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A whole new fantasy ball game

It's all change in Soccernet's Premier League fantasy game for the new season, and it's going to make managers think long and hard about their strategy.

Future columns will go into possible successful ways of planning your tactics for the season. But first players old and new will need to get a grasp on the changes we've made to make the game bigger, bolder and better.

The most important difference is that it's no longer possible to put a team in every day. There's a new Gameweek structure which means you must submit one 11 man team for a round of games. This means you will have four players on the bench every week who will only score you points should one of your starting team not play in a Premier League fixture.

So, if you have a midfielder who did not play - whether due to injury, suspension or selection - then the best player from your bench will come on, but only if you have a player for that position on the bench. A midfielder can only come on for a midfielder, for instance.

• Click here to sign up for the fantasy game
• Listen to the latest Fantasy Podcast
• Any questions? Email fantasy@soccernet.com

The Gameweek structure is going to make managers think about whether to pick a squad based purely on a strong starting XI, or a balanced 15-man side which can be rotated based upon week-to-week fixtures.

The first option means you would pick a bench of the cheapest players, who are unlikely to earn you many points, but it would free up budget purely for your first XI. That would prevent any meaningful rotation. The second option means you may have to be more creative with your selection, but you would be able to pick both a formation and an 11-man weekly team which you feel would be most productive.

It's a stark change from being able to play every player in your squad. Every manager is going to have to consider the pros and cons of their selection each week, as making a poor decision could cost you dear.

Almost as important is the introduction of double points for your team captain, and you can select a different player for this role every week. Imagine if you had Andrei Arshavin as your skipper last season in the week he scored four goals against Liverpool? That would have led to a haul of over 50 points from one player alone and could have proved crucial in your mini-league.

Once we move past Christmas, putting one over on your rivals becomes more difficult as many of the leading managers have very similar squads. In this instance the selection of a productive captain is going to prove crucial for fantasy success.

And it is no longer possible to load up your squad with players from any one team. There's now a limit of three players from a Premier League team. Managers cannot stack on budget defenders from teams which have performed better than expected. Last time this happened with Fulham defenders, and to an extent Everton after they suffered budgetary loss. With a limit of three players per team it means you have to think much more carefully about where you spread your allocation.

With a change to the structure of the game there is also an enhancement of the scoring system. The main beneficiaries of the changes will be goalkeepers, who were often undervalued in the old system. Every goalkeeper, in addition to the usual clean sheet points, will get one point for every three saves they make.

This should provide something of a conundrum, with goalkeepers from lesser clubs far more likely to pick up save points, as they will have more efforts on their goal. Granted, they may not pick up as many clean sheets but their lower value may make them better value overall. Keepers will also get three points for saving a penalty, while any player who misses a spot-kick will be docked three points. The scorer of an own goal will also lose three points.

In previous seasons midfielders may have had it too easy. They have always led the way in terms of scoring in the game. However, we've made a change to the way assists/key contributions are allocated. Now there has to be a real creation of an opportunity. There will be no points for winning a penalty or a free-kick, nor for playing the pass which results in an own goal. It tightens up an area when players were able to pick up throwaway points for assists they barely earned. There are also no assist points for goals which result from a goalkeeper saving another player's shot.

It's a lot to take in and consider, especially if you happen to be playing for pride in a mini-league or taking on our Podcast experts. There are bargains to be had, and some successes of last season who will turn out to be red herrings this term. Can you pick the right mix of star names and budget bargains to get off to a great start against your friends and colleagues?

• Click here to sign up for the fantasy game
• Listen to the latest Fantasy Podcast
• Any questions? Email fantasy@soccernet.com

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