FPL Ramblings Part 1 Wildcard Wonders
Welcome to FPL Ramblings Part 1 Wildcard Wonders: With the advent of the the January wildcard there has been much discussion as to when it is best to play this particular tactic. It lurks in the shadows like a tempting mistress from the second it is available, but can you resist, or indeed should you? Some have already jumped on it like a ravenous Boris Johnson presented with the slightest hint of thigh and devoured it’s wholesome goodness to sate their appetite for some missing piece in the jigsaw. Which was probably Aguero. It was almost certainly Aguero. DMC nailed it in the comments the other night saying “Ahead of GW20 around 173k Aguero Cards were deployed”!!! For those with it left though they do have a decision to make. One which many are facing this week already which is basically do they play it now to fix what may be an ailing squad or save it for the hallowed DGW’s which will be on the horizon soon enough. In order to get a balanced view we asked two people who are both site regulars and article contributors for their opinions on this conundrum. One who has actually played it already, one who hasn’t, both of whom are very experienced FPL’ers and both have a very good history in terms of FPL success over a number of years. Over to them…
I’ll begin by declaring my hand in that I haven’t activated my own WC yet and my initial intention is to not do so until very much nearer to one of the future DGW’s. I will in the course of this also balance that with an argument for playing it earlier too though. And I will say now that whilst my plan is to hold it, should it become a necessity, or if tactically in my mini-league (ML) it makes sense to do so, then I will deploy it. Ok, that’s all my bases covered legally, let’s get down to what I actually think… Don’t play it, it’s designed for DGW’s! Or is it? In all honesty I don’t think there is a definitive answer but in order to best illustrate my thinking on this I will talk you through my own particular experience of last season, what I did with the WC, my thinking behind it, what others did in my ML and then assess whether it worked or not. Get your tissues ready, it’s a tear jerker.
I should begin by painting a picture of my ML as it was just after Christmas. There were about 4 teams in contention at that stage but for the purposes of this I shall focus solely on the battle between myself and my nearest rival as it was come the end of the season. At that stage I trailed him by about 30 points and we had fairly similar teams in terms of the players involved. It was beginning to feel like that 10k race where the leader keeps glancing over his shoulder ready to react to his challengers sprint finish. As it was he decided to try and stretch the race early doors by playing his WC in January. So as the chaser I had to make a decision whether to let him go a bit and hope he either ran out of steam or that his WC simply backfired. I decided to let him go with an eye on the DGW’s as the opportunity to catch up any gains he made in the meantime.
Now fast forward to mid-April and we are approaching the first of the DGW’s and unfortunately his early WC had worked a treat! What it had allowed him to do was jump on a few early bandwagons, Kane and Alli spring to mind (they’ll feature heavily later on too!), and he now had a very healthy lead of about 80 points. So it was boom or bust on the DGW’s for me then. Now I may not be the best FPL player ever but I do know how to negotiate a DGW in some style! This is where the story takes a massive upturn for me before then turning decidedly bleaker. (Ed- spoiler alert!)
Purely from a tactical point of view having a WC ahead of a DGW can be a tricky double edged sword these days since the introduction of the ‘chips’. Basically a WC is classed as a chip and so cannot be used on the same GW as say a triple captain or a bench boost chip. As such you have to play the WC the week before which essentially means lumping on a handful of teams for both the week you play it, the DGW itself and probably a good few weeks after it. The other way of approaching it is to slowly build your DGW team in the weeks leading up to it and then play the WC after it to basically put your team right again in terms of a better overall balance. I decided to play it before and I have to say it worked spectacularly on the face of it. I went all in with 15 DGW players and a bench boost and came out with 192 points. My opponent, sans WC, came out with 120 which meant I was now back on top with the slenderest of leads.
This is where Kane and Alli came back to bite me for a second time though and illustrates the downside to the approach that I took. I had in the months in between matched him up in terms of that pair but because I wildcarded the week before I had to lose them whereas he simply kept them and in those short few weeks between GW’s 33 & 36 Alli scored 3. As did Kane. I’m sure there were assists and bonuses galore too! Even on the DGW itself everything was looking rosy as I had a very healthy lead up until Spurs going to Stoke and scoring 4 with… yes you guessed it… Kane and Alli both getting a brace each. The upshot was that whilst I may have nailed the DGW his more balanced approach over the course meant that we both came out of it about equal. In fact he eventually won the ML by 8 points but we won’t dwell on that one!
It’s difficult to draw conclusions because there are so many variables along the way most notably that whichever approach you take you do actually have to pick the right players. I’d say we both did in our own but very different ways. It’s a personal call and one that should be considered both in light of the state of your own team and also how things are panning out in your ML.
One thing I will point out which I noticed last season in the approach to the first DGW was that even though I had played my WC for it I saw a good many teams on the site which hadn’t but still had nearly as many DGW players through some careful planning. Which way will I go this time then? I still don’t know in all honesty, I’ll just keep eyeing up my rivals moves and act accordingly. What I do know is that the DGW itself was brilliant fun!
The Gallant Pioneer
Why did I play my wildcard?
No, not a question I’ve been asking myself, but one asked of me by the FF247 powers that be. I’m not sure if it was in preparation for this article, a way of therapy for my obvious problems or if they just needed a good laugh and to make themselves feel better for holding their own wildcards. It’s true. I’ve played my wildcard and all before my first whisky was finished, before I’d wished all my immediate family a happy new year even. I’ve gone in really early! But, why?
Well it wasn’t boredom (contrary to popular belief) but through what I thought was a necessity. In the weeks leading up to the refreshing of the wildcard I had long-term injuries to Jordan Pickford and Ilkay Gundogan, neither of whom were going to be any use to me for some time. I also had Callum Wilson of Bournemouth who hadn’t played a minute of the previous two matches and his replacement (Afobe) was scoring so that was another issue needing addressing. I had Phil Jones who hadn’t played in the Middlesbrough match previously and although he has been back in since, that wasn’t very reassuring even after what Jose said (thanks Jose). As it turns out, I did retain Jones and it paid off with his clean sheet at West Ham but at the time of activation, I felt both he and Jordi Amat of Swansea could be ‘sorted out’ (funnily enough due to price constraints, I kept Amat also!)
On top of this, Virgil van Dijk had only gotten himself suspended with a red card the previous week and though Nemanja Matic served me very well earlier in the season, his points had dried up recently and furthermore, the potential of bringing in Diego Costa was hampered by the three player maximum rule (I had Hazard and Alonso). Finally Etienne Capoue had again gone cold and for a regular bench player, I reckon I could have saved myself about £0.5M by looking elsewhere for filler material.
So there you have it, at the time of activation I had eight problems, some of greater importance than others I grant you, but eight players nonetheless that I felt I could improve upon. That is more than half of my squad and looking at the changes I wanted to make, this was going to cost me -28 (or preferably -32) points.
Aside from those already had in my squad I looked at players I would like to have and would be transfers targets across the coming weeks. The main five were; an additional Chelsea defender, Sergio Aguero, Diego Costa, Adam Lallana and Matt Phillips.
Who did I buy?
On the 2nd January, I made the following transfers:
Lloris to Cech
Pickford to Hennessey
Pieters to Ake
Van Dijk to David Luiz
Sanchez to Walcott
Matic to Phillips
Hazard to Lallana
Capoue to de Roon
Gundogan to Pogba
Lukaku to Benteke
Ibrahimovic to Costa
Wilson to Aguero
As you can see I accommodated all my targets (Luiz being the Chelsea choice) and solved all my problems (besides Jones and Amat, as already mentioned).
How was my first week?
Not great to be honest! You’ll note I said “first week”. I took on the wildcard with a view to having faith in the players I selected so I’m remaining calm and having faith in my players.
I saw my double Chelsea defence plan concede in its first outing, both my goalkeepers concede, two of my new midfielders (Lallana and Pogba) fail to muster more than four points between them, my risky injury pick Walcott did not play and one of my new strikers (Benteke) left at 45 mins.
I scored 40 points, a whole nine BELOW average and dropped from 572,891 to 747,565 in the overalls. Although I doubt very much that I will match my previous best rank of 15,793 now, I also wanted to act early to try to break the top 100,000 as I was almost treading water around the 500,000 mark. Although I’m now closer to 1,000,000 and have fallen to third in my local ML (there are only 9 points separating the top three), I’m confident that a steady ship will see me climb again.
As I am hoping Walcott and Benteke recover soon, my only true regret is that I bought Paul Pogba (covering off Man United after selling Zlatan) instead of Dele Alli and I could have gone either way on that one to be honest. But you can’t get them all right. Suffice to say, I have an eye on Del(e) boy still!
I’m still happy I played my wildcard as I like how my squad is shaped now ahead of the rest of the season and I feel better today with what I have rather than worrying about how best to get rid of players and when. Basically I have saved myself weeks of worry. Well, that is the hope.
Due to the balance of my squad, I should also only ever be two transfers away from any player I need (i.e. Costa to Zlatan, Luiz to Bellerin, Pogba to Alli or Pogba/Walcott to Hazard and A.N. Other).
What about the double gameweeks?
We only really ever have educated guesses in advance (thanks Mito!) as to when these will come along and who might feature in them. I balanced up this uncertainty against the certainty of my existing problems when I came to activate it. I will deal with the DGWs as and when they arise.
I intend to be tailoring my free transfers weeks in advance of the first DGW to maximise my potential coverage. This could take the form of reserve players even as I will probably Bench Boost on one of these weeks so even trading a goalkeeper to one on a double, or that third defender who is never used in to another third defender who has a double will be considered in advance. This is actually a test of patience and in my mind a fun way to build a squad and a test of fantasy management.
Furthermore, I remember well last season that some popular players did not appear for the full 180 minutes in a double gameweek and some indeed being rested completely for one of the games. It is important to have good coverage but I might argue that getting the correct players is more important than getting fifteen of them.
Ultimately though, there is nothing in the rules to say that I can’t take multiple hits ahead of a DGW and should the need arise (due to injuries or suspensions) to bring in 6 or 7 new players, then that it is one option always available to me. The trick behind this is to at least buy players who should play both matches so that even their worst score which is usually two games of 2 points means that your net loss should only be -2. (2 x 2 for the new player = 4. Minus the hit, 4 = 0 and taking the place of your existing 2 point player = -2) In theory!
If the thought of seeing -24 or -28 on the transfers page scares you, as well it might, ask yourself this; Would you be happy with a -24 hit if your Gameweek Score was 175?
I echo Inittowinit’s sentiments that these DGW are brilliant fun. The anticipation ahead of the team news, the disappointment of rotation, the century-plus scores, the bench boost or triple captain! I believe we all can enjoy it, regardless of whether we have a wildcard or not.
Thanks for reading FPL Ramblings Part 1 Wildcard Wonders. This article was written by FF247