How to survive the opening Fantasy Premier League gameweeks
Here's our best advice on how to navigate the first few weeks of the FPL game.
The following are some helpful tips to make sure your team begins well, while standing a chance of making it through the gruelling fantasy season.
Captain/vice captain change
A simple one to start. The redesign of the Premier League website has led to a new look for the fantasy premier league section. This has engendered some changes to how fantasy managers were used to operating their team, chief among them captaincy selection. Instead of selecting your captain and vice-captain from a drop-down list, you must now click on a player's shirt and choose 'Make captain' or 'Make vice-captain' from the menu that appears. Not a big change but something that could throw managers off when making tough choices close to deadlines.
Friday night football
Speaking of deadlines, the real introduction of Friday night football is something that could really sting FPL players (though this blow is softened by the fact that Rachel Riley will be presenting Sky Sports' live coverage of these games). 10 Friday fixtures across the season will see the deadline for submitting your team brought back to 7pm on Friday for these specific gameweeks. The first of these is GW2, when Manchester United welcome Southampton to Old Trafford for an 8pm kick-off on Friday August 19.
Update your watchlist
It is worth the effort of devoting a few minutes to your watchlist each week. Most managers will have a choc-full list ahead of the new campaign with options plentiful across the positions. As the season gets into gear, injuries, suspensions, loss/gain of form, fixture lists and countless other factors will help determine worthy targets while ruling out the deadwood. Updating your watchlist to take account of these factors can be extremely helpful over a long season, while it will likely cut down on the amount of time you spend poring over the player list for potential transfers each week.
As mentioned, the fixture list is a valuable tool in determining transfer strategy. A good idea ahead of submitting your final team can be to pinpoint those players not in your squad that you feel you will purchase in the near future. Having a route laid out to buy these planned purchases can help in constructing your squad and advise on whether you need to leave some money in the bank ahead of GW1.
As with last year, there are two wilcards available to managers - one for the first 18 GWs and one for the second 18 GWs. The best advice for the initial wildcard is not to make a knee-jerk decision to use it due to one or two bad GWs. If you plan to use it early (a popular tactic is to play this 'chip' over the international break ahead of GW4), then setting up your squad in preparation for an early wildcard could be hugely profitable. However, poring over your initial selection just to rip it up a couple of weeks in is a dangerous road to go down with so much of the season left. The second wildcard, meanwhile, is possibly best used in conjunction with the inevitable double gameweek or two that will crop up towards the business end of the season.
Be ready to change/bandwagons
Jumping on early FPL bandwagons is something that has negative connotations but can be very fruitful.
Last season, those who waited too long to get at least one of Riyad Mahrez or Jamie Vardy into their team paid a heavy price, both in points and budget terms.
That's not to say you should immediately transfer in whatever players returns a huge GW1 score (and a few will) but sitting on your hands for too long means players become less affordable while points gaps widen.
Don't be afraid to jump aboard bandwagons – just don't jump on too many at once or you're bound to fall down in the process.
Keeping an eye on your team value when making transfers can make a huge difference when it comes to the latter stages of the season.
Shrewd managers will make switches before price changes come into effect (when these happen, they tend to occur between 1am and 2am). If a player is injured or has had a few poor-scoring weeks in a row, you can expect players to begin selling en masse, which generally triggers a price change.
Building team value helps managers later in the season when consistently high-scoring players have seen their value rise, meaning extra funds will be required.
Player value once in team/perceptions
A much-seen occurrence last season in fantasy teams was either Dele Alli or Riyad Mahrez sitting on managers' benches, having recorded a huge haul. Due to their 2015/16 pricing, these midfielders particularly were regarded as cheap options.
However, they were scoring at premium-pick levels while stinging managers who played more expensive players instead, solely based on player price.
Fantasy managers must strive to look past a player's price once he is in your team, instead considering the player's form and likelihood to do well in a certain game.
Don't be afraid to leave a player regarded as a heavy-hitter on the bench in favour of a cheaper, in-form option.
Personally, I captained Sergio Aguero each week at the start of last season, getting lucky enough to persevere with him until his five-goal haul against Newcastle in GW8.
Captain choices are a lot to do with luck but not being afraid to captain a cheaper attacking player (much like not benching them just because of their price) can pay huge dividends.
Leicester are again an excellent example of this, with those who bravely stuck the armband on Mahrez or Vardy in early GWs last season richly rewarded.
Form should be the number one consideration for managers when picking captain, though fixtures certainly have a part to play and price can sway the verdict.
Finally, the three chips (five including the two wildcards) – All-out Attack, Bench Boost and Triple Captain – are back. There are differing opinions on how best to utilise these, and again luck plays a huge part, but try to resist temptation to play the chips early in favour of holding them for potentially juicy double gameweeks.
However, if you hold on to a chip too long it can become like holding a firework that's about to go off. I threw mine on none other than Andy Carroll in GW37 as options became more and more limited. Unsurprisingly, it blew up in my face.