FPL Matthew is arguably the best FPL manager in the world with three top 500 finishes and a further six top 10k finishes. Every week Matthew writes his FPL Team Reveal article detailing his team, captain and plans for the coming Gameweek exclusively for Fantasy Football Hub members.
In this guide, I’m going to talk in some depth about my four key principles of FPL Success – Planning, Research, Team Management and Risk Management
Principle 1: Planning
Think like Kasparov
They say that the top chess players think several moves ahead - its no coincidence that Magnus Carlsen has been doing so well at FPL! OK, FPL is not chess but I almost always look beyond the current Gameweek when planning transfers and rarely do what would be considered the “optimum” move for that particular week. I often think that this leads to me rarely having a massive Gameweek score, because that normally requires getting the potential big scorers that week, at almost any cost, and I’m usually trying to build my team for the longer term. There are, however, always exceptions to any rule and, in this case, there may be occasions where you want to take short-term opportunities for points - more on this below.
The staple tool for any planner is, of course, the humble fixture ticker. This very website has an excellent one, with various options available to help planning. When planning transfers, I tend to look mainly around 4-6 Gameweeks ahead, with a particular eye on the next three. This is because, in reality, three blanks and people will be itching to sell a player, meaning price pressure if nothing else. Obviously, this is particularly true the more expensive the player.
Depending on team structure, you may also want to look at players in pairs, or threes. I have often done this with cheaper defenders, where I am looking to rotate, trying to cover one defender’s bad fixtures with another’s good ones. But with attackers, or premium defenders, I rarely do that, just look to get the best possible player in each slot.
Keeping your Options Open
I also look ahead in terms of other players I might want to bring in, to keep my options open. Although, this becomes complicated so I usually only consider one or two players and a fairly short-term outlook. An example of this could be where you are undecided between a couple of ‘premium players’ and may look to use a transfer to free up cash, meaning that you can afford either the following week or even both, depending on who you sell, keeping your options open. Remember to factor in potential price changes when looking ahead in this way.
Essential Planning…or not…
All this said, there are times when I don’t look ahead much, if at all. That is in the special case of the “essential” player who for whom form, fixtures and perhaps price all come together in a perfect storm, presenting an irresistible. Here I am looking much more short term – it is more a case of “when can I get him in?”, “can I get away with not having him one more week?” and even “is it worth a hit?”
Wildcards are another consideration in planning. With the first wildcard, I have usually used it either the first or second International Break. There is a balance here. Earlier wildcards usually help to build team value whilst holding on later gives you more information to base decisions on, making it more likely that you’ll pick a better long-term team. That said, I’ve also had good success saving the first wildcard until much later – you can get a boost against the majority of teams who have long used theirs, but you have to balance this off against the ground you may already have lost by that point, trying to ‘chase the new template’ with free transfers whilst others are resetting their teams with an early wildcard, as well as foregoing the team value boost offered by the early wildcard.
I think that having your first wildcard still intact can put a slightly different spin on planning, as you could make shorter-term moves, knowing that you’ll probably wildcard soon anyway, it can also give you some insurance of having the "get out of jail free" card still in your pocket. However, I don’t like to back myself into a corner like this, so tend to look further ahead, unless I pretty much “know” that I’m wildcarding next week.
The second wildcard is another matter altogether as I always tend to use that in conjunction with other chips, around the “double Gameweeks”. Which brings me to…
This is a special time for FPL players. And you should be starting to plan for it weeks in advance. Although there will be uncertainties, depending on who gets through in the cups, etc, you can make educated guesses and plan accordingly, adjusting as more information is revealed. One thing I have liked to do is try, through early planning, to get through the first DGW (assuming there are two) without using the second wildcard. This gives a potential boost in the second DGW versus people who had to use theirs in the first one. The caveat to this is don’t go ruining your team, taking out quality players for substandard ones, just because they have an extra game in a few weeks' time. It’s a real balancing act.
With doubles, come blanks and like many, I have found the “free hit” chip to be tailor-made for that particular week. It almost guarantees a decent green arrow and allows you to have some fun picking some different players or punts that you wouldn’t normally look twice at.
Principle 2: Research
Do your homework!
FPL is a simple game at its heart. 38 Gameweeks. Take out GW1, the 2 wildcards and the free hit and that leaves 34 free transfers. Each one is precious. So it makes sense to do your homework, or due diligence if you prefer a business analogy, before committing one of them to a new shiny addition to your squad. The last thing you want is wasting another transfer to take out a dud. That’s 2 transfers or 6% of your season’s allocation on one failed player! Do your homework.
I want it all (and I want it now)
A question you often hear in relation to FPL is “form or fixtures?” My answer (usually inside my head) is always the same – “both”. Ideally, you are looking for that sweet spot – to bring in a player with both amenable fixtures AND the form to enable them to take advantage of them. I guess if I had to choose one, it would be form but, really, as Freddie Mercury once said “I want it all”. In fact, there’s a third factor that I want more than either of these…and that’s “class”. A player that is, you know, good. In real life. And, ideally, one that is playing for a team that is also half decent.
First of all, you’ll want to make a shortlist – this may be in your head or written down – what positions and price points are you looking at? This will be driven by the current state of your squad (unless its GW1 or a Wildcard) – where are the weaknesses? One easy way to quickly identify possible targets is FPL points – who is doing well? Refine this by looking at who they’ve played recently, points per appearance, recent form, etc. You can also browse FPL related forums (fora?) or Twitter accounts for ideas. Even take a peek at the teams of other good players or watch and listen to FPL podcasts or videos - there's plenty of great content out there (including here on the Hub!). Maybe even watch some football, there’s a novel idea!