FPL: A Look Ahead

I’ve listened to a number of season ending FPL podcasts the last week, as well as dropping Episode 39: Season Ender Bender of The Pitch & Pint Podcast. While we call it the “off season” and some managers may take a break, I am considering how to improve my game ahead of next season. I’ve heard a lot of “buzz words” comes across some of these pods, as well as listener comments on what to take away from our mistakes this season. I know my mistakes, while glaring, they aren’t something that can’t be corrected. As for next season, here are some thoughts as to my approach.

I expect some of these comments to end up in preseason articles, such as keys to success and possibly even a key metrics article. Strategy and planning are always important, but I don’t think you should get locked into anything, remain flexible. One of the most difficult attributes to master, patience. This practice lasted 34 weeks last season, before I lost my head and poor decision making led to my downfall to finish the season.

PLANNING & STRATEGY

This will be the start of my seventh season participating in FPL, aside from the 2015/16 season, a 75k finish, the 2018/19 season was the first time I felt a genuine improvement over the previous season. That might have something to do with being active in the FPL community, on Twitter, writing for multiple websites and producing/hosting The Pitch & Pint Podcast. The jury is really out until the end of next season and the possibility of improving on my finish of 31k this season.

Every new season starts with planning and strategy. That doesn’t include the countless RMTs you see on forums and Twitter. In fact I find them a waste of time, especially early on, knowing your 15-man squad will change over the weeks leading up to the opening kickoff. Last season planning began in July with five different teams using different formations and concentrating on different positions.

Like other FPL managers, I had a “Beautiful Mind” spreadsheet I would work on every day, projecting over the entire 38-week season, but broken down into manageable blocks by international breaks and domestic cup competitions. The double and blank game weeks were separate block of time, starting with the activation of my second wild card.

Benjamin Franklin said, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail,” which something commonly heard when we look back on why we failed. Without a plan are you setting yourself up to encounter errors, delays and potentially the waste of a free transfer, chip or wild wcard. A plan will help to keep you organized and effectively achieve goals. Planning helps fulfill the following:

  • Gives a sense of direction. Without plans and goals, many FPL managers react to occurrences in FPL, without long term considerations.
  • Focuses attention on short term goals. Plans keep FPL managers focused on anticipated results, keeping sight of the goal also provides motivation.
  • Helps anticipate problems and cope with change. Plans can help forecast potential problems, such as bye weeks, heavy periods of scheduling and possibly injuries. While we can’t truly plan for injuries, having possible replacements aids in a smoother transition.
  • Provides guidelines for decision making. Decisions are future oriented. No planning means there will be few guidelines for making decisions. Transfers are the weekly decisions. Do I roll my FT, allowing for more flexibility in another week or burn it this week to chase a hot player?

REMAIN FLEXIBLE

Even with the best plans or best looking spreadsheet, FPL managers should remain flexible all season. No plan is that good there won’t be changes as the season moves forward. Injuries and rotation are two of the biggest variables when it comes to planning and being flexible.

Take Pep Guardiola at Man City, FPL managers were sometimes weary of buying City players because of his penchant for rotation. There were nine players who played 30 or more games on the season:

  • 38 games/169 points/4.4 PPG – Ederson
  • 36 games/154 points/4.2 PPG – Bernardo Silva
  • 35 games/177 points/5.1 PPG – Aymeric Laporte
  • 34 games/234 points/6.9 PPG – Raheem Sterling
  • 33 games/150 points/4.5 PPG – Kyle Walker
  • 33 games/201 points/6.1 PPG – Sergio Aguero
  • 33 games/143 points/4.3 PPG – David Silva
  • 31 games/113 points/3.6 PPG – İlkay Gündoğan
  • 31 games/156 points/5.0 PPG – Leroy Sané

FPL managers can be scared into transfers because of rotation. Injuries are part of the game we can’t predict. We are aware of players who are injury prone; Jack Wilshere, Andy Carroll, Aaron Ramsey, Vincent Kompany. While we might not want to avoid them, we are weary of drafting them into our squad and must keep a contingency handy, should they come up lame.

In the 2018/19 season, I worked backwards once the doubles and blanks were confirmed and started my late season plan ahead of GW26. I built my BGW31 using free transfers, activating my triple captain chip and activated the free hit chip for GW32. GW33 reverted  to my BGW31 team with one free transfer. I then activated the second wild card for DGW34 and bench boosted in DGW35.

Coming off a run of four green arrows from GW30 to GW33, I should have changed my plan, as my players were in form, green arrows were plentiful and I was just outside the top 10k. Instead of “being flexible” and maybe a bit stubborn I held to my plan and posted my second lowest score of the season, just 45 points. I felt I was learning yoga the following week, dropping a 16-point hit in an attempt to recover from a poor wild card. That resulted in a further drop that I was unable to recover from.

PATIENCE

Over the course of the season there are many buzz words and phrases that pop up, seemingly over used at times. “Underlying statistics” was one of those phrases last season, as Mo Salah was always near the top of the statistics, but the bottom line, he wasn’t scoring at the rate we saw the previous year. “Swords vs shields” was another I never bought into, as it relates to playing it safe or taking a risk.

Patience, “the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset.” This was one of those words that many managers were unable to practice. This was a difficult part of my season to control. Through the first half of the season I measured patience on two factors. First, the number of times I rolled my free transfer, second, the number of hits I took.

If we go back to preseason and our planning, we hope to have a starting XI that produce points in order to establish a good OR early in the year. This could potentially impact our patience both positively, by roll transfers, running with an in form team but also negatively, as we might be quick to pull the trigger on a non-performer.

Through 19 weeks I rolled my weekly free transfer seven times, recording just four green arrows when I did. Any correlation? Not really.  I took just two hits for 8 points in GW15 that resulted in 67 points and a green arrow. Over the next 13 weeks (to GW20) I rolled my free transfer just four times, which resulted in three green arrows.

The season fell apart coming off the second wild card (45 points), taking five hits for 20 points in the last four weeks of the season. Combined with my weekly performance, I finished the season with four out of five red arrows, dropping some 20k!

Had I not been bullish and changed my late season plan, results could have been different. For example, GW34, had I not activated the wild card and continued with the same in form players, it would have resulted in an additional 14 points, for a weekly score of 58 points, four points over the weekly average, which could have changed that red arrow to green, having a positive impact.

I don’t feel patience can be defined by a period of time. Some quote 3-4 games to judge the form of a player. Early in the season, I don’t believe we should be chopping and changing players weekly, especially if you start off with a strong starting XI that’s scoring points. If that means eating a free transfer, then by all means do it! Rolling the free transfer is probably more advisable, to allow more options, having multiple transfers.

BUILDING A GW1 STARTING XI

Since the end of the season, I’ve looked back on the GW1 squad I built and continually ask myself one question. Why?

Why did I decide to start with these eleven players? A team that was defensively strong (Mendy, Robertson, Luiz) but featured no Man City attackers and no starting premium forward (Arnautovic & Zaha). It featured a newly promoted midfielder (Cairney), three proven premium midfielders (Salah, Eriksen, Sanchez) and Groß, coming off a great first season (164 points) in the Premier League.

Looking back, we can see some questionable players in my starting XI? The 2019/20 season will be a chance to redeem myself at the start of the year by building a stronger team of players, some of which I look to own all season long. Last season, just Robertson lasted 38 weeks on my team, he could potentially be the first name on the team sheet to start this season. Looking at the big picture, scores of 67 points and 66 points weren’t poor scores over the first two weeks, but did result in a red arrow GW2, being 6 points over the weekly average.

Getting off to a strong start is one of the top priorities this coming season, more then planning, remaining flexible and practicing patience. While each of those are key, putting the best XI on the pitch should ensure you a strong start with more managers under you, then above you. The remaining pieces will fall into place.

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