WHILING AWAY YOUR evenings playing Football Manager is one thing, but pitting your wits against your friends in the ever popular Fantasy Football takes some beating.
The early weeks of a Premier League season are memorable for a few things. Catching first glimpses of new big name and expensively assembled stars is one. The more-than-occasional early shock as teams take time to find their feet is another.
One certainty though is that every fellow football fan you meet will be looking to tell you about how they managed to shoehorn Robin Van Persie, Wayne Rooney and Sergio Aguero into their team, without sacrificing defensive quality.
With the new 2012/13 game launched this week, we at TheScore.ie have decided to divulge our secrets and tips to a sucessful campaign. So sit back and take in our six steps to Fantasy Football glory.
1. Show an unwavering dedication to the cause
At the risk of sounding like Steve Staunton, you’re the gaffer. If you don’t believe in your project, you can hardly expect your players to buy into what you’re trying to achieve. So many Fantasy Football teams fall by the wayside after Christmas as other managers lose interest in the game, either forgetting to attend to their squad or simply not bothering.
Regardless of the size of the league you’re competing in, this neglect of teams is guaranteed to happen. Make sure it’s you taking advantage rather than seeing your team tumbling down the table. When your opponents take their eye of the ball, they fail to take out players who are out of form and favour or replace injured or suspended players. If your players are only getting points for playing, you’re still likely to gain ground on your title rivals.
2. A good player does not necessarily represent a shrewd acquisition
As with the real thing, the name of the game is points, but of a different variety. You need all 11 of your players and potentially your three subs too to contribute to your points tally, so if you aim to finish top of the pile come May, you can ill-afford to carry passengers. The likes of Cheikh Tiote and Scott Parker are good players in their own right but they don’t contribute enough in winning points.
Points are awarded in the most part for goalscoring, assists and clean sheets and lost for conceding goals and picking up cards. Ball winning midfielders like Tiote and Parker rightfully get the plaudits for their performances on the pitch, but neither score or assist enough to warrant inclusion. They’re liable to pick up cards too, and as midfielders only receive a point for a clean sheet, they’re hardly worth a place.
The same goes for all players of a similar type. If it’s midfielders you’re in the market for, they need to be of the goalscoring variety.
3. Don’t overlook the newly promoted sides
Alex Ferguson constantly reminds us that the reason most of his recent spending splurges have not been on the stellar names they once were is because of the lack of value in the market. The same applies on Fantasy Football, and like Fergie, you too may have to look beyond the usual names.
If for example, and it is advisable, that you opt to have three strikers in your side, look to the newly promoted sides for cheap alternatives to the normal top goalscorer chart botherers. Last season, Grant Holt was available at the beginning of the season for a reasonable £5 million and plundered 15 goals in an impressive season. Danny Graham’s 12 goal haul also represented a coup for anyone who picked him.
Even ex-Ireland under-21 cap Anthony Pilkington scored eight goals from midfield for Norwich City, another example of the value of looking towards the lesser lights when plugging gaps in your side.
4. Assess each team thoroughly
In much the same way as teams expected to languish at the bottom of the table are overlooked, don’t go picking ‘top four’ players for the sake of it. For example, only the two Manchester clubs outscored Arsenal last season but the Gunners conceded more than Sunderland and just fewer than Aston Villa and Swansea.
In short, help yourself to Robin Van Persie and Theo Walcott but steer clear of Wojciech Szczesny.
5. Fantasy Football is no squad game
You might think that being allowed to select only three substitutes means there is no room for error and that each one has to be meticulously slaved over in order to give your team the best possible chance should injury arise. That’s not true.
While we all have to use our subs now and again, injury and suspension will have to be dealt with in every team, and how you juggle your squad when it begins to bite is an indicator of a true Fantasy Football winner. Don’t go spending any kind of significant money on substitutes. The likely case will be that you won’t have much money left when you get to that point anyway.
You would have to be very unlucky to suffer any extensive injury crisis (and on that point, injury prone players should be avoided) and any injuries you do encounter should be dealt with when it happens. You get one free transfer a week, and one free wildcard overhaul in the season. Having good/expensive players on the bench in case of an injury is a false economy in these austere times. Newcastle United’s Shane Ferguson, the only midfielder retailing at £4.0, was a popular filler choice last season.
6. Pay attention!
You may pick your teams now, still in July, but that leaves plenty of time for players to pick up knocks before the season opener on August 18th. You can make as many changes as you want to your team upto 11:30 on the day. After that, it’s one free change per matchday. Don’t give your opponents a head start. Early momentum is key in striking fear into your opponents, FC Twente Bensons probably among them.