Dream Team Fantasy Football Winner 2020/21
Fantasy Football Hub’s Head of Content Fergi beat 650,000 other teams to become the DreamTeam Champion for the 2020/21 season, scooping the whopping £75,000 jackpot for first place.
In this article he shares the strategies, decisions and lucky moments that helped him clinch the big win!
Don’t forget to check out our Dream Team Ultimate Guide for everything you need for a successful fantasy football season!
This was a season I will never forget and not just for fulfilling a lifetime ambition in winning a major fantasy football game. What with this being my first season working full time in fantasy football and COVID massively affecting real and fantasy life, it was a one off for sure.
One thing didn’t change and that was my passion and approach to playing fantasy football. I’ve been playing multiple formats for 20+ years with Dream Team being the first ever game I played ‘back in the day’.
In this article I will try to dissect my season to draw out the key learnings that I and others can take into next season to hopefully mount another winning challenge! I will be continually referencing extracts from my weekly Hub member’s articles that I shared at the time to give that ‘real-time’ lens on my thoughts.
Dream Team Pre-Season Strategy
Firstly, referencing my 2020/21 Gameweek 1 Article I came up with my principles for attacking the season as below:
Although I have a pretty decent record in other fantasy football games, I had never really pulled up any trees in Dream Team for whatever reason. However, due to the monthly transfer allowance changing from three to five for the 2020/21 season, this did put a different dynamic to the game making it more similar to the Sky and Telegraph fantasy games which I has previously had more success in.
Having five transfers in the opening month meant I could afford to play with some initial short term thinking as the same article referenced from the member’s section:
As you can see, there was a great deal of planning went into these opening couple of weeks and I couldn’t have done this without the brilliant Dream Team Strategy pre-season articles from the Hub’s resident Dream Team expert Gary Fisher.
Off to a good start
With the early planning done and dusted I got off to a pretty good start including snagging both of Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s September hattricks against West Brom in the Premier League and West Ham in the Carabao Cup.
Below, in my Gameweek 4 member’s article my principles of beginning to plan ahead and keep some transfers back were beginning to come to fruition.
One of the key points to note from this point on for practically the whole season is that every single one of my players was playing in Europe.
In my opinion, volume of fixtures is more important than quality of fixtures in this format so I moved players in who were either playing in the Champions League or Europa League to maximise the amount of fixtures they could score points in.
I quickly learnt that when to make transfers was vitally important. The difference between making them either side of the price-rise deadline (every Friday at 7am) could earn or lose you sometimes up to £1.0m in team value so staying on the ball with this was key for me throughout the season.
Targeting the fixtures
Following my good start I wanted to stay on the front foot so targeted some teams who had plenty of good fixtures going into November. Chelsea in particular had just started to turn defensively solid so as per my Gameweek 8 article extract below, I began using the transfers I had saved back to move onto those players whilst the majority had already run out for the month.
This enabled me to go into the month with a fully optimised team and plenty of transfers in the bank whilst others were already using theirs in the opening day of the month.
Note I have also started looking at Manchester City’s December and January fixture run and I have now moved onto Harry Kane, Mohamed Salah and Bruno Fernandes, the three darlings of the Dream Team scoring system and some of the core players for my team going forward.
Moving towards Manchester City
Manchester City didn’t play well in the first half of the season but were simply too good not to turn it around. Under Pep they are usually defensively solid and score lots of goals so I decided to trust they would come good and jumped early on their great fixture run, both in terms of volume and quality.
Due to City’s form and potentially the lack of available transfers, not many Dream Team players followed suit and it was this move that moved me up to around the top 20 overall as per my Gameweek 12/13 Article extract.
I was tempted by Jack Grealish but my thinking was it was a transfer in and then out later down the line, two transfers in total. With them being at such a premium I decided to leave it and trust my judgement in going for fixture volume for the better teams.
The midway point
Following a crazy Christmas and New Year schedule I continued to push forward in rank mainly thanks to my Manchester City contingent as per the extract from my Gameweek 18/19 Article (Dream Team Gameweek 16).
I rose to 6th overall at this point which was new territory for me in any fantasy game. The key thing for me was keeping on top of the fixtures and holding transfers back always made me feel on the front foot no matter what was going on around me, so I could continue playing reasonably aggressively knowing I had the transfers to bail me out of trouble if I needed them.
By this time I was practically ‘all in’ on Manchester City whilst most other Dream Team managers were just starting to bring them into their teams.
I was fortunate that they went on a crazy run of clean sheets and scored lots of goals for a sustained period which many called luck. I like to think I’m fairly balanced when assessing my own decisions and performance and to me this wasn’t luck, it was a calculated gamble of completely trusting the best team in England which went spectacularly well instead of just the ‘well’ I had hoped for.
Hitting the front
On the 26th January 2021 I hit the top spot in a major fantasy game for the first time in my life; what a moment! An inspired Ilkay Gundogan pick helped me to the summit albeit only for a game or two as I was clawed back, but I never left the top two again for the rest of the season.
My Gameweek 25 Article (Dream Team Gameweek 21) was written after this and I was beginning to ask myself some important questions!
As above, the dilemmas I were facing were largely two-fold for the rest of the season; 1) as my team was so strong do I begin wasting transfers or do I try and be a bit (too) clever with them and 2) how the heck do I stay top with more than a third of the season to go?!?
My mind and play switched several times over the remainder of the season as the nerves began to set in a little.
Can I win?
The mental strength and experience of some of my friends certainly played a part in helping me make decisions around this period as I battled with myself on the best course of action.
Do I continue to play aggressively? Do I ‘try to score as many points as I can’? Or do I consolidate, play it safe, make others worry about me and try to block them?
My dilemma’s are brought to life here in my Gameweek 28 Article (Dream Team Gameweek 25) article.
I have talked many times over the years about what I would do if I was in a leading position in a fantasy game, but actually living it is a different matter particularly given the prize on offer.
I had several very tough and agonising moments around this time but finally had the lightbulb moment I needed to stay calm and make sensible decisions. This moment was key to how I played the remainder of the season out and will definitely be something I will take forward into next season.
Instinctively people may read this and believe I am talking about ‘going for it’ or being ultra-aggressive. It was, in this case, quite the opposite. If I think about all the times over the years that I regretted making a transfer against not making a transfer, the ones that hurt the most are always removing a player before he has scored points.
My team was optimal, there was no doubt about that; I was struggling to use my transfers effectively as there wasn’t really much advantage to be gained. With this in mind, my biggest challenge was not trying to overthink it, be too clever and use transfers simply because they were there. How many times have you made a transfer, only for the player you have taken out to haul and damage your rank?
This was remarkably difficult but with the ‘no regrets’ mindset I was now clinging on to, for every decision I asked myself ‘if this decision goes wrong and costs me the big win, would I regret it?’. It’s amazing what asking yourself this can do for your decision-making.
Obviously some went right and some didn’t, that was always going to happen. But feeling comfortable with a decision regardless of the outcome is a great mental place to be and served me very well to the end of the season, both in managing my emotions and in making transfers. This was by far the biggest single thing I took from the whole experience and not just from a fantasy football perspective.
With the season run-in now in sight and games disappearing quickly, I found myself inadvertently slipping into defensive mode, blocking rival players and spreading the risk across all the teams left in Europe who obviously had the additional point-scoring games.
I was still following my new mental philosophy albeit it was certainly tested at times, none more so than when I made two disastrous April transfers. I managed to take out Joao Cancelo ahead of his 13 point bonanza against Tottenham in the Carabao Cup Final, followed by taking out Riyad Mahrez ahead of his two goal jackpot in the Champions League semi-final second leg against Paris Saint-Germain.
Both moves were sound in principle. Cancelo was playing one in three whilst Mahrez was also being heavily rotated – they were just unfortunate outcomes with the emotion poured into my Gameweek 33 Article (Dream Team Gameweek 28) article.
With my 30-40 point lead now down to just 16 at this point, the Mahrez haul took me down to second overall with a host of other teams, all with different looks and feels waiting to pounce.
Remember that late Joe Willock goal against Liverpool? The one just after Callum Wilson’s had been disallowed in injury time? That goal took around 30 points off the team who eventually finished in second overall with his full Liverpool defensive block.
That is how close it all was; one goal meant massive point and rank swings all around the top 10 in every game involving a top four team.
The Final Couple of Weeks
With the end finally in sight, and me clinging on with my fingernails, the defining moment which would eventually win me the competition arrived.
Harry Kane, owned by around 85% of the top 100, left my team at 12.29pm on Saturday 8th May before they kicked off against Leeds. He came out for Man United’s Mason Greenwood who had been given a triple gameweek following the previous week’s postponed match against Liverpool.
Kane scored twice, both VARed out for offside, one by a toenail, before hitting the bar late on to finish on zero points. Greenwood went on to score two goals that week, scooping 16 points, with only the team in 9th position following suit. Bearing in mind I won overall by 13 points, those margins between winning and losing are insane.
I went into the final Sunday a few points ahead but with my sanity still intact as per my Gameweek 38 Article (Dream Team Gameweek 34) article extract.
Following Sunday’s games, I was top by just two points following Kane’s late assist and subsequent Star Man award (jubilation after putting Kane back in) and Cesar Azpilicueta’s red card (despair).
Although this didn’t seem a big margin, my team was far better set for the Europa League and Champions League finals than the team in second with him going all in on Liverpool’s late great run. There were team’s behind me however whoever who had other players who could hurt me, it was a long week!
The Winning Moment
With Manchester United’s Europa Final loss being pretty much a non-event from a Dream Team perspective, all eyes were on the Champions League final with my team pretty well set with Ruben Dias, Phil Foden, Riyad Mahrez and Kevin De Bruyne from Man City and Edouard Mendy and Cesar Azpilicueta from Chelsea as cover.
Other teams around me had some or all of Ilkay Gundogan, Kai Havertz, Timo Werner and block Chelsea defences; I just had to hope the game was relatively low scoring and that I could cling on.
I watched the match with my family at a pub (we were away for the weekend!) and the tension and excitement was incredible. No matter what happened, I was content with how I had played it out and I had given myself a chance of winning. What I didn’t foresee was the Dream Team app not updating all evening with any scores, all night, or into the next day!
With the solitary Havertz goal and Chelsea clean sheet, I thought I had won; I was around 95% sure after some manual spreadsheet calculations at 1am but there was a scenario whereby I could lose, albeit my rival in 5th would have had to have made three very specific and unlikely transfers – still, you never know.
At around midday the following day, my wife informed me the app begun to update as we were driving – we pulled over and watched it transpire that I had won, there was plenty of emotional hugs on that pavement with my young sons going crazy!
With just 18 points separating 1st and 5th positions, it was very tight and could have gone any way; luck was certainly with me this season.
You can read my immediate reaction here which also shares my thoughts on the never-ending luck versus skills debate which has definitely been answered for me. I hope you have enjoyed reading my journey as much as I have enjoyed reliving it!
During pre-season I will be writing a strategy article for attacking the new Dream Team season in addition to sharing my Gameweek 1 team (in addition to my FPL, Sky, Telegraph and FanTeam teams) exclusively for Hub members. Every week, as above, I share my pre-deadline thoughts and likely teams in all fantasy formats.
You can sign up below to get a free trial and make sure you get all these tips when published, in addition to everything else our Hub membership offers, you won’t regret it! We are also offering an exclusive pre-season discount for new annual members – jump on whilst you can!