fantasy premier league structure – Stephen Toumi continues his “think differently” series

Contributors, Fantasy Premier League

Here’s Stephen Toumi with his “think differently” series continuing in 18/19 with this fantasy premier league structure article which concentrates on 5 at the back

fantasy premier league structure – Stephen Toumi continues his “think differently” series

It’s been a few weeks since the launch of the 2018/19 FPL game and the 2018 World Cup, hosted in Russia is now over, as France waves the flag in celebration. We can now turn our full attention towards the upcoming season as Twitter is ablaze with links to pre-season articles and podcasts are churning out their team previews and opinions on how to approach the early weeks of play. Unlike last year, fantasy managers must be wary of those players, who’s national teams went deep into the later rounds of the World Cup. Rest assured, many of them will not be starting the season on the pitch.

5 at the back

Like many other fantasy managers, I have been mulling over a variety of different teams as my opinion and players are continuously changing daily, if not hourly based on new information I’ve read or something that appears to be trending in social media. That’s not always the best option, when it comes to the decision-making process. The players mentioned within this article, might not make the cut come Gameweek 1, August 10.

fantasy premier league structure

Off the back of a successful formation, to start last season, I am considering running out five defenders to start this FPL season. While unconventional, the 5-2-3 formation I started last year with was only favoured 0.8% of managers. Surprising? No, not the least. We know most fantasy managers are attack-minded, so spending millions to start five defenders seems a bit counter intuitive. Simple arithmetic tells you, five to seven attacks will outscore five defenders, so why roll the dice on defence?

Over the pasts three seasons, we’ve seen a rise in clean sheets, with 220 (or 2.8/GW) being recorded during the 2017/18 season. Based on the recent trend, we could see that figure increase this season by approximately 8 clean sheets, if history is any indication (2016/17 – 212 CS, 2015/16 – 204 CS). While speculation on my part, there have been some quality goalkeepers signed during the summer transfer window that could make that clean sheet number a reality.

Bernd Leno arrives at Arsenal from Bayer Leverkusen, posting 10 clean sheets in 34 appearances. Vicente Guaita was signed last January, joining Crystal Palace as his contract expired at Getafe, finishing with 12 clean sheets in 34 appearances. Finally, Rui Patricio, who signed with Wolves from Sporting Lisbon, ahead of the 2018 World Cup. He led Liga NOS with 17 clean sheets in 34 appearances. We can’t overlook Martin Dubravka, who posted 6 clean sheets in just 11 games for Newcastle after signing from AC Sparta Prague (12 games, 4 clean sheets). Watford signed Ben Foster from West Brom, after posting 10 clean sheets in 34 appearances last season.

More importantly, for a five defender back line to be successful, fixtures play a key role. Last season, Southampton had excellent fixtures to start the season, tripling up on their defence me to start the season after a 0-0 draw against Swansea City. The following week, West Ham scored two goals, followed by Watford a few weeks later. Yet though the first five weeks, the Saints defence scored me 9 clean sheets to start the season. If five at the back is risky enough, doubling and tripling up isn’t a very lucrative strategy, but could pay dividends as it did early last season

fantasy premier league structure

As l review defenders, there is a strong possibility that the little used 5-2-3 or 5-3-2 could be in the cards to start the FPL season. Fantasy managers usually ask, “form over fixture,” but to start the year, a few teams have very favourable fixtures (through GW6), which could provide clean sheets opportunities for managers willing to invest. Teams to consider at to start the season include Bournemouth, Burnley, Crystal Palace, Everton, Manchester City, Manchester United, Spurs.

Man City

It’s not often the defending champions get to play all six promoted teams (ars/HUD/wlv/NEW/FUL/cdf/BHA) from the last two years. While Man City start the season away to Arsenal, you can’t go wrong with a Sky Blue in your backline. The likes of Nicolás Otamendi (£6.5), Benjamin Mendy (£6.0) at a premium price could anchor any defense. Kyle Walker (£6.5), John Stones (£5.5) and Vincent Kompany (£5.5), will probably miss out on the first few weeks of the season.

Crystal Palace

Crystal Palace has a favourable opening eight week of the season (ful/LIV/wat/SOU/hud/NEW/bou/WLV/eve), three of which are on the road but still believe they could have a stout defense that should rewards fantasy managers handsomely over the first nine gameweeks. Liverpool at home is the only top six team they face. Many have earmarked Patrick van Aanholt (£5.5) as the defender to own, as he contributes on both ends of the pitch. Mamdou Sakho (£5.0) returns after missing 19 games last season, but still finished 18 bonus points! Pundits have tagged James Tomkins (£4.5) as the budget friendly option, finishing last season on 99 points and 3 goals. We could see a regular starter at £4.0, as Aaron Wan-Bissaka could give Joel Ward (£4.5) real competition at right back.


Burnley have good fixtures, but I am holding off any defender, for the fact they face Aberdeen in a Europa League Qualifying match on July 26, which could take Clarets late into August with additional games. While all defenders have increased in price, over their budget friendly, £4.5 price tag from last season, Stephen Ward, James Tarkowski, Brent Mee and Matt Lawton, all start the season at £5.0. The Clarets start with a season of green (sou/WAT/ful/MNU/wlv/BOU/car/HUD), as they face just Manchester United in game week 4.


Everton has scheduling in their favour, facing Arsenal through the first 9 gameweeks ( wlv/SOU/bou/HUD/WHU/ars/FUL/lei/CRY), but with new manager, Marco Silva it could be a case of the “new manager bump” as Everton starts the season. While not as budget friendly as other teams, Seamus Coleman or Leighton Baines will set you back £5.5, while second year Toffee, Michael Keane has been priced at £5.0. There are numerous budget options at £4.5 to consider including Phil Jagielka, Ashley Williams, Cuco Martina and last year’s darling, Jonjoe Kenny and Mason Holgate.

Man Utd

As of this writing, I am undecided on Manchester United’s defence, Jose Mourinho has said, “The back four today (Shaw, Smalling, Bailly, Valencia) will probably be the back four that we start the season with.” There is an air of hesitation to trust the words coming from the United manager. Last season it was Valencia to start the season, at £6.5, feel there are better and he is now the subject of an injury scare, higher scoring options available. The uncertainty has be avoiding until we see who starts on the pitch for United.

The World Cup effect

A concern of a 5-man defence, waiting on players who participated in the 2018 World Cup. Many of the top six teams won’t be at full strength, with incomplete squads, as players, fatigued from the later rounds of the tournament are given time to recuperate. Manchester City and Spurs have a combined eight defenders who could miss out on the early weeks due to fatigue. While their replacements could provide some value, clean sheets might not come as easily.  You can see more detail on the Geeks article on the subject

Add to this, some new additions at goalkeeper for teams like Chelsea, as Thibault Courtois could be departing for Real Madrid, while Liverpool have secured Alison from A.S. Roma. Jordan Pickford put in an excellent showing for England, which could mean Maarten Stekelenburg could start for Everton. Spurs don’t exude much confidence, defensively as Michel Vorm could replace World Cup winner, Hugo Lloris for the early fixtures. Some big teams and key players missing, which has me reconsidering some of these defenders as I look to set up a 5-man defence.

While these players and team represent a pool of players, there are others that warrant consideration, based on fixtures and their potential early in the season. When it comes to budget allocation, more doesn’t always better or clean sheets. Drafts across five different scenarios varied from £20.5 to £29.0. An example of a £28.0 defence consists of four premiums across the back line, while doubling up on Crystal Palace with Sakho and Tompkins, a combined £9.5 to take advantage of their good fixtures.

fantasy premier league structure

César Azpilicueta (175), Andrew Robertson (111) and Ben Davies (143) represent value at both ends of the pitch combining for 5 goals, 18 assists and 37 clean sheets. Going “big” at the back also provides you immediate budget, by downgrading a £6.0 to a budget, £4.5 defenders saves a quick £1.5 to upgrade elsewhere. Three different options currently have my eye as I flirt with a 5-man defence, using either a 5-4-1, 5-3-2 or 5-2-3 in the early weeks in hopes we see an uptick in clean sheets, to take advantage of the favourable fixtures.

The early weeks of the season allow managers to tinker, in anticipation of a strong start to the season. By gameweek 4, experienced managers have a good idea of those players who will form a template that could potentially set them up for success. These formations are an option, especially if you look at activating an early Wild Card after the international break, ahead of gameweek 5.

Good luck with your squads this pre-season!

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