Heroes & Villains (@Heroes_FPL) Guide to a Successful FPL Season: Pre-Season Training

Hello and welcome back to FPL 2018/19!

Continuing our preseason package, we are honored to have guest writer Heroes & Villians (who finished in the top 100 last season) write for us.

I’m Si, also known as Heroes & Villains or on Twitter as @Heroes_FPL.  I love the challenge of FPL and after being ridiculed by my mates for basically not being very good at the game during my first season, I vowed to improve.

Three Top 5k finishes later, including an overall rank of 58th last season, it’s fair to say that I’m getting better, but there’s always room for improvement.  I favour a numbers-based approach and hope to share what I’ve learnt with more FPL managers during the course of the season ahead.

With the dust having finally settled on one of the most intriguing and challenging FPL seasons to date, it’s the perfect time to start planning for next season.

The purpose of this article is to provide you with a framework of guiding principles to follow when picking your initial team.

It is in these principles that I have a high degree of confidence and to which I attribute my success last season

Principle 1: Seek Value 

The game in essence is a simple one.  Spend £100m to secure as many FPL points as possible (and, of course, more than your rivals!).  It therefore stands to reason that seeking good value picks has to be the over-riding consideration and the biggest and most important challenge of the game.

In short, a good value pick is anyone who scores more points than you would expect for their price and this will include players of all different prices from ‘budget’ £4.5m picks to premium £10m+ premium assets. There are three primary sources of these gems.

  • Any player who you believe has been undervalued by FPL Towers. Most likely this will be someone who under-performed last year through a loss of form or opportunities, or a player whose circumstances changed after the prices were announced, such a s a player who turns out to be a first team starter when it was assumed that they’d only be a squad member, or an out of position option.
  • Teams that under-performed last year may also see their players’ values supressed, which in turn could create opportunities for finding good value picks.
  • The promoted teams can also be a great source of good value picks. Over recent seasons there have been successes and failures in equal measure from the ranks of the promoted teams, however the fact they are relatively unknown, unfashionable and generally predicted to struggle as they step up to the Premier League can result in some undervaluation of their assets.

Principle 2: Talisman Theory

This is an excellent moniker that has gained popularity over recent months, used to describe the FPL success of the key player from a team.  Examples could be Sigurdsson, who scored a remarkable 14.4% of Swansea’s 2016/16 season FPL points tally, or West Ham’s Arnautović, who spearheaded both their attack as well as their march to Premier League safety last season. Talisman Theory (see Tom’s article here) neatly covers several FPL basics:

  • Pick players that are ‘nailed on’.
  • Pick a team’s best player (and therefore likely to be their top FPL points scorer) when they emerge.

At times of rotation and during the season run-in I think Talisman Theory carries a lot of weight and I also think that it’s a low risk approach to successfully navigating the uncertainties of the season’s opening game weeks.

Principle 3: Spread the Wealth

I heard a highly respected FPL pundit recently state that he never has more than two £10m+ players in his team and this is a principle that I agree with wholeheartedly. Obviously, every season is different and the players’ prices have yet to be announced, however almost certainly this will be a guideline I’ll be following next season.  Why? See Principle 1: Seek Value!.  If you select more than two £10m+ players, will they all prove good value and outperform their lofty price tag? Don’t forget, you can only ever captain one of them each week, so you can’t rely on the double captaincy points to make the investment in them worthwhile.

A by-product of ‘spreading the wealth’ across your team is that this builds flexibility into your squad.  This allows you to alternate between formations, respond easily to any injuries and makes it relatively straight forward to capitalise on form players and bandwagons without conducting major surgery on your team.  Certainly, at the start of the season I’d place a high level of emphasis on flexibility.

Principle 4: Differentials          


There are few things more exciting in FPL than having ‘differentials’ – players who don’t appear to be popular choices – in your team. But don’t go overboard.  Including one, maybe even two, in your initial squad could be a great way to gain an advantage over your rivals, but this mustn’t be done at the expense of the primary objective of the game which is to use your £100m to score as many FPL points as possible.  In other words, this must not be done at the expense of guiding and over-riding Principle 1.  I’ll cover ‘differentials’ in more detail in another article, but it’s important to avoid falling into either of the pitfalls below when planning differential picks:

  • Trying to impose your will / hope that your differential will outscore more popular picks despite the cold hard facts available to you indicating something different.
  • Assuming that ‘everyone’ has the same template squad and that the only way to get ahead is to pick risky differentials. The reality will be that very few of the 10k teams either directly ahead or behind you in the overall rank will have exactly the same squad as you and even fewer will make exactly the same decisions as you about which 11 players to pick, as well as who to captain.

Principle 5: Be a Smart Sponge

There is more excellent advice and information available to FPL managers now than at any time in the past, although it’s fair to say that some sources are better than others – it may be worthwhile doing a quick check on the historical overall rank finishes of the sources that you are influenced by as this will at least give an historical view of their FPL credentials. However, take onboard as much of this information as possible, but, at the risk of stating the obvious, don’t be afraid to trust your own conclusions and judgements, supplemented by your own research when necessary.  Good advice, tips, concepts and theories will come from a multitude of different sources and so it’s worth making a note when you see something that resonates with you so that you can remember to incorporate it in your initial team selections.

In summary, when selecting your initial squad, the game is all about seeking and selecting the best value players (Principle 1) with the other four principles described providing guidance on the best way to achieve it.

It’s an age-old adage that the league isn’t won in the opening weeks of the season. However it can be lost, and so the importance of your initial squad selection can’t be underestimated.

Image credits: all via the Noun Project

  • Magnifying class by Creative Mahara
  • Talisman eye by Jesus Jezzini De Anda
  • Piles of coins by Phil Smith
  • Differential by Marta Ambrosetti
  • Sponge by supalerk laipawat