Premier League: Alternative Formations

With the price list released by the FPL this week, it’s time to start crunching numbers and building your squad for the upcoming EPL 2017/2018 season. During this off season, more than the previous 4 season I have participated, I have remained active researching players, building defensive rotations and making assumptions on where players for my starting XI will come in. In between, I have run across some new websites and Twitter feeds to follow in order to help me this season.

That said, I, like many managers this week have spent time building my 15-man squad, while staying within the £100m budget. Based on last year’s team data, the 3-4-3 (22) and 3-5-2 (8) were the most used (30) formations I started with. However, I am looking at potentially bucking the system and starting with a more conventional 4-4-2, maybe a 4-3-3 or possibly…a 4-5-1? Call me crazy!?!

The one caveat I have before reading about alternative formations, these 15-man squads are based on GW1-6 only. I plan on activating my first WC between GW4 and GW6. Possibly holding out a game week later during the second international break. From GW6/7 on, I plan on reevaluating my squad, team value and overall ranking before making a commitment to the next period in the 2017/18 season.

Each formation listed below spends just £8.5 on two goalkeepers. Initial penciled in are WBA’s, Ben Foster (£4.5) and Newcastle’s Rob Elliot (£4.0). Some talk of Elliot starting for the Toons if Benitez does not buy another keeper during the transfer period. These two players represent a great rotation to start the season: BOU/hud/STO/bha/STO/bha.

Formation 4-4-2

Overall: Four in the back is not typical, based on many managers using a 3-4-3 or 3-5-2. Further up the pitch you lose one offensive player; midfielder or forward depending how you set your starting XI. With increase in prices throughout the 460 player list, defenders appear to have a bit more appeal and could potentially end up with a higher PPM (Points returned per £ Million spent). Having spent too many hours this week shuffling players in and out of my line ups, I don’t believe you can rule out any formation at the start of the season.

Defenders: Victor Lindelöf (£5.5), Cédric Soares (£5.0), Jamaal Lascelles (£4.5), Brent Mee (£4.5), James Tomkins (£4.5)

The core of the defense is made up of budget players of £4.5. These players were selected for the 3-way budget rotation that can cover all 6 game weeks, playing at home, as based off Peter Blake’s 3-way budget strategy at Mathematically Safe.

United’s new boy, Victor Lindelöf heads the defense, based off their lucrative schedule to start the EPL season, as the Red Devils do not face a top 7 team with home games against West Ham, Leicester, Everton (and Crystal Palace in GW7). With 4 defenders at the back I was priced out of including Antonio Valencia (£6.5) and to some degree, Eric Bailly (£6.0), but have been able to fit him in other 4 defender sets I have drafted. Cédric Soares was injured for a portion of last season (£5.0), but gets the nod over Ryan Bertrand (£5.5). So’ton has a very favorable start, much in the vein of United, having two home fixtures to start the season (SWA & WHU) and a visit from Watford in GW4. GW6 could be challenging as the Saints face Man United.

Midfielders: Kevin De Bruyne (£10.0), Philippe Coutinho (£9.0), Paul Pogba (£8.0), Wilfred Zaha (£7.0), Ruben Loftus-Cheek (£4.5)

Lots of leeway in the midfield knowing your 5th will be a £4.5. In my 4-4-2, Ruben Loftus-Cheek gets the nod by virtue of his move to Crystal Palace and the potential to start as the #10. That would be an added bonus, as his playing time was going to be nil through GW6. I feel KDB is under priced by £0.5 and should be good for 20+ assists this season, feeding very hungry forwards in Gabriel Jesus and Sergio Agüero. KDB did hit the woodwork 8 times last year, still scored 7 goals. Good fixtures with a home fixture against L’pool in GW4. Coutinho was selected being the complete midfielder for Liverpool, scores, creates, assists. Feel the best is yet to come for him, building off the 8 goal/8 assist season last year. Tricky fixures in GW3/4, home to ARS and away to MCI. Pogba some with the caveat of Man United introducing a new defensive midfielder. However I think he will be more productive feeding Lukakyu, who finished balls stronger than Zlatan did last year. Zaha had a solid season 7 goals and 11 assists. Another year together with Benteke, he’s a big threat player who can create down the side.

Forwards: Harry Kane (£12.5), Romelu Lukaku (£11.5), Ashley Fletcher (£4.5)

Going big up front with a very popular pair from last season in Kane and Lukaku. Hopefully Kane can shake the “slow start” and get off to a bang away to NEW in GW1. Three 20+ goal seasons, expecting great things from Harry again this season. Lukaku’s move to United should see his goal tally increase, as I believe he’s got strong supporting players around him creating. Options are available if these two forward don’t work for £23.0. Could potentially save £1.0 that could be spent on upgrading a midfielder.

Formation 4-3-3

Overall: This is probably the strongest of the three formations based solely on the starting upgraded defenders since your squad will only field 6 attacking players. By virtue of the wingback becoming more of a standard throughout the EPL, expectations for points come from both ends of the pitch. These players appear to provide a better point per value than a comparable midfielder at a similar price (Alonso vs Ramsey/Willian/Zaha). The £4.5 players aren’t expected to play through GW6.

Defenders: Eric Bailly (£6.0), Ryan Bertrand (£5.5), Vincent Kompany (£6.0), Gareth McAuley (£5.0), Brent Mee (£4.5)

With just 3 starting midfielders, a manager can add more attacking options to the defense that are good PPM value. Bailly, Bertrand and McAuley could finish in the top 5 for value. Kompany, if he can stay healthy. Man United, So’ton and WBA all have strong fixtures to start the season, thus their inclusion in the starting back line. If the age of McAuley is a concern, Craig Dawson is your other WBA option, with 4 goals last season.

Midfielders: Paul Pogba (£8.0), Sadio Mané (£9.5), Dele Alli (£9.5), Oriel Romeu (£4.5), Ruben Loftus-Cheek (£4,5)

Dele Alli and Sadio Mané anchor the starting XI in the midfield with Paul Pogba as the “cheaper” of the premium options. Some questions still surround his inclusion after a very lackluster first season for United; 5 goals/4 assists. His 20.7% TSB is third best for midfielders behind Coutinho and the aforementioned Alli. While Alli had a very strong season for Spurs, questions will be asked of him and his teammates while they play the upcoming season at Wembley, their “home” away from home. Alli plays very forward in the attack (20 goals) but has the ability to create, as witnessed by his 16 assists. With £27.0

Forwards: Alexandre Lacazette (£10.5), Romelu Lukaku (£11.5), Troy Deeney (£6.5)

Three forwards who should head the attack for their respective teams. New boy Lacazette could draw some questions, but you can’t deny his 28 goals in Ligue 1 last season. He’s a finishing monster, with Özil creating, could see a 20+ goal season. Some question still surrounds the status of Alexis Sanchez and where he will end up. Lukaku will be strong up front coming off a 25 goal season, hopefully he is more consistent on the road. We saw him disappear on the road during the later part of the season. Tory Deeney under Marco Silva could mean more consistency for the big man. Coming off three 10+ goal seasons, Deeney has proven his worth for Watford. At times frustrating to own, but options at the £6.5 price point are questionable: Dwight Gayle, Charlie Austin, Andre Gray, Salomón Rondón.

Formation 4-5-1

Overall: This formation was used just once last year, by virtue of Diego Costa not playing and the first sub being a midfielder. Could you benefit from this formation? Possibly, the lure of 5 premium midfielders is choice, but would it be enough to cover having just one premium forward? The shape of the defense would be similar in nature to the other two formations, with a rotation of 3 budget defenders rotation depending on their home fixture to provide the best CS potential. With 6 forwards priced at £10.0 or more it would probably be more beneficial to run any combination of two out in your starting XI, knowing you will be required to downgrade two midfielders.

Defenders: Victor Lindelöf (£5.5), Cédric Soares (£5.0), Jamaal Lascelles (£4.5), Brent Mee (£4.5), James Tomkins (£4.5)

The core of the defense is made up of budget players of £4.5. These players were selected for the 3-way budget rotation that can cover all 6 game weeks, playing at home, as based off Peter Blake’s 3-way budget strategy at Mathematically Safe.

United’s new boy, Victor Lindelöf heads the defense, based off their lucrative schedule to start the EPL season, as the Red Devils do not face a top 7 team with home games against West Ham, Leicester, Everton (and Crystal Palace in GW7). With 4 defenders at the back I was priced out of including Antonio Valencia (£6.5) and to some degree, Eric Bailly (£6.0), but have been able to fit him in other 4 defender sets I have drafted. Cédric Soares was injured for a portion of last season (£5.0), but gets the nod over Ryan Bertrand (£5.5). So’ton has a very favorable start, much in the vein of United, having two home fixtures to start the season (SWA & WHU) and a visit from Watford in GW4. GW6 could be challenging as the Saints face Man United.

Midfielders: Kevin De Bruyne (£10.0), Mesut Özil (£9.5), Christian Eriksen (£9.5), Philippe Coutinho (£9.0), Paul Pogba (£8.0)

The lure of 5 premium is great! The best part is, if Özil or Eriksen don’t excite you enough, transfer in Sadio Mane (£9.5) and Dele Alli (£9.5). Moving KDB will free up an extra £o.5. With the 5 midfielders I’ve included it runs £46.0. Pogba could be seen as the question mark, unless United bring in a defensive midfielder. Other £8.0 options include Pedro and Leroy Sané. I have included Özil based on the fact he could benefit from having Lacazette up front, who was deadly inside the box for Lyon last term. Many see Özil has overpriced by £o.5, but has the potential to pocket 20+ assists if Lacazette gets off to a good start. We also have the potential of Sanchez leaving the Gunners but Mahrez possibly transferring in. Again, many options with this formation.

Forwards: Harry Kane (£12.5), Collin Quaner (£4.5), Ashley Fletcher (£4.5)

It could be seen as taking a big risk up front with just a single forward. When it’s Harry Kane, some of that risk is greatly reduce. Past history does appear show Kane starting slow, include the move to Wembley for Spurs home games and this formation doesn’t come without risk. Still, I feel the reward could outweigh the risk based on the 5 premium midfielders getting the nod in the starting XI. Obvious with little budget to work with, the other two forwards are £4.5 bench fodder with little starting chances for their teams slim. Kane’s finished with 21, 25 and 29 goals the past 3 season, taking the Golden Boot in the last years. Two questionable fixtures that might cause concern; GW2 home to Chelsea and GW4 away to Everton. But the “home” games are causing some hesitation, but can you run without Kane?

Conclusion

While these formations are not typical, I believe each carries potential and value to FPL. Not sure I have the cajones to actually start a 4-5-1, but if conditions present themselves or forwards aren’t striking, anything could be possible. For the start of the season I am still planning a 4-3-3 but with 4 weeks before the start of the EPL season we will wait and see what transfers are made. The new Free Hit Chip could also allow for unique formation based on fixtures for one week. As always, manager must remain flexible when it comes to the fantasy game.

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