FPL GW35 – Way of the Wildcard

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Triple GW! Many of us have been panicking all day trying to figure out the optimal transfers to make to take advantage of a MUN triple in GW35, while still getting a team out for the blank GW36. By presenting some wildcard options, I aim to give a clearer picture of who the best players are to get in and hold until the end of the season.

Below will be some numbers from the kiwi model, an interesting stat or ten, and comparisons to the legendary fplreview. All kiwi model numbers use my own projected minutes that I manually enter using past GWs, likely formations etc. as a guide. All fplreview numbers come from the Massive Data (v2) model, with Hivemind xMins. Numbers and prices are correct as of Thursday post-pressers, pre-MUN game 06/05/21.

Let’s first examine the options from each position:

Goalkeepers

PlayerPriceKiwifplreviewAverage
Alisson£5.917.817.917.9
Martinez£5.417.015.116.1
Pickford£4.814.916.115.5
Guaita£4.815.514.915.2
Meslier£4.713.412.212.8
Areola£4.612.512.312.4
R Sanchez£4.612.512.112.3
Ramsdale£4.612.711.612.2
Johnstone£4.612.711.111.9
Forster£4.011.17.49.3
Best value GKs & total pts in GW35-38 with 2 pts added for no-shows (e.g. BGW), time decay of 0.9, 1d.p.

Based on these options the optimal GK strategy is probably going to be a GK with a DGW (any of the top 4) combined with a cheaper GK to rotate. You might think that you can rely on Forster for DGW35 and a cheaper keeper for GW36-38 but there’s no need to risk the Southampton rotation when Pickford & Guaita cost only £4.8 apiece.

Many teams are looking to have 3 Liverpool spots filled with Salah, Trent, and Robertson or Jota, so it doesn’t seem like there will be space for Alisson but we’ll see how we go. Therefore we are probably going to be looking at Martinez/Pickford/Guaita as the 1st choice keeper and Forster as the 2nd.

Did you know?

According to fbref, Martinez’s save record in the Premier League is significantly higher than Pickford & Guaita’s, which has translated this season into both much more frequent saves and many more bonus points. When deciding on a goalkeeper these will be the factors that tend to push Martinez above the others, rather than clean sheet % and fixtures.

StatMartinezPickfordGuaita
Overall PL Save %76.769.069.5
20/21 Mins/save25.030.229.4
20/21 Mins/bonus124287198
Projected exact Mins/save25.833.429.4
Projected exact Mins/bonus205369230
Save % from fbref, Mins stats from the FPL website, projected numbers from the kiwi model

Defenders

PlayerPriceKiwifplreviewAverage
Trent£7.621.320.821.1
Robertson£7.119.119.019.1
H Maguire£5.515.916.015.9
Wan-Bissaka£5.716.415.215.8
Shaw£5.415.915.415.7
Kabak£5.014.915.415.2
Digne£6.114.915.115.0
Lindelof£4.813.813.613.7
N Phillips£4.112.413.312.8
Dallas£5.312.311.111.7
Vestergaard£4.713.410.011.7
Bednarek£4.712.710.011.3
Walker-Peters£4.713.09.611.3
Rudiger£4.710.911.611.2
Adarabioyo£4.510.89.810.3
Andersen£4.59.99.79.8
Veltman£4.410.09.59.7
Webster£4.39.99.49.7
J Ward£4.38.69.89.2
Mitchell£3.87.47.27.3
Best value DEFs & total pts in GW35-38 with 2 pts added for no-shows (e.g. BGW), time decay of 0.9, 1d.p.

Liverpool & Manchester United top the chart here, with excellent fixtures for the former and the triple gameweek for the latter. Note that Maguire’s certain minutes push him above Shaw. Digne & Dallas provide options for those with a larger budget (Castagne just missing out on inclusion), but it is at £4.7 that we get more options with the Southampton defenders & Rudiger. Ideally we will want 1 or 2 of these cheaper options to rotate, with Fulham, Brighton & Crystal Palace defenders available for tighter budgets. We will see later who we can fit.

Did you know?

Southampton have suffered from the worst goalkeeping in the league this season in terms of post-shot expected goals against vs actual goals conceded. This is shown in the fbref table below where we can see they have conceded 7.2 additional goals or 0.22 per game.

Squad Advanced Goalkeeping 2020-2021 Premier League Table
GoalGoal ExpeExpeExpe
Squad 90s GA OG PSxG PSxG+/- /90
Southampton33.059150.8-7.2-0.22
Wolves34.046339.1-3.9-0.12
Newcastle Utd34.056350.3-2.7-0.08
Chelsea34.031127.5-2.5-0.07
Sheffield Utd34.060356.1-0.9-0.03
Crystal Palace33.056055.2-0.8-0.02
Manchester Utd33.035233.8+0.8+0.02
Everton33.042142.0+1.0+0.03
Brighton34.039238.0+1.0+0.03
Manchester City34.024125.2+2.2+0.07
Burnley34.047148.2+2.2+0.07
West Ham34.044443.2+3.2+0.09
Leicester City34.039141.3+3.3+0.10
Tottenham34.038240.3+4.3+0.13
West Brom34.065366.8+4.8+0.14
Liverpool33.039043.6+4.6+0.14
Leeds United34.052254.7+4.7+0.14
Arsenal34.037439.0+6.0+0.18
Fulham34.045150.9+6.9+0.20
Aston Villa33.038145.0+8.0+0.24
Provided by FBref.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/6/2021.

However, McCarthy averages only 0.07 per game and Forster 0.14 (from a small sample) in the seasons for which fbref have data. I would not expect a rate of near 0.22 to continue in the remaining games, rather we can expect Southampton’s defence to perform around average and in fact my team strength ratings have their defence 10th in the league. Below is a visualisation of this through a projected season played with the current team strength ratings, ordered by goals conceded.

The table of a completed Premier League season showing Southampton having the 9th fewest goals conceded with 53.6.
Kiwi model projected season based on current team strength ratings

Midfielders

PlayerPriceKiwifplreviewAverage
Salah£12.729.628.429.0
B Fernandes£11.524.822.823.8
Mane£11.723.623.423.5
Rashford£9.619.320.319.8
D Jota£7.016.717.717.2
Greenwood£7.216.217.516.9
Ward-Prowse£5.816.815.816.3
Sigurdsson£6.916.515.415.9
Zaha£7.216.115.215.6
El Ghazi£5.216.114.015.0
B Traore£5.815.011.913.4
Armstrong£5.513.612.513.0
Saka£5.113.011.712.4
Lookman£4.812.112.312.2
Soucek£5.213.010.111.5
Martinelli£4.911.711.211.5
Raphinha£5.412.38.910.6
Tella£4.310.48.49.4
Smith-Rowe£4.29.07.88.4
Burke£4.17.56.16.8
Best value MIDs & total pts in GW35-38 with 2 pts added for no-shows (e.g. BGW), time decay of 0.9, 1d.p.

Ruthless trimming of the options sees all Manchester City assets fall by the wayside along with the likes of Auba, Son (coming in below Zaha), Lingard, Maddison, and Mount. I have left in players like Soucek & Raphinha with large discrepancies between models especially since my conversion of fplreview numbers does not favour injured players (they should get +2pts for no-shows but I do not know from the fplreview front end what the probability of a no-show is except in blank gameweeks).

Again the options are dominated by Liverpool and Manchester United, so the key to a successful wildcard will be choosing where to use their assets and where to go for other teams. Budget rotation options come in all the way down to Burke for £4.1 if very tight for cash, but the other key midfielders to be looking at here are all 1st or 2nd choice penalty takers who play for clubs with both a double gameweek 35 and a game in 36. These are Ward-Prowse, Sigurdsson, Zaha, & El Ghazi. The combination of penalties with an extra game should give them the edge as a wildcard or transfer option.

Did you know?

Ward-Prowse has the lowest npxGI of those 4 midfielders by some distance. So why is he above them on points? Because each of the others has some flaws.

fbref table showing npxG+xA per 90 with El Ghazi 0.43, Sigurdsson 0.35, Zaha 0.32, Ward-Prowse 0.15.
Premier League 20/21 Expected stats from StatsBomb, provided by fbref, original HERE

Zaha is only projected to take 12% of Crystal Palace’s penalties, with Milivojevic being first choice and van Aanholt also in the mix.

El Ghazi plays limited minutes, especially if Grealish returns from injury before the end of the season. Sigurdsson is also projected fewer minutes compared to Ward-Prowse and Zaha’s consistent 90s. This obviously reduces the time in which to get goals & assists but also means a lower chance of playing 60 minutes to get both an appearance point & a clean sheet point.

However, there is another reason that Ward-Prowse stands out. Southampton’s fixtures are amazing. According to the kiwi model, for an attacker these fixtures average +9.7% compared to Aston Villa, Crystal Palace, and Everton averaging -3.4%, -2.1%, & -2.6% respectively.

Fixture difficulty table for the 4 teams in question.
GW35-38 Fixture Difficulty Ratings provided by fantasy.premierleague.com – the full table can be found HERE

Southampton play against the 3rd, 4th, & 7th worst defences in the league all at home, very appetising for any attacking player and certainly one on set pieces who has better than +10% finishing skill calculated using the formula in my previous article, thanks mainly to his free-kick taking ability.

Forwards

PlayerPriceKiwifplreviewAverage
Kane£11.919.019.419.2
Calvert-Lewin£7.518.018.318.2
Vardy£10.318.517.417.9
Watkins£6.517.216.717.0
Richarlison£7.815.917.516.7
Iheanacho£6.317.415.816.6
Bamford£6.414.717.215.9
Wood£6.415.313.614.5
Adams£5.714.713.213.9
Welbeck£5.513.010.311.6
C Benteke£5.511.611.611.6
McGoldrick£5.212.410.211.3
Vydra£4.89.59.29.3
Brewster£4.36.96.86.9
K Davis£4.26.92.74.8
Best value FWDs & total pts in GW35-38 with 2 pts added for no-shows (e.g. BGW), time decay of 0.9, 1d.p.

While Vardy’s double gameweek is great in the short-term, in the long-term it is Kane & Calvert-Lewin that should lead the line. Watkins is the king of the £6.5 options who are quite a way ahead of the cheaper options from £5.7 Adams down to £4.2 Davis. We can forget about Liverpool & Manchester United assets in this position as Firmino & Cavani are not good enough options for their high prices.

Kane, DCL & Watkins is the aim, but Vardy, Watkins & Iheanacho/Bamford will do if we need to use the cash elsewhere. Given the great options at £6.5 and lack thereof at £5.5 and below, it seems like we will have at least the 8th attacker as a MID and possibly the 7th as well to rotate, while keeping 3 FWDs that may play every game for us.

Did you know?

Watkins & Iheanacho have a double gameweek 35, while Bamford & Wood have penalty-taking duties for their teams. Unfortunately for Antonio he has neither, with a difficult game against Everton in GW35 and Noble/Rice & possibly Lingard ahead of him in the penalty queue. This combined with poor finishing & uncertain minutes on his injury return is just enough to push his numbers below the others, despite very impressive npxG/90 this season.

STATWatkinsIheanachoBamfordWoodAntonio
20/21 npxG+xA0.500.650.580.460.69
Projected GW35 pts7.679.104.124.314.67
Penalty probability0.080.010.970.820.19
Finishing skill+0%+1%-7%+5%-5%
Projected xMins8077706868
npxG+xA from fbref, other projections from the kiwi model

Wildcard Teams

Now that we have an idea of who to bring in, let’s see how they fit in different team structures depending on budget. To evaluate these I will be using the kiwi model’s own calculations of GW pts which account for who you bench each GW and the probability that they will be auto-subbed on. Unfortunately there is no way to directly combine this with fplreview as their probabilities of playing vs being left out or injured are not publicly visible.

First the £100m team (I hope you have at least this budget), with 255.5xPts (0.9 time decay):

£100m wildcard team containing
Martinez Button
Trent Robertson Wan-Bissaka Vestergaard Bednarek
Salah Bruno Ward-Prowse El Ghazi Raphinha
Calvert-Lewin Iheanacho Wood
£99.9m wildcard team shown in DGW35 & BGW36 via fpl.team

So when restricted to this budget, we want MID and DEF premiums as they give a bigger difference (compared to mid-price options) than in the FWD position. This will be due to Kane & Vardy both only having 2 fixtures in GW35-36. Digne & Tella is an option over Bednarek & Raphinha, but either way we use 3 Southampton spots so must have a £3.9 bench goalkeeper instead of Forster. 3 Liverpool for their great fixture run, and only 2 Manchester United so as to have enough players for the blank gameweek 36. Assuming Raphinha recovers for GW36 we can take advantage of Leeds’ good fixtures and mitigate the potential damage to El Ghazi’s minutes from the return of Grealish.

How do we improve this as the budget increases?

The first upgrade we would look to make is Bednarek -> Dallas. This costs £0.6 but can be partially funded by moving Wan-Bissaka -> Shaw, so really costs only £0.3 and boosts xPts by 0.7. Essentially the idea will be to make small upgrades to the defence until we can afford Vardy, Kane, or Rashford, without compromising the rest of the team. Greenwood seems at first like a good option, but in this case the triple gameweek 35 is not good enough to offset the difficulty of blank gameweek 36.

Once we have lost Bednarek we can upgrade Button -> Forster, then with a little more we can double up on Shaw & Wan-Bissaka, replacing Vestergaard and moving Iheanacho -> Watkins to give 11 players for blank gameweek 36. Eventually we will have enough to upgrade our bench keeper Forster -> Meslier and our 5th defender Dallas -> Digne. This gives a £103m team with 259.3xPts:

£103m wildcard team with
Martinez Meslier
Trent Robertson Wan-Bissaka Shaw Digne
Salah Bruno Ward-Prowse El Ghazi Raphinha
Calvert-Lewin Watkins Wood
£103.0m wildcard team shown in DGW35 & BGW36 via fpl.team

Now surely it must be worth bringing in a premium? According to the kiwi model, yes it is. By downgrading a few players we can bring in Rashford by spending only £1.7 more, for slightly more xPts than the alternative El Ghazi -> Sigurdsson. This gives a £104.7m team with 259.7xPts:

£104.7m wildcard team with
Martinez Button
Trent Robertson Shaw Dallas Vestergaard
Salah Bruno Rashford Ward-Prowse El Ghazi
Calvert-Lewin Watkins Wood
£104.7m wildcard team shown in DGW35 & BGW36 via fpl.team

From here we can ascend into even higher squad values, but the idea is the same – make the defensive upgrades until there are no moves left and only then look at Kane.

Final Thoughts

If you were really wildcarding this week then you would of course consider a planned transfer for GW36. For example you could start with Vardy and plan to transfer in Kane, or start with Iheanacho and plan to transfer in Wood. The point of this exercise though is to show the best long-term players that you can bring in on free transfers and hopefully I have done that here.

The £6.5 FWD position is very debatable and all of Watkins, Iheanacho, Wood, Bamford, & Antonio are viable depending on how you personally rate each one’s minutes & penalty probability and how they rotate in your team. The other positions are well-backed by both the kiwi model and fplreview’s model, so go against them at your own risk!

GIF of Grand Moff Tarkin telling Darth Vader "I'm taking an awful risk, Vader".

This was the Way of the Wildcard for GW35, please let me know either here or on Twitter whether you have any questions, comments, or suggestions, and good luck in your transfers!

47600cookie-checkFPL GW35 – Way of the Wildcard
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