Stag’s Take – (Blank) Gameweek 27
I took the last week to enjoy watching the Champions League and the FA Cup knowing well that the coming gameweek would be the first of the extremely tough Premier League matchdays to navigate. The first hurdle you will have to overcome is remembering we have a FRIDAY DEADLINE FOR THIS GAMEWEEK. It felt like something which needed to be shouted – there always seems to be a few good managers caught unawares.
This is Blank Gameweek (BGW) 27, where Manchester City and Chelsea’s League Cup final commitments see them as well as Brighton and Everton not feature in the PL. On top of that, we are now a lot surer of the upcoming schedule of BGWs and DGWs than we were before the break from PL action. I am going to give a broad assessment of these before I launch into proper tactics later in this column:
BGW27 – A BGW that is awkward but not impossible to deal with. You are unlikely to need a chip. The plum fixture is Spurs visiting Burnley.
GW28-30 – Many are forgetting that these fixtures exist as they put together complex spreadsheets for games which take place in a few months’ time. In this “interwar” period, both Manchester City (WHU, bou, WAT) and Liverpool (WAT, eve, BUR) have very favourable fixtures, as do Leicester City (BHA, wat, FUL) and Brighton (lei, HUD, cry). Spurs face Chelsea and Arsenal in GW28 and 29. Arsenal, Bournemouth, and Southampton can all also expect to struggle.
Note that it appears that you will be able to make transfers for BGW31 whilst the first FA Cup quarter final between Watford and Crystal Palace is in the final minutes of normal time. The winner, like all cup semi-finalists, will blank in BGW33, dragging another side (For Watford: Fulham; For Palace: Newcastle) out of that gameweek with them. This may help your planning.
BGW31 – 5 games will go ahead in the Premier League in BGW31. Many of the league’s weaker and out of form sides feature, though the only team that we could “trust” based on current trends is Liverpool away to Fulham. Chelsea are unpredictable, but they could have joy at Goodison Park against Everton.
DGW32 – Note: We have not got confirmation that this will be a DGW. However, due to TV schedules and past trends, we are working on the assumption that this will be the next DGW.
There should be 10 teams with DGWs.
Good fixtures: Arsenal (NEW, wol); Brighton (SOU, CAR/che); Man City (ful, mufc); Man Utd (WAT; MCI)
Issue: DGW32 is the first gameweek after an international break. We always have headaches with injuries and travelling time wreaking havoc at these stages. Careful planning could be turned upside-down.
^ ^ ^
This gap between DGW and BGW is made much more difficult by the FA Cup QFs draw, unless you use a free hit. It is very unlikely that the Man City, Spurs, Man Utd, Wolves, and (even) Brighton players you stocked up on for DGW32 will feature in BGW33…
v v v
BGW33 – Six to eight PL fixtures will go ahead, depending on which sides will contest the FA Cup semi-finals. Owing to its position between DGW32 and DGW35, this BGW seems like the one that is causing most people headaches.
Good fixtures (100% going ahead): Chelsea (WHU); Liverpool (sou)
Potential good fixtures: Spurs (BHA) – will only happen if Millwall beat Brighton in FA Cup QFs.
I am presuming that Man City will beat Swansea City – if they don’t, they will host Cardiff.
GW34 – No gameweek is more liable to be forgotten. Spurs host Huddersfield; Man Utd host West Ham; Manchester City visit their bogey team, Crystal Palace.
Liverpool have a big game against Chelsea.
Some good fixtures for captaincy, or even the Triple Captaincy.
DGW35 – This is the hardest DGW to predict as it stands. Of the scheduled non-double fixtures, Liverpool visiting Cardiff is the most attractive fixture – to stretch beyond that is to consider Bournemouth hosting Fulham.
The rescheduled BGW33 fixtures should move to this GW. Manchester City’s Cardiff fixture at the Etihad is the best of these though their first game will be Spurs (H).
I hadn’t seen the schedule explained in a concise way before now. I hope that is helpful for you.
Some interesting stats
Matthew Jones (@matthewpenycae) published some stats about the current Top 10k on Twitter during the week. These stats all came from the wonderful FPL Discovery site. I think it worth keeping in mind how the people ahead of you (or for the lucky few of you readers, the competition) are set as we approach the minefield schedule.
On average, the Top 10k have 3.21 chips available. A tiny fraction of them have none left to play, whilst about half have all four chips intact. In all, 76.2% have the wildcard, 76% have the Triple Captain, 86.5% have the Bench Boost, and 82.7% have the Free Hit available. In terms of tactics, this Top 10k look well set to hold their position, meaning that those of us hoping to join their ranks (I am 22k OR) will need to differentiate ourselves slightly from the “template”.
This Top 10 are not used to life at the top though. Over 81% of them have never finished in the Top 10K previously, whilst almost half (48.3%) have never even had a Top 100k rank by the time the final whistle blew in GW38. This is pretty incredible given that over two thirds of these managers are relative veterans with three or more seasons of FPL played.
Interestingly, 0.3% of the Top 10k (29 and 26 respectively!!) have the team name “Pique Blinders” or “Alisson Wonderland”. Be original, people!
Tactics & Strategies
Maybe this is what you actually decided to read for!
Some things to keep in mind as you assess the strategies available:
- Team value, specifically player value. Many managers have huge profits stored up in players like Andy Robertson, Marcus Rashford, and Matt Doherty. If you sell these players and have owned them for a long time, it will be very hard to get them back later.
- The pre-DGW32 international break could cause havoc
- Playing a double gameweek does not guarantee ooints. Sometimes you’re better off sticking to single gameweek players – there are stories every year of managers reconstructing their sides to fit in DGW players only to see them dropped.
- Players not playing could be caused by European exploits. Liverpool, City, Spurs, Chelsea, and Arsenal all look set to go deep in their continental tournaments. Manchester United may pull off an unlikely turnaround in Paris and throw the cat amongst the pigeons further. Would Arsenal and Chelsea see the Europa League as their best shot at Champions League qualification? Will Spurs fall further behind in the title race and seek European glory?
The popular tactic:
Use FTs to build a team set for BGW31 and BGW33. FH in DGW32. WC GW34 in preparation for DGW35 (BB or TC)
This strategy gives you the chance to fully capitalise on both double gameweeks, but it does mean that you may end up burning points to field your eleven in the BGWs. There is a good carryover between the BGWs but I think many will still end up being forced into a hit.
There are three qualms with this tactic.
The first is related to your final chip – TC or BB. Either way, you will not be able to use one on a DGW, and you won’t be able to use either of them on the bigger one – DGW32.
The second is that you will have to invest in players in advance of the BGWs, and you may end up holding players you would otherwise sell because you are in a bind to ensure you have a full 11 for the blanks. As a corollary of that, you may also have to sell players you don’t want to part with in the GW28-30 period. Were I to pursue this tactic, it would be difficult to make it work without parting with Aguero or Pogba early to free up funds. Last season, managers held Theo Walcott ahead of BGWs and DGWs on this basis and it turned out to be a horrendous decision. Aside from players going out of form, you have the more standard fears of injuries, suspensions, and rotation. The international break adds more difficulties to this.
Thirdly, the transfers to prepare for the BGWs may cost you points and value. This may make the DGW35 wildcard more challenging.
The alternate to the norm
Build towards BGW31 with FTs, WC for DGW32, FH BGW33, DGW35 (TC or BB)
This tactic gives managers a chance to stick with the pack right up to the first BGW before wildly diverging and fielding strong sides in both DGW32 and BGW33. The DGW32 side will be slightly hamstrung by the need to think ahead for the later DGW but overall it should not prove too difficult. As I said earlier, having a few single gameweek players is not necessarily a bad thing.
Unfortunately, this tactic actually leaves you more open to disasters from suspensions and injuries. You are as vulnerable as the pack in the lead up to BGW31, but then you have little room to manoeuvre before DGW35 if fortune turns on you.
I think this tactic is slightly better for teams with low value because you get a chance to make your key DGW35 moves (or the budget apportionment to facilitate them) before players’ prices rise rapid before DGW35.
Make transfers with DGW32 in mind, FH BGW31, BB or TC DGW32, DGW33 survival, WC GW34 ahead of a TC/BB in DGW35
I must say I like this tactic a lot.
It avoids the problem of tailoring your side to facilitate two BGWs where two of the league’s in-form sides, the two Manchester clubs, are unlikely to feature. However, you are of course working towards building a squad for a DGW which comes directly after an international break.
On the plus side, you do have the chance to use a chip in each of the DGWs, which is particularly useful to those of you who still have all the cards in your hands. Furthermore, managers who have built up value in their teams won’t have to part with it until they eventually wildcard in GW34.
Of course, as you can see by “DGW33 survival”, that one gameweek could be very challenging. However, I think that this is offset very well by not having to weaken your squad in GW28-30 and also by being able to use your BB and TC chips in the DGWs. I believe that I will be following this tactic.
For the "missing chips" brigade
I know quite a lot of you will be trying to struggle on without one of your chips. I think if you have used your Triple Captain chip but hold everything else, you are in a good position to follow one of the early two tactics.
If you have already used your Wildcard or Free Hit already, your position is greatly weakened. You need to choose your deployment of which ever one you have very wisely. If I were to make a recommendation, I would say that those with a wildcard but without a Free Hit should look to navigate as far as BGW31 by using transfers, before wildcarding in DGW32 with the blank and double in mind. Plan your rolled FTs carefully ahead of 33, 34, and 35 to build your squad for the second double with a few hits if necessary.
For those with no wildcard but with the Free Hit still in mind, it will be a lot tougher. As BGW31 will see the biggest fixture loss, I think that you should use the FH there and then use your FTs to plan a course through the other blanks and doubles which gives you good coverage in them.
We’ve gone on a lot longer than usual in this column this week, so here is a basic order of who you should look to for the armband in BGW27:
1. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Southampton H)
2. Son (Burnley A)
3. Felipe Anderson (Fulham H)
It’s hard to predict what will happen in the United v Liverpool game, and thus I am going to steer away from that with my armband!
Stag has been providing #FPL Tips since July 2015 and has been a contributor for Rotoworld.com since August 2016. He is a self-proclaimed wannabe fantasy football genius, a student, and die-hard tea enthusiast.