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Is this the right time to play the FPL wildcard?

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I’m getting itchy fingers, but is game week 8 the right moment to play the card?

Newcastle United v Liverpool - Premier League
You know you doing ok when Joselu is scoring for you.
Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

Having too much time to think can cause just as many problems in life as not having enough time to think in the first place. That same idea stands just as true for fantasy football, and with a two week break between game weeks 7 and 8, my mind is wandering with thoughts about a certain weapon in my FPL pocket, the wildcard.

I have had a good start to the season and currently sit on 436 points in total, which puts me in 52,458 place in the overall standings and in 19th place in the Beat The Bloggers NMA league.

That should mean I simply carry on with what has worked so far and keep that Wildcard warm in my back pocket, ready for when times change. Unfortunately, I’m one of those fantasy managers who is just never satisfied, never truly content with my side, and always wanting to fiddle with it -- sometimes when doing so isn’t my best play.

My squad as its stands:

  • David De Gea/Rob Elliot
  • Cedric Soares/Craig Dawson/Ben Davies/Chris Lowe/Markus Suttner
  • Aaron Ramsey/Richarlinson/Dele Alli/Matt Ritchie/Tom Carroll
  • Harry Kane/Romelu Lukaku/Joselu

Bank £3.2m and 1 free transfer

Theory:

The popular Wildcard theory suggests that you should look to use it when one or more situations arise:

  • You may have multiple problems within your squad, such as suspensions, injuries and/or loss of form.
  • You have an opportunity to benefit from immediate acquisition of players who are lightly owned, thereby gaining value from them before the rest of the field picks them up.
  • Or the one-week fixture swing is so substantial that you can prosper by owning several players facing weaker form sides.

Squad issues

As I write, I have no suspension worries in my squad. Ritchie is closing in on a yellow card accumulation one match ban, but that’s it. For injury maybe Lukaku’s ankle is a worry, but right now I need more evidence to believe it’s not just Jose posturing.

When it comes to lost form, Alli does catch my eye. He hasn’t looked like the same free-running young player that we saw in the previous two seasons. Off-field issues seem to be weighing on him and his 2 goal / 2 assist in 7 match performance. Concerns are balanced with his next fixture being against a Bournemouth side whose open football style should mean he should get chances.

For now, on these three points, I’m quite lucky. So overall, squad issues are not enough reason to play my wildcard.

Opportunity to gain early advantage

Among the lighter owned difference-making players, the names that grab my attention are Eden Hazard 3.4%, Alexis Sanchez 2.5%, and Phillipe Coutinho 8.5%. All three are proven FPL big hitters whom every fantasy manager would like to own.

Coutinho has already come back with a bang but faces two of the league’s best defenses in Manchester United and Tottenham in ‘Pool’s next two fixtures. Sanchez has back to back away games at Watford and Everton where neither match will be straightforward. I can make a case for leaving the duo for a couple of game-weeks, which of course will mean holding the wildcard until then. Hazard, however, has a wonderful trio of games: Palace (a), Watford (h), and Bournemouth(a). With Morata suffering a hamstring injury, I can’t see Conte not playing his best attacking weapon, and Hazard has looked very sharp in his cameos so far.

With 3.2m in my bank, I can make the swap from Ramsey/Alli to Hazard/Coutinho. I taking the hit to do both immediately, or I can avoid the hit by working over a two/three week period. I can do this without selling Kane or Lukaku, so again no need to wildcard.

Fixture run

Looking at the fixture swing, I like Chelsea, Man City’s, Southampton’s and Leicester’s runs:

  • Chelsea: Palace (a), Watford (h) and Bournemouth (a) Man Utd (h), West Brom (a), Liverpool (a) Swansea (h) and Newcastle (h)
  • Man City: Stoke (h), Burnley (h), West Brom (a), Arsenal (h), Leicester (a), Huddersfield (a), Southampton (h) and West Ham (h)
  • Saints: Newcastle (h), West Brom (h), Brighton (a), Burnley (h), Liverpool (a), Everton (h), Man City (a) and Bournemouth (a)
  • Leicester: West Brom (h), Swansea (a), Everton (h), Stoke (a), Man City (h), West Ham (a) Spurs (h) and Burnley (h)

This is the point that may be driving my wildcard temptations. With Kun out nursing a broken rib, Gabriel Jesus looks set to start until Kun returns. City are such a fluid side right now that I’d like to have an attacking asset from their squad. With Morata’s hamstring, Hazard also seems certain to start. And, Jamie Vardy has proven great value so far. It’s also week 8, and Southampton have history of great week 8 scores. Their run in particular screams defensive returns at least.

Selling my favourites

To make moves for the Chelsea/Saint defensive cover + Hazard + City attack + Vardy, I’d need the wildcard. Making it difficult however, I can’t yet find a wildcard squad I like that doesn’t require me to sell one of Kane or Lukaku. Barring injury, Kane, is very unlikely to leave my side, but I could be tempted to sell Lukaku as his fixtures move up in difficulty level. Having said that, I would be selling a player who has scored a goal per game this season. That seems a backward step until his form drops.

Looking ahead to the storm cloud

A final point: Our next wildcard becomes active in January, and the normal plan would be to wait until the winter transfer window closes before using it. Before all of that, we have a final international break, the conclusion of the European football group stages, and one bigger issue: the dreaded “Festive Period”.

From 24 November through 1 January, each club plays 10 league fixtures. That’s 10 games in 39 days, and the top teams will have a CL fixture wedged into early December as well. There are five game-weeks until that period begins. Heavy rotation will surely follow, and my provisional plan from the opening weekend of the season was to ensure that I have a strong defense (a less susceptible area of the team) and a selection of players who always play.

My decision - probably!

If I play my wildcard now, then my squad will need to run for at least 15 game-weeks before I have another, and that new wildcard will be begging to wait a month to see what transfers come in (and which want-away players exit!) during the window.

Having made a good start and talked it through with myself, I think my wildcard will have to wait. That would make it 8 game weeks into a season with no wildcard played, the longest I think I have ever waited, which is a usual experience for me.

Instead I will need to try to bring in players from the four clubs mentioned, perhaps with hit or two. When the inevitable injuries/suspensions and lost form come, then I’ll look once more at the wildcard.

So what are your thoughts? Should I wildcard? With my 3.2m in the bank what change could I make for game week 8? How is your FPL squad looking right now? Have you used the wildcard already or do you need to coming into game week 8? Talk to me in the comments below...

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