Fantasy Premier League managers worldwide breathed a collective sigh of relief this week after the last fixtures of the season were finally confirmed.
At last, all doubt has been removed and we can finally get on with the business of planning for the all-important end-of-season run.
Gameweek 32 itself was a pretty unremarkable, all told.
For all the hub-bub on Twitter beforehand about wildcard teams, less than 140,000 managers played it in the end. The take-up this week seems to be even slower, which proves, if proof were needed, that trends among the FPL community isn’t always an accurate reflection of the wider game.
What’s likely happening is that many are looking for that holy grail of a full squad of 15 playing twice in DGW37.
Without Salah I can field 15 DGWers— #FPL Manager | Chief @FPLHints (@FPLHints) April 4, 2018
There are all sorts of potential problems with this plan, such as selling high-scoring single-fixture players, only enjoying two (or arguably one!) weeks of benefit from the wildcard, and the ever-increasing likelihood of squad rotation, but then who am I to tell people not to follow their dreams?
The main talking point came on Wednesday night when the sight of one player limping down the tunnel sent managers into meltdown.
What's happening with Mo Salah?
Given his almost universal ownership, it’s understandable how an injury to Mohamed Salah (LIV, 10.7) could provoke such widespread dismay and outright panic.
FPL has exploded!!!— FPL Strategist (@FPLStrategist) April 4, 2018
Early reactions ranged from the doom-laden to the defiant.
Salah season over— FantasyFootballTalk (@FPLFantasyTalk) April 4, 2018
Under no circumstances am I selling Salah.— FPL Maestro (@FPLMaestro) April 5, 2018
It later emerged that the injury was fairly minor, with the midfielder insisting to his manager later that he felt fine.
Updates since then have been less than concrete, but selling the runaway top scorer in FPL at this stage would be premature. Swapping him for a Double Gameweek player may sound reasonable, but the Egyptian has a knack of defying expectations this season.
Many of the 489,000+ managers who sold him in GW21 have struggled to get their season back on track ever since - and although the impact to team value won’t felt as keenly this late in the season, it could hurt those looking to wildcard later.
Anyone who sells now best prepare themselves for the sight of him politely apologising to Ben Foster (WBA, 4.4) in GW35 - while cradling the match ball.
Whatever the prognosis, it’s almost unthinkable that he will play 90 minutes against Everton however, especially given that the fixture happens early on a Saturday.
Trusting him with the armband this week is a risk that’s simply not worth taking, especially given the form of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (ARS, 10.8) against a Southampton team without a league win since GW26 - against West Brom.
Ahead of my latest #FPL captain article, here's Arsenal's home record vs teams outside the 🔝6⃣ this season:
️⚽️ Goals: 34
🥅 Conceded: 6
📈 Points: 33 (100%) 🔥🔥🔥April 4, 2018
Speaking of potential captains...
When is the right time to buy Harry Kane?
Harry Kane’s 16-minute cameo against Chelsea caught many FPL managers by surprise, but it was enough to convince many to swiftly bring him back into the fold.
The fact that he has tormented GW33 opponents Stoke in recent seasons has helped make him the comfortably the most transferred-in player this week.
There is a perception that he can be slow to score after coming back from injury, and although that was the case this season (failing to strike against Arsenal and Palace), he had no such problems the season before.
Firmino and Lukaku have been the ones to make way, and while the former is understandable given Liverpool’s European exploits and lack of Double Gameweeks, those selling Lukaku should hopefully have a plan bring back a player who is surely one of the standout captaincy candidates in DGW34.
It seems pretty obvious that Kane will become a must-have player by DGW37 at the very latest, and if Salah’s injury is worse than first feared, he will be laser-focused on retaining the Golden Boot.
As we saw with his attempt to break Alan Shearer’s record earlier in the season, his teammates will be doing all they can to help him. Many managers have already earmarked him for their Triple Captain chip, and who could blame them?
wba away 🔥
NEW home 🔥
⏹ Kane chasing a golden boot
⏹ Two teams with nothing to play forApril 4, 2018
Nevertheless, £12.7m is a lot of money to be spending on any player returning from injury.
Those in the fortunate position of being able to recruit Kane without losing Lukaku or Aubameyang, or suffering a -4 points hit, and then Free Hit for his blank in GW35, should probably just go ahead and do it. For everyone else, you’ll have to weigh up the various risks and downsides and decide if he’s really worth it at this early stage.
If you are making the move, be careful to factor in any Free Hit chip strategies into your thinking.
Interesting Free Hit info...
Throws my planning out slightly as I'd considered carrying the GW33 transfer into the latter GWs 🤦🏻♂️April 3, 2018
Some interesting stats about the overall FPL game surfaced on iNews recently.
Did you know that the number of FPL teams has doubled in the last five years, growing 28% alone since the end of last season? We’re taking over!
It also confirmed what we already suspected - that 95% of players are men, which probably didn't do the popularity of the recently-renamed top-ranked mini league in the world any harm...
Win a Date with Jules Breach— Amigo Don #FPL 🇨🇽 (@TheMarpleCurse) March 6, 2018
Fixtures and individual chip strategies will dominate every FPL manager’s transfer thoughts during the coming weeks, but pound-for-pound, Marko Arnautovic (WHU, 6.9) has been outstanding since the arrival of David Moyes at West Ham.
Only Salah has scored more goals among #FPL midfielders since Gameweek 16 than ArnautovicApril 2, 2018
His fixtures may look daunting, but late season can throw up some funny results, particularly against big-name teams with little or nothing to play for.
Cheap enablers are a necessity when it comes to making room for big hitters, but it’s always nice to at least entertain the idea of some returns from them, too. That’s why the ascent of defender Kiko Femenía (WAT, 4.3) into the Watford midfield has turned a few heads.
The Hornets have impressed at home of late, and upcoming visits of Burnley, Palace and Newcastle offer points potential at both ends of the pitch.
See also: Ben Chilwell (LEI, 4.4).
If Chelsea’s recent performances feel oddly familiar, you’re probably being reminded of Jose Mourinho’s disastrous last half-season at Stamford Bridge.
With little prospect of a top-four finish and the writing apparently on the wall for Antonio Conte, Chelsea players look like they're downing tools again.
The Blues defence hasn’t kept a clean sheet since playing Hull City in mid-February, and though their fixtures may look good on paper, only a spectacular return to form would justify investment in their expensive assets.
Chelsea are a busted flush. Embarrassing.— Fly🔻 (@FPL_Fly) April 1, 2018
Top of the League
It’s as-you-were at the top of the Official Irish Examiner League, with 58 points enough to keep Kevin Fahy’s Repeal Madrid at the top. Eoin O'Brien has closed the gap to just 16 points though, with Seamus O’Dowd making up ground in third place.
He could be under threat from Tiago Costa however, who’s now just one point behind in fourth after his wildcard team banked an impressive 82 points.
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