Festive fixture congestion has wreaked havoc on the FPL schedule and the upcoming set of matches is the last regular gameweek before we see half of the league sit out a round entirely.
Those teams that miss GW 18 then have two fixtures apiece in GW 19, the first double gameweek of the season.
Transfer activity in the past few weeks has hinted at how managers are preparing for this tricky patch of matches but last week’s moves give the biggest clues yet – and whose dealings can offer a better roadmap than those with a proven track record?
We have taken a look at transfers made by a sample of 1,000 managers with multiple top-10,000 finishes to see what we can learn.
Spurs duo return to the fore
All but two of the top 16 players who have increased their ownership in our sample have double fixtures in gameweek 19 but the two who don’t are familiar faces.
Harry Kane and Son Heung-min have been popular choices all season but their ownership amongst the seasoned pros had dwindled in recent weeks.
Son finds himself in an additional 187 teams this week, bringing his elite ownership to more than 70%, his highest since gameweek 9.
Kane is slightly less popular, finding himself in just under 50% of these squads but his increase of 151 owners is the second highest.
Five of the dynamic duo’s next eight matches carry the lowest possible fixture difficulty rating and they will provide much needed firepower for their owners when the blank gameweek strikes.
Johnstone at the double
One strategy which would prevent you from factoring the blank gameweek into your plans at all would be to deploy your free hit chip but it is the only time you will be able to pull that trick this season.
If you are going to use your free hit then following it immediately with your bench boost is an attractive prospect, as you can load up on players with double fixtures now in preparation.
With bench boost active, it is the only time all season where it absolutely makes sense to have two first choice goalkeepers and there is evidence in the top bosses’ activity to suggest that at least some of them are thinking along these lines.
West Brom’s Sam Johnstone finds himself in the top five players with the biggest increases this week – the only time that a keeper has been there this season.
Johnstone is the joint cheapest of the regular keepers for the 10 teams who have an extra fixture in GW19 – and has better fixtures than the equally inexpensive Alphonse Areola – though the Baggies’ 5-0 thrashing by Leeds on Tuesday did not inspire too much confidence.
The two players who round out the top five are midfielders with two fixtures in GW 19 who won’t break the bank – West Ham’s Thomas Soucek and Raphinha of Leeds, who netted against West Brom, are ideal makeweights for upgrades elsewhere.
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