Fantasy Football – A Beginners Guide

If you’ve been bullied into entering the Fantasy Football league at work and have no clue how to avoid being the butt of the hilarious Monday morning banter, then you’re in the right place. Similarly, if you’re the one doing the bullying and you’re desperately trying to recruit some new casual players then equally, this guide should prove a handy ally.

Aimed at the new Fantasy Football Manager, the guide will talk you through the fundamentals of Fantasy Football and attempt to give you some insight into some of the basic strategies you can adopt.

While all this might sound wonderfully reassuring, I’m afraid there’s a distinct possibility that my words will spare you that or have little bearing on the outcome of your season. I bought Nicklas Bendtner and Morten Gamst Pedersen again last season. If you don’t know who they are, it’s probably best to keep it that way.

That’s actually likely to be the best tip you’ll find over the next few pages but do read on regardless. At the very least I’ll be able to help you talk a good game which in Fantasy Football, is 90% of the fun.

WHAT IS FANTASY FOOTBALL?

Fantasy football is a game that casts you in the role of a Fantasy Manager, given the task to pick a squad of real-life players who score points for your team based on their real-life performances in their matches.

To play Fantasy Football you’ll need to pick a team of 11 or sometimes a squad of 15 real-life players or more,that will represent you each week of the season. Over each of those weeks they will score you points which will add and subtract to a total that will be compared to other teams in your mini league and/or in the Fantasy Game world overall with prizes at stake.

DO I NEED TO PLAY IN A LEAGUE?

The game can be played solo, with managers pitching their team against all other registered managers in the game. However, the preferred option is to enter your team in a private mini-league with friends or colleagues.

WHICH GAME DO I PLAY?

With so many different games out there, it’s far from straightforward finding the right one for you and any mates you’ve convinced to join in. These days you can shop around and make a selection based on your level of interest, commitment and the cash in your pocket. If you’re searching for a game, be sure to read the Play Fantasy Football section of this site where I compare and review each of the big Fantasy Football games out there.

HOW DO I SCORE POINTS?

Different Fantasy Games have different scoring systems so one of the first things to examine when getting started is just how your chosen game allows your team to score points. Typically the players you select for your team score points for actions such as:

Playing matches – simple this one. If a player plays for his real-life team he’ll earn you some points for your fantasy team. Often a player will need to start the match to earn these points rather than appear as a sub.

Scoring goals
 – self-explanatory. The more goals the player scores as an individual in his real-life team, the more points he’ll score for your fantasy team.

Keeping clean sheets
 – Players who take part in a match and in which their real-life team prevent the opposition from scoring will score points for your fantasy team. This method of scoring is normally only available for the defenders and goalkeeper in your fantasy team.

Earning Assists
 – Players who make a pass which then leads directly to a goal scored by their real-life team can earn points for your fantasy team. By no means a default scoring method, this is included in roughly half of the Fantasy Games available.

Playing Well 
– Some Fantasy Games allow your players to score points for good performances in their real-life team. So if a player wins Man of the Match in real-life, he could earn your extra points in addition to those mentioned above. It’s an arbitary scoring method and one that can cause some controversy given that the judging of such matters is often very objective.

CAN MY TEAM LOSE POINTS?

Yes indeed. In addition to the methods of scoring points above, players can also lose points for you fantasy side by the following methods.

Conceding Goals
 – Players who take part in a match and in which their real-life team concedes a goal to the opposition can lose a point for your fantasy team for every goal they concede. Like clean sheets, this normally only applies to the defenders and goalkeeper in your fantasy team. Players can also lose points for scoring own goals in some Fantasy Games.

Getting Booked – Players who earn yellow and red cards for their real-life team can lose points for your fantasy team. Like assists this is by no means a standard rule but is popular amongst many Fantasy Games.

HOW DO I PICK MY TEAM OR SQUAD?

Every Fantasy Football game will hand you a budget which you spend on your team or squad. If you new to Fantasy Football, this budget may well seem generous but once you take a look at the player list and start selecting, it’s a good bet that it will start getting eaten up pretty quickly. In most games you will find that the most expensive players will be the forwards – particularly in games that do not include assists as a method of points scoring.

CAN I CHANGE MY LINEUP ONCE I’VE PICKED IT?

In addition to your initial team or squad most Fantasy Games has a transfer allocation. In basic terms this is the number of changes you can make to your lineup over the entire season. This total does vary from game to game and some games also restrict you to “transfer windows” throughout the season. These are set periods of time in which you area allowed to make transfers. Outside of these times you cannot change your lineup.

Making sure you’re aware of how many transfers you have, as well as any transfer windows, is a key task to tick off before you start choosing your initial squad. If you have a lot of opportunities to change your lineup it gives you more allowance to take a risk on an unknown such as a new arrival to the Premier League.

HOW DO I ALLOCATE MY BUDGET?

Without examining the specifics of particular games it’s impossible to answer this. There are techniques you can use to help you however. When it comes to allocating the cash one approach is to assemble a shortlist of players and their values. Prioritise this shortlist according to your wants and needs and use a “rock and pebble” approach whereby the must-have expensive players are picked first as the “rocks” and then the cheaper “pebbles” are then scattered around them until your budget is spent and/or your team or squad are complete.

Allocating a rough budget to each of the distinct three areas of your team – Goalkeeper/Defence, Midfield and Forwards – is always a good idea and enables you to create a balance side in terms of budget, as well as giving you a disciplined structure when it comes to constructing your side.

Achieving a balance in terms of cash spent across the three areas of the team can reap rewards. Your players will get injuries, suspensions and loss of form and if you take steps to select a more balanced team in terms of cost, you may find it easier to repair any holes.

Ideally you need to aim for a situation whereby one for one transfers will be enough to fix any problems you may run into. Investing heavily in one area of the team and then being unlucky enough to run into problems in this area, could leave you with surplus cash that will be wasted without using additional transfers elsewhere in your team. Again, how important this is as a factor depends greatly on the number of transfers you have available and the opportunities you have with transfer windows to make changes.

OKAY SO WHICH PLAYERS DO I PICK?

That’s a good question and if I had a definitive answer I’d have won a pot of money and be sunning myself in Dubai swilling an expensive cocktail. The fact that I’m tapping this out in my flat probably tells you that I don’t have the solution to that one. Having said that, myself and the folk you’ll find posting comments on this site, can certainly offer some pointers to help out.

In many ways, this particular subject area really needs a guide in itself so handily I’m going to be creating them for you. This guide to general team selection is a good place to start. It includes tips on how to create a shortlist of players for your team or squad. This will be followed by specific guides for each position before the season kicks off. These will include the odd player recommendation, so if you stick around this site long enough for the transfer market to settle down, you should be able to find some assistance for all areas of your side by early August. There’s no need to wait for me though, you can get selecting a team now and tinker later should you be foolish enough to take on board any of my nonsense.

I HAVE MY INITIAL TEAM. WHAT DO I DO NOW?

Just sit back and watch the points roll in. It’s unlikely to go like that though. What’s more likely is that three of four of your players will be confined to the bench, one has been suspended for playing in a match refereed by Mike Dean and another has picked up a niggling thigh injury. Although that’s your fault for picking Robin Van Persie.

WHAT’S THE BEST COURSE OF ACTION THEN?

You need to assess and react to injuries quickly. Monitor my injuries and bans table regularly to check on your team and if a player looks to be out for 2-3 weeks consider replacing him as this could well mean a 3-4 game absence given that he’d have to regain his match fitness and place in the side.

If you have players out you need to look at just how serious an issue this is on a player by player basis. As a rule though, it’s something you need to consider acting upon. Even if the player is getting on as sub or even starting 75% of the first five games, if he has competition for his place or has been rotated, then it’s something you may have to deal with over the entire season. If you have an alternative on your shortlist who is more reliable and scoring well, it might be best to make the change early rather than have one player distract you and have you guarding transfers for the opening few months.

As for player form, this will fluctuate throughout the season. Keep an eye out for form players but don’t be tempted by one week wonders who hit a hat-trick and then never follow it up for the rest of the season. Sustained form and proven point scorers is what you’re after. Jumping on bandwagons can often be profitable but only when it’s being pulled by a player with a proven Premier League pedigree or at least proven class elsewhere.

There’s certainly a wealth of information to sift through if you’re going to try to stay on top of things but hopefully, this site will be of help. I’ll do my best to bring you the information you need on a weekly basis to make informed decisions and they’ll certainly be enough opinion from me and other visitors on the site to consider.

Monitor my Team News section week by week prior to games – this will give you a predicted lineup for every team going into the weekend. You should also check out the articles that come out after every set of games. These will often point out any significant changes to team lineups and offer clues on which players have their place under threat at any given time, as well as those players coming into form.
The site also provides the “Watchlist” a set of rankings listing recommended players for the next five games so by all means use this to shape your plans for future transfers.

SO I ENDED THE SEASON IN MID-TABLE, IS THAT GOOD?

Yes its brilliant. Only the best Fantasy Football managers end up in mid-table. A few more seasons of that and you’ll soon have the bare-faced cheek to set up your own site and start pretending you know what you’re doing.

THE CHECKLIST

  • Find out the scoring method used by your Fantasy Game
  • Find out how many transfers you have.
  • Find out when you can make these transfers and if there are any transfer windows enforced.
  • Find out the budget for selecting your team or squad.
  • Split this budget for each area of your team – Goalkeeper/Defence, Midfield and Forwards.
  • Using the games player list and the guides and selection stats on this site, make a shortlist of players with their values.
  • Narrow this down by checking out the season ticker on this site to identify when teams have a favourable run of fixtures, starting with the opening 5 games.
  • Double check the injuries and bans table to ensure that none of shortlisted players risk being out of action.
  • Begin trying out configurations for your team using your shortlist and budget available.
  • If you’ve taken risks with one or two players, have a Plan B which can be carried out with the minimum of transfers.

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