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FPL: The Really Wild(Card) Show. Is it time to play your FPL Wildcard?

With the first 3 gameweeks of the season behind us, thousands of FPL managers have used their first Wildcard, and indeed many have them active right now during the first international break.

This is historically a popular time to take stock of your squad, and attempt to freshen it up either with early season performers, or new players to the league that have joined clubs late on in the Transfer Window.

Many are still under the misapprehension that the International Break can be used to build team value by hopping on price rises in the hope they can accrue more cash to be used later in the season to try and obtain an advantage. Unfortunately, this myth was busted several years ago and this has proven to be absolutely the WORST time to deploy the Wildcard for that reason.

Some may argue that holding the Wildcard is of more benefit, to allow for the league to settle, players to find form and for normal service to be resumed. Just look at the current situation new boys Huddersfield Town find themselves in: 3rd in the league following 2 wins and a draw and no goals conceded. An early Wildcarder may be seduced into bringing one, two or even three of their players into their squad but will they keep this form up? Unlikely.

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There is also the return of Hazard to contend with. Have the Wildcarders made plans to bring this FPL stalwart in at the earliest opportunity? What about Sanchez? Next year is a World Cup year so common sense suggests he will put his personal differences with Arsenal aside and concentrate on recapturing the kind of form that has made him as FPL must-own this past couple of seasons.

What about the crazy curse that seems to befall Harry Kane every August? Sure, he scored vs Juventus in a preseason friendly but to not register in the Premier League despite the countless chances he’s had? Well, for me this is the time to be bringing the league’s top goalscorer for the last 2 years IN – not wildcarding him OUT as people are doing in their thousands.

But all this is irrelevant. You’ve played your Wildcard now because it is the right decision for you, not for anyone else. Either you’ve had a poor start, or you want to freshen up your squad to bring in new blood or you thought you could build team value. Whatever your reason, you may be in need of some options before the Gameweek 4 deadline passes. After all, this is the squad that (aside from some minor tinkering with Free Transfers or Points Hits) is going to carry you through until at least the 2nd Wildcard. This isn’t available to you until after the Gameweek 21 deadline passes on 30 Dec 17.

So, what is the point of this article then? Well, I guess the purpose of this piece is to try and satisfy all of you, no matter where you currently sit in the overall rankings. I’m going to aim to identify some players who may not be on the radar yet, but who could spring into life anytime soon (to be precise, in the next 4 Gameweeks). Others will be players that should keep you from falling any further – and hopefully help you gain green arrows. Finally, some will be the high ownership players that the high-flyers may need in order to just maintain their positions and not lose ground on the chasing pack.

Specifically though, I’m looking to really help those managers who aren’t doing so well. I’m looking for players who can help those managers who are still languishing down below the 1 million mark. Let’s be honest, if you’ve loaded your team up with the now emerging “template team” that’s probably where you are going to remain. Unless you break out and take a chance or two, your chances of climbing are reduced significantly as you are in direct competition with teams placed higher than you who have the same team bar a couple of players.

Let’s take a look at the top points scoring players from the 3 Gameweeks so far:

Gameweek 1
Ahmed Hegazi (WBA) – 15pts
Ben Davies (TOT) – 14pts
Sam Vokes (BUR), Jamie Vardy (LEI), Romelu Lukaku (MUN) – 13pts

Gameweek 2
Marcus Alonso (CHE) – 16pts
Harry Maguire (LEI), Eric Bailly (MUN), Paul Pogba (MUN) – 15pts
Javier Hernandez (WHU) – 13pts

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Gameweek 3
Ciaran Clark (NEW) – 15pts
Kyle Naughton (SWA), Roberto Firmino (LIV), Alvaro Morata – 12pts
Fraser Forster (SOU), Mohamed Salah (LIV), Cesc Fabregas (CHE)  – 11pts

What can we deduce from that? Not a great deal really. Some highly owned players doing ok, some players from the “big teams” doing ok, some dark horses over-achieving? It’s a bit too early after only 3 weeks for consistency to emerge.

Interestingly, of the 6 Forwards in that list all 6 are in the Top 7 highest scoring Forwards in the game. Who’s missing? The 4th highest scoring Forward, Wayne Rooney. No double digit hauls from him yet, but consistently doing the business under the radar it seems? And this despite Everton’s so-called bad fixtures…

But let’s not dwell on what’s happened – let’s turn our attention to what could happen. After all that’s what FPL is all about. Let’s not go chasing points that have already been scored, let’s go and find them where they could be scored! Are you with me? Then let’s go!

Ah…first we have to establish what you’re trying to achieve with your Wildcard (or with your normal transfers and/or points hits if that’s what you’re doing).

Are you riding high in the rankings or in your mini-leagues and want to consolidate to maintain your position? In that case you should probably stick to the template with high percentage owned players.

Are you seriously chasing after a poor start? Then maybe it’s time to grab some low owned players; after all, you’re not going to catch up if you own the same players as those hundreds of thousands of positions above you.

Are you a risk taker? Do you like to include some players barely owned by anyone and line them alongside the big hitters? In which case you need a couple of options of players who aren’t even owned by themselves (if they play FPL!)

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My definitions are as follows:

Ultra-High Ownership – Over 25% of teams overall

High Ownership – Between 15% and 25% of teams overall

Normal Ownership – Between 10% and 15% of teams overall

Low Ownership – Between 5% and 10% of teams overall

Differential – Between 1% and 5% of teams overall

Uber-Differential – Between 0% and 1% of teams overall

Due to the fact the season is still in its infancy, and in order to prevent this article becoming too longwinded and cumbersome, I shall concentrate only on the next 4 Gameweeks (GW4-7) after which the next 2 week International Break occurs.

I have analysed the fixtures and when correlated with early season form, the following teams emerge as potentially having the easiest run of fixtures. However; fixture ease does not always equate to success on the field so please bear that in mind.

The teams I shall concentrate on for this 4 Gameweek period are:

ARSENAL 3 home games plus 1 tricky away game – BOU/che/WBA/BRI

BRIGHTON 3 tempting fixtures plus a difficult away game – WBA/bou/NEW/ars

BURNLEY 2 nice home games, but 2 hard away games – CRY/liv/HUD/eve

EVERTON 3 home games of varying difficulty – TOT/mun/BOU/BUR

LIVERPOOL Not the best fixtures, but are they fixture proof? – mcy/BUR/lei/new

MAN UTD Current leaders, so can’t be ignored here – sto/EVE/sou/CRY

NEWCASTLE Not the best of starts, but fixtures start to get better – swa/STO/bri/LIV

TOTTENHAM 3 games away from Wembley, what’s not to like! – eve/SWA/whu/hud

WEST BROM Fixtures continue to be kind, and they’ve strengthened – bri/WHU/ars/WAT

WEST HAM An unusual choice to feature here perhaps, but good fixtures – HUD/wba/TOT/SWA

Using my criteria for player ownership listed above, I shall now take each team mentioned in turn and discuss some options for you.

Arsenal:

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Ultra-High: None
High: Granit Xhaka (15.5%)
Normal: Sead Kolasinac (11.0%)
Low: Petr Cech (5.4%)
Diff: Mesut Ozil (2.3%)
Uber-Diff: Laurent Koscielny (0.8%)

My recommendation if you are seriously chasing is to invest £9.5m in Mesut Ozil. By far the most creative of the Arsenal midfielders so far, he just needs new signing Lacazette to learn how to anticipate his passes. Once that happens, Ozil will be amongst the assists once again.

If you are riding high in the rankings (and don’t own him yet), invest £6.0m in Saed Kolasinac. Yes, so Wenger dropped him for the last game (along with Lacazette) but this was only to appease some wantaway players.

The early season rush for Granit Xhaka after his 10pt Gameweek 1 return seems to have dipped off, and for now he isn’t really an attractive option to bring in. The elephant in the room is of course, Alexis Sanchez who has been forced to remain with Arsenal after a move to Man City fell through on Deadline Day.

Brighton:

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Ultra-High: None
High: None
Normal: None
Low: None
Diff: Anthony Knockaert (1.3%)
Uber-Diff: Pascal Gross (0.5%) & Davy Propper (0.1%)

Roll up, roll up! This is the place to grab your Uber-Differentials if you’re really chasing! There are actually some players from Brighton who fall into the Low and Differential range (Hunemeier and Rosenior) but these are non-playing £4m Defs that have been used as Bench Fodder in people’s squads.

The real value is to be found in last season’s Championship star performer Anthony Knockaert. After 2 cameos, he finally got 80 minutes under his belt in Gameweek 3 to prove he had recovered from his injury troubles. For £5.9m you could pick up a real bargain as it is surely only a matter of time before he gets back to his goalscoring ways.

Pascal Gross (sorry, I can’t do the weird symbol on this computer!) and Davy Propper are also a couple of potential gems. At £5.4m and £5.5m respectively they are in the budget 4th Mid range. Propper was on the scoresheet for the Netherlands during the International Break so obviously knows where the goal is and could be an excellent signing both for Brighton, and your FPL team.

Burnley:

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Ultra-High: None
High: None
Normal: None
Low: Tom Heaton (7.5%)
Diff: Jack Cork (3.2%)
Uber-Diff: Robbie Brady (0.9%) & Chris Wood (0.4%)

Like Brighton, another team in this featured list whose players don’t attract the high ownership in FPL. But don’t let that detract you. Last season’s top scoring goalkeeper, Tom Heaton may not have recaptured his form yet, but he hasn’t become a terrible player. He may cost £5m which may have put some of you off when there are other keepers available in the £4.5m bracket, but the save points, bonus points and clean sheets will come again.

For me though, the real value is in the two Uber-Differentials again. Like Brighton above, if you are seriously chasing, or just fancy taking a punt then you could do a lot worse than look at £5.5m Robbie Brady. Absolutely everything is going through him at the moment, and he is on set pieces. New signing Chris Wood opened up his account during his half hour long debut appearance at Wembley in Gameweek 3 against Tottenham. At £6.5m he may have to share game time with Sam Vokes, but he hasn’t been signed to play second fiddle. Deadly in the Championship, could be deadly in your 3rd Forward berth in FPL.

Everton:

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Ultra-High: None
High: Wayne Rooney (20.4%)
Normal: Michael Keane (13.6%)
Low: Leighton Baines (9.5%) & Gylfi Sigurdsson (5.2%)
Diff: Ashley Williams (4.2%) & Dominic Calvert-Lewin (1.9%)
Uber-Diff: Davy Klaasen (0.8%)

If social media was to be believed then Everton were to be avoided at the start of the season due to their poor fixtures. Wayne Rooney has proved that some players are able to score no matter who the opposition with 2 goals in 3. At £7.6m and with an ownership percentage of just over 20% at least 1 in 5 managers believe in him still. With Tottenham visiting Goodison next and then the hotly anticipated return to Old Trafford, I see goals in at least one of those games for him and then Everton have back to back home games against Bournemouth and Burnley respectively.

Michael Keane is an interesting one. One of the stalwarts in Burnley’s defence last season, he seems to have already struck up a good partnership with Ashley Williams and could be worth a look. However; along with Leighton Baines, it may just be worth waiting until Gameweek 6 before buying.

The real tempting option here if you are on a Wildcard and chasing, is to pick up the ever reliable Gylfi Sigurdsson who has been recruited from Swansea. He will be on set pieces and goals and assists are guaranteed – as much as you can guarantee such things in a fantasy game. Available now for a cut price £8.4m.

If you REALLY want to take a risk though, look no further than Dominic Calvert-Lewin. In both games he has started (Stoke and Man City) he has assisted for Wayne Rooney. In Gameweek 3 he got benched for the trip to Stamford Bridge and subsequently Everton failed to score. Coincidence? Probably. But a £5m starting Forward frees up a lot of cash if you want that elusive 5-man stellar Midfield.

Liverpool:

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Ultra-High: Sadio Mane (29.6%) & Roberto Firmino (28.2%) & Mohamed Salah (27.6%)
High: None
Normal: None
Low: Emre Can (7.3%) & Gigi Wijnaldum (5.1%)
Diff: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (3.4%) & Phillip Coutinho (2.0%)
Uber-Diff: Daniel Sturridge (0.6%)

Ah, so THIS is where all of the Ultra-High Ownership players are! 3 in this bracket from the Reds, proving that at this stage of the season they are a valued commodity. The stats show that all 3 are performing, thereby justifying their ownership percentages. Sadio Mane (£9.6m) has a goal per game ratio, Roberto Firmino (£8.6m) has 2 goals and 2 assists, and new boy Mohamed Salah (£9.0m) can match that with 2 goals and 2 assists also. So what does that mean? At LEAST one of these, and maybe two should be in your Wildcard team. Whether you’re riding high, or chasing. Not owning any of this trio at the moment is a bad move!

If you are chasing and fancy taking a punt then new signing Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (£6.0m) may tickle your fancy, but it remains to be seen where he is going to fit in and at whose expense. Bear in mind his FPL value in terms of goalscoring and assisting wasn’t great at Arsenal.

Like Alexis Sanchez at Arsenal, another disenchanted wantaway player could soon be returning in the form of Phillip Coutinho. His back injury mysteriously cleared up to allow him to come on as a substitute (and score) for Brazil during the recent Internationals, and if he does slot straight back in he could make a mockery of his 2% ownership figures.

Manchester United:

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Ultra-High: Romelu Lukaku (58.1%) & Paul Pogba (36.4%) & David De Gea (34.3%)
High: Henrikh Mkhitaryan (21.3%) & Nemanja Matic (16.4%) & Eric Bailly (15.6%)
Normal: None
Low: Antonio Valencia (9.7%) & Marcus Rashford (5.4%)
Diff: Phil Jones (4.9%) & Daley Blind (3.3%) & Juan Mata (3.1%) & Anthony Martial (2.3%)
Uber-Diff: None

With Utd currently top of the league, it should come as no surprise that they top the FPL ownership charts as well. With Romelu Lukaku, Paul Pogba and David De Gea topping their respective ownership lists by position, if you’re riding high you should invest in at least 2 and maybe all 3 of these if you want to maintain your rank. All are in fantastic form and there is no reason why that shouldn’t continue – maybe all season.

The surprise package has possibly been the form of super-sub Anthony Martial who scored in both of his sub appearances in the first 2 games, then failed to net when given a start against Leicester. This will justify Mourinho’s belief that he is a bigger asset coming off the bench, but in FPL terms it is a very big gamble to take.

The form of Daley Blind has impressed (and he is keeping Matteo Darmian out of the team, much to my personal annoyance!) His set piece delivery and solidity on the left means he has probably earned the spot for the time being.

If you are chasing, and are going to try and go without Lukaku then for me your best option is to invest £7.5m in Marcus Rashford who is surely going to get amongst the goals and assists in this free-flowing Utd team. He should reclaim his starting spot back from Martial in Gameweek 4.

Newcastle:

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Ultra-High: None
High: Rob Elliot (19.6%)
Normal: None
Low: Chancel Mbemba (7.9%)
Diff: Christian Atsu (3.3%) & Matt Ritchie (2.5%)
Uber-Diff: Joselu (0.3%)

Another surprise inclusion in this list you may thing, especially as teams like Man City and Chelsea are noticeable in their absence. But Newcastle players should be in your Wildcard or transfer thoughts for two reasons – Price and Differential potential. Everyone’s favourite second keeper, Rob Elliot, is the only playing £4m GK, but have you considered freeing up cash to use elsewhere by playing him week in week out and teaming him up with a non-playing £4m keeper on your bench?

Also in the increasingly rare category of £4m players who actually start is Chancel Mbemba. You may not actually play him, but having him on your bench as an option for the inevitable Liverpool and Man City rotation may reward you now the Champions League is about to start. Be warned though, Lejeune will be back soon.

Midfield options come in the form of Christian Atsu (£5m) and Matt Ritchie (£5.9), and with the favourable fixtures coming up, if you’re currently chasing you may wish to decide on a punt on one or other of these attack minded players.

Finally we have Joselu. So good he only needs one name. Like Prince or Madonna. Well no. In actual fact his full moniker is Jose Luis Mato Sanmartin. Bit of a gob full like (as they would say in Newcastle). But the fact is he looks to be very much a Rafa Benitez type player and having opened his account already it speaks volumes that Rafa was willing to sell or loan last year’s main man Dwight Gayle. For £5.5m he may be worth more of a punt than the other popular choice in that price bracket, Swansea’s Tammy Abraham (whose place is now at risk with the return of Wilfried Bony).

Tottenham:

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Ultra-High: Dele Alli (34.9%) & Harry Kane (26.9%)
High: Christian Eriksen (21.8%)
Normal: Toby Alderweireld (14.6%) & Hugo Lloris (13.5%) & Ben Davies (12.5%)
Low: Jan Vertonghen (8.5%)
Diff: Kieran Trippier (2.6%)
Uber-Diff: Serge Aurier (0.2%) & Fernando Llorente (0.1%)

An inauspicious start from Spurs has seen them concede in both games at their new “home” at Wembley. Despite this their defensive assets are still highly owned, but not across the board. New signing Serge Aurier should definitely be in your thinking but only if you’re chasing in my opinion. If you’re riding high, it is definitely more prudent to bide your time and wait to see if he will not only start, but whether Spurs can stop conceding silly goals.

You all know about the coin toss conundrum between Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen so I won’t labour the point here, suffice to say one of them is a must-own. For me that is Eriksen, more so now after his rampant performances for his country during this International Break. Some will argue that with Alli’s Champions League suspension he is the more nailed on (he’s also scored 2 in 3 already as well) which just goes to show there really isn’t a lot to choose between them.

If you really want to take a high-risk gamble then you could look towards new man Fernando Llorente. Yes, he is going to be behind Harry Kane in the order of merit, but he could be this season’s Heung-Min Son. This leads me onto another point – are Harry Kane’s minutes going to be curtailed now that Spurs have a recognised striker they can bring on to save young Harold’s legs once the game is won by the 70th minute? We shall see.

One last word on Harry Kane. Yes, the August Curse struck again but in my opinion whether you’re riding high or chasing, you NEED him in your team. That is all.

West Brom:

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Ultra-High: Ahmed Hegazi (27.2%)
High: Ben Foster (17.8%)
Normal: None
Low: Craig Dawson (5.9%)
Diff: Matt Phillips (2.7%) & Jay Rodriguez (1.9%) & Gareth McAuley (1.2%)
Uber-Diff: Oliver Burke (0.0%)

The fixtures continue to be kind to Albion, and with 2 wins and 1 draw so far it is easy to see why. They have only conceded one goal so far so Ben Foster continues to be a good keeper option. Ahmed Hegazi’s ownership has rocketed after his goal in Gameweek 1 but a word of caution; his place may not be safe. Last season’s 6 goal hero, 58 year old Gareth McAuley is nearing a return and may reclaim his place instantly. Craig Dawson is probably the safest bet in the Albion defence in all honesty.

In midfield the creative Matt Phillips is an option, but with only one assist so far in a Pulis team that rarely goes for the kill in terms of adding goals once they’ve taken the lead, it is very much a dull option for me. If you want to go “Full Hipster” you could take a mahoosive risk on new signing Oliver Burke. Not even his beautifully name mum owns him in FPL (Sally Rabbit-Dalby in case you were wondering!), but to be honest despite 4 goals in 5 games before he left Forest for RB Leipzig, his tally in the Bundesliga disappointed – 1 goal in 25 outings.

It’s on record that I’m a huge Jay Rodriguez fan, but to be totally honest as I mentioned above he is potentially being stifled in a Pulis team that shuts up shop early. I still think he’ll be good for 12+ goals though, and if you’re chasing then £5.9m could be a small price to pay IF he recaptures the form he showed for Southampton back in 2012-2014 before his injury woes.

West Ham:

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Ultra-High: Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez (28.5%)
High: None
Normal: Joe Hart (10.7%)
Low: None
Diff: Pablo Zabaleta (2.7%) & Andre Ayew (1.7%) & Jose Fonte (1.6%)
Uber-Diff: Manuel Lanzini (0.9%)

West Ham? What are they doing here? Wasn’t it bad enough you included Newcastle in this list? Isn’t Slaven Bilic being sacked next weekend? Well yes, more than likely. But bear with me here. Despite conceding 78 goals in 3 games, there could be some real value in bringing Hammers player IN right about now. Ok, so Joe Hart has hardly looked convincing but because of the Athletics, West Ham had to play their first 3 games away from home so conceding was always on the cards as the away team. And remember, Hart is only £4.5m. Bargain. Hmm.

The two defenders featured, Pablo Zabaleta and Jose Fonte are both priced at £4.9m and haven’t become bad players overnight. Yes, it would be VERY risky to bring them in now, but if you’re chasing have you got much to lose? One of them could be worth the gamble.

Andre Ayew is another player who on his day can destroy teams. Admittedly, those days haven’t come around much recently, but at Swansea he scored 12 and assisted 5 and following his move to West Ham in half the amount of playing time last season he scored 6 and assisted 3. His limited minutes were down to injury, and although currently yellow flagged with a muscle injury, if he plays more than he misses he should theoretically be banging in double figures in terms of goals.

The long awaited return of Manuel Lanzini happened in Gameweek 3 when he got 45 minutes under his belt. He could very well be the main provider for the very highly owned Chicharito who bagged a brace away at Southampton in Gameweek 2. His ownership percentage puts him second behind only Lukaku and ahead of Firmino, Kane, Rooney, Lacazette, Morata, Aguero, Vardy and Jesus currently! What am I missing?

So there we have it. Some options for a Wildcard team. Some options if you just want to use a transfer or two.

If I was on a Wildcard right now, I’d be tempted to shape my squad as follows:

GK1 – Foster (Current Price £4.5m)

GK2 – Elliot (£4.0m)

Def 1 – Kolasinac (£6.0m)

Def 2 – Alonso (£7.1m)

Def 3 – Mee (£4.5m)

Def 4 – Aurier (£6.0m)

Def 5 – Mbemba (£4.0m)

Mid 1 – Pogba (£8.2m)

Mid 2 – Mane (£9.6m)

Mid 3 – Brady (£5.5m)

Mid 4 – Eriksen (£9.6m)

Mid 5 – Atsu (£5.0m)

Fwd 1 – Kane (£12.5m)

Fwd 2 – Calvert-Lewin (£5.0m)

Fwd 3 – Firmino (£8.6m)

Total: £100.1 (I’m assuming you’ve made SOME money so far!)

Some risks, some safe picks, some differentials, some highly owned cover. 

Good luck to all of you on a Wildcard. I hope it works for you and it was the right time. I hope you didn’t play it to build team value – if you did, file that away as a lesson learned!

Written by @FPL_Fly

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