Nine Gameweeks crammed into just over a month. It’s been a wild ride. But here we are, at the final round of the season.
Some people will be playing for pride. Others will have given up, instead looking to have a bit of fun. But many of you are sure to have things on the line.
Top 100k, 10k or even top 1k finishes. First place in mini-leagues. Bitter rivalries with family / friends that have come right down to the wire.
For myself, I’m hoping for a strong finish that would cap off a difficult season that saw me down at an overall rank of 2,036,315 back in Gameweek 11.
Since then, 14 out of a possible 18 arrows have been green, and I dipped into the top 100k in Gameweek 27 (85,609) before going into lockdown with a rank of 166,578.
Post-lockdown, it’s been a bit of a stop and start, I struggled to make ground until Michael Antonio (£7.1m) and Raheem Sterling (£11.9m) captain in Gameweek 35+ propelled me up to 30k.
Now, with my Free Hit chip to play, I need to carefully consider my options to make a last gasp assault at the top 10k. Here’s how I’m planning to do it (as of Tuesday evening).
My Free Hit Draft
To make the most of my Free Hit, and to give myself the best possible chance of getting points, I want to put my faith in players who have the biggest up-side.
While it’s important to get your Goalkeeper right over a prolonged period, I’m of the opinion that in a one week free for all, go with the cheapest one who has a decent fixture.
Emiliano Martínez (£4.4m) fits the brief here. He’s the cheapest starting keeper in the game and Arsenal certainly have more resilience about them, keeping both Liverpool and Manchester City at bay and only conceding one goal in the process.
The Gunners’ defensive stats are a little alarming. Over the last four home games they have conceded as many shots in the box as Bournemouth, but they play a Watford team who may be doomed for relegation unless results go their way.
The Hornets’ desperation may also see them snatching at chances, letting Martinez rack up the save points. There’s always a risk with Arsenal that they may capitulate and let a couple of goals in, but I’m happy to roll the dice and bank on a comfortable win in their final game of the season, as many of their players fight for their futures under the Mikel Arteta revolution.
It would be foolish of me to not consider top-scoring Goalkeeper Nick Pope (£5.1m) who looks set to win the Golden Glove in what can only be described as an incredible season for himself and Burnley. However, with cut-price offerings in the backline, I’m happy to save the money elsewhere. Hugo Lloris (£5.3m) against goal-shy Crystal Palace also looks a good bet for a clean sheet, especially if you’re not playing on grabbing Serge Aurier (£5.1m).
It’s always hard to predict who’s going to keep a clean sheet on the final day of the season. Different teams have different motivations, so I want to focus on two things here. Has anyone got a special incentive for wanting to keep their sheets clean and how can I benefit from marauding, attacking defenders.
Well… have we ever had a team like Burnley who have been so vocal in saying they want to go all out to make sure Pope gets the Golden Glove?
Injuries haven’t damped the Clarets; fantastic underlying defensive stats, and Eric Pieters (£4.3m), Kevin Long (£4.3m) and even Phil Bardsley (£4.4m) look fantastic enablers to cover their defence on a Seagulls side who are already down at the Brighton Palace Pier eating their 99s.
A double-up on these guys could be a shrewd move for those with small budgets, or for those looking to really bolster their attacking lines.
Alongside one of these chaps. I’m also considering two much more high-profile counterparts. Trent Alexander-Arnold (£7.7m), normally so consistent, hasn’t registered an attacking return since Gameweek 31+, with only one clean sheet in that time to boot.
But, he does go up against a Newcastle team who look to be limping over the line with a whole host of different injuries.
I’m likely to keep faith in Trent, but if I do need a bit of extra cash, there are worse picks than the in-form Andrew Robertson (£7.0m) who has ticked over nicely post-lockdown and Virgil Van Dijk (£6.5m) who may be able to capitalise on Newcastle’s lack of fit and available centre backs at set-plays.
While so many stock up on Manchester City attackers, I’m looking at their defence and thinking this is a guaranteed six points against a Norwich team with nothing to play for and who sit dead-last in terms of attacking stats and verve.
Emiliano Buendia (£6.0m), their chief creative threat, is suspended and first choice striker of late Josip Drmic (£5.3m) is too, which means a Teemu Pukki (6.4) will have to recover his confidence in order to worry City at all. I can’t see this happening and expect a huge win from the home team, whoever they decide to put out.
With all things considered, I’d love to field Benjamin Mendy (£5.5m) this weekend. He’s had a tough season with injuries again, registering only two assists, but his crossing could cause huge problems for Norwich who really struggle to cope with balls into the box. Kyle Walker (£5.6m) also looks a great pick, especially as his replacement on the hour against Watford implies a Gameweek 38+ start.
I’m also considering Lucas Digne (£5.9m) who hosts Bournemouth, who showed against Southampton that having something to play for doesn’t guarantee success. They were soundly beaten by the Saints and look set to be relegated on the final day, in my view.
I can see Everton putting the nail in the coffin, despite a pretty dismal run of form where Digne has been a rare shining light. He remains a great option due to his attacking threat and set pieces.
I could write an entire essay on Manchester City midfielders but I’ll try and keep it brief(ish). David Silva (£7.4m) to me looks the best option out of the lot. He got a complete rest at Watford so is likely to start Gameweek 38+, it’s his final home game and he plays Norwich. Barring any ridiculous 21st minute substitutions from the John Terry playbook, this could be a perfect send off for the Spaniard.
Other City options depend on how much you are willing to roll the dice and second guess Pep Guardiola. If they both start, Sterling and Kevin De Bruyne (£10.7m) look prime captaincy picks, as they have done for many weeks now – but both started against Watford.
The risk with the Free Hit is that we take these players out to try and “gamble” on Pep Roulette and they end up burning us. That said, as I’m writing this article I’ve just seen an absolutely incredible performance from Sterling (two goals, one assist) and an early rest, while Gabriel Jesus (£9.9m) played the whole game and did nothing. That perhaps hints at a start for Sterling against Norwich to try and boost his tally in this late surge for a hand in the Golden Boot race. I think this will enough to make me keep him in the draft.
Riyad Mahrez (£8.6m) is also a strong contender. He was benched at Vicarage Road suggesting a start on Sunday. Going in to the Norwich game – despite being in and out of the team, he’d scored only 14 points less than Sterling all season and his 10 goals and 13 assists have come in just 1,863 minutes. When he starts, he tends to deliver.
I think going without one of Sadio Mané (£12.2m) or Mohamed Salah (£12.5m) looks a brave (or rather, foolish) move against Newcastle’s backline.
As Andy pointed out in his article the other day, Mané’s ownership in the top 10k is just 5.98% (compared to Salah’s 43%). For those chasing, he looks a super differential pick to try and close the gap.
I’m likely to stick with Salah though, he’s snatching at chances and not always making the right decisions, but he looks hungry for goals – and may yet make a final push for the Golden Boot depending on how he does against Chelsea.
Even with Manchester United assets boasting high ownerships, it was always my intention to go without any of their players for this crunch game against Leicester. But the Foxes were so poor against Spurs and have struggled so much with recent injuries that it almost feels like madness not to have at least one of the Red Devils in my Free Hit squad.
This means it’s a straight shoot-out between Bruno Fernandes (£9.1m) and Anthony Martial (£8.5m). The former has been relentlessly played and must surely be feeling a bit of fatigue, where his French colleague has looked sharp in all the matches I’ve seen him play.
This is an intriguing decision to make, where I’ll either favour the OOP midfielder, who is lightning quick against an aged Wes Morgan (£4.1m) and uninspiring Ryan Bennett (£4.8m) or the man so heavily involved in United’s attacking play, with set pieces in his locker to boot.
I won’t let ownership factor into this decision and will try and make the decision based on who I think will score the most points. At the moment I’m leaning towards Fernandes, but my attentions could easily shift – particularly if Fernandes is forced into playing yet another 90 minutes against West Ham on Wednesday night.
It is with a heavy heart that I have omitted Michael Antonio (£7.1m) from my Free Hit team. He is still playing OOP but Aston Villa will come to the London Stadium fighting for their lives at both ends of the pitch.
Antonio has been one of the stars in a difficult season for me and it just shows how many picks there are for consideration in our teams that he hasn’t been selected. Out of all midfielders, only Martial and Salah have had more attempts on goal than Antonio over the last four home games.
I also like the look of Richarlison (£8.2m) who has been one of few players to impress for Everton post lockdown. Another option is Son Heung-min (£9.7m) who has bagged two goals and two assists in his last three games. He’s hit form at the right time, and looks set to finish on a high when he plays against a beleaguered Palace side who have lost eight on the bounce.
I’m banking on there being goals, goals, goals in Gameweek 38+, which is why I’ve put so much money into my front line. As so many managers have invested so heavily in their midfields, this is where I think the Free Hit chip can really shine, as it lets us target other areas, and we now have a pool of strikers to choose from.
Pierre-Emeric Aubameyang (£10.9m) is Jamie Vardy’s (£9.7m) biggest competition for the Golden Boot trophy and had a nice rest against Liverpool, before an outstanding performance against Manchester City in the FA Cup.
20 goals in the league is an incredible return in quite a poor Arsenal team, and from someone often shifted out wide. It’s going to be fascinating to see if the Gunners can tie him down to a new contract. Kiko Femenía (£4.2m) is likely to be the man tasked with stopping Aubameyang if he is out on the left – and I can’t see much chance of that happening given his inability to defend as a Premier League footballer should.
My choice of Danny Ings (£7.6m) is unlikely to raise many eyebrows. It’s 21 goals for the Southampton striker who started this season at a price of just 6.0. He was one of the main reasons for my resurgence earlier in the season, but after seeing him play against Norwich in that first game, I should have been quick to react and had him in my team. He’s been a joy to watch. Sheffield United look like their resilience is on the wane and Southampton just keep looking better and better every time I see them. It would take a brave manager to go without Ings for this game.
Lastly, you’ll notice (likely to Andy’s delight) that I’ve included Harry Kane (£10.9m). Kane is exactly the kind of option that the Free Hit is designed for. I still have question marks over his role in the team, and whether he may end up playing too deep, but the game against Crystal Palace has so much potential for points that I’m sure he’ll be involved in the goals as they rain in.
Two goals in as many shots against Newcastle was followed up with a more involved performance against Leicester, where he registered four attempts (three from inside the box).
His penalty area touches (three) in that game was still low, and comparable with players likes of Andy Carroll (£5.4m) who only player for 16 minutes and Dominic Solanke (£5.1m), but with Palace unlikely to send many men forwards, Kane may find himself operating even further up the pitch which is good for his prospects. For those chasing, he represents an exciting captaincy pick to try and make up ground against those who are unlikely to be able to find room to get him in.
Jesus as now featured in all of Manchester City’s games since the restart, and he looks the kind of player who’ll score and you’ll be thinking “yeah, I probably should have got the Man City striker in against Norwich at home…”, although he was not particularly involved at Watford.
I also wouldn’t completely overlook Vardy against Manchester United. With so much on the line, Vardy’s experience may help him pounce on any United mistakes – and fatigue for the Reds may be a factor given how they have barely rotated since football resumed last month.
That’s it from me and my articles this year. I hope you’ve enjoyed them and I look forward to writing some more next year. If you wanted a bit more from me (even after reading this essay!) then please check out my FPL Blackbox podcast on YouTube which I’m hoping to produce regularly next season. Thanks to everyone for reading my articles and supporting me and I hope you all have a great Gameweek 38+!
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