The new Premier League season is just a few days away and for more than six million fans it’s not just their own club’s fortunes they’ll be sweating on.
The immense popularity of the official Fantasy Premier League (FPL) game rivals the football itself at times, with bragging rights fiercely contested in mini-leagues around the world.
We’ve cast our eye over the data – including what 1,000 elite managers (each with multiple top-10,000 finishes) did differently last season – to answer the key questions and help you get your FPL campaign off to a strong start.
How do I build a good starting squad?
Assigning your initial £100million budget effectively can avoid the need to play catch-up over the rest of the season, so it’s important to do it well.
Our sample of managers seldom went for expensive goalkeepers or forwards, instead lavishing an average of £42.2m on their midfield.
They didn’t skimp in defence either, with the three most popular combinations of players all involving at least one asset priced at £6m or more.
Should I take transfer penalties?
Taking the occasional points penalty is nothing to fear, although top managers did so relatively sparingly.
On average, an elite manager exceeds their free transfer limit every three to four gameweeks, although the majority of these are just a single four-point penalty.
A penalty of eight points or higher is rare, with just under three-quarters of gameweeks seeing the best performers rely solely on their allocation of free transfers.
Should I rotate my players or have a strong first XI?
Top managers had players with a combined value of 19.3% of their budget on their bench last season, which means that anything above £20m for a starting squad worth £100m is going to be above-average.
Also, over half of their substitutes had a starting value of £6m or lower, suggesting that it would be wasteful to keep too many options on the bench.
However, a popular strategy is to rotate cheaper defenders from the bench, choosing clubs whose difficult fixtures don’t overlap and thus increasing the chance of points returns.
Looking at clubs with fewer than four defenders that cost £5.0m or more, Brighton and Leeds are the only pair where at least one team has a match with a Fixture Difficulty Rating (FDR) of less than 3 in each of the first 10 gameweeks.
Which clubs are managers getting behind?
The composition of top managers’ teams remains hidden until after the first deadline but we can see which clubs the general population are backing by adding up the ownership totals of each individual player.
Manchester United lead the way with an average of more than 1.6 players per squad. This is due in no small part to the game’s most-owned player, Luke Shaw, and last season’s top points scorer Bruno Fernandes, who is third on the players list.
Tottenham and Arsenal’s recent on-field struggles are reflected in their players’ Fantasy Premier League ownership, with both clubs sitting in the bottom half of this particular league table.
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