Part one will focus on selecting your team with part two covering some general thoughts about in season management.
Pick, and maintain a squad
At the time of writing Shane Ferguson is the 9th most selected midfielder, ahead of (shudder) David Silva. Last year he amassed 300 minutes and 10 points and has the dubious honor of being the only 4.0m midfielder. There's a reason for this: he has no value. Shane Ferguson's mum doesn't own Shane Ferguson. He is of course owned to save money to spend elsewhere but, even early in the season, getting caught without a squad is a big risk and one which rarely justifies having the extra 0.5m to spend elsewhere.
This is particularly dangerous when selecting someone like Ferguson as assuming you've spent your whole 100.0m budget, it will take 2 transfers to ditch him as no other 4.0m players exist. This year I might even advise staying away from the 4.5m midfielders such is the lack of talent in that area. Aside from the promoted sides which are a bit of an unknown quantity, there are very few options in that price bracket who will even start never mind contribute significant points. Which brings me to my next point.
Don't jump the gun
We've all done it. Speculating on a new arrival from overseas with a lot of hype and great YouTube highlights. We've done our scouting and we're certain he'll be a hit. After 6 gameweeks he's played 71 minutes and has 6 fantasy points. In that time you've played him twice (The Telegraph said he'd start!), benching an unexciting though successful Matt Etherington and been forced into playing Chris Samba when he visited the Emirates and conceded five due to your lack of bench options.
You're much better being a week or two late than 10 weeks too early and the times a player has come in on week one with resounding success can be counted on one hand.
This can apply to players moving teams within the Premier League, though less so as we know what they can do. Be careful about assuming someone like Charlie Adam or Ashley Young is a guaranteed starter though as he was at his former club.
Grab the cheap link
Again, we're not breaking new ground here but it's amazing how many people disregard this. Defenders earn points as a unit and you're only as good as your weakest player. Or, your weakest player is as good as your best (in terms of defensive points anyway). Despite that fact, there are often variances, sometimes large, between the player's price tags on a given team and these tend to arise in two situations:
- One player's place on the team is uncertain and so he comes at a discount. Good example for this year are Rafael and Chris Smalling. Unless you have inside knowledge there's not much you can do here other than wait and see who starts (and then join the stampede to sign him) or take a risk that he starts. As noted above, I'd prefer to be a bit late than way too early so generally it's safer to hold off on these players
- One or more players from a given team bring offensive upside. A good example this year would be Leighton Baines versus the rest of the Everton back line. I've written at length on my feelings on paying for attacking points from defenders but, in short, past achievement is often not indicative of future success and paying a huge premium (in this case 2.5m) for an 'offensive' player is generally not a good strategy. Notice the word 'huge'. You can, and absolutely should pay 0.5m for a player with 5 goals potential, I'm just saying that 1.5m or 2.5m might be better spent elsewhere.
Gel your keepers fixtures
Previous readers will be well versed in the GK-combo strategy which essentially aims to use two keepers based on the best fixture each week, working on the basis that an average team against a bad team can be as, or more effective, than a good team playing another good team. Even if you pursue a Joe Hart or Petr Cech though, identify games where you wouldn't want to play your elite keepers (at Old Trafford for example) and try and find a keeper who is playable on those dates.
Stick to the schedule
- Basing judgement of 'weak' opponent based on reputation or past success. Stoke aren't a glamorous team and they're not known for their goalscoring but they managed 31 home goals last season, 8th highest in the league. Playing a defender at Stoke was equivalent to playing them at Spurs, one of the league's "attacking" teams. Check the stats, not the nonsense spouted by the likes of Ian Wright.
- Failing to distinguish between home and away fixtures. It's never great playing your players against Man United but it should not be a deal breaker. On the road, the United defense gave up 25 goals. That means you had more chance scoring against them than you would when visiting 14 teams in the league, including Stoke, Bolton and Birmingham.
When I post the weekly predicted goals rankings, they are based on these facts. They will sometimes be wrong, I guarantee it. They will never be exact, I guarantee that too. If applied consistently though they will lead to better decisions, provided you have the discipline to stick to a system. If you have two players from equally good defensive teams and one travels to Stoke while the other entertains Man Utd, it's very hard to bench the guy playing Stoke but - at least last year - that would be the correct move.
Remember that you start racking up free transfers from week one. You should therefore already be thinking about how you want to use that first freebie. If for example you are really high on the Arsenal defense, maybe you hold off until they've played Newcastle away (one of the trickier trips of the season) instead adding another City defender for the week who face Swansea. You can then switch over to your preferred long term lineup after GW1.
You've got to be careful not to overly focus on fixtures as we don't know exactly how good each team will be, but it's important to at least bear them in mind and potentially identify future periods where the schedule appears favourable for a given team. You can then go about mapping your transfer plan to take advantage of these areas.
I hope to get the remainder of the team previews up in the next couple of days, and in the interest of time I am going to pass on the newly promoted sides. I do not have a good knowledge of the Championship and so would only be passing on information you can find elsewhere using your own Google machine. I will however do a quick piece on expected lineups to at least give us some ideas for who might have some use in GW1.
Thanks for reading and please post any comments/questions below or at @plfantasy.