Almost everyone that gets in contact with the podcast or gets their team name read out in the Top 10 of our Mini-League receives a nickname, whether they like it or not. There aren't many nicknames we enjoy yelling over the airwaves more than "Clift Palate!"
Steve Clift (also aka 'Clift Richards', 'The White Clift of Dover') has been a mainstay in our Top 10 this season. Here, he talks Alexis Sanchez, Double Game Weeks and - more importantly - Alexis Sanchez's involvement in Double Game Weeks!
Following Southampton’s unexpected victory at Anfield in the EFL Cup, and their subsequent capitulation against Arsenal in the FA Cup, Chilean attacker, Alexis Sanchez, could have two blank gameweeks in the next four.
After this upcoming weekend’s home fixture against a revitalised Hull City, Arsenal travel to Munich and Sutton before they play in the Premier League again, away to Liverpool on 4th March. Should they overcome a gallant Sutton United in the FA Cup, their quarter-final fixture will take place on the 11 th March.
The positive news for the pooch-loving Sanchez is that blank gameweeks invariably mean double gameweeks, and postponed matches against Southampton away and Leicester City at home would likely take place during gameweek’s 34 and 37.
The dilemma facing my particular FPL team is determining whether leaving £11.8million worth of talent on the substitute’s bench for two rounds of fixtures makes enormous sense. Given I belatedly jumped on the Sanchez bandwagon during my New Year’s Eve Eve wildcard, I have no value tied up in him.
Looking ahead to what gameweek 28 might have in store for FPL managers, providing each of the Fifth Round FA Cup ties offers no shocks, only a Gylfi Sigurdsson or Michail Antonio of the three guaranteed match-ups prove tempting (although Swansea City must play Chelsea in the first of Arsenal’s potential two blanks).
Planning further into the future, neither Swansea City nor West Ham United has any double gameweeks to look forward to. One of the key ingredients to my FPL team’s surprise performances this season has been the fact that I have not yet taken a single ‘points-hit’. Taking into account potential injuries and suspensions, it could prove foolish to use a free transfer in gameweek 26 on removing Sanchez and one in gameweek 29 to bring him back for the trip to West Bromwich Albion.
Muddying the water further still is my Manchester United goalkeeper, Arsenal defender, Southampton midfielder and Manchester City striker. Between now and the start of gameweek 26 I have three free transfers to use. Laurent Koscielny could make way for Marcos Alonso or Kyle Walker; Sergio Aguero could depart in favour of Diego Costa or Harry Kane, but then Chelsea and Spurs’ involvement in the FA Cup could further deplete my ranks for gameweek 28.
A part of me is prepared to write off the challenge that is the weekend of 11/12th March and continue to plan ahead for the magical 22nd April and 15th May 11:30am deadlines. But here comes another spanner to the works. Imagine Arsenal sweep past Sutton United without breaking sweat; swat away Burnley in the quarter-finals; when do the semi-finals take place? Gameweek bloody thirty-four!!
Poor Alexis - salivating at the thought of Sunderland at home followed by Southampton away – he will be gracing the turf of Wembley while my faith in him throughout the blank gameweeks will have been wasted. But another postponed fixture presents a potential triple gameweek 37, you say? Well I pinned my hopes on that with Everton last season, only to see the Premier League lock horns with UEFA and schedule one of their matches for a Champions League night. With only Manchester City having a realistic chance of making the last four of that particular competition, gameweeks 35 or 36 look ripe for a Southampton-Arsenal face-off.
With my brow well and truly furrowed, the phrase ‘wildcard’ pops into my frazzled brain. How about let Sanchez run wild against the Baggies; watch him struggle against Manchester City; before he then goes on to terrorise West Ham United, Crystal Palace and Middlesbrough; finally pressing the wildcard button ahead of gameweek 34 to bring him back in? Sounds like great fun, that!
So we return to the thought of binning the Chilean after Hull City and buying him back before his meeting with Tony Pulis’ men. He is worth a four point hit, surely! Well about that – consider that I replace him with Antonio and bank the £4.8million profit – am I going to resist spending that significant sum between gameweek’s 26 and 29?! Not a chance. With Paul Pogba, Raheem Sterling, Dele Alli and Eden Hazard all potentially benefitting from two or more double gameweeks, I am going to be upgrading left, right and centre before price rises make my wildcard worthless.
For three seasons I have been competing in The Gaffer Tapes (not so) min-league (Pin: 4945-2085). I thought if by miracle I was doing quite well in the standings one year, it might make FPL feel much less stressful.
How wrong could that silly contemplation have been?!
I was hoping that through the compilation of this article I would know precisely what I will do at its conclusion. But as the darkness draws in I am finishing the day as I started it - hoping that the FA Cup
magic stardust can be sprinkled some more over Fulham and Wolverhampton Wanderers in a
fortnight’s time to ease the pressure on every FPL manager. If you are reading this, Alexis, your place
in my XV is safe for now.
By Steve Clift - @CliftySport on twitter