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How to pick a winning Sky Sports Fantasy Football team
Forget about picking a balance team
I'm a Sky Sports Fantasy Football addict and a veteran of six seasons in this article I'm going to give you tips on picking your team based on my experiences.
The first mistake that most people make with picking their fantasy football team is in picking a team which would make a good real-life team, a balanced team which has a left-back, right-back and two central defenders for example. In fantasy football your only concern is scoring points and you don't need to be concerned about the balance of your team or how it would play in real-life.
The second mistake that people make is in wasting substitutes too early on in the season. All too frequently the leaders in private leagues in January are the people who've used the most subs but by May they are completely out of sight on the leaderboard. March-May are the months when players are most affected by injuries and suspensions due to cumulative yellow cards so these are the months when it is essential to have substitutes remaining.
The other scenario which often unwinds in March-April is where teams fall behind in the number of games played due to continued involvement in European competition or the FA cup. When this occurs there is the opportunity for those with subs remaining to take advantage by buying more players from these teams with games in hand which ultimately leads to more point-scoring opportunities.
Picking a goalkeeper
Picking a goalkeeper is a critical decision at the start of the season, you should never plan to change keeper mid-season and to do so should be considered a waste of a sub.
In a goalkeeper you have an opportunity to acquire a cheap player from one of the top teams whose points will generally come from clean sheets and whose presence in the team is virtually guaranteed unless they get injured. For example in season 2013-14 Petr Cech of Chelsea was valued at 2-3m less than the Chelsea defenders so therefore represented the cheapest opportunity to benefit from the clean sheets which were sure to come from Mourinho's defensive tactics.
The difference between the cost of Petr Cech and his counterparts in weaker teams such as Ruddy or Vorn was only 1-1.5m compared to a difference of 2-4m for defenders.
Picking your defenders
My recommended formation is 3-5-2 so therefore you have the task of picking three defenders.
The objective in picking defenders is to pick very cheap goal-scoring or goal-assisting defenders from mid-table teams who will have relatively tight defences. Almost invariably this leads you to selecting a back row made up entirely of full-backs but as discussed previously you do not have to be concerned about the balance of your team.
Formations with 4 or 5 defenders don't generally accommodate the top positions in the leagues purely because even the top scoring defenders are well behind their midfield and attacking counterparts in the individual scoring charts.
The next step using my team selection method is to select the two attackers in the 3-5-2 formation.
The best policy is to select two attacking players from the leading teams regardless of cost, these two players will probably be your leading points scorers. Always give preference to players who are guaranteed picks and aren't in competition for their place in the team.
In season 2013-14 the most expensive players in the game were Van Persie, Aguero, Suarez and Rooney but with the exception of Van Persie these players were amongst the leading scorers in the game therefore more than justifying their pricetag.
Always avoid picking players who play for the same team as this reduces you point-scoring opportunities and also reduces your options for mid-week captain switching.
Picking a mdifield
Picking a midfield with your remaining budget usually involves picking two or three premium players with large pricetags who are low risk. In season 2013-14 I would have placed Yaya Toure, Eden Hazard, Steven Gerrard, David Silva, Oscar and Frank Lampard in this bracket.
You then need to pick lower priced midfielders with the remainder of your budget. You need to spend some time identifying attacking midfielders with lower price tags who are going to give a good return in terms of goals and/or assists throughout the season. If you can identify midfield players who take a good percentage of their side's penalties, free-kicks and/or corners then they are a relatively good bet. Attacking midfielders in this bracket in 2013-14 included Lallana, Adam, Sterling, Ramsey, and Barclay.
With the 3-5-2 formation i expect to use the bulk of my substitutes throughout the season swapping midfield players to ensure I have the form players in the league.
Another key point is to avoid doubling up of midfield and attackers from the same team wherever possible, my experience is that having more than one attacker or midfielder from the same team limits your point-scoring and can lead to particularly poor point-scoring if that team fires a blank in any given game-week.
Keeping an eye on who is your captain and making regular changes is key to having a successful season.
You are allowed one captain change per game-week so it is therefore possible to change mid-week and benefit from having effectively had two captains. For example if Liverpool play on Saturday and Suarez is your captain you could change captain to a Man City player for their match on a Sunday and receive double points.
Sneakily in the scenario above if Man Utd were playing on the Monday night then you could sell the Man City player and buy a Man Utd player before the first kick-off on the Monday and then receive double points for a third player in the same game-week. A great sneaky tactic but don't try it too often or you will waste your subs.
So you've picked your team, be prepared to make a few early subs but after that try to be as conservative with your substitutions as possible. Don't panic if you fall behind in your league early on, panic substitutions will only reduce your chances of winning and almost any situation is retrievable provided you have a solid point-scoring team by mid-October.
Keep checking in regularly to avoid having a player in your team with a long-running injury or suspension and also to keep changing your captain depending on who is on form or has the best point-scoring opportunity that game-week.
The last ingredient of course is luck but unfortunately there is no method or guidance on how to get lucky but if you follow the guidance in this article then you should be challenging at the top of any private league at the end of the season and giving your mates a run for their money.