We all have our own unique relationship with -4 points hits in Fantasy Premier League (FPL). Some of us avoid them at all costs, others see them as a sometimes-necessary evil and for some, they are a core part of their FPL strategy, something they use to get an edge on their more risk-averse rivals.
However you view hits normally, it is very apparent from chaotic times such as these that these perceptions can quickly change based on circumstances but, also, on how the prospect of a hit is perceived contextually. This article will examine some of the ways that our perception of hits can be skewed and it considers some methods that we might employ to avoid this becoming problematic for our FPL ranks.
I’m very firmly in the ‘avoid hits wherever possible’ camp, partly because I think spending points isn’t something we should take lightly but, also, because I’ve historically been bad at using them. My first ever hit was to bring in James Collins back in 2009 and that went about as well as you might expect but even the hits I’ve attempted since then, those that have been less objectively idiotic, have tended to backfire more often than not. As a result, it takes a lot for me to take an unenforced hit nowadays.
That said, if my record of taking hits was much better, I would probably take them more freely. It’s hard to look beyond personal experience when assessing whether or not to take a hit and that is one of the more prevalent ways in which our relationship with hits can become skewed. If we were completely rational, whether a hit worked out for us in the past or not would be an irrelevant factor in deciding whether or not to take one now.
With this in mind, it’s useful to step back for a moment when considering whether or not to take a hit and actively question how much of your drive or hesitancy is influenced by past experiences. If you feel like it is very much influenced by past experiences, you might want to seek a more rigorous means of assessing the risk or pay-off of the hit you are considering.
There are many ways in which you might approach this but I personally see it is a fairly simple probability equation; what can I reasonably expect the player coming in to score versus what might I expect from the player I am taking out. Subtract four from the former and you have a very basic formula, though you might also want to consider other factors such as the longer-term pay-off of the hit, the other possible benefits of bringing them in now (e.g. price rises) as well.
Naturally, all this remains subjective and doesn’t remove the possibility that your decision will be wrong, but applied consistently it will likely lead to much better outcomes than not consciously thinking about it at all. Whatever method you use to assess a hits’ potential, the important thing is that it isn’t simply left up to pure impulse.
This season, I went all the way up to Gameweek 19 without taking a hit and then proceeded to take three hits in as many Gameweeks. Uncharacteristically for me, they’ve actually paid off reasonably well but, needless to say, the first one was more difficult to take than the other two.
Making it 18 Gameweeks without a hit meant that the bar for taking one was much higher than if I had taken one in, say, Gameweek 3. Had I done that, it’s very likely I would’ve already taken a lot more by now. This is because the act of taking a hit is ‘enabling’ and ‘permissive’; taking one mentally lowers the bar for taking others, making them easier to stomach.
This is a principle that will be familiar to many of us at this time of year when a good number of us will be trying to give up stuff. Typically it is easier, in the long run, to abstain from something altogether than to have to repeatedly convince yourself not to smoke a cigarette, eat a donut or whatever your ‘vice’ may be. This is because willpower takes effort and, contrary to popular belief, our ability to invoke it becomes weaker rather than stronger the more we try to.
By contrast, habits become easier the longer they remain in place, so forming a habit is ultimately much easier than trying to talk yourself out of doing something each time you feel like doing it.
Typically we form habits of doing something rather than not doing something so, rather than get into the habit of not taking hits, it is probably easier to seek to form habits that might reduce your tendency to take them. This could be applying standard criteria ahead of making transfers or taking hits using a pay-off formula as described above, or it could be carrying the second transfer wherever possible, something which is very likely to reduce the impulse to take hits by both mitigating the urge and reducing the necessity.
At the other end of the spectrum is the reticence or inertia you can develop from not taking hits for a prolonged period. Here the bar gets raised too high so you won’t take them even when taking one is likely beneficial. In these instances, it’s helpful to have criteria for when a hit might be broadly strategically valuable. An example might be where you would otherwise be left without a playing player or a viable captaincy option. While this doesn’t alone justify taking a hit, identifying these scenarios ahead of time might be useful as a means of overcoming hesitancy when they occur.
Finally, something weird happens mentally when we start packaging hits alongside other transfers. For example, take the following:
- Mahrez > Jota
- Mane > Son
- Martinelli > Gray -4
The three transfers taken collectively look a lot better than just Martinelli > Gray -4 yet, unless the first two are somehow funding the third move, the two free transfers are irrelevant to the viability of the hit. However, our minds sometimes trick us into looking at the three transfers holistically instead of what it ultimately is; Martinelli to Gray for a -4.
As a result, if we are pleased with our first two transfers, we are sometimes more willing to take a risk and/or a hit with the third. Therefore judging hits by their own merit, rather than as a collective set of transfers, is key to ensuring that they make sense independently.
The prevalent debate in FPL when it comes to taking hits has always centred on whether they are, generally speaking, good or bad. However, a much more valuable question is probably; ‘when are they good and when are they bad?’ How we perceive a hit in the moment, whether that be based on our previous experiences, our current relationship with taking them or how we’ve packaged them mentally, can significantly impact our ability to make good decisions when it comes to this part of the game.
Introducing some formality or rigour to the decision of whether or not to take a hit can help a lot here, in particular criteria for what circumstances might justify one or not. But, broadly, creating some distance or friction between the impulse to take a hit and the action of doing it is key to making better decisions in this context. In the same way that not having lots of unhealthy food readily available in the house is likely to help you eat more healthily, making it easier to do good things and harder to do bad things is always a positive step in the right direction.
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