Former FPL world champion Simon March discusses when the laissez-faire approach might not be the best one when it comes to Fantasy management.
I sometimes talk in these articles about what I see as the importance of patience as an attribute among Fantasy managers and, while I stand by those views, I’m going to use this article to confuse things a little and suggest that a lack of patience can also be a virtue among Fantasy Premier League bosses, in certain circumstances.
There’s an old Wall Street saying that goes: “Cut your losses and let your winners run.” That basically means: “Sell your losing shares and keep the ones that are making you a profit.” Applied to FPL, this principle would recommend that we sell the blanking or underperforming players and hold onto the ones who are scoring us points. This makes obvious intuitive sense; if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. However, following the ‘let your winners run’ principle too dogmatically can also backfire, and here’s why.
Our tendency as humans to not want to change something that is working is a fairly natural mindset. Even in the world of actual Premier League management, there is a commonly accepted maxim that you should ‘never change a winning team.’ Indeed, in FPL, it’s very difficult to get rid of a player who has been delivering for you. I’m almost certain that anyone who has played this game for any amount of time has, at least once, brought in a player for a set run of good fixtures and ended up keeping them long after that run had ended because they’d done well during that time. This is an example of ‘letting our winners run’.
Obviously, it’s difficult to justify getting rid of a player when they appear to be ‘in form’ but jumping off players at the right time can be as important as bringing them in at the right time in this game. To help illustrate why, consider the following.
Say you created a ‘dead team’ last season (i.e. one you make no changes to over the whole campaign) and all 11 of your starting players averaged 175 points – a very strong return per player that year (almost the equivalent of 11 x Andy Robertson). With captain points doubled, that would equal 2,100 points overall. Let’s be extra generous and chuck in another 50 points for choosing your captain extra well and another 100 points from your chips. That’s 2,250 points which, last season, would have got you approximately a 125k finish. Not bad by any means, but still about 100 points short of what would have been needed to break the aspirational top 10k.
The point here is that, in FPL, you can make really good player and captain choices and still not trouble the top 100k. To do really, really well, you’ll also need to transfer players in and out in an effective manner, to exploit their peaks and to avoid their lows.
So, short of being extremely lucky, how do you do this? Obviously none of us have a conclusive answer (yet) but we each have our own ways of determining a player’s expected return. Some of us, for example, look at fixtures and assume that players will score better in easier than harder matches. Others look at underlying stats with the belief that, if a player is delivering high numbers in a certain attribute, they are worth investing in. Alternatively, we sometimes bring a player in because they are, perhaps temporarily, playing out of position and their scores benefit as a result of that.
The key thing here is that, whatever your objective means of predicting player performance, if you believe it works, then you should, logically, stick to it both with respect to bringing players in, and in moving them out. If your system is successful in predicting that a player will score well, then it stands to reason that it should also be successful in predicting when that player will stop scoring as well. When this happens, it is time to move the player out. The temptation, as discussed, will be to ‘let your winners run’ but the consequences of this may not only be to hold on to a player whose performance subsequently dips but, also, missing out on the opportunity to bring in a player who may outperform them.
So, in summary, while patience in FPL is a virtue when the conditions are right for the player in question to do well, impatience can be equally virtuous when those conditions change to their detriment. Knowing when to make changes is only half the battle; FPL managers need also to be willing to execute those changes and that might mean transferring out previously high performers.
As Charlie Chaplin once said (probably about FPL): “This is a ruthless world, and one must be ruthless to cope with it.”
Simon is a former FPL world champion, claiming the coveted price in 2014/15. But there is more to this man than one season of good fortune. Since 2009, Simon has finished in the top 7k four times, only ending up outside the world’s top 60k once in an 11-campaign career.
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