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.


Guest post: Wildcarding – the runaway train?

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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

Double Gameweek planning: Part 11

The Double Gameweek (DGW) planning series comes to an end rather fittingly for a football-based game on part 11. The Premier League today announced fixture amendments that slotted all the games that need rearranging into the calendar with the exception of Crystal Palace versus Everton.

The Premier League hasn’t given any indication where they will place that one remaining fixture, but placing the Sunderland versus Everton fixture on the Wednesday in Gameweek 37 – with no suggestion that it could move – probably rules out a fabled Triple Gameweek. To fit another game in that week would require Everton to play three games in five days and I would be surprised if that happened.

There are midweek spots in Gameweeks 32, 33, 35 or 36 that could house the missing fixture, but it would require dispensation to break the rule that Premier League games should not clash with European fixtures. It is a simple solution, albeit one that requires some negotiation. We wait to see what the league decide. The decision could play a role in how Fantasy Premier League managers set up their teams to cope with the DGWs and the Gameweek 35 blanks.

Technically, the announcement said West Ham versus Manchester United and Liverpool versus Chelsea could move again if the Red Devils progress to the Europa League semi-finals, but if that happens I think the two fixtures would just switch places. I don’t think we need to worry about them going into different gameweeks.

Here is an updated version of the Double Gameweek planning chart. The purple boxes show a double gameweek team in the large tile and their opponents that week in the smaller tiles. The blank Gameweek 35 fixtures are shown in the dark grey box, with the confirmed fixtures for that week shown in the light green box. The yellow boxes show what schedule would like if the Crystal Palace versus Everton game is moved to later in Gameweek 35 or rearranged for Gameweek 36.

Double Gameweek planning part 11

Double Gameweek planning: Part 10

Are you ready to get confused? I am scratching my head trying to work out if I have my mental picture of the possible Double Gameweek (DGW) and blank scenarios right. I’ll share with you the picture I have, but if you spot any errors with it please leave me a comment.

The FA Cup quarter-finals have tidied up some details for us, but have also created a scheduling headache. I’ll start with what we know.

Firstly, we know two Premier League fixtures in Gameweek 35 will have to be rearranged in addition to West Ham United versus Manchester United. Crystal Palace versus Everton and Norwich City versus Watford will have to move because they clash with the FA Cup semi-finals.

Secondly, we now know Arsenal and Chelsea will only have one DGW each, but we don’t know yet whether they will be in Gameweek 34 or 37.

Thirdly, we know that Everton have three fixtures to rearrange, but only two easy slots set aside in which to play them. This is where it gets complicated – as partially indicated by the copious amounts of orange on the latest update to my chart from earlier in this series. Keep reading beyond the chart for an explanation.

Double Gameweek planning part 10

The chart shows the games that will go ahead in Gameweek 35 in the light green box. The yellow boxes indicate DGW scenarios that could happen in either Gameweek 34 or Gameweek 37. The larger tile indicates the team with a DGW and the smaller tiles show their opponents.

The Gameweek 35 matches that need rearranging are shown in the purple boxes.

The light blue boxes indicate a set of DGWs I suspect are likely to take place – but they could be swapped around if Everton’s game at Crystal Palace is scheduled for Gameweek 34. If they did that it would cause a domino effect: Manchester United’s game against Palace would have to move to Gameweek 37, which would push Manchester United’s game against West Ham back into Gameweek 34, which would push West Ham’s game against Watford into Gameweek 37 and Watford’s game against Norwich into Gameweek 34. But for now, let’s assume those fixtures stay where they are.

Are you confused yet? Well, we’re just getting started…

The Everton dilemma

Everton have fixtures against Liverpool, Sunderland and Crystal Palace to rearrange. I suspect the Merseyside derby will be scheduled in Gameweek 37, but that’s just a suspicion. If that is where the derby goes, then Liverpool’s rescheduled match with Chelsea from Gameweek 30 would slot into Gameweek 34.

If, however, the derby is scheduled in Gameweek 34, Liverpool’s game against Chelsea would go in Gameweek 37. In this scenario, Everton could play either Sunderland or Crystal Palace in Gameweek 37. But where do they fit the other tie? The simplest thing to do would be to seek dispensation to break the rule that Premier League games should not clash with European fixtures. Arsenal’s FA Cup replay against Hull City already broke a similar expectation and West Ham United’s tweet about their quarter-final replay suggests they are considering something similar.

WHU Tweet 13Mar2016

If Everton can use a European night for the third rescheduled game, then there are two options:

Play Sunderland in Gameweek 37

If they do this, Everton could keep the Palace game in Gameweek 35 and simply move it midweek – this would mean only one double gameweek for Palace and only two for Everton. Alternatively, they could rearrange it for Gameweek 36 – this would mean a third double gameweek for Everton and a second double gameweek for Palace.

Play Palace in Gameweek 37

If they do this, Everton could play Sunderland midweek in Gameweek 35 or 36. This would simply move Sunderland’s one DGW to whichever week was chosen. Everton would have a third DGW if the fixture was in Gameweek 36, but only two (and no blank) if it was in Gameweek 35.

Play Liverpool in Gameweek 37

If, as I suspect, they play the Merseyside derby in Gameweek 37, then Everton can play Sunderland in Gameweek 34 and rearrange the Palace tie for Gameweek 35 or 36 with the same result as described in the “Play Sunderland in Gameweek 37” above. If Everton wanted to play Palace in Gameweek 34, it should set off the domino effect to the light blue fixtures that I described earlier. It could create the same scenario for Everton and Sunderland as “Play Palace in Gameweek 37”.

I haven’t worked through options that put the Merseyside derby in Gameweek 35 or 36 because Liverpool are currently 2-0 up from their Europa League first leg against Manchester United. If Liverpool go through in the second leg, we wouldn’t find out until late Gameweek 33 whether they will be playing in the Europa League semi-finals midweek in Gameweeks 35 and 36.

Other options

Of course, if they don’t want to rearrange a Premier League game on a European night, the scheduling officials will have to get creative. I’m not going to start trying to second guess that now. Hopefully they will announce the rearranged games soon and we can get on with the business of planning which players we actually want to bring in.

Double Gameweek planning: Part nine

Arsenal’s thumping of Hull City in their FA Cup fifth round replay has completed the blank picture for Gameweek 30. We now know that half the Premier League fixtures will be off and half the fixtures will be played this weekend.

Watford face the Gunners in the FA Cup quarter final this weekend. The winner of that tie will give have a blank Premier League fixture in Gameweek 35, while the loser will have a game because both sides have opponents waiting for them that are no longer in the cup.

Double Gameweek planning part 9

I’ve updated my Double Gameweek (DGW) planning chart from earlier in this series to add the new confirmed blank to the other known blanks (dark purple). The Premier League games we know are going ahead in Gameweeks 30 and 35 are also shown (light green).

Three games could potentially join the existing Gameweek 35 blank. Chelsea’s game against Bournemouth in Gameweek 35 will be off if the Blues beat Everton in the FA Cup quarter final, but it will stay on the calendar if they lose. Everton and Crystal Palace would both have to lose their respective FA Cup quarter-final matches for that Premier League fixture to survive. And, as mentioned, either the Sunderland v Arsenal or the Norwich City v Watford match in Gameweek 35 will be postponed (dark green), depending on who wins the cup tie between the Gunners and the Hornets.

In the DGW option boxes, the large tile shows a team who could have a DGW and the smaller tiles show their likely opposition (opponents the DGW team will have to travel to are indicated by lower case letters). The C1C final has created DGWs (lilac) that could be held in Gameweeks 34 or 37.

West Ham United’s Gameweek 35 league game against Manchester United has been postponed because, as well as originally being scheduled to face each other that week, they now meet in the FA Cup quarter-finals. So no matter who wins the cup tie, the league game can’t go ahead as planned because one side will be playing in the FA Cup semi-finals. The Red Devils and the Hammers both have two fixtures to rearrange and there are there are two slots available so I have coloured those options differently (light blue). There is a potential wrinkle with this scenario, which I discussed in Part 8 of this series.

The Premier League has stated it expects to announce “on or around” March 10 more details about when the fixtures postponed by cup games will be rearranged. But, for now, the chart shows DGW options created by the FA Cup quarter-finals (yellow) in Gameweek 34 because that is the week intended to pick up those games. They could potentially be rearranged for Gameweek 37, but that is intended to provide a slot for league matches rearranged by the FA Cup semi-finals in Gameweek 35. We will only start finding out from March 11 which sides will be in the FA Cup semi-finals.

The only exceptions I have made for charting FA Cup-inspired DGW options in Gameweek 37 is for teams whose the rearranged Gameweek 30 tie involves Liverpool or Everton. The Merseyside teams have a Gameweek 27 match to rearrange too and we don’t know yet which postponed fixture will grab the first available slot.

Double Gameweek planning: Part eight

The FA Cup fifth round matches have helped clear up a lot of uncertainty around potential fixture rearrangements later this season – and all but killed Gameweek 30 as an opportunity for the well prepared.

FA Cup defeat for Bournemouth, Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur means fielding 11 players in Gameweek 30 is unlikely to pose a significant challenge to most Fantasy Premier League managers. Spurs, in particular, are rich in popular FPL players and their Premier League match against Aston Villa will proceed as planned. In total, five Premier League fixtures will go ahead in Gameweek 30, four have been postponed and one more will be off if Arsenal beat Hull City in the cup replay.

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Furthermore, the draw for the quarter-finals has thrown up the first postponement in Gameweek 35. West Ham United’s league game against Manchester United will be rearranged because they face each other in the cup quarter-finals and were scheduled to face each other in Gameweek 35. Whichever one of the two teams wins the cup game will have to play in the semi-final while the other side will miss out as a result of their opponent being unavailable.

One interesting wrinkle, however, could turn up if Manchester United lose to West Ham, Crystal Palace lose to Reading and Everton beat Chelsea in the quarter-finals. If that happens, Manchester United and Crystal Palace would both have a space for a match in Gameweek 35 and a mutual fixture from Gameweek 30 to rearrange.

As that would require quite a specialised set of results and a later declaration of the new date, I’ve updated my Double Gameweek (DGW) planning chart from earlier in this series without including that possibility for now.Double Gameweek planning part 8

The chart shows the known blanks (dark purple) and possible slots for DGWs created by the Capital One Cup final (lilac). In the DGW boxes the large tile shows a team who could have a DGW and the smaller tiles show their likely opposition (opponents the DGW team will have to travel to are indicated by lower case letters). Four games (dark grey) could potentially join the existing Gameweek 35 blank, but three of the four home teams are already out of the FA Cup and their league matches will go ahead if their opponents exit in the quarter-finals (GW35, light grey, wait to see). Arsenal’s home match against West Bromwich Albion in Gameweek 30 (light grey, wait to see) will be off if the Gunners beat Hull City in the fifth round replay – and that would create a DGW for Arsenal and West Brom (orange).

For now, the chart shows DGW options created by the FA Cup quarter-finals (yellow) in Gameweek 34 because that is the week intended to pick up those games. They could potentially be rearranged for Gameweek 37, but that is intended to provide a slot for league matches rearranged by the FA Cup semi-finals in Gameweek 35. One of the only exceptions I have made for charting FA Cup-inspired DGW options in Gameweek 37 is for teams whose the rearranged Gameweek 30 tie involves Liverpool or Everton. The Merseyside teams have a Gameweek 27 match to rearrange too and we don’t know for sure which postponed fixture will grab the first available slot. Given West Ham and Manchester United will likely need both available DGW slots, I have also charted both of their likely DGWs and made them a different colour (light blue). The Premier League games we know are going ahead in Gameweeks 30 and 35 are also shown (light green).

Guest post: Gameweek 30 blanks estimator

Here is a treat for Fantasy Premier League managers trying to calculate what impact the FA Cup will have on Gameweek 30 Premier League fixtures and their FPL teams. In this guest post, Balders estimates the percentage chance of the games going ahead and provides you with exclusive access to an incredible Gameweek 30 planning tool. Over to Balders:

This weekend sees 11 Premier League sides line up across eight FA Cup matches and if the threat of injuries in these games isn’t enough to make you hold your transfers, the games will also generate a raft of blank fixtures in Gameweek 30.

FA Cup fifth round fixtures

As covered in detail by Diva’s blank and double Gameweek planning series, the winners of these matches will have their FA Cup quarter finals on the weekend of Gameweek 30 and their Premier League matches for that week will be postponed.

Using bookies’ opening lines for the the fifth round matches, I’ve taken a look at the likelihood of each Gameweek 30 match going ahead. The early good news is that Stoke City vs Southampton and Leicester City vs Newcastle United are going ahead, but after that it gets decidedly murky.

Five games in Norwich City vs Manchester City, Aston Villa vs Tottenham Hotspur, Bournemouth vs Swansea City, Sunderland vs Everton and Liverpool vs Chelsea fall into a broad grouping of ‘maybe happening’.

Meanwhile, the teams involved in three games – Manchester United vs Crystal Palace, West Ham United vs Watford, and Arsenal vs West Brom Albion – all face the double jeopardy of either side winning their FA Cup tie, leading to the postponement of their Premier League match.

Gameweek 30 Premier League fixture probability

Due to three FA Cup ties involving two Premier League sides, there will be at least three matches postponed – i.e. six teams facing a blank. Conversely two of these ties should guarantee a Premier League fixture goes ahead and adding that to the Stoke vs Southampton and Leicester vs Newcastle games, we will have at least four matches going ahead. At least eight teams will definitely have a game, but we currently know only four of them.

Gameweek 30 postponement likelihood

Table 1: GW30 postponement likelihoods

Simulating every win/loss situation for these eight FA Cup games, we can build a picture of how many Premier League games are likely to be postponed and the results are show in Table 1.

As we can see, there’s likely to be five or six games cancelled unless there are lots of upsets from lower league sides. Also notable is how many big FPL players are in the most endangered sides and you start to realise how much of a massacre this week could be.

Furthermore, these ‘likelihoods’ discount draws which may force replays in Gameweek 30, thereby postponing two Premier League games if that is when the FA decides to stage replays. If that is the case and there are multiple draws we could see up to eight matches postponed.

As we do not know for certain how the replays will pan out (if there are any), I have ignored them for the above modelling and for a Team Diagnostic Tool that I have created especially for readers here. In my Team Diagnostic Tool you can enter your players into it and it will tell you how good or how your team is shaping up for Gameweek 30 across each position and as a whole.

For example, below is the current outlook for my badly prepared team, showing I most likely won’t have a goalkeeper and I am likely to have between just four and eight outfielders in my current state – though I could have as low as three or as high as 10 outfielders.

Gameweek 30 diagnostic tool

Looking ahead to this weekend, I can see Tottenham and Arsenal’s results are crucial to my squad and if both their FA Cup games go as expected then I’ll be looking at four or five Gameweek 30 players rather than nine or ten.

As we are already within the gameweek of the FA Cup games, there’s not much more we can do than sit and wait it out. However, if you want to see how your team will fare, feel free to open one of the three copies of the tool below and input your team.

If there is visibly somebody else with the tool open and inputting their team, please open another version of the tool so you are not overwriting their team. Each version is designed to only be used by one person at a time.

To input your team, type in your players in cells C3:C17 corresponding to their playing positions in your squad, then next to them input their teams’ FPL abbreviation codes in cells D3:D17. After about five seconds the spreadsheet should then produce a diagnosis for your team.

Tool 1 | Tool 2Tool 3 

During the weekend of FA Cup games I will update the likelihoods to either zero per cent or 100 per cent when we know whether games will be going ahead.