7 Principles To Follow In Premier League Fantasy Football
Although this Fantasy Footballer is still seething from losing the office league by a single point on the final day of last season – having been top since Christmas – it would take a much more painful setback to pass up on another season of the thrills and spills that come with playing the Premier League’s most popular sideshow.
Over six million players take part in the Official Premier League Fantasy Football game every season and it’s easy to see why – if Twitter gives the brain-dead football fans amongst us a platform to spread hate, lies and idiocy, then Fantasy Football allows the true students of the game to display their expertise.
But then you don’t even need to be a Premier League expert to excel at Fantasy Football. Those with a keen eye for trends and statistics who know how to make best use of data such as Fixture Difficulty Ranking (FDR) can also prove to be a thorn in the side of fanatics who think they know better.
It’s all fun and games and sometimes even the simplest trait – common sense – can be the difference between a worldie of a gameweek and an absolute stinker. Below, we identify seven basic principles which will go a long way towards ensuring you get the best out of your picks.
Trust Your Own Instinct
With Fantasy Football, it’s easy to get talked in or out of something you hadn’t considered before, but if it goes against your own instinct then you should go with your own gut feeling. That way, you only have yourself to blame, which is a lot easier to accept than allowing yourself to be talked into a transfer you never believed in in the first place.
For example, say you have a hunch Andy Carroll and Callum Wilson will form a deadly partnership for Newcastle this season, but a mate of yours in the same league thinks the Magpies will struggle for goals this year – trust your own judgement and if you’re wrong, so be it. For the record, you probably shouldn’t pick Andy Carroll.
Look For Players Out Of Position
Those who have already picked their team for the 2020/21 season will have noticed the lack of strikers to choose from this year as seemingly everyone is now a midfielder. Although it can be frustrating as you still have to fill three positions up front which a much smaller pool of players, you can use it to your advantage.
For example, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is one of the most lethal strikers in the league, yet the Fantasy Football creators have labelled him a midfielder this season, probably because he is expected to play a little wider this season. As such, we’re going to have a midfield goal machine on our hands and if you don’t have him in your side you’re going to be in the minority – don’t lose ground.
Aubameyang is an obvious choice, but as the season rolls on lesser known figures will catch the eye. From last season we’re all familiar with John Lundstram – Sheffield United’s productive midfielder who was listed as a defender and subsequently became the Blades’ highest points scorer of the season. Those who spot this season’s equivalent first will be the biggest beneficiaries.
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Don’t Give Up Before Christmas
It’s so easy to lose interest if you don’t hit the ground running but just remember you’re always only a few solid gameweeks away from a meteoric rise up the table. By Christmas it’s still anyone’s to win and anyone’s to lose – I should know, I blew an 80+ points lead last season after getting careless!
A lot can happen in the second half of a season too. New signings who initially struggled to adapt suddenly find their feet (think Christian Pulisic last season) while explosive early season form can spiral into obscurity (think Teemu Pukki).
Fantasy Football is almost like one big game of online poker – plenty will fold early, but if you stay alert, keep your cards close to your chest and keep plugging away you’ll stay in the hunt until it’s “squeaky bum time”.
Don’t Copy Others If You Fall Far Behind – Be Unique
So almost everyone’s had Harry Kane in their team for weeks and he’s banging in the goals, leaving you for dead. If you can’t beat 'em, join 'em – right? Wrong! The damage has been done, so you need to think outside the box.
Take a look at the fixture list, who’s got a relatively easy run coming up? Do they have a striker in decent form who might step things up a notch against weaker opposition? If you spot something that not many of your league rivals have picked up on, take a gamble to try and make up the ground.
It doesn’t have to be a striker either – perhaps a team with a solid defensive record this season have a handy run coming up and a relatively unknown left-back has broken into the team and is available for just £4.5m. If few others have noticed it, draft him in.
Don’t Play Your Wild Card Too Early
In reality, we’ve seen football clubs hit the panic button and buy players in a rush late in the transfer deadline these amusing acts also occur in Premier League Fantasy Football. Too often have I seen fellow players rip up their team and start from scratch after gameweek one, two or three – which is madness.
Gabby Agbonlahor is one of only eight players ever to score a hat-trick on the opening day of the season, but he only went on to score 11 league goals that campaign (2008/09). He hit his treble in just seven minutes – one wonders how many Fantasy Football players rearranged their team just to bring the former Aston Villa man in based on his first game that season.
The point is, it’s extremely hard to get it right at the start of the season and the truth is no one can predict how the early stages of the season will pan out with any real degree of certainty. So avoid rushing in to any rash decisions like playing your first wildcard just because you’re bottom of the table after two or three games. Be patient, you might really need it when injuries and suspensions start to kick in after 8-10 games.
It’s OK To Use A Defender As Captain
Before last season, I would rarely have considered using a defender as a captain – clean sheets are just too difficult to rely on, but Trent Alexander-Arnold’s form was a game changer last season. Only Mo Salah (233) and Sadio Mane (221) scored more points than assist-machine Trent (210) last year.
He has already succeeded in his desire to “reinvent” the role of the right-back and this season we could see more managers try to replicate Jurgen Klopp’s success with using such a creative player in defence.
This year, the Liverpool youngster is the most expensive defender in the game, so watch out for emerging Trent-like trends in other teams and don’t be afraid to give him or impersonators the armband if you think they’re on for a clean sheet, an assist and maybe even a goal too.
That’s another thing – I learned this tip from a league rival of mine last season, never be afraid to pick up strategic moves from others and have a look at the overall league table to see how the top fantasy players in the world are collecting their points.
Rarely Sacrifice Points For Transfers
Imagine if a Premier League club took a points deduction every other week in order to field an ineligible player – where would they end up? Unless that player was Lionel Messi, it would prove counter-productive, and the same applies to sacrificing players for points in Fantasy Football.
A four-point penalty for using more than one transfer in a single gameweek may seem like a small price to pay, but if you make a habit of it you’ll end up mid-table if not worse.
Granted, sometimes it’s unavoidable if your team is riddled with injuries, suspensions and out-of-form players, but if you’re able to field an XI who can expect to get some game time then give your bench players a chance, save your free transfer for the following week and then use your two accumulated transfers to get your first team back on track.
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