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 the time October comes around for most of us Fantasy players, meaning by the time you reach May you’re absolutely adamant you won’t bother next time.
But then the transfer market kicks into action, players start to look good in pre-season, and before you know it you’re scouring the squads of the newly-promoted teams for the best-value bench fillers. It’s a curse.
But this year, it really can be different. All you need to do is read these 11 tips…
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 West Brom? 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. 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.
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 of 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.
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.
Kieran Trippier, for example, claimed five assists in just six starts and six substitute appearances last season, and is priced at only £5.5m despite now being Spurs’ first-choice right-back. By contrast, the best midfielder valued at £6.5m or less based on his points haul last season is West Ham’s Robert Snodgrass.
Generally, spending an extra million on a defender as opposed to a midfielder will get you far more value.
To reinforce the above point, consider the fact that several teams look set to play with wing-backs this season. Marcos Alonso, for example, is listed as a defender but spends much of his time as a winger and outscored all but six midfielders in Fantasy Football last season.
Then there are players that are listed in midfield but play as part of a front three and, in some cases, even as a centre-forward. That was the case with Alexis Sanchez last season, which saw him accumulate more points than anyone else in the game.
Even in the mid-price range there are players like Jon Walters (£5.5m) that are listed as midfielders but are likely to play as forwards or, at worst, very advanced wingers. Find a couple of these anomalies and you could be on to a winner.
Often, Fantasy leagues are decided on who’s picked the right big-money signings. There are generally a handful of players that everyone chooses (Harry Kane, Alexis Sanchez, Eden Hazard etc), but this year there seem far fewer certainties.
Even of those mentioned, Kane is a risk with Spurs’ move to Wembley, Sanchez will miss the start of the season and may or may not want to stay at Arsenal, while Hazard is expected to miss the first month and has also been linked with a move.
It should make things more exciting for Fantasy players. Romelu Lukuku seems like a shoo-in for most people’s teams, but do you stay behind Kane or consider someone like Gabriel Jesus at Man City? And can Kevin De Bruyne be this season’s Hazard, or will Pep’s new system mean him regularly playing deeper and accumulating fewer points?
Think long and hard about who you spend your big money on – and don’t be afraid to change things early on.
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 spending £5m on N’Golo Kante, for example, makes little sense just because he plays for Chelsea. Instead, take a chance on an attacking midfielder at a smaller club. The potential rewards are much greater.
When shopping for these bargains from the smaller clubs, it’s worth checking who’s been taking set-pieces and penalties in pre-season.
Luka Milivojević, for example, is priced at just £5m but has been switched to penalty and free-kick duty under Frank De Boer, registering a goal and an assist in Palace’s warm-up games.
Then there’s someone like Chris Brunt, who takes corners for set-piece specialists West Brom and offers good value at £5.5m. Buying the right players at this price can be crucial across a season.
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 to the likes of Alexandre Lacazette and Alvaro Morata, there’s no harm in giving it a few weeks before getting them into your team. Wait to see whether they’re guaranteed starters and have hit the ground running.
It sound 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.
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.
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.
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