Guest post by Amandeep Tattla aka RR
Ever since I have played fantasy football 5 years ago, I always found it to be a mentally challenging game. The game is fun which gives the chance to show your mates that you know your stuff and there is an enormous amount of satisfaction gained if you beat your mates, win a mini league, pass your personal best rank or for a lucky few win the entire competition. Fantasy football sites like Dream Team Tips (DTT) can provide a platform to bring a fantasy football community together.
A fantasy football season is determined by our choices of decisions. In the Sun Dream Team (SDT) game, we pick a starting 11 and then have 30 transfers to use so you can make 41 decisions for just 1 team. Times that by the number of teams a person is allowed 10 in the game, you can potentially be making 410 decisions in 10 months. Many factors such as player positions, injuries, fixture lists, player and team strengths and weaknesses and statistics can guide us to making those decisions and their outcomes will determine success or failure.
What is fantasy football success?
Like I said winning the entire competition is like a dream and for the majority a bit far fetched. I always aim very high but set goals I think are difficult but realistic. For example, at the start of the last season I set the goals: I want to do better in the DTT mini league (finished 28th in 18/19), I want to finish in the top 100 (finished 5k) of the SDT and Telegraph Fantasy Football (TFF) game, I want to finish higher than 9th (my best) in a elite mini league where I am against the elite players who have been national winners and have more experience than me. Without saying, I wanted to celebrate the high of winning my friend/relatives and work mini leagues. Now I have set my goals, it is time to achieve them but this would require skill, luck and lots of hard work.
Pre season preparation
The first step is to review your season. This identifies which choices were right or wrong, what strategies worked or didn’t work or did the team had just rotten bad luck with injuries. I generally spend a great deal of time reviewing if I have a poor season as I will find it more often littered with mistakes or taking too many risks that failed.
Next comes the player analysis. During the season, I will watched a lot of football. I am a big fan of the eye test – I like to see how dangerous a player is with particular attention to crossing, passing and shooting which I term ‘creativity and attacking attributes’. I then jot these observations in my notebook during a game I am watching. In pre season with time on my hands, I go through my notebook and look at other information such as stats (not a big numbers fan but will look at a small selection) and player injury record. I then gave a mark out of 10 for how a good or bad an fantasy football aspect can be. Note: this is all subjective and are based on my thoughts and research. So Alisson would be get a 9/10 as he has good shot stopping skills and high number of clean sheets so taking in account the strength of the Liverpool defence. Similarly, Trent Alexander Arnold is top of the fullbacks list as he is involved in set pieces.
For central defenders I would looking at their defensive qualities, heading attributes to see if they are dangerous at corners (like Terry and Cahill used to be at Chelsea) and their influence (if captain, then likely to play every game). No surprise here with Van Dijk is top of this list but not far behind is Harry Maguire who I have followed since I first laid eyes on him when I was well impressed me with his performance when he played for Hull vs Chelsea in the league. My observations showed that he is a towering centre back and provides a significant goal threat from corners. A move to United heightened his appeal as well my rating. Likewise, a player moving from a big club to a team outside top 6 may get a boost as they are likely to play more and be of more importance to their new team. Raheem Sterling was top of the midfield ranks with Kevin De Bruyne in second as the latter had injuries in 2018/19. The usual suspects Kane, Salah and Aguero have high ratings so no surprises there.
I try rank all players from 20 clubs although players I don’t know much about or not seen in action such as promoted teams aren’t ranked. Why some manyclubs and not just the top 8? Well I like to spread my wings, increase my player pool and also it helps my TFF game where the budget is more restrictive than the Sun game. I am the type of player that sees value in players outside the top 8 and if I see a player playing well, it doesn’t matter if they play for Leeds, WBA or any bottom half team, I will pick them as shown in the past where I selected the likes of Paterson (listed as defender but played upfront for Cardiff), Maguire and Robertson when played for Hull, Payet for West Ham and last season I had success with Ings and Grealish.
Next comes the fixture list. I don’t do much different from most people here. Europe offers an advantage but I focus on the champions league teams rather those involved in Europa league. The reason is the teams in the champions league are likely to play their strong side as they want to qualify against good opposition whereas in the Europa league, teams like Arsenal and Utd will rotate and give young players like Martinelli and Greenwood a chance to gain experience. Wolves surprised me how well they played in the league and Europe given their small squad.
Finally the Sun player prices are revealed. I quick scan to see which players are overpriced and under valued. I am not a big fan of the calculation – (50) points per million. I did use it in my first two seasons but now I don’t use at all. I don’t think my game has suffered without it as a result. In a game dominated by stats, it is a bit of an enigma that I am stats-phobic.
Game play strategy
There are generally three main strategies you can adopt in playing fantasy football.
Heavy up front
Here you spend most of your budget on your strikers and very little is spent on defence. So you would have the likes of Kane, Aguero and Salah (the big three) and a very cheap Aston Villa or Norwich defence. It’s a high risk strategy where it rarely results in mid-table obscurity and will either see you win the league at a canter or crash and burn with a whimper if your big players fail to turn up.
One fantasy football player had great success with this strategy as he finished just outside the top 100 in TFF game just keeping a cheap Sheffield United block defence and then using all transfers to rotate the big hitters.
The strategy has been utilised to win a national competition. In the 2014-15, one player won the TFF game. Here he describes his strategy: ‘My tactic was to look for cheap defenders (below £3.0m), who play every week, so that I could max out on likes of Hazard, Aguero, Giroud, Cazorla, and David Silva. So Fabianski was always going to be in my team from the start, then I found the hidden jewels like Cresswell, Bertrand, van Aanholt, Zouma and Wisdom.’ For me personally, this is the probably the best success story in fantasy football I have ever read.
Going big at the back
This is the reverse strategy of going big up top. You spend big on the defence: For example, Liverpool defence is the elite so 40% of funds is spent on 4 players: Alisson, Van Dijk, Robertson, Alexander Arnold. I would suggest 4 defenders at the back if want to
maximise this game plan’s potential so I would put in Gomez as well. The rest of the team is filled with cheap players along with one of two expensive players if budget allows. Chris Martin wrote an excellent article here on DTT last season on the merits of going big at the back.
The balanced approach
Having a balanced team is for more cautious manager who wants to spread the funds evenly in defence, midfield and attack. Most managers are naturally drawn to this strategy as you can have a mix of premium, mid range and budget players.
I’ll say there’s no one correct strategy and at times during a season, I have used all three. When I first started playing the game, I was much very attack minded so would only have one strategy, heavy up top, but now more experience, my preference now is to generally to go for a balanced team.
This area plays an important part in fantasy football success. I seen many managers chase as many highly owned players as they can but still finish in mid table. The highly owned players are basically your shields in that they are there to protect your rank. Great If you are always in front by quickly out of the blocks. This is rarely the case for me and so I like to go for a few differentials. These players have either low ownership in the game overall or your mini league (but mostly both) and these differentials can be the swords as they can propel your ranking. Last season I picked Tammy Abraham at 2.8% overall ownership and his first game for me, he made my team jump 150k places thanks to his hat trick vs Wolves. I was listening to an interview on YouTube about an FPL player who is aggressive with his transfers so not only brings in a differential but captains them. He is willingly to take risks to win, a brave quality I greatly admire. He finished number 1 in India and probably uses one of my favourite sayings ‘winners don’t do different things, they do things differently’.
Note: I used to look at mini league and jot their players in their teams but I found it time consuming and slightly disheartening when I thought my rivals had picked better starting 11’s than me and I felt I had lost the match in the dugout. So I avoid this process now, I just concentrate on my teams only until the end of the season where I focus on the teams in my near vicinity. Throughout the season, I am interested in a few managers such as DTT, Chris and my mini league winners and so will check their teams out regularly if have time.
For myself, differentials are the most interesting aspect of fantasy football and key to finishing in a high position. As a individual who writes a lot on fantasy football, I find them more interesting than the template players Aguero, Sterling, Salah etc. It makes my work new and fresh so I am not repetitive.
Fantasy football diary
So the pre season preparation is done and dusted, now need a way to keeping track of our team(s) performance. A blog of your team like DTT does here on his website is an excellent way to monitor player form and identify areas of weaknesses and how they can be reduced. It also allows you to plan ahead, another key ingredient for fantasy football success. It allows me to stay focused and aids my determination as I want to write a season of success than failure.
Over the finishing line
Without doubt, the 19/20 season has been exhausting. Even during the lockdown period, I was thinking about fantasy football (mind you less than during the season so had time to watch loads of Netflix). I was plotting what moves to make and what strategies to use as my best teams were just outside the top 500 in SDT and the top 100 in TFF and so wanted to achieve my personal best ranks. So I made a list of the template players (shields) and another list of differential (swords) and incorporated them into my teams. I found the right mix and thankfully finished 80th in the SDT and 48th in TFF. I finished 2nd in the DTT mini league and 5th on the FISO elite league (the winner finished 15th overall so the standard is really high). All in all, my best season so far.
This is a few ideas of how I play the game, I haven’t covered everything (I would need to write about that maybe once I have retired from fantasy football) but the basic aspects of my methods. It’s not revolutionary by any means but it works for me but other people have their unique thoughts, experiences and expectations. Maybe you drop them down in the comments below.