I have been surprised by the number of wildcards used this week, however it certainly makes sense due to the appalling scoring form of most top picks. I’ve decided to delay this weeks captains article to include some wildcard and transfer discussion, let’s get straight into it…
It would make sense to kick things off with the January wildcard analysis. In my experience there’s two completely different strategies for it, one for those who have used their wildcard, and one for those who haven’t. If you’ve been good enough to hold off your main wildcard so far congratulations, you’ve reached the checkpoint. The key factor to take into account is when you will use your second wildcard. In my opinion the best time is around GW 28-30, this is usually when cup fixtures take their toll and clubs begin to reschedule games. Not only can you set your team up for the run home, you can also take advantage of a double gameweek (Which will start to play a huge part in things later in the season). Bearing this in mind, you have a lot more freedom with what you can do wildcarding this month, knowing you always have a back-up if things don’t go to plan. You can pick players based more on form and fixtures, rather than setting up a general team structure to try and carry you through a further 17 gameweeks. It’s not quite a free hit, but it’s close to it. You certainly have the freedom to back yourself!
I suspect most of us sit in scenario 2, the impatient buggers like me who pulled the trigger as soon as things got hairy. In that case, this wildcard is vital. There is no way of making big changes to team structure from here on end without taking endless hits, so the general team structure and formation you choose will probably stick! That means planning ahead for 17 gameweeks, which isn’t easy at all. This is exactly why I’m holding off until at least next week. The transfer window is always underrated in fpl communities. Sure, fantasy relevant players don’t always move in January (Tell that to Suarez and Sturridge) but even if they don’t, January transfers can often shake up the first team structures at a lot of clubs. A player that was once a certainty in their sides first XI, could quickly lose total job security come February. Big moves could happen over the next 2 weeks, bear this in mind. We also know that injuries tend to cripple us over the international break, so having some certainty when locking your team come deadline is handy!
If you’ve already activated, don’t panic! You’re in a perfect position to get ahead of the game (assuming things go to plan). Following the same simple rules as before, there are a few important aspects to keep in mind when using your wildcard.
Formation. It’s part of what I’m referring to when mentioning structure, the formation you pick will likely remain the same until seasons end. That is if you’re not taking double figure hits to change things around completely. It’s the perfect time to shake your team up, but be sure you’re happy with your formation (Whether that be 4-4-2, 3-4-3 or 3-5-2) come deadline. There is no right or wrong formation yet, the aim of the game is to pick a team which utilises the highest scoring players! That’s something I will touch on shortly.
Structure. Here I am referring to where you spend most of your money. Will you go for an even spread in defence, mids or attack, or will you be loading up big on one line? All questions I will try to help with when we analyse the top scorers so far, but definitely something to consider when wildcarding. Early hint, big teams usually like to tighten up their defence come the pointy end of the season.
Finally, rotation. I don’t just mean managers resting players (Although this may become an issue), I’m thinking along the lines of when teams have blank gameweeks. Managing your team to fit the double gameweeks is crucial, being able to swap players out when they have a blank and back in when they have a double can be very handy. But what if injuries don’t permit such luxuries? Make sure your back-up is acceptable! There is a 100% chance you will need them at some point for the remainder of the season, some more than others.
I’m not sure value should play as big a part as it does. The 0.2 or 0.3 value you may gain one week is not a good enough reason to rush it in my opinion. Long term there are plenty of ways to save money, plus there’s so much value this season! Many are struggling to find a way to spend their full budget anyway. Having said that, if you plan to use your wildcard use it as soon as deadline passes. There’s no point in losing value if you plan to wildcard anyway, make full use of it!
Keep these three things at the forefront of your planning when using your wildcard. So that covers when to use it and how to use it. But who should we be keeping our eye on, or taking our eye off for that matter? Here is a brief summary of the options I believe can kick on for the remainder of the season, and those who may falter.
Firstly, lets take a look at which positions have performed the strongest so far. Answer, the forwards are struggling. There are just as many defenders as there are forwards to have scored 100 or more points so far this season. To compare, there is more midfielders than both forwards and defenders combined to pass the ton. This comes down to one key factor. The mids have been far more durable than the forwards, while also being more successful. Guys like Costa and Aguero have slightly worse points per game compared to Hazard and Sanchez, yet the pair have missed 8 games between them, compared to Sanchez and Hazard’s 1. This makes a HUGE difference long term. Durability is often underrated, but if you take into account the extra transfers and fill-in scores, there is much more value in the midfield premiums.
When picking your premiums, at least 1 big striker is a must in my opinion. But unlike previous years, there isn’t too much to pick from. With plenty of midfielders on fire and missing less games, it seems a wiser plan to spend big there. How about the value picks?
They’re everywhere. Austin and Kane are the obvious options up forward, while guys like Sigurdsson, Chadli and Downing scream pick me in midfield. Then consider guys like Bertrand, Terry and Clyne who have scored at around 5 points per game, costing the same if not less than other value options. Definitely consider spending a little extra in defence. There are just three players scoring at over 6 points per game, that is a ridiculously small number. If you consider that Austin is scoring at the same rate as Costa, and Chadli is matching Fabregas, it seems illogical to splurge your whole budget on premium attackers. The difference between Ivanovic and Chambers is huge, plus don’t forget what Baines can do if Everton turn things around. With not many premiums scoring at a game changing rate, having a well rounded team seems the best way forward. At this stage Sturridge is the only player I can see changing this scenario.
So the midfielders seem to hold the best value so far this season, here are the top 5 options from each position in my opinion, plus a player that may trail off the pace.
1. Pantilimon – Certainly my top option, and for good reason. I’ve always been an advocate for owning a cheap keeper, and Pants proves exactly why. Last season Mannone was the top scoring keeper, this season Pantilimon is by far and away the most successful, averaging 4.9 points per game since starting. Forster is the next best with 4.1. Why waste an extra 1-1.5 when you can just own the big Romanian? If you’re afraid he might lose his spot (why), then Mannone is the perfect back-up at just 4.2. You can tie up the pair for 4.8 and forget about that position for the rest of the season, whilst picking up extra save points along the way. If you want a rotation away from Sunderland, Heaton is exactly what you’re after. I just don’t trust Burnley one bit.
2. De Gea – If you’re desperate to lock away your keeper slot, then De Gea is your man. As I will mention in the next segment, United’s defence is the victim of a label that no longer fits. Van Gaal has tightened things up and De Gea should be set for a big run home.
3. Forster – Let’s not forget this man, even after Southampton’s tough fixtures he remains the league’s highest scoring keeper. They are a rock solid defensive unit and he’s even started to pick up the occasional save point! A clean sheet every 2 games is unlikely to be maintained, but he still makes a great option in between the sticks.
Be wary: Courtois – I think it’s a complete waste spending big on a keeper. For a start Courtois will make far less saves than a stopper at a lower club might, already harming his value. He has missed just 2 games this season, yet sits 19 points behind Forster. Pantilimon has played 7 less games and only scored 9 less points! Case closed, he is not worth the 5.9 you pay for him. I could get a better points per game ratio out of Jonny Evans, enough said.
1. Ivanovic/Terry – In my opinion, having a Chelsea defender is almost a must. I’m all for a rotating defence, to an extent. It makes life a whole lot easier if you have a player who can reliably get a clean sheet in almost every game they play. It’s also important to have at least one high scoring premium defender. With an incredible 7 clean sheets in their last 10 games, Chelsea is the place to look. Mourinho will want them to maintain their strength at the back, so guys like Ivanovic and Terry are brilliant options. I favour Ivanovic if you have the coin, I think he will get more attacking returns before the end of the season. I’m a little wary of Azpili with Luis pushing for a starting birth. There will be rotation at some point. Selecting him depends on your back-up.
2. Clyne/Bertrand – Southampton have proved that their defensive work at the start of the season was no fluke. Their fixtures have eased off once again, so now is the time to jump on. Seeing as they’re the second highest scoring defenders, 5.8 for Bertrand and 5.7 for Clyne is brilliant value. Definitely try to invest in one of them.
3. Van Aanholt – An option that may sneak under the radar is Van Aanholt. After dislocating his shoulder at the start of the season, he has become a forgotten man. Well he should be right back in contention. Not only does he have the potential to generate attacking returns, he is a lock in one of the best budget defences available. 7 clean sheets prove that Sunderland can hold their own down back, making Van Aanholt a great option at just 4.2.
4. Shaw – I like many others have held the belief that United’s defence shouldn’t be mentioned in an fpl sense unless it’s referring to how many the opposition might score. I think it’s time we changed that point of view. Surprisingly, they have conceded just 9 goals in their past 13 games, including tough games against every other member of the top 6. I know they haven’t kept as many clean sheets as they would like, but in that price bracket (Southampton aside) there’s no better defensive record. More incredibly, they haven’t conceded more than 1 goal in a game over that entire period. Firstly, know that anyone playing against United may struggle to score. Secondly, we need to consider their defenders as legitimate fpl options. Jones faces a fight with Smalling, whilst Rafael can’t stay fit. Shaw however should be locked on, and if he can remain fit 5.7 seems a bargain. Their great fixtures only add to his value, definitely one to watch.
5. Baines – Sadly one of our favourite defensive options sits way down the pecking order. Don’t let that put you off though. Everton’s form has been, well… Not good. 3 clean sheets in 21 games is an embarrassment to be honest, and it’s destroyed Baines’ value. There is only room for improvement however, and considering Baines has a ridiculous 2 goals and 8 assists along with 15 bonus he deserves a spot on this list. If Everton can somehow manage to turn things around, he could be the POD that carries you up the rankings. He could also keep his own form up, averaging 2 points per game over Everton’s last 10 fixtures. Priced at 7.0, that’s disastrous. Don’t write him off.
Be wary: Clichy – Many are jumping on board his bandwagon, but I wouldn’t be so hasty. Firstly, Man City’s defence is in tatters. 7 clean sheets is average at best, then consider that he isn’t even a lock! Kolarov will play a few of the easier games, I couldn’t spend 5.8 on a player who I can’t rely on to start in a defence that hardly impresses. If he was a lock for City, then he gets the green light. If Kolarov goes down again, get around him. Until then, I’d hold off. Too many ‘ifs’.
1. Sanchez – There’s not much else I need to say here. He’s durable, he’s at the centre of almost every Arsenal attack, and he’s the second best player in the Premier League right now. His OOP status in midfield only confirms this, he’s a must have in my books.
2. Hazard – Sorry Chelsea fans, but Hazard is a poor mans Sanchez. For now. He’s still young, so his end product will continue to get better. For now he spurns too many chances, but when in-form there’s not a more dangerous winger in world football. Due to the lack of other premiums he walks into my side. His brilliant December should allow him to push on to become the third best scorer this season, you will feel much better having him in your squad. I can’t see him increasing his scoring rate however.
3. Silva – I would love another player to shake up our midfields, and they may start to put their hands up soon enough. Until then, Silva remains unmissable value priced at just 9.4. For a man averaging 5.9 points per game in a low scoring season, that’s a bargain! He finally seems to be delivering some consistency, it’s hard to pass on him at this stage.
4. Chadli – Here’s where things get interesting. Following on from the big 3, there’s not too much going on. Partially due to injuries, and partly due to lack of form, we have been forced to turn our heads towards the midpricers. Luckily, they have delivered in spades. Chadli has arguably been the pick of the lot, although his poor couple of months really let him down. All that seems to be behind him though, and it hides his true value. Averaging 5.6 points per game, he is already clearly the best option in that price range. Then consider he had a spell returning from injury when he made 3 substitute appearances, all for 1 point. Take them out, and he averaged 6.5 points per game, second to only Sanchez and Aguero. If fit, he seems the pick of the midprice bunch.
5. Downing – The call between Downing and Sigurdsson was a tough one, but West Ham’s form gets them over the line. Swansea are an unknown quantity right now, especially with Bony moving on. Losing such a key player can go one of two ways. Sigurdsson could lift and become their go to man, driving his point scoring upwards. They could also struggle to find the back of the net, condemning Gylfi to be third in line as far as midpricers go. Worryingly, he has averaged just 4 points per game since GW3. Not brilliant. Enough about the token midprice selection, Downing needs to get the credit he deserves. Averaging 5.2 points per game and missing just one clash all season, he is as safe as houses at just 6.5m. His clear love for this new bonus point system is what gets the nod for me. Even though he has only 4 goals and 7 assists, he has netted a ridiculous 21 bonus points already. That’s 1 per gameweek! This makes him incredibly efficient, suggesting to me his form is certainly sustainable. Sustainability is a key term for the last half of the season, Downing has everything we need.
Be wary – Fabregas – I spoke about this a few months back, and it still rings true. Fabregas is not a game changer. Sure, he will average around 5.5 points per game. But you can get similar returns from those in-form midpricers. Hazard clearly outshines him, and I’m not a fan of owning 2 Blues midfielders. Even if that doesn’t put you off, sustainability is questionable. If he maintains this rate and ends up with 25+ assists, I will take my hat off to him and admit I’m wrong. I just don’t think it can happen, there’s a reason it never has! His lack of goals has been made up somewhat by his bonus points, but 7 yellow cards hurts. All in all, he’s not going to make or break your season. Watch out for guys like Sterling (Once Sturridge returns), Walcott, Di Maria and co to come home strong. Keep them all on the watchlist.
I couldn’t fit Di Maria in due to the importance of the midpricers, but he’s certainly one to watch. He is a confidence player, so his form is crucial. If he gets a run on, watch out. At 9.5m he is a bargain for what he’s capable of. He’s also a massive risk. Just promise me one thing all of you… Don’t fall for this Adam Johnson nonsense!
1. Aguero – “What if he gets injured again.” If he gets injured again I will end up with a poor captaincy score, curl up in a ball for a few hours asking why me. I will proceed give the football gods a massive fuck you. Then I will move on and trade him to ANY forward available. Fact is, he makes captaincy picks infinitely easier. You don’t just get one Aguero, you get two. Live by that motto! He is an easy pick and a must have in my books.
2. Kane – His rise to fame has been incredible, and I can’t see it slowing enough to sell him. His bench appearances at the start of the season can mask how hot he really is to the naked eye (No homo). Here we dig a little deeper. His 5.2 points per game is already solid, however he averages a whopping 6.7 ppg when starting! I think we can safely assume he is a weekly starter now, making him the third best scorer (Discounting Aguero’s bench appearances) in the comp. And that’s by quite a margin as well. 5.8 is stupidly cheap basically, you’d be off your head not to pick him.
3. Costa – We know he has no problem finding the back of the net, but he struggles at just about everything else fpl wise. Firstly, he has 1 assist all season. Meh. All other popular options have at least 3, Kane has 5! Secondly he has only 11 bonus points from his 18 starts. Compare that to Kane’s 16 in just half a season, Sanchez’s 22, Aguero’s 17 from 3 less appearances, Hazard’s 20 and you can see where he is missing out. He also has a ridiculous 7 yellow cards. Once again I can only compare him to the best as he costs so much. Alexis has 3, Aguero 2 and Hazard 1. Sure RVP is a turbo (5) but he’s hardly relevant. All in all, he’s comfortably losing at least a point per game due to these draw backs. If he improved them slightly he would become an instant must have, instead he averages 5.7 points per game for a guy who’s notched 15 goals in 18 appearances. It’s safe to say he is operating at his peak, and it’s not quite enough. Having just waffled on about how terrible his scoring is, I did mention he has 15 goals in 18 games. That consistency is very valuable, and it won’t take much for him to start matching the other premiums. Due to a lack of alternatives, he comfortably sits in third.
4. Austin – Get ready for the biggest rollercoaster ramble. Ever. Austin has been a superstar, no question about that. He carried us through December, and his 13 goals from 19 games makes him the top scoring forward this season! As good as that sounds, I’m going to go back to my favourite word. Sustainability. I’m not sure Austin has it. Trust me, I have been pondering this for a good hour and still don’t have an answer! His past 2 goals have been penalties, meaning he hasn’t scored in open play for 4 games. I know it’s the beauty of having a guy on penalty duties, but it’s mostly out of his control. Secondly, it would be an unbelievable feat for him to go on to score 23+ goals this season. Fact is due to the stiffness of the competition in that price bracket, he would have to maintain this rate. If you can fit 2 cheap strikers into your team then lock and load, it’s a huge risk though. If you don’t feel confident doing that, it comes down to a battle between him and Kane, and Kane’s form plus his better team gets him over the line for me.
But wait, there’s more. QPR are dirt, no two ways about it. A mere 3 of his 13 goals have come away from home, meaning you are almost guaranteeing a blank every second week. Then consider who he still has to play at home. So far they’ve played their relegation battlers at home, now they have to face Arsenal, Tottenham, Man United, Chelsea, Southampton, Everton, West Ham and Newcastle. Find me an easy game in that lot. All in all the fixtures don’t make for good reading. In my squad it has come down to a battle between Downing or Austin. Alarmingly, Austin has scored just 2 more points this season even though he is scoring bucketloads. Downing’s 4 goals and 7 assists can be easily maintained, as I’ve said I’m not convinced Austin can. At this stage I’m siding with Aust… Chadli! Wait what? My brain is fried, all I know is Austin probably won’t make my plans for the second half of the season at this stage. These could be famous last words… Well not really, but they could be last words all the same.
5. Sturridge – Note of warning: HE IS NOT BACK YET. Rodgers has announced he will be eased back into things, I don’t expect him to start a Premier league game for at least another month. However once he does, he could change the game entirely. Aguero is the only forward currently averaging over 6 points per game, but Sturridge can do exactly that. If he and Sterling start to link up, we could see Liverpool become a damaging force once again. Keep him firmly on your watchlist. He could also snap his leg when shooting for goal and miss the entire season, you have been warned.
Be wary: Bony – Whatever you do, do not own Bony come deadline this week! Great, he got his big move to City, good on him. He can enjoy the large paycheck, but I can’t see him becoming anything more than another bit part player just like most City strikers. Aguero is locked on, and until he gets injured Bony cannot be an option. That’s exactly why he has arrived though, for if Aguero does get injured. Until then, ignore. City will play 2 strikers on occasions, but not enough. The only relevance he will hold is how he affects Dzeko and Jovetic. I think Dzeko is on the way out in the summer, Jovetic will continue to plug away to little avail.
Well, I think that should just about do it! Hopefully some of this has helped you when planning or using your wildcard, the second half of the season can turn around completely! The captains will be shortened this week due to writing this article, not that I’ve been nailing them lately! Hopefully the return of Aguero can save us… Until then!