Welcome to a new weekly series on Jumpers for Goalposts; The Weekly Wildcard.
Each week, the this article will map out an ideal team to wildcard into to help navigate the coming several weeks.
Obviously, we hope this series is of great benefit to those of you playing your wildcard during the week in question. However, the actual aim of this weekly article will be to build an ideal squad to tackle FPL in the long-term, in which you can choose some of these picks to help prepare your squad for the upcoming fixtures.
It’s all very well and good to create an ideal team with a single gameweek in mind, however this is of little use to anyone who isn’t playing their Free-Hit at that given moment, and attempting to shoehorn in players with a single gameweek in mind is often a recipe for disaster.
Therefore each week this series will create an optimised wildcard team with the medium-to-long term fixture schedule in mind, so you can be rest assured that bringing in one or two of these picks won’t damage your future FPL prospects, but rather help set you up for series of green arrows instead.
Firstly, if you’re reading this, you made it through BGW29 – congratulations! We are now into the final stretch of the Premier League season. Whether you have your wildcard in tact or not, now is an opportune moment to take stock of your current squad and consider a few ways to break the template somewhat in order to effectively attack the home-stretch.
Below I have created what I believe to be a near ideal squad set-up for the run-in. As we all have different budgets at this point in the season, some of you may have to make slight tweaks to this 15 in order to fit all of them into your team. However, as this wildcard squad comes in at £103.3m at time of writing, I believe it to be a reasonably realistic squad to assemble at this point.
EdOuard Mendy – £5.1m
When considering Chelsea’s incredible defensive form since Tuchel joined the club in combination with a kind set of upcoming fixtures, Mendy is certainly a prime candidate to fill the No #1 spot in our squad at this current time. The Senegalese stopper has now kept an incredible 8 clean sheets in his last 11 games in the Premier League, possibly making him too good to resist at the moment for many FPL managers looking to mix things up at the back. Chelsea’s defensive transformation since Tuchel came in has been impressive, with his side conceding only 4.54 xGC since gameweek 20 – the best in the league by a considerable margin.
It initially seemed as if Mendy may be at slight risk of falling victim to the ‘Tuchel Tombola’, with Kepa getting the nod over his counterpart in GW24 vs Newcastle. However, the post-match comments from the new gaffer alongside Mendy’s consistency of starts since that day have helped re-assure me that his place between the sticks seems safe enough to bank on.
Fraser Forster – £4m
Having a starting £4M goalkeeper in any team is always a huge bonus to any FPL manager. Whilst Forster has not been back in the Southampton starting XI for long, his impressive performances so far lend me to believe that he should be trusted on a continued basis for the time-being. I wouldn’t go as far as suggesting you have him in your squad as your primary playing keeper, however with Southampton’s favourable run-in & Burnley at home up next in GW30, bringing in Fraser Forster as a back-up goalkeeper seems like a no-brainer to me.
César Azpilicueta – £5.8m
Azpilicueta is the first defender in the weekly wildcard team, completing the Chelsea double up at the back. He is currently the only Chelsea player to not yet have missed out in the Premier League since Tuchel was appointed in GW20, making him the safest possible route to navigate the newfound rotation policy at the club. Chelsea’s defensive form combined with their upcoming fixtures make the double up seem the most (and possibly only) effective way to gain significant ground with Chelsea assets over the coming weeks. An equally appealing option for some may be Rudiger (£4.8m), who has only missed one Premier League fixture since GW20. The cheaper price-tag is certainly a tempting factor, although I am personally swayed slightly by the possibility of attacking returns that Azpi provides. If budget is tight however, Rudiger is probably the way to go.
Kieran Tierney – £5.3m
Considering Arsenal haven’t kept a clean sheet in 8 gameweeks, bringing in Tierney could be considered a slightly controversial pick. However, once they get Liverpool out of the way this weekend, the outlook for defensive returns should hopefully improve drastically. Sheffield United, Fulham, Newcastle and West Brom make up 4 of the next 5 fixtures – all teams who Arsenal will be fairly confident of a clean sheet against.
Tierney doesn’t just offer the possibility of future clean sheets either. His heatmap also makes for promising viewing, showcasing his appetite for advanced positions on the left wing. If you’re chasing rank at this point, Tierney may present a nice differential option over the next 5/6 weeks.
Luke Shaw – £5.2m
Luke Shaw has undergone an incredible transformation this season, in both FPL & as an all-round player. Until fairly recently his underlying stats were not reflected in attacking returns, however over the past 9 gameweeks he has delivered 1 goal & 4 assists, with the 2nd highest xGI (2.60) amongst all defenders during that time.
He seems to have been given more licence to attack in recent weeks as well. He now manages 0.7 shots per 90 minutes with an average of 3 penalty box touches per match – which is a major improvement upon his previous averages as shown below.
With an England starting spot at the Euros in his sights & and matches against Brighton, Burnley & Leeds in the upcoming 4 fixtures – I believe he provides the opportunity for both defensive & attacking returns for the run-in.
Conor Coady – £4.8m
Coady provides the cheapest and most secure route into the Wolves defence for the final 9 fixtures of the season. Despite a slightly tumultuous season, Wolves have managed to keep 4 clean sheets in their last 10 PL fixtures, only conceding more than 1 goal on a single occasion during that time – vs Manchester City. Conor’s attacking threat has also somewhat improved recently, and now averages an attempt on goal every 202.5 minutes (GW20-29). I wouldn’t bank on many points returns coming from “ GOAL – CONOR COADY” in the coming weeks, however this slight upswing in his attacking output is something to keep an eye on at least.
The real reason I have made sure to include a Wolves defender in the weekly wildcard is due to their irresistible run of fixtures between now and GW35, especially from a defensive point-of-view. As shown below, Wolves face 3 of the bottom 4 teams in terms of xG this season during that time (Sheffield United, Burnley & West Brom), with Brighton, Fulham & West Ham making up the remaining 3 matches in this period. Clean sheets look very much on the menu for Wolves over the coming weeks.
Max Kilman – £3.9m
If you’re going to have non-playing bench fodder in your team, it might as well be your fifth defender. At £3.9m, Max Kilman is almost as cheap as it gets in FPL terms now, which is obviously an essential factor in placing him this team. He seems unlikely to get many minutes during the final few weeks of the season, although should he find his way back into the team at any point soon, having another Wolves defender for the aforementioned fixture list could provide a valuable differential to many.
Wolves are now safe from relegation and extremely unlikely to challenge for the European places, meaning Nuno could potentially rotate his squad to give his youngsters considerable minutes at some point during the final few matches. As unlikely as it seems, having Kilman ready and waiting in the final bench position could prove to be a canny move (as long as you don’t still have the bench boost, of course).
Bruno Fernandes – £11.5m
Dare I use the word ‘essential’? No, although Bruno is probably not far off. The Portuguese maestro is the first player in the game to reach the 200 point mark so far, and has notched up an incredible 28 attacking returns (16 goals, 12 assists) in just 29 gameweeks.
At this point, it would be difficult for even the most stubborn of FPL players to avoid bringing him into their teams, especially when considering the upcoming blank GW33. In this week in particular, Manchester United will play Leeds United, a match which promises to be extremely open and present attacking assets such as Bruno with chances aplenty. Meanwhile, both Manchester City & Tottenham will miss this week due to their Carabao Cup commitments, wiping out the majority of alternative Captain options available to FPL managers.
In case you are not yet convinced, Bruno has a xGI of 6.47 during the last 10 gameweeks (2nd amongst all midfielders), all during a period where many looked to differentiate their line-ups by going without him.
Kevin De Bruyne – 11.9m
KDB is one of the only ‘shorter-term’ picks I have selected in this squad, and if I was to put this wildcard into practice the plan would be to move him on to Salah after Manchester City play Leeds United in GW31.
Since starting his first match in GW25 after injury, KDB has looked to be in red-hot form across matches in all formats. He has the 4th highest xGI of all midfielders during that period of time, but has also passed the heralded ‘eye-test’ with flying colours, as far as I’m concerned.
This is probably my biggest gut call of the bunch, but with Leeds in GW31 KDB seems like the perfect player to punt on over the next two weeks if you can afford to do so – before then bringing in Salah in GW32.
Heung-Min Son – £9.4m
Pending confirmation of his return to full fitness ahead of the weekend, Son now seems like a banker in our FPL sides for the next few weeks at least. With Spurs’ double gameweek in 32 confirmed against Everton & Southampton, Tottenham’s fixture list will make him a popular pick over the coming period.
Mourinho’s press conference will be eagerly awaited with this in mind, especially when we start to consider the opportunity that their next opponents should present to Son in particular. Newcastle have been historically poor down the right-hand side this year. In fact, Newcastle have conceded the more chances than any other team this season down that right side,meaning Son should find a decent amount of joy down that channel.
If you can afford to bench him in GW33 when Spurs blank, Tottenham’s schedule in the following weeks is also quite obliging, with Sheffield United, Leeds & Wolves in GWs 34-36 presenting yet more opportunities for attacking returns.
Diogo Jota – £6.7m
With an ownership of just 4.7% at time of writing, this seems like the perfect time to jump on Diogo Jota. Although their next 2 fixtures are not ideal, Liverpool’s run-in to the end of the season is as good as any team’s in the entire league – and with Jota returning to full fitness relatively recently, he remains an affordable differential pick for the time being.
Jota has been back in and amongst the goals for both club & country since his return, and may just be the spark Liverpool need in their forward line to re-invigorate their attacking trio. The stats suggest this could well be the case, as referenced by the FPL Wire earlier this week. As they mentioned, if you compare Salah & Jota’s individual goal involvement whilst they’ve been on the pitch this season, Jota almost matches Mo exactly, with the Egyptian only narrowly beating him as seen below.
For his price tag, Diogo seems like an easy way to capitalise on Liverpool’s strong upcoming fixtures, with the double up on both him & Salah certainly an option to at least consider for GW32 & beyond.
Raphinha – £5.7m
Normally, I wouldn’t be too tempted to have 8 attacking assets who are all worthy regular starters in my team (spoiler, I have 3 playing strikers too) – however there are a few reasons I’ve made an exception in this instance. Firstly, this team is relatively cheap, and even if you haven’t been able to accrue a large squad budget, most players should be able to afford it, even with an 8th attacker. Secondly, Leeds’ medium-term fixtures are not favourable at all, meaning for a few weeks you should be able to place Raphinha on your bench without too many sleepless nights. Finally though, and perhaps most importantly, Raphinha has been utterly sensational this season.
You may remember reading earlier that Bruno is second for xGI over the past 10 gameweeks. Remember who came out on top? That’s right – with an xGI of 6.50 during that time, Raphinha has consistently been putting in performances worthy of big FPL returns over a considerable span of the season now.
Additionally, whilst Leeds United’s medium-term fixtures are less than beneficial, if you take a wider look you begin to notice where he can be of great use to your team. Sheffield United up first in GW30 present an early opportunity to make use of Leeds assets, whilst their final run-in between GW34-38 also appeals.
If you aren’t convinced on Raphinha’s credibility as an FPLoption for their final 9 fixtures, I would advise looking at either Neto (5.7m) or Mount (7.0).
Harry Kane – £11.6m
We probably don’t need to overthink this one. With favourable fixtures, an upcoming appealing double gameweek and a good set of fixtures following GW33, it would be hard to build a real case to argue against putting Kane in any wildcard draft right now. Not only this, but he is probably also the standout captain of choice for both GW30 & GW32, making him even harder to ignore.
With 30 attacking returns (17 goals, 13 assists) in 29 gameweeks and a league leading xGI of 17.61 amongst forwards, do I really need to convince you any more as to why Kane is a good pick?
Michail Antonio – £6.7m
Antonio comes in to the ‘Weekly Wildcard’ as the mid-priced striker of choice. The West Ham forward had a somewhat subdued few weeks in the run up to GW29, but he reminded everyone what he is capable of against Arsenal, picking up 2 assists in the process.
Antonio has 7.39 xGI, the highest amongst all forwards by quite some margin over the past 10 gameweeks. It’s not like he’s had an easy run of fixtures either, having playing Arsenal, Liverpool, Tottenham and both Manchester sides during that time period.
On first look, West Ham’s fixtures may not look too appealing. However, with matches against Wolves, Newcastle and Burnley in the next 5, I have faith that he will continue to make up his xG deficit over the coming weeks.
Kelechi Iheanacho – £5.7m
Last up is a proper form pick. Iheanacho has lit up the Premier League since coming into the Leicester side on the back of injuries to Barnes & Maddison, scoring 5 goals in his last 3 league games. On top of that, he also notched a further 2 as Leicester knocked out Manchester United in the FA Cup immediately prior to the international break.
Admittedly at, he may be one to keep on the bench for this week, but I strongly feel the value he provides will be of use as a rotating 8th attacker with Raphinha over the coming weeks. Leicester’s run of fixtures takes a major turn for the better in GW32, at which point they go on to face West Brom, Crystal Palace, Southampton & Newcastle in consecutive gameweeks. For those of us unable to bring in Jamie Vardy ahead of this run, Kelechi Iheanacho certainly seems a palatable compromise.
Credits: all stats are taken from the members area of Fantasy Football Scout website.