Currently sitting well inside the top 1,000, Let’s Talk FPL’s Andy looks back at the success of his early second Wildcard – and explains how he plans to cope without the prized chip going forward.
Nearly a month ago now (January 6, to be precise), I wrote an article about the pros and cons of playing the second Wildcard early in Gameweek 18, especially for those of us that had used the first one early as well.
After starting Gameweek 18 ranked at 41,610th, I’ve now moved up to 679th at the start of Gameweek 22. It’s safe to say that the early Wildcard has worked pretty well. In this article, I want to quickly touch on why it worked well, and what my future plans are without a Wildcard in hand.
Why did it work
As I mentioned in my article at the time, we were in a unique situation where there was a chance to attack a big Blank Gameweek followed by a big Double Gameweek, without any “normal” Gameweeks in between. They also both involved teams with good fixtures, good players and perhaps even more importantly, good fixtures following the Double. Those teams were Manchester City and Manchester United.
Of course, along the way, you need some lucky. Back in my January article, I wasn’t predicting John Stones (£5.2m), João Cancelo (£6.0m) and Aaron Wan-Bissaka (£5.4m) to all score 17+ points in an individual Gameweek. Sometimes the luck comes all at once, and I couldn’t have been much luckier, really.
But the logic was there of targeting a Blank, Double and following fixtures all at once. At the time I had no Manchester City players, and they looked key going forward. A Free Hit would have plugged the gap in Gameweek 18, but I’d have been left with lots of hits from that point forward.
I’ve seen a few people now contemplating an early Wildcard but it does feel like the boat has been missed on the opportunity now. We’re so close to Double Gameweek 24, which is when we’ll likely have all the information we’ll need for a potential Blank Gameweek 29, and Double Gameweek 26, that using the Wildcard in Gameweek 23 could be a disaster. I’m not sure anyone’s team is in such a bad state they need to use it now, and Wildcards are such a good way to attack a set of Gameweeks that using it now would be sub-optimal, I would say.
One thing I’m finding is planning feels even more crucial than normal without a Wildcard, and so many big Gameweeks still to manage. I’ve already seen several content creators talk about getting players in for a few weeks because they’re Wildcarding soon, and I don’t have that luxury.
That’s why in Gameweek 21, I bought in Son Heung-min (£9.7m) and Jack Grealish (£7.8m) and ended up ignoring Dominic Calvert-Lewin (£7.6m). It’s likely that Tottenham Hotspur and Aston Villa will have a good Double Gameweek so I felt they were better long-term moves, to essentially save my transfers down the line. Everton have, of course, ended up getting a Double Gameweek before that – and this is naturally one of the downsides to Wildcarding so early.
With the Free Hit chip, I’m keeping my options open. Before we get more confirmed fixtures, I’m essentially trying to get in players like above that are good for right now, but also for the Doubles. If my team is set for Gameweek 26, then I will use the Free Hit in Gameweek 29 – but depending on how my team is looking for Gameweek 29, I could just use the Free Hit in the big Double Gameweek instead. I do have my Triple Captain as well but due to the number of fixtures that still need to be rearranged, there’ll probably be other chances to use it.
To Keep Doing
I wanted to quickly touch on some things that I’ve changed in my strategy to FPL this season which I plan on carrying on for the rest of the season. I’m sure some of this will be simple to many, or things you’re already doing, but it’s helped me so far.
I will caveat straight away to say again that of course luck is a big part of FPL. Just because this has worked this season doesn’t mean it will work next season, but for now I’ll keep doing with it.
I think sometimes we underrate just how important the captaincy is. We might hear things like “I’ll just captain him instead” or “I’ll take a punt on him”. Both ways of doing things are fine, but this year I’ve made a conscious decision to always have who I believe is the best captain each week, even if that means transferring out a big hitter. This sounds simple, but often FPL managers will forgo the best captain because they don’t want to sell a big hitter. Obviously who the best captain is, is subjective but I’ve tried to target them in advance, and unless there’s something major which happens in between I won’t change my mind, even for “form”. For example, my next captain in Gameweek 23 will be Son.
I’ve sold Salah, Son, and Kane twice already this season and I’ve found not having value wrapped up in them makes my decisions much easier knowing I can just buy them back as there’s no money “lost”.
I’ve also not looked to take any punts. It’s whoever I think the best points potential is regardless of what everyone is doing. Will that player be 150% effective ownership or 50%? I don’t particularly care, and have ignored ownership so far this season.
Form and data
One thing I said I wanted to do at the start of the season was using a more statistic-based approach to my decisions, but also reduce the amount of statistics that I use. Expected data incorporates so many other statistics so I’ve stuck largely to that, especially ‘per 90’ data.
I often look at the season-long data as well, rather than looking for differences in much smaller sample sizes like last four Gameweeks. There’s obviously a balancing act here, but I’ve tried to trust players putting up good numbers over a long period of time who have good fixtures. Simple, but so far effective.
An example of this is Grealish vs Harvey Barnes (£6.9m) vs James Maddison (£7.3m). I can see that Barnes and Maddison have scored well recently but when I needed a £7m+ midfielder recently, there was no question in my mind that Grealish was the one.
Grealish has an expected goal involvement per 90 minutes (xGp90) for the season of 0.51, compared to Barnes at 0.37 and Maddison at 0.28. Maddison has scored a few goals recently, but his xGp90 is just 0.14 which is low, and his creativity isn’t that high despite creating lots of chances through corners. I’m ignoring an “in-form” player right now in the hope his returns will start to dry up, but there’s no doubting he’s playing well at present.
There’s nothing wrong with looking at recent Gameweeks to spot any major differences, but too often we are looking for something to confirm what we want to see.
Form is something we could probably talk about in a separate article, but it’s something I’ve largely tried to ignore, hence choosing captaincies in advance. Rather than look at what they’ve scored recently in pure FPL points, I’d rather look at their underlying numbers for the season and their opponents. Son this week is a great example. Spurs looked really poor against Brighton, and I’m writing this before a game against Chelsea that I’m not expecting anything from, but West Brom are a truly awful defence. Even without Kane, I’d still back Son to get points, although I can see why people might be wary, especially with Antonio as a good alternative this week.
Limiting Defender transfers
Wildcarding twice before Gameweek 19 will help with this of course, but I’ve tried to limit defender transfers. Outside of the occasional big return like we’ve seen recently, the majority of the time a defender’s ceiling is quite low. You’re looking at six points a lot of the time.
This is one of the reasons I’ve only made four defender transfers all season (outside of Wildcards). I’m trying to make sure I can focus most of my transfer on attack and captaincy where the biggest amount of points are likely to come. The only defender transfers so far are:
- GW2 – Vinagre to Digne
- GW7 – Alexander-Arnold to Chilwell
- GW15 – Chilwell & Lamptey to Robertson & Coufal
It’s something I’ll try and continue doing, especially when we have Manchester City defenders in the form of their lives, who are also very cheap and carry fairly big upside, like with Cancelo.
This is how my team is currently looking: