Gameweek 27 is almost upon us - and it can’t come soon enough for most Fantasy Premier League managers.
The previous Gameweek began in fairly surreal fashion when, just before deadline, Phil Jones’ sister inadvertently broke the news that the popular defender wouldn't be playing.
Hope everyone feels better soon; including @PhilJones4 there are lot of bugs going round lately! 😷🤧🤢— Laura (@MissLJJones) February 3, 2018
It all went downhill from there, as other well-owned players frustrated their FPL owners. Sterling missed a sitter, Pogba was benched and both Kane and Aguero were captaincy fails.
Managers looking for some much-needed Monday redemption from Alonso saw him rested, and were forced to call on the dregs from their bench. Fielding 10 or even fewer players was not uncommon.
Best thing about this gameweek is that it’s over. #fpl— #FPL Penguin (@FPL_Penguin) February 5, 2018
The rage transfers came thick and fast, but for those still looking to make a move, some careful planning could go a long way.
Navigating the Blanks and Doubles
Before we go any further, we need to talk a little chip strategy for the upcoming Blank and Double Gameweeks, as these will become increasingly important factors in our transfer decisions with each passing week.
Put simply (as possible), GW31 and GW35 will likely feature some postponed (‘Blank’) fixtures, whereas some teams in GW34 and GW37 should have two (‘Double’) fixtures.
In the unlikely event that Wigan and Man City play out a draw in the FA Cup on February 19, there will be no Arsenal V Man City fixture in GW28 - at which point FPL managers worldwide will lose their collective minds.
Updated Blank and Double Gameweek Schedule:
GW28 ❓- BGW if Man City need FA Cup R5 replay ❄️
DGW37 🔥— Ben Crellin (@BenCrellin) January 24, 2018
The most straightforward strategy - as espoused by fixture guru Ben Crellin himself on a recent 3 Amigos podcast - is to prepare as best you can for BGW31 and use your Free Hit chip for BGW35. This will allow you can prepare for the two DGWs without having to worry about that pesky Blank Gameweek in between.
However, given that BGW31 will likely feature fewer fixtures than the second, others are opting to use their Free Hit earlier, and take their medicine in the less severe BGW35.
The total number of expected Blanks (xB) this season is 9.05.
ARS & MCI Blank if MCI draw with WIG
Min Blanks: 0
Max Blanks: 1
Clashes with FA Cup QFs
Min Blanks: 2
Max Blanks: 7
Clashes with FA Cup SFs
Min Blanks: 0
Max Blanks: 4
xB: 3.24— Ben Crellin (@BenCrellin) February 6, 2018
Replays aside, we'll know more by the time of the last FA Cup 5th Round fixture is played on February 19, before the GW28 deadline, so if you can hold your free transfer until then, it could give you an edge (particularly if Wigan force that replay!).
Another safe bet would be to invest in players from Watford, Stoke or Everton, given that all three are Blank-free for rest of the season! Liverpool and Crystal Palace are likely to join them, so let’s start there.
Players to ease those Blank Gameweek jitters
A single clean sheet from Watford’s last 13 Gameweeks may not inspire confidence in their defence, but they’re cheap as chips and improving under Javi Garcia.
In midfield, Abdoulaye Doucouré (WAT, 5.4) has gone pretty unhailed for the season, having quietly overtaken the likes of Silva and Sanchez in the points table.
Stoke are also enjoying a New Manager Bounce, with Paul Lambert keeping things tight at the back.
Moritz Bauer (STO, 4.5) is well worth a look, having shot right to the top among defenders for key passes and successful crosses since his arrival in the January transfer window.
He’s on tonight and his stats don’t lie - Shaqiri (STO, 6.1) is creating more chances than Kevin De Bruyne lately and even managed an unlikely headed goal last week.
All eyes on Shaqiri in #GW27, Stoke’s main threat galvanised under Lambert (1 goal, 1 assist, 2nd highest midfielder for shots on target & chances created in the last 3 weeks) and the club’s top bonus-point magnet with 11 so far! #FPL pic.twitter.com/pEpCMnJV4J— FPL Player-Manager (Sam) (@FFplayermanager) February 8, 2018
Those who want to look like an FPL genius in a few weeks’ time could always take a low-cost punt on Jesé (STO, 5.4) or Joe Allen (5.1) and pray they come good.
After that humiliation against Arsenal, most of the Everton team are best avoided for now.
Even cheap £4.4m options like Cuco Martina and Jonjoe Kenny are out of the picture, with Baines and Coleman returning to full fitness.
The sole player to escape Big Sam’s post-match ire, Theo Walcott (EVE, 7.3), still looks like a worthwhile investment at that price, however.
With Spurs, Man Utd and Chelsea coming up in their next four, Crystal Palace is pretty much a no-go area for FPL managers.
The possible exception here is enabler-in-chief Luka Milivojevic (CRY, 4.7), who can always surprise you with a penalty (and you won’t have to worry about him scoring on your bench during a Blank Gameweek).
This week, just like Mahrez/Vardy before him, the entire FPL community came to the realisation that Mo Salah (LIV, 10.4) is the best default captain choice. He always was, we just couldn’t quite see it.
Every #FPL manager this season.
Sunday : "Always captain Salah!"
Thursday/Friday : "Fuck it, im giving Kun/Kane the armband"— Essential🍀 (@FPLEssential) February 8, 2018
He remains the only no-brainer option in the Reds squad, although a case could be made for Roberto Firmino (LIV, 9.2) or the still-cheap Andy Robertson (LIV, 4.7).
Certainly, the idea of spending any more than £5m on a defender may not appeal to many FPL managers at the moment, but you should never rule it out.
Reassessing defensive investment
After a disastrous Gameweek where Man United alone enjoyed a clean sheet, it’s tempting to move our money out of defence altogether in search of big points elsewhere.
But as bleak as the situation looks after that last Gameweek, some patience and canny spending in our backlines can be still be rewarded.
Let’s begin with one of the few phenomena we have learned to rely on this season - Man United defensive returns.
For those sailing towards this particular port in a storm, the steady, near-certain returns offered by the ever-present David de Gea (MUN, 5.9) can be a real comfort, particularly in Gameweeks like the one just passed.
Bonus-point magnet Phil Jones (MUN, 5.7) remains a fantastic option despite his no-show against Huddersfield - if his new owners can find it in their heart to forgive him!
Whatever happens this season, I will always remember it as the season of trolls. First Hazard, then Christensen and now Jones AGAIN.— FPL General (@FPLGeneral) February 3, 2018
Another worth considering in the near future is Toby Alderweireld (TOT, 5.8).
Spurs enjoyed five clean sheets in his 10 appearances before his injury, compared to just six in the 16 that followed it, so look to include him once this week’s London Derby is out of the way.
A precautionary rest, coupled with Chelsea’s dire form was enough to convince over 100,000 managers to sell Marcos Alonso (CHE, 7.4) this week, but could they be jumping the gun?
Bottom-of-the-table West Brom could provide Chelsea with the platform they need to get out of their slump, and if they do, Alonso is a prime candidate to profit.
Maybe we’re all just a bit skittish lately, but with Champions League just around the corner, it could be a good week to pick a boring, nailed-on candidate as your Vice Captain.
It might be time for those Kanexiters to come back to the fold before it’s too late.
A player who seems more stat-aware than most, now that Harry Kane (TOT, 12.8) has this latest monkey off his back, expect him to start firing again as Tottenham face some obliging defences, beginning with one of his favourite teams to play on Saturday.
An Arsenal attacking player. Take your pick, really, from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (ARS, 10.5), Henrikh Mkhitaryan (ARS, 7.8) or Aaron Ramsey (ARS, 7.0).
They all offer massive potential for the manager who knows that form beats fixtures every time. You can beat the bandwagon by getting in early - just as long as that Man City FA Cup match doesn’t end in a draw!
His FPL status may optimistically state "Expected back 24 Feb", but even his club manager doesn’t know what’s going on with Riyad Mahrez (LEI, 8.6) at the moment.
Mahrez will be missing once again for Leicester. "I hope Riyad can get his head right and to come back with us. The best way is to come back and enjoy his football," said Puel. #LCFC— Ben Dinnery (@BenDinnery) February 8, 2018
In the meantime, it’s dead money for FPL managers that could be put to good use elsewhere.
UPDATE: Remember Puel said "he will need time... to be match fit"
Top of the League
A non-disastrous 48-point Gameweek was enough to put Eoin O'Brien and his Kroos Control squad back on top of the Official Irish Examiner League (join code: 158003-520394). He found an unlikely star in Liverpool goalkeeper Loris Karius, whose nine points made all the difference in a low-scoring week.
Seamus O'Dowd dropped to second, with Kevin Fahy taking over third spot.
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