The Premier League returns this weekend after a brief interlude for the FA Cup. The frantic festive period already seems so long ago and thoughts must now turn to the second half of the season.
The cup games afforded some thinking time for FPL managers. Four games in quick succession may have lead to some rash decisions due to tight deadlines. Nevertheless there’s still 17 game weeks left and that is more than enough time.
Rather than jump back in with five players to watch this week, we’ve come up with five tips to get you ready for the remainder of the season. If you’re in a tight mini-league, every point could make the difference! Remember though there is more than one strategy to win and not even necessarily only one right answer – all part of why we love FPL.
1) The second wildcard is active
For years, you only got one wildcard in FPL. That has increased to two in recent seasons though with one available either side of the new year. The correct time to use it most likely depends on your situation. If your team is hopelessly out of form or ravaged with injury then you might consider using it as soon as possible. If things are ticking over nicely for you then don’t make changes for changes sake. Make sure you have a good look at the fixtures and consider when your current squad will have a bad run. It’s great to have, for example, Everton players at the moment looking at the upcoming fixtures but there will come a time when things change.Embed from Getty Images
The wildcard allows you to make as many transfers as you want from the moment it is activated to the start of the game week. Again, this can be used to your advantage if you are monitoring the price changes but this can get complicated. Just be wary that if you sell a player on your wildcard and you buy him back during the same wildcard you will have to buy him at his current sale price and not what he was worth to you.
2) Short-term bargains
The Asian Cup is under way and that means there are some places up for grabs. The highest profile is probably Matt Ryan of Brighton. His absence has handed David Button (£4.0m) the gloves and the possibility to free up some funds for a few game weeks. This works both ways as player prices are adjusted based on transfers in and out rather than performance. For example, Matt Ryan is already down to £4.4m, which will make him good value for money when he returns.Embed from Getty Images
The other thing to consider is how management changes have brought previously unwanted players back into the fold. A great example of this Southampton, where £3.9m defender Jan Bednarek seems to be a first choice whilst £5.2m midfielder Nathan Redmond is playing practically as a forward. Then there’s the Solskjaer effect at Man Utd. Keep an eye on other managerial changes as there’s bound to be some.
3) Transfer window pros and cons
On a similar note to the previous point, the transfer window can be a double edged sword. Jason Puncheon was nowhere near anybody’s radar a few weeks ago but now he’s signed for Huddersfield he’s a £4.2m midfielder who will almost certainly start when fit. I’m not saying you would build a team around him but he could save you some pennies as a 5th choice midfielder. On the flip side, your players might be on the move. Callum Wilson is subject to some pretty strong interest from Chelsea, at £6.4m he might be even better in a stronger team. There is of course the possibility of players leaving the Premier League – anybody who has Cesc Fabregas will soon be disappointed. There will be more than a few Arnautovic owners (and West Ham fans!) with hearts in mouths after hearing of interest from China.Embed from Getty Images
For all those reasons and more I would personally try and hold on to your wildcard until February. Sometimes it is needs must and if you’re confident your team are going nowhere then there’s no risk.
4) Blankety blank
This can be a real headache but thankfully we don’t have to worry about it for a few weeks. It can still be something you work into your plans though, so I’ll be gentle.
There will be some game weeks coming up which clash with FA Cup games and indeed the EFL Cup final. Taking the EFL Cup final as an example, that will take place on GW27. I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to say Man City will be in the final, which means they will have no league game that week. They are playing Everton, so players from either team will be no use to you that week. With Tottenham or Chelsea playing out the other semi final that means we’ll either lose Burnley vs Tottenham or Chelsea vs Brighton too. The one positive is that the teams involved will have double game weeks later on in the season, which we’ll cover in point 5.Embed from Getty Images
Things get really tricky when you consider the FA Cup. Gameweek 31 clashes with the FA Cup quarter finals. As of this writing, there is only one fixture guaranteed to go ahead that week, which is Fulham vs Liverpool as both teams are out of the cup. Others will almost certainly fall into place, for example Burnley can’t be expecting to beat Man City so their game with Leicester is likely to go ahead. This rigmarole will also be an issue in GW33 when the Semi-finals come around.
In short, keep an eye on the games guaranteed to go ahead in these weeks as you might be struggling to field a full team if you don’t. Although there is an alternative…
5) When to use your chips
As well as the wildcard, there are three extra chips that you’ve had at your disposal all season. Personally, I like to save these for weeks when there are as many games as possible for the simple reason that two games are better than one. It’s worth noting that you can only every play one at a time, including the wildcard. The chips are:
Bench Boost – Play your bench. You’ll have a team of 15 available so you’ll want to make sure you have a full squad available with no “fodder” e.g. players who are cheap but never play.
Triple Captain – Captain score trebles instead of doubles. Sure, you might get lucky and put it on Salah when he scores four in one game but playing the percentages you want to put it on a player with a double game week who will play both games (ideally games he will score in!) but it’s personal preference really.Embed from Getty Images
Free Hit – Change your entire team for one week only. This one is quite popular in the weeks where there are very few games (e.g. FA Cup Quarter final week) as you can fill your team with players who actually have fixtures without damaging your overall team. Of course it’s also good if you have an injury hit week and you just need a get out of jail free card.
It’s been a while since the last updated but the OffsideRulePod league still has the same leader. Derek maintained his advantage over the festive period including a well timed wildcard, his 36 point lead is looking very healthy.
That’s all for this week but I’ll be back next week with a more traditional FPL preview. Goodbye for now.
You can follow Dave on Twitter @CM9798