Everyone loves live Fantasy Premier League (FPL) rank updates, don’t they? I probably spend more time on a certain LiveFPL site than I do with my family. Sometimes I reflexively start typing its name into my browser for no real reason. I’ve considered starting a support group, it’s gotten pretty serious.
While live rank updates are not necessarily a new thing, it’s only fairly recently that they’ve entered the broader FPL consciousness. But has the ability to see how an event on the football pitch affects your FPL rank in almost real-time changed the way we approach the game? This article will look at how the relatively new phenomenon of live rank updates might influence how we play and enjoy the game and what impulses we might need to better manage when engaging with them.
They Make FPL Feel Like a Live Sport
I’ll kick off with the biggest positive I see to live rank updates which is that they make experiencing a Gameweek feel more like you’re watching a live match and, in my opinion, it becomes more engaging as a result. In many ways, their effect resembles the final day of the season where every event might affect who wins the league, qualifies for Europe, stays up or gets relegated. A last-minute goal from one of your players is usually exciting but it’s arguably even more exciting when you can see it turn a red arrow green or push you above a mini-league rival. There’s no doubt in my mind that the mainstream emergence of live rank updates has added a whole new dimension to how we can experience FPL.
Those who were playing FPL in the 2011/12 season though, might remember having to wait until the Monday afternoon after the last round of matches had been played to see what their final rank was and whether they’d won their mini-leagues. While this did, I suppose, add some extra dramatic tension to the proceedings, it was far from ideal and serves to illustrate the stark difference between then and now.
In those days FPL was a lot less transparent and itemizable. If your player scored points it was obviously a good thing and you still had a reasonable idea of whether or not that player was a differential so you could estimate how good a thing it was. But there was also some distance between the event and its effects. Nowadays, if a player scores you can see almost immediately how it affected your rank, whether that be for better or for worse.
Laws, Sausages… and FPL
Famed 19th-century German statesman Otto von Bismarck was once quoted as saying, “If you like laws and sausages, you should never watch either one being made” – and the same could probably be said for FPL ranks. Being able to see which specific players influence your rank and the exact extent to which they do it is potentially useful strategically, but not necessarily something you want to have to process moment to moment, especially when it’s bad news. Stress and excitement are often two sides of the same coin and, sometimes, it’s better for your mental wellbeing to get the news, good or bad, in one big dose rather than have it drip-fed to you.
I think the most obvious solution here is to actively manage your usage. For reasons explained above, I love cranking up the live update tools when there are a lot of matches going on or, more specifically, when I have a lot of players playing – but I also think it’s good advice to consider leaving these tools alone if there are matches on in which you don’t have any players playing or the biggest threat to your rank is in action. These are the instances where it is far, far better for your mood and overall mental wellbeing to just rip the plaster off at full-time rather than peel it off slowly over 90 minutes. In fact, why are you even watching these matches, have you never heard of a garden centre?
How We Value Players
The influence of live rank updates likely extends well beyond the excitement/stress dichotomy and may well influence the way we play the game itself. For example, if you get used to seeing your rank decline on Sundays, you might start assigning greater value to the players who the live rank tools indicate are causing this. You might even start valuing over players who play more regularly on a Saturday, even if other factors might not support this evaluation.
Because who plays on a Sunday isn’t entirely random but is, rather, dictated by factors such as which teams are playing in Europe, you now have a systemic basis for inefficiently valuing players and, while that sounds really nerdy, FPL is ultimately all about using your budget as efficiently as possible. After all, the person who uses it the most efficiently over a season will invariably win the whole thing.
The rational perspective would be to care only about whether, collectively, your players achieved a red or a green arrow at the end of the Gameweek. Whether they went from a green to a red or a bigger green to a smaller green between Saturday and Sunday is ultimately irrelevant. However, because we can see that certain players or certain teams seem to affect our ranks one way or the other on a Sunday, we might convince ourselves that we need to cover them, potentially at the expense of better options.
The microscopic perspective that we gain from live score updates might not just influence which teams we focus on but how many players we look for from each team. If two players from a particular club aren’t positively pushing the needle for your rank due to high effective ownership, you might think that three players are the solution. This isn’t necessarily wrong, but it is a conclusion that is far easier to come to if you are watching how your rank is adjusting in real-time. As above, you also run the risk of artificially inflating the value of certain players over others. Points are points, ultimately, so it shouldn’t matter in the long term whether they came from a third Spurs player today or a solitary Crystal Palace player yesterday.
Back when ranks were updated only after the Gameweek had ended, it was less important which players were responsible for which part of the green or red arrow. Points were king and a rank change was largely indivisible. Now, however, rank changes can be monitored, in-play, moment to moment and minutely deconstructed as a result. This could offer a strategic advantage for those who can observe these factors rationally and in context but, as discussed here, it also opens us up to the influence of various biases that can lead us in the wrong direction.
Live rank updates have added many new dimensions to the game of FPL and, while some of these serve to enhance the experience of playing it, others provide new challenges to the veracity of our decision-making.
Depending on how you use them, live rank updates can add more excitement or more stress, they can help you make better strategic decisions, or they can trigger irrational biases. The key words, of course, are ‘depending on how you use them’. The information these tools provide can influence your enjoyment of the game and the decisions you make in relation to it, so it’s important to bear this in mind when deciding when to access them and to acknowledge the potential biases their use can amplify when it comes to making your FPL decisions.
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