What does it take to become a Fantasy Premier League (FPL) champion? Practically speaking, it takes about 2500 points. It’s an intimidating goal. It feels almost too big to comprehend.
My aim in this article is to provide a simple, straightforward strategy by breaking down those 2500 points into bite-size achievable goals. I like this strategy is because it teaches managers how to stay patient and maintain a single vision for the long haul of the season. Since I first posted this strategy on Twitter in 2019, the “Lock & Swap” (as it has come to be known) has helped a ton of managers reach their personal bests in overall points and overall rank, and I hope it helps you do the same.
Are you ready? You sure? Alright, let’s begin…
Forget everything you thought you knew about FPL. Forget positions, prices, formations, form, fixtures, chips… yes, even forget the names of your favourite players. In due time we will reincorporate some of these things, but first you have to think about the only thing that matters in the end…. points. 2500 of them. What do you need to do to reach it?
You have 11 starting spots in your team each week. Each starting spot offers a range of potential points. To reach 2500 points you need to average about 227 points-per-player, or 5.98 points-per-player-per-Gameweek. Well, sort of. Keep reading…
If you play your chips right and take advantage of the Blank and Double-Gameweeks, a reasonable goal for points earned from your chips is about 50 points, bringing your overall goal down to 2450 points.
Bench Boost: +20 points
Free Hit: +20 points
Triple Captain: +10 points
Total: +50 points
Let’s pause here for a second. Write this down or log it into your memory. Despite all your headaches and countless hours trying to get your chips just right, they will only account for about 50 points of your season total. While not a negligible amount, it means that your success is won in the week-to-week slog. You will want to remember that if (or when) you have a chip fail later in the season. Let’s carry on…
To keep the math simple let’s assume you put the armband on the highest scoring player all season for moderately successful total of 500 points from the double-points captain bonus. Kevin De Bruyne (£11.5m) did this last season, and Mohamed Salah (£12.0m) did it the previous three. If you successfully rotate your captaincy picks among your top scorers you will most certainly eclipse this total, but a conservative estimate of 500 points will help keep our expectations realistic.
Your overall points goal is now down to 1950. This means your other ten players need to average 195 points-per-player, or 5.1 points-per-player-per-Gameweek. Only nine players reached 195 points or more last season, and most of them come with a premium price tag.
We’re talking £9.5m+ Forwards, £10.5m+ Midfielders, and £6.0m+ Defenders. Most teams can only afford about five premium players this season. The most common templates offer combinations of the following: 0-1 premium Forwards, 2-3 premium Midfielders, and 1-2 premium Defenders.
Let’s assume you get four premium players in addition to your set-and-forget captain. A conservative estimate for their combined points is 800. This brings our overall points goal down to 1150. Now you only have to manage 192 points-per-player, or 5 points-per-player-per-Gameweek, between your remaining 6 starters. That sounds much less intimidating than when we started, doesn’t it?
Your premium players are set-and-forget “locks” in your team. Too many managers burn themselves by swapping their best players in and out of their team in hopes of nailing that big haul, often at the neglect of the rest of their team. I know the feeling of an itchy trigger finger that just can’t wait to drop your most expensive player after he blanks two weeks in a row. But for the players who are almost guaranteed to get 195+ points in a season, you have to show patience and trust them to do the job. Sometimes the best strategy in FPL is to do nothing. Locking in half your team for the long haul feels counter-intuitive, but it’s a trustworthy strategy that will guarantee you a solid amount of points.
Budget and Mid-Tier ‘Swaps’
So now you have your captain and four additional premium players selected. The remaining six starters are where you make or break your season. As I said above, the goal for these six spots on your team is to average 5-points-per-player-per-Gameweek.
It’s all about keeping your options open. In order to turn your mid-tier or budget-tier players into a premium points, your Gameweek 1 team needs players in price tiers that can be easily transferred in and out of your lineup, ready to strike on a good run of fixtures or form. The question you should be asking is not (for example), “Is Michail Antonio (£6.5m) a good choice for my team?” but rather, “Are there enough options around the £6.5m price tier that I can pivot to throughout the season to maximise my points from this starting spot?”
For example, a Midfielder like Marcus Rashford (£9.5m) is stuck on a price tier island with only one other player within £0.5m of his current price, and only four players within £1.0m. While those players might be good options, you will always have to keep some money in the bank if you want to pivot back and forth between them. Meanwhile, a Midfielder like Mason Greenwood (£7.5m) has 16 players within £0.5m of his current price, and 34 players within £1.0m. If you are choosing players within price tiers of low depth, ensure that they are all worthy of a place in your team. Otherwise, spend your money on the price tiers that give you the most options.
The key to success here is how well you play the transfer game with your budget and mid-tier starting spots. A set-and-forget £6.5m Midfielder might only get you 130 points for an entire season. But if you give yourself plenty of options and make the right transfers, you could turn those 130 points into something closer to the points total you would expect from a premium priced player.
A quick note about Goalkeepers: You can only expect about 130-170 points from your Goalkeeper. This unfortunately means that you will have decide how much you want to handicap yourself. I’m not a big fan of rotating Goalkeepers but it is admittedly the only possible way you could transform your Goalkeeper position into a premium point total. For more on Goalkeeper strategy read my previous article, “How To Find the Next Nick Pope.”
Sometimes your locked-in premium players are not working out. Other times you encounter Blank / Double-Gameweeks or an irresistible run of fixtures. Whatever the case may be, you need an exit strategy for the players you originally planned on locking in for the season. That’s where your Wildcards come in.
Rather than using transfers on your premium players who could haul on any given week, it would be better to wait and make wholesale changes to your team at opportunities when you can profit most from them. This season provides a unique challenge in that there is a Blank Gameweek 1, and some really funky fixtures between Gameweeks 18 and 19 (see Ben Crellin’s FPL Planning sheet for more). Your first Wildcard has to be played by Gameweek 16, so most managers are forced to choose which of these challenges they would like to address with it.
Whichever way you decide to play it, one major goal for your Wildcard is to reassess how well your premium locked-in players are doing and whether you would like to continue the next stretch of the season with them. Transfers between premium players often require a complete restructuring of your team, so your Wildcard is the ideal time to do it.
Phew! That was a lot to take in. Let me break all of that down into four easy steps.
- Select four to six premium players who you can trust for long stretches of the season, including one or two good captain options.
- Use the remaining money to target budget and middle price-tiers that give you plenty of good options to make transfers throughout the season.
- Use your transfers on your budget and mid-tier players to take advantage of good runs of fixtures and form.
- Play your Wildcards to prepare for or recover from Blank / Double-Gameweeks, using it as an opportunity to overhaul your team structure and premium players if necessary.
Below is an example of a team I created following these steps, with emojis representing the Locks, Swaps, and Bench players.
There are a lot of ways to be good at FPL, and a manager’s success probably comes down to following a strategy that best fits their individual personality. I do not claim that this guide is guaranteed to work for you, but I hope the “Lock & Swap” offers you a simple, straightforward strategy that will help you learn and grow throughout the season. If you choose to utilise this strategy, keep in touch with me on Twitter and let me know how you are faring or what challenges you encounter along the way.
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