Six-time top 20k FPL finisher Andy Mears is currently inside the world’s top 1k with 10 Gameweeks left of 2020/21. He reveals his plans for Blank Gameweek 29...
The next few weeks feel pivotal for our Fantasy Premier League seasons. We have Blank Gameweeks to navigate, the knowledge of Doubles still to be rearranged, and everyone has different chip combinations.
I only have the Free Hit left, with a few injuries to contend with in Gameweek 29 and some thoughts around key players and fixture swings over the next few weeks.
I thought I would use this article to think out loud.
Is the Free Hit viable for Blank Gameweek 29?
This is how my current team is set for Gameweek 29.
I thought I was sitting pretty with eight players and two free transfers, but there are now some injury concerns that I am waiting on news for.
With potentially just five players fit, I have started thinking about deploying the Free Hit, even though previously I was set on using it in Gameweek 33.
The obvious advantage is I could get to 11 players without taking any hits. I think we sometimes underestimate appearance points, let alone the potential for extra on top of that. A Free Hit allowing me to get out an extra six players is already worth 12 points, before anyone gets a clean sheet or attacking return.
It also unlocks some flexibility over uncertain players. If we’re still not sure that the likes of Patrick Bamford (£6.7m) and Heung-Min Son (£9.6m) are guaranteed to start then you can include them with good bench options as money isn’t tight for Gameweek 29.
That said, I am still tempted to hold the Free Hit. If any of those players end up being long-term injuries then I can use my two free transfers to change them, rather than waiting until Gameweek 30 when I would only have one transfer and less flexibility.
Additionally I have my eye on the Everton vs Aston Villa fixture that still needs to be rescheduled. I only own one player from this fixture, and the Free Hit would let me react nicely to this as needs be, without having to hold any of their players I am not particularly interested in long term.
With yet another blank against Wolves in Gameweek 28, Mohammed Salah (£12.4m) has now failed to return 11 times in 15 matches, and yet I am still tempted to hold.
I am telling myself there’s good reasons for this, although subconsciously I do wonder if I’m just holding out hope for the good old days.
There have been circumstances affecting Liverpool with injuries, but does this go past that? I have had a look at the statistics for the first 14 Gameweeks compared the last 14 as there was a clean distinction in total attacking returns within those Gameweek ranges. It is also worth noting there were 14 matches from Gameweek 1 to 14, and 15 between Gameweeks 15 and 28.
- Gameweek 1-14: 13 goals, 4 assists = 17 returns total
- Gameweek 15-28: 4 goals, 0 assists = 4 returns total
The right time to remove him from our squads was obviously in Gameweek 15 looking back with hindsight. But is there anything in the underlying statistics that can tell us whether we should hold?
- Gameweek 1-14: 7.58xG, 11 big chances, 10.33xGI
- Gameweek 15-28: 6.15xG, 11 big chances, 8.21xGI
We can see from that the numbers are slightly down outside of big chances, but probably not enough to warrant a drop in goals. This tells me Salah may have overperformed a little in the first 14 weeks, and has underperformed in the last 14.
Overall he has 21 returns from 18.54xGI which isn’t anything out of the ordinary. As long as he keeps getting these chances I am confident the returns will come, but for others they may want to swap to a different big hitter which is fair enough.
Just the last thing on Salah for me. In the final nine Gameweeks he plays Aston Villa, Leeds, Newcastle, Southampton, West Brom, Burnley and Crystal Palace.
Five of these teams make up the bottom seven for expected goals conceded over the season. The fixture run doesn’t get much better and I’m going to (perhaps naively) continue to back Salah. That doesn’t mean I don’t trust other options such as Diogo Jota (£6.6m), but I am more likely to have both rather than either or.
Longer Term Thinking
I am fully aware that a lot of FPL managers are busy getting excited about their Gameweek 31 Wildcard. It would be silly not to think about which players they might be targeting, after all there’s a reason that week is being so hotly tipped for Wildcard activation. These are some of the players/teams that I’m looking to target with my strategy being to try and roll a transfer in Gameweek 30.
Diogo Jota (£6.6m)
As mentioned above, Jota’s fixtures are excellent, so it really doesn’t get much better from an attacking perspective. He also offers the value that Salah and Sadio Mané (£11.8m) don’t. He once again showed his goalscoring threat against Wolves, and at a time where Liverpool look to be struggling for goals he’s surely going to be good for game time, with a goal shy Roberto Firmino (£9.1m) still not yet fit.
Edouard Mendy (£5.1m) and/or César Azpilicueta (£5.8m)
I already own Antonio Rüdiger (£4.6m) but that doesn’t feel like enough with fixtures against West Brom, Crystal Palace, Brighton, West Ham and Fulham to come. The Chelsea defence is almost as good as Manchester City at this point and there are plenty of points to come. I don’t feel like I’ve missed the boat. Mendy and Azpilicueta represent the best chance of a lack of rotation, and I haven’t completely ruled out a triple up as I don’t foresee me opting for any Chelsea attackers.
My Gameweek 29 Plans
As I talked about earlier, I have eight players for Gameweek 29 and I’m hopeful that at least one of Bamford or Son will be available. I’m likely to use both free transfers with one or two hits thrown in.
Craig Dawson (£4.5m) has an outside shot at a clean sheet against Arsenal, and longer term I think West Ham’s fixtures look great. He’s cheap enough to bench as needed but also has goal threat when called upon. In fact with 10 shots in the box since Gameweek 16, he’s joint-second out of all defenders.
If Dan Burn (£4.2m) is confirmed out, then I may just go sideways to Joël Veltman (£4.3m), because although Lewis Dunk (£5.0m) is probably the better pick, I don’t want that much money left on my bench.
As for captaincy I can’t look past Harry Kane (£11.4m). I think when it comes to differentials you have to pick your battles. I captained Kevin De Bruyne (£11.8m) in both Gameweek 27 and 28 as he was somewhat of a differential. But in Gameweek 29 it feels risky to be looking elsewhere as no-one stands out to me.
I’m looking forward to getting Gameweek 29 out of the way where the business end of the season starts, and the chance to break the template a little further. Good luck everyone!
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