To misquote The Rock, “Finally, FPL is back”. You said it, Dwayne. Given the wondrous drama of the last few days though, even the most bedraggled of FPL bosses would have struggled not to enjoy the remarkable FA Cup shenanigans that saw Wigan crush Man City’s quadruple dream and Rochdale salvage an injury-time equaliser against Spurs.
What this means for FPL is that Man City remain a part of Gameweek 28 – a draw at the DW Stadium would have rescheduled the Citizens’ clash with Arsenal – but the rematch remains on course for Thursday 1 March, five days removed from their Carabao Cup final. Spurs, meanwhile, remain in the GW31 fixtures, unless they (most likely) defeat Rochdale in their fifth round replay on Wednesday 28 February.
In my GW27 preview I looked at how forward planning will be sage in navigating the upcoming blank gameweek (BGW)/double gameweek (DGW) storm, while Twitter followers of Ben Crellin will be all too aware of the pitfalls approaching.
In this page, I've sorted the teams into groups based on the likelihood of them having a Single, Blank or Double Gameweek in GWs 34, 35 and 37.
Man City and Swansea have joined the list of teams who are more likely to have a Double GW in GW34 followed by a Single GW in GW35. pic.twitter.com/0rZ9bPlcxs
— Ben Crellin (@BenCrellin) February 20, 2018
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The first of these pitfalls is GW31, which was confirmed this week by the Premier League as a BGW for 10 teams minimum, and potentially both Spurs and Newcastle too should the former progress in the FA Cup. What this means is planning in advance will help lessen point hits and panicky tinkering immediately prior to GW31.
However, Liverpool aside, the teams remaining in GW31 are disgusting FPL options. In likelihood, you wouldn’t vigorously flock to the likes of West Brom, Crystal Palace and Everton in any of the gameweeks prior to GW31, so why would you for just one GW? This is where planning is a bit tricky.
On the one hand, playing your Free Hit is the simplest option. The chip enables widespread differential coverage for players you likely won’t want in your team for too long, and a one-time transfer prevents these players stinking up your squad afterwards.
To play devil’s advocate though, there’s an argument that GW31 won’t return overly high scores, and that the Free Hit chip is best saved for the subsequent BGW in GW35 when more teams will feature.
For those of you without your Free Hit chip, or those planning to use it later in the season, there are some template GW31 players of notable stature to consider: Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino for Liverpool; Xherdan Shaqiri for Stoke; Seamus Coleman, Theo Walcott and Oumar Niasse for Everton; and Callum Wilson and Jordon Ibe for Bournemouth. How many of these you possess or plan to possess will depend on how many players you’re comfortable with fielding in GW31.
In the vein of a Tony Pulis-managed side let us cautiously broach forward into GW28, for problematic fixtures await. Four of the top six (Man City, Arsenal, Man Utd and Chelsea) are paired up, throwing a wrench to the face of FPL bosses often reliant on the big hitters, and there’s actually much to dislike about these teams right now.
Man City face Chelsea (H) and Stoke (A) before their GW31 blank, and as imperious as Sergio Aguero has been recently, the Argentine hasn’t scored in four away league games. The Premier League leaders are of course liable to carve out dominant victories in any game, but with arduous fixtures approaching they aren’t as attractive a proposition until GW35 comes around.
Man Utd and Chelsea too have challenging upcoming fixtures, with neither in consistent fettle, while Arsenal’s dire away form is impossible to ignore (3 wins in 14) for those considering the likes of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Henrikh Mkhitaryan.
All this means though is that there is opportunity aplenty for mid-table assets to stand out, while Liverpool (v West Ham) and Spurs (v Crystal Palace) are still enticing options.
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Understandably overshadowed by Salah, it’s easy to look past just how well Firmino is playing right now. The Brazilian has 21 goals and 11 assists in all competitions, and is still generously priced at £9.2m. Only Stoke have conceded more on the road than Liverpool’s GW28 opponents West Ham.
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One of my top GW27 picks, Vardy returned his fourth goal in a row, and the Leicester striker has found the net in his last three games at the King Power Stadium. Stoke look tighter under Paul Lambert, but still liable to concede, and Riyad Mahrez’s first-team return can provide Vardy with further joy.
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Yes, Wilson has blanked in consecutive games, and didn’t get a sniff against Huddersfield, but the Bournemouth striker was a persistent threat against Stoke, and unlucky to have a goal ruled out for offside. Crucially, visitors Newcastle have kept an away clean sheet just once in 11 games.
There’s an undeniable sense of ‘recency bias’ with this pick, but how do you ignore someone who scored twice and notched an assist in his last game?
Mounie, owned by just 0.9%, will surely keep rival Laurent Depoitre out for another week following his heroics against Bournemouth, and can keep his star shining against a beleaguered West Brom.
Brighton winger Izquierdo has flown so far under the radar this season that the Colombian is owned by just 0.1%, but with two goals on the bounce, both impressive finishes, Izquierdo is in superb form ahead of their crucial home game with Swansea.
Follow Jack for more FPL insight… Follow @JWoodfield365
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