Ant & Dec. Tom & Jerry. Simon Mignolet & Loris Karius . Some guys are just better together. And if they won’t stay together? Well that’s where the handcuffs come in…
To be a true double act each partner has to be of fairly equal ability, otherwise the better of the 2 will breakaway and go solo. The more equal they are the more likely it is that they will share the workload between them. In Draft Fantasy Football terms that means players sharing game time and most importantly vital points.
“Handcuffing” is the term given to when you own 2 players at the same club who will play the same role. Two right backs for example. Or in this instance 2 Goalkeepers. The theory behind handcuffing is simple, you don’t know which player is going to play but whichever one gets picked they are likely to get big points. So rather than flipping a coin on which keeper to pick up you take chance out of the equation and get both. One of them is guaranteed to start and with Autosubs being used it won’t make a difference which one sits on your bench. You are guaranteed to get the Goalkeeper points for Liverpool in that Gameweek.
Another angle on handcuffs is insurance against injuries to a star player with limited backup options. The best example of this being Alvaro Morata & Michy Batshuayi for Chelsea. In this case the starter is Morata, not only because it rhymes but because he is clearly the superior player. However if the Spaniard was to be rested or get injured then as the only feasible backup option Batshuayi would start every game until his return. With such a strong supporting cast whoever is up front for Chelsea will score goals and points for your fantasy team.
Examples of potential handcuffs are
GK: Mignolet & Karius @ Liverpool
DF: Trippier & Aurier @ Tottenham, Davies & Rose @ Tottenham, Clyne & Alexander-Arnold @ Liverpool, Walker & Danilo @ Man City, Mendy & Danilo @ Man City
MF: Pedro & Willian @ Chelsea, David Silva & Bernardo Silva @ Man City
F: Morata & Batshuayi @ Chelsea
The benefits of handcuffing are clear. Guaranteed game time in a role you have determined will deliver the holy grail of Fantasy managers; guaranteed points. Depending on the size of your league some halves of the pair could be free agents and easily available. But is handcuffing them together even worth it?
First of all if your league isn’t using Autosubs then handcuffing is off the menu completely. You can’t afford to be carrying a player in your starting XI that might score you zero points by not playing. The golden rule of fantasy football is that it doesn’t matter how good a player is the ONLY thing that matters is how many points your team will score. Anybody who might not score you points shouldn’t be in your team. Ever. Most leagues and websites do use an Autosub feature and that will make handcuffing an option, but the strategy comes with its own risks.
By having 2 players from the same team you are reducing your ability to rotate them onto your bench if they have a difficult fixture. If you have handcuffed your Goalkeepers then you are stuck playing one of them, even if they have got Man City away this week.
For outfield players there can be a double downside. To make the handcuff work you either need to put both players in your starting XI or have one as your first Autosub. The problem is that in a real life match one of your pair could be substituted for the other. If Bernardo Silva is taken off at half time for David Silva and neither registers a goal or assist then you have used up 2 of your 11 players that Gameweek for 1pt each. Neither would be eligible for any clean sheet points either. In this instance if you had put in a pair of guaranteed starters instead then you would have received a minimum of 4 points in total instead of 2, as well as both players having had a full match to score or assist in and the potential for clean sheets on top of that. Needless to say handcuffs should only ever be considered if both players have a VERY high chance of scoring big points if they do make the field.
A further danger is that as the season progresses there will be some Gameweeks where teams that are involved in later rounds of Cup competitions (League Cup final, FA Cup QF, SF) won’t have a fixture. If you have 2 players from one of these teams you will get no points from either of them that week (However their teams will play twice in a different Gameweek at a later date).
The best handcuff from last season was undoubtedly Chelsea’s attacking duo of Willian (15 PL starts) & Pedro (26 PL starts) who spent the majority of the year taking it in turns for the right to share attacking duties with Eden Hazard. The pair combined for 276 points in total and in some cases took the field together. Of course it’s highly unlikely that either one would still be available after the draft.
Spurs defence has the opportunity for handcuffs on both sides. The signing of Serge Aurier on Deadline Day gives the Lilywhites the option of him or Kieran Trippier at RB / RWB to compliment Danny Rose and Ben Davies at LB / LWB. Both Rose & Davies scored less than 100 points individually but the combination achieved a massive 174 points. Spurs may move to a back 3 more often following centre back Davinson Sanchez’s arrival from Ajax and that will only increase the attacking and point scoring potential of their full backs.
As always any decision depends on the strength of your team, and the quality of the free agents available in your league. In a large league (10 teams +) where goalkeeping choices are already at a premium having both Mignolet & Karius is a viable option. Between them they kept a more than respectable 12 clean sheets and have recorded 2 blanks in 3 Premier League fixtures so far.
Picking Aurier up off waivers is a shrewd move if you already own Kieran Trippier but in smaller leagues I would much rather keep guaranteed starters in my squad, especially if you are playing the www.draftfantasyfootball.co.uk version of the game with TIR (Tackle, Interception & Recovery) points in play. Points scoring Defenders are by far the most abundant commodity it fantasy football and the free agent pool should be scrutinised each week for players with a favourable fixture.
Remember that in both Draft Fantasy Football and also real life, just because handcuffs are available it doesn’t mean you should use them. Admit it, for an article entitled “Handcuffs” this wasn’t half as kinky as you hoped it would be. 😁
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