Picking your starting squad for FPL 2022/23

Welcome to my start of the season musings, last year I put the rules I use to select your starting squad out there. It served me well at the beginning but there are some lessons to learn. So here are the updated ones.

The key for me with a first squad was balance and flexibility, all those things I had 30 years ago basically… I want to be able to move to any player in two transfers.

So, to introduce my way of thinking and get us all into the logic behind this let’s start with a little quiz:

Who is this player?

  1. Key player at club
  2. Takes set pieces
  3. Played in 36 prem games and returned in 15 (that’s less than Foden who returned in 50% of his games last season)
  4. Outscored the “sexy” picks last year of Fernandes, Foden and Havertz comfortably
  5. Finished the season with a massive ownership of just 5%

Any thoughts? If you read last years piece you might have a clue.

I will come back to this later.

Before we start, you want to pop the kettle on as this has the ramblings of a deranged FPL addict who’s been missing the game just a little too much, so it’s a bit erm… long.

Ok so here we go. The game launch has happened, the warm fuzzy feeling of hope is brimming up within us, holidays are happening, and the weather is lovely.

It’s the time when us FPL addicts try to blend in with the other humans and show we can be human too. And then the game gets released. So, we crack open a cold one and watch your partner and kids running around as you pretend to be doing something important when really, we are just making drafts for the next month… OK, maybe that’s just me

To start with a quick refresh for any that are new to this.

These are the rules I pick by, they don’t have to be your rules, like my Twitter name suggests “opinions_vary”. But hopefully they might help you navigate the first few weeks without hits or drama… hopefully.

Mostly, all this does is help by filtering out players you shouldn’t look at until the season has started or to provide a simple way to decide between your choices. You can adapt these for your way of playing as it’s a useful thing to do.

Based on this year, I have also tweaked my rules, call it the “Dennis effect” and unlike Paul Merson, all things should evolve right?

The rules

  1. Only pick playing players who you know or are convinced, needs evidence not hope, are in the starting 11 of their team for GW1
  2. Thou shalt not pick Carlos Kickaball” (any player who has not played in the Premier league before)
  3. If in doubt, just protect your rank
  4. Pick a team you love to play – make sure there is some enjoyment in there
  5. Be realistic – do not throw yourself willingly onto the altar of hope
  6. . Never forget the rule of madness
  7. Templates aren’t evil
  8. You don’t need 15 differentials!

Ok, let’s kick it off with the easy one.

Only pick players you know are starting, and this goes for your subs too. Despite what you might think the game is about 15 players not 11. I know that can be controversial but, in the first squad you need flexibility. Because managers are human and clubs make signings and that changes the dynamic of things. So that nailed on world class big signing winger can suddenly be “assimilated into the club” and not starting or make your nailed on starter a substitute (Pep roulette / Conte’s changing fullbacks).

It’s just a wise thing.

So to get balance I will try spreading my spend across areas based on which area will bring me the most points. Last year my team set up looked like this:

Keepers 5.5 and 4.5 = £10m

Defenders 7.5, 5, 4, 4.5, 5 = £26m

Midfield 7, 13, 6.5, 7.5, 4.5 = £38.5m

Forward 7.5, 7.5, 8 = £23m

This season looking at the prices that have now all been released I’m thinking more towards a stronger midfield, or I will only have one premium and spread this around more (maybe Jesus up front and two £8m mids or something similar).

Keepers 4.5 and 4.5 = £9m

Defenders 7.5, 7, 6, 4.5, 4 = £29m

Midfield 13, 12, 8, 5, 4.5 = £42.5m

Forward 7, 7, 5.5 = £19.5m

I plan on playing 4-4-2 in the first week but like the flexibility to move to other formations if needed. I’m not into 4-5-1 as I think it’s too inflexible to start with as you are often throwing all of your eggs into one basket and the FPL gods just like to mess with us. Especially as this usually means picking two very cheap remaining forwards who don’t play… thus conflicting that first rule. The midfield is overbalanced here and may well change as this I don’t like the bench options this season as much.

Now. Number 2. “Thou shall not worship at the altar of Carlos Kickaball”

Old school fantasy players will know this one well. Yes, it means that this year I won’t be picking Haaland 😱! Not in my first team and it definitely does not mean you don’t pick them after. It doesn’t mean no, it means not now.

You can if you want, but to help with this please also note that I didn’t have Werner, Havertz, or Sancho last year and that worked out just fine. Pogba didn’t get to 100 points in his first FPL season either, it’s just far more common for new players to not reach that 100pt waterline. Last season we had 15% less players reach the 100 point mark than the year before so it is getting even harder as well.

I’m not losing loads of points by doing this, I’m just getting the points elsewhere and waiting to see if things click. When they do it’s easy to swap for Haaland in 2 transfers. Because the team is flexible. If Haaland or “insert carlos here” score a couple in the first two weeks then you haven’t lost those points, I intend to have KDB instead so he will probably score a few as well. But I see this as less of a risk.

This also goes for all the promoted teams. Best not to risk it, the players are unknown and there is similar value elsewhere for the early weeks. One final point to help you see my logic in this. Here are the stats of the two stars from the Bundesliga that came to the prem.

Werner in his last Bundesliga season = 34 games – 28 goals, 8 assists (also hit 4 in 8 games in the UCL)

Werner first season in Premier League = 35 games – 6 goals, 8 assists (and hit 2 in 4 games in the UCL). 62pts in first season in FPL

Sancho in his last Bundesliga season = 26 games (22 starts) – 8 goals and 11 assists. 2 goals and 3 assists from 6 UCL appearances

Sancho first season in Premier League = 29 games (20 starts) – 3 goals and 3 assists (1 goal from seven appearances in UCL). 93pts in FPL in his first season

Haaland last season in the Bundesliga = 24 games (21 starts) – 22 goals, 7 assists. Also got 3 goals in 3 games in the UCL

A note of caution: If he continues this it would still mean he misses 1 third of the season. That would be £11.5m for a player that plays 2 out of three games. So if you want to pick him the one thing you know is you will have to have at least one playing backup on your bench.

Last season no GKs who were new to the league scored over 100pts. In defence there were only 4 of all of the new defenders. Cucurella (126pts), Guehi (123pts), Henry (108pts) and Royal (102pts). In midfield there were also just 4 from what I can see. Raphina (146pts), Mbeumo (119pts), Cornet (104pts) and Norgaard (101pts). Up front it was worse only the much maligned Dennis (134pts) managed it. That’s just 9 players of all of those that were new to the premier league that managed to score over a hundred points. The Carlos rule is real.

Moving onto rule 3. Protecting that rank.

This is simple, if you are trying to pick that last 4.5 mid or defender and just can’t make up your mind. Just find the one with the highest ownership, it simply means of it pops you are getting it too and if it fails then you don’t lose too much rank as everyone else has him too. You can use this logic for other positions if you really can’t decide. But it’s mostly for me a final pick thing and don’t overthink it.

This is caveated by rule 4. Pick a team you want to play with

Always pick someone you like, someone from your fav club. It’s just good to have fun and love it when someone you like gets points and is in your team. It’s a game so don’t forget to have some fun, can also be a good way of finding an early differential. just be wary of rules 5 and 6. Have someone you think is fun or you like watching and make sure you enjoy the game. Just please don’t make that person Dennis!

Now some good ones. Rule 5. Being realistic is so important at the start.

We all love the transfer windows and hearing our team has just signed the new Messi etc. Or that inside info that {INSERT NAME} is playing in a more forward position / is the main man, have a hunch etc etc. Or it could be simply that we think our team will be better this season. It’s fine, I love all that stuff but when it come to your fantasy team it means nothing. Too much hope, like too many differentials will kill you fast. You can’t win FPL or your mini-leagues in the first two weeks, but you can lose it. So be honest with yourself, are there real fantasy facts (many are available) that back up the thinking? If that midfielder really is listed is a defender then great (Canos – Brentford), just do the research first (He is suspended until 13th August so don’t pick him). Now this brings me nicely onto rule 6.

Rule 6: Don’t forget the first rule of madness

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” This used to be a great downfall of mine and I see it in the fantasy community a lot.

Let me give you an example:

At the end of last season when Arsenal had a full squad for Arleta to chose from, he generally started Saka, Odegaard, Nketiah, Xhaka, and even Martinelli. Emile Smith Rowe played 90 minutes only TWICE after gameweek 13. Arsenal have now signed Jesus, Viera and Marquinhos so this can only reduce the chances of him playing, not increase it. He may be a phenomenal super sub. But don’t expect him to start, that would be madness. So on a week one team, I would avoid.

The other part of this is more about teams, looking for the bargains is always important so teams that you expect to do well versus teams you expect to be worse. I have a simple method for this, I look at where a team finished in the league and then at the players that have joined or left the team. If I think the better players have left than joined then I think it is only logical to assume the team will do better. So for instance: United finished 6th last season. They have appointed what appears to be a better manager and one who has a defined way of playing, however, they have only signed a left back who is young and not considered a world beater and a good number 10 in Eriksen. The midfield which is pivotal to todays style of football has been weakened (Pogba and even Lingard) and they signed a player in the one place they already had quality (Fernandes). So to expect them to finish higher currently for me would be madness.

A more interesting one for me is Chelsea. With the current pricing it seems we can all go crazy for Chilwell and James. But Chelsea have lost the heart of their defence, Rudiger and Christiansen have gone, Azpilicueta and Alonso are going. That leaves them with Sarr, Silva and Chalobah… I’m not seeing as many clean sheets here, they have got a worse defence than last season currently, not a better one. So a little caution could be in order. If they sign a good defender as is rumoured then great and I’m all in, but I wont be doubling up on them or even considering it until they do.

Rule 7: Templates aren’t evil

This is good to think about. We aren’t here to fight against the evil power of a template. If you defined the players in the common template it would be, consistently scoring points, offering value in their position and generally have good fixtures. So, another way to describe a template team would be “common sense”. It’s literally what we are looking for. So when the season starts, having a predominantly template looking team is not a bad thing… its common sense.

The only time to go against it a little more though, is at the start. Because there are no points, no form and it is all mostly best guesses and informed choices. So use the first one cautiously but don’t fight against it. Templates are good, they help your rank and keep you in the game, just be aware of the few template players who are there based on hope not fact (Foden was a good example last year – he only started 28 games, cost the price of a regular starter who you would expect consistency from and rarely delivered, but was often in the template – based on what the community “thought / hoped” would happen and not what “WAS” happening). If salah scores every week just pick him, its the whole point of the game, to get the most points. If Rahpina is in the template and not guaranteed to start then I don’t pick him, because he probably isn’t scoring as many points as my current player and his template position is based on hope not fact.

Which leads onto the last rule quite nicely. 8. You don’t need a team of differentials

It’s a game that last 38 weeks, so I’m not afraid to start with a similar team to everyone else and have a few differences. As long as I have two or three good options in my starting 11 (I don’t really count the last two bench spots) I am good with that. I just want to get the average I am looking for, this year its 69/70pts a week – top 10 in the FFUK league last year averaged 69pts so this is the new target, I am happy to achieve that by just getting 3-6pts a week better than the people above me. If you are more of a risk taker then have some more differentials but base them on facts, and expect to have weeks where it doesn’t pay off. As most of you know, I don’t like points hits. So I avoid picking future ones – a future points hit would be picking a £4.5m forward who won’t play, this happens every year. Or all of the bench don’t play. Those aren’t differentials or template players to me they are hits sitting in your team with flags on. Last season in the first 6 weeks I was regularly having one and sometimes two bench spots taken up – Digne got injured, Robertson came back to the squad so Tsimikas needed to go, I had Shaw (you can judge me, I accept it) who drifted out of the team.

So… the final part. Have you worked out who that midfielder was? I can tell you that in the first 16 game weeks he returned just twice. Then he scored 120pts in the last 20 games. Still no thoughts? OK, final piece. He is my classic fantasy player, plays regularly, isn’t sexy, offers perfect value at his price and is usually a top ten midfielder every season. It is of course James Ward-Prowse (159pts), and I didn’t own him.

So simply put, I pick a solid squad which has a few differentials, I leave all of the new players alone until I see who is performing and I back my decisions (and then hide in a dark room with no wifi until kick off).

Which means jumping on and off players is probably the way forward now, as a way of helping make a few good choices I will leave you with a few facts and the need for a long sleep!

  • Salah has scored double digit returns on each of his 1st game weeks for Liverpool, he plays Fulham in week 1.
  • Brentford kept 4 clean sheets in their first 6 games last season. They have decent fixtures to start with and their defensive form only dipped when Raya was injured last season
  • Chelsea also kept 4 clean sheets in their first 6, this was with tough games against City, Liverpool, Spurs and Arsenal too. But the defence is not the same as it was, yet their start isn’t as bad this season
  • Spurs now have 3 left backs and 3 right backs in the squad, Perisic only played 60mins or more under Conte 17 times in 32 appearances so his side of the pitch isn’t going to generate a lot of clean sheets is it?
  • Salah averaged 4.7pts per game in his last 9 matches, for a “slump” thats still better than many. Be careful of a community narrative without looking into it.
  • In the season without Ronaldo in the team Fernandes scored 244pts, took the penalties and dominated the set pieces. If Ronaldo leaves, Fernandes could be a great differential

Signing off for now, enjoy the rest of pre-season and make sure you are all set for that GW1 deadline.


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