Pro Pundits - Simon

Are differentials always the most effective route to FPL success?

In his latest Pro Pundits column, former Fantasy Premier League champion Simon March talks us through how effective differentials can be for the season run-in.


If you spend any time on Fantasy Football sites and forums which, if you’re reading this, you do, you’ll have noticed people talking a lot about ‘differentials’.

A ‘differential’, is a low-owned player, be that in overall FPL terms or in the context of a mini-league. There is no universal definition of what constitutes a differential in overall FPL, but it usually applies to players with sub-20% ownership with a ‘true differential’ being a player with sub-5%. Within discussions of differentials, a player becomes ‘more of a differential’ the lower his overall ownership.

What I’ll call; ‘differential theory’ refers to the idea that, if a low-owned player scores well they will, by virtue of their low-ownership, have a positive effect on the ranks of those managers that do own them.

The inverse of this philosophy is the apocryphal ‘Template’ which argues that, if your team resembles too many other teams, you won’t be able to advance up the ranks, strengthening the case for differentials. 

Discussions of differentials intensify toward the end of the season when people are making last-gasp attempts to move up the overall ranks or win their mini-leagues. But does differential theory actually work in practice?

Do Differentials Work?

Differential theory can work. Logically, if you own an otherwise low-owned player who has scored well, the likelihood that this will, when looked at in isolation, translate into a net benefit for you rank-wise should be quite high. Everyone has, at some point, benefitted from a differential and FPL is littered with examples of them paying off, so it’s something we tend to believe quite strongly in.

However, owning even a high-scoring differential won’t pay off on its own. For this to happen, the higher-owned alternatives also have to score fewer points. In other words; if a 5% owned player and a 50% owned player both score 10 points, their ownership percentages become less relevant. The differential has to outscore the more popular alternatives to have a net-positive effect.

As bookies and weathermen will be all too familiar with, when formulating the probability of an outcome, the more variables that you have to insert into the formula, the lower the probability of that outcome occurring typically becomes.

Gameweek 32+ Scout Picks focus on Arsenal, Wolves and Man United

The likelihood of your differential delivering a net positive score is, therefore; the probability of your differential scoring offset against the probability of a higher-owned player also scoring. Given that highly-owned players often score well (which is often why they’re highly-owned) and low-owned players often don’t (which is often why they’re low-owned), this is not a formula you would expect to pay off regularly and, maybe, not even very often.

You often see mention of “high risk, high reward” options on FPL forums but you will sometimes get the impression that, actually, they’re looking at ‘risk’ and ‘reward’ as if more risk equals more reward. Of course more risk may result in more reward on occasion, but your expected payoff will always be reward divided by risk so, on average, more risk will equal less reward.

Of course, differentials may be differentials because they’ve just come into the team or come back from injury. In such cases, their prospects might be much better, though these types of players naturally carry their own inherent risks.

Does ‘The Template’ Exist?

 1

So how do you move up the ranks then? Surely you can’t do it just by owning the well-owned players? Well, yes and no. If you take a look at my current team below, there aren’t many players who you would call a ‘true’ differential. In fact, only Mason Holgate (£4.3m) and Todd Cantwell (£4.6m) are under 15% ownership (13% each). In other words, it’s fairly ‘template’.

It might surprise people to learn therefore that not a single other manager in the top 10k has the same combination of players. Even if you remove my three lowest-owned players from the equation (the above plus Ings at 21%) only 0.11% or 11 people have the same team as me in the Top 10k.

While this isn’t conclusive proof that the ‘template’ is, in fact, a myth, it definitely suggests that we exaggerate its significance. This, of course, is less likely to apply to mini leagues with relatively few entrants, but I’m afraid that scenario is for another article.

Impact on FPL Strategy

What does this all mean for FPL strategy? Well, to me it suggests that focusing on differentials and ownership percentages won’t be as beneficial to your success as focusing on which players will score the most is likely to be. So, yet again, however complicated we make FPL, it ultimately still comes down to picking the players who will score the most points. There is a potential benefit to a good differential, but it’s important to ask yourself; are they ‘good’, and not just ‘different’. Will they really outscore the more popular alternatives?

In conclusion, while I wouldn’t rule out the benefit of a good punty differential, and there is definitely a time and a place for them (e.g. when you’re desperate or when you’re a bit drunk), placing yourself at the mercy of them too frequently will almost certainly not pay off over time.

The better option, I believe, is not to focus on ownership percentages at all but, instead, focus only on expected points. Over the course of a season, consistency, I believe, will always be the best differential.

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1,031 Comments Post a Comment
  1. Salarrivederci
    • 4 Years
    6 days, 18 hours ago

    Cmon Rashford, Martial & Fernandes. Score some goals. (K)ane score more though.

    1. Bruce Lee
      • Fantasy Football Scout Member
      • 1 Year
      6 days, 18 hours ago

      good job mate this post has officially secured points for Rashford, Martial, Bruno and Kane

      1. Pep Roulette
        • 2 Years
        6 days, 18 hours ago

        Hahahaha

      2. Salarrivederci
        • 4 Years
        6 days, 17 hours ago

        Freakin hope so. Need some points at some point!

    2. evilfish
      • 4 Years
      6 days, 17 hours ago

      Damn, should've got Kane and Rashford in.

    3. HashAttack
      • 3 Years
      6 days, 17 hours ago

      Same 4, same captain - GL

  2. Lindelol
    • 1 Year
    6 days, 18 hours ago

    TOP 10k Effective Ownership stats
    1. Bruno 83%
    2. Rashford 69%
    3. Martial 46%
    My Captain is Martial and I own these 3 players now should I hope blanks for Rash and Bruno to gain rank or is it about combination ownership percentage? Please help me understand this. Thanks

    1. Essential
      • Fantasy Football Scout Member
      • 4 Years
      6 days, 17 hours ago

      Only above 100% ownership will hurt your rank if he isn't your C

    2. Magic Zico
      • Fantasy Football Scout Member
      • 1 Year
      6 days, 17 hours ago

      No, dream all score big

    3. SADIO SANÉ
      • 5 Years
      6 days, 17 hours ago

      none of them above 100, you want them all to smash it up, although Martial more of course

    4. ManUnitedComeBack
      • 3 Years
      6 days, 17 hours ago

      It means that if you own all three and have captained Martial then you want every single one of them to haul, bus especially Tony

    5. Eat my goal!
      • Fantasy Football Scout Member
      • 1 Year
      6 days, 17 hours ago

      No you wish for all players to get points, just you captain to get the most!

    6. Lindelol
      • 1 Year
      6 days, 17 hours ago

      thank you brothers

    7. HashAttack
      • 3 Years
      6 days, 16 hours ago

      Only 10% have all three ... just want as many points as possible

      1. Lindelol
        • 1 Year
        6 days, 16 hours ago

        thanks

    8. brianutd-why always we? 20
      • 8 Years
      6 days, 16 hours ago

      Hope for blanks! Really, so why buy them just buy bench fodder then.

      1. Lindelol
        • 1 Year
        6 days, 16 hours ago

        I own Jimi too but was happy that he blanked as he had the highest captaincy % in top 10k

  3. Pep Roulette
    • 2 Years
    6 days, 18 hours ago

    It's time for the audition for United triple up in attack!

    1. Magic Zico
      • Fantasy Football Scout Member
      • 1 Year
      6 days, 17 hours ago

      Sneaky feeling of Pogba stealing the show

    2. Soto Ayam
        6 days, 17 hours ago

        The real audition is lamptey

    3. Steve The Spud
      • Fantasy Football Scout Member
      6 days, 17 hours ago

      0-0 coming up

      1. SADIO SANÉ
        • 5 Years
        6 days, 17 hours ago

        would be hilarious tbh, I'm all for it

    4. JohnnyRev7
      • Fantasy Football Scout Member
      • 9 Years
      6 days, 17 hours ago

      Been around FFS for 9 years. Gotta love the crap that gets written on here. Someone starts a rumour and within a few pages it's being quoted as fact and gospel. And then proved wrong. But it's all part of the game we love. And rightly so. YOU reading this just have to make your own decisions between fact or fiction. Good luck all!

      1. SADIO SANÉ
        • 5 Years
        6 days, 17 hours ago

        if you're on about Bruno, no-one 'started a rumour', he played 120 mins the other day - and the GW had already started

        1. SADIO SANÉ
          • 5 Years
          6 days, 17 hours ago

          if not then ignore me 😀 and good luck

      2. B.D.
        • Fantasy Football Scout Member
        • 2 Years
        6 days, 17 hours ago

        This

      3. Lindelol
        • 1 Year
        6 days, 17 hours ago

        haha its fun too 😀

      4. Soto Ayam
          6 days, 17 hours ago

          Fully agree. What makes me laugh is when people get mad that they took failed advice. Nobody forced em to do it

        • JohnnyRev7
          • Fantasy Football Scout Member
          • 9 Years
          6 days, 17 hours ago

          I think you've both missed the point of my post. Never mind.

          1. JohnnyRev7
            • Fantasy Football Scout Member
            • 9 Years
            6 days, 16 hours ago

            Not aimed at you Lindelol and Soto Ayam.

            1. Soto Ayam
                6 days, 16 hours ago

            2. Lindelol
              • 1 Year
              6 days, 16 hours ago

              good

          2. Magic Zico
            • Fantasy Football Scout Member
            • 1 Year
            6 days, 16 hours ago

            Dream, wishes, delusion, fake news whatever you call it ... fabulous 😉

            1. JohnnyRev7
              • Fantasy Football Scout Member
              • 9 Years
              6 days, 16 hours ago

              I hear you. It's all the fun of the forum. 😉

        • Amey
          • 1 Year
          6 days, 17 hours ago

          This is the game i wanted to see both Pogba Bruno in. Teams with no attacking threat. Sitting down deep (SHU are better team IMO so discounting that)
          Breaking down buses i mean ....

          Let's see ! Why is KO so late 😛

          1. BNMC
              6 days, 17 hours ago

              It is a huge bus from Brighton today...

              1. Amey
                • 1 Year
                6 days, 17 hours ago

                Yeah 😀

            • Berbs
              • 9 Years
              6 days, 17 hours ago

              Brighton have defended well since the restart too but can't see past a United win today. A lot of quality with Pogba and Bruno to unlock defences.

              1. Amey
                • 1 Year
                6 days, 17 hours ago

                Agree.
                And bdw, congratulations man !
                Enjoy your undisputed era 🙂

                1. Berbs
                  • 9 Years
                  6 days, 17 hours ago

                  Thanks 🙂

                  Football success is often in cycles, just have to enjoy it when it's your turn and give credit when it's others!

                  1. Amey
                    • 1 Year
                    6 days, 17 hours ago

                    I know that. I'm doing exactly the same.
                    Actually i like many players & the manager. But I'm jealous as hell (can't lie 🙂 )

                  2. Long ago I drew a walrus
                    • 9 Years
                    6 days, 17 hours ago

                    Are you the poster known formerly as Berbinho's Forehead?

                    1. Berbs
                      • 9 Years
                      6 days, 17 hours ago

                      Yes

            • Would Ed Woodward
              • 1 Year
              6 days, 17 hours ago

              Sheff Utd were absolutely terrible against us, the worst I've seen them play all season.

              1. Amey
                • 1 Year
                6 days, 17 hours ago

                I somehow missed that game buddy.
                Thanks for the information

          2. UnitedRthebest
              6 days, 17 hours ago

              Rashford Captain haul coming up:)

            • FPL Kakarot
              • Fantasy Football Scout Member
              • 4 Years
              6 days, 17 hours ago

              You know what is the best thing about tonight's game?

              Pope isnt involved 😀

            • Dybala10
              • Fantasy Football Scout Member
              • 2 Years
              6 days, 17 hours ago

              Sane news change people's opinions on Mahrez, who should pick up more minutes by default? Or happy with just KDB?

              1. Lucy2019
                  6 days, 17 hours ago

                  I moved off KDB last week. Planning on keeping Mahrez and getting Foden. I like to take risks as my risk appetite is high.

                • Amey
                  • 1 Year
                  6 days, 17 hours ago

                  I'm confused too.
                  If Mahrej is benched vs Southampton, i think i will get him though before 34

                • Eat my goal!
                  • Fantasy Football Scout Member
                  • 1 Year
                  6 days, 17 hours ago

                  Don’t think it changes anything - they must have been negotiating for ages

                  Mahrez has started all games - he’s cheap and explosive

              2. Steve The Spud
                • Fantasy Football Scout Member
                6 days, 17 hours ago

                Hopefully my Bruno cap is about to punish all the martial fan boys

                1. Salarrivederci
                  • 4 Years
                  6 days, 17 hours ago

                  You must have been changing diaper up until team news with those 120 Bruno minutes the other day 😉 !

                  1. Steve The Spud
                    • Fantasy Football Scout Member
                    6 days, 17 hours ago

                    Never, must win game you play your best side.

                  2. KGFC
                    • 3 Years
                    6 days, 17 hours ago

                    😆

              3. HuttonDressedasLahm
                • 10 Years
                6 days, 17 hours ago

                What?!?!! No Lingard??

                1. Lucy2019
                    6 days, 17 hours ago

                    New Jlingz clothing range launching so he us attending that in Paris.

                  • Eat my goal!
                    • Fantasy Football Scout Member
                    • 1 Year
                    6 days, 17 hours ago

                    Doesn’t play evening games, past his bedtime!

                  • Magic Zico
                    • Fantasy Football Scout Member
                    • 1 Year
                    6 days, 17 hours ago

                    On call for DJ-ing

                2. BNMC
                    6 days, 17 hours ago

                    Any Pogba owners here?

                    1. Lucy2019
                        6 days, 17 hours ago

                        Tumbleweed.

                      • Berbs
                        • 9 Years
                        6 days, 17 hours ago

                        Yep. Kept him cos I was asleep but don't mind actually, just hope he gets into the box a little more today and should return some points.

                        Their best player, but probably not their best FPL asset.

                    2. Bruce Lee
                      • Fantasy Football Scout Member
                      • 1 Year
                      6 days, 17 hours ago

                      rip pop smoke - true legend

                    3. Maximus Bonimus Pointimus
                      • Fantasy Football Scout Member
                      • 10 Years
                      6 days, 17 hours ago

                      A tightly contested cagey 1-0 win Utd? Martial brought down, Bruno pen?

                      Or Maybe a Pogba-Bruno inspired 7-0 walloping with Rashford & Martial hattricks??

                      Hmmmm....

                      I think it was the late, great Forest Gump that said it best:

                      “Man Utd are like a box of chocolates - you never know what you’re gonna GET”

                      1. Amey
                        • 1 Year
                        6 days, 17 hours ago

                        Inconsistent 😉
                        Let's hope we stride towards consistency !

                        1. Maximus Bonimus Pointimus
                          • Fantasy Football Scout Member
                          • 10 Years
                          6 days, 17 hours ago

                          Really want to see something big from Pogba-Bruno tonight - if they’re both switched on & at it & Matic covers properly for them - good things should hopefully follow

                          Greenwood, Martial, Rashford - that’s the future right there hopefully, particularly Greenwood - very exciting talent

                          1. Amey
                            • 1 Year
                            6 days, 17 hours ago

                            Hell of a finisher that lad
                            Yes. Excited 🙂

                      2. Lindelol
                        • 1 Year
                        6 days, 17 hours ago

                        hoping for 3-3

                    4. Collie01
                      • Fantasy Football Scout Member
                      • 2 Years
                      6 days, 17 hours ago

                      What are you hoping for from tonight's game?

                      I own Martial and Maguire, so fairly straightforward for me. 1-0 or 2-0 United win with no Rash or Bruno involvement would be great.

                      1. Bruce Lee
                        • Fantasy Football Scout Member
                        • 1 Year
                        6 days, 17 hours ago

                        bro just read any other comment on this page lol

                        they're all 'hope x scores 93 goals today with x having 24 assists'

                        duyyyyyyyhhhh

                    5. Woy_is_back
                      • 2 Years
                      6 days, 17 hours ago

                      Come on brighton, save my season

                      1. Lindelol
                        • 1 Year
                        6 days, 17 hours ago

                        no united asset? Woy?

                    6. Maximus Bonimus Pointimus
                      • Fantasy Football Scout Member
                      • 10 Years
                      6 days, 17 hours ago

                      Ole channeling channeling his inner Sven Goran-Eriksen with his interview technique

                      “Well....”

                    7. Berbs
                      • 9 Years
                      6 days, 17 hours ago

                      Leicester confirm their fixtures remain unaffected despite a local lockdown

                      1. Bruce Lee
                        • Fantasy Football Scout Member
                        • 1 Year
                        6 days, 16 hours ago

                        wilcom to the team vamie jardy

                        1. Old Man
                          • Fantasy Football Scout Member
                          • 8 Years
                          6 days, 16 hours ago

                          Leicester fan since 1960. I won't be bringing any Foxes in any time soon.

                          1. Maximus Bonimus Pointimus
                            • Fantasy Football Scout Member
                            • 10 Years
                            6 days, 16 hours ago

                            What has happened them?

                            Safe to do Vardy > Rashford now?

                      2. Lucy2019
                          6 days, 16 hours ago

                          My pal Matty Hancock already confirmed that this morning.

                          1. Berbs
                            • 9 Years
                            6 days, 16 hours ago

                            Forgive me for not believing what members of the government say.

                            1. Lucy2019
                                6 days, 16 hours ago

                                You been breaking lockdown rules?

                                1. Berbs
                                  • 9 Years
                                  6 days, 16 hours ago

                                  My eye sight is fine, so no need.

                            2. JohnnyRev7
                              • Fantasy Football Scout Member
                              • 9 Years
                              6 days, 16 hours ago

                              Matt Hancock ... when the inevitable inquiry into how the government handled the pandandemic happens, I genuinely hope they revive some old witchcraft laws. Looking at his body language I'm pretty sure he can't swim and his presentation is so wooden, he pasts all the tests.

                          2. Amey
                            • 1 Year
                            6 days, 16 hours ago

                            £££££££

                          3. JohnnyRev7
                            • Fantasy Football Scout Member
                            • 9 Years
                            6 days, 16 hours ago

                            King Power stadium is a protected environment. Players arrive from protected environments. Never a doubt but thanks for the clarification Berbs.

                        • Indpush
                          • 2 Years
                          6 days, 17 hours ago

                          0-2

                          1. HuttonDressedasLahm
                            • 10 Years
                            6 days, 17 hours ago

                            A dull 1-1

                        • brianutd-why always we? 20
                          • 8 Years
                          6 days, 16 hours ago

                          Oh Bruno