Setting up the defense – forming blocks

In daily fantasy football it is extremely important setting up the defense – forming blocks to keep a clean sheet.

Setting up the defense and forming blocks is one of the key strategies of fantasy managers.

Daily Fantasy Football Beginners’ Camp: Defense Block

The defensive unit is one of the most important tools in your overall strategy. Given one or two correct predictions, it ensures that you are able to achieve a very solid points base which can often provide the impetus you need to finish ITM (In The Money, reaching the prize spots in a tournament) or even a victory.

Why forming blocks in defense is useful

In the top leagues, it’s relatively rare for teams to keep a clean sheet. In daily fantasy football however, it is extremely important for a defender or goalkeeper to keep a clean sheet. On many vendors’ platforms the clean sheet bonus counts as much as a striker scoring a goal. Even on sites, where this is not the case, a clean sheet still counts for more than an assist.

Since only about the first 15% of tournament participants reach the money ranks, it makes little sense to spread your defence across a lot of teams, as very few of them are likely to keep a clean sheet. Distributing your players in this way would mean you would likely end up in the middle of the table. It is therefore worthwhile to accept more risk in this area and to restrict yourself to at most 2 teams for your whole defence. Please, however, also remember that the exception proves the rule, as always.

Determining the clean sheet odds

The bookmakers’ odds (Win + Clean Sheets + Goals) are your best friends when it comes to choosing the ideal defence. A glance at the table won’t hurt either, in particular the Home and Away records help tremendously when it comes to choosing a good defence. The team with the highest probability of keeping a clean sheet usually has the “most expensive” defenders, which can often create budget difficulties.

Mostly you’ll want to choose the offensive players from the team which is the biggest favourite and therefore you’ll have a limited budget left for your defenders.

The solution lies in strong home team with a solid defence which might not be up against one of the top 5 teams in the league. Often these players offer very good value for money and thus a good risk/reward ratio. The options for establishing a defensive block are very complex and can vary greatly according to the site and the tournament format. We present below the most meaningful variants in defensive blocking.

The block formations

We introduce you to the most common defensive formations and when they are best used. The way you split your defenders is also important.

2 + 2

In a 2 + 2 you choose two defenders from each of two teams. This defensive block formation is very popular in the normal tournament format, as well as in 50-50 tournaments. In this situation, players generally pick two defenders from a clear favourite, as well two as somewhat speculative defenders from a team which does not have the highest chances of keeping a clean sheet.

Often these players are cheaper and allow you to save money on your important strikers and your midfield. Depending on your budget, you can also select two speculative teams and this can still work very well in a 50-50 even if you miss out on the clean sheets.

In very large fields, the 2 + 2 suffers from too little risk or potential upside. But it is quite a reasonable way to split risk. If you have chosen 2 budget variants, both of whom collect a goal, then at least you have more budget to spend on the attacking players with which to buy better players (especially the captain). In major tournaments this split only makes sense if both of the teams from which you have chosen two defenders also have prolific players whom you do not want to miss out on.

3 + 1

When setting up the defense – forming blocks in a 3+1 formation is probably the most commonly-used split by regulars in big tournaments. Usually we try to set up as small a defence as possible, but to chose the best players from the available selection.

Special features on FanTeam

In FanTeam this split depends mostly by the goalkeeper. The market values for the goalkeepers from the different teams are all very similar. Teams at the bottom of the league are, for example, available at about 7 million, while the keeper with the highest probability of keeping a clean sheet rarely costs more than 10 million.

Regulars take advantage of this very small spread and buy a lot of EV points at a very low price compared to other goalkeepers. In the defensive line, you generally see a complete defensive block from a budget team which usually has a chance of between 25% and 35% of keeping a clean sheet.

Special features on FantasyBet

In FantasyBet this split is independent of the goalkeeper, it depends rather on the offensive players in the team, in which often 2 players are blocked and thus only 1 player is available for the defence. Generally on FantasyBet and FanTeam when a 3 + 1 is used the +1 is a player who offers more options for points than just the clean sheet, he may be, for example, good at assists or a serious goal threat. Central defenders who are good at set pieces or in the air are particularly suitable here.

In FantasyBet therefore the 3 + 1 split with 3 defenders from one team rarely makes sense since tuel 3 defenders can not all be very dangerous at goal together. So it makes sense to set up the goal keeper and two defenders from one team and another prolific defender from another team. FanTeam is an exception, because the prices for the goalkeepers are very close and therefore a 3 + 1 block represents a very good option.

3 + 2

A rather unusual split when setting up the defense. In any case a variant which benefits most from a game day where it is likely that there will be few goals and which therefore has somewhat higher risk. This option can only be used if just one player will be selected for the offensive in an offensively-strong team.

This counter-cyclical tendency in general team selection on the part of the other tournament participants can give you an advantage. In plain English, if many people are relying on the offensive players in a team, put your trust in the defensive players. You do this in the hope that not too many goals will be scored by the offensive.

The last round of the 2015-16 Premier League was a good example of this, the third-placed team, Arsenal was playing at home against Aston Villa, who had already been relegated. Almost all teams nominated both Arsenal strikers Giroud and Sanchez, these are 2 excellent offensive players.

What sounds like a classic 3: 1 split could then be modified, Players could either omit Giroud or Sanchez and replace them with another defender or goalkeeper from their team. This countercyclical action pays off when Arsenal scores few goals or or when only one player scores, like Giroud on this match day (3 goals). All in all, the 3: 2 is a little secret weapon, which does increase variance, but also allows players to benefit by setting their team apart from the competition.

3 + 3

The is the variance bomb par excellence. No matter whether you take a favourite team and a budget defence or 2 budget defences, you are very dependent on the outcome of a few games. This formation only makes sense on game days where few goals are expected and if you wish to set up a counter-cyclical team. This formation is usually only worthwhile in big tournaments with many participants. At FanTeam, however, it can also be used if you want to save a lot of budget to be able to set up a 5-2-3. Just remember, though, that the substitute would then come from the midfield, where the costs tend to be significantly more than for defenders.

1 + 1 + 1 + 1

This is not a defensive block. That’s true. It should only be used in exceptional cases and there are also other variations available such as 2 + 1 +. 1 These defensive line-ups are intended for DoN tournaments in which you want to mitigate variance. You can of course also set up a 2 + 2, but in DoNs you want to avoid taking any chances when building blocks, you just want to finish in the top 50% of the field. Therefore, the variance-reducing line-ups, such as a 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 are recommended.

This was the post Setting up the defense – forming blocks. Leave your feedback in the comment section.

Back to Beginners Camp Overview


Herbert is a doctor of philosophy, speaks 5 languages fluently and moved to Barcelona to be close to good football... Herbert was Head of Education at Pokerstrategy and responsible for ensuring that 8 million members successfully learned poker. He discusses Instructional Design and Learning Theories on Griffl.org.
As a founding member of 11Heroes, Herbert plays a similar role as at Pokerstrategy.com. You can find him on Twitter as @DrFantasy11

Add comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.