With many FPL managers deploying the free hit chip for Blank Gameweek 18, we assess the best options ahead of next week’s deadline.
Check out our Blank and Double Gameweek guide for all the key information, stats and tips you need to successfully navigate this period.
Kevin De Bruyne (£11.6m) is likely to be an auto-pick in free hit sides. Whether or not he will be required in the ‘false nine’ role again is unclear but Man City’s chief creator and penalty taker needs little selling for a home game against Brighton. On his more advanced position in Gameweek 17, De Bruyne said:
“[It was a] bit bizarre in the beginning. I’ve done it a few times in my career. Obviously we have a lot forwards out and the coach asked me to do this job so I tried my best to do it as good as possible.”
Raheem Sterling (£11.3m) is the explosive differential for free hitters willing to make sacrifices elsewhere in their XI. He takes on a Seagulls’ defence whose last clean sheet was at Fulham in Gameweek 13.
Ilkay Gundogan (£5.2m) has been getting noticeably further forward in Man City’s attacks recently. The German explained of his role before the Citizens’ 3-1 win against Chelsea in GW17:
“To be honest, in the last few games where I scored, I played more of a number eight than a number six. Before that, I played more of a holding midfielder role together with Rodri. It is different and every position needs a little bit of adaptation. I think I am a player that can adapt quickly and well into a system and the manager knows I am quite flexible.
“When I am playing as a number eight and more offensive position, I try to put myself in the spaces where I think something could happen or I feel like the space is not occupied by a player of ours or the opponent.
“Both goals I scored in the last games [vs West Brom and Newcastle] were similar in the way they were from the right side and Raheem [Sterling] assisted me both goals and I tried to be in a space where I am free and able to get the ball and finish with one touch. It worked out quite well and as long as I am playing in that position I try to continue like that.”
While Gundogan is a tempting midfield differential with a budget price to boot, he may struggle to make many free hit squads considering Man City’s excellent defensive options.
Pep Guardiola’s troops have kept five clean sheets in their past seven gameweeks. Over that period, City are far miles ahead of any other team in terms of expected goals conceded (xGC).
Since Gameweek 4, Ruben Dias (£5.8m) has started every league game. John Stones (£4.9m) was only absent once over those last seven fixtures since he became a first-choice centre-half back in Gameweek 10.
Joao Cancelo (£5.6m) is the option with the higher FPL ceiling and perhaps the greater chance of being rotated, considering the number of full-backs available to Guardiola. That said, the Portugal defender has started 12 of City’s last 13 league matches and lasted 90 minutes on each occasion.
Bruno Fernandes (£11.8m) has only blanked once away from home this season, surprisingly in a 3-2 win at Sheffield United. Besides a six-pointer on his travels to West Ham, each of United’s five other away days have seen the Portugal star rack up a double-figure haul.
Marcus Rashford (£9.6m) currently only resides in 11% of squads. Rashford (13) lags behind only Fernandes (16) and Anwar El Ghazi (18) for total shots over the past four gameweeks for midfielders – though some teams, notably Man City, have only had three fixtures in that time.
With Edinson Cavani (£8.0m) banned for United’s two cup games this week, he could potentially oust Anthony Martial (£8.7m) from the starting XI away to Burnley for an uber-differential pick.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka (£5.3m) and Harry Maguire (£5.4m) could form part of a United double or triple-up in free hit squads. Burnley have managed just three goals in their last four league matches.
Deadly duo Harry Kane (£11.0m) and Heung-min Son (£9.6m) are up against an Aston Villa defence that ranks 12th out of 20 for defensive statistics over the past four gameweeks. The majority (4.09) of the Villans’ xGC total (5.47) was racked up in the club’s two most recent league games against Chelsea and Man United.
Kane’s ownership stands at 44%, while Son’s is a ludicrous 63%. While fitting both into a free hit squad for a tough-looking fixture would be hard to manage, the form of these two players may see free hitters pick one at least.
Alexandre Lacazette (£8.2m) is hot FPL property going into Blank Gameweek 18. The striker has four goals in the past three gameweeks, one as a substitute against Brighton as Mikel Arteta gave the Frenchman a partial rest. The Arsenal manager explained after the Gunners’ GW16 win:
“[Alex] had a sore back, he finished the game against Chelsea with some pain. He could not start the game [against Brighton]. We had the opportunity to refresh that and use him as well in other moments.”
Lacazette tops the forward charts for xG (2.93) since Gameweek 14, despite playing only 217 minutes in that period. The striker also represents a significant saving on FPL midfield colleague Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (£11.3m).
Bukayo Saka (£5.3m) has attacking returns in each of the past three gameweeks and looks the perfect midfield enabler. Of course, interest in the Arsenal attack must be tempered by the fact that they played an abject West Brom defence in Gameweek 17.
Arsenal’s BGW18 opponents Crystal Palace have improved defensively in the past two gameweeks – having shipped seven to Liverpool and three to Aston Villa in Gameweeks 14 and 15 – though were barely troubled by Sheffield United last weekend.
Kieran Tierney’s (£5.4m) 18-point haul in Gameweek 17 has put the Scot firmly on free hit radars. Rob Holding (£4.4m) represents a cheaper route into the Arsenal backline and looks a relatively safe budget pick, particularly with Gabriel‘s (£5.0m) availability unknown at present.
Jack Grealish (£7.8m) is another highly-owned player who may struggle to feature in free hit squads considering his fixture. For those seeking to get in on the Aston Villa attack at a cheaper price point, Anwar El Ghazi‘s (£5.8m) stats are through the roof.
The wingers has the highest non-penalty xG figure (3.05) across all positions since GW14, with the added bonus of being on spot-kick duty. However, El Ghazi was quieter against Man Utd in GW17 and face a Spurs team that is giving up very few big chances.
Wolves vs Everton
Pedro Neto (£6.0m) has started each of Wolves’ past eight league games, only being substituted twice. For free hitters looking to back against the Everton defence, Neto stands out among Wolves attackers. At the back, Romain Saiss (£5.1m) has reinstated himself as first choice while scoring twice since Gameweek 15.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin (£7.8m) falls into the category of an ‘ownership pick’ for free hitters. The Toffees frontman, sitting in almost 54% of squads, is without a goal since Gameweek 11.
Callum Wilson (£6.6m) stands out as the asset to select from Sheffield United vs Newcastle. The Magpies’ defensive options, such as Ciaran Clark (£4.5m) or DeAndre Yedlin (£4.3m), could be decent budget enablers against a blunt Blades outfit.
The best advice for any FPL player at the moment is not to activate any chips. Make drafts, write down your thoughts, listen to podcasts, read articles; do some, none or all of those things but hold tight on confirming a free hit or wildcard.
Elite sports are set to continue in the UK but a lot can happen in a week. These are strange times we live in. The Gameweek 18 deadline is 16:30 GMT on Tuesday, January 12th.
— Who Got The Assist? (Tom) (@WGTA_FPL) January 4, 2021
*xG and xA are not OPTA. This is primarily because their expected data is based on real-life goal and assists (not fantasy ones).