Well, Premier League DFS week one is in the books and we now face the soccer hangover as we await week two tournaments to be announced and for prices to be out so we can determine where value lies. Normally in this space I’ll attempt to give a look ahead at the UEFA Champions League matchups for the week and try to narrow down my top plays for that week’s game set. However, since there are no UCL games coming up, instead, I’ll devote this week’s article to general lineup building strategy for soccer games as well as some quick tidbits for what to look for in evaluating future game sets.
As you should know by now, Draftkings allows you to draft a soccer team of eight players including one goalkeeper, two defenders, two midfielders, two forwards and one FLEX position. The flex position can include any player that is not a goalkeeper. The biggest factor that goes into how to fill your flex position should be opportunities. Shots on target, crosses, and goals should dominate your thinking as well as your research.
You should spend up for forwards as they are more likely to provide the bulk of your scoring, with a goal counting for 10 points and the shot on goal counting for 2 points, a single shot by a forward can add 12 points to your total. Given that important distinction, it is worth spending up for a forward to improve your odds in securing the win.
Another position of importance is the goalkeeper, ensuring that you do not select a goalkeeper that concedes more than one goal can prove to be very important in whether your team finishes in the money or not. The goalkeeper pricing was a bit soft in the first week, but I suspect it will get tighter as more data is accumulated and rostering the top goalkeeper will come with sacrifices. However, for the time being, using Vegas odds to pick the biggest favorite for the night might be the best option in order to select a goal keeper.
Using the Vegas lines
The Vegas lines are very important to decipher how the bookies expect the games to play out. One of my favorite sources for the lines is www.bovada.lv, I also take a quick look at some bookies from across the pond including www.bet365.com as well the all-encompassing www.covers.com. Looking at the lines you should get a general feel about which teams are favored for that specific game. Combining that knowledge with the over/under information can lead you to a glimpse into how many expected goals can be scored in any specific game.
Another way to utilize the bookies is to look at projected player props. Places such as bovada provide a set of player props including “anytime” scorers. These can give you a glimpse into which players on each team that are likely to score a goal. These numbers are not definitive but they provide a good guide moving forward.Position by position player selection
- Goalkeeper – The goalkeeper is likely the most important position on your team, if you select a goalkeeper who allows 3+ goals (like Tim Howard or De Gea last weekend) then you are in at least a minus 6 point hole that is almost impossible to overcome for GPP lineups. However, if you manage to select a goalkeeper who gets the W and the clean sheet but doesn’t see any shots on goal then the most you can expect from a goalkeeper is 10 points. Now don’t get me wrong, 10 points is a decent output from a goalkeeper, but I’d like my keeper to get me close to 15-20 points. With each save counting as +2 points, it is worth it to find a goalkeeper who can get the W, clean sheet AND block a few shots.
- Defenders – I like defenders that can be a part of the attack. There are several websites that provide “heat charts” for defenders. I prefer to target players who run up the flanks and provide crosses into the zone that puts the forwards in the position to score goals. My favorite player in that position is Leighton Baines who provided excellent output this past weekend for Everton. Also worth note are defenders you can pair with your goalkeepers to get the added CS bonus if the team does not allow any goals. A pairing of a goalkeeper and two defenders can yield up to 20 points when the game ends (+15 for CS, +5 for W) which can catapult you to the top of some GPP ladders.
- Midfielders – Probably the hardest position to peg down. There are superstar midfielders out there like Angel Di Maria and Lionel Messi who can do it all, and there are guys who’s names are not as flashy who can provide some equal value. Midfielders can score goals, and they can provide assists, they also frequently supply crosses. It all depends on the style of play of that specific team and its manager. Avoid midfielders who tend to stay back when their team is on attack, and focus more on the midfielders who can get more touches inside the box. Plenty of midfielders are also the set-piece takers for their teams. It is important to keep in mind which players are the set piece takers for their team as they can provide you with added bonus if their team gets a penalty.
- Forwards – The holy grail of fantasy soccer is pinpointing the goal scorers in each game. If you can consistently find 2-3 players that score you are in a very good spot to win some money. How do you find the players who are going to score? Any forward who takes more than three shots a game is in a good position to score. The Premier League is very unpredictable in that it is difficult to determine exactly how a game will flow. Any team is capable of losing on any given week and expectations are constantly being reevaluated. After games are done, going back and looking at the “box score” from previous weeks can go a long way in determining which players got off the most shots.
The biggest trap that many fantasy soccer players fall into is assuming that “touches” means fantasy production. Unlike basketball, when a soccer player gets many touches it does not always translate. He could be a defensive midfielder who gets most of his touches in the back half or to set up the play from one side to the other. Rarely do those result in any meaningful fantasy output. Just look at the stats page and you’ll noticed that the players that round up the top 5 in “touches” are not top fantasy players to target. Don’t fall into that trap