How to shape your Team for GW1: Optimal Budget allocation
Well begun is half done. When it comes to Fantasy Premier League, most managers agree to that. You already had a significant lead if you started with Mo Salah in your team last year.
But what constitutes a good start? Is it just getting the right set of players who are going to get the highest points GW1-3? Or acing the differentials that can bolster your rank in your mini-leagues. These things have an unpredictability attached to them, especially in the very first gameweek when things are relatively unknown.
If you start with too many premiums in GW1, the balance of the team is disrupted and you rely a lot on individual returns rather than a collective score. On the other hand, if you spread your budget too much, you will find it hard to transfer in a premium player who scores high points in the first game and will be bought by many managers in GW2. As such, many managers end up using their first wildcard way sooner than they planned for or end up playing the catch-up game for the rest of the season. Ask the previous India #1 @Lateriser about it.
Hence, having the right structure can, if not get a high GW1 score, at least help you shape your team for the subsequent gameweeks without having to use your wildcard this early.
Optimally distributed funds in all areas of your team will help you navigate easily on and off between players that you expected to start well and those you had doubts about.
1. Don’t be rigid on a particular formation
Oftentimes we pre-decide a formation before GW1 and that leaves us wanting for more flexibility. For eg. If you decided to go with 3-5-2 / 4-4-2 and selected a 4.5m Striker upfront, you would struggle to field a competitive 11 in some gameweeks as your options would be limited between your 5th midfielder and 4th defender.
Many managers considered Rhian Brewster as their 3rd striker, with the primary aim of fielding 5 midfielders which backfired within the first 5 Gameweeks last season as budget options like DCL, Bamford, Watkins and Antonio provided plenty of options to choose from and have a balanced front 3.
Similarly, if you only focus on 3 defenders and pick two 4m enablers to maximise your attacking options, it can lead to weaker teams in certain gameweeks, especially if the big 6 are playing among each other and/or a player doesn’t start.
As such, it is advisable to be open to any formation at the start and analyze how the season is progressing, where the value lies in and what are the enablers and differentials that can be picked.
2. Goalkeepers (4.5m + 4m)
1 x 4.5m , 1 x 4m
In recent years, it has been found that a goalkeeper combination of 4.5m + 4m price yields the maximum return. The premium options are priced too high at 5.5m or 6m and there are much better/attacking options in their respective defences. Last year, the likes of Martinez, Sanchez and Johnstone offered huge point potential, especially the Argentine, who nearly broke the all-time high record for a goalkeeper.
I am not a fan of two rotating 4.5m keepers. It leads to a debatable choice almost every gameweek for the starting pick and more often than not, you end up missing out on clean sheet points in unexpected ways. For eg. Islan Meslier was keeping clean sheets against top 6 opponents for Leeds last season when the rotating managers would have benched him at the expense of McCarthy or Matt Ryan who had easier fixtures on paper. In my opinion, it is not worth spending an extra .5m on the goalkeeper slots and can be better utilized elsewhere, at least at the beginning and notable options like the above mentioned Sanchez (Brighton), Guaita (Crystal Palace) and Dubravka (Newcastle) offer huge value.
1 x Premium (6m+), 2 x Mid Priced (5-5.5m), 2 x Budget (4-4.5m)
Last season was the season of value enabling defenders. Many sub 5m defenders ended up amassing huge points in patches when their teams were on a roll. John Stones, Luke Shaw and Antonio Rudiger were priced 5m playing for Top 3 teams whereas Stuart Dallas, James Justin, Matt Targett, Rob Holding, Vladmir Coufal had consistent returns at the price of 4.5.
Clearly, going with 3 premium defenders was not the optimum strategy last season. Many managers picked 2 Liverpool defenders from the start based on their astute defence the season prior. But it couldn’t have backfired more quickly as the reds were nowhere as solid, even before the VVD injury. The same was the case with Man City and Man Utd, conceding a high number of goals at the start.
The key thing to notice is it is most difficult to judge which team will turn up with the most defensive solidity. Hence, you don’t want to put all your eggs in one basket, especially if the eggs are expensive.
So how to prepare for such a situation. The sensible way is to have 3 different slots of defenders. 1 Premium slot of more than 6m, 2 slots for the Dependable Mid-priced in the range of 5-5.5m, and 2 slots for the Budget Enablers of 4.5-4m.
This way, even if you are unable to nail down the right set of players in each price bucket, you can very easily switch to the performing assets without having to shake up your entire defence. If Tottenham don’t look defensively reliable at the start, you can transfer out their 5m defender for Arsenal’s who have kept 2 Clean sheets in 2.
The go-to premium asset will be Trent Alexander Arnold (Liverpool) who ended the season at his vintage best and even at a price of 7.5m, offers attacking returns weak in weak out. He is a must-have not just because of his consistency but because he will be highly owned and a couple of double-digit halls can leave you far behind if you don’t own him.
The 5-5.5m slots are usually reserved for Top 6 sides, particularly their attacking full-backs as they have a higher likelihood of keeping clean sheets whereas the 4 and 4.5m defenders need to be scouted from either the mid-table teams who promise defensive dependability, such as Aston Villa, Leeds and West Ham or defenders who play as wingbacks or out of position.
Suggested picks in each bucket:
Premium x1 –
TAA (Liverpool, 7.5m), Cancelo (Man City, 6.0m)
Mid Priced x2 –
Digne (Everton, 5.5m), James (Chelsea, 5.5m), Pereira (Leicester, 5.5m), Shaw (Man Utd, 5.5m), Tierney (Arsenal, 5.0m), Reguilon (Spurs, 5.0m), Coufal (West Ham, 5.0m)
Budget x2 –
Fofana (Leicester, 4.5m), Alioski (Leeds, 4.5m), Lamptey (Brighton, 4.5m), Holding (Arsenal, 4.5m), Taylor (Burnley, 4.5m), Coady (Wolves, 4.5m)
Key Note: Do ensure that the 4-4.5m defenders are absolutely nailed on in their teams as you don’t want to spend an early transfer on them. Many managers took the fall as they trusted Vinagre to start in place of the injured Jonny but he ended up leaving the premier league altogether.
2 x Premium (10m+), 2 x Mid Priced (6.5m-10m), 1 x Budget (4.5m-6m)
Midfield spots pose the biggest dilemma for the managers. It offers the most premium assets as well as value assets and the key is to identify the right ones. Nevertheless, an optimal distribution can help navigate between assets smoothly.
Going for two premiums is a no brainer this season unless you are having one in the forwards’ department. If you go for more, you will lose the balance and the rest of the team will suffer. If you go with only one, or even surprisingly, none, then you should be prepared to lose a massive number of points as premium midfielders are likely to be captained by most managers. Anything over 10m is considered a premium asset in midfield.
There are a plethora of Mid Priced options in the Midfield and they range from 6.5m to 10m.
Picking two Mid Priced options is usually the best way to go as adding in a third one results in compromising on all 3 Mid-priced midfielders with a selection of 6.5/7m for each instead of sacrificing one slot and maximizing on the other two. Plus it is easier to transfer in a midfielder on a higher end of this bucket in the subsequent gameweeks if a promising asset pops up. A combination of 8.5m + 7m covers the spectrum pretty well.
Lastly, don’t spend 5.5m on your 5th midfielder unless you see any concrete signs of promising and consistent returns. You will end up benching them for most games anyway and it is difficult to predict when, if at all, they will hall, just like Tomas Soucek haunted many managers last season. It is advisable to go for one 4.5m/5m player who regularly starts for the team and covers your bench.
Suggested picks in each bucket:
Premium x2 –
Salah (Liverpool, 12.5m) , KDB (Man City, 12.0m), Bruno (Man Utd, 12.0m), Sterling (Man City, 11.0m)
Mid Priced x2 –
Havertz (Chelsea, 8.5m), Jota (Liverpool, 7.5m), Grealish (Aston Villa, 8.0m), Barnes (Leicester, 7.0m), Torres (Man City, 7.0m), Lingard (Man Utd, 7.0m), Saka (Arsenal, 6.5m), Raphinha (Leeds, 6.5m)
Budget x1 –
Gilmour (Norwich, 4.5m), Luiz (Aston Villa, 4.5m), Sarr (Watford, 6m), Smith Rowe(Arsenal, 5.5m), Yarmolenko (West Ham, 5.5m)
Key Note: It is usually a wait-and-watch for the 5.5-6m assets before you can invest in them. We really had to wait before Gundogan, Raphinha and Lingard offered themselves as genuine reliable options.
3 x Mid Priced (6m-9m)
Last season, FPL decided to drop the prices of the forwards to increase their values as managers were tending more and more towards midfielders due to their extra points for goals scored and clean sheets. The days for fielding two premium forwards are long gone with only 5 of them pricing higher than 9m. Although, unlike last year, we won’t have the luxury of getting Bamford, Antonio or Watkins without spending more than 6.0m, they are still in an affordable range of 7-8m.
The trickiest choice will be whether to go for a premium forward at all as it would mean cutting down some budget from the premium midfield slots. Only Harry Kane offers the value at such a high price as compared to Vardy, Aubameyang, Werner and Firmino, the latter 3 having pretty abysmal goal returns last season. It comes down to a personal choice between choosing Kane or a Premium Midfielder.
Whereas going for two 7-8m forward and one 6m-7m forward pretty much covers all the bases in this department and offers an ability to navigate between the options.
There does not seem to be any obvious choices from the sub 6m bucket so far that can be as reliable as the mid-priced forwards.
Suggested picks in each bucket:
Premium (None or 1) –
Kane (Spurs, 12.5m)
Mid Priced x2 –
Calvert Lewin (Everton, 8.0m), Iheanacho (Leicester, 7.5m), Bamford (Leeds, 8.0m), Watkins (Aston Villa, 7.5m), Antonio (West Ham, 7.5m)
Budget x1 –
Toney (Brentford, 6.5m), Abraham (Chelsea, 6.5m), Rodrigo (Leeds, 6.5m)
Key Note: Don’t compromise on the 3rd forward as a budget forward is more reliable than the 5th midfielder or defender to get points.
Having an even spread will give the option of flexibility to the managers to adapt as things unfold. Remember, it is a marathon and not a sprint, and having the ability to choose between the long strides and saving energy is the key to success. Being able to save your wildcard in the first 10 gameweeks reaps far more returns later on in the season than having individual players returning in the first few games.
Stay tuned for more such pieces to shape the best team for GW1 and make this season your own.
Written By – Siddharth Khera
Twitter ID – @siddharth_khera