Another Double Gameweek, another disappointment.
Few managers emerged from DGW34 with the kind of score they were hoping for after Sterling and Kane became the only well-owned players to just about manage to return double figures.
As usual, the leading points scorer turned out to be somebody that nobody expected, this time in the unlikely form of Chris Smalling (MUN, 5.6).
Spare a thought for those who were relying on big hauls by captaining the likes of Lukaku or Vardy (worse still - Hazard or Sanchez!).
Rotation is part and parcel of DGWs.
Having said that, this time it’s been awful. I have no Morgan (wasn’t expecting much) and Willian (should come off bench). Others have it far worse.
Hazard? ouch.— FPL Strategist (@FPLStrategist) April 19, 2018
The chaos that we’ve seen among team line-ups in GW34 makes the prospect of negotiating BGW35 all the more daunting - even for those who finally get to unleash their precious Free Hit chip.
Using the Free Hit
The appeal of the new chip is the opportunity it gives FPL managers to aim for a sky-high points ceiling by investing heavily in teams you think should do well - without the prospect of being saddled with players you don't want in the long-term.
That’s easier said than done this week, with all kinds of uncertainty surrounding teams we previously thought should be easy routes to big points.
Even the one player we were all convinced was as nailed-on as they come in the league may not get a start.
Wenger will use Sunday as preparation for the @EuropaLeague SF meaning Aubameyang may miss out: "He cannot play on Thursday. I am not sure to play him at the moment. Most of the time [after Europe], it was a help. But when you prepare, it is a handicap that he can’t play." #AFC pic.twitter.com/BoFqMNrBTj— Ben Dinnery (@BenDinnery) April 19, 2018
The news is more encouraging for the default candidate for captaincy this week, after Mo Salah (LIV, 10.5) admitted that not only is he focused on winning the Golden Boot, his teammates are focused on him winning it too!
Mohamed Salah: "The players are trying to help me a lot now to score goals, because they know now I am in for the Golden Boot. In the end it is an individual award, but it also helps the team get the points." pic.twitter.com/7Dsv7TxoIP— LFC Fans Corner (@LFCFansCorner) April 19, 2018
Liverpool still have plenty to play for in the league - a top-four place isn't quite secure yet, and finishing above Man United in second would bring a wry smile to the Anfield faithful - but the threat of rotation before Tuesday's Champions League semi-final looms large.
However, the good news for Free Hitters is that they should expect to see a first-choice team for Man City’s homecoming party against Swansea.
City’s new designated penalty taker Ilkay Gündogan (MCI, 5.4) could certainly be worth a punt.
Given that managers only keep these new players for a week, the Free Hit is the ideal time to gamble on those players you’ve always liked the look of, but never quite trusted enough to own.
If you think Ayoze Pérez (NEW, 5.3) or Jay Rodriguez (WBA, 5.3) can keep their scoring runs alive for one more week, go for it!
Man of the Match, Jay Rodriguez
3rd goal in last 4 PL apps (having scored 3 in his previous 26 apps)
Distance covered - 12.75km, most for West Brom today
Just don’t forget to save money with your reserve goalie and third sub at the very least. As strange as it may sound, the likes of Kristoffer Nordfeldt (SWA, 3.9), Chancel Mbemba (NEW, 3.9) and Andy King (SWA, 4.2) should feature in any respectable Free Hit squad!
Those without a Free Hit can have some fun this week too, though.
By replacing a second or third player with no fixture in BGW35 with one from Arsenal, Man City, Newcastle, Swansea or West Ham (they have five games left to play rather than four) you’re effectively taking just a -2 hit, presuming your new recruit at least earns his 2 points for an appearance.
By the same logic, if you have any Bournemouth players (you have my sympathy), the good news is that these three-game liabilities can now be replaced for ‘free’!
It could also be time to start a purge of assets from those ‘on the beach’ teams - sides who have nothing left to play for in the league. Everton and Newcastle players, for instance, might as well tog out in Bermuda shorts next Monday.
Picking relegation-threatened sides may feel counterintuitive, but identifying key players from these teams (as well as those competing for European places) is a time-honoured method of rescuing an FPL season.
Time for a talisman
Once regarded as the first beach-dwellers of the season, a realistic shot at European football has seen Burnley become an effective and a highly motivated unit once more.
The lack of a future Double Gameweek shouldn’t rule out investment in two of the most ever-present, in-form strikers in the league right now - Ashley Barnes (BUR, 5.4) and Chris Wood (BUR, 6.3). With assists in his last four outings, Johann Berg Gudmundsson (BUR, 5.0) is worth a look, too.
Wilfried Zaha (CRY, 6.9) looked inspired against Brighton and even managed to pick up his first bonus points of the season. Still just 6% owned and facing a brittle Watford home defence, he could fire Palace to top-flight survival if only Hodgson could manage the relatively simple task of keeping Benteke out of his way.
This season's victim of the so-cheap-he-mustn’t-be-that-good syndrome, Luka Milivojevic (CRY, 5.2), has now scored at least nine points in each of the last four Gameweeks. Owned by more than a quarter of managers in the top 1,000, and now with assists in his locker, the remaining excuses not to own him have officially run out.
After a quiet March, Xherdan Shaqiri (STO, 6.2) has popped up with an assist in each of his last two matches. If Stoke do manage to survive, he will surely be the man to have rescued them.
It's probably more of a comment on Stoke's lack of options that his actual attacking qualities, but Joe Allen (STO, 5.1) was again pushed into the No 10 role against West Ham earlier this week. He has returned double-figure hauls twice this season, and in a team desperate for goals, a player as committed as him for this price is at least worth monitoring.
Finally, Marko Arnautovic (WHU, 7.0) has been demonstrating a quality rarely seen in a modern footballer - a fondness for his club.
He was unlucky not to score against Stoke, and although his fixtures look daunting, three are at home and a distracted Arsenal are hardly renowned for keeping clean sheets.
It’s usually a good idea to wait until close to deadline before making your late-season transfer, but now that Liverpool are involved in the early kick-off, leaving it until the last few minutes has become absolutely imperative.
Whether it’s admirable foresight or simply an old-fashioned leak, the Anfield Express Twitter feed has been accurately predicting the Liverpool line-up for weeks now.
This surely can’t continue for much longer, so make the most of the worst-kept secret in FPL now while the going’s good.
Although much of the recent hype around Gabriel Jesus (MCI, 10.0) isn’t quite justified (he’s certainly no Aguero), he has been ticking along lately and playing up front in an unshackled Man City side has obvious appeal.
Keep an eye out for the aforementioned Liverpool news of course, but Free Hit teams should have a real money-saver in the form of Ragnar Klavan (LIV, 4.1).
With Dejan Lovren a doubt ahead of Liverpool’s Champions League tie, a place for the Estonian against West Brom is pretty much assured.
After his bid to appeal his violent conduct charge was swiftly dismissed, Marcos Alonso (CHE, 7.2)will miss now the GW36 trip to Swansea, giving any remaining owners more than enough incentive to sell the goalscoring defender who hasn’t scored for the past 12 Gameweeks in a defence that’s forgotten how to keep clean sheets.
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