Does Your Bench Need a Boost?

Our guest article this week has been written by Gary and Josh Brockman, from Lets Talk Soccer.

 


 

As you know, team lineups are released an hour before kickoff. We, like many other FPL managers, take a quick glance to make sure the players starting in our fantasy teams are actually starting for their teams. From the release of the team sheets for the first game of match week 10, something seemed off.

Was there a typo?

Maybe an oversight?

Surely, a mistake was made.

Several times throughout the weekend that just ended, we found ourselves double and triple-checking team sheets. It began with the news that many of us FPL managers certainly didn’t want – or even expect – to hear: The Liverpool defender, and an FPL managers’ best buddy, Andy Robertson will not start against Cardiff.  This was the first of many disheartening personnel announcements over the course of the weekend.

Arnautovic – out due to illness.

Hazard, the leading FPL points-earner at the moment – out because of a back injury.

Josh King – out.

Holebas – out.

Ings – out.

(Insert disappointed/nervous/sick/angry/helpless/hopeless emoji of your choice here!) Gameweek 10 was the perfect storm of absences of key players.

If you’re like us, the series of benchings and non-rostering’s launched our bench players into action. Not an ideal scenario when us managers spend so much time thinking, rethinking and quite often overthinking scenarios with our Starting XIs.

The bench is usually an afterthought; a necessary evil that’s forced upon us by the rules of the game. But, if gameweek 10 taught us anything, several times in fact, it’s that the bench does play a role in our weekly strategy. Sometimes a critical role as just illustrated over the weekend. GW10 was a somewhat harsh reminder of the importance of having a proper strategy for our collective FPL bench.

FPL is supposed to be fun. It’s just a game. But if you’re on a mission to improve your overall rank week to week, FPL takes on another form. It’s still fun. And it’s still a game. But there’s also an element of competition, demanding that a bit of work be poured into it.

In a way, we need to account for the unaccountable. To be part strategist, part analyst, part tactician and part fortune teller. All the number crunching, statistical analysis and “eye testing” aside, we are also required to predict the unpredictable.

No one saw Robbo being benched or Arnie being unavailable. There were no indications or advanced warnings given by Klopp or Pellegrini about the playing statuses of their respective players (although a quick heads up next time would be nice!  Wasn’t Klopp aware of the worldwide gasp let out when we saw his team sheet Saturday?).

And many of us Hazard owners hoped he’d play against Burnley. Factor in Pep’s unpredictable rotation strategy that seemingly only exists to frustrate FPL managers (Is he doing it to us on purpose?!), and it can all fall apart quickly if our bench isn’t part of our consideration each week.

Throughout Twitter and Instagram, we continued seeing a common theme over the weekend: many managers needed all three of their outfield bench players to fill the holes left by their starting players that…well…didn’t start.

Some managers admittedly spent little or no time on their benches, and were stuck with only 10 (or in some cases 9) players receiving points for the weekend, all because their bench players never stepped on the pitch. Their Starting XIs were works of art, but their benches consisted of the cheapest players available, regardless of their playing status, minutes played or potential points earned.

Criteria for a good bench

So we’re here to spread the gospel of giving your bench a boost – especially as we all now have our sights set squarely on gameweek 11. Your bench might not come into play much over the rest of the season…and hopefully not like it did in week 10.

But when it does, and it will, you’ll be glad you gave it that boost. And, the added benefit is you’ll have the squad depth to be able to rotate players when needed rather than spending a Free Transfer, or maybe even taking a hit, when you have an injured or ill player within your Starting XI. It’s a safety net and a warm, comfortable security blanket all in one!

So what’s the criteria for putting together a reliable bench? We’re so glad you asked! Here goes…

Price: As all managers do, you want the majority of your budget spent on your Starting XI. So look for inexpensive bench options at their respective positions. There are plenty of them out there…just see the list below.

Role within their positions and on their teams: There’s an advantage in having a wing back or a more forward-playing defender than having a true center back. You get the benefit of potential clean sheet points combined with the potential for the odd attacking points as well. It’s always nice to get assist or goal points from a defender. In fact, some of the highest-scoring players this season are defenders such as Alonso (72 points) being the 2nd highest points scorer.

The same goes for midfielders: is he a defensive mid or an attacking one? Better to have one that’s involved in the attack. And, does the prospective bench player have a potential role in set pieces or maybe penalty kicks? It might be rare, but these things do happen and if it happens even just once over the course of the season, it’s a decision well made.

Underlying stats: These stats can tell a story that the major stats can’t. Whereas major stats tell what a player did, underlying stats can tell a story about what a player could do. Underlying stats are the details behind the clean sheets, goals and assists. Look for things like touches in the box, big chances created, crosses, shots and so on.

Look for the stats that mean the most for that player’s position. If it’s a midfielder you’re considering (an attacking mid, right?), look at things like shots per game, key passes, successful dribbles, crosses, balls played into the box and more. A little research will help you create profiles for the players on your watchlist.

Has a starting role/majority of minutes played: As much as you can, you want your bench players to be regular starters in their teams and play as close to 90 minutes as possible. Just because a player is on your bench, it doesn’t mean he’s on the bench with his actual team. He could be a regular starter and crucial part of his team’s Starting XI. When called up from your bench, even just two points earned from playing close to 90 minutes is better than nothing. Those two extra points could mean thousands of spots in your gameweek and overall record. Plus, the more time on the pitch, the more potential to yield returns.

Has favorable fixtures ahead: Ideally, because you don’t know when your bench players will be called for duty, you want them to see long stretches of favorable fixtures ahead of them. This is where the Fixture Difficulty Rankings (FDR) come into play. FDRs summarize the ease of future fixtures a team has coming. An FDR of 1 means the easiest of matches. A 5 means the most difficult. Look for as many 1s, 2s, and even the occasional 3, as you can for your bench players.

Bench ordering information

Once you’ve made your selections, now it’s time to determine where on your bench each player will sit. There’s a strategy to this too.

Your backup goalkeeper has his own spot on the bench. And your three remaining bench spots for the outfield players are arranged as 1, 2 and 3. In general, the position an outfield player occupies on your bench determines the order he’ll be auto subbed into your Starting XI. Here is a summary of the official rules from the Help>Rules section of the Official Fantasy Premier League website…

  • Your team can play in any formation providing that 1 goalkeeper, at least 3 defenders and at least 1 forward are selected and on the pitch at all times.

 

  • Prioritise your bench for automatic substitutions. Your substitutes provide backup for unforeseen events like injuries and postponements by automatically replacing starting players who don’t play in a gameweek. To be eligible for substituting in, a player must play at least 1 minute or receive a yellow/red card in the gameweek.

 

  • Based on the priorities you assign, automatic substitutions are processed at the end of the gameweek as follows:

– If your starting Goalkeeper doesn’t play in the gameweek, he will be substituted by your replacement Goalkeeper, if he played in the gameweek.

– If any of your outfield players didn’t play in the gameweek, they will be substituted by the highest-priority outfield substitute who played in the gameweek AND doesn’t break the formation rules outlined above (eg. If your starting team has 3 defenders, a starting defender can only be replaced by a defender from your bunch).

For example, if you play a 3-5-2 formation in GW11 and one of your starting defenders doesn’t play, he will be replaced with another defender from your bench, regardless of what spot (1, 2, 3) he occupies. In this formation, you’ll have 2 defenders on your bench. The defender that will be subbed in first – assuming he played – will be the first one to appear in those 3 bench spots. In this example, if you have a third forward in the number 1 bench spot, the defender in the number 2 bench spot will be auto-subbed on.

Ordering strategy

You’ll want the player with the best chance of delivering you the most points in that number 1 spot. And order the rest of your bench accordingly. Depending on the set of fixtures ahead of each bench player (remember those FDRs mentioned above?) and the formation you’ll play in the upcoming gameweek, you might want to reshuffle the order that your bench players sit.

When to solidify your bench

For those of you that are planning to use your Wildcards before GW11, this is the perfect time to make your bench part of your overall strategy.  If you’re not using it this week, but will use it sometime soon, it’s probably fine to wait until that time. For those of us that have already used our Wildcards, it might mean having to use a Free Transfer here and there to improve our benches over time. While not ideal to use FTs on your bench, it could make a real difference.

There are good options for your bench

In previous seasons, it seems like quality bench players were rare commodities. But this season, there are plenty of excellent bench players to choose from – some of which you might even rotate into your Starting XI from time to time.

Matt Doherty began as a cheap bench option for many managers and quickly became a frequent starter, if not an anchor of their defences. His teammates Jonny and Bennett are also good options coming off FPL benches.

Danny Ings is another example of a cheap FPL option returning points. Ten games into the season, most of those valuable bench players – the ones that fit into some or all of the criteria outlined above – have been identified.  You know who they are. Now, it’s a matter of getting them into your squad if you don’t have them already.

Putting it all together

Gameweek 10 was a loud and clear reminder that although it’s often dismissed, the bench has a real, and sometimes important role in your FPL strategy. There are plenty of players available that will allow you to maximize the budget for your Starting XI, while also arming you in times of need (rotation/injury/suspension/illness of your starting players). And, a deep, strong bench grows exponentially when you play that Bench Boost chip later in the season. Earning points from all 15 of your players is definitely the goal when the chip is played.

We’ve all got some battle scars from gameweek 10. And maybe a bit traumatised. Sometime soon, we’ll look back and laugh about it. Just not right now. Onward and upward for a productive GW11. Cheers, guys.

 


 

Thanks to Gary and Josh for the article, be sure to follow their FPL accounts on both Twitter and Instagram for regular FPL content and updates.

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