With just eight gameweeks to go until the end of the season, it’s now approaching do or die time for many FPL managers – particularly those who are looking to make up ground in their mini leagues.
It is no surprise then to see so many managers contemplating whether or not to use their wildcard, especially with upcoming fixture swings for the likes of Liverpool, Arsenal and Leicester.
After dead-ending by bringing in Marcos Alonso for a one-week punt in GW30, I am one of those managers who have taken the plunge and activated my wildcard.
Although I’m far from settled on my changes, here is my current wildcard draft. I’ll explain why I’ve opted for each player and hopefully it can help to inform you on some of your decisions.
Follow me at @Mitch_FPL to see my squad reveal by Friday’s deadline!
Nick Pope (5.5m)
The vast majority of the FPL Twitter community seem to be focusing on the likes of Edouard Mendy, Rui Patricio, Bernd Leno and Emi Martinez for their potential wildcard goalkeeper. Indeed, I’ve not yet seen anyone mention Nick Pope – the England hopeful who currently ranks third for total points among all goalkeepers.
The aforementioned quartet are certainly logical and solid choices, but the consistency of Nick Pope’s fixtures is what attracts me to the Burnley stopper. Just three of Burnley’s eight remaining fixtures are up against teams currently in the top half. That includes a game against Liverpool, who despite recent signs of improvement have struggled to score against teams who deploy a low block, such as Burnley.
The Clarets are set to play Fulham, Wolves and Sheffield United in the final weeks of the season. Those three teams all rank in the bottom four across the entire division for goals scored this season. The other? Burnley themselves. It’s entirely possible that Pope can sweep up the three bonus points in potential goalless draws against these sides.
Fraser Forster (4.0m)
Fraser Forster is likely to be included in 90% of wildcard teams this gameweek. The 4.0m goalkeeper is by far and away the best budget choice for a backup option. The ex-Celtic man has muscled his way into the starting line-up for Southampton in recent weeks and there’s no reason to expect Alex McCarthy to regain his place any time soon.
Southampton are also due to be given a double gameweek at some point by the end of the season. Even more reason to include the ex-England international who should be in everyone’s wildcard squad.
Aaron Cresswell (5.9m)
No defender has more points than Aaron Cresswell this season. The left-back appears revitalised and his magic wand of a left foot has caused countless worries for Premier League defenders at set pieces. With 10 assists and four double-digit hauls so far this season, Cresswell has to be considered for wildcarders.
He’s in my team at present although it’s 50-50 as to whether or not he’ll stay there. Declan Rice’s injury is my primary concern, with the defensive midfielder set to be sidelined for a few weeks with a knee injury. It remains to be seen how Rice’s absence will affect the Hammers’ defence over the final few weeks of the season.
With West Ham set to come up against Newcastle, Burnley, West Brom and Southampton by season’s end there is certainly potential for Cresswell to pick up further defensive and attacking returns. Whether or not he is worth selecting ahead of the similarly priced Ruben Dias and Cesar Azpilicueta is a tough call, but for now I’m on the West Ham man.
Conor Coady (4.8m)
Conor Coady is another one whose spot is under threat in my current wildcard draft. Wolves’ fixtures seemed too good to ignore – with Fulham, Sheffield United, Burnley and West Brom lying ahead in the next four gameweeks. Those fixtures scream potential clean sheets for Nuno’s men.
However, Wolves’ insipid performance against West Ham in GW30 means major question marks hang over Coady as a pick on a wildcard. At the moment I’m leaning towards including the Wolves captain.
Hopefully Nuno reacts to the West Ham defeat by reverting to a back-five which has served them so well over the past few years. Wolves always look far more solid when employing this system and I would back them to keep a couple of clean sheets in the next four gameweeks if Nuno opts for that.
The fact that Coady now goes forward on attacking set pieces also boosts his potential on FPL. He is also guaranteed to start every game, something that can’t be said for my next three picks.
Antonio Rudiger (4.7m)
Antonio Rudiger seems like the best way to access the Chelsea defence for the closing weeks of the season. The German was recalled to the starting line-up as Chelsea beat Porto 2-0 in midweek which presumably shows he is back in favour after a recent training ground bust-up with Kepa.
Thiago Silva’s suspension means that Rudiger is surely guaranteed to start at Crystal Palace in GW31. With three centre-back spots to fight for, I would back Rudiger to keep his place in the starting line-up for the rest of the season.
No team in the league betters Chelsea’s xGC of 4.45 from the past six gameweeks. There’s enough to expect further clean sheets in the coming weeks, despite Chelsea’s awful performance in GW30, when they conceded five to a relegation-threatened West Brom side. At 4.7m, Rudiger could be a bargain.
Rob Holding (4.2m)
I owned Rob Holding from GW1, attracted by his measly 4.5m price-tag. The Arsenal defender is now even cheaper, available for a ridiculous 4.2m. Assuming he consistently starts over the coming weeks, Holding could provide serious value for money for those looking to bring him in on a wildcard.
David Luiz’s injury boosts Holding’s hopes of regular starts. The Brazilian is expected to be out for a few weeks, in which time Holding will look to solidify his place in the starting line-up. Pablo Mari could put a spanner in the works should he be the one Arteta turns to in order to fill the Luiz-shaped void.
Potential owners should be encouraged by the fact that Holding was chosen to start against Slavia Prague on Thursday night. It should be safe to assume that he will be the one handed a start in Arsenal’s plush fixture against Sheffield United in GW31.
Nat Phillips (4.0m)
Nat Phillips seems to be the ultimate enabler for those looking to wildcard in GW31. The centre-back has started four of Liverpool’s last five league games, keeping three clean sheets in that time.
His place in the starting line-up is not absolutely assured, particularly after a very shaky performance against Real Madrid in the Champions League on Tuesday night. But until Jordan Henderson, Virgil Van Dijk or Joe Gomez return to fitness, it seems likely that Phillips will start the majority of Liverpool’s remaining Premier League games.
At 4.0m he provides fantastic value should he be handed those starts. If money is no object, clearly Trent Alexander-Arnold is the preferable pick. But that extra 3.0m+ could be handily reinvested in areas further up the pitch should you opt for the cheaper option.
Bruno Fernandes (11.6m)
Keeping hold of Bruno Fernandes seems obligatory. No player has more this season than the attacking midfielder and he just keeps producing the goods. With games against Burnley and Leeds to come after Manchester United’s trip to Tottenham this weekend, the risk is just too great for me to consider reinvesting the money elsewhere.
With just one goal in his last five, there is an argument that there are more cost-effective ways of managing your team. Should you wish to bring in a premium forward like Jamie Vardy for instance, Bruno may be the one to sacrifice – particularly if you’re looking to gain ground.
I’ll be sticking with Bruno on my wildcard and will reassess in GW34, when Manchester United meet Liverpool. Arsenal play Newcastle that gameweek and it could represent a good moment to punt on Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, even just for one week.
Raheem Sterling (11.3m)
Raheem Sterling is currently in my wildcard draft, but there is method behind the madness. The mazy winger hasn’t started either of Manchester City’s last two games, which makes a starting appearance against Leeds seem very likely in GW31. Admittedly though, playing Pep roulette is a very dangerous game.
Sterling scored against Leeds in the reverse fixture and his pace has the potential to cause Marcelo Bielsa’s side all kinds of trouble. Leeds have conceded three or more goals in five of their nine matches away from home against teams currently in the top half. Manchester City have the potential to hand them a thrashing this gameweek.
Currently, Sterling has the captain’s armband for me this week. It’s a risk, but it’s one that could seriously pay off with Sterling’s current ownership at just 5.8%. The plan would then be to bring Mo Salah back into the squad in GW32 at the expense of Sterling.
Heung-Min Son (9.4m)
I’ve opted to bring in Heung-Min Son on my wildcard and it’s very unlikely I’ll change my mind on him. Tottenham have a tricky fixture this weekend as they host Manchester United, so I’ll probably look to bench Son ahead of a plush run of fixtures for Spurs.
Tottenham enjoy a double gameweek in GW32, coming up against both Everton and Southampton. It is then when owning Son will become the norm amongst active FPL managers. I anticipate both him and Harry Kane will have an effective ownership upwards of 100% that week.
Sheffield United, Leeds and Wolves follow a blank GW33 for Tottenham. It’s probable that I’ll move to James Maddison or maybe even Jack Grealish around that time, unless Son makes himself undroppable with a couple of goals before then.
Diogo Jota (6.8m)
Diogo Jota is the flavour of the week, having been brought in by 481k FPL managers by Thursday evening. It’s not hard to see why. His brace off the bench highlighted his potency in front of goal and he looks set for an extended run in a Liverpool side who look forward to some prime fixtures in the coming weeks.
Leeds, Newcastle, West Brom and Crystal Palace are just some of the teams they will come up against by the end of the season and it seems almost certain that Jota will improve his goal tally in that time.
Priced at just 6.8m, Jota provides unbelievable value. His numbers are comparable to the vastly more expensive Sadio Mane and Mo Salah, despite being valued at almost half their price. For those wildcarding, Jota seems like a shoe-in for one of those five midfield slots.
Jesse Lingard (6.2m)
I’ve owned Lingard since GW27, when he scored a penalty rebound against Leeds. His haul against Wolves last time out convinced me that I should keep him in my squad as I wildcard this week.
My original plan was to bring in Michail Antonio and switch Lingard to James Maddison, who has returned to contention following an injury lay-off. Antonio’s own injury ruined those plans and Lingard’s effervescent performance in GW30 has made me fearful of jettisoning the West Ham man.
It’s difficult to predict how West Ham will cope with injuries to Declan Rice and Michail Antonio, but the possible prize of a top-four finish should sharpen their focus in the closing weeks of the season. With a game against Newcastle to come in GW32, it seems illogical to move Lingard on just yet.
Harry Kane (11.7m)
Harry Kane burned those who did not trust him with the captaincy in GW30, as the England striker struck twice to extend his goal tally to 19 for the season – with eight games to go. It made it six goals in six games for Kane, who is enjoying a spell of sparkling form at present.
Similarly to Son, dropping Kane is unthinkable for me due to the fact that he will feature in a double gameweek in GW32. Kane is the clear captaincy pick for that gameweek and anyone who goes without him that week can only be described as a self-sadist. I’m happy to start Kane against Manchester United this gameweek ahead of that double. Tottenham are still in the race for the top four and Mourinho’s side should be raring to go this weekend.
Jamie Vardy is another premium option I would love to have, but I just can’t afford to get him in without severely weakening the rest of my side. Kane is certainly the superior pick for now.
Kelechi Iheanacho (5.8m)
In the absence of Jamie Vardy, I’ve decided to punt on his cheaper strike partner, Kelechi Iheanacho. The Nigerian international is enjoying the best spell of his career at present, having scored five goals in Leicester’s last four.
Fears over his starting spot should be allayed by Harvey Barnes’ continued absence due to injury. James Maddison should return to the starting line-up in GW31, but it seems likely to be at the expense of Ayoze Perez rather than Kelechi.
Iheanacho has displayed his natural finishing ability of late and he should be among the goals in the coming weeks if he remains at the forefront of Brendan Rodgers’ thoughts. West Brom, Crystal Palace, Southampton and Newcastle come up against Leicester between GW32 to GW35, all games which the Foxes should comfortably be winning if they are serious about their top four credentials.
Danny Welbeck (5.5m)
My final pick in my current wildcard draft is Danny Welbeck. I would have upgraded to Chris Wood, but I need the money to move back to Salah in GW32. The Burnley forward is in great form so he was certainly tempting.
Welbeck’s form has shown firm signs of improvement of late. He has scored in each of Brighton’s last two games and he plays against Sheffield United in blank GW33, which is the primary reason I have brought him in. A fixture against Leeds in GW34 is also very attractive.
As my third choice forward he is likely to primarily feature on my bench in the coming weeks, but I’m more than happy to have a player of Welbeck’s quality potentially coming on if needs be.
Honourable mentions go to Luke Shaw, Trent Alexander-Arnold, James Maddison, Mason Mount, Bukayo Saka, Chris Wood and Gabriel Jesus. At least one of them may well end up in my final GW31 wildcard selection come Friday night.
Best of luck for GW31 FPL managers!