The Faculty’s guide… to winning Fantasy Premier League 2018/2019
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Key tips for selecting your team:
- Make sure your players definitely start for their team. This is the most important criteria for anybody who makes it into your squad. Regardless of pre-season form, or how good a player they individually are, if they don’t start, they’re worth nothing to you. Take extra care 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 buy some average players to stay within the £100m budget, in turn lessening the impact of your bench. It’s generally more effective to spread your money around.
- Be patient with your chips. You’ll start with a triple captain, bench boost, and a ‘free hit’, which can be gamechangers throughout the season. Save the triple captain and bench boost for a double gameweek. It’s generally more beneficial to hold on to these for a rainy day. The season is longer than you think.
- Free Hits/Wildcards. The Wildcard chip can be used twice a season, once in the first half (before 29 Dec 14:00) and once in the second half of the season. The Free Hit chip can be used once a season. Free hits allow you to revert to a new team, free of charge, for a one-off gameweek, before reverting back to your original team.
- Avoid players making their Premier League debuts or who have had tiring World Cups. This isn’t a consistent rule that can be applied to every new Premier League player, but new league players, especially those acquired from abroad, can be slow in adapting to the pace and intensity of the league. Harry Kane, golden boot winner at the World Cup, has in his nine seasons at Spurs, not scored a goal in the month of August in the league.
- 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 as £107m.
- Check upcoming fixtures. Fantasy have been kind enough to quantify and colour code the difficulty of players’ upcoming games. Newcastle, for example, start with Tottenham, Chelsea, Man City and Arsenal in their opening five games, while Liverpool’s opening four games are against West Ham, Crystal Palace, Brighton and Leicester.
- 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. Crystal Palace won the most penalties last year (ten) with Luka Milivojevic scoring seven of them, while Jamie Vardy scored five of Leicester’s six. Christian Eriksen (17), Kevin De Bruyne (15), and Alexis Sanchez (14) took the most free kicks last season, with Eriksen being the most fruitful with five assists and a goal.
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.
There’s been considerable debate in previous seasons over whether 3-4-3 is better than 3-5-2. There isn’t a clear consensus on which is better, so choose whichever suits you best. Midfielders, statistically, have the greatest chance of scoring points (they get clean sheet bonuses too as well as goal bonuses).
While Ederson (£5.5m) and David De Gea (£6.0m) will be crying out for selection as last year’s top scorers, it’s arguably 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. Two years ago Burnley’s Tom Heaton was the highest scoring goalkeeper having been valued at £4.5m, while this year Lukasz Fabianski looks excellent value at West Ham, despite having difficult opening games.
Suggestions: Fabianski, Patricio, Ederson, De Gea, Foster, Alisson
It’s a popular strategy to select fullbacks (as opposed to central defenders) as they arguably have a greater influence on the attacking side of the game as your ‘defenders’. This isn’t necessarily a foolproof strategy, as towering centre halves can be a threat from set pieces and can score an unexpected amount of goals as well.
Defenders are largely about clean sheets, which will be reflected by a team’s overall defensive strategy, so identify managers who like to keep their teams tight. The 2017/2018 clean sheet table (see here) shows that of the league’s ‘big six‘, Arsenal kept the fewest clean sheets of any with 13, while Manchester United kept the most with 19, and Bournemouth kept the least with six.
Spend fairly conservative at the back, you can invest in more prolific players further forward.
Suggestions: Cedric, Robertson, Alexander-Arnold, Bailly, Van Aanholt, Mee, Daniels, Azpilicueta
Make sure you avoid holding midfielders (N’Golo Kante, Eric Dier); only select midfielders who venture forwards and are tasked with scoring or assisting goals. The game categories quite a few no.10s and ‘front-men’ as midfielders (such as Saidio Mane, Leroy Sane and Eden Hazard) so exploit this positional opportunity where you can.
Don’t pick midfielders purely on goals either, as assists can rack up points steadily too. Mesut Ozil, Kevin De Bruyne and Cesc Fabregas have been especially prominent on this front and both seem to start seasons well and then fade slightly. Maurizio Sarri implemented a form of ‘vertical tika taka’ during his time at Napoli, and expect Chelsea to turn on the attacking heat this year, making one of Eden Hazard, Willian, Pedro or Alvaro Morata (if he can perform) very enticing prospects. Liverpool’s and Man City’s midfielders were equally as devastating last year.
Top Picks: Salah, De Bruyne, Eriksen, Sane, Hazard
Budget: Richarlison, Ramsey, Milivojevic, Pedro, Hoillet, Cavaleiro, Jota, Redmond, Walcott
If you’re selecting three strikers, go for two golden-boot chasers (a Kane, Romelu Lukaku or Aguero) and one wildcard- this will allow you to invest nicely in your midfield, too. Penalty takers make for an added bonus.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang made 12 starts last season, and yielded 10 goals, 4 assists and 87 points. At £11m, a hot pre-season and a good-looking relationship with Alexandre Lacazette, Arsenal’s January signing could be a shrewd purchase. Lacazette himself ended last season strongly, has had a rested and prolific pre-season, offering an enticing discount on Aubembyang at £9m. The aforementioned Kane has come off a big summer and starts seasons notoriously poorly, while Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus are competing for a single striking spot and should be considered carefully. Alvaro Morata and Olivier Giroud are also battling for a lone striker role, and whoever becomes Chelsea’s starting no.9 will be worthy of picking too.
Top Picks: Aubemeyang, Vardy, Firminio, Lukaku
Budget: Arnautovic, Zaha, Wilson, Austin, Tosun, King
Remember, these are just suggestions for your team’s starting XI on gameweek one. It is much easier to identify new season trends and form after three gameweeks, and that may be where your first wildcard will become useful.