In this strategy based article, Hub contributor Hibbo focuses on the universal appeal of FPL, how to improve from a beginner/intermediate level player into a mini-league demi-god, and shares some mini-league specific tactics.
Becoming a Mini-League Master
During this protracted double Gameweek 19 I find myself pondering the great imponderable – what is so universally appealing about Fantasy Premier League? Firstly, there’s the league itself. I grew up watching English football as a boy in the 1980’s when football and life itself was much simpler. Black and white TV, squads of home-grown players, and not a pair of neon boots in sight. Nowadays, the world’s best players ply their trade in the English top-flight with all the accompanying razzmatazz, glitz and glamour. The Premier League is now very much an international product with industry analyst’s estimating a cumulative global audience reach of over 3 billion views per season. Secondly, the FPL game has such a simplistic format – squad of 15, pick 11 starters, select a captain, organise the bench order, and your team is locked and loaded. The addition of chips (Free Hit, Bench Boost and Triple Captain) has added an extra layer of variance to the game. When deployed in a double Gameweek some addictively huge swingy point totals can be achieved akin to a super mega jackpot from FPL’s very own slot machine.
What’s The Hook?
As we finalise our team before each new season we dare to dream. Many have tried to take down the main event but given the minuscule chances of besting approximately 7 million participants very few succeed. A commonly held marker for success is an overall rank inside the top ten thousand with many of the game’s best players measuring success by a cumulative of low overall rank numbers from their career track record. However, the number achieving the loftiest of ranks is a mere drop in the ocean compared to the overall number of players actively engaging in the game. So what’s the hook? For me the universal appeal is simple – the watercooler moment. In both physical and virtual places across the world mini-league competitors either congratulate or jibe each other over their respective fantasy exploits from that weekend. Many of these leagues will have a dominant player, the fantasy guy or girl, who lifts the trophy season after season. Below I will talk about tips and mini-league specific tactics aimed at giving you the competitive advantage and turning both beginner/intermediate level players into mini-league monsters.
A solid foundation and good team structure is a fundamental aspect of FPL. Historically, in order to squeeze as much positive value from my squad and facilitate a maximum number of big hitting options I would not have spent much of my budget on the bench. However, as FPL managers it is important not to be too rigid in the beliefs you hold to be true. Due to current environmental uncertainty and Covid match postponements having squad depth is definitely more desirable this season than previously. As such it is important to trawl the league for cheap bench options that ideally start for their clubs. One additional, and often understated, benefit of having a spread of cash on the bench is that better players have greater potential of steadily rising in value something compared with non-playing bench fodder. For example this season I reacted to the external Covid risk and bought Soucek as my eighth attacker in Gameweeek 12 for £4.9m and he is now priced at £5.3m. Furthermore, whilst in bygone seasons I have aggressively traded to enhance my team value this is as practice I have forgone this year. Leave the transfers as late as possible because the information advantage is greater than a few £0.1m’s.
Bread Knife to a Gun Fight?
It is important to go into battle with the right tools and for me paying membership to Fantasy Football Hub the last few season’s has been very much an investment. Different players take different approaches to FPL and, whilst I watch a ridiculous amount of games, I am very much a stats man. For me a large part of forecasting future FPL returns revolves around the analysis of underlying numbers from recent matches across a range of common metrics such as: shots, shots on target, big chances, touches in the box, big chances received, and big chance creation. Furthermore, analysing favourable and difficult fixture runs for teams is essential in-order to future-proof your squad for the weeks ahead. Rather than just consulting a fixture ticker I think it is important for us as FPL manager’s to think how exactly certain games will play out – will it be tight game or potentially very high scoring? Successfully reading fixtures and approaching them aggressively with a double up in attack or defence can be just the tonic needed to shoot you up your mini-league. Moreover, assessing future fixture strength will give you an idea who the most popular captaincy options will be for the weeks ahead. Such knowledge can help you plan accordingly to defend against a highly owned premium with a plum fixture or attack by doubling down on a big hitter that rivals do not own by giving them the armband. Generally I always like to have the top two players in a captaincy poll for any given gameweek by way of insurance.
Navigating Blank and Double Gameweeks and Chip Strategy
A former school teacher of mine used to preach that, “Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance”. This turn of phrase rings especially true when navigating both blank and double gameweeks in FPL. Add the guru of FPL schedule forecasting @BenCrellin to gain competitive advantage in your mini-league. Whilst the unprepared and ill-informed may deploy chips early the additional information you garner may see you successfully muddle through blank gameweeks and set up a grandstand finish which will take your rivals by surprise and the mini-league title down. Furthermore, Ben’s highly detailed spreadsheet can help you make an informed decision about when might be best to deploy your chips by forecasting possible strength of double Gameweek fixtures both near and far.
Analyse Yourself and Opponents Teams
There are a number of free FPL utilities and one of my absolute favourites is FPL Statistico. Simply key in your team ID and it will produce a highly detailed breakdown of your team’s performance this season. You can see which player has done the business for you when given the captains armband and which budget option is dragging down the defensive average in your rotation. Furthermore, entering the team ID of a fierce mini-league rival might quickly reveal that they have a preference for a certain player as insta-captain and become an angle that you can gain an edge from.
Big Hitting Mini-League Differentials
An exercise I like to conduct is to analyse the top five teams in my mini-league and establish a list of common owned players. I take this exercise to excel (although pen and paper is good too!) and use popular fantasy utilities such as Anewpla’s live league viewer to see all relevant squads quickly. From this base of common players I would aim to differentiate the other positions in my squad for the weeks ahead. A common misconception amongst chasing players is that they have to reinvent the wheel with the most obscure of picks when sometimes a very high profile player can be differential in your mini-league. You just have to do some ground work to discover who!
For those that have read, thank you. Hopefully you can put some of the tips from this article into action and see positive results in your mini-leagues. Keep an eye for more articles in the near future and good luck for the coming Gameweeks. Drop me a follow on Twitter @FPL_Hibbo.