How to rescue your fantasy football team
What a bonkers season it has been so far. As of writing, Chelsea are hovering dangerously close to the relegation zone; Leicester City are pushing for a Champions League spot; and Jamie Vardy and Odion Ighalo top the scoring charts. Not only is that one of the best ways to start an article on the English Premier League, but it’s also the quickest way to annoy hundreds of thousands of Fantasy Football managers.
Those who backed surprise packages West Ham and Leicester City early on (you lucky sods!), are strutting around the office doing their best Cristiano Ronaldo pout, while the rest of us look about as happy as if we’d just landed the nearly-impossible Sunderland job. But there is still hope! We’ve picked the brains of top Fantasy League experts to offer you some advice on how to get you back on track:
1 Read the Rules
“I always say play the game the way it’s set up to be played.” This might sound obvious, but Matt Martyniak won the Premier League’s official game in 2013, ahead of 2.6 million others, by doing just this. Some games give points for shots on target or picking a Man of the Match, which is why Martyniak says “read the rules carefully”.
2 Back the new boys
Championship teams making their first incursion into the Premier League can be veritable goldmines for fantasy football managers, says longtime player Ziv Susser. “Look into promoted sides’ top attacking players,” he counsels. “They tend to be relatively cheap.” And looking at those early-adopters of Vardy and Ighalo, he wasn’t wrong.
3 Make the fixture list work for you
Checking clubs’ calendars is the advice of Joe Lepper, general manager of Fantasy Football Scout, an advice website. “Tom Fenley, who beat more than three million managers to win the Fantasy Premier League game a couple of seasons ago, cited the website’s fixture ticker as a key tool,” says Lepper. Although basing any selections on Chelsea’s early fixtures probably backfired on him, too.
4 Throw club loyalties out the window
Paul Weston from ISM Games, developer of the Premier League’s official fantasy game, says: play with your head not your heart. “It is heart-breaking to bring in players from rivals, but it needs to be done. Sunderland fans here never bring in Newcastle players,” he says. “They don’t finish at the top of our internal league.”
5 Don’t pick a balanced side
Too many fantasy football managers pick their team as if they’re actually managing a real team, believes Sky Sports pundit Paul Merson. “You don’t need centre halves,” he explains. “You’re better off picking full backs.” But don’t fill your defence with minnows: “You’ve got to pick them from the top teams,” he says. “They get 70 per cent of the ball on a Saturday afternoon, they’re pressing their opponents’ wings and have a licence to attack.”
6 Make your weekly transfers as late as possible
Merson’s co-host on Sky Sports’ The Fantasy Football Club show, John Fendley, cautions against locking in those all-important transfers too early. You never know when someone’s going to pick up a knock. “Wait as long as you can for players who are doubts,” he says. “Don’t pick your team too early, or you can get snookered.” And don’t make changes for change’s sake. “Hold your nerve, and don’t tinker too much” is his advice.
7 Look out for utility players
James Milner may be condemned to a life warming the England bench, but in fantasy sports utility players can be a godsend. Adam Hill, who came 29th in the world last season playing Fantasy League Limited’s game, likes players who are difficult to categorise. “Pick defenders who play in midfield,” he says, “like David Luis did last season. They’ve got more chance of scoring or getting an assist, and you get the clean sheet too because they’re classed as a defender.”
8 Consider the Monday night captain
Every fantasy football manager knows the crushing feeling when your captain for the week has a shocker on Saturday lunchtime and your weekend is ruined. Turn that on its head, says the ‘Chief’ at Fantasy Premier League Hints, a tips website, and pick your captain based on Monday’s match. “Your opponents are all punched out by Sunday night, and you can gamble on your captain doing well the following night.” It’s a trick he’s used often.
9 You can’t have a team full of Galacticos
Fantasy football budgets can be tight, and the temptation when picking a team is to load up your squad with recognisable (and expensive) talent. Take a breath, says Gregory Wright, the winner of The Daily Telegraph’s fantasy football league last season. “You need a really good cheap player who plays every week,” he advises. “You don’t need him to play well, but you just need the appearance points. That allows you to bring in the higher ticket players.”
10 Make sure your players get a game
Stupid as it might seem, too many fantasy football managers stack their teams with those who aren’t always certain to get a game come the weekend. “Taking players from clubs who rotate a lot can leave you short some weeks,” warns Kelvin Travers, who finished second to Matt Martyniak in the 2012/13 Fantasy Premier League season. “Pick guaranteed starters, team captains, or those who are ‘nailed on’ to start every week.”