Weekly Wildcard: GW31
Welcome back to the second edition of the Weekly Wildcard!
Each week, the Weekly Wildcard maps 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 is to help readers 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.
Gameweek 31 feels like an especially big one for this article. With fixture swings galore and plenty of template picks going off the boil, this week looks to be one which sees a significant amount of FPL players activating their wildcards. Not to fear if you’re not one of them though! We hope this article can help to pick out a few important players to bring in over the coming weeks, helping you to match those with the wildcard up their sleeves.
This week’s squad comes in at £102.5M, an amount which I hope is realistic for the majority of you at this point of the season. On a personal note, I will also be playing my wildcard this week. So, no pressure, eh?
Edouard Mendy – £5.2M
Despite Chelsea’s capitulation against West Brom over the weekend, I haven’t been put off Mendy just yet. In fact, I’m somewhat hoping that due to conceding 5 to the Baggies, many will avoid bringing in Chelsea’s defensive assets ahead of what still looks to be a promising few gameweeks.
Mendy still has 8 clean sheets in his last 12 matches, with the Chelsea defence posting the second best xGC statistics in the league during that time despite their recent horror show.
Fraser Forster – £4.0m
Forster still stands out as the back-up keeper of choice at the moment, with the 4m stopper looking more nailed as a consistent starter each week. Seemingly now Southampton’s first-choice ahead of McCarthy, having a playing keeper at such a low price is always a huge bonus for all FPL managers on a budget.
Trent Alexander-Arnold – £7.3m
Trent has become the hot topic across both FPL and Football in general over the past week, all seemingly sparked by his omission from Gareth Southgate’s most recent England squad. Whether or not you agree with this decision, it has certainly created a chain reaction, which has promptly seen him become a much desired member of most wildcard templates.
His performance against Arsenal was one to behold, and was not the first time recently that he started to show glimpses of what he is capable of. It feels like we currently have the perfect recipe for Trent to show his best form until the end of the season. Firstly, his underlying stats have stood out amongst all defenders over the past 10 weeks, with an xGI of 3.40.
Secondly, Liverpool’s remaining run of fixtures arguably the best of any team in the league. Possibly just as importantly however, Trent will be highly driven to prove his worthiness of a place in the England squad come Summer. Overall, I think he represents one of the best differential picks out of any player in the game for the remainder of the season.
Ruben Dias – £6.1m
Admittedly, having a Manchester City player at this point in the season is always going to have some level of risk attached to it. With Pep’s side still fighting on four fronts, pretty much every player is at risk of rotation. However, if you still have your heart set on keeping a City player in your squad, there is surely no safer pick than Ruben Dias (with the possible exception of Ederson).
Dias has been one of the players most exempt from Pep Roulette up to this point in the season, with his manager seemingly trusting him to lead the back line on a permanent basis, whilst his partners have become somewhat interchangeable. The decision to keep a Manchester City defender is a difficult one and despite his lack of rotation in the past, I can definitely see him being at risk whilst City are still in the running for the Champions League. However, the upside to having him could be huge whilst others jump off. Manchester City have been the best defence over the course of the season, and holding Dias for the run-in whilst others look elsewhere could be a canny move.
Luke Shaw – £5.3m
Luke Shaw is still a lock in my gameweek 31 Wildcard side. As mentioned in my last article, his transformation into an attacking full-back during this season has made him not only a more versatile player, but also a strong candidate for our FPL teams – at a very reasonable price! He boasts the second highest xGI amongst defenders in the previous 10 gameweeks, and Manchester United’s upcoming fixtures give ample opportunity for him to capitalise on his underlying stats.
Antonio Rudiger – £4.7m
As mentioned previously, I am willing to ignore Chelsea’s blip against West Brom for the time being. However, as one of the notable omissions from the starting XI over the weekend, Rudiger may be one Chelsea player to actually benefit from the loss. Having been slightly prone to minor rotation previously, I am hopeful that he will now be much more nailed to start for the remaining matches – having not been guilty of the same offenses as the rest of the Chelsea back line. He had also been a significant part of Chelsea’s strong form at the back since Tuchel came in, keeping 8 clean sheets in the 11 Premier League matches he’s played in so far. The reported argument in training between himself and Kepa has now also been brushed under the metaphorical rug in Tuchel’s most recent press conference – so I am confident this shouldn’t be an issue for the weekend.
Max Kilman – £3.9m
If you haven’t got triple Liverpool, I’d suggest the 5th defender spot go to Nathan Phillips. Otherwise, I’d still suggest Max Kilman. At 3.9m there aren’t many cheaper defenders, and with the Wolves back-line depleted yet again by Jonny’s injury there is definitely the possibility that Kilman begins to get some game-time over the coming weeks. If so, having a cheap Wolves asset ready and waiting whilst they go through an incredibly favourable run of fixtures could be a handy way to gain an advantage over other FPL managers.
Bruno Fernandes – £11.6m
It was another gameweek and another attacking return for Bruno against Brighton last week, with Manchester United’s talisman yet against proving his worth as the premium asset of choice in FPL.
He now has an incredible 29 attacking returns in 30 gameweeks, comprising of 16 goals and 13 assists. Yes, his penalties have played a part in these figures to an extent, but his underlying stats also prove he is an outstanding FPL option even without these. In fact, he leads the entire league for both chances created & shots on target over the entire season.
With Leeds coming up in GW33 while other popular captaincy options blank due to Carabao Cup commitments, Bruno seems like an absolutely crucial player to own over the coming period.
Mohamed Salah – £12.4m
It may just be time to bring back the FPL King. Despite being ‘out of form’ recently, Salah has still managed to post the highest xG out of all midfielders in the game over the past 10 weeks, scoring 5 times during that period.
Liverpool’s fixtures now become incredibly promising from now until the end of the season, with Man United in GW34 presenting by far their most challenging remaining opponent. In fact, Liverpool now play 3 teams in their next 5 who arguably have very little to play for (Aston Villa, Leeds & Southampton) – with another being Newcastle. At under 30% ownership and a goal in his previous two matches (all comps)there is plenty of upside to bringing in Mo Salah quickly, before the masses swarm back to him.
James Maddison – £7.1m
I really like Maddison as a differential pick from now until at least GW35. Prior to his injury, Maddison had picked up 5 goals and 3 assists in his last 9 matches – and now he is back to full fitness I expect him to fill the creative void in Leicester’s midfield once again. With Harvey Barnes still out for the foreseeable future, I can even see considerably more emphasis put on Maddison’s creative output to help break through their opponents back-line.
Maddison’s heatmap makes for promising viewing, with the midfielder popping up in key areas around the edge of the box throughout the season. As the below graphic shows, he also benefits from being on corners.
As another player with a point to prove to Gareth Southgate ahead of the Euros, I expect Maddison to have a strong end to the season – especially when looking at their upcoming fixtures and Leicester’s determination to clinch Champions League football for next year.
Diogo Jota – £6.9m
Diogo Jota seems like the perfect option to complete the Liverpool triple up at the moment. At just 6.9m, the Portuguese midfielder represents incredible value in an attacking line-up which has a number of obliging fixtures coming up.
Jota was in great form earlier in the season, but an injury quickly put an end to our fantasy interest in him at the time. His return to full fitness couldn’t be more timely, with Liverpool having struggled for goals during his absence. His 2 goals after coming off the bench against Arsenal over the weekend showcased exactly what he provides the team with, and it seems unlikely that he will be on the bench too often from this point onwards, with both Mane & Firmino showing indifferent form at best.
Jesse Lingard – £6.3m
Jesse Lingard has successfully played his way into my wildcard squad after a sensational return to form at West Ham. In just 8 matches for the Hammers he has notched up 10 goal contributions (6 goals and 4 assists), which is extremely hard to ignore at this point. During this time, he is the most prolific midfield fantasy asset in the game.
Despite defying his relatively low xGI statistics during that time, it is clear to see that Lingard is a man in the form of his life, and certainly passes the ‘eye test’ with flying colours.
Notable midfield omission – Heung-Min Son:
Many of you will be wondering where Heung-Min Son is in this wildcard draft. Whilst normally I wouldn’t list the players I have left out, I felt it necessary to explain my decision making process on such a controversial move.
Clearly he is a good option ahead of Spurs’ double in GW32 and has a decent run of matches following their blank in GW33 – however working with the budget I have allocated in this article, I feel the money can be better spent by spreading into two separate assets: Trent Alexander-Arnold & James Maddison. Both of these players, in my opinion, can help to cover off the points Son should get in the coming weeks.
An alternative strategy, should you still be eager to bring in Son for his upcoming run, would be to change either Maddison or Lingard (budget dependant) to Son, whilst simultaneously moving Trent to Phillips (4.0m). This is a strategy I was extremely close to utilizing myself, and still may by the end of the week. However, for the time being I believe that the upside of these two differential assets should win out over Son, who has only 1 goal since gameweek 18.
Harry Kane – £11.7m
Yet again, Harry Kane was probably the first name on the teamsheet when selecting this week’s wildcard squad. Another 2 goals against Newcastle brought him up to 19 goals for the season, making him now both the league’s top scorer and assister at this present time.
Tottenham’s blank in GW33 is something to be mindful of when looking at your squad structure, but this won’t be putting many off having Kane in their team right now. With a double gameweek against Everton & Southampton coming up in GW32 and fixtures against Sheffield United, Leeds and Wolves after his blank, the returns should keep flowing for Kane – and will be a prime captaincy option in most of these weeks.
Kelechi Iheanacho – £5.8m
Now that Leicester’s game against Man City is out of the way, Iheanacho is a budget forward gathering a great deal of interest ahead of his team’s incredible run of upcoming fixtures. With 5 goals in his last 4 league games and 2 goals in the Cup against Man United recently, he is a striker very much in form. This is also reflected in the xGI standings, with Kelechi competing with the big hitters in recent weeks – making a mockery of his 5.8m price tag.
Keinan Davis – £4.2m
If I tried to give you a long and complex reason behind this pick, would you believe me? At 4.2m he is currently the lowest priced forward option, and as this wildcard has 5 strong midfielders I have decided that the 3rd forward spot is one I’m willing to compromise on.
With that being said, he did come on and grab an assist in his previous match against Fulham, which may be enough to convince Dean Smith that he deserves a bit more game-time now Aston Villa are in ‘on-the-beach’ territory.
Credits: All tables are taken from the members section of Fantasy Football Scout.