It’s the end of gameweek 1 in the 2018/19 season and my gameweek/overall rank is 33,602. My team has scored 95 points – 20 points more than Adam Levy’s team, the eventual winner of FPL. I am giddy. I have achieved the coveted, much sought-after “strong start”. I am even briefly entertaining thoughts of winning the whole thing. Such hope. Such optimism.
This was my third season playing FPL and after finishing 5,042 in the first season and 20,822 in my second, I thought I had this FPL lark sussed. Little did I know that, fast forward 38 gameweeks, and my overall rank for the season would be forever etched in stone as 506,041. I didn’t even make it into the top half a million. My gameweek 1 rank of 33,602 would be my highest rank of the entire season and it would never be bettered.
Gameweek after gameweek, it felt like I was spiralling down a big black hole and it wasn’t until 5pm on Sunday, May 12th that this season finally had mercy on me and spat me out, dishevelled, distressed and thoroughly downbeat. But where exactly did it all go so disastrously wrong? And how can other FPL managers avoid my annus horribilis? Let’s look at my 4 biggest mistakes from last season.
Mistake Number 1: Wildcarding Too Late
I like the idea that we have 3 wildcards a season – the third one being the in-all-but-name wildcard we get before the season starts. I don’t like “wasting your wildcard” and scrapping your carefully planned GW1 team after just a handful of gameweeks. This season I activated my wildcard in gameweek 15, which was far too late. In retrospect, I should have gone in gameweek 5, when Hazard scored a 20 point hat-trick and cheap Wolves assets like £4.4m Doherty (who by now had revealed himself to be extremely attacking) went on to score 12, 2, 12 and 15. It was the perfect time to restructure your team for Hazard and to release funds with those cheap Wolves enablers. It wasn’t until gameweek 9 when I finally brought in Hazard. After he had scored 14, 10, 3, 20, and 11, I simply couldn’t take it no more. Hazard then went onto to score 1, 0, 4, 3 and 1.
Mistake Number 2: Triple Captain Fail
Let’s not beat around the bush. I triple captained Leroy Sane in gameweek 25. Going into 25, I had 2 free transfers and I knew I was going to bring in one of Aguero, Sterling or Sane and stick the triple caption chip on them. Things got so serious I even got the ole notepad out to make my decision: https://twitter.com/mbison22/status/1091477646666551296. Unforgivably, I didn’t do what The Iceman from FPL Surgery did and look at the stats to make my decision (Aguero was posting the most attacking stats at the time). I also ignored something I had noticed in gameweek 24 when Man City were losing to Newcastle and chasing the game. Pep brought Jesus on, but didn’t take Aguero off. That should have been the sign that Pep now relied upon Aguero for goals and he was likely to play him in both games during the double.
I’ve always thought the Sane triple captain chip was particularly cruel. Almost any other sequence of events would have got me more points. If he had stayed on the pitch for 2 minutes longer and hadn’t been substituted on 58 minutes, that would have been 3 x 3 points. If he had missed both games instead of just one, my Salah vice captain would have come into play, which would have been 3 x 2 points. The only scenario that would have gotten me less points than I eventually got (3 x 1 point) is if Sane had been yellow carded in the first 58 minutes of the Everton game.
Mistake Number 3: No Jimenez
The only time I owned Raul Jimenez was when I wildcarded him in in gameweek 34 and I proceeded to enjoy just 1 of his 13 goals this season. At times, it felt like I was the only FPL manager in the world who didn’t own him. It seems crazy – why did I go through most of the season without him? The answer lies in his gameweek scores. When Jimenez got attacking returns, he never scored more than 12 points. When a player you don’t own gets 5 to 12 points, it hurts, yes, but it’s not the same level of panic as when Manchester City trounce Southampton 6-1 at home and Sterling gets a 21 point haul. Now THAT makes you react. Whereas 5 to 12 points makes you wince but it doesn’t make you override your other pressing transfer plans.
Obviously this is a huge mistake. The steady drip-feed of points from a consistent player makes things so difficult. The same thing happened when I didn’t own Phil Jones two seasons ago and he kept scoring 6 to 9 points every week. It leaves you without the head-start that everyone else enjoys. It’s like beginning each gameweek several points behind everyone else and you need something exceptional to outscore everyone else and get ahead of the pack.
Mistake Number 4: Trusting Premium Forwards
One of the best articles that stood out for me in preseason last season was this from FPL Guidance He essentially concluded that premium forwards offer poor value for money and this really struck a cord with me. Of course, once the season was underway, this was completely forgotten and I held players like Kane and Aubameyang for long periods of the season. This was perhaps the most disappointing of my mistakes because it was so dully predictable. Indeed, looking at the top 10 scoring players in each position, it’s clear that defenders once again offer much better value for money than forwards in FPL:
- Top 10 Defenders > Average Points 172 > Average Starting Price £5.8m
- Top 10 Forwards > Average Points 171 > Average Starting Price £8.7m
- Top 10 Midfielders > Average Points 199 > Average Starting Price £9.0m
Regrets? I’ve had a few.
Unless you have gone through a nightmare FPL season, you won’t know how it feels to be pummelled week after week with no recess. When you take the game extremely seriously and devote so much free time to it, you almost go through the five stages of grief. Denial (“I can turn this around, there’s plenty of time.”), anger (“That’s it – I’m quitting FPL!”), bargaining (“Just one lousy captain haul, please, that’s all I’m asking”), depression (which FFS brilliantly covered on one seminal scoutcast this season) and acceptance (“I don’t care what happens now; the season is a write-off.”).