The Faculty’s guide… To winning Fantasy Premier League
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- Make sure your players definitely start for their team. This is the fundamental criteria for anybody who makes it into your squad. Regardless of pre-season form or how good a Euros or Copa they had, if they don’t start, they’re worth nothing to you. Have caution when selecting players who are either suspended or are carrying knocks.
- Pick a well-rounded squad. Picking too many expensive superstars will force you to select some real mediocrity and lessen the impact of your bench. It’s useful to spread your money around.
- Be patient with your chips. You’ll start with a triple captain, bench boost, and an all out attack, which can be gamechangers throughout the season. Save the bench boost and triple captain for ‘double’ gameweeks. It’s generally more beneficial to save these for a rainy day. It’s a longer season than you think.
- Avoid new signings. This isn’t a blanket rule that can be applied to every Premier League import, but new league players- especially those acquired from abroad- can be slow in starting strongly. It’s difficult to predict how individuals will take to the world’s most physically demanding league, and it’s safer to invest in players who’ve proven themselves on this stage before.
- Play the transfer market. Based on their performance, high scoring players’ value will increase as the season progresses. Come December, some fantasy teams will have squads whose value will be as much £107m, which can make an important difference moving forward. Look for ‘breakout’ players- those who are valued cheaply now who take the league by storm. Riyad Mahrez and Dele Alli were the prime examples of this last year.
- Check upcoming fixtures. Fantasy have been kind enough this year to quantify and colour code the difficulty of players’ upcoming games. Liverpool, for instance, start with Arsenal, Spurs, Leicester and Chelsea in their opening five games and you may want to steer away from their defenders for the time being. In October, Arsenal play Burnley, Swansea, Middlesbrough and Sunderland. Picking players at the right time can make a huge difference.
- Seek out set-piece takers. Penalty and free kick takers can earn you heaps of additional points at unexpected times, particularly if that player isn’t a striker (Payet, Baines etc.).
- Pick Chelsea players. You’re only allowed three players from any team- but you should prioritise Chelsea players this year. First, Antonio Conte wants to play an aggressive, front-footed, high pressing style of football, which is identical to what Jose Mourinho tactically tried to build before he was sacked. With that in mind, this Chelsea squad should adapt smoothly to his ideals and get off to a good start. Second, Chelsea have no mid-week European obligations this season and their players will remain fresh for league games. Third, their woeful season last year has drastically deflated their players’ prices well below where they should be.
Start with a 3-4-3 or 3-5-2. Defenders are statistically the best value for money, but are also the most inconsistent players available- one goal conceded and their clean sheet bonus is gone, so minimize their impact on your starting team. Starting with three strikers is probably most conducive to success, but there’s plenty of goalscoring talent in midfield to pick from as well, so feel free to find balance between starting three or two players up front.
Petr Cech and David De Gea will be crying out for selection, but it’s a sounder strategy to select two £4.5m goalkeepers who you can rotate. Odds on, one of them will have a home fixture against a bottom half team each week, and you’d be surprised how often one of them will keep a clean sheet. Goalkeepers don’t tend to yield too many points consistently and it’s better to save money here. Make sure they definitely start, and check their fixtures. Gauge which lower-team managers prioritise defence and go from there.
Suggestions: Heaton, Mannone, Mandanda, Valdes
It’s popular to select fullbacks who have a greater influence on the attacking side of the game as ‘defenders’. This isn’t necessarily a foolproof strategy- towering centre halves who can be a threat from set pieces can score an unexpected amount of goals as well. Defenders are all about clean sheets, which will be reflected by a team’s overall defensive strategy, so identify managers who like to keep their teams tight. Manchester United kept 18 clean sheets last season and Mourinho’s renowned for his defensive tendencies, so select one player from here. Tottenham and Leicester both had excellent defensive records last season as well. It’s best to keep things fairly conservative at the back- you can invest in more profitable players further forward. Select a super cheap backup defender here.
Suggestions: Shaw, Funes Mori, Terry, Van Dijk, Fuchs, Stones, Walker
Make sure you avoid holding midfielders (Kante, Dier) at all costs; only select midfielders who constantly venture forwards. The game categories quite a few no.10s and ‘forwards’ as midfielders, so exploit this positional opportunity where you can; Anthony Martial and Theo Walcott, providing they start, are prime examples of this. Don’t pick players purely on goals either, as assists can rack up points steadily too. Ozil and Fabregas have been especially prominent on this front- both seem to start seasons well and then fade slightly. Christian Erikson always chips in from dead ball situations, while Dusan Tadic has played as a no.10 in a diamond at Southampton in pre-season.
Suggestions: Hazard, De Bruyne, Townsend, Payet, Firmino, Tadic, Redmond, Mahrez, Erikson
If you’re selecting three strikers, go for two golden-boot chasers (a Kane, Aguero or Vardy) and one wildcard- this will allow you to invest nicely in your midfield, too. Andy Carroll has been lauded by Slaven Bilic enough to make an enticing £6.5m prospect, while Andre Grey (Burnley’s striker) has had a prolific pre-season. Penalty takers make for an added bonus. Generally, go for proven players up front; Sergio Aguero is sure to start and will be fronting a Pep Guardiola attack, and even at £13m is a must-have. Harry Kane started slowly last season and Diego Costa may be a cheaper option who’ll hit the ground running. Pick Zlatan at your own peril; at 34 years of age and a player who was infamous for underperforming on his trips to England when he played for European teams, £11m is a big investment.
Suggestions: Aguero, Diego Costa, Lukaku, Deeney, Defoe, Gray, Negredo, Carroll