Sooner or later, the Fantasy Premier League conversation always seems to come back to Sergio Aguero.
Four goals on the way to 21 points against Leicester saw the #AlwaysCaptainKun brigade rack up 100-point Gameweeks, leaving non-owners crying behind their couches.
Kun has just finished by FPL season.... 😭😭😭😭
see you next year— fplAnalytics (@fplAnalytics) February 10, 2018
Even those who owned the Argentine, but instead opted to captain the likes of Mo Salah (LIV, 10.4), felt the impact.
I own Aguero yet got a juicy red arrow tonight...— FPL Champion 🏅 (@FPLchampion) February 11, 2018
Ironically, those looking to make up lost ground by bringing him back now could be missing out on a big opportunity. You can hear me explain this, and more, on the latest 3 Amigos podcast.
Now that the first big Blank Gameweek is almost upon is, attention in the FPL community has turned to how best to use our remaining chips - especially given that a surprising proportion of active players have already opted to use one or more of them.
We're fast approaching the end of the #FPL season where chips are important..
How many have you used so far?
Here's the overall statistics...
Bench Boost - 28.6%
Triple Captain - 50.7%
Free Hit - 39.5%February 22, 2018
The good news is that although some planning is essential, you don’t need to be a spreadsheet wizard to do it.
Something I’ve found very useful in recent seasons is the Custom Squad Planner on FantasyFootballFix.com.
UPDATE - Our custom squad planning tool has been updated to include blank GW31February 19, 2018
It does mean signing up to the £1-a-month Optimisation Pack (after a 7-day free trial) - you could just use a handheld whiteboard to replicate your own version.
Just a small health warning before we go on - other than (most of) BGW31, the Blank and Double Gameweeks are not officially confirmed yet, although we can make pretty reliable assumptions based on previous seasons.
So with that in mind, let’s look at the best times to use the various chips.
Best time to play the Free Hit Chip
There’s a certain excitement that comes with using a wildcard or chip - you get a little taste of that precious GW1 optimism again, when your destiny was unwritten, and everything seemed possible. It's probably why the idea of using a Free Hit in what looks like a decidedly unsexy BGW31 is quickly losing its appeal for a growing number of FPL managers.
Gameweek 31 is nearly set.
❌ 5 confirmed Blank fixtures.
✅ 4 confirmed fixtures.
Should Spurs beat Rochdale, as expected, it’s hard to see where else the big points will come from outside of the obligatory three Liverpool players (the best one of which you should have already, whom everyone will captain anyway).
So although using it during the week with the fewest fixtures seems logical, in reality it could achieve little more than turn what would have been a very low-scoring Gameweek into a mere average one.
It’s probably best to just accept it for what it is, and console yourself with the thought that you’ll still be sailing past armies of ghost-ship squads overflowing with players from top-six clubs.
Convinced? Then opt for blank-free assets like Loris Karius (LIV, 4.8), Virgil van Dijk (LIV, 5.5) and Theo Walcott (EVE, 7.4) in the weeks ahead. Players from Palace, Stoke, Watford and West Brom also avoid the blanks, but form, fixtures and generally being a bit rubbish limit their appeal.
The second option is to use it in BGW35, where some tastier fixtures await - and more of them.
Here are the Blank permutations (and a couple of Blank percentages) for Gameweek 35.
I'll update the rest of the Blank percentages when the odds are available.
There will be either two, three or four Blank fixtures in GW35. pic.twitter.com/cWadpNWOmV— Ben Crellin (@BenCrellin) February 20, 2018
The advantage here is that it allows FPL managers to focus completely on stocking up on Double-Gameweek players for GWs 34 and 37, without having to worry about that Blank Gameweek sandwiched in between them. It's a straightforward, stress-free approach.
There is, however, a third option for those well behind in their mini-leagues with little left to lose.
It’s a high risk-reward approach, but using the Free Hit during DGW34 has the potential to produce a 100-pointer for those willing to put their faith in a handful of top teams.
If you FH in 31, you'll have to focus on teams who have a DGW in 34 but no Blank in 35 (Green group)
If you FH in 35, you'll have to focus on teams who have DGWs in 34 and 37 (Purple group)
If you FH in 34, you can pick as many players from the purple/green groups as you want: pic.twitter.com/k2GGwZzA3c— Ben Crellin (@BenCrellin) February 21, 2018
A triple Man United defence, for example, could return 40 points alone, should they keep West Ham and West Brom at bay.
You can't spell Mourinho without 0-0.— SH (@Sennesation) February 21, 2018
Arsenal’s trips to Newcastle and Leicester could see big returns from the likes of Aaron Ramsey (ARS, 7.0), Henrikh Mkhitaryan (ARS, 7.8) and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (ARS, 10.5).
Home ties against Everton and Southampton shouldn’t unduly trouble a revitalised Swansea - consider Kyle Naughton (SWA, 4.6), who has been playing in a more advanced role than ever in his last two games.
There should be plenty of candidates to choose from among Spurs and Man City too, depending on their respective form and league priorities.
Whatever approach you opt for, the beauty of the Free Hit chip is that you can afford to splash out on the big guns by filling most of your bench with the lowest-priced players in the game. Think Joel Coleman (HUD, 3.9), Chancel Mbemba (NEW, 3.9) and Andy King (SWA, 4.2).
Best time to use Bench Boost
The accepted wisdom is that Double Gameweeks are the best time to Bench Boost, often in the hope of achieving a holy grail of FPL - a squad of 15 players playing twice in one week.
A word of warning here, though - as satisfying a sight as that undoubtedly is, it rarely turns into the 200-point procession managers expect it to be.
You’ll obviously need to wildcard for it, which means committing to those players for the week before as well as all those that come after this magical Double Gameweek.
It also necessitates selling single-Gameweek players, which this season includes Mo Salah at home to Bournemouth (GW34) or with a point to prove at Stamford Bridge (GW37). Good luck with that.
Unless you’re going all-out for this strategy, expect most or all of your bench to play just once, whether it’s a Double Gameweek or not - and that’s OK.
So if you come across a Gameweek where you like the look of your bench and expect them all to start for their clubs, don’t be afraid to pull the trigger.
Best time to wildcard
This one is obviously more team-dependent than the other chips, but there are general strategies to consider.
One of the more fun options right now is to focus your upcoming transfers on fielding 11 players for BGW31, before resetting your team for GW32. That way, you’ll enjoy a full seven weeks of benefit from your wildcard, as well as being able to stock up on a healthy contingent of DGW players (Free-Hitting in BGW35, of course).
It could also see you overtake mini-league rivals after BGW31, particularly if those fixtures turn out to be more eventful than anticipated.
Three Liverpool players are obviously a must for this approach, as is Xherdan Shaqiri (STO, 6.2) and at least one Everton attacker.
Beyond that, you can go with your gut on punts like Gylfi Sigurdsson (EVE, 8.0), Abdoulaye Doucouré (WAT, 5.4), Gerard Deulofeu (WAT, 6.0) or a fit-again Wilfried Zaha (CRY, 6.8), safe in the knowledge that their stay in your team will be a short one.
And don’t be afraid to employ the ‘-2 hit’ strategy espoused by Let's Talk #FPL host Andy, which states that taking a points hit to replace a player without a fixture, really only costs you two points (provided your new recruit plays, of course).
If I'm going to wildcard in GW32 then my plan is something like:
GW28 - Mahrez + Eriksen in
GW29 - VVD in for Jones (potentially)
GW30 - Save a transfer
GW31 - 12-16 point hit for ALL the blank players 😀 - Wilson, Walcott/Siggy, Shaqiri, defenders galore.— Andy (@LetsTalk_FPL) February 21, 2018
Other than that, there’s the pre-Bench Boost strategy discussed above to consider, which is probably best done in GW36 for GW37 (after Triple-Captaining in DGW 34). This will minimise disruption to your squad in the non-DGWs, and could see you pick up a few bargain fringe players who should start getting minutes for teams who are safe from relegation, as well as champions-elect Man City.
Best time to use Triple Captain
This one is more straightforward - as always, play the percentages and wait for a Double Gameweek.
On paper, DGW37 seems to offer the best fixture, with West Brom and Brighton in Harry Kane’s crosshairs as he looks for a record-equalling third Golden Boot in a row (and he loves making his bit of history, does our Harry).
Former triple-captain hero Alexis Sanchez could prosper during likely ties against West Brom and West Ham in GW34, or Brighton and Bournemouth in GW37 - although he’ll certainly need to improve on his recent showings.
Mourinho is hurting Sanchez's output.
Shots in the last five games:
🆚hud 0February 22, 2018
Arsenal and Spurs also have reasonable fixtures in GW34 and although Man City’s likely home double of Huddersfield and Swansea may look inviting, it’s anyone’s guess which players can be relied upon to play both.
Nobody said all this chip planning was easy, but be careful to avoid the pitfalls.
Don’t forget that the wildcard is itself counted a chip, and can’t be used in the same week as, say, your Bench Boost.
After a shaky start, Virgil van Dijk (LIV, 5.6) looks to be settling at Anfield.
Liverpool are free of blanks and have even started to pick up some clean sheets away from home lately.
The Dutchman is nailed-on and carries a significant goal threat, sitting joint-top for defenders for goal attempts in the box since his long-awaited arrival on Merseyside.
Chip strategy aside, José Izquierdo (BRI, 5.9) could fit the bill for anyone looking for an uber-differential late-season hero.
In and out of the side earlier in the season, the Colombian international winger looks to have finally settled in the Premier League and is now enjoying regular starts.
His dazzling performance against Stoke would probably have attracted more FPL interest had it not faded in the fog of the two-week break. Get him on your watchlist.
With away fixtures against the Manchester clubs, a blank and a visit from Spurs in the next five, time is up for Chelsea defenders in your FPL squad.
A clean sheet against a cautious United in GW28 isn’t unthinkable by any means, but with Liverpool defenders, in particular, catching our eye, the #Alongo campaign has never looked more viable.
Top of the League
The cream is rising to the top of the Official Irish Examiner League, with four of the current top five registering 100+ point Gameweeks, thanks to Captain Kun.
Eoin O'Brien and his Kroos Control squad are still top, with Kevin Fahy’s Mayo Vallecano now his closest challenger, 28 points further back, followed closely by Manuj Bhagat and Seamus O'Dowd.
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