Having finished 30th in the world last season, the two-time top FPL manager in India reflects on an indifferent first two months of 2020/21.
The start of the season has been quite poor for me. I’m currently sitting at 3.7 million in the world, with a Gameweek rank of 3m+ in six out of the seven Gameweeks to date.
Looking back at why I’m struggling, there are a few questionable decisions that I can pinpoint from which I can learn. Normally I’m not much for self-reflection and prefer looking forward rather than backward but a poor start like this does mean that there have been a few poor decisions made along the way, and reflecting and learning from them can only help.
I’m going to try to make sure that this self-analysis isn’t very hindsight-y and try to assess what I may have done wrong without losing my identity as an aggressive Fantasy Premier League manager.
Letting go of the known for the unknown
This is one of the main reasons for the poor start. I started the season without a single Liverpool attacker and that has cost me some points. Going without one of the prime Liverpool midfielders and instead opting for three questionable unknown quantities like Dele Alli (£7.5m), Timo Werner (£9.3m) and Kai Havertz (£8.4m) was maybe a stretch too far. I’m all for taking punts on new players in the league but in hindsight, compromising on one or two of these picks and instead opting for a known quantity like a Liverpool midfielder would have been a better move.
I’m not saying I should have gone completely without any punts or move away from my risk-friendly style of FPL management but I feel like I could have shown some more restraint and not gone so over the top and spent close to 25% of my Gameweek 1 budget on unknown quantities.
There’s definitely a lesson learnt here.
I for one cannot resist a new toy and have had a fair amount of success in the past when jumping early on the likes of Michu, Kevin De Bruyne (£11.6m) and Mohamed Salah (£12.4m). The key difference there was that these players were coming into a fairly settled side, whereas Chelsea was just a new team altogether and expecting them to click from day one was definitely an error of judgement.
I made a similar mistake in opting for three Wolves assets on my Gameweek 3 Wildcard. Yes, it was a correct call to play the fixtures but Nuno Espirito Santo was adding three to four new players to his starting XI and I ought to have proceeded with caution with a team in transition.
Differentiating for the sake of differentiation?
I was having a conversation with my podcast partner Zophar and asking him for feedback. He said that I might have gone too far in terms of differentiating for the sake of differentiating. There is a thin line between having a genuine gut instinct and “differentiating for the sake of differentiating” and I definitely need to identify the same.
If I’m looking back, foregoing Salah against a newly promoted side at home in Gameweek 1 and instead opting for Werner on his league debut was a poor call. This might have leaned towards gratuitous differentiating and is something I definitely need to check.
Zophar told me that “sometimes fear is good”, especially when it comes to such extreme calls where I know how heavily I can get punished backing against the league champions in their first home game of the season against a newly promoted team. It is exactly what happened and I paid the price for a poor call.
Both Zophar and another regular poster on the Fantasy Football Scout forum, Camzy, thought that the Gameweek 7 captaincy call on Raheem Sterling (£11.6m) might have been a decision in similar vogue and that is where I disagree with them. Given West Ham United’s defensive form as well as my presumption that Tottenham Hotspur might struggle against Brighton and Hove Albion, I thought it was a good opportunity to captain a Manchester City player who showed signs of an explosive haul during his game against the Hammers.
It wasn’t the two squandered chances towards the end of the game that made me lean towards a Sterling captaincy in Gameweek 7 but rather his positioning in the second half, where was he placed right where he needed to be in the centre of the penalty box waiting for his teammates Joao Cancelo (£5.4m) and Riyad Mahrez (£8.3m) to square the ball to him. This wasn’t the case in the earlier games where Sterling wasn’t finding himself in the right position.
His goal and assist in the midweek Champions League game further gave me the confidence to go ahead with this decision and I was hoping Pep Guardiola would continue with a front three of Sterling, Phil Foden (£6.6m) and Ferran Torres (£6.9m), who had shown signs of good link-up play. I was also very encouraged to see Sterling operate on the right, which in my opinion is his best position. I assumed that, after Foden’s man of the match performance, Pep would persist with the front three and, with De Bruyne back, I was backing City to score a few.
The problem was Foden fell sick and Mahrez played extremely selfishly on the right (there are rumours of him and De Bruyne having an argument after the game due to this), which somewhat depleted Sterling’s output despite him looking sharp in the first half.
Of course, I’ve made many such calls in the past which have worked beautifully for me and I’ve given you my read of the same. The learning here is the poor Gameweek 1 call, where I captained Werner instead of Salah, which looks like a clear case of differentiating for the sake of differentiating and one I should definitely avoid in the future. But I should also not stop playing my natural game, which was the Gameweek 7 instinctive read, and I need to identify which is which when I’m making my decisions.
Practice what you preach
There are two key points that I always mention when talking about why I’ve done well in FPL so far.
The most important one is to adapt to what the new season is bringing to you. I am definitely guilty of not adapting to the new season and the data it has brought. In Gameweek 2, Spurs demolished Southampton, and you can write that off as a freak result. But the key was the performance the Lilywhites put in against Newcastle in Gameweek 3. Yes, the game finished 1-1 at the end but those who saw the match will know that there were enough indicators that a monster haul from their attackers was coming.
I kept being stubborn and writing Spurs off as I thought they would not sustain this form despite having good fixtures from Gameweek 5, and I only bought Harry Kane (£11.0m) last Gameweek. Ideally, a good FPL manager would have seen that performance against Newcastle and plumped for them. That is correctly adapting to new season data but even after the Spurs result against Manchester United, I flouted another standard practice of mine.
I always say that when you are getting a player in your team, get him at the start of a good run of fixtures, even for a hit, so that you increase your odds of catching a haul. I should have done this after the Manchester United game but I was stubborn (which paid off in the short-term as I scored 91 points in Gameweek 5) but this stubbornness has cost me over the mid-term.
There are definitely lessons learnt here and I hope to come back to this article at the start of next season so I don’t repeat the same mistakes.
Going forward, there is a tough decision for FPL managers in terms of what to do with Spurs assets given the fixture turn. Over the last two to three seasons, I’ve aggressively played the fixtures and the reasoning for the same is in this article. I haven’t made up my mind as yet because I’m debating whether doing this again (which has been my style for a few years) is not adapting to the season.
At the moment, Spurs’ attacking output has dropped in the last couple of games so I’m leaning towards playing the fixtures, especially when the biggest flat-track bullies in the league – Manchester City – go on a mind-boggling run of matches. Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester United also have a decent stretch of games coming up, too.
Thankfully, there’s enough time to ponder over this dilemma. Until then, here’s to more growing and improving as an FPL manager.
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