While we won’t have any Premier League football until the very end of April at the earliest, another five empty Gameweeks at least will have gone by the time a ball is kicked – the first of which passes on Friday evening.
Fantasy Premier League announced yesterday that the deadlines for Gameweeks 31-35 will remain as they currently are despite no matches taking place in any of them, mirroring their policy for Gameweek 30.
The deadlines for these Gameweeks are:
Gameweek 31 – Fri 20 Mar – 19:00 GMT
Gameweek 32 – Sat 4 Apr – 11:30 BST
Gameweek 33 – Fri 10 Apr – 19:00 BST
Gameweek 34 – Sat 18 Apr – 11:30 BST
Gameweek 35 – Sat 25 Apr – 11:30 BST
With every passing Gameweek, Fantasy managers are granted a new free transfer, with a maximum of two rolled over.
That gives FPL bosses six free transfers ahead of the possible resumption of play in early May, seven if a transfer has already been carried forward from Gameweek 30.
Of course, there are no guarantees that Premier League football will be in a position to restart in Gameweek 36 because of the ongoing coronavirus crisis.
It could be, then, that there are more “Blank Gameweeks” beyond the ones already confirmed.
But what should FPL managers do with their abundance of free transfers, given that so much is unknown at present?
We’ll discuss some of the options below.
Get rid of long-term injured players
It’s stating the bleeding obvious to say that the first thing to do with a luxury free transfer is to ship out a player who is injured.
We should quickly stipulate that we’re talking about players who are long-term absentees such as Leicester City’s Ricardo Pereira (£6.3m), who will be sidelined for four to six months with an ACL injury.
Even a best-case-scenario recovery for the Portugal international would put him back in training sometime in mid-July, with a further period needed thereafter to build up his match-fitness.
However, a lot of flags in FPL have to be treated with a pinch of salt at present.
Many of the players who are currently listed at 75% will be in a position to feature when we get the go-ahead to resume and there are likely to be a handful of Fantasy assets who are currently red-flagged who will be nearing a comeback by May.
Enda Stevens (£5.1m), for example, was only ruled out for “a couple of weeks” by Chris Wilder on March 12, so, barring any setbacks, ought to be fit in plenty of time before the possible Gameweek 36 restart.
It’s also worth bearing in mind the possible effect of returnees on existing assets.
For instance, the security of starts for bench fodder option Jeremy Ngakia (£4.0m) may now be in some doubt given that Ryan Fredericks (£4.4m) will likely be in contention for a return come May.
Upgrade Bench Fodder
This seems an ideal opportunity to move out non-playing bench fodder, particularly if there isn’t a great deal of value tied up in the player in question.
Martin Kelly (£4.2m), for instance, still sits in almost one in five FPL squads, despite having not played a match since Gameweek 24.
‘Ghost teams’ will account for some of that high ownership but there’ll be many of us who haven’t had the luxury of upgrading our benches lately, with other fires to fight.
Some managers who still have their Wildcards and Free Hit chips to hand may be content to sit on £3.9m defenders/goalkeepers or £4.3m midfielders/forwards as a third substitute (playing or otherwise) for budgetary reasons, which is fair enough.
In the likes of Kelly’s case, however, when playing alternatives such as Jamaal Lascelles, Charlie Taylor, Mason Holgate and Joel Ward (all £4.3m) can be snapped up for just £0.1m more, there doesn’t seem to be much of a downside to making the switch.
Injuries could potentially happen (either to Lascelles et al or to Kelly’s positional rivals at Crystal Palace) between now and the resumption of Premier League football, of course, but we will seldom get better opportunities to weed our benches of players who are struggling for game-time.
Building for Gameweek 36
Perhaps the riskiest ploy at this stage would be to steadily build a team with the main focus being on Gameweek 36.
We have already had the coronavirus-influenced return date pushed back from April 4 to April 30, so there is a very real possibility that the suspension of play could drag on even longer depending on the spread of COVID-19.
Even if we do get the green light to resume in early-May, there are so many unknowns at this stage.
Will Gameweek 36’s currently scheduled matches indeed be the first ones to take place? It would seem strange to postpone an entire set of top-flight games and replace them with another ten on the same weekend but we are in unprecedented times and no-one really knows how the Premier League will rejig the fixture calendar.
Will Gameweek 36 be a ‘Double’ or will there be additional Gameweeks (39, 40 etc) tagged on to the end of the season? Again, no-one knows at present and that is something we will only find out closer to May, should professional sport be in a position to proceed.
There are certainly some attractive fixtures in Gameweek 36 as it stands, with Everton v Aston Villa among them, but dismantling a Fantasy squad for the sole purpose of preparing for a Gameweek that might not even take place is a high-risk game.
The gradual Wildcard
For those FPL bosses who are desperately unhappy with their squads and/or lacking in chips, a gradual ‘Wildcard’ is an option for the next six Gameweeks, given that up to seven free transfers will be in hand.
Rather than preparing for a specific Gameweek that might never happen (GW36), the focus would instead be on targeting those teams who have excellent fixtures in general in the season run-in.
While we don’t know the order in which the outstanding matches will be staged or the composition of any possible bumper Gameweeks, we do know exactly who each team has left to play.
Manchester United, for example, have a particularly favourable set of games remaining (see the screenshot from FPL below), which surely only enhances the appeal of Bruno Fernandes (£8.5m).
Similarly, players with poor remaining fixtures could be offloaded in the process.
Paying attention to the teams with the most number of matches remaining is also something to perhaps consider, for those without a Wildcard/Free Hit intact.
Sheffield United, Aston Villa, Manchester City and Arsenal all have ten games left to play (the rest have nine), so the likes of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (£11.1m) and Kevin De Bruyne (£10.6m) have the edge over many others in that sense.
Of course, the FA Cup and UEFA Champions League are also still to be completed, so how seriously Manchester City will be taking the Premier League if and when it does return is another question.
For a decent number of us, the approach will be to do very little at all over the coming five Gameweeks and ‘burn’ (i.e. not use) most or all of our free transfers.
Many Fantasy managers will have value tied up in certain players or be in a fortunate enough position to be actually quite happy with their squads, so there is little incentive to make wholesale changes given the uncertainty over if and when the Premier League will restart – at least until we get more concrete information.
Those FPL bosses with several chips intact will also be fairly relaxed despite the current precarious situation, knowing that they can easily navigate around whatever FPL throws at us (extra Gameweeks or a huge Gameweek 38) by deploying a Wildcard, Free Hit, Bench Boost or Triple Captain chip when necessary.
The ‘sitting tight’ approach also has the added benefit of a likely rise in overall rank (OR), even if the green arrow is minuscule in nature.
FPL separates managers tied on points by transfers made, so there could be incremental gains in OR to be made over the next five Gameweeks by simply not doing anything.
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