If possible, I always optimally want to hold off on using my first half FPL Wildcard chip until slightly later in the season, when the crowded holiday fixtures start to inflict their carnage. But you know what? You have to use it when you have to use it. The way things have played out, this week ended up feeling like that time, so I activated it just ahead of the Week 13 deadline, joining the 141,942 others who did likewise.
A LOOK BACK TO MY WEEK 12 TEAM
To go through the decision making process, let me rewind a bit to what my official Fantasy Premier League team looked like in Week 12:
MY WEEK 13 PRE-WILDCARD TEAM
As Week 12 was going on, I belatedly came to the obvious conclusion that I needed to rectify what had been a horrible decision, dropping Leicester forward Jamie Vardy after Week 5 in favor of Tammy Abraham. It’s not that Abraham has been bad by any means, but Vardy has gone completely on fire, with eight goals, two assists and 62 of his 92 points since then. Also, Teemu Pukki was absolutely killing me, going without a goal or assist from Week 6 onward.
Following yet another big game, I knew that Vardy’s ownership would increase, making his price continue to rise higher. I wanted to grab him early, rather than wait for after the international break. The problem was that I had only one free transfer for Week 13, and I didn’t have a forward worth enough to enable a one-for-one swap for Vardy. I needed to drop someone at another position to free up funds, so I took a -4 hit making two transfers as Week 12 was in process.
OUT: FW Teemu Pukki, MF Raheem Sterling
IN: FW Jamie Vardy, MF Son Heung-Min
Sterling has been off his game recently, while Son has been starring for sputtering Spurs. I felt that Son could give me close enough to, or possibly even more than, what Sterling can offer over the next several weeks. Following those transfers, this is what my team looked like:
Except at the time, my team fitness looked much better than what it shows above. The screen grab is from close to the Week 13 deadline, when midfielder Mo Salah and defender Andrew Robertson were listed as serious injury doubts, and Brighton forward Aaron Connolly is said to be out for some time.
As a cheap enabler, putting Connolly to the bench was not such a big deal. But Salah is the most expensive midfielder in the game, and Robertson is the priciest defender. Having two premium players on the shelf is something I would rather not stomach, and already being on a -4 point penalty for making an extra transfer, I didn’t want to go to -8 or -16 to make another move or two. On top of that, Liverpool has a blank in Week 18, while otherwise dealing with severe fixture congestion in the form of Champions League, Carabao Cup, and Club World Cup competitions. seems like a sound strategy to drop two pricey Reds who are doubtful for Week 13, definitely missing Week 18, and prone to rotation in the coming weeks.
Of course, also nagging at me is that my team has been slipping lately. It feels like other fantasy managers who have used their Wildcards earlier have been passing me by. I’m at 426,431 in the worldwide ranks (roughly top 6%), which isn’t bad, but I was in the top 2% or 3% earlier in the season.
So I decided to pull the trigger and use my first half wildcard chip.
WEEK 13 WILDCARD TEAM
I reversed my original addition of Son, whose price point made it somewhat tricky to keep him if I wanted to upgrade at forward; on top of that, given the entry of a new manager Jose Mourinho following Mauricio Pochettino’s sacking, I felt it might be best to wait and see how things shake out for Spurs. Otherwise, I was really looking forward to dropping Norwich’s Todd Cantwell, who had not only seen his offense drop off the cliff like Pukki, but even worse, he’d lost his starting role. Just as with Connolly, getting a quality replacement for Cantwell would seem to require paying more as well. However, dropping Robertson would free up plenty of funds.
Following the original two changes made so long ago as Week 12 was in progress, these are the further swaps I did:
OUT: FW Aaron Connolly, MF Mohamed Salah, MF Son Heung-Min, MF Todd Cantwell, MF Leander Dendoncker, DEF Andrew Robertson
IN: FW Raul Jimenez, MF Sadio Mane, MF Christian Pulisic, MF Youri Tielemans, MF Isaac Hayden, DEF Enda Stevens
Dropping Salah, I had a choice at premium midfielder between Sadio Mane and Sterling. Since I’d just dropped Sterling in my original pre-Wildcard change anyway, I felt weird about adding him back, so I went with Mane. I’ll worry about his blank game-week 18 when that comes. As mentioned, Mane could also suffer rotation during the crowded festive period, but it’s not as if Manchester City’s situation is any better in that regard.
For my third forward I chose Wolverhampton’s Raul Jimenez, who like Vardy has been absolutely en fuego. I just hope I’m not (again) too late to the party! But even if Jimenez does cool off, his solid performance from last season suggests that he will be good value at his mid-range price.
The amazing form of Christian Pulisic is too much to ignore, though as always there is the worry of chasing points. I also fret about rotation during the crowded upcoming holiday period since Chelsea is in a very tough Champions League battle to make it through to the knockout stage. But it’s not like he’s a premium investment, and I should have enough cover elsewhere in my team if Frank Lampard does rest him here or there.
I wanted to be sure to add a third Leicester player on top of Vardy and Soyuncu. Midfield seemed to make the most sense, leaving the choice between James Maddison, Ayoze Perez, Youri Tielemans, and Harvey Barnes. Perez would be tough to do since his minutes aren’t as reliable as for the others. Maddison has been the best of the bunch this season, but Tielemans had the better track record last season, and is cheaper. Barnes is a good option for even less of an outlay, but I’d rather go with the more proven commodity, so Tielemans it is.
I also prioritized adding a third Sheffield United player. The Blades enjoy a favorable upcoming schedule, plus the advantage of not having any outside competitions to worry about, unlike all of the other top teams. I don’t feel great about their offense (other than out of position “defender” Lundstram of course), so I turned to the defensive end with Enda Stevens. I could have gone cheaper with Jack O’Connell, but I prefer Stevens’ better likelihood of contributing in attack; Stevens tallied five goals and 11 assists in his past two seasons in the Championship, plus one goal with 19 assists in the prior pair of campaigns in League Two (statistics from www.transfermarkt.com).
The final move was with my dirt cheap fifth midfielder. I swapped out Wolves’ Leander Dondencker for Newcastle’s Issac Hayden. Not a big deal, hopefully I won’t have to use him much, but Hayden offers a bit more punch on offense.
I’ve got £0.6m left in the bank, which is far from optimal in the glass half empty way of looking at things, but I am not seeing a better way of getting that all the way down to, or closer to, zero. Glass half full, it leaves me a bit of money to play around with for my next move(s).
(Note: Other than where mentioned, prices/statistics came from the official fantasy Premier League website.)
What do you think of my team now? Was it wise to play my wildcard chip given the fitness situations of Salah and Robertson? Should I have held onto it? Would it have been even better if I’d used the wildcard even earlier to (re-)grab Vardy? How is your team doing, and what do you feel about your first half wildcard chip situation? Please share your thoughts in the comments below!