FPL Locks and Swaps - How you can make the early-season fixtures work to your advantage

3:36pm Aug 2 2019

Manchester City’s Raheem Sterling and Liverpool’s star-man Mo Salah are season-long locks according to Aidan Fawkes

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[Article written and published by @aidanfawkes]

Last week, one of the more informative FPL threads appeared on Twitter thanks to @EricDFreeman.

Titled “Eric’s guide to reaching 2500 points”, his 17-tweet thread replete with gifs, outlined the points breakdowns managers required to hit 2500 in a season. [we will leave a link to this superb thread towards the end of this article]

His estimations included 50 points from chip use – bench boost, free hit and triple captain – and 500 thanks to captaining Liverpool star Mo Salah each week.

That meant the 10 players alongside Salah needed to combine for 1950 points across 38 gameweeks. That’s 195 per player per season, or 5.13 per player per gameweek.

But, as Freeman noted, only seven players posted 195 points or more last season and all are premium assets. Obviously, you can’t afford them all.

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So, how does one hit the 2500 mark?

By playing what Freeman called the “transfer game” – transferring players at similar price points in and out throughout the season to capitalise on when they hit form and their generous fixture schedules.

The value of Freeman’s thread was that it barely mentioned names.

Gone are debates about the merits of having Salah or Raheem Sterling or both, whether Kevin de Bruyne was under- or over-priced, which £6.5m forward was best or if Lucas Digne was worth the extra £0.5m over teammate Seamus Coleman.

This was a thread about the structural foundation of your FPL team and made two salient points.

Firstly, you need to target budget/mid-priced players when they will deliver premium returns.

And secondly, your team needs to have flexibility so you can move between these budget and mid-priced players.

What are Locks & Swaps?

I’ve taken the liberty to coin Freeman’s theory “Locks and Swaps”.

Each team will have its “locks” – assets you put faith in and keep patient with – and its “swaps” – those who will come in and out when required.

Individual preferences about which premium players you want and which formation you prefer will determine your locks and the balance of your team.

Keen on Salah, Sterling, Andrew Robertson, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Aymeric Laporte? You’ll have a forward line made up of swaps and likely start defence-heavy line-ups.

Determined to have Salah, Sterling and either Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang or Harry Kane? You lose some price options for your swaps.

A set-and-forget goalkeeper like Ederson should give you a points boost but the extra expense limits your options elsewhere.

How many locks you opt for is a personal decision. Faith in certain players, budget limitations and the one-free-transfer-a-week rule will influence this.

So let’s put down some locks – midfielders Mo Salah (£12.5m) and Raheem Sterling (£12m) to start.

In defence, I’m keen on Liverpool pair Andrew Robertson (£7m) and Virgil Van Dijk (£6.5m).

In goals, I’m going with the Mat Ryan (£4.5m) and David Button (£4m) pairing, to save money.

(Freeman didn’t advocate for a budget goalkeeper to be a lock but I’m opting for this path. Brighton have okay fixtures and by locking Ryan in, I have price flexibility and transfers to use elsewhere.)

I’m opting against a forward lock, as a personal preference.

My bench is Martin Kelly (£4.0m), Mason Greenwood (£4.5m) and Leander Dendoncker (£4.5m), simply for price reasons.

That’s £59.5m gone and £40.5m to spend on six players – two defenders, two midfielders and two strikers.

To refer back to Freeman’s thread, one of the most interesting observations he made was about the number of players at each price point.

He noted there are 38 defenders at £5.5m-£6.0m; 33 midfielders at £6.5m-£8.0m; and 13 forwards at £6.5m-£8.0m.

These players won’t match Salah, Sterling et all over a season but they are bound to have periods where they haul big before going quiet.

Most importantly, these price points offer a huge number of options. Don’t like who you’ve got? You can move for someone else easy enough.

This is what Freeman means by playing “the transfer game” – moving players into your team in anticipation of when they’ll haul big, before moving them out again.

And the best way to play the transfer game is to ensure your team is set up to do this seamlessly, set up so that you have options when you make those transfers.


So, with that in mind, let’s go back to my remaining £40.5m to spend.

To capitalise on the plethora of options at the aforementioned price points, I need two defenders (£5.5m-£6m), two midfielders (£6.5m-£8m) and two forwards (£6.5m-£8m).

Ideally, I’ll have one £6m defender and one £5.5m defender; one £8m midfielder and one £6.5m midfielder; one £8m forward and one £6.5m forward.

Remember, I’m after options at price points, not certain players.

Up front, I’m going to go for Callum Wilson (£8.0m) and Gerard Deulofeu (£6.5m).

In midfield, I’ve settled on Gylfi Sigurdsson (£8.0m) and David Brooks (£6.5m).

In defence, I’ll take Lucas Digne (£6.0m) and Oleksandr Zinchenko (£5.5m).

Notably, I’ve got an option at the top and bottom of each of my desired price brackets.

I can go sideways if the cheaper option fails or downgrade and pocket the cash if the more expensive option fails.

The team is now set: Ryan, Button; Robertson, Van Dijk, Digne, Zinchenko, Kelly; Salah, Sterling, Sigurdsson, Brooks, Dendoncker; Wilson, Deulofeu, Greenwood.

Assessing the Fixtures

Looks decent, sure. But it’s only for starters. Now to dig down into the fixtures to determine how we’ll play the transfer game.

Here is a fixture difficulty rating spreadsheet for each team for Gameweek 1 to Gameweek 10.

According to Freeman, the key to success is identifying when our mid-priced and budget players will haul big – and fixtures can help us do that.

Now take our six swaps – Digne, Zinchenko, Sigurdsson, Brooks, Wilson and Deulofeu – and look at when we might want to transfer them in and out.

Everton have a great run of fixtures for the first seven GWs. I’m unlikely to dispense of Digne and Sigurdsson.

Manchester City likewise, so Zinchenko stays (provided he remains a starter). Watford’s fixtures look okay for the first four GWs.

But Bournemouth’s turn after GW2. Wilson and Brooks might be my first two transfers.

But who to bring in? The fixtures suggest a Chelsea asset or two from GW3 to GW10 could be worth investing in.

We’ll know more about how Chelsea line-up by then, too. Much is unknown at the moment but the Blues are a top-six club with a host of mid-priced options.

Leicester also have a good run of fixtures between GW3 and GW4. Their midfield assets are tantalisingly affordable.

West Ham, too, are an attractive proposition from GW3 to GW8. Felipe Anderson, Pablo Fornals and Javier Hernandez loom large.

Further into the season, Southampton have favourable fixtures for GW5 and GW6; Burnley’s look great from GW5 to GW7; Aston Villa get a nice run from GW7 to GW9.

Brooks (GW1, GW2) could become Ayoze Perez (GW3, GW4), who could become Nathan Redmond (GW5, GW6). Opponents in that time: SHE, avl, she, BOU, she, BOU.

Up front, Deulofeu (GW1 to GW3) could become Hernandez (GW4, GW5), who could become Chris Wood (GW6, GW7), who could become Wesley (GW8, GW9). Opponents in that time: BRI, eve, WHU, NOR, avl, NOR, avl, nor, BRI.

Of course, all the planning in the world can be thrown out the window when surprises necessitate change.

But by filling your team with players at price points that provide options, you are best positioned to respond and adapt.

And that’s how the Locks and Swaps strategy can work to your benefit.

Step one: Lock in your preferred premium assets and keep the faith.

Step two: Use the remaining cash to set up your team with players at specific price points, so you have options when you need to make transfers.

Step three: Monitor players’ form and compare that with upcoming fixtures to take advantage of the structural flexibility of your team.

We’ll all have to move on an under-performing player at some point. When we do, we want to have options in choosing a replacement.

You can read @EricDFreeman’s Twitter thread here.

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Thank you for reading ‘FPL Locks and Swaps – How you can make the early-season fixtures work to your advantage’ which was written and produced by @aidanfawkes