I’ve been asked by a few friends to share my tips when it comes to picking a successful fantasy football team. I’m not suggesting for a minute that I know all the answers but the truth is I always do really well at fantasy football. I’ve won the work league for the last 3 years and the team I pick for Kate in another league has also won the last 3 years in succession. In two world cup FF games I played recently I was 2nd out of a league comprising 20 or more teams in both.
I’m probably setting myself up for a bad year – I’m due one – but here are my Top Ten Rules to picking a decent FF team with a fighting chance from the off.
Rule 1: Pick 2 or 3 star performers
You won’t win anything unless you have a couple of star players no matter how much they eat into your budget. If you go back through the archives, there are a handful of players that are must haves. Chelsea’s Lampard, Liverpool’s Gerrard, United’s Rooney and Arsenal’s Fabregas are expensive for a reason. They are worth every penny, as they are guaranteed to score bumper points. You can’t afford them all so pick the couple you want and run with it. They need to be your first picks so you know how much budget you have left to play with.
Goops’ Tip 1: Pick the star players who are also penalty takers as this will invariably mean a better goals return. All four of the above fall into this category.
Rule 2: Home pedigree and experience counts
It’s often tempting to pick exotic sounding summer recruits, especially after a major championships, who have performed well in other countries. They are often overpriced, though, and I tend to avoid picking them at the outset and look to see how well they settle into the Premier League.
Goops’ Tip 2: Avoid new Man City signings. You don’t yet know who will start nor who will perform. David Silva sounds tempting but pass him by.
Rule 3: Don’t invest all your budget on your strikeforce
Rooney, Drogba and Torres sounds brilliant but in reality it means the rest of your team would be absolute dross. Strikers score goals, sure, but they don’t dictate play or knit it together. Goal-scoring midfielders are the real gold dust.
Goops’ Tip 3: Many fantasy football games award additional points for man of the match performances. Try and find a player from a ‘smaller’ team who is likely to be a continual stand out player who has a strong chance of getting a few MOTM awards.
Rule 4: Don’t bother with a ‘big team’ goalie
Contrary to rule 1 where it’s worth investing in some star names noting these are invariably strikers or midfielders, when it comes to the goalie, save a bit of cash. OK so the likes of Cech, Van der Sar and Reina might keep the most clean sheets but the return on investment is poor due to the compromises you have to make elsewhere. It’s better to find a team that tends to keep things tight and who have a decent goalie in their ranks. Many fantasy football games award bonus points for the number of saves made – mid/lower table teams’ goalies tend to have more to do.
Goops’ Tip 4: Look for a team who have a strong home record. It doesn’t matter if they concede the odd goal away from home but if they keep things tight at home, the ratio of clean sheets starts looks promising. Joe Hart at Birmingham last season was a classic example of this.
Rule 5: Look for value from promoted teams
Whilst in Rule 2, I speak of the value of Premier League experience, every promoted team has a couple of gems and they are usually priced keenly. Newcastle Utd, for example, return to the PL with a point to prove and some decent players and one or two will come good
Goops’ Tip 5: Only punt for a midfielder or striker from the promoted teams. The defenders are likely to concede a few until they adjust to the pace of the PL so avoid them at the start.
Rule 6: Can you find a goalscoring defender?
Last season Arsenal’s Thomas Vermaelen became a favourite pick quite quickly after banging in a few goals in the first few months. Hard to find but if you spot one then you’ll probably be quids in until everyone else transfers them in.
Goops’ Tip 6: Try and establish who the penalty takers are for each team. Chances are there’ll be one who’s a defender e.g. Graham Alexander of Burnley last year.
Rule 7: Use your transfers wisely
There’s often a temptation to make wholesale changes to your team in the early weeks. Tweak your team by all means but try and avoid too many changes as some of your original picks may come good. Sit tight and let everyone else panic.
Goops’ Tip 7: It’s usually obvious who a must have player is – especially the cheaper one’s so make sure you jump in and get that player on board early.
Rule 8 – Put club allegiances to one side
I know a couple of people – mainly Liverpool fans – who won’t contemplate having a Manc in their fantasy football team. Grow up. That attitude is the fastest route to failure. It’s only a game so get over it and pick the best players for your team.
Goops’ Tip 8: After a terrible world cup showing, a few players have got points to prove this season. I expect most of them to come good.
Rule 9 – Be careful to only pick players who play
There’s no point picking Giggs if he’s only going to play one game in 3. You only get points from those players who play so don’t just pick players on name and previous reputation.
Goops’ Tip 9: The biggest waste is from the big clubs with big squads. If you don’t know who’s going to start up front for Man City this season then it’s probably best to avoid them.
Rule 10 – Use your head
Defensive midfielders are cheaper than attacking midfielders for a reason. The latter are far more likely to score points. A few years ago, so many people picked Roy Keane because he was Roy Keane failing to get the point that he hardly scored any points.
Goops’ Tip 10: Do your homework. There are some bargains out there who will ultimately differentiate you from others in your league. You just need to pick the right one’s.
OK, so it’s not rocket science but these rules have served me well over the years. Good luck with 2010/2011. Bring it on!