In our first January Wildcard article, ATFPL looked at the timing of the wildcard along with offering insight into general tactics that could be deployed. Now we move our attentions more towards the players, looking at the likely targets while suggesting defensive rotations that can carry you forward for the next ten gameweeks along with some season ending pairings and trios that cross the full budget bracket. As we alluded to in our initial article, more often than not the same players can’t sustain their form for the entire season. One part of the reason for this trait is the fixture list, especially for defenders. With very few men classified as “fixture proof” if any at the back, the fixtures themselves play an important role in starting form and also ending it so looking forward at this critical point in the season is a necessity for the serious Fantasy Football Manager. So without further delay, Read on as ATFPL dissects player and club credentials based around the fixture list;
Smooth Sailing Fixtures
We start by looking at the Season Ticker to uncover any ten Gameweek rotating pairs worthy of consideration when activating the Wildcard while discussing which players could fill your defensive positions. As well as offering a short term perspective, ATFPL will look at the validity of the rotation long term and whether upgrading the rotational pair to a Three-Way rotation offers a better route through the fixture list;
Arsenal and Southampton
Next Ten Gameweeks: avl/FUL/sot/CPL/STK/hul/SUN/stk/SWA/NOR
With a league leading nine clean sheets to date, a member of the Arsenal defensive line is a mandatory for any wildcards. Looking forward at the fixture list, the Gunners have three speed bumps in an otherwise smooth passage of favourable fixtures with Gameweek 25 – liv -, Gameweek 26 – MUN – and Gameweek 30 – tot – the hurdles.
Manuel Pochettino’s Southampton side – STK, hul, NOR – who have kept seven clean sheet themselves are the best remedy to remove these unwanted obstacles either as a goalkeeper pairing – Wojciech Szczesny and Artur Boruc – or as a rotation in defence – Laurent Koscielny and Luke Shaw -, bringing this fixture rotation into your back line will provide a corner stone to revolve the rest of your defence around.
Some Fantasy Managers could be dismissive of this rotation with the cost bracket a minimum of 9.9 million. The answer to this issue can be found later in this article with ATFPL merging rotations to form what we consider a thing of beauty.
For those Per Mertesacker owners, it could be a worthy tactic downgrading to one of his defensive partners to install this rotation and use the money accrued in the transaction to improve in other areas. That’s if you haven’t assigned the essential tag to the German International in which case the fixture run created is potentially viable enough to double up with it.
Long term, the rotation is tested through gameweeks 31 to 33 – tot, NEW ,eve – but Arsenal then have a run of five games – WHM, hul, NEW, WBA, nor – to the end of the season that could see them declared champions. What’s that saying again? “Defence wins championships”
Fixtures to Gameweek 38:
Cardiff City and Crystal Palace
Next Ten Gameweeks: WHM/STK/HUL/NOR/WBA/AVL/HUL/swa/FUL/sun
Fantasy Managers choosing the above rotation will enjoy eight home games in the next ten including Hull twice, the only opposition currently in the top half and with both these sides battling at the bottom of the league, these favourable home fixtures will define whether either or both retain their Premiership status next season.
With three clean sheets in five home games since the managerial appointment of Tony Pulis, Crystal Palace will be firmly in the thoughts of most Fantasy Managers with Julian Speroni moderately priced at 4.5 million, the most expensive route into Pulis’ organised rearguard but even that price in the Goalkeepers market is cheap, making every Palace defensive asset budget friendly.
Cardiff who appointed Manchester United legend, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer this week is currently an unknown in terms of the starting XI with the new man bound to tweak at certain positions. One position that rarely sees upheaval is the goalkeeper spot with David Marshall the number 1 and performing so. Priced at 4.7 million, the rotation pair of the aforementioned duo will set a Fantasy Manager back 9.2 million and is one of the cheaper goalkeeper pairings. For those Fantasy Managers wanting to take advantage of a defender pairing, holding your wildcard to the last minute will give you time to assess Solskjaer’s opinions on his best XI. Add that this is also Pulis’ first transfer window and no doubt eager to bring some of his own signings in, it is even more advisable to wait on this rotation.
Long term the rotation falls apart after Gameweek 30. However adding a Sunderland player and upgrading the pair to a rotational trio, Fantasy Managers can hold their assets, saving transfers while running with a trio of players that should cost less than 13.0 mil, even with the potential changes in both the Bluebirds and Eagles defence.
Upgrade to a Three-Way Rotation: Sunderland
Fixtures to Gameweek 38:
With 16 home games and Newcastle currently the highest positioned opposition in eighth, there’s not a lot wrong fixture wise with this rotation. The derailment may come from the clubs involved but that’s the gamble you take with such a cheap rotational trio.
Cardiff City and Sunderland
Next Ten Gameweeks: WHM/SOT/STK/NOR/HUL/AVL/HUL/WBA/FUL/CPL
Briefly, for those Fantasy Managers that believe the honeymoon period is over at Selhurst Park, Cardiff’s rotation with Sunderland is a viable alternative that on paper is the better. Like the above Cardiff/Palace rotation, top half opposition is rare with Southampton joining Hull twice as the only clubs while this pair benefit from ten straight home games.
Sunderland as previously mentioned by ATFPL are showing signs of defensive rigidity with five clean sheets in their last ten with the upturn coinciding with the fitness of Wes Brown. At 4.3 million, before his suspension, those clean sheets number improved to four in seven. Either Brown, Phil Bardsley – 4.5 million – who adds an attacking threat or Vito Mannone – 4.4 million – if considering the goalkeeper pairing with David Marshall for 9.1 million are options for Fantasy Managers in their wildcards.
Unlike the above rotation, the Cardiff/Sunderland rotational pair longevity lasts for the remainder of the season with a straight home/away rotation option up to Gameweek 37. Norwich away in Gameweek 32 is preferred over Cardiff hosting Liverpool.
Fixtures to Gameweek 38:
Cardiff City and Swansea
Next Ten Gameweeks: WHM/TOT/FUL/NOR/CAR/AVL/HUL/CPL/FUL/WBA
A traditional 38 Gameweek Home/Away rotation, both clubs home fixtures take a favourable upturn in the coming months to provide Fantasy Managers with a fixture run only dented by Swansea home encounter with Tottenham in Gameweek 22 a hurdle. This rotation is more suited to the Fantasy Manager holding the Wildcard till the last minute as this will eliminate this hurdle along with giving Michel Vorm the expected time to recover from knee surgery opening up the goalkeeper pairing.
Both sides have only kept three clean sheets at home in ten but an investigation into both clubs fixture shows the opposition has been tough to near unfair with Cardiff hosting seven of the current top nine while down the coast, Swansea have entertained six.
The Swansea defence is a settled unit with the Ben Davies, Ashley Williams and Chico Flores all offering security of starts priced around the 5.0 million mark.
Long term, the rotation holds up well with only Gameweek 31 – LIV – and 34 – sot – the blips. One patch for these Gameweeks is Everton – SWA, sun – who not only remove those blips, they upgrade the fixture run adding favourable home games from now to the game against Swansea.
Upgrade to a Three-Way Rotation: Everton
Fixture Run to Gameweek 38:
15 home games with Southampton the current top positioned opposition in ninth; this rotational trio may cost upwards of 14.5 million with Sylvain Distin the only real option, but offers tremendous potential as a reliable source of clean sheets. For any Fantasy Managers that install this in your Wildcard, you will be interested to know that you select Distin 8 out of the first 14 fixtures and then only once in the last four as Everton’s run in is one of the hardest. This presents an opportunity to revert the rotation back to the aforementioned rotational pair and allow the manager to transfer in a defender similarly priced with a better fixture run in. Arsenal, Chelsea and Spurs fit the bill perfectly. Due to the front loaded Everton fixtures, this rotation favours the early Wildcard.
Crystal Palace and Hull City
Next Ten Gameweeks: CHE/STK/HUL/TOT/WBA/SOT/car/NEW/SOT/sun
Possibly the most known rotation in Fantasy Football mainly because of the value – costing only 8.0 mil -, the Hull City and Crystal Palace rotation suffers somewhat in the next ten Gameweeks with games against Chelsea and Spurs unavoidable. Add Southampton (twice) and Newcastle at home along with two away trips and the rotation is as attractive as a kick in the balls. Fantasy Managers looking to retain the budget friendly pair of James Chester at 3.9 million and Joel Ward at 4.1 million must add to this pair in the form of a rotational trio.
Upgrade to a Three-Way Rotation: West Ham
Fixtures to Gameweek 38:
The saviour of this rotation comes in the form of West Ham and while they are struggling for form currently, they do know how to keep a clean sheet with 8 recorded this campaign. The Hammers remove the fixtures against Chelsea and Spurs and while they add their own game against the Saints, they remove the other two encounters against the south coast outfit.
Guy Demel looks the safest pick from the Hammers back line at 4.7 million, making the newly formed rotational trio one of the cheapest at under 13.0 million.
Manchester United and Sunderland
Next Ten Gameweeks: SWA/SOT/CAR/stk/FUL/ars/cpl/WBA/wba/CPL
Those Fantasy Managers who believe that David Moyes can continue Manchester United’s trait of always improving from January onwards, more so defensively can look at the immediate fixture list that includes six favourable fixtures. However a plug is required for the additional four – che, ars, MCY, LIV – as they are just gruesome. The best fit is the aforementioned Sunderland who remove three of the four hurdles replacing them with SOT, WBA, CPL and while you will have to play your Manchester United asset at the Emirates it’s certainly isn’t a show stopper.
David De Gea is the most secure route into the United defence priced at 5.8 million and can be paired with Vito Mannone for a combined 10.2 million.
Long term, Manchester United’s final eight games are all favourable with enough to permit selecting your United asset for all. If you feel otherwise, you shouldn’t be considering this rotation despite the away fixture at St James Park, Goodison Park and St Marys.
Fixtures to Gameweek 38:
Newcastle and Sunderland
Next Ten Gameweeks: ful/SOT/STK/SUN/HUL/TOT/AVL/WBA/EVE/CPL
The North-East traditional Home/Away rotation on paper is a mixed bag with Sunderland’s trip to Fulham removing the clash with Manchester City while encounters with Spurs and Everton later in the fixture run are unavoidable. However these fixtures are soften somewhat with Newcastle playing in both who while only keeping three clean sheets to date, have also only conceded ten goals at St James Park. This theme of defensive solidarity is highlighted further with Newcastle conceding no more than 1 goal in each of their last six Premiership outings up to Gameweek 21 and shows Alan Pardew’s men aren’t far off from becoming a consistent source of clean sheets.
Newcastle’s full backs – Mathieu Debuchy and Davide Santon – have been prominent in their attacking play, are deemed to be nailed-on and priced at 5.2 and 5.0 million, can be paired with Wes Brown or Phil Bardsley for no more than 9.7 million. Both are options despite Debuchy’s enforced suspension as Sunderland fixtures carries the Frenchman for the first three games of this fixture run. Equally the goalkeeper pairing is an option with Tim Krul priced slightly more at 5.3 million.
Long term, the rotation improves with only Gameweek 33 – MUN – representing a hurdle to pass, and running this rotation for the duration of the season is an option. For those Fantasy Managers that wish improve the initial ten Gameweeks, Cardiff are a good patch for Gameweek 21, 26 and 29 to go along with Gameweek 33 – WHM, AVL, FUL, CPL.
Upgrade to a Three-Way Rotation: Cardiff
Fixtures to Gameweek 38:
With 17 home games in the fixture run with only a trip to the Britannia Stadium and Stoke a better prospect than hosting Everton in Gameweek 34, this rotational trio is one of the strongest on paper. Add the rotation playing the current bottom five nine times and Fantasy Managers have room for optimism for a rotation that can be implemented for 13.5 million if Ben Turner is still a first choice option under Solskjaer. Again those Fantasy Managers holding their wildcard to the last minute can benefit from gathering information surrounding the new man ideas for his defence.
Southampton and West Ham
Next Ten Gameweeks: WBA/NEW/ARS/SWA/STK/NOR/SOT/eve/HUL/NOR
Another rotational pair that enjoys a perfect Home/Away fixture list, Southampton and West Ham can combine for eight home clean sheets to date if a Fantasy Manager had followed the home element of the rotation religiously. Looking at the next ten Gameweeks and the rotation only has two hurdles to overcome in Gameweek 23 – ARS – and Gameweek 28 – LIV. Again, due to injury sustain to the hand of Artur Boruc, the goalkeeping pairing is only available to Fantasy Managers who are willing to hold the Wildcard. However, with Jussi Jaasklelainen priced at 5.5 million, the 10.2 million outlay for the pair seems overpriced considering the options in defence. This tactic of holding the wildcard also removes one of the two hurdles this rotation faces and is certainly an advisable tactic if considering this defensive rotational pair.
Luke Shaw looks the preferred option in the Saints defence priced favourably against his teammates at 4.8 million. The left back has only missed playing time through injury. There is a possible cheaper option emerging in Calum Chambers at 3.9 million who has started the Saints last six Premiership games while recently keeping the now fit again Nathaniel Clyne to the substitute bench.
Now onto the thing of Beauty mentioned earlier. West Ham’s fixtures in Gameweeks 25, 26 and 30, the Gameweeks Southampton fill in for Arsenal in the above rotational pair are good enough – avl, NOR, stk – for the West Ham player to also be selected meaning that any Fantasy Manager adopting both rotations can benefit fully from the potential Southampton brings without having to double on their assets. This leaves two defensive slots either for two big hitters and play four at the back or a cheap rotational pair retaining the majority of the budget for the attacking departments.
Long term, the rotation falls apart with fixtures against Manchester United twice in Gameweek 31 and 38 along with Liverpool in Gameweek 33 unavoidable. The patch that best fits is Hull City who removes those fixtures and replaces them with WBA, SWA and EVE. The aforementioned James Chester can be acquired for 3.9 million, pushing the rotational trio price tag up towards 14.0 million.
Upgrade to Three-Way Rotation: Hull City
Fixtures to Gameweek 38:
With 15 home games this rotational trio is enticing considering the three clubs has amassed 14 home clean sheet to date. For those managers that adopt this rotation, the last three games in the fixture run aren’t fantastic and breaking the trio after Gameweek 35 is recommended with the likes of Sunderland and Swansea finishing the season with favourable fixtures at comparable prices.
Lastly, check in with our regular weekly articles for insight into potential big hitters for your Wildcard selection.