One week of the international break down, one week to go, and fantasy football managers are already planning their next moves.
Whether they are unhappy with how their squad has performed so far or just simply fancy a re-vamp, many have reached for their 'wildcard' chip over the last few days in the hope of making up for lost ground.
The wildcard allows you to completely overhaul your squad with unlimited transfers until the next deadline. Each manager has two wildcards per season - one in the first half of the campaign, one in the second.
So, what do you need to know if you plan on playing your first wildcard of the season soon?
Here's a quick guide...
When’s the best time to play it?
It entirely depends on your team. If you are happy with your preparations for the next few weeks, there is no need to use the wildcard now. However, many managers have assessed the field and used it during this October international break for a variety of reasons.
Firstly, the longer gap between fixtures allows managers to increase their team’s overall value by bringing in players whose prices are about to rise, banking the extra money and then selling them on before the final deadline if they are not wanted.
Secondly, and more significantly, it just so happens that several clubs who have enjoyed a generous start to the season will face tougher tests once the international break is over. For example, Manchester City and Chelsea’s paths clear but Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur run into pockets of trouble.
There’s also the fact that, after seven rounds of fixtures, we have a clearer idea of emerging patterns, which players represent decent value and more.
What's the best formation?
The classic 3-4-3 formation preferred by elite fantasy players over the years has lost some of its lustre this season, mainly due to a lack of good mid-price midfielders.
If anything, this season has seen a shift towards strong defences, with more and more managers playing four or even five at the back and selecting marauding wing-backs who carry the potential of attacking returns.
Our advice? Assess the market, decide what works best for you and then distribute funds through your squad accordingly.
Who should I pick?
As we did at the start of the season, we will run through some choice selections from each of the four position categories.
Note this is not a ‘wildcard team’, just a shortlist of recommended players who stand a chance of returns in the short to medium-term.
Rob Elliot (Newcastle United)
If you missed out on Newcastle United’s modestly-priced starting goalkeeper Rob Elliot at the start of the season, there is still time to draft him in.
At £4.1m, he’s the game’s cheapest starting ‘keeper and allows for funds to be spent elsewhere in the squad.
Nick Pope (Burnley)
Elliot’s fixtures dovetail nicely with the man standing-in for our old favourite Tom Heaton.
Burnley’s Nick Pope has already picked up 21 points in three-and-a-bit games and can be trusted when at Turf Moor or away to goal-shy outfits.
Notable mentions: Matthew Ryan (Brighton and Hove Albion)
Cesar Azpilicueta (Chelsea)
Chelsea’s run of fixtures over the coming weeks and months cannot be ignored and with uncertainty over the best options in Antonio Conte’s midfield and attack, defensive cover may be the way to go for now.
Marcos Alonso promises much but may be too pricey so how about the solid, dependable Cesar Azpilicueta, who has a knack of collecting bonus points. The returning David Luiz is another, cheaper alternative.
Ben Davies (Tottenham Hotspur)
A fantasy revelation, Ben Davies is the top-scoring defender so far this season.
Tottenham Hotspur’s tight defence helps his cause, but it is the threat of goals and assists that makes the 24-year-old such an attractive prospect.
A word of caution: Danny Rose could return soon and dislodge him - but then again, we have been worried about that since February.
Cedric Soares (Southampton)
Southampton are hard to get a handle on and despite Mauricio Pochettino’s reputation for keeping things tight, his side have looked defensively suspect so far.
That may change in the short-term though, with a forthcoming run against Newcastle (H), West Bromwich Albion (H), Brighton (A) and Burnley (H).
Cedric Soares offers an affordable route into Southampton’s backline, priced at £5.0m.
Nicolas Otamendi (Manchester City)
Manchester City players feature heavily in the list, with two home fixtures coming up against Stoke City and Burnley.
Nicolas Otamendi is our first selection from Pep Guardiola’s squad. With Vincent Kompany out, his place at the back is secure and the Argentine is still likely to play once the club captain returns.
Otamendi carries an attacking threat too, with more shot on goal than any other centre-back in the top flight so far this season.
Notable mentions: Shane Duffy (Brighton and Hove Albion), Stephen Ward (Burnley).
Raheem Sterling (Manchester City)
Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City are notoriously difficult to second-guess but the unfortunate injury to Sergio Aguero makes our job a little easier.
With the Argentine unavailable for up to six weeks, Raheem Sterling’s chances of starting more matches are greatly enhanced and he has already impressed in bit-parts regardless.
Eric Choupo-Moting (Stoke City)
Expensive front-lines and high-scoring defences mean we need budget options in the middle of the park, and those seem few and far between at the moment.
Operating out on the left wing for Stoke City, Eric Choupo-Moting is priced at £5.6m, notched an assist against Southampton on the weekend and is getting shots off at goal. We could do worse.
Mohamed Salah (Liverpool)
Liverpool do not have the best run of fixtures ahead on paper but Jurgen Klopp’s side is notoriously unpredictable and often perform best when offered space to play in.
No player thrives more on that space than Mohamed Salah and though his end product could be better, the Egyptian has already showed why he is a snip at £9.1m.
Notable mentions: Matt Ritchie (Newcastle United), Richarlison (Watford), Marouane Fellaini (Manchester United)
Harry Kane (Tottenham Hotspur)
There has been a bit of back and forth on Harry Kane this season, what with his August scoring troubles and the unfortunate blank at home to Swansea City, but recent form suggests he is approaching his best again.
As the game’s most expensive player, the Tottenham striker may force another expensive striker - say, Manchester United’s Romelu Lukaku - out of your squad, but he can be explosive enough to merit such a sacrifice.
Gabriel Jesus (Manchester City)
Again, Aguero’s injury offers some clarity on Guardiola’s plans for the next few weeks.
Gabriel Jesus should, by all rights, start up front until Aguero’s return and City’s fixtures are favourable. As ever with Pep though, beware rotation. Leroy Sané could always fill in.
Jamie Vardy (Leicester City)
Outside of the expensive big names, only Jamie Vardy is really holding his own in the forwards category.
Leicester may be languishing somewhat but Craig Shakespeare’s side have had a challenging start and Vardy has still scored well.
Notable mentions: Joselu (Newcastle United), Romelu Lukaku (Manchester United).
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