Making a Plan for the Upcoming Blank and Double Gameweeks

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What’s Your FPL Philosophy? Making a Plan for the Upcoming Blank and Double Gameweeks

This is Part 4 of the Overcoming FPL series, where we analyze how mental shortcuts and cognitive biases affect our FPL decisions, and what up-and-coming managers can do to change their behavior. While the series is meant to be more approachable for up and coming managers, we hope that there are some lessons for even the most experienced of managers.

Part 1: Overcoming the ROT in making FPL Decisions

Part 2: Overcoming the Echo Chamber That Is FPL Twitter

Part 3: Overcoming the urge to Transfer & Captain “Differentials”

With the announcement of the blank gameweek fixtures in GW18 and the teams that will have a double gameweek for GW19, we are finally approaching the first major inflection point of the 2020-2021 FPL season. 

This feels strange, given how wild of a ride the first portion of the season has been for us. We’ve experienced penalty-gate, record high scoring affairs (including Manchester United and Liverpool giving up a combined 13 goals against in one round), and our first COVID-19-related postponement. However, for the most part, the season has had a fairly consistent rhythm: Every seven or so days, we’ve set our teams with ten fixtures in mind. 

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That is all about to change. In case you have somehow missed it, the affected gameweeks are as follows:

Blank Gameweek 18

The teams without a fixture in GW18 are: Burnley, Chelsea, Fulham, Leeds United, Leicester City, Liverpool, Manchester United, Southampton, West Bromwich Albion, and West Ham United. It follows that these same teams will have two fixtures in GW19. 

Double Gameweek 19

It’s hard enough for us as FPL managers to simply make our transfers, set our starting lineup, and select a captain next week. Now we are faced with the first major structural deviation of the season (not counting the Manchester teams, Aston Villa, and Burnley missing out in GW1). It is more important than ever to have a plan of attack over the next few weeks.

Having a plan (or philosophy) is one of the most important skills an FPL manager will utilize over the course of an entire season. Without a plan, you will likely be making a transfer (or two) as each gameweek comes at you without an eye on future captaincy needs, upcoming fixture swings, or any real sense of the big picture for the season overall.

A plan doesn’t even have to be successful to necessarily be a “good” plan. Here are some examples of good plans, gone awry:

  1. Swapping big hitters to chase captaincy hauls in favorable fixtures. Most managers will not argue that transferring premium assets in and out of your team in search of a doubled 20 pointer is a good idea. Just because Jamie Vardy and KDB couldn’t score at home to Fulham or WBA respectively doesn’t make that a bad call. 
  2. Using Rhian Brewster as an enabler to afford a better midfield. How could we have known that not only would Brewster be both non-effective AND a rotation risk, but also that blocking off a route to inexpensive and better value forwards such as Callum Wilson and Patrick Bamford could hurt the structure of our teams.

While neither of these strategies have been the most effective plans for the managers that have adopted them so far this season, they were at least conceived and implemented with longer term thinking in mind. 

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Mark and Az’s captain matrix that they devised on the FPL Blackbox is another great example of forward thinking. By looking at the best captain options for the next few gameweeks, you can create a plan of how you want to make sure to have as many or all of those players in your team, when it is their time to shine!

Where you don’t want to find yourself is on the opposite side of this spectrum, in a constant race to make changes that may look great for the gameweek that is approaching, but could pigeonhole you with a player whose upcoming fixtures are bad or a price point that is hard to get rid of if they don’t perform.

For most of us, the plans we devise to tackle a set of multiple gameweeks are derived from our FPL Philosophy. With all of the great content creators in the FPL community talking about their own strategies at length, we can see where they have success when sticking to their plans (or failure when they don’t!).

The FPL General is famous for his A4 sheet of paper that he consults before making any transfer. His FPL Philosophy requires asking himself questions like: Is the player I’m considering transferring into my team injury prone? FFScout Joe is another who has made his ideology of price points and never being more than two transfers away from any given player quite well known.

So what is your FPL Philosophy? Before we go any further, take a few minutes to note down at least five bullet points that guide how you play the game. 

Here’s my FPL Philosophy:

  1. I practice extreme, and I mean bordering on ghost ship extreme, patience with the players in my team. The best players (i.e. the ones most of us try to pick) will come good over larger sample sizes. Let them play it out.
  2. All of the players in my team should have a route to goal involvement. Give me Oli Burke over Yves Bissouma any day! Yes, I do realize though that Bissouma has a goal on the season and Burke only has one jammy assist while looking like hot garbage anytime he steps on the field. 
  3. I like to have a strong bench, especially in defense. My goal is for a 3-4-3 formation, where any of my five defenders are an option week to week. 
  4. Sports betting is a huge enterprise employing teams of analytics professionals to ensure they aren’t losing money. I try to utilize their expertise by looking for outliers in their betting odds data vs what my expectations of each gameweek’s result will be. 
  5. To create my aforementioned expectations, I try to predict the outcomes of each fixture ahead of the FPL deadline each week. This is a great way to ensure you are tactically thinking about your plan each week. If you feel that Spurs will shut out Wolves this weekend, then why are you considering bringing Neto or Podence into your team?
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By analyzing what your plans are for the gameweek against the heuristics that you have outlined in your FPL Philosophy, you will get the gears turning toward making a plan of attack to score the most points possible. 

So this brings us back to our current state of mind, which is planning our teams for the upcoming blank gameweek 18 and double gameweek 19. We aren’t going to cover whether you should be wildcarding here, free hitting there, or triple captaining so and so. Not only will there be plenty written in the coming days and weeks about chip strategies for this period, but also there are countless permutations unique to everyone’s FPL squad that render even the best advice useless.  

Instead, to guide our early planning, here is our Top 10 list of questions that we need answered to make a plan for blank GW18 and double GW19.

Who is the most captainable player for blank GW18? Manchester City home to Brighton is the standout of the five fixtures. KDB and Sterling are most likely the guys that we will want to captain for GW18. The other options are Spurs away to Villa and (I can’t believe I am even going here, but…) Aubameyang home to a Crystal Palace team that just gave up a touchdown to Liverpool.

Whoever our GW18 captain is, will we also want that player in our team for double GW19, even though they will only have one fixture? Man City home to the aforementioned Crystal Palace, Spurs at Sheffield, and Arsenal home to Newcastle. Proceed with caution. It is entirely possible that those who haven’t used their first wildcard could actually end up in worse shape at the end of GW9 by overmanaging their teams by solely relying on double gameweek players. Be very careful not to fall into this trap.

Which player with only one fixture in double GW19 will outscore all of our players that have two fixtures? Touched on this above but it really can’t be said enough. KDB, Sterling, Kane, Son, and Auba all have the fixtures and pedigree to outscore their double gameweek equivalents.

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Will the Klopp roulette continue? We have been so spoiled by multiple years of Mane – Firmino – Salah being so nailed on as a front three for Liverpool that we’ve never really had to consider their rotation in our FPL planning. In this crazy season, both Mane and Salah have not started games that they would have likely never missed in previous years. Keep an eye on their rotation patterns leading up until the double gameweek to ensure we don’t get Pep’ed by Klopp.

Can old man Vardy’s groin hold up? Seeing Jamie Vardy limp off the field after devastating Spurs over the weekend was certainly a concern. Another recurrence of the groin strain that the Leicester striker has been dealing with for some time. This was the first time all season that Vardy had attempted full 90s for 3 games in a week as he’s been mostly rested or nursing niggles for the Europa League midweeks. Leicester have one of the shortest recovery windows of all teams in GW19. Will Vardy be able to hold up in both matches?

Will Michael Antonio be fit? This could be overstating it, but the fitness of Michael Antonio will be absolutely critical to our double gameweek plans. If we are confident that he is fit enough for 60-90 minutes for each game in the double gameweek, then he really should be in 100% of teams that are well prepared or using a chip. If he isn’t fit, don’t fall into the Haller trap.

Which West Ham defender do we want? Given the fixtures, most will have at least one. It is a simple straight choice between Cresswell and Coufal?

Can the Leeds defense ever be trusted? Given the premium assets that we will want for GW19, we are certainly going to need some cheap enablers. Leeds catches the eye with home matches against Brighton and a Southampton team that may or may not have Danny Ings. Can we consider their 4.5ish defense though? Watching the Leeds fullbacks attack their opponents is really enjoyable. Watching them give up six goals is not.

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What will be more valuable – Filling your team with premium, big hitters or spreading out the money for a bench boost? Be prepared to ask yourself questions like: Will a duo like Bruno Fernandes and Ademola Lookman outscore a pair like Son Heung-Min and Jarrod Bowen? What about Mo Salah and Zambo Anguissa vs Christian Pulisic and Marcus Rashford?

If you drop DCL or your Spurs attackers for the double gameweek, can you afford to bring them back in after losing half of their gained value? As a proud DCL owner since GW1 (humblebrag), losing 0.5 in value would hurt if I’m planning on bringing him back in. Same will go for Grealish, Son, and Kane owners. If you are planning on dropping them to max out on double gameweekers, just make sure you have a plan AND the cash to bring them back in if you expect to want them back.

Once you start thinking about the answers to these questions, your mind will be engaged in what sort of planning will work best for your specific team to navigate the blanks and doubles. Everyone’s team and chip usage is unique, so make a plan that works best for your team!

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