It has not been the season I had hoped for. In 2019/2020 I finished 389th in the world. This year, at the time of writing, I sit 213,000th.
A good start to my Free Hit in Gameweek 35 (83 points – a Gameweek rank of ~32k) has bumped this up a little. Were the music to stop now, though, it would be my worst season in over a decade, or since I started taking it ‘seriously’ as goes the common alibi for poor ranks in our early campaigns.
There are a number of reasons for this, some of which are known to me with others yet to be discovered. In an upcoming article I plan to explore these with you and see what I can learn from them.
But for this column I would like to take a brief look at what those of you in a similar position to myself – out of mini-league contention and with an overall rank below your personal ambitions – can do with the short, remaining weeks left in this season and how this could set us up for a much better performance next time.
It has already happened. We have underperformed. We could let it sour us, calling others “lucky” or “casual”, curse the template, curse the differentials, blame that deadline we missed or point to a pandemic. But, in amongst all that, it was partly us. We did not adapt our usually solid strategies efficiently to this specific beast of a season. And that is okay. To quote the philosopher, Rocky Balboa:
“It’s not about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward”.
Fantasy Premier League (FPL) is a game of psychology as much as it is about football predictions.
So what can we do right now? We can cast the past aside. As that far-too-shouty-not-nearly-skilled-enough centre half in your Sunday League team bellows at both five goals up and five goals down, “It’s 0-0, lads!”.
If you genuinely have nothing left to play for in FPL this time, start from scratch. Be that literally – a Wildcard, a Free-Hit, a 24-point transfer move – or figuratively – a clean mental slate. Your season 2020/2021 Mk II starts now. May is on.
This reset allows us to enjoy the final weeks of the season with purpose and begin preparations for the future. If we have failed to win our mini-league, could we top it across the final three weeks? If we can beat number one between now and the end, there is no reason we cannot triumph over 38 weeks next season.
Experiment with transfers, selections or captains you may not usually go for. See what works, what does not and what could be added to your repertoire for next time.
We discussed this briefly on the Scoutcast this week, where we referred to the remaining weeks of this campaign as ‘pre-season’ for the next. I intend to use Gameweeks 36, 37 and 38 as a ‘warm-up’, identifying if it is my decision-making that has been off or simply that outcomes have been unfortunate. I expect to find the answer to be a little bit of both.
I have some teams and players in mind for the final three fixtures that those chasing or protecting leads may be unable, or unwilling, to target. For example, a team comprised primarily of players from Liverpool, Leeds United, West Ham United, Everton and Manchester City (who many will have avoided due to their Champions League fixtures) could see handsome returns.
Add some previously unpopular, but now high performing, assets such as Kai Havertz (£8.3m) and even Timo Werner (£9.2m) (26 goal contributions in his ‘underwhelming’ first season for Chelsea) to those players with something to fight for, such as Harry Kane (£11.8m) with the golden boot, and you could be on to a very strong finish.
Most importantly though, have fun. This year has been unlike any other we have ever experienced. Some may have thrown themselves into FPL as an escape from the real world, seeking solace in the community, the strategy and ultimately the competition. I know I have done. If you are no longer deriving enjoyment from it, though, it’s fine to leave it alone until August, knowing you have earned the break.
Whether now or once the season ends, give yourself time to decompress. We would need physical rest to recover from a workout and we need mental rest to recover from FPL. Besides, you probably have a family that need reminding who you are after almost an entire year of back-to-back matches.
Once we’re feeling refreshed, we can start to plan for next season. There will be three newly promoted teams to investigate. Norwich boast a certain Teemu Pukki and vowed to play adventurous football the last time they were in the Premier League, a promise they have continued to keep despite relegation.
Watford will be joining them along with a third team and if that turns out to be Brentford they could well be bringing with them Ivan Toney and his record-breaking 31 Championship goals. For comparison, Patrick Bamford (£6.3m) got 16 and Ollie Watkins (£6.5m) 26 in their promotion seasons.
There are also teams and players already in the Premier League that may warrant re-examination. Can Leeds keep it going? Where will Stuart Dallas (£5.2m) play and will this be the same as his FPL position?
Can Chelsea present a title challenge and continue their impressive defensive record? Will Matheus Pereira (£5.4m) be snapped up by a new club and continue to produce seriously impressive numbers as a talisman? Is it finally Phil Foden (£6.0m) time?
For those managers that aren’t ready to pause just yet there will be the official Euros fantasy game (and accompanying Fantasy Football Scout articles, of course). Just remember, we all get an FPL clean slate in three months’ time. Let us not allow negative feelings about what has gone before to affect what is yet to come.
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