Free Hit chip

The 2017-18 Fantasy Premier League season is nearly upon us and the game makers have started dripping out the prices of some players. Among the players announced so far the best value appears to be in midfield, with Alli – the second highest scoring player in the game last season – looking a particular bargain at 9.5m.

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Then, yesterday, came the surprise announcement that the All Out Attack chip is being replaced with a new chip called Free Hit. We’re still waiting for the fine print on how the chip works, but basically it allows you to put your squad into hibernation for one week, select as many new players as you want for the next gameweek, then have the old squad return the following week.

I’m sorry this post isn’t going to be a stunning statistical analysis of the new chip’s potential impact, it’s just a little rant to get my strong initial feelings about it off my chest.

I know the All Out Attack chip wasn’t popular with many people, but I didn’t mind it because I felt it created, in a very minor way, a little bit of variety in the game. This new chip, I suspect, will do the opposite.

The obvious place to use the chip last season was to ride out Gameweek 28, when the schedule was reduced to four fixtures. Those games featured just two of the eventual top seven Premier League teams. FPL managers faced a choice in the weeks coming up to Gameweek 28, do they: A) keep their players from top sides and ride out the blank fixtures, or B) sell some of those good players and bring in players who have matches?

That choice helped create differentiation. Among those who chose option B the pool of good players was small, but crucially it was different to those who chose option A.

The choice also afforded people a chance to shake up their overall rank, either through the players they kept or the players they brought in.

With this new chip, that choice will likely be removed. The template move among serious managers will probably be to keep the Free Hit chip for the blank gameweek caused by the FA Cup quarter finals. The same popular template team will likely run until that week, be swapped out for one week for another template team, then carry on as it was before.

There will be merit in looking for alternative ways to use the chip, but the old blank gameweek choice was very powerful. For example, despite there being just four fixtures, I gained more than 50 points on the the FPL average in Gameweek 28 last season because of the choices I made.

The new chip is powerful too and it could potentially match the power of the blank gameweek choice if used creatively elsewhere. But negating a blank gameweek will probably become the default position like the Wildcard-Bench Boost combination played over two gameweeks has become the orthodoxy for many managers approaching the late season double gameweeks.

For the risk takers there will be opportunity in looking for unorthodox ways to use the chip, but the safe play is likely to be to save it for a big blank gameweek. In all likelihood, the chip will produce a more cookie cutter experience and the game will be poorer for it.