In the first article of the series we focused on the signs that give away your Fantasy Manager rookie status and what are the recommended actions you can undertake in order to secure yourself a Top 10% finish even in your inaugural season. However, if you are already a more experienced player, I would imagine that that article might have not tickled your curious bone just quite ter. Well, for you guys I have a different spin – my take on how an experienced Fantasy Manager of several seasons can more or less secure a Top 1% finish on a regular basis (and imagine this just as the starting ground for much, MUCH more with some luck). Mind you (before all managers who might have had success with different approaches jump on me like Torres’ haters whenever he misses a sitter), this is MY approach to success, and one that has worked pretty well for me; securing season end finishes of 15, 23811 and 25956 in the last three seasons.
In my opinion, there is no one guaranteed way to succeed in Fantasy Football and one needs to keep in mind that things can change on a massive scale from season to season or even during one, for that matter. That is why the game is so interesting – adaptability is key! Without further ado, here are my basic steps to success in a life of an experienced Fantasy Manager:
Trait #1: You Get Off to a Good Start
Yeah, I know, I can just hear you muttering “No sh**, Sherlock” on this one and “it is easier said than done”; and you’d be right, but hear me out. One of the perks of getting ahead early on in the season is that you can afford to play it safe for the rest of the season (or at least for as long as you are ahead). How cool is that?
If you get off to a flying start, it means that you can just jump on the (right) bandwagons more or less at your will, select the most straightforward captains that will deliver with a high probability and just let everyone else take the chances while you breeze through the season. Chances are that with this, your opponents will just keep falling more and more behind you, while you increase your lead with every Gameweek. I remember doing this for the better part of my most successful season. It is a simple, effective and very much long-term strategy. Want to finish at the top? Start strong and you can be very close to that.
Yet, the question remains – how do you achieve something that sounds so simple, but is anything but that in real-life? Well, one of the options (and one which was masterfully utilized by 2012/13 Champion Matthew Martyniak) is to load up your team with heavy-hitters for the early fixtures and plan to use the Wildcard after the first couple of Gameweeks. As a matter of fact, the former champion used it immediately following Gameweek 1 of his winning season. Granted, he had the luxury of Gameweek 1 being a Double Gameweek, which is not a case this year. Still, it remains a definite option, in case you are willing to take the risk. The second option is to omit certain players with high ownership from your team (think Alexis Sanchez, Yaya Toure, Eden Hazard, Cesc Fabregas, Wayne Rooney, Daniel Sturridge, Diego Costa) and go with alternatives (think David Silva, Kevin Mirallas, Gylfi Sigurdsson, Samir Nasri, Steven Gerrard, Edin Džeko/Stevan Jovetić and even Robin van Persie, when fit) that just might outperform the most popular players. It is a game of high risk, make no mistake about it, but if it plays out like you want it to, it should propel you well ahead. Hey, no one said this would be easy, right?
Tip: Plan for a good start, tinker later on.
Trait #2: You Build Your Team Around Proved Players
Every year you have your fair share of newcomers to the Premier League that may or may not become big-hitters, your differentials and a handful of players whom I like to call “safe bets”. Think Leighton Baines. Think Robin van Persie (not last season though). Think Sergio Aguero. These are the guys who are almost certain to get you high returns and everyone pretty much knows that which is pretty clear by both their price and high ownership. There is no reason to shy away from them as they should be the cornerstones of your team, guys whom you build your team around and for most of the time (bar injuries or dramatic decline of form) will stay with you for most of the season. They are especially important for the start of the season when there is still no need for you to play it risky (just yet).
Tip: Load up your team with proven, top-notch players – at least 7 of the starting 11.
Trait #3: You have a Few Carefully Selected Differentials
All of the bigger sites offer their views on the differentials and you are bound to find a couple of some very good ideas on a weekly basis (be sure to also check my weekly differential pick @CalledItFPL), but do not get overly tempted by them. They are called differentials for a reason and that reason is (usually) NOT consistency. One differential of below 5% and two or three differentials of around 10% ownership (and mixing them up) can get you far in the game. Use them with caution for the first couple of Gameweeks though. Make sure that these differentials are players who are guaranteed playing time, otherwise you might find yourself hurting your team more than anything else.
Tip: Differentials are a must – but use them with caution.
Trait #4: You Study Fixtures and Form
If you have been around for a while already, then you are probably already acquainted with the “Season Ticker”, “Kind/Poor Fixtures” and all sorts of other analyzers that show you which teams are most likely to win/lose games and therefore come with high/low returns for their players. I would advise you to become really, really good friends with it. While you should sometimes be open to last minute changes or short-term interventions, Fantasy Football is a game that has to be played long-term.
Tip: Do your research when planning and plan ahead. It pays off.
Trait #5: You Don't Jepardize Your Long-Term Plans Just to uild Team Value
Something that can be clearly seen on any given week is that the players who perform great in a certain Gameweek are certain to attract many (immediate) new suitors and usually rise in price on the day of the current Gameweek. This is when we usually see a herd of Football Managers jump on that player with the explanation that they will not be able to afford him if the price rises for that 0.1m AND they want to build the team value immediately. While I do understand the sentiment behind it, I (in most cases) vehemently disagree with it. If you plan well in advance and leave yourself room for manipulation, you should be able to somehow offset the 0.1m. If not, sometimes it can work out even better. My recommendation is to put off your transfers until Friday evening (for regular Gameweeks, one day prior the deadline in other cases) after you have heard all the updates from the club managers. And while team value is a fairly important part of the game, ask yourself – have you ever seen the guy win it all AND have the highest team value of all (or top 100 for that matter)? I haven’t.
One tip that I would like to underline, and I am paraphrasing the InsideFPL team here, is that you should not build the team value for the sake of team value alone. Building a team (and consequently value) is a game of very delicate balance and there is no right or wrong way about it. It takes a lot of experience to figure out when it is the right time to follow the crowd and when to stay put.
Tip: Build your team value. But do not get drawn into jumping on every bandwagon in order to do so.
Next Up... the Experts
Well, that concludes part two of my series of articles and leaves only the last 'expert' article to come. As always, if you have any questions or would like to express your thoughts on the matter, all comments will be highly appreciated. I am waiting for your feedback on Twitter, @matejp23.