It is nearly time to finalise your team. Bragging rights with friends and work colleagues are at stake, and that’s why it’s so important to take a little longer to make sure you have got your team well balanced and optimised to get you as many points as possible. That way you stand the best chance of taking home your mini league crown.
Last season, I managed to win not only my work league but also The Boot Room league. I finished inside the top 9000 overall which is inside the top 0.3%. I did this by sticking to a few principles, taking in lots of information, but also making a few mistakes along the way; so here are my top tips for this up coming season.
1. Have a balanced team.
The most important thing is to be flexible but also to have your money is the right place. There is no point in having all the most expensive defenders and then bargain basement forwards – don’t forget they are the ones who get the most points. For this very reason I play a 3-4-3, with one big hitting forward £9.5m+, a mid-price striker £7m+, and a budget striker. In the midfield again another big hitter with either three mid price or two mid price and one budget. In defence, I go with one premium £5.5m+ and all the rest under that price. What this allows is you to be able to jump on any in form player quickly without spending points on extra transfers.
2. Keep your transfers
This is a fairly simple one; try and roll your transfers over, this allows you far more flexibility in your transfers. You can then downgrade one player to upgrade another, whereas if you only have one transfer that upgrade wouldn’t be possible without taking a -4 point hit which really is worth avoiding. Sometimes it’s better to field 11 players that will start rather than take the hit trying to make transfers.
3. Look at the fixtures
If you can look ahead around 4-6 game-weeks you can avoid pitfalls. For instance, if the defender you are about to get in has to play all top four sides in a row it is highly unlikely that he is going to pick up many points. Again for attacking returns if there is a striker who has the bottom three as his next opponents he could well have a scoring spree. It is not something to live and die by but certainly has to come into consideration alongside individual and team form.
4. Set Piece Takers
When stuck between two players, one who takes the penalties, free kicks or corners can give your team an edge. An example this year would be Santi Cazorla and Aaron Ramsey; they are the same price, in the same team, but Santi’s role as a set piece taker boosts his chances of bringing home the points. It is especially important when looking at cheaper players in smaller teams. Again this year an example being Troy Deeney, who is Watford’s penalty taker as well as being the main man. Jordan Henderson also looks good value at £7.0m, because without Gerrard, he is likely to take on set piece duties.
5. Look Beyond The Top 6
Take all the other things mentioned into consideration and don’t be afraid to pick players from outside the top six teams, especially in defense. It’s best to save money at the back, so teams that keep it tight and pick up clean sheets are a good place to look, Leicester and Sunderland are good examples. Also in an attacking sense one of the must have players for the first half of last season was Gylfi Sigurdsson of Swansea because of what he returned for his price. Charlie Austin last season gave great returns for his price helped by being on penalties and being QPR’s only real threat. Look closely and try to guess who that hidden gem is going to be.
6. Head over heart
Just a short one. Forget who you support and who you hate; two examples from me. Last season I decided not to hold off bringing in Aguero because he was playing Spurs. He scored 4. Enough said. The season before I refused to bring in Ramsey because I just ‘knew’ it was a fluke, he wasn’t actually that good. He was.
- A big hitter: Cech, £5.5m
- Clean sheets and lots of saves: Pantillimon, £5.0m
- Rotation: Jack Butland and John Ruddy, £4.5m
- The premium option: Laurent Koscielny, £6.0m
- Mid-price: Cedric, £5.0m
- Budget: Huth, £4.5m
- Must have: Eden Hazard, £11.5m
- Explosive: Theo Walcott, £9.0m
- Mid-price: Dimitri Payet, £7.5m
- Rotation: Riyad Mahrez, £5.5m, Matt Ritchie, £6.0m, Andrew Surman, £4.5m
- Fantasy legend: Sergio Aguero
- Must have: Wayne Rooney, £10.5m
- Mid-price: Christian Benteke, £8.5m, Graziano Pelle, £8.0m
- Rotation: Callum Wilson, £5.5m, Troy Deeney, £5.5m
It’s a tough set of opening fixtures for fantasy managers.
The opening game of the day sees Man United face Spurs; a game in which anything could happen – a strong United performance would make Rooney a must have. Bournemouth are at home to Villa so that may sway some people towards Callum Wilson. Owners of Everton defenders will be hoping for a good start against Watford. Leicester v Sunderland is the perfect start for Huth and Pantillimon owners. Norwich at home to Palace could see a good start for the London club with the likes of Bamford and Puncheon being good options. The late kick off on the day being Chelsea v Swansea, a tough game and a fixture in which Hazard has only scored once in eight appearances.
On the Sunday, Arsenal face a West Ham side who will have had Europa League duties on the Thursday. This points to a comfortable win for the Gunners. Newcastle, who are something of an unknown quantity under Steve McLaren, welcome Southampton to the North East; it shouldn’t be a fixture to put you off your Saints options. In a rematch of the final game of the season Stoke take on Liverpool; Stoke ran out 6-1 winners last time out, so anything could happen – both teams to score is likely. And finally, Monday night’s fixture West Brom are up against Manchester City. Despite the Pulis defense, City are still capable of scoring a few and Raheem Sterling is the standout option.
The two obvious choices are Hazard and Rooney. The safe bet is Hazard – his record against Swansea is poor, but how much does that really matter? On the other hand, Rooney has scored 8 in his last 9 against Spurs making him a fantastic option as well. For me, I’m going Hazard. I think the game at Old Trafford will be slow and disjointed and could end up being a 0-0 or 1-1.
Best of luck to everyone and don’t get disheartened if you have a bad first week, there is a very long way to go and it is a very tough week to call!
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