With the new Premier League season right around the corner, that also means the return of Fantasy Premier League.
With unlimited transfers at your disposal until 6.45pm on Friday, now is a good time to start your tinkering ahead of the big kick off.
So whether you are a fantasy veteran or dipping your toe in for the first time, here are five tips to help you get your team ready for the first round of fixtures. We’re using the official FPL game for pricing and rules!
1) Pick the right fillers
With a squad of 15, it would be easy to fill up with 10 absolute superstars and just picking the 5 cheapest players you can find to fill the other spaces. But it can be quite beneficial to take the time to find the “fillers” who are going to get regular game time, which not only means they can contribute points if you have an injury crisis but also their values will grow as they are transferred in by more players.Embed from Getty Images
Every season there’s a hunt for the elusive players – usually defenders – in the lowest price bracket that might still get some minutes. This year it looks like young Crystal Palace defender Aaron Wan-Bissaka will be that player as he has started all of Crystal Palace’s pre-season games at right back and is valued at just £4m. Jan Bednarek is also valued at £4m and looks likely to start as part of Southampton’s three man defence, though his place looks less secure once Maya Yoshida returns to full fitness.
2) Dead ball specialists
We saw in the World Cup how important set pieces can be when given sufficient time on the training ground so it is worthwhile taking a look at who is taking the corners, free-kicks and penalties in pre-season. For example, Sadio Mane seems to have edged out Mo Salah for penalties at Liverpool whilst Ruben Neves (£5m) is taking them for Wolves – though the midfielder missed from the spot against Villarreal at the weekend.Embed from Getty Images
Defenders get more points for a goal (6) than a midfielder (5) and a striker (4) so if you can find a place in your squad for potential goal threats from the back then all the better. Marcos Alonso (£6.5m) regularly takes set pieces for Chelsea which may make him a more attractive option than Cesar Azpilicueta who is the same price but less of a goal threat.
3) Home and Away
It’s easy to pick the 11 players who you think will get you off to a flier but FPL is a marathon not a sprint. If you pick 11 players with easy home fixtures they’ll all be away in game week 2, so try and get a good balance of home and away players. Look for clubs who have fixtures where you can rotate two players – for example, Fulham and West Ham’s fixtures fall in such a way that you could rotate between two players and they wouldn’t play one of the “big 6” in the first 10 games. At the very least though try to avoid the temptation of front loading your team for a good first week – unless you are planning a very early wildcard!Embed from Getty Images
4) Out of Position
As mentioned earlier, the further back on the pitch a player is the more points they will get for a goal. This was particularly rife last season as Wilfried Zaha, Marko Arnautovic and Mo Salah were all classified as midfielders despite spending the majority of their time in the opposition’s final third. Incidentally, Zaha and Arnautovic are now deemed forwards, though interesting Salah (£13m) is not.
This year there are two standout “out of position” players. Jeff Schlupp (£4.5m) has featured very heavily for Crystal Palace on the left side of midfield in pre-season, even scoring twice, but he is a defender in the game. Diogo Jota (£6.5m) enjoyed a great season with Wolves at Championship level, netting 17 league goals, but despite playing some of the season as a centre forward he is a midfielder on FPL. The extra points could be vital!Embed from Getty Images
5) World Cup Hangover
The World Cup was great fun but it has caused a fantasy football headache as many top players have had little to no pre-season. That’s bound to have an effect on the minutes they will get in the early weeks of the season so it is worth bearing in mind before filling your team with Belgian, English and French players. The Community Shield offered few clues, as although Kyle Walker and Vincent Kompany made appearances there was no sign of Raheem Sterling, Kevin De Bruyne or Gary Cahill. Leicester manager Claude Puel has already ruled England duo Jamie Vardy and Harry Maguire out of their opener against Manchester United, which gives you an idea of the stresses some squads are under – but does that open the door for Kelechi Iheanacho (£6m)? Who else might benefit from the World Cup hangover? Keep an eye on the press conferences this week for more clues – and that pesky transfer window could have a say in matters yet!
If you want to put yourselves up against other Offside Rule Pod readers and writers then this is your chance! Join our FPL League with the code 2436215-555381 and stay tuned on Twitter for regular updates. Good luck!
You can follow David on Twitter @cm9798