Six-time top 5k finisher Zøphar talks us through the arguments for and against an early Wildcard in Fantasy Premier League.
The start of this season has been unique with four teams (Manchester United, Manchester City, Aston Villa and Burnley) missing out in Gameweek 1. These four teams were popular Fantasy-wise, too, so with them featuring for the first time in Gameweek 2, we finally have an opportunity to evaluate how they’re doing and decide who we subsequently want to bring in.
Of course, you might want to bring in multiple assets from the four teams above as well as form players from other teams. The idea of a Gameweek 3 Wildcard is one I’ve seen discussed around the Scout comments section and on Twitter, so for this piece, I thought I’d examine the pros and cons of this strategy.
I’m in no means advocating this as the best way forward, just having an objective look at it so that you can make an informed decision on whether it’s one you want to adopt.
Gameweek 3 fixture turn
Nuno Espirito Santo’s men stormed out of the blocks against Sheffield United in Gameweek 1 and with no Europa League commitments this year, they should offer a consistent stream of points at budget prices.
The Ruben Vinagre (£4.5m) wagon has been well and truly derailed and Fernando Marcal (£5.0m) doesn’t look anywhere near as attacking as Jonny Otto (£5.5m). With Adama Traore (£6.5m) playing wing-back, the obvious choice in their defence is already apparent – Romain Saiss (£5.0m). The Moroccan could have had a hat-trick against the Blades and is great for bonus points as well.
Apart from that, Raul Jimenez (£8.5m) looked sharp and has proven pedigree over the last two years. Jumping quickly on these two players, and maybe even Daniel Podence (£5.5m), could get you an early lead up the rankings.
It’s only one Gameweek and maybe Spurs flattered them but in general, Everton look a much better team than last season with the signings of Abdoulaye Doucouré (£5.5m), Allan Marques Loureiro (£5.5m) and James Rodriguez (£7.5m). The Toffees have a favourable run of fixtures in which the likes of James Rodriguez, Lucas Digne (£6.0m) and Calvert-Lewin (£7.0m) could prosper.
A strategy that Magnus Carlsen adopted last year was doubling and even tripling up on teams with a good fixture run and I don’t see how that’s possible without a Wildcard as you will likely be prioritising assets from the Manchester clubs.
The Manchester clubs
If like me, you want to see how the two clubs do in Gameweek 2 before investing, the Gameweek 3 Wildcard allows you to do that. Instead of being constrained by price and team structure, you can cherry-pick the assets that you want.
Time to evaluate Chelsea
The Blues’ win against Brighton was far from convincing and perhaps many of us, including myself, were a bit hasty in bringing in their assets right from week one. The fixture run after Liverpool though is quite kind and with two matches-worth of data, you might be in a better position to evaluate the potential of their assets. You can then decide if Kai Havertz (8.5m) is worth selling or buying.
Jump off Spurs
Spurs were invested in heavily because of their kind run of fixtures to start the season but they look a team in disarray with Jose Mourinho’s post-match comments including every excuse in the book. If they are as poor against Southampton as they were against Everton, the Wildcard offers you the option of dumping their assets.
Finding the right ‘glue’ picks
You don’t want to waste transfers on players such as your goalkeeper, £4.5m bench fodder and cheap defenders: these are your ‘glue’ picks that you want in your team for the long run so you can focus your transfers on the attackers.
Going early helps you identify the right picks for this, players such as Saiss, Reece James (£5.0m), Michael Keane (£5.0m), Tariq Lamptey (£4.5m) and even a suitable goalkeeper.
I’m not as confident in Alex McCarthy (£4.5m) as I was at the start of the season. These players are important as they chip in with useful contributions.
The transfer window
The most obvious negative to a Gameweek 3 Wildcard is the transfer window, which shuts only after Gameweek 4. As we have seen in Vinagre’s case, a new signing can almost immediately usurp your asset’s place in the team and there is nothing worse than bringing in a shiny new FPL toy only to see him sold or replaced with a new acquisition.
There are also murmurs of Gareth Bale possibly being loaned out to Spurs, so getting the Welshman or any other new premium asset, say even Jadon Sancho, can be quite difficult without a Wildcard.
Two weeks is not a large enough sample size
This is primarily why I am not inclined to adopt this strategy for my team. We have to keep in mind the circumstances we are in with the COVID pandemic; this is far from a regular season. Teams have had almost no pre-season training with the internationals throwing a further spanner in the works in terms of preparation. What we are seeing in the first two Gameweeks might just be rustiness.
If Liverpool ship another three goals against Chelsea, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re going to concede similar numbers over the season. We are likely not going to see as poor performances from the likes of Trent Alexander-Arnold (£7.5m) once they are up to speed. So we might not have all the information we need to make an informed decision.
Possible Blanks and Doubles in Gameweek 18 and 19
Admittedly, I haven’t read too much about it but from what I know there could be possible blanks and doubles in Gameweeks 18 and 19, so having the Wildcard handy could be useful in optimising point potential there.
Gameweek 16 is the last week you can use your Wildcard, so it might help navigate that tricky period.
No ‘get out of jail free’ card
I personally like to keep the Wildcard as late as possible as it sort of acts like a comfort blanket. I know that if my team is suddenly overloaded by injuries or out of form, I can change it. Not a very strong argument I know but hey, peace of mind is a good thing.
A lot depends on how you view the Wildcard. An aggressive way to play it is to react to form and fixture turns and use it to load up on players and teams you fancy to do well. It could help you get an early lead while those around you are still stuck with the assets they backed in Gameweek 1. You effectively gain an advantage for 10-12 weeks rather than just a few weeks if you target the blanks/doubles in Gameweek 18. But do you have enough information to identify those players? That’s what you have to decide.
The obvious drawback with having it in your back pocket and not using it is that you might constantly be chasing the ideal team you want and always be short by three to four players. This might cause you to be over-aggressive, take hits and adopt a more risky attitude with the comfort that you have a ‘get out of jail free’ card.
I’m personally not inclined to use the Wildcard before Gameweek 4 at the earliest. I’m hoping by then that we have a decent sample size of data and, with the transfer window closed, we can be more certain of player selections. Players like Rhian Brewster (£4.5m) might get moves to Premier League clubs, which would make them great enablers.
Again, there’s no right or wrong way to play it. Do what matches your overall play style and what suits your team best.
Thanks for reading.
FPL Lessons Learned from Gameweek 1
- Fulham 0-3 Arsenal
- Crystal Palace 1-0 Southampton
- Liverpool 4-3 Leeds United
- West Ham United 0-1 Newcastle United
- West Bromwich Albion 0-3 Leicester City
- Tottenham Hotspur 0-1 Everton
- Sheffield United 0-2 Wolves
- Brighton and Hove Albion 1-3 Chelsea
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