At The Rails would like to introduce a new column, Fergie’s Fantasy. Scott Ferguson will be writing a weekly bit to help you win your fantasy pool… and make your friends look stupid. Well, more stupid…
I feel like a kid counting the number of sleeps until Christmas. Just a few more days until a new season of Premier League football gets underway. And while I love to watch the top teams in action, it’s still not enough to satisfy my appetite. I need to watch more games and I need a reason to care about them.
Enter fantasy football. The only reason I can still leap out of my seat during a Wolverhampton vs. Wigan game. Plus you can’t beat holding the bragging rights over yer mates after your fantasy team has destroyed all those in its path.
In my opinion, the top fantasy game is the one run by the Premier League itself, at premierleague.com. Over two million football fans play each week — from nearly every country on earth. Here’s how it works: you have a salary cap to spend on 15 players. Those players earn you points by scoring goals, getting assists, clean sheets, as well as getting bonus points for good play. You pick your starting XI and then if one of your chosen players doesn’t take the field, the system automatically selects one of your subs. You can only transfer one player a week without a penalty, so you want to start off with some reliable players you can trust.
Here’s how you do that…
Wait, how am I qualified to show you? Well first of all, my last name is Ferguson. This already shows I’m closer to sharing genes with the greatest football manager of all time than you are. (Ed. note: Oh for the love of God…)
Second, not only am I the defending champion of my local fantasy pool but more importantly, my overall score put me in the 99th percentile of the two million people who play this thing (sure that means only finishing in the top 10,000 but it’s not as easy you think). It requires guts, luck, and a good internet connection. So here is your guide to taking that first step to fantasy football glory…
HOW TO CHOOSE YOUR TEAM
PAY ANY PRICE FOR YOUR CAPTAIN
Your captain earns double points so you need to make sure he is one of the league’s top point getters. Don’t worry that they cost twice as much as most of the other guys on your team. This high-scoring player is normally a midfielder; last season, it was Frank Lampard. However, the second and third spots were taken by strikers Didier Drogba and Wayne Rooney. Basically, to win, you are going to need to have at least one of Frank Lampard, Cesc Fabregas, Steven Gerrard, Wayne Rooney, or Didier Drogba on your team (though check on Drogba’s health as he came on as a sub in the Community Shield). You could do worse than adding Carlos Tevez to this list as well.
EVERYBODY MUST PLAY
To succeed in the Premier League, a team must have depth. Same is true for your fantasy team. You will be tempted to choose 2-3 players for the lowest possible price so that you can put all your money into your starting XI. Trust me, it’s not worth it. For a variety of reasons — including injuries, schedules where occasionally a team may play twice in a week or not at all, or players getting an unexpected rest in real life — you will need guys who can be substituted for your stars and still earn points. Also, players that come on regularly as subs in real life are no good to you because they have less playing time to earn points. Make sure you have 15 players who will start every game, or nearly every game, to give yourself the maximum flexibility when setting your weekly line-up.
Don’t overpay for your keeper. Netminders get points for saves so while Peter Cech or Edwin Van Der Sar may rack up the clean sheets, they often don’t have to make as many saves… as say Heurelho Gomes from Tottenham, or Thomas Sorenson from Stoke City. The top fantasy goalkeeper last year was Pepe Reina from Liverpool, but you could have spent less and got nearly as many points from Gomes, Sorenson or Aston Villa’s Brad Friedel.
You need players who cost very little, but still chip in with a lot of points. My gem last year was Wolverhampton’s Jody Craddock, a veteran defender who headed in more than his share of expected goals. This year, I’m taking a hard look at West Brom’s Chris Brunt and Wigan’s often overlooked Charles N’Zogbia as ways to get the most from the least. Remember: bargain shopping is not a true science. You have to just look around and go with your gut.
AVOID NEW SIGNINGS
It’s a long season so there’s no need to risk buying a brand new player until you see how he fits in with his new team. Javier Hernandez has looked strong for Manchester United in pre-season, but how much playing time will he really get? I’m sure Joe Cole will get plenty of touches with Liverpool… but I don’t want him on my team until I see it with my own eyes. Same with Arsenal’s new striker Marouane Chamakh.
Keep an eye on these players and get ready to jump on their bandwagon… but there’s no need to be first one aboard. One amazing strike from Wigan’s Hugo Rodallega on the opening day last year was all I needed to see to grab him last year for a decent bargain, but it wasn’t worth the risk to start him right away.
RESEARCH THEIR VALUE
The Premier League fantasy league site keeps all sorts of statistics that are useful for selecting your team. You can look at total points, minutes played, goals, assists, etc. For me, the best stat to look at is the Value stat, comparing the points a player earns against the price of obtaining them; basically, who gives you the biggest bang for your buck.
Here are the top three in terms of value at each position from last season, all of whom should get some consideration for your team this year.
Goalkeepers: Robinson (Blackburn), Sorensen (Stoke City), Schwarzer (FulhamDefenders: Craddock (Wolves), Dunne (Aston Villa), Givet (Blackburn)
Midfielders: Etherington (Stoke City), N’Zogbia (Wigan), Ferguson (Birmingham…and yes it’s true, check the stats, he’s not just listed here because he’s a Ferguson)
Forwards: Bent (Sunderland), Rodallega (Wigan), Doyle (Wolves)
That’s all for now. I promise not to be so long-winded in the future… but you have to put the time in the beginning if you want results at the end!
Scott Ferguson is the Foreign Assignment Editor for CTV National News. He is also a die-hard Manchester United fan… and somehow won the office pool that he runs. Shocking…