BE MORE SOUTHGATE

It’s the start of the season and that means hope is blooming for us all.

Hope for attacking football, new blood and a season that might even have all fans back in stadiums at last (Please God).

But when it comes to picking that first fantasy squad you cannot do better than channelling your inner Southgate.

Yes, he had the mighty attacking prowess of Grealish, Sancho and Saka. The great Premier League season form of CalvertLewin and Bamford but what did he do? He resisted the urge to field a starting eleven full of hope and potential. Instead, he went with a solid, no fuss team that got England through the group and made a final.

It might be a hard to pill to swallow for England fans with all the calls to have a more attacking game but as an outsider, I’m a Scot and we get to watch all the finals of everything impartially. Surely Southgate’s approach was a good one as none of the attacking play and potential in thirty years has got England to a final before, so why should it have now, that is after all the definition of madness to keep attempting the same thing expecting a different result?

There is a lesson here for us FPL managers. Because, as any fellow Scot will tell you –

It’s the hope that kills you.

So, the simple rules I go by at the start of a season to prevent any hope from killing my team before the season even gets going are these:

  1. PICK A BALANCED TEAMKDB, Salah, Bruno is great in midfield, but your team is totally unbalanced everywhere else.

This gives flexibility so you can move to any player who is doing well in one transfer and most of all, means you are not hoping the 5 players you picked at £4 to £4.5m do something for you every week – there is a reason they are priced this way.

A decent team spend is spread like this:

  • GKs – £9.5 – £10m
  • DFs – £26.5 – £28m
  • MDs – £38 – £40m
  • FWs – £22 – £25m

This protects you in the early weeks when less is known. Whereas a minimum spend or overspend could leave you exposed in another area or make other areas hard to cover:

2. DO NOT PICK ANY PLAYER WHO HAS NOT PLAYED A MINUTE OF PREMIER LEAGUE FOOTBALL – (unless he’s called Messi)

Now, let me give you some context to this.

Last year before the start of the season we had the great promise of point scoring potential in the likes of Werner (128pts), Havertz (91) and Ziyech (70) at Chelsea… who, when the season had finished scored just 12 goals between them.

The completely boring and unpopular (Southgate *cough cough*) pick of Lacazette (129) did that on his own, and scored more fantasy points than any of them, as did Zaha (136 – who only scored 11 goals though).

More FPL mangers get sucked into the wormhole of hope at the start of every season than any other trap. The problem isn’t just the unknown and lure of potential, it’s the impact these decisions have on our overall team strategies later in the season that is the worry.

For instance, this season everyone is loving a bit of Toney (6.5m). The top scoring championship player and currently the 7th most selected player in FPL, who is owned by a third of all teams. He hasn’t played one minute of Premier League football…

This encapsulates my theory on hope.

If he was to somehow not hit the ground running then with that ownership his price could drop fast… but that’s just the start of the problem. You’ll need to find another striker for £6.5m,which means you are looking at picking one of:

  • Tammy Abraham – Playing for a team who are trying to sell him and buy another striker.
  • Christian Benteke – Possibly an option on his end of season form but you’re not betting on it, right?
  • Saint-Maximin – No longer a midfielder so loses a point this season for any goals, of which he scored just 3 last year.
  • Maupay – Not guaranteed a start, but did get 8 goals last season, not exactly setting the world alight
  • Rodrigo – Played a third of the minutes possible last season and got 7 goals.

That’s it, at the price range. If they don’t go up in price, which they will do if they have done well enough to pick them. So often we must make 2 transfers to get the hope out of our team which can be either a -4pt hit or just preventing us from doing the transfers we need because we have to get rid sharpish, or the price drops more.

Last season at this time nearly 30% of FPL managers had picked the great bargain of a 4.5m striker called Rhian Brewster. He played 27 games and scored 0 goals.

That’s the hope killing us right there.

If we look at it from the the “Southgate” perspective, it’s easier to go boring.

Spend £1m more and take the 7.5 option, because thenif they don’t work out you have lots of options and it’s done in one transfer without a hit.

But what if Toney does work out, I hear you think (I can, that hope is deafening to us Scots).

Ok, so he does well, scores two or three in his first two games. Excellent! I just transfer him in if that’s better than my current 7.5m option, and I’ve missed maybe 10 points (3×4 for the goals, minus 3×2 for the appearance points if the dud I picked originally).

There isn’t that much of a downside versus the potential crash of him not working out.

Last season I did this with Bamford. He came good and we all got him in, he was cheap so only one simple transfer. That’s the Southgate method – protect yourself at the start then react to the changes.

Last season there were 52 FPL players that were new to the league (who we are currently able to pick from this year and ignoring all the ones who scored 0).

If we think 100 points is a decent FPL return in a season (38×2 + a couple of goals or assists and a few bonus points) then of those 52 only 15 of them reached the 100pt mark:

  • 3 of them were goalkeepers
  • Only two forwards managed it – Watkins (168) & Werner (128)
  • 4 Midfielders – but none of the supposedly big signings such as – Thiago, Havertz, Ziyech, Benrahama
  • 7 were defenders – but not Thiago Silva the much-lauded Chelsea signing
  • Leeds players accounted for 5 of the 15 and no one was talking about them in the pre-season hype train.

In total we can currently choose from 108 players who reached the 100 FPL point mark last season, so is it worth taking a punt on that 13.8% chance the untried guy does it? If we really want to… it might be safer to go with a defender or goalkeeper.

3. PICK A TEAM THAT’S GOOD FOR THE FIRST 4-6 WEEKS – by then everything is known and adapting is easier.

You really don’t need to plan 10 weeks in advance at the start, too many things happen as the season unfolds and its worth knowing that wildcards are most often spent by week 7.

If you have followed the guidelines, then the balance in your team allows any changes you want to make and you can re asses with perfect knowledge after a couple of weeks when the dust has settled, and we know who is doing what and which players and teams are in form.

4. START WITH A GOOD SPINE – 1 top tier Defender, Midfielder and Attacker

This is important. Having a player at the top end of all areas allows the flexibility to move and it typically gives you a decent set of points every week to build your score on.

The spine should remain really, and it’s the area you take the least risks on. From what I read on the forums the template team at the start seems to contain Salah or Bruno, DCL or Kane, TAA and Martinez. This is a strong spine, and you can’t really argue with it.

Fantasy Football is a game of risk, but that doesn’t mean you take a risk at every opportunity or with your big money signings. That would be like say, Newcastle United spending £40m of their limited transfer budget on a striker who had only scored 7 goals in the previous season, and no one would do… oh wait. (Joelinton is currently available at £6m if you felt like a risk).

Finally, and most importantly.

5. PICK ONLY PLAYERS WHO ARE ABSOLUTELY GUARANTEED TO START, ESPECIALLY ON YOUR BENCH

This is important, and we might not get all of them right, for instance Foden looks good this year, then Pep loads up the roulette gun and starts Cancelo in a new advanced false 8 role for week one etc. It happens.

But, to the best of our ability just go with starters. Then cover a few price brackets to keep the balance and only have one 4.5m player in each area (not an attacker, that’s just an extra transfer begging to happen).

It’s better to have a defence that is spread more evenly and reads more like 7.5m, 5.5m, 5.5m, 5m, 4.5, than 7.5m, 7m, 5m, 4.5m, 4m to begin with.

Just because this protects you from an initial over reliance on the three expensive picks having to perform every week.

Later in the season its fine to be picking just the starting eleven or the £4m defender that’s playing etc, those are the good times.

Similarly, if all your players are starters, then the chances are they will not drop in price and therefore leave you with the problem of having to make two transfers to get them out.

There is also a rule 6. It’s a little one. Have fun with your team. if you aren’t sure then just pick a player you like because that will keep you coming back and enjoying it.

So, as a recap here is a quick hope test.

Have a look at this list of midfielders and think which one you might want to start with next season?

  • Foden
  • Grealish
  • Raphina
  • Ward-Prowse
  • Saka
  • Greenwood
  • Havertz

Sexy bunch, aren’t they?

The one you should pick obviously is of course – JWP

He plays every game, and I mean EVERY game. He scored more FPL points (156) last season than all of them, 20 more than the nearest Foden & Grealish (135).

He scored 8 goals – that’s two more than Grealish and Raphina. Three more than Saka, one more than Greenwood and double Havertz’s haul of four.

Finally. he’s cheaper!

JWP is currently £1.5m cheaper than Grealish, Foden and a whopping £2m cheaper than Havertz.

He is owned by just 8% of FPL managers. Havertz, the lowest scoring of these last season is owned by 12%.

After all of this, I bet we pick one of the others!

(Jadon Sancho has never kicked a premier league football, he is currently £3m more than JWP yet he’s owned by 2% more people).

Here’s hoping.

Harvey Smith

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