Before the start of every Fantasy Premier League season, veterans of the game such as myself have their own version of Christmas morning — when the game goes live, and more importantly, when the prices of players are released. Much scrutinization occurs over the next several weeks over which players look a value at the start of the season. One key element in weighing players, specifically defenders and midfielders, is recognizing out-of-position (OOP) prospects. Players who are classified OOP will return more fantasy points for you than those who are not, mainly clean sheet points. Most defenders offer little in attacking returns. To have a defender that is playing farther forward and attempting to garner those attacking returns while still getting credited for four clean sheet points is worth its weight in gold.
There are two main reasons a player becomes or is considered to be OOP:
1. The first is a natural move by the player himself, or a decision made by that club’s manager. Someone at Left Back the previous season may have shown an asset to the club by getting forward a ton and contributing to goals but also showed below average defensive ability. That manager may shift the player, who is viewed as an overall positive influence on the starting XI, from a left back to a left midfield spot. Naturally, the folks running the FPL site have no knowledge of this change in position during the offseason and can’t assume anything. Generally, a player will be designated to whatever position they appeared most in the previous season. But if you are following the news closely during the preseason, you can make that assumption yourself.
Anyone ever heard of Gareth Bale? You know, that rarely talked about player that went to another league or something. YES, him. Bale actually began his Spurs career as a bonafide left back. Then, he kept showing such pace and creativity, he was moved up to a midfield position. In the past couple of seasons, we have witnessed him become one of the most lethal players when on the ball. By the end of his time with Spurs, he was their center forward. So lesson being, players get moved out-of-position by their managers based on their developing skill set and fantasy managers need to take advantage.
2. The second scenario for an OOP player is the club’s formation and how FPL decides to classify the players in that formation. For defenders in question, some managers will adopt a 3-5-2 formation where the club goes with three center backs and two “wing” backs — players that would be full backs in a conventional 4-man defense are now playing farther up the pitch with defensive midfielders tucked within.
Current Everton boss Roberto Martinez used this formation with Wigan, and though the Lactics rarely kept clean sheets, it made players like Emmerson Boyce and Jean Beausejor fantasy relevant. The former notched 4 goals last season for Wigan; the latter, 7 assists. Not bad returns for budget priced defenders.
The same goes for OOP midfielders and the 4-3-3 formation. This is another “wing” situation where the player classified as a midfielder is playing farther forward, supporting the striker on either side. Now there seems to be some discrepancy over the classification of players in this formation over recent seasons. For whatever reason, the wing players in a 4-3-3 for Liverpool are almost always classified as forwards, hence no OOP scenario. Other clubs seem to get away with it just fine. Theo Walcott has been playing the wing for Arsenal for a few seasons now, occasionally even starting as a lone striker, but for whatever reason, is continually listed as a midfielder. His fantasy returns are such that he would be worth investment at any position (when he returns from injury), but an OOP midfielder is so valuable because the attacker position is so sacred, with only three spots available. Chelsea have players like Eden Hazard, who is listed as a forward in other versions of fantasy PL games, as a midfielder as well.
Now, I could spend the remainder of this column listing who is currently an OOP player in the FPL game, but my job is not to play your game for you. Instead, I will offer up this season’s most obvious example for an OOP defender. OOP defenders are so valuable because you are essentially paying for a midfielder that can get you 4 clean sheet points. This season, when the game went live and all the players and prices were listed, one name jumped off the page and went straight into my draft, stayed there through the first deadline, and is still in my squad — Seamus Coleman of Everton.
What’s funny about Coleman is that a few seasons ago, he was the perfect OOP prospect. Priced at a £4.0m minimum, playing for a top 10 side. He was very young and had to impress David Moyes enough to become a regular and he did. He finished among the leaders at his position and his price ballooned to £5.2m by seasons end. For the next two seasons, he was then classified as a midfielder, and no one invested and his fantasy returns were minimal. Now this year, he’s back at being a defender in the game and is currently fourth in scoring at his position and looks a lock to be a top 10 defender by season’s end, barring injury. His price has averaged better than a £0.1m increase every gameweek. If you don’t have him already, he’s still worth the price in my opinion if you get on board now.
May your arrows be green.
Follow me on Twitter at @FuzzyWarbles.
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