It’s that time of the year again. The start of a brand new Premier League season is edging closer (kickoff is just one week from today!) with all of us scratching our heads trying to build that perfect starting eleven.
There are plenty of ways to do well in FPL. This article will elaborate on how I’ve played this game over the years and what has worked for me... and what hasn’t. The key is to stick to one approach and make modifications to it as you learn from your mistakes and experiences over time.
Firstly, I will discuss some general tips which are a part of almost every successful approach out there and then I’ll dig deep into some unique characteristics of my strategy.
Always start by analyzing the initial fixtures
This has always been my first step before preparing a draft for a new season, and I just can’t stress the importance of this enough. Like a rule of thumb, I look at the first 5-7 fixtures to decide which players I must have at the start. Also, I am a fan of an early wildcard as it allows me to attack the initial game-weeks without having to think too much about long term fixtures.
Tottenham, Arsenal, Leicester and Chelsea are the top teams with favorable fixtures at the beginning of this season, so Timo Werner makes more sense than (for example) Raul Jimenez; Jimenez’s usually an advantageous FPL asset, but with Wolves he faces tricky opening fixtures.
Get the big hitters first
These are the players who will be owned by almost every fantasy manager out there who takes the game seriously. Also, the sky-high ownership of these stars can hurt your rank horribly if they score BIG and you don’t own them. Mohamed Salah, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Kevin De Bruyne and Bruno Fernandes are some of the notable mentions in this category.
Like packing a box, it’s easiest if you put the largest objects in first and then fit the smaller ones into the spaces left in between. First build the foundation of your squad with must-have premium players, and then you can look for differentials to fit around them to earn those extra points relative to your mini-league rivals.
Keep an eye out for the promoted teams
If the past couple of seasons are anything to go by, promoted teams always seem to have huge fantasy potential in them. Aleksandar Mitrovic for Fulham a couple of seasons ago and the likes of Teemu Pukki, Todd Cantwell and the John Lundstram last season are prime examples. Picking the focal players from these teams will give you that edge over everyone else, especially if you make your moves early before everyone hops on the bandwagons.
For this season, the pick of the bunch for me is Leeds United. The initial fixtures are not so appealing, but this is a team that is truly capable of being this season’s Sheffield United with rigid and consistent performances.
‘Out of position’ players can make a big difference
These are the ones who are labeled by a different role in FPL than what they play on the pitch. Picking more attacking players (while avoiding passive ones) in this category can result in massive gains throughout the season. Some noteworthy out of position players to look out for this season are:
- Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
- Marcus Rashford
- Mason Greenwood
- Diogo Jota
Squad flexibility is crucial
What I mean by this is how easily you’re able to bring in players who are performing beyond expectations by shipping out the ones who aren’t. For example, if you went for three budget strikers at the beginning of the season to invest more in the midfield but then want a premium forward like Kane or Aguero, you’ll find it difficult to bring him in. You might be forced to take a hit to downgrade (raise cash) elsewhere. So build a squad keeping in mind the players whom you don’t own now (e.g. have those tricky fixtures) but have the ability to explode and return huge points consistently later.
For this season, both Manchester City and Manchester United have a blank GW-1, but we already know how dangerous and highly owned players like Bruno Fernandes and De Bruyne will be after that. Build a squad that aligns a draft player with each eventual transfer, enabling one-for-one quick changes even if it means leaving a little cash in the bank (which can be viewed as flexibility itself). Initially, your squad (a flexible one) might look a bit weak compared to some of your friends, but you’ll make up ground in the long term with every -4 hit your rivals pay that you don’t.
Avoid taking hits (None, if possible)
Now this discipline took me some time to achieve myself. Over the years, I’ve made a rule of taking hits only if I suddenly have multiple injuries (or players sold out of the EPL) or if a schedule disruption arises that can’t be helped (even though I was looking ahead). Taking a hit just to replace one starter with another is basically a gamble without any real guarantee of returns. You’ll thank yourself at the end of the season if you analyze how many points and rank positions you would’ve lost from those hits you were itching to take. In general (if your bench has been chosen right), your weakest but available starter is usually better than any shiny purchase minus four that you can afford.
Okay, that’s pretty much it for the things to keep in mind while approaching a new season. Also, it’s always better to prefer full-backs (or wing-backs) over center-backs unless the CB is someone like Van Dijk or Laporte providing immense threat from set-pieces.
Now, I am gonna discuss some things which I do differently compared to others. These don’t yield the desired results every time, but what’s the fun in playing with a boring approach anyway?
The calculated risk approach to captaincy
I’ll use the guy in the image above to explain my point. A couple of seasons ago, Harry Kane was playing Arsenal at home while Mo Salah had a pretty decent fixture at home as well. Now, the captain polls were heavily in favor of Salah and rightfully so, but Kane’s record in the North London Derby wasn’t one to be ignored. I had a good look at that and went for Kane who worked in my favor as Salah blanked in his fixture. Now when I look back, my best season in FPL was filled with choices like these.
Now, I am not saying you should go around making bold captaincy choices every week, but if it makes genuine sense to captain someone other than the herd favorite, then just go for it. Playing safe is definitely good for protecting your rank, but you’ll enjoy the game a lot more if you’re open to such moves.
Trusting my intuition ahead of what experts are suggesting
There’s way too much information out there that can divert you from making your own decisions. Here’s what I do: I prepare a limited list of blogs and Youtube channels I’ll follow throughout the season to make sure I am not absorbing too much FPL content. Everyone plays the game with a different mentality, so only you can figure out what’s best for your team. It’s amazing that we have such quality content on so many platforms, which helps immensely but only if done in moderation. I could go on giving examples where trusting my gut feeling paid me dividends, but you get the point.
Collect your information and do your research but make decisions based on what you feel rather than what everyone else is doing.
The Twitter factor
This is a massive one — The season I finished 17th OR, I didn’t use Twitter at all. My main sources of FPL content were platforms like NMA, FFGEEK and FFSCOUT. I started using Twitter the following season and quickly noticed how I was so influenced by the decisions all the fantasy managers in the FPL community were making.
What happens with using Twitter too much is that you are almost waiting for a famous manager to make a move you were unsure of to give you that extra push. Sometimes this can prove beneficial as well, but for me personally, Twitter hasn’t worked like it might have for some people. I’ve had too many occasions where I would have been better off playing my own game instead of looking at what others are doing. Look at it like this: You’ll never rise above the crowd by following the crowd.
It’s a great source of quality content with such amazing people, so there’s no harm in gleaning information there, but just like every other source of FPL information out there, balance will help you quite a lot.
So, those were all the major things I wanted to discuss regarding my approach to the game, and I hope it will be useful in helping you to beat your buddies at our beloved game.
You must be wondering why there isn’t any mention of team value in this article. Well, that’s because I’ve never been a fan of making hasty transfers just to survive a price fall or get someone for a bit cheaper. I usually make my transfers on a Friday after I am convinced of shipping someone out or bringing someone in.
To conclude, FPL is a game at the end of the day, so have fun and don’t be afraid to play a fairly risky and aggressive game because, unlike a lot of people out there, I don’t think it matters much whether one ends up ranked 100k or 500k.
Good luck fellow FPL enthusiasts for the upcoming season; I hope your arrows are forever green!
What else do you think is as important as what I mentioned above? Please let me know your thoughts in the comments below.
JOIN THE NMA FPL MINI-LEAGUE
The Never Manage Alone “BTB” (“Beat the Bloggers”) FPL league has been automatically renewed, so if you were a member last season, there should be no need for you to do anything (except buying your initial roster of course).
If you are new to the league, first set up your account and pick a squad. You can do so by visiting the Official FPL site and registering. Then you can join by clicking on “Leagues” and then “Private Leagues.”
League Name: Never Manage Alone “BTB”
League Code: btojt9