Fantasy Premier League tips and tricks

I have been playing FPL for about 3 years now (I am skipping this season of 2016–17 due to the inevitable stress of dealing with it week in week out) and I have learnt a fair share of my lessons dealing with the nitty-gritty of it. Stressful though it might be with little rewards, FPL actually teaches you a lot which you could even apply to your life or career at times.

Without further ado, lets get to the DO’s and DON’T’s of playing this dangerous yet engaging game:

· Let go of emotions when picking the team — This is perhaps the most important lesson before playing Fantasy football. Like a hardcore businessman, never ever let emotional judgement get the better of you when it comes to picking players. You need to look at players like they are ‘stocks’ and treat them accordingly. I once had a friend sticking with a player for many weeks at a stretch just because he was a former Barcelona youth player who made his way into a Premier League club. End result? The player in question flattered to deceive and barely got him 3 points every week and as a result, my friend’s overall score was badly affected. Lesson learnt.

· No bias towards big name players — Similar to the point above, irrespective of whether the player in question is a ‘legend’ or a ‘club favourite’, never be persuaded by reputations. Let’s take a star-studded team like Manchester United under Jose Mourinho, for example. They currently have the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Wayne Rooney, Anthony Martial and Paul Pogba in their starting 11. However, it would be foolish to pick someone like Wayne Rooney just because he is a club legend. Much better to evaluate the market and go with the in-form player irrespective of whether he has a reputation.

· Understand that attacking players (especially strikers) eventually run out of steam after a month or two and so you need to be more ruthless with them than with defenders as you will reach a point of diminishing returns — For those who played Fantasy football in 2015, do the names Bafetimbi Gomis and Andrew Ayew mean anything? Well, they were the hottest prospects when the league kicked off in August 2015 for a little known club called Swansea. However, after about 2 months, Gomis went missing and Ayew was a lone ranger who couldn’t really get the job done. While there are contrasting examples like Vardy and Kane, these are mostly exceptions to the rule which is : Strikers need to be switched around more often due to work load, fatigue and being injury-prone. Hence, there is a bigger need for rotating strikers (especially the expensive ones) over 1 or 2 months regularly and looking more towards smaller clubs’ strikers.

· Choose full backs over central defenders in general — Full backs or wing backs (like Bellerin) are known to provide more of an attacking threat and hence have a better chance of providing assists and coming up with the odd goal which will inevitably return more points in the long run than, say a central defender who is very good at winning headers. Case in point : Even though Robert Huth scored some vital headers last season as a central defender, Christian Fuchs the fullback garnered more points throughout the course of the season due to his overall attacking contribution which was more consistent due to his being a full back.

· Take the odd unorthodox approach when choosing the captain of your team — Now remember that I do not recommend doing this every week as that would be suicidal. However, when you notice that almost every single fantasy user is having more or less the same players, it is imperative to switch captaincy from the obvious candidate to a slightly non-obvious one. For instance, last season’s MVP undoubtedly was Riyad Mahrez. Even though he was an unknown quantity and a midfielder (which turns people off when it comes to giving the captain’s armband), he garnered the highest points for a midfielder. So, instead of giving the captaincy every week to a popular choice like Sergio Aguero or Harry Kane, the smart approach which was used by the Top ranked Fantasy players was to give Mahrez the captaincy on many occasions. Again, this is strictly NOT a weekly recommendation but should certainly be tested every now and then to stand out from the crowd.

· Never gamble when it comes to choices like triple captain — I am sure people have noticed the new features added in 2015 like : Triple captain, Bench boost and All out attack. Even though my previous bullet point encourages you to go for the unorthodox choice for captaincy, in the case of triple captain, never ever go for a non-obvious choice. This is due to the fact that there is very little room for success and the gamble is too big to pay off. Last season, almost 90% of the crowd picked Sergio Aguero as triple captain for the match against Newcastle where he scored 5 goals and it paid off massively. I, however, went for a non obvious option in Mahrez later on in the season and it failed. Miserably. So, stick to the obvious choice and go with common convention when it comes to triple captaincy.

· Focus on the entire squad instead of just the starting XI — This is the one of the most common mistakes people make when picking the team — Focusing just on the starting 11 instead of the entire squad of 15. Always keep in mind that the Premier League is the most physically demanding league in the world. This means rotation, injuries and burnouts are inevitable. How might you pick the best 15 players in such a meager budget, you might ask. This is where you need to concentrate on players from smaller teams who are known for their quality and doing their job exceedingly well. Every team, irrespective of its size, will have one MVP for sure. And the cost of MVP’s from smaller teams are relatively cheap compared to MVP’s from bigger teams. This way, as injuries inevitably happen over the course of the season, you can seamlessly make use of the players on the bench instead of panicking and making wholesale transfers in the middle of a week and lose points.

· Never go for a utility player aka jack of all trades — Ever heard of the term ‘jack of all trades’? Well, even though the world is moving towards a stage where people want to be a jack of all trades, when it comes to football and picking players in your fantasy team, avoid such players like the plague. A perfect example of such a player would be James Milner. He started out in his career as a wide player (winger), last season when he went to Liverpool he got a role in central midfield and in 2016, guess where he plays? That’s right, LEFT BACK. Whilst he may serve a huge purpose to fill gaping holes in the team and do all the dirty work that others wouldn’t, never go for a player of Milner’s ilk when picking your team. Always stick to the player who does HIS job exceedingly well and not someone who is pushed around to suit the needs of the team. Now this is easier said than done. Sure, strikers automatically fit the bill since all they need to do is score goals, but what is one example of a midfielder who always sticks to his role you might ask. Two words : Gylfi Sigurdsson. He is a Swansea midfielder who is given the license to attack freely and is their main player. He does not get jerked around on the pitch by his manager and contributes more goals than all other Swansea players combined. This is the type of player one should look out for.

· Form vs fixtures dilemma — This is a very common dilemma. Lets say a team like Everton has an easy run of fixtures for the next 3 weeks and a team like Leicester has much tougher fixtures. However, Leicester are on a roll winning their last 5 matches home and away whilst Everton have lost their last 3. Sounds familiar? This happened last season. And the common mistake people make is they often go the fixtures route and pick an Everton player like Lukaku since he has easier fixtures even though he has been woefully out of form instead of persisting with someone like Vardy who, despite the much tougher fixtures coming up, is in red hot form and has a higher chance of scoring. Remember that form beats fixtures list 9 times out of 10. Last season when Leicester were on a roll but about to face tricky fixtures people often wondered if that would be the week where their bubble bursts and their top players go missing — But the opposite happened. Vardy and Mahrez delivered big even during those big games.

· International breaks or postponement of matches for a selected team — If, for some reason, there is a fixture congestion and a team suddenly has a couple of their matches postponed which they will have to cram in a week, it does not mean that you break the mould of your team and accommodate a player from that team purely due to the fixtures list. Remember, there is very little precedent for breaking a team unless the player you are picking is in good form.

· Make 2 separate squads in the initial week and test is out for the first 2 weeks, then choose the one with the higher points and less injuries and dump the other — This recommendation is slightly odd and something very few are comfortable doing so skip it if you don’t feel comfortable. However, I have known a lot of people who pick a team 1 month in advance and do not mess with it until the very last day when their adrenaline kicks in and they start messing with their squad and do some inexplicable transfers who end up hurting them. But by then it’s too late since week 1 is done and they are already playing catch-up. Hence, I strongly recommend that you create 2 separate teams and do not mess with it once created. This will ensure that you don’t make the aforementioned mistake and get to test both for a couple of weeks and then be quick to dump the one that is not going according to plan. Notice that I say only 2 weeks since anything beyond that will have diminishing returns and not worth it.

· Resources to follow and keep track of what is happening every week — Always be sure to use the internet and keep track of players, injuries, suspensions and recommendations. I have found 101greatgoals to be extremely helpful with their weekly updates and fantastic recommendations by top players every week without delay. Also, be sure to follow Twitter every week atleast 2 hours before the deadline so that you are aware of any sudden injuries to players and other team news. Remember, at the end of the day, it is just a game and sometimes you will end up having terrible luck and have some bad weeks. Learn to let go and never let it take full control of your life or even the weekend.

Good luck.

P.S : This is just a small excerpt from my new book ‘The Football Handbook’ now on sale at Amazon.com.

You can grab your copy here and here for just $0.99.