There are many ways to play fantasy premier league but here are a few thoughts on how I approach it
fantasy premier league strategy – a review after the end of season
So here’s some thoughts on fantasy premier league strategy after the season finished taking into account some lessons learnt after my 2,720 overall finish. I’ll also bring in how the top 10 FPL managers I follow treat the different areas I’ll talk through. As I said above there are many ways to play FPL and these are only my thoughts and my way of playing. It’s important to note that overall rank is my objective rather than winning a mini league although they aren’t necessarily unrelated. It’s worth warning you though that I do play a very conservative brand of FPL and are very risk averse in the game. It’s also a long article by the way so make sure you’ve got time!
I’ll start with one of the most controversial area of FPL. Ownership is almost a dirty word and I would suggest that on at least 1 FPL advice site that the word is banned in relation to strategy. I mean if your starting team is say 7/11 based on ownership rather than pouring over stats, form, fixtures and articles then that does tend to take the mystery and need for advice and research. As possibly up to 40% of teams in FPL become inactive over time due to managers losing interest the ownership figures that you see on the fantasy premier league site aren’t reflective of the ownership of the leading and active managers. However you can find this on sites such as FPL discovery who analyse the ownership of the top 10k overall.
So on ownership, like football where managers talk about the importance of attacking with the ball and defending without the ball you can make a similar analogy with FPL. FPL in my mind is as much about making sure you minimise drops in rank which you can do through being aware of players ownership as well as having a strategy to improve your rank. I used the example in my review of my season where I finished one gameweek in the high 2 millions but only saw a rank drop of 2,000 as I owned the same players as everyone around me. The reverse is that if you ignore high ownership players and they score well your rank will be absolutely hammered.
The importance of ownership came to me after last season where I always believed that YYT and Ramsey would burn out and didn’t own them based on this in my mind analysed view. They continue to perform and continually wrecked my rank. If I had just bought them due to their ownership then all that pain would have been avoided. I must admit this season I had some doubts about the longevity of Harry Kane this year due to lack of proven scoring record in the premier league and lack of underlying shooting stats. However as everyone owned him it was never a thought that I would not own him on that basis and I’m glad I did as he would have severly punished me.
It’s not just me who plays this way though although it is to different extents. I am only able to follow in detail 2 of the top 10 FPL managers I follow but both are very mindul of ownership and these are players who this year finished in the top 1000 and the top 2000. Interestingly I also saw an interview with Martin Martinyak who won it a couple of years ago and is a consistent high finisher who also advised owning 7/11 high ownership players as part of fantasy premier league strategy.
It’s hard to make hard and fast rules but generally anyone owned by over 50% of the top 10k should really be looked at seriously. Some last season were obvious. Kane, Aguero and Hazard often had 80/90 % ownership among the top 10k ranked teams so they were must haves, Outside that though it can be difficult to judge the necessity of covering a particular player. I can envisage that 2 of the 3 forwards could be based on ownership and 2/3 of the 5 midfielders. Defence is a little different in that it’s generally more about team ownership rather than individuals but 2 of the 3 defenders/Gks could be based on ownership. Thats 6/7 of your starting 11.
I can understand why people are negative about this approach and how it wrecks enjoyment of the game contributing to “template” teams and people picking players unrelated to their football knowledge. I have some sympathy wth this but for me it’s the harsh reality of whether you want to have a good rank or not. Maybe one year the spread of ownership players will make ownership irrelevant but it’s hard to see.
Formation and Structure
3-4-3 seems to be the formation that is commonly played and certainly of the 10 FPL managers I follow regularly 8/10 would play it each week. I wish I could give you a robust statistical back up for it but I can’t unfortunately.
In terms of the formation starting in defence the GK position in my mind is a choice between 2 rotating home and away £4.5m GKs and something which happened last year was a £4.5m GK with a £4.0m back up from the same team. Save points have meant that spending alot of cash on GKs doesn’t seem worthwhile.
In defence the choice for your 5 defenders is between 1 elite defender and 2 pairs of rotating cheap defenders (aiming for £4.5m) as one option and 2 elite defenders plus 3 rotating cheapies (aiming for £4.0m defenders). Personally I prefer the 2nd option as I want to spend as little as possible on my bench. The problem is that £4.0m defenders are difficult to find and have gametime risk even if they initially start at the neginning of the season. I generally don’t use my wildcard early so can’t correct the team for those problems and the last thing you want to be wasting transfers on is £4.0m defenders. How I approach it will depend on availability and pre-season line ups. In defence it’s also important to take into account those FPL gifts that come along such as Bellerin who was a £4.5m gift last season and put them in your team. I tend to pick the cheapest gametime secure defender from each team but thats generally due to my value challenges. The pretty much automatic 2/3 point bonus that follows an attacking return plus a clean sheet does mean the best attacking defender does make sense (depending on the price premium obviously) it’s just I never have enough funds to acheive it.
In midfield the choice is 4 starters and 1 cheap bench warmer (aiming for £4.5m) and 3 starters and then rotating the 4th and 5th midfield (preferable home and away) aiming for both being around £5.0m. Personally I prefer the former. The 2nd option is really for when funds are very tight. Of the top 10 FPL managers I follow they pretty much all played with 4 starters and a bench warming cheapie.
Up front I don’t have any hard and fast rules about value just the 3 best forwards. Last season with Harry Kane and a number of others showed the value of a cheap forward. You can see from my season review forwards article that the returns for the cheap strikers were excellent and do give the ability to invest funds elsewhere without sacrificing forward returns significantly. Whether this will happen next year remains to be seen
Team value is my achilles heel. I believe in it but never try to acheive it. I ended the season with a value of about £102.5 whereas the average value of the top 10 managers I follow was £106.0m. Thats a major disadvantage. This is despite the fact that I finished with a higher rank than 6 of them. I tend to concentrate on writing articles during the week and also take great comfort from seeing whats happening with injuries etc and what other managers are planning which means I dont make early transfers which really is a value destroyer. That meant last year I had to take the cheapest secure defender instead of the best attacking one and also my 4th midfielder was regularly the £5m Puncheons of the world rather than a £9m option. Luckily for me the slower rising values and the emergence of Harry Kane as an essential player really negated some of the effect of team value but I always felt that it was a problem.
The captain choice
This is an interesting one. Firstly I should say that I use the captain choice as a shield not a sword. What I mean by that is that my first concern is not to lose ranking over my captain choice. If you go round the FPL advice sites the various captain polls are a good indicator of what the leading and active managers will do for their captain choice. The main FPL advice site in particular has a close correlation to what the top 10k captain choice will be. If there’s a clear favourite then I will always go for that irrespective of whether I believe in the player. If I don’t own him then it would probably be one of the situations that I consider taking a hit to get him in. While that may be a negative attitude believe me there will be enough times when the captain polls are split evenly 2 or 3 ways and you will have to make a decision which will definitely significantly effect your ranking one way or another. Then analysis of the best choice will definitely help. Towards the end of last season some lucky captain picks when the choice was split 2 or 3 ways in the FPL advice site captain polls really helprd the improvement in my ranking.
There are 2 schools of thought for the regular season wildcard. 1 seems to be to use it early to build up team value and sort out the team early to get a good start. That usually involves using the wildcard during the international break in September where a high percentage of the 3 million FPL managers are still playing so prices are far more volatile for you get the maximum team value benefit. 7/10 of the top FPL managers I follow used their wildcard early last season. It remains to be seen whether that will be the case this season as the price increases were far slower than the previous season
The 2nd school of thought is to use it around March time where postponements due to the FA Cup and potentially weather will end up with some double gameweeks.
I usually use it in the latter part of the season principally because there never seems to be enough to do to warrant a wildcard change early on for me. Plus I know I’m going to be behind the pack on team value anyway so there seems less point. It is a matter of personal choice though.
While I said that I’m a conservative FPL player the one area I do believe that it’s worth going all out on is double gameweeks. This is especially the case if the player coming in has good fixtures after the double gameweek which gives you some security that the transfer has some prospect of a decent point return after the double gameweek. I just think that retuirns are pretty unpredicatable so it’s worth taking the chance to do something which can drastically improve your rank if it goes well. The top 10 FPL managers had varying positions on this so no real consensus
Taking point hits
Taking an additional transfer and forseaking 4 point hits is another area of great discussion in FPL circles. Personally I don’t like using them at all and as you can imagine from what I’ve written earlier I tend to use it as a shield rather than a sword. So if there was a strong captain choice coming up and I didn’t even own the player I would probably take a hit to avoid a big ranking drop risk. I may also use it if I didn’t think I could field a full team or if there was a high ownership player I didn’t own who had an easy fixture coming up. I could possibly take a hit to get a player such as Aguero who is expenive and difficult to get into the team if he was coming back from injury for example. It’s unlikely I would use it for a defender though. Out of those circumtances I would probably need a strong fixture case. Last season I took seven 4 point hits.
Interestingly out of the top 10 FPL managers I follow they took on average 32 points of hits. Mostly in 4 point hits. Interestingly the 4 managers who finished the highest took 5, 3, 0 and 5 four point hits. Showing that they also didn’t believe in hits, at least in the season gone.
Injuries create opportunity
While I would never want to wish injury on a player a long term injury can really help your FPL team by putting a cheap understudy into the team. The Bellerin/Chambers replacement for the injured Debuchy was probably the best example of last season giving you a very cheap £4.5m Arsenal defender. The £4.0m Myhill for the injured WBA GK Foster was another example.
An understudy suddenly becoming first choice is also another value prospect. Again Arsenal last season was a good example with Ospina taking Szczesny’s place in the Arsenal goal for £5.0m was another example. Harry Kane was the standout option who unsurped the poor Soldado and Adebayor.
Preseason for me is more about working out the lineups and finding those cheap players for your 5th midfielder and 4th and 5th defenders. Key is the lineups of the top 4 challening teams as they will be where the majority of your key players come from. Finding the defender that is £1.0m less in those teams than the others can be a valuable find. I find pre-season not so helpful for form coming into the season. I’ve found that out the hard way over the years and last year the impressive pre-season form of Erik Lamela sucked me in to choosing him in formats luckily other than FPL We will be doing pre-season articles by the way
Copa America and the UEFA under 21 competition
These 2 competitions with the season starting early could cause some issues over players starting in fantasy premier league GW1. Aguero, Sanchez and Kane are the most notable watchouts. Again we’ll be keeping a close eye on this in pre-season.
The fantasy premier league player menu
If you’ve read my “ones to watch” articles you’ll know that I evaluate attacking players using the following criteria. You can see in my 2 season review articles just completed the evaluation of players from last season using this menu. I talked about ownership which is the defensive side of FPL where you’re trying to make sure you’re immune from lasr ranking drops. I try to structure my team between the defensive/ownership side of it to protect my rank from drops and then attacking side where I pick players to try and advance my rank. These players will often be lesser owned and will be your differentials. This is a bit more black and white than the reality but is helpful to illustrate my point.
The following stats I use for the attacking purposes ie on the players in your team who are primarily there to improve your rank:
Minutes per FPL point – This shows how long it takes for a player to get a single FPL point. The lower the better and gives you a view on their returns to date
Consistency return % – This is the % of games that a player returns a goal or assist. This shows you their reliability factor in returning points.
FPL proven – Are they proven FPL players or is their some additional risk due to the fact that they haven’t proven themselves in FPL before. This is not saying they can’t it just that the selection carrys additional risk
Next fixtures – the ease of fixtures coming is a crucial factor in picking a player to advance your rank. In it’s simplest form the easier the fixtures the more prospects of points. I use my fixture ease schedule to highlight those teams and players in a weekly article. In an ideal situation you would want a good next fixture, next 3 and next 6 fixtures.
Underlying stats – In my mind these are the comfort factor rather than the only stat to use. If the player has good shooting and creating chances stats then that shows the returns are no fluke but players such as Ramsey, YYT and Kane have produced great returns without any great underlying stats.
10+ FPL point % – This is the % of games that a players has scored 10 points or more in FPL gameweeks. This gives you a show of their ability to score big.
set pieces/penalties – always a bonus
Now no player is going to tick all those boxes. It’s just a case of using the information to make a decision about what transfer you want to make. These are covered in my “ones to watch” articles. Unfortunately they are very time consuming and I’m hoping to come up with an easier version.
Thats it. I hope you found it useful but remember thats just my view and there are many other wasy to play