Fantasy football tips: Postponements and the importance of ‘filler’ players

Fantasy football tips: Postponements and the importance of ‘filler’ players

Alistair Bruce-Ball

Fellow fantasy managers, I feel your pain.

My gameweek 16 plan to switch Jamie Vardy out for Harry Kane looked to be an unusually prescient call with Vardy on the bench at Selhurst Park and Kane hopefully ready to get back to scoring ways at home against Fulham. But then Covid-19 struck, the game got called off and the dreams of a double-digit points haul for the England captain vanished into thin air.

Luckily, I hadn’t captained Kane but 1.2 million managers did, a million others captained Son Heung-min and many of those may well have had the other one as their vice-captain for back-up. Very unlucky. Very harsh.

The same goes for the millions of managers who own the likes of Kevin de Bruyne and Dominic Calvert-Lewin, with Everton’s game against Manchester City also falling foul of positive coronavirus tests. There is no compensation for this in Fantasy Premier League, just the fact that the match will be replayed at some point and provide a double gameweek for the teams involved.

At least every manager will be able to plan for that and hopefully benefit from it, not just the ones who’d selected Everton and Manchester City players for gameweek 16.

Keep calm and carry on? The impact of postponements

A general view of Tottenham Hotspur Stadium
Tottenham’s game against Fulham was called off on Wednesday because of positive Covid-19 tests

Now you’ll be pleased to know I’m well aware that fantasy football is only a game and the most important thing is controlling the spread of this virus and trying to keep everyone safe, but this is a fantasy football column, so please read it in that spirit.

It makes effective planning nigh on impossible, particularly at a time when you are building your squad towards gameweeks 18 and 19 and potentially using a couple of the valuable chips like the Free Hit and the Bench Boost, or maybe even playing your second wildcard.

I think the advice has to be, just keep calm and carry on.

You can’t predict the postponements so make your selections based on the information you have available, make those decisions as close to the deadlines as possible to allow for any changes to the schedule and just roll with the punches.

And, as we discussed last week, it goes back to squad strength and the importance of your “filler” players being regular starters for their clubs so they at least have the chance of earning you some points.

Personally I was pleased to see Rhian Brewster start for Sheffield United at Burnley even though he didn’t score because he came off my bench to replace De Bruyne, and similarly it was good for me to see Tyrick Mitchell getting 90 minutes for Crystal Palace as he had to step in for Kane.

He also only scored two points but that’s certainly better than nothing and by both starting the game there was obviously more chance of a goal for Brewster, or a clean sheet for Mitchell, and potentially contributing some useful points to your overall tally.

Bring in big names and fill up on Leeds players?

Manchester City's Kevin de Bruyne, Manchester United's Bruno Fernandes and Leeds' Patrick Bamford
Kevin de Bruyne, Bruno Fernandes or Patrick Bamford? Who should be in your team this week?

So how do we approach gameweek 17? As I write this I’m hearing that Manchester City’s training ground has reopened so I’ll be hanging on to De Bruyne in the hope their game against Chelsea goes ahead.

We don’t know yet about Fulham’s trip to Burnley but whatever you do make your decisions for the long term and not just knee-jerk calls based on a disappointing score in the gameweek before. Anger only leads to the dark side, as someone once said.

If you haven’t already got Bruno Fernandes in your squad then may I recommend that you bring him in? His assist for Marcus Rashford’s late winner against Wolves in gameweek 16 took him to 120 FPL points for the season, the second-highest scorer in the game behind Mohamed Salah, having played one game fewer.

The overall numbers are even more impressive with a remarkable 219 points in 21 gameweeks since joining Manchester United in January and 13 double-digit scores. Yes he’s owned by almost half the managers in the game but I’m actually surprised it’s not more.

And who have you got from Leeds in your squad? In fact it didn’t matter in gameweek 16 because they all pretty much contributed in the 5-0 win at West Brom – clean sheets for Illan Meslier and the defenders, assists from Stuart Dallas, Mateusz Klich and Patrick Bamford, goals from Ezgjan Alioski, Jack Harrison, Raphinha and Rodrigo. They have home games against Brighton and Southampton in gameweek 19 so if you haven’t already then it’s definitely time to get in on the Leeds action.

Salah’s been the most popular captaincy choice for the past couple of gameweeks and plenty will probably go for him again for Liverpool’s trip to Southampton, despite the fact he failed to score against West Brom and Newcastle.

Kane and Son are worthy candidates at home against Leeds’ attacking style, which is bound to leave spaces for the rapid Tottenham counter-attack.

Or there’s Fernandes with Manches

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