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Fantasy managers are masochists – and here’s why that’s a good thing

Former Fantasy Premier League (FPL) champion Simon March argues that feeling a bit of pain may not be a bad thing in our quest for a lofty overall rank.


Few would be surprised were they to discover that Fantasy Premier League is a game that attracts a community more prone than normal to masochism. No many FPL managers would last very long if they didn’t have at least an ambivalent relationship with pain and suffering. However, this tendency is not limited to FPL managers and is, in fact, present in all of us to some extent. It can also play a key role in determining which of us experiences success in life, and which of us don’t.

The significance of this propensity towards inviting pain has been seen to vary from person to person and, in the context of FPL, it may not only help explain some of the differences in playing style and risk preferences from manager to manager but, also, why we sometimes self-sabotage in our FPL decision-making. These are some questions this article will consider.

Hedonic Reversal

‘Hedonic Reversal’ is the state in which we, as humans, derive pleasure in things that cause us pain or discomfort. All of us experience this to an extent, it’s a big part of why we enjoy things like rollercoasters, horror movies or spicy food.

Hedonic reversal manifests itself biologically via the release of endorphins into the bloodstream as a response to us experiencing pain. Endorphins are, among other things, the body’s naturally occurring anaesthetic and they function in a similar fashion to opioids, both in their ability to numb pain and their tendency to create a sense of euphoria in those experiencing their release.

Runners and gym-goers might recognise this effect as the ‘runner’s high’ or a ‘pump’ respectively, and it is essentially the same mechanism. The evolutionary purpose for hedonic reversal is not entirely clear, some believe it occurs as a means of balancing out our response to emotional or physical pain, others believe it exists to reward and incentivise risk-taking, something which has helped us, overall, to advance as a species. The bottom line, however, is that a period of physical or emotional pain is likely to trigger a release of happy hormones to help cheer you up, basically.

Mavericks and Dullards

learning-from-the-great-and-the-good-19-20-the-final 3

FPL managers are known to differ greatly in their approaches to taking risks. We often colloquially refer to risk-takers as ‘Mavericks’ and risk-averse managers as ‘Dullards’. While it is true that risk preferences are the result of many factors, hedonic reversal could be a significant element of the more maverick playing style.

Everybody knows how good a feeling it is to take a risk and for it to pay off. We also know how bad it feels to take a risk and for it to backfire. But those who have experienced such backfires a few times might come to learn that, when things go wrong, it might not feel as bad as you expect. In fact, the worse it gets, the better it is likely to feel on a body chemistry level.

With this in mind, it’s not unreasonable to believe that some managers might come to fear failure less than others do. They might even get to a point, however subconsciously, where they even seek it. Win or lose, they eventually get the same positive feeling physically, so why not take risks? 

This disposition towards seeking pain could explain a lot (Spurs fans, for example) but the key insight from an FPL perspective might be that, if these quasi-masochistic tendencies manifest themselves more significantly in some people than others, they may have also a dramatic effect on the way those individuals play FPL. The natural question, therefore, is whether this is a good or a bad thing.

While it’s true that more risk does not necessarily equal more points in FPL (indeed, it could easily equal the opposite) you cannot get a really, really good rank without taking at least some chances. That could mean anything from some risky transfers to some maverick captaincy decisions. How many risks are sensible to take will always be something context-dependent, but it stands to reason that a manager who is unafraid to take an educated punt possesses a potentially valuable characteristic if they are looking for an elite-level rank or if they dream of winning FPL. As the aphorism goes; you may find plenty of risk-averse millionaires but you will find very few risk-averse billionaires. 

Of course, you will also find plenty of risk-taking people who are flat-broke so moderation is key. Allowing your FPL decisions to be driven by a subconscious desire to feel pain is likely to leave your arrows as red as that room in Fifty Shades of Grey. It’s good to take some risks but they have to be considered ones.

However, if you are a manager who is very risk-averse, perhaps to the point of detriment, experiencing a bit of the pain of failure might actually be good for you. In fact, it may be exactly what you need to remove the fear of taking risks and condition your subconscious to accept them more easily. As many have observed, our best FPL seasons seem to disproportionately follow our worst ones and so perhaps ‘learning to take a fall’ represents a key rite of passage in getting us there.


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

Elsewhere in Double Gameweek 32

Jamie Vardy (£10.1m) secured a double-digit haul as Leicester saw off West Bromwich Albion by a 3-0 scoreline.

After returning in just one match between Gameweeks 26 and 31, the Foxes’ forward notched a goal and assist against rather pedestrian opposition.

Crystal Palace are Vardy’s next opponents, whose recent defensive form suggest another big haul could await him in Blank Gameweek 33, hence why we have chosen him for the Scout Picks.

Jonny Evans (£5.5m) came away with a double-digit score of his own as he kept a clean sheet and found the net in the first half.

Wesley Fofana (£5.0m) managed to capitalise on the shut-out early as Marc Albrighton (£5.2m) replaced him just after the hour-mark.

Meanwhile, Ricardo Pereira (£5.9m) stayed on the bench as an unused substitute, with suggestions that he will come back into the team against Crystal Palace.

“I’m very conscious that Ricardo is coming back from a long-term injury and I always felt between when he came back and the end of the season we’re just getting him some minutes. I don’t think he’s ready to play three games in a week, especially having played on Sunday.” – Brendan Rodgers

Kelechi Iheanacho (£6.1m) continued his scoring form, adding an eight goal in his last six Premier League matches.

However, his burgeoning ownership might have hoped for more returns as he missed a number of big chances to walk away with a hat-trick.

His persistence in front of goal, combined with a Blank Gameweek 33 meeting with Crystal Palace, has also earned Iheanacho a place in the Scout Picks…

Provisional bonus points

  • 3 – Jonny Evans
  • 2 – Timothy Castagne
  • 1 – Jamie Vardy

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853 Comments Post a Comment
  1. Ian Davis
    • 11 Years
    5 months, 1 day ago

    Which moves to make?

    A) Dias > TAA
    B) Gundo > Jota
    C) Dias/Gundo > Castagne/Jota
    D) Dias/Gundo > Castagne/Greenwood

  2. The Review: GW 32
    BigManBakar
    • Fantasy Football Scout Member
    • 8 Years
    5 months, 1 day ago

    The Review: GW 32

    Greetings everyone, welcome to my latest article where I discuss the upcoming gameweek and the gameweek gone by at length:

    (Data taken from FFScout with consent)

    Q: In this section, I share my thoughts on how to navigate the upcoming double and blank GW.

    Firstly, I’d like to state that I base my assumptions regarding the fixture scheduling on the analysis of my friend Ben Crellin who expects there to be a 70% chance of the fixtures happening as expected.

    Whether or not to hold Kane or Son is a very popular question this GW. What is important to note here is that even though Spurs have a blank this GW, they have one of the most favorable fixture run-ins leading into the end of the season (SHU lee WOL AVL). Holding Kane is a no brainer I believe. Spurs play Sheffield United at home in GW34, a week in which Man United play Liverpool. Whether or not to hold Son is slightly more trickier and team dependent. In my personal opinion, I hold the likes of Trent, Salah, Bruno and Kane in a level above Son when it comes to the pecking order so if you can afford to fit all of them in your team, then holding Son for the run-in is the sensible option. If not, I’d sell Son to prioritize the other four.

    Leicester, Man United and Everton are the teams I like the most heading into double GW35 – Leicester because they have a very favorable run-in prior to the double and Man United because they have a great run in after the double so both have good fixtures long term. Everton meanwhile, have the additional added benefit of being one of the teams who will not blank in GW36. Even though Everton are likely to face tricky away trips to West Ham and Aston Villa in the double, it is the home fixture against Sheffield United immediately after the double which stands out.

    When to Free Hit depends on the structure of your team but in my opinion, Free Hitting in a blank GW is likely to be more powerful than Free Hitting in double GW35. I say that because most FPL managers are likely to own the Man United and Leicester assets in the double GW anyway. Ideally, you’d want to use the Free Hit when carnage will be at its maximum, which is likely to be the case in the blank immediately after the double.

    Q: Who is the best Lacazette replacement?

    My first pick here will be Kelechi Iheanacho. He added to his tally with yet another goal vs West Brom and truth be told he could have had many more. Over the past four matches, Iheanacho is joint tied with Kane and Calvert Lewin for big chances and has form behind him. He should be a no-brainer. In case you already own him and are in the market for a Lacazette replacement, I’d go with Calvert Lewin due to his numbers and the fixture scheduling for Everton.

    Q: What to do with Edouard Mendy?

    Kepa Arrizabalaga has kept a clean sheet in all of his five starts under Tuchel so the concerns of Mendy’s owners regarding the security of his starts are valid. Tuchel was very appreciative of Kepa and his professionalism post game too which further casts doubts on Mendy. I don’t claim to be a Chelsea expert but I base my analysis on the work of two renowned journalists covering Chelsea – Nizaar Kinsella from Goal and Sam Inkersole from Football London. Both expect Mendy to start this week. I think it’s best for FPL managers to ride out the storm this week before choosing to jump ship.

    Q: In this section, I talk about Bruno Fernandes and Mason Greenwood.

    Greenwood v Fernandes (last 4 matches)

    Mins per shot in box: 19.2 v 89.75
    Mins per big chance: 72 v 119.6
    Mins per big chance created: 96 v 179.5

    I run this comparison on popular demand – even though I strongly believe when it comes to the duo that it should be a case of both rather than a case of either/or! Greenwood’s numbers over the previous four games are nothing short of exemplary – he is best among all players in the league for shots in the box and second among midfielders for big chances. What also stands out is the number of penalty area touches he is accumulating. Over the past four games, Greenwood is averaging seven penalty area touches per game. At no stage this season has Greenwood recorded such good numbers. He has historically been a huge overperformer in terms of his xG as he is an extremely clinical finisher – now that he is getting the volume of chances as well, I expect the FPL points to flow!

    Bruno, meanwhile, is coming on the back of five blanks in his previous seven appearances. His numbers are still decent though. Even though Bruno has registered just the one attacking return in his previous four matches, he has recorded five big chance involvements during this spell. I expect the points to come sooner rather than later. Leeds at home won’t be a walkover though – their defensive stats at Elland Road have been decent. To put things into context, Leeds have conceded fewer big chances at home than the likes of Man United, Arsenal and Liverpool this season.

    Q: In this section, I cover Luke Shaw.

    No player created more chances than Luke Shaw (6) this GW so he was highly unfortunate not to come up with more returns against Burnley. Shaw’s numbers for chance creation have been consistent for a while but what also stands out for me is that he is practically playing as a left winger – no defender has registered more touches in the final third than Shaw since GW26. What’s often frustrating with Shaw is Man United’s inability to keep a clean sheet against weaker opposition – 50% of United’s clean sheets in the leagues have come against the big six. Leeds were top for big chances (6) among all teams this GW and that too against Liverpool so I fancy them to score at least one against Man United – but Shaw’s upside is such that he is simply un-benchable.

    Q: In this section, I’d like to highlight the improvement in Trent’s numbers.

    Trent GW 26-32 v Trent GW 1-25

    Mins per chance created: 29 v 52.4
    Mins per big chance created: 110.8 v 323
    Mins per xGi: 270.2 v 357.7

    Trent’s numbers even when compared to his earlier season averages have gotten far better. Perhaps it’s the Euros to play for which has led to extra motivation in recent times. Since GW26, Trent has created the highest number of chances and the second highest number of big chances among all outfielders in the league which further highlights his explosive potential. It is no surprise to me that the number of chances Liverpool have been creating down their right (29) since GW26 is almost 61% more than the chances they have created down their left (16). It is these creative stats which have meant that Trent has accumulated a remarkable 12 bonus points in his previous four starts combined! NEW SOU wba bur CRY is what Trent’s fixtures read like till the end of the season – more points are coming!

    Q: In this section, I talk about James Maddison.

    CRY sou NEW+mun is potentially a great run of fixtures heading into the double so I can see why you would be tempted. I’d like to base my analysis here on Maddison’s role in Leicester’s 3-4-1-2 formation where he’s playing behind the two strikers. Maddison created four chances, but more importantly, registered no big chance involvements nor shots in the box. Vardy and Iheanacho are the ones most likely to return in this formation, as can be seen in their big chance involvements. I can see Maddison ticking along with a steady stream of points, in a similar fashion to someone like a Mason Mount. I highly doubt he’ll explode though.

    Q: In this section, I’d like to highlight the drop in Gündoğan’s numbers.

    Gündoğan GW 13-24 v Gündoğan GW 25-32

    Mins per chance created: 43 v 54
    Mins per shot in the box: 41 v 98
    Mins per big chance: 82 v 489
    Mins per xGi: 113 v 276

    Needless for me to say after the analytical comparison you’ve read that Gündoğan’s numbers have fallen off a cliff. In seven appearances from GW25 onwards, he has recorded just seven shots inside the box and one big chance. With a variety of mid-priced midfielders available at our disposal, I think it is time to sell – particularly when you factor in the rotation threat looming over Gündoğan with City advancing to the Champions League’s semis. De Bruyne’s injury would further encourage Pep to protect Gündoğan which makes it all the more worse.

    Q: In this section, I analyze the Wolves defence.

    I run a comparison to shed some light on Wolves’ improvement in the defensive department:

    Wolves defence season averages v last four matches

    Big chances conceded per game: 1.85 v 1.5
    Average xG conceded per game: 1.31 v 0.86

    It is interesting to note that Wolves’ numbers have started improving since a switch to the tried and tested three at the back – a formation which they have played over a significant majority of their past four matches. They now stand among the top five defences in the league in terms of big chances and xG conceded over the past four matches. Fixtures have helped too and wildcarders who jumped on Wolves defence can hope for further points to come as BUR and wba await. For people without a wildcard I believe the boat has sailed, as their fixtures get significantly tougher heading into the back end of the season (tot eve MUN).

    Q: In this section, I roll the scanner over Leandro Trossard and Danny Welbeck.

    A team resigned to relegation with nothing to play for conceding over three big chances per game – I can see why FPL managers want to punt on a Brighton attacker this week. Stats wise though, the numbers for every Brighton attacker look grim and I guess you can attribute that to their recent fixtures which have been stiff to say the least. Over the past four matches, Trossard has had no big chance involvement while Welbeck has had two. Welbeck is also faring best among all Brighton attackers in terms of expected goal involvement – if I was to pick a Brighton attacker, he’d be my man.

    Kindly like and retweet the piece on Twitter if you can! Link below:

    https://twitter.com/BigManBakar/status/1385339202846461953

    Do share your feedback as always, and follow me on my Instagram if you don’t already as I post about FPL there too through the link down below:

    http://instagram.com/bigmanbakar

    1. Pukki Blinders
      • 2 Years
      5 months, 1 day ago

      Well done Big Baks

    2. Sloopy
      • Fantasy Football Scout Member
      • 9 Years
      5 months, 1 day ago

      Great. As always! Thanx!

    3. Chemical76
      • Fantasy Football Scout Member
      • 3 Years
      5 months, 1 day ago

      Genuine question.
      If Salah is observing Ramadan, will it affect his sporting performance?

    4. Pompel
      • Fantasy Football Scout Member
      • 7 Years
      5 months, 1 day ago

      Thanks Big Man,

      Invaulable input, this!

  3. House Frey Wedding Planner
    • 3 Years
    5 months, 1 day ago

    Bottom post dammit!

    Worth going triple Leicester for the next few games?

    Already have Vardy and Nacho and thinking about bringing in Castagne

  4. Pukki Blinders
    • 2 Years
    5 months, 1 day ago

    People with Mendy/Forster realise they need to make a transfer soon regardless as Mendy blanks in gw36...

    Think it’ll be better to get it over with this week and avoid any possible Tuchel nonsense

    1. GE
      • 5 Years
      5 months, 1 day ago

      Hmm, you maybe right. Maybe just do Mendy -> Martinez

    2. fish&chips
      • Fantasy Football Scout Member
      • 11 Years
      5 months, 1 day ago

      What if you have FH? Forster definitely lost his place?

      1. Pukki Blinders
        • 2 Years
        5 months, 1 day ago

        Forster looks done. If you are FH36 then you could probably hold Mendy

  5. tjostolv
    • 9 Years
    5 months, 1 day ago

    Thoughts on minutes for Leno and Phillips this gw?

  6. DavidBadWillie
    • Fantasy Football Scout Member
    5 months, 1 day ago

    Dias to Castagna with my FT? Or any other cheaper defenders with better fixtures?

  7. konrad.sygula95
    • 3 Years
    5 months, 1 day ago

    Hi guys
    When would you wildcard this team?

    Martinez Pope
    Cancelo Shaw Coufal Coady Rudiger
    Jota Gundogan Fernandes Lingard Son
    Bamford Kane Watkins
    1 ft 2.8 itb

  8. drughi
    • Fantasy Football Scout Member
    • 11 Years
    5 months, 1 day ago

    Best mid for max 5.8 for the next 3 gameweeks ?

    1. Miguel Sanchez
      • Fantasy Football Scout Member
      • 5 Years
      5 months, 1 day ago

      Trossard

    2. GE
      • 5 Years
      5 months, 1 day ago

      Trossard

    3. WHUFCSmith23
      • Fantasy Football Scout Member
      • 1 Year
      5 months, 1 day ago

      I like Saka for that price

  9. Eastman
    • Fantasy Football Scout Member
    • 4 Years
    5 months, 1 day ago

    Chances of Amartey starting?

  10. GE
    • 5 Years
    5 months, 1 day ago

    Lost on last page.

    Son -> Greenwood a good move here and then bring Son in next GW for another player?
    Or other suggestions?

    (2FT, 0.3 itb)

    Mendy
    TAA/Shaw/Rudiger/Holding
    Salah/Bruno/Lingard/Jota
    Nacho/Vydra

    Bench: Forster, Kane, Son, Dias

  11. Mane Mane Mane
    • Fantasy Football Scout Member
    5 months, 1 day ago

    What transfers should I make? My team is
    Mendy
    TAA, holding, coady, Rudiger, Burn
    Salah, Fernandez, Jota
    Davis, Nacho
    Forster, Kane, Son, Moura

    I know there’s gonna be some no-shows in my team and I’ve made a transfer so any future transfer would be for a hit. I have nothing in the bank, do I just let it run... please help?

  12. George Agdgdgwngo
    • 12 Years
    5 months, 1 day ago

    Thinking of taking a punt on Wolves traore, 2 lovely fixtures

    1. waldo666
      • 11 Years
      5 months, 1 day ago

      Not a bad punt, seems to have hit some form of late.

    2. I Must Break You
      • Fantasy Football Scout Member
      • 3 Years
      5 months, 1 day ago

      His standard deviation of returns divided by his average return — aka coefficient of variation — is too high IMO. Sure, he could work out over next couple of fixtures but risk-return isn’t there for me. Good luck either way

  13. Corgzzzz
    • Fantasy Football Scout Member
    • 6 Years
    5 months, 1 day ago

    Morning good people....I did not see the Leicester game.How did Maddison look last night ?? Was he any good, is he worth keeping ( great fixtures ) or go Greenwood/Lingard ??

  14. SHOWSTOPPERRR
    • 3 Years
    5 months, 1 day ago

    Guys need help, don't know what to do here with 1ft 0.0itb

    Mendy
    Taa shaw veltman coady
    Salah bruno lingz jota
    Iheanacho vydra

    Forster Rudiger kane son

    I really have no clue what to do here. TIA.

    1. I Must Break You
      • Fantasy Football Scout Member
      • 3 Years
      5 months, 1 day ago

      If you’re not sure just bank a free transfer

  15. NZREDS
    • 8 Years
    5 months, 1 day ago

    Can only field 9 players this week as have Kane,Raph,Gundo,Dias,Mitchell

    9 points behind in my mini league. Keen to retain Kane and Raph, have used my FT on Bale to Jota and just seen he’s injured on here now (just my luck!)

    Worth -4 for Maddison? With Vardy and Nacho up front I’m skeptical of returns but the only other midfield I can think of in the 6-8ish mil bracket is Greenwood bur already have Bruno. Was thinking potentially -4 Dias to Castagne in hope for a clean sheet to return points but would then be without any city defence.

    Any suggestions for midfielders in that price bracket? Mount perhaps? Maddison does have decent fixtures

    TIA

    1. I Must Break You
      • Fantasy Football Scout Member
      • 3 Years
      5 months, 1 day ago

      I don’t think there’s a burning need to have City defense at this point.
      Fewer matches remaining, won’t be playing their best side in EPL, rotation risk worse than ever, have relatively tougher run of fixtures in few matches they do have left.
      More than enough signs pointing to the fact that it’s OK to avoid City for the run out

  16. Werner Brothers
    • 6 Years
    5 months, 1 day ago

    Any chance Alonso playing?
    Che has RM midweek, surely want to rest some starters like chillwell

    1. I Must Break You
      • Fantasy Football Scout Member
      • 3 Years
      5 months, 1 day ago

      Of course there’s a chance that Alonso plays

  17. ‘Tis the Season
    • 3 Years
    5 months, 1 day ago

    Is Phillips and Bruno to Greenwood and TAA good moves. At 39k and trying for top 10k. Current team is: Mendy Phillips* Rudger Shaw Coufal Bruno* Salah Jota Lindz Nacho DCL (Holding Son Kane)