We’re heading into the business end of the FPL season, with the very first blank gameweek just on the horizon, taking place in GW31. We’ve also got another blank coming in GW35, as well as a couple of double gameweeks, but they’re a different story altogether which will be covered another time.
Here, we’ll be taking a proper look at the upcoming blank GW31 and the weeks preceding it – which teams have a definite fixture, how to keep track of who will blank, which players you should look to bring in, as well as the potential trap that the upcoming blank gameweek brings with it.
These last few gameweeks can make or break seasons and can win or lose mini leagues – make sure that you’re fully prepared.
BGW31 Fixtures – Who’s Playing?
We’ve got a clearer picture of the fixtures that will actually take place during BGW31 now that the majority of the FA Cup 5th round fixtures are in the books. As of now, here are the confirmed fixtures for BGW31:
Huddersfield vs. Crystal Palace
Bournemouth vs. West Brom
Liverpool vs. Watford
Stoke vs. Everton
Spurs managed to concede a 92nd-minute equaliser away at Rochdale, meaning that they’ll be taking them back to Wembley for a replay towards the end of February. If Rochdale pull off a miracle and beat Spurs at Wembley, we’ll get one more fixture for BGW31:
Spurs vs. Newcastle (TBC)
If Spurs win, then this fixture will be a blank.
In order to keep full track of the situation regarding who’ll be blanking + who’ll have a nailed on fixture for GW31 – and throughout the rest of the season – keep up with the brilliant Ben Crellin on Twitter, as well as this document he’s put together:
So, with these fixtures now confirmed for BGW31, which players should we be looking at picking up who will definitely be playing? Here are the runts of the limited litter. Note that Firmino and Salah haven’t been included as pretty much everybody who has an active team has at least one of them.
Sadio Mané – 9.3m – 7.4% Ownership
Do do doo do do do, oh Mané Mané. He hasn’t really been much of an FPL option this season, as is reflected in his ownership, due to a rather stop-start season with injuries, rotation, and a lack of form. Recently, though, he seems to have been getting his mojo back, capped off with a brilliant performance in Liverpool’s 5-0 win away at Porto in the Champions League, bagging a hat-trick.
Due to Liverpool’s superb run of fixtures, with no blank in GW31, Mané’s cropped up as an interesting option. Now, with so many sides having both Salah and Firmino already, going for their entire front three would cost a pretty penny.
If you’ve just got one, Mané could present a great differential shout with an ownership of under 8%.
Theo Walcott – 7.3m – 7.3% Ownership
One player that has emerged as an option since the January transfer window is Theo Walcott. Oh, Feo. After racking up an assist and 2 goals in his first 2 games for Everton, he proceeded to blank in his next 2. Despite that, he definitely represents a great option in a rather thin price point.
Over the past 4 gameweeks he’s managed 9 shots (2nd of all <8m midfielders in that time), with 6 of them being in the box (joint-3rd), and has generally played quite well since joining Everton, generally being heavily involved.
A potential alternate from the same side would be Gylfi Sigurdsson. He has a place in the hearts of many FPL managers due to his time at Swansea and is coming off the back of a double-digit haul against Palace in GW27.
Xherdan Shaqiri – 6.2m – 9.5% Ownership
One of the more mercurial options in FPL, Shaqiri is a player that can both frustrate and grab hauls from week to week. He’s a bit of a streaky player – he went on a run of 3 goals and 3 assists in 6 games before blanking for the next 10 gameweeks. He seems to have hit another run of form recently, grabbing 2 goals and an assist in Stoke’s past 4 matches.
He’s joint-4th for shots of all midfielders in the past 4 gameweeks with 9, and has 7 shots in the box during that time. Don’t get me wrong, Stoke are dog rough, but big Shaq is an ever-present in anything good they manage to scrape together and could represent solid value at a cheap price point.
Callum Wilson – 6.0m – 9.9% Ownership
Wilson hasn’t provided any returns in 3 of his last 4 gameweeks, but has managed 4 goals and 2 assists in the last 8 gameweeks for a Bournemouth who are involved in that enormous relegation dogpile in the bottom half of the table. He’s definitely got the potential to grab returns over the next few weeks, and especially in their fixture at home against the incredibly hapless, taxi-nicking West Brom.
His fixtures leading up to BGW31 are decent enough to keep him around, with Newcastle (H) being his next fixture. They’ve got Spurs in GW30, but Bournemouth have recently beat both Chelsea and Arsenal over the past few weeks, with Wilson notching a goal and an assist in both games.
Virgil Van Dijk – 5.5m – 5.9% Ownership
A lot of defences are likely to be shaken up over the next few gameweeks considering the likes of United, City and Chelsea’s fixtures taking a turn. With that in mind, Liverpool defenders will be at the very top of most people’s shopping lists, with Virgil Van Dijk being the primary option.
Football’s most expensive defender costs just 5.5m in FPL at the moment, and in terms of the numbers, there’s some fantastic potential over the coming weeks, with Liverpool having a bloody good run of fixtures.
A lot of his potential comes from his goal threat. He scored on his debut against Everton in the FA Cup and has managed 7 shots in his handful of appearances in the Premier League for Liverpool, amassing the highest number of headed attempts on goal of any defender in the past 4 gameweeks.
Oumar Niasse – 4.9m – 7.3% Ownership
One of the cheaper forward options in the game at the moment is Oumar Niasse, who has seemingly managed to become Everton’s first-choice number 9. Big Sam has said that he doesn’t fancy playing Tosun (remember him?) until Everton are assured of safety, with the only other option being Calvert-Lewin, who hasn’t played 90 minutes since GW19.
His stats aren’t the most enticing, though he’s managed 2 goals and an assist in his past 4 gameweeks, with 7 shots and 3 attempted assists – not too shabby at all for a 4.9m forward. He allows flexibility – a striker that’s cheap enough to rotate/bench, while also being a starting striker for a somewhat decent team (on their day).
Luka Milivojevic – 4.8m – 6.4% Ownership
In terms of the cheaper options, the incomparable and unpronounceable Luka Milivojevic proposes a fantastic option among the cheaper midfielders in the game. He’s scored 6 goals in his last 12 league games, with him being the primary penalty taker for Crystal Palace – the side who have won the most penalties of any side in the league.
Though this kind of goal scoring form is unsustainable (unless Palace have slipped some cheeky under-the-table payments to the refs to keep up their rate of earning penalties), Milivojevic is still a fantastic option as a 5th midfielder who plays 90 minutes every game, is on penalties, and isn’t blanking in GW31. Also, considering his price, you could easily resign him to the bench for their fixtures against the bigger sides coming up, with him being played in BGW31.
Andrew Robertson – 4.7m – 3.7% Ownership
Another option in the Liverpool defence would be Andrew Robertson. The left back slot has been a worrisome one for Liverpool over the past few years, though Robertson seems to have settled in very well.
Looking at defenders over the last 5 gameweeks, he’s managed 18 crosses (5th of all defenders), as well as 2 shots in the box. He’s seemingly nailed on having started 12 of Liverpool’s last 13 league matches and represents some fantastic value considering his price, ownership, and fixtures.
When it comes to both him and Van Dijk, as well as other Liverpool defensive options, their upcoming fixtures are very encouraging. They play West Ham, Newcastle and Watford at home in 3 of the next 4 gameweeks, with a trip to Old Trafford coming in GW30. They’re generally fairly solid at home against weaker sides, conceding the 2nd fewest shots on goal of all home sides this season, and come in 3rd for Expected Goals Against at home.
There are some other options knocking about in terms of BGW31 options, including Sigurdsson, Deulofeu, Bauer, Lössl, etc. They’re just not that enticing over the next few weeks – something which leads me on to the next point.
Avoiding the Potential BGW Trap
Now, while all these players are good to have with the blank gameweek in mind, it’s also worth noting that don’t need to completely gut your team solely for this one gameweek. Of the sides that are certain to have a fixture, you’ll quickly note that most of them aren’t particularly very good. Having three Liverpool players would be ideal, but the other options aren’t the most enticing.
I’ve seen people contemplating the idea of bringing in Bournemouth + West Brom defenders. Bournemouth have kept one clean sheet in 15 gameweeks, and West Brom are 7 points adrift of safety at the bottom of the table, they’re managed by Alan Pardew, and their senior players were nicked for stealing a taxi. I really don’t want any of their players.
This is a trap that a lot of players – myself included – fell into last season. During BGW28, only a handful of teams played, with the headliners being Liverpool and Everton.
So many players were brought in from sides like Hull, West Brom and Bournemouth, with people also opting to keep players from these teams in the weeks prior due to their BGW fixture. Even with poor fixtures and form preceding the BGW players like Adam Smith and Matt Phillips were stinking up teams solely because they had a fixture during that gameweek – this is something the guys at Who Got The Assist covered in more detail with their own story from this GW.
They made one clear, salient point: don’t hamstring your side for the sake of one Gameweek.
It’s key to strike a proper balance between players who have a guaranteed fixture, and players who may well blank but have a good run of fixtures preceding it, or are in great form, and could easily bag you far more points over the next few weeks as opposed to a jabroni with a GW31 fixture but is just stinking out your side.
It’s also worth mentioning that it probably isn’t worth playing your Free Hit chip, if you still have it. As there will likely only be 8 teams playing this gameweek, it’s probably going to be a very, very low scoring week. Outside of Liverpool, there probably aren’t too many points to be had.
You’re better off using the Free Hit chip in BGW35, where more sides will be playing.
Here are the sides to look at when it comes to form and fixtures (again, aside from the obvious shouts like Kane):
After having come through a run of fixtures against the likes of Liverpool, Man United, Arsenal and Juventus unbeaten, Spurs have hit a decent run of form. They’ve also got some decent fixtures on the horizon, and could even have a fixture in BGW31 if they somehow manage to lose against Rochdale at Wembley.
The Palace game will likely be tricky, though their ties against Huddersfield and Bournemouth could bring through a fair few points, making their assets worth having even with a blank fixture. Kane is obvious, with the likes of Alli, Son and Eriksen all providing other options into their side. If Alderweireld can reclaim his form, more specifically his attacking form of the 15/16 season (4 goals, 3 assists), then he could be worth a shout at 5.8m.
The Swans have been reinvigorated since their new manager Carlos Carvalhal came in. They’ve climbed out of the relegation zone, have got 10 games unbeaten in all competitions, and their manager just seems like a bloody good bloke.
Anyway, due to their upturn in form, they’ve got some solid options for the upcoming gameweeks. Jordan Ayew (5.4m) has 4 goals in 9 matches, and they have defensive options in the form of Fabianski (4.6m), Mawson (5.1m) and Fernandez (4.5m), with the latter two accounting for 2 goals and 2 assists in their last 4 games, as well as having claimed 2 clean sheets.
Interestingly enough, Swansea are 2nd of all teams in the league when it comes to points scored over the past 4 gameweeks.
FPL points scored last 4 GWs pic.twitter.com/UsAh4pucaG
— fplkernow (@fplkernow) February 21, 2018
Their run of fixtures is very favourable, with them playing Brighton (A), West Ham (H), and Huddersfield (A) in their next 3 games before the blank in BGW31.
Another side that will blank in BGW 31 is Leicester. Their run of fixtures is fantastic, with the only game against a top side over the next few weeks being against Arsenal in, you guessed it, BGW31, meaning it won’t be played.
They play Stoke (H), Bournemouth (H), and West Brom (A) in their next 3 games.
The likes of Mahrez (if he’s actually got head right after the whole Man City transfer shenanigans), Vardy (who has scored in his past 4 consecutive league games) and Maguire (in awe at the size of this lad, absolute unit; set-piece threat) are all very viable options.
Summary – How to Play BGW31
So, to sum things up:
- Pick up three Liverpool players for the next few gameweeks, as they have fantastic fixtures + a definite GW31 fixture.
- If Spurs manage to lose against Rochdale, get a bunch of those lads in as well. Spurs, not Rochdale.
- Pick up the “best of the rest” from the other sides, looking at the likes of Walcott, Niasse, Shaqiri, etc.
- Don’t hamstring your entire side for the sake of this gameweek.
- Have a solid base of players for BGW31 (7-9 most likely)
- Don’t play your Free Hit chip – it’s better to use this in BGW35 as this will be a low-scoring week.
We’ll be taking a look at the upcoming double gameweeks, as well as the aforementioned BGW35 in posts over the upcoming weeks. Make sure to follow Bench Boost on Twitter for ramblings, new articles, and plenty of moaning.