This may come as a complete shock to you - My FPL plans went in a completely different direction from where I thought it would since last week's column.
Precisely one week ago, I was wrapping up a fortnight of keeping my wildcard in my pocket and waiting another week to play. Then, less than 24 hours later, I went and played the darned thing. The best way to keep yourself from playing a wildcard before you intend to is to NOT play around with a "wildcard draft" and look at the 15 players you 'would" wildcard in when the time comes. The problem is, when you do that, something inside you says "Look at this strong side! Play it now! Play it now!". I head that voice and I followed its advice. Let me explain why.
So I put together a wildcard team last Friday just to see what it would look like, because I was pretty sure I was going to activate it once the deadline passed and Week 33 went live. I loved the team I put together, and of course there was not a drop of cash left in my bank. I then decided I needed to check a website that tracks the price changes of players. I looked at the players I wanted to bring in as well as the ones that would be dropped. The research was alarming, but upon consideration, nothing unusual. The majority of players I wanted to bring in were on the cusp of a price rise Friday night going into Saturday, while several players I was set to remove were on the verge of dropping. Calculating the plusses and minuses, it turns out that if I had waited until the next day, I would have been a full million pounds short. Not .1m or .2m short, but a full million. I had already shaved money here and there, there was no easy swap to free up a million. The deed was done.
The result? Well, I cannot complain. The most important thing for me was to have all of my new players come out of Week 32 healthy. Of course, the only injury concern is over the one player that was already firmly embedded in my squad - Mo Salah. I believe I did the right thing by waiting through the international break to get further updates on Sergio Aguero and Harry Kane. The confidence was not there the eve before matchday and they left my side on the wildcard, and rightly so. What was a monster front line of Aguero, Kane and Firmino had turned into Lukaku, Vardy and Barnes...and all THREE forwards found the next. Sublime. In all, a solid green arrow and only Salah to worry about heading into the weekend.
This weekend will be a bit strange on the transfer market. While some will be wildcarding this week, like I had planned to do, many went ahead and did it the week before and I would imagine most managers will be using this week to store and extra transfer. Having an extra one to take care of a potential injury this weekend is vital, as you will still be wanting two free ones the following week, unless you still have your Free Hit chip to play. So you have either just played your wildcard, or are playing it this week in order to have your squad set to play one from your Bench Boost or Triple Captain chips. With that in mind, this week's column will look strictly at double gameweek options, one week in advance. We will go club-by-club, as representation is another factor to consider when assembling your side.
Right then, let us take a look at the calm before the storm, otherwise know as Week 33:
SPECIAL TEAM BY TEAM PICKS (for clubs with a double in Week 34)
AFC Bournemouth (liv/MUN - poor investment) - Let us start this section with a whimper. Of the eight clubs playing a double next week, the Cherries have very little to be happy about. They definitely face the toughest opposition with United and Liverpool on tap and their best fantasy option when fit, Junior Stanislas is once again dealing with an injury, this time to his knee. I get the hunch that Jermain Defoe is going to zap Callum Wilson's value with the two strikers splitting the starts. No guarantee, but enough doubt and logic to stay away. The defense may offer an enabler as a cheap defender can help upgrade another spot.
Brighton (cry/TOT - mediocre investment) - Brighton are a step up from Bournemouth in terms of situation and options, but only a step. The main attraction is playing at Crystal Palace. Mathew Ryan is a popular choice as a second keeper to use a bench boost on in the double gameweek, but keep in mind the Seagulls have not kept a clean sheet since Week 21. There are two viable options in attack, Pascal Groß in midfield and Glenn Murray up top. Kind prices make them credible options on a wildcard, but little chance of providing returns in both games.
Burnley (LEI/CHE - good investment) - Not the easiest of opponents for the Clarets but that is more than offset by the fact that they play both of their games at home and, more importantly, are the ONLY club with a double in Week 34 and PLAY AGAIN and Week 35. For that reason, spending three roster spots on Clarets makes sense. Because their success is mostly due to defense, two defenders makes sense, with the cheap Matt Lowton and James Tarkowski especially appealing. An injury to Johann Berg Gudmundsson has left Burnley's midfield lacking trustworthy options, but they have two great options to serve as your third striker between Chris Wood and Ashley Barnes. Tom Heaton "may" be back between the sticks this weekend. Current Nick Pope owners need to come to grips with the notion that he may not start either of the double gameweek matches.
Chelsea (sou/bur - strong investment) - The Blues were beaten rather handily by Tottenham last weekend and they have not produced several fantasy studs like we are used to seeing in most seasons. Aspirations of a top 4 finish are looking bleak but not out of reach so I would expect to see them bounce back this weekend at home to West Ham before taking to the road twice for their double. Marcos Alonso is the premium defensive option in a round where expecting one cleanie out of two seems a fair, conservative prediction. But it his attacking potential that gives him top billing. That said, Cesar Azpilicueta is a fine alternative. A bit cheaper and, what is really important in a double gameweek, as nailed on to start both games as any outfielder in the league. Eden Hazard certainly makes for a high risk/reward differential, but his price may be too much to bear. That could change if Mo Salah is ruled out this weekend and a doubt for next. Willian seems the more sensible option. A bit of a rotation risk, but I would expect at least a start and a 20-30 minute sub appearance. For that and his price, sounds like a deal to me. Forward option are off the table for me. Too much uncertainty and lack of form for their lofty price tags.
Leicester (bur/SOU - very strong investment) - The Foxes are the best side to invest in, on paper anyway, with two strong fixtures, not to mention a good one this weekend hosting the Magpies. Perhaps the attack struggles a bit a Turf Moor, like many good clubs do, but the defense can certainly get a haul in that one as well as the home match against the Saints. Southampton should give plenty of opportunities to the likes of Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy, at least one of which should be in every FPL manager's XI by next weekend. Ben Chilwell could be a budget player with a huge round, but I would rather go safe with starts and spend the extra .1m more on captain Wes Morgan. Harry Maguire will set you back more but certainly could put up cricket numbers if he gets a piece of the attacking returns.
Manchester United (WBA/bou - very strong investment) - You may have noticed some useful cheap players to bring in on your wildcard up until now, but this is where you open up your wallets. Two players stand out as essential - David de Gea and Romelu Lukaku. United definitely have a shot a two clean sheets in this round, and I want de Gea for the guarantee of starts rather than play defender roulette. Harry Kane should be about 100% by Week 34, but if I had to give a player the armband in the double gameweek, Lukaku currently sits as my top choice. Based on recent form, Jesse Lingard stands as a decent option in midfield and Nemanja Matic is my pick for 5th midfield enabler. Alexis Sanchez could be the best of the bunch, but I trust Lukaku more and cannot find a way to accommodate both.
Southampton (CHE/lei - mediocre investment) - I like Southampton as a source for a particular enabler, but their appeal is only a fraction better than Bournemouth's otherwise. My pick from this lot is Alex McCarthy. It would be my luck that Fraser Forster gets his gig back in the middle of the double, but McCarthy is desirable for me because he is cheap (4.4m) and if there is one position where a player can provide points even in a bad result for the club, it is the keeper position. There is so much uncertainty around their attacking players, who come in and out of the XI with no predictability. Charlie Austin could turn out to be a nice flair pick, but I'd rather spend less on Ashley Barnes or a bit more on Glenn Murray.
Tottenham (MCI/bha - strong investment) - It would be a bit much to ask for two clean sheets from Spurs in their double, let us go ahead and assume Manchester City find the net at least once. Otherwise though, the sky is the limit for Tottenham's weapons. If Harry Kane looks good this weekend, it will be difficult to go next weekend without him. However, Heung-min Son has made a viable alternative and is a strong play for your wildcard. Christian Eriksen is always safe for starts and dangerous for opponents, while Dele Alli has suddenly hit form, adding yet another solid option. If looking for defensive representation, I once again opt for safety of starts in a double gameweek. The only player to fit that bill is Jan Vertonghen, or, of course, Hugo Lloris.
Mo Salah (BOU - ??? investment) - Mo Salah has a groin problem that is considered minor at the moment, but one can never be too sure when it comes to groins. If Salah is ruled out this weekend, I am still holding on to him. Because of my wildcard, I have a decent fill-in option for this weekend if need be. The only way Salah gets the axe is if he is ruled out for next weekend. If I save 2 transfers for Week 35, that still leaves one to use between now and next weekend. That transfer could be used to make a minor adjustment somewhere else in my squad, but for now, it serves as Salah insurance
MY WILDCARD TEAM
GK: David de Gea, Alex McCarthy
TOP CAPTAIN CHOICES
1) Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
2) Harry Kane
3) Mo Salah (if confirmed fit for weekend)
4) Riyad Mahrez
5) Eden Hazard
That's it from me this week folks. Please, bear in mind much can change between the publishing of this column and the FPL deadline on Saturday. Remember, some injuries are not revealed until just before the deadline. Always try to refrain from executing your transfers for as long as possible to avoid wasting it on a player who turns out to have had a problem in training. That said, if you only have just enough money for the player you are looking to bring in and that player is at risk of rising in price, then sometimes you need to take a calculated risk and hope the fantasy gods will be kind to you.
Good luck, and may your arrows be green.