The English Premier League returns this weekend and millions of football fans around the world are making last minute changes to their fantasy teams.
There are multiple fantasy football apps and games out there but all of them basically do the same thing — allow the savviest football fans to demonstrate their vision for the beautiful game.
While it’s great for anoraks who love poring over form tables, there will be plenty of other people who have never seen Gillette Soccer Saturday but feel obliged to sign up to a Fantasy League with friends or colleagues.
For both types of player, Simon March can offer advice. The 37-year-old beat 3.5 million others to win the official fantasy football league back in 2015.
March gave Business Insider six key tips for the upcoming season, including three players that you would be mad to leave off your team sheet.
Will Heilpern originally contributed to this report.
'The biggest lesson I've learned from my years of playing fantasy football is that you can't anticipate everything,' March said. 'Flexibility is, for me, the crucial hidden quality in a fantasy team that will translate into points over the course of a season.'
'You could splash out on your strikers and have a great-looking forward line but this inescapably means you'll have budgeted in other areas. This imbalance could prevent you from moving quickly enough on, say, an emerging form midfielder or it could reduce your options if you have injuries or suspensions in your defence.
'Alternatively, if the game you're playing has a limit on the number of players you can pick from a single team, maxing these out means you might struggle to bring in another player from that team should they become a 'must have'.'
You cannot let your real-world allegiances influence how you pick your fantasy team, according to March.
'That might mean picking players from a rival club and playing, maybe even captaining, players in fixtures against the club you support,' March said. 'Or it could mean dropping your heroes if they're underperforming. Letting your decisions be dictated by what you hope to happen rather than what you expect to happen usually doesn't end well.'
'As a value-for-money pick this season, I'm going for Wilfried Zaha at Crystal Palace for £7 million,' March told Business Insider. 'The Ivory Coast winger had a breakout season with 7 goals and 11 assists for The Eagles last term.'
'Palace play Premier League new boys Huddersfield Town and last season's fellow relegation-dodgers Swansea City at home in their first 3 fixtures and if Frank de Boer delivers, as is anticipated, a more attacking style of football than his predecessor Sam Allardyce, Zaha could emerge as a standout option this season.'
March says there's usually a standout player from one of the promoted teams who most fantasy managers will be unfamiliar with. His pick this season? Pascal Gross at Brighton and Hove Albion.
'Having swapped relegated German outfit FC Ingolstadt 04 for the relegation-contending Premier League newcomers, the attacking midfielder arrives with the distinction of having created more chances than any other player in each of his two seasons in the Bundesliga.
'Priced at just £5.5 million and expected to command a large share of Brighton's set-pieces, Gross's delivery will be essential if the Seagulls are to avoid relegation. With 3 goals already in pre-season, the signs are that Gross could emerge as one of this season's surprise packages.'
March said that most fantasy league players are overly obsessed with picking the top players. Instead, they should look for the best value for money.
'All fantasy managers start with the same, finite budget but there are ways to stretch or amplify the impact of that budget,' March said.
'For example, as far as fantasy football point-scoring is concerned, there’s not a lot of difference between an average defender in a great defence and a great defender in that same defence. The latter, however, is likely to be more expensive than the former. So there’s a cost saving there with minimal loss in terms of points.'
'The first name on the team sheet this season is, for me, Manchester United’s marquee summer signing: Romelu Lukaku,' says March.
'Lukaku is something of a divisive figure among fantasy managers. It’s often hard to predict exactly when he’ll score, but he’s yet to deliver fewer than double-figure goal tallies in any of his past 5 Premier League seasons.
'With 25 league goals for Everton last season, and the prospect of improved service at Manchester United, Lukaku’s kind run of early fixtures means he just about edges out Harry Kane as my no-brainer selection to kick off the season.'
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