Our new FPL Masterclass series unites three of the best Fantasy Premier League (FPL) managers around: two-time India champion Lateriser, seven-time top 10k finisher Zophar and five-time top 1,000 finisher Tom Freeman.
Between them they have 20 overall ranks in the top 10,000, nine of which were within the top 1k.
They’ll be chipping in with regular Fantasy advice ahead of the start of 2021/22, with opinion on everything from tips for newcomers to bench strength.
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Having previously provided general advice for FPL managers ahead of the upcoming campaign, our panel now look at the composition of a Gameweek 1 squad: how many ‘proven’ assets should we be focusing on and is it wise to avoid any gambles?
I fear that because of what happened with Timo Werner (£9.0m) and Kai Havertz (£8.5m) last season, the running narrative will be to not indulge in new imports into the league. But we must remember that for every Werner and Havertz, there has also been a Diego Costa, Michu, Bruno Fernandes (£12.0m) and Mohamed Salah (£12.5m) who took the league by storm from the start.
The point I’m trying to make here though is that when it comes to new imports into the league, the case is very subjective and based on your judgement of the player and his role in the team. Based on what happened last season, though, I do have a theory in my head that I’m willing to test out.
I feel like the case with Chelsea was a unique one, with Frank Lampard fielding a largely new team instead of it being the case of adding one attacker to an already settled side. When it comes to these premium clubs and marquee signings, I’d be more willing to roll the dice if it’s just one addition to a tried-and-trusted starting XI – which was not the case with the Blues.
That was my opinion about newer teams. Even when it comes to promoted sides, we have seen that clubs like Leeds United and Wolverhampton Wanderers have had a fast start in the league.
So I’m not completely against gambles in your Gameweek 1 squads but there does need to be a balance and your picks need to be heavily researched.
When it comes to promoted sides, it is a relative shot in the dark when it comes to anticipating how they are going to adapt to the standards of the Premier League. Similarly, when it comes to new managers at clubs, we aren’t exactly sure about player roles under the set up-of the new head coach.
So out of all these three categories, I’d cap ‘risky’ picks at two in my Gameweek 1 team. If you do want to indulge in more punts, I’d definitely not do it with the premium options. One risky heavy hitter (if at all) is the most I’d go with.
I learnt the hard way last year that it is very important to not stray too far from the pack early on as it can lead to you ‘trying things’ too early in the season, which might derail your campaign.
I always like to have a couple of proven premiums in my squad, mainly for captaincy. That’s usually Mohamed Salah (£12.5m) plus one other, which has generally served me well in the past and is something I’ll do again next season.
In terms of gambles, balance is key. I certainly wouldn’t load up on them, but don’t have a problem starting with two or three in my initial squad. For every player who takes a little longer to acclimatise to the Premier League, there is always another who will hit the ground running, like Bruno Fernandes (£12.0m) and Ollie Watkins (£7.5m).
I suppose the newly-promoted players are classified as gambles, too, but I don’t necessarily see it like this. They are mostly budget picks, and if you adopt a ‘wait and see’ policy like most preach, it’s often too late. Capitalising on these teams is all about ensuring you have them for that first top-flight game in front of the fans, and sometimes before that initial momentum wears off.
I started with Leeds United’s Patrick Bamford (£8.0m) and Luke Ayling (£4.5m) in 2020/21; before that, it was Sheffield United’s Dean Henderson (£5.0m) and John Lundstram in 2019/20. I suspect one or two from Brentford will be making an appearance next season, too.
To answer this question, first I must define what I consider a ‘gamble’. Players from promoted teams fit into this category as we do not know how they and their team as a whole will adapt to the Premier League. The jump in standard is massive and we have seen clubs that topped the Championship finish bottom of the Premier League (Norwich comes to mind) the next season.
Transfers from foreign leagues are also a ‘wait and watch’ for me as the physical nature of the Premier League can be a challenge for an overseas asset to get used to. This does depend from player to player though. I went early on the likes of Mohamed Salah (£12.5m) and Eden Hazard as I trusted them to be world-class talents who were already playing at a top level and had no doubts about their ability to cut it in the Premier League.
Thirdly, players from teams under new management would also be classified as a gamble for me. We do not know what sort of philosophy the new manager would like to implement, what his preferred starting line-up would be and who would be their talisman. For example, any Crystal Palace asset would be a massive gamble to start with in my opinion as I simply do not know how they will play under Patrick Vieira after a defence-first approach under Roy Hodgson for many years.
I did break this rule due to my Chelsea bias last season by going with both Kai Havertz (£8.5m) and Timo Werner (£9.0m) but usually I like to have no more than one ‘gamble’ in my Gameweek 1 squad. My FPL motto is, ‘better to be late to the party than to turn up early and find out there’s no party at all’. I make sure I set up my initial squad in such a way that I can get the ‘gambles’ with one transfer if they hit the ground running.
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