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. Essential
    • Fantasy Football Scout Member
    • 4 Years
    1 month, 9 days ago

    What would you do here?

    Pope
    TAA Robbo Doherty Saiss
    Salah Bruno Martial KDB
    DCL Jim

    Martinez Sarr Ayew Ward`

    1FT 0.0 ITB

    A Save FT
    B Sarr -> Foden bench Saiss(ARS)
    C Something else?

    Thanks

    1. Ini
      • 10 Years
      1 month, 9 days ago

      Save the transfer

    2. Jimbo-Jones
      • 3 Years
      1 month, 9 days ago

      I’d save FT. Nice team.
      Would probably start Sarr over Saiss though.

    3. dunas_dog
      • Fantasy Football Scout Member
      • 5 Years
      1 month, 9 days ago

      I like B but wait until you see Foden game time on Thursday- if he should start then A

    4. Little Red Lacazette
      • 3 Years
      1 month, 9 days ago

      B

    5. 7shadesofsmoke
      • 7 Years
      1 month, 9 days ago

      Save.

      That is one saucy little squad

  2. Jimbo-Jones
    • 3 Years
    1 month, 9 days ago

    2k rank and 100 clear in ML so looking to consolidate really - fairly template team but 2ft.
    Anything to do here?

    Pope
    TAA Doherty Lascelles Maguire
    Salah KDB Son Bruno
    Rashford Jimenez

    Nketiah Guendouzi Robinson

    1. Little Red Lacazette
      • 3 Years
      1 month, 9 days ago

      Lascelles -> Aurier?

      1. 7shadesofsmoke
        • 7 Years
        1 month, 9 days ago

        +1

    2. Dreaming of glory
      • 4 Years
      1 month, 9 days ago

      Bruno/son > martial
      Guen > foden if u have funds after the above

  3. kime67
    • 2 Years
    1 month, 9 days ago

    Sometimes i gorget the season did not begin and it will end soon, the fpl emptyness hits again soon...

    1. Ógie
      • Fantasy Football Scout Member
      • 7 Years
      1 month, 9 days ago

      Quick turn around though until next season starts so don't beat yourself up too much.

    2. Hakim Ziyech
      • 1 Year
      1 month, 9 days ago

      I’m really sorry

  4. Peter Ouch
    • Fantasy Football Scout Member
    • 2 Years
    1 month, 9 days ago

    17 mind to know, officially, that bruno will get rested

  5. Ginkapo FPL
    • 9 Years
    1 month, 9 days ago

    Can we buy FFS a book on risk management please. Utterly screwed it up in this article.

    1. Ginkapo FPL
      • 9 Years
      1 month, 9 days ago

      As do most people in the comments in fairness

      1. panda07
        • Fantasy Football Scout Member
        • 7 Years
        1 month, 9 days ago

        I pick what I think are the best options regardless of the risks involved unless I'm defending the lead. This is a game not investment.

    2. Easy Cheesy
      • Fantasy Football Scout Member
      1 month, 9 days ago

      Why?

    3. Ógie
      • Fantasy Football Scout Member
      • 7 Years
      1 month, 9 days ago

      If man never took a risk Gink then they would be still up in the trees safe from the predators. 😉

  6. Jon Walter's Hatty
    • 6 Years
    1 month, 9 days ago

    Who cares if Bruno is rested - all the good managers have him. Watch out B'mouth.

    1. Ginkapo FPL
      • 9 Years
      1 month, 9 days ago

      As I've bench boosted I give a crap.

      1. Jon Walter's Hatty
        • 6 Years
        1 month, 9 days ago

        fair comment

      2. Little Red Lacazette
        • 3 Years
        1 month, 9 days ago

        Me too.

      3. Gravless are for Kinnear
        • 7 Years
        1 month, 9 days ago

        *good managers

    2. Ginkapo FPL
      • 9 Years
      1 month, 9 days ago

      May as well say, who cares about football, results dont matter

    3. Peter Ouch
      • Fantasy Football Scout Member
      • 2 Years
      1 month, 9 days ago

      Good luck to all the good managers then!

    4. fr3d
      • 2 Years
      1 month, 9 days ago

      He's been averaging 2 points for me. Don't care if I get 1 from him tonight

    5. HashAttack
      • 3 Years
      1 month, 9 days ago

      Prefer him to be rested and not play at all ... Aurier first sub

      1. Pedersen
        • Fantasy Football Scout Member
        • 1 Year
        1 month, 9 days ago

        Ings.... Let him stay out please

        1. HashAttack
          • 3 Years
          1 month, 9 days ago

          Points in the bag hurt more ... at least if Bruno only gets 1 point, I can hope that Aurier has a bad match

      2. Big_Andy_GAWA
        • 8 Years
        1 month, 9 days ago

        I did Martial on my W/C instead of he. Has worked out okay so far... 😀

  7. Shark Team
    • 3 Years
    1 month, 9 days ago

    Rate my WC team
    Pope
    TAA AWB Doherty Saiss
    Salah KDB Mahrez Martial
    Rashford Jimenez
    Bench: Button, Nketiah, Guendouzi, Lamptey

    *My only concern is that I want to climb ranks but I don't have any big differentials ATM

    What do.yiu think? Thanks

  8. Berbs
    • 9 Years
    1 month, 9 days ago

    City selling their best winger for just 41m

    1. Rolls-Royce
      • 6 Years
      1 month, 9 days ago

      Not much they can do though

    2. kime67
      • 2 Years
      1 month, 9 days ago

      overrated

      1. Berbs
        • 9 Years
        1 month, 9 days ago

        You can be overrated and very good at the same time.

      2. fr3d
        • 2 Years
        1 month, 9 days ago

        Probably the most underrated player in the league

    3. ZimZalabim
      • 4 Years
      1 month, 9 days ago

      its all good they're getting grealish for 80

    4. Gravless are for Kinnear
      • 7 Years
      1 month, 9 days ago

      Good business for City standards

    5. Lindelol
      • Fantasy Football Scout Member
      • 2 Years
      1 month, 9 days ago

      Really wanted him to play regularly but somehow it never happened

  9. Little Red Lacazette
    • 3 Years
    1 month, 9 days ago

    Any Liverpool fans here been following up on potential transfers? Is Klopp looking to bring in new blood?

    1. The Littlest Robbo
      • 4 Years
      1 month, 9 days ago

      Unlikely to be any new signings, if there is it will near the end of the transfer window

    2. Berbs
      • 9 Years
      1 month, 9 days ago

      All the news from Athletic, Liv Echo etc is that Liverpool won't be spending much.

      Klopp's comments in papers last night pretty much echo the same.

    3. Little Red Lacazette
      • 3 Years
      1 month, 9 days ago

      Cheers.

    4. WD27
      • 2 Years
      1 month, 9 days ago

      I would love to sign Leroy..

  10. Rolls-Royce
    • 6 Years
    1 month, 9 days ago

    Puli likey to start from bench tomorrow?

    1. JohnnyRev7
      • Fantasy Football Scout Member
      • 9 Years
      1 month, 9 days ago

      Based on what Lamps said; yes.

  11. The Train Driver
    • 5 Years
    1 month, 9 days ago

    Saka decent sub if Ritchie doesn't play?

    1. Little Red Lacazette
      • 3 Years
      1 month, 9 days ago

      Against Norwich, yes.

    2. Rolls-Royce
      • 6 Years
      1 month, 9 days ago

      Yeah, I guess

      1. johndoe090
        • Fantasy Football Scout Member
        • 5 Years
        1 month, 9 days ago

        Against Norwich, no.

        -Norwich Fan

        -Not based on any logic

  12. Rolls-Royce
    • 6 Years
    1 month, 9 days ago

    Team news in 6 mins, will be shocked if Bruno starts.

    1. Berbs
      • 9 Years
      1 month, 9 days ago

      Fail to understand the logic in giving him 120 mins in a FA Cup game when CL qualification is on the line with only a few games to go.

      And far more important for the club and potential transfers.

      1. Rolls-Royce
        • 6 Years
        1 month, 9 days ago

        He crooked Rashford earlier in the season. Needs some player's fitness management coaching.

        1. Berbs
          • 9 Years
          1 month, 9 days ago

          Yes, and luckily Rashford seemingly got away with it. Hopefully the back issue doesn't reoccur, because that's on Ole 100%.

          1. Would Ed Woodward
            • 1 Year
            1 month, 9 days ago

            Maybe got away without permanent damage but he would've missed the end of the season if not for the pandemic, we probably got the biggest advantage from anyone because of the break, us and Spurs but Jose doesn't use his attackers anyway so not sure he needs them back.

    2. DA Minnion
      • 8 Years
      1 month, 9 days ago

      I'll be shocked if he doesn't.

      1. Rolls-Royce
        • 6 Years
        1 month, 9 days ago

        Ole is a twerp so might not be much of a shock

  13. RamaJama
    • 7 Years
    1 month, 9 days ago

    Would you bench DCL for Aurier?

    1. Lindelol
      • Fantasy Football Scout Member
      • 2 Years
      1 month, 9 days ago

      no other choice?

      1. RamaJama
        • 7 Years
        1 month, 9 days ago

        Considering getting Aurier for Holgate, but won’t bench any of TAA, Doherty and AWB

        1. Lindelol
          • Fantasy Football Scout Member
          • 2 Years
          1 month, 9 days ago

          Then we are exactly in similar boat 😀

          1. Lindelol
            • Fantasy Football Scout Member
            • 2 Years
            1 month, 9 days ago

            *same boat

      2. Lindelol
        • Fantasy Football Scout Member
        • 2 Years
        1 month, 9 days ago

        I guess Aurier is better than a budget price forward

    2. Peter Ouch
      • Fantasy Football Scout Member
      • 2 Years
      1 month, 9 days ago

      Yes, aurier plays as a winger

    3. drughi
      • 10 Years
      1 month, 9 days ago

      Tough one but yeah probably, thinking of benching DCL for saiss. Cant see everton scoring more then 1 goal

  14. L S P
    • Fantasy Football Scout Member
    • 4 Years
    1 month, 9 days ago

    What to do with Sarr with NOR/NEW/whu on the horizon?

    DDG-Button
    TAA-Doherty-Lascelles-Saiss-Masina
    Salah-KDB-Bruno-Sarr-Saka
    Rashford-Jimi-DCL

    2 FTs, .3ITB

    A) Sarr->Foden, bank a FT (maybe bring Sarr back for NEW/NOR/whu)
    B) Sarr/Saka->Pulisic/fodder (if Puli is fit)
    C) Sarr/DCL->Mahrez/Nketiah
    D) Sarr/Doh->Mahrez/Holgate

    1. FC Hakkebøf (Chopped…
      • 3 Years
      1 month, 9 days ago

      Kind of like C if any. Would monitor nketiah's and mahrez' gametime this week. But DCL could come back to haunt you

      1. L S P
        • Fantasy Football Scout Member
        • 4 Years
        1 month, 9 days ago

        agree - stats are there. though TOT (a) aint a great fixture.

        Really conflicted about what to do.

  15. FC Hakkebøf (Chopped…
    • 3 Years
    1 month, 9 days ago

    Which move do you prefer guys? (obviously not pulling the trigger before games are played)

    A) Auba + Perez -> Jesus + B. Fernandes - 4
    B) Auba + Perez -> Rashford + Mahrez -4

    Current team:

    Dubravka
    TAA Aurier Taylor
    Salah KDB Martial Traore
    Auba* Jimenez DCL
    ____
    Martinez Perez* Boly Lundstram

    Still got BB (!?)

    1. B.D.
      • Fantasy Football Scout Member
      • 2 Years
      1 month, 9 days ago

      B

    2. L S P
      • Fantasy Football Scout Member
      • 4 Years
      1 month, 9 days ago

      B

    3. FC Hakkebøf (Chopped…
      • 3 Years
      1 month, 9 days ago

      Care to elaborate guys?

      1. L S P
        • Fantasy Football Scout Member
        • 4 Years
        1 month, 9 days ago

        the #1 player I'd like to have is Mahrez. Jesus is too inconsistent for me. As you can see, I own Bruno+Rashford, but Mahrez seals the deal for me.

        Perez definitely needs to go but I also expect that Auba isn't done scoring this season

        1. FC Hakkebøf (Chopped…
          • 3 Years
          1 month, 9 days ago

          Definetely not done, but he should be scoring quite often at that pricerange. Thanks for input

  16. 7shadesofsmoke
    • 7 Years
    1 month, 9 days ago

    Pope
    TA Doherty AWB
    Mane KDB Son Martial Traore
    Jimenez Rashford

    3.9 / Aurier Robinson Nketiah

    Tell me that is not perfection

    1. FC Hakkebøf (Chopped…
      • 3 Years
      1 month, 9 days ago

      It is not perfection

    2. _Ninja_
      • 9 Years
      1 month, 9 days ago

      Decent team, Would rather Salah

      Traore benched a lot.

  17. Lindelol
    • Fantasy Football Scout Member
    • 2 Years
    1 month, 9 days ago

    where to find captaincy stats?

    1. Lindelol
      • Fantasy Football Scout Member
      • 2 Years
      1 month, 9 days ago

      *ownership stats

      1. ChickenTikkaMoSalah
        • 5 Years
        1 month, 9 days ago

        livefpl.net

      2. 7shadesofsmoke
        • 7 Years
        1 month, 9 days ago

        https://www.livefpl.net i think

    2. Lindelol
      • Fantasy Football Scout Member
      • 2 Years
      1 month, 9 days ago

      thanks

  18. Berbs
    • 9 Years
    1 month, 9 days ago

    Fernandes starts

    1. _Ninja_
      • 9 Years
      1 month, 9 days ago

      Sweet

    2. Berbs
      • 9 Years
      1 month, 9 days ago

      DDG
      AWB Lindelof Maguire Shaw
      Pogba Matic
      Greenwood Fernandes Rashford
      Martial

    3. Would Ed Woodward
      • 1 Year
      1 month, 9 days ago

      I thought he would.

      1. B.D.
        • Fantasy Football Scout Member
        • 2 Years
        1 month, 9 days ago

        Surprised how surprised people are that a regular starter starts 🙂

  19. ClassiX
    • Fantasy Football Scout Member
    • 2 Years
    1 month, 9 days ago

    MAN UTD TEAM NEWS
    Starting XI: De Gea, Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Shaw, Matic, Pogba, Greenwood, Fernandes, Rashford, Martial.
    Subs: Romero, Bailly, Williams, Fred, Pereira, McTominay, Mata, James, Ighalo.

    BRIGHTON TEAM NEWS
    Starting XI: Ryan, Lamptey, Dunk, Duffy, Burn, Montoya, Bissouma, Stephens, Propper, Mac Allister, Connolly.
    Subs: Button, Schelotto, Bernardo, Gross, Mooy, March, Trossard, Murray, Maupay.

    1. _Ninja_
      • 9 Years
      1 month, 9 days ago

      Maupay bench is a surprise.

    2. Lindelol
      • Fantasy Football Scout Member
      • 2 Years
      1 month, 9 days ago

      Bruno owner but honestly I am surprised. Come on Martial(C)

    3. Giggs Boson
      • Fantasy Football Scout Member
      • 8 Years
      1 month, 9 days ago

      United's best XI.

      C'mon Rashy(C)!

  20. Peter Ouch
    • Fantasy Football Scout Member
    • 2 Years
    1 month, 9 days ago

    MAN UTD TEAM NEWS

    Starting XI: De Gea, Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Shaw, Matic, Pogba, Greenwood, Fernandes, Rashford, Martial.

    Subs: Romero, Bailly, Williams, Fred, Pereira, McTominay, Mata, James, Ighalo.

    21:15
    BRIGHTON TEAM NEWS

    Starting XI: Ryan, Lamptey, Dunk, Duffy, Burn, Montoya, Bissouma, Stephens, Propper, Mac Allister, Connolly.

    Subs: Button, Schelotto, Bernardo, Gross, Mooy, March, Trossard, Murray, Maupay

    1. Jon Walter's Hatty
      • 6 Years
      1 month, 9 days ago

      get in

    2. FOO FIGHTER
        1 month, 9 days ago

        Lamptey looking like a decent bench option.

    3. Team Cruel
      • 4 Years
      1 month, 9 days ago

      United unchanged as expected

      1. brianutd-why always we? 20
        • 9 Years
        1 month, 9 days ago

        Nonsense comment

    4. Sim Simma 🤷 🔑 🚘
      • 9 Years
      1 month, 9 days ago

      ⚽ Team News 📰
      BHA: Ryan, Duffy, Dunk, Burn, Montoya, Stephens, Bissouma, Pröpper, Lamptey, Connolly, Mac Allister
      Subs: Button, Schelotto, Bernardo, Mooy, Groß, March, Trossard, Murray, Maupay

      MUN: de Gea, Shaw, Wan-Bissaka, Maguire, Lindelöf, Rashford, Pogba, Fernandes, Matic, Greenwood, Martial
      Subs: Romero, Williams, Bailly, James, Pereira, Fred, Mata, McTominay, Ighalo

    5. ChickenTikkaMoSalah
      • 5 Years
      1 month, 9 days ago

      BRUNNNOOOO

      1. Sun Jihai
        • 8 Years
        1 month, 9 days ago

        LAMPTEYYYY

    6. Ógie
      • Fantasy Football Scout Member
      • 7 Years
      1 month, 9 days ago

      Don't be nervous, Bruno's here baby, I'm at your service
      Tending your cup, sit down, belly up.

    7. Hazz
      • Fantasy Football Scout Member
      • 3 Years
      1 month, 9 days ago

      Lol at everyone talking rubbish about Bruno.

      1. Annie
        • Fantasy Football Scout Member
        • 8 Years
        1 month, 9 days ago

        Where’s the guy who was buying drinks if he started

        1. Lindelol
          • Fantasy Football Scout Member
          • 2 Years
          1 month, 9 days ago

          haha yes

        2. Jon Walter's Hatty
          • 6 Years
          1 month, 9 days ago

          Buying the drinks

    8. Fudgy
      • Fantasy Football Scout Member
      1 month, 9 days ago

      Why is matic playing

      1. fr3d
        • 2 Years
        1 month, 9 days ago

        Why wouldn't he

      2. Hazz
        • Fantasy Football Scout Member
        • 3 Years
        1 month, 9 days ago

        Because he's actually been very good the last few appearances.

      3. Would Ed Woodward
        • 1 Year
        1 month, 9 days ago

        He played in the last league game...

    9. Differential (c)
      • 4 Years
      1 month, 9 days ago

      Bruno starts wtf

      1. Dreaming of glory
        • 4 Years
        1 month, 9 days ago

        Prob only get 60

        1. Jon Walter's Hatty
          • 6 Years
          1 month, 9 days ago

          if its 60 and 90 next game id take that

    10. drughi
      • 10 Years
      1 month, 9 days ago

      Greenwood to steal the show

    11. Zilla
      • 2 Years
      1 month, 9 days ago

      Well done United cappers

    12. Berbs
      • 9 Years
      1 month, 9 days ago

      Hopefully some points from Pogba Bruno Rashford today.

      But more importantly, a Martial blank 🙂

      1. My heart goes Salalalalah
        • 3 Years
        1 month, 9 days ago

        This

      2. FOO FIGHTER
          1 month, 9 days ago

          Martial and Rashford hatties incoming...

          First time I have owned Martial lol.

          1. Would Ed Woodward
            • 1 Year
            1 month, 9 days ago

            I never thought I'd see you owning Martial after what you've previously said about him as a pick.