As anticipation for the new Premier League season builds, armchair managers are feverishly tinkering with their fantasy football squads, but how do you get the edge on your friends and colleagues?
We’ve analysed the data for the official Fantasy Premier League game, including the strategies of last season’s top 50 managers, to help you top the league.
Building a squad
Setting up your squad well before the season is crucial to a good start. It can make your head spin trying to figure out the best way to spread your £100million budget around, so we’ve looked at the initial squads of last year’s top 50 managers for inspiration.
Somewhat surprisingly, one of the top five initial picks amongst these managers was Newcastle’s £4million keeper Rob Elliot. In fact, 82% of the top-scoring bosses went for a configuration that included a cheap goalie, seemingly placing all of their faith in their first choice rather than rotating.
The top managers also saved money in defence, where none of the three most popular options featured more than one defender priced at £6million or more. The majority of these savings appeared to go on forwards, where 76% of managers went for more than one forward costing at least £10million.
There is a lot of debate around how often (if at all) you should take points deductions for extra transfers, which we can settle by looking again at the approach taken by the top 50 managers. On average they took a transfer penalty almost once in every four weeks last season, but only very rarely did they take multiple penalties in the same week. This implies that the best approach is moderation – don’t be afraid to take the odd points penalty, but don’t go too far in the search for perfection.
It is very tempting to load your team with players from the same club when things are going well for them, but when that club comes up against a tough opponent you could have multiple players whose scores will take a hit in the same gameweek. A sensible balance – based on how the top managers set their teams up – appears to be to have one trio from the same club, three pairs and six players without a team-mate.
Players to watch
All 10 of the FPL players priced at £10million or more in this year’s game were plying their trade in the Premier League last season, so most managers will feel they know what to expect from the cream of the crop, but what about new arrivals?
Applying the FPL scoring system to player’s performance in other divisions last season can be a handy guide. Last year, this highlighted Chris Wood and Glenn Murray as potential bargains and both turned out to be good cheap striking options. This year it’s the likes of Bobby Reid and Ryan Sessegnon who will be looking to transfer their Championship form onto the big stage.
Applying the same method to European imports tipped Mo Salah and Alexandre Lacazette last season, but none of this year’s arrivals are in the same bracket. In fact, this year’s top arrival, Fabinho, wouldn’t even have made last year’s top five. There is still time for business to be done, though, and a player like Ivan Perisic would comfortably top the chart, with an average of 4.49 points per game for Inter last season.
You would expect players to perform better against lesser teams, but some Premier League stars relish the big stage and record better points totals against Champions League contenders. Jamie Vardy and Paul Pogba both scored over a point per game more against the top six than they did against the bottom six last season, suggesting that you needn’t worry about finding a replacement when those two are facing tough opposition. At the other end of the spectrum, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has run riot against the Premier League’s weaker teams since joining Arsenal, but went missing against the likes of Man City and Tottenham, so it is worth bearing in mind the Gunners’ opening fixture is against the reigning champions.
In general, players do score better against weaker opponents, so it’s good to know who has got an easy start and who has been dealt a bad hand. Everton players could be a good bet early on because the Toffees face opponents with the lowest average rating before the first international break, while Newcastle have the toughest start. Among the ‘big six’, Liverpool and Manchester City have the easiest-looking starts, while Arsenal and Man Utd have the most difficult.
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