4 months ago
Plenty of new and experienced Fantasy Premier League managers ask how to set up their teams to achieve success. Anybody can make a team in game week one and have fun throughout the year, but only a certain amount of managers can be successful and consistently achieve good ranks. How do we do that? Luckily, there are some rules and tips we can follow to help us. In this guide, I will provide some strategy advice on every aspect of the FPL game such as initial team setup, transfer advice, evaluating teams' fixtures and many more. Read on to be fully armed for your Fantasy Premier League season!
Plenty of new fantasy football managers will attempt to overload their teams with premium assets. This isn’t a terrible strategy, as we all know, it is the premium assets that are proven to deliver us the points when we need them, but it has its obvious limitations. Spending £50-60m on four to five assets leaves your team terribly short in other areas. You want to have a team of playing assets that can deliver for you when your premium players fail to.
Spread the money and don’t be stingy on one or two picks. The managers that win mini leagues at the end of the season have usually found the most effective budget options and spread their cash astutely.
On a slightly contradictory note to the above, ensure you do have some big hitters in your team. Spreading the funds is all well and good but a team of eleven players that perform well still won’t see you finish in the top 1% of all managers. You need to include players that will deliver hauls when you expect them to. Players like Mo Salah and Harry Kane are the prices they are because you can rely on them to bang as your captain. Captaincy is one of the most important aspects in this game, and so ensuring you have players that you can give the armband to is essential.
Placing one premium player in midfield and one up front is also a clever idea. It means you can easily get to a player if they start the season well or come into a good run of form.
A common mistake that new players make is putting no money or thought into their bench players. Time and time again I will see managers have players that have gone out on loan, or players that have never played a minute for their teams occupy their benches just so they can squeeze an extra £1m into their main team. The benefit of that extra money will be negligible. The benefit of having a playing bench is immense.
In my opinion, the best way to play this game is to have six to seven players in your team that you never have to think about, players that will return every now and again but always play, that can be played most weeks with some rotation. Then the rest of your team is full of heavy hitters that can be swapped. These are the players you want to use your transfers on. So, having a full squad of players that will play helps this strategy work to its maximum capacity.
Your bench is incredibly important. Don’t ignore it.
A tireless debate that splits the FPL community. Are fixtures the most important thing or is form the biggest indicator of potential points? For me, it’s a tough question to answer.
At the beginning of the season, you only have fixtures to go on. Pre-season form means nothing in this game, so the only information we have at our disposal is the first few weeks of fixtures, how easy or difficult we believe they are and our own gut feeling about how a team will perform.
As the season progresses, form becomes a much more important factor. For my own personal team, I tend to hold onto assets through tough fixtures if their form is good.
What formation to set your FPL team up in is a discussion that some fantasy managers stumble upon but don’t necessarily grasp properly until they have played the game for a number of years. There is no fixed way to play this game, but the two most successful formations amongst managers that consistently finish high in the overall rankings is 343 and 352.
These formations ensure you make the most of having seven midfielders and strikers who can be captained and haul in any given game week. It was a popular trend, not too long ago, to go ‘big at the back’ as defenders represent excellent value in fantasy football. However, this tactic backfired very quickly when people realised they weren’t catching hauls from players that were very highly owned amongst their rivals.
There are some caveats to these formations. When only playing three players at the back, you should ensure that you have five playing defenders in your squad and constantly change them round depending on fixtures. That way you don’t have to use precious transfers on cheap defenders. You should also be looking to captain your big hitting midfielders more often than not. These players are the difference between good weeks and great weeks.
The last thing that should be said about playing with seven strong attacking players is that you should probably make sure your eighth player is somebody cheap who plays regularly. There is nothing worse than having to bench a mid-priced asset every week, only to watch them score points on your bench. A Bissouma or Reed for £4.5m is the perfect fifth midfielder and a Brewster is the perfect £4.5 third striker.
This can be one of the easiest ways to make a transfer. Open up the Fantasy Premier League app on your phone, view the list of available players and see which ones have a sea of green fixtures on the horizon. Bringing players in, knowing that they have easier opposition to face in the next few weeks means the upside to investing in them is instantly there. It also means you don’t have to worry about those assets for the foreseeable future. A word of warning, the official FPL site uses it’s own Fixture Difficulty Rating and it can be rather crude at times. There are plenty of others on offer around the internet, so have a look for one that sits more firmly in line with your opinions.
The majority of people playing fantasy games find form to be rather subjective. Players can be scoring goals and collecting assists without really being ‘in form’. The same can be said for defenders. Clean sheet could well be coming in for players on a regular basis, but is that because they have had an easy run recently? Looking at the form table for FPL can be a brilliant way of seeing which players are performing well in the league but doesn’t work by itself. However, if you like your players to be banging a few in before you invest then this is the way to do it.
It is very rare for a player to drop off form completely within a week so using the form charts as a personal recruitment academy for your own FPL team isn’t the worst idea. This table is usually closely correlated with the ‘transfers in’ table, so other managers may have the same idea as you.
My personal favourite. Nothing can beat the feeling of watching a game or catching up on Match of the Day and noticing a player that you think is getting into all of the right positions. A player you think is going under the radar and poised to return, when no one else is thinking the same. Taking everything that you, yourself, has seen and putting it into your FPL team can be one of the most rewarding processes in this game. It is very possible that a mixture of fixtures, form and eye test is what is needed to target the perfect transfer in.
It is inconceivable how many people don’t understand the Premier League market in fantasy football. It is not as easy as some newcomers to the game will believe. First of all, it starts with a buy price. A price that you bought your player at when you purchased him. Let’s say, for arguments sake, we are talking about Mo Salah who started the season at £12.5m.
You bought him at that price. If you were to sell him the week after, when he has suffered no price changes (positive or negative) you can sell him for £12.5m. If, however, he has had a price change, things get a little more interesting.
If he goes down in price, your selling price reflects his new price. So if he went down to £12.4m, that would be your new selling price. Effectively, a £0.1m loss on your part.
If he saw a price increase, you only gain £0.1m more selling value on him for every £0.2m of value he increases. So only when his price becomes £12.7m will you be able to sell him at £12.6m. This system effectively stops players from trying to ‘play the market’ and end up with a ridiculously high squad value.
This is one of life’s biggest questions. When to sell an asset. Do we sell them when they start to underperform, or do we sell them when they are at the peak of a purple patch, hoping for some form of regression?
I think several factors can influence our decisions here. The best time to sell an asset is when you think their form or returns are about to dry up. It is usually a good idea to check if the upcoming fixtures are particularly nasty and if you think they could still do well in these fixtures. Ponder over their teammates and system, has anything changed to suggest that the service they are used to will now be all dried up? Monitor the minutes of the players, especially if the player is starting to be subbed early in games. These can all be telling signs that selling a player is the right call.
Knowing when to buy a player into your team can be the difference between a good season and a great season. You will look back on your fantasy weeks and think to yourself “How on earth did I get that, so right?”
In a similar way to the sections above, several factors can influence your decision to buy a player. First, when form and fixtures interlink. This is the perfect storm. A player you know has been killing it, suddenly has three games of easy fixtures. This is the perfect time to invest in an attacking or defensive player but very rarely happens as easily as this. Very few teams have the capability of having three to four easy fixtures in a row so this is usually reserved for teams such as Liverpool or Manchester City.
Trying to buy players before a purple patch is the holy grail, so keep tabs on the players in a small patch of form and with nice fixtures coming up.
Looking for the worst attacks in a league is a good way of knowing which defenders you can think about investing in for your fantasy team. The information you find can then, strangely, be used in one of two ways.
This year, Newcastle and Burnley are some of the worst scoring teams in the league. Playing our defenders against Newcastle would ensure we have a very good opportunity for a clean sheet and will also give us a chance to play two defensive assets against them (provided they have some good fixtures after this one particular fixture).
Burnley, however, give us a nice example of a team that has poor attacking stats, so we can target their defenders to own. The Yorkshire team pride themselves on being tough to break down and scoring goals is second on their list of priorities. This leads to their defenders and goalkeeper receiving excessive bonus points. Nick Pope has consistently been one of the highest scoring keepers in the league because of this.
In the same vein as the above section, establishing which teams have poor defences can be incredibly helpful to our seasons. Targeting these teams with a captained player is a great way of seeing our captain picks hauling in given weeks. Picking your best captain is, of course, about picking the best player, but it is also about noticing the team that will be most obliging to your player. Sticking the armband on Harry Kane against Leeds is a better strategy than captaining Salah against Manchester City.
Another reason why we would want to identify bad defences is to see which teams will have to focus all of their efforts on attack. Leeds United this season have abandoned all hope with keeping clean sheets and know they will have to score three or four goals a game to win matches. This is perfect when we want to invest in their attackers. It means their strikers and midfielders will be more likely to receive bonus points and we can also rely on this attack.
Assessing and analysing a player’s performance is something that football experts have been doing for years. A few seasons ago, people started to record the quality and quantity of a player’s shot and assists during a game. That is when xG (Expected Goals) and xA (Expected Assists) were born. xG tells you the quality of the chances that the player was able to muster in game. This has been widely accepted as a great way of showing players that are underperforming and overperforming, and can help managers bring in players before they start a run of good form.
There is a division amongst the FPL community, however, due to the many ways of using this information. For some, both statistics are merely data. It doesn’t take into account who is taking the shot and players can continue to have high numbers for xG and not score. If you manage to use it, along with the eye test, then it can be a good tool to help you.
This chip is usually best used after a wildcard has been played. It ensures that you have four playing bench players and once the chip has been used, you can immediately start downgrading those players to put money back into your main eleven starters. The most effective way to use a bench boost is to activate it during a double game week. If used properly, you can realistically have 32 (thirty-two) fixtures in one week. The obvious upside leads to many managers using the chip in this way and returning phenomenal scores.
Again, using this chip in a double game week is the play here. The best, most effective, way of using this chip is to hand it to a player that you know will play both fixtures in one week. Ideally, that player will also have two easy fixtures and could score or assist plenty against those teams. When used successfully, the triple captain chip can return points between 50 and 75. But when used badly, or unluckily, it can return 3 points.
A theme is occurring here. This chip is best used in either a blank game week or a double game week. Using it in a blank game week is a good idea if you don’t wish to make transfers before that week on players you do not necessarily want long term. The big issue with this strategy is the very minimal upside. Compare it to using it in a double game week and you’ll see why this is my preferred method. In a double game week, using the free hit can ensure you have up to 24 players playing, and you can imagine the returns you can achieve with that.
It all may sound like a bit too much to digest if you are new to the game, but what is good about FPL is that you choose the level of engagement yourself. Feel free to dive deep into every single aspect mentioned in this article or just take each gameweek lightheartedly. Use all the advanced metrics or just make transfers based on your gut feelings. Enjoy competing with your mini-league rivals, be it friends, colleagues, or family, or concentrate on the overall rank.
The main reason people play FPL is to have fun, so go ahead and have it! But most importantly, please remember that it is just a game and don't dwell on the results too much! Enjoy the good weekends and don't let the bad ones affect you and your loved ones. I hope you have found this guide useful, feel free to revisit it if need be and keep an eye on our regular FPL content throughout the season – you'll never draft alone!
I have been playing Fantasy Premier League for almost 13 seasons, with multiple top 100k finishes. I still enjoy the start of every season as if it was my first. Always make sure you're enjoying the game!