Welcome to the Fantasy Football Scout Guide to Blank Gameweek 18 ahead of today’s 16:30 GMT deadline.
The most important skills to cultivate as a Fantasy Premier League manager is flexibility.
Pro Pundit Sam hit the nail on the head when discussing her plans for the upcoming matches.
The 2020/21 season continues to present challenges – the goalposts moved once again yesterday with more changes to the fixture schedule. But do those changes present us with an opportunity?
Let’s take a look at Legomané’s latest fixture ticker.
This has been updated following Aston Villa’s postponed fixture against Tottenham Hotspur and the hastily rearranged Tottenham Hotspur versus Fulham match, shifted from Gameweek 16.
There’s talk of Southampton’s trip to Leeds United being moved because Southampton need to play their FA Cup third round match against Shrewsbury – and that must happen before the fourth round matches.
But there’s also the chance Southampton are handed a walkover because it was Shrewsbury who were unable to field a side. However, at this point in time we don’t know what will happen.
The ‘TBA’ entries are possible slots where postponed matches could be added. These are:
- Aston Villa v Newcastle (Gameweek 11)
- Aston Villa v Tottenham Hotspur (Gameweek 18)
- Burnley v Fulham (Gameweek 17)
- Everton v Manchester City (Gameweek 16)
- Fulham v Tottenham Hotspur (Gameweek 33 – EFL Cup final)
- Southampton v Manchester City (Gameweek 33 – EFL Cup final)
Given that both Newcastle United and Aston Villa have exited the FA Cup – and their Gameweek 11 fixture needs to be rearranged – it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that Aston Villa end up with a Triple Gameweek 19. Although other slots are available.
Looking further ahead, the FA Cup quarter-finals are due to take place in Gameweek 29 and teams reaching that round could see their Premier League matches moved to Gameweek 26. That looks likely to be the next big double Gameweek, with a large selection of teams playing twice.
In general, for teams still in the various domestic and european cup competitions, further postponements are likely. And of course coronavirus (COVID-19) may cause further disruption.
In addition there’s also team news to consider, and a hamstring injury to the highly-owned Dominic Calvert-Lewin (£7.8m) will no doubt force a rethink for many.
The Best-Laid Plans
With both ‘mice and men’ struggling, assessing the best way forward is very much team specific.
The Scoutcast provided a perfect example of this with Joe deploying his Free Hit chip, Karam navigating the blank using transfers and Seb undecided.
For those using their Free Hit this Gameweek, Joe’s side is a good template, featuring triple-ups on Manchester City, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur.
Joe’s Gameweek 18 Free Hit team
Arsenal, all of sudden, provide a number of budget options. Their improved performances in recent weeks have seen their players appear on the Fantasy radar.
As Neale pointed out in his Big Numbers article, Bukayo Saka (£5.3m) has mustered seven shots in the box over the last three Gameweeks, a total that no other FPL midfielder has surpassed in that time.
And the 19-year-old has been much discussed. David looked in-depth at his prospects against Crystal Palace, where Tyrick Mitchell (£3.9m) has replaced Patrick van Aanholt (£5.4m).
David concluded that, despite the change, Saka owners need not be deterred:
There is enough in these numbers to suggest Mitchell has not improved things on the left as much as we might imagine.
But for those needing to squeeze a little more out of their budget, the cut-price Emile Smith Rowe (£4.4m) is a valid alternative.
Despite playing fewer minutes than Saka over the last three matches, [Smith Rowe] has outperformed him for assist potential.– David
Encouragingly, Smith Rowe came off the bench to score the winning goal in Arsenal’s FA Cup tie against Newcastle United, and he’s been picked out by Pro Pundit Tom Freeman as one of his three differentials for Gameweek 18.
He appears to have established himself as an important component of Mikel Arteta’s side, with Tom pointing out:
What’s noticeable is how much quicker the Gunners move the ball with Smith Rowe in the number 10 role, and having that creative figure in central areas has really helped them click going forward. In fact, since Gameweek 15, no team can improve upon their 6.87 expected goals (xG)
Alexandre Lacazette (£8.3m) and Kieran Tierney (£5.4m) have impressed recently: no player has had more big chances (five) over the last four Gameweeks than the Frenchman, while Tierney’s total of seven key passes in the last three is bettered by just five other Premier League players (regardless of position).
But for Pro Pundit Lateriser, the upside option is Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (£11.3m). On penalties for the Gunners, his form has improved with that of his team-mates. Lateriser made the case:
Aubameyang’s registered 1.42 expected goals (xG) in his last two games, which is the same he managed in five full matches previously. His total of two big chances in the last two Gameweeks is also the same he managed in five full games previously.
Meanwhile, Pro Pundit Andy explored the option of using the Second Wildcard to set up a strong side for Blank Gameweek 18 and a potential Bench Boost in Double Gameweek 19. Although his article was written when Aston Villa still had a match in Gameweek 18.
Which Man City Trio?
Elsewhere, form and fixtures have aligned for Manchester City.
De Bruyne is certainly the safer of those two considering the most recent fitness update on Sterling but he remains the exciting explosive option considering his hat-trick performance against the Seagulls last season.
Tom Freeman highlighted the improvement at the back – Rúben Dias (£5.8m) and John Stones (£5.0m) have conceded just one goal in eight starts together.
A double-up on their defence appeals for many, with Joe including João Cancelo (£5.8m) alongside Stones in his Free Hit team. According to Tom, “attacking returns look imminent!” for the Portuguese.
But if you fancied a cheap attacking player then look no further than Ilkay Gündogan (£5.4m).
His seven shots in the box and four big chances in his last four matches are more than any other City player. And the former Borussia Dortmund midfielder has spoken of a shift to a more advanced position:
… even though I like to be included in rotating the ball, when I am playing as a number eight and more offensive position, I try to put myself in the spaces where I think something could happen or I feel like the space is not occupied by a player of ours or the opponent. Both goals I scored in the last games were similar in the way they were from the right side and Raheem assisted me both goals and I tried to be in a space where I am free and able to get the ball and finish with one touch. It worked out quite well and as long as I am playing in that position I try to continue like that.– Ilkay Gündogan
How to cope with a rollercoaster season
Mindfulness coach Dominic Watts wrote an excellent piece last week on how to handle the highs and lows of this uniquely challenging season.
On the face of it, I can understand the view that we should not get ourselves worked up about FPL. After all, you’re picking an imaginary team of real players who get points for you and then getting really annoyed when you don’t pick the right ones.
But if you want to pick it apart, you can make similar arguments about most things people care about. The thing is that as human beings we create meaning. We give meaning to the things that we care about and so if we decide to care about FPL, it becomes meaningful to us.
Without doubt FPL matters to those of us who play it seriously.
In his article, Dominic described how we are ‘time-travellers’ who ride the rollercoaster of FPL. He offered us ways to manage this uncertainty but acknowledged how difficult that can be:
Uncertainty relates quite nicely to acceptance because it’s hard to accept uncertainty. When we can’t accept something, we fight it, and this uses up a lot of energy.
The solution he proposed is to learn to look properly and that by connecting to the present, we will be able to see things in a different light. Well worth a read.
Community Competitions and Head-to-Head Fixtures
RedLightning rounded-up the Community mini-leagues and competitions last week.
The ‘open-to-all’ Fantasy Football Scout mini-league and the Community Members mini-league are currently the top two leagues in FPL. Congratulations to the high-flying managers participating in those.
For the 8,000+ competing in the Head-to-Head Leagues, the main page can be linked to here, and the fixtures for Gameweek 18 can be found below:
Use the drop-down menus to show your league and division. To find out which league and division you are in, follow the instructions on the main Head-to-Head page.
Once the Gameweek starts, if you click on your opponent’s name you will be linked to their team on the FPL website.
May your arrows be green!