A Dummies Guide to Fantasy Premier League Success

Want to know what it takes to achieve FPL success? Our stat man Brian, takes you on journey from FPL inexperience, to FPL success: Follow this dummies guide and you won’t go far wrong

This article is intended to guide FPL managers who are inexperienced, into consistently good performers.

As with all dummies guides, the dummy is the person doing the writing – the person who has spent an age floundering until a lightbulb moment thrust them into self-confidence and clarity.

But guess what? In FPL, nobody is ever truly happy all of the time (just follow the cranky f*****s on Twitter and you’ll see). The better you get the more average you’ll feel, but this is important, because it can breed a desire to improve however, it can also breed a desire to quit – don’t be a quitter.

If you take anything from this article, make it ‘don’t quit’ – quitting at any point and trying again next season is experience lost, no matter how bad things are, play on, gain experience and be more prepared for next season.

FFS … even if you transfer your entire squad-out for 56pts hits, just to give you a team you’re going to enjoy managing, do it and forget your overall rank and set yourself a points-per-week target to strive towards – it is better than quitting.

Also, in the last 8 weeks, people can gain millions of places – literally (but not with 56pt hits) – because blank gameweeks, double gameweeks and saved chips can catapult you beyond… well, the quitters. And trust me, a 100K finish despite being at 1M after 30 weeks feels damn good. So good you’ll want to write a dummies guide.

THE PLAN

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There are two massive mistakes you can make in FPL (apart from quitting):

  1. Playing without a strategy
  2. Sticking stubbornly to a plan

We’ve all been there at either end of the scale: feeling like the unlucky maverick who cannot catch a break, or waiting faithfully for the statistically “inevitable” regression-to-the-mean that never happens (players known as trolls in FPL Twittersphere).

And yes, on the odd occasion, we’ve all been there and capitalised from both approaches. But the truth is that the consistently-good manager sits somewhere in the middle – being flexible enough to react to changing situations while broadly sticking to a plan.

The plan is important in two respects, firstly:

  • A good plan looks forward, even just 2-3 weeks, to maximise points and reduce the amount of points-hits you need to take.

Tom Campbell (@UtterlyTC) on the end-of-season Fantasy Football Surgery (@FF_Surgery) podcast said that last season, he too often transferred-out a poor performer just before a prime fixture and suffered as result – a little more forward looking consideration would have seen him hold on for another week.

In other words, if Harry Kane is misfiring (a prime asset who ties-up 12-13% of your budget), you need to get rid, but perhaps not before a fixture against a leaky defence.

Conversely, you might not own Kane because he has a number of back-to-back fixtures against stubborn defences, but if he has a run against easy defences in a few weeks time, have you A.) looked forward and recognised this; and B.) do you have a transfer plan to minimise hits to bring him in (assuming it is your plan to do so)?

Beyond this, the flexibility element comes into play, where you might have decided to bring-in Kane for the easy run of fixtures, but cometh the hour, there are rumours he has a sniffle – do not feel obliged to execute the plan you have spent weeks masterminding. If you feel he is not worth the risk – re-plan and move on.

Secondly:

  • Any plan, good or bad, enables you to learn from your mistakes.

The easiest way to explain this is by considering the alternative.

Using captain choice as an example, and through no logic other than how you are feeling an hour before the deadline, you pick the most popular choice one week; and the next week you pick the most expensive player; and the week after you pick a player with the best fixture. If all three weeks yield no points, how can you know where you are failing? Or even, if all three yield points, you’ll not know why you are succeeding and indeed how you repeat it moving forward.

Work out a strategy to back your decisions and put some logic behind it – write it down perhaps, and once the points are in, challenge your strategy and logic to see if they hold true.

For example, you choose Salah as captain because he regularly gets big chances and is on penalties; IF he gets no big chances across several games or IF someone else takes the penalty, you need to question your reasoning; BUT if he has many big chances and doesn’t score, your reasoning hangs true.

You might want to question whether his ability to convert them is waning; BUT let’s say you watched the game and this was due to a series of world-class saves from the keeper, your reasoning still hangs true. You didn’t make a mistake – you were genuinely unlucky.

Plan

Plan – define your strategies; Do – execute your plan; Check – validate your reasoning; Act – Change your approach based on successes and failures, then go back to defining your strategies.

Note that the examples in this section have covered transfers, taking hits, how you spend your money, picking players to target easy fixtures, picking players with good underlying stats, understanding set-piece takers, captain choices and watching games – strategy is not just about when you are planning to wildcard or use your chips – strategy is about each and every feature of FPL, and indeed football.

You should have several strategies in play at any one time, but try your best to keep it simple and enjoy the game.

GAMBLE SMART

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It is important that we address this, following the lecture on the need to plan, strategise and generally be the FPL equivalent of parking-the-bus. Because FPL is a game of chance, as Jay Egersdorff says in his youtube 17/18 GW27 Preview, ‘we must make decisions based on the highest probability of an outcome’. But what does this mean to the consistently-good manager?

Balancing risk and reward needs to be considered from two perspectives, firstly…

Assessing which players are most likely to score good points in the coming weeks

‘The coming weeks’ is probably the most important consideration in this statement because every player has a higher probability of scoring FPL points over a number of Gameweeks, as opposed to just one week. So, bringing in a player for a number of Gameweeks is lower risk than bringing him in for just one (conversely, the rewards of successfully cherry-picking players for one-off’s can be massive – but high risk).

Assessing which players are most likely to score good points varies a lot across FPL managers, but generally speaking the better managers tend to be consistent about:

  • Fixtures – does a player have a good run of easy fixtures, from which they are more likely to score FPL-points, or is a player fixture proof (he can score FPL-points against any opposition).
  • Talismen – who is the main FPL-points scorer at any given club. For example, last season, why would you own Mané or Firmino instead of the talisman Salah? Did you consider Groß, who is central to everything good Brighton do going forward?
  • 90 mins – just like there is a greater probability a player will score FPL-points over a number of Gameweeks, there is a greater probability he will score FPL-points if he plays the full game (but granted, some players buck the trend, Sterling springs to mind).
  • Underlying stats – judging how well a player or team is performing, based on their stats. Do their stats suggest they are likely to continue their good form, or pull out of a slump etc (there will be exceptions but it’s largely acceptable to put these down to luck).
  • The eye test – judging how well a player or team is performing, based on watching the game or highlights. Do you think they are likely to continue their good form, or pull out of a slump etc (be mindful that form over a few games is important).

Note that the key theme running through this is about one eye on the future, the fixtures, and one eye on the past, the previous performances. This is because we cannot predict the future, but we can look at future indicators and make a judgement-call as to whether past events are likely to repeat.

For example, last season, Sterling had averaged 5pts per week in the first 7 weeks and in the next 3, Man City were to play Stoke and Burnley at home and West Brom away. Even these simple indicators suggested his form could repeat and indeed, he went on to score 22pts across the 3 games!

Our second perspective would be…

Judging which players are better value for money

Solely following the advice from point 1 (who is most likely to score good pts), would see you trying to select 15 awesome players, but at £50M over budget – the computer will say no.

So we need to add an extra dimension to the risk versus reward analysis and throw in a value for money sensibility check. Put simply, you have a budget and you want to maximise your FPL-points returns across every £0.1M spent.

My guidance on a good strategy to start with, is to consider 7pts as a good return (4ts for a goal or clean-sheet and 3 bonus pts) and use the following simple formula to determine what you should expect from a player:

Price ÷ 0.2 = % returns

For example, a £14M player ÷ 0.2 = should give you a 7pt return 70% of the time. In other words, he should average 4.9 points per game (7pts × 70%) – 6.9pts including his appearance points.

Forget that midfielders earn 5pts for a goal, and defenders earn 6pts and also forget the 2 appearance pts because any player can achieve this regardless of price… just stick to the simple formula to judge how to spread your money. But does it work?

Your first-11 hitting the returns target could achieve an average of 29pts per week – that is 51 including appearance points! But wait a minute, because that’s not all … if you add additional points for your captain, chips and solid navigation of blank and double gameweeks, you’ve got a decent score.

Last year’s winner, Yusuf Sheikh averaged 66pts per week; and to get in the top 10k you would have needed 61pts per week (ie 51pts PLUS captain points, chips and solid navigation of blank and double gameweeks can get you there).

So applying the formula is a sound approach to becoming a consistently-good performer.

All of this means that when making your selection decisions, try to objectively estimate the probable FPL-points returns in the coming weeks and sign the players who are the best value for money, then track each players FPL points to check they are returning as per THE PLAN.

Risk
The consistently-good manager balances risk and reward.

Using the Sterling example, we were expecting at least 3pts per game from his next 3 fixtures, based on his performance to date (less his appearance pts) and the upcoming “weaker” opposition. His value at the time was £7.9M which means we would want 7pts 40% of the time, which is 2.8pts per week – so because we were expecting at least 3pts per week he looked like value for money. And indeed, he returned a 5.3pts average (the 22pts less appearance pts!).

By following this approach, you will learn some things you hadn’t known previously: you will realise that some low-value players return well (relative to their value – where previously you might have got frustrated by perceived low returns) and you will also realise that some high-value players might return regularly, but are poor value for money.

In the Sterling example, he was rested for 1 of those 3 games, so sometimes rotation is not a thing to be feared provided you are still getting value for money.

BUT finally – DO spend your budget – leaving money in the bank, or even on your bench, is surrendering points. You are better off with a poor value for money player, who is outscoring the cheaper value-for-money player, than leaving money in the bank.

Simple? Well, the one caveat to all of this section, is the captain choice:

  • You might fix your selection on a player who is not such good value for money but is close to guaranteed points returns every week – low risk low reward.
  • You might fix your selection on a player who can go weeks without scoring but scores big when he does – medium risk medium reward.
  • You might rotate your captain choice each week trying to navigate the fixtures and land the big FPL-points returns – high risk high reward.

These are some strategies to name but a few, and you need to decide what strategy works best for you. This might depend on factors like; where you are positioned in your mini-leagues versus the targets you have set yourself; or just simply based on your personal enjoyment of the game.

All you need to remember, is that your captain gets double points – so his value bears no relevance on the decision – all you should care about is how to maximise your points over the course of a season – risk and reward.

TIMING

Timing is everything.

Shark

Are you a shark or a fish?

Innovators – these are the guys who owned Salah from week 1. They saw something in him during pre-season and decided he was a must-have.

If you are not very good at this don’t worry, you don’t need to be. If you are very good at this, I’m astonished and inclined not to believe you (for if you throw enough arrows one will eventually hit). This is a very high-risk strategy – selecting unproven players and quite frankly it is low reward (such are peoples success rates in general).

Early adopters – these are the guys who either; realised people were gambling on Salah from week 1 and were watching him closely or, they also saw him in pre-season but decided to wait and see whether his form carried into the season. They had seen his early stats and watched him play and realised he was getting a lot of big chances and missing most of them, but believed he was still worth the risk.

If you are not very good at this, worry a little. Try following a lot of FPL twitter accounts and listen to a number of FPL podcasts. You’ll see and hear plenty about the players people are debating, ‘is it too early or not?’.

Then research, watch them play, look at their stats, judge their value for money and make your mind up for yourself. equally important is to assess your team.

Early majority – these are the guys who either waited to see if Salah’s form sustained, perhaps they were worried about his missed chances or the possibility of rotation, or they just woke up and smelled the coffee.

If you are not very good at this, worry a lot. Failure to recognise a cash cow in the early majority is going to severely hamper your chances of FPL success. Again, follow a lot of FPL twitter accounts and listen to FPL podcasts. You’ll see and hear plenty of people calling out these players as ‘must-haves’ but again, do your research and assess your team – if you are not signing these players at this stage, the only valid excuse is that the rest of your team is performing better without them.

Across this section, Salah has been used as the example and in hindsight, it is easy to say it was obvious that we should have been on him early, but you must remember, that for every Salah there are many Morata’s, where the innovators and early adopters did well, but the early majority were burned.

Do your own research and discover your own methods to sort the wheat from the chaff.

Also, this concept is not unique to players new to the Premier League. It might be about players who are new at a club, or playing in a new position, or simply emerging out of a spell of poor form into something special. Always be on the look out for what the innovators and early adopters are doing and get on board quickly if it is right for your team.

However, be mindful that the life-cycle of player FPL-form is often short, particularly compared to Salah who lasted the entire season. It could be as short as 4-5 weeks.

So by the time the laggard in week 5 jumps on him, he might have already missed the purple patch. Assessing historical fixture difficulty versus future is a good way to safeguard against this – if a player has had his purple patch versus the bottom 3 and plays the top 3 next, accept that you’ve missed-out and move on.

Finally, when assessing your success rates (as per THE PLAN), remember that you’ll win some decisions and lose many – don’t dwell on the losses!

Just try to focus on improving your win ratio. Also, take solace that many of your losses will be matched by your opponents (therefore nothing really lost).

Most importantly, remember that folks don’t necessarily broadcast their bad decisions – ie if there are many around you declaring success rates that feel far greater than your own, recognise that they aren’t telling you about their failures, which are likely to be as bad as or even worse than your own.

THE DUMMIES PLEDGE

Well that’s the end of the guide. If you find yourself languishing in the murky depths of overall ranking, jump on board and try to implement some of the advice in this article.

You might think it is all a lot of hard-work and you don’t have time – well it can be – but it doesn’t have to be – there are plenty of people out there offering great advice and filling the research gaps that you don’t have time to fill.

Podcasts – listen to them in the bath or on your commute to work – the following are probably the best places to start in my humble opinion (but there are plenty more out there so find a few that suit you best):

  • Fantasy Football Surgery (link provided in ‘the plan’ section) – different guests every week to diversify how you might think about the game.
  • The Fantasy Football Scoutcast (@FFScout) – just about every player you will want to consider pro’d and con’d every week.
  • Who Got The Assist (@WGTA_FPL) – great discussion and plenty of statistics to sink your teeth into.

Twitter – follow accounts and gain access to literally 1,000s of opinions, but there are a few that across them that offer shortcuts to most research needs, other than ourselves of course (@FPL_ Connect):

  • @FPL_Guidance and @FFAnalysts_Nick – high quality articles who write about a variety of different topics.
  • @BenDinnery – Live injury updates if you can’t wait for our press conference round up.
  • @UtterlyTC – Match of the Day summary if you haven’t had time to catch it or the missus won’t let you.
  • @BenCrellin – Blank and Double Gameweek analysis and spreadsheets to help navigate these crucial periods.

Youtube – if you prefer to watch and listen, as opposed to listen or read – and again there are many – but these are a good place to start IMO:

  • @LetsTalk_FPL – tends to be ahead of the game, talking the hot-topics as and when they happen
  • James Egersdorff (@JEgersdorff) – short but sweet weekly insights into the thinking of one of the best

So with all that in mind… the Dummies Pledge:

We are not going to quit. Experience will only make us better in the future and by not quitting, we get chance to capitalise from the quitters.

Cogs

Turning any one cog has an equal and opposite reaction on the next. All three components are crucial to becoming a consistently-good FPL manager.

THE PLAN: We have a plan, but we’re willing to re-invent the plan if circumstances warrant it. We are also going to validate our performance versus the plan and make that one indicator, that will guide us as to whether to change direction or stay on course. Plan-Do-Check-Act.

GAMBLE SMART: We are going to select players who have the right fixtures; and/or are their teams tallismen; and/or are nailed-on to start 90mins; and/or have great underlying stats; and/or who have looked good options when you’ve watched them play. We also going to strive for value for money to maximise the points returns per £0.1M spent. We consider risk and reward in everything we do.

TIMING: We are going to try to time all of this, to onboard players towards the start of good form, to get a steal on our opponents and try to jump off players as form dips, to get a steal on our opponents. We want to be sharks not fish.

This article was written by @fantfoottipster – follow him on Twitter for more interactions about FPL and other great content. Following on from this excellent advice, read our tips on how to get off to a good start here, and ensure you don’t get cut adrift from the beginning >> What Contributes To A Good Start In FPL 

PPP

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