Luck in FPL?

If you’ve played fantasy sports for any period of time, one component of the game is luck. Sometimes overlooked or not give due credit, it’s one aspect that is dynamic and can’t be controlled by players, mangers or FPL bosses. Last week, I was “lucky” because I held Ryan Fraser and Callum Wilson, who combined for 18 points.  These two players had been moved on by over 791k managers over the previous three weeks.

To pick up green arrows over the entire festive period would have been lucky. Now, I haven’t heard of any FPL manager doing this, but rest assured were are some out there. With rest and rotation, as well as some underwhelming performances by premium players, this made for a very challenging period of the FPL season.

Scrolling through Twitter the other morning ran across a tweet from Chris #FPL (@FPL_FC), who posted “Hoping my luck can turn the next couple of GWs. Dreadful Festive Period for me.

His six week run looks similar to mine when to comes to the weekly battle of attempting to score enough points to receive that coveted, “green arrow.” Like Chris, I didn’t have the best festive period, recording weeks of 45 points, followed by 40 points, a season low,  which saw my overall rank (OR) plummet from a season high of 81k down to 162k by the end of game week 20.

Like many FPL managers, I’ve put together a strong team, with premium players across my starting XI. Those included in my starting XI, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Harry Kane, Leroy Sane, Marcos Alonso, Andrew Robertson and Virgil van Dijk. Transfers during this period saw Felipe Anderson, Paul Pogba and Richarlison make the starting XI. Through it all, there’s Fraser and Wilson, limited minutes, being rested and not returning.

Casey, @FPL_Tornado on Twitter offered sage advice, “A good chunk of FPL is luck, but also a lot of it is about how you handle bad luck. Don’t compound bad luck by making rash decisions.

What bothered me, after playing fantasy sports for 35 years, a comment coming from sp1jr, “fpl is not a luck game.” Really? Since when? What ensued were some interesting comments in support of the FPL not being partly decided by luck.

While ALL fantasy managers attempt to play pundit and read into press conferences and manager’s comments. No one really knows what’s going to happen when the whistle blows to kick off a new Premier League weekend.

Nick and Tom at Who Got The Assist said, “like real managers, we can’t do anything really once the players cross that white line – for us, the analogy is the lock in after the deadline. Luck invariably plays a huge role in FPL. The skill lies in managing your team throughout numerous situations to ensure you maximise your chances of getting lucky.”

Now, much of my previous experience has been playing fantasy NFL football, many of the principles that guide us are similar. Select players that are going to perform and make smart transfers. The bottom line is the same, score more points than your opponent. In August, 2011 I wrote a piece called “A Perfect Plan Does Not Exist” that talks about some of the same facets that face FPL managers.

When it comes to fantasy football, there is only one sure thing, it’s dynamic. You never know from week to week just how you are going to do. Sure the so-called “professionals” as some like to tab themselves can predict the outcome of games and even ballpark statistics. But until the game is played and the final whistle is blown, anything is possible.

That right there could be a definition of luck. All the preparation in the world, you can’t plan for what’s going to happen, good or bad. All fantasy managers look at trends, tear apart statistics using a variety of metrics and crunch numbers to help make informed decisions, in order to bring in players that could potentially return attacking points. Even the best options on paper could result in no return.

The problem isn’t that the fantasy game is completely devoid of skill. It’s that too many factors in the actual game of football work outside the control of a fantasy owner,” said Nando  Di Fino in his WSJ article in 2010.

There are random occurrences that happen each season in the Premier League. Fantasy managers must consider surprise elements, like Pep’s rotation, or a weekly presser that doesn’t mention a knock, a highly owned forward is carrying. Your luck can improve depending on your weekly transfers, but many managers base their selections off an array of data including form and fixture, as well as what has been seen on the pitch or heard in a presser. As sp1jr mentioned in his Chelsea example, using current information, Pedro injured, moved Eden Hazard wide, out of the false 9 and introduced Alvaro Morata as a central forward. Did that set Hazard up for failure? Did he just get unlucky against a weak Southampton team?

In conclusion, Brandon and Josh from Always Cheating, sum it up nicely, “the short answer is that it’s clearly both. It’s a bit like poker, if there wasn’t luck involved the data-driven crowd would simply clean up year in and year out, and that’s definitely not the case.

That said, I think people *way* underestimate the role of luck – they don’t blame bad luck enough when things go poorly, and don’t credit good luck enough when things go well  actually think people would enjoy the game more if they gave me credence to the importance of good luck – people get too mad when a transfer goes poorly even if it was by all accounts *the ideal transfer*.

Good luck with the remainder of the season.



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