Pro Pundit Teams

Why team and player motivation could be key in the final FPL Gameweeks

In his latest Pro Pundits column, former Fantasy Premier League champion Simon March highlights the motivating factors that might be driving our Fantasy assets in the season run-in.


We’re approaching that point in the season where we begin to consider which Premier League players are still motivated to perform and who is effectively ‘on the beach’. Conventional wisdom suggests that players in teams with ‘something to play for’ will be more motivated during the run-in and, we assume, motivated players will perform better, offering greater opportunity for Fantasy Premier League points.

It’s true that scientists have long discovered a positive relationship between proper motivation and improved performance across many settings ranging from sports, workplaces, health and so on. Working out what is ‘proper motivation’, and how it might affect players for the purposes of FPL is, however, a bit more complicated and, so, this article will look at the nature of motivation itself, and how this might help us identify effective FPL assets for the final Gameweeks of 2019/20.

Motivation

Why is motivation so important at the end of the season? It has to do with a phenomenon known as the (snappily-titled) ‘Goal Gradient Hypothesis’ which essentially states that a goal or incentive becomes more motivating the closer we get to it. Hence why, for example, the final 100 metres of a marathon is often considered the easiest or it’s typically easier to stick to a diet the closer you get to that beach holiday. The reverse is also true, of course; the further you are from the goal, the less motivational power that it offers.

For this discussion, we’re going to focus on two categories of motivational goals; team goals and player goals.

Team goals

End of Liverpool's unbeaten run may have consequences for FPL season run-in

Team incentives may include battling for titles, avoiding relegation or securing European places but how teams respond to these incentives may vary considerably.

It’s probably not too early to state that there is only really one team left chasing the Premier League title this season and that is, of course, Liverpool. Surely there is no greater incentive out there other than to win the Premier League and, with that in mind, we can expect Liverpool to keep pushing themselves, at least until the title is mathematically secure.

We’ve seen in the past, however, that, as teams get closer to the title, they often begin to perform much more conservatively, focusing on securing wins above all else.

In Manchester City’s final ten games of last season, for example, they delivered four 1-0 and three 2-0 scorelines. This was in sharp contrast to the rest of the season where City were regularly seen to score three or more goals per game. We’ve seen similar patterns with other title-winning teams over the years.

Why might this shift occur? Well, it could relate to how we approach risk depending on our circumstances. When we are ahead, we tend to be risk-averse as we fear losing what we have. When we are behind, we are risk-inviting, we think ‘what the heck…’ and take wild punts as we have nothing to lose by doing so. As Fantasy managers, we can probably relate to this state of mind quite easily.

So the first thing to consider when it comes to motivation is how it may manifest itself. Liverpool are probably more motivated than any team in the league this season but, until they secure the league, they are likely to be more motivated not to lose the league than to win it in style. This means there’s a good chance that, while Liverpool are unlikely to stop scoring goals, it could be their defensive rather than attacking assets who offer the best value for the run-in.

Relegation Battlers

At the other end of the table, we have the teams in the relegation dogfight which, at present, looks to include Norwich City, Aston Villa, Bournemouth, Watford, West Ham United, Brighton & Hove Albion and potentially a couple more.

While every team will play to their relative strengths, relegation battlers often embody the ‘what the heck’ ethos. They have nothing to lose so they may as well attack, in particular those at the very bottom of the league.

There’s every chance, therefore, that once-popular attacking assets such as Norwich’s Teemu Pukki (£6.5m), Aston Villa’s Jack Grealish (£6.6m) and (dare I say it) Bournemouth’s Callum Wilson (£7.4m) might offer themselves as a renaissance of attacking options. Of course, just because somebody is motivated to score doesn’t mean that they’re capable of doing so, but we can say that their odds are likely to improve at least.

European Chasers

Teams chasing European positions which, right now, might realistically apply to any team in the top half of the table, are likely to offer a combination of the above. As the season progresses, those already in European positions are likely to play more conservatively whereas those chasing them become ever more likely to ‘go for it’.

That said, it’s particularly important when considering the top teams to consider competing motivations. Unless there’s an unlikely capitulation on behalf of Liverpool, it’s fair to assume that, at some point, Manchester City will begin to prioritise the UEFA Champions League (assuming they progress). The same could be true of Liverpool once they’ve wrapped the title up and, should they fall away in the top four race, Manchester United may well start to prioritise the UEFA Europa League as their best route back into the Champions League.

So, when assessing motivation at a team level, it’s important to remember that incentives can be hierarchical in nature. These competing motivations may well, if they take precedence, negatively impact performances in the league.

Teams on the Beach

The teams who occupy the mid-league positions come the season run-in, who are unlikely to be relegated or to realistically secure a European place, are often said to be ‘on the beach’; their performances imply that they are, mentally at least, already on holiday. 

This makes sense; there’s nothing motivating about having nothing to play for and, in theory at least, it also makes sense to avoid these teams and their players. In practice, however, there are almost always one or two standout performers among these teams in the final Gameweeks.

Why might this be? Well, in part because, sometimes, relieving pressure is as effective as goal-based motivation, in the short term at least. Players play with a freedom that they don’t normally have, they are ‘intrinsically motivated’, playing for the pure joy of playing and this is reflected in their performances. Or, alternatively, they have a personal goal, which is what will be discussed next.

Player Goals

Alongside team goals, individual players often have their own reasons to feel motivated during the season run-in. They might, for example, be chasing the Golden Boot and we’ve seen in the past the likes of Spurs’ Harry Kane going ‘Super Sayan’ in the final few Gameweeks in order to secure this.

If they’re not already in your thinking, Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (£11.0m), Leicester’s Jamie Vardy (£9.8m), Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero (£11.9m), Southampton’s Danny Ings (£7.2) and Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah (£12.8m), all of whom are in the running for this year’s Golden Boot, will have even more reason than normal to want to score heavily in the final few Gameweeks.

Teammates sometimes even facilitate this goal pursuit, temporarily offering penalty duties to such players, so stocking your FPL teams with Golden Boot chasers, and captaining them, can pay off enormously.

Another individual reason for a player to up their game in the final matches of the season, and one that is particularly significant this year, is to win an international call-up. With Euro 2020 on the horizon, players on the periphery of their international squad may well put in an extra effort to impress their international manager.

Taking England as an example, this could well apply to the likes of Everton’s Dominic Calvert-Lewin (£6.4m), Aston Villa’s Jack Grealish (again), Leicester’s James Maddison (£7.5m) and almost every English Chelsea player, among many others. Again, backing these types of players could well pay off as we get to the business end of the season.

Finally, there are those players who might be looking for a move or to sign a new contract. Wilfried Zaha (£6.8m) has long been rumoured to want out of Crystal Palace but, as yet, nobody has appeared willing to meet their transfer valuation. Chelsea’s Willian (£7.0m) is out of contract in the summer but is, supposedly, keen to stay in west London and, yet again, Jack Grealish, while unlikely to demand a move away from his beloved Aston Villa, is surely too good for the Championship should Villa get relegated. Again, these players are ones to keep an eye on.

Summary

The right motivation can have a profound and transformative impact on a player’s performance and, because the power of motivation typically increases the closer a person gets to their goal, this is the part of the season where this will really come into play and where factoring motivation into your FPL decisions can offer big advantages.

Identifying a player’s motivations and how these might influence their performances in FPL terms can be quite tricky as they often compete and do not always follow a logical path, but the key principle is to look for teams, and players, who have something to play for, be it collectively, individually or, ideally, both.

Often, the sorts of players who explode in this part of the season will be the ones who have flown under the radar to date or gone out of fashion and, thus, offer huge differential potential if they can be identified. There’s certainly a skill to doing that but, as legendary investor Charlie Munger once said, “If you want to predict how somebody will behave, first look at their incentives” – and that’s certainly a good a place to start.


Simon March is a member of our Pro Pundits initiative, a team of Fantasy managers here to bring you regular advice and updates on their teams. Simon won the FPL title in 2014/15 and has become a fixture on the punditry circuit ever since.


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967 Comments Post a Comment
  1. Camzy
    • Fantasy Football Scout Member
    • 9 Years
    28 days, 13 hours ago

    What about Sterling? He's fit again and is starting. Super duper differential at the high ranks.

    Sterling + Nketiah is an interesting double GW double. It's probably stupid but hey it's Sterling, he could absolutely decide to go crazy.

    1. Would Ed Woodward
      • 1 Year
      28 days, 13 hours ago

      Considered it but has a shocking record against Man Utd for whatever reason.

  2. tim
    • 10 Years
    28 days, 13 hours ago

    How many DGW players do people have?'

    If I dont WC or FH now ill only have KDB who is a doubt.

    Or could do Vardy to Auba and Traore to Saka/Doucoure for a hit.

    1. DAZZ
      • 5 Years
      28 days, 13 hours ago

      KDB Auba for me. Don't want any of the others. Cant see any City player playing 2 full 90's bar Ederson and maybe Rodri. And Arsenal could get twatted at the Etihad

  3. Easy Cheesy
    • Fantasy Football Scout Member
    28 days, 13 hours ago

    Anyone thinking lacazette?

    1. Camzy
      • Fantasy Football Scout Member
      • 9 Years
      28 days, 13 hours ago

      Absolutely not. He's not even starting.

  4. sunzip14
    • 3 Years
    28 days, 13 hours ago

    Ryan> Patricio worth a -4 ?

    1. Holmes
      • 6 Years
      28 days, 13 hours ago

      Yep

      1. sunzip14
        • 3 Years
        28 days, 13 hours ago

        Martial 'injury' news cost me a saved ft. Used it to get Richarlison thinking he would play 31, but Spurs had other ideas. Thanks Holmes!

  5. Kloppcorn
    • Fantasy Football Scout Member
    • 5 Years
    28 days, 13 hours ago

    Do you guys think 8/9 players will be enough for the blank gw, feel like the upside to using the free hit in this gameweek is minimal in comparison to one of the doubles

    1. Kloppcorn
      • Fantasy Football Scout Member
      • 5 Years
      28 days, 13 hours ago

      My team will be:
      TAA, Saiss, Taylor, Defender under 5.0
      Mane, Salah
      Jota Jiménez
      Could take a -4 to get a 3rd mid

    2. DAZZ
      • 5 Years
      28 days, 13 hours ago

      Depends how you look at it. Realistically everyone will own 3x Liverpool. Salah/Mane/Robbo/VVD/TAA. Most will own 2x Wolves, Jiminez, Traore, Doherty, Jota, Boly. Any then best of the rest, Pope, Taylor, Sarr, Deeney, Alli. I think the average serious player will go into the gameweek with atleast 6 players. So a FH you're looking for differentials outside of the obvious group which will be difficult. I personally think if you go in with 9, you're fine without a FH

      1. Kloppcorn
        • Fantasy Football Scout Member
        • 5 Years
        28 days, 13 hours ago

        So frustrating that Norwich beat spurs, have 2 Everton and 1 Norwich would be perfect

      2. lmac
        • Fantasy Football Scout Member
        28 days, 11 hours ago

        thoughts on taking a hit to get to 10 players, most of which are probably players I'd be likely to keep.
        (unfortunately one of those 10 is Adama)
        3x liverpool, 3 x wolves, pope, sarr, berj, aurier

        Will likely WC the week after

        Whats your chip strategy RN?

  6. andr1uha
    • 1 Year
    28 days, 13 hours ago

    Who can I replace Saar with?

    1.Perez
    2.Traore
    3.Barnes

    1. DAZZ
      • 5 Years
      28 days, 13 hours ago

      Think it has to be Traore, he isn't guaranteed a start, where as the other two are. Barnes was rested in the FA Cup.

    2. Invincibles
      • 6 Years
      28 days, 13 hours ago

      Sarr in for Barnes

  7. Netters2018
    • 1 Year
    28 days, 13 hours ago

    I have 5.4m itb, who is best midfielder who also plays in gw31?

    1. Camzy
      • Fantasy Football Scout Member
      • 9 Years
      28 days, 13 hours ago

      I spent all night looking at this and it's a disaster.

      There's no one that looks good who you can bring in now. Maybe Noble? But it's super dire. I'd just take Saka now and then find a way to upgrade him for GW31.

      1. Netters2018
        • 1 Year
        28 days, 13 hours ago

        Its horrid if i bring in saka it will cost me -4 to get rid for a gw31 midfielder and not convinced saka will score 4 pts to cover it

    2. FeverPitch
      • Fantasy Football Scout Member
      • 6 Years
      28 days, 13 hours ago

      Doucoure is an option

      1. FeverPitch
        • Fantasy Football Scout Member
        • 6 Years
        28 days, 13 hours ago

        Sorry he’s too expensive just realised

    3. Holmes
      • 6 Years
      28 days, 13 hours ago

      Snodgrass is the man

      1. Camzy
        • Fantasy Football Scout Member
        • 9 Years
        28 days, 13 hours ago

        No he's not. He didn't start last game now that Antonio is back. He won't play.

        1. Holmes
          • 6 Years
          28 days, 13 hours ago

          Then they better be ready to lose without his set-piece duties.

        2. Clay Davis
          • Fantasy Football Scout Member
          • 9 Years
          28 days, 13 hours ago

          Not true. He didn't start because Bowen got the nod. They both play on the right.

          1. Netters2018
            • 1 Year
            28 days, 12 hours ago

            Do we think snodgrass gets his spot back? Cant see it esp with bowen scoring..... shame ss wud be a good shout at 5.3

    4. Kloppcorn
      • Fantasy Football Scout Member
      • 5 Years
      28 days, 13 hours ago

      Their ain’t really anybody worth mentioning, I guess there is Doucoure and Harry Wilson at 5.6 and 5.8

      1. Netters2018
        • 1 Year
        28 days, 13 hours ago

        Ive only got 5.4m to spend....

        1. Netters2018
          • 1 Year
          28 days, 13 hours ago

          Unless i sub out troare and bring in doucoure... im struggling for 11 at this rate kdb injured mane may be rested armstrong out troare doubtful. Vardy doubtful.... just awful

        2. Kloppcorn
          • Fantasy Football Scout Member
          • 5 Years
          28 days, 13 hours ago

          There isn’t anybody in your bracket, you’ll have to find money from somewhere else, what’s your current team

          1. Netters2018
            • 1 Year
            28 days, 13 hours ago

            Guaita
            Taa soy o connell, rico
            Mane salah kdb armstrong traore
            Ings vardy jimi

    5. Holmes
      • 6 Years
      28 days, 13 hours ago

      Can also try Billing

      1. Holmes
        • 6 Years
        28 days, 12 hours ago

        Infact if you have Watford spot, Hughes is on corner duties.

        1. Netters2018
          • 1 Year
          28 days, 12 hours ago

          Is he really on corners? Will hughes? Does he play dmc alongside capoue? Doucoure sarr and deeney front 3 right?

          1. Holmes
            • 6 Years
            28 days, 12 hours ago

            Yep, DMC but makes forward run sometime.

            Re corners, yes. Deulofeu was on one side and Hughes on other. Might even take from both sides now that Deulofeu is injured.

    6. Clay Davis
      • Fantasy Football Scout Member
      • 9 Years
      28 days, 12 hours ago

      The best options who will also play gw31 are:

      • Snodgrass (5.3) - form 6.5pts but his starts are under threat from Bowen.
      • Wijnaldrum (5.4) - form 3.8pts
      • Capoue (4.8) - form 3.8pts

      1. Netters2018
        • 1 Year
        28 days, 12 hours ago

        Thanks i guess moutinho is decent also as on corner duties?

        1. Clay Davis
          • Fantasy Football Scout Member
          • 9 Years
          28 days, 12 hours ago

          Great shout. He's probably the best option of all the ones i put.

          But, if you can you really want Jimmy, Jota, Doherty from Wolves

  8. lilmessipran
    • Fantasy Football Scout Member
    • 7 Years
    28 days, 13 hours ago

    What to do with Traore..have enought itb to upgrade him to a 8.5ish Mid..just not sure if I can get rid with Wolves fixtures and a game in 31

    1. sunzip14
      • 3 Years
      28 days, 13 hours ago

      I am getting rid, for Sarr.

    2. DAZZ
      • 5 Years
      28 days, 13 hours ago

      If you aren't FH then go for Sarr. But if you plan on FH'ing you can afford to go someone a little more expensive.

    3. Clay Davis
      • Fantasy Football Scout Member
      • 9 Years
      28 days, 13 hours ago

      Traore isn't guaranteed. Plus his shoulder is a problem.

      What does your team look like?

      1. lilmessipran
        • Fantasy Football Scout Member
        • 7 Years
        28 days, 12 hours ago

        Pope Hendo
        Taa vvd dunk Kelly lund
        Salah kdb Maddison Perez Traore
        Jimi Jota Ings

        1ft 2.9 itb..fh ,wc, bb left

        1. Clay Davis
          • Fantasy Football Scout Member
          • 9 Years
          28 days, 12 hours ago

          I'd do Traore to Sarr or Doucoure

          Then Kelly to Doherty next week

          1. Clay Davis
            • Fantasy Football Scout Member
            • 9 Years
            28 days, 12 hours ago

            Also mate, i'd say don't spend too high on your 5th mid. You've got 3 decent strikers who you really want to start. So yoy're best avoiding a headache.

            You might be best saving the transfer this week just to see how things unfold.

  9. Kane Lane
    • 5 Years
    28 days, 13 hours ago

    what do I do? 1 free transfer

    Ryan
    Trent Stephen Boly
    Mane Salah Perez KDB
    Vardy Ings Jimz

    Gaza Guendouzi Rico Kelly

    1. Clay Davis
      • Fantasy Football Scout Member
      • 9 Years
      28 days, 13 hours ago

      How much cash ITB?

      1. Kane Lane
        • 5 Years
        28 days, 13 hours ago

        0 in the bank

    2. Clay Davis
      • Fantasy Football Scout Member
      • 9 Years
      28 days, 13 hours ago

      Are you Free Hitting on gw31?

      1. Kane Lane
        • 5 Years
        28 days, 13 hours ago

        no

        1. Clay Davis
          • Fantasy Football Scout Member
          • 9 Years
          28 days, 13 hours ago

          I wouldn't worry about the doubles this week then. I would prepare for gw31.

          Vardy to Jota
          Kelly to Doherty

          1. Kane Lane
            • 5 Years
            28 days, 13 hours ago

            cheers makes sense

  10. Maddamotha
    • 3 Years
    28 days, 13 hours ago

    Hey! Which one is the best move you reckon? 1.8ITB 1FT.

    A) Vardy > Auba
    B) Ryan > Pope/Mccarty/Hendo
    C) Lundstram > Saiss
    D) Smth else

    Ryan
    TAA, Robertson, Soy
    Salah, KDB, Barnes, Traore
    Vardy, Ings, Jimenez

    Button, Dendocnker, Lundstram, Lascelles

    1. Invincibles
      • 6 Years
      28 days, 13 hours ago

      A easily

  11. Invincibles
    • 6 Years
    28 days, 13 hours ago

    Plan is to take a -8 this week and not hits before gw31: Bruno, Vardy > Sarr, Auba.

    Pope
    TAA VVD Aurier
    Salah KDB Sarr Traore
    Auba(TC) Jimi Jota

    G2G?

    1. sunzip14
      • 3 Years
      28 days, 13 hours ago

      Hits in 31 only cost -2 though? 😀

      1. Invincibles
        • 6 Years
        28 days, 12 hours ago

        I know, mostly justifying bringing in Sarr now to find Auba(Tc)

  12. Nightcrawler
      28 days, 13 hours ago

      Guys PLZ HELPPP. Not playinf fh in 31

      A) Traore and Vardy > Auba and Saka

      B) Mane and Ings > Auba and Sarr

      C) Traore> Sarr(free) . Keep vardy and mane. Salah cap. No auba

      1. Invincibles
        • 6 Years
        28 days, 13 hours ago

        B

      2. I SPEAK ENGELS AND DRINK GI…
          28 days, 11 hours ago

          c) im not falling to Auba hypetrain, so shouldnt you

        • FC Bazalona
          • 1 Year
          28 days, 11 hours ago

          C

      3. FOO FIGHTER
          28 days, 13 hours ago

          Wayne Rooney to do one over UTD 😀

          1. StayoutheSpiceZone
            • 2 Years
            28 days, 12 hours ago

            No chance. United will win comfortably. Derby are poor

        • tique
          • 5 Years
          28 days, 13 hours ago

          Thinking of doing WC29, FH34, BB37

          This is my team for GW29, thoughts would be appreciated:

          Ederson

          TAA Gomez Doherty Saiss

          Sterling Pepe Sako

          Aguero Auba Jota

          Pope Kiko Doucore McCarthy

          1. StayoutheSpiceZone
            • 2 Years
            28 days, 12 hours ago

            Good team; just got to hope no Salah or Mane doesn't come back to bite you!

        • Rinseboy
          • 8 Years
          28 days, 13 hours ago

          Thoughts on KDB and Ings to Mahrez and Auba for free?
          Am leading my ML by 30 points and concerned over Auba captiners catching me. Hoping Mahrez could cover potential KDB points?

          Or just do Boly to Doherty and have faith in my team!

          2FTS 1.9ITB

          Henderson
          TAA Stevens Boly
          Mane Salah KDB Barnes
          DCL Jimi Ings
          Pope Stephens Fernandez Mooy

          1. tique
            • 5 Years
            28 days, 13 hours ago

            I'm worried mahrez game time since he played a full 90

            1. Rinseboy
              • 8 Years
              28 days, 13 hours ago

              fair point. I think this week I'm struggling the most on what to do! I quite like my team as is

          2. No Totti No Party
            • 8 Years
            28 days, 12 hours ago

            Mine is pretty similar and Im considering WC...

        • StayoutheSpiceZone
          • 2 Years
          28 days, 13 hours ago

          So the news about KDB (if confirmed out tomorrow) and the DGW 29 has made my mind up. I am wildcarding now (see below) and then going to plan for BGW31. I will then FH in 34 and BB in 37 (or the other way round depending on the situation)

          Can you have a look at the WC draft? BGW and DGW29 in mind. Cheers

          Pope, Leno
          TAA, VVD, Doherty, Pereira, Cathcart
          Salah, Mahrez, Foden, Doucoure, Sarr
          Auba, Jimenez, Jota

          Thanks in advance

          1. tique
            • 5 Years
            28 days, 11 hours ago

            If not ederson don't get leno, arsenal leak way too many goals.

            Love the foden pick but it's risky.

            Otherwise good team

        • HD7
          • 3 Years
          28 days, 12 hours ago

          If I have only 7 playsrs for GW31 should I use the FH or maybe just take one more player for a hit?

          1. Amey
            • 1 Year
            28 days, 12 hours ago

            Hit

        • HD7
          • 3 Years
          28 days, 12 hours ago

          What do you think about Shampton and Burnley assets in spring... going to the beach or they are still good choices

        • FOO FIGHTER
            28 days, 12 hours ago

            Sitting on -8 now Ings out Jota in. Ings also facing the drop.

            Henderson McCarthy
            TAA VVD Stephens
            Salah Bruno Sarr Richa
            Jota Auba Jimenez

            McCarthy Cantwell Lascelles

            Cap decision still up in the air as well.

            Still pondering one more hit for another double player but -12 is like taking a walk through the redlight district.

            1. FOO FIGHTER
                28 days, 12 hours ago

                Dunk 3rd sub

              • dbeck
                • Fantasy Football Scout Member
                • 2 Years
                28 days, 12 hours ago

                step away from your fpl log in

            2. One Wheels Enough
                28 days, 12 hours ago

                Wilf to Pepe for free, even though Wilf plays 31 (no FH)

                1. One Wheels Enough
                    28 days, 12 hours ago

                    Or I can do Barnes to Pepe as well...

                2. unitednations
                  • Fantasy Football Scout Member
                  • 8 Years
                  28 days, 12 hours ago

                  Planning to do Vardy/Martial >> Auba/Sarr (-4) which will give me the following team. This also has 8 (incl rico) bgw31 players so can aim to get to 10 by bgw31. Any reason not to press the trigger on my proposed move? cant see any other alternatives

                  Ryan
                  Taa* Robbo* Aurier* Boly* Rico*
                  Salah* Sarr* KDB Perez
                  Jiminez* Auba(c) Ings

                3. The Marshal
                  • Fantasy Football Scout Member
                  28 days, 11 hours ago

                  Start McArthy or Henderson?