3 weeks ago
We have almost escaped the chaos of chips and double gameweek season. Yes, there's a few sporadic blanks and doubles to come with some rearranged fixtures and the domestic cup closing stages to come, but blank Gameweek 29 spells the end of the projected carnage of a more chaotic FPL season than normal — but it's a particularly difficult gameweek to assess and navigate. Just four fixtures to play — and none of them are particularly appealing in terms of an easily predictable result or assets that you will be desperate to hold onto in the shorter term. If you are planning on playing your free hit, you have the chance to attack certain teams and not worry about the consequences of what will follow. If you aren't free hitting, there is every chance that your transfers for the last few weeks have been made with this gameweek in mind. Even that will have left you haunted. Personally I've held Grealish for weeks in the forlorn hope that he appears in gameweek 29, strung along by Dean Smith's little white lies. Now many have Son and Bamford looking nervously at their physios wondering if they will be allowed to play, with the gameweeek drifting towards shit. So what do we do? When is a hit worth it in this situation? That's what we are going to debate...
A solo debate as I argue....with myself!
Due to reasons beyond my control with regards to work, I decided I would argue with myself this week - and it's quite appropriate because I'm hugely torn with regards to whether I think hits are worthwhile going into this week. The main reason for that is that I am wildcarding in Gameweek 31 which means I really need to be profiting from those transfers within a 2 week window. I already have 3 Spurs assets (Kane, Son, Reguilon) and 3 Aston Villa assets (Martinez, Grealish, Watkins) and the injury to Son and the doubts over Grealish are not problems that I can afford to fix this week. I go into the week with those 6 players plus Raphinha and Vladimir Coufal - giving me 8 players, but 1 that is highly unlikely to play and 1 where we are completely at the mercy of Dean Smith. Lets look at the different thought strands that could guide you in deciding whether a hit is worth it for this gameweek.
It's hard not to go with 11
I'm no psychologist so I won't even try to explain or justify this but throughout my FPL career, I have always found it difficult to go into a gameweek without 11 players. Something about seeing those blank players on your teamsheet can have a mind-boggling effect. You start to convince yourself "It's only a -2 if they play" and you're right - but if they don't get a return, it's a negative move. I really don't know which players you would make an aggressive move for this week with any real confidence that they are going to return. I don't look at Fulham vs Leeds, West Ham vs Arsenal or Aston Villa vs Spurs with any confidence about which team is going to win the game - and that makes it really difficult. The obvious team to target with that in mind is Brighton after a good result against Southampton and with a home tie against Newcastle, but I think we all know the danger of targeting a Brighton team which, as the famous saying goes, can quite often be "all fart and no poo." But if you are anything like me, you are going to get close to deadline and your trigger finger is going to get itchy when you look at players in your starting eleven with no fixture under their name.
A major influence in thinking
I have my wildcard remaining and that does have a massive impact over my own personal thinking. My intention is to play the wildcard in Gameweek 31 due to the favourable fixtures that some of the teams that play in Gameweek 29 have in Gameweek 30. But that means any hits that I take, I need to look at those moves with Gameweek 29 and Gameweek 30 in mind. If you have a wildcard remaining that you intend to use in Gameweek 31, then there are 3 teams that become obvious to target with any hits that you wish to make. The first is Aston Villa as they have a home fixture with Fulham in Gameweek 30. Fulham have been strong in recent weeks but don't put up many goals going forward, but hits for players like Konsa or Targett could be tempting moves. The second is Villa's opponents in BGW 29, Spurs. They have a plum fixture with Newcastle in Gameweek 30 and that could make hits for players like Gareth Bale or Sergio Reguilon very tempting. Having said that, I'd have thought Dinamo Zagreb was a good fixture and they've just been pumped by them. The final obvious team to target for a GW31 wildcard is Leeds. Their gameweek 30 fixture against Sheffield United is as good as it gets right now. They probably have the best combined 29 & 30 fixtures and that makes them particularly appealing to me - as much as I hate them.
If you plan to wildcard in Gameweek 30 and are looking strictly at a 1 week punt, then that does open the door to make a really aggressive play with Brighton. They play at Old Trafford in Gameweek 30 so they aren't particularly appealing moving forward - but if you can get rid of them immediately on a free hit or by wildcarding in 30, players like Dunk, Veltman, Gross and Trossard become very appealing to attack and then get rid immediately afterwards.
Without a wildcard, I think hits would become more appealing.to me if they were with a longer term move with an aim to move towards teams with a longer favourable fixture run. That would likely put Arsenal front and centre in the thought process. Gameweek 29 and 30 (Liverpool) are slightly tougher fixtures but the run of fixtures that follow is delicious. There should be clean sheets galore which would put Kieran Tierney strongly in my thoughts. Pierre Emerick Aubameyang has had an enigmatic season but he could be the ultimate differential for managers from Gameweek 29 onwards that make the move. Arguably 29 would be the toughest fixture for Aubameyang with a certain chance that he could do damage to Liverpool's makeshift defence and then a great run starting with Sheffield United in Gameweek 31. Managers taking hits to restructure or attack fixture swings could be worthwhile.
Hits for defensive players always feels wrong.
The strictest issue for me on this subject this week is that there isn't a single attacking asset that I would be confident in bringing in for a hit and being massively confident in them getting an attacking return. The players that are tempting me to take hits are mainly Brighton defenders - and if you ask someone in isolation whether it is worthwhile to take a hit to buy a Brighton defender, I'm fairly sure I know what the two letter response would be. If you take a -4 for Antonio, Lingard, Lookman, Moura, Odegaard or El Ghazi...are you going to be able to look yourself in the mirror if they fail miserably and blank?
My immediate instinct having read through all of this is that anything more than a -4 this week feels like too much. I'm not sure that you are going to suffer too much damage this gameweek by owning less than 11 players unless there are some huge hauls from Brighton's attacking differentials or there's a huge movement towards Aubameyang in the next 24 hours. Consider your own strategy and whether you can view the transfers over a 4-5 gameweek period, or whether you are in a vacuum and operating with just GW29 and possibly GW30 in mind. If you're trapped in that vacuum, I think the correct play this week might be patience and reaping the rewards in the weeks that follow.
I can't wait to come back next week and tell you all I took a -16 to get 11 out...
One thing that doesn't feel debatable this week is that Harry Kane will be the most captained player in Gameweek 29 - even though he's just been flogged for 120 minutes in a miserable 3-0 defeat in Zagreb by a manager that is increasingly reverting to type. The safest thing to do is to go with the crowd, but are you brave enough to go against it and if so, who with? Fulham vs Leeds could tempt some people to go with the armband on Raphinha or Stuart Dallas. Maybe Leeds sometimes exposed defensive frailties could tempt someone to go completely maverick with a captaincy punk on Ademola Lookman? Does anyone have the cojones to captain Leandro Trossard, Neal Maupay or Lewis Dunk? Who doesn't love the idea of a captaincy punt on Aaron Cresswell!? J-Lingz dancing his way into our hearts, maybe? If Jack Grealish plays, he could be a fantastic move. One thing is for sure - I can't wait to see who James from Planet FPL has in his top 10 captains list on his deadline stream.
A lot of managers will have saved their free hit for Gameweek 29 and will be using it. My preferred approach to a free hit would always be to take an 'all in' strategy and target treble ups from teams that I think will win their fixtures, which poses one of the biggest problems for this week. Who the hell is actually going to win their fixtures? I would absolutely have triple Brighton a free hit (Dunk, Trossard & Gross for the record) but I have absolutely no idea who else I would be targeting. Harry Kane would be a certainty just as a defensive play but with absolutely no confidence of him scoring against Villa. Raphinha would also be someone that I would own due to his high ceiling. Beyond that? I think its an incredibly difficult week to free hit. West Ham could win 2-0 but Arsenal winning 2-0 wouldn't surprise me. Fulham vs Leeds be 0-0 or could be a repeat of the 4-3 from earlier in the season. If someone plays a free hit successfully this week, I tip my hat to them as I think it could be an absolute shit show.
The only thing the FPL Community seems to be agreed on this week is that I hope that Newcastle are absolutely dreadful against Brighton. I don't think I have seen a single Newcastle player in anyone's thinking. If you want to be different, maybe they are the team to target. Would you be surprised if we get to the end of the game at the Amex and Brighton have massively underperformed their xG in a devastating 0-1 defeat to a late Paul Dummett goal?....OK, maybe the goalscorer is unrealistic, but the rest? There are going to be a lot of sad FPL managers out there if Newcastle and Steve Bruce have the last laugh. Just imagine....it sends a shiver to the spine. BUY JOELINTON.
If Luke Ayling had been called up for the England squad as widely predicted this week, I think I'd have retired from life. I can only assume Gareth Southgate misread the date and thought it was April Fools Day. Undoubtedly would have been the most laughable call up to an England squad of all time.
Anyone wish to debate that this shit show shouldn't be happening as we continue to wrestle with a global pandemic? No, I thought not.
I imagine every FPL manager has their gun loaded with a Chelsea asset to bring in for Gameweek 30. But which one? I think it's likely to be a defender for me, but I'd absolutely love to buy Timo Werner for one week if I knew he was going to start. Throw us a bone, Mr Tuchel...
To sign off, I did an interview with the extremely helpful @FootieIndexAl for the website last week and since then, we've seen even more difficult and awful news coming out around Football Index with the site suspended and it looking increasingly unlikely that players are going to be able to escape. I just wanted to offer my sympathies to everyone on behalf of the DraftGym family as more of the scandal continues to unfold. I hope everyone is able to find a way to move on from this.
Thank you for reading. Please, let us know your view on everything discussed! We'll be back with a traditional FPL Debate next week so if you wish to participate, get in touch with @rpick86 on Twitter.
The latest addition to the DraftGym crew, FPL veteran and the Debate grandmaster.