This guide will seek to present an insight into general things to consider when selecting a lineup for the season.
There are specific things to take into account for positions like Goalkeepers and Defenders which I will go into for seperate guides. For now we’re going to look generally at how you identify and more importantly, rule out, players for your team.
This isn’t written with any particular Fantasy Game in mind, it applies to them all. Having said that, squad games (those that allow you to select more than 11 players) do give you more freedom to risk an injury prone player or perhaps one who picks up a few cards. Even in these games however, injuries, suspensions and dreaded rotation, can be an acute pain in the posterior.
Transfers can of course be used to fix problems in your side throughout the season but a solid foundation of reliable players can free up those precious forays into the market. Using them to capture form players and to sign emerging talents rather than to fix problems with your starting lineup, is one of the keys to success. So here’s some points to consider before you snuggle up to that player list…
Look for Out of Position or misclassified players
The old chestnut. When exploited for an advantage, these are players classified as Defenders when played in midfield or classified as Midfielders when played as Forwards. It’s an obvious one but every season there are one or two classic examples to be had.
Last season we saw Gareth Bale come into the Spurs side in January and tear up defences from a left-wing role in Harry Redknapp’s side. Bale was classed as a Defender across the Fantasy Games and therefore offered both defensive and substantial attacking potential.
Going into this season and Bale will again be one to watch for in your game. If he’s down on the player list as defender that it is next to impossible to ignore him. Blackburn’s Martin Olsson is another player who is widely classified as a Defender but will likely lineup as a wide midfield player if Sam Allardcye selects him as is Sunderland’s new Egyptian signing, Ahmed Al Muhammadi, a full-back who could find himself deployed further forward this season.
The best method of finding misclassified players is to keep an eye on the pre-season games using our Pre-Season Form Guide and watch for managers trying players out in new roles.
Look for “Sleepers”
Every season there are players who under perform either through injury, morale or just a serious loss of form. These players can they awaken to find their former self a season later and soar back up the Fantasy scoring charts. Fantasy Games base a lot of their player values on last season’s form so you can sometimes get a real bargain by anticipating players that will return to top form for the season to come.
Everton’s Mikel Arteta and in particular Chelsea’s Michael Essien could both be undervalued across the Fantasy Games due to restricted returns last season. Both should certainly enjoy more prosperous seasons this time around if they can stay out of the treatment room.
Look for New Arrivals
There are two sources of new arrivals to look for. Players that come up with promoted sides and new foreign imports.
Finding gems amongst the promoted players is possible because they often offer good value. Promoted players don’t have Premier League form by which the game organisers can base their values. In 2006-07 it was Reading’s Kevin Doyle that came up with a promoted side and quickly became a massive asset to Fantasy Managers. It took many by surprise and yet, his potential was there to be found in his stats for Reading in the Championship the previous season.
Last season we had a similar situation, if to a lesser extent, with Birmingham’s Cameron Jerome. He turned out to be a very decent budget striker purchase which many jumped upon mid-season.
Finding good budget buys early is always best though, since it gives you the ultimate flexibility with the money you will save. Therefore finding these quality signings that can be grabbed at a premium early on, will give you an advantage when it comes to your initial squad selection. Get them in later and you’ll often have to use multiple transfers to maximise the money you will save.
Taking a glance at this years promoted sides and straight away Graeme Dorrans at West Brom, Charlie Adam at Blackpool and Kevin Nolan at Newcastle are all names that stand out. One look at the table of set-piece takers tells you all you need to know about Dorrans and Adam and all three will need to nudge close to double figures for goals in their respective teams are going to survive next season. All three should be available at a decent price, no matter which game you’re playing. Personally, I wouldn’t gamble on all three however – more on that in a bit.
New foreign players are also worth considering. A word of warning here though – don’t be dazzled by the bright lights of publicity that will follow some of these players around in pre-season.
Fernando Torres is the one player who dropped straight into a Premier League side and started producing in Fantasy terms. Torres is of course world class however and it often takes that breed of player to adapt so quickly to the pace and power of the Premier League.
As a result, these are ideal signings to make using your first few transfers. If you can study the form of these players and catch them at the right time, they can win you mini-leagues. However, gambling your early budget on them at the cost of established Premiership players isn’t advised.
A better strategy is to “wait and see” and prepare your lineup for such signings. Taking Torres’ season as an example – if you included a known Premier League striker in your team roughly in the same price range, swapping him out for Torres the minute the Spaniard proved his form was an easy, one transfer step. If however you don’t allow for this and sign two mid-priced strikers, you probably had to sell both to finance a Torres deal, thus you’d be using two transfers.
In a nutshell then, if you really fancy someone like David Silva at Man City this season, it could be worth making plans to sign him by opting for a safer option in the same price bracket like Ashley Young or Dirk Kuyt initially, rather than gambling on Silva making an impact from the get-go.
Look for likely ever-presents
It’s a no brainer – the more matches your players play, the more points they have the opportunity to score. With this in mind you need to target players who are likely to play at least 32-34 games of the 38 available per season. Finding these players isn’t easy there are a number of factors you have to consider:
Avoid Card Magnets
Be aware of players that will miss matches through suspension. One game for collecting five bookings isn’t a disaster but if they hit 10 then it’s 2 more games and it starts to get concerning. Bizarrely the aforementioned Dorrans, Adam and Nolan all picked up double figures for bookings in the Championship last season so you’d certainly need to consider that as a factor in their selection. The likes of David Dunn, Steven Pienaar and Charles N’Zogbia were also no strangers to the referee’s notebook last season with 22 bookings between them.
Injuries are pretty unpredictable in the main but there are players who are cursed with bad luck or weaknesses from former injuries. Players like Robin Van Persie at Arsenal, Aaron Lennon at Spurs, Louis Saha at Everton, Joe Cole at Liverpool… These are just a few who have struggled to hit the 30 games a season consistently who you should maybe think twice about including if your lineup. In addition, before you make your initial lineup choice, be sure to check out my Injuries and Bans table to ensure you don’t sign a player already going into the season crocked.
An evil thing that Fantasy Managers fear above all else. Rafa Benitez was a particular villain in this area – his relentless shuffling of the Liverpool side made a rich gold mine of Fantasy Points so rickety and insecure, only the bravest of prospectors would venture there. While Rafa’s now left the Premier League, his legacy of rotation and rest lives on in others.
Roberto Mancini has such riches available to him heavy rotation of his players seems innevitable. Will any Man City player earn 30+ starts next term? Perhaps Carlos Tevez but you’re struggling elsewhere.
In basic terms, any side involved in Europe are likely to rotate their side for Premier League games prior and after these European midweek games.
In the Europa League meanwhile you can expect Everton and Spurs to rotate fairly heavily depending on resources. Again, if you stick with the site, I’ll endeavour to outline trends when it comes to these sides and their team selection around European games.
Find the “Untouchables”
Another no-brainer. You need players who are on the teamsheet every week. That means you need players who are first choice in their position and who don’t have any real chance of losing their place for a prolonged period. In truth these aren’t that easy to find. I’ve already mentioned that Liverpool have about 3 players who are automatic first choice. Looking at United next season you have Evra, Vidic and Rooney; the rest all have healthy competition to see off before they can be 100% certain of a place or be protected from rotation.
Most of the top teams only have a handful of players who you can really guarantee will get 30+ games. This is where the second tier clubs and players like Young and Agbonlahor at Villa and Kuyt at Liverpool – really come into their own. They are likely to be decent scorers again this season and, barring injury, will all play that 30+ figure without any sweating on your part required.
In a squad based fantasy game this doesn’t matter so much. You can juggle the big name players with steady, less glamorous figures who can step in to contribute when rotation rears its ugly head. However, in a game limited to just a single selection of 11 players it becomes a major consideration.
When transfers are valuable, high scoring first choice players like Ashley Young give you one slot in your team you don’t have to worry about changing for the entire season and that can be priceless. If you have 4-5 players like Young, who play week in, week out and on a regular basis, then you can use your transfers to juggle the other 5-6 positions and capitalise on form. If you have a 9-10 players missing 1 in 4 games, then your transfer ambitions could be distracted to fix them rather than pounce on the form players that can win you leagues.
Be Wary of Forced Absence
Firstly be aware of signing players on loan from other Premiership clubs. As part of these agreements they are pretty certain to be ineligible against the club that owns their contract, therefore that’s 2 appearances you can tick off straight away.
That’s about it for this guide. There will be more to come though – I’ll be updating the guides for each position that I wrote last season to take into account the new arrivals to the Premier League. I’ll be waiting a week or so for some more transfer activity before I get to work on these so keep an eye out for news of these on the front page.