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Fantasy football round 2: Don’t panic!

So, the first round of this year’s fantasy football competition is complete. How did you do? And, more importantly, what should you do next?

Here are my five top tips for this week.

1. Don’t panic!

If it was good enough for the cover of The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, it’s good enough for any aspiring fantasy football manager too.

Drastic surgery may not be the answer!

If your season got off to a good start last weekend, well done you. However, if you are staring resentfully up at the rest of the league with a crick in your neck, then the most important thing at this stage is to carefully consider your next step. There is bound to be a temptation to use your wild card to carry out drastic surgery on your squad, but remember that you only have one for the entire season, so it is a precious commodity. Do not jump into a hasty decision you will regret later. If you have an ingrowing toenail, you don’t have to amputate the entire leg!

Think about it. Do you genuinely have a ‘bad’ squad, or did you just have a bad week? At this early stage, a ‘bad’ squad is one with several players who are not regular starters, or who are suffering from medium to long-term injuries. A decent squad can have a bad week, where you were able to field a full 11, but your defenders didn’t keep clean sheets, and none of your midfielders and strikers contributed goals or assists. Next week, the same team might perform brilliantly. That’s football for you.

If you think you genuinely have a ‘bad’ squad – and my rule of thumb for this is at least four or five ‘must-change’ players in your 15-man squad, as opposed to ‘would-like-to-change’ – then by all means use your wild card. You are better off acting now rather than chipping away at the disease over several weeks. But if you feel you can get by with your substitutes filling in for a week or two while you juggle your squad, then you may be better off saving the wild card for a rainy (or even a snowy) day.

Finally, take a deep breath and wait until Friday before committing to a course of action. Things often look better than they originally seemed in the cold light of day.

2. Don’t look back

Didier Drogba scored a game-leading 17 points in week 1

So you didn’t have Didier Drogba (17 points), Florent Malouda or Marlon Harewood (both 15) as your captain, and everyone else in your league did. Boo hoo. Get over it.

It is a long season, and football being the slightly random game that it is even the best managers will make the wrong call on several occasions. By all means rant and rave for ten minutes – I did just that on Saturday, having made a late switch to ditch Harewood on Friday night – but put it behind you and start thinking about what you will do this week instead.

Focus on playing the percentages. You didn’t need the benefit of hindsight to predict that a Chelsea midfielder or striker was likely to perform well at home to newly-promoted West Brom. That’s why I opted for Malouda as my captain last week, rather than, say, an Arsenal player. It worked out well for me; this week it might not. But give yourself the best possible chance by thinking carefully about your team and captain. If a top team is at home to a relegation candidate, your spider-sense should be tingling. This week’s equivalent of Chelsea v West Brom looks to be Arsenal v Blackpool, last weekend’s results notwithstanding.

As the saying goes: fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Learn from your misfortune and your mistakes, then forget the past.

3. Two points may be better than four

Don’t be lured in by something as simple as a player’s points total, particularly when you currently only have one data point to work with. Would you rather have a player who started at the weekend and will start every game, but only scored two points, or one who came off the bench for the final five minutes and provided an assist, scoring four points?

For now, you should be looking to establish an 11 who are regular starters for their clubs (at least in the short-term). There is nothing more frustrating than putting a player into your starting line-up, only to find every other week that he isn’t playing. Worse still is to have a player in your starting 11 who doesn’t start, comes on as a sub, then does nothing. That’s one point when a cheaper alternative would have scored two.

You can afford to be a bit looser with your second and third substitutes, who you do not expect to feature regularly anyway, but my advice would be to ensure you have the foundation of having a fantasy starting 11 who are regularly in their real-life clubs’ starting 11s. Consistency is the name of the game, at least in the early phases.

4. Check the fixture list

Ever wonder how it is that the top fantasy managers always seem to have the right players from the right teams at the right time? There is no magic formula to this, just hard work. Good managers look more than a week ahead, and may well be planning potential moves as much as a month ahead.

In addition to the wealth of player stats on the Fantasy Premier League website, it is worth always having a copy of the fixtures for the next month or so to hand before you make any squad changes. Your new signing may be at home to Wigan this week, but if their next four games are against Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool and Man City, say, that diminishes their short-term value somewhat.

A rudimentary 15-minute glance at the fixture list will quickly tell you which clubs have a relatively easy schedule upcoming, and which ones don’t. You can have the analysis below for free:

Arsenal: Arsenal do not face any of last season’s top nine until they visit Chelsea in October. Their next five games are: Blackpool (H), Blackburn (A), Bolton (H), Sunderland (A) and West Brom (H). All are eminently winnable games, although Sunderland have taken four points from them on their last two visits.

Blackpool: Before everyone adds Harewood to their teams, bear in mind that four of Blackpool’s first five fixtures are away from Bloomfield Road. While this didn’t harm them last weekend, away visits to Arsenal (this week), Newcastle and Chelsea may seem them struggle.

Chelsea: Having hammered West Brom on Saturday evening, their next three games are against Stoke (H), West Ham (A) and Blackpool (H) – all of which they would expect to win. But they then face Man City (A), Arsenal (H), Aston Villa (A) and Liverpool (A) in four of their next six fixtures.

Fulham: The Cottagers host Man Utd on Sunday, but after that they have only one game against a top-seven side (Tottenham) in their next eight.

Stoke: Having lost at Wolves on opening day, Stoke’s fixtures don’t get any easier. Their next three games are against Tottenham (H), Chelsea (A) and Aston Villa (H).

Sunderland: Steve Bruce will be ruing his side losing a two-goal lead in their 2-2 draw against Birmingham – four of his team’s next six games are against Man City (H), Arsenal (H), Liverpool (A) and Man Utd (H) – the last three coming on consecutive weekends.

Tottenham: If their Champions League campaign isn’t too much of a distraction, they have a relatively benign league run ahead of them, facing Stoke (A), Wigan (H), West Brom (A), Wolves (H) and West Ham (A). The home game against Wigan last season finished 9-1, with Jermain Defoe scoring five times.

West Ham: Having lost 3-0 at Aston Villa, West Ham will face three of last season’s top four in the space of their next five games, as well as a difficult trip to the Britannia Stadium: Bolton (H), Man Utd (A), Chelsea (H), Stoke (A), Spurs (H).

Wigan: The Latics look unlikely to climb out of the bottom three any time soon: their next four opponents are Chelsea (H), Tottenham (A), Sunderland (H) and Man City (H).

5. Bargain hunt

No, I don’t mean Stephen Hunt.

Charlie Adam scored 16 goals for Blackpool in the Championship last season

As I said in my previous post, finding good, cheap performers is one of the most critical aspects of any fantasy game. Now I’m not going to share all my secrets, but I will say this: you can do much worse than to check the match reports and individual player scores of the less fashionable sides, and I can guarantee you will find a bevy of inexpensive players who play week in, week out and will rack you up 100-plus points over the course of the season. Keep tabs on interesting prospects by adding them to your watchlist (which you can select from the player’s profile screen). And don’t be afraid to take a punt on a player you have never heard of – odds are they will sit on your bench most weeks anyway, so it’s not a big risk.

An example? Try Charlie Adam of Blackpool. The midfielder scored 16 goals in the Championship last season, and had an assist in the 4-0 win over Wigan on Saturday. He will struggle to do even half as well in the Premier League, but even so he is a potential bargain at £5.0m.

Previous entries in my series of Fantasy Football tips:

Fantasy football round 1: Ten tips to boost your score

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About Tim
Father of three. Bit of a geek. That's all, folks.

15 Responses to Fantasy football round 2: Don’t panic!

  1. Pingback: Fantasy football round 3: Improving your squad « The armchair sports fan

  2. Jon says:

    Great postings. Please keep it up. Hard to come by.

    • Tim says:

      Thanks Jon. Hopefully people find the tips useful, although obviously there’s more than one way to skin a cat. I find that the simple act of writing each post actually helps organise my thinking every week, so I benefit too!

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