With six top 20k finishes to his name and a current overall rank of 41,610, Let’s Talk FPL’s Andy explains why he’s considering deploying his Wildcard to optimise his chances in both Blank Gameweek 18 and Double Gameweek 19.
For most of us, this Fantasy Premier League season will be like no other. We’ve had fixture postponements before for cup runs and weather, but we haven’t had to manage a global pandemic at the same time.
Because of this, there really are completely different ways to guide our teams through Gameweek 18 and 19, while also thinking more about the long-term implications of using our chips now.
I’m someone who usually goes with the crowd. Not because I’m scared of making my own decisions, but usually because the crowd knows the best route, at least in terms of when to deploy chips.
We know that the Wildcard, Free Hit, Bench Boost and Triple Captain are usually best left until the Double Gameweeks later in the season but for once, I’m thinking about going against the grain.
A lot of FPL managers will be navigating Gameweek 18 and 19 without using their Free Hit or Wildcard, while others will be using the Free Hit to manage Blank Gameweek 18 and then using free transfers to address Double Gameweek 19.
But what if a Wildcard could do both for us? In this article, I want to argue the case for using the chip in Gameweek 18. It would mean going for more than half a season with no Wildcard in hand, but keep your mind open and have a think over what I’m about to say.
Managing the Blank and Bench Boost Simultaneously
Usually, with the blanks and doubles, there is some kind of gap between the Gameweeks where things can go wrong: be it injuries, suspensions, or in the current climate, positive COVID-19 tests. It will usually require some transfer management to switch between players blanking and then doubling, or vice-versa.
But for Gameweeks 18 and 19, they follow each other, and because of the fixture rearrangements for Manchester United and Manchester City, you can cover a lot of the popular Free Hit picks from Gameweek 18 who are also great for Gameweek 19 and beyond as well. This lets you attack two very big Gameweeks with just one chip.
It’s possible to get 10 or 11 players out for Blank Gameweek 18 and, with one transfer, get to 15 Double Gameweek players.
Below is an example of a Wildcard that could go from 10 Gameweek 18 players to 15 Double Gameweek assets just by switching Alexandre Lacazette (£8.3m) to any striker with two matches, such as Danny Ings (£8.3m), Michail Antonio (£6.2m) or Rodrigo (£5.7m). If you were happy with Rodrigo, this would also leave you an option to switch Marcus Rashford (£9.6m) back to Mohamed Salah (£12.6m), if you didn’t want to go without the Liverpool winger in Gameweek 19.
As you can see from the above team, there are some sacrifices that have to be made, depending on the players you’d be otherwise looking to target with a Free Hit chip.
The first one is that there’s no Harry Kane (£11.0m) in the team. In fact, there are no Tottenham Hotspur players at all. It’s very difficult to fit Kane in because of his position and price point, especially when four out of five of the midfielders play in both Gameweeks 18 and 19. There is space for Son Heung-min (£9.8m) but for me, he’d only be in if I was sure I wanted to get Salah back for Gameweek 20. Otherwise, I’d take Rashford, who has an extra match in Gameweek 19 and a better fixture run afterwards.
Most managers using a Free Hit chip in Gameweek 18 will likely target the Arsenal defence and/or Bukayo Saka (£5.3m), too. Given the Crystal Palace performances so far this season, it could yield a good amount of points.
But with Manchester United playing Burnley and double Manchester City defence to cover the Arsenal backline, it’s a small sacrifice to make, in my eyes.
Fixture Schedule: Gameweeks 20-24
Knowing how this season has gone so far, anything that feels perfect won’t be perfect for long, but not only do we have three strong teams in Aston Villa, Manchester United and Manchester City with a match in Gameweek 18 and a Double Gameweek 19, but they also have fairly generous fixtures after the double.
These are the fixture runs from Gameweek 20-23:
- Manchester City – West Brom (a), Sheffield United (h), Burnley (a), Liverpool (a)
- Manchester United – Sheffield United (h), Arsenal (a), Southampton (h), Everton (h)
- Aston Villa – Burnley (a), Southampton (a), West Ham (h), Arsenal (h)
Most FPL managers are likely to want at least one Manchester City defender with Kevin De Bruyne (£11.7m), Bruno Fernandes (£11.3m) and Jack Grealish (£7.7m), all of whom are great options and feature in a lot of teams.
For that fixture run, there would be no harm in adding a couple more players from these teams as well, and the fact they cover Gameweeks 18 and 19 is a bonus.
One thing this is helpful with is offloading some of the money you’ve spent on the bench. Because of the fixtures for Gamweeek 20, unless there is a big injury blow, you should be able to roll a transfer, which would allow you to make two or three moves in Gameweek 21 and start downgrading some of the bench options to give you more money to spend.
Free Hit Flexibility
The Wildcard is often talked about as the best FPL chip, and I’d agree. The ability to change your entire team and set up for a fixture swing, or to manage multiple injuries, is huge.
But the Free Hit can offer a lot of flexibility. I’m not trying to argue that the Free Hit is better, but it might not be as bad to manage the rest of the season as it first feels.
Nothing is set in stone for future Blank and Double Gameweeks but the consensus seems to be that teams that reach the FA Cup 6th round will blank in Gameweek 29, with their Premier League fixtures likely to be brought forward to Gameweek 26.
For those with just their Wildcard left, they’ll likely set up for Double Gameweek 26 (possibly Bench Boosting) and then look to manage Blank Gameweek 29 with transfers. With the Free Hit spare, you can just manage your team as normal and Free Hit in Gameweek 29 if needed.
While no-one can safely predict who will get through to the FA Cup 6th round, we would assume that a big percentage of the top Premier League teams will progress.
Here are the Gameweek 29 fixtures:
There’s the potential for plenty of these games to get called off, which would then arguably make a Free Hit in this week a little less helpful.
But because you can be flexible with it, you could switch to using it for Double Gameweek 26, as we should find out which fixtures are being postponed before we’ve reached Gameweek 24.
Otherwise it could just be saved for a rainy day, or perhaps a final-day punt.
As with any strategy this season, it’s not perfect.
Using the Wildcard so early in the season leaves you with 20 Gameweeks to manage without the fallback of this prized chip. With the way fixture postponements and rearrangements are happening currently, it could make things very tough later on in the season.
There’s a heavy reliance on Manchester City, Manchester United and Aston Villa to do well in both Gameweeks 18 and 19 using my strategy. They have the fixtures for it, and a lot of the players will be targets of FPL managers regardless, but if Liverpool were to excel and you opted against Salah and any defenders, then it could be carnage. It’s also difficult to get Spurs players in, as I mentioned before, and they’re very heavily owned.
On top of that, there’s a reliance on no other fixture postponements for Gameweeks 18 or 19. There have only been four so far in over 160 fixtures, but three of those have come recently and betting against more happening would be foolish. There’s already talk in the community of holding the Bench Boost in case fixtures get called off in Gameweek 19, so it may be safer to wait until Gameweek 26 to start activating big chips.
What’s the right decision?
I think now, more than ever, there isn’t a right or wrong way to play the next couple of Gameweeks.
People have been affected by fixture changes in different ways and the number of chips you currently have will change your thinking, as well as the players you own.
For me, I haven’t just decided that De Bruyne is a great option: my plan was always to get him back for Gameweek 20. The problem is, I sold him because he didn’t have a Double Gameweek, and now he does, along with a great fixture in Gameweek 18.
I find myself wanting three Manchester City players and I had none going into Gameweek 18. I also sold Ollie Watkins (£6.1m) recently because of no double and given his fixtures, I’d be happy to own him again. The Wildcard will not only allow me to cover Gameweek 18 but will hopefully let me nail the Bench Boost and have a good team for the Gameweeks preceding Double Gameweek 26, which should hopefully give me breathing space to plan.
It’s scary going against the crowd, and it’s even scarier to manage more than half a season without a Wildcard, but as Del Boy used to say: “he who dares wins”. In my case, though, I might end up more like Rodney, looking like a bit of a plonker.