Whilst most managers would consider it way too early to Wildcard, especially with all the uncertainty around fixtures and Covid cancellations, there is some method to the madness.
For starters, we now know (coronavirus permitting) that Everton, Brentford and West Ham have Double Gameweeks in 21, plus there are further doubles almost certainly coming for a host of teams in Gameweek 22. We also know that a number of players who’ve been fixtures in the template will need moving on, something I’m certainly feeling. For instance, Chelsea players are far less desirable in the short-term with blanks, tough fixtures and erratic form all playing a part even before the Reece James injury, Arsenal’s fixtures aren’t much better, whilst AFCON meant we had to get rid of the likes of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane, Said Benrahma, Romain Saiss, Riyad Mahrez and, until this morning, Emmanuel Dennis!
Add to this general underperformance of players in my squad like Bernardo Silva and Tino Livramento, unknown return dates for Conor Gallagher and Ben Foster and a feeling that I’m just a bit ‘out of sync’ from the high performers and suddenly the case for a Wildcard doesn’t seem so hard to make.
There is also a potential nuanced chip strategy on offer, with the potential of using a Wildcard in Gameweek 21 to lead into a Bench Boost in Gameweek 22, taking advantage of doubles and prime fixtures, although the lack of data on the 22 doubles makes this less likely.
Obviously, when you’re going to wildcard rather than simply free hit you’re looking for a longer-term strategic decision that takes into account a number of factors:
- i) Maximising DGW21 (West Ham, Everton, Brentford)
- ii) Well placed for DGW22 (Everton, Spurs, Brighton, Leicester, United, Burnley)
- iii) Still setup for favourable fixtures, blanks and possible doubles in the next four or 5 (Everton, Liverpool, Watford, United, City)
- iv) The Covid-factor – clubs struggling or looking likely to have outbreaks (Newcastle, Norwich, Chelsea, Liverpool)
On top of all this. we also ideally want some flexibility to change when it all goes wrong, hence the desire to leave a little cash in the bank for maneuvering.
I’ve tried to connect all of the above in my thoughts, although the Double Gameweeks are the prime consideration, which has led to a balanced approach with Everton and West Ham for Gameweek 21 and decent fixtures, plus Liverpool, Spurs, United and Brighton for fixtures and potential Gameweek 22 doubles. I’ve also kept a hand in City, but have abandoned Chelsea and Arsenal totally. I will definitely want to bring Dennis back in (now he’s NOT at the AFCON), but I can do that in Gameweek 22 if I feel the need.
The Squad…so far
- De Gea – One of the few survivors from the existing side, I think there’s a good chance of a clean sheet against Wolves and a likely double in GW22
- Sanchez – Brighton have decent fixtures and a likely double in GW22, so I need a playing keeper to keep my bench boost option alive. I did consider Pickford…very briefly!
- Emerson Royal – If I knew Reguillon would play each match he’d be first choice, but the attacking potential and more guaranteed start down the other flank gets the nod. Ben Davies and Dier were also in consideration.
- TAA – I think he’s in the ‘unsellable’ category and could have a double in GW22
- Cancelo – The only player that definitely won’t have a double either week, but a protective manouevre
- Keane – One of the Everton trio for the double GW21 and ongoing fixtures, and capable of getting involved from goals at set-pieces.
- Johnson – In some respects the least ‘fixed’ of my defensive line, but at £4.0m I needed a makeweight this week
- Bowen – I’ve coveted the West Ham attacker for some time and right now he’s an essential
- Gray – Another entry to Everton midfield, with Townsend out it’s Gray or Doucoure most likely to get forward and cause trouble an I favour Demarai’s pace.
- Jota – Will be interesting to see how Liverpool hold up as an attacking force without Salah or Mane, but Jota will surely get even more game time and be more of a focus for the attack
- Son – I’m big on Spurs based on form, likely doubles and fixtures and the only question is Son alone or go for the double-up
- McTominay – A value pick to get some extra United coverage, I’m not expecting a lot though and he could easily be replaced pre-deadline. He is getting forward more under Ralf Rangnick, however, with more shots in his last four matches than in his previous 12 combined.
- Calvert-Lewin – A definite punt here, but if we’re trying to make the most of the GW21 double then the best Everton striker has to feature. Could easily be too soon
- Antonio – Third West Ham asset and I player I’ve owned off and on all season, IF the Norwich game goes ahead I feel there could be the return we’ve all waited for.
- Kane – I’ve gone for Harry as I think he’s starting to show signs of getting back into the groove and with the fixtures ahead of him I narrowly prefer him over United. That said I have oscillated between Ronaldo and Kane (and likely will till deadline)
Naturally, like any Wildcard, this is a work in progress and will likely change multiple times before the New Year deadline!
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