Pro Pundits - Simon

Why does good FPL form end and what can we do about it? – Part II

In the second of a two-part article, former Fantasy Premier League champion Simon March looks at player and team form.


In my previous article, I discussed how periods of above-average performance among football players will eventually be balanced out by periods of below-average performance and, as a result, we often find ourselves investing in ‘in-form’ FPL players just at the point where their form is about to decline.

While this concept of ‘regressing to the mean’ is a statistical inevitability, it is also a somewhat reductive way of viewing the subject matter at hand. We are, after all, talking about living, breathing human beings, not simply numbers on a spreadsheet. While we can look at how form fluctuates in terms of broad, statistical trends, we also need to consider the fact that teams and players are adaptive, not constant.

With this in mind, and with the objective of continuing this analysis into why form ends and whether this can be predicted, part two of this series will focus on the human element of this equation.

Humans are evolving creatures, responding to changes in our environment and adjusting our behaviours accordingly. Football players, and indeed football teams, are equally adaptive entities. Often, when we look at a player or team in form, we often make the mistake of assuming that things will remain constant and this level of performance will continue indefinitely.

If you accept the common idea that form is connected to confidence levels, this would be an entirely logical viewpoint. If high confidence should help a player play well, playing well should continue to boost confidence, creating a self-sustaining virtuous cycle of positive form.

What this perspective doesn’t consider, however, are the forces working in opposition to this form, both internally and externally and, because humans adapt, the more extreme the levels of form, good or bad, the greater these opposing forces are likely to become.

A team who is performing badly is likely to focus on their key weaknesses whereas a team who is performing well is likely to focus on the things they are doing best, potentially at the expense of other important things. Meanwhile, the teams that face these teams will be trying to exploit their known weakness and nullify their key strengths.

To explain this in more detail, it’s worth considering a famous study from WWII concerning the reinforcing of bomber planes. For a long time, the armour on bomber planes were reinforced based on where bullet holes were found to be clustered upon their return to base. The theory was that, if these were the places most commonly hit by the enemy, then these should be the priority areas to protect.

However, upon observing this practice, the statistician Abraham Wald pointed out that the samples that this theory was based on were comprised entirely of the planes that actually made it back to their base, they didn’t include those that were shot down.

Consequently, he argued, the bullet holes actually highlighted the areas where the plane could survive being hit and it was, in fact, the other areas that needed to be reinforced first.

This effect is referred to as ‘survivorship bias’; a form of sampling bias where the data analysed is unrepresentative due to it having already been filtered of the data that, for whatever reason, didn’t make it to the study. 

We often see a similar effect in football. Teams may appear unstoppable in attack or impregnable in defence but, frequently, this appearance is exaggerated due to the way teams play against them or, often, the way teams don’t play against them.

Teams can appear dominant for long periods of time and perhaps even so dominant that it looks like they might never be dislodged. Think the Arsenal ‘Invincibles’ team of 2003/04, José Mourinho’s Chelsea of the mid-2000s, Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona of 2008 to 2012 or, more recently, Liverpool for the past couple of seasons under Jürgen Klopp.

Over time, however, even the best teams lose their edge. They get so used to what has been working for them working for them, they either stop working on it or, even worse, they only work on it, leaving them vulnerable due to a lack of a viable ‘Plan B’.

Meanwhile, as teams dominate, more data becomes available on how such teams play and how best to play against them. Sometimes all it takes is one tactical innovation; double-marking a certain player, surrendering space on the wings to pack the centre or exploiting an aerial weakness to bring a streak of dominance to an end. Perversely therefore, it is often when teams appear at their most dominant that they are, in fact, at their most vulnerable.

A similar effect can also apply to players. There have been times when certain players such as Leicester’s Jamie Vardy (£10.1m) looked like they might never stop scoring but, eventually, they always do. You cannot achieve extraordinary success without promoting a similar-scale response from the opposition. Equally periods of sustained success can lead to overconfidence in a player, laziness or even choking as the pressure or attention on them mounts. All of these can precipitate a decline in their performance.

Eventually, teams get ‘found out’ by opponents while dangerous players receive increased attention, sometimes nullifying their contribution. This may last until they can adapt to the new challenge.This cycle between observation and adaptation is often a big part of what we are actually referring to when we talk about ‘form’.

So what does this mean for FPL? Well, firstly, we should be particularly wary of players during long scoring streaks and teams who are going through phases of extreme dominance, especially when they are winning games by large margins.

The greater the margin of victory, the greater the likelihood of complacency among the players on the winning side and, for their opponents, there is more information on what to do, or perhaps what not to do, when facing them.

This effect, I’d argue, is part of the reason why we often see teams go from chalking up cricket scores one week to barely having a shot on target the next.

Equally, it means we shouldn’t write off teams who are conceding a lot of goals. Some teams will simply not have the ability or personnel to fix their problems or adapt but some will, and it is unlikely that any team will be working harder on their inadequacies than a team who have just suffered a big defeat. 

This may have significant implications for the much-favoured strategy of ‘targeting the whipping boys’ because the whipping boys may not actually stay whipping boys for as long as we might hope.

At the other end of the spectrum, there is every chance that a team who are keeping many clean sheets will eventually struggle to maintain them. The opportunity for complacency grows with each shut out and, even if by trial and error, the opposition will eventually find their achilles heel.

While I’ve suggested some warning signs for when form might be about to end, it is still very difficult to predict. While teams will not win by 4 goals every match, you also won’t want to sell their assets before that run is over. Equally predicting the exact end or beginning of a period of defensive solidity could involve a lot of guesswork. 

However, this perspective might cause us to show more patience with teams and players who are going through a period of underperformance. For such a player or a team, those problems can compound and cause a drain on your FPL team’s resources, or they may precipitate a rebound in their fortunes, leading to an opportunity. The ability to judge the difference is one of the key skills that really good, or really lucky, FPL managers tend to have.

From a strategic perspective, therefore, the best approach in all respects is likely to be one of moderation. The more you invest into a certain team or fixture, the more exposed you are to any sudden change in their performances so, while by all means target the whipping boys, it’s worth considering whether you really need, say, three players and your Captain tied up in that scenario.

Finally, rather than focusing on the teams who are likely overperforming, we might be better off focusing on the teams who are doing well, but not too well. It is probably no coincidence that the longest unbeaten stretches in football tend to come from teams performing fairly moderately in attack as they never win by enough to become complacent or for opponents to adopt special tactics for them.

Therefore, teams that are winning by smaller margins or attacking players who are delivering a goal or an assist each week may well offer more consistency for longer than teams or players delivering a run of huge hauls.

Why does good FPL form end and what can we do about it?

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169 Comments Post a Comment
  1. liverpool01
    • 2 Years
    2 months, 8 days ago

    Martinez
    Dias, Stones, Shaw
    Jota, Son, Gundogan, Bruno, Mount
    Kane, Dcl

    Pope, Dallas, Bamford, Lowton

    2FT 0.8 ITB

    Planning Gundgan> Lingard

    Also planning to BB GW 34, any suggestions?

  2. The Knights Template
    • 7 Years
    2 months, 8 days ago

    Pretty sure we humans are actually devolving.

    1. Little Red Lacazette
      • 4 Years
      2 months, 8 days ago

      Football getting worse?

    2. Tufnell-Chimes
      • 8 Years
      2 months, 8 days ago

      Pretty sure we peaked in the mid`70s

  3. Studs Up
    • Fantasy Football Scout Member
    • 1 Year
    2 months, 8 days ago

    Nice....always a good read

  4. LewanGOALski
    • Fantasy Football Scout Member
    • 9 Years
    2 months, 8 days ago

    any leaks about Dan Burn starting / not starting tomorrow?
    Need him to not play to get Dallas points...

    1. KAPTAIN KANE
      • 4 Years
      2 months, 8 days ago

      Dan Burn to outscore Dallas!

  5. Winston.
    • Fantasy Football Scout Member
    • 7 Years
    2 months, 8 days ago

    Is Fofana nailed? Evans fit and Soyncu becoming fit in late April?

    1. JabariParkersEyelid
      • Fantasy Football Scout Member
      • 1 Year
      2 months, 8 days ago

      He should be. Amartey will make way before he does.

  6. Gazwaz80
    • 1 Year
    2 months, 8 days ago

    Studied profusely this last week regarding attaining the perfect Wildcard, thought I’d eventually nailed it, right up to the last hour before transfer deadline.....
    27 from 6 🙁

    1. JabariParkersEyelid
      • Fantasy Football Scout Member
      • 1 Year
      2 months, 8 days ago

      Wildcard success is measured over a period of weeks, if you put in the research you should be setup nicely moving forwards.

      All is not lost, it hasn't been a high scoring week anyway and yours is fine.

    2. Big Hands Barry
      • Fantasy Football Scout Member
      • 2 Years
      2 months, 8 days ago

      Thats a good score

      1. Gazwaz80
        • 1 Year
        2 months, 8 days ago

        Thanks lads, I tried to set up with future game weeks in mind as well as decent fixtures this week, got rid of Leeds, brought in Stirling as captain for one week punt, double Chelsea defence, these all seemed perfectly plausible at the time 🙂

  7. JabariParkersEyelid
    • Fantasy Football Scout Member
    • 1 Year
    2 months, 8 days ago

    Enjoyable article. As it says though, very difficult to translate this sort of theory effectively to FPL.

  8. HVT
    • 10 Years
    2 months, 8 days ago

    Those with TC, you playing it on Kane this week?

    1. JabariParkersEyelid
      • Fantasy Football Scout Member
      • 1 Year
      2 months, 8 days ago

      Yes.

    2. West End Exile
      • Fantasy Football Scout Member
      • 2 Years
      2 months, 8 days ago

      Yep

    3. John Nerdelbaum
      • 8 Years
      2 months, 8 days ago

      Dallas for me

    4. John Nerdelbaum
      • 8 Years
      2 months, 8 days ago

      Chip hoarding vermin scum

      1. HVT
        • 10 Years
        2 months, 8 days ago

        :Lol: would you bench Dias(villa) over Holding (Ful)?
        Surely even Arteta can’t mess that up???

        1. John Nerdelbaum
          • 8 Years
          2 months, 8 days ago

          I'd play Dias

    5. Bubbles1985
      • 4 Years
      2 months, 8 days ago

      Real tempted...

      When else is there to play it?!

    6. Sharkytect
      • Fantasy Football Scout Member
      • 6 Years
      2 months, 8 days ago

      Yes

    7. AC Yew
      • 2 Years
      2 months, 8 days ago

      No idea what im doing anymore and sick of waiting for the opportune GW. So Kane TC it is. Still got BB to worry about!

    8. Little Red Lacazette
      • 4 Years
      2 months, 8 days ago

      Yes

    9. DementedFlamingo
      • 11 Years
      2 months, 8 days ago

      Looks like it

      1. HVT
        • 10 Years
        2 months, 8 days ago

        Activated, thanks DF, Thanks all-I’ll take off my bib now that I’m spoonfed!
        😉

  9. RamboRN
    • 9 Years
    2 months, 8 days ago

    Mendy
    rudiger holding fofana
    Salah jota lingard Bruno son
    Kane inheanacho

    Forster, TAA, dias, vydra
    1ft. Roll the transfer? Bench correct? Trent dias on bench seems crazy but the others have higher chance of cs

    1. JabariParkersEyelid
      • Fantasy Football Scout Member
      • 1 Year
      2 months, 8 days ago

      No way I would bench Trent. He didn't keep a clean sheet this week either.

      1. RamboRN
        • 9 Years
        2 months, 8 days ago

        But who sits out?

        1. JabariParkersEyelid
          • Fantasy Football Scout Member
          • 1 Year
          2 months, 8 days ago

          Holding.

          1. JabariParkersEyelid
            • Fantasy Football Scout Member
            • 1 Year
            2 months, 8 days ago

            Just to add, I'm benching Rudiger this week, sometimes you have to have good options on the bench. Playing Trent, Shaw and James.

          2. RamboRN
            • 9 Years
            2 months, 8 days ago

            Yeah I suppose Fulham have looked a bit better recently and arsenal not soo much

    2. Scots Gooner
      • Fantasy Football Scout Member
      • 4 Years
      2 months, 8 days ago

      You can't play Holding over TAA. Are you mad?

  10. lilmessipran
    • Fantasy Football Scout Member
    • 8 Years
    2 months, 8 days ago

    At what point will we get a confirmation on DGW and which teams have it so that we can use fts accordingly?

    1. It’s gonna Ben Mee
      • 7 Years
      2 months, 8 days ago

      Would really like to know this as well.

    2. AC Yew
      • 2 Years
      2 months, 8 days ago

      Probs last min after deadline

  11. gooberman
    • Fantasy Football Scout Member
    • 9 Years
    2 months, 8 days ago

    Anybody know exactly why Bamford went off? Cant find anything about it.

    1. HollywoodXI
      • Fantasy Football Scout Member
      • 6 Years
      2 months, 8 days ago

      Tactical. Bielsa took him off in response to Cooper red card.

    2. Kno
      • 10 Years
      2 months, 8 days ago

      The red card

    3. SHOWSTOPPERRR
      • 3 Years
      2 months, 8 days ago

      Bielsa masterclass which won the game. Tactical.

  12. Gudjohnsen
    • 4 Years
    2 months, 8 days ago

    Did I dream that Dallas brace or did it actually happen?

  13. balint84
    • 5 Years
    2 months, 8 days ago

    A)Bamford, Raphinha to SON, Vydra -4
    B) Andersen to Reguilon

  14. Bubz
    • Fantasy Football Scout Member
    • 7 Years
    2 months, 8 days ago

    Any chance Alonso starts against Brighton? Asking for a friend...

    1. HollywoodXI
      • Fantasy Football Scout Member
      • 6 Years
      2 months, 8 days ago

      I’m unsure what to do with him. Tempted to switch him to Reguilon this week.

      1. Bubz
        • Fantasy Football Scout Member
        • 7 Years
        2 months, 8 days ago

        Think we have to give him another week. At least he didnt even make a cameo, hopefully that happens again if he doesnt start

  15. Kno
    • 10 Years
    2 months, 8 days ago

    Anyone braving this spurs double without Son?

    1. It’s gonna Ben Mee
      • 7 Years
      2 months, 8 days ago

      Considering it

    2. AC Yew
      • 2 Years
      2 months, 8 days ago

      Already got him so keeping

  16. SHOWSTOPPERRR
    • 3 Years
    2 months, 8 days ago

    Even though I have got Oly 32 points from 6 in my wc with my cap played. I am still happy that I am way ahead of my non current wc team which involves cancelo Dias etc, I would have captained jota put Dallas on 3rd on my bench. Chelsea double defence disappoints but not so much worry. Coz salahC and taa delivered.

  17. Gudjohnsen
    • 4 Years
    2 months, 8 days ago

    Waste of time getting a third Spurs playef like Regullion or Lloris?

    1. It’s gonna Ben Mee
      • 7 Years
      2 months, 8 days ago

      Yes

    2. JabariParkersEyelid
      • Fantasy Football Scout Member
      • 1 Year
      2 months, 8 days ago

      Depends. I prefer the players in my current team but if your defence is dodgy why not target the upside.

  18. patricio33
    • Fantasy Football Scout Member
    • 2 Years
    2 months, 8 days ago

    Which Wolves player will score the most points in the next three GWs?

    I'm thinking of bringing in either Traore or Coady, but wondering who else might be better.

    1. Ajax Hamsterdam
      • 6 Years
      2 months, 8 days ago

      Wait on some Neto news

      1. Pep bites Kun
        • 4 Years
        2 months, 8 days ago

        Knee injury - currently being assessed

        Apr 09: "It was impossible for him to continue, he's been struggling with this problem for some time. Let's hope this long week allows us to recover the players and go again."

  19. Gudjohnsen
    • 4 Years
    2 months, 8 days ago

    Which Leicester attacker?

    A. Maddison
    B. Vardy
    C. Ihenacho

    1. Ajax Hamsterdam
      • 6 Years
      2 months, 8 days ago

      A offers the best balance - price minutes points

    2. Winston.
      • Fantasy Football Scout Member
      • 7 Years
      2 months, 8 days ago

      A or C

  20. Ajax Hamsterdam
    • 6 Years
    2 months, 8 days ago

    Maddison or Jota?

    Have Salah and no Leicester coverage

    1. Gudjohnsen
      • 4 Years
      2 months, 8 days ago

      Maddison but that's probably because I'm fuming with my Jota (C) punt.

    2. Winston.
      • Fantasy Football Scout Member
      • 7 Years
      2 months, 8 days ago

      Both are good picks...but probably Jota.

    3. Ajax Hamsterdam
      • 6 Years
      2 months, 8 days ago

      Thanks both

      1. Winston.
        • Fantasy Football Scout Member
        • 7 Years
        2 months, 8 days ago

        If chasing, Maddison could be worth it with those next few fixtures..

  21. Winston.
    • Fantasy Football Scout Member
    • 7 Years
    2 months, 8 days ago

    How’s the wildcard template doing? If you were to wildcard this GW, would still go with the team below or change something?

    Mendy Forster
    TAA Rudiger Reguillon Dawson Holding
    Salah Bruno Son Jota Lingard
    Kane Iheanacho Vydra

    1. JabariParkersEyelid
      • Fantasy Football Scout Member
      • 1 Year
      2 months, 8 days ago

      I think Mendy looks the most questionable pick from the template. Just lacks big upside.

    2. My heart goes Salalalalah
      • 4 Years
      2 months, 8 days ago

      Depends what your goal is. If you just want to pass all the dead teams, then that team is good.

  22. Steve The Spud
    • Fantasy Football Scout Member
    • 1 Year
    2 months, 8 days ago

    Anyone else feel like they just can’t buy a decent start to a game week

    Feels like every Sunday I need a minor miracle to get a green arrow

    In this case it’s a vardy hatrick

    1. HollywoodXI
      • Fantasy Football Scout Member
      • 6 Years
      2 months, 8 days ago

      Every. Single. Week.

  23. Bubbles1985
    • 4 Years
    2 months, 8 days ago

    Well Jota captain went well!!

    1. pingissimus
      • Fantasy Football Scout Member
      • 2 Years
      2 months, 8 days ago

      Just a clean sheet below my average captain score since GW20

      96 points from 16 matches!!!!

      1. Bubbles1985
        • 4 Years
        2 months, 8 days ago

        Ouch

        To be fair Jota was close many times and having TAA helped.

        Changed from Kane last minute too. 🙂

  24. AC Yew
    • 2 Years
    2 months, 8 days ago

    Given up on this week. How does GW32 set up look like:

    Lloris
    AWB Azpi Stones Coufal
    Son ESR Gundo Fernandes
    Kane (TC) Bamford

    Martinez Raphina DCL Konsa

    Will WC GW33 or 34. No FT but willing to take a hit for a decent move.

  25. KAPTAIN KANE
    • 4 Years
    2 months, 8 days ago

    0.3 to shave off my team, best option?

    A) Cancelo to Reguilon
    B) Gundogan to Pereira
    C) Bamford to Iheanacho
    D) DCL to any striker up to 7.3

    1. AC Yew
      • 2 Years
      2 months, 8 days ago

      Is this a long term or short term move?

      1. KAPTAIN KANE
        • 4 Years
        2 months, 8 days ago

        Long term

    2. Bubbles1985
      • 4 Years
      2 months, 8 days ago

      B

      1. KAPTAIN KANE
        • 4 Years
        2 months, 8 days ago

        Cheers

    3. KAPTAIN KANE
      • 4 Years
      2 months, 8 days ago

      D would be Watkins I guess

    4. wulfrunian
      • 4 Years
      2 months, 8 days ago

      If Cancelo starts on Wed then a,else Dcl to Nacho.

  26. Gudjohnsen
    • 4 Years
    2 months, 8 days ago

    Pope to Lloris?

    Or

    DCL to Vardy/Ihenacho

    Have Martinez as my other keeper and no Leicester attacker.

  27. Sim Simma 🤷 🔑 🚘
    • Fantasy Football Scout Member
    • 10 Years
    2 months, 8 days ago

    ⚽ Team News 📰
    BURNLEY : Pope, Pieters, Tarkowski, Mee, Lowton, Gudmundsson, Brownhill, Westwood, McNeil, Wood, Vydra
    Subs: Peacock-Farrell, Taylor, Cork, Stephens, Bardsley, Nartey, Dunne, Richardson, Mumbongo

    NEWCASTLE : Dubravka, Murphy, Fernandez, Clark, Dummett, Shelvey, Ritchie, S Longstaff, Joelinton, Almiron, Gayle
    Subs: Darlow, Saint-Maximin, Lewis, Hendrick, Manquillo, Willock, Carroll, Krafth, Wilson

    1. The Red Devil
      • 6 Years
      2 months, 8 days ago

      Vydra hattie time!

      1. ⭐ Bemba_Da ⭐
        • 11 Years
        2 months, 8 days ago

        Lol

    2. Little Red Lacazette
      • 4 Years
      2 months, 8 days ago

      You have the wrong BUR keeper.

  28. ClassiX
    • Fantasy Football Scout Member
    • 2 Years
    2 months, 8 days ago

    NEWCASTLE TEAM NEWS – WILSON ON BENCH
    Team to play Burnley: Dubravka, Murphy, Fernandez, Clark, Dummett, Shelvey, Ritchie, S Longstaff, Joelinton, Almiron, Gayle
    Subs: Darlow, Saint-Maximin, Lewis, Hendrick, Manquillo, Willock, Carroll, Krafth, Wilson

    BURNLEY TEAM NEWS
    Team to play Newcastle: Pope, Pieters, Tarkowski, Mee, Lowton, Gudmundsson, Brownhill, Westwood, McNeil, Wood, Vydra
    Subs: Peacock-Farrell, Taylor, Cork, Stephens, Bardsley, Nartey, Dunne, Richardson, Mumbongo

    1. Bubbles1985
      • 4 Years
      2 months, 8 days ago

      Nice differential for the run in. Wonder how much they have rushed him back and risking his hammy though...

    2. Little Red Lacazette
      • 4 Years
      2 months, 8 days ago

      You have the wrong BUR keeper.

      1. My heart goes Salalalalah
        • 4 Years
        2 months, 8 days ago

        How did both get this wrong? 😆

        1. Little Red Lacazette
          • 4 Years
          2 months, 8 days ago

          Wondering the same thing.

  29. CROYDON DE BRUYNE
    • 4 Years
    2 months, 8 days ago

    Peacock-Farrell starts for Burnley

  30. Free Hat
    • 2 Years
    2 months, 8 days ago

    Never thought I would say this,
    But go Vydra!

    1. Eh, just one more thing ...
      • Fantasy Football Scout Member
      • 9 Years
      2 months, 8 days ago

      Indeed. First on my bench but playing the WC means a decent enough playing bench so bench pain was always a risk.