So, what now?
After the longest season in FPL history ended with a frantic 92 game burst in 39 days, suddenly the music has stopped. Well if the appetite is still there for more then why not consider a fantasy staycation this summer and give Scottish football a go? The season starts this weekend!
The first thing to be aware of is there are two games to choose from. The official game has a wacky rulebook that encourages deeper thought, heavier number-crunching and constant squad review. It is not for the faint-hearted. However, this article will focus on a newly launched alternative – www.fantasyfootballscotland.com. It is a purely app-based affair (Apple / Android) supported by a particularly enthusiastic twitter presence (@fantasyscotland).
The first thing to say is that this is essentially an FPL clone. It was originally launched last year but had to be pulled when it was not quite right – and it’s come back this year completely rebuilt, looking very slick and with a determination to prove itself.
Squads are 15 players in the recognisable 2-5-5-3 structure. Budget is a stingy £60m, and you can only have 6 old firm players anyways with 3 per club limit. Transfers include 1 free per week and -4 hits for any further moves. The difference is that there appear to be no rolling free transfers! There is no Free hit chip but everything else is present and correct. Price Changes to be based on transfers.
Points are largely per FPL but with some noteworthy differences. The biggest change is that there are no bonus points. To make up for that the Vice-Captain becomes more powerful as they yield 2x points for clean sheets (GK & DEF) or goals (MID & ATT). Another couple of things to notice are clean sheets are worth 5pts and a blanket -2 for more than 2 conceded. Penalties won / conceded are worth +2 / -2 respectively, in lieu of an assist but regardless of whether they are converted. There is also a 2pt bonus for hattricks.
Substitutes are designed to automatically bring on your highest scoring option within formation rules. For example, it is possible to let the game do work by fielding 2 non-playing midfielders and getting the best 2 out of 3 playing options on the bench! (Credit to @FPL_Audit for pointing out. Sneaky!)
Player Guide – Old Firm
So that all seems do-able right? But who the heck to pick?! Well I found myself in the same position last year attempting to play the official game, despite being a Scot had found myself unable to name 15 players in the domestic game. Oops. I did manage to make it to 16th place when the season was cut short, so allow me to impart some of what I learned.
The Old Firm are a class above the rest but beware they have been priced as such. The first thing to note is that they have (identically) tight defences. Both managing 15 clean sheets in 30 games last season and both conceding just 7 at home and 12 away goals. Helpful symmetry! There were only 3 players with more than 15 attacking returns last year so with 5pt clean sheets there is certainly value in old firm defenders.
First names that jump off the page are Rangers nailed on full-backs James Tavernier (£5.5m) and Borna Barisic (£4.2m). They both possess a wicked delivery and managed 7 assists apiece and a few goals too – with the former on penalties. That is a total of 25 returns including clean sheets, in line with the contribution of all but one attacking option in the game. Yeah, baby! Although do not overlook the ever-present Gers centre back Conor Goldson (£3.0m) who has been very kindly priced and even chipped in with 3 goals himself.
Celtic switch between 3-5-2 and 4-2-3-1 which plays havoc with full back / wing back rotation. It is probably better looking at nailed centre back pairing of cultured young Norwegian Kristoffer Ajer (£4.3m) and gangly Frenchman Christopher Jullien (£5.5m), who both contributed a few goals and assists, with the latter particularly looking a danger in opposition boxes.
Celtic are more potent attacking options, managing 89 goals at almost 3 per game to Rangers 64. However, they both have a mixture of explosive and dependable options to consider in midfield and up front. Odsonne Edouard (£8.5m) managed 21 goals and 9 assists in just 27 appearances and its hard to look past him for perma-captaincy. It might be best to treat Gers counterpart Alfredo Morelos (£8.5m) with more caution due to a collapse in form since Christmas and a fondness of a card (7 yellows and 2 reds seen as a massive improvement on seasons passed!) .
Celtic winger James Forest (£8.5m) is the midfield premium with 10 goals and 15 assists and tends not to miss a game. While Ryan Christie (£7.5m) can be more explosive with 11 goals and 10 assists in just 17 starts and 7 sub appearances – but can be prone to more rotation. It is also worth picking out two more moderately prices options to consider from Celtic. Firstly, the dynamic centre midfielder Callum McGregor (£5.5m) who played all but 18 mins last season and certainly no attacking slouch with 9 goals and 6 assists, helped by a share of penalty kick duties. The second the perhaps familiar Mohamed Elyounoussi (£4.9m) hit 4 goals and 2 assists in 7 starts in a stop start season but begins this time as the 1st choice and on form left winger, but will probably rotate a little depending on formation.
Rangers midfield options lack an established track record but could easily provide slightly cut-price explosive options. Son-of-legend 20-year-old Ianis Hagi (£6.2m) only arrived at Ibrox in January. With only 1 league goal in 6 starts he is a punt, but he has shown signs of an x-factor, advanced position and a bit of pre-season form that passes the eye test. Winger Ryan Kent (£6.0m) has 7 goals in 18 starts but is the big money signing and seems to be getting better as he settles in. These two will start as 1st choice support to Morelos in a 4-3-3. The third option is the increasingly attacking Nigerian central midfielder Joe Aribo (£5.0m). His 3 goals and 7 assists in 25 games probably just him getting started, displaying a head-turning presence when in full flow.
For sure you will want 6 of the above, with defence clearly providing the unmissable value, but the attack providing the potential upside to go after the form & fixtures. But who will the other 9 be?
Player Guide – Best of the Rest
No doubt there is a more random element to the remaining teams and players. The well managed Aberdeen have been the most consistent ‘best of the rest’ over the last few years. Motherwell matching them last season and Hibs would also be considered in tier 2. The old firm rarely lose to anyone home or away although a couple more draws creep in away from home – but you don’t expect much when your non-old firm options go up against them. Hearts relegation also reminded that no-one is really safe, and anyone can beat anyone outside the top 2. Livingston with their artificial pitch displayed the most distinct home/away form difference (8 wins at home, 2 away). Otherwise home away is relatively close 49 v 30 wins outside the old firm. It’s hard to attack fixtures with much confidence.
Motherwell kept an impressive 11 clean sheets and have goal scoring & penalty taking OOP (Lord?) Liam Donnelly (£3.1m) to get excited about but be wary that he managed a yellow (and one red) in more than half of matches played. A good budget option is seemingly under-priced Livingston defender Jon Guthrie (£2.2m) who managed 6 goals last year. His team managing a respectable 9 clean sheets and almost Old Firm matching 8 conceded at home. Also consider Livi goalkeeper Robby McCrorie (£2.2m) – a bright young on-loan Rangers shot stopper.
Assist king (https://cdn.fantasyfootballscout.co.uk/KdB wannabe) Liam Polwarth (£4.4m) managed league 2nd best 11 assists but perhaps a slightly better option is penalty-taking Hibs playmaker Scott Allan (£3.7m) who is hard to ignore at 8 assists and 5 goals last season. Veteran class acts in the form of Aberdeen winger Niall McGinn (£4.8m) and Kilmarnock’s Chris Burke (£4.8m) are still very dependable, if slightly overpriced, with 6 goals and 5 assists each last season. Motherwell attacking midfielder David Turnbull (£4.8m) has returned from the injury hell that scuppered his dream Celtic transfer and kept him out last season. He has a lot to prove and incredible potential – having bagged 15 goals and 4 assists in 30 starts as a teenager the previous season. A cheaper punt might be new Livi signing Alan Forrest (£3.0m), younger brother of Celtic’s James.
Almost every team provides a decent option or two upfront, but they are not particularly cheap. Rangers & Barnsley transfer target Lyndon Dykes (£5.8m) of Livingston is highly rated and managed 9 goals and 4 assists last year. Hibs hitman Christian Doidge (£5.8m) is popular with 12 goals last year, including a hattrick. Sam Cosgrove (£7.0m) is dependable and looks the part for Aberdeen scoring his 11 goals at a rate of 0.5 per game (better than any non-OF player). Lower league goal machine Lawrence Shankland £6.0m hit 24 goals in as many games last year for returning heavyweights Dundee United. Barcelona-downing Tony Watt (£4.8m) looks ready to kick start his career at Motherwell, while son-of-hair-god Callum Hendry (£5.0m) boasts impressive 7 goals in 666 mins last year at the age of 21. The cheapest dependable option is perhaps Marios Ogkmpoe £4.2m for strugglers Hamilton with a physical presence and none too shabby 6 goals in 16 starts as he settled in last time out. We have barely scratched the surface on viable forwards so they are worth monitoring at all clubs – but with the pricing a headache, it is tricky finding any particular value for money.
Some premium and dependable Celtic attack along with some high impact Gers defenders should be a solid base. But there are various explosive differential options in both Celtic & Gers midfield to deploy, or are they shiney distractions? There are also some cheap and mid-price options with a reasonable upside to be excited about in the Motherwell and Hibs midfield particularly. Budget restrictions will likely lead to a 12-man squad, with some throwaway options – but they could be played tactically to cheat the system and get the best of three midfield options from the bench each week.