It’s back. It has felt like an eternity, but in a couple of days, we’ll be back to cheering on our differentials, holding our head in our hands when our captains miss a sitter, screaming at VAR when it rules out our points, and dancing around the living room with the dog when our player gets a 90-minute winner.
It’s been such a strange season for my team, but I couldn’t have predicted how weird it would get. After Harvey Barnes (£6.2m) got 19 points in Gameweek 29 and James Maddison (£7.5m) blanked, my rank plummeted. I can’t say I was feeling all that great about FPL. I’ve used these months to rest, recuperate and not really think about it too much in all honesty but, now it’s back, I’m ready to dive back in and sort things out.
When I opened my team for the first time in weeks the other day, I was pleasantly surprised by what I saw. The balance of my team was decent, I had some sensible big hitters and quite a nice spread of players from different teams.
However, with everything that’s going on, there’s so much more to consider. Who is going to play most regularly in this frantic end to the season? Which of the players returning from injury will have the biggest impact? Which teams should we be targeting to ensure we are getting motivated and hungry players, rather than those who would rather be at home doing a Zoom quiz.
The final few weeks look set to shake everything up and, in a season where I’ve struggled to get a grip on what’s happening, I am conscious that I will need to adapt quickly. I’ve put together a couple of things that I’ll be looking to capitalise on as we enter the final straight of the season.
1. My chip strategy
The first round of Project Restart hands us an exciting Double Gameweek. Manchester City, Arsenal, Sheffield United and Aston Villa all play twice. Not only that, but FPL has handed us unlimited transfers AND the option to play a chip. To me, this is huge. Whenever I’ve played the Bench Boost before, I’ve had to plan ahead. Not just pick a team for one week, but consider how my squad will fare over several Gameweeks and ensure that each player serves a purpose around the double.
Well, that’s not the case this time around. In fact, I can do the complete opposite. The players I pick need to only serve one purpose. Score points in Double Gameweek 30+. This is because I’ve got the Wildcard ready to go, to clean up any mess that I find myself in after this Gameweek. The prospect of this is really exciting, I’m effectively gaining an extra Free Hit chip.
People without a Wildcard aren’t so lucky. Their Free Hits will likely be played, or squads will be designed with future Gameweeks in mind. With the likes of Everton desperately trying to avoid handing Liverpool the title at Goodison Park, Manchester United against a Spurs team with a whole host of injured players back and ready to go, and Leicester away at a Watford side who will be desperate to pick up points, I’m really hoping that shying away from these players and focusing on those with a double will make me big strides this coming week.
Those who are Free Hitting are essentially losing out on either a free Wildcard (unlimited transfers this week) or having to use what is arguably their most powerful chip (as squads will be reset to how they were prior to this Gameweek). This is great news for me personally, and indeed the many that still have the Wildcard. Some will be looking at their teams this week, concerned that their squads are looking weak, wishing they could make changes – and will only be applying a band-aid on the problem with their Free Hit chip, or will have to make transfers with the rest of the season in mind. The Double Gameweek 30+ Bench Boost and Gameweek 31+ Wildcard just looks a match made in heaven.
2. Who I’m targeting for GW 30+
There’s still quite a bit to play for this season, with Chelsea, Manchester United, Arsenal, Wolves, Spurs and Sheffield United all hunting down the top four spots. At the other end of the table, five teams are trying to avoid being relegated with seemingly doomed Norwich.
Between these two groups, there is a whole host of players to choose from, and I’ll be basing my transfers for the remainder of the season on who has something to play for.
However, my team doesn’t need to follow this rule this week. My Double Gameweek 30+ plan is purely to try and capitalise on those with two fixtures.
I’ll be tripling-up on Manchester City, Arsenal, Sheffield United – and probably Aston Villa too. This means that 12 of my 15 players will be Double Gameweekers (the maximum I can have), with the other three slots going to teams with good games.
I like the look of Chelsea’s match against Villa – so Tammy Abraham (7.5m) will likely feature in my squad. The City and Arsenal options are trickier to decide on. Sergio Aguero (11.8m) will likely be the go-to captain for many (and for good reason), with Pierre Emeric-Aubameyang (11.1m) the other main consideration for the armband. It also seems silly to go without Kevin De Bruyne (10.6m) based on his form pre-coronavirus.
With Leroy Sane (9.3m) back to fitness, and a plethora of options in midfield such as Raheem Sterling (11.7m), Ryiad Mahrez (8.5m) and Bernardo Silva (7.9m) all in the reckoning for a start, plus the new five substitutes rule and Pep Guardiola’s tendency to rotate players anyway, I feel like I want to shy away from these players with the hope of getting a bit more security from their defence.
Aymeric Laporte (6.3m) was back in the team just before COVID-19 hit, and the break may have boosted his recovery from injury, if not lack of match fitness. John Stones (5.3m) and Nicholas Otamendi (4.9m) are just such inferior options compared to the Frenchman (compared to how impactful the midfielders are) which suggests that Laporte could get two sets of 90 minutes under his belt. He has scored big in a Double Gameweek before. Let’s hope he can do it again.
Turning my attentions to Arsenal, I immediately have decided to eliminate any consideration for their defenders. A game against Manchester City doesn’t bode well for their chances of a clean sheet, and then an away game at Brighton, who I feel have enough to cause them difficulty with the skill of players like Leandro Trossard (5.8m), Neal Maupay (5.7m) and new signing Alexis MacCallister (5.5m) (who I am extremely excited about might I add) means that I can see goals in this match.
This means I’ll be looking in midfield to try and find some sources of points. Nicolas Pépe (9.3m) has burned me before, but I wonder if having no fans will reduce the pressure on the man who signed for big money in the summer. I also like the look of Bukayo Saka (4.7m), who Mikel Arteta seems to have a real soft spot for, and can play either at full-back or on the wing. I did briefly consider Dani Ceballos (5.2m) and Mesut Özil (7.3m), but note the deeper withdrawn role the former occupies under Arteta…and I fear that Özil may go missing even more than usual under a less pressured atmosphere.
My choices from Villa and Sheffield United were much easier. Jack Grealish (6.4m) looks a must, especially with his incredible strike in a friendly game against West Bromwich Albion the other day. The issue is which fellow Villains to pair with him.
Currently I’ve got Pepe Reina (4.5m) as my reserve goalkeeper, who I am not expecting much from, but may come out with some save points. I also love the look of John McGinn (5.4m) who was such an asset earlier in the season. I know David wrote a helpful article about him earlier this week. You can READ IT HERE.
While the focus has mostly been on attackers so far, at least two defenders from Sheffield United look tasty. I am also considering the triple up, but am leaning towards giving John Fleck (5.0m) a spot in my team. He has five goals this season already, and his place in the team looks pretty secure. Lord Lundstram (4.9) will, of course, be heavily backed, but again, I am hoping that he misses at least one of the games and my other United options help me gain some ground.
3. Going forward
With a solid plan in place for Double Gameweek 30+, I need to begin planning for Gameweek 31+ and beyond. I’m really pleased that I’ll be able to have a week to scope out the teams’ and players’ fitness and motivation before playing my Wildcard.
Manchester United and Wolves are the teams that I really want to target until the season end, with a combination of great fixtures, hungry players and something to play for. If Liverpool do claim the title at Goodison, I may even shy away from their options altogether…
I just want to end this article by offering my sympathies to anyone that’s been negatively impacted by Coronavirus. The pandemic has taken a toll on people emotionally, physically, on their careers and loved ones. If anyone does want to chat about anything, I’m always available, and the best place to contact me is on Twitter – @ffscout_az. Whether it’s just to chat FPL, or anything really. It’s going to be great being able to look forward to watching some football again and getting back to being involved with the FFScout community. Onwards to Double Gameweek 30+!
Nominated for ‘Best in Fantasy Football – Editorial’ at the Football Content Awards 2020
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