The Gaffer’s guide to turning your season around

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We’re ten weeks into the RealFF season now, and it’s time to assess how you’re getting on. Have you started off like a train a la Pep, at Man City or Conte, at Chelsea? If so well done, getting a strong start allows you to be very selective over trades, and crucially gives you the ability to refer to the league table any time a friend criticises your team. A member of the Gaffer’s league was recently suspended from our WhatsApp group after he constantly sent pictures of his lofty league position to settle debates over his squad’s strength. Despite your great start, it’s worth considering how lucky you’ve been, if you’re averaging anything less than 45 points per week then you need to assess your squad and not just rest on your laurels.

Now onto the majority of you out there in RealFF land, who’ve either had an average start or have pulled a Moyes and find yourselves floundering at the bottom of the table. We’re over a quarter of the way through the season now and it’s time to turn the ship around before you become further from the top than a Scunthorpe reserve team goalie. Follow this advice and you’ll certainly create the basis for a steady rise up your league. It may take time, but remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day.

I can personally vouch for the strategy laid out here, last year I went from a low position to overall league champion using this very method. It worked for me, and it can work for you too.

Squad makeup

For some of you, it’ll be easy to get to this squad position, especially if you drafted well but have just had slow starters e.g. Mahrez, Giroud. For others who’ve got truly bad squads, it’ll take some trades, transfers etc, but you should be able to get close to what I’m about to spell out.

Your favoured formation from now on should be a 5-3-2. It may feel defender heavy but statistically, it’s far easier to predict your team’s performance than a more attacking formation. Now let’s look at what you need to create per position:

Goalkeepers – Ideally here you want a ‘rotation pair’, ensuring you almost always have the option of a goalie playing a home game. The ideal candidates here are Heaton and Foster, or Adrian and Mandanda. If you can trade for one of these pairs, even if it means giving up a premium keeper, do so. If this isn’t going to be possible then the second best option is to pick up a premium keeper and his backup and start them every week. Refer to my goalkeeper rankings for guidance.

In my example squad, I have Adrian and Mandanda, which allows me to virtually always have a home tie.

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Defenders – This is where you’re going to have to put a bit of effort in, but it will reap rewards. You’re looking to own 3 defenders from the premium defences who are pretty nailed on, that you can start every week. Your options are:

Chelsea – Luiz, Cahill, Alonso Azpi

Soton – Van Dijk, Fonte, Bertrand

Man U – Shaw, Blind, Smalling

Man City – Otamendi, Stones

Arsenal – Koscielny, Mustafi, Monreal, Bellerin

Spurs – Alderweireld, Walker, Rose, Vertonghen

Everton – Coleman, Williams

Leicester – Simpson, Huth, Fuchs, Morgan

 

You’re going to keep these players and start them every week. Try to make sure your three premium defs are from different teams, thus avoiding a possible ‘double up’ in a poor fixture. The second part of the ploy is to rotate two defenders each week purely based on the week ahead’s fixture. So, for example this week you could pick up Francis and Lowton, both of whom have a little attacking threat and crucially a good clean sheet possibility.

In my example squad for this week, I have my three premium men, with Daniels and Lowton as my rotating one-offs. Simpson is a little weak as my third premium defender, so I’m keeping an eye out for an upgrade.

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Midfielders – Similar to defence here, as you’re playing a 5-3-2 whenever possible you only need 3 premium midfielders. These needs to be guys who will play every week, and you’re happy can return points whatever the fixture. Refer to my midfield rankings if you want some guidance here. The key here is you’re going to pick two backup midfielders each week purely based on fixtures and bench them. This ensures if one of your defenders or your starting midfielders doesn’t play then you have a minimum 2 points from the bench.

If you currently believe you have more than 3 premium midfielders, and this goes for defenders too, I’d recommend retaining the best three and trading the other(s) to upgrade positions where you’re weaker. Much better to gain a top striker in a trade than keeping a fourth premium midfielder just to sit on your bench.

In my example squad, I have my three premium, permanent men in the starting spots. Ibe and Gudmondsson then make the bench, rotated in purely based on their good fixtures this week. Alderweireld is a doubt for this week, and so Ibe could sub in and likely score a minimum 2 points. Worth noting here that Ayew is a bit of a gamble, if he gets a regular West Ham starting spot as expected I’ll play him most weeks, swapping him for a rotated mid only when he has a really bad fixture. I’m on the lookout for a better third mid, which I'd bring in for Ayew or Tadic.

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Strikers – If at all possible get three nailed on starters here. You’re going to start two each week, and so it’d be good to have two premium strikers and one who you know will play but will mostly be on your bench. This means you don’t have to be trying to transfer in strikers each week, this is tricky as they’re highly coveted positions, but will always have striker cover. You’ll find it a lot easier to rotate in defs and mids with good fixtures than you would with strikers.

In my example squad, I’ve got three very good options – Austin, Firmino and Sterling. For me, Firmino is good enough that I’ll play him every week, with the other two rotating based on fixtures.

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Weekly maintenance

This strategy does require you to do a bit of tinkering each week when the transfer window opens, but then if you’re keen enough to have read this far I can’t see that being an issue for you! On a weekly basis you’re going to be:

  • Rotating your two non-premium defenders
  • Rotating your two non-premium midfielders
  • Setting your 5-3-2 formation

Anomalies and additional points

Treat this as a guiding principle to turning your season around, but a level of flexibility will be necessary. For example, this week all three of my strikers have good fixtures:

Firmino v Watford

Sterling v Middlesbrough

Austin v Hull

 

Alderweireld is a doubt and has a poor fixture against Arsenal. Therefore I’ll likely take the opportunity to ‘rest’ him and play a 4-3-3.

 

I’d say to remain disciplined and give yourself the best chance - if you’re in doubt, go with 5-3-2.

 

 

Strategy summary

  • Rotation pair goalies, or one premium goalie and his understudy
  • Three premium defenders, with two other rotating into your starting xi each week
  • Three premium mids, with two others rotating on your bench each week
  • Three starting strikers, of which you’ll play two generally, based on fixtures
  • Set a 5-3-2 where possible, with two rotating mids and one striker on your bench

 

Final thoughts

 

I hope this helps some of you improve your squads and turn your form around, get in touch if you’d like your squad reviewing. I’d also love to hear your feedback on how well the approach works for you.  

As always if you need any advice on trades or transfers in your RealFF journey, ask the Gaffer.

@RealFFGaffer