Simon March won the worldwide Fantasy Premier League title in 2014/15 and provides regular tips and advice for Fantasy Football Scout readers.
The midway part of the season is as good a time as any to reflect on what’s worked and what hasn’t so far. Unfortunately, in my case, it’s mostly a case of the latter. Like many, I’m looking to get my season back on track and so this article will focus on how I plan to approach the second half of the season.
I’m currently ranked 335k with 1147 points. It isn’t a disastrous position to be in at this point of the season (there are still over 7.5 million other managers below me) but it’s well below the ‘Top 100k’ minimum target I usually set myself for the halfway stage.
What makes it feel worse is that I wasted my Triple Captain on Mohamed Salah (£12.5m) in Double Gameweek 19 and have also already used my Free Hit, two chips which have helped to bail me out of such positions in the past. I’m also wary of the fact that people above and below me will have both these chips to play and, thus, they have a pending advantage
What Hasn’t Worked
I’ve made a lot of the same mistakes that I often warn about in these articles. Firstly, I’ve allowed my real world club allegiances as a Chelsea supporter to influence my FPL decisions, mostly to my detriment. Timo Werner (£9.2m) has, somehow, managed to be an ever-present for me this season and I’ve also experimented with Hakim Ziyech (£8.1m) and Kai Havertz (£8.2m), none of whom have really delivered.
Werner’s omnipresence is partly due to bigger problems always existing elsewhere but, mostly, it’s because, when I watch Chelsea, I want a horse in the game. I definitely don’t want any part of me, however subconscious, hoping we don’t score.
But any truly rational FPL manager would have seen the mounting problems with Werner for what they were and cut ties long ago. Instead, it’s been the triumph of hope over expectation. The issue I have now, of course, is injuries elsewhere and Werner having a decent run of fixtures…
I also think that the fact I had a solid 5k finish last season has maybe freed me subconsciously to be a bit more relaxed and maybe even experimental with how I have approached this season. I’d also probably gotten too used to decisions paying off last season that I haven’t invested enough thought into them this season.
Leaning Too Much Into the Chaos
Secondly, this season has been chaotic for everyone and, while I can point to a couple of things in my own season that I think were particularly unfortunate, I have to admit that a lot of my problems were self-inflicted.
Rather than trying to find order in the chaos, I’ve leaned into it, trying to adopt an aggressive style of play that hasn’t really worked out. Early transfers have really cost me. Most notably by transfer-in of Villa and Newcastle players immediately before their fixture was called off, and jettisoning Son Heung-min (£9.7m) in Gameweek 4 on the news of his ‘long-term injury’ which, being charitable, turned out to be ‘pessimistic’ on behalf of Jose Mourinho. That decision alone cost me almost 30 points in just that one Gameweek, not to mention a wasted transfer to bring Son back later.
I’ve also taken five hits already this season which is probably more than I’ve taken in the past five seasons combined. Some have worked out but, overall, I’m in the red there.
Most of these problems can be solved by recalibrating my patience levels. I need to be less patient with underperforming players but more patient with the timing of my transfers. If I miss out on an opportunity because of price changes, I’ll just need to be creative and find another one. This season is already way too volatile to be adding to the chaos by inviting the risk of early transfers.
Too Much Tinkering
Finally, while we’re all on the back foot this season when it comes to transfers, my transfer history is beginning to look a little farcical. Of the 20 transfers I’ve made so far this season, almost half have involved Son or Kevin De Bruyne (£11.9m) and, sometimes, it’s just swapping back and forth between the two. It’s not too much in hindsight to say that I could have stuck with either (or both) this season and would probably have been better off.
My best seasons have always been built on four to five fairly consistent players who, once I’ve identified them, I try not to touch. The benefit of this approach, I find, is that, once you’ve established this core, you can use your transfers far more productively elsewhere, allowing you to build proactively and take advantage of form and fixture swings.
Of course, there are more challenges to this method than normal this season, but it’s something I think I need to try to get back to. Identifying them is the difficult part but Manchester United’s Bruno Fernandes (£11.3m) definitely appears to be one, Aston Villa’s Jack Grealish (£7.7m) is perhaps another and Son may be a third.
A Man City defender looks a sensible, maybe even ‘essential’ option and, then, I need to find a striker I can hang my hat on. As it stands, I have two forwards in Werner and Callum Wilson (£6.6m) who have one assist between them in the past six and only two goals (both from Wilson) since Gameweek 9.
West Ham’s Michail Antonio (£6.3m) has already come in and has done well and an injury-free Danny Ings at Southampton would be ideal. Alternatively, there are few more reliable options this season than Spurs’ Harry Kane if I can stretch that far price-wise.
Keep Calm and Carry On
Going forward, it’s important not to panic. If I’d scored an extra 2.2 points a Gameweek so far this season, I would be in the top 100k. If I can beat the 10k average by 5.2 points for the rest of the season, I could even make it in there. Maybe that’s a tall order, but it could also be just one or two good, consistent scorers added to the team, some good captain choices and a bit of luck away.
There is huge temptation in these moments to try and make the gap up all in one Gameweek with some massive differential captain choices. There are some FPL managers we know of who are very capable of doing this but I don’t think that’s my game unfortunately and, while I’m not exactly risk-averse, I can’t help thinking that I’m more likely to end up digging a bigger hole if I start down that route right now.
It’s also worth remembering that, if you are trying to chase down a rank or rival that is currently far ahead of you, they have their own challenges ahead of them. I’ve spoken previously of the ‘house money effect’; the psychological state that comes from being in a winning position and often leads to higher risk-taking or more relaxed decision-making. Rather than focusing on overtaking them, you might just need to put yourself in a position to take advantage when they slip up.
Finally, I’d encourage FPL managers who are not having the best of seasons so far not to despair but, instead, try and enjoy the process of getting their season back on track. My favourite season as an FPL manager was actually not the obvious one but, in fact, was a few years earlier in 2011/12 when I had a truly disastrous start to the season (I mean practically bottom of the whole world stuff) which went on for months. All my friends in my mini-leagues were making fun of me (yes, this is also my supervillian origin story) but, slowly over the course of the season, I managed to drag myself back into things, ended up winning my mini leagues and scored my first top 10k finish.
That was the season that I truly fell in love with FPL (and, indeed, when I discovered Fantasy Football Scout and the FPL community) and that really is why it’s fun; it’s not so much the winning, it’s the challenge. It’s the things that make you want to research the stats and plan out your transfer strategy. As Carlo Ancelotti once said “Pressure? Pressure is the engine of life.”
For me, nothing is off the table right now, including a Wildcard. Patience does not mean inaction and the thorough fixing of my team’s problems with a view to maximising its performance over the coming gameweeks could be just what I need to get my season back on track.
If fixtures, injuries and form suggest it could offer a long-term advantage, I could well be pushing the button ahead of Gameweek 20. Like everyone, I have an eye on the potential blank and double gameweeks coming but, also, I think that these past couple of weeks have illustrated that these aren’t necessarily reliable things to build your season around. The better play might be to just play what’s in front of us and roll with the punches when they come.
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