With over 10 million active players, Fantasy Premier League has become one of the largest online fantasy sports games across the globe.
Like the beautiful game itself, FPL has evolved over the years and has become more competitive than ever.
Millions of FPL managers spend countless hours each week creating strategies and planning transfers in search of the best team. But simply picking the best 15 players in the game is not enough!
Over the years, the FPL community has developed a language of its own. Terms like “differentials” and “template team” are commonly used and are vital to understanding if you want to be a true FPL legend.
This article will explain what a differential player is and why they are so important.
What is a differential in FPL?
In simple terms, a differential is a player that is owned by a low percentage of FPL managers. The exact total selection base (TSB) percentage to determine if a player is a differential is not universally agreed upon.
Typically, players that have a TSB of less than 20% can be considered a differential to most FPL managers. However, an FPL expert may argue that 20% is still too high to be a differential pick.
Most FPL experts agree that a player with a 5 – 15% selection base is considered a true differential.
An easy way to determine if a player is a differential is to ask yourself: Will selecting this player allow me to score more points than my opponents because they do not have that player?
FPL expert Holly Shand explains what differentials are and how to use them.
Why are differentials important in FPL?
There are two key reasons why selecting differentials is so important to your FPL team.
#1 Improves your overall rank
The first reason is fairly straightforward. The theory behind it is that: if a low-owned player does well, it will have a positive effect on the rank of the managers that own them by virtue of their low ownership.
For example, in the 2022/23 season, Newcastle United had an excellent run in the first half of the season. By the World Cup break in November, FPL’s top goalkeeper, defender, and midfielder were all players from Newcastle.
Miguel Almiron started the season with a TSB of less than 2%. He repaid his backers by returning a massive 93 points in 16 matches.
FPL managers that selected Almiron benefitted tremendously from his good performances and his low selection base.
This manager had a top 5% rank in gameweek 14 after captaining Miguel Almiron.
#2 Improve your squad value
The second reason is a little more technical than the first but just as important. Most differentials are players that are not considered premium options. Salah, KDB, and Kane are examples of premium players.
Each of those players costs more than £10.0 in FPL because they are “expected” to do well. Almiron started the 2022/23 season at £5.0. By the World Cup break, Almiron’s value had increased to £5.8!
Increasing your squad value gives you a significant advantage because you are increasing your total budget.
With a bigger budget, you can use the additional funds to strengthen other players in your squad.
How do I find a differential pick?
It’s important to understand that a differential will usually only remain lowly-owned for a short time. FPL managers tend to quickly flock to players that have one or two good performances.
The key is being able to identify a potential differential before anyone else. Here are a few things you can do to help:
#1 Check player’s TSB frequently
FPL provides several helpful tools that you can use to identify potential differential players. The TSB option allows you to view a list of players and their current ownership percentages.
In this example, we will use Almiron’s teammate Callum Wilson. Up to the World Cup break in the 2022/23 season, Wilson was owned by only 8.6% of managers.
He scored 55 points up to that point in the season and was ranked 7th among all forwards. He had also missed several matches earlier in the season due to injury.
Newcastle had been performing very well, and Wilson was playing regularly for them again. If Newcastle continued to play well, there is a good chance that Wilson could do well too.
With a TSB of less than 10%, he was definitely a differential from most of the players that are currently ranked above him.
#2 Make use of FPL filters
FPL provides a variety of stats options that are extremely useful. Some of the main ones to focus on are:
#1 Price rise
Players whose prices are increasing typically mean that they are playing well and are becoming more valuable.
Try to look for players that have increased minimally and still have room to increase further.
Another way to spot a differential is to check their threat rating according to FPL. Keep an eye out for players that have a high threat rating but are not widely owned.
Using Wilson as an example again, he has a relatively high threat rating, which means he’s getting opportunities to score big. This further increases his appeal as a differential.
Similar to the threat rating, the influence stats give you an idea of how much a player influences a game. The greater the influence, the more likely the player is to score points.
There are several other stats filters available on the FPL site. Each of them will provide you with valuable information that you can combine with the player’s total selection base to find a diamond in the rough.
#3 Use external data sources
While FPL does provide several useful stats, there are many external sources that provide even more in-depth and useful information.
The internet is loaded with paid and free versions of FPL content that can help you identify players with good underlying stats.
Two key stats that you can look at are the players expected goals (XG) and players expected goal involvement (XGI). This stat is similar to the “threat” stat on FPL but slightly more in-depth.
Here’s a list of 20 free websites and tools to help you find good differential options.
#4 Stay ahead of fixtures:
It’s important to realise that a differential does not have to perform well for a long time. Selecting a player for one or two gameweeks is perfectly acceptable.
Players also do not remain as differentials for long. If they consistently perform well, their ownership will increase!
Most differentials have a few weeks or months where they do really well before they go back to performing at their regular level. Knowing the fixture list, will give you a stronger idea of when a player is more likely to do well.
Looking at the fixture difficulty rating (FDR) above, Newcastle has two consecutive matches against “easier teams” in GW22 and GW23.
FPL managers that were considering a move for Callum Wilson could be motivated to do so over these easier fixtures.
#5 The old-fashioned eye test
The final method to find a differential is the good-old eye test. Watching as many matches as possible will give you first-hand access to information that stats cannot provide you.
A player that catches the eye may not have the stats to back them up as a potential differential. However, by watching them play, you may be able to spot something that other managers have missed and take advantage of it.
Differentials are essential if you want to be a top-ranked FPL manager. But selecting a differential player is much riskier than sticking with the template team.
Still, with great risk comes great reward, and there are few better feelings in FPL than going with your gut feeling, and it pays off.
You may even want to captain one of your differentials, and you can find out what happens if they don’t play here.
Are you passionate about football and want to earn some side income?