The Blank Game Week in game week 28 is a concern for us FPL Managers. While three fixtures are confirmed for GW28, the remaining seven fixtures having at least an 80% chance of being postponed. How can we plan our teams if we don’t know the players who will play!
In this two part series we try to answer that question for you. In part one I will look at only the players in the six teams that will play in GW28. This will allow you to choose some transfer targets now. In part two, which will be released after the FA Cup games have played out this weekend, Chorley will update the selected 15 with players from the teams who get knocked out of the FA Cup and have a GW28 fixture (yes, it is possible to be knocked out of the FA Cup and still have no GW28 game, for example, Arsenal vs Leicester).
Here are the updated Blank probabilities for GW28.
Hold on to your FTs: there's a 76% chance that FEWER than 7 fixtures will be Blanks. pic.twitter.com/ey6oB4yrDE
— Ben Crellin (@BenCrellin) February 9, 2017
Our rules of selection are simple. The team has to be affordable and made of players we are happy to recommend, ie, no FPL duds. The squad that I picked is:
From which I would construct the following first 11 team:
Let’s look at why I have selected these players.
Defence is usually the hardest area of a team to pick. When looking at this set of fixtures, I couldn’t see there being more than one clean sheet, which made choosing a defence difficult. As such, I decided to attempt to find defenders who would be most likely to add goals and assists to their team.
The two teams I felt most likely to keep clean sheets were Swansea and West Ham. This led to Winston Reid, West Ham’s first choice and highest FPL scoring defender, and Alfie Mawson, who is not only a guaranteed starter for Swansea, but also a serious goal threat on set pieces, as he has demonstrated in recent weeks with goals against Palace, Saints and Leicester.
For a man who does not cross the halfway line much, Mawson @SwansOfficial is effective on set pieces.
— FantasyFootballFirst (@FanFootFirst) February 17, 2017
Whilst it was risky to double down on Swansea defensively with Mawson and Fabianski (discussed below), I felt that it was necessary. I wanted to create a starting eleven that minimised 8-point pairs. As I have only three fixtures to choose from, and (in my mind) Everton, Swansea and West Ham all feel the most likely to score, I decided to avoid Bournemouth and Hull attacking players as far as possible.
I did however, decide early on that Everton were the team that I wanted to plunder first for attacking defenders. Yet we have Baines and Coleman, who have both effectively played as wingers and contribute in an “attacking sense” this season. I was tempted to put both of them in the team. In the end I decided that double-Everton defence was more risky than one Everton defender and one Everton midfielder. This made it a straight shot between Baines and Coleman. I opted for Coleman because he’s been the more dangerous than Baines in recent weeks, with 8 Coleman crosses-into-the-box in the last 3 games compared to 5 for Baines). In truth, either represents a solid choice.
Once I’d opted for my three first choice defenders, it was a case of looking for back up options. Again, by this point, my options were limited, to Bournemouth, Hull and West Brom. In terms of attacking defensive options I’ve highlighted the positives of picking up Chris Brunt before, so he seemed the natural choice, although Gareth McAuley is another good option for West Brom, given his goalscoring form this season. Nevertheless, I didn’t want to start a West Brom defender, given that Everton are the biggest and most dangerous team playing in this Gameweek.
And my final pick was Charlie Daniels from Bournemouth. By this point, it was a choice between Hull and Bournemouth, and Daniels is a guaranteed starting option with genuine attacking threat; he has three goals and three assists this season from left back. Nevertheless, it’s very unlikely that he’d get off the FPL bench.
Strangely, midfield was probably the area where I ended up second guessing myself the most. The first and most obvious pick for this area: Gylfi Sigurdsson. With Sigurdsson integral in the majority of goals Swansea score this season (8 goals and 8 assists) it’s a reasonably safe bet that if Swansea score twice then Sigurdsson will score some points, and against Hull, I’m backing Swansea to score.
The next two picks that I made were Phillips and Snodgrass. These are two players that originally seemed like simple picks, as they are both players that I would recommend highly in normal FPL and are two standout individuals over the course of the season so far. But then when I looked over the midfield, I felt that there were other individuals from West Brom and West Ham that might have deserved more of a look in, so I went back to assess. I did consider doubling up on midfielders from either team, but with West Ham I simply didn’t have space, and with West Brom I simply didn’t have the confidence.
Starting with Phillips, then. The other midfield options I considered were Nacer Chadli and James Morrison. Morrison has been in hot form lately, with three goals in his last six games, and two in his last three. And Chadli appears to have returned to form with his goal against West Ham. However, on balance, Phillips remains a dangerous option, and there are risks in second guessing yourself, particularly if it’s just to follow immediate form rather than mid to long term form, so I stuck with Phillips. Nevertheless, neither Chadli nor Morrison would be a bad pick, one to keep an eye on over the next couple of weeks.
Robert Snodgrass' individual highlights vs Southampton ⚒ pic.twitter.com/sopjBHxHMo
— West Ham News (@WHUFC_News) February 7, 2017
Meanwhile, both Manuel Lanzini and Michail Antonio were also options that I considered for West Ham. Antonio has scored quite a few goals this season, but I ruled out him as an option given that he’s only scored once in his last ten games and is likely to start at wing back assuming that Andy Carroll starts against Bournemouth Likewise, Lanzini has been in good form over the last few weeks, but he’s not a guaranteed starter with Feghouli also an option. Snodgrass has only started two games for West Ham, but already has an assist under his belt and will more than likely start scoring for them soon, so again I decided to trust my instincts and longer term form on this one, and stick with Snodgrass. But again, one to keep an eye on.
Barkley was my fourth choice, as I made the decision not to double up on Everton defenders and instead to go for a midfield option. Barkley was the easy choice in this regard, with two goals and three assists in Everton’s last seven games, and moreover because he’s the only attacking midfielder for the Toffees guaranteed a start at the moment.
My final midfield starting place was the last position in the entire fifteen that I selected. By this point in terms of teams once again it looked like Bournemouth and Hull were the obvious selections, unless I did some moving around of other players, so I decided to stick with Bournemouth and go with Josh King (although I did flirt with the idea of Lazar Markovic, who is in good form since joining Hull). With Calum Wilson out for the season, King has been starting up front for Bournemouth recently and scored twice against Everton before having a goal disallowed against Man City. He looks a decent fifth option considering who else is available.
Romelu Lukaku was the very first name on my team sheet. Andy Carroll was the second. Salomon Rondon was the third. Strikers are easily the most integral part of any FPL team, but in terms of the teams I was looking at, the options really were limited. Lukaku would have picked himself in almost any FPL team anyway, and with Costa, Kane and Ibrahimovic off the table you’d be a fool not to take him on.
Romelu Lukaku's sensational form could be enough to earn him a big move back to Chelsea ???????? pic.twitter.com/unrNNhXxBA
— Bleacher Report UK (@br_uk) February 8, 2017
Carroll for me was also an easy pick, with four goals in his last four games before picking up a knock (one that he should have recovered from by GW 28). Six goals in 800 minutes of football works out as a goal in less than a game and a half of football, and Carroll is easily the second best striker playing for these teams.
After assessing other areas of my team, however, I looked back at the striker situation, and grew uneasy with Rondon as a selection. He hasn’t scored in nine games and has scored in just two of West Brom’s last 17 league games, although he did score a hat-trick against Swansea. So I dropped Rondon to the bench, and then reassessed further whether I could better for a bench option forward.
Bournemouth won’t play with a forward on the pitch most likely, with King likely to start up top. I already had the starting strikers for Everton and West Ham starting. That left me with Swansea and Hull to look for alternative options. By this point I’d already decided to stick with two Swansea defensive options and I couldn’t justify picking Llorente, who has been patchy all season with his two goals against Liverpool the only goals in his last seven games, over the three I’d already selected.
So I decided to take a slight gamble, given that this pick was unlikely to play any part anyway, and go with Niasse of Hull. This freed up Foster in goal, but more importantly, I felt that Niasse was more of a threat than Rondon. Despite only scoring one goal since joining Hull in January, with Abel Hernandez injured and no guarantee he’ll be back for Gameweek 28, Niasse is likely to start and has looked dangerous when he’s played, scoring against Liverpool and threatening against Man United and Arsenal.
As is usually the case, goalkeepers were not my primary concern when picking a team. As such, there were a few keepers that weren’t selected purely because I’d already utilised players from that side in other positions. Everton are the primary example of this, and similarly I ignored Randolph because I already had a defensive option from West Ham.
So looking at the specific fixtures, which was my primary concern in this case as there are a wealth of good FPL keepers available, I decided that the least likely team to concede was Swansea, given that they’ve solidified at the back somewhat under Paul Clement, and that Hull are the second lowest scorers in the division, and haven’t improved vastly coming forwards yet under Marco Silva, who has focused on making them harder to beat. As such, I decided that my first choice for a goalkeeper would be Fabianski, whom at the time of selection I only had one player selected from.
Foster as a second choice was a very late change of heart. I reasoned that it was highly unlikely that for whatever reason that Fabianski wouldn’t play, given that he would have to get injured or suspended in the next two gameweeks, and at that stage of selection I only had Bournemouth or Hull available. Overall, I reckoned that moving forwards, Boruc is a more solid FPL choice than Jakupovic, given how Hull have chopped and changed their keepers this season.
However, after some late chopping and changing, a spot at West Brom became available, and Foster at £4.7m is a reasonably solid FPL choice to have, given that West Brom have been far more solid defensively this season than Bournemouth or Hull, and given that he’s the 6th highest scoring FPL keeper overall with 83 points.
So that’s the team that I’ve selected. I’ve also offered some plausible alternatives in every position, and whilst the justification for one player over another is more down to gut instinct in some cases, those are cases that can be assessed over the next two gameweeks, and moreover, are hopefully players who have a greater FPL value over the next few weeks anyway.
I hope this helps you with your preparations for game week 28 and be sure to pop back for part two.