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Pro Pundits - Simon

When should Fantasy managers trust the stats or go with their gut?

Former Fantasy Premier League winner Simon March discusses one of the game’s age-old debates in his latest column…


Within the Fantasy Premier League community, the decisions we make and our reasons for making them represent an endless source of debate.

Yet one inarguable justification does exist, one that simply cannot provoke any other response than immediate, unqualified acceptance, perhaps even with a touch of admiration too. That justification? “I’ve just got a feeling about it.”

That such reasoning is so ubiquitous and so widely accepted does raise a couple of questions. Firstly why, in a game so overflowing with data, are we so ready to follow our feelings when making decisions and, secondly, is deferring to them a good or a bad idea? Addressing these questions will be the focus of this week’s article.

Why We Go With Our Gut

Injury updates on Gundogan, KDB and other Double Gameweek 25 team news

There’s an undeniable romanticism about going with your gut. Perhaps it is the sincerity that comes with making a decision entirely on your own terms, or maybe it’s the brave willingness to trust in forces that are not quite visible to us. Just as Obi-Wan Kenobi’s advice to Luke Skywalker in Star Wars to “Trust your feelings” played a vital role in the latter’s heroic journey, there is nothing more valorous in FPL than to make a choice based entirely on instinct.

However, following a feeling is not necessarily an irrational thing to do. Indeed, there is an evolutionary root to our tendency to do it. We develop these feelings as a shorthand method of processing large amounts of information quickly. In the early days of man, this method was a vital means of quickly identifying survival threats and, as the world became more complex, it also became an important way of making sense of our ever-changing environments.

Gut instinct also has a place in the modern world. It is the reason you hear stories of veteran firefighters saving their teams because they ‘just knew’ that the burning building was about to collapse and everybody needed to get out. You see it constantly on the football field too. Players often, in a split second, make a decision that pundits spend hours, days or sometimes decades trying to explain. Think Pele’s pass for Carlos Alberto’s goal in the 1970 World Cup Final or Olivier Giroud’s Puskas-winning scorpion-kick against Crystal Palace in 2017. These were not consciously-deliberated acts but, rather, they were glorious moments of human instinct incarnate.

Often, in such situations, the individuals in question cannot verbalise how they knew to do what they did, they just did it. Some refer to this as a sixth sense but, in reality, it is likely to be the manifestation of a person receiving enough exposure to certain situational or environmental factors that they no longer had to consciously process the information, their subconscious did it for them.

By this rationale, not only should we be able to trust our feelings when making decisions as Fantasy managers but the quality of those feelings as decision-making tools should increase the more experience we have of playing the game. I’ve no doubt that after a decade or so of playing FPL, I have better instincts than when I first started playing the game, forged, as they have been, in the flames of Shane Duffy Double Gameweek captaincy fails and benched Harry Kane hauls. I’ve seen enough shaky bandwagons in my time to no longer get sucked into them as often as I might have and, equally, there are times where I just know if a player is going to do well or not and I turn out to be right. Am I a better player for all of this experience though? That is definitely debatable.

The Dangers of Following your FPL Feelings 

Unfortunately, there are two sides to developing FPL instincts via experience. Just as we learn to avoid certain mistakes, we become prone to making new ones through the same psychological mechanism. Often, our subconscious decisions are driven by whatever we can draw on as our most easily-accessible comparable example. As a result, we put (sometimes too much) faith in a player because we recall them once scoring a hat-trick or because they remind us of another player who did well in similar circumstances. Over time, we build up these reference points against which we make our decisions, many of which will be unreliable. As a result, we sometimes make worse decisions the more experience we get.

For example, an FPL manager who did not experience or benefit from Michu, Swansea’s budget midfield goal-scoring phenomenon who exploded onto the FPL scene in 2012, will probably be less likely to take a chance on a similarly unproven asset than those of us with fond memories of the Michu era. As we’ve seen, particularly this season, trusting unproven assets (at least from the start) is a risky move that probably fails more often than it pays off.

We might also miss opportunities by allowing our decisions to be driven by our most easily-recalled comparisons. For example, after a superb goal-scoring start to this season by Leeds’ Patrick Bamford, many of us would have been drawing mental parallels with Norwich’s Teemu Pukki last season who, like Bamford, also played for a newly-promoted team and also started out banging in the goals like goals were about to be banned, but dropped off considerably after about a dozen matches. Many of us will have avoided Bamford for that exact reason or transferred him out as soon as a similar decline looked like a possibility. Instead, Bamford has continued to score fairly consistently all season so far. Thus, while the comparison to Pukki was easy to make, it was not ultimately an accurate one.

Bamford and Raphinha star in audition for Double Gameweek 25 2

Experience, therefore, is a double-edged sword. It has the potential to allow us to develop the equivalent of an FPL ‘spider-sense’ yet, at the same time, it can cause us to become too rigid, unadaptive and stuck in our ways, perhaps causing us to believe that what we’ve seen is actually all there is to see, or cause us to be too sceptical about the viability of emerging opportunities. 

How Can FPL Managers Learn to Trust Their Better Instincts?

So how can FPL managers learn to trust our good instincts and ignore our bad ones? Should we be acting on instinct at all? The key, perhaps, is to recognise what’s going on below the surface and that, just because you have a strong feeling about something, it isn’t necessarily a valid reason to go with it. While instinct and experience can, undeniably, be valuable assets for an FPL manager, these kinds of decision-making mechanisms were, perhaps, not designed to resolve complex decisions of this type, at least not on their own.

In such moments, it is important to question the source of that feeling and how reliable it is as an indicator of what might happen in the future. Instinct may help you see opportunities that other managers don’t, or avoid the traps that others will fall into, but it may also create such traps if followed without sufficient interrogation. This is why it is important to sense-check decisions with some form of objective data or a second-opinion. If you have a feeling about a player, have a look to see if the statistics back it up or how the idea plays with other managers. For all the tools now available to FPL managers to aid in their decision-making, the FPL community is still arguably the most effective resource there is for refining our ideas.

To Dare is To Do

It may also be important to acknowledge also that, while experience can be valuable for an FPL manager, it will likely be less important than adaptability. No two seasons are ever the same and recognising this fact, and recognising it quickly, will often be crucial to success.

What weighting you give to any of the sources of information you draw on will always be up to you, nobody should ever follow a source blindly. But, unless you are some sort of FPL savant, entirely independent or esoteric decision-making will likely end up serving your rivals more often than it serves you. In the arena of going with your gut, this kind of sense-checking process is the high-fibre diet or the probiotic supplement that allows you to trust your gut with greater confidence and to help avoid it doing something bloated, messy and embarrassing.

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657 Comments Post a Comment
  1. You've got red on you.
    • Fantasy Football Scout Member
    • 9 Years
    7 months, 3 days ago

    Pick one? No need to take 29 into account as I will probably Free Hit.

    a) James (Man Utd, L'pool)
    b) Mee (Spurs, Leicester)
    c) -4 Regulion/Dier (Burnley, Fulham)
    d) -4 Targett (Leeds, Sheff Utd)
    e) -4 Robertson (Sheff Utd, Chelsea)

    1. tbos83
      7 months, 3 days ago

      C

    2. Gudge
      • Fantasy Football Scout Member
      • 1 Year
      7 months, 3 days ago

      C

    3. You've got red on you.
      • Fantasy Football Scout Member
      • 9 Years
      7 months, 3 days ago

      Think Reg will play both games?

      1. Gudge
        • Fantasy Football Scout Member
        • 1 Year
        7 months, 3 days ago

        I think he will especially with Spurs form lately they will need more creativity

  2. shirtless
    • Fantasy Football Scout Member
    • 10 Years
    7 months, 3 days ago

    Keep hold of Jesus with 4 games, or switch to Kane with 3?

    1. You've got red on you.
      • Fantasy Football Scout Member
      • 9 Years
      7 months, 3 days ago

      Kane might end up playing more than Jesus

    2. Jersey Boy
      • 2 Years
      7 months, 3 days ago

      Kane no brainer

    3. shirtless
      • Fantasy Football Scout Member
      • 10 Years
      7 months, 3 days ago

      I agree cheers gents.

  3. Tshelby
    • 6 Years
    7 months, 3 days ago

    Grealish to Barnes? Leaves me without any spurs players

  4. manu4life99
    • Fantasy Football Scout Member
    • 11 Years
    7 months, 3 days ago

    Is Dawson nailed for Wham?

    Need a bgw29 defender for 4.6m with good fixtures beyond gw29 (no WC)

    1. Pukki Party
      • 4 Years
      7 months, 3 days ago

      Yes

  5. BigKeith
    7 months, 3 days ago

    Wild Card and Bench boost

    Martinez, Sanchez
    Stones, Cancelo, Targett, Digne, Strujik
    JRod, Bruno, Son, Gundogan, Barnes
    Vardy, Watkins, DCL

    Looks good or missing something?

    1. Gudge
      • Fantasy Football Scout Member
      • 1 Year
      7 months, 3 days ago

      Not sure you can use 2 chips in one week?

      1. Wılly
        • 8 Years
        7 months, 3 days ago

        You can't

        1. BigKeith
          7 months, 3 days ago

          yup just realised

  6. Firminoooo
    • Fantasy Football Scout Member
    • 5 Years
    7 months, 3 days ago

    Molde beats Hoffenheim. Maybe Solskjær meet his old club in the next round.

  7. Henryyy
    • Fantasy Football Scout Member
    • 5 Years
    7 months, 3 days ago

    Who would you sell to fit Kane in??

    A Salah
    B Bruno
    C Son

    1. You've got red on you.
      • Fantasy Football Scout Member
      • 9 Years
      7 months, 3 days ago

      Maybe Bruno but I'd prob find another way to get Kane in.

    2. Pukki Party
      • 4 Years
      7 months, 3 days ago

      A

    3. Bob.
      • Fantasy Football Scout Member
      • 11 Years
      7 months, 3 days ago

      Salah but I wouldn't want to get rid of any if those

  8. Pukki Party
    • 4 Years
    7 months, 3 days ago

    Bottomed. BB or TC here? *=sgw 1ft 0.0itb

    Martinez
    Cancelo Stones Taylor
    Salah Son Bruno Gundogan
    DCL Bamford* Ings*

    Ramsdale Soucek* Holding* Dallas*

    A) Ings, Soucek, Holding to Diagne, Barnes, Dier -8 and BB

    B) Ings to Richarlison/Watkins and TC Bruno probably

    1. Bubbles1985
      • 4 Years
      7 months, 3 days ago

      A but with a Dier alternative?

      1. Pukki Party
        • 4 Years
        7 months, 3 days ago

        4.9 budget?

        1. Bubbles1985
          • 4 Years
          7 months, 3 days ago

          Targett, Konsa, Maitland

  9. Lucky Z
    • 4 Years
    7 months, 3 days ago

    Barnes for Grealish -4 tonight ot wait? Seems he rises.

    1. Pukki Party
      • 4 Years
      7 months, 3 days ago

      Go for it

  10. dunas_dog
    • Fantasy Football Scout Member
    • 6 Years
    7 months, 3 days ago

    Anyone considering Barnes as captain if fully rested tonight- certainly got the form?

    1. el polako
      • Fantasy Football Scout Member
      • 4 Years
      7 months, 3 days ago

      Maddison out may be an issue.

    2. SADIO SANÉ
      • 6 Years
      7 months, 3 days ago

      I never really considered that he wouldn’t play twice for some reason, so nothing much has changed for me - an option but probably not Salah/Bruno/Kane level

    3. Bushwhacker
      • 2 Years
      7 months, 3 days ago

      Never gonna massive haul.

  11. Bob.
    • Fantasy Football Scout Member
    • 11 Years
    7 months, 3 days ago

    Martinez
    Cancelo Stones Lowton Justin Coufal
    Bruno Salah Rashford Gundo Raphinha
    Ings Bamford Antonio

    Thinking of doing Ings, Bamford, Justin to Kane (TC), Aina, Watkins for -8. Need to get in a 4.5 def to fund the Kane move. Moves look okay? I could ignore the Watkins move but looks like villa could have another double soon. Cheers

    1. Pukki Party
      • 4 Years
      7 months, 3 days ago

      I'm not going Watkins as Grealish is out. Which 4.5def are you getting

      1. Bob.
        • Fantasy Football Scout Member
        • 11 Years
        7 months, 3 days ago

        Villa still created a few chances against Leicester with grealish out maybe Watkins could still do well. I have a feeling. Could be wrong! Aina at 4.5 looks pretty handy.

  12. FCSB
    • 5 Years
    7 months, 3 days ago

    Hi guys, looking for a response to make my decision please

    Martinez
    Cancelo Stones Robertson
    Salah Fernandes Gundogan Raphinha
    Bamford DCL Ings

    Pope Soucek Coufal Ferguson

    1. Ferguson Ings >> Konsa Kane [10DGWs] (play Bamford or Raphinha)
    2. Robertson Ings >> Digne Kane [9DGWs] (play Bamford and Raphinha)
    3. Soucek Coufal Ferguson >> Barnes Targett Shaw (-4) (play BB) [Pope Bamford Raphinha Targett] (but no Kane)
    4. Ferguson Coufal Ings >> Aina Konsa Kane (-4) (play BB) [Pope Bamford Raphinha Soucek]
    5. Ferguson Soucek Ings >> Konsa Lookman Kane (-4) (play BB) [Pope Bamford Raphinha Coufal]

    Thanks

    1. Garam MOSALAH
      • 8 Years
      7 months, 3 days ago

      3 or 4 for me

  13. Chrisitis
    • Fantasy Football Scout Member
    • 9 Years
    7 months, 3 days ago

    Soucek -> Gundogan FT?
    Or wait a week and get Kdb?

    1. Pukki Party
      • 4 Years
      7 months, 3 days ago

      Yes

    2. Garam MOSALAH
      • 8 Years
      7 months, 3 days ago

      huh funds ?
      Does your bank gives you interest ?

      1. Chrisitis
        • Fantasy Football Scout Member
        • 9 Years
        7 months, 3 days ago

        Soucek -> barnes this week
        Bruno/salah -> kdb next week

  14. Garam MOSALAH
    • 8 Years
    7 months, 3 days ago

    BB -4; who will you pick

    A) Martinez + Dier
    B) Lloris + Konsa

    Think A will score more points but B nailed to start both.

  15. Lindelol
    • 3 Years
    7 months, 3 days ago

    A. (Ederson, Dias, Digne, Dier, Hamez, Watkins) with FH

    B. (Pope, Stones, AWB, Cancelo, Gundo, Bamford) includes single hit

    I feel Each player in A can easily outscore in B plus its without hit

    So considering rotation risk and other factors which option should I go for??
    Please advise as I am not a very experienced player

  16. how now brown cow
    • Fantasy Football Scout Member
    • 7 Years
    7 months, 3 days ago

    Pickford
    Dias Cancelo Mee
    Salah Bruno Gundo Barnes Lookman
    DCL Kane

    Meslier Burn Dallas Bamford

    Look ok? Prob going to BB too....

  17. FCSB
    • 5 Years
    7 months, 3 days ago

    Getting such a mixed response with this:

    Martinez
    Cancelo Stones Robertson
    Salah Fernandes Gundogan Raphinha
    Bamford DCL Ings

    Pope Soucek Coufal Ferguson

    1. Ferguson Ings >> Konsa Kane [10DGWs] (play Bamford or Raphinha)
    2. Robertson Ings >> Digne Kane [9DGWs] (play Bamford and Raphinha)
    3. Soucek Coufal Ferguson >> Barnes Targett Shaw (-4) (play BB) [Pope Bamford Raphinha Targett] (but no Kane)
    4. Ferguson Coufal Ings >> Aina Konsa Kane (-4) (play BB) [Pope Bamford Raphinha Soucek]
    5. Ferguson Soucek Ings >> Konsa Lookman Kane (-4) (play BB) [Pope Bamford Raphinha Coufal]

    Thanks

    1. lindeg
      • 2 Years
      7 months, 3 days ago

      1 for me.

      Why would you play BB with those players though? Pope has tough fixtures, Bam and Raph v Villa is not a great fixture, and Coufal or Soucek v City is an awful fixture.

      1. FCSB
        • 5 Years
        7 months, 3 days ago

        Just nervous there won’t be a better opportunity ?!

        I’ve been set on 1 most of the week, and 2 has turned my head too

    2. Tonyawesome69
      • 2 Years
      7 months, 3 days ago

      4 or 5. Aina and Soucek vs Lookman and Coufal....Probably 5

  18. G Banger
    • 3 Years
    7 months, 3 days ago

    Front 7 of:

    Barnes, Gundo, Salah, Bruno, Ralphinha
    Kane, Bamford, DCL

    Who would you bench

    a) Bamford
    b) Ralphinha

    1. Tonyawesome69
      • 2 Years
      7 months, 3 days ago

      Same dilemma and I'm benching Bamford

  19. SMOOTH
    • Fantasy Football Scout Member
    • 11 Years
    7 months, 3 days ago

    do we think regulion starts both?

  20. lindeg
    • 2 Years
    7 months, 3 days ago

    Wildcarding GW30, anyone else?

    1. The 12th Man
      • 8 Years
      7 months, 3 days ago

      Look at the fixtures in 30.
      The players you will have for 29 are good for 30.

      WC better in 31 imo.

      1. Tonyawesome69
        • 2 Years
        7 months, 3 days ago

        This

  21. 2hotty
    • 4 Years
    7 months, 3 days ago

    Best Mid 6 million or under with a double
    A- Neto
    B- Pereira
    C- Lookman
    D- Jorginho

    1. Tonyawesome69
      • 2 Years
      7 months, 3 days ago

      C

  22. bring back diop
    • Fantasy Football Scout Member
    • 7 Years
    7 months, 3 days ago

    Which would be best for the double GW also needed for blank 29
    A) Pereria, Dier, Maja (-4)
    B) Aina, Mitchell, DCL
    C) Pereria, Digne, Brewster

  23. MichaelTighe10
    • Fantasy Football Scout Member
    • 1 Year
    7 months, 2 days ago

    Great writing. Love the psychology posts that pop up on here now and again.

  24. HMC
    • Fantasy Football Scout Member
    • 11 Years
    7 months, 2 days ago

    Cheers Simon!

    Certainly is tough to balance the two when they can be so conflicting.

    With so many members paying fees for content, you want to start trusting and believing the numbers as much as possible even though deep down you don’t think it’s the right move in some cases, and then hindsight kicks in and you’re like “damn why didn’t I trust my gut on this”

  25. beerhockeyrock
    • Fantasy Football Scout Member
    • 12 Years
    7 months, 2 days ago

    Quandary:
    1 FT, plenty of cash in hand
    A) Lowton to Digne
    OR
    B) Raphina to Barnes

    Choose A: either Bamford or Raphina have to start.
    Choose B: Lowton or Bamford have to start

  26. Disturbed
    • Fantasy Football Scout Member
    • 7 Years
    7 months, 2 days ago

    Over 600k transfers in for Barnes, really hoping he blanks. Chose to get in Son over him.

  27. Bobby's Teeth
    • Fantasy Football Scout Member
    • 5 Years
    7 months, 2 days ago

    Hi legends,

    On WC and would appreciate you ripping this team to shreds:

    Martinez
    Pereira Stones Digne
    Kdb Gundo Bruno Barnes
    DCL Kane Watkins

    Bench: Areola Raph Konsa N. Phillips