Gameweek 18: Free Hit Drafts

How did I fare in GW17?

My gameweek score of 69 resulted in a small green arrow from 4,797 to 4,285 in the overall rankings, which is obviously pleasing at this stage of the season. Despite the rank rise, I am somewhat disappointed with the current state of my squad in the short-term, as it now seems unlikely I’ll deploy the Bench Boost chip in double GW19, after the continuous injury concerns of Reece James and sudden benching of Fabian Balbuena from the West Ham starting 11.

However, all is not lost, as it seems there’ll be plenty of opportunity to reap the rewards later in the season, so my plan now has changed slightly; I’m almost certain to Free Hit in GW18 and field the strongest possible starting 11 in GW19, saving the Bench Boost, Triple Captain and Wildcard later in the season.

After two weeks of misfiring on the captaincy front, I was pleased to see Son deliver 13 points with the armband on. He was supported by the ever-reliable Bruno Fernandes, who notched his eighth double-digit haul of the season against Aston Villa, and bargain-buy Tomas Soucek, who bagged an 11-point haul in his debut appearance for my team.

Bad luck:

- My original plan to Bench Boost has been thwarted, and I mostly put this down to bad luck. Reece James getting injured, Balbuena losing his place and Manchester City being given a double gameweek shortly after I sold De Bruyne were all beyond my control.

- I anticipated a West Ham clean sheet against Everton, which is why I doubled down on Coufal and Balbuena last week. I was very pleased to see many active FPL managers on Twitter bench their West Ham assets, but Moyes dropping Balbuena meant I only gained the one clean sheet. Nothing major, but frustrating.

Good luck:

- I’m always thankful when I come through a gameweek unscathed if there’s fixture postponement. Fortunately, I wasn’t relying on any Burnley or Fulham assets this week, which was comforting.

- After taking out Grealish (which could be and still might be a mistake long-term), it seems Aston Villa could miss the next fixture or two. No news has broken yet, but if they happen to miss the Everton game in DGW19, offloading one of my three Villa assets looks to be a good move.

Bad judgement:

- Going back a couple of weeks, my decision to bring in Vardy for Calvert-Lewin was a poor choice. Although Vardy has accumulated slightly more points than the Everton striker in that time, it has left me less flexible in manoeuvring through the blanks and doubles. Hopefully, he can sort out his nagging hip problem by GW19 and perform well against Everton, Leeds and Fulham after the double.

- Waiting on Reece James was probably a mistake, as he has dropped £0.2 million whilst Dias and Cancelo have risen £0.2 million. Although I’m not obsessed by team value, it could affect the calibre of players I’m able to recruit in the future.

Good judgement:

- After much consideration, I captained my highest points scorer this week, which hopefully can continue for the foreseeable future.

- Not hitting the Free Hit or Wildcard button yet has allowed me to sit back and observe the postponement speculation without stress or panic. Although I’ll have a slightly weaker Free Hit team (by approximately £0.3-£0.4 million), I will hopefully make more lucid decisions.

How will I now be navigating through blank GW18 and double GW19?

As I mentioned earlier, it seems unlikely I’ll be able to use my Bench Boost chip in DGW19, which has been the plan since the beginning.

There are too many question marks surrounding Reece James’ fitness and Balbuena’s security in the team for me to confidently predict they’ll feature in both games.

What’s more, I am already set on bringing in Kevin De Bruyne for Son this week, as the Belgian looks like the best captaincy option for the double, thanks to City’s purple patch of form.

If I had my time again, I would obviously have tried to navigate through blank GW18 without using a chip, but it’s too late now to backtrack. Unless there are wholesale postponements announced today (which seems unlikely), I’ll press the Free Hit button tomorrow and use one of the following drafts in GW18.

The first Free Hit draft assumes that all previously scheduled fixtures in GW18 go ahead, including Aston Villa vs. Spurs. This also assumes that most of Aston Villa’s first team are cleared fit to play (and that they are not forced to field an U23s team).

The second Free Hit draft assumes that Aston Villa vs. Spurs is postponed, and that both clubs blank in GW18.

The third Free Hit draft assumes that Aston Villa vs. Spurs is postponed, and that the Premier League rearrange the match between Spurs and Fulham to go ahead in its place. (This is a scenario the Premier League are currently looking into.)

If news breaks that the Aston Villa vs. Spurs game is on, but Villa are forced to field U23s, my team would be very similar to the third Free Hit draft.

The stalwarts who feature in every draft:

Kevin de Bruyne – The spearhead of Manchester City’s attack right now, which has improved its output significantly in recent weeks. Plum home fixture to a struggling Brighton side.

Bruno Fernandes – The most consistent player in the league when it comes to returning FPL points. Although Burnley are defensive, they’ll sit deep, inviting Fernandes to create big chances and shoot from distance.

Bukayo Saka – At only £5.3 million, he’s a superb budget option, enabling you to spread your funds on other premium options. Arsenal have turned a corner in recent weeks, and no Gunners asset has scored more FPL points than Saka in the last five gameweeks.

Joao Cancelo – Although I’m slightly concerned that he featured in the FA Cup tie against Birmingham, Cancelo has started the last 6 Premier League matches. The defender is third for expected assists and big chances created at City (behind De Bruyne and Sterling), so the chances of an assist or two as well as a clean sheet are promising.

DeAndre Yedlin – Locked in as the first sub on my bench, Yedlin offers excellent value at £4.3 million, considering he plays the blunt attack of Sheffield United this week. Yedlin has started the last 4 games and operates as an attacking wing-back, so is marginally more likely to notch an attacking return than Ciaran Clark in my opinion, who is also £4.3 million.

Tyrick Mitchell – The £3.9 million defender seems to have won his place back in Hodgson’s side, so he’ll operate as a fantastic enabler in my Free Hit side. I’m hoping he won’t be called upon, but if he’s needed, Mitchell should be able to tick over with a couple of points off the bench.

Draft 1 (3-5-2):

If Villa can field something that somewhat resembles their conventional first team, they should cause Spurs some problems and look to control the game. This lends itself nicely to Heung-Min Son rather than Harry Kane, as the Korean can look to hurt Villa on the break.

As there are better fixtures elsewhere in GW18, I would only want Son from Spurs, rather than opting for two or three assets.

Karl Darlow – Newcastle’s keeper has been in fine form this year and plays the worst attack in the league in Sheffield United. A couple of saves, a clean sheet and a bonus point or two, and Darlow could easily grab a haul this gameweek.

Harry Maguire – The England international has played every minute for Solskjaer this season and just edges Aaron Wan-Bissaka this week, thanks to his aerial threat from corners. Although Burnley excel and limiting chances from set-pieces, I feel as though Manchester United will have plenty of corners throughout the game, seeing as most of the game will be played deep in Burnley’s half. The Clarets have only scored 9 goals so far this season too, so the clean sheet looks probable.

Kieran Tierney – It’s hard not to include the Scottish fullback after he notched 18 points last week against West Brom. Statistically, Tierney has been Arsenal’s most creative player this season, so there’s every chance he continues hauling against Crystal Palace in GW18.

Heung-Min Son – The highest points scorer so far this season and in scintillating form in front of goal.

Marcus Rashford – Most of Rashford’s points have come away from home this season, and Burnley are known for struggling against top six opposition. Whether Rashford or Martial, the double-up in Manchester United’s attack makes sense.

Alexandre Lacazette – Leading the line for Arsenal in the last three Premier League games, the Frenchman has scored 5 goals, making him one of the most prolific strikers in the top -flight at the moment. Playing Crystal Palace, who are not as defensively robust as they once were, Lacazette could easily prosper.

Gabriel Jesus – After news broke that Aguero was self-isolating and Raheem Sterling was struggling with a knock, I was put off either asset in my Free Hit team. Although a double City defence strategy is viable, I’m tempted to chase the upside, and with Jesus returning to the fray, I feel he could get a lot of chances against Brighton if City continue their scintillating form.

Keinan Davis – At £4.3 million, he’s the cheapest attacker in the game, and would allow me to spend funds elsewhere. I’m hopeful I wouldn’t need a third substitute in a Free Hit team.

Draft 2 (3-5-2):

If Villa vs. Spurs is postponed, I will obviously not include an asset from either side. The main change would see me take a punt on Aubameyang and Wilson.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – It’s fair to say the Gabonese striker has struggled this season, but with Arsenal returning to form, I wonder if Aubameyang could do some damage against Crystal Palace. He’d get an extra point for a goal as a midfielder, an extra point for a clean sheet and he’s on penalties, so it makes him a fantastic differential if he can bag one or two goals.

Callum Wilson – Although Newcastle’s attack is often uninspiring, which has put me off Wilson before, on a one-week punt, it seems a risk worth taking against Sheffield United. Again, Wilson is on penalties, which offers him another route to points.

Draft 3 (3-4-3):

If Spurs end up playing either Fulham or Aston Villa’s U23s in GW18, I would definitely side towards a triple-up of Spurs assets, as points returns in attack and defence seem far more likely.

Kane and Reguilon would come in for me in this scenario but finding the extra cash for them would require a rejig.

My only dampener with this team is I’m still a fan of Gabriel Jesus this week and have a gut feeling about him. I feel a Free Hit is the best week to trust these hunches, so I may try and find a way to get him back in before the deadline, without diminishing the overall squad.

David De Gea – In this team, I was forced to part ways with Harry Maguire, so I have opted for the Manchester United goalkeeper instead of Karl Darlow. Of course, this is just my opinion, but I feel United are more likely to keep a clean sheet than Newcastle.

Ruben Dias – This team has me siding towards a Manchester City double-up in defence, as losing Jesus allows me to fund the move to Kane. Dias has been an ever-present in City’s back line and looks good for the clean sheet.

Sergio Reguilon – The most attacking Spurs fullback and should have a lot of joy high up the pitch against Fulham. Davies captained Spurs against Marine on Sunday, so I’d expect Reguilon to come in GW18.

Oliver Burke – At £4.3 million, he’d play the same role as Davis in the 3-5-2 formation, acting as the fifth substitute.

Harry Kane – In a Free Hit week where Harry Kane is playing a newly promoted side, you have to find room for him. Kane didn’t feature too against Marine, so the Englishman should return fully rested and sharp.

Good luck everyone - whether you're deploying your Free Hit or not!

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