Is using the Free Hit chip in FPL Gameweek 27 the right strategy?

Pro Pundits 29

As the battle of Wildcarders v Triple Captainers reaches its climax, a new conflict rises: The Free Hitters v the Non-Free Hitters (and let’s not forget there are a few new Wildcarders also entering the fray).

With many owning a number of players from both Arsenal and Liverpool, it makes sense that the Free Hit chip is for these managers. If you have 6+ players out, then realistically, you need to use the chip just to ensure you can field a team this week. However, what I’ve found interesting is the desire for people with perfectly adequately starting XIs also considering this to be a Gameweek that warrants the use of the best chip at our disposal.

It’s rare that we have both a Double Gameweek and a Blank Gameweek rolled into one but Burnley aren’t the most inspiring of teams to load up on, especially for those who already have Wout Weghorst (£6.5m) in place. Similarly, popular bench players such as Tino Livramento (£4.3m), Armando Broja (£5.3m), Jacob Ramsey (£4.8m) all have decent-looking games this week and are (presumably) desperate for a spot in our starting XI’s.

People seem to be clamoring for Manchester City assets and Tottenham Hotspur assets, alongside punts on the like of the in-form Jadon Sancho (£8.9m). Yes, these players all have a good-looking Gameweek on paper. But could we not argue that every week, that there are players that we covet but cannot reach? If you can get an XI out this week, and can cover the likes of Son Heung-min(£10.8m) or Harry Kane (£12.2m), is the Free Hit chip not best saved for when there is something a bit more… exciting happening?

The Case for the Free Hit

As mentioned, the main case to be made for the Free Hit is that you simply don’t have enough players to be able to get an XI out without major surgery for your team. If this is the case, then it’s an easy decision for a Free Hit. I imagine most Wildcarders last week will have loaded up on Liverpool and Arsenal and had already locked this chip in. Nothing wrong with that.

However, if you’re looking at your squad and aren’t feeling that confident, you might be getting a bit of FOMO at seeing the Free Hit sides knocking about. In my mind, here are the reasons you might be looking to pull the trigger.

Spurs v Leeds

It’s hard not to get excited by the thought of Son and Kane lining up against the league’s worst defense (at least statistically). Over the season, no team has conceded an expected goal (xG) faster than Leeds (every 53.7 mins) and this has actually got worse over the last six matches, conceding a non-penalty xG every 49.6 mins. Spurs, meanwhile, are flying, creating a chance every 49.2 mins over the last six. This is bettered by only Liverpool and Manchester United over the same period. I think it’s safe to say that Spurs will have chances against Leeds, and of course, the dynamic duo of Kane and Son are likely to profit.

While non-Free Hit managers should be able to get one of these players (eg by downgrading Salah to Son), getting both may prove difficult. Free Hitters can easily pair these players together, and even add another name to the mix. Dejan Kulusevski (£6.0m) got his name on the scoresheet against Manchester City, and supplied an assist. At just 0.5% ownership, this could be the perfect punt for someone that doesn’t want to risk the Swedish international long-term.

Backing a wounded Manchester City

I think it’s fair to say that few of us saw Spurs emerging victorious from the Etihad. Antonio Conte’s men had lost their three games going into this match, conceding seven goals in the process. While a 2-0 loss at Stamford Bridge ruffled few feathers, conceding three goals to Southampton and then two to Wolves certainly raised some eyebrows.

Manchester City had 21 shots against Spurs, however, just four were on target. They also had 71% possession. Spurs didn’t even have one corner in the game; Man City had 10.

However, Spurs did what Conte is famed for. Ruthless counter-attacking football. They were also helped by one of the performances of the season from their talisman Kane.

The question is, how will City respond?

When they lost against Spurs in the opening day of the 2021/22 season, City responded with a 5-0 thrashing of Norwich. Pep Guardiola did, however, make five changes. Granted, it was the opening day of the season and players were still returning from their holidays, but it is interesting how he shuffled the pack.

Similarly, when the league leaders lost 5-2 to Leicester last season, Guardiola swapped four players out for the 3-0 win at Burnley. When they lost 2-0 to Manchester United, the City boss made five changes for the next game against Southampton (which they won 5-2). It doesn’t happen often, but when City loses, Pep does like to ring the changes – often with pretty impressive results. Could we see the same happen at the weekend against Everton?

With Jack Grealish (£7.5m) still out, in my view, Raheem Sterling (£10.7m) looks the best option out of the City attack. Riyad Mahrez (£8.7m) also looks likely to come back in after his 22-minute cameo and ice-cool penalty. I see plenty going for this double-up, and I think this is probably the way I would play it too if I was activating the chip. I am fully expecting Phil Foden (£7.9m) to be benched for this game after a very lacklustre second half.

It is worth noting however that at Goodison Park, Everton have only conceded more than two goals on three occasions this season (against Watford, Brighton and Liverpool). That said, despite having arguably the best fixtures of all teams over the last six matches, they sit in 16th for mins per xG compeded (61.7). Similar to Spurs v Leeds, it seems pretty obvious that City will have chances against the Toffees.

The Case against the Free Hit

The main case against the Free Hit this week is that you think it could be better used later on the season. The tricky part is knowing exactly when this will be, particularly if you have two to use.

Gameweek 30

Gameweek 30 looks set to be a Blank Gameweek. Currently, only Arsenal, Aston Villa, Brentford, Leeds, Leicester and Wolves are guaranteed a game, meaning that those who are loaded up on Liverpool, Manchester City – and potentially Chelsea with their fixture turn – will be hoping for a few surprise results in the FA Cup next weekend.

While there is a view that Free Hits are wasted when only a few teams play, I love playing my Free Hit in a smaller week when other managers may only be able to field a handful of players. While there not be many “standout” options, the Free Hit lets you roll the dice and get in potential heroes with low ownership who could propel you up the ranks. If you save your Free Hit for this week, you can forget completely about it in the short term. While others scramble to knock a team together, you can sleep soundly knowing you can have whoever you want from the limited pool.

Other Opportunities will Emerge

The news of Double Gameweeks 28 and 29 took us all by surprise on Friday evening and led to many Wildcards being triggered.

However, there are still plenty of games to be rescheduled, with Leicester leading the way with three games still to be added to the calendar. While Leicester have struggled defensively this season, they are certainly not goal-shy, and the likes of Jamie Vardy (£10.3m) maybe someone we covet against the likes of Norwich and Everton, but would struggle to fit in without the Free Hit chip.

Similarly, Chelsea have a frankly incredible schedule from Gameweek 28 onwards and have two home games to drop in at some point as well. The Blues’ attackers are a risky investment in our main squads, but Free Hitters may be more willing to take a punt on players like Mason Mount (£7.5m) or Christian Pulisic (£7.9m).

In all honesty, there are a few teams who inspire me less in a Double Gameweek than Burnley, despite their good form – and they have two more on the horizon anyway. Holding the Free Hit will allow you to target better teams to hopefully gain more of an advantage on Gameweek 27 Free Hitters.

How I’m Set Up

No Free Hit for me, and while I do look with envy at people’s Free Hit teams, I do feel as though I’ll be able to claw any points lost back later down the line.

It will likely be Mohamed Salah (£13.1m) Alexandre Lacazette (£8.3m) out for Son and Weghorst (-4), and then straight into a Gameweek 28 wildcard. I then have the decision of whether I build a capable squad of getting through Blank Gameweek 30 (and will know more after the FA Cup results), or whether I earmark this as the week to use my chip.

Whatever you decide to do this week, good luck! The Spurs and City games will likely lead to me watching behind a sofa, but I’m hoping that I can get through this week and attack the final stretch of Gameweeks, where I’ll be playing my four remaining chips in the remaining 11 Gameweeks ! Fun times are ahead.

My team as it stands ahead of Gameweek 27

***All stats in this article were correct before Wednesday’s matches

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