It was truly a Gameweek like no other. Gameweek 37 was a wild ride, as the thrill of massive points totals was tempered with a pang of regret for most.
Hopefully those who captained Alexis Sanchez (ARS, 11.6) didn’t boast too much before Harry Kane’s four-goal annihilation of Leicester.
Pretty much all of the big hitters did the business, with the exception of Hazard, Costa and Lukaku.
Although not disastrous by any means, the prevailing strategy of playing Bench Boost in GW37 didn’t quite work out as spectacularly as many hoped. Triple Captainers generally enjoyed the most eye-watering scores in a week that redrew the boundaries of what was possible in terms of FPL scoring.
Suddenly the hallowed halls of the ‘100 Club’ began to look more like a scene straight out of Project X, prompting the new aristocrats of the FPL to take the sherry decanters and cigars to more genteel surroundings of the 200 Club.
GW37 will also be remembered as the week where so many frustrated FPL managers finally got their reward for simply sticking with it.
Relieved FPL veterans who for so long had languished in despair outside the top 100,000 (or worse) earlier in the season were now gleefully sharing their league positions - and who could blame them?
The stats tell their own story - while the average points for the GW was 81, that climbed to 99 when “dead squads” were removed, while average among the top 1,000 was a whopping 153.
Those who set their teams up well and had the patience to save their chips now got to enjoy the sight of all those ghost ships sinking around them and disappearing from the FPL horizon.
A week for goals
And the fun doesn’t stop there!
Gameweek 38 is renowned for its mayhem, and although this one is a rare example of one where there is little to play for, research from Luke Maunder of fplbet.comshows that these final days consistently throw up plenty of last-minute opportunities to make up ground in your mini-leagues.
On average, Premier League games have consisted of 2.679 goals over the past decade.
Intriguingly, that figure is significantly higher over the last 10 GW38s, where we’ve seen 3.1 goals per game.
There is less to play for than play for than ever before, making what is already generally accepted as the most volatile Gameweek of all that little bit harder to predict - and nowhere is that more evident than at the home of the new champions.
What will Chelsea do?
We all know the situation around Chelsea this week of course - they will be presented with the Premier League trophy, and will be resting players ahead of next week’s FA Cup final.
Often managers can be unusually candid before these late-season games, but Antonio Conte was in frustratingly coy mood yesterday.
What does seem likely is that Cesc Fàbregas (CHE, 6.9) will have some kind of role, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see Michy Batshuayi (CHE, 8.4) get a run-out against relegated Sunderland also.
John Terry (5.2) is also widely expected to line out at Stamford for the final time on Sunday, despite Conte’s giggling schoolgirl protestations.
Antonio Conte wants to keep it a surprise whether John Terry will start Sunday's game. #CFC— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) May 19, 2017
If the talisman starts, you can expect him to physically wrestle the ball off any teammate attempting to take a penalty for Chelsea as he tries to extend his lead as the Premier League’s highest scoring defender.
Given the Black Cats have scored just two goals in their last five matches (and both of those were against Hull City, don’t forget) a clean sheet really isn’t too much to expect here either.
If your budget (or conscience) can’t quite stretch to Terry, then FPL favourite Nathan Ake (CHE, 3.8) is a great alternative. The peculiarities of the transfer system mean that the attacking left-back is the joint-cheapest player in the game and could help to free up funds for more illustrious differentials.
After playing a full 90 minutes and returning a pathetic five points in DGW37, it’s easy to see why Eden Hazard (CHE, 10.5) is among the most transferred out players this week as frustrated FPL managers make way for the safer harbours offered by the likes of Philippe Coutinho (LIV, 8.6) and Kevin De Bruyne (10.5).
However, this move comes with a health warning. Their opponents on Sunday conceded a massive 36 shots against Arsenal recently, and now face a crisis of injury as well as confidence.
Former Hazard owners could be in for a nervy afternoon. With Chelsea looking to put on a show for their trophy presentation, this could be a real bloodbath.
Spotting the GW38 mis-matches
Indeed, successfully predicting one of these high-scoring games - and the right player to choose from them - could be the key to staging a Leicesteresque minileague triumph.
For instance, one can only ponder how Watford will perform with an already-sacked manager in the dugout.
After issuing some choice words about the “mentality” at the club - will Walter Mazzarri be going out of his way to inspire his soon-to-be-former players (hardly world-beaters at the best of times) to a resounding victory against an in-form Man City team still fighting for an automatic Champions League spot?
Jose Mourinho’s Man United teamsheet on Sunday will have the prawn sandwich eating section of Old Trafford looking quizzically at their matchday programmes wondering if there’s been some kind of printing error.
Having secured their safety and ended a three-game losing run last weekend against Hull, this match is anything but a dead rubber for Allardyce’s men.
Sunday's game for Crystal Palace is the potential difference between 11th (£19m prize) and 16th (£9.5m).
Dead rubber? Nah it's a £10m game. pic.twitter.com/fPcQDW99Bk— Football__Tweet (@Football__Tweet) May 19, 2017
The Palace dangermen aren’t hard to spot, and while Wilfried Zaha (5.8) and Christian Benteke (7.2) haven’t been in peak form, they will fancy themselves against United’s second-string. And besides, who doesn’t raise their game after travelling hundreds of miles to Old Trafford (besides the aforementioned prawn sandwich devotees)?
Our could it go the other way? The Eagles are without injured centre-backs Tomkins, Sakho and Dann, clearing the way for what could well be the last time we see Wayne Rooney (MUN, 8.6) in a Manchester United shirt. He’s scored three times in his last five matches, and is just two shy of hitting 200 Premier League goals.
No team typifies “on the beach” syndrome more than a Tony Pulis side.
West Brom travel to Wales on Sunday to face the Swansea City, who will be in celebratory mood after securing their survival.
That Tony Pulis record after reaching 38 points this season
5 points from 11 games— Dan Kennett (@DanKennett) May 16, 2017
The Swans’ escape from the drop has been built on a fine run at home, which has seen them register five wins, a draw and just one loss in their last seven. Gylfi Sigurdsson (SWA, 7.4) and Fernando Llorente (SWA, 6.2) could fill their boots.
Gylfi Sigurdsson to Fernando Llorente: Is the best assist-to-goalscorer return (6 goals) in the Premier League this season pic.twitter.com/hgBeMR8u3d— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) May 18, 2017
Just remember - if you are going for that hail-Mary comeback, you may have to grit your teeth and get the kind of player you’re usually not comfortable bringing in.
For instance, the likes of Jamie Vardy (LEI, 9.9) and Daniel Sturridge (LIV, 9.6) might seem expensive, but that transfer cash isn’t going to be much use to you after 2pm on Sunday, so you might as well go ahead and blow it on someone your rivals don’t own and hope for the best.
On a personal note....
This being my last FPL column of the season, it would be remiss of me not to briefly thank those who made it all possible.
Thanks to Irish Examiner Deputy Sports Editor Larry Ryan for getting the column off the ground and to Jill O’Sullivan and Sinead Johnson for keeping it going.
Thanks also to those who invited me to be part of their FPL offering, such as The FPL Chief, Moolah cash league and The Hype Train, as well as podcasts like Fanfeud and, most recently, Always Cheating.
A big thanks too to FPL Stag for lending his expertise to help me write this week’s column in what has been a busy few days for me!
CONGRATS!!!!— #FPL Stag (@FPLStag) May 19, 2017
Most of all though - thanks for all the likes, retweets, contributions and positive feedback from the FPL community on social media. It’s your support that made the column the success it became and that’s something we should all take a huge amount of pride in.
Whether you’re a champion-in-waiting or wooden spoon material, get out with your mini-league mates and make a day of it on Sunday. There’s no reason FPL can’t be a social occasion, and there’s plenty of fun to be had in the winning - and losing - of many a minileague.
There’s no doubt about the motivation of Harry Kane (TOT, 11.8) after that four-goal salvo against Leicester.
World No.2 doesn't own Kane.May 18, 2017
Having already secured more points than seven of the previous Premier League champions, It appears the league runners-up want to make a statement of intent for next season.
Kane has his sights firmly set on winning the golden boot - and his teammates will want to help get it for him. Anyone without the Tottenham marksman needs to swallow their pride and make the switch - even if it means taking a hit to do it.
By a wide margin, Philippe Coutinho (LIV, 8.6) is the most transferred-in player ahead of the season’s crescendo after a brace and assist in the 4-0 rout of West Ham.
Liverpool face ‘Boro at Anfield and must win to confirm the return of Champions League football to a proud club who have only qualified for the competition once in the last eight seasons.
Steve Agnew’s now-Championship side deserve their fate, and have offered nothing to suggest they are capable of rallying away from home since their demotion was finalised.
No goals and a penalty miss from Manolo Gabbiadini (6.5) in a double-double Gameweek was the source of much frustration for FPL managers.
I brought Gabbiadini in on my GW35 wildcard.
5 games = 5 points.
He shall be removed from my squad for GW38, never to return.— #FPL General (@FPLGeneral) May 18, 2017
Not even the relatively straightforward prospect of Stoke City visiting St Mary’s offers much encouragement, with The Saints failing to find the net in 350 minutes on their home turf.
Gabbiadini may be my worst signing of the #FPL season, and I bought Pape Souare the week he was in a car accident.— Jeremy Spitzberg 🇺🇸 (@jspitzberg) May 17, 2017
Top of the League
After leading for several weeks, Mervyn Glasgow and his GForce Allstars have, out of the blue, bowed out of the Official Irish Examiner League to leave the long-term members duke it out for the title. It’s a fantastic gesture of sportsmanship from the current world Number 6, and we wish him every success in his bid to be crowned World FPL champ. He’ll be a force to be reckoned with when he rejoins next year!
Brian Haugh, Jonny Fleetwood, Patrick Bumby, Micheal Nevins, James Trayling are all on over 2,300 points and look like favourites for the title, but could this season have one more twist in the tale? We’ll know by Sunday evening. Good luck in GW38 everyone!
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