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Community Submission: New Guy's Guide to Roster Construction

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New Guy's Guide to Roster Construction

It was a long IB with many hours spent flicking through multiple leagues trying to suss out what my weak spots were to make calculated decisions on the early season gambles, holds, and folds. In doing so, I stumbled on a simple system that has helped me make some big roster decisions and, in the spirit of wanting to contribute to a community who has been super helpful and welcoming, I thought I'd share some of the things I've been wrestling with in case it helps other "New Guys" out there.

Risk, Rotation & Upside

When it comes to Roster Construction, weak points can come in a few different shapes and sizes, ranging from the simple: "$%^&, I don't have enough MIDs!" to more complex considerations: "do I have enough upside, should I stack, how much rotation risk am I carrying, how many injury risks do I have, can my roster handle a hand cuff if that means carrying 1 player who is guaranteed not to start most weeks?"

I quickly realised when it came to roster construction that there's a lot to consider and not much has really been said about it, since mostly it all boils down to preference and appetite for risk. But as I moved from league to league my fresh eyes were seemingly falling into the trap of trying to solve the same problems over and over. This is when I decided to pull out the old spreadsheet and come up with something more systematic. Side note: last season (my first), I went old school with the pen and paper tracking my moves. This year I went digital and it was one of the best decisions I've made. Do it.

So I listed out all my teams one by one, divided the players into their positions, and listed them from best to worst (G, D1 D2 D3, M1 M2, etc) and colour coded the players as follows:

  • Green - Nailed on

  • Yellow - 70-80% starts

  • Amber - Injury risk

  • Red - Anyone with below 70% chance of starting - currently injured, suspended, isolating, not currently first choice 11

    • If you have a true handcuff here, I'd go Green and Red

I was then very quickly able to see which teams were carrying too much risk and which could afford to trade in a high upside rotational piece. I then noted down a couple of desired moves, fired out some DMs/trade offers and then used this point of reference as a handy reminder of where I left off whenever I got back to it.

Having just taken over a team from another manager in the Community League, this meant shipping out some top 50-100 'safe' assets with limited upside for something a bit more "punty". For example, Maguire, Neves, D. Gray traded out for Mahrez. The case in point here is that I'm not sure I 'won' that trade, but by adding Mahrez and freeing up space to gamble on some other unknown assets on waivers or in free agency, the explosive potential of the team has improved.

Positional Spread

Taking away the risk/rotation factor and looking at it purely from a positional distribution POV and finding the right positional spread is about creating flexibility to deal with rotation and not limiting your trade options.

For me, the most effective balance seems to be:

  • 1 GK

  • 5 DEFs

  • 5 MIDs

  • 4 FWDs

  • (Plus 1 wildcard)

You have adequate cover for 2 injuries/rotations in any position without creating an illegal roster and being forced into moves that might harm your team value. And it gives you the flexibility to trade/waiver any position, leaving you open to getting maximum value from every trade negotiation by allowing you to balance your first XI's scoring potential and your team's overall value. There are other combinations that differ by maybe 1 or 2 players which are also very viable from a scoring perspective, but if you deviate much further from this baseline, you start to limit your trade options.

For example, holding 5 FWDs and playing the guys with the best fixtures is a nice luxury to have scoring-wise--I will definitely pivot to running this at times throughout the season--but it limits your ability to trade in a FWD and, ultimately, that could lead you to miss out on a better value trade option because you're approaching it from a very narrow scope thinking, "I need a MID." How many times have we all heard that?

Positional Value

This year, If you have a couple of nailed on MIDs who are relatively fixture proof, you might be tempted to cash in on the inflated MID value and find a two-for-1 trade for a better DEF or FWD. Overthinking Football recently posted about Quality Starts, and some stats in that article referenced the fact that 50th-75th percentile performances (ideally most of your players aside from your premium assets) for MIDs provide more or less the same xFpts as DEF assets. There's also an argument to say that if you have another DEF on the roster and can avoid more tricky fixtures, you could save yourself the odd week where someone on your roster impolitely drops a -3. This tactic recently led me to cash in, trading Ritchie + Cucurella for AWB. They were happy to land a solid M and I will happily play 4 at the back with high quality assets who are unlikely to screw me over.

The Wildcard

The most fun aspect of roster construction is spending that extra spot on whatever you think is going to offer you the most upside and get you to the top of the table. This might be the second half of a handcuff, an injured player who is coming back soon, or a high-upside punt who working their way into the starting 11.

Another tactic for this bonus slot is to find free agents who are about to become tradable. Think of this as a short-term investment play. Grab someone off the waiver who's just had a good week (but isn't getting too much attention just yet since it's a one-off) with a view to trading them out in 1-3 gameweeks' time. If they magically back up their unexpected haul by putting up 1 or 2 more good scores (all from the comfort of your bench, as you didn't need to risk playing them), trade them out on a high. This is especially useful for new assets who have lots of promise and no substance (Emmanuel Dennis, Harvey Elliott), but can also be used for known quantities who might get a run in the team and seemingly have a spot nailed (Iwobi, King, Klich).

In Summary

  • Manage your risk effectively so you don't play it too safe with little upside or go too wild and find yourself struggling to field 11 most weeks.

  • Maintaining a flexible roster is the key to finding value in your trades/waivers.

  • You don't need to roster 6 MIDs if you can find better value elsewhere.

  • Both sides can win a trade if you factor in roster construction (risk vs. upside & positional value) to create better balance.

Good luck ROS.

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