Arsene Wenger has divided opinion for years now - but he’ll always have a special place in the heart of some Fantasy Premier League managers after what he did this week.
In the build-up to Arsenal’s clash with West Ham, the usually coy Frenchman did his best Anfield Express impression and gave fortunate Free Hitters a rare insight into his selection plans.
Suddenly Alexandre Lacazette (ARS, 10.2) was showing up in Free Hit teams everywhere - and they were duly rewarded with 13 points.
Analysis on Fantasy Football Scout later revealed that managers who used their Free Hit in a Blank Gameweek enjoyed an impressive advantage of around 25 points on average over their rivals.
GW rank of 46K ☺️.
Free hit is definitely the chip with the most potential for gain! #FPL— #FPL Physio (@FPL_physio) April 22, 2018
Those who opted to use it in DGW34 generally fared poorly - mostly because of rotation and disappointing performances from popular players like Sanchez, Kane, Lukaku and Alonso - but that’s not to say that it couldn't be deployed effectively in a more favourable DGW next season.
66 points from a FH Chip & 9 double GW’ers playing 😫 Sanchez captain, and I’ve dropped from top 18k down to 29k. Absolutely terrible time of the season for this to happen.— Tom Geoffrey (@TomGeoffrey) April 20, 2018
So now that most active managers, including literally all of the game’s top 1,000, have used the Free Hit chip, what have we learned?
Well, it certainly benefited those who opted to use it to effectively 'skip' an awkward Blank Gameweek, as it was no doubt designed to do. After watching more patient rivals leapfrog them in mini-leagues this week, managers who used it on a whim earlier in the season will be reassessing their approach.
It’s certainly a much more exciting and powerful tool than the much-maligned All Out Attack chip. Perhaps the only real downside has been crashing back to down to Earth when you're reminded of your “real” team again.
Who's suffering from a Free Hit hangover this morning after checking their GW36 lineup? pic.twitter.com/e592ZW70T8— Fantasy Football Pundits (@FFPundits) April 24, 2018
Many of these managers will be looking to replicate one particular aspect of their Free Hit teams as quickly as possible this week.
Loading up on Manchester City
After some recent stumbles, an impressive 5-0 demolition of Swansea reminded FPL managers what Man City are capable of - and now they’re on a mission to break even more records.
#PEP: It’s never unfinished business in football, you have to keep improving. Looking for records helps to keep the players focused. The league is won, now it’s the records. The numbers keep the players focused.— Manchester City (@ManCity) April 22, 2018
Given that these all involve scoring goals and earning wins, we can expect to see a particularly consequence-free, attacking approach from now on.
The prime candidate here has to be Gabriel Jesus (MCI, 10.3). With Aguero out and no natural replacement in his position, he should enjoy considerable gametime.
Elsewhere, we’re all well acquainted with their attacking midfield assets by now, and we know that none of them can be 100% guaranteed to start every game - particularly given the brief turnaround between GW37 ties.
6 day gap (no worries)
5 (no worries too)
4 (just about ok)
Hope useful with transfer decisions!— Who Got The Assist? (@WGTA_FPL) April 26, 2018
A “pick and stick” strategy is what’s required here, because as soon as your player is rested, he immediately becomes favourite to start the next game.
Right now, that honour falls to Leroy Sané (MCI, 8.6), so he could be worth investment.
All things being equal, either Raheem Sterling (MCI, 9.0) or David Silva (MCI, 8.2) will probably earn you the most points, but don't expect either of them to start all four games.
Getting in three @ManCity attackers until the end of the season is an excellent strategy.
The most important player to have? A very strong first sub! Pep is fielding strong teams but will rotate in 2-3 positions. You need a first sub who you'd be happy to start each week. #FPL— FPL Strategist (@FPLStrategist) April 24, 2018
Ilkay Gündogan (MCI, 5.4) could be an option for cash-strapped managers, and could be back on penalties after Jesus’ recent miss.
If you’re looking for the ultimate in heroic FPL moves, you could always roll the dice with Ederson (MCI, 5.7) and hope that his Man City teammates indulge the goalkeeper’s desire to get on the scoresheet himself.
Nobody likes spending a transfer on a goalkeeper at this stage of the season, but if you’re on a wildcard, this is actually a fairly low-risk move. Relatively immune to rotation, he should earn his fair share of clean sheet points at a minimum - and if he does score, you’ll be dining out on it for months.
With all this focus on potential City goalfests, it’s important not to neglect our defence - especially with some teams primed to collect three clean sheets before the end of the season.
Case for the defence
Given that Watford haven't scored away from home since January 2, investment in a defender from a Spurs side that has kept four clean sheets in their last five league outings at Wembley looks about as bankable as it gets in this game.
Ben Davies (TOT, 5.8) offers attacking potential but could lose a fixture to Danny Rose, whilst Jan Vertonghen (TOT, 6.0) offers security of starts.
The return of Phil Jones (MUN, 5.5) has gone relatively unnoticed, despite scoring five points per match this season (out of all defenders who have played three games or more, only Nacho Monreal (ARS, 5.6) and Luke Shaw (MUN, 4.8) come close with 4.9).
Arsenal's visit may not seem like the optimum time to welcome him back, but given that a distracted Gunners side have lost their last five away matches, perhaps it is!
If you're in a spot where the only thing you're sure about is that you need to free up cash for a premium player like Kane or Jesus, then Paul Dummett (NEW, 4.2) could fit the bill.
He's not just a cheap enabler - Double-Gameweekers Newcastle have conceded fewer goals and shots on target than any team since GW30.
You probably have a better chance of attacking returns from Dubravka in goal, but for £4.2m, you can't have everything, now can you?
Similarly, last week’s outlier against Man City aside, Swansea defenders such as Kyle Naughton (SWA, 4.6) and Mike van der Hoorn (SWA, 4.4) offer reasonable Double Gameweek potential, particularly for managers looking to Bench Boost.
But for those closing in on a mini-league rival or overall rank milestone, you’ll need a player who offers a higher points ceiling - you need an attacker.
Big strikers, big stakes
There’s been much debate around the merits of buying Harry Kane (TOT, 12.9) this week. Whether coming back too early from injury or the relentless ribbing on social media was more to blame, he has clearly been out of sorts lately.
It hasn't deterred over 100,000 managers from bringing him in this week, however. Earmarked for the Triple Captain chip in DGW37 ever since it was announced, managers are sticking with their plan and banking on returns against Watford. Those yet to make that leap of faith could instead opt for Jesus this week and have a good look at Kane against Watford to see if he’s back to his best.
If it's a mid-priced striker you're after to fill that third spot, we finally some potentially exciting candidates emerging here.
Dirt-cheap and less than 7% owned, Jordan Ayew (SWA, 5.3) should play every minute of Swansea's last four matches. Three of those are at home, where the Swans have won four out of six games since Carlos Carvalhal's arrival.
The motivation is there (he's playing for his brother too, in a way) and although this week's clash against Chelsea isn’t easy, the Blues haven't kept a clean sheet away from home since facing Brighton back in GW24.
Over at Southampton, it looks like the penny has finally dropped for Mark Hughes, having finally realised that scoring a few goals might just come in handy if they want to avoid relegation and he has finally turned to Charlie Austin (SOU, 5.8) to get the Saints out of trouble.
MH: "We're pleased with what @chazaustin10 is showing. Given a run of games he will always score goals, he has done right throughout his career. He's great around the dressing room too." #saintsfc pic.twitter.com/BBMGEwkfTj— Southampton FC (@SouthamptonFC) April 26, 2018
You could hardly pick a better fixture for him to fulfil his destiny as a free-scoring late-season differential than a visit from Bournemouth, who concede away goals for fun these days (including 10 in their last four).
If you’ve been annoyed by FPL managers winning weekly prizes and being lauded by the Official Fantasy Premier League’s Twitter account, despite entering teams that were obviously just created that week, you’re not the only one.
Benedict O’Neill’s article on this particularly annoying bugbear of the FPL community is well worth a read.
With four goals in his last four matches, Christian Eriksen (TOT, 9.5) offers a rare balance between security of starts with potential explosive returns.
He could also be a useful comfort blanket for anyone unconvinced by Kane - should the England striker regain his form, Eriksen should at least be providing some assists (or maybe the even the goals themselves, like he did against Stoke).
With everyone’s eyes on Double Gameweek players, don’t forget about Marko Arnautovic (WHU, 7.0).
Still just 6.2% owned and exceptionally cheap for an out-of-position midfielder, his form should see him comfortably outscore all but the best-performing DGW midfielders in his price bracket.
After looking back to his brilliant best on his return to the Leicester line-up, Riyad Mahrez (LEI, 8.9) looks disinterested once more.
A mere six shots in his last four matches tells its own story. His distribution hasn't been much better - six chances created in that time puts him along Newcastle pair Kenedy (NEW, 4.8) and Jonjo Shelvey (NEW, 5.2), who come in at around half his price.
Was there a handshake deal that he would be let go if he helped Leicester beat the drop?
Beach. Over their last 4 games (vs Brighton, Newcastle, Burnley and Southampton), Leicester have had the 7th fewest shots in the league.— GW38 🎖️ (@Gameweek38) April 23, 2018
Top of the League
Kevin Fahy and his Repeal Madrid side aren't having it all their own way in the Official Irish Examiner League.
An impressive 85 points from Seamus O'Dowd, courtesy of an expertly-played Free Hit chip saw his Garfinny Goats side close the gap to just 10 points.
A 72-point Free Hit also kept Eoin O'Brien in the running, 24 points further back in third.
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