In his latest column, three-time top 200 finisher Lateriser argues that deploying a Free Hit chip is the perfect time to awaken your inner maverick.
“A ship is always safe at the shore but that is not what it’s built for.” – Albert Einstein
Gameweek 18 is upon us and inadvertently, for a lot of you (but not me), it means that the Free Hit chip is about to be deployed.
Even the name tells us that this is a once-in-a-season, no-strings-attached, no-holds-barred, inner-voice-enabling chip! If you’re not channelling that inner instinct most weeks because this is ‘template season’ and are way too fearful of losing to the crowd, then this is the week to awaken your inner maverick. Put on your multi-coloured jacket and listen to yourself. Do it this one Gameweek – if you’re using the Free Hit, obviously. I insist!
Going with the theme of this introduction, I’m going to throw in a few not-so-template names in the hat that might seem ridiculous or not smart at first go, but I’ll build a case for them and leave the decision to you.
Also, I am writing this article before the Manchester cup derby so do not have any relevant information from that game at my disposal.
So the stage is set: enter Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (£11.3m). I know, I know. Bukayo Saka (£5.3m) is literally mirroring his stats in the last few Gameweeks and costs six million less.
But when you’re looking at one stand-alone week, value doesn’t matter. So what case do I have for Aubameyang? In the last two Gameweeks, when he’s started with the in-form, rejuvenated Arsenal attackers, he is matching the stats of Saka and Alexandre Lacazette (£8.3m).
He’s registered 1.42 expected goals (xG) in his last two games, which is the same he managed in five full matches previously. His total of two big chances in the last two Gameweeks is also the same he managed in five full games previously.
All it takes is one game to click, to come back into form. All it takes is one poorly time Joel Ward (£4.3m) tackle in the penalty box for Aubameyang to hammer a penalty in the top-right corner. I mean, with 22 goals and a 24% conversion rate in both of his previous seasons, we know the class and the finishing ability of the man.
Arsenal are playing much better football right now, so much so that they are joint-top of the league (tied with Aston Villa) for shots in the box in the last four Gameweeks. If he’s going to get the chances, you’d fancy him to convert.
It comes down to the age-old argument of judging the data set of this terrible season that Arsenal have had or that of his previous six seasons, where he’s been one of Europe’s most lethal finishers.
Now if this was a long-term commitment, there’s no way I’d encourage getting into a more serious relationship with him. But he seems exciting enough for a fling, in my opinion. If you don’t do it, fair enough; I know there are ‘more right’ things to do on a Free Hit.
The next name I am going to throw in the ring is Luke Shaw (£4.8m). Yes, I’m recommending a player that has one Fantasy Premier League assist to his name in the last two seasons.
I’ll give you five reasons:
- a) He’s not injured at the moment
- b) He’s playing some really good football right now
- c) He’s on some free-kicks and corners
- d) No defender has created more chances than him in the last four Gameweeks
- e) Burnley are bottom five in the league for shots in the box conceded in the last six Gameweeks
The third and final name that I’d like to throw into this hat is Raheem Sterling (£11.4m). I’m presuming most Free Hitters will triple up on Manchester City and while a double-up on defence might seem the right play long term (Joao Cancelo (£5.7m) needs to be one of them), for one Gameweek alone, I do like a Sterling punt.
He’s been in pretty good nick of late, registering six returns in as many games and clocking 90 minutes in all of them. When I’m looking at one-week punts, Sterling is one of those players that screams ‘brace potential’ to me. He did more than that last time he played his Gameweek 18 opponents, having scored a hat-trick at the Amex Stadium in 2019/20.
He’s second only to Jack Grealish (£7.7m) for expected assists (xA) in the last four Gameweeks and has four shots in the box in the same timeframe. Why I do like Sterling (and a City attacking double-up) in a fixture against Brighton is because the Seagulls will want to play their own game, rather than sit back. Like the Chelsea match, this will suit the press-resistant Manchester City attackers and offer them more space than they are generally used to.
For those that are not on the Free Hit, it seems like a good time to target assets from the Manchester teams as they play three matches in the next two Gameweeks and the fixtures are pretty decent from Gameweek 20, as well.
If you are still on the edge in terms of whether to Free Hit or not, one other factor I’d like you to consider is this: if you are using the Free Hit in Gameweek 18 and then spending transfers to get the same players from the Manchester teams next week, it might be worth holding onto the chip and then taking a hit or two to just bring the players in ahead of next Tuesday.
Remember it’s about the quality of the players you have and not the quantity.
On a personal note, I’ve been climbing steadily and am currently ranked at 1.8 million in the world but can’t help but feel miffed at being on the wrong side of coronavirus-influenced rescheduling in Gameweek 16, having spent my last four transfers on Spurs and City players. I mentioned that the City defence were the best in the league last time I wrote and nothing has changed my opinion since.
If you want to know more about other, not-so-maverick Free Hit picks, as well as an in-depth discussion on Arsenal and the Manchester teams, do have a listen to this week’s episode of The FPL Wire (linked below). We’ll be doing another special episode this Saturday where we’ll be interviewing Ragabolly, who is the creator or LiveFPL, VirtualFPL and a new Fantasy planning tool – so look out for that, as well.
Good luck this Gameweek!
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