Choosing a Fantasy Soccer Game
There is a vast array of fantasy soccer games to choose from on the internet. The obvious choice is to join a league with friends or work mates; but keen fantasy managers may want to take a more active part in choosing the competition, according to some basic criteria.
First, the fee issue: many fantasy football competitions require an entry fee, and some may charge for player transfers mid-season. Check the competition rules carefully to avoid any unpleasant surprises come the transfer window. Some of the best and biggest fantasy leagues, however, are free. Free online fantasy football games include the official Barclay’s Fantasy Premier League and the Guardian Fantasy Football.
Second, check whether the game is solely for Premier League matches, or includes other competitions, like the FA Cup and Champions League.
Third, assess the degree of involvement: does the game require weekly management, actively choosing the side for every fixture? Or can you just pick your team at the beginning of the season and let them get on with it? Choose according to time and interest.
Finally, look at how points are awarded. A degree of technical analysis is desirable for some of the more sophisticated games; while picking players popular with the press will be important in games where points are based largely on tabloid player ratings.
Picking a Fantasy Soccer Team
Looking at the basis for awarding points is also key when choosing a fantasy football team, perhaps most of all for the goalkeeper. Some games award points for shots saved, in which case a good keeper playing behind a dodgy defense can be a goldmine (think Shay Given at Newcastle); while others merely reward clean sheets, where it’s best to stick to a top defensive team’s keeper regardless of form, like Chelsea’s Petr Cech.
As a general rule, competitions reward goals scored over defensive performances, so a backline stuffed with pacy fullbacks and set-piece masters is usually a good bet. Similarly, the midfield should have as many proven goal-scorers as possible: fantasy leagues are often won or lost in midfield. Strikers should obviously be prolific, but what can be even more important is whether they’re guaranteed a start.
Across the team, it is important to keep disciplinary and injury records in mind: yellow and red cards will subtract points, and players lost to injury or suspension are dead wood. Excellent resources to keep on top of current injury updates are Physio Room’s English Premier League Injury Table and Fantasy Football Scout.
Budget management is key to picking the perfect fantasy soccer team. The most popular strategy is to build the team around two or three key expensive players: proven point-winners like Frank Lampard or Wayne Rooney. But as most teams will have some combination of these staple players, the real trick to winning a league lies in finding the unexpected stars.
These can often be found among players new to the league (foreign transfers, or promotion newbies), or veterans hitting new levels in their game. IMScouting is an excellent resource for assessing little-known players from other leagues; FourFourTwo’s Talentspotter has stats and reports on young and promoted players coming up; and Fantasy Football Scout is excellent for checking pre-season form.
Fantasy Football Scout also has a full table of penalty- and free-kick-takers by team, a valuable tool: goals from penalties and free kicks are one of the most reliable sources of fantasy football points.
Managing a Fantasy Soccer Team
Weekly involvement in managing a fantasy soccer team will vary greatly depending on the game, primarily whether team changes or transfers are required (or allowed). If they are, keeping an eye week-to-week on injury, suspension and — perhaps most important — the fixture list will be crucial.
Most games allow transfers at least during specified windows, and managers who take prudent advantage of the transfer window can seize crucial chances.