A Beginner's Guide to the Fantasy Premier League (FPL)
The Fantasy Premier League season has begun, as it always does, roughly a month before the first ball is kicked in the Premier League. The game is becoming increasingly popular, with last season's game peaking with over 4 million accounts with a team in the game. If you're new to the FPL, with or without friends in your own personal mini-leagues, or an old horse looking to freshen up on your ideas for the upcoming season, then we've run down what we believe to be the essential elements to doing well in the FPL, or at least attempting to be competitive, in a game that at times shows you no mercy. Strap in as we take you on a beginner's journey through the world of Fantasy football. All aboard.
For Absolute FPL Begineer's Ahead of the 2017/18 Season
We'll begin by providing some basic site information, how the game modes work, and general questions that arise when playing the FPL.
The FPL's Twitter Account: @OfficialFPL
Accessible: Computer, tablet, mobile devices, and an official app (though the app is temperamental at times)
- Classic League: Pick a squad of 15 players with a £100 million budget. When you've settled on your 3 keepers, 5 defenders, 5 midfielders, and 3 forwards, set a line-up each week with a captain, a vice captain, and any chips you may wish to use. You can two wildcards throughout the season, to completely change your team based off the budget of your team.
- Head to Head: With your team, join H2H leagues which pits you against your rivals each week, and works much like the Premier League table, with 3 points for a win, 1 for a draw, and nothing for defeat.
- Draft: A new addition to the FPL for the 2017/18 season. There is no budget, a limit of 16 teams per Draft League, a league in which players takes in turns to draft players from the FPL game. It is a separate entity from the traditional FPL game.
Chips are one-off tokens that you get to use throughout the season. You can find them below your squad list on your team's profile. This year the FPL has replaced the 'All Out Attack' chip, which allowed just 2 defenders to play, with a 'Free Hit' chip. Below we've outlined what the Chips are for the 2017/18 season.
- Bench Boost: For one week every one of your 15 man squad plays. If you use the chip during a Double Gameweek, you have the potential of 30 player appearances, with a captaincy playing twice.
- Free Hit: You can replace your entire team, but only for one week. After the week is over your team's value and your old squad is back in play.
- Triple Captain: Your captain earns triple points for one Gameweek, instead of the usual double points. This also applies if negative points are achieved.
General FPL Questions
How to your players earn points?: Via goals, assists, appearance points, clean sheets, and bonus points.
Can points be taken away?: Only through yellow and red cards, retrospective bans (a suspension after a Gameweek ends).
Factors to consider when playing: Injuries, suspensions, rotation risk, and the value of your FPL team.
FPL Captaincy: Your captain earns double points. If your captain doesn't play, your Vice Captain will earn double points. If neither your captain or vice play, you'll get nothing.
When should I play my chips?: Wait until the Double Gameweek's and later in the season when you can fully utilise the potential of the chips, when form players, teams, and weaker opposition is clearly identified.
When should I use my two wildcards?: Most people use theirs early on in the season once everything has settled down. That is usually after the first international break at the end of August. The second wildcard should be used the week before a Double Gameweek, nearer the end of the season.
Does my team value matter?: Yes, incredibly so. The more you look after your team, making the right transfers, your team value will go up, which over time should allow you to purchase more premium player options.
What are we, the Hype Train, mostly asked about?: Which players to transfer in, to transfer out, when to play Chips, if any differentials worth it for the week, and most importantly, who to captain.
What is the biggest problem FPL players have in the game?
Without question, it's setting line ups and making transfers. If you want to play, take a few minutes each week to set your team. Make transfers if you wish (depending on if your squad needs it), but just make sure you set a captain, a vice, and press the 'Save Your Team' button that is below your squad. Double checking this goes a long way with remaining invested in the game.
FPL - Fantasy Premier League
PL - Premier League
Differential - A player with low player percentage ownership who your fellow players might not have
Pundits - Member's of the FPL community who blog, vlog, tweet, or have a general influence surrounding the game, but who are not part of the official FPL itself
The Scout - The FPL's official online tabloid, which provides news and puff-piece articles surrounding certain players and tactics
Gameweek - Each round of Premier League fixtures, from an FPL point of view, is refereed to as a Gameweek. On social media there are abbreviations used for each GW - GW1, GW2, GW3, GW4, GW5, etc
Green/Red Arrows - Depending on your performance for any given Gameweek, your Overall rank, and your positions in mini-leagues, might vary. If you did well you're likely to have a green arrow, and if you had a nightmare of a week, your arrows will be red.
Double Gameweek - When PL fixtures are rearranged some teams play twice in the same week, meaning that players can play twice, which means twice the opportunity to score FPL points. On Social Media the abbreviation #DGW is used.
Deduction / Hit - When you're forced into making more than the permitted free transfers, you take a -4 deduction per transfer.
Dead Teams - These are inactive players whose accounts have not made transfers, or maintained their squads, in some time.
For FPL Players Looking to Improve Their 2017/18 Rankings
There's a heap of ways to get further involved with the FPL that won't eat up your time. Experienced players that are usually contesting the top spots in the game are usually doing some of the below, in order to stay maintained in the news.
Join and Interact on Social Media
Websites such as our own, and others, use platforms such as Twitter and Facebook, among other platforms, to gather the latest scoop on the FPL.
Do we rate the FPL Twitter account?
We're not especially keen on the @OfficialFPL account as they have created an "us vs. them" mentality in the larger FPL community. This isn't us being bitter that they're isolating themselves, and not feeding off a massive talent pool of good writers and contributors, no this is an analytical take on the account and their practises. They offer, at times, great insight into player selection and stats, but alternatively they are an institution that only uses buzz words, tiresome questions and emoji's, and pose questions and solutions that real players of the game know are there for click-bait purposes. When using Chips in the FPL, this is where the account is at its weakest, imploring players to use a Triple Captaincy chip outside of a Double Gameweek.
The account's comment section has been bombarded with beginner's whose advice is at times criminal - so you don't want to be that kind of beginner that feeds off advice from a player with Matt Surman as their FPL captain. Be one that goes outside of the FPL's lines when researching your tactics, as there's plenty of self-help out there with a unique voice and offering the community.
FPL Things you can do on Social Media
- Ask for advice on your team for an upcoming Gameweek (you can upload your squads on to these platforms easily, especially via mobile through screenshots. It's easy for account Admins to reply with a short comment, or give players room to debate on comment threads. These threads can be particularly useful as it is filled with long term players who have been thinking the same thing.
- Message or speak with veterans that can offer solid advice about your team's organisation, captaincy picks, and future transfer plans.
- Get a general consensus of if a potential transfer or captaincy choice is worth taking. You'll be able to find captaincy polls, and feature articles anywhere you go if you just type in a few key words such as FPL, Captaincy, and the Gameweek we're approaching.
- The use of Chips in the FPL is one where the wider FPL community can help navigate. Unlike the FPL account who doesn't care when you use it, we'll help find the best time to use the chip, and maximise your points potential.
- Generally speaking, there are very good statisticians who provide detailed graphs of fixtures, form, and potential.
- Graphically speaking, we're one account which loves graphical awareness, and we're not the only ones. Photos, videos, and articles that take serious production time, are rolled out free of charge, and they are filled with colourful and personal entries on a week-to-week basis.
- You can join cash leagues and competition based leagues to spice up your experience of the game.
- We scream the weekly FPL deadline in your faces, just in case you're unaware.
- It's an avenue where you can have a voice in the FPL. We started out as a bunch of 3 n00bs looking to advance our FPL rankings. If you're not happy with what other people are slating to be good, it's your chance to warn people of potential pitfalls.
The Wider FPL Community
Below, we've put down the markers of where to begin when looking for great alternative FPL knowledge and insight.
- The Fantasy Football Scout (@FFScout) offers arguably the best forum in the FPL. You can create your own account and talk on multiple threads about anything and everything in the FPL. The guys on the forums are highly educated surrounding the game and can provide excellent insight into particular trends. FFScout also offers a very popular podcast that covers all the basis of any Gameweek.
- Fantasy Football Fix (@FantasyFootyFix) offers the best in-game platform to date. They have a charged service, which highlights player optimisation and a tonne of FPL features, but they also offer a brilliant Dugout option which helps optimise your Gameweek line-up, and a Price Rise/Fall Indicator, that estimates when a player's price will rise and fall, which is important for your squad value.
- Fantasy Football Pundits (@FFPundits) has a huge following, and a great dedicated website with tonnes of feature articles. If these guys ask a question, there are hundreds of people replying, which provides good debate.
- FPL Updates (@FPL_Updates) are great at providing pre-season updates, and a running Gameweek commentary of goal scorers and bonus points, and have a very well oiled website that is constantly churning out feature FPL articles.
- We, the Hype Train (@RealHypeTrain), host the only (from what we can tell) Fantasy Forecast, where we take on members of the community to pick a Scout Picks squad and guess in Premier League predictions. We're also at the forefront of FPL related graphics which provide unique insight and colour into the game.
- FPL Price Changes (@FPLPriceChanges) are a great informative account with the latest news, injury and suspension updates, as well as reporting on goals as they go in and bonus points.
- Our friends at @AUSFPL host a very informative and light-hearted podcast that. They also create FPL related videos and at least try to be funny with most of their posts.
- FPLBet (@fplbet) run a very slick website centred around Tips, Statistics, FPL Resources, and more.
- FFMAG (@FantasyFootyMag), is the first FPL account that is going to print with the FPL, and have recently released their first full copy of the magazine, and have released a pre-season special.
- FantasyYIRMA (@FantasyYIRMA) are another heavily popular website and account which is long established that specialises in fantasy football, with tonnes of feature articles ahead of every Gameweek.
In addition to a wide pool of FPL self-help from branded accounts, there are also tonnes of people specific accounts that are immensely entertaining and provide a unique commentary on the FPL as the season progresses. Please forgive us for only naming a few accounts to wet the tongue, the list is absolutely exhausting and catching everyone would take a lifetime!
- Chief @FPLHints
- Mark Dinkha @MD_F4NT4SY
- @KenRooney, FPL tipster for the Irish Examiner
- FPL Guidance @tips_fpl
Established FPL Tactics for your Benefit
So, now that we've established that there is a big wide world of the FPL out there to explore, how do these accounts and players do well (usually)? Here's a few suggestions below.
1) Set Piece Takers
Penalty kicks, free kicks, and corners. The ultimate bail out for any FPL player that has bad luck picking strong outfield players. Using any of the FPL resources above, or by your own findings, get together who will be taking what this season. Set piece takers usually chip in with goals and assists out of nowhere, so they're always worth to keep an eye on. We'd recommend to start the season with ample set-piece takers, as it is always harder to judge where points are coming from in the outfield for the early weeks of the season. Below are a few listed examples of players with a potentially big FPL impact due to set-piece ability.
Alexis Sanchez (ARS): Penalties, direct free kicks, occasional corners
Harry Kane (TOT): Penalties, shared free kick responsibility
Matt Ritchie (NEW): Penalties, shared free kick and corner responsibility
Philippe Coutinho (LIV): Free kicks, corners
Kevin de Bruyne (MCI): Free kicks, corners
Nacer Chadli (WBA): Penalties, shared free kick responsibility, corners
Glyfi Sigurdsson (SWA): Penalties, free kicks, corners
2) Understand the Bonus Points System
The Premier League and the FPL runs its BPS System through Opta, which calculates everything in a player's performance in determining who gets additional points. You can find all of this information on the FPL's 'Help' section, for a full rundown of how players acquired BPS. King of this is usually scoring goals, claiming assists, and keeping clean sheets. It's not always the way though. Sometimes players with no impact in the goals will get BPS points (David Silva is one key example of this).
- Centre back's more often than not get more bonus points than full backs.
- Aguero is a BPS magnet, especially when he takes penalties.
- Goal scoring defenders usually claim all 3 bonus points on a good day.
- Wingers without any set-piece duty (aka Sadio Mane) struggle to attract BPS when Coutinho and Milner play.
- Goalkeepers rarely get on the bonus points charts unless they save penalties, or if you're Tom Heaton (BUR), who usually will make 10+ saves a game.
- The biggest impact for Forwards and Midfielders is being caught offside and being yellow carded. This takes away significant BPS, so keep the players in your squads clean.
- Set piece takers are quite prone to BPS points (Coutinho, de Bruyne), as well as certain defensive assets who have a high work rate (Azpilicueta, Monreal)
3) Team Value is Important
The FPL also acts like a stock market. If a player does well and scores a few goals, people will transfer that player in. If that player gets transferred in enough, his price will rise. Equally, if the player gets injured, suspended, or players run of patience, and start to drop the asset, his price will fall. We've put some points below regarding team value.
- On the FPL's homepage you can find the live transfer boxes, indicating who the popular transfers in and out are. This is usually indicative of who will rise and fall.
- There is no live stock market on the FPL to indicate when price rises and falls will happen. @FantasyFootyFix do a quite accurate price rise/fall indicators.
- You can sell a player for a profit if you have them in your squad and they rise by £0.2 million - then you can sell that player by £0.1 million more than you originally brought the player in for.
- If you buy a player at his original price, and his price falls, you can only sell him for the lower price.
- Team value matters most near the end of the season. If you have a low budget, it'll be harder to get more premium assets in your squad for Double Gameweek's. Sometimes jumping on the bandwagon can have positive affects for your team later down the down.
4) Try to Avoid a Points Deduction
Each week you are gifted a free transfer. Anything over, you have to take a -4 hit to your score for the Gameweek in which you made your transfers. Unless it is absolutely necessary, avoid doing this like the plague. Chances in the early part of the season of a player recouping his points, and then some, can be a hard ask, and can affect your Head to Head results.
5) The 3-4-3 Formation
The 3-4-3 has been a long standing tradition for players in the FPL. With this new season, players are already trying to figure out the optimum formation, and with higher priced assets some are saying a 4-4-2 might be the way to go. Regardless of punditry, the 3-4-3 system has been king for a long time, and will take some time to dethrone.
6) Understand Trends from the Top 1000 FPL Players
The best way to play the game is to play it the way you want, but if you're ever stuck and looking for inspiration, there is no shame in going to the overall tables and looking at who the top players have banked on. They're doing something right, so if you've not got the luck of the Irish, maybe check out some of the upper competition and take a little inspiration. The game is points based after all, so it's all fare in love and war.
7) Keep up to date with Differentials
When the FPL's game is released every year, there is a lot of noise about high priced players, but they aren't guarantees for points. In the Dream Team each Gameweek, it is more than common than three quarters of the players are differentials - i.e. players with a low ownership percentage selection. These are the players who will shape the rest of your squad to fit around premium assets, and it's important that you have the right mix of potential points, form, and fixtures, or face a lot of 'secondary' players just not cutting the mustard.
Manolo Gabbiadini is one such example from last season. He burst onto the scene at Southampton with goals in back to back PL games, as well as a brace in the League Cup final against Man United, but was injured soon after, with players rushing to bring him back in. Once back on the FPL radar, Gabbiadini couldn't even get to 60 minutes, meaning he was usually left with a single point, or worse. Gabbiadini was a differential selection, but it is key to play him whilst in form, and not for the convienience. Players at clubs lower down the table are just not reliable enough to have in your squad, unless of course they are a special talent such as Wilfried Zaha.
We run our own 'Weekly Wildcards' feature article for each FPL Gameweek which tackles this issue. We've found a lot of success in the likes of picking Gylfi Sigurdsson, Troy Deeney, Gini Wijnaldum, and Marcos Alonso, points only a few banked on because they are not the 'traditional' type of player that the FPL will bank on.
8) The Importance of Squad Depth
With most players under the sun costing an arm and a leg, it can be easy to just bank on a main starting eleven, leaving your budget bench to squander. This is a tactic that we'd like to avoid. By all means have a low cost bench, but the options have to be smart. If a player is rotated, suspended, injured, or simply can't play the next week, you suddenly have to compromise your superstar eleven. Too much tinkering always leads to heartbreak, trust us. The message is simple, breathe easy when the fixtures are released, just in case life decides to kick you in the nuts, and in the points your FPL team are missing out on.
What is the best advice to give before a season starts?
You can't win them all, and you certainly don't win the FPL in its first few weeks. To begin with, we'd suggest taking a look more closely at set-piece takers, and not buying into the hype of particular players and teams with questionable fixtures and on-field positioning. Everton start the season at home to Stoke, but then have face four of last season's top 6 in a row, and with plenty of signings, there is definite question marks as to who is doing what on the field, and who to bank on as an FPL option.
We've had a big of disagreement surrounding our analysis surrounding Paul Pogba's inclusion into teams, but we must caution it. Pogba is not on any set-pieces, will not take penalties, and as of right now there is absolutely no guarantee that he'll start behind Romelu Lukaku. Man United at their heart under Mourinho are a defensive beast who are going through another transition of personnel. The club are always expected to do well, with is a given due to their trophy-laden history. We're not saying to dismiss Pogba, or another player at another team that fits the bill for this example, but at least wait until the dust has settled and we understand the impact he'll have. We'd rather take a chance on players that have it in the locker to score points from the penalty spot, or via free-kicks in the opening weeks.
Begin the season with some squad depth so you're not left red faced after the first week, panicking that your team has already fallen apart, and try to find value in players at top half clubs who are guaranteed to play. Captains are usually a start. Aside from that, experiment with lots of different variations of your team, and set on one a few days before the start of the season. Transfers aren't done for quite a while yet.
Want to know more about The Hype Train?
The Hype Train is an entertainment website founded in 2015, specialising in the Fantasy Premier League (#FPL), providing beautiful graphics and weekly insight for hopeful players attempting to climb ranking tables. We are also occasional media reviewers, with a keen interest to review movies, live sport, and professional wrestling.
The Hype Train were nominated and shortlisted for the 'Best Football Blog 2016' by the Football Bloggers Association at their annual Football Blogging Awards (The FBA's), with the final presentation held at Old Trafford in Manchester.
You can follow us on Twitter, Like us on Facebook, or visit our website here at www.thehypetrain.co.uk