Just under two-thirds of Fantasy Premier League managers ranked inside the top 10,000 played the Free Hit chip for Blank Gameweek 18.
Before Tuesday’s deadline, just 15.6% of them had pulled the trigger on a one-week-only squad.
However, as the evening’s first games kicked off, it was confirmed by LiveFPL.net that the usage of that chip after 18 Gameweeks had risen to 78.5%.
That means just under 63% of the top 10k saw Blank Gameweek 18 as the optimal time to play the Free Hit.
It is now by far the most utilised of the three non-Wildcard chips this season.
As a result, the Triple Captain and Bench Boost were largely, and expectedly, left untouched.
However, it is certainly of note that 7.6% of the top 10k played their second Wildcards, almost certainly with Double Gameweek 19 at the forefront of their planning.
After several weeks of planning, we can finally examine the players that made the Free Hit cut among the top 10k.
As you can see from the template above, the small number of matches made for a large number of heavily-owned assets.
For example, Bruno Fernandes (£11.3m), Son Heung-min (£9.8m), Harry Kane (£11.0m) and Kevin De Bruyne (£11.8m) all secured places in over 94% of top 10k Free Hit squads.
Callum Wilson (£6.6m) has already let down the 70.1% who brought him in for one week only, blanking in the 1-0 defeat to Sheffield United.
Meanwhile, over 60% chose Tyrick Mitchell (£3.9m) and João Cancelo (£5.8m) and 58% felt Kieran Tierney (£5.4m) was worth extra spend compared to Rob Holding (£4.5m).
Therefore, it is up to the relative differentials to make a difference among these managers with roughly 44% investing in John Stones (£5.0m), Alexandre Lacazette (£8.3m) and Marcus Rashford (£9.6m).
It looks as if the goalkeeping department has the potential to make the biggest difference between these Free Hitting managers with just 26.4% ownership for the most popular shot-stopper, Hugo Lloris (£5.6m), in such squads, with Bernd Leno (26.3%) just behind him.
It is also worth considering which Free Hit assets count as relative differentials compared to the wider template top 10k template – although the 62% usage for the Free Hit will have significantly influenced that matrix of players.
Once again, it looks like the goalkeepers have the biggest power, however underwhelming that sounds.
32.4% of this week’s top 10k came into Blank Gameweek 18 considering neither one of Leno (22.1%) or Lloris (19.2%) has a particularly large share at this level.
Bukayo Saka (£5.3m) could be something of an effective difference-maker for Free Hitters considering 53.9% of such managers decided to own him for Blank Gameweek 18 compared to 43.2% ownership for the rest of the top 10k.
Meanwhile, Rashford and Lacazette are both in roughly 44% of Free Hit squads compared to 33.5% and 32.4% of all top 10k squads.
There are some interesting decisions on display from those taking a longer-term approach with their Blank Gameweek 18 teams.
Holding is preferred to Tierney and Pedro Neto (£6.0m) has been selected by 31% of the top 10k’s Wildcard managers despite just one match in Double Gameweek 19.
And with Manchester United’s kind fixture schedule, Aaron Wan-Bissaka (£5.3m) was chosen by a similar share, more than the backing for Harry Maguire (£5.4m).
All eyes will be on Manchester City and Spurs on Wednesday concerning the top 10k captaincy debate.
40.8% of managers at this level backed De Bruyne with the armband, off the back of his double-digit haul against Chelsea and Brighton’s growing injury list.
The addition of Spurs’ meeting with Fulham did play a big part in the captaincy conversation in the end.
Kane mopped up 29.8% of the armband support among the top 10k, which left Fernandes with just 15.6% of it for Manchester United’s trip to Burnley.
Even though Son still sits in more top 10k squads than Kane, he is backed by fewer of them for the captaincy for the match with Fulham – just 11.2% of them choosing the South Korean as their skipper.
Raheem Sterling (£11.4m) has been conspicuous by his absence in this article thus far – mainly because he has gone under the Free Hit radar, it would seem.
Not among the most popular midfielders among Free Hitting top 10k managers, just 0.9% of managers at this level have captained him for Blank Gameweek 18.