FFGeek Contributor Andrew Whitfield updates his “Gradual wildcard” and thoughts on Project Restart and FPL


Here’s FFGeek Contributor Andrew Whitfield updates us on his “Gradual Wildcard” and gives his thoughts on Project Restart and the FPL site.  Andrew finished with an overall rank of 6k last season and 19k in 17/18

FFGeek Contributor Andrew Whitfield updates his “Gradual wildcard” and thoughts on Project Restart and FPL

 I outline my  FPL strategy along with 10 other FFGeek contributors in our new EBook.




It seems a long time ago since Leicester beat Villa on 9 March. Ten weeks later, we still don’t know if “Project Restart” will see action return in June. Further crucial meetings might tell us more this week. An agreement to return to training is a positive step at least.

It’s also ten weeks since I embarked on my “gradual wildcard” with the FPL site left open between GW30 to GW38, for free weekly transfers, despite empty gameweeks. I have been very active in the market and I outline all my transfers made in this article. It might help anyone considering a wildcard for the remaining fixtures, if we do get underway.

There is some confusion as to what will happen with FPL, but hope remains that the game can continue as football resumes. The site appears to be in automatic “closure mode”, as we have gone past GW38 and this is uncharted territory. I think the chaos off the field is mirrored at FPL Towers. But for now, I am planning for FPL returning.

Football or no football ??

– It still feels a bit early and there is a nervous uneasiness around. People are still dying after all. Perhaps seeing the Bundesliga back might help calm some fears but there is a certain eeriness watching games behind closed doors . There is a lot still to discuss and challenges to overcome as the return of Premier League football hangs in the balance.

– In an ideal world, we would forget football until much later this year, then come back and finish this season when the fears are subsiding. Forget next season which is irrelevant. But it’s no longer that simple. Player contracts are expiring. Sponsorship deals are lucrative too. Television money is huge of course. The demands and riches of European competition mean that UEFA want to complete this season’s competition as well as hold next seasons too. Realistically, we can’t just park the whole thing and resume this season towards the end of the year, at the exclusion of next. Money talks.

– The financial implications for the game are very real. Finishing this season and playing next too have massive boosts and ramifications for the very existence of football. If the tv and sponsorship deals don’t filter down the pyramid, clubs in the lower leagues of English football could fall like a pack of cards and we might not have a game to come back to next season.

– Angela Merkel summed it up well when she agreed the return of the Bundesliga, describing it as an “acceptable level of risk “ against the financial implications for the industry. Governments are returning people to work across many sectors, to prevent economic meltdown, with significantly greater health risks for our workers than those faced by fit professional footballers. It’s a tough compromise.

– A few players have been vocal in their concerns. But it’s been said that those players are far more at risk visiting the supermarket or the petrol station to fill up their fast cars, than playing football under the very strict controls in place. That’s probably true. But fears will naturally exist amongst players, particularly as training moves to the next phases and games approach.

– There are plenty of hurdles to clear. Neutral grounds, testing, player concerns, crowd control fears. Personal self interest and division too. There have even been reports about the bottom six clubs having daily WhatsApp meetings to discuss strategy to help void the season, in desperate attempts to hang on to Premier League status. “Project Sabotage”. Not a day goes by without news stories coming out from sides in the bottom six, expressing their safety concerns, while other sides higher up the table have everyone in the squad chomping at the bit and can’t wait to get going. The politics and tactics of some clubs have been a curious and unsavoury side show.




What about FPL ??

– There has been uncertainty in FPL world too. Can FPL alter the platform to add extra gameweeks ? Will we get a “super GW38” with all the rearranged games thrown in there ?? If gameweeks can’t be added will FPL simply draw a line under it and cancel the game now we have reached GW38 ?? A cryptic announcement ahead of the GW38 deadline offered encouragement that FPL COULD accommodate extra gameweeks if required and the season remains in place. But further doubts surfaced this week with unlimited transfers apparently being available for everyone and then warnings about the game having closed if we tried to activate them. My thoughts and planning are around the game continuing, once they sort out the site and it’s glitches associated with trying to take the game beyond the final gameweek.

– Some FPL managers have not touched their team for ten weeks, others have been more active in positioning their squads for the remaining games, removing deadwood, improving benches for what could be increased rotation, optimising teams for the best remaining fixtures and taking advantage of the opportunity provided by FPL in keeping the game ticking with free weekly transfers through the “empty gameweeks”. Having already utilised my second wildcard, it’s potentially unfair to those that haven’t to be given a chance to effectively have another free wildcard. I have been happy to not “look a gift horse in the mouth” and take the free opportunity provided. It may prove fruitless but it’s been enjoyable at least.

My gradual wildcard:

– I think “slow wildcard” has been added to the dictionary in the last ten weeks, along with “lockdown” and “furlough”. I outlined my plans on April 3 for my “slow wildcard” and I have deviated a little from my plans and made nine free changes to my squad in nine weeks. I actually bought and sold Martial within the period, so that’s effectively “just” EIGHT squad changes. So all change in the last ten weeks. I am certainly happy with my new look squad in comparison with the old one, having spread the value a little. With so many games due in a short space of time, rotation likely and the possibility of positive tests, a strong bench and a deep squad could be essential.

So who has left and who has come in :

Players out :

Robertson, Grealish, Aubameyang, Boly, Henderson, Traore, Stephens and Ings.

– The headline sales are probably Aubemayang and Robertson, who are the main casualties to raise the funds to spread across the squad. Aubemayang has good fixtures but has actually only averaged 3.8 points over the last 8 games. The switch to Calvert Lewin who has averaged 5.8 points over the same period provides close to 5M to put to use throughout the team. I liked owning Aubemayang as a convenient transfer switch to Kane or Aguero, but three less expensive strikers certainly helps the rest of the squad.

– The tale of the “double Liverpool clean sheet” has been one of the defining factors in my season. I showed great patience during the early season period when Liverpool kept finding a way to concede “one” every week, including a run of one clean sheet in ten games. My double up on the Liverpool defence brought me just 6 clean sheets in 22 games, which is a significant loss of points !! In my spells without the Liverpool double up, they kept 6 clean sheets in 7 games !! That’s a huge bearing on my season. I have held Robertson for 22 games this season at an average of just 4.4 points. There is also the possibility of rotation and an easing off when Liverpool seal the title. They started this season slowly at the back too. Clean sheets were in short supply at the start of the season so will they prove just as difficult to find when the season resumes. So I am back on single Liverpool defence with Trent.

– Grealish has ten games left, six of them at home, but some awful fixtures. He has averaged 4.4 points in his ten games for my team. Ings has completely trolled me as usual. I missed his goal rush with just 2.4 points average from his seven games in my team. He has been over performing his stats too. Traore was another example, returning just eight points from his five games for me, which included two shoulder dislocations !!

Players in:

Lundstram, Fernandes, Calvert Lewin, Doherty, Pope, Mount, Maguire and Rashford.

So here is how my “new” team is looking, following the gradual wildcard:

Andrew is currently on 1620 Points and a 241k overall rank

gradual wildcard

Keeper:

Pope – The top points scoring keeper in FPL, averaging 7.3 points over his last seven games. He still has Norwich, Brighton, West Ham, Watford and Palace to play. Will be my first choice between the sticks. A cheaper swap in for Henderson, whose loan from Man Utd technically ends on 30 June and he can’t play in the fixture against them either.

Defence:

Alexander Arnold – The top points scoring defender in FPL. An assist machine. He hasn’t left my team all season. On corners and free kicks. As close to essential as it gets.

Doherty – An upgrade from Boly. Averaging 8 points in his last five games. Great fixtures. If the games are played in the original order, they start with Westham, Bournemouth and Villa. A big attacking threat. Very pleased to have him in my team for the first time.

Maguire – The fixtures are as good as they get. They play five of the bottom seven – Palace, West Ham, Villa, Brighton and Bournemouth. Four clean sheets in five before the break. Good clean sheet potential, a nailed starter and always a threat at set pieces.,

Midfield:

Salah – Top scoring player In FPL this season. Averaging 7.5 points over the last ten games. I only owned him 15 games but for a healthy average of 7.6 points. I flipped between him and Mane as well as owning them both for just two games. I am still hurting from not putting the triple captain armband on Salah and choosing Mane instead in what amounted to a coin toss it was that close. Salah had only scored once away from home all season after all. A 30 point swing which was another pivotal moment of my season. Mo Salah is on penalties too.

De Bruyne – An incredible 16 assists this season. The most owned player in FPL. He has the ability to kill your rank overnight as a non owner. Possibly on pens now. Great fixtures for City too.

Bruno Fernandes – Only played five games in the Prem and possibly been lucky with penalties and keeper errors boosting his points, but averaged 7.6 points and seemed to have transformed United before the break. Probably on penalties as well as set pieces. A nice upgrade on Grealish.

Mount – A bit of a gamble . In for Traore. Chelsea have as good a fixtures as anybody if the fixtures are played out in the original order. Villa, Westham, Watford and Palace in their first five. Always good on the eye. It was a close call between him and Harvey Barnes. They have identical value and points. ( Barnes destroyed me in the final GW29 with 19 points v Villa after i said I “didn’t get the Harvey Barnes thing” ) But I don’t want to chase lost points again. Mason Mount has featured in all 29 games, including 27 starts, against 20 starts for Barnes. Mount has played over 600 minutes more than Barnes, recorded nearly 400 more passes, 17 more shots, hit the woodwork three times. Villa first up would be a poetic way to put that Barnes haul to bed.

Strikers:

Jiménez – Considering this guy is known for his consistency, I have somehow managed to own him in for nine games in three spells at an average of just 3.2 points. Unbelievable really. Fantastic fixtures, so every chance I will hold him for the run in and his returns will stick this time.

Calvert Lewin – Back in GW23, I had a choice between him and Maupay. Both young strikers in their break out season. There was nothing much to choose between them. Maupay was posting good stats. I chose Maupay, who has returned once in seven games since, whereas Calvert Lewin has taken off under Ancelotti with five returns in those seven games bringing 41 points. Another painful 50-50. Scared me to death watching him as a non owner. Still has the bottom three, Norwich, Villa and Bournemouth to play.

Rashford – In for Ings. Definitely a gamble having not played since January, following a back injury. Considered “80% fit so far” and may need a couple of games, but then so will everybody else !! Could easily have been the top FPL points scoring striker but for his injury. Has benefitted from five penalties but has also hit the woodwork six times too, so could easily have exceeded his 14 goals. May have lost pens to Fernandes. A bit of a punt but with only 9.5% ownership, which will include plenty of dormant teams, could potentially be what we are all looking for – a lowly owned explosive scorer and a great differential.

The bench:

McCarthy – A second playing keeper will be required for the bench boost, I don’t like rotating keepers but he can potentially fill in when Pope plays Man City and Liverpool, and if we end up with double gameweeks, could conceivably have a gameweek when he plays twice to Popes once.

Lundstram – “The Lord” has been a revelation this season. I played him 21 times at an average of 5.1 points. I sold him when he lost his place, but the Lord has returned 20 points in his last three games, so he is still dangerous even when not starting . I expect to play a 343 most weeks, so he won’t often be first choice in my team, which I know will frustrate me and I could leave a double figure haul at first sub, but you feel that we haven’t seen the last of Mr Lundstram.

Lascelles – A certain starter, good fixtures. Will sit on my bench but could have a part to play, if the expected rotation plays out as we think it will.

Saka – I fear the returning Arsenal full backs will put his place at risk. I would prefer the better gametime security of Cantwell, which I can do with a switch of Lundstram to the more secure but less explosive Egan, when further transfers become available. That would be my plan.

Time will tell:

– I have certainly been proactive in taking advantage of the “free wildcard “ opportunity and I feel happier with the balance of my team and the selection of players based on the outstanding fixtures. Time will tell if it’s all in vain. I certainly haven’t sat on my hands for ten weeks, that’s for sure.

– My season hasn’t hit the heights of the previous two. But I think the analysis highlights the fine margins involved. I think bad luck has outweighed bad judgement this season. A few more of those Liverpool clean sheets and the triple captain call, to name just two, would have me in a totally different place, with chips in place for a top 1% push. 30 points represents a halving of rank. Fine margins indeed. I am certainly leaving no stones unturned in aiming for a strong finish.

– In the meantime, enjoy the Bundesliga and let’s hope we get positive news and those Premier fixtures are on the calendar soon !!!

 I outline my  FPL strategy along with 10 other FFGeek contributors in our new EBook.

10 top FPL Managers teams post GW38 

Best fixtures until the end of the season attackers

Best fixtures to the end of the season defenders

Each teams top PPM player – Arsenal and Aston Villa

Each Teams top PPM player – Bournemouth and Brighton

Each teams top PPM player – Burnley and Chelsea

Each teams top PPM player – Palace and Everton

Each teams top PPM player – Leicester and Liverpool

Each teams top PPM player – Man Utd and Man City

Each teams top PPM player – Norwich and Newcastle

Each teams top PPM player – Southampton and Sheffield

Each teams top PPM player – Watford and Spurs

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Andrew Whitfield gradual wildcard

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