The general consensus regarding the second wildcard is to use it as late as possible to stock up on double gameweek players and successfully exploit the bench boost chip. This is certainly a very viable strategy and I would not discourage anyone if this has worked for you in the past.
Equally for those managers in the upper reaches of the overall standings, with the majority of the high-performing and therefore template players, there is no need for a huge overhaul of your squad. However, for those looking to make up ground, lacking two or three key players and stuck with bench fodder such as the infamous English acronym duo of RLC and DCL, the following factors should shed some light on the possibility of a Gameweek 25 wildcard.
To help illustrate why using the second wildcard early is a possibility, I’ll draw on how I’ve used it in the past two seasons. In 2015/16 I had accrued 48 points across two gameweeks, resulting in a drop to around 900,000 in the overall rankings in mid-January. It seemed like a major shake-up was the only option. And it worked. New arrival Charlie Daniels hit the ground running straight away with an 18 point haul, fuelling a rise into the top 81,000 by the end of the season.
Fast forward just over a year and as a result of only four fixtures taking place in Gameweek 28, mine and many other squads were awash with players from struggling sides such as Hull, West Ham and Bournemouth. Despite sitting inside the top 20,000, a far stronger position than the previous year, I again decided to go against the consensus and wildcard far in advance of the double gameweeks. Gone were the likes of Andrew Robertson, Pedro Obiang, Jonny Evans and the suspended Zlatan Ibrahimovic who I knew were all poor options going forward.
A run of eight green arrows in ten gameweeks followed, resulting in an overall rank of 2,304th which seemed to once again vindicate using the wildcard early. These examples are not an attempt to brag, rather to show that success can be had from an early wildcard whether you’re flying high or sitting close to the one million mark.
So for those considering an early wildcard, why Gameweek 25 and not a subsequent gameweek?
1. Double Gameweek Hangover
The recent double gameweek saw many of us rightly stock up on Tottenham and West Ham assets. Despite the initial frustration of popular picks Harry Kane and Marko Arnautovic, their combined 29 points in the following gameweek, vindicated their 750,000 combined net transfers in, prior to Gameweek 22. Considering Arnautovic and Lanzini’s reported hamstring injuries, West Ham’s recent defensive struggles and Tottenham’s tricky next three fixtures, it seems an ideal time to move on assets from both clubs. Those that tripled up from both sides suddenly may only want to keep Kane and even he could be outscored by the in-form Sergio Aguero over the next three gameweeks. Therefore those holding onto their wildcard will face a choice of either selling these assets for hits or holding onto unfavourable players (perhaps with the exception of Kane). Wildcarders meanwhile can achieve the best of both worlds.
2. January transfer window opportunities
With the next gameweek deadline at 6:45pm UK time on 30th January, clubs will only have another 28 hours to buy and sell players. This means that most of the confirmed or rumoured transfer activity will be clear, enabling FPL managers to react accordingly. For example the newly acquired Alexis Sanchez (3.0%) and Henrikh Mkhitaryan (6.2%) at Manchester United and Arsenal respectively could be an excellent way of making up ground on your rivals. Developments at Chelsea are also intriguing with rumours of Roma pair Edin Dzeko and Emerson Palmieri joining the club which may see reduced game time for both Alvaro Morata and Marcos Alonso.Embed from Getty Images
This is not to say either move will happen or that Morata and Alonso will lose their places, merely that there will be a significant amount of information and opportunity to take advantage of, on the eve of the transfer window shutting.
3. Gaining Ground
As far as I’m concerned, there are now two possible reasons to activate the second wildcard with the relevant gameweeks displayed. Either to make gains as a result of an unbalanced or underperforming team (Gameweek 25-31) or to clear out blank gameweek fodder and load up on double gameweek assets (Gameweek 32-36). The focus of this article is clearly on the former. Using the wildcard at the earliest available opportunity ahead of Gameweek 25 would give you seven gameweeks to maximise gains, whereas waiting may limit the extent to which you can gain ground on those who opt for a later wildcard, purely because probability suggests a shorter time period should yield smaller gains. So the message is clear, if you want to wildcard early, use it right away.
Who to pick?
With the aim of making up ground over the next few gameweeks in mind, I’ve listed five players selected by under 6% of managers that early wildcarders should consider.
1. Alexis SanchezEmbed from Getty Images
Last season’s top point scoring player resides in just 3% of teams and now turns out for a club he wants to be a part of. £11.7m is a high price to pay which of course comes with huge potential. A wildcard would facilitate this switch free of charge and allow you to keep your other in-form high priced assets. Meanwhile, your rivals would have to take hits to squeeze him in if they wanted to keep the likes of Kane and Salah.
2. Moritz BauerEmbed from Getty Images
Stoke’s new right-back looked a threat going forward on occasion against Manchester United but didn’t have the stats to match this promise. However he managed two attempted assists against Huddersfield in Gameweek 24 and gained the man of the match award as part of Stoke’s first clean sheet in 14 Premier League games. With a guaranteed fixture in Gameweek 31 and games against Watford, Bournemouth, Brighton, Leicester and Southampton in the next 5, he could be a steal at just £4.5m.
3. Virgil Van DijkEmbed from Getty Images
There tends to be a lot of misconceptions about Liverpool defensively and Van Dijk’s part in Alfie Mawson’s goal on Monday night will do little to alter that. However Liverpool have kept 9 clean sheets so far this season which you would expect to only increase after a £75m defensive signing. Van Dijk’s attacking threat is evident after three goal attempts and two attempted assists in Gameweek 24, making his valuation of £5.5m suddenly look a lot more appealing.
4. Theo WalcottEmbed from Getty Images
A fourth newly transferred player makes the list and for good reason – new signings bring new opportunity and a chance to break away from the template team. Walcott’s goal record speaks for itself having scored 108 times in 397 appearances for Arsenal from a wide position. Priced at just £7.1m, he already has an assist at his new club and faces just one top 6 side (his former employers) in the next seven gameweeks.
5. Callum WilsonEmbed from Getty Images
It seemed only right to include a striker in this list and other than the expensive and highly owned trio of Kane, Aguero and Firmino, Wilson looks to be the best option. It goes without saying that good form and favourable fixtures are key for an FPL asset and Wilson fits the bill. Between Gameweeks 26 and 33, he faces just one top 6 side and has mustered three goals and one assist in the last five gameweeks. A snip at £5.8m.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my thoughts on the second wildcard. As I’ve already said, wildcarding early isn’t for everyone and only use it now if you need it. However if you do feel compelled to activate it early, maximising the number of gameweeks you can gain from is vital.
Written by @FPL_Guidance