Fantasy Premier League managers can start planning their chip strategy for the New Year now that the next Blank and Double Gameweeks have been announced.
We will have just five fixtures in Blank Gameweek 18 before 10 teams play twice in a bumper Double Gameweek 19.
With the news still hot off the press, I have tried to make sense of the different permutations from various chip strategies available.
Blank Gameweek 18
- Sheffield Utd v Newcastle United
- Wolves v Everton
- Manchester City v Brighton and Hove Albion
- Aston Villa v Tottenham Hotspur
- Arsenal v Crystal Palace
Conventionally, Fantasy managers deploy Free Hit chips in the blankest of the Blank Gameweeks each season but it looks if we’re set to get two of those in 2020/21.
The second ‘big blank’ is likely to come later in the campaign, coinciding with the FA Cup quarter-finals, as per usual which, this year looks like Gameweek 29.
So already, Fantasy managers will have to assess whether or not to Free Hit now or later, knowing whichever Blank Gameweek they go without it will potentially involve some transfer work.
And, I must say that, at first glance, the fixtures for a Free Hit in Gameweek 18 are not very appealing.
Newcastle travelling to Sheffield United is a difficult one to call and, ultimately, I am unlikely to want anyone outside of Callum Wilson (£6.6m) for that. I might want a Magpies defender but we all know how that went for their Gameweek 12 meeting with West Bromwich Albion.
Wolves and Everton meeting at Molineux is another unattractive fixture from a Fantasy perspective. Most of us already have Dominic Calvert-Lewin (£7.9m), Wolves generally don’t concede too many on their own patch so I wouldn’t be too keen on a double up with say Richarlison (£7.8m), for example. And I really don’t trust Everton’s defence.
I wouldn’t necessarily want a Wolves defender either. Their attack is more appealing but, despite Pedro Neto (£5.7m) and Daniel Podence (£5.4m) doing well on Tuesday night, I still don’t completely trust them for scoring goals without Raúl Jiménez (£8.2m).
Manchester City hosting Brighton is a good fixture but, again, many of us will already have Kevin De Bruyne (£11.9m). Given the the Citizens’ recent malaise going forward, there is no guarantee the likes of Raheem Sterling (£11.4m) or Riyad Mahrez (£8.5m) would deliver, or even start!
A defender or two from City seems sensible but the same rotation problems are present for all except Ederson (£6.0m) and Rúben Dias (£5.6m), who scored an own goal on Tuesday night.
Spurs’ positive fixture-swing starts from Gameweek 16 when they play Fulham and Leeds back-to-back so many of us are already likely to have Harry Kane (£10.9m) and Son Heung-min (£9.6m) by the time they travel to Aston Villa in the Blank Gameweek.
And knowing what we do about Jose Mourinho, I would not be too keen on any of Dean Smith’s men outside the obvious Jack Grealish (£7.8m).
Personally, I find Arsenal v Crystal Palace to be bit of a minefield. I can’t really trust anyone from Mikel Arteta’s side at the minute and I can’t really imagine Roy Hodgson will be too ambitious at the Emirates. An unreliable fixture for FPL returns.
So, as you can see, I find the thought of playing a Free Hit in Blank Gameweek 18 very uninspiring to say the least. I think if you can field six to eight players without using it, you should be fine.
Blank Gameweek 29 might be more tricky to navigate if the likes of Spurs or Manchester City make it to the FA Cup quarter finals, whereas here we have some already popular FPL teams, such as Everton, Villa, Wolves and those two big-six clubs in action.
If I had to put a Free Hit squad together for Blank Gameweek 18, it would probably look something like this:
- GK: Leno
- DEF: Dias, Reguilón, Lewis
- MID: Son, De Bruyne, Sterling, Podence
- FWD: Wilson, Calvert-Lewin, Kane
Such a line-up does not feel like much of an upgrade on my existing team, but I guess, for you, it might depend on your squad at the time.
Double Gameweek 19
- Burnley: West Ham United (away) + Liverpool (away)
- Chelsea: Fulham (away) + Leicester City (away)
- Fulham: Chelsea (home) + Manchester United (away)
- Leeds United: Brighton and Hove Albion (home) + Southampton (home)
- Leicester City: Southampton (home) + Chelsea (home)
- Liverpool: Manchester United (home) + Burnley (home)
- Manchester United: Liverpool (away) + Fulham (away)
- Southampton: Leicester City (away) + Leeds United (away)
- West Bromwich Albion: Wolves (away) + West Ham United (away)
- West Ham United: Burnley (home) + West Bromwich Albion (home)
What if I’ve already used my first Wildcard?
This is an interesting position to be in and certainly not uncommon. Yes, the second Wildcard is available before the Gameweek 19 deadline if you choose to use it, but let’s assume for now we want to keep that for later in the campaign.
Bench Boost for Double Gameweek 19
With so many clubs with budget options such as Leeds, West Ham and Southampton playing twice, the potential for a Bench Boost is quite good. Even the likes of Harry Kane (£10.9m), Kevin De Bruyne (£11.9m) etc have a decent single Gameweek fixture.
However, this strategy would probably only be effective if you’re Free Hitting in Blank Gameweek 18 as, if you can field seven to eight players without that chip then, you will probably not have too many Double Gameweekers the following week.
It would also require you to ship the likes of Tyrick Mitchell (£4.0m) or Fraser Forster (£4.0m) etc who have been bench fodder up until this point, and are not players that you will likely require long term.
If you have a full playing squad of 15 already, the Bench Boost in Double Gameweek 19 seems a decent option but not if you have to focus transfers on the bit-part players.
Free Hit in Double Gameweek 19
Free Hitting at this point allows you to load up on the Double Gameweek players and cherry pick the ones you feel have the best fixtures without having to hold onto them.
If you can field a decent side in Blank Gameweek 18, then Free Hitting the following week to get options such as Andrew Robertson (£7.2m) or Danny Ings (£8.4m) for just one week could be great.
Looking at my team though, I already have a lot of the players I’d want in that week, notably Mohamed Salah (£12.3m), Bruno Fernandes (£11.0m), Patrick Bamford (£6.3m), Tomas Soucek (£5.0m), Vladimir Coufal (£4.6m) while Spurs, City and Everton have decent fixtures as well. Is there that much to be gained? Again I guess it depends on your team.
Triple Captain in Double Gameweek 19
I like Salah’s fixtures for a triple captain in Double Gameweek 19, but the thing with using that chip, it can be used effectively in a small double Gameweek or a large so I’m not so sure if it’s the best time to use it here.
Second Wildcard in Gameweek 17, Free Hit in Blank Gameweek 18, Bench Boost in Double Gameweek 19
If you feel like going chip crazy, I think this could work. Load up on teams with a Double Gameweek 19 with your Gameweek 17 wildcard, Free Hit them out in Blank Gameweek 18 and Bench Boost them in the big Double.
Your Bench Boost will likely feature some single Gameweek players though as fixtures for Spurs in Gameweeks 16 and 17 are too good to pass up.
The obvious negative to this strategy is the lack of a Wildcard for the later Double Gameweek and the rest of the campaign’s fixture swings.
However, as we have seen in previous seasons, that Double can often be a damp squib with real-life managers choosing to rotate towards the end of the season with league positions often settled.
What if I still have my first Wildcard?
If you have managed to hold onto your first Wildcard for this long, well done. Something similar to the above strategy should work well, in my opinion. Wildcard in Gameweek 16, Free Hit in Blank Gameweek 18 and Bench Boost in Double Gameweek 19.
The only drawback I can see with this is that you can possibly put too much money on your bench players as a result of the Bench Boost but the way this season is going, bench strength isn’t really a bad thing.
Lessons learned from FPL Gameweek 13
- Wolves 2-1 Chelsea
- Manchester City 1-1 West Bromwich Albion
- Arsenal 1-1 Southampton
- Leeds United 5-2 Newcastle United
- Leicester City 0-2 Everton
- Fulham 0-0 Brighton and Hove Albion
- Liverpool 2-1 Tottenham Hotspur
- West Ham United 1-1 Crystal Palace
- Aston Villa 0-0 Burnley
- Sheffield United 2-3 Manchester United