No matter how many times you told yourself you wouldn’t bother this year, chances are most of you are in the process of finalising your Fantasy Football team for the new season.
The best of intentions at the start of a season to stay on top of transfers and substitutions throughout the campaign have almost always been forgotten by October, and come May you’re absolutely adamant you won’t bother next time.
But then the transfer market kicks into action, and before you know it you’re scouring the squads of the newly-promoted teams for the best-value bench fillers. So, while your intentions are still good, you might as well read these 11 tips…
(1) Rotate your goalkeepers and defenders
It’s common for Fantasy players to pick a starting goalkeeper from one of the big clubs and the cheapest back-up possible to keep on the bench. Don’t do it.
Instead, pick two £4.5m/£5m goalkeepers to rotate, depending on who and where they’re playing. At home to a struggling team? Get him in. Away at Manchester City? Put him on the bench.
By doing this, you should give yourself more chances of clean sheet bonuses across the season. Even the top clubs have plenty of games against their rivals where you wouldn’t necessarily back them to keep a clean sheet, but if you choose the right two keepers from bottom half or mid-table sides, you’ll almost always go into a weekend fancying at least one of them to keep things on lockdown.
All of the above also applies to defenders. You’re going to need some cheaper squad fillers, but rather than filling your bench with duds, spend on two or three cheap defenders you can rotate to maximise your chances of 6+ point hauls.
If you’re really keen, look into every club’s fixture lists to find the best rotation options – there are plenty of FPL Fixture Difficulty sites out there.
Ideally, you want to pick from two clubs that are at home on different weekends and don’t play too many tough fixtures at the same time.
(2) Don’t pick your backline from seven different clubs
Another common practice is to choose your two goalkeepers and five defenders from seven different clubs, on the basis that you’re increasing your chances of at least one clean sheet bonus.
However, by doing that you’re also reducing your chances of really big scores, given it’s unlikely all your picks’ clubs are going to keep out the opponents on the same weekend.
Instead, consider picking a couple of your backline from the same (defensively strong) teams, meaning you’re relying on fewer of them to chalk up some 0s.
(3) Spend your money in defence
Many people pack their defences with several cheap options in order to afford more expensive midfielders and forwards, but the right defender in the £5m/£5.5m range will accumulate far more points than a midfielder of the same value.
Andrew Robertson was the top-scoring defender in FPL in 2018-19, finishing with 213 points. The top-scoring midfielder also priced at £7.0m was Luka Milivojević, who scored 47 points fewer.
Generally, spending an extra million on a defender as opposed to a midfielder will get you far more value.
(4) Consider incorrectly listed players
Any player used in a more forward position than that listed by FPL is worth considering. It’s what makes Mohamed Salah a must-pick – listed as a midfielder in FPL, he plays as part of Liverpool’s forward line and has won the Golden Boot in the last two seasons.
This also applies to new Arsenal signing Nicolas Pepe, while Watford’s Gerard Deulofeu might occupy similar areas but is listed as a forward.
To reinforce the above point about the value of defenders, look for teams who are likely to play with wing-backs. It’s what has made Marcos Alonso a solid choice in recent years.
Sheffield United use overlapping centre-backs, meaning a defender like Enda Stevens got forward to supply four goals and six assists in the Championship last year.
(5) Pick your marquee signings carefully
Often, Fantasy leagues are decided by who’s picked the right big-money signings. There are generally a handful of players that everyone chooses (Harry Kane, Mohamed Salah, Kevin De Bruyne etc), but you need to be absolutely sure they’re going to hit the ground running.
For example, last season Kane kept his August curse going after suffering with heavy legs following England’s run to the World Cup semi-final. This year, he’s had a proper rest and pre-season and might not buck his reputation as a slow starter.
Then there is Sergio Aguero (£11m) and Gabriel Jesus (£10.5m), who are likely to be rested and rotated at various points throughout the season, and both went deep into this summer’s Copa America. Both will still get plenty of points, but a £10m+ player that isn’t a guaranteed starter can cost you valuable points.
The very best Fantasy players are those brave enough to avoid following what the crowd is doing – and, of course, make the right differential pick so think long and hard about who you spend your big money on – and don’t be afraid to change things early on.
(6) Don’t be blinded by a player’s club
Another common mistake is to select as many players as possible from the big six clubs, on the basis that they win more games, score more goals and get more clean sheets.
The reasoning is sound, but the big six clubs also rotate a lot more. Also, think long and hard about signing a top club’s holding midfielder when an extra £0.5-1m could get you one of the mid-level club’s chief creative threat.
(7) Know your set-piece takers
When shopping for these bargains from the smaller clubs, it’s worth checking who’s been taking set-pieces and penalties in pre-season.
The aforementioned Milivojević scored a remarkable 10 penalties, while Paul Pogba was Manchester United’s highest FPL points scorer thanks to his status as the club’s designated penalty taker.
It’s worth doing your research to find out who’s been taking corners for the various teams during pre-season.
(8) Be wary of new signings
It can be tempting to get over-excited about players brought in from abroad, but remember there is often a settling-in period involved for overseas signings.
With regards players like Nicolas Pepe and Christian Pulisic, there’s no harm in giving it a few weeks to see how they settle and what roles they’re being asked to play before getting them into your team.
Rushing to sign them just because they’re new could cost you valuable early points.
(9) Pick players that actually play
It sounds obvious, but lots of Fantasy players fill their benches with the cheapest possible players that rarely get games, holding midfielders that are unlikely to get goal or assist bonuses, and defenders they have no intention of ever rotating in.
If you’ve followed all of the above tips, every member of your squad will be an asset, but just as a reminder: don’t ever waste money on players that aren’t going to guarantee you at least the two points for playing 60 minutes each week.
(10) Do your research
This is more of a reiteration of everything that’s already been said, but it really is worth doing some research unless you want your Fantasy aspirations to be over by September.
Know who’s been playing regularly in pre-season, who’s been struggling with injury, who’s looked off the pace and which youngsters have broken into the first-team squad.
Be aware of players with poor disciplinary records. Know who’s playing where. And most of all, don’t pick players based purely on reputation or their points from last season, or you could get your fingers burnt.
(11) Make changes
This is perhaps the hardest one to stick to, but to stand any chance of succeeding at Fantasy Football you really do need to invest some time before each gameweek to make sure you rotate players depending on their opponents, transfer out players that are injured or out of form, and get hold of any players that have hit a purple patch before their values skyrocket too much.
Remember folks, Fantasy Football isn’t just for August, it’s for life.