As you will have no doubt noticed, the Fantasy Premier League (FPL) game has now launched and is open for registration and initial squad selection.
The game has thrown in a number of rule changes and feature additions and, having had time to mull over some of the subtleties of these, here’s my thoughts on what we’ve been served up…
Private Head to Head Leagues
In addition to a public head to head league, you’ll be able to set-up head to head leagues with your mates. Every Gameweek there’s a real match to be played and temporary bragging rights to be earned! Optionally you can end your season with a knock-out cup between the top teams, nothing will be decided until Gameweek 38!
Okay, we could see this one coming. The Head to Head (H2H) leagues introduced last season were pretty much a white elephant that provided a very minor distraction to our mini-league exploits. We had no interest in playing with strangers. There was almost zero satisfaction on beating a faceless opponent in a given week, or indeed over the season. This addition changes that and actually makes the Head to Head situation worthy of consideration.
There’s a risk of league overkill here of course. Entering three of four mini-leagues in a given season was not a stressful pursuit but when you’re adding H2H leagues to the equation, there’s every chance your interests could be spread too thinly. Odds on, you’re going to have to decide to focus on one or two leagues, although the beauty of this feature is that you have something to fall back on should your conventional mini-league be going disastrously badly. I paid little attention to my H2H league but won it comfortably because, overall, my team was performing pretty well. It will be interesting to see if managers who are perhaps under performing in their mini-league, can switch focus to H2H andachieve better results on a week-by-week basis.
It certainly gives our community something new to play with and there are already various Scout H2H leagues cropping up. I’ll summarise the situation with these leagues and how you can get involved in another post.
Never again will rotation policies or last minute injuries leave your team leader less! In the event of your captain not playing in a Gameweek a new captain, either the player with the highest form or price value at the start of the gameweek, will be selected based on your emergency captain strategy. Why no vice captain? With the emergency rule you guarantee a captain, with a vice captain you still run the risk of both players not playing.
This one is a little left-field. I can see the merits but, in the absence of Ronaldo, I was looking forward to the selection of a captain being a key skill that could sort the wheat from the chaff this season. This addition actually makes it easier for hands-off managers to prevail and threatens to reduce the reward for research and knowledge. It’s a contentious point as to whether this is a good thing or not. Certainly it will help to ease in FPL newbies and help bulk up your mini-league with less experienced players.
A vice captain would have been a better option in my opinion. That would have reduced the chances of a missing captain, whilst keeping an element of skill in the selection process. As it is, I can see it being fairly easy to decide a strategy and stick to it. Experienced managers might get something from tweaking this week-to-week to allow for various permutations – that could be an interesting element that we’ll have to play with before we can decide its merits.
Carry Over Free Transfers
Don’t need to make a free transfer or forget one week? If you don’t use your free transfer in a Gameweek then it will carry over to the next Gameweek.
The unused transfer will only be carried over for one Gameweek though, the wildcard will still be the only way to change your team completely at no cost once a season.
I’ve been wanting this one for a few seasons. There are always at least half a dozen weeks in a season where I ponder my transfer and end up making a move for the sake of it, with very little or no return. Weeks like that will now see me banking the transfer, allowing for more flexibility in the week that follows.
This will be an extremely effective strategy when it comes to catching players in form or with strong fixtures – particularly the expensive players (Gerrard, Lampard, Arshavin etc) that would normally require careful planning in the weeks leading up to their transfer, or a double transfer and a points loss in a given week. I can see this allowing hands-on managers plenty of scope to study the fixture list, monitor price fluctuations and consider form when deciding on making transfers over a 2-3 week period.
Overall then I’m pretty happy with the changes introduced here but more than a little miffed, as Granville would say, at the neglect in other areas of the game. The bonus points remain but more significantly, we still don’t have any increased visibility on how these are calculated. Once again we face another season of unfathomable bonus point allocations, handed out by the “Press Association analysts” charged with the job of assessing the players in each match.
The prize fund also remains pitiful. Normally this wouldn’t bother me but let’s face it, we’re likely to have a good few members of our community fighting it out at the top of this game. It would be nice if the endevour and skill required to actually acheive good results, would be rewarded with a notable prize.
Perhaps there could have been bolder moves in the actual squad selection too. The introduction of defensive midfielders as a separate player category was something we’ve discussed in the past and one which was introduced by the Guardian game last season. Obviously the FPL and game designers ISM didn’t want to tinker too much. That’s fair enough. In my view the FPL remains the best game on market for accessibility and features, although as new games launch in the coming weeks, it will be interesting to see if more ambitious rule changes elsewhere will change that view.
Now then; it’s time to analyse that player list…