Picking a fantasy football team requires a mix of pragmatism and blind speculation. We’ve all been through the routine of picking last years top scorers, followed by last years highest scoring midfielders, and by the time you get round to the defence, there’s no money left to buy even the worst players in the pool, so you need to balance it out a little.

The important thing to remember, other than the need to stay within your budget, is that you don’t have to put together a balanced team that would do well in real life – you just need a collection of players that will net you the highest points tally. It is worth bearing in mind the things that get you the most points, which are goals, results, and clean sheets, when choosing your players.

Let’s start at the back, with the goalkeeper. Goalkeepers don’t tend to score goals, so the most important statistics here are results and clean sheets. You don’t want to spend too much on your keeper, as you want to save your money for some superstar forwards that can seriously add to your points tally. Look for a player that is an automatic pick, and one that plays behind a miserly defence, as these will provide the best value in terms of points. Defence is another area in which you should be cautious about spending large sums. The ideal fantasy league defender is one that doesn’t cost too much, is not injury-prone, is virtually guaranteed to start most games, is part of a defence that isn’t too leaky (even if the team doesn’t score many goals), and tends to chip in with a few goals of their own from set pieces and the like.

The midfield is an area where it can pay to loosen the purse strings a little. Although it can add balance to a real-world football team, there is no room for defensive midfielders in a fantasy league team, unless they happen to be regular goalscorers as well. Look for attack-minded players that score a lot of goals and don’t get injured or suspended very often. Players such as Swansea’s Michu and Tottenham’s Gareth Bale are perfect examples of the type of player you might want to look for.

If you’ve been fairly prudent up to now, you should have a fair bit of cash to splash on strikers. Generally speaking, last year’s top scorer (in any sport) is a good place to start, although you should bear in mind the injury-proneness and the competition at the club that they play for. For example, Sergio Aguero and Wayne Rooney both scored lots of goals last season, but their tallies for midway through the 2012-13 season are quite low as a result of injury and the arrival of last year’s top scorer Robin Van Persie respectively.

Most of your money should go into the first team, as substitutes will only score points if one of your first team isn’t playing. Therefore, this is a good place for speculative punts on cheap players from lowlier teams that you think might have an unexpectedly good season this time round.

Finally, remember that you can change your team over the course of the season, although it can be costly in terms of points to chop and change too much. So, if your star striker has just pulled up with a serious injury, then it is well worth paying the points penalty to replace him with another prolific goalscorer so that you can keep racking up the points.