FPL Gameweek 35: Free Hit Time

Myself and FPL Guidance team up once again to tackle the community’s most pressing questions, as well as providing our advice for those on Free Hit and for those without it ahead of Gameweek 35

Welcome again to our community question series where I (Simon), usually have my say on the communities conundrums in an attempt to provide a different perspective, or perhaps some statistical information or insight some of you may not have thought about.

This week, given how many have it activated and the importance of getting the Free Hit right, I thought it prudent to bring on another one of my Twitter compadre’s to help provide you with a fresh, credible and interesting perspective.

FPL Guidance has been an active member of the FPL Twitter community for roughly 2 years and has gained nearly 8,000 followers, down to consistently high finishes in and around the top 1% (highest finish circa 2k) and very sound advice. More than that, he’s a top guy who gives his time to his followers in order to help them achieve their FPL goals. You can find him here >> https://twitter.com/FPL_Guidance

Best chances for a clean sheet? 

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FPL Connect (Simon): 

It’s a tough one from a defensive perspective this week. I can’t see many clean clean sheets, but I think, like every gameweek, you have to play the probabilities generally speaking. So for example, Manchester City have the best defence in the league, with only 25 goals conceded and they’ve managed the second most amount of clean sheets (15), so banking on them for a clean sheet seems the only safe bet. Vincent Kompany would be my choice.

Outside of that, I’m struggling to see another clean sheet. Everton at home to Newcastle has potential, with them generally being much better at home and Newcastle having achieved their season target of 40pts now, so the suggestion could be that they’re now on the beach, but I doubt Rafa is the type of manager to let focus slip like that and they’ve been scoring lately, so I do think Newcastle will get one, but both Baines and Coleman may be worth a shout, as both have a history of getting attacking returns.

Despite WBA picking it up recently and Liverpool having their 1st leg of the UCL semi-final tie the following mid-week, I’d still fancy Liverpool for a clean sheet, though I’m not entirely confident of it. Virgil van Dijk would be my pick from the Liverpool defence.

FPL Guidance:

Looking at the GW35 fixtures, we can quickly rule out a few teams. West Ham (away to Arsenal), Swansea (away to Man City) and West Brom (home to Liverpool) appear unlikely to keep a clean sheet given the attacking power of their opponents.

Similarly Watford and Stoke’s positions as the 2 worst defences this season added to their opponents Crystal Palace and Burnley still having plenty to play for reduces the chances of a clean sheet. This leaves Liverpool, Crystal Palace, Arsenal, Burnley, Man City, Everton and Newcastle.

Over the last 10 gameweeks, only 3 of these sides have conceded fewer than a goal per game – Liverpool, Man City and Burnley. The appeal of Burnley and Liverpool defensive players is furthered by their Gameweek 35 opponents Stoke and West Brom having scored the fewest number of goals over that period amongst teams with a fixture this week.

With this in mind I would target the following defensive players:

  • Vincent Kompany – As Man City captain you would expect him to lead the team out as part of a league winning celebration.
  • Virgil Van Dijk or Loris Karius – Van Dijk has started the last 9 league games and Karius the last 12 despite Liverpool’s run to the Champions League Semi-Finals. We could see full-back rotation this week similarly to Gameweek 33 where Clyne and Klavan started ahead of Alexander-Arnold and Robertson respectively.
  • Kevin Long or Nick Pope – Long is the perfect free hit enabler – just £4m and is sure to start in Ben Mee’s absence. Meanwhile Pope has been the best value for money player in the game this season and Dyche has hinted Pope is still in pole position between the sticks for Burnley.

Following on from the first question; which defenders have the best chance of an attacking return? 

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FPL Connect (Simon): 

A nice follow-on question to the first, as I would advise, if you’re on Free Hit for BGW35, to pick the defenders that have a decent chance of an attacking return, as it doesn’t look great for clean sheet chances.

Patrick van Aanholt for example, looks a good shout.  He’s only owned by 1.8% of managers and is priced well at £5.1m. Over the last 6 gameweeks, he’s had 13 penalty area touches, 8 goal attempts (5 inside the box), 3 of which being big chances and of course, he’s stuck 2 of them away.

Palace aren’t really keeping clean sheets, but PVA is a threat going forward and has a decent chance of some attacking returns, as well as an outside chance at a clean sheet.

Callum Chambers is another one who’s getting in regular goal attempts and is priced very kindly at £4.7m. He’s started 4 out of his last 5 PL games and in that time, has registered 8 goal attempts, 7 coming inside the box, 2 of them being big chances.

Other than that, Virgil van Dijk always possess a significant goal threat when he goes up for set pieces down to his towering height and has had 6 goal attempts in his last 6 games. He also has an arguably better chance at a clean sheet than the others, so it might be worth going for the big Dutchman, pertaining of course to Klopp’s presser or perhaps the Anfield Express Twitter account.

FPL Guidance:

Two cut-price names to consider would be Kiko Femenia (£4.3m) and Moritz Bauer (£4.5m).

As I said earlier, Watford and Stoke have the worst two defences in the division this season, however these 2 defenders have both played out of position on the right wing in each of their last 3 fixtures.

Virgil Van Dijk is another one I’d be keen to own this week as Liverpool’s excellent recent defensive form is backed up by Van Dijk taking more than a shot per game since his arrival at Liverpool.

Budget midfielders and forwards to consider for non-free hitters

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FPL Connect (Simon): 

The only player I would consider bringing in for 35, who then too has a double gameweek in 37, is Marko Arnautovic.

£7.0m obviously doesn’t count as ‘budget’, but there are literally no other MIDs/FWDs I would consider bringing in for 35 who then too have a double gameweek in 37, which is what you want when on BB.

Jordan Ayew is another option, as he has a fixture this week and has a very nice double in 37, but his fixture this week is Man City away, so you’re looking at a 2 pointer – you’d have to decide whether it’s worth it for you or not.

If you’re not too bothered about them not having a double in 37 and who just have a good single gameweek fixture, then Milivojevic would be my consideration, as they play Stoke away in 37 and then have the probable relegated WBA at home on the final day.

FPL Guidance:

I would only be considering players with both a fixture this week and also a double gameweek 37. Arsenal, West Ham, Man City, Swansea and Newcastle are the 5 teams that fit those requirements.

I’ve picked out 3 players all under £7m:

Marko Arnautovic (£7m) – West Ham’s talisman has returned an impressive 5.74 points per game since David Moyes’ appointment in November. His appeal is obviously enhanced by his out of position status as a striker in West Ham’s team. Andy Carroll’s return to fitness could jeopardise this, however given his injury record it’s unlikely that Moyes will rush him straight back into the starting lineup. Even if he does, this may leave more space for the Austrian as defenders turn their attention away from him and towards Carroll.

Ilkay Gundogan (£5.4m) – This is certainly the riskiest pick on the list. However with Fernandinho banned for GW35, Gundogan should keep his place in Man City’s midfield. With the title wrapped up, it’s possible that the almost ever-present Fernandinho and De Bruyne have reduced game time from now until the end of the season, freeing up a spot for Gundogan, a player who also has penalty duties in Sergio Aguero’s absence.

Jordan Ayew (£5.3m) – Carlos Carvalhal has continued to heap praise on Ayew and has started the Ghanian at every opportunity in the Premier League since his arrival as manager in December. Ayew hasn’t disappointed with 5 goals in those 11 matches. I’ve picked Ayew ahead of Perez for a couple of reasons. The first being the fixtures in DGW37 are more promising for Swansea – Bournemouth away and Southampton at home compared to Newcastle who travel to Watford and Tottenham. Secondly, Newcastle have survived relegation having surpassed the 40 point mark whereas Swansea still need one or two more good results to be sure of their place in next season’s Premier League. This extra motivation could be key as the season draws to a close.

All out attack on City assets for BGW35 or balance it with a defender? 

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FPL Connect (Simon): 

I’ve always been an advocator of overall balance when it comes to team structure, so when a team is firing on all cylinders and I want to triple up on their assets, I’ll look to have 2 attackers and a defender, as if you go top heavy on either side, then you’re putting all your eggs for that team in 1 basket.

If the team, for whatever reason, simply isn’t firing in terms of the attack, then you still have a chance at some points if you have a defender, especially a team like City who prioritise winning the ball back quickly when lost and then holding onto it – this is why they’ve got the best defence, because they’re unrivalled when it comes to winning the ball back quickly through their press and then don’t make many mistakes in possession.

Like most teams, Swansea will sit deep when visiting the Etihad and sometimes, teams that sit deep can dig in and frustrate the big teams, so we don’t know for sure that they’ll break them down easily and score 3/4 goals, but we know Swansea won’t get out much to attack and that means City will very rarely have to defend their goal, meaning the chances of a clean sheet are pretty likely.

FPL Guidance:

In my answer to the clean sheet/key defenders question I highlighted Vincent Kompany’s appeal. With this in mind I would have to favour 1 defender and 2 attackers.

Sergio Aguero being out injured makes Gabriel Jesus almost essential in free hit teams, especially as Guardiola has suggested this month that the Brazilian doesn’t need resting due to his age. With this in mind, I’d pair him with one of Raheem Sterling or Leroy Sané.

Mohamed Salah; keep in Free Hit squads or go without if looking to climb rankings?

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FPL Connect (Simon): 

If we don’t get a hint from Klopp in his presser, or we don’t hear anything in the way of leaks from Anfield Express, then I would advise just having Salah no matter what.

If you’re on Free Hit for BGW35, then it’s likely you’re going to differentiate fairly widely from the majority anyway, so unless we find out he’s definitely not going to play, I don’t think it’s worth going against him.

He’s the best player in the league (from an FPL standpoint), playing against the worst team in the league and I noticed from watching the game last week, that he’s becoming more selfish, that is to say, he had 6 goal attempts in that game and often looked to work the space for the shot rather than playing in a team-mate in a better position, which really for us FPL managers, is perfect.  I think he’s hungry to ensure Kane doesn’t overtake him for the golden boot.

FPL Guidance:

This is very simple for me. Unless we get early team news that Salah is likely to be rested for the West Brom game, he is a must-own for this and indeed any remaining gameweek. The fact that he’s 81 points clear at the top of the FPL points standings makes any stats for or against him irrelevant. When he plays, he almost always returns points.

Focus budget on the attack rather than the defence for Free Hit squads? 

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FPL Connect (Simon): 

I think, generally speaking, focusing your budget on the midfielders and attackers in this week, given the fixtures, is wise.

Having said that, I’ve built a Free Hit team choosing the midfielders and attacking players I really wanted first and found I was still left with enough in the budget to pick out quality defenders with considerable goal threat too.

As I said previously, I’m an advocator of overall balance and I think you can still optimise the attacking potential of BGW35 without sacrificing your defence too heavily.

FPL Guidance:

It really depends on your team value and how much you decide to spend in defence. Whilst more expensive defenders don’t guarantee clean sheets, they can carry more attacking threat than cheaper options, hence their price. But going back to your question I’d definitely want to own Salah, Jesus and a Man City midfielder. Then you probably need a sub-£6m option for balance, someone like Ayew or Barnes perhaps as a bench option in a 3-5-2.

For those with slightly more to spend, I’d look at additional Arsenal, Liverpool or Man City attackers. Meanwhile, Arnautovic and Zaha’s recent form suggest they could match more expensive options for those with a lower team value.

General advice for non-free hitters

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FPL Connect (Simon): 

For those, like me, who have already used the Free Hit chip, I would advise that you do your best to field as many BGW35 players as you can without spending an inordinate amount of points on hits.

I’d say, as a benchmark, aim to have at least 8 and try not to spend more than a -8 typically speaking, but it really depends on your squad and what you wish to achieve going forward.

Don’t panic and bring in players that have poor fixtures afterwards. I’d try to focus your transfers on those players with a double gameweek in 37.

Liverpool assets I feel, are fine, as they have good fixtures, even the fixture in DGW37 away to Chelsea I feel isn’t as bad as it first appears, based on the amount of goals Chelsea have been shipping recently.

I’d try to ensure you have 6 assets from each of Liverpool, Man City and Arsenal as a priority and if you’ve already got that, then look at someone from Palace (good fixtures, despite no double and decent form) or West Ham (BGW35 fixture and have a double).

Look ahead and think about what team you’d want to field in DGW37 and then work your way backwards.

FPL Guidance:

For me there are three key things to focus on:

a) If you do take hits, try to integrate them into a longer-term plan. For example the suspended Marcos Alonso won’t be able to feature in the Premier League until Gameweek 37. Selling him for a defender with a fixture this week and a double gameweek in 37 will see you free up money and gain up to two extra fixtures for that player before the end of the season at the cost of just 4 points.

b) Don’t panic if you can’t field 11 players. Hopefully you had a plan in place and have at least six players with a fixture this week already. A -4 to own an extra two could be worthwhile as the hit will be repaid across the two players just with appearance points. If those transfers fit into a long-term strategy as I stated in part a) then ever better.

c) Make transfers as late as possible. Liverpool often provide early team news whether it be via Anfield Express or their official account tweeting their team a minute or two early. Liverpool play at 12:30 on Saturday so if you’re on the ball it’s likely you will know the team before the Gameweek 35 deadline. The reason I’ve highlighted Liverpool is because they have no DGW in 37 so if Firmino for example is left out, a hit this week to sell him with the potential of 2 extra fixtures over the next 3 gameweeks looks a wise move.

Advice for free hitters 

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FPL Connect (Simon): 

Generally speaking, in order to take full advantage of those without the Free Hit chip, you need to be looking at those players with good potential for points in BGW35 that the non-free hitters aren’t going to bring in.

Not only that, but it’s unlikely that non-free hitters will be able to completely max out on the top teams. So having 3 from Liverpool and Man City is a no-brainer.

Players from Everton, whilst I’m personally not keen, have a good fixture and if the Newcastle players are on the beach, then Everton assets could take advantage, which non-fee hitters are almost certainly not going to be on.

Taking advantage of late news will also be key, for example, what Wenger said about Aubameyang in his press conference earlier today, making Lacazette a much safer option – something that non-free hitters can’t do anything about, likely already committing to Aubameyang.

Also, leaked line-up news from Anfield Express is something that can be exploited by those on their Free Hit, so I’d advise keeping a close eye on all the pressers and social media accounts that have a history of leaking hints about the line-ups.

You also want to try and differ ever so slightly from others on Free Hit, so if you have a gut feeling about a player that’s not normally in the frame of thinking template wise, then go for it. Free Hit in a blank gameweek is the perfect time for a punt!

This would be my Free Hit team if I still had it:

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FPL Guidance:

The key thing for me would be to have a full bench of guaranteed starters. This is a good rule to follow in general but is especially key here.

If all of your bench players are fodder and Salah or Sané for example miss out, you’re suddenly down to 9 players, which may end up being fewer than some well-planned non free hit teams.

Below is my updated free hit squad (if I still had the chip) based on my team value. There are a few risky picks, however I wanted to ensure 4 nailed-on substitutes, 2 attacking players from each of the three key teams (Liverpool, Man City and Arsenal), as well as defensive picks from the 3 teams I highlighted (Burnley, Liverpool and Man City).

Also bear in mind those using the chip will have done far more tinkering than I have to build the optimum squad for your budget.

FPL Guidance’s Free Hit example:

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