|photo by Stéfan
I don't know how many of you play EPL Fantasy Football out there, but I'm guessing it's a decent percentage of the regular readers of this blog (hello again, Ed's Mom!). I've been playing for the last three seasons -- also known as The Descent into Madness -- and although I'm spending less time on it this year than in prior seasons, it's only because much of the "free time" I used to spend contemplating my weekly fantasy "trades" have now has been sucked up by my extensive corporate responsibilities running the global empire that is farlieonfootie.
I still enjoy it tremendously, though, and it's given me a greater appreciation for both the game and the entire EPL. I still need (sorry, that should be NEED) to watch every Manchester United match, but now I also find myself caring about the outcome of many other games, as well. As an example: all eyes this weekend will be naturally focussed on Chelsea - Spurs and United - Arsenal, but do I hear anyone -- anyone? Bueller...?-- other than diehard fans caring about Wolves - Birmingham?
I've got a couple points at stake. I may not watch the entire game, but I care about the outcome, and will definitely look for highlights (preferably including a Stephen Carr goal, combined with an improbable Brum shutout on the road). In other words, with fantasy football, there are no more "irrelevant" players or games -- they all count, and you never know where you might pick up points.
Over the years, I've learned some things about playing fantasy football, but don't take my word for Gospel. I'm currently mired in third place in my mini-league, and....about 700,000th place (out of 2.3 million players) in the overall game, so take this all with a whopping grain of salt (and notice that I'm not charging you for the advice; that'll come later):
Don't Drink and Choose: Last season I made my selections after watching the EPL weekly review show. Not a bad a strategy, you might think; pretty clever, actually. Watch all the teams in the league, and see who's "hot" before making your picks. The unanticipated problem with the strategy was that I typically cracked a beer (or two, possibly three) while watching the show, and by the time it ended my judgment was maybe slightly impaired. In any event, I wasn't driving, but I did notice that I was much more inclined to go with the "longshot" pick that could (theoretically) pay off, but rarely did. Pick sober, if you can; any move that passes muster without alcohol involved is usually okay.
Go with your Gut: There's so much information available on the internet these days that it's easy to overthink things -- @NickyButt wrote a great column about this information overload earlier in the week. I've found -- through painful experience -- that the English tabloids are notoriously incorrect with their predictions of who's injured, and who's going to play on the weekend, and you're better off going with your gut than reading all of the supposed tips and information you can pick up online. If a guy has torn his hamstring but the papers are saying he might play, ignore them; if they say he's doubtful because he's picked up a knock, play him because he'll likely score two or three goals if you don't.
Keep Your Picks to Yourself: It doesn't pay in fantasy football to share your info and insight with others in your mini-league. Sure, you might impress them with your football knowledge, but when they take that same knowledge and make better picks than you do while using it, it'll do nothing but piss you off. Keep quiet, and let the opposition learn what your moves are at the proper time -- when it's too late for them to change their own team.
The Differences are Around the Margin: Although this year is slightly different, there are certain players that are "must haves" if you want your team to compete for the fantasy title. Last season it was Frank Lampard, Didier Drogba and Wayne Rooney; this year it seems to be Nani, Samir Nasri, Florent Malouda and Gareth Bale. Being that most teams in the game have the same three or four "big" guys on their roster, the way to win the league is judiciously picking the less expensive and less-noticed players who are capable of picking up major points: think Matthew Etherington, Nedum Onuoha and Charlie Adam and you'll be getting the idea.
Don't Let Your Biases Weigh You Down: This is actually the one I find hardest to obey. I don't care how many goals Carlos Tevez scores, I have to hold my nose and look the other way when I pick him. I hate the guy, and I would rather lose without him than win the league with him. Now you understand why I have problems following this rule, but if you're able to do it, you're most likely going to finish higher than I am.
Stay Away from Marouane Chamakh: The guy has let me down time and again. In fact, I think I'll pick him for this weekend -- it's a guarantee if I do so that he won't score.
So if you're playing, take my tips -- with caution. And read the disclaimer: objects in the mirror are closer than they may appear, don't use this ball as a flotation device, and I AM NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR YOUR TEAM. I can barely manage my own.
If you aren't playing, sign up. It's easy (well, somewhat easy -- there are a lot of crazy rules involved) -- but more important it's free and it's fun. And you can't say that for many things these days.
This is farlieonfootie fantasizing about football on December 12.