In this article, we explore whether there is an optimal gameweek to play your FPL Free Hit Chip. In particular, we consider FPL Gameweek 26, Gameweek 29, Gameweek 33, and Gameweek 38.
Many FPL managers will have used their free hit earlier in the season, mainly to respond to COVID outbreaks or to navigate blank gameweek 18.
Those who survived up until this point without using the free hit now have a brilliant opportunity to gain an advantage over other managers. In this article, I will be exploring what I believe are the best remaining gameweeks for playing the free hit.
Given that Gameweek 26 is a double gameweek, there will be a clamour among FPL managers to bring in players who have 2 fixtures. This will invariably result in many hits being taken.
Furthermore, those without the chip will have to compromise in some areas as they would have one eye on GW29. Loading up on GW26 doublers may leave them exposed so they might not be able to take full advantage of the teams who have particularly favourable fixtures.
If you are playing the free hit you could exploit this. For example, Everton’s double of Southampton and West Brom is probably the pick of the bunch but their lack of a fixture in GW29 will mean that managers may be reluctant to steam into them. As such, bringing in their players on a free hit could have enormous up side.
Of particularly interest would be forward Dominic Calvert-Lewin (£7.6M) and defender Lucas Digne (£6.1M). Calvert-Lewin has been one of the most consistent point scorers in the game this season. He blanked in only 2 of his first 14 fixtures this season and has returned 4 times in his last 3 starts.
Neither Southampton nor West Brom (having conceded 21 and 14 goals respectively in their last 7 games) present stern tests so the English striker is as safe a bet as any to haul in GW26. At £6.1M, Digne may seem too expensive given that Everton have only kept 5 clean sheets this season, however, he has created 10 chances and provided 6 assists in 15 starts.
Digne has the added appeal of playing further forward in the last few games too, spending most of his time on the left wing since returning from injury so more returns are imminent. As mentioned, their defensive record leaves a lot to desire but the recent performance against Liverpool along with the return of Allan could mean that they may be turning a corner.
Richarlison (£7.9M) has scored in his last two fixtures too. Historically a streaky player, he could be a great differential on free hit this week.
Another team whose GW26 fixtures are appealing are Leicester City who face Arsenal and Burnley. Their dominant performance against Villa saw a number of players impress. One of the standout performers this season is James Maddison (£7.3M), who has accumulated 7 goals and 5 assists in his last 14 appearances.
His fellow midfielder Harvey Barnes (£6.9M) is another player who has been in outstanding form of late. His goal and assist against Villa were his 10th and 11th goal involvement in 20 starts this season. Whilst they didn’t keep a clean sheet, Ricardo Pereira (£5.9M) was a positive presence in the opposition box in their most recent fixture. Classed as a defender, Pereira was deployed on the right wing against Villa so there is increased potential of attacking returns.
The overriding reason for me highlighting these 2 teams in particular was that there are very few teams out there with multiple assets from these teams. Although Man City’s double of West Ham and Wolves stands out, most engaged managers are already on the triple up. Leicester and Everton assets, however, have fairly low ownership so getting 4 or 5 players from these teams on your free hit could be a differential strategy with huge potential.
The succession of double gameweeks are followed by a blank gameweek in GW29. If you feel that going all in on a couple of teams in this GW is the optimal strategy for you, this may be the ideal opportunity to play the free hit.
The biggest benefit of playing the free hit in GW29 is that it means you don’t have to compromise in the lead up. Those who have either played the free hit or are waiting to play it at a later date will have to prepare for GW29 in the weeks preceding it.
Whilst there are three teams (Spurs and Aston Villa and Fulham) who play in 29 as well as double in 26, teams with great doubles such as the aforementioned Leicester, Manchester City and Everton do not. Free hitting in this week would allow you to focus on the doubles without having to worry about this.
If you are free hitting in this GW, the standout teams to target are Leeds and Brighton who play Fulham and Newcastle respectively. Much has already been made of Leeds assets and most will already have some from DGW25 so I won’t cover old ground by recommending particular players.
However, Brighton are very appealing defensively. Their run of 5 clean sheets in 7 has been just reward for the numbers they have been posting throughout this season. For a full rundown on Brighton, check out this excellent recent article.
Doubling, or even tripling up on their defence could prove fruitful against a Newcastle side who will likely be without Callum Wilson. A smattering of Arsenal, West Ham, Spurs and Aston Villa coverage could accompany these players for a potentially high score in a GW where the average is likely to be pretty low.
The only potential downside here is that the fixtures really are not that appealing. Arguably the two best sides in GW29 (Villa and Spurs) play against each other, and it would be very difficult to guess which way the Arsenal vs. West Ham game would go. Many will already have a few from Leeds, Fulham and Brighton too, so the amount of points you could gain on your opponents is likely lower than in other weeks.
Arguably the best opportunity to play the chip, a GW33 free hit could see huge gains. Like GW29, GW33 is a blank gameweek. Their participation in the Carabao cup final means that Tottenham and Manchester city, along with their opponents Fulham and Southampton won’t be featuring in this GW. Managers may feel that they can navigate this by either benching or selling their assets from the above teams, but there are a number of potential issues with this strategy.
Firstly, you could quite easily have 5/6 players from these teams. Even assuming you have enough playing players to afford to bench 3 of these, you would have to take hits to get rid of the others. This, coupled with the amount of money left on the bench could leave you massively handicapped. Moreover, both Spurs and City have decent fixtures either side of GW33 so selling their players could be detrimental in the long run.
Another reason for GW33 arguably being the optimal time to play the free hit is that a number of teams with kind fixtures in this GW have tricky fixtures either side of this, so you may not own many, if any, of their assets.
Fixtures such as Leeds vs. Man United, Aston Villa vs. West Brom, Liverpool vs Newcastle, and Leicester vs Crystal Palace all stand out as having huge possibilities for points. As mentioned earlier, many of these teams do not have the greatest fixtures in and around this GW.
Preceding GW33, Villa play Liverpool and Man City, whilst their encounter with WBA is followed by Everton and Spurs. United and Liverpool face Spurs and Aston Villa in GW31 before facing off against each other in GW34. All of this points to there being fairly low interest in players from these clubs.
If you are searching for a gameweek with a large potential upside, this is your gameweek.
My final suggestion for when to play the free hit is at the last possible opportunity. If you feel you can get through the aforementioned gameweeks without deploying the chip, GW38 might be the one for you.
We all know the final GW of this season is often, for want of a more eloquent way of putting it, absolutely mental.
If you’re looking for a final push to achieve a goal, whether that be a ranking milestone or the bragging rights in a mini league, this GW has a unique opportunity in terms of targeting fixtures. By this point in this season, many will be (as the cliche goes) “on the beach”. If these teams come up against opposition who still have something to play for, there may be a few extremely high scoring fixtures.
Those that particularly stand out in reference to this are: Wolves vs Man United, Arsenal vs Brighton, Liverpool vs Crystal Palace and Leeds vs West Brom. It is highly likely that in the above fixtures, at least one of, and in a couple of cases both, teams will have nothing to play for.
United may be chasing top 4 against Wolves who will likely be comfortably mid table at that point. Liverpool and Palace might be in a very similar situation, whilst Leeds may be playing an already relegated West Brom. The attacking assets of these teams could provide numerous hauls and above anything else, there’s something to be said for just enjoying the final round of fixtures, and what better way to do that than to go all in on a few teams?
As always, I caveat the following by saying that ultimately, the choice is dependent on how your team looks to be shaping up ahead any of the above gameweeks. If you already have 10 or more double gameweek 26 players, this may not be the ideal time to play the chip. If you already have 6 or 7 blank gameweek 29 players, this is likely not the best chance for you to gain an advantage.
If I had to order them in terms of potential gains to be made, I would say its GW33 followed by GW26, with GW38 and GW29 the less desirable options due to the lowest upside.