In case you haven’t heard, only ten teams have fixtures in FPL’s GW-18. Then, in GW-19 the other ten teams have a double game-week!
So if you want to be able to field eleven starters for GW-18 followed by another eleven starters for GW 19, you’re going to need a plan. And to make the wholesale changes that will be necessary, your plan will almost certainly require you to spend a chip or two. And just to make this even more fun, your 1st-half wildcard expires (or expired!) at 21:00 GMT on Monday Dec 28!
You don’t want to make a mistake here. Chips are too precious to waste thoughtlessly, and mismanaging the whipsaw could drop your team miles behind where it could be. Read on to see how some of our staff are planning to handle this. Hopefully some of their ideas can help you prepare your strategy. And if you’re reading this in time to incorporate your 1st-half wildcard, read quickly and act now!
(By the way, if you also manage Fantrax teams, don’t fret: you won’t have to perform major surgery on your squads to deal with this. Commissioner Jeff has merged Fantrax GWs 18 and 19, with each club playing twice over one 11-day round, and he will even bump the GW number along the way so Fantrax emerges in sync with FPL before the GW-20 period opens.)
I’ve had a good start to my FPL season. My decision to be more patient with my transfers, alongside a little luck, has meant that I held my wildcard right up to the GW-16 deadline. News of a blank/double whipsaw coming in GW-18 and GW-19 has opened up an opportunity to cash in the advantage of that wildcard just before it expires today.
After much thought, my plan is to wildcard GW-16 in preparation for the DGW. Then I’ll free hit GW-18 to avoid the blanks, and finally I’ll bench-boost or triple-captain GW-19 (depending on team news) to maximize my already huge DGW profits.
Player picking: Wildcarding for GW-19 today (yes, this strategy means picking for GW-19 before picking other weeks — does your brain hurt yet?), I’ll aim for three Liverpool, 2 or 3 Man United, 2 or 3 West Ham/Leeds/Saints and maybe I will show more faith in Burnley than other managers. In GW-18’s free hit in mid January (did I mention we’re looking ahead?), I want three nailed-on Citizens, Son + Kane, maybe Jack Grealish, and then I’ll fill based on form and fitness.
I burned my first-half wildcard in GW-10 (for a disappointing 57 point result), so I must approach the whipsaw without that arrow in my quiver.
My plan is (and has been) to use free transfers to steer toward a team optimized for GW-19, and then activate my Free Hit in mid-January’s GW-18 to cover the blanks. That strategy will allow me to load up on players from the ten teams that have matches in GW-18, and then my squad will automatically revert to the team I had previously set up for the DGW.
This was my GW-15 squad:
Players in this squad who will NOT have a DGW-19 are Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Ollie Watkins, Kevin De Bruyne, Jack Grealish, and Robert Sánchez and Nkounkou.
I have two free transfers available ahead of GW-16, so my first moves will be to ship DCL for Patrick Bamford and KDB for Mohamed Salah. I want both of those penalty-takers for the DGW, and since they both have good GW-16 fixtures, now is a good time to make those moves.
That will leave me with a GW-16 squad that looks like this:
In GW-17 I’ll have one more free transfer to spend before I Free Hit for GW-18. I’ll use that to bring in James Maddison in place of Jack Grealish. Except for bench-fodder Nkounkou, that will leave me with Ollie Watkins as my only outfield player whose club does not play twice in GW-19.
I haven’t worked out my Free Hit side for GW-18 yet, but obviously its starting-XI will consist exclusively of players who have matches in that round, although I may buy some cheap non-playing bench fodder in order to to maximize my spend on starters.
When my squad reverts back to its GW-17 lineup after the GW-18 Free Hit, I’ll have one free transfer and £0.8 in the bank ahead of GW-19. I may need that transfer to make an injury-forced change, or I could use it to upgrade a double-gamer I already own.
I hope you find my logic useful, and if you see any holes in it please let me know!
I used my first wildcard back in GW-9, during the international break. I decided to use it then as my team was starting to go stale due to injuries and form. Other than my wildcard, I have all other chips intact.
I have only five players in my side who would feature in GW-18 (I’m currently without Spurs’ heavy hitters Harry Kane & Son Heung-Min) so my approach is to use my Free Hit chip for that week. This will then allow me to continue to build for DGW-19 without losing value on players that I’ve moved on temporarily.
I will have four free transfers between now and DGW-19, giving me the level of flexibility required. In my squad today, I have five players out of 15 who have only a single game (this doesn’t necessarily mean that those with strong single fixtures should be overlooked!). As there will be future DGWs, I’m reluctant to use any further chips during DGW-19, as my Free Hit is allocated to the week before.
As a rookie, I haven’t quite known what to do with my wildcard, so I have saved it. That may end up working in my favor. I plan on using my wildcard today, since after that it’s gone anyway!
Then, as others are doing, I’m using my free hit to avoid the blanks in GW-18.
Here’s how I ended up after this week’s rough set of games:
I’ll make a change for tomorrow’s games, then I need to spend some time really working through this. I’ll most likely keep Salah and JWP, KWP, Dallas, and McCarthy. I need Bruno for sure. After that, much needs to happen.
The real key lesson for me is being much more intentional in looking ahead. I wasted some transfers looking at weeks 18 and 19, when I should have been playing week to week knowing I’d have these chips available.
Careful planning and focusing on your team strengths can help you through this mind-boggling time, but I will add my 2 pence if it helps, so here you are.
To get the most out of a blank game-week, one should use Free Hit. GW-18 could be the biggest blank game-week of the season, so using the Free Hit chip then (in mid-January) makes sense here, as there are more teams to select from to get big hitters from the stand-out fixtures.
Managers may feel pressure to make sure every starter has a double in GW-19, but fielding DGW players is not the only way forward when some single game-week players can outperform, making them differentials.
For example: Tottenham plays only once, but Spurs’ opponent is rock-bottom Sheffield United, so Son and Kane could easily hit double digits. Manchester City also falls into this category but be aware of Pep rotation. Aguero and KDB are my two selections.
GW-19 (bench boost): I already own five DGW players. With free transfers I aim for enough to navigate a good/great DGW while preserving some premium single game-week assets. This will let me make the best use of the Bench Boost chip.
Quick note to readers: Make changes required to make your goal for the game week before you hit the button for a chip as you will lose your free change for that week.
I can have a team that still includes Kane, Son DCL etc for their outstanding blank-week fixtures while bringing in DGW players who have pleasant fixtures and longer-term prospects.
This leaves the 2nd-half wildcard to use later, perhaps after the January transfer window closes, as an effective tool to shape the rest of the session.
I don’t have an FPL team, but I do want to stir the pot with a maverick idea: Build toward (or use the 1st-half wildcard aimed at) the blank week GW-18, and then use the Free Hit for the DGW (inverse from all our other staffers, so take with many grains of salt).
Firstly, one would be creating / preserving long-term value in players from the teams that play in the blank week (assess that value for yourself). Secondly, one would be choosing DGW players right up to the DGW deadline, using the latest team news. This is my key strategic point.
The DGW, not the blank week, is the big-points event, so if I were playing FPL, then strategically, I would want to be making my blank-week decisions early and my DGW decisions at the death, not vice-versa, especially since the ravenous maw of the January transfer window will be gaping wide open, sucking away our treasured assets into the vacuum of international space even while parachuting new stars into the EPL.
And I agree that the 2nd-half wildcard chip absolutely, positively must be hoarded until after the January transfer window has shut. Also hanging in my thoughts: A whipsaw is self-made: The blanks of one week become the doubles of the next (and it will probably happen again late in the FA Cup). But there are also some games-in-hand out there that promise extra DGWs to come.
In particular, Aston Villa has two games in hand, which means the Villans should have a solo DGW sometime later this season. “Solo DGW” just screams for a triple-captain chip. Can you say “triple solo-DGW Jack Grealish” or “triple solo-DGW Anwar El Ghazi”? Yes please!
But that’s just me making trouble, offering food for thought and shining a light onto a contrarian path through a deliciously tangled tactical web. Again, I’ve never played the FPL game, so what do I know? YMMV!
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Which strategy are you pursuing? Which chips are you using? Is anyone following Jeff’s different-drummer inversion (were you already out there, craving confirmation)? Follow at your peril! Don’t be shy, please share your thoughts in the comments below!
My 1st-half wildcard:
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Was used long ago.
Is playing now to build for blank-week GW-18
Is playing now to build for DGW-19
After that, my whipsaw strategy is to play my:
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Bench Boost or Triple Captain
Both Free Hit and either BB or TC
Something else (please share in comments!)