Thank the Old Gods and the New. It is almost upon us. AIR! WATER! PREMIER LEAGUE! And one of the joy of the top flight returning into our hearts and minds is that Fantasy Football returns with it. We love the idea that every game matters. That each meaningless Jesus Navas assist and dodgy David Moyes substitution affects the length of our Sad Naps. Fantasy Football is the Guinness with which we chase down our narrative-filled Premier League Pies.
The Men In Blazers Fantasy Belt has long been battled for by GFOPs across the nation. This season, we are going next level, setting up our Fantasy League on the remarkable new site, Togga. Togga is a fascinating American Soccer Story. A project created by a couple of GFOPs in Austin, Texas, who, like many of us reared on Fantasy Baseball, realized that the traditional English-based soccer fantasy systems counting only goals, assists, and clean sheets did not really reflect what the players did on the field. So Togga developed a scoring system grounded in a player's real-life contributions. Statistics like key passes, successful take-ons, aerial duels won and clearances are all given their due [VIEW SCORING HERE]. Defenders and midfielders rejoice!
We met Togga last season when their head of content John Wallin came into our studios to record a fantasy pod special. So many of you responded with relish, we decided to set up this yearâ€™s Men in Blazers Fantasy Football League using Toggaâ€™s Perfect XI.
The game is simple. You pick your top 11 fantasy Premier League players each week at their respective positions. No salary cap. No restrictions. Just build your best XI. You will earn a weekly points total based on the Togga scoring system. Every week, the leagueâ€™s high score wins. Those weekly totals will accumulate throughout the course of the season, and after 38 rounds, the GFOP with the most points wins. There will be prizes for the weekly winners and one very special grand prize for the end of the season winner. We will announce those in the weeks to come. Stay tuned.
But please play along with us. It takes a second to pick your team, and doing so promises eight months of Joy and Sad Naps.
To join the Men in Blazers Fantasy League, click HERE. You will be prompted to download the Togga app. Once in the app, make sure you click "Pick My Perfect XI Lineup." You will automatically be entered into our league. Please note that you can only participate on Togga via mobile device. It is free in the App Store or on Google Play.
Here are Rog and Davo's Week One Perfect XI:
GK - Joe Hart - Manchester City
D - Christian Fuchs - Leicester City
D - Scott Dann - Crystal Palace
D - Eric Bailly - Manchester United
D - Hector Bellerin - Arsenal
M - Andros Townsend - Crystal Palace
M - Willian - Chelsea
M - Kevin de Bruyne - Manchester City
M - Gylfi Sigurdsson - Swansea City
F - Gerry D - Everton
F - Harry Kane - Tottenham
GK - Fraser Forster - Southampton
D - Hector Bellerin - Arsenal
D - Ramiro Funes Mori - Everton
D - Kyle Walker - Tottenham
D - Wes Morgan - Leicester City
M - Kevin de Bruyne - Manchester City
M - Dele Alli - Tottenham
M - Gylfi Sigurdsson - Swansea City
M - Oscar - Chelsea
F - Andy Carroll - West Ham
F - Jamie Vardy - Leicester City
In the meantime, we recorded a Fantasy Football Pod Special with the aforementioned Mr. Wallin and Neal Thurman, Premier League managing editor at Rotoworld, that breaks down strategies, sleeper picks and Paul Pogba's potential. LISTEN HERE
On behalf of
â€œPositiveâ€ Davo: @embassydavies
Producer JW: @JonoWilly
Producer Lexi: @tannneal
I. MiB Perfect XI 101
John Wallin walks us through four philosophies to keep in mind when selecting your weekly team.
Pick A â€˜Differentialâ€™
Differentials are players who have low ownership (typically below five percent) and a great chance to have a big week. Players like Middlesbrough's Jordan Rhodes, Hull's Ahmed Elmohamady and even Sunderland's Jermain Defoe are capable of scoring you 20-plus points in a weekend, but are infrequently selected because they're not considered stars. Every week you should pick at least one player who you believe in that no one else does. Picking the right differential can be the key to winning because you'll be scoring big points when no one else is. If Dimitri Payet hits a brace, that's great, but his high score is offset by the fact that the majority of your league also own the Hammers' star.
Starters vs. Super Subs
In Perfect XI, playing time is important. You want to ensure that all 11 of your picks start for their Premier League club. While impact substitutes can clinch a vital win in the EPL, fantasy soccer rewards players for every action they take. A player who comes on in the 85' and scores is a hero, but a player who plays the full 90', makes three key passes, has a shot on goal and wins a handful of tackles will score you more fantasy points.
Matchups, Matchups, Matchups
Thereâ€™s no playing the long game. Perfect XI is about winning now. Sergio Aguero is amazing, but if heâ€™s playing a top defense youâ€™re better off picking Marko Arnautovic at home against Bournemouth. Remember, in Perfect XI, itâ€™s not about whoâ€™s best. Itâ€™s about whoâ€™s best THIS week.
Use Your Head â€¦ And Your Heart
Conventional fantasy wisdom says disregard the Premier League jersey youâ€™ve stuffed yourself into and rely only on cold hard statistics. In a draft-based league (more on those below), thatâ€™s true. But in Perfect XI, you have the luxury of finding one of your favorite players who has a favorable matchup. So indulge yourself. Itâ€™s fun to win. Itâ€™s more fun to win with Roberto Firmino in your squad.
II. Toggaâ€™s Draft-Based Game
In addition to the Perfect XI, Togga also offers a draft-based game that allows GFOPs to commune (in person or digitally) as they select their squads. Itâ€™s a standard draft format in which no two GFOPs can own the same player. We encourage everyone to get a group of friends together and participate in a draft-based league. In addition to the larger Men in Blazers Perfect XI, natch. We will have the draft for our Men in Blazers staff league in the CPOS once the transfer window has closed. Smart money is on Producer Lexi.
For those who also want to participate in Toggaâ€™s draft-based game with your friends, you can sign up via the app. If you are playing the draft-based game, we included three tips from Rotoworldâ€™s Neal Thurman below.
Position is Paramount
There are a lot of quality attacking midfielders out there. Because of the high-supply at that position, you shouldnâ€™t feel a sense of urgency to pick them early on. Instead, focus on positions where great players are scarce, like forwards. Getting Harry Kane or Romelu Lukaku - proven, young, guaranteed starters - with an early pick potentially has more value than midfielders like Dimitri Payet or Riyad Mahrez, even if the midfielders score more points.
The Most Important Ability isâ€¦ Availability
The biggest clubs in the Premier League are littered with extremely talented players who rightly make FPL managers drool just a little bit. The problem is that there are only so many minutes to go around. For example, Arsenal will almost certainly start Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez, Granit Xhaka and Olivier Giroud (or a newly arrived replacement) at every opportunity. That leaves two spots for Santi Cazorla, Aaron Ramsey, Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Mohamed Elneny, Francis Coquelin and Jack Wilshere.
All of those guys could be strong fantasy picks but, in the absence of guaranteed playing time, they should be discounted appropriately. Let your friends pull their hair out trying to guess if Ramsey is going to start this week while you sleep contentedly knowing that Yohan Cabaye and Wahbi Khazri will start and crank out the points.
Know Your Scoring System
When you think of a great fantasy player in any sport, you generally think of the glory players. Home run hitters in baseball; quarterbacks, wide receivers and running backs in American football; scorers in basketball; and, well, you get the idea. Premier League fantasy has traditionally been the same, rewarding goals, assists and clean sheets at disproportionate levels. Traditional FPL trained managers to focus on goal-scorers, attacking players and defenders/goalkeepers from â€œbig clubsâ€ almost exclusively.
New fantasy formats mean better rules. Toggaâ€™s scoring rewards a wide variety of actions. Last season Nâ€™Golo Kante was the 12th highest scorer overall, despite modest traditional offensive numbers. Rewarding actions like tackles won, passes intercepted and successful clearances makes center backs and holding midfielders, especially those on bottom-half clubs, surprisingly valuable contributors.
Download the Togga draft cheat sheet with 160 player rankings and depth charts for each team HERE.
III. SubOptimal Fantasy Team Names
We asked for a preview of some of your fantasy team names via Twitter. Canâ€™t wait to see how @iamtherogâ€™s â€œFartsenalâ€ does this yearâ€¦ #MIBFantasy
IV. JW on Fantasy Football
I played fantasy American football for the first time in 2001. The league was utilitarian at best. I canâ€™t recall the exact service used, but it gifted everyone a certain amount of money to purchase a weekly roster. We all selected Priest Holmes, Kurt Warner (Rich Gannon if you felt frisky), our favorite teamâ€™s kicker (to assuage our conscience), and called it a day. Fantasy was an afterthought to the score of your favorite teamâ€™s game. Fifteen years later, we live in a different world. Fantasy American football is a juggernaut. And fantasy soccer is following in its footsteps.
With the days of disproportionate scoring behind us, fantasy soccer has the potential to help grow the game in the same way that EA SPORTS FIFA has. Fantasy FOMO will cause sports junkies still tepidly dipping their toes in the Premier Leagueâ€™s waters to cannonball into the deep end. By the end of the season theyâ€™ll understand the leagueâ€™s intricacies, i.e. an Andy Carroll crap goal is worth just as much as a stunning Dimitri Payet free kick.
For those of us already ensconced in the Premier Leagueâ€™s narrative, fantasy gives us rooting interests in even the dullest contests. You think Stoke vs. West Brom on a cold, rainy Wednesday night at the Britannia doesnâ€™t matter? You obviously donâ€™t have Shaqiri in your starting XI. Last season, I found myself watching Norwich (voluntarily!) because Nathan Redmond was on my fantasy team.
Alas, the biggest reason Iâ€™m excited about fantasy soccerâ€™s emergence is the shared experience it creates. I played in my first draft-based American football league in 2003 (somehow, they didnâ€™t kick me out for taking Jake Plummer No. 1 overall) with some of my best friends from Virginia. Thirteen years later, many of my friends have started families, moved to different parts of the country, or, thanks to the Premier Leagueâ€™s ubiquity, traded football for soccer. But every Labor Day Weekend, we draft teams that compete for the league title and the ugliest, ill-fitting, crushed velvet navy blazer I've ever seen in person. Winners receive the honor of having their names stitched on the side.
*Left Pic Taken in 2011. Right Pic Not JW.
Itâ€™s the type of tradition that soccer fans havenâ€™t yet been able to fully enjoy in this country. But that will soon change thanks to the evolution of fantasy soccer and American companies like Togga. Sport of the Future no moreâ€¦