Have you ever reached a point in an FPL season when you feel like giving up because you’ve fallen so far behind in your mini-league that it seems impossible to catch up?
In despair, you start making beating yourself up with questions like
Why didn’t I captain player X, or
Why did I bench player Y?
Frustrated, you lose focus and motivation when you could use your mistakes as learning opportunities like a top manager would.
Don’t allow yourself to get lost in that dark place. Below I’m going to share some tips that FPL noobs — and maybe even some veterans — can use to avoid traps and stay ahead of their rivals.
Focus On Your First Eleven
In FPL, our squads consist of 15 players:
- 2 Keepers
- 5 Defenders
- 5 Midfielders
- 3 Forwards
But only eleven of the 15 can generate points for us, so focus your scarce free transfers and budget on acquiring the best starters you can, and don’t invest heavily in your bench players. It makes no sense to spread your budget around to fill your squad with 15 stars. You can’t play 15 men, and choosing fodder for your bench means you don’t have to tear your hair out deciding which of your squad will be starters and which will be subs.
Here’s our recommendation:
Keepers: Your starting keeper should be nailed-on from week to week, offering good prospects for clean sheets and save points against most opponents. Spend some money on this player if you need to, but since this GK is going to be your starter, you should buy your backup from the bargain bin. It makes no sense to carry two premium GKs since one will always be benched.
Defenders: Pick three or four consistent starters who combine attacking threat with clean sheet possibilities, and then fill out the rest of your defensive corps with cheap bench fodder.
Midfielders: This can be a sweet spot for balance between production and cost, so shoot to fill all five of these slots with known producers and/or players you believe will prosper this season. No throwaway subs here.
Fowards: Splash for two top strikers, and then go cheap for your third slot.
By saving money on players you’re just going to bench anyway, you can preserve room in your budget to stack your fantasy S-XI with FPL studs.
Do make sure that at least one of your bench players is a real-life regular starter though, so that at least you’ll have the safety-net of appearance points if this man actually ever needs to sub in for a surprise no-show. And make sure that player is in your first bench position!
Avoid Excessive Transfer Penalties
Taking a bunch of hits every week in order to get all of the studs you want is kind of like getting yourself into insurmountable credit card debt to buy shiny new toys with money you don’t have to impress people you don’t know.
So often we see fantasy managers taking hits every game-week because they think that’s the only way to salvage their broken team and leapfrog ahead of their mini-league rivals. Usually they end up net-negative on the deal — the new players’ production does not cover both the player sold and the 4-point hit for the transfer. And never is this more true than when buying a player to put on your bench — If he stays there then he earns you nothing for your 4-points hit.
So before you pull the trigger on an extra transfer, ask yourself if it’s really worth it. For that matter, always ask yourself if even spending your free transfer is really necessary. Often the answer will be no, and you can roll it to the next game-week for a no-cost double-transfer then.
Wait To Make Transfers Until After The Pressers
Player prices adjust after each game-week, and many FPL managers try to pre-empt impending increases by making their transfers early. But unlike Fantrax, FPL does not offer us unlimited transfers, so once your free ones are spent, they can only be undone by taking hits.
Each week, EPL managers sit before microphones to answer questions from the media, often providing insights on injuries, rotation, and tactical lineup tweaks. We believe that information is far more valuable than the occasional £0.1 price bump, so it is usually wiser to wait to make transfers until most or all of the EPL managers have held their pre-match pressers.
If you ever purchase a player on Monday ahead of a £0.1M bump only to discover during his manager’s press conference that he tore his hamstring in training and will now be sidelined for a month, then you’ll never forget this lesson.
Monitor Injury News
While you can often afford to carry one or two injured bench players instead of burning transfers to ship them out, players from your S-XI will usually need to be replaced if they become unavailable. We’ve already mentioned the utility of following pre-match pressers. But they aren’t the only, or even necessarily the best, way to stay informed about the injury status of EPL players. Pay attention to the clubs’ official websites, reliable news sources, blogs, and social media. Two of our favorite sites for this purpose are https://www.fantasyfootballscout.co.uk/fantasy-football-injuries/ and https://www.premierinjuries.com/injury-table.php.
But of course, you will always find comprehensive team news and injury reports in the Pre-Deadline Chats we publish right here at NMA before every round of FPL. Be sure to tune in!
Don’t Chase Points
We tend to get a bit lusty for players who have just shot out the lights with a huge fantasy performance. But hastily purchasing players based solely on last week’s performance is a common FPL trap.
Instead of knee-jerking into a one-hit wonder, evaluate a player’s long term role and underlying statistics, such as xG, xA, key passes, etc to help determine whether he seems poised to become a consistent producer or if instead his haul was likely a one-off anomaly (e.g. deputizing further forward in the role of a 1-week absentee).
Don’t let fear of missing out lure you into making bad decisions.
Use Your Chips Wisely
FPL grants us four “chips” that we can use to supercharge our returns: Bench Boost, Free Hit, Triple Captain, and Wildcard. Here’s a screenshot from the official site that describes how they work.
We could devote an entire article to the nuances of chip strategy, and we have some in our archives of seasons past (feel free to search them out). Suffice it to say that you don’t want to spend these magical tokens capriciously. Develop a plan and deviate from it only if you hatch a better plan, or if a genuinely catastrophic need forces your hand.
Bottom line: play chess with your chips, not checkers.
Don’t Be Afraid To Take Calculated Risks
The popularity of FPL has exploded over the past several years. Twenty years ago, its inaugural season ended with just over 100,000 teams on the books... but by the end of last season that number had mushroomed to over 11 million — a number that is twice as high as it was just five years ago (allaboutfpl.com). Granted, some of that comes from the team-of-the-week crowd (creating and drafting an entire new team each week), but there are still millions playing for the season totals.
The growth of the game has also spawned the growth of an information industry around it. There are innumerable blogs and websites to plunder for statistics, predicted lineups, and recommendations (we happen to be fond of NeverManageAlone.com!).
Nearly all of the available information relevant to the process of player selection is at the fingertips of essentially all fantasy managers. The natural result is selection decisions that largely overlap, creating “template” teams that are shared by millions of FPL gaffers.
Owning a template team can certainly keep you from lagging far behind, but it can also prevent you from getting into the top 10%... or even better. Set yourself apart by selecting a few clever differentials who can help separate you from the pack. These are the players who will make you shine brighter than the rest.
Keep Your Emotions In Check
FPL can be an emotional roller-coaster, but your management decisions must be ruthlessly dispassionate. It’s difficult to not panic when you suffer a horrid gameweek. It’s difficult to cut loose an underperforming asset who happens to be your favorite real-life player, or to sell a solid (but expensive) producer who is about to start a run of difficult fixtures.
But restrict your decisions to facts and data rather than impulse and sentiment. Stay objective and rational. The delay from one week’s results and the following week’s pressers / injury news will help — Use the time to cool down and refocus.
Mastering Fantasy Premier League demands meticulous preparation, thorough research, and a willingness to adapt. By implementing these suggestions, you’ll be better prepared to steer clear of traps and pitfalls on your path to FPL success!
What additional tips and tricks do you know? Have you mined NMA’s many years of prior pre-season advice? What questions do you have for the “experts” here? Please register here at NMA so you can post in the comments below and on all our other articles all season long.