Three-time top 200 finisher Lateriser explains why he hasn’t lost any love for the game despite a difficult season.
And just like that, we draw the curtains on another season.
Yes, I can complain about the painful (I’m currently sitting at 688k) and slow-burn (staggered kick-offs) nature of it. But the truth of the matter is, this game gives us a lot more than it takes from us and in my opinion, doesn’t get enough credit for it.
In a year where everyone has been cooped up in their homes, us Fantasy Premier League (FPL) managers can log onto the internet and have a chat with thousands of strangers discussing statistics, captaincy polls, Jesse Lingard’s (£6.6m) sustainability etc – and just like that, another day will pass. That isn’t a small thing. Let’s acknowledge that. In fact, it’s pretty huge. So many around me are struggling to pass their time during the pandemic and have no real outlet when they are dealing with major real-life issues like losing a job or a loved one. We FPL-obsessed folks have it a whole lot easier. When we are faced with something like this, we just have this all-engaging world to dive into which gives us so much.
This little hobby of ours enables us to problem solve and exercise our grey cells on a daily basis. Every time you are making a transfer, deciding when to deploy a chip or figuring out how to best allocate funds in your FPL team, you are developing problem-solving and solution-oriented skill sets. To solve these problems, we talk, engage and interact with so many strangers, whether it’s on football forums or on Twitter. You are accumulating social skills while solving these problems. If you’re making friends along the way, you’re enlightening yourselves with cultures from all over the globe. Even expectation management is such an underrated skill-set you develop when you play this game. More often than not, FPL disappoints us and if it does that repeatedly, you learn to manage expectations and how to take it on the chin.
I’ve had my worst season (by a distance) this year and while initially it was disappointing, once you accept that you made some mistakes and bad decisions, all you can really do is learn from them and continue grinding away. The best thing about this game that we play is that there’s always next Gameweek and there’s always next season. Hope is one thing the game will never take away from us. I’m an optimist by nature (I think it reflects in the way I play this game) and there’s not been one Gameweek that I haven’t looked forward to despite being stuck with a seven-figure overall rank for much of the season.
I was actually very surprised by how much I enjoyed a green arrow despite the poor rank. It gave me genuine delight and that little bit of a good run I had in the past few Gameweeks just really made my week. All you really need to do is to re-calibrate your goal and try to achieve it. The worst seasons are the best teachers because you are able to identify the cracks in your game, learn a lot more and just become a better FPL manager. I can’t wait to sit down post-season and note down all my mistakes. In my head, I already have a lot of them jotted down but I want to look at them more carefully and closely without the distraction of ‘the next Gameweek’.
I also realised that this game is such a great leveler. After having the finish that I did last season, I think I was very overconfident at the start of 2020/21. That overconfidence led me to believe whatever narrative I wanted to in my head and I even made the stupid mistake of betting against Mohamed Salah (£12.8m) in Gameweek 1. That is a piece of advice I want to give all of you that have had a really good FPL season this year: your success is only temporary, so make sure you don’t lose your ‘filter’ for poorly concocted narratives like I did at the start of the season. What this did teach me, though, is to learn to laugh at myself. I mean, what was I even thinking? I screwed up, big time. After the debacle at the start (and the season I had), I was genuinely worried whether the guys at Fantasy Football Scout would let me write next season, but thankfully, they have a sense of humour and will let me continue in 2021/22.
I think I am fairly self-aware as an FPL manager and even pride myself in being one of the few that talks about being opportunistic and taking gambles. I genuinely think that doing the extra research to find that differential is the ‘purest’ form of joy that this game has to offer but I do realise it isn’t for everyone.
What I have come to realise is that you need to find a balance. I’ve often spoken about timing being key when it comes to going for differentials and this season I definitely tried to do too much, too early and that left me far behind very early doors. I’ve never really had a good start to an FPL season and I think maybe going for more reliable, trustworthy picks at the start of the campaign is a good way to go about it. I do know myself though and I’ll definitely be wrestling with my own mind come Gameweek 1. Even right now, while writing this article, it is telling me: “But you had Michu and Petric who were huge differentials in Gameweek 1 in that season and it all worked out”. I still can’t wrap my head around what Timo Werner (£9.2m) has achieved this season, either. I’ve always believed that the repeatable skill is chance involvement but I will need to be careful because I’ve been hurt a lot by his finishing ability this season. One to talk about at a later time, perhaps.
It’s definitely going to be a long summer ahead as I contemplate all the mistakes I’ve made this season, but one thing I need to be careful about is what I decide to take into the future. I can’t completely abandon the style of play that has given me so much joy and so many good finishes but I can definitely fine-tune it a little.
I always like being personal in my final article of the season so apologies if you were looking for more ‘FPL-centric’ stuff. There are more ‘in-form’ managers you can take advice from at the moment anyway. Before I end this article, can we just talk about Sergio Aguero (£10.3m) for a minute? It is going to be an absolute shame to lose him at the end of this season and I might not get the chance to give him a ‘testimonial’ in my FPL team. The reason I love Aguero so much, especially in the Pep Guardiola era, is that he’s the perfect fuel for opportunists and risk-takers like me. The grinders, algorithm lovers and risk-averse managers will never punt on Aguero early doors (you know, because he’s not nailed) and us purists (deny it all you want, we’re the purists) will always go there because we’re the dreamers. He’s won me more than a fair share of mini-leagues and his presence will definitely be missed. It’s funny how much love I have for him despite being a Manchester United fan and him giving me probably my most heartbreaking moment as a football fan – but that is what FPL does to you.
Before ending this article, I just want to thank everyone at Fantasy Football Scout for letting me ramble on this platform and David, Neale, Chris and Geoff for being amazing to work with. I want to thank all of you for reading my articles this year and always offering words of encouragement. I go through the comments more than you’d think.
I am nervous about next season because how this one has gone but honestly, I’m champing at the bit. I’m hoping to make amends – and if I can’t, there’s always the next one.
We don’t say it enough but this game gives us so much. So let’s just admit and acknowledge, we love FPL.
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