Monday, May 25, 2009

My Top 9 Tips For Fantasy Football

For a few years now I have been playing the official Fantasy Premier League game. Not only has this been a distraction from the heartache of watching Man United reach 18 league titles, but it is completely free and allows you to be entered in both a global competition as well as smaller leagues with friends. Having just won the latter for the second year in a row I thought I'd post some tips on what I think is the best strategy for success.
1) Make the best player your captain. Even if they appear to cost the Earth picking the highest scoring player and making them your captain is key for the simple reason that the captain's points count twice. To save money here is a false economy as the doubling cancels out any expense. Of course the trick is actually picking the highest scoring player, but usually this is the best midfielder at a top four club, i.e. Fabregas, Gerrard, Lampard or Ronaldo. Choose wisely, however, as their great expense will make transferring them later tricky, e.g. if you want to 'upgrade' to a more expensive player you will often need to make two transfers, costing you gameweek points.
2) Fill the bench with the cheapest players. Don't waste money on players that you will never use. Sure, it's great if you get injuries to have cover, but it is a false economy to have someone decent on your bench when the money could be better spent on filling your starting eleven with high scorers.
3) Play your wildcard early. You get one chance per season to make as many transfers as you want in a gameweek without it costing you points. It is pointless to save this for later as by the end of the season players will cost what they are truly worth and bargains are hard to find. Everyone makes mistakes with their initial selection as in my experience preseason form is pretty awful indicator of how players will do when the PL kicks of for real. In addition there is almost always someone who makes the headlines early on for unexpectedly strong performances, e.g. Hull's Geovanni at the start of the 2008-09 season, and you want to get these cheap, but high scoring, players in your team as early as possible. Use your wildcard early to draft in the form players and get rid of the dross. If you need any further convincing then you sould note that the 2008 winner played his in gameweek 2 and the 2009 winner in week 6.
4) Check the fixture list. To get the most out of a player you need them playing when they are on form, but it also helps if their upcoming games are either mostly at home, against lesser opposition or, as is often the case later in the season, are twice in a gameweek. Similarly, it can hurt you if you bring in some wonderkid just before they go on the road against the big four.
5) Don't panic! Just because you get an injury, a suspension or a team doesn't play in a gameweek don't drop good players. Apart from it costing you points if you go over your one transfer per week you may find with shifting prices you can't afford to buy them back. Generally speaking you should only transfer out players that aren't performing for you anymore.
6) Never make more than one transfer a week. As this costs you 4 points it is almost always a false economy, see point 6. The only exception to this is the wildcard, see point 3. I make one (free) transfer a week and so did the 2009 winner.
7) Watch football. A simple one really, but checking a player's fantasy stats won't tell you how well they are actually playing. Just watching Match of the Day can really help identify your next acquisition, or who to get rid of. Apart from anything else I have found that injuries and suspensions can be slow to be added to the Premier League's website. It won't help your cause to make captain someone who got stretchered off in their last game.
8) It's not all about goals. Some of the highest point scorers in the game are defenders and these are often the most value for money. Strikers are actually the least efficient players (in terms of points per million cost). Don't rule out playing 5-3-2.
9) Pick a balanced side. Finally, distributing your team across multiple different clubs is alway a good idea. This is basically "don't put all your eggs in one basket", but it can severely affect your gameweek total if you rely heavily on just a few teams who end up with bad results. In addition, you may actually like to rotate some of your cheaper players. For example, I had both Schwarzer (Fulham keeper) and Jaaskelainen (Bolton keeper) for most of 2008-09, and would regularly switch who started depending on who Bolton and Fulham were playing.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

A thought

A brief post to keep this ticking over, but recently I've had a geeky thought probably from watching too much Battlestar Galactica*. In the show the ships are able to make "jumps" across space exceeding the speed of light. This made me think if we could "jump" away from Earth, but still within an unobstructed view of it then we would essentially be looking at a past Earth, potentially much older than present. Better still if we could magnify our image to a high enough resolution, and through gaps in the clouds, we ought to be able to see what was going on at the surface and hence ultimately get the best picture of past life we're ever likely to see. OK, OK, we can't make supra-light speed jumps and currently we can't even get high enough (i.e. literally "life-size") resolution of nearby objects like the Moon. However, there is a theoretical possibility of achieving the former through something like an Einstein-Rosen bridge - the plot vehicle used in Deja Vu - and our imaging could still get a lot better, e.g. even correcting for the bending of light by gravitational bodies between the viewer and the (past) Earth.

What's more if we could continually traverse away from the planet at supra-light speed instead of stills we could actually get a (greatly speeded up) movie of life in reverse. Of course, being a palaeontologist I'm thinking of things like dinosaurs - we could know once and for all what killed them, but there would be immense scope for viewing human history too. The possibilities are almost endless (if restricted to plan view). Am I the first person to think this? Anyone out there from Hollywood want to buy the rights off me?

* no spoilers please - I'm only up to season 4.

About Me

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Currently I am founding member, president elect and entire membership of SWEMP (the Society of Wonky-Eyed Macroevolutionary Palaeobiologists). In my spare time I get paid to do research on very dead organisms and think about the really big questions in life, such as: What is the ultimate nature of reality? Why is there no room for free will in science? and What are the implications of having a wardrobe that consists entirely of hotpants?