Week 26 wasn’t all about week 26, and it’s the same story in week 27. Like we learned in drivers’ ed, we can’t afford to be short-sighted but must look ahead a bit, possibly modifying our original course of action as we react to unexpected hazards.
HIGHLY SELECTED PLAYERS WHO WILL BLANK IN WEEK 28
As you should know by now, four teams blank in Week 28: Arsenal, Aston Villa, Manchester City and Sheffield United. A plethora of highly-selected players are about to goose eggs across the fantasy universe (minimum 8% selection by FPL managers listed):
Arsenal: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (currently selected by 18% of FPL managers)
Aston Villa: Jack Grealish (26%)
Manchester City: Kevin De Bruyne (54%), Sergio Aguero (24%), Raheem Sterling (16%), Ederson (11%), Kyle Walker (11%), Riyad Mahrez (9%), Bernardo Silva (8%)
Sheffield United: John Lundstram (43%), Dean Henderson (17%), George Baldock (12%)
(Henderson or Ederson, of course, are not a problem if you have a back-up keeper who can rotate in.)
HIGHLY SELECTED PLAYERS WITH OTHER CONCERNS
On top of that, many highly-selected players have injury, rotation and/or starting status issues:
- Crystal Palace defender Martin Kelly (24%) is injured, while also having suffered demotion from starter to back-up prior to that setback.
- Chelsea forward Tammy Abraham (21%) missed the loss to Manchester United in Week 26 and is a doubt for Week 27.
- Red Devils’ forward Marcus Rashford (10%) is injured and expected to miss most of the rest of the season, and perhaps the entire remainder.
- Tottenham forward Harry Kane (9%) is injured and not expected to return until April.
- Spurs’ midfielder Son Heung-Min (9%) is injured and expected to miss most of the rest of the season, and perhaps the entire remainder.
That leaves the big question: Can you show patience in the hopes of being able to make it through Week 28 and hold onto your Wildcard chip for later use in order to take advantage of the coming double game week(s)? Much depends on the particular circumstances of your team. The three camps I see:
- The early bird gets the worm. If, looking ahead to your week 28 line-up, you see that your team isn’t anywhere close to a full XI, and you’re sure you want to use your wildcard chip by week 28, then the sooner the better. Have a stack of January transfers you want to buy? You might as well use the booster now in week 27 in order to get an extra week out of it. After all, there are only 12 game weeks left in the season, and 12 weeks with your refashioned (currently) optimal team are better than 11. If there is only one upcoming double game week, you can use your free-hit chip then, and you won’t suffer a bit from having played your wildcard chip now.
- Patience is a virtue. If you can hold out trusting that you can take a fairly minor -4 or -8 hit in week 28 to field a full XI, I think (or at least hope) that it will pay off later. Being able to stock your team full of players who feature twice in the upcoming double game week(s) with the wildcard and free-hit chips should result in a nice bonanza, particularly when coordinated with the bench-boost chip (by playing the wildcard one week ahead of the double game week when you use your bench-boost). If there are two future double game weeks (as there often are late in the season, but not always) rather than just one, chances are that you will be extremely thankful you didn’t panic and use your Wildcard chip around now.
- A middle ground approach. One alternate plan somewhat in between those two is holding pat and keeping the option open of using your free-hit in week 28 instead of your wildcard. That makes an awful lot of sense if you have an overload of players from the teams that are blanking — Arsenal, Aston Villa, Manchester City and Sheffield United — whose values have risen so you want to hold them. After all, you’ll enjoy not having to drop them for players you may feel are inferior, and you’ll get to hold onto them for their upcoming double game week without needing to use a chip then. And if you haven’t already played your Triple Captain chip, that would be useful to toss into action then.
Of those options, I’m planning on patience. Why? Because it usually pays off! Even though I already had to burn my precious free transfer this week to drop Son, and even though my team is currently saddled with three blanks (KDB, Lundstram and Grealish) plus a starter who unexpectedly turned into a back-up (Matt Ritchie) plus a currently injured starter-turned back-up (Martin Kelly), I am hopeful that I can get to a full XI in week 28 by using my free transfer and a -4 hit. If another difficulty arises, I can take a -8 penalty if need be.
As for the Player Picks, again I’m avoiding those who feature for the four teams which blank in Week 28. With all of that in mind, who looks good?
Another game at Norwich in week 26, another clean sheet. That’s 10 clean sheets in 11 games! Crazy to think that the purple patch should continue, but why not? Just look at who’s up in the next five fixtures: v. West Ham, at Watford, v. Bournemouth, at Everton, v. Crystal Palace.
Vicente Guaita (£5.1m, Crystal Palace v. Newcastle)
Palace hasn’t kept a clean sheet in 10 games. So why the heck would I even think of recommending him? Because clean sheets can be streaky. Guaita posted three shutouts and averaged 8.5ppg from GW-15 to GW-18 thanks to a favorable schedule (at Burnley, v. Bournemouth, at Watford, v. Brighton). Now the Eagles have an enticing four-game stretch featuring three of those same sides again (v. Newcastle, at Brighton, v. Watford, at Bournemouth).
Rui Patricio (£5.1m, Wolverhampton v. Norwich City)
Patricio has kept two consecutive clean sheets against tough competition (at Manchester United, v. Leicester), and now the schedule gets considerably friendlier: v. Norwich, at Tottenham, v. Brighton, at West Ham, v. Bournemouth, at Aston Villa.
Nick Pope (£4.7m, Burnley v. Bournemouth)
The week 27 (v. Bournemouth) & 28 (at Newcastle) match-ups are favorable, so Pope should get one or two clean sheets out of the pair. If you’re planning ahead though, weeks 29 (v. Tottenham) & 30 (at Manchester City) are not as attractive.
Alex McCarthy (£4.4m, Southampton v. Aston Villa)
If you’re looking for a cheaper starter, McCarthy’s your guy. The Saints have conceded six goals in the past two weeks at Liverpool and v. Burnley, but the upcoming schedule is much more accommodating: v. Aston Villa, at West Ham, v. Newcastle, at Norwich.
Trent Alexander-Arnold (£7.7m, Liverpool v. West Ham)
Another 7 points in Week 26. That makes 105 points since week 14, which is the most recent half-season to date. Only five other defenders have 105+ points for the entire season so far (Virgil van Dijk, Andrew Robertson, John Lundstram, Ricardo Pereira and George Baldock). TAA is simply stupendous.
Matt Doherty (£6.1m, Wolves v. Norwich)
As mentioned in the bit on Patricio, Wolves enjoy a tasty upcoming run of fixtures. Boasting three goals and assists each, Doherty offers an excellent chance of mixing offensive and defensive fantasy returns at a sub-premium price point.
Jack Stephens (£4.4m, Southampton v. Aston Villa)
Stephens has 1 goal and 3 assists in only 18 games so far this season. As mentioned in the bit on McCarthy, the Saints enjoy a nice four-game stretch where Stephens should be able to grab a couple clean sheets as well as possibly contributing on the offensive end.
Joel Ward (£4.3m, Crystal Palace v. Newcastle)
The cheapest way into the Eagles’ back line, Ward could pay off given the seemingly friendly upcoming fixture list.
Charlie Taylor (£4.2m, Burnley v. Bournemouth)
Taylor doesn’t offer anything on the offensive end, but at his price, he doesn’t need to. He has five clean sheets in 14 games, and he has a good chance at adding to that tally over the next pair of fixtures.
Mo Salah (£12.8m, Liverpool v. West Ham)
Salah was a dud at Norwich, and the Reds have scored a total of just one goal in their past two games including the mid-week Champions League defeat at Atletico Madrid. Now they should be raring to explode in front of the Anfield faithful, and surely you recall the Egypt superstar scoring a goal and adding an assist in the recent reverse fixture with the Hammers in London to put an exclamation mark on DGW24.
Richarlison (£8.2m, Everton at Arsenal)
Everton’s schedule over the next four games is tricky — at Arsenal, v. Manchester United, at Chelsea, v. Liverpool — but the Brazilian winger has been outstanding recently with three goals and two assists in his past five games, and he scored in two of the aforementioned reverse fixtures (at Liverpool, v. Chelsea).
Anthony Martial (£7.9m, Manchester United v. Watford)
Breaking a three game scoreless drought, Martial scored the winner at Chelsea with a beautiful header. As far as Red Devils’ midfielders go, it’s a tough call between Martial and similarly-priced newcomer Bruno Fernandes who picked up an assist in the victory, but I’d lean toward Martial who has a proven track record in the EPL (and of course FPL as well).
Harvey Barnes (£6.0m, Leicester v. Manchester City)
Barnes’ three-game scoring streak ended against Wolves, and Manchester City is not the most inviting competition. However, Barnes notched an assist in the reverse fixture, this game is at King Power Stadium, and City will have their minds on their upcoming Champions League affair.
Adama Traore (£5.8m, Wolves v. Norwich)
I’m a little worried about Traore’s health, since it seems like his shoulder injury could be a recurring problem. If he manages to stay healthy though, the speedster should absolutely shred the upcoming competition.
James Ward-Prowse (£5.7m, Southampton v. Aston Villa)
After notching four goals and adding an assist from GW-6 to GW-14, JWP has cooled off considerably with no goals and two assists over his past 11 appearances. But there’s no better place to start getting his mojo back at home against a porous Villa defense.
Ashley Westwood (£5.4m, Burnley v. Bournemouth)
If you’re looking for an affordable differential pick, Westwood is intriguing, having scored two goals with three assists in his past 10 games.
Jorginho (£4.9, Chelsea v. Tottenham)
Three of the next four Blues’ opponents are prone to conceding penalty kicks: v. Tottenham (tied for 2nd most in the EPL) in GW27, at Bournemouth (tied for 9th most) in GW28, and at Aston Villa (tied for 5th most) in GW30. Spurs seem particularly vulnerable lately, having conceded a PK in GW25 against Manchester City and midweek in Champions League against RB Leipzig. In case you didn’t realize where I was going with this, Jorginho is Chelsea’s designated pen specialist. He’s also an excellent passer and will chip in with the occasional assist.
Jamie Vardy (£9.7m, Leicester v. Manchester City)
The Vardy Party has become the Donner Party this winter; he doesn’t have a goal in his past half dozen games. It’s not a great match-up against the defending champs. Okay, I get why fantasy managers may have lost faith and shipped the Foxes’ star. But it seems like people are forgetting that he’s still the league’s leading goal scorer this season. Everybody goes through a hungry spell! Vardy scored in the reverse fixture at the Etihad, and following this home match-up, the schedule turns very friendly: at Norwich City, v. Aston Villa, at Watford, v. Brighton, at Everton, v. Crystal Palace.
Raul Jimenez (£7.8m, Wolves v. Norwich)
Jimenez doesn’t have a goal or assist in his past two fixtures, but those were tough nil-nil affairs at Manchester City and v. Leicester. With the Canaries coming to town, the Molineux should expect some goals from the home side, and when that’s the case, the Mexican star is usually at the center of the action. After all, he’s #2 in the league in shots, #7 in shots on target, #3 in big chances created, and #9 each in goals and assists. Highlighting the optimism, Jimenez is Wolves’ PK specialist and Norwich has conceded the most pens in the league.
Danny Ings (£7.1m, Southampton v. Aston Villa)
Ings broke a three-game goalless streak with a cracker against Burnley. As mentioned, the Saints’ upcoming schedule is favorable, so Ings should be able to get another purple patch of form going.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin (£6.2m, Everton at Arsenal)
Another goal in the 3-0 win over Crystal Palace pushed DCL’s tally to eight scores in as many games. Even with the aforementioned tough upcoming schedule, DCL is a nice bargain at his very affordable price.
How is your FPL team looking at the moment, and how are you preparing for the blanks in Week 28? Please ask any questions and share your thoughts in the comments below!