The new Premier League season is just a few days away and for more than six million fans it’s not just their own club’s fortunes they’ll be sweating on.
The immense popularity of the official Fantasy Premier League (FPL) game rivals the football itself at times, with bragging rights fiercely contested in mini-leagues around the world.
We’ve cast our eye over the data – including what the top 1,000 managers did differently last season – to answer the key questions and help you get your FPL campaign off to a strong start.
How do I build a good starting squad?
Assigning your initial £100m budget effectively can avoid the need to play catch-up over the rest of the season, so it’s important to do it well.
The top-scoring 1,000 managers from last season seldom went for expensive goalkeepers or forwards, instead lavishing an average of £42.3m on their midfield.
They didn’t skimp in defence either, with the three most popular combinations of players all involving either two or three assets priced at £6m or more.
When should I use my wildcards and chips?
With the exception of the first wildcard, the key lesson from the top 1,000 managers last season is “be patient”.
Most of them held onto their three chips and second wildcard until the back-end of the season, using them to navigate the various blank and double gameweeks caused by fixture congestion.
However, if you get off to a bad start, then there’s no shame in triggering your first wildcard early; over half of the best-performing managers last term had used theirs by gameweek 7, so a ruthless response shouldn’t hold you back in the long run.
Should I take transfer penalties?
Taking the occasional points penalty is nothing to fear, although the top 1,000 managers did so relatively sparingly.
On average, an elite manager exceeds their free transfer limit every four to five gameweeks, although the majority of these are just a single four-point penalty.
A penalty of eight points or higher is rare, with over three-quarters of gameweeks seeing the best performers rely solely on their allocation of free transfers.
Should I rotate my players or have a strong first XI?
The average top 1,000 managers had players with a combined value of 19.7% of their budget on their bench last season, which means that anything above £20.0m for a starting squad worth £100m is going to be above-average.
Also, over three quarters of their substitutes had a starting value of £4.5m or lower, suggesting that it would be wasteful to keep too many options on the bench.
However, a popular strategy is to rotate cheaper players from the bench, choosing clubs whose difficult fixtures don’t overlap and thus increasing the chance of points returns.
Ignoring the ‘big six’ teams, there is one pair of clubs who don’t have a match with a Fixture Difficulty Rating (FDR) above 3 in the same week all season.
Newcastle and Sheffield United could offer serious value in this strategy, as both have an abundance of affordable players and there are 27 gameweeks in which at least one of them has a match with an FDR of 2.
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