In this most unpredictable of seasons, fantasy football continues to frustrate.
More than one million managers captained Kevin de Bruyne in gameweek 13 for Manchester City’s home match against West Bromwich Albion, only to see the visitors produce a superbly disciplined performance to earn a point. That meant those managers bagged just eight points and even more surprisingly the real Baggies boss lost his job.
Chelsea’s seemingly impregnable rearguard has sprung a leak with defeats against Everton and Wolves in their past two games, Fulham restricted Liverpool to just a Mohamed Salah penalty in gameweek 12 and those managers who piled in on the likes of James Maddison, Harvey Barnes and Jamie Vardy after Leicester’s sparkling 3-0 home win over Brighton saw Everton comfortably shut them down in gameweek 13.
At least there’s always Son Heung-min, who scored another cracker at Anfield to take his season’s tally to 114 points. As Statman Dave was telling us on this week’s Fantasy 606 podcast, Son has scored nine of his 11 Premier League goals this season inside the penalty area, from just 15 shots. That is a truly remarkable conversion rate of 60%, yet neither Dave, Chris Sutton nor I have shown the common sense to keep him in our teams.
Anyway the point is this season is proving incredibly difficult to predict. Squad rotation will start to bite more and more as we head into the Christmas period, which will make selection even trickier. But the one thing we all do know is that there is a bumper double gameweek (19) on the way in January and it’s time to start planning for that right now.
It’s come about as an attempt to give the clubs a mini winter break in this shortened season and in fantasy terms it means the following 10 clubs won’t have a fixture in gameweek 18 but will then have two fixtures in gameweek 19 – Liverpool, Southampton, Leicester, Chelsea, West Ham, Manchester United, Leeds, Fulham, Burnley and West Brom.
So have a look at your squads right now and see how they would be set up if gameweek 19 was starting tomorrow.
Some of you will still have the first wildcard available which means you could change things up before gameweek 16 to position yourself perfectly and there’s always the option of the second wildcard which anyone can play from gameweek 17 onwards.
But if you’ve already used that first wildcard and you want to keep the second one for a rainy day later in the season then you’ve got six free transfers available to you from now until gameweek 19 to get the squad in shape.
I imagine most managers will use the Free Hit chip in gameweek 18 to get around the fact those 10 clubs don’t have a fixture and then you might also have the option to use your Bench Boost or your Triple Captain chip in gameweek 19.
Just to explain the chips to the uninitiated or the managers new to FPL this season – Free Hit means you can make as many transfers as you like within your budget for one gameweek but then your team automatically reverts back to what it was the week before. Bench Boost means all your substitutes’ points count towards your total score that week and your triple captain does exactly what it says on the tin.
So imagine Salah as triple captain in gameweek 19 with home fixtures against Manchester United and Burnley, or Bruno Fernandes with the trip to Anfield and then an away game at Fulham. Presuming of course that Jurgen Klopp or Ole Gunnar Solskjaer pick them for both, which is no guarantee.
Personally I have already played my first wildcard and, if possible, I’d like to hold onto the second one until later in the season, so the question is can I use the six free transfers to get my squad to where I need it to be for gameweek 19?
I already own Southampton keeper Alex McCarthy along with Andrew Robertson, Charlie Taylor, Salah, Fernandes, Tomas Soucek, Patrick Bamford and Jamie Vardy, all of whom will have two fixtures in that period.
Let’s hold onto them.
That leaves me seven players who only have one match in gameweek 19 – that’s Aston Villa’s reserve keeper Jed Steer, Tariq Lamptey, Ruben Dias, Tyrick Mitchell, De Bruyne, Daniel Podence and Rhian Brewster.
Now you may well want to hold onto some of your star players even if they’ve only got one game – from my point of view De Bruyne will have a home fixture against Crystal Palace so is it really worth taking the risk and selling him for someone who may not even start both fixtures in gameweek 19?
Don’t tell Chris and Statman Dave but I’m actually looking at a way to get Harry Kane back into my squad even though he would only feature once in gameweek 19, an away fixture against Sheffield United. He’s just one of those golden FPL assets if he can stay fit.
In terms of those seven players I might like to change I’m mainly looking at the cheaper end of the transfer market, so possibly West Brom goalkeeper Sam Johnstone at £4.5m. The Southampton, West Ham and Leeds defenders are all good value, or maybe James Justin if the budget will stretch a little bit further, and a few Fulham players have caught my eye further up the pitch in Ademola Lookman, Ivan Cavaleiro and Bobby Decordova-Reid.
Don’t forget though once you’ve signed them they’re in your squad for good, unless you decide to go with the Free Hit in gameweek 19, but have a look at your budget and see what you can do. The bottom line is to make sure your squad is in a good position to go big in gameweek 19.
Ideally I would like to hold onto that second wildcard, use my free transfers to set up the squad, play the Free Hit chip in gameweek 18 and then be ready to watch the points roll in the following week. Hopefully.
That also means you have to have a good look at gameweek 18 and come up with a squad for these five fixtures – Sheffield United v Newcastle, Wolves v Everton, Manchester City v Brighton, Aston Villa v Spurs and Arsenal v Crystal Palace.
What is it they say about the best-laid plans?
The deadline is 11:00 GMT on Saturday. Please keep those emails coming in on firstname.lastname@example.org – this week we heard from fantasy managers in Rhode Island, Nova Scotia and the Gambia… it’s the global game.