‘‘Twas an hour before kick off, and all through the house, FPL Draft Boss was cursing, Raheem Sterling left out”
Gameweek deadlines. So called because they can kill your Gameweek before a ball has been kicked. We’ve all been there, how many times have you agonised over potential changes at 11:29 on a Saturday morning and then winced at the sight of the team news announcements that arrive just seconds after the deadline slams shut.
It’s not only Saturday’s that can be stressful. How are you supposed to predict lineups for Sunday’s slate of games from so far ahead? Especially over the busy Christmas period all Clubs have regular starters who are carrying niggles or are at risk of fatigue. Your midfield differential pickup who has played the full 90 in 10 consecutive matches? Benched. “He looks a bit tired” says his manager. Tired? Try finding 11 “guaranteed” starters each week for some Streaming Tips. I’ve got the healthy glow of an insomniac caffeine addict.
But nothing makes me twitch more than reading the excellent @BenDinnery describe one of my players as “doubtful”. Well apart from those dreaded words “late fitness test” or “game time decision”. Of course it’s not Ben’s fault I’m a quivering wreck on a Saturday morning, I’ve got a pathological fear of the unknown.
Which is why the revolutionary approach to Gameweek deadlines taken by the Draft FPL website Togga sounded so intriguing. This might take a moment to get your head around but in Togga you can change your lineup right up until kick off.
Suddenly 11:29 is easy time. Sit back, relax and let the team news wash over you like a cool breeze on a hot summers day. Jurgen Klopp’s changed his keepers after keeping a clean sheet last week? So what? We’ve got time. An unexpected shift to 3-5-2 sees your attacking midfielder make way for a centre half? No worries. We can ride it out. You can either change formation yourself or find a free agent who is playing and get him in. That’s right, transfers are unlocked until kick off too.
Now strap yourself in because we’re coming to the really exciting bit. When that whistle blows to start the early game the fun doesn’t stop. Don’t get me wrong all players from the 2 sides involved in that match are locked down. If they are in your lineup that’s where they stay and if they are on your bench it’s too late to bring them on. This is so you can’t sub a guy on after he’s scored or take a guy off following a red card, and any free agent players from those early kick off Clubs go on waivers until after the Gameweek is over. But because matches are spread over the weekend each Premier League Club effectively has its own Gameweek deadline which is the time that their particular match kicks off. So even after the first game on a Saturday has started all the other players from all the other 18 Clubs in the Premier League can still be brought in or out of your lineup, transferred in or out of your team, benched or traded or whatever.
That means no more worrying about the Guardiola Tombola because decisions can be taken on Manchester City players after the team news is out! And the benefits to this system extend much further than the Etihad. Those stress inducing “gametime decisions” on availability? Solved.
Monday Night Football gives a player an extra 55 hours of rest compared to someone taking part in the Saturday dinner time matchup, and that can be the difference between sitting out the Gameweek with a knock or being passed fit to play. Having to predict a “doubtful” player’s matchday status 2 days in advance is simply impossible. With Togga’s individual deadlines injury doubts just aren’t doubts anymore. Wait for the teamsheet and set your lineup based on the facts of who is taking the field. It makes Autosubs obsolete! In many leagues (including ours) they are turned off completely, discarded like a symbol of oppression from a bygone age. Autosubs as a safety net are no longer needed in these modern days of freedom and multiple deadlines.
Sounds great doesn’t it? And it brings some new tactics into play. David Silva back in Gameweek 18 is the perfect example. Now Silva has been an absolute beast of an FPL player all season with huge production for the best team in the division. If you have him you are starting him without question. But against Tottenham he was surprisingly left out of the matchday squad due to “personal reasons”.
If these multiple deadlines were used in the standard FPL game then you would either hand pick a substitute off your bench to replace Silva or risk using a transfer to take him out and completely change the makeup of your team halfway through a Gameweek. As Togga uses the Draft format there is no chance of you releasing Silva into Free Agency as you would never get him back, instead he needs to be benched so he can be used again next week.
So far so good. Just put someone off your bench in your lineup, after all isn’t this what the multiple deadlines thing is all about? Well yes, but now consider that City Vs Spurs was the 5:30pm kick off on a Saturday and the seventh match to be played that Gameweek. Remember that only players whose games are yet to begin can be put in your team. There is a risk that everybody on your bench has already played earlier that day and therefore cannot be transferred into your starting XI. If that’s the case then Silva remains in your lineup and scores a big fat zero. To be able to substitute the Spaniard you must have a player to bring off your bench whose team hasn’t already played. It can sound a little confusing at first but once you get your head around it it is perfectly logical.
Now imagine you owned Sadio Mané that week too. In GW18 he didn’t make the pitch at all in the Liverpool game that kicked off late on Sunday afternoon. To take Mané out your team as well you need ANOTHER spot on your bench taken up by somebody who hasn’t already played. Only this time because the Liverpool match was the 9th game of the weekend that limits you to players from the Reds themselves, opponents Bournemouth or the only other 2 sides that hadn’t already played, MNF contenders Everton and Swansea. Suddenly the make up of your bench seems vitally important, in standard FPL to prevent excessive transfers and in draft leagues because the free agent pool of starters for the later games will likely be extremely slim pickings.
To exaggerate this point to the max what would happen if you also had Gylfi Sigurdsson and Jordan Ayew? If you have a player in your starting lineup from one of the Monday Night Football teams you run the risk of them scoring 0 if he doesn’t play unless you have another player from one of the 2 Clubs involved on your bench.
In Togga every manager in your mini league is in the same position, scanning the fixtures and kick off times before the Gameweek starts and planning their bench accordingly. Of course it’s not always practical or even desirable to have a string of substitutes on your roster from the teams playing on Sunday or Monday. Some managers will simply try and choose the best players available and won’t bother to carry less productive guys to use “just in case”, but it certainly adds an extra layer of depth to your midweek musings about Fantasy Football.
So why isn’t this system of multiple deadlines & no Autosubs used everywhere? It could revolutionise fantasy football. After all not only does it give more control over team selection but it rewards the more committed FPL manager who can plan for and adjust to the later matches each week. When our Togga League was set up I was buzzing with excitement for the new challenge but after my initial adrenaline rush the downsides to the system became clear pretty quickly.
The Premier League is a global sport and FPL is similarly widespread across all corners of the planet. Our mini league has several international managers from as far away as the US of A and Singapore. Unsurprisingly the time differences of these locations became a challenge. Singapore is 8 hours ahead of the UK meaning that when the teams are announced for a midweek kickoff at 18:45 in England that is a quarter to 3 in the morning in Singapore. Depending where you are in America you find yourself between 5 and 8 hours behind the UK which poses similar problems, especially for what are dinnertime kickoffs over here. Getting out of bed to see team news at 3am is probably not high on anybody’s list of priorities wherever you are in the world.
I’m not proud to say that selfishly I put my fellow managers troubles down to collateral damage, a by product of them enjoying a competition that takes part on the other side of the world. The international members of our league had a disproportionately high percentage of players scoring zero points over the opening few weeks and a lot of these were expected starters who had been dropped or rested without warning. In this new and cutthroat era of multiple deadlines the advantage clearly lay not only with with the committed but with those lucky enough to live locally. Que sera sera I thought. Until I faced my own problems.
As with many a privileged man before me it took empathy to change my mind when sympathy for those less fortunate had failed to materialise. The lack of Autosubs started costing my own team points when I had to work on Saturdays and began missing the deadlines. Then came medical appointments, trips out with the kids and one entire weekend spent helping an elderly relative move house. Real life had hit home and it never arrives with a knock on the door, rather just walks straight in unannounced.
I love FPL but it is rarely right at the top of anybody’s priority list, and to be frank I’m not sure I’d ever want it to be. An average Gameweek can consist of an early match on a Saturday, the traditional 3pm’s, a tea time kickoff, between 2 and 4 games on a Sunday and sometimes a Monday Night Football to boot. 10 matches spread across 7 kickoff times means 7 separate deadlines that you need to be available for. Hang on let’s be clear, you don’t NEED to be available for all of them but it would certainly give you an advantage if you were. And conversely put you at a distinct disadvantage if you were not.
International managers aside I’d imagine there are literally hundreds of thousands of dedicated FPL lovers right here in the UK who either routinely work weekends or have other important commitments that would prevent them from sitting down and refreshing their phones for team news every few hours. And if we are being totally honest with ourselves, whisper it quietly but a lot of people just don’t want to spend so much time on Fantasy Football, and that’s nothing to be looked down on either.
Before you get the violins out I’m perfectly aware that the rules are the same for everyone in my league and everything is completely fair and above board. I also find myself comfortably mid table a long way behind the more experienced Togga players and that’s because they are downright better at the format than I am, with or without Autosubs. Finally it’s important to say that Autosubs are an option for new Togga leagues and that they were turned off by choice when we began. Either way it remains a fantastic fantasy game with an advanced scoring system and I’d highly recommend checking it out here if you haven’t played Togga before. But for standard FPL I’m happy for the traditional Gameweek deadline of an hour before the first kick off to remain exactly as it is.
Despite all the moaning I’ve done about players being left out of starting lineups, all the Saturday mornings spent cursing rotation and angrily refreshing premierinjuries.com looking for an explanation I think the current set up is about right. It is not perfect but it is fairest by everybody and allows the maximum amount of people to enjoy the game regardless of location or weekend commitments. That’s something for all of us to keep in mind at 11:30am next Saturday. And as long as Raheem Sterling starts the next 14 League matches in a row I promise I’ll never complain about the Guardiola Tombola again…
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