Trailing in your mini league? Don't press the panic button just yet
So, you find yourself behind. Your league leader is 39 points ahead and you’re beginning to get jittery as only 13 Gameweeks remain.
I find myself behind in my local mini league this season, and it got me wondering about the best strategies for catching mini league leaders.
I thought I’d share my thoughts and would be very interested to hear your ideas too.
If you’re 39 points behind, you only have to chip away at an average of 3 points per week on your league leader. Not so bad when you say it like that, is it?
The obvious solution is to take more risks. Think outside the box to outwit your leader who’s happy to sit cosily in the warm number 1 spot.
But I think you still have to be sensible. You can take risks and still play the odds. There are calculated risks and hospital risks.
Our problem is that many of our teams are quite similar at this stage of the season, and your league leader may well be sitting on all your best players.
So captains really are key – if you choose a dream captain and your league leader goes with someone who produces a Heskey performance, that 39 point gap could easily be halved in one week.
But you need to be careful with your captain choice and not take unnecessary risks.
Let’s set the scene. When Gameweek 34 comes along, Robin van Persie is home to Wigan, and Demba Ba is away to Chelsea. Ba just hit a hat-trick against Bolton in Gameweek 33 and you have this hunch he’ll grab a brace at Chelsea, so you’re tempted to ignore van Persie and captain Ba – and you just know your league leader will captain van Persie.
Ba’s odds of scoring a brace at Chelsea will be massively higher than van Persie scoring against Wigan, so you’re taking a risk with odds massively in favour of sending you to Fantasy Premier League (FPL) oblivion – jumping down a 400-foot hole with no rescue mission in sight!
Liverpool are home to Fulham the same week. Luis Suarez has started scoring again and terrible travellers Fulham are in his sights. While the odds of Suarez scoring against Fulham are slightly more than van Persie against Wigan, it wouldn’t be such a surprise if Suarez outscored van Persie.
So the risk is calculated. It remains a risk but the potential benefit could well even out with the potential risk.
We also need to look at our league leader and identify possible weak areas – where can we gain on them?
I’m not a fan of signing players purely based on someone else’s team, but if you have 3 or 4 targets in mind, and a couple of those don’t feature for your leader, then it makes sense to plump for one of those as a ‘differential’ to make gains.
So we need differentials – but how exactly do we find them? Finding differentials can be a challenge but digging them out is possibly one of the most fun parts of the game – especially when you unearth a secret talent who returns big points!
There’s not much satisfaction in van Persie hitting a hat-trick when so many of us have him, yet it’s a brilliant feeling when one of our differentials does well and none of our rivals have him.
A lot of differentials are less well-known players – talents that have been smeared into the ground as everyone stares up at the likes of Demba Ba, Stephane Sessegnon or Sergio Aguero.
But sometimes big names can become differentials. Perhaps they could be returning from injury or suspension and FPL managers haven’t yet brought them back into their squads. Who knows – perhaps Carlos Tevez could become a differential?
You should be one step ahead and actually find a differential before they become one! You do this by studying upcoming fixture patterns to see which teams have nice runs coming up, then once you have a list of teams, start considering their players.
When you have a list of players, it’s worth checking if your league leader has any of them, then you can start considering which of those players is best for you.
Consider recent points returns and form, and if you have access to stats, it’s definitely worth investigating their recent performances – how many shots have they fired in recently? How many chances have they set up? Perhaps these players haven’t produced much recently but they’ve just been unlucky and returns are just around the corner.
Victor Moses could be a great differential over the next 4 Gameweeks, with home games against Aston Villa, Swansea and West Brom, and a trip to Norwich thrown in.
A quick glance at the fixture list sees Bolton face a nice run of fixtures from Gameweek 28. Bolton players are usually at the bottom of our minds, but you never know, maybe Mark Davies could be an alternative to James McClean as your fifth midfielder?
A lot of this is obvious really, but it’s easy to get lost in big numbers, and being 39 points behind could encourage unnecessary risk taking of dangerous proportions!
At the risk of coming out with a ‘Mourinhoism’ (which I believe is a new word I just made up), I’m not used to being the one chasing – so please do post any ideas you have of catching people up!
Of course there’s always the mind games – slipping in the odd line or two to get your leader thinking – but then we should probably leave that to Sir Alex and Roberto Mancini.