FPL 2021/22: Challenging Popular Theories

In the following article, we discuss some of the more popular FPL theories and cliches. We assess if there is anything behind any of these commonly held beliefs, or if they are based mostly on opinion rather than fact. We also discuss examples of how bias can affect our planning and how to learn from mistakes.

We are at the stage of pre-season where many common “rules” and theories about gameweek one squads are being discussed on FPL Twitter.

These do’s and dont’s are often preached as unbreakable rules that simply must be followed if you are to get off to a good start. In this article I will explore whether they are backed up by data and horror stories from years gone by, or whether they are myths that are churned out annually without any evidence to support them.

“Don’t start with newly promoted players”

One of the most popular pre-season theories banded around in FPL circles is that you shouldn’t include newly promoted players in your GW1 squads. The thought process behind this rule is that because both the individual and the team are new to the Premier League, which is a big step up from the Championship, they are likely to struggle in the early weeks of the season as they adapt to the increase in pace and quality.

This theory certainly holds some weight. Fulham and West Brom, two of the newly promoted teams from last season, both struggled to make the step up from the Championship, with Fulham taking just one point from their opening six games and West Brom taking just three points from their opening six matches.

These teams scored very few goals and conceded many early in the season, which made them teams to avoid from an FPL perspective and vindicated the calls in pre-season to avoid their assets.

However, Leeds United, who were promoted alongside Fulham and West Brom, started the season like a house on fire and punished FPL managers who swerved them early on. The Yorkshire side took ten points from their opening six games of the 20/21 campaign, scoring an impressive 12 goals in the process.

Pool via REUTERS/Gareth Copley EDITORIAL USE ONLY.

The player that profited most from Leeds’ fast start was undoubtedly Patrick Bamford (£8.0m). Despite being priced at just £5.5m, the striker was initially overlooked by many FPL managers (including myself), because he was unproven at Premier League level.

He went on to smash in six goals in Leeds’ first six Premier League matches and became a mainstay in our FPL teams from that point onwards, ending the season with an impressive 17 goals and 194 FPL points.

I avoided Bamford at the start because both he and Leeds were unproven in the Premier League, which was perhaps fair enough.

However, my big mistake was that because I had convinced myself that he couldn’t be a consistent goalscorer at this level, I failed to adapt and bring him in after a couple of weeks. This meant that I missed out on numerous hauls, including a hat-trick at Aston Villa.

A lesson I learned is that no matter what pre-judgements you have about a newly promoted player or team (which often come from the media), you have to be open minded and form your opinion based on what you see on the pitch in the opening couple of weeks.

The case of Teemu Pukki (£6.0m) proves that a newly promoted player doesn’t have to play for a successful team in order to hit the ground running. The Norwich striker wrote his name in FPL folklore by scoring six goals in the Canaries’ opening five Premier League games, despite Norwich winning just one of those matches.

Although this is a statistical anomaly that is unlikely to be repeated, it shows us that it is possible for an individual to seamlessly make the jump from the Championship to the Premier League.

Overall, I would say that promoted players can offer something to FPL managers and certainly shouldn’t be completely disregarded ahead of GW1. We have seen numerous fast starts from newly promoted teams in the past and it would be foolish and stubborn to swerve their players because of a blanket theory that fails to analyse each individual player based on his merits and his drawbacks.

However, I also think that there is clear evidence to suggest that some promoted teams struggle to adapt to life in the Premier League early on and are best left alone from an FPL perspective, particularly defensively.

Rather than using a blanket policy and avoiding all newly promoted players, I believe that FPL managers should analyse them on a case-by-case basis. They should research the player and think about whether his game is likely to be suited to the Premier League, as they would with any other player.

“Pick multiple premium assets”

For those new to FPL, a premium asset is someone that is listed as one of the most expensive players in their position. For example, Trent Alexander-Arnold (£7.5m) is a premium defender and Mo Salah (£12.5m) is a premium midfielder.

Before GW1 every season, FPL managers are faced with the dilemma of how many premium options to include in their starter squads.

On paper, it seems most profitable to cram as many premium options into your team as possible. However, this can be to the detriment of your squad overall as you may be forced to field budget options because your budget is taken up by a few heavy hitters.

For example, a £12.0m midfielder and a £4.5m midfielder might not score as many points as an £8.0m midfielder and an £8.5m midfielder.

The main argument for including numerous premium assets in your team is that it provides you with multiple captaincy options. If you begin the season with just one premium asset, you will be forced to either hand him the armband in unfavourable fixtures or captain a non-premium option.

Captaining non-premium players can work, but it carries an element of risk as these players tend to be less reliable than premiums, hence their lower price tag.

Last season I fell into the trap of spreading my funds and rolling with just one premium midfielder, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (£10.0m). This backfired on me majorly as it meant that I left out Mo Salah in order to have what I thought would be a better overall squad.

The rest, as they say, is history. Salah scored a hat-trick in GW1 and it was incredibly difficult to bring him in because my funds were spread so much.

That strategy can work, of course. On some weeks your one premium option will be the standout captaincy choice and the rest of your team will be enhanced because your funds are spread. Your team will score well and you will feel like an FPL genius, whilst others with 2 or 3 big-hitters will score poorly.

However, premiums are premiums for a reason, because they tend to score the most points, and betting against the best players every week carries huge risk.

This pre-season, FPL managers will be pondering whether to include Bruno Fernandes (£12.0m) alongside Mo Salah, who will be a lock in most people’s teams.

My initial thoughts are that I will own both players in my GW1 squad. Although I intend to captain Salah for the majority of the first eight gameweeks, he has a couple of tricky fixtures where Bruno might be the better captaincy pick.

I also want to be flexible this season, and having a second premium option means it is easy to spread funds quickly if I need to. It is a lot easier to distribute funds early on than it is to try to find funds to bring in a premium, as I so painfully found out last season.

“Don’t start with new signings”

Simlarly to newly promoted players, new signings are often seen as players to avoid initially by many FPL managers, who take the view that it is best to observe how they settle in to their new environment before deciding whether to bring them into their FPL squad.

This is particularly the case for players who are coming from a different league as they may not settle in straight away, or they might not be suited to the pace of the Premier League.

I was burned at the start of last season by Chelsea’s two marquee signings of the summer, Kai Havertz (£8.5m) and Timo Werner (£9.0m).

Both players arrived in West London with impressive goalscoring records in the Bundesliga and were priced very generously by those at FPL Towers, which led me to take a risk and include both in my GW1 squad last season.

Both players struggled to adapt to life in the Premier League and proved to be disappointments from an FPL perspective, scoring just 219 points between them over the course of the 20/21 campaign. For context, Harry Kane (£12.5m) scored 242 points by himself in a Spurs side that finished seventh.

The case of Havertz and Werner is an important one now that Manchester United new-boy Jadon Sancho (£9.5m) is a consideration for our GW1 squads. The English winger also had a great record in the Bundesliga, notching 38 goals and 51 assists in 104 appearances at Borussia Dortmund.

It is entirely possible that Sancho transfers his talents from Dortmund to Manchester and hits the ground running at United, as his team-mate Bruno Fernandes did when he arrived from Lisbon in January 2020.

However, I think on this occasion I am going to swerve Sancho in GW1 and see how he performs in his first couple of games before deciding on whether to bring him in.

At £9.5m, he is at a tricky price-point and will be hard to replace if he doesn’t start well. On the flip side, he will also be pretty hard to reach without losing a premium if he does explode early on, which is why it is important to remain flexible and have a plan to bring him in if circumstances change.

Overall, I think it is fair to say I am now slightly wary of new signings. Although each individual case is different, it takes time for most players to settle in to their new surroundings, particularly if the transfer has involved a move away from family or to a completely new culture.

I would rather assess the player for the first two weeks and potentially miss out on a return in order to be sure I wanted him, rather than be lumbered with a player that is struggling to perform at his new club.

It will always be difficult to predict how a new player will perform. The likes of Salah, Michu and Papiss Cisse have notably started strong, but just as many have struggled to settle in quickly. More often than not it does take players time to settle in, as such showing caution is usually the right strategy.

More to come

We hope you enjoyed the article and hopefully it will help your planning ahead of the 2021/22 Fantasy Premier League season. We have plenty more lined up for pre season and will be publishing advice, team reveals and more strategy guides right up until the big kickoff.

Be sure to keep your eyes on the FPL Connect twitter page for all our latest releases, this season promises to be our biggest yet.

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