We’re exactly halfway through the Virtual FPL season, which seems to be an ideal time to take stock of Ragabolly’s Fantasy management game.
We look back at the latest weekend double-header and preview Tuesday’s games in our regular round-up below.
READ MORE: How to sign up and play Virtual FPL
A WILDCARD APPEARS
The second Wildcard is now available to Virtual FPL managers as we enter the second half of the season.
It can be played at any time from Gameweeks 20 to 38 but, as is the case with Fantasy Premier League, not in conjunction with another chip.
Intriguingly, around one-third of the top 100 managers in the vFPL rankings failed to activate their first Wildcard.
Over 65% of managers overall didn’t use the chip but dead teams will be skewing that figure somewhat.
Around one in 13 Virtual FPL bosses pressed the trigger on their first Wildcard at the last possible opportunity, ahead of the Gameweek 19 deadline.
It’s seven matches without a clean sheet for Burnley, with owners of Nick Pope (£4.9m) et al perhaps getting itchy fingers as the search for a clean sheet goes on.
The Clarets still boast the joint-fifth-best defensive record in the division, however, and it’s worth looking at who they have played during their barren run: five of their last seven games have been against sides currently in the top six.
The picture looks much rosier going forward, with seven of their next 12 fixtures against sides in the bottom half and two of the other five games against low-scoring Sheffield United and Crystal Palace.
FEW REDS FOR REDS
As if they weren’t scoring enough as it is, Liverpool are about to enjoy a very favourable fixture swing.
Only one of their next 13 matches is marked as ‘red’ in the fixture ticker, with Jurgen Klopp’s simulated side facing nine of the bottom ten clubs during that time.
Not that it seems to matter who they face; let’s have a look at what the Reds have done during their recent ‘tough’ run of fixtures:
GW19: Liverpool 6-1 Spurs
GW18: Man Utd 0-0 Liverpool
GW17: Everton 0-3 Liverpool
GW16: Chelsea 3-3 Liverpool
GW14: Man City 2-3 Liverpool
GW13: Liverpool 2-0 Wolves
Keeping clean sheets in half of the above games, Liverpool averaged 2.83 goals per match in these supposedly trickier fixtures – that’s almost exactly the same as their mean over the whole of the campaign (2.89).
Trent Alexander-Arnold (£7.8m) was a revelation in these half-dozen matches, averaging 9.83 points per match and racking up six attacking returns in the process.
SPURS OF THE MOMENT
Injury-hit Tottenham Hotspur were dealt two more blows on Sunday, with Dele Alli (£8.3m) and Steven Bergwijn (£7.4m) set to be missing for 11 and seven weeks respectively.
With Harry Kane (£10.8m) still unavailable, the ever-present Son Heung-min (£9.7m) looks even more nailed in the Tottenham Hotspur attack.
The Korean has five attacking returns in as many matches without Kane in the side.
Alli and Bergwijn’s absences could very well open up an opportunity for Erik Lamela (£5.7m), too, ahead of two favourable fixtures against Newcastle United and Norwich City.
The cut-price midfielder has mostly been a substitute from Gameweek 11 onwards but came on for Bergwijn after 35 minutes against Liverpool on Sunday and would seem to be well placed for a start on Tuesday.
Owners of Leroy Sane (£9.3m) were further boosted at the weekend as two positional rivals, Riyad Mahrez (£8.4m) and Bernardo Silva (£7.8m), picked up injuries that will keep them out until Gameweeks 27 and 23 respectively.
Sane is Virtual FPL’s form player, averaging 10.6 points per match over the last five Gameweeks and not blanking in any of his last ten appearances.
His place in Pep Guardiola’s team was seemingly his to lose anyway but the injuries to Mahrez and Bernardo can surely only aid his cause in terms of diminished rotation risk.
Manchester City succumbed to a shock 2-1 defeat at Newcastle United on Sunday, although the attack count (28 to 12 in City’s favour) suggests this was a bit of a freak occurrence.
A BRUSH WITH HOLGATE?
Lying sixth among FPL defenders for attacking involvements per 90 minutes, above the likes of Virgil van Dijk (£6.6m), Lucas Digne (£5.7m) and Patrick van Aanholt (£5.6m), is Mason Holgate (£4.3m).
The budget vFPL asset banked successive double-digit hauls over the weekend, taking his assist tally to six for the season – only three defenders have more.
Security of starts is a big issue with Holgate, as he has started little over half of Everton’s fixtures so far this campaign.
Form has a big say in team selection in Ragabolly’s game, though, and Everton’s dearth of clean sheets (two in their first 17 matches) would account for the rotation to some extent.
Holgate has been present for back-to-back shut-outs in Gameweeks 18 and 19, however, and looks nicely poised for further appearances in the short term based on his current output.
Three of the Toffees’ next four fixtures are against sides in the bottom six, while Everton – despite their lack of clean sheets – have actually conceded fewer attacks than any other side in the division at the midway point of the campaign.
VIRTUAL FPL PREMIER LEAGUE TABLE
TopMarx’s spreadsheet that details team attacks (for and against, home and away) has been updated after Gameweek 19 and can be viewed here.
The fixture difficulty rating colour (according to Ragabolly’s ticker) is reflected in the relevant Gameweek.
The interactive player stats spreadsheet has also been refreshed after the weekend’s matches, meanwhile.
The stand-alone spreadsheet can be accessed via this link, with Fantasy managers able to make their own copy by selecting “File>Make a copy”.
INJURIES AND BANS
On top of the aforementioned injuries to Mahrez, Bernardo, Alli and Bergwijn, there were plenty of other new additions to the above table over the weekend.
Willy Boly (£4.8m), James Tarkowski (£5.1m), Harry Maguire (£5.3m), Kenny McLean (£4.8m) and Miguel Almiron (£5.8m) all picked up fresh injuries and will be out for between three to five weeks (see the above table for the exact return dates in each case).
Serge Aurier (£5.0m) and Jack O’Connell (£4.7m) were also injured on Saturday but will return sooner, in Gameweeks 21 and 22 respectively.
Matt Targett (£4.4m) and Philip Billing (£5.0m) won’t be back until Gameweek 27, meanwhile.
Kyle Walker (£5.7m) and Lewis Cook (£5.0m) were both shown straight red cards on Sunday so will now serve three-match bans, while Matej Vydra (£5.3m) will sit out Gameweek 20 after being dismissed for two bookings.
Andre Gomes (£5.2m) and James Justin (£4.7m) both missed Gameweek 19 after picking up a red card and an injury respectively on Saturday but are now available for selection.
Frederic Guilbert (£4.4m) returns from a longer-term issue in Gameweek 20, too.
Fábio Borges, who is flying high in our Hall of Fame after two successive top 1k finishes, has made his move over the weekend and is now 45 points clear of the chasing pack in the overall standings.
Our runaway leader deployed his first Wildcard at the last possible opportunity, having also been the top-scoring manager in Gameweek 18.
Just 20 points separates positions two to ten in the above table, meanwhile.
All bar two of the top ten above are signed up to our Fantasy Football Scout mini-league, with Fábio among that group of eight.
You can join the Fantasy Football Scout mini-league by entering the code 9RV4A via the below link.