I’ve been writing about fantasy football for three years and playing it for an awful lot longer. During that time, I’ve figured out a few simple things you can keep in mind to improve on last season to get ahead of your rivals or so that you get off to a good start in your first season.
Use pre-season to your advantage
Every season, FPL managers with their fingers on the pulse during preseason benefit from one or two bits of information that the average casual manager misses. A few seasons ago, many of us active managers had a great start to our seasons thanks to a goal from Nathan Redmond, who had been playing as a striker for Southampton in preseason (let’s set aside the fact that he did nothing for weeks after that).
This season, two players have been playing OOP (out of position) for their respective teams. One is Jeffrey Schlupp of Crystal Palace, who looks set to start the season as a right-winger, while 4.0 defender Aaron Wan-Bissaka starts at right-back behind him. “Obi-Wan” looks to be the only nailed-on starting defender in the game in the run-up to GW1. The other OOP option is Ricardo Pereira (5.0), who has also been appearing on the right-wing for his team, Leicester City, even though he is classified as a defender. The latter is currently in my Gameweek 1 draft. Following my current plan, I will be wildcarding early so if the punt turns out to be a poor decision, I will be able to rectify it.
Don’t be afraid to use your Wildcard early, especially if you have a squad packed with underperforming assets. Jumping on the early bandwagons and in-form teams can set you apart from the slower moving competition. There is plenty of evidence to suggest that this approach is the best way forward, as it allows you to ditch players in whom you misplaced your faith based on preseason or last season in favour of the players enjoying purple patches early doors.
Accruing points is the aim of the game in FPL, so you should always be conscious of a player’s discipline before you select them. Yellow cards result in an instant minus one point penalty, but they also almost eradicate a player’s chance of getting bonus points too even if they score or keep a clean sheet.
The rule is particularly relevant when you’re selecting defenders. Sure, Watford’s Holebas may pose an attacking threat on the left-flank, but his propensity for finding his name in the referee’s book negates a lot of his value. Attacking returns will still be relatively rare whilst his teammates are better rewarded for a clean sheet.
If you played the World Cup fantasy game or FPL previously, the value of a set-piece taker won’t be lost on you. Penalties provide simple goalscoring opportunities; corners can be a source of assists when they find their way in; free-kicks could result in either.
Last season, Luka Milivojevic stole the hearts of fantasy managers last season as a budget goalscoring machine, with the 4.5m midfielder contributing ten goals to managers over the course of the season. Seven of those came from the spot. Whilst the Serbian international was making his name at Palace, Pascal Gross was working similar miracles at Brighton. Both players have seen their opening prices raised significantly as a consequence of their success.
Knowing who set-piece takers are and drafting your side accordingly can be an easy way to get ahead of mini-league rivals. This can happen at the top clubs, where often one miss can see the baton passed to another player (I remember capitalising on following Man Utd news closely a few seasons ago by bringing in United’s new penalty taker after Rooney missed one) but perhaps more importantly, set-pieces can unlock value in cheaper players that FPL Towers hadn’t anticipated. My set-piece taking tip for your Gameweek 1 side is Wolves’ Ruben Neves, who is just 5.0 and looks to be in charge of penalties for the promoted side.
Yes, yes. Of course. Your captain earns double points and by virtue of that, the selection is naturally important. With that obvious fact in mind, you would be astounded by the irrationality I see in people’s teams every season.
The start of the season is a game of dice at the best of times. With all the research in the world, we still can’t be certain of GW1 starting XIs, we don’t know what sort of form teams are in, and we definitely don’t know who will score.
Thus, keeping in mind that the season is a marathon and not a sprint, the most prudent way to play your captain is to give the armband to a popular pick. If they do well, you do well, and if they don’t “bang” then at least only mavericks will get ahead of you. Realistically those mavericks will get caught out by trying to be too smart captaining Erik Lamela or Juan Mata sooner or later.
Risky captain picks can be necessary as the season is drawing to a close and you need to make up points, but there’s no point taking unnecessary risks before Christmas.
Over the course of the season, players in your squad will suffer all kinds of ailments between match days. They can happen any day, so you need to do your best to avoid getting caught on the hop by team news. The best way to do this is to make your transfers later in the week, ideally on a Friday when all the managers’ press conferences are over so you have the maximum amount of knowledge possible when you hit the “Confirm Transfer” button.
The importance of defenders
I have written another article for 90MAAT which details the importance of defenders in FPL and gives you some options for each price bracket. You can find that article here. [LINK]
Don’t completely disregard defenders when you’re picking your 15 man squad. Sometimes clean sheets are easier to come by than goals – it’s often the case that 6.0 defenders outperform similarly priced players up the field.
Go with what you believe
You’re reading this article; by virtue of that alone it’s pretty clear that you’re taking your fantasy team seriously right now, even if you aren’t sure if you’ll stay playing right to the end of Gameweek 38.
Be wary of blindly following advice. Some people have no idea what they’re talking about whilst others spend weeks bringing in all sorts of players looking for that one moment of satisfaction when they alone own Huddersfield’s Rajiv van La Parra, forgetting that in the process they have transferred in a bucket load of duds. If you think van La Parra is the way forward because of your own research and observations, go for it. If you plan on winning, don’t do it just because some guy on social media suggested that he had one shot on target in the last five weeks so he must be “due”.
Go with your head or your gut, not someone else’s. (And if you do follow someone’s advice don’t blame them for it not paying off!)
I want to take this closing paragraph as an opportunity to wish you all the best over the coming season, whether you’re aiming for world number one, work cash league glory, or just to get one over on your mates at school. FPL is a marathon, not a sprint. Keep your wits about you and you’ll beat the vast majority of FPL players. If you research your choices, I guarantee you that it will improve your results. All the best!
FPL Stag has been providing tips to Fantasy Premier League managers for three seasons and writes a weekly column for Rotoworld. As a kid, his favourite player was Roy Keane, though he models his own game on Park Ji-Sung. He finished in the Top 1% of fantasy managers last season.