Now we have reached the half-way stage of the season, the number of ‘dead teams’ is growing and it is left to the committed Fantasy Premier League (FPL) managers to fight it out for overall rank as well as those all-important mini-league positions.
This season, things are slightly different, in that we have multiple teams already with games in hand as a result of postponements. This gives active FPL managers added complications when it comes to planning.
We have a better (although still not yet fully formed) indication of which teams are likely to encounter further Blank Gameweeks due to FA Cup progression.
We also have Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur, who will miss Gameweek 33 as a result of the League Cup final, and Fulham and Southampton, who were due to play them that week.
Keeping abreast of the Blank and Double Gameweek developments will be vital for success during the remainder of the season. Many FPL managers will have already deployed at least some of the chips available (second Wildcard, Bench Boost, Free Hit, Triple Captain). If you haven’t, then that could give you a huge advantage over the opposition if used to their full potential.
I have three of my four chips left in play for this last part of the season – the Bench Boost, Triple Captain and the second Wildcard. In normal seasons the chips feel important, but this year they feel like tiny FPL rockets which can either skyrocket your season, or blow up before takeoff, leaving you reeling.
When Double Gameweek 19 was announced, my original thought was to play the Bench Boost chip. However, as we entered the run of fixtures preceding the Double, we saw multiple matches postponed and players forced to isolate.
This uncertainty of players and fixtures put me off playing the chip. When a Gameweek lasts for a week it is impossible to account for the week that follows the Gameweek deadline and thus I held onto it.
Now comes the big decision as to when to deploy the chip.
So far this season I have benched 167 FPL points, where the player wasn’t substituted in to the team. This includes seven Gameweeks where my bench has scored more than 11 points (11, 14, 15, 16, 18, 18 again and 19 points). Given that I am 190 points behind the current leader at an overall rank of 44,000, those points are definitely missed opportunities.
Three of my benches so far this season
The success of my benches this season has made me consider playing my Bench Boost chip in a single Gameweek rather than a Double. My team structure this season has been to ensure I’m never struggling to get a full team out if games are postponed after the deadline or players are out on short notice.
The ramifications are there are always benching headaches and most of the time there are multiple FPL points sat on my bench. There are a number of Gameweeks coming up over the rest of the season where my whole squad looks to have the potential to return and a single Gameweek could provide me with an even better set of fixtures than for a squad I could build for a Double Gameweek .
For the last couple of weeks leading up to the Double Gameweek I was planning to trust Mohamed Salah (£12.5m) with my Triple Captain chip. Most seasons my Triple Captain ends up being someone from the red side of Liverpool. They have been consistent in both their form and starts and always seem to provide a safe bet for the armband. Last season Roberto Firmino (£9.3m) had the privilege of wearing my Triple Captain armband and that was a success.
However, Salah blanked against West Brom in Gameweek 15, blanked against Newcastle in Gameweek 16 and again at Southampton in Gameweek 17. And he is now on a run of five Premier League matches without an attacking return. That suggests holding the Triple Captain was probably a wise idea for my team.
Unlike the Bench Boost, which could do well for me in a Single Gameweek, I will be looking for a Double Gameweek to play the Triple Captain chip. However, it’s not just about the Gameweek or even the fixtures, the form of the player going in to the week is vital as we are seeing right now with Salah.
While I wouldn’t be opposed to giving Salah the Triple Captain armband in a later Double Gameweek should Liverpool get one, his form would have to improve.
I think, unsurprisingly I know, I’ll look to Triple Captain Harry Kane (£11.1m) this season. Spurs already have a game in hand against Aston Villa which should have been played in Gameweek 17, and they will have to play their Gameweek 33 fixture against Fulham at another time, due to appearing in the League Cup final. Therefore, there will almost certainly be at least one Gameweek between now and the end of the season where Kane and Spurs will play twice.
Given Kane’s form so far this season in terms of goals, assists and bonus points I struggle to see myself triple captaining anyone other than him.
This chip has the potential to be the most important left in my arsenal. Playing the second Wildcard at the right moment is key not only for the immediate boost to points it can provide but also in terms of long-term strategy and planning.
The second half of this season will likely throw up some unpredictable moments due to the pandemic. It will also throw up changes to the fixture schedule as a result of the FA Cup which we as FPL managers will have to keep track of, especially as draws for the fourth and fifth rounds are happening at the same time.
My current squad feels solid for the next few Gameweeks at least without the need for any immediate surgery so the second Wildcard will remain safely in my back pocket until it is needed.
There is the possibility that we have a Blank Gameweek later on this season containing very few players we would want to own them long term. Having already used my Free Hit chip, I will likely look to dead-end my team in the build-up to that Gameweek, ensuring that I have a decent side for the week, and then hit the Wildcard to rebuild for the back end of the season.
At this stage my team value is up at £104.6m allowing me to access more of the highly valued players as well as keeping a solid bench. I had for a brief moment thought of Wildcarding around Blank Gameweek 18, however many of the players in my current team would have had to be sold and the value in them would have been lost too. While this may not seem important, it is if you want to buy the player back again as they cost more to own than what you sold them for.
Subsequently, it seems sensible to do this towards the end of the season where hopefully the situation with the pandemic is clearer and there will be less chance of postponements. This means I’ll be able to invest less in my bench due to team value being less important by that stage.
Legomane graphic showing fixtures through FPL Gameweek 25 including European commitments and Domestic Cups
I’ll be eagerly awaiting the FA Cup results in Gameweeks 19 and 20 and their impact on FPL Gameweeks to pick the perfect moment to play the Wildcard chip.
We are coming to the most important part of the FPL season. This is the time where casual players often fail to prepare for the Blank and Double Gameweeks, or have already used their chips.
We also have half a season’s worth of knowledge and understanding on teams and players, meaning we can make more informed decisions. Early moves now for players who have the form and fixtures to last until the end of the season, or even better form, fixtures and something to play for can give FPL managers an edge on opponents.
Hold on to those transfers, don’t knee-jerk in players, and hold it out as close to the deadline as your nerves can stand to have the best knowledge of any changes to the Gameweek or the players clubs have available to them.
Most importantly, plan for those chips, but be flexible. The game is changing week-on-week and so too should our FPL strategies. I’ve stopped planning for the long term. I look at it and make decisions that suit both the short and long-term, because it’s less frustrating if matches are moved or players are unavailable.
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