One of the key decisions that every Fantasy Premier League manager needs to make is choosing the right formation for their team.
This article explores the best formations in FPL, providing insights based on popular choices and our analysis.
The best formation in FPL is about team balance
Choosing the right formation is a balancing act. While defenders are less likely to score goals, they are more likely to keep clean sheets and earn points. Midfielders and forwards, on the other hand, are more likely to score goals and provide assists, but they also tend to cost more. Therefore, your formation should align with your overall strategy and the players you have chosen for your team.
Sometimes, 6.5 million or even 5.5 million defenders can score more points than 6.5m forwards, which suggests that defenders at this price point could be a better choice. However, each season is different…
The best formation is all about the pricing for each season. In some seasons, some cheap midfielders and forwards are underpriced and if they can manage to get 20 goal involvement in a season, they can be tremendous fantasy assets. If there are no budget midfielders or forwards who could do the job, we have to focus on premium defenders as they can provide points for attacking returns and clean sheets as well.
The best formation of previous seasons
In the last few years, we always published the best team of the season – the top-scoring combination of players respecting the budget and other constraints. Basically, the team (a zombie team) you would have picked at the start of the season and scored the maximum number of points possible without making any transfers and captaincy changes during the season.
So, now, let’s look at the formation of these optimized teams over the last few years.
1. Formation of the best team in the 2018/19 season
- 3-5-2 formation with a premium goalkeeper (Ederson) and premium defenders (Robertson, Van Dijk, Laporte), budget forwards in the attack
- There were no cheap defenders (4.5m) that could do the job and get into the optimal team
- Big midfield with Salah, Sterling, Hazard
- Cheap forwards that were talismans (Jimenez, Wilson) were performing well
- You can check the whole team here: Best FPL Team of 2018/19
This was a season when premium defenders did very well, while premium forwards did not. It was a season where we should have focused big on the midfield and defences of our teams, while filling the rest with very well performing budget forwards.
2. Formation of the best team in the 2020/21 season
- 3-4-3 formation was the best option – it was a season when cheap midfielders (Harisson) and forwards (Bamford, Watkins) were performing well
- The optimal team has three heavy hitters (10 million +) players (Salah, Fernandes, Kane)
- Big midfield again (Salah, Fernandes, Son)
- Expensive defenders (TAA, Robertson) were with it
- When we changed the prices for new starting prices from the following 2021/22 season, the formation changed to 3-5-2
- You can see the full team here: Best FPL Team of 2020/21
This was a season, where there were almost no mid-priced attacking options in the (6.5m – 8.5m range), which allowed to go premium in the attack (although Kane and Fernandes cost just 10.5m). Budget midfielders and forwards – usually talismans for their teams – emerged during the season.
3. Formation of the best team in the 2021/22 season
- 4-5-1 formation was the best formation
- It was a season of going big at the back, premium defenders were worth it again
- heavy defense, premium goalkeeper,
- but no value up-front, as cheap Pukki was the only forward – expensive forwards were not worth it, they just could not be able to score as many goals so they would equal cheaper defenders who got points for clean sheets and attacking returns
- Balanced midfield with 2 heavy mids (Salah + Son) and 3 mid priced options (Bowen, Saka, Maddison)
- When we changed the prices for new starting prices from the following 2022/23 season, the formation changed to 5-4-1
- Check the whole team here: Best FPL Team of 2021/22 season
This was a season when going big at the back was the best play as Liverpool and Manchester City defenders were better sources of points as many more expensive forwards.
4. Formation of the best team in the 2022/23 season
- The 3-4-3 formation was the best formation in the last season
- It was the first season in some time when premium defenders were not worth it as budget defenders were doing great
- Three heavy hitters (Salah, Haaland, Kane) because budget defenders were doing great and some midfielders (Rahsford, Saka, Odegaard) were underpriced and managed to score a lot of fantasy points
- Once we changed the prices for new starting prices from the following 2023/24 season, the formation changed to 3-5-2
- See the whole team here: Best FPL Team of 2022/23
Season, where going for cheaper defenders, underpriced midfielders, and three heavy hitters was the best option.
What “best teams” have in common
- Each season was completely different
- On 3/4 occasions expensive defenders were worth it – the selection of premium defenders depends on whether there are 4.5m – 5m options that could provide satisfied amount of points.
- Only 2/4 of the teams have premium forwards in them which suggest, forwards tend to be overpriced and on many occasion cannot score a satisfactory amount of points to justify their price tag. However, there are seasons when forwards like Haaland and Kane do exceptionally well and that is the time you want them in your FPL team
- At least 4 midfielders in 4/4 seasons. There were no formations with 2 or 3 midfielders. There is great value in the midfield, a lot of options, which suggests that you should play a formation on at least 4 mids.
The average formation from the best teams
Now, let’s calculate the average formation from the best teams:
- [(3,5,2) + (3,4,3) + (4,5,1) + (3,4,3)]/4 = (3.25, 4.5, 2.25)
This calculation really favors the 3-5-2 formation when we round the numbers.
Team structure and budget allocation
The average price points from the best teams
And what about the average price from each position from those 4 teams? It could help us with organising our team structure. Here is the average price per every position from the 4 best teams of previous seasons.
GK: 5 m, 4 m
DEF: 6.5 m, 6.13 m, 5.13 m, 4.75 m, 4.5 m
MID: 12.63 m, 10 m, 8.25 m, 6.5 m, 5.25 m
FWD: 8.5 m, 6.88 m, 5.38 m
How could you structure your team based on these price points?
Here are a few price points structures that could work for you. However they are not strict, they are just drafts, but should give you a basic understanding of how to spread the money around your FPL team:
Structure 1 (two heavy hitters, 4-4-2)
- GK: 5m, 4m
- DEF: 6m, 5.5m, 5.5m, 5m, 4m
- MID: 12.5m, 9m, 8.5m, 6.5m, 4.5m
- FWD: 12.5m, 7m, 4.5m
Structure 2 (one heavy hitter, 3-5-2)
- GK: 5m, 4m
- DEF: 8m, 5.5m, 5m, 4.5m, 4m
- MID: 9m, 8.5m, 7m, 6.5m, 6.5m
- FWD: 14m, 8m, 4.5m
Structure 3 (talismans in attack, 3-4-3)
- GK: 5.5m, 4m
- DEF: 8m, 5.5m, 4.5m, 4.5m, 4m
- MID: 12.5m, 9m, 7.5m, 6.5m, 4.5m
- FWD: 8m, 8m, 8m
What to consider when choosing the best team structure
- Your team structure must be flexible and balanced, so when a new FPL asset emerges, you can easily transfer him in
- Avoid switching formations too many times during the season as you could waste your transfers on that. For example, if you start the season with 3-5-2 and 4.5m forward on the bench, but now you want to switch to 3-4-3, you will likely have to use two transfers to do that = one to downgrade a midfielder to 4.5 midfielder, the other one to upgrade 4.5 forward to other forward. However, if you do transfers only in your formation you do not have to move money around positions and waste transfers. So save switching formations to wildcard.
- Avoid having too many heavy hitters in your squad. It would be great to have Haaland, Salah, Kane, KdB, Rashford and Son in your team, however, it would weaken the other spots in your FPL team.
- Do not leave out heavy hitters completely. A squad full of 8.5-9m players without expensive Salah or Haaland might seem balanced. However, did you see those best teams from previous seasons? Each of them has at least one heavy hitter in them. It’s because heavy hitters are usually the best captaincy candidates.
- Always compare players across positions. For example, do 5.5m defenders score more points than 6.5m midfielders or forwards? If so, then clearly those premium defenders are better options.
It is not about the best formation, it is about the players you pick
We think, that what you should realize when selecting a formation for your FPL team, it is that its not about the formation, but about the players you pick.
Because many formations can have the same group of core players and do similarly. For example, in 4-4-2, 3-5-2 or 3-4-3 you can the same 9 players and only need to decide whether those 2 left will be midfielders, defenders or forwards.
So if you get these 9 core players right it does not really matter which formation you choose, although you can get a slight advantage if you get right those 2 left players as well.
Similarly, the effectiveness of a formation can vary based on factors such as player performances, fixture difficulty, and even the time of the season. For example, a 3-5-2 formation might look like the best option at the start of the season, but during the season, a 5.5m forward might emerge as a great fantasy asset, so switching to a 3-4-3 could be more beneficial later.
Read more: Best players to pick in FPL
Available formations in FPL
- 5-4-1 – you would have to go 2 very cheap forwards (4.5m) who do not regularly play, what would really weaken your bench
- 5-3-2 – you could not get the most out of the many great midfield options
- 5-2-3 – only two mids, midfielders are usually a great source of points
- 4-5-1 – very weak bench with cheap forwards who do not play
You could consider
- 4-3-3 – suitable, if we have a lot of good cheap forwards doing well and premium defenders doing well. Not suitable if there are many good performing midfielders.
Recommended – best formations
- 3-4-3 – requires 2 cheaper forwards (6m – 8m) to be better FPL assets than 5.5m-8m defenders, allows full playing bench consisting of 4.5m playing players.
- 3-5-2 – get the max out of the midfield, while allowing going for one or two premium defenders. and one premium and one cheaper forwards. Suitable if we have multiple 6.5m – 7.5m midfielders available as great FPL assets
- 4-4-2 – balanced, offers flexibility. Suitable if premium defenders are doing well. Allows you to have a big midfield, premium defenders, premium forward and a sufficient bench.
In conclusion, there’s no definitive answer to the “best” formation in FPL. However, based on historical data, we would advise you to start the season with either 3-4-3, 4-4-2 or 3-5-2 formation as they are flexible and offers the most from each position.
Can you play 5-2-3 in FPL?
Yes, you can play a 5-2-3 formation in FPL. However, this formation is less commonly used as it limits the number of midfielders, who are typically the highest point scorers in FPL.
Is 2-5-3 allowed in FPL?
No, a 2-5-3 formation is not allowed in FPL. The game requires you to have at least three defenders in your starting XI. The available formations are 3-4-3, 3-5-2, 4-4-2, 4-3-3, 4-5-1, 5-4-1, 5-3-2, and 5-2-3.
Is 4-4-2 a good formation in FPL?
The effectiveness of the 4-4-2 formation in FPL can depend on various factors, including the form and fixtures of your players, as well as your overall team strategy. This formation can provide a balanced approach, allowing for a good spread of players across all positions.
Can you change formation in FPL?
Yes, you can change your formation in FPL. You can change your formation before each Gameweek deadline by moving players between your starting XI and your bench. The formation will automatically adjust based on the players you have in your starting XI. However, you must always have at least one goalkeeper, three defenders, two midfielders, and one forward in your starting XI. Read more: How to change formation in FPL?