We’re nine weeks into the season now, hopefully you have at least 5 wins on the board to keep on track for those end of season playoffs. With nearly a quarter of the season over already patterns have emerged, not just the ‘Liverpool win every game’ pattern, and it’s time to start talking strategy based on what we know.

With a lot of players being classified as forwards this season, pretty much all wingers and ‘number 10s’ are classified that way, we’re seeing the expected dearth of midfield options. Of the top 10 points scorers so far positions are represented as follows:

Goalkeeper – zero

Defenders – zero

Midfielders – two

Forwards – eight

Now on first glance these stats might say to you defenders and keepers are the players we should plug into starting XIs as little as possible. I’d argue otherwise. They may score lower than a lot of attacking players overall, but returns from your defence are much more predictable if you rotate effectively. The key to getting value out of defence is to not stick to the same 7 players every week, scour the market and pick up defensive players based on fixtures.

The difference between strength at midfielders and forwards is stark. The only midfielders in the top 15 are from premium teams – Man City (KDB, both Silvas) and Chelsea (Mount). Compare that to strikers where seven different teams are represented. With midfielders having to make up one third of your squad it’s important you have a strategy in that area, and there’s a few valid options:

"The only midfielders in the top 15 are from premium teams – Man City (KDB, both Silvas) and Chelsea (Mount)"

Big in midfield

With the consensus in your league being that midfield is weak, the contrarian play would be to go strong in that area. There may be a lack of talent in midfield, but there still is talent there at the top end. The tactic here is to trade and transfer your way to having all the top midfielders – the best five according to points totals currently would be KDB, Bernardo and David Silva, Mount and Grealish. To take this tactic you’ll need to sacrifice your premium forwards and defenders which would seem daft given forwards rule the points totals, but here’s the thing. There’s a lot of high scoring forwards, many of which will be on your waiver wire. There’s 21 forwards in the top 50 points scorers. So your option is to build a strong midfield, this will naturally leave your league mates with weak midfields due to positional scarcity. Then be prepared to rotate the rest of your squad, even your forwards, based on form and fixtures.

"There’s 21 forwards in the top 50 points scorers"

Go 5 at the back

Another way to go is to focus on your defence, rotating defenders based on fixtures, and start five of them every single week. This will lead you to playing a 5-3-2 formation, meaning you only need to start 3 midfielders each week. Despite the lack of midfield options it should be relatively easy to get 3 that are at least serviceable, even if they’re returning you little more than the odd attacking return. With this tactic you have two pretty redundant midfield spots. I’d recommend using these spots to take absolute punts on players who’re yet to shine and may well be able to be picked up for free, but have high upside based on team and/or historical performance. Examples here are young guns such as Foden or experienced world stars yet to shine like Lo Celso and Shaqiri. You don’t need to play these players in a 5-3-2 until they deserve it through improved form, and so you can afford to carry them on your bench.

Give up on midfield!

The more radical option is to give up on midfield altogether. Always play a formation where only three midfielders are needed, and focus all your trades on transfers in other areas. If you happen to own KDB for example his trade value will be huge given your league mates will have weak midfields they’re not happy with. If you can trade KDB for two high level forwards, say Lacazette plus Firmino, it may well be worth doing. You can fill your midfield spots with ‘2 point machines’, players you know will start but rarely get attacking returns, but ensure all other areas of your squad are super strong. This is a great option for those who don’t want to spend too much time on their teams, as you’ll rarely need to transfer or trade once your team is set….

"The more radical option is to give up on midfield altogether"

The lack of midfield talent this year has provided us with plenty of options, hopefully taking one of the above strategies will help you navigate through to those all important playoffs….

Cheers,
Gaffer

Follow me @realffgaffer on twitter