Ruth_NZ has been pondering whether he has the right wildcard strategy and is considering a different approach. I should add that he sent this to me before Robbie Brady scored this weekend. Over to Ruth:
The closer we get to wildcard time the more awkward I find it. I have felt a bit cornered for a while as my team, like everyone else’s, prepares to pass through the hoops and hurdles of blank gameweeks (BGWs) and double gameweeks (DGWs). It’s as if the path narrows at those bottlenecks and you end up having almost obligatory decisions to make about players to bring in and to remove. One manager may choose Dimitri Payet, another Michail Antonio (maybe they have less budget to play with) but neither are really considering Willian or Yannick Bolasie because they aren’t part of the evident optimal route.
Maybe it’s just me that feels this way. But I have been wrestling with it and have come to the conclusion that I have probably been starting from the wrong place – meaning fixtures. Especially the doubles and blanks.
What I think I actually need to do is to take a view on which teams (and players) I think will finish the season well. Then I need to bias my management of my team through the doubles and blanks to favour having, keeping or bringing in those players. As opposed to maximising the number of games my team has as a first principle. Player A may have three games in a certain period whilst Player B has four. But if Player A is in better form and playing for a team with positive momentum and he has equally good or perhaps even better fixtures (though one less) which is the best?
Here’s an example… Norwich City have brilliant fixtures from gameweeks 32-34 (NEW, cpl, SUN), then a blank, then Arsenal away and then a good gameweeks in 37 and 38 including a double (MUN, WAT, eve). Robbie Brady is a player I have had in mind for ages and Martin Olsson also interests me. Norwich are still fighting to survive, heads have not gone down and they have everything to play for. Yet I have been entirely dismissing Norwich from my thinking because they have no Gameweek 34 DGW and that nasty Gameweek 35 blank.
At the same time, I have been considering West Bromwich Albion players (Jonny Evans, Jonas Olsson, James Morrison) because they have a DGW in Gameweek 34 and no blank in Gameweek 35. But really? The DGW is Watford at home and Arsenal away. That’s just a decent Single Gameweek really. The Gameweek 35 game is Tottenham Hotspur away. That’s not much better than a blank in all honesty. Maybe the West Brom defenders get one point in each of those tough away fixtures and maybe they manage a clean sheet against Watford. But if I look from Gameweek 32 to Gameweek 38 are they better prospects than Norwich players? I don’t think they necessarily are.
There is also the additional factor of the missing Crystal Palace versus Everton game. When that is actually scheduled it will make a significant difference to the landscape.
If we wildcard into Gameweek 33 (very likely for me) then we have three weeks until we need to make final decisions. So that’s it for wildcard planning for a bit for me. I will use those three weeks to assess players and teams rather than fixtures and mechanics. And then I’ll put a squad together that I like the feel of, not one that is ruled by mathematical calculations. And if that means fielding nine or 10 players in BGW35 or less than the maximum attainable DGW players in Gameweek 34 and/or Gameweek 37 then so be it.
Incidentally, this is not a long way around to justify keeping Spurs and Leicester City players. I let Riyad Mahrez go many weeks ago. I am eager to replace Jamie Vardy with Troy Deeney or Anthony Martial. I’m happy to keep Christian Fuchs but I’ll also be fine losing him. Harry Kane I am ambivalent about even though he’s been in my team a long time. It’s the principle more than the detail I am looking at here.
The most difficult thing to get over (for me) is that I have saved my Bench Boost chip all season in order to maximise it in a DGW. To justify that decision I need to do just that. But the alternative is for me to accept that I didn’t need to save it at all and that I could/should have used it at any time when I had a great bench. If I make decisions now in order to justify mistakes I have already made then I’ll just be making more mistakes, right?