The 2022-23 EPL season will bring new rules, some of which will present interesting wrinkles for fantasy managers.
We’ve seen this before, of course. Few would argue that the introduction of VAR wasn’t a seismic shift, bringing alternating waves of relief or joy interleaved with absolute fist-shaking fury. To the neutral observer, VAR decisions were often perplexing. To the affected teams’ fans, they could be weekend-shattering. And to fantasy managers who, say, captained a goal-scorer only to see his goal disallowed and fantasy asset booked for a foul in the build up, it could induce downright mobile-phone-throwing apoplexy.
While not as disruptive as the introduction of VAR, this season’s rule changes nevertheless look more significant than usual, and a few will have important implications for fantasy managers.
After instituting the five-sub rule during the COVID-19 pandemic, the EPL, unlike other major European leagues, made the decision not to keep the rule last season, which precipitated bitter complaints from managers such as Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp.
This year the International Football Association Board made the five-sub rule the universal law of the land. Deep-squad RL managers Pep and Klopp will be happy, but what are the ramifications for fantasy managers? Well, we could be affected in several ways.
- Players initially named to their team’s bench will now have five chances to be brought in to salvage a dramatic points haul for you.
- Real-life managers will have more opportunities to start players (especially their star attackers) with the intent to “manage minutes” by subbing them off early — possibly before they have a chance to do anything productive for you.
- Your GK or defender’s team could be winning to nil when suddenly the opposition subs in a slew of fresh attackers who nick a goal, and those beautiful clean sheet points go slipping right through your grasp.
It’s not all bleak though:
- Defenders on clean sheets can lock in those points if they are subbed off after the 60th minute, regardless of what happens after they leave the pitch. Ironically then, although there’s no reason to expect teams to keep more clean sheets this season, the five-sub rule might actually result in more defenders tucking away clean sheet points even if their clubs ultimately concede. Last season already taught us that defenders represent the best bang for the buck in FPL, so this new dynamic may only make them even more valuable now.
- While it will surely throw fantasy managers some curve balls, in real life the five-sub rule will be a good thing for players facing a grueling year-round slate of club and national team fixtures. For all the challenges the rule will present, perhaps the silver lining will be fewer injury-related disruptions that wreck our best-laid plans for our precious few free transfers throughout the course of the season.
Autumn (World Cup) Break
Political notions aside, whether you are a fan or not of the 2022 World Cup being played in Qatar this winter, it will certainly bring an interesting dynamic to fantasy football. For the first time in its history, the Premier League will take a 6-week hiatus from November 12th to Boxing Day 2022 to accommodate the biggest sporting event on the planet.
Whether it interrupts your star’s goal-scoring streak, sparks a new run of fantastic form, or causes a season-ending injury which renders your main star nothing but a waste of space on your squad list, this will be the mother of all “international breaks”. Aspiring fantasy football champions will have to successfully navigate around this iceberg if they hope to finish the season on top.
The good news: FPL has announced unlimited free transfers during the World Cup break (November 12th at 19:00 GMT to December 26th at 19:00 GMT), so all of those disruptive outcomes can be dealt with.
This is a mouth-watering extra wildcard for 6 weeks mid-season — something of a holy grail for fantasy football managers. You can even stave off international-break boredom by churning players in and out of your FPL roster every day just for fun.
Note: Your “1st half” wildcard ‘chip’ must be used before the World Cup (up to GW-16), and your “2nd-half” wildcard chip becomes available after the league re-commences following GW-17. Regular readers here will be reminded several times, but somebody will probably still forget. Don’t be that guy.
Even more good news: NMA will run a fantasy World Cup league, and you should be auto-renewed if you’ve played fantasy Euros or World Cup with us before. Even if you haven’t, we’ll put out notice well in advance, complete with instructions on how to join.
And of course we’ll write strategy guides, player picks etc etc. So plan on tuning into NMA daily during this autumn’s FIFA World Cup where we will make even the most obscure match between also-rans mean something because there are always big fantasy points to be had whenever also-rans are defending!
While we were spared another COVID pause in 2021-22, the season was still substantially disrupted by multiple match postponements due to the pandemic (combined with injuries — not enough players available). These postponements often threw spanners into our fantasy plans, forcing us to either make unwanted transfers or absorb zeroes for players from the affected teams. Worse, it sometimes seemed as though teams cynically exploited the opportunity to reschedule matches they might prefer to play at a later date by dubiously claiming that they could not muster the minimum number of squad members.
This season the league intends to take a harder line on postponement requests, stating that “approval will only be granted where the impact of player unavailability on a club’s squad is truly exceptional and where the club concerned has taken all reasonable steps to avoid the necessity to make the application.”
The league’s higher bar for postponements, and its closer scrutiny of applications, should result in fewer fixture disruptions for 2022-23 — just look at the last third of last season when a rule nearly like this first went into affect. This will be a welcome change for fantasy managers tired of seeing their plans scuppered by unanticipated fixture disruptions. But fewer postponements will also mean fewer make-up matches shoehorned into the schedule to create double-game weeks, and that is something many of us might miss.
So what else is new?
In addition to the above changes, there have also been several other rule updates which are curious but shouldn’t have any major affects on fantasy football. Nevertheless, they’re worth a quick look in case you decide to get really angry over who can actually flip the coin before kick-off (umm...what?). Who knows the next time you’re on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? and an obscure question about IFAB rules is the only thing standing between you and a million pounds...
- Team officials can be sent off — This affects only penalty shootouts. Not only can players and coaches be sent off, as before, but now any other team officials can be sent off as well. This is an IFAB rule governing all of football, but since Premier League games are allowed to end in draws, it will not have much impact on us.
- Players can no longer assault members of the public without punishment — As amazing as it seems, officially there has never been a rule stipulating how to handle players who leave the pitch to assault an ‘outside agent’ (i.e. a fan). If this happens from a dead ball situation, then the game will re-start as normal with the player suffering punishment as decided by the officials. If it occurs during open play, the referee will award an indirect free kick from the spot where the player left the pitch.
So to clarify, the IFAB now declares that assaulting members of the public is bad. Glad we got that sorted out. But make no mistake: This rule protects the public only as long as they stay off the pitch. If you invade the pitch, then you’ll get what’s comin’ to ya.
- One foot behind the line — I think we all know a goalkeeper has to have a foot on the line as the spot kick is taken. That rule came into effect a few years ago; before that I guess GKs were a lawless bunch of rogues who could stand wherever they pleased?
Even after the “one foot on the line” rule was established, keepers were still allowed to have their second foot in front of the line. Now it has been decided that keepers can instead place their second foot behind the line if they wish. Revolutionary (not).
- Only the goalkeeper can handle the ball — I'm going to admit that I had to do a little reading on this one as I was under the impression this was already the rule. However, apparently IFAB felt like it hadn’t made it sufficiently clear that only GKs may handle the ball inside their own penalty area. Here’s yet another one that I’m so glad we cleared up.
- The official coin tosser — Turns out there had never been an official stipulation that the referee had to be the one to toss the coin. Until now it seems that any onlooker (or worse, onlookers plural) could have grabbed a coin and both captains and declared that they were going to preside over the toss. In my head, I like to re-imagine Delia Smith’s now infamous “Where are we? Let’s be having you, come on!” rant as an invitation to Norwich City fans to join in a massive heads-or-tails free-for-all.
But honestly though, why have they changed this? Could it be so we can finally confirm that the referees really are... tossers?
Best of luck this season, and happy to be joining you!
What rule changes catch your eye, and what do you think of them? Are they long overdue? Do you see one hurting the game or cramping your fantasy management style? Is there a rule you thought might come this year but didn’t? Please log in and tell us in the comments below.