In part 2 of ‘Inside the Mind of the Number 1 FPL Manager’, myself and our good friend and 1 half of ‘Who Got The Assist’, Tom, look to analyse James Egersdorff’s responses from a psychological perspective, in an attempt to figure out just what sets him apart from everyone else
For a while now, I’ve personally been trying to figure out what exactly sets very good players and exceptional players, like James, apart.
I accept and understand that luck plays a significant part in FPL as it a game of probability, yet, I wondered, after seeing James’ overall rank finishes and that of others who’s overall rank finishes are consistently high, if it was a game of probability, how could anyone manage such consistently high overall rank finishes?
I regard myself as a decent FPL manager. Not spectacular, but I have a very good level of knowledge about FPL strategy and football in general, to get myself inside the top 3% consistently.
Last year was an anomaly for me, where it didn’t matter what I did, I just couldn’t call anything right, but usually, I finish within the top 3%.
My best finish was in 16/17 season with an overall rank finish of 11k, that year, James finished 105th in the world.
Today, I know as much as there is to know in terms of FPL strategy and football and my application of this knowledge is largely sound (of course this can’t be 100% accurately reflected), based on my memory.
Something must be missing in-between and if knowledge and the application of it isn’t the problem, the only thing left is who I am as a person. Do I have personality traits that pre-dispose my potential to go beyond a certain level in terms of overall rank? Does James possess personality traits that aid his ability to finish so consistently high?
I believe so, and using James’ answers to our interview questions, myself (degree in Psychology) and Tom (WGTA_FPL) , who worked previously as a behavioural science consultant, are going to explore to what extent this might be true.
Tom (WGTA): Self-Confidence & Resilience
Jay’s answers radiate self-confidence. This is particularly apparent in his answers regarding what differentiates the top 10k and the top 100k “having a strategy and the discipline to execute it”.
The certainty of tone that characterises Jay’s responses also shows this confidence. The ease of slipping between “I” (as in, “I think..”) and using “you” as a reflective device for getting his point across (e.g. Q4, “If you are well prepared and well researched then you’ll always stand yourself in good stead – the harder you work, the luckier you get”) demonstrates an (unsurprising) familiarity with being asked his opinion and speaking perhaps from a position of authority.
Informed by this confidence, his trust in his methods seem absolute: the claimed surprise at the notion of emotion-based rage transfers (Q6), which run contrary to his more rational approach, highlights this point.
This self-confidence may also help in the transfer decisions he makes: it seems they’re unrushed and full informed, versus those of us whom in the early days rush to grab rises. Being able to ignore that pull and trust in his plan conceivably cuts out a lot of “unforced errors” that those transferring in early sometimes make (e.g. buying Charlie Austin before a midweek injury).
Jay experienced a tough situation first hand by pioneering “Kanexit” around Christmas last season (Q1). However, he emerged from it to again record a strong OR in the top 5k when many would’ve been left doubting themselves, and their methods.
This kind of outcome despite a notable setback tends to be linked with resilience, which is a character trait all about survivability that correlates strongly with sustained success: for example, high-ranking people in the business world such as CEOs have been shown by various studies to have strong markers for this trait.
Pertinently for FPL, this trait of resilience, coupled with his evident self-confidence, may be what helps him year after year to achieve high ranks. The skill element for him lies in being able to absorb the emotional impact if decisions go against him and be able to stick to executing his strategy despite the inevitable external influences.
Simon (FPL Connect): Self-Discipline & Adaptability
Aside from self-confidence, as Tom rightly identifies, the other trait that jumps off the page to me, is his self-discipline.
Self-discipline is the ability to control one’s feelings and emotions. People who are self-disciplined, don’t need to be told what to do, they can make themselves behave in a particular way or work hard without anyone else providing structure for them.
Having self-discipline has been found in many studies to correlate positively with success. A study by Duckworth et al (2005) demonstrated that the key reason students weren’t able to realise their full intellectual potential, was down to them failing to exercise self-discipline.
It’s clear that James has approached FPL on his own and has tackled it with what he believes to be the best way to play the game, as he states himself, his strategy has largely, “Stayed the same…”.
Adding to that, his admission of having a strategy year on year is testament to his self-discipline and is further evidenced when he talks about the amount of information out there, “I think many FPL managers lack a clear strategy as a result of the vast amount of FPL information available nowadays.” – his ability to stick to his own strategy and block out the vast data of opinions and statistics available to us help keep his mind clear, in order to focus on the execution of his own strategy.
One trait I’ve always identified as a must-have for FPL, and anything in life in honesty, is adaptability – being able to change yourself or your approach to changing environments/circumstances in order to best suit.
James talks about this in abundance during the interview, demonstrating how this particular trait is key for success in FPL.
As the season progresses, things inevitably change. If you fail to adapt to these changes, then you will likely be left behind – what do you think happened to the neanderthals?
James recognises this, “The pace of the Premier League is very fluid, so you need to be able to write and re-write (and re-write again!) your strategy if required.” yet maintains an overall strategy – where he says “your strategy” in this particular passage, he’s talking about an overarching strategy that he maintains and rather than changing the core of this, it stays the same as whole but will be open to small changes in order to adapt to varying circumstances, like for example; more wing backs being used by Premier League managers – Jay may see the extra potential defenders like Alonso had in Conte’s system, and bring him in, despite perhaps having an overall strategy of spending a limit of X amount on defenders because they have a lower potential to score points that MIDs and FWDs.
James only concerns himself with what he can control, “There’s skill in enhancing the probability of your team doing well, there’s luck in transforming that probability into reality.” the more concerned we become over things we cannot control, the less we will do with the things we can control.
In other words, if you become exasperated with the fact that your captain let you down despite having great chances and you allow yourself to dwell on it, your mind then isn’t free to do something about the things you can control, like picking a captain for the following week, or making a transfer – there is no sense in being concerned with anything you can’t control.