FPL: Wildcard Battles

Hi there FPL managers, after taking a bit of a break from writing I am back again after the end of possibly the most interesting blank gameweek in history.

Mo Salah saved most of our teams after mediocre performances from the rest of our players, but I feel for those who went for the differential captain option to gain some rank. That didn’t turn out too well for you did it?

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Enough about the past, it’s wildcard time for many FPL managers as they plan their teams for the upcoming double gameweeks (and the blank if you have burned your Free Hit Chip). We all know planning a wildcard is like planning for a war, you need to look at the bigger picture and plan accordingly so that when you look at your score after GW38 you think to yourself, “I did alright here.”

In each war, there are several smaller battles that are crucial to how it all turns out, crucial decisions which if you get right today, they could help you go flying up the leaderboard. Today I’ll be looking at some of these decisions and give my take on it. I am on a wildcard myself so this article will help me summarise what I think and help you and me as well. So, let’s get this started.

De Gea or two cheaper goalkeepers?

We are starting from the back and the first question that comes to our mind is do we get David de Gea in our team (or stick with him if you already have him) or get two lower or mid-priced keepers to free up some more extra cash elsewhere?

De Gea has decent fixtures to finish the season off and will play two DGW’s as well. Importantly the double gameweeks he will be a part of will consist a game at home to West Brom and trips to West Ham, Brighton and Bournemouth. Man United defenders have been the most consistent point scorers in defence of all teams and these fixtures do mean that not playing De Gea with his high ownership could seriously hurt you in the last stretch of the season.

If still, you feel like you need to take the gamble, I’d suggest having two goalkeepers with teams with defensive pedigree rather than just blindly looking at fixtures. Brighton goalkeeper Matt Ryan is one of them, he plays Palace and Spurs in 34 and Man Utd and City in 37. He could be a good option in 34 at least if not in 37. He has done consistently well all season so may be worth it in the short run.

Swansea’s Lukasz Fabianski is another and his fixtures also bode well alongside Big Dave if you decide to have these two between the sticks for your team. The Swansea shot-stopper also will be having a fairly good double game week in 37 as he plays Bournemouth and Southampton where you could use your bench boost and have two keepers with nice fixtures.

Is Marcos Alonso worth the investment?

Marcos Alonso is an FPL legend and there is no denying that, however, he is quite expensive and given the amazing options available in midfield, there is a question in everyone’s mind, “Is it worth shelling out 7.2 million on a defender?”

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First of all get your facts correct. He is in the game as a defender but he is far from one. He is many a time the furthest man forward getting in the box at any opportunity he gets and he takes set pieces. He will, however, get the clean sheet points if they do keep a clean sheet. Chelsea’s fixtures are pretty decent and I am sure that he will be a good player now that he has something to play for.

Playing for what may you ask? He just got his first call-up to the national side and now he will be looking to impress the national team coach to get on the flight to Russia. One thing I have noted in his game recently, he is pulling his crosses back instead of whipping them in and finding teammates with great regularity, if only his teammates start scoring them then chances are he will start getting more assists to his name. So, if you haven’t guessed it till now, I do believe he is worth the investment.

Are Leicester defenders really a good idea?

This question is one of the most intriguing for me. Consider this stat, Leicester last kept a clean sheet in GW24 and in the six games post that they have conceded against Everton, Swansea, Stoke, Bournemouth and West Brom. This doesn’t fill me with any sort of confidence at all, even if their fixtures don’t look that bad.

I suggest looking at teams like Burnley, and even Brighton as these teams have shown defensive ability and pedigree. The players of these teams also get loads of bonus points if they do manage a clean sheet with a number of clearances, blocks and interceptions. Leicester playing in 34 and with decent fixtures is the only reason I have one of their defenders in my wildcard team. If you do have one in your teams then I’d suggest that you do not spend much on their defence. Morgan at 4.4 and Chilwell at 4.3 are the only ones worth considering due to their price tags.

Which cheap midfielder?

Everyone gets big hitters but it’s the differentials, the cheap enablers that make a huge impact. A few options have opened up in this regard.  Swansea’s Ki and King could work well (Not only for the alliteration) as cheap differentials. Ki, in particular, has scored two double figure hauls in the last four games and available at just 5 million while King available at just 4.2 has started the last two and scored one in those two games. Both look like decent options but I will probably lean away just because of the fact that Swansea doesn’t seem to score many goals, don’t have a double in 34 where I am planning my bench boost and these returns are probably one-offs, but if you are looking for a 4.2 for your bench then King’s your man. 

Newcastle’s Kenedy is another one such option. He has looked good since he arrived in January and played every game. He plays close to the striker and at 4.7 looks like a steal. Fixtures aren’t the best but at that price looks worth the risk. Burnley’s Johann Berg-Gudmundsson at 5.1 is a very important option now that Burnley have a double gameweek in 34. He has been a mainstay in the team and does take a fair few set-piece, if, however, you can stretch your budget a bit more, I’d suggest the ever consistent Pascal Gross of Brighton, who has been involved directly in about half of Brighton’s goals this season and the Seagulls have picked up a bit of form over the last few weeks, so selecting Gross could be an FPL masterstroke. 

Two big strikers or three?

Possibly the biggest debate of this article. Almost all of us have Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in our teams and for good reason, he boasts good fixtures, playing well and is cup-tied in the Europa League so will not be rotated. However, him not playing in 34 has put some people off but he would still be in my team given his good overall fixtures and he has been in decent form and could easily outscore strikers with two games.  What about the other two spots though? Do we go three big guys up top or get a cheap third striker? This has been a big dilemma for me but given that going for three up top stifles the balance of my team I am having a third cheap striker on my team. There could be good logic in going three up top but as seen this season the value is in midfield it seems logical to go with only two big strikers.

Lukaku, Firmino and Vardy provide these premium options and it’s the battle between the two boys from the North West that intrigue me. Both have been consistent last few weeks but Lukaku will have two DGW’s and that swing things in favour of the Belgian, however, Firmino does have the potential for more explosive returns given the nature of play at his club and given that he is nearly two million cheaper I am currently favouring the Brazilian. Vardy has shown a lot of inconsistency this season and given that many of us will have Riyad Mahrez, it isn’t too risky to leave Vardy out.

If you decide to go for a cheap third striker the most interesting are Ashley Barnes who has scored in three consecutive games and Glenn Murray who is Brighton’s top scorer. Both of them are likely to be involved in any goals their teams’ score. News is emerging that Harry Kane may be back before expected, which could rip a few wildcard teams apart including mine.

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Those were my thoughts on the wildcard and how I am tackling my problems. This is my current wildcard draft, and this might still change before the deadline. Still unsure whether to go Barnes+Gross or Murray+Gudmundsson. Will also need to monitor the Harry Kane situation.

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There is still time to get your teams ready and use all the information available online including the amazing DGW and BGW spreadsheets by @BenCrellin but at the end, it’s your decision which players to bring in, it’s your decision when you play your chips and which ones. Have faith in yourself and your decision making and enjoy the rest of the season. This is me, Varun, signing out.

Written by @Varun_esque 

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