Here’s the final Adventures in the Fantasy Premier League column of the season.
1. Pay attention: Off-season attentiveness is a prerequisite for early success. Managers who familiarize themselves with the oddly named Europeans sure to trickle into England this summer will, inevitably, make clever, assured choices when compiling their first elevens. Do your reading, and those August maneuverings will seem easier than ever.
2. European Championships: Like most football fans, I know I can scout talent. Several years ago, I discovered a tricky, penetrative Huddersfield winger. His name was Anthony Pilkington. Look at him now. The European Championships will provide an ideal stage for some of Europe’s up-and-coming players, an opportunity for these youngsters to showcase their talent in front of “real” scouts, the ones we know are not as clever as we are, but who nevertheless have the jobs we deserve. For the Fantasy manager, the Euros offer an early chance to analyze current Premier League stars, and to take a look at potential signings.
3. Plan ahead: If you want to be top of the heap, then you better know how to operate a spreadsheet. True fantasy-heads – like me, of course – invest time, not just drunken inspiration. We compile statistics, make educated predictions and keep a close watch on fixture rescheduling. In our world, gigantic poster boards covered with player profiles and complex calculations are worth more than notes on beer-stained napkins. We mix the mathematical expertise of Arsene Wenger with the pragmatism of Sam Allardyce, to create a lethal cocktail of tedious effort and footballing genius.
4. The Olympics: London 2012 will piss off more than just the odd Premier League manager. Sir Alex Ferguson, who makes disgruntled sniffing noises every time the tournament is mentioned, let his barely concealed chagrin show recently when he banned Javier Hernandez from Mexico’s squad.
It’s difficult to judge the footballing merit of the Olympics. Its U-23 format isn’t conducive to fan or media interest; indeed, only the gimmicky nature of Great Britain’s participation this year launched Olympic football into the public eye (except, of course, in North and South America, where the tournament is taken much more seriously). While the football itself is unlikely to enlighten fantasy scouts, the fatigue that the tournament will generate in certain players could prove crucial.
5. Pre-season hype: Don’t talk about it. Don’t think about it. Don’t read it (unless it’s published on EPL Talk). Strive to act logically, not reactively. Consider intelligent recommendations and reject fanciful ones. Ignore your intuition because it’s usually wrong.
Good luck preparing for season 2012/13!