to be prepared for.
Free transfers (and possible hits) would then have to be used for the rest of the campaign, with a Free Hit activated in Gameweek 34 and a Bench Boost in Gameweek 37 (or vice-versa, depending on the respective sizes of the Double Gameweeks).
- Up to six players from Manchester City and Arsenal could be instantly acquired for Double Gameweek 29, providing an initial advantage on the rest of us who are going with one or two assets from these clubs.
- Nine players who have Gameweek 31 fixtures (triple Wolves, triple Liverpool, Nick Pope, Ismaila Sarr and Serge Aurier, to give an example) can also be acquired, meaning that only two free transfers would be required to get a full complement out in Gameweek 31.
- A Wildcard gets much longer to have a positive effect than a chip used later in the campaign.
- A Free Hit in Gameweek 34 ensures a strong playing XI in one of the Double Gameweeks (likely the smallest one).
- The Bench Boost chip would be used for what is anticipated to be the biggest Double Gameweek of the season.
- Perhaps means initially overlooking assets who neither have a Double Gameweek 29 or a fixture in Blank Gameweek 31, eg Everton, Manchester United, Leicester City, Chelsea and Sheffield United.
- As Strategy 3, there are a small pool of attractive players with which to choose from in Gameweek 31.
- Most of the more appealing Gameweek 31 players will likely already be owned by those not using their Free Hit chip.
- Using only free transfers and the odd hit after Gameweek 31 (a Free Hit aside) means that an optimum Bench Boost squad may not be possible given the likelihood of injuries and rotation kicking in towards the season run-in.
TRIPLE CAPTAIN CHIP
For those lucky managers who have all of the above chips left in their locker plus the Triple Captain chip, there are further options.
The Triple Captain chip could be deployed in any one of up to four Double Gameweeks: Gameweeks 29, 34 and 37 plus possibly another involving Sheffield United and Aston Villa.
It’s difficult to make a call on when the best possible time to use it will be without knowing the exact make-up of the Double Gameweeks. For example, Manchester United could potentially have an appealing Double Gameweek 37 involving West Ham United and Aston Villa – although there are so many permutations at this stage that we won’t know for certain until after Gameweek 31.
Using the Triple Captain chip in Gameweek 29, say on Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, is an alternative option, with Strategy 1-3 (or another) then followed for the rest of the campaign.
ZERO/ONE/TWO CHIPS REMAINING
Those with zero chips remaining obviously have to use free transfers and hits to navigate their way through the choppy waters ahead and it is perhaps best now to pay not so much heed to Gameweek 31 (with the exception of maybe Liverpool and Wolves) and focus more on the teams who actually blank then, given that they will have a Double Gameweek 34 and/or 37.
Similarly, those with only a Triple Captain, Free Hit or Bench Boost left may desire to save their sole remaining chip for the biggest Double Gameweek to come, something we’ll know for sure after the FA Cup quarter-finals later this month (the consensus seems to be Gameweek 37).
Those with two chips remaining may opt to follow one of the strategies above but delete where appropriate.
For example, a Fantasy manager with only Bench Boost and Free Hit chips left in their locker could follow Strategy 1/2 but would obviously have to use transfers/hits around Gameweeks 34 and 37 rather than rely on a Wildcard in between.
We’ll again point you in the direction of NOMONEY’s Hot Topic and the discussion beneath it, which outlines a whole host of scenarios depending on your chip usage.
All of the above is obviously just an introductory guide to the various strategies and the suitability of each of them will vary from manager to manager.
As previously mentioned, there are a number of options beyond the approaches listed – ones that may indeed prove to be more successful in the 2019/20 run-in.
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