A CASE FOR THE DIFFERENTIALS

There are many ways to play, and do well, at FPL.

This game we all love is often decided by fine margins. Successful captain choices. Inspired transfers. Somehow getting lucky with auto-subs.

But it’s also good to have an overarching strategy.

Last week, Paul Baker’s excellent article on The Template is one such option. Get the right players – in form and in demand – and it’s a surefire way of steadily rising up the table.

But there are a couple of drawbacks. The Template is great for people near the top of the league who want to maintain their position, but perhaps less so for those with ground to make up.

Also, as the name suggests, The Template is full of popular choices. But the problem with popularity is that everyone has the same players. Everyone moves in unison. A case of bending with the curve instead of pre-empting it.

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Another way to approach your team is with differentials. Low-owned stars in the making. Just waiting to give you juicy – and highly exclusive – points.

Where as The Template is very much based on being patient, taking the incremental benefits and playing the long-game, a team featuring players of low ownership is the opposite. Fire and fury. The yin to its yang. The antithesis of playing it safe.

This is a risk and reward strategy that, with the right results, can see you literally catapult up the league overnight. Leaving tens, even hundreds of thousands of more cautious managers in your wake.

But, as mentioned, the risks are far, far greater.

Guessing the key differentials can be hazardous. Getting it wrong – like a manager who picks, say, Jon Walters, Ryan Fraser and Tom Carroll in his GW1 team (ahem) – leaves you with more frustration in-hand than points on the board – and is the sort of decision that can take weeks, if not months to recover from.

But get it right, even partially right, and you’re looking at some of the greenest arrows you’ve ever seen.

So, as an advocate of a more risky strategy – particularly worthwhile if you’re chasing the pack rather than trying to stay alongside them – let’s have a look at some of the players who could make all the difference over the next few gameweeks.

With three chosen for each position (except goalkeepers – they don’t get flipped as quickly by managers, plus there are only a handful to choose from in the first place), I’ll try and pick a differential, an ultra-differential and a chin-stroking hipster-differential. (Percentages accurate at time of writing.)

DEFENDERS

Danilo, Man City. £5.5M, (Che, STO, BUR, wba), 3.9%
Summary: Mendy’s knee’s had it. City are strong. There’s not much competition for this position, and this lad’s relatively cheap.

Koscielny, Arsenal. £6M, (BRI, Wat, Eve, SWA), 1.1%
Summary: Arsenal slowly gaining momentum. Good immediate fixtures. And virtually undroppable at the heart of their defence.

Cresswell, West Ham. £5M, (SWA, Bur, BRI, cpa), 0.7%
Summary: Again, juicy fixtures. Plus loves crossing – and Andy Carroll’s lurking in the box. Largely been ignored due to West Ham’s early fixtures and form.

MIDFIELDERS

Sanchez, Arsenal. £11.9M, (BRI, Wat, Eve, SWA), 2.4%
Summary: Obviously needs no introduction, but now back from injury and transfer speculation and playing for a World Cup place. Has his ownership ever been this low?

Son, Tottenham. £8M, (Hud, BOU, LIV, manu), 1%
Summary: A potent focal point of Spurs’ attack last season. Slowly being reintegrated into the first team following his broken arm.

Davies, Everton. £5.3M, (BUR, bri, ARS, lei), 0.7%
Summary: Quick, youthful and can run all day – the perfect foil for some of Everton’s meandering first team. And an uber-low perecentage to boot.

STRIKERS

Okazaki, Leicester. £5.6M, (bou, WBA, swa, EVE), 4.5 %
Summary: Tireless and always capable of scoring important goals at crucial times. Great fixtures. Notably seems to be favoured by Shakespeare.

Defoe, Bournemouth. £7.8M, (LEI, spur, STO, che), 2.4%
Summary: Not attractive fixtures by any means, but Defoe is always likely to get a goal. Bournemouth have massively underperformed so far. Surely the tide will turn soon…

Niasse, Everton, £5M. (BUR, bri, ARS, lei), 0.7%
Summary: Koeman must feel bittersweet about picking Niasse after last season’s very public dismissal as a member of his 25-man squad. But he looks a different player now. Off the mark and hungry for more.

As a disclaimer I should say that pack your team full of these types of players and you will inevitably not succeed. There are just too many variables to go wrong.

The optimum number, I would say, is two or three mavericks in your starting eleven. The rest made up of safe and steady performers – template options, you could say!

So be bold. Roll the dice and pin your hopes on an unsung hero or two. The rewards are there for brave. And those looking for minor miracles!

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