Like playing Fantasy Football? I'm sure you must be having same dilemmas as I do.
Imagine this scenario.
You are a kid with sweet tooth who has been let go wild in a chocolate factory. You have enormous choices in front of you. You can pick as many permutations and combinations as you like. But you can't pick all of them. Every chocolate has certain value and you can pick only 15 chocolates whose combined value can't go more than 100.
You look around for different categories, sub categories and try to pick some absolutely best chocolates of your choice which have more value and some lesser known varieties who have less value but will combine well with your choices.
It is confusing but pretty decent scenario for a kid and he wont be flustered much.
But then your best friend / school mate is also offered a same deal. Also, you've been told that the title of "The Greatest Chocolate Lover" will be decided on who has a best combination of chocolates in terms of taste and how well they combine with other chocolates and elevate the platter.
This completely changes the picture. The fight for the title takes away the innocence of "Charlie in the Chocolate Factory" and you suddenly get serious about the choices you have to make.
I'm not talking about daft chocolate situation anyway. It's FANTASY FOOTBALL. We all know how ruthless it is. We all strive hard to gain that reputation of being a champion fantasy football manager regardless of circle we're playing in. It could be corporate friends, pub mates, school buddies, lads from the park team or even your siblings. This completes the transformation from being Charlie in the Chocolate factory to being a big time Charlie in the Dugout.
We wish that only players which are on our team sheet to have a fantastic day out on the pitch, regardless of the ream result. The basic dilemma starts with the decision whether to go by heart of head. We all have our certain favorites and whether to include them in our team is a hardest decision to make. Sometimes or rather most of the times, they are very expensive and then you have to build a team around them. Which means picking up cheapest players available from the lesser teams or mostly newly promoted teams.
The confusion starts with the picking up team names of our choice and designing a colored kit. We all want our team name to stand out in the league than just write 'akshay xi'. We will spend a lot of time over picking the correct name and hope our team lives up to that.
Designing Hoops, Stripes of Plain Jerseys, shorts and socks is another problem. You will think whether your fantasy team's kit should resemble to your real favorite team or you want to add funk to it by having fluorescent green shirt with pink sleeves and yellow shorts.
Very first hurdle is a moral issue. Whether to pick up players from the rival teams. It's different that Championship Manager or Football Manager, where you can buy a player from the rival team and his loyalty too. But here it is different, you are not really buying that player and making him play for you but you link fortune of your fantasy team with the that player's performances for the rival team. In short, if you are an Everton fan and pick Steven Gerrard, then you secretly on openly hope that he'll bang in Goals, whip in crosses and make some crunching tackles for Liverpool. Will you openly celebrate a Gerrard's brace in the derby just because he'll give you extra points and make him captain just because he'll double those points? Now that's a crime, Isn't it?
Or if you do not hate any one, you have all the pleasure in the world to have Messi, Ronaldo, Xavi playing for one team. Even have Rooney and Aguero as your strikers.
Once you decide to overcome this issue, the next hurdle is to decide whether you want to stick with the players from the big teams or take a chance with good bargains from mid table teams. You want Rooney, Aguero, RVP to feature in your team but most likely you have to go with Danny Graham, Grant Holt and Nickea Jelavic to compliment one of those three big strikers. So it becomes inevitable for you to watch, read, sleep & breathe football all the time to keep updated with the performances and potentials of the players.
Next up is the formation. In Football Manager, we can go with 4-3-3, Diamond, Attacking 4-4-2, Defensive 4-4-2 and what not. Well, Fantasy football just allows us numerical formations where all the players who play in that position will be judged by the same criteria. So forget about Xavi, Iniesta's intricate passing, Messi's mystical runs, Ronaldo's nutmegs. They all go out of the window and you want players who'll bang in goals and make crunching tackles, deliver successful crosses, and who can keep a clean sheet.
I have often lost points by picking up the good and solid players who'll be dog fighters over those who'll bang in goals. So many times I'll pick the players I like to watch on the pitch over a winger from the same team who'll cut inside and unleash a rocket or a striker who's anything but lethal in front of the goal.
Other headache is you can't pick more than 3 players from the same team even if you can afford them. So even if you are a Man United fan, there are high chances that you might end up with a player from Aston Villa, Fulham, Stoke or even Sunderland for that matter instead of going for De Gea, Vidic, Valencia and Rooney. You might have to choose Dean Whitehead of Stoke in your midfield, because you already have Aguero, Kompany and Joe Hart of Man City.
Of course, you'll have to make your choices discretely in fear of your mates might copy your team. In school / college exams we often starved for copying answers of a nerd. But here it is a different case. You WILL NOT disclose your team even to your best of mates nor you'll let him get a wind of your weekly substitutions. Secrecy in fantasy football is much higher than national secrets.
The squad allocation adds up to the misery. You can only pick 2 GK, 5 DF, 5 MID and 3 ATT. So this mess up all the ideal team equations. One good GK is must. So we spend money for him and with another GK comes straight from the Cheapest GK list.
Once GK position is resolved, another headache is of Strikers. Your Fantasy Team's future depends on how do you want to approach the season. Do you go with 2 good strikers who will cost you incredible sum (more than 11) or pick 3 decent priced strikers (7-10) who might come from non favorite teams but who will bang in goals and leave you enough money to buy you other good players.
Picking midfielders is another pain in the brain. It all depends on your forward line and money they've left you to spend. We'll straightaway do a cheeky dip in the MIDs list to see if they've listed any forward players in that list who play regularly and score goals (Dempsey is a classic example). If there are any, they straightaway go in our team. These midfielders cost you more than others but less than forwards. This also gives you freedom to play around with rest of your midfielders and attackers.
If you've already chosen 3 Attackers, than you have to decide whether you'll play with 2-5-3 or 4-4-3 formation. But both these formations mean you can't have all the good players in your team. You will be able to choose at the most 2 really good Midfielders. You'll have to blend them with 2 decent ones and one relatively unknown lad. It's nothing different for defenders as well. It all depends on the money you are left with. Whether you want to pick good steady CB or you want to try fullbacks who march up and down and try to whip in crosses and may get lucky with the assists or goals.
You often choose picking your team just one day or few hours from the opening day of the season, taking into account all the latest transfers and injuries. I'm no different, I'll pick my team only on 16th August. :-)
Once you decide with your team, real fun starts when the league gets underway. You have to be really sharp and aware for all 38 weeks as far as suspensions, injuries and current form is concerned. That means you often indulge yourself on physioroom.com to keep yourself updated about injuries and you'll end up reading a lot of reports and news on the websites.
You will make a point to watch every live episode of Monday Night Verdict or Football Focus to stay on par with the pack rather than watch a repeat episode in the next evening. You make your life revolve around statistics of clean sheets, goals scored, assists, match winning goals, tackles, and interceptions, in turn letting your social life go for a toss.
We will dig in the past records to check how Frank Lampard has done against Stoke or how effective Andy Caroll is against a team which has highest passing percentage.
You'll make a dash to computer on every Matchday before the deadline so you can change your line up within time. You'll curse yourself if you have Theo Walcott in your line up who struggles and toils for 90 minutes for peanuts and leave Seb Larsson on the bench who scores a brilliant match winning free kick. You'll be absolutely gutted if your mate has Seb in his starting line up and to add insult to injury, has made him a captain.
More confusion is added to the recipe when you are allowed to make only 1 change free of charge to your team. Any more changes will cost you more 2 points each from your total. This makes you fret over all kinds of injuries and suspensions. When you have Mario Balotelli suspended for 3 games in your team and Gabby Agbonhalor travelling to Chelsea, United and West Brom in succession. Who will you replace with a free change?
To make matters worse and adds further dilemma when your best scoring forward comes against your best scoring defender or keeper. How you wish that you had more free transfers?
We want all our players to do very well on the match days. We feel absolutely gutted when they play miserably irrespective of their team's result. But when your favorite team's has a bad form and your in-form fantasy striker from is playing against them. What do you pray for? Will you pray for maximum points from the striker or 3 points from the team?
You decide to pick Demba Ba next week for his game against Sunderland at home, but he scores a sensational hat trick on this matchday against Chelsea and his value increases by 2. This adds to more frustration as you haven't picked Ba for the weekend, and you can't afford him for the next weekend as his value has gone up.
We will often spend our entire Fridays and Saturday mornings day dreaming about our players and praying on the Matchdays. It is true that you can pick whoever you fancy, but in reality fate of your team is entirely in the hands or say feet of those players.
We keep on hoping that all the research, brain storming, hair ripping and prayers over 38 weeks, will pay huge dividends and bragging rights among our bunch.
It makes me wonder, Who is the real master and who is the real puppet?