Gameweek 8 is the last gameweek before the second international break of the season. Normally these breaks are boring and tedious for FPL managers. However, this break comes just before a fixture swing that could change the course of this FPL season dramatically.
In this article I will explore which teams are likely to benefit from the fixture swing, and whether a wildcard is the optimal strategy to make the most of it.
Which teams will the fixture swing impact?
The most notable team that look set to benefit from the GW10 fixture swing is Manchester City.
The Blues certainly haven’t fired on all cylinders so far this season, but a run of games that sees them face Burnley, Fulham and West Brom, all at home, provides them with a good opportunity to get going.
Despite Manchester City’s mouth-watering run of fixtures, a trip to neighbours Manchester United means that Newcastle sit top of Fantasy Football Scout’s fixture ticker.
Steve Bruce’s men travel to Crystal Palace and Aston Villa before a tasty trio of fixtures that see them play all three newly-promoted teams, with the Magpies welcoming Fulham and West Brom to St James’ Park either side of a trip to Elland Road to face Leeds.
Other teams with eye-catching fixture runs are Aston Villa, who play West Ham, Newcastle, Wolves, Burnley and West Brom from GW10-14 and Manchester United, who welcome West Brom to Old Trafford in GW9 before a favourable run that sees them play Southampton, West Ham, Manchester City, Sheffield United and Leeds.
At the other end of the spectrum, a GW9 wildcard gives you the perfect opportunity to hop off Tottenham assets.
Spurs are a team that have rightly been heavily invested in by FPL managers, but after their trip to West Brom in GW8, they start a gruelling run of fixtures that sees them play Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool and Leicester between GW9 and GW14.
An international break wildcard also gives managers a chance to remove Wolves assets. The Midlands club host Southampton in GW9, but then travel to Arsenal and Liverpool, before welcoming Aston Villa and Chelsea to Molineux. Whilst these fixtures don’t look terrible, they’re also not very appetising and it could be more optimal to get rid of Wolves assets in favour of Aston Villa, Newcastle or Leicester players.
Why GW9 instead of GW10?
There are a number of reasons why I feel that a GW9 wildcard would be more optimal than pulling the trigger just before GW10.
Firstly, the international break provides an opportunity to catch double price rises, which allows you to make £0.1 on a player that you then sell before deadline. Furthermore, the prolonged break gives you time to properly think over decisions, rather than be rushed into them in a 4 or 5 day period before deadline.
However, perhaps the biggest reason for playing the wildcard in GW9 are the mouth-watering fixtures for Manchester United and Arsenal that gameweek, particularly from an attacking point of view.
The Red Devils welcome the league’s worst defence, West Brom, to Old Trafford, whilst Arsenal travel to Leeds.
Man United have a nice run of fixtures after the West Brom game, so a GW9 wildcard gives you a chance to get in on their assets a week early and leave them in your team for weeks afterwards if possible.
Arsenal are more of a short-term punt, but do face Burnley and Southampton at home in GW12 and 13 respectively, so you do have the option to hold them if they impress against Leeds.
The Whites are a thrilling team to watch but looked extremely vulnerable to counter-attacks against Leicester last time out. I think this will suit Arsenal’s style of play down to the ground and I expect Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to benefit from the space Leeds leave in behind.
Aubameyang and Marcus Rashford look to be two prime captaincy candidates for GW9, especially if Aubameyang can notch a goal against Aston Villa in GW8 to further boost his confidence, after netting the winner against United last week.
Furthermore, I think a GW9 wildcard gives you a chance to bring in Manchester City assets a week before the rest of the pack, when there ownership is lower and perhaps before they increase in price.
I could foresee managers without a wildcard carrying Spurs assets into the fixture between the two sides in GW9, before making the switch to City assets in GW10.
A wildcard allows you to switch Spurs players for Manchester City players for a fixture where I would expect the Blues to have a lot of the ball, which brings players like Kevin De Bruyne into play.
Indeed, premium options are often discarded when it comes to the captaincy discussion if they’re facing a top 6 team. However, De Bruyne could also be a very viable option in GW9 against Spurs, when he is likely to be fairly low-owned for his standards.
We know that he is more than capable of picking the lock against resolute defences with killer passes, and with the Belgian also likely to be on penalties, he is an attractive proposition, even against a strong Spurs outfit.
What would a GW9 wildcard team look like?
I have put together a rough draft of what a GW9 wildcard could look like. It’s important to note that this was quickly put together and a week is a long time in FPL, so a lot could change.
My initial thoughts are that Chelsea’s Edouard Mendy is probably worth the extra cash over the slightly cheaper options in the goalkeeping department.
Mendy has been a key cog in a defence that has kept a clean sheet in their last five matches in all competitions. Chelsea do have a fairly tricky run approaching, but I feel that the Senegalese keeper will still provide a reliable source of points as Frank Lampard’s men assert themselves as one of the league’s best defences.
The big decision at the back will be whether to ditch Liverpool’s defence altogether, or retain one of Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson.
No team has conceded more Premier League goals than Liverpool since the day the Reds clinched the title last season, which is a remarkable stat.
Their defensive injury woes have been well documented with the instrumental Virgil Van Djik likely to miss the rest of the season and Joel Matip and Fabinho also struggling with injury.
All these factors are pointing towards selling both TAA and Robertson however, we know that both provide serious attacking threat and are proven FPL assets.
They are still posting impressive attacking numbers, which indicates that they will come good soon. My temptation to sell both comes from my belief that there are good defensive options in the £5.0 to £5.5 bracket.
Kurt Zouma makes it into my initial draft to complete the defensive double up with Mendy.
The Frenchman looks to have nailed down a starting position this season after an impressive run of form. He has played 90 minutes in the last 4 Premier League games. Zouma also carries a sizeable goal threat from set-pieces, having notched 3 already this campaign, including one against Burnley in GW7.
As I discussed earlier in the article, I think that Chelsea’s recent defensive form proves that a double-up is not overkill, and I think that two nailed Chelsea defensive assets for a combined £10.3 provides great value.
Ruben Dias and Patrick Van Aanholt are alongside Zouma in my initial draft. Dias seems to be the most nailed Manchester City defender having started the last 4 Premier League games since his arrival from Benfica.
I think a City defender will provide great value over the coming weeks, and it will be a tough decision on whether to choose Dias or his fellow country-man Joao Cancelo, who has impressed me recently at right-back and possesses more upside than Dias.
My only concern with Cancelo is his security of starts, with Kyle Walker possibly being shifted to right back at his expense when Pep Guardiola rotates his defence.
Van Aanholt is an explosive differential (0.3% TSB) that caught my eye from an attacking point of view on his return to the Palace side against Wolves in GW7.
The Dutchman has FPL pedigree, having scored 22 goals from left-back in the last 5 seasons. I think he is well-poised to return well in the coming weeks, with The Eagles facing Burnley, Newcastle and West Brom in GW9, 10 and 11.
My two cheaper options in defence are Luke Ayling and Van Aanholt’s Palace team-mate, Tyrick Mitchell.
Ayling will be a reliable sub even in Leeds’ tricky fixture run. He carries plenty of attacking threat and Leeds’ fixtures do turn nicely from GW12. Mitchell is included as I’ve had him from the start and he would almost certainly deputise for PVA if he was unavailable for any reason.
I have opted for a power 5 in midfield. The noticeable punt is Aubameyang, who would likely be moved on to Raheem Sterling after Arsenal’s trip to Leeds.
Kevin De Bruyne partners Aubameyang as my second premium option. The Belgian has failed to get going so far this campaign, but I have no doubts that he will perform well in the coming weeks as City set their sights on a few of the Premier League’s whipping boys.
Marcus Rashford slots in as the 3rd most expensive midfielder, mainly for United’s attractive fixture against West Brom in GW9, where I feel that he is one of the standout captaincy options.
Finally, Jack Grealish and James Rodriguez pair up as two exciting options in the £7.0-£8.0 bracket that I feel are set to score nicely in the upcoming weeks.
Grealish is Villa’s talisman and has been causing me massive problems as a non-owner so far this season. I cut ties with James last week due to his injury, but will gladly welcome him back for a gorgeous 3 fixtures that sees him face Fulham, Leeds and Burnley.
We have already seen that the Colombian can be devastating at home this season, so I am very keen to own him for GW10 when Everton entertain Leeds at Goodison Park.
I have gone cheap in my front line as I think the mid-priced options will provide better value than the more expensive strikers in the mid to long-term, now that Harry Kane’s fixtures are turning.
Callum Wilson has really impressed me so far this season and I like his fixtures up until GW14. Wilson is quickly becoming Newcastle’s talisman and is on penalties, which means he is always capable of scoring regardless of the fixture, as he demonstrated with his 8 point return against Spurs in GW3.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin partners Wilson up front, having scored 8 goals in 7 games so far this season. I would expect the Englishman to add to that tally in the 3 nice games from GW9-11, before I consider moving him on as Everton’s fixtures turn sour.
My 3rd striker would probably be Rhian Brewester, who could chip in with the odd goal, but will be on my bench most weeks.
Overall, I think there is opportunity for big upside with this wildcard, particularly in the 4 or 5 GW’s after I play it.
I think it will pay off massively to have 3 Manchester City assets for the foreseeable future, and the opportunity to do this via taking a one week punt on an explosive asset like Aubameyang is an opportunity that is hard to ignore.
Fixing my underperforming defence massively appeals to me, and I think double Chelsea defence could be a nice differential.
Grealish and James are also two options that really do excite me over the next few games, and I think it will hurt to not own them, which would be a real possibility if I didn’t wildcard.
Finally, the wildcard will allow me to move on my two expensive strikers, Kane and Werner, in order to distribute my funds into an exciting midfield and bring in Callum Wilson, who has started the season on fire.
There is certainly a few things to iron out with this draft, but I’m confident that it contains enough explosive assets to see me soar up the rankings in the coming weeks.