FPL – The Final Sprint

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Article Written by: Tanmay, you can follow him on twitter here: FPL10May

With just 5 gameweeks to go, its crunch time for FPL Managers, with the long marathon entering its final sprint. Unless you are in the running to win, or on for your best finish, this is the time to have some fun and take a few punts to finish as high up in the mini leagues and overall rankings as possible (Bragging rights on stake). For managers at the top, the last few weeks can be crucial to protect their lead and see the season out. So, enjoy these last 5 weeks of FPL before we start missing it in the summer!

Before I pick my top 5 teams to target for the run-in, I would like to draw everyone’s attention to the fixture schedule as predicted by the brilliant Ben Crellin. According to him, there is a 70% chance that gameweek 35 will be a potential double gameweek for multiple teams while gameweek 36 is most likely to be a blank gameweek for a few. This is not official yet, but Ben’s usually spot on with these things. An announcement to confirm this is imminent, hopefully before the GW34 deadline (although now looking unlikely). According to Ben, one thing is for certain– Everton, Villa, Palace and Southampton are guaranteed a double gameweek in 35.

While I urge managers not to make transfers based on the unconfirmed fixtures, I do think it’s important to be aware of them, especially for managers who do not have any chips left. Managers who still have their Wildcard, Free Hit, Triple Captain and Bench Boost chips should look to use them to maximise this great opportunity.

A double gameweek always brings excitement among FPL managers since it serves as an opportunity to use one’s chips wisely and hence gain more points than in a normal one. On the flipside, managers often get blinded, ignoring the teams with good single fixtures whose players go on to outscore the double gameweekers. Additionally, managers do not look at fixtures preceding the double gameweek and those after. This negligence can offset all the gains made in the double.

When I practiced what I just preached, I realised that this double gameweek is not as appealing as I initially thought. The double in 35 is immediately followed by a blank in 36 for a few of those teams. This effectively means that the ‘top’ teams in the league, both in attack and defence, i.e. Arsenal, Chelsea, Leicester and Man Utd have two fixtures over two weeks. These are the teams that we FPL managers would have ideally targeted. Meanwhile, teams that double and do not blank immediately have been too inconsistent throughout the season to be backed with confidence. Additionally, teams without a double gameweek also have some good looking fixtures on paper in those weeks. Hence, a balanced and pragmatic approach could come in handy during this period. Here’s where the use of chips changes the entire ballgame. One has the liberty to go all out and target that double gameweek, punting on a few players you can immediately replace, hence maximise points. But since we are at the backend of the season, most managers will have already used all of their chips. With that in mind, here are my 5 teams to target for the run-in.

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As can be seen from the graphic above, Everton is one of the 4 teams with a double gameweek in 35 and a game in 36, making their assets more attractive and less of a short term transfer. Everton’s fixture run-in is great all the way till gameweek 38 (when they play Man City) and they still have everything to play for. If they win their game in hand, they will be only 3 points behind 4th placed Chelsea. My top pick would be Calvert Lewin (7.5m). His goal scoring rate has dipped over the recent months but he was still top for chances in the last 6 gameweeks, which suggests that he is still getting into the right positions. Additionally, he has the security of playing 90 minutes in almost all games, a vital consideration in a double gameweek. Their opponents West Ham, Aston Villa and Sheffield United have kept just 1 clean sheet in their last 7, 7 and 6 matches respectively. Richarlison (7.8m) could prove to be a useful differential for the chasing managers, his appeal greatly enhanced by the assurance of penalties.  James (7.7m) is an option in that midfield although his starts could be doubtful over this fixture congestion.

In defence, Digne (6.1m) is the standout and the safest option. He and the Everton defence have largely been underwhelming this season but look stronger away from home, keeping 3 consecutive clean sheets in as many away matches. Pickford (4.8m) has produced 20 saves, five bonus points and a total of 30 FPL points in those matches. Both their double gameweek fixtures are away. The other defenders look prone to rotation but I still expect Keane (5.1m) and Holgate (4.8m) to start most games and there is always a chance to get a haul with their set piece prowess.

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Coming to the other half of Merseyside, Liverpool have arguably the best fixtures till the end of the season after their derby game against Man Utd this week, despite lacking a double gameweek. They are up against teams with poor defenses. They close the season with games against Southampton, West Brom, Burnley and Crystal Palace who have shipped a total of 29 goals in the last 4 weeks. With no European distractions and the sole purpose to clinch that elusive 4th UCL spot, Liverpool are sure to give it their all in the coming weeks. Most managers have already doubled or tripled on Liverpool assets, mostly comprising of Salah (12.7m), Jota (7.1m) and Trent (7.6m). They’re all worth holding for the run-in. Salah has his eyes on the golden boot, just one goal behind Kane (21 goals). Jota is still a bargain at his price and Trent, despite his terrible start to the season, has created 58 chances this season, only behind Shaw (66).  Despite Liverpool’s defensive woes, he is still a good option owing to his set piece and crossing ability.

For rogue managers, Mane (11.7m) and Robertson (7.1m) are worthy punts. Mane has had an extremely disappointing season by his standards, wasting numerous chances that have come his way, scoring just 8 goals and assisting just 5 times in 30 games. Compared to last season, Robertson has had a poor season too but if you compare his statistics to Trent, there is not much in it. Robertson has scored just one goal compared to Trent’s 2 and both have had 5 assists each in the league. It could have been 2 goals each had his shot crept in against Newcastle on the weekend.

West Ham United
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Arguably the surprise team of the season, West Ham is right in the midst of the race for 4th place despite losing a crucial game against Chelsea. They continue to miss key players such as Antonio (6.4m), Rice (4.7m) and Cresswell (5.7m) in particular which have comparatively made them vulnerable defensively and ineffective offensively. Despite these hurdles, I think West Ham still have enough quality to finish the season well and fight for that Champions League place till the very end. At the back, Fabianski (5.0m) and Diop (4.7m) are good punts, but Dawson (4.5m) and Coufal (4.7m) are the best assets to bring in. Dawson has been a superb signing for West Ham, scoring 3 goals so far and Coufal in the new RWB position has accumulated 3 assists in his last 4 games.

In attack, most managers already own Lingard (6.6m). He is a player reborn under Moyes, scoring 9 goals and assisting 4 goals in 11 games, and hence is a great asset for the run in. Managers looking to double up on the Ham attack can go for Soucek (5.3m), who has started venturing into the box more without Antonio, or differentials such as Bowen (6.0m) and Fornals (5.8m).

Tottenham Hotspur
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Apart from the GW38 match against Leicester, Tottenham have a great end to the season. Again a team without a double in 35, they still have it all to play for. They are still in the running to secure Champions League qualification. To achieve that, they will need a fit again Kane (11.8m) and Son (9.5m) to score goals. Kane’s had a stellar season so far, surprising everyone with his 13 assists this season as he often turned playmaker for the team.  Winning the golden boot will also be playing on his mind, leading the race with 21 goals, just one ahead of Salah. He also trails Bruno (11.5m) by just 3 points in the overall FPL standings. Plenty to play for, isn’t it? It also looks like Bale (9.1m) has got a new lease of life under new manager Ryan Mason after he spoke highly about the Welsh international in his interviews. Even though Bale started the EFL Cup final on the bench, I reckon he will start this week and could be a very cheeky differential.

Spurs’ defensive backline has undergone so much chop and change that they have been underperforming all season. The only players that I would consider getting in are Lloris (5.6m) and Regulion (5.6m).

Leeds United
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Another team who have a great run till the end of the season without a double is Leeds United. Even though their attack has dropped off recently with the injury to Raphinha (5.4m), their defence has stepped up big time.  With their back line commanded by a fit-again Llorente (4.4m), they have conceded just one goal a game in their last 6 games, keeping clean sheets against United and Chelsea. Hence, Meslier (4.7m) can be a set and forget keeper for the rest of the season. Dallas (5.3m), the highest scoring defender in FPL, is a great buy purely because this is the last time we will see him listed as a defender (just kidding). He has been a revelation this season, playing out of position as a midfielder, and has scored 7 goals so far, with 9 shots in the last 4 games, all 4 of which were on target. A word of caution here would be that with Raphinha back and easy fixtures ahead, Leeds could well revert back to their gung-ho attacking style of football. Not that it makes any difference to Dallas; his points will come either way. In attack, Bamford (6.5m) and Raphinha are the only players I would look at. Opposition stats don’t really matter to Leeds, who we know can score and concede against any team. A few notable double gameweek players that could end the season with a bang are Iheanacho (6.2m), Zaha (7.1m), Ings (8.4m), Lacazette (8.4m), Wood (6.3m) and KDB (11.9m).

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