How did I fare in GW18?
Although GW18 lacked goals, assists and explosive hauls, I managed to gather enough points to secure another green arrow this gameweek, moving from 4,288 to 2,503 in the overall rankings.
Aside from possibly having a Manchester United defender, my Free Hit covered most of avenues to points this week, scoring 58 in total. With De Bruyne, Rashford, Kane and double Manchester City defence, I was able to pick up scores across all key positions.
In an ideal world, I would have saved my Free Hit for later in the season, but with only two players scheduled to play in GW18 (Son and Fernandes), it was a no-brainer hitting the button.
- How Kevin De Bruyne didn’t walk away with a haul against Brighton was astonishing, with the Belgian missing a big chance in the first half and then relinquishing penalty duty to Raheem Sterling in the second half. The fact Sterling missed cost De Bruyne the assist points he’d have scored for winning the penalty as well, so he was incredibly unlucky not to score more.
- Cancelo could easily have got an assist too if City’s attackers had their shooting boots on, but again he found a way to evade a big score.
- In general, GW18 favoured those who rolled without a Free Hit in my opinion. No player punished those who chose not to hit the button, which is slightly frustrating.
- My bench handed me a slice of good fortune this week, as Tyrick Mitchell came on for 8 points as my second substitute. Originally, I was devastated to hear of Tierney’s omission from Arsenal's squad, but it worked wonders for me in the end. The fact that my first sub (Max Kilman) didn’t even feature for Wolves made the situation all the more fortuitous!
- I very much expected Manchester United to keep a clean sheet and I probably should have stuck to my guns. Choosing Tierney instead of Maguire could have proved disastrous if centre-back’s goal against Burnley had stood.
- All in all, I think it was the right week to play my Free Hit. I may not have chosen the right week to play it in terms of upside, but it was a sensible and justifiable way of managing the blank fixtures.
- Opting for double Manchester City defence over Gabriel Jesus was the correct decision in the end. Despite their improved attacking form of late, City have been more consistent defensively this season, and I was right to side with that aspect of their team.
What are my plans for double GW19 and beyond?
GW19 is causing me the biggest headache of the season so far. Easily.
Firstly, I am content enough to accept that my team is in a relatively strong position. Using the Free Hit in GW18 has allowed me to occupy my squad with a large number of double gameweek players already, as I have been transferring in these assets since mid Decemeber.
However, unlike a lot of FPL managers (especially those who used their first wildcard at the back end of 2020), my team is looking rather thin if I want to Bench Boost.
The three primary concerns are West Ham’s Fabian Balbuena (who has not only lost his place, but is now self-isolating), Brighton’s Bissouma (who is unlikely to score more than a solid 2-pointer in the game against Leeds), and Burnley’s Peacock-Farrell (who almost certainly won’t get any minutes as the Clarets’ substitute goalkeeper).
Originally, I had altogether accepted to look past the Bench Boost in GW19 and work towards using it in GW26 instead, but Reece James’ return to fitness has me questioning whether or not to use it now.
According to @BenCrellin on Twitter, any Premier League team that gets through to the quarter-finals of the FA Cup will have a blank fixture in GW29, and they (and their opponents that week) will likely play their match in GW26 instead – resulting in another double gameweek.
Therefore, my first thought was that using the Bench Boost in double GW26 could pay dividends. Supposing I wildcarded in GW25, I could load up on players playing twice the following week and maximise my Bench Boost chip.
However, I would then be forced to deal with GW29 without a Free Hit or a Wildcard – and as this week would only comprise of players who don’t play twice in GW26, it would negate the overall effect of the Bench Boost chip.
My assessment of the situation is: if you can use your Bench Boost this week without seriously damaging your team or taking copious amounts of hits, I would get it out of the way.
As previously mentioned, Reece James’ return to fitness has given me a chance of playing mine this week. I don’t necessarily expect him to feature in the second game against Leicester, but I’m fairly confident he’ll be favoured in the derby against Fulham – which could provide both a clean sheet and an attacking return.
Therefore, I would only need to transfer out Balbuena, Bissouma and Peacock-Farrell to deploy my Bench Boost in GW26, at a cost of -8. I’m not a fan of excessive hit taking, but I believe it’s more than justifiable in double gameweeks, as the players you’re bringing in have two games to pay the hit back, rather than just one.
The headache is simple: using the Bench Boost would realistically mean going without Kevin De Bruyne for double GW26…
The Bench Boost option:
If I decide on this avenue, I could do the following three transfers:
1. Peacock-Farrell (BUR) to Johnstone (WBA) Free
2. Balbuena (WHU) to Dias or Cancelo (MCI) -4
3. Bissouma (BRI) to Cavaleiro (FUL) -8
This would permit me to field 15 players, with only Son, Bamford and Dallas (and possibly James) playing once.
Salah would consequently take the captaincy armband against Manchester United and Burnley at home; the Egyptian should be raring to go after a 9-day rest.
However, the thought of watching Manchester City in a double gameweek without Kevin De Bruyne is nail-biting to say the least. It's fair to say this option sets my team up best in the long-term, but do I really want to go into a double gameweek without Kevin...
The Kevin De Bruyne option:
The second route would be to abandon the Bench Boost altogether and put the faith in De Bruyne. This would mean:
1. Son (SPU) to De Bruyne (MCI) Free
With a possible hit of:
2. James (CHE) to Dias or Cancelo (MCI) -4
2. Balbuena (WHU) to Stones (MCI) -4
In this instance, I would be able to field 10 double gameweek players, and Bamford at home to Brighton.
However, unlike many FPL managers, I’m not convinced by either De Bruyne or Salah for triple captain this gameweek and would therefore roll without using a chip. For me, De Bruyne is prone to having minutes somewhat managed in at least one of the fixtures, and Salah hasn’t exactly been firing on all cylinders recently.
The ‘Try and do both’ option:
As I’m drawing the line at a maximum of -8 this week, there is only one other alternative.
If I accept that Yves Bissouma plays a part in my Bench Boost and only contributes an uninspiring 2-pointer, I could do the following transfers:
1. Son (SPU) to De Bruyne (MCI) Free
2. Peacock-Farrell (BUR) to Johnstone (WBA) -4
3. Balbuena (WHU) to Dawson (WHU) -8
Without the funds necessary to move for a City defender, Dawson would come in for Balbuena; his chance of a double gameweek improved today, thanks to news that Balbuena is self-isolating.
It would leave me with a bench of Johnstone (who has two fixtures), and three single gameweek players: Bamford, Dallas and Bissouma.
Taking a -8 to boost a bench full of mostly single gameweek players is far from ideal, which makes me side towards one of the other two options, in all honesty.
This is a critical moment in the season, so it’s important I consider my options carefully.
At the moment, a Bench Boost in GW26 still seems viable, and I’ll have a wildcard ready to help navigate the schedule. If I supposedly wildcarded into GW26 with a team of 11 or 12 double gameweek players and 3 or 4 single gameweek players who play in GW29, then I could use 4 transfers (plus any hits I haven’t been forced into taking now) to get 8 or 9 key players in the blank GW29.
There’s also the unlikely (but feasible!) possibility that the fixtures fall kindly in GW26, and I could ‘dead end’ my team towards using my Bench Boost in GW26 with transfers only, and then use my wildcard to manage GW29 and beyond.
As this season has taught us, lots can change in a day, but I’m still siding towards saving the Bench Boost ahead of GW29.
Good luck everyone!