It has long been recognised that one of the paths to success in the Fantasy Premier League is to deploy a 3-4-3 formation. The emphasis on a strong forward line, populated with three players who consistently score, backed up with a midfield quartet providing the assists and their fair share of goals, and a defence full of players who routinely keep clean sheets and pop up with the odd offensive contribution. It’s been a solid tactic for years in the FPL world.
Last season, Chelsea boss Antonio Conte raised eyebrows by adopting a strategy not seen since the mid-90’s; namely a back three with “flying wingbacks”. These players would operate further up the pitch, with more in common with orthodox wingers than left or right fullbacks. It worked. Chelsea won the league at a canter, seven points clear of second place Spurs and only one goal behind them as they finished as second highest goal scorers.Embed from Getty Images
It is worth pointing out that Conte wasn’t the first manager to deploy the system that season, but without doubt he was the most effective. By the end of the season, even old dinosaur Arsene Wenger had been converted. He was the last remaining manager to remember the last time the system had been in vogue, having last used it in 1997.
It is not surprising then, that in FPL terms, before the season started and managers were lovingly drafting their squads, there was much chatter about stuffing the defence with these new flying wingbacks and reaping the inevitable points hauls they would generate. And many did. But unlike “real” football, the most popular fantasy formation continued to be the tried and trusted; 3-4-3, albeit with those three spots at the back being occupied by offensive wingbacks.
Now, in this article, I am not (believe it or not after that scene setter!) going to be debating the merits of whether this has indeed been a recipe for success. You can look yourself at the Top 10 highest points scoring defenders and see for yourself how many are in the list.
No, what I am going to be looking at is the OTHER end of the pitch, and perhaps try and convince you that the default 3-4-3 formation has perhaps had its day…
It should come as no surprise for anyone who plays the game to learn that forwards are very expensive. The most expensive player in the game is Harry Kane who started the season priced at £12.5m and is (at the time of writing) now a hefty £12.8m. He hasn’t scored in eight of the 14 games he has played this season – he sat out Gameweek 10 – but the fact he has scored a brace on four of his outings mean he has returned 10 goals already.Embed from Getty Images
Why do I mention this? Well, many are losing faith/patience with him and are selling him in droves. They want more bang for their buck, evidently. That’s fair enough. And there are currently nine forwards ahead of him in the form table. But weed out those that have just been on a lucky streak (think Wilson, Austin, Calvert-Lewin, Firmino, Rooney and Vardy) and you’re really only left with Morata, Jesus and Lacazette ahead of Kane. And two of those are prone to rotation.
So what am I saying? I’m saying – and here comes the big reveal – that you should consider only owning ONE premium priced forward. Gasp. And that should be either Kane or Morata. You decide. Personally I think Kane will easily outscore Morata over the entire season, but right here right now, you may be better off with the Chelsea man.
Hang on then. Who do we sandwich either side of that premium forward? Well, you could take a look at some of those mid-range guys already mentioned. Maybe Vardy or Firmino? Both are reasonably priced at £8.6m and £8.5m respectively. So yes, you could look at either or both of those options…
But for me, the real value is ripping up the notion of 3-4-3 and instead going one up top with two budget options. I’m talking Calvert-Lewin (£5.2m) AND Austin (£6.0m) OR Wilson (£6.1m) OR Diouf (£5.6m). Or indeed whoever you like in that kind of price range. After all, the reason for this tactic switch is I’m trying to steer you towards where you SHOULD be investing your cash. In midfield.
Forget these flying wingbacks and these premium forwards. I believe we need to start loading up in midfield. I’m talking 3-5-2. Or 4-5-1. Just get a stellar quintuplet into your midfield and “set and forget”. The choices are mouth-watering. Salah (£9.9m) is the highest point’s scorer in the game and the only player so far to break into the “100 Club”. 113 points, 22 points ahead of his nearest rival, who is Man City’s seemingly rotation proof superstar De Bruyne (£10.2m).Embed from Getty Images
At Chelsea, Hazard (£10.8m) is playing as well as he ever has. At Arsenal, Sanchez (£11.8m) seems to have rediscovered his mojo with three goals in his last four games. Sane (£8.8m) may have temporarily gone off the boil, but Sterling (£8.3m) is in the best form of his career. Mahrez (£8.4m) has found the kind of form that helped Leicester to a league title. Coutinho (£8.9m) is back on people’s radars after a goal and three assists last time out away at Brighton.
Ramsey (£7.2m) looks to have put his injury troubles firmly behind him and is playing so far up the field that he is now level for assists with the Man City duo of De Bruyne and Silva (£8.2m). The Spurs duo of Eriksen (£9.3m) and Alli (£9.1m) are off the boil at the moment, but as they say – “Form is temporary, class is permanent” so surely it is only a matter of time before they rediscover their points scoring ability.
There are a number of cheaper options too. Richarlison (£6.6m) at Watford; Stoke’s Shaqiri (£6.1m) and even Gross (£6.0m) are players that you could safely field in a five man midfield against any opponent.
If I was to pick a team right now that would work as a 3-5-2 or a 4-5-1 it would perhaps look something like this:
This is obviously rough and ready and assumes you’ve made some money on top of the original £100m transfer kitty. The players in red would be the likely bench and the players in green would be the likely players rotating (dependent on fixture) to switch between a 3-5-2 or a 4-5-1. The consistency comes from always playing five in midfield. These can then be interchanged with form players with weekly transfers.
But I know I haven’t convinced some of you. And I wouldn’t expect to. It’s too radical to adopt a 3-5-2 or a 4-5-1 for some of you. Some of you are the Arsene Wenger’s of the fantasy world. You KNOW 3-4-3 works and come hell or high water you’re going to stick to your guns. Fine. It’ll probably come good. But in the meantime, you need to prepare yourself for the fact that inflexibility and unwillingness to accept the evidence before you mean that just like Arsene Wenger last season, you won’t change your tactics until it’s too late.
Wenger fielded three at the back (Gabriel, Koscielny and Holding) for a 2-1 away win at Middlesbrough. On the 17th April. Only a few weeks before the season ended and he lost his coveted 4th place to Liverpool. The damage had been done. The choice lies with you, though with the midfield options in FPL looking increasingly attractive, a switch to five in midfield could be the decision that propels you up the FPL rankings.
Written by @FPL_FLY