Hi all, my name is Mikey U (@FPL_Mikey) and I am writing my first article for Jumpers for Goalposts. For my first piece, I will cover several dilemmas for those on wildcard and how I am tackling them on my own wildcard.
Before I dive into discussing my WC draft, a small introduction. I started playing FPL in 2017 after some colleagues at work asked me to join their mini-league. I’ve been hooked ever since and have been taking FPL increasingly seriously. I achieved my best ever finish of 8,990 OR last season, my first top 10k finish. This season, I am currently 73k OR and in a strong position. Here is my GW7 team.
I have decided to pull the wildcard as I wanted primarily to take advantage of the Chelsea and Manchester City fixture swings alongside Manchester United fixtures getting worse.
I will go through my wildcard position by position, starting with the goalkeepers.
There are a few cheap goalkeepers that have emerged in the first few gameweeks. I started the season with Sanchez (4.6m) mainly due to a solid fixture run and a relative lack of alternatives. Three clean sheets in seven games was a decent return but I don’t expect many clean sheets in the next few games with Brighton playing Man City and Liverpool in GW9 and 10 respectively.
For me, the replacement is a straight race between Raya (£4.6m) and Ramsdale (£4.6m). This decision is super close and I haven’t committed yet to one or the other. The fixture runs for Brentford and Arsenal are similar and I’d rate their defences relatively similarly. Ramsdale has come in as Arsenal’s starting keeper since GW4 and has only conceded one goal (a consolation goal against Spurs) in four games. There is an argument that Ramsdale has the shirt for now but if form were to dip, Leno (4.8m) is waiting in the wings. In that sense, Raya is absolutely nailed.
As the goalkeeper spot is not one I want to worry about, I may lean towards the absolute safety of Raya over Ramsdale but I think either goalkeeper is a solid pick.
I will be selecting Foster (4.0m) as my bench keeper. He has played the last three games and may continue to hold the starting position, just in case of any problems with my starting keeper.
Whilst tinkering with my wildcard drafts, a lot hinged on the fitness of Trent Alexander-Arnold (£7.5m). Reports seem to suggest that the Liverpool full-back is fit and ready for GW8 after a groin injury kept him out of their GW7 fixture against Man City. Barring any further news, I will be keeping TAA on my wildcard. Despite some mixed fixtures including Man Utd (A) and West Ham (A), TAA is an integral part of the Liverpool attack and can easily haul in any game. He is a must-have player. Also note that his overall ownership has dropped to 22% at time of writing. Returns for TAA mean rank drops for those who have dared to go without.
Which defensive double up?
My biggest dilemma with my wildcard draft is how my defence is structured. Despite relatively tough fixture runs, both Chelsea and Man City have stood out as elite defences keeping four and five clean sheets in their first seven games respectively. Man City defence has been particularly impressive given they have already navigated their two toughest fixtures in Chelsea and Liverpool away. Tapping into these elite defences will bring consistent returns and if you can combine clean sheet points with the possibility of attacking returns, you can be set for some big point hauls.
The main question is whether to double up and if so, Chelsea or Man City? I think there are two ways to approach this. In the short term, Chelsea have a great fixture run until GW11and you may wish to take advantage of this. There is a strong chance of 3-4 clean sheets in that run. However, there are two concerns.
First, the underlying data for Chelsea’s defence is notconvincing. Chelsea have conceded three goals from a 8.57 xGC (expected goals conceded), conceding 51 shots in the box in that time. Teams such as Wolves and Brighton have better underlying data.
Second, Rudiger (£5.8m) is an injury doubt having picked up a back compliant over the international break. If Rudiger was ruled out, this would have an unknown effect on the Chelsea backline given that the German international has played all bar one game for Chelsea this season and that was an EFL Cup game. Interestingly in Rudiger’s absence, Chelsea played with a back four. There is no like-for-like replacement that slots into the left side of the back three now as Zouma was the stand-in when Rudiger was rested last season and has since been sold to West Ham.
The fixture run of Brentford (A), Norwich (H), Newcastle (A), Burnley (H) is enough to consider the double up on Chelsea. I’d be watching news on Rudiger before committing to double Chelsea defence.
Looking at the underlying data for Man City defence, it is hard to look past a Man City double up. City have conceded three goals from a 4.01xGC with 42 shots conceded, only 8 on target. Every game, City are conceding just over one shot on target!! The next best in the PL is Wolves with 68 shots conceded with 27 on target (3.85/game). City are posting elite numbers and this is even more crazy given they played Chelsea and Liverpool away.
I will be going with at least Cancelo (£6.2m) and Dias (£6.1m) is very likely to join in.
Having committed to a back four, I will be going with a starting midfield three. Salah (£12.7m) is non-negotiable and the easiest pick. The Egyptian has 70 FPL points in 7 games. 10ppg is a crazy average.
My next locked midfielder is Mbuemo (£5.5m). Brentford are currently playing with two up front and Mbuemo is currently playing on the shoulder with Toney. The two actually have similar stats and Mbuemo just needs a goal to potentially post a double digit return.
Ordinarily, Raphinha (£6.6m) would also be a lock. However, the Brazilian is likely to start on Thursday in their World Cup qualifier and has a very short turnaround time before Leeds play Southampton on Saturday at 3pm. My read is that the winger won’t play or at most will be on the bench. The question is whether he is worth keeping on the bench.
I am currently deciding whether to simply bench Raphinha and play another midfielder for one GW or take a short term punt. The punt I am considering is Ferran Torres (£6.9m). The theory is that Man City tend to play with a false 9 in tougher fixtures and need a out and out striker for other games. Torres has already posted one big haul getting 18 points versus Arsenal. Also, Torres played twice for Spain as a number 9 in the international break and has had a week off rest. My current plan is to have Torres for a few GWs and bring Raphinha back in at some point.
My 4th midfielder is likely to be Emile Smith-Rowe (£5.4m). Arsenal have a strong fixture run and are picking up some form. I really like him coming off the bench for any rotation. Next GW, Mbuemo plays Chelsea whilst Smith-Rowe plays Crystal Palace (H) so I will play the Arsenal playmaker this GW.
The forward line was the easiest part of the squad to work out. Lukaku (£11.7m) is an easy pick. There is an argument for Ronaldo (£12.6m) for this GW as Man Utd play a weakened and out of form Leicester City. However, if I go with a Torres punt and go without Raphinha, I am already ‘booking’ a transfer and booking in another isn’t ideal. Chelsea’s great fixture run means Lukaku is a strong captain option between GW9-12. There is a yellow flag on Lukaku due to muscle fatigue and returned early from international duty but it is expected that the Belgian will return by the weekend.
There has been some debate around Antonio (£8.0m) but I believe the Jamaican international is one of the best strikers in FPL when fit. Despite West Ham fixtures getting tougher, Antonio will be a handful for any team. If Antonio does indeed get injured (as he has history of doing), Jimenez (£7.5m) is waiting in the wings.
My final forward spot goes to Toney (£6.4m). Brentford’s fixture run is excellent until the New Year and the striker is Brentford’s talisman and on penalties. I will admit that there is a slight unease to double up on Mbuemo and Toney but I believe they are individually the best options in their price brackets. The good thing about Toney is that there are decent budget forwards like Adam Armstrong (£6.0m) and Hwang (£5.6m) if one emerges elsewhere.
My wildcard draft currently looks like this:
My squad is largely made of nailed or solid players likely to play the majority of minutes. I have one ‘punt’ in Ferran Torres and a strong enough bench to cover any rotation which Man City and Chelsea players may encounter.
I hope you have found this useful and given you some food for thought. Hope to see you for my next article.