Blank Gameweeks always make me apprehensive as a Fantasy Premier League manager and I know I am not alone in worrying about squad size.
Normally there are one or two fixtures to target which provide decent reassurance that a hit might be worth taking.
However, the four matches scheduled for Blank Gameweek 29 are either difficult to call, feature out-of-form, inconsistent or absent players, or just don’t inspire confidence.
I have been planning for Blank Gameweek 29 since Gameweek 24, trying to target players and teams in good form and that have a fixture. Ben White (£4.4m) is a prime example of this. I signed him ahead of Gameweek 25, on the back of five clean sheets in six. Since then, Brighton have not managed prevent any of their opponents from scoring in the last four games.
Going in to Gameweek 28, I had nine players who were due to play in Blank Gameweek 29, along with two free transfers which would give me a starting 11 without the need for a hit.
Fast-forward to the end of Gameweek 28 and I have flags on Son Heung-Min (£9.5m) and Patrick Bamford (£6.7m). While I am increasingly confident that Bamford will be able to play in Blank Gameweek 29, the same can not be said for Son.
As a result I now face a dilemma: to hit or not to hit.
The case for taking a hit
The fixtures don’t appear to be games that I want to take hits for, but the benefit of having 11 starters for a minus-four feels like a compelling reason to do it.
There are four teams from the eight involved in Blank Gameweek 29 who have attractive fixtures in Gameweek 30 as well so if you view the hit in the context of the next couple of weeks it could be worth doing.
|Team||Blank Gameweek 29||Gameweek 30|
|Aston Villa||Tottenham Hotspur (home)||Fulham (home)|
|Leeds||Fulham (away)||Sheffield United (home)|
|Tottenham Hotspur||Aston Villa (away)||Newcastle (home)|
|West Ham||Arsenal (home)||Wolves (away)|
Taking a minus-four for the likes of Newcastle who play Brighton and then Spurs feels like a points hit that will not be repaid. However for players such as Raphinha (£5.6m), Jesse Lingard (£6.1m) and Gareth Bale (£9.6m), it feels like they could easily be repaid in Gameweek 29 and then repaid again in Gameweek 30.
Hits for a one-week punt, especially with a series of fixtures like we have in Blank Gameweek 29, feel risky. However, with the Gameweek 30 matches that Villa, Leeds, Spurs and West Ham have, a wise investment in their assets could give Fantasy managers the boost they need alongside an even better looking side for Gameweek 30.
The case for Blank Gameweek 29 without a hit
LiveFPL.net currently has the average number of players per team for Gameweek 29 at seven. Over the next few hours until the deadline we will undoubtedly see a wave of transfers from FPL players waiting until after the European matches before making their transfers. However, it seems likely the majority of teams won’t be made up of 11 starters.
Luke Shaw (£5.2m), Ilkay Gundogan (£6.2m), Mohamed Salah (£12.4m), Bruno Fernandes (£11.5m) and Ruben Dias (£6.1m) are the players I currently have who will not kick a ball in Blank Gameweek 29.
On paper, these are all players that could make way this week. However, when you look at their Gameweek 30 fixtures (Man City travel to Leicester, Manchester United host Brighton and Liverpool visit Arsenal) there are a couple of players, namely Shaw and Fernandes, that cannot be sacrificed without needing to bring them back in.
This means that for me it is only possible to do a minus-four at worst.
Keeping an eye on the fixtures that follow on from the Blank Gameweek is key, taking hits for players for this week can be a good idea, as long as managers are not sacrificing players they will want for the week after.
Key targets for Blank Gameweek 29
With this in mind there are three players on my wish list for Gameweek 29.
Jesse Lingard (£6.1m)
Lingard has now returned in five of his six Premier League matches since joining West Ham on loan. He has also returned in each of his last four starts. Lingard’s ineligibility to play against his parent club Man United in Gameweek 28 was strongly felt by a defeated West Ham lacking in attack without him.
Against an Arsenal side who are top for errors leading to goals in the last four Gameweeks, and are joint third in the same period for defensive errors, Lingard is likely to have plenty of opportunities to excel in Blank Gameweek 29 and again in Gameweek 30 against Wolves who have made the same number of defensive errors as Arsenal.
Gareth Bale (£9.6m)
Ahead of the north London derby in Gameweek 28, Bale was on an excellent run of form, having returned two double-digit hauls in three matches and returns in three out of four Gameweeks.
However, Bale was withdrawn on 56 minutes having failed to be involved in the match due to Spurs’ defensive set up. With Son likely to be missing for in Gameweek 29, the onus will be on the likes of Bale, Lucas Moura (£6.6m) and Harry Kane (£11.5m) to get them back to winning ways.
Over his last four matches Bale is top for expected goal involvement (xGI) Delta and third for XGI overall.
The last time Bale played at Villa Park he scored a second half hat trick which saw Spurs run out 4-0 winners. I can see Bale and his Spurs team setting up offensively against Villa, making him a great option, especially as in Gameweek 30 Spurs face Newcastle who have only kept one clean sheet in their last seven Premier League matches.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (£11.5m)
After he sat out the north London derby for disciplinary reasons, I expect to see Aubameyang back in the first 11 for Blank Gameweek 29. Prior to the Spurs game, the FPL midfielder had scored four goals in his previous four matches, although three of those did come in one outing against Leeds.
In his last four fixtures, Aubameyang is top for expected goals (xG) among midfielders across the game.
Arsenal have on paper a difficult match in Gameweek 30 against Liverpool. However, the Reds have only kept one clean sheet in the last three so Aubameyang is a player I feel you can bring in for Blank Gameweek 29 and play in Gameweek 30.
How to line up for Blank Gameweek 29
I am planning to move Salah to Lingard this week. The West Ham midfielder is a must-have in my opinion and someone I have seriously considered captaining this week.
The Aubameyang or Bale dilemma is one that will rumble on until deadline. Both Spurs and Arsenal had Europa League ties on Thursday evening and it will be a last minute call as to who comes in for Gundogan this week, with a view to bringing in the injury-free and in-form Kevin De Bruyne (£11.9m) for my Wildcard for Gameweek 31.