Fantasy Football – When to Play the Wildcard

A guest post by Fantasy Football Mentor gives his view on when to play the second wild card. Follow him on twitter @FPL_Mentor and visit their website for more fantasy football news. 

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January Wildcard

January is almost upon us (or already is depending where you are right now!). A time of new hope, new promises and new starts. I’m not talking about New Year resolutions, I’m talking about the January wildcard.

Back in September I wrote a general article about when to play your wildcard which can be found on the Strategy Articles page, or by clicking here. But I think the January wildcard is a different beast to the wildcard that can be used at any time, and not just for the obvious reason that it can only be used within a certain time frame. For anyone wondering, it can be used for GW22, so after GW21 has started (from 11:31 GMT on 1 January 2013) up until, and including using it for GW25 (11:30 GMT on 2 February 2013).

So even though it’s the January wildcard, it can’t be used until after GW21 has been locked in, which is the first GW in January, and it can still be used in February. This is because GW24 ends on 30 January and so there’s still some January left over, so it can still be used for GW25. The wording on the FPL site might be a misleading to some as it states the wildcard is available “until Gameweek 24 ends”, in other words “until GW25 starts”. Hopefully everyone is clear about that.

So as I was saying, a different beast to the standard wildcard, and very much so. Hence a whole new article rather than changing a few things from my original. I’ve given it a lot of thought and in my opinion there are 4 important things to consider when deciding when to use it:

  1. Player values
  2. The double Gameweek (DGW) in GW23 for Arsenal and West Ham
  3. African Cup of Nations
  4. Transfers that Premier League clubs will make in January
I’ve listed them in order of importance but I think there’s very little between the top 2. Player values has to shade it though because it will have a lasting impact on your side, while a DGW provides the opportunity of a one-off spike in your scores.

Ok so let’s have a look at these 4 one-by-one then.

Player Values

This is fairly obvious, but hugely significant. If you play your wildcard at 11:31 GMT on 1 January ready for GW22, chances are you’re going to save a whole bunch of cash. Barring any 3-match suspensions or long-term injuries to big-name players that you want to bring in, the likelihood is that their price will rise before now and the end of January.

Let’s have a quick look at some examples by assuming you don’t have, but intend to buy RVP, Ba, Mata & Michu – four of the most popular and highest scoring FPL players so far this season. Unlikely yes, but for example I don’t have 3 of these players, so not impossible. We’ll look at the difference in their values from GW17 to GW20, i.e. 4 GWs – the lifespan of the January wildcard:

GW17 Value
GW20 Value
Difference
Robin Van Persie
13.8
14.0
+0.2
Demba Ba
8.2
8.3
+0.1
Juan Mata
9.5
9.8
+0.3
Michu
8.0
8.3
+0.3
Totals
39.5
40.4
+0.9

All I’ve done there is pick 4 popular FPL players at random. The first 2 strikers, and first 2 midfielders that came into my head to be honest. A difference of +0.9 is huge, and that’s only with 4 players don’t forget. Yes they’re “big” players in FPL terms, but if you wanted you could change 15 players with your wildcard. Of course that’s an extreme, but if that was the case you could easily be looking at a saving of 2-3m if you play your wildcard early for GW22 rather than late for GW25.

It’s something which should be at the top of your list of things to consider as it could be the difference between having a midfielder or a striker worth 8.0 or 9.0 as opposed to one worth 5.0 or 6.0 and you don’t need me to tell you the sort of difference that can make to your team.

I mentioned a suspension or long-term injury affecting things. Well to give you an idea, Marouane Fellaini ‘s price hit 8.0 right before his recent 3-match ban. At the time of writing he is priced at just 7.4 – a huge drop of 0.6 in a short space of time. It’s worth remembering though that he was one of the most owned FPL players, so masses of people transferred him out causing his price to tumble. Just shows you that it can happen though. But on the whole, prices will continue to rise, they’re much more volatile this season.

(Double) Gameweek 23

Double Gameweeks are my favourite things in Fantasy Football. Maybe because I like the forward thinking and planning they require in order to be exploited to their full potential. Couple that with the balancing act of trying to ensure that you don’t have too many players from a team which you wouldn’t normally have in the following normal GW (Sunderland & Reading players from GW16, anyone?) and you have a great little mini-game within FPL. Who doesn’t like games, right?

GW23 is different though. The wildcard gives you a safety net. Now you wouldn’t normally use a wildcard solely to build around a DGW, at least I wouldn’t recommend it under normal circumstances, but here you can. You have a limited time to use this wildcard so if you’re not planning any drastic changes you can use it to exploit GW23.

So how should you go about this?

Well there’s 2 ways. Arsenal and West Ham are the 2 teams in question. Arsenal visit Chelsea while West Ham host QPR before both teams meet at the Emirates. The usual FPL advice for a DGW is not to overcrowd your team with the affected players, but you can this time. Sort of.

The 2 ways of doing it are to use the wildcard immediately before GW23 or immediately afterwards. Fairly obviously. You could use it to fill up with Arsenal and West Ham players effectively giving you a maximum of 17 players in your starting XI. Chances are this will potentially give you a points spike but then you’re lumbered with 6 players from just 2 teams, not something I’m keen on. If they both have bad weeks during the next GW then that could be over half of your team not delivering.

I much prefer the idea of using your wildcard after GW23. We have 3 GWs yet before we reach it, that’s potentially 3 free transfers of Arsenal or West Ham players if you wanted. You might already have 1 or 2 in anyway so it gives you a chance to get a total of 3 or 4 DGW players in your team. Then once GW23 is over, it’s wildcard time! A bit like a get out of jail free card.

I quite like that idea and originally that was my plan. Yet after playing around with how my team could potentially end up looking, I’m now leaning towards an early wildcard due to reason number 1 in my list.

African Cup of Nations

The African Cup of Nations (ACoN) runs from 19 January until 10 February 2013. If I remember correctly, players will be expected to be released from their clubs 2 weeks before the tournament, but it usually ends up being a week as a compromise between nations and Premier League clubs. Nations can put their foot down about this though if they so wish, and doubtless some will do just that. But that 2 weeks is just from memory, don’t quote me on it.

There’s 2 things to bear in mind here. One is obvious, the other less so. Firstly don’t be bringing in any players who will be on another continent for potentially the best part of 5 weeks. I don’t think any more needs to be said about that. Simples.

What you should be thinking about is who will come into replace those players at their clubs. It’s likely that the ACoN will throw up some unexpected FPL bargains with some fringe players getting game time they wouldn’t normally get, or playing in positions that they wouldn’t normally play in. This aspect is less to do with the wildcard, that’s more to do with the obvious part of avoiding the likes of Yaya Toure when playing yours. But this is something that can put you one step ahead of everyone else if you pay attention closely enough.

January Transfers (real ones)

Thinking back to the last January transfer window, Everton and Newcastle made 2 stunning acquisitions, bringing in Nikica Jelavic and Papiss Cisse respectively. So sometimes there are some excellent FPL players bought into the Premier League in January, or even bought within the league itself, with players moving from one Premier League club to another. Demba Ba could be one of those…

If you already have a great team which has a nice balance to it, then you might not be too bothered about using a wildcard in January. If that’s the case then it might be worth saving until the transfer window closes just in case there’s any spectacular late buys that require a little reshuffle. Falcao? David Villa? You never know!

Should this happen then you’re in a lovely position. Whereas others might have to spend points to get new, shiny, big names into their teams, you’ll be able to play your wildcard just before it expires, comfortably swap around 2 or 3 players and look very smug.

Summary

In conclusion, there’s plenty of options available to you when it comes to how and when to play your wildcard then. It all depends on your current situation, your current squad and how happy or unhappy you are with your side.

Of course, there are other things which may come into play – your side might be ravaged with injuries and suspensions, forcing you into using your wildcard as soon as possible just so that you can field 11 players. If that’s the case then that’s desperately unlucky, you poor sod.

But in general, if you’re in half-decent shape then the 4 things I listed should form the backbone of your decision making. If you take them all into account and make a balanced decision based on which ones you feel you should give more weight to given your FPL circumstances, then you should benefit quite handsomely in comparison with those who will just use a wildcard for the sake of it.WILDCARD! YEAH! FREE TRANSFERS BABY!

Don’t be one of those people and you’ll be fine 🙂

 One final point. Do use your wildcard. Even if it’s just to save taking a -4 or -8 point hit. That’s also what it’s there for if your side doesn’t need a radical overhaul.

I think that’s everything. Hopefully this will have been some use and given you something to ponder which you might not have thought about previously.

I’m just left to wish you all a Happy New Year and all the best for 2013. Thanks very much for reading, it’s never taken for granted, I genuinely appreciate it.

Follow him on twitter @FPL_Mentor
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2 Comments on “Fantasy Football – When to Play the Wildcard”

  1. Adro3! (Adamzefifalord) January 1, 2013 at 6:25 pm #

    Nice post buddy! I really need this WC as my team isn’t great. What midfielders do you recommend? I’m stuck.

    • Asfand January 2, 2013 at 7:26 am #

      Thanks for the feedback! If you’re going to play your WC during GW22 or G23, you should probably pick up a couple of Arsenal midfielders as GW23 includes a double for the Gunners (and West Ham). I would suggest either Walcott (he’s on fire), Cazorla (always in the attacking mix & the highest scoring Gunner so far) or Arteta (on penalty duty). Just don’t load up on more than 2-3 Arsenal players as it will make it tough to make any major changes once you’ve played your WC. As far as the other clubs go, there are a few players who will surely deliver throughout the rest of the season, i.e. Michu, Fellaini, Mata, Hazard and Bale. And no midfield is complete without a budget option or two, my suggestions are Noble (WHU), Puncheon (SOU) and Dyer (SWA).

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