Each fantasy manager has his/her own FPL strategy when it comes to using the first half wildcard chip. For me it’s usually about patience; on the rare occasions when I’ve jumped the gun and used my wildcard during the first international break, that decision has usually come back to bite me on the heiney. Generally when pondering whether to play the chip, I ask myself two simple questions:
- Does my team really need a major makeover that can’t be solved with two or three transfers and/or an underperforming player returning to form?
- Has the season played out long enough to “reveal” itself?
As it stands now, the answer to both of those questions is a resounding, “Yes!”
I’m at a pedestrian 463 points, good for a global ranking just inside the top 1 million (#999,633 to be exact), which is not exactly world-beating territory. Considering that I finished in the top 2,500 last season, I know I’m off my game. While I have been patiently biding my time, hordes of other fantasy managers have already played their wildcards. Now it’s time to pull the trigger and fire my chip into play. Fingers crossed, I’m getting my makeover and hoping I’m not too late to the party; hopefully I can begin a surge up the ranks!
MY POST-GW8 TEAM
Following GW8, this is how my team looked:
After using up two free transfers ahead of GW8, I had only one free transfer available for GW9. But as you can see, my squad showed a number of problem areas:
INJURY DOUBTS (4):
- expensive Liverpool defender Trent Alexander-Arnold (listed at having a 50% chance of playing with a calf injury)
- expensive Liverpool midfielder Mo Salah (Covid-19 positive and confirmed, out for GW9 with chance to return for GW10)
- budget Newcastle forward Callum Wilson (75% from a hamstring injury)
- cheap Crystal Palace defender Tyrick Mitchell (out from a knock)
PLAYING TIME CONCERNS (2):
- Even if Mitchell were healthy, he was an injury replacement only as long as Patrick van Aanholt was out. Now surely PVA has reclaimed the job.
- Budget (but not bargain basement) Wolves’ midfielder Daniel Podence is a fairly reliable starter but has played 90’ only once, otherwise being removed after 59’-75’ on his other occasions. He’s productive on a points per minute basis, especially for his price, but he’d sure be a lot better if he could be counted on to play 80+ minutes each time out.
TRICKY UPCOMING SCHEDULES (3)
- Pricey midfielder Son Heung Min and Tottenham Hotspur run the gauntlet in game-weeks 9-15: v. Manchester City, at Chelsea, v. Arsenal, at Crystal Palace, at Liverpool, v. Leicester, at Wolves. So I don’t expect the Spurs’ superstar to enjoy anywhere close to as much offensive joy as he has thus far.
- After facing Crystal Palace in GW9, budget defender Charlie Taylor and Burnley face a tough fixture list from GW10 to GW15: at Manchester City, v. Everton, at Arsenal, at Aston Villa, v. Wolves, at Leeds. I don’t see much in the way of prospects for Clarets’ clean sheets in there.
- Brighton’s budget keeper Mat Ryan has disappointed with just two clean sheets and only 17 points so far. The Brighton & Hove Albion defense has conceded the joint-fifth highest number of goals (14) in the league. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a higher clip of clean sheets from here on out, but I don’t know where they’re going to come from in the very near future due to a daunting upcoming schedule from GW9 to 12: at Aston Villa, v. Liverpool, v. Southampton, and at Leicester.
PERFORMANCE CONCERNS (4):
- I’ve been very happy with Wilson, as he’s been one of the few players I’ve had all season who has paid off mightily for me, but his returns seem like a mirage. I don’t exactly need him to keep up his current performance level to be valuable at his price, but I’m worried that he’ll fall off a cliff. He’s tied for 3rd in the league with three penalty kick goals, and his other scores have been of the fluky poacher’s variety. I wouldn’t worry if he were playing for a more attack-minded team, but Newcastle have looked extremely goal-shy when I’ve seen them, and the statistics back that up: The Magpies are 13th (tied) in goals (10), last (tied) in shots (64), and 19th in shots on target (20). With an anemic attack like that, I’m not expecting Wilson to get too many more penalty tries or other quality chances from the run of play.
- Budget Southampton keeper Alex McCarthy and defender Kyle Walker-Peters have shined so far with four clean sheets in their eight opening games, thanks largely to a friendly schedule. If that pace were sustainable against stronger opponents, they’d finish with 19 clean sheets in 38 games, but that’s obviously not going to happen. What comes up must come down as they say, so I’ll probably be looking to sell at least one of my Saints.
- After setting the league on fire in recent campaigns, pricey Liverpool defender Trent Alexander-Arnold has been a complete bust this season. Lethargic performances combined with his current health issue have created a rats-leaving-the-Titanic situation for his being shipped out, and the longer I wait, the more his price will continue to plunge at my expense. TAA’s music has stopped, so I need to grab a chair.
STARTING LINE-UP MAXIMIZATION DESIRE:
It’s always a good idea to try to have a bargain basement defender (£4.0m or thereabouts) if possible, but when concentrating funds on one’s starting-XI, it is vital to have either a cut rate (£4.5m or so) third forward or fifth midfielder. In the former you will generally utilize a 3-5-2, in the latter a 3-4-3.
I started the season with super cheap Brighton midfielder Yves Bissouma but dumped him after GW2 when he picked up a violent conduct red card, using extra funds in my bank from my post-GW1 transfer to upgrade at fifth midfielder. After GW4 I returned to the strategy, only this time at forward, dropping Che Adams (d’oh!) for Rhian Brewster once his transfer from Liverpool to Sheffield United was announced.
However, with Brewster providing nothing and with my team in desperate need of reinforcements at forward, after GW7 I again abandoned that strategy, dropping Brewster along with Brighton’s Neal Maupay and turning to Everton’s Dominic Calvert-Lewin plus Leeds’ Patrick Bamford up front.
Currently that leaves me wasting £1.0m extra in the form of Podence whom I will rarely start. Instead, I’d like to put as much as possible into my XI, either downgrading at fifth midfielder or at third forward. With budget forwards certainly outperforming budget midfielders, that leaves the obvious choice to drop Podence for a cheap fifth midfielder.
THE SEASON HAS “REVEALED” ITSELF:
Many fantasy managers use their first half wildcard chip at the first international break (which customarily happens after GW3 or GW4), but it is always difficult to judge a new season based on a limited number of games. I always worry that I am jumping on (and off) several bandwagons too early whenever making so many changes so early.
For example, Everton was unbeaten through five games, but now those Toffees have reverted to type, losing their past three to dive from 1st place down to 7th. How many fantasy gaffers regret going in on Richarlison, Lucas Digne and “Hot Mess” Rodriguez with their chips, especially if they sold then-struggling players who have since come good?
This season has been different than most in that four teams (Villa, Burnley, Man City, Man United) missed GW1. We have needed some extra time to buy into Aston Villa. Otherwise, following the summer transfer window, it has taken a while for teams such as Chelsea to see how their line-ups have played out. For the Blues, Timo Werner (following a slow start) and Hakim Ziyech (recovering from injury) have recently emerged as fantasy forces; managers should finally feel certifiably comfortable relying on either or both of them.
We will naturally see many more twists and turns the rest of the way (especially with positive Covid-19 tests popping up like devils in the dark), but I think it is safe to say that we have had enough time to think that the EPL season has “revealed” itself on a basic, elemental level.
FIRST DRAFT GW9 WILDCARD TEAM
When crafting the first draft of my new team, I dropped:
- TAA (health concerns plus overpriced for poor performance),
- Walker-Peters (expected drop-off in production)
- Mitchell (injured and displaced from starting-XI)
- Podence (good for only 65’; I don't want to pay extra for a fifth midfielder who will rarely start for my fantasy team)
- Son (expected drop-off in production)
- pricey Everton midfielder James Rodriguez (production has plummeted after GW4; haven’t given up but he’s far from must-keep).
At the same time, I added:
- budget Aston Villa defender Matt Targett (boasts one assist along with four clean sheets in only seven games, and Villa enjoy a favorable schedule from GW9 to 15: v. Brighton, at West Ham, v. Newcastle, at Wolves, v. Burnley, at West Brom, v. Crystal Palace),
- super cheap West Ham defender Vladimir Coufal (two assists and two clean sheets in only five games, and the Hammers also enjoy a favorable schedule from GW9-20),
- budget Wolves defender Max Kilman (only slightly more expensive than Mitchell and looks to have established himself as a starter in a solid defense; while Wolves’ schedule gets tougher, he’ll be my fifth defender and I won’t mind stashing him on my bench for most weeks),
- super cheap Leicester midfielder Nampalys Mendy (will rarely offer much on offense, but the Foxes deliver a good amount of clean sheets, he only has two yellow cards leaving little worry about YC accumulation suspension, and he’ll be my fifth midfielder whom I won’t mind stashing on my bench for most weeks),
- expensive Manchester City midfielder Kevin De Bruyne (a la TAA, KDB has disappointed so far this season, but unlike TAA it feels like KDB is destined to break out soon. The Citizens’ maestro has two assists in his past pair of games, and after a date with Tottenham in GW9 the schedule gets very attractive from GW10 to 15: v. Burnley, v. Fulham, at Manchester United, v. West Brom, at Southampton, v. Newcastle)
- pricey Chelsea midfielder Hakim Ziyech (has emerged as the preferred option to James Rodriguez at around the same price point with a goal and three assists in the past two games).
That left this as my first draft team:
SECOND DRAFT GW9 WILDCARD TEAM
When putting together my first draft team, there was one more player I really wanted to add but unfortunately I was just short of funds. It would be interesting to use five cheap defenders and pick the best three match-ups every week, but I’d prefer to have one pricier fixture-proof defender if possible. Given his reliable two-way prowess, I targeted Chelsea’s Ben Chilwell as my preferred player, but I was £0.1m shy of being able to squeeze him into the team above.
But as mentioned, I’m not sold on Wilson’s prospects going forward. There is no shortage of attractive budget forward options. Why not go with someone cheaper who might actually perform better than Wilson from here on out? On top of that, since I’m not exactly over the moon about my Ryan/McCarthy combo, could I upgrade not only at defender but at keeper, too?
Tinkering further, I took out:
- forward Callum Wilson,
- defender Charlie Taylor, and
- keeper Mat Ryan
Then I added:
- budget Aston Villa forward Ollie Watkins (Watkins’ six goals & one assist is similar to Wilson’s six goals & two assists, and the Villa attack — 18 goals in seven games — actually looks much stronger than that of the Magpies’),
- pricey Chelsea defender Ben Chilwell (two goals, two assists and three clean sheets in only five games following recovery from injury),
- budget Aston Villa keeper Emiliano Martinez (a revelation this season behind what was an atrocious defense last season, boasting four clean sheets and 22 saves in only seven games).
I was able to fit in Chilwell while also upgrading keeper; plus dropping Wilson really didn’t seem like much of a sacrifice. I was just able to afford the final changes, left with nothing in the bank - perfect!
Here it is:
The sum parts of my shiny new wildcard team:
SHIPPED OUT (9): GK Ryan (recouped £4.5m), DEF Alexander-Arnold (£7.3m), DEF Walker-Peters (£4.5m), DEF Taylor (£4.5m), DEF Mitchell (£4.0m), MF Son Heung-Min (£9.3m), MF James Rodriguez (£7.9m), MF Podence (£5.5m), FW Wilson (£6.5m)
ADDED IN (9): GK Martinez (bought for £4.8m), DEF Chilwell (£6.0m), DEF Targett (£4.5m), DEF Coufal (£4.5m), DEF Kilman (£4.3m), MF De Bruyne (£11.5m), MF Ziyech (£8.2m), MF Mendy (£4.5m), FW Watkins (£6.1m)
KEPT (6): GK McCarthy (originally bought for £4.5m), DEF Justin (£4.5m), MF Salah (£12.0m and will miss the next game or two), MF Bruno Fernandes (£10.5m), FW Calvert-Lewin (£7.6m), FW Bamford (£5.9m)
What do you think of my GW-9 wildcard team? Are these can’t-miss moves, or will I regret some of them? Have you already used your wildcard, are you using it now, or will you use it later in the first half of the season? Am I being sentimental by carrying the super-expensive Salah in the face of his 1 or 2 week Covid-19 quarantine and likely price-drop with only Nampalys for filler? Please join us in the comments to let me know where I screwed up!