What Ingredients are Necessary in Order to Make a Good Start in FPL?
Getting off to a good start isn’t everything and it’s certainly not absolutely essential for a successful season in FPL however, it 100% helps and it certainly did for me in the 16/17 campaign and the previous (18/19) season.
The 16/17 season was the first time I managed a good start (8k overall rank after GW3 and 57k overall rank after GW10) and I finished with an overall rank of 11k having never been ranked lower than 210k overall all season.
Last season I was ranked 15k after GW8 and finished 83k overall, similarly not being lower than 235k all year.
When I began to take this game seriously (2012-13 season), I found I was always starting just okay, probably around the 1 million mark if my memory serves me correctly.
I fundamentally believe, that there’s a certain point in FPL where the best players begin to find their feet and have adjusted successfully to the rigours of the new campaign. Once that point has passed, it becomes very difficult to manoeuvre your way up the ranks, not impossible, but extremely tough.
We can use Formula 1 (F1) as an analogy:
Before each race, they have a qualifying session to determine the starting order for the official race. Whoever begins the official race at the front, has a better chance of winning the race. So, imagine that the beginning of the FPL season is like that qualifying session, a quick lap or in FPL terms, a good start, can put you in a great position for the official race, or the rest of the season in FPL terms.
If you have an average or poor qualifying lap, then it means you’re lower down the pack and have got to overtake the better drivers, and if you know F1 well, once the better drivers get into their rhythm, they are extremely difficult to get past – same applies in FPL.
I’ve used a small sample from the ‘FantasyFootballScout’ league from the 16/17 campaign which, of course, won’t be entirely representative of the entire FPL population, but will give us a good indicator of what contributes to a good start and how long it takes the top FPL managers to get into their rhythm. I’ve taken the top 20 managers in that league, with Mark Sutherns and myself there for comparison, and recorded data on how they started overall rank wise. Here’s what that looks like:
This small sample serves to prove my theory about a certain point, where the best managers come to terms with the new season with 91% of the managers in this sample getting inside the top 100,000 of overall managers (4.5m) by gameweek 10.
By roughly gameweek 4-6, these managers will have gathered enough information about formations, line-ups and players to make the most informed decisions and will have likely formed a template squad using the 1st WC.
If you are still a fair way off the top 100,000 overall managers at gameweek 10 then it is fairly unlikely that you’ll overtake them by the end of the season.
Again, it’s not impossible, but it becomes so much more difficult after this point. I don’t have the data to prove a correlation but I would hypothesise that, the longer the season runs, the harder it is to move up in overall rank – based on the logic that the longer the season runs, the more information we have available to us and the more information we have, the easier things are to predict when it comes to formations, line-ups and players/teams performance.
So How Can I Start Well?
Well it’s not a precise science I’m afraid to say but, there are certain things you can do to help give you the best chance to start well.
As shown in my little analysis of the top 20 managers in the ‘FantasyFootballScout’ league, 77% of that sample used their 1st Wildcard in gameweek 6 or before.
The logic here is that, everyone accepts that the beginning (GW1-GW3) is pretty much a lottery in terms of knowing with 100% certainty of a particular player starting or what formation will be used by a team and where a player will play in that formation. You choose as best you can, based on the information from last season and your own research.
At about gameweek 4, there is enough information available to us about players, systems and teams to know who’s nailed on, who is/isn’t playing well and around that point, it makes sense to use our first wildcard to structure the team in accordance with the new information that’s available – it’s up to you to physically find the information however!
Pre-season and Transfers
Doing research on pre-season and following the transfers, as well as new managers coming in, is another way to give yourself the best chance of starting well. It takes time and effort but if you want to succeed in this game, that’s what needs to be done and be assured, the top managers will be doing this!
It’s virtually impossible to start well with absolutely no attention paid to what the Premier League clubs are up to in pre-season.
When we pick players, we need to be assured that they will 100% start the majority of the games we have brought them in for.
With all the transfers that clubs will make, this has implications for not just other players but, potentially for the way a team plays too. A new manager coming in may change things also, for example; the new manager simply may not like a particular player or may change the system, thus forcing a player out of the starting eleven etc.
All that, needs to be considered when choosing our team however, pre-season can provide a false sense of security at times with reference to a player’s form, the formation of a team or a player starting all the pre-season games.
It doesn’t mean that, just because a striker scored 5 goals in 3 friendlies that he will start the season in the same vein. It doesn’t mean that, just because a team used a 4-3-3 formation 3 friendlies in a row that they will use the same system in the Premier League. It needs to be taken with a pinch of salt – yes keep an eye on it, but don’t take it as an absolute guarantee.
I actually beat 17 of the 21 managers in that sample with my GW1 score. This was down to a mix of keeping faith in the tried and trusted assets (Agüero), prior season knowledge (Foster – the Pulis effect) and my research of pre-season and transfers (Ibrahimovic, Negredo and Redmond).
Like a few other FPL managers, I had found out that Claude Puel mentioned that he might use new boy Redmond as a striker. In his first game he did, and Redmond scored and got 3 bonus – a fine example of how paying attention and doing research in pre-season can pay off.
Playing the Percentages
Season (17/18), was undoubtedly a shocker for me and I firmly believe that me not starting well, was a prime contributor to my overall poor finish (706k). After GW6, I was languishing at an overall rank of circa 3.2m!
Within that, Kane starting poorly and not owning Lukaku were major factors that contributed to my poor start.
I made the reasonable argument, that Jesus would prove either better or equal value to Lukaku in the first 6/7 GWs (and around GW6, Jesus was actually better value) however, because I trusted Kane with the armband in 4 of the first 5 GWs (who didn’t return in any GW I had the captaincy on him) and I didn’t own Lukaku (who was owned by over 50% of the game and captained well in this period), I dropped like a rock, with the rest of my team not doing enough to stop the fall.
So for me, a crucial part of, perhaps not starting really well, but rather preventing you starting way at the back, is to ensure you have a number of well-owned players, in this case, Liverpool defence (Alisson 33%, Van Dijk 43.6%, Robertson 36% and Alexander-Arnold 29.1%).
Additionally, and speaking about captains, if you own Salah (37% owned currently but likely to rise) and captain him with the rest, you may not outscore the majority by a large margin, but by doing this, what you do ensure, is that you don’t fall in overall rank by a large margin if you don’t own him, captain someone else, and he fails to deliver.
The Tried and Trusted
Going back to 16/17, whilst I kept faith, and successfully, in the tried and trusted Agüero, the previous season’s boy-wonder Alli, let me down to begin with, surprisingly being left out of the team in GW2 – this put me off him and I got rid on my WC.
Despite him actually scoring a few after that – to my frustration – it probably turned out to be the right move as his game time was managed around the Champions League group stages before exploding into life in GW17.
If we take the 17/18 season too, Kevin de Bruyne had finished the previous season with 199pts and 21 assists and with City’s fantastic opening fixtures, featured in a lot of FPL managers’ squads, yet failed to deliver in the first 3 gameweeks and with a significant % of our budget (£10.5m) tied up in the Belgian, it was enough to signal a mass exodus.
So whilst it’s important to consider those that were brilliant last season, it doesn’t always mean they will start off amazing in the new season.
In 16/17, I brought in 5 new transfers into my team for gameweek 1. I got a total of 29pts from those 5 players with the unfortunate Ayew picking up a bad injury after just 34 minutes and Mandanda surprisingly not being in the first eleven.
Ayew had pedigree in the Premier League and I was confident that form could translate to West Ham and still maintain that he would however, his injury served a timely reminder that they can occur at any moment.
Ibrahimovic was someone I knew a lot about, through him being one of my favourite players and me watching him a lot at PSG.
I knew that despite his age, his mental toughness and ego, as well as his ability to keep himself fit would ensure regular starts and his ability would result in goals. Having this knowledge, helped me make the choice and justified his heavy price tag ensuring that I would benefit from his good start.
So long as you do the relative research on the new players, there’s nothing wrong with bringing them in for your gameweek 1 squad. In this case, it certainly worked well for me.
Some players transition to the Premier League like duck to water (Ibrahimovic), others don’t (Mkhitaryan), you can’t possibly predict that with any certain degree of certainty.
I would advise not to let that deter you from a new signing however, be wary of it of course, but don’t let that be the sole factor stopping you bringing a player in.
Doing the extra research and keeping an eye out for new developments really helped me out in terms of starting well in gameweek 1, but it did also lead to a frustrating and disappointing time when it came to Redmond thereafter.
Having opened with a brilliant 10 point haul, Redmond went on to blank 6 times in a row, a period in which I kept faith in him, given that he was a midfielder playing as a striker at such a lovely price (£6.0m) in a decent team.
If presented with the same information ahead of the new season about a player around that same price however, I would still bring him in because the potential for good returns and the logic, was there.
Despite it ultimately ending in disappointment, he was only £6.0m and there’s only so many options in that price bracket.
Regardless of how much research you do, you’re still never going to be able to predict all those team sheets to a 100% degree of accuracy on the first day. There’s always a few shocks.
The best way to combat this is to ensure, to the best of your knowledge, that your bench are nailed-on to start, as much as one physically can.
Don’t have any unnecessary risks. This greatly contributed to my gameweek 1 score, with the absent Mandanda being replaced by Foster who scored me a massive 10 points.
Where some might call that luck, I call it well prepared, as I knew Foster was WBA’s first choice keeper and that WBA, under Pulis, always had a chance for a clean sheet.
And last but not least, a bit of luck never hurt anyone!
The game is predominantly skill based, but we can’t deny that luck, over the short term, plays a significant role.
If you want to make a good start, you need Lady Luck to be on your side!
However, following all the above logic and doing the relevant research will ensure you limit the probability of getting ‘unlucky’ – that is where the skill lies.