Before we start, here's a quick run down of the key rules regarding lineups and transfers:
- Once the tournament kicks off, its only 1 transfer before round 2 and 1 before round 3 (without incurring a 3 point penalty) and so your squad really needs to carry you through the group stages (save for an injury or an unexpected benching).
- After the group stages you can reload your entire team so there isn't an absolute need for your squad to be made up players challenging for the trophy. However, with the price rises, it will pay somewhat to get on board a player early who you think might make an unexpected run to the last 8 and beyond.
- At the start of each day, you can replace any player in your starting eleven with a player from the bench who is yet to play (provided he wasn't sent off).
- You do not have to replace a defender with a defender but you must always play a legal formation, so if you have only 3 defenders in your side you could not then sub out a defender for another position.
A well documented strategy in fantasy auctions, stars and scrubs basically entails plowing all your money into a smaller number of premium players then trying to plug in some very cheap players to either simply make up the numbers, or to contribute some unexpected points.
The strategy has an element of boom or bust as a bad game or injury will really hurt you each round, whereas strategy 2 below will allow you to shift your team around after a top player lays an egg.
The upside is that with such a small number of games, longevity is not really a major issue and the 3 point transfer at least gives you an out, even if it is a bit costly.
Picking my favourite players irrespective of price and then filling in the squad with scrubs I ended up with the below, as a first effort:
DF A Cole
MD Di Maria
FD Van Persie
I have chosen to bench those three given that they play later in the round and so I have one player at each position to bring in for whichever of my starters have a bad game.
The rest of the squad is made up of players who should get a game (D Suazo, Subotic, Kroldrup) and represent good value in case of injury or players who are the cheapest at their position.
I like this strategy and I feel that most players will use it given the outstanding names you can get in your lineup. However, the problem is that having the 'best' players will not necessarily win given the small sample size of games they play. It may therefore be beneficial to effectively have two or even three backups for each position who you can keep rotating in as your starters fail to make an impact. The idea behind this is strategy 2.
Strategy 2: Hit or Stick
The basic premise here is to build a good squad of players that are almost guaranteed to play for their respective teams and hence maximise your chances to hit home runs, in what is a comparatively small number of games for fantasy leagues.
The key is to have players staggered across the round so the below situation can be taken advantage of:
DF - Evra - 2 points
MD - Pienaar - 6 points
DF - A Cole - 7 points
MD - Di Maria - 5 points
MD - Dempsey - 2 points
FW - Messi (c) - 3 points (doubled to make 6)
In this example you decide to 'hit' on Evra figuring that your deep bench will surely be able to generate better than a 2 point return. You could replace him with, say, Lahm on day 3 or Chiellini on day 4. You would stick with Pienaar after a solid game and move onto day 2.
After day 2 you are happy with Cole and Di Maria but Dempsey and particularly captain Messi flattered to deceive so you ditch them both in favour of say Van Persie (day 4) and Fernandes (day 6).
Now, there is an element of risk in this as you are actively gambling with points and so will feel worse when you lose points than when you make a correct decision and gain them. This concept is known as risk aversion and plays a key part in fantasy sports as people fear looking foolish by benching a 3 point Messi for Van Persie who ends up not playing, even though the percentages say that the move was logical.
In a 38 week season this strategy may not pay off as you might find yourself chasing points and ultimately not benefit from playing the long game on star players. However in a short competition like the world cup I think this is a great opportunity as you effectively get anywhere from 15-20 bites at the cherry to try and hit a home run. To continue the analogy you only need to hit .300 (6 for 20) at those rates to have 6 successes where as in strategy 1 you will need to hit a Ted Williams like .428 (6 for 14) to enjoy the same rate of success.
If you have absolute convictions over the star players you like in the tournament then perhaps strategy 1 is for you, but if, like me, you like around 14-18 players but struggle to pin down your golden boot or tournament favourites then strategy 2 allows for more wiggle room and flexibility.
Right now I am going to try and assemble a squad using strategy 2 and see if I can get enough good players/matchups to make it work. I will post my efforts here shortly to see how this compares with other peoples' teams, who I suspect will largely use strategy 1.
Thanks for reading and please post your comments/ideas below or tweet me @plfantasy.
You can find my ideas for top players for the tournament here