FPLbravehearts FPL Strategy Guide

by koku_jin

This guide was written by Norman (@FPLbraveheart). Norman is
ranked inside the top 200 FPL managers of all time. Here, he shares
his approach on not only how to play FPL, but how to win! Norman
explains how he sets up his team and how he picks players. As wll
as a wealth of general strategy advice, you’ll get the inside
scoop on transfers, captains and chip usage. There is a wealth of
information here from one of the games most consistent performers.
If you like this guide, please show your appreciation to Norman by
leaving a comment or sharing. Thank you!

Del, Editor.
Introduction

There are many ways to play Fantasy Premier League. Some people
will be more aggressive in their approach, while others will be
more conservative. I’ve been playing this game for well over ten
years and I’m firmly in the latter category.

That is not to say that I don’t, on occasion, make moves that
may seem punty. For example, last season I bought Xeridan Shaqiri
before his scoring run. The season before last I made a similar
move with Josh King. My mini-league rivals were convinced that it
was mere luck that I brought them in at the right time. It
wasn’t. It was researching their underlying stats, in particular
their shots taken inside the box and expected goals.

Setting up a team How do I set up my team?

Gameweek 5, the time of writing, is perhaps too late in the
season for information on how to set up a team to be useful to
managers as many may already have used their first wildcard.
However, when I am setting up my team I do so in a way to maximise
flexibility. It is highly unlikely that managers will select the
optimum squad when setting up their team initially or when
wildcarding. We have to accept that. The key is to build in
flexibility to your teams so that you can transfer in the early
performers quickly (either by making a downgrade or sideways move).
My philosophy is: adapt to thrive.

To do this, I make sure I sign a premium player, a mid-price
player (or two) and a bargain player for each position. The premium
player can always be downgraded to an excellent mid-price option
that is looking like he is on good form. For example, at the start
of the 2018/19, many may have went for Kevin De Bruyne or Christian
Eriksen. The former suffered an injury while the latter had poor
returns. There was a plethora of excellent options in the 6-7m
price bracket and so some may have went for Pedro, etc.

What do I look for in a player?

A lot of managers in the FPL Community will reference
“underlying stats”. Each manager will differ in what they
consider an important statistic. For me, as I mentioned, I like to
look at shots taken per game, shots taken from inside the box per
game and expected goals and assists (ideally from the last four
GWs). I try not to place as much emphasis on goals actually scored
as that does not always tell the whole story. A goalkeeping error
may mask a poor shot which ought not have been a goal.

For the last season, I have prepared a spreadsheet setting out
the aggregate expected FPL points from expected goals (xG), assists
(xA) and clean sheets (xCS). As a shameless plug,
you can access the spreadsheet, which I update weekly, using this
link
.

In every player I consider signing, I look for three
things:

is he nailed?
does he have favourable upcoming fixtures?
does he have a good chance of goals, assists or clean
sheets?

The first two ought to be self-explanatory. The third question
can be answered by looking at xG, xA and xCS. Using this data, I am
able to piece together a list of players who I will be considering
bringing into my team should the opportunity arise.

For players who are priced between 4.0m and 7.0m, I ask a
further question: does this player represent value? It is all well
and good building a team full of some of the big guns and then the
rest of your team is fodder. Balance is key. In my view, there is
no greater feeling in FPL than identifying a value player who is
about to hit a run. The value tab in my xFPL spreadsheet has been
very helpful for me to identify those players.

Transfers How do I manage my transfers?

I’m a conservative player and so I try to avoid hits unless
necessary. To profit from a hit immediately, you need the players
you are bringing in to bag two returns more than the players you
are ditching. My exception is injured or suspended players or where
a long term plan could be scuppered by waiting to make a transfer
without a deduction.

To use an example of patience paying off immediately, I wanted
to transfer Ings and Kane in for Firmino and King in GW4. However,
I had doubts over whether the former pair would score more than two
returns than the latter. I also had doubts over Ings’ fitness due
to a blister so decided to wait a week. From being patient, I
earned +3 points and I had two transfers going into the
international break – something very valuable!

One of my mantras when it comes to transfers is: if in
doubt, do nothing! A two-week transfer is more flexible,
plus you will have more knowledge at your disposal. Any missed
price rises should be considered an investment in flexibility and
knowledge.

When deciding transfers, having prepared a watch list as
discussed above, I ask the question: in three weeks’ time, what
would I like my team to be? I’m then in a position to make it
happen. Fantasy Football Fix’s Assistant Manager is an invaluable
resource here as it lets me see expected points for my proposed
transfers. Subject to any necessary downgrades, I can prioritise my
transfers by expected points. Three weeks is a good period to look
at as you are less susceptible to a change of plans (e.g., a
Richarlison sending off). In that time, you are able to change a
quarter of your starting eleven!

I like to keep a watch list of players I find attractive (as FPL
options!). I try to keep on top of fixture swings to identify
players who have decent underlying stats and are due to an easier
run of fixtures. It may be overkill but I like to have a watch list
which comprises:

3 defenders (one premium, one mid-price and one bargain);
3 midfielders (one premium, one mid-price and one bargain);
and
3 forwards (one premium, one mid-price and one bargain).

By building a watch list of players, and having it noted on
Fantasy Football Fix, I can keep up to date with the potential
price rises of the players I’m considering signing.

I don’t like to keep a big watch list as I think it makes it
more difficult, on Friday evening or Saturday morning, to make my
transfer decision. I’m often quite busy and so like making my
watch list decisions early in the week and sitting on my team until
nearer the deadline. If, for example, my premium striker is ruled
out through injury, I can bring in the player I have earmarked as
the premium striker on my watch list. You’ll notice that I also
don’t have any goalkeepers on my watch list. I very rarely
transfer my goalkeepers. If one is needed, or I have no other
improvements to make, I can do a bit of research that week to find
out who has the best clean sheet probability in the upcoming
weeks.

At the time of writing, my watch list is:

Player
Team
Value
xFPL
Average FDR (Next 4 GWs)

Alonso
Chelsea
6.8m
13.90
2.75

Holebas
Watford
4.8m
9.50
3.25

Bennett
Wolves
4.0m
5.35
3.25

Hazard
Chelsea
10.7m
9.30
2.75

D. Silva
Man City
8.5m
11.70
2.75

Fraser
Bournemouth
5.6m
13.00
2.50

Lukaku
Man United
11.0m
13.20
2.25

Vardy
Leicester
8.9m
6.40
2.50

Wilson
Bournemouth
6.2m
15.60
2.50

A word of warning: this is my personal watch list. If someone
isn’t on the list, I either already have them or I don’t think
they are the best option for their price. Aguero isn’t listed
here, not because I don’t think he is an option, but because I
already have him!

Captaincy

Who to captain?

One of my biggest weaknesses in FPL is an over-reliance on home
captaincy picks. This is completely understandable as, typically,
players perform better at home than away.

I never captain goalkeepers, defenders or any player who is a
rotation risk that week. I always have a preference towards the
premium players. They are premium for a reason and, if you are
going to pay a hefty price tag for them, you ought to feel
comfortable giving that player the armband. This season I have
rotated the captaincy between my two most expensive players in
Mohammed Salah and Sergio Aguero. Both players have returned at
least one goal or assist when I’ve given them the armband so my
bias seems to be working this season. At the time of writing, the
player at home (or at home with the easiest fixture) has returned
the highest number of points. Long may that trend continue!

Using 2017/2018 season as a benchmark, let’s see how the top
captaincy suspects would fare:

Player
Team
Home (goals pg)
Away (goals pg)

Aguero
Man City
1.0
0.6

Kane
Tottenham
0.8
0.8

Lukaku
Man United
0.6
0.4

Salah
Liverpool
1.0
0.8

As you can see, almost all of the players perform better at home
than they would do away from home. Home captaincy bias isn’t
necessarily a terrible weakness to have.

However, the difficulty comes if you were trying to decide
between Salah (away) and Lukaku (home) one week. This is where you
may need to set aside your home bias and go for the more prolific
player despite the fact that he is away from home. I started last
season poorly because I was captaining Kane almost every week he
was at home. It meant missing out on a number of excellent Salah
and Aguero returns. My fortunes turned when I stopped captaining
Kane at home by default and started considering my captaincy more
carefully. I started captaining Salah away from home and against
other top six teams. I was low down in the rankings and needed to
be more aggressive as a way of catapulting up the rankings. At
Christmas, I was languishing around 1.8m. By the end of the season,
I had managed to bag myself a far more respectable overall
rank.

I always have two or three captaincy options in my team.

I decide my captaincy based on form, fixture and risk. The
bigger the reward, the more I am willing to risk. It was for that
reason that I kept faith with Aguero v Huddersfield last season
despite articles tipping him for some rotation that week. My reward
was a captain’s hat trick. However, if that fixture was at home
to Everton, for example, I would not have considered the risk to be
worth it and would have given Salah the armband instead. If
in doubt, go with the easiest home fixture but always remember
fortune favours the brave!

Chips How to play chips?

As a conservative player, I always save my
chips for the doubles! This is a tried and tested approach which
has won my cash mini leagues every season we’ve had chips!

Last season there was a lot of talk about playing the free hit
chip in a blank week for a lot of teams. I subscribed to that idea
at the start of the season, however, as we got closer to the blank
week, I realised I was in a decent position to have a full team
using only free transfers in the preceding four weeks. I crunched
the numbers and worked out how I could maximise the number of
players with fixtures over the blanks and doubles. This is my
advice: no plan should be set in stone with the doubles, always
think: how can I maximise the number of games my players
will play between now and the end of season?

Having worked that out, I decided: (i) to plan for the big blank
using my free transfers in the four or so weeks leading up to it;
(ii) to use my free hit in the smaller of the two double gameweeks
at the end of the season; and (iii) to pair my wildcard and my
bench boost to maximise my players in the biggest double gameweek
at the end of the season.

This meant that I had the following games for my players when
using my chips:

GW34 (small double) – 21 games – Free Hit used
GW35 (blank week) – 11 games
GW36 (normal week) – 11 games – Wildcard used
GW37 (bigger double) – 29 games – Bench boost used

This was a different approach to the majority of the FPL online
community. However, it worked for me and helped me climb into the
top 1% in what was a frustrating season.

For triple captaincy, I agree that it is best used in a double
gameweek.

A player will have a greater chance of scoring a number of goals
in 180 minutes than 90. In the last two seasons, Aguero and Kane
have been in teams which have had a double around GW27. This turned
out to be the smallest double and so was a good opportunity to use
triple captaincy, even if the use of that chip didn’t turn out as
successfully as we might have wanted.

A similar opportunity should arise this year and hopefully it
falls to one of the in-form premium players. An Aguero or Salah
double when the majority of the other teams have only one match,
would be excellent news so fingers crossed for that.

My advice for using chips would be:

Free hit – consider your free transfers and
use this chip when it can help you maximise your total number of
players playing in the small double and blanks;

Bench boost – use in the big double and
closely linked to your second wildcard;

Triple captain – in the smallest double
gameweek for a premium/in-form player.

Wildcards When to use the first wildcard?

There are a lot of managers in FPL who like to wildcard early.
Some think there is merit in this as it lets you jump on the early
form players and build up some value. However, early bandwagons may
not have staying power – looking at you Aaron Mooy in 17/18!

I like to hold my first wildcard as long as possible. I think of
it as a bit of insurance in case my team succumbs to an injury
crisis or horrible turn of form. Without your wildcard, you’ll be
scrambling and taking points hits to chip out the deadwood.

My wildcard strategy is also linked to my season goal
– winning my cash mini-league.

I hold on to my wildcard until I am the last competitor with
theirs left. This means I can wildcard and tailor my squad to
capitalise on my rivals’ weaknesses. If they have a big player
who they cannot afford without ripping apart their team, then I get
that player.

Often this means coming strong during the Christmas period and
having a sizable lead by March (by which time I have moved my focus
on to the top 10k players in FPL).

When to use the second wildcard?

For me, this is the easiest chip decision. I will only ever use
my second wildcard in the week preceding the big double in which I
intend on using my Bench Boost.

If you wildcarded around three weeks before you planned on Bench
Boosting, a lot can happen in that time. Form can be lost, injuries
suffered and suspensions earned. To minimise the risk of having
your Bench Boost plans ruined, it makes sense to me to use your
second wildcard in as close proximity to your Bench Boost as is
possible. For any newbies, please note you cannot use a wildcard
and another chip in the same week!

I hope this strategy guide has been useful and may your arrows
be green!

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FPLbravehearts FPL Strategy Guide
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