With the launch of the The Irish Times Fantasy Premier League comes a new challenge to fantasy football managers, with the rules set to challenge managers to make the most of all teams in the premier league an emphasis on a strong defence seems to be vital as each defender is punished for every goal they concede.
With many fantasy mangers used to running their defence on a shoe string budget in order to pile in the big names in the attacking third the Irish Times have forced us to have a more rounded team and one that must stand up to scrutiny in every position.
Your Defense Split In Two
One of the most notable features within the game is that defenders are now categorized under two headings “Full Backs” and “Center Backs” this is a new and unique feature that really gets the old grey matter thinking and one that makes for more realistic game play. By having to play four defenders managers must put thought into their defenders or face the prospect of losing points before the heavy hitters up front even get a chance to kick in with some goals or assists.
Clean sheets are, of course, the main source of income from our defenders and in recent seasons we’ve seen the numbers in decline. Certainly outside of the ranks of United and City, we’ve struggled to find regular returns. The likes of Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal and Spurs have failed to deliver , while lower down the likes of Everton, Villa and Fulham have stuttered and suffered from inconsistency. This is something that will give managers plenty to think about as the rules state you can only have two player from each team which means if you opt for big names at the back you could have to do without up front.
Some defenders however have been capable of adding some goals and assists to help boost their points return,the likes of Leighton Baines, Robert Huth and Brede Hangeland, for example but with these players seemingly losing their way over recent times managers have had to search all corners of the league for that extra little added bonus.
Deciding On Budget
Before you can really start adding to your defence you must decide how much investment are you willing to put into it and it is always wise in this case to select your defenders first before attending to the rest of your team. Whilst many fantasy premier league managers will be tempted by the big names at City and United presuming that they will, once again, offer the highest potential for clean sheets.
But there is a flaw with this way of thinking, given the fact you may only have two from each premier league team the inclusion of these so called “Old Reliable’s ” will have to see you do without their attacking quality’s further up the pitch.
Be Wary Of The Double Fixtures
Another option that will undoubtedly appeal to fantasy premier league managers is the prospect of a double set of fixtures for Chelsea in the second fixture week despite the Blue’s poor defensive record last season. This could be the short term answer for fantasy managers to get their teams out of the blocks but with the Pensioner’s going game-less in week 3 forced changes will have to be made.
Nemanja Vidic remains a doubt for the kick-off, leaving just Patrice Evra as a nailed-on option for Manchester United but the caution shown when approaching the United defence is evident with the Red Devils facing a trip to Goodison on the opening day of the season.
As for City, Vincent Kompany is the dominant force and is likely to be the highest owned defender in the game. Arguably both Joleon Lescott and Gael Clichy have potential ,but with rotation becoming a big risk at the Eithad Clichy could come under threat from Aleksandar Kolarov should Roberto Mancini stay true to his new 3-5-2 formation we have seem so much of in pre-season.
Consider Your Formation
You also have to consider your chosen formation at this point. Will it be the case that you will go for the traditional 4-4-2 in which case there could be room for mid to low priced midfielders in your squad to allow for spending at the back and up front or will you decide upon a 4-3-3 meaning that more investment in the midfield will leave your strike force some what handicapped by your purse strings. Or will you opt for a 4-5- 1 with the option of letting a cheap striker lead the line freeing up cash for high investment in attacking midfielders, and as we already know this season there seems to be an abundance of midfield talent on display who are all capable of bringing home the bacon.
If experience has thought us anything it is the fact that every year there is value to be had with the emergence of a cheap differential. Last season saw the emergence of two teams with viable defensive options that didn’t hurt the bank account, Newcastle where some what of a surprise with Ryan Taylor and Danny Simpson both posting impressive points returns for very little outlay. Swansea were the other team to emerge with both Angel Rangel and Ashley Williams finding their way into many managers teams, but this season we have seen change at the Liberty Stadium with the departure of Brendan Rogers to Liverpool and with many doubting whether Michael Laudrup can continue where the Irish man left off fantasy manager will be slow on the uptake until we can see how the Swans progress.
The aforementioned Huth and Hangeland have the potential to bring in the points should the goals and assists materialize . In the higher price bracket both Baines and Vermaelen stand out as defenders who, while unlikely to get close to City and United’s defensive points, could easily compensate for this with strong attacking returns. These two are ready-made differentials who will likely set your squad apart from your rivals.
The tactic of opting for defenders with attacking potential is that you can, to some extent, do away with some of fixture analysis by selecting players who are likely to feature every week like Vermaelen and Baines. To a certain extent the same can be said for options like Huth and Terry; regardless of their opponents, they’ll be in your lineup in anticipation of goals papering over the cracks.
By spending more in defence, then, you’ll be narrowing your attacking options but reducing the risk of having to rely on mid-price or budget defenders. There is, however, a potential solution that can manage that risk.
Planning For Fixtures
Planning defense to suit the upcoming fixtures is one way of ensuring that points are to be had at the back with the premise being that at least two of your four defenders should be playing against weaker opposition or at least facing a home game in that fixture week this tactic does take some planning but it is one that could be worth it in the long term if managers opt to fill their defensive complement with cheap options.
The first set in doing this is to identify four teams with alternating home and away or so called east fixtures, now this may seem like a lot of work to do for the entire season so what I suggest you do is look at the fixture weeks leading up to the first free transfer week at the end of the August transfer window. This will allow you to plan your team for the first few weeks until the league settles down and form becomes evident.
The Best Laid Plans
There are of course dangers to this and one that manager must be wary of is selecting teams due to the convenience of their fixtures rather than potential points return. So taking the time to identify these pit falls is advisable. The other problem managers face will be that things will not always go to plan despite fixture planning and there may be some weeks where your defense just won’t hold water and it is at this point that you must be prepared with a back up, so be sure to identify the weeks where your defense will be under pressure and plan accordingly.
An example of this will be the fact that with Man City and Reading facing two games in the second week many manager will be tempted to invest which is fine if you feel the investment will yield a return, but the problems will come in week 3 when neither side take to the field so planning for week 3 will have to be put in place.
Of course one of the best abilities a fantasy manager can have is the ability to recognize a bargain or the emergence of a player who finds them self launched into first team action due to an injury of a team mate, so vigilance and planning are most certainly the key to a solid defense.