Fantasy football tips: Time for a wildcard?

Alistair Bruce-Ball

I don’t know about you but it’s wildcard time for me in gameweek 31.

After a pretty disastrous Bench Boost, bringing Jack Grealish in at a cost of four points who then didn’t play a minute of football, I’ve decided to shake things up a bit.

Out go my three Leeds players in Stuart Dallas, Raphina and Patrick Bamford with their next three games against Manchester City, Liverpool and Manchester United. Grealish makes a swift exit and Dominic Calvert-Lewin is also on the way out to create some money to spend in the budget.

So the choices that now need to be made are as follows – how many Liverpool players to go for and who will they be? Do I ditch Manchester City players entirely and wash my hands of Pep roulette? And can I find a spot for James Maddison in a talent-packed midfield? That has come down to a straight choice between Maddison or Diogo Jota.

Firstly in terms of the budget a lot will depend on whether I go for Trent Alexander-Arnold. He’s scored 21 points in his last two Premier League games with two clean sheets, a delicious assist against Arsenal and maximum bonus points each time. So far, so good.

I then watched Liverpool’s defence get shredded by Real Madrid in the Champions League and it’s given me pause for thought. Alexander-Arnold’s attacking returns are superb when they are accompanied by clean sheets, for example his 12 points against Arsenal, but is he really worth £7.3m if Liverpool are regularly conceding goals? If you’re thinking of signing him then you need to decide if the game in Spain was a bump in the road and if you can really trust in the Ozan Kabak and Nat Phillips partnership.

If you do have faith then Phillips could be a really useful cheap asset in your FPL squads at just £4m having started four of the last five Premier League games.

The next question on Liverpool is Mo Salah AND Diogo Jota or Mo Salah OR Diogo Jota. The fixtures look friendly, they need the points if they’re going to finish in the top four and that’s why I have BOTH Salah and Jota in my current wildcard team. You can’t really leave Salah out of any fantasy team – he’s still the third highest-scoring player in the game despite Liverpool’s travails and he’s a great captaincy option as well.

Liverpool celebrate
Mo Salah has scored 18 Premier League goals this season, while Diogo Jota has 8

I’ve also decided Jota’s form is too good to ignore, which sadly means no room for Maddison with Bruno Fernandes, Son Heung-min and Jesse Lingard taking up the other spots in my midfield.

To make up for that I’m going to bring Kelechi Iheanacho in up front because his form and Leicester’s fixtures are a tantalising combination and he will partner Harry Kane who is already in my squad and is simply a must-have at the moment with Tottenham’s double gameweek around the corner.

My midfield choices also mean no room for any of the Manchester City stars but I’m quite happy to take the risk of missing out on the odd huge points haul to avoid the aggravation of seeing City line-ups with your star men on the bench. Ruben Dias currently remains in my wildcard squad as one of Guardiola’s most consistent picks but I’m also toying with the idea of switching him for Cesar Azpilicueta and doubling up on the Chelsea defence with Edouard Mendy as my goalkeeper. Yes, that Chelsea defence that conceded five goals against West Brom last week. That one definitely a bump in the road for me.

You will have to find the bargain buys as well of course to make it all work – three of Craig Dawson (£4.5m), Joel Veltman (£4.4m), Nat Phillips (£4m) and Keinan Davis (£4.2m) are the current candidates in my squad even though I know Davis is likely to see very little playing time. Hopefully I won’t need to use all three of my substitutes in any given gameweek.

Meanwhile in the world of Fantasy 606, Statman Dave has gone for some bold picks this week as he looks for differentials to try and close the gap on me – Mason Greenwood is coming into his team at £7m having shown signs of a return to form in recent weeks and a goal against Brighton, but the big news is the signing of Sergio Aguero and giving him the captain’s armband at home against Leeds. It could be a masterstroke as Guardiola rotates his team between the Borussia Dortmund fixtures and we certainly know Leeds won’t go there for a nil-nil draw!

Alistair Bruce-Ball presents the Fantasy 606 podcast alongside Statman Dave and former Premier League winner Chris Sutton. The latest episode is available now on BBC Sounds.


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