With the arrival of the New Year, Fantasy Football Managers have the opportunity to activate the January Wildcard. This presents the chance to refresh an ailing squad, full of perceived deadwood or simply tweak the odd rotation, knowing that what they have created is deemed perfection. These two camps of Fantasy Managers will welcome this opportunity with differentiating opinions but one constant runs throughout, when is the best time to wield this powerful tool, powerful enough to rescue a mediocre season or obliterate a table topping squad? Read on as ATFPL presents the options available and tries to weigh the pros and cons of the timing of the Wildcard;
Firstly, as quoted below from the Fantasy.PremierLeague.com rules, it’s important to understand the availability of the Wildcard in terms of Gameweeks.
The January Wildcard can only be used after Gameweek 20 starts (1 Jan 11:30) until Gameweek 23 ends (1 Feb 11:30).
Secondly and it must be stated, there is no correct time to activate as each Fantasy Football squad will require different tweaking with key diary dates, tactics, fixture difficulty ratings and player influences to consider. However there is an unwritten theory that the later the wildcard is taken the better. This is mainly based on matching the Premier League transfer window allowing Fantasy Managers the complete choice of every revamped Premier League squad as there have been examples of players arriving at the end of January changing the Fantasy Football landscape. Gylfi Sigurdsson for Swansea in 2011/12 arrived in the game at only 5.0 mil to go on and score 7 and set up 5 while Daniel Sturridge’s move to Liverpool last season turned a dead asset at Chelsea to a real cheap alternative to Luis Suarez who produced.
The examples above can equally be reversed with players who appeared essential tail off in the second half of the season as either fixtures stiffen, form disappears or simply the rigours of a full Premiership season hits. Michu last season, while having a great debut season was much more influential in the first half of the season compared to the second. Fantasy Managers have to spot these initial “quick out the traps” players running low on Fantasy Football fuel and cast them to the transfer page wilderness to keep the squad moving in the right direction. A full evaluation of your existing squad is required with essential tags applied rationally and not emotively and then work from there to attempt to remove these diminishing stars. This could end you with a squad as little as three to four players deep based on the individual Fantasy Managers thought process. Next, Fantasy Managers must take an impartial look at the transfer market and deem if there are any essential players – creating a wanted List – who have so far been unable to be acquired either due to budget constraints from the balance of your squad or always having a crisis to fix before moving on the player the Fantasy Manager had lined up. Have these two groups of players established before even considering activating the wildcard as this will provide you with the platform to know your budget for installing player rotations around this core or whether you have the financial clout to forego rotation and move on a big hitting fourth midfielder or third big hitting defender.
Now that a basis of your future squad has been formed, it’s now time to look at when this core of players is best to be implemented;
This Gameweek will be popular as Fantasy Managers are unable to resist a change but a good Fantasy Manager must resist the urge for needless unplanned change and assess the existing squad for what it is. A simple ploy could be looking at the above two mentioned players list and if the second wanted list is longer than the current essential list within the squad and these wanted players are the current bandwagons from the tight festive period increasing the transfer rate and in turn increasing the rate of the prices rises on these players then yes, it may be worth foregoing the vision of a shut transfer window and react to the Fantasy Football transfer market instead. The other advantage for this early period is the duration of the gap between the Gameweeks. 10 days is an eternity in the world of Fantasy Football presenting the opportunity to play the market and make FPL money. This can be achieved by activating the wildcard; select the bandwagons from Gameweek 20 who will likely rise in value by 0.2 mil and then sell them on confirmation of your squad at the end of the Gameweek, making 0.1 mil. It is possible that 0.3 mil can be made from multiple attempts with this being the difference needed to get your ideal squad. Add the potential savings you have made from casting aside players who were likely to drop and a value swing of anything up to 1.0 mil can be achieved that is not possible without activating the Wildcard.
Before you read the above and think that the validity for activation outweighs holding the Wildcard, Fantasy Managers must remember that the transfer market should be less volatile this year compared to previous January windows. The reasons, there is no African Cup of Nations and there are no Double-Gameweeks this season to fuel the transfer activity. The other considerations are you are more likely to fall for the current first half season bandwagons the earlier the Wildcard is played simply due to lesser data being available to calculate your moves. The bigger risk though comes in the form of the existing Fantasy Managers who already have nailed the squad with the players you want to bring in. You simply are matching their squad making your rotations and differentials even more important. Get them wrong and your squad’s overall rank stays where it is while you lose the biggest weapon you had to make a dent in the rank.
Finally, the biggest problem with an early Wildcard is you declare your hand before others who can simply match if you make a good attempt at the Wildcard and/or find differentials for their own squad based around your Wildcard.
Likely Fantasy Managers:
“The Red Arrows” Manager association
Fantasy Managers wanting/requiring to make team value by utilising the ten day Gameweek
Fantasy Managers who have a wanted list longer than the existing player squad essential list
As we have mentioned above, the main advantage in leaving the Wildcard to this point is the shutting of the Premier League transfer window, allowing Fantasy Managers the full player list to select their squad from. Talking of the player list, currently key players such as Kun Aguero, Aaron Ramsey, Daniel Sturridge and even Robin van Persie are currently injured. Holding the Wildcard can allow a Fantasy Manager to bring anyone of these assets back easier rather than having to potentially adjust newly formed balance and budget allocations. Out of this list of players, Kun Aguero could well be the key and the most difficult to bring back into your squad.
The fixture list is a friend of the late Wildcard with a rather nice mid-week fixture list during Gameweek 23 in which Fantasy Managers will know the line-ups before the Gameweek deadline is shut, allowing a few gambles to be made in full knowledge of who is playing and these gambles are easily addressed with your remaining Wildcard later on. Indeed, there is an argument that leaving the Wildcard to as late as possible and taking a few points hits with gambles throughout January is an option to match the early adopters of the Wildcard. And these gambles can be short-term and heavily loaded on one team if required. Teams like Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Norwich and Sunderland have a trio of favourable fixtures for Gameweeks 21 through 23. The other reason why the fixture list is a friend is simply there are less Gameweeks left to consider when compiling the squad, making rotations and planned transfers easier to manage going forward.
February and March are normally associated with Double-Gameweeks created by League and FA Cup clashes. Saving the Wildcard will allow you to react to any change in fixtures better than if you had played it earlier.
There is one major disadvantage to a late Wildcard which is players prices rising in value beyond what your budget can afford and the potential points the Fantasy Manager could have missed in the time they have waited holding the move off. However some of this can be managed by the above point hit tactic with one short term gamble along with one “wanted list” player joining the ranks each Gameweek. This tactic is useful for when the “wanted list” player currently didn’t fit in your balance of your squad by using the gamble pick to release the required funds.
Likely Fantasy Managers:
Members of the Green (arrows) party
Fantasy Managers wanting to gain an advantage from the January transfer window
Fantasy Managers wanting the services of a currently injured Heavy Hitter
Fantasy Managers with one eye on Double-Gameweeks