Premier League: 5-3-2 Midfield Rotation

With spare time at work, I have been working on FPL strategy and formation for the past week, while delving into conversation with other fantasy managers. With many “rate my team” (RMT) posts coming forward, I have spent more time on maximizing my squad based on a 5-3-2 formation. Not the preferred formation for FPL to the 3-4-3 or 3-5-2, it could warrant consideration, which I have given it this pre-season.

Based on a comment from Alex, a top 5k player, “never worried about this stuff. Play your best hand accordingly. Keep it simple and never overcomplicate.” Over complicate. Is that what all this preparation has been? Have I been over complicating the strategy and formation when I should be standing tried and true behind what works? Honestly, in the last 4 seasons the best I have finished has been 75k and struggling with a nasty run of red arrows that took the wind out of my sails after GW6.

This is the first season I have actively participated during the off season, joined the legions on Twitter (@w6onv) and been actively discussing players, formations and strategy on numerous post threads. It has the situation anything but clear, only adding to the confusion and questions that arise before the start of the 2017/18 EPL.

My strategy to start the season is to run out a 5-3-2 formation, with £30m spent on defenders and another £35.5 on forwards. This leaves me £33m to spend on the midfield. Can it be done? I know many will question the amount budgeted for defenders and provide alternatives to save £1.0 here or £0.5m there, in order to improve the midfield.


This 5-3-2 was the latest update to a defensive minded strategy. I splurged on Alonso and Valencia and opted for City’s captain, Vincent Kompany to anchor the defense. Cédric wasn’t without injury last year and wasn’t nailed on to start. This year with So’ton’s kind start to the season, he too could be a great option defensively. Trippier is my only concern, at £5.5 there are other potential options, but many fantasy managers figure he is nailed on as a starter since Kyle Walker has moved to City and Spurs haven’t added depth to this position. Up front, Lukaku and Kane, the two highest TSB% players in the game.

It’s the midfield, which can be called into question based on the remain budget to round out my starting XI. If you have followed the team building the past few days, I was excited to follow Firetog’s strategy from his article,  In Search Of The Best Fantasy Football Formation. While I initially planned on a rotation of £6.0 midfielders to line up next to Coutinho, I have opted to go a different route in order to put a stronger starting XI on the pitch.

As the adage goes, “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” In order to remain competitive to start the FPL season, the midfield will be a rotation of 3 players totaling £24.0m, as £9.0 is wrapped in two, bench players  who won’t see the pitch. This strategy doesn’t take into account the rise/fall of prices based on TSB% and performance and it capped at the starting budget of £100.0m. The only drawback this rotation, in the planning phase is Tadic GW6 when he’s home against Man United. Overall, out of 21 fixtures, 12 are home matches (57%).

The other caveat, just how will players like Tadic and Pogba perform? The underlying stats and supporting players are there for United and So’ton, but will they equate to fantasy points? One could interchange Henrik Mkhitaryan for Paul Pogba as both priced at £8.0m. Placing Coutinho, Alli and Willian in my starting XI doesn’t carry the same concern, all are proven EPL players, who are dynamic on the pitch and can provide big returns.

Planning and preparation are great, but this, like any strategy could fail. What I don’t want to be doing is chasing the hot bandwagon player after GW1 or GW2. With any luck I will be able to hold the activation of my wild card until GW7 and the second international break. Last year, like the top 500 managers in the world, I activated it for GW4. In the short term is yielded a positive return through GW8, seeing my overall rank climb to 29k before the wheels fell off. Regardless, I feel good about the plan and the starting XI that will take the pitch…at least today. We still have nearly 3 weeks before the season kick offs.

Premier League: Five at the Back GW 7-16

Just a week after initial prices were released for FPL, many managers are preparing their squads and dropping countless ‘RMT’ threads on different websites I visit. To date, I have yet to have anyone rate my team because with 3 weeks to go, rest assured my 15-player squad will change before the GW1 deadline. However I am still very supportive of a 5-3-2, based on the information from Firetog, titled In Search Of The Best Fantasy Football Formation. I wrote about him making the case to start 5-3-2, but more important than the formation, “success is more dependent on player selection and timing, transferring in players as they are about to hit form, getting lucky with captaincy and the making good bench rotation decisions.

While my starting XI isn’t set in stone, I feel I have a good defensive line to build around. While not the traditional 3-4-3 or 3-5-2, I center my squad around 2 premium defenders and a cast of medium priced defenders. Spearheading my attack, two premium priced forwards. It will be the midfield that ends up rotating with four players, each priced at £6.0, supporting a single premium midfielder. Risky? Sure, but the reward could be worth it.


Based on the £100.0 budget, here’s my starting XI. Currently, Milner and Walker about both question marks, as the transfer window is still open, both Liverpool and City are looking to add depth to the defensive positions which could see both of these options changed.

The key to success using this formation (outside of luck), are the available players rotating in the midfield. I have tentatively set up the first 16 weeks of the EPL based on strength of schedule (SoS), with an emphasis on HOME games and the fact each midfielder is priced at £6.0. What I haven’t taken into account at this point, team value (TV). Through GW7, I continue to use players priced at £6.0. We know prices will rise and fall depending on TSB% and the form players start the season with.

Currently I plan on activating my WC after GW7 to coincide with the second international break. With any luck I will hope to have a TV of £102.0m in order to allow for further player options. Barring injury or poor form, I don’t plan on move Lukaku or Kane, but there are many options available when you draft two of the highest priced forwards in the FPL game.

The midfield rotation depends on the success of Dusan Tadic (£6.5), who is featured predominately over the first 11 gameweeks. Underlying statistics identify him as an undervalued player, but his success is contingent on So’ton starting an in form forward; Austing, Gabbiadini or Long. This 9 week period featured a Chelsea midfielder in 7 of the 9 weeks. Priced at £7.0, Willian could be slotted into this rotation, but expectations are Eden Hazard will be back to his starting role, which calls into question just how much pitch Willian sees.

Junior Stanislas (£6.0) is another budget option who’s SoS improves starting GW8. Xherdan Shaqiri (£6.0) is another player who could end up seeing time in the midfield. Dynamic and on set pieces Stoke City’s schedule turns more favorable in GW7. Based on last season, I hope my TV is pushing £102.5m.

Even the above graphic isn’t complete, no reason to plan past the first gameweeks, as there are just too many variable that could change. Player form, value and injury are just a few factors that could derail this plan or having me looking elsewhere for starting talent.

As mentioned yesterday, having premium defenders and forwards allow for excellent options. My rotating midfielder could be reduce to three, if I decide to start a premium midfielder and a £7.0 option, such as Willian, Wilfried Zaha or Manuel Lanzini to start the season. With Harry Kane known to start August slow, a quick £1.0 could be saved start Sergio Agüero and £2.0 if I go with Alexandre Lacazette.

With 3 weeks to go before the start of the 2017/18 EPL season, jury is still out if I have the cajones to actually run with this idea to start the season. Based on the popularity of wing backs and premium defenders matching or outscoring medium priced midfielders, the potential of this formation and rotation is exciting. Be curious to hear your thoughts and comments.

Premier League: Five at the Back

By no means do I consider myself a world class FPL manager. Even if I happen to finish inside the top 10k this season I would consider it a fluke. Last season, I started strong, moving inside the top 29k after GW6, but that would be my best OR of the season. In an unfortunate turn of events, I went on a red arrow rampage the next 25 weeks recording just 5 green arrows. I have attempted to explain the reasons and why my team didn’t perform in previous articles. Reasons included form or lack of it, incorrect players (not owning Sanchez) and captain’s armband.

With prices released last week, FPL managers have been relentless with RMT posts as pre-season friendlies have just kicked off. Needless to say Willian already driving the bandwagon after a hat trick the other day. I have spent too much time at work building different squads, from the favored 3-4-3 and 3-5-2, in order to get a feel for the prices and which attackers could be in a starting XI.

Leading up to the start of the FPL season, I heavily favored a 4-3-3, allocating more of my budget in defenders, while reducing the attacking number by one player. The case has been made by some, take James Milner and his move from midfielder to defender. His 139 points last year, if he played as a midfielder would have been on par with Phillipe Coutinho! Wing backs are suddenly all the rage in the EPL, after Chelsea’s Marcos Alonso had a banner season with 177 points!

So why would I want to move away from the favored 3-4-3 or 3-5-2? Reading Community Submissions at Fantasy Football Scout, I ran across an article from Firetog titled In Search Of The Best Fantasy Football Formation. I highly recommend reading, even if you don’t draw similar conclusions. Bottom line he thinks that,

“formation is a key differentiator, success is more dependent on player selection and timing, transferring in players as they are about to hit form, getting lucky with captaincy and the making good bench rotation decisions.”

There were some intelligent comments from different members providing their thoughts and opinions when a 5-3-2 formation was promoted as the top formation…potentially. Again, I reference what Firetog said about “success is more dependent on player selection and timing.” With that in mind, I opened up Excel and started building a team that revolves around elite defenders, elite forwards and just a single elite midfielder.

As seen above, this table outlines Firetog’s 5-3-2 formation. With this table in mind I built my first 5-3-2 formation taking into consideration the midfield rotation. I started building the defense around James Milner (£6.5) and Kyle Walker (£6.5). Based on SoS, I selected Eric Bailly (£6.0) and doubled up on So’ton defensive pairing; Ryan Bertrand (£5.5) and Cédric Soares (£5.0).

While Firetog featured a £10.5 elite midfielder, I selected Phillipe Coutinho (£9.0) in order to save £1.5 in my budget to use on my forwards. I also saved £0.5 on defense to start, which allows for an addition 7 midfielders to select from starting at £6.5. Based on potential I selected Dusan Tadic (£6.5) but could also use Nathan Redmond at the same cost index. The initial cost of £6.0 midfielders include, Matt Phillips, Matt Ritchie and Paul Ince to start the season.

Up front, I opted to spend a combined £24.0 for Romelu Lukaku and Harry Kane with Ashley Fletcher the only budget buy at £4.5. With no expectations to use 3 forwards, Fletcher is nothing more than bench fodder until price rises occur.

As seen in the midfield, options are plentiful, especially owning Kane and Lukaku, the two most expensive forwards in the game. This allows great flexibility and could potentially allow you to budget further funds towards the midfield or defense. Moving for Sergio Agüero (£11.5) and Alexandre Lacazette (£10.5) will save you £2.0! Yet based on TSB% of 34.9 do you really want to be without Harry Kane? Lukuku currently sits at a TSB% of 45.5! Hard to ignore either player to start the season.

A key component to this formation is the weekly midfielder rotation based on fixtures with a cost index of £6.0. There is a current pool of 15 players at this cost index that can be part of your 15-man squad. Based on Phillipe Coutinho at £9.0 as the elite midfield, here is one example of rotation for the first 6 game weeks using Matt Ritchie (NEW), Matt Phillips (WBA), Junior Stanislas (BOU) and James Ward Prowse (SOU). Each midfielder priced at £6.0, with the exception of Ward Prowse at £5.5.

Taking this idea a step further,I worked in weekly transfers and pushed to get as many HOME fixtures for the two rotation midfield positions. As seen above 5 away games out of 24 means 80% of those games are played at home with 3 of the 5 games against lower table teams in WAT, CRY and SWA. Continuing with this line of thinking here’s my midfield rotation for GW1 through GW6 if I start with a 5-3-2.

Going into GW1 the plan is to hold the WC until after the second international break and activate it after GW7. I bumped up a £6.0 midfielder by £0.5 with plans to start Tadic and Phillips in GW1. All players listed through the first 7 game week play HOME fixtures. GW6 is contingent on Everton having a starting midfielder at £6.0 or less, which includes: Aaron Lennon, Tom Davies and Ademola Lookman each priced at £5.5.

This formation and strategy isn’t without risk. If those midfield players at £6.0 don’t perform, I must be prepared to WC as early as GW4, potentially changing formations. Conversely, this formation could lead to great points, particularly from the defense a few CS, maybe a goal or two with an assist, add in smattering of bonus points and before you know you, 50 points!

To date, I have partially worked through GW16, but still contingent on Dusan Tadic returning points and doesn’t take into account budget increase/decrease. GW12 I plan on introducing Junior Stanislas, as BOU have a run of good fixtures. Ritchie and Knockaert will make a few appearances, while I will still be looking for coverage from Swansea City, Crystal Palace or Burnley. None of which really create much excite at the £6.0 price point. A possible exception could be Ruben Loftus Cheek, who recent moved from Chelsea at £4.5, but we’ve yet to learn if DeBoer will start him as the #10.

The other option at GW7 is to change to a 4-4-2 and spend a bit more on another elite midfielder in the £8.0-£9.0 price range. The nice thing about the 5-3-2, you have many options with the forwards and defenders, but some luck is needed in order to find that rotation for those budget midfielders.

Next update will provide further strategy into the 5-3-2 as I focus on the planned rotation from GW7.