“Failure is rich in learning opportunities for a simple reason: in many of its guises, it represents a violation of expectation. It is showing us that the world is in some sense different from the way we imagined it to be.” – Matthew Syed, Black Box Thinking
It feels a bit paradoxical to be writing this under the guise of a Pro Pundit. I’m currently sat at 1,675, 335 in the world, the lowest rank I have ever had in my 13 seasons of playing.
I certainly don’t feel like a ‘Pro’ at this point in time.
I’m being burned my poor decisions, bad planning and over-complicating Fantasy Premier League as I chase shadows and try to claw my way up the ladder.
In some ways, my poor season helps me write these articles. It would be difficult to write a series on learning from mistakes if I was sat snugly in the top 10k after all.
The blinking red light sat atop my black box is a constant reminder that I need to learn from my errors and start to do things differently.
But first, I need to address the fundamental mistakes that I’ve made to get me to this point.
The wheels came off my season in Gameweek 5, and I haven’t been able to get them back on.
This was the week I left Teemu Pukki (£6.9m) on the bench when he hauled against Man City. I instead played Jack O’Connell (£4.5m) at home to Southampton.
It’s easy to look back and say, “well that was a bad decision” – but let’s consider why exactly it was such a bad move.
Okay, I felt like Sheffield United had a decent chance of a clean sheet. I was hopeful of six to nine points for O’Connell.
Pukki was playing Man City, who had just lost Aymeric Laporte (£6.3m) to a nasty injury. Norwich were scoring goals for fun and Pukki was in great form. His ownership was at around 40%.
As a forward, it’s hard to put an upper limit on their potential, but really, I should have put his ceiling in the double digits with all the factors considered. Essentially, I risked a defender (historically low-ceiling) over an in-form striker, up against a makeshift defence (high-ceiling). I tried to be too clever, and it failed miserably.
Lessons: Consider the ceiling of players before making a decision, defenders are likely to score fewer points than forwards. Don’t bench in-form forwards. Use information from team camps to aid decisions.
This is basic stuff, Az.
From Gameweek 5 I struggled to stop the rot, so in Gameweek 8 I played the Wildcard to try and get ahead of the curve.
A few weeks before, I had belittled Joe for taking all of the “wild” out of a Wildcard. Perhaps this influenced my thinking. I made a number of bad decisions here, of which I am now paying the price.
In total, I made six changes on my wildcard, with only three players from the team that lined up in Gameweek 7 leaving my team. Straight away, this seems questionable. I obviously had faith in the core players in my team, so why did I Wildcard?
The main reason was for a switch in formation. Strikers were performing well, and I moved on Pierre-Emeric Aubameyang (£11.1m). I can’t beat myself up over the choice of striker, he had scored points in every game up until this point. Arsenal were ticking over in the league (although they did look a bit suspect). However, the manner in which I got him raised a few eyebrows.
Gone was Mohamed Salah (£12.4m), leaving me with no Liverpool attackers. My reasoning was they were about to hit a tricky run of fixtures and I wasn’t going to captain their assets.
However, I had said a few days before that Manchester City and Liverpool were leagues apart of other teams in the division. Going with no Reds attackers has left we incredibly stressed watching their matches. Normally a sign there’s something not quite right with how your team is set up.
On the flip side, I’ve felt stressed watching Arsenal play because I know, for my team, the pressure is on Aubameyang to deliver. The chances of the Gabonese international blanking while Liverpool overcame their ‘tricky’ run was not set in stone. It wasn’t worth the risk. Relying on Liverpool assets to blank and Arsenal attackers to haul, in light of both last season and this season, isn’t logical. It was a poor move – perhaps justifiable if I had the faith to captain Aubameyang during his easier games – but I didn’t.
Even with Aubameyang scoring in every game leading up to my ownership, I still didn’t even consider him for the armband. This should have been a warning.
Lessons learned: Teams like Liverpool and City need to be considered differently to others in the league. Their players don’t have “bad” fixtures. Liverpool attackers in particular are assured of starts, return almost every week, and a loss or a blank would be a major shock. For other teams, it is expected. Think twice before selling players from these sides.
With that said, at least there was some method in the madness. But with my other two major decisions on the wildcard, I am really struggling to see the logic.
Out went Kevin de Bruyne (£10.1m) despite being given information that he was only going to miss one Gameweek. I took a punt on Riyad Mahrez (£8.4m) thinking Bernardo Silva (£7.9m) would get a ban and he’d represent good value for money. What a short-term move. I’d always want de Bruyne back. Effectively I sold the best performing player in the game for a one week “punt” on someone who isn’t even first choice.
Lessons learned: Consider the long-term potential of transfers. Don’t give yourself a transfer to make down the line if you can afford it. Avoid players who aren’t first choice when everyone is fit. There’s a reason they aren’t playing.
And then comes my biggest regret of the season. One of the other reasons for the Wildcard was to get ahead of the curve with Leicester. In came the top-scoring defender in the game at the time, Ricardo Pereria (£6.1m), after a check of his stats vs. Ben Chilwell (£5.5m) and I made sure to leave £2.0m in the bank to do Pukki to Jamie Vardy (£9.2m) after Pukki’s appealing fixture at home to Villa (which they lost 5-1).
I am a firm believer in banking a transfer after a Wildcard. In my view, your team should be set up for at least a few weeks, and only injuries and/or suspensions should influence your decisions.
But, once again, I was blighted by short-term potential. Pukki had Villa at home, Vardy had Liverpool away. I was fearful of a Pukki haul. I decided that I would give Pukki the home game and then move on Vardy.
Both players blanked. Not a disaster. But then Vardy went up in price unexpectedly and I was priced out of the move. I was left with £2.0m in the bank, an out of form Pukki, and my plan to get Vardy went up in smoke.
I was left ruing my decision to go for a £4.5m midfielder (Bukayo Saka) over a £4.3m or £4.4m option who would have given me a bit of leeway in case of any fluctuations in the market.
I think this is a good opportunity to consider, what do you think a free transfer is worth? If I had gone with Vardy straight away, and Pukki had got 10 points – I would have been annoyed that Gameweek.
But then, I would have gone into the next Gameweek with two free transfers, the striker I wanted in the long run, and a way of correcting any potential Mahrez / KDB or Aubameyang / Salah or Mané regret. I personally think this is worth 10 points.
Instead, I moved Pukki on for a player I didn’t really want in Callum Wilson (£8.0m), who went on to blank against Norwich and Watford. Vardy, meanwhile, averaged 15 points in the next two games. A painful lesson.
Lessons learned: Don’t give yourself transfers to make. Allow yourself room for flexibility. If taking punts, have a way out. Don’t dig yourself into a corner. Back the players you want, don’t buy players you don’t have faith in.
And now we are approaching Gameweek 11 and it doesn’t look like I’ve learned from these mistakes. Last week, I let go of Mason Mount (£6.9m), one of my only decent players (points-wise) for yet another punt… Callum Hudson-Odoi (£6.0m).
While this move was necessary to correct my Mahrez mistake, I do now wonder if I have made the error of buying in a player very at risk of rotation, at the expense of someone in form, in the same team, who has his position locked down.
It will be a painful reminder once again if I have to sheepishly buy Mount back at £0.4m more than I paid for him. However, I’m going to stand by this decision this time.
Hudson-Odoi had, arguably, been Chelsea’s best attacker over the previous few weeks. Christian Pulisic (£7.1m) was out of favour. No one could have predicted he’d get a hat-trick (and Willian (£7.0m) would score too!).
If Hudson-Odoi does end up on the bench in the foreseeable future, I do believe this is just one of those things that happens – rather than being a particularly bad decision. Time will tell if I regret it, I’m sticking with him for now.
Buying Hudson-Odoi will unlikely be picked up by the Black Box if it fails… but selling Mount… well, I can already feel myself writing this up with a sense of bitterness.
But that’s enough self-reflection. Onwards we go as we catapult towards Gameweek 11. My team is not how I want it, I’m worried about not owning numerous, in form, highly owned players and equally not confident about my own misfiring boys. Another hit has already been taken to bring in Vardy for Wilson, to correct the biggest regret of my FPL career to date.
Trying to plan ahead, I’ve toyed with the idea of selling Raheem Sterling (£12.1m) next week for Sadio Mané (£11.9m) as City’s fixtures turn. Having written this article, I’m feeling much less inclined to make this move. Hey, maybe these articles are helpful after all…
Lessons learned from Gameweek 10
- Southampton 0-9 Leicester City
- Manchester City 3-0 Aston Villa
- Brighton and Hove Albion 3-2 Everton
- Watford 0-0 Bournemouth
- West Ham United 1-1 Sheffield United
- Burnley 2-4 Chelsea
- Newcastle United 1-1 Wolves
- Arsenal 2-2 Crystal Palace
- Liverpool 2-1 Tottenham Hotspur
- Norwich City 1-3 Manchester United
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