Nearly half of Fantasy Football Scout voters are contemplating the Free Hit in Blank Gameweek 18.
In our recent poll, 45.0% revealed that they would be pulling the trigger on a one-week-only Wildcard squad.
Specifically, they explained they would be playing the Free Hit regardless of any changing circumstances to their teams.
Results as of Friday morning
By comparison, just under 2.0% of our voters indicated they would only use the chip if their squad sustained more injuries or suffered from more coronavirus (COVID-19) postponements.
That certainly suggests the Free Hit could receive additional attention from members of the community on Tuesday considering recent events in the football world.
It will be interesting to see what these managers do about 2020/21’s latest Fantasy Premier League curveball.
Ahead of participating in Blank Gameweek 18, Aston Villa revealed on Thursday that a coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak had occurred at their training ground.
‘A large number’ of first-team players and staff tested positive in the most recent round of tests, forcing the premises to be closed on Thursday morning.
That put paid to first-team training ahead of Villa’s FA Cup match with Liverpool, scheduled for the evening of Friday, January 7.
As things stand, the tie is going ahead with Aston Villa’s Under-23s filling in for the first-team, provided they test negative.
What impact that will have on Blank Gameweek 18 remains to be seen.
The postponement of Spurs’ visit to Villa Park could drastically change the look of Free Hit squads. Or it could even force more managers to play the chip than before.
Son Heung-min (£9.8m) and Harry Kane (£11.0m) still sit in 63.5% and 44.8% of Fantasy squads worldwide while 38.1% own Jack Grealish (£7.7m) and 29.9% hold Emiliano Martínez (£5.0m).
Uncertainty reigns though. A postponement would wipe out all those popular assets from the list of active players while a similar arrangement to tonight’s FA Cup game could intensify interest in Spurs assets.
Kevin De Bruyne (£11.7m) and Bruno Fernandes (£11.3m) are the two most-talked-up captains for Blank Gameweek 18 but Kane and Son would surely come into the conversation if they face Villa’s youth team instead.
Result on Thursday morning
We can see that there was a slight change in the voting patterns between Thursday and Friday morning; before and after the news of Villa’s COVID-19 outbreak.
The differences are subtle, perhaps because of the remaining uncertainty, but, comparing the two sets of data, we saw an increase of 0.8 percentage points supporting the Free Hit (regardless) option between Thursday and Friday.
Tellingly, there was a decrease of 1.2 percentage points among those planning to handle Blank Gameweek 18 with free transfers (no hits).
We saw a similar drop in the category of free transfers (one hit) while there was an increase of 0.2 percentage points for those prepared to take two or more hits.
It is still worth considering the relatively sizeable chunk of Fantasy Football Scout voters hoping to tackle Blank Gameweek 18 without a chip.
Even after the uncertainty surrounding Aston Villa’s involvement, 47.6% of our voters are planning to use only free transfers between now and Tuesday’s deadline, although there is some disparity in terms of propensity to take hits within that.
Either way, that overall total is higher than the number who selected the ‘Free Hit regardless’ option and is at a similar level to the total when we combine these voters with those pulling the Free Hit in the event of more postponements and/or injuries.
This fact is an important element for Fantasy managers to consider for this Gameweek.
We are, admittedly, focussing on a relatively small sample size here compared to the rest of the world, although knowing what the more enthusiastic managers are doing, of which we have many here on the site, is useful information.
And what we are seeing is an indication that a large number of managers are hoping to avoid using their Free Hit if possible.
The news came on the same day that Southampton’s third-round FA Cup tie with Shrewsbury was postponed.
Following a significant number of Shrews players and staff testing positive for COVID-19, they have not trained all week after closing their facilities for 10 days.
The FA’s professional game board is to decide when the fixture will be rearranged for “early next week” but as the pile-up continues, authorities are starting to run out of free slots between now and the end of the campaign.