Fill In The Blanks

18/01/2019 Planet FPL

With the hectic festive period now disappearing in the rear view mirror and FPL managers looking for any excuse to avoid using the new gym membership attention is rapidly turning in the direction of Ben Crellin and this season’s blank and double gameweeks. James and Suj covered chip strategy extensively in episode 38 of the Planet #FPL Podcast and it would seem that regardless of which chips you have remaining, planning your transfers to cope with the blanks in Gameweeks 27, 31 and 33 will be crucial. A quick look at Mr Crellin’s invaluable spreadsheets show us that Leicester and Liverpool currently look like the best prospects for guiding us through this tricky period. Only low probability outcomes would stop either team from featuring in all 3 blank gameweeks. Of course Wigan were a low probability outcome when they put paid to City’s quadruple chances last season and a lot of FPL planning went out of the window with that result but preparing for what appears the most likely outcomes is still the best strategy going forward.

Liverpool are the standout team so far this season, top of the league, 13 clean sheets and 6 players already over 100 FPL points with Alexander Arnold closing in on that mark too prior to his injury. If you aren’t already tripled up on them then a move towards that in the coming weeks will surely be beneficial when we hit gameweeks 31 & 33. Salah’s monster haul of 29 against Watford last season came in a blank gameweek and you’d have to be incredibly brave to go into what could be a similarly decimated fixture list without the highest scoring player in the game. Alongside Salah the premium options in defence of Allison, Robertson and VVD look to be the most nailed starters and offer the best value although Firmino could be worth considering for those looking at a straight Kane swap. He’s in the top 4 players in the league for penalty box touches and shots over the last 6 gameweeks as well as for shots on target and big chances (credit: @FPLcentre).

Leicester investment ahead of the blanks will no doubt be a slightly more contentious issue amongst the FPL community. It’s nowhere near on the same level as Stoke investment last season which saw managers bringing in Choupo-Moting and Bauer but with Leicester’s Jekyll and Hyde like form this season there is plenty of potential to bring in a dud. Wins against Chelsea and Man City over Christmas have been followed by home defeats to Cardiff and Southampton and their blank gameweek promise was brought about by a cup exit at the hands of Newport.

They face Wolves, Liverpool, Man Utd and Spurs in their next four games so realistically any Leicester investment is going to come following gameweek 26. Poor results in their next games could well bring intense pressure on manager Claude Puel who hasn’t been well received at the King Power and any change in management would shift the FPL picture considerably.

Leicester’s squad are pretty average FPL wise. They rank 8th for total points, 11th for goalkeeper points, 7th for defender points, 11th for midfielder points and 10th for forward points. Leicester have scored 351 non appearance FPL points this season with Pereira (58), Maddison (39) and Vardy (45) contributing more than 40% of these. Since the beginning of November Leicester’s defence is 2nd only to Liverpool’s having conceded just 9 goals in that period and Pereira (61) and Chilwell (51) are ranked 2nd and 3rd behind Digne (70) for points by non top 6 defenders since gameweek 8.

Their attack on the other hand has faltered of late. They scored 17 goals in the first 11 games of the season but have found the back of the net just 9 times in the 11 games since. In the last 11 games only Huddersfield with 8 goals have scored fewer. Maddison has registered just a single assist in the last 7 gameweeks. Vardy has 3 attacking returns in his last 5 and loves a goal against the big sides but it would be a brave manager that took a punt on him as a Kane replacement at this stage.

Planning early for the blanks is a great way to gain a headstart on your mini league rivals and with the limited knowledge we have so far the sensible course of action seems to be maximising your Liverpool coverage at the earliest opportunity. Getting ahead of the curve on Leicester investment feels like a much riskier proposition and holding off until their fixtures turn in gameweek 27 looks the way to go. Especially as that may well coincide with many looking to offload similarly priced Everton assets who will blank in gameweek 27 and face a tough fixture schedule thereafter..