The wildcard dilemma

The first four gameweeks have given fantasy managers plenty to think about. For although the top of the Premiership table is pretty much business as usual, some of the top fantasy players from recent seasons and new faces predicted to do well have not yet fully lived up to expectations. Many managers may well have already played their wildcard whilst others may be giving it serious consideration.

It’s very tempting to ship out under-performing players and replace them with new faces from the transfer window and the current top points earners. The wildcard can suddenly look like your new best friend, your ticket to ride – to catapult you up the fantasy league table.

But in reality, it’s never as easy as that, is it? There is the dilemma of knowing that, firstly, it is still early days and not a time to panic for the very players you offload can suddenly start racking up points. Secondly, keeping hold of the wildcard until late in the season when several teams have double gameweeks can be a smarter strategy.

In the first 4 gameweeks fantasy managers have been busy buying the current top 10 points scorers Giroud (36 points, 25.1% owned), Coleman (32, 26.4%), Zabaleta (30, 31.2%), Mignolet (29, 39.8%), Benteke (28, 32.9%), Fonte (28, 7.2%), Ben Arfa (27, 10.3%), Yaya Toure (26, 25.9%), Baines (26, 21.9%) and Jagielka (25, 15.9%).

But, in addition to the top points scorers, managers now have new transfer window options to consider, including Özil (£10m, 13.3% owned) and Eriksen (£8m, 2.2%) who both made an impact last weekend, plus Lamela (£9m, 0.7%), Willian (£8.5m, 0.2%) and Eto’o (£9m, 1.1%). There are also familiar faces who switched Premiership clubs and might be good bets for points including Moses (£6.2m, 0.8%), who scored on his debut on Monday night, Fellaini (£8.5m, 12.9%), Lukaku (£7.4m, 5.7%), Sessegnon (£6.8m, 2.8%) and Anichebe (£5.3m, 1.2%).

When considering playing your wildcard early in the season, it is often difficult to predict which players will do well in the long-term. The easiest strategy to adopt is to automatically jump in and buy players who did well in the last gameweek or more, but these players may not necessarily do well over the whole season.

I must admit, because of having so many underperformers in my team so far, I am very close to playing my wildcard. Here are a few players I’ve been keeping an eye on as potential points earners in the future.

Starting with the forwards, it is hard to resist the appeal of Arsenal’s Olivier Giroud (£9m, 25.1% owned), a good value alternative to van Persie (£14m, 46%). Giroud has carried on his excellent pre-season form with 4 goals and an assist to date, averaging an impressive 9 points a game. Benteke (£9.2m, 32.9%) and Sturridge (£9.2m, 22.2%) are also finding the net regularly. My only reservation about Sturridge is how he will fare in a revised formation when Suárez returns in a few weeks.

Wayne Rooney (£10.5m, 1.9%) could be one to watch having impressed in his performances to date. I think Eto’o (£9.0m, 1.1%) is a good bet to get plenty of goals over the season but Everton’s loan signing Lukaku (£7.4m, 5.7%) could be a great value buy.

Of the midfielders, Rooney’s new Manchester United team-mate Fellaini (£8.5m, 12.9% owned) could be among the goals or making assists again soon. And it certainly appears that Newcastle’s Ben Arfa (£7.3m, 10.3%) is getting back to his best. I really rate Victor Moses (£6.2m, 0.8%) who could score and make goals for Liverpool – assuming he is not displaced when Suarez returns. Of the new boys, Arsenal’s Özil (£10m, 13.3%) and Tottenham’s Eriksen (£8m, 2.2%) and Lamela (£9m, 0.7%) look set to do well given their advanced midfield roles.

Finally, of the defenders, attack-minded full-backs like Everton’s Coleman (£5.5m, 26.4%) and Manchester City’s Zabaleta (£6.3m, 31.2%) look set to continue to do well. Coleman’s full-back partner Baines (£7.5m, 21.9%) and Manchester United’s Evra (£6.5m, 12.3%) are two others who will surely be top points earners by the end of the season.

However, if you’re on the lookout for cheaper alternatives, Southampton’s Fonte (£4.6m, 7.2% owned) looks set to profit from Lallana and Ward-Prowse set-pieces as he did against Sunderland a few weeks ago and nearly did against West Ham last weekend. Southampton are one of several clubs who look decent bets to keep clean sheets and offer some cheap defenders into the bargain range. Three other clubs, West Ham, Stoke and Newcastle (if they can re-discover their 2011-12 defensive tightness) also offer plenty of value defenders.

If you’re giving serious thought to playing your wildcard anytime soon, I really hope this information helps to stimulate your thinking and planning. It’s never an easy decision but seriously weighing up the options might get those points earning players we all crave. Please feel free to advise me on any players I’ve not mentioned who I should be keeping my eye on!