For well over a decade of Fantasy Premier League (FPL), a top 10k rank finish has been the gold standard target for most of us managers. While there are some who achieve it so regularly that it probably feels more like a formality than an achievement at this point, for the mortals among us, a 10k finish has been the iconic badge of honour, the shorthand for ‘I’ve had a really good season’ and, if you’ve managed more than one, a clear demonstration that, at some point at least, you were pretty good at this game.
A top 10k finish will always be a great achievement in FPL but, as the game grows in size, it no longer represents what it used to; a highly-challenging yet achievable goal. Instead, top 10k has become a somewhat anachronistic and perhaps overly-elitist measure of managerial prowess. This article will discuss why this is the case and argue why we might need to adopt a new standard for what a ‘Top 10k’ finish used to mean and, I will argue, that this standard should be ‘Top 50k’.
The Game Has Grown
The first and most obvious argument for why we should consider reviewing the 10k standard is that the game is much, much bigger than it was when that standard was established. I had my first top 10k finish in 2012 when, I believe, there were about two million players but now, ten years on, there are over nine million. In fact, if you finish in the top 5.3 million this season, you will have beaten more managers than it took for me to win FPL in 2015.
To put it another way, a top 10k finish 10 years ago would have put you in roughly the top 0.5% of all managers whereas a top 10k finish this season would put you in the top 0.1%; there is a world of difference between those figures.
In pure probability terms, the more people that play the game, the more difficult it becomes to succeed in it or, rather, to succeed as a result of skill alone. That’s not to say that anybody ever did succeed as a result of skill alone, but with nine million opponents playing a game, it is highly likely that a good proportion of those will outperform you on the basis of luck, even if their technique is objectively worse than yours. This effect will compound the bigger the game grows.
In addition, it’s not simply the fact that there are a lot more people playing FPL now but there are also a lot more people remaining active throughout the whole season. While I don’t have access to the numbers themselves, in the past you could sense that outsized gains were achievable simply by not losing interest halfway through the season. Nowadays, those gains still exist in some form, but they are far less significant. For most people, a really good rank requires a season-long effort.
The Gap Between Serious and Casual has Narrowed
Speaking of technique, however, it would be wrong to say that skill is no longer a factor. While FPL managers have good and bad seasons by their own standards, it is no accident that those who take the game more seriously tend to do better more consistently than your average player. Indeed, there are managers and content creators within the FPL community who are having incredible seasons right now, and some are even flirting with the possibility of winning the whole game.
So skill and dedication are not dead as factors in FPL and never will be, however big the game grows but, aside from the quantitative argument detailed above, we also need to factor in the qualitative element that the skills and techniques that tend to make a good manager are no longer solely the purview of those of us who stumbled across an FPL blog a decade or so ago and stuck around for the stats tables.
Nowadays the ‘secrets’ of FPL success and the information necessary to gain an edge over rival managers are more easily accessible and more plentiful than ever before. The net effect of this is that there are not just more FPL managers playing the game but more with the toolkit required to play it well.
In totality, whether it be the number of people playing, the increased luck factor or the growing sophistication of the average player, achieving a good FPL rank is becoming an ever more challenging objective. This is why I believe we should be looking at ‘top 50k’ as the ‘new’ top 10k.
Why Not Just Stick to 10k?
The counter-argument to this might be that, even if these factors have made the game more challenging, they shouldn’t necessarily dictate how we judge success. Lots of games and sports have become more competitive over the years without the definition of ‘doing well’ being relaxed. Heaven forbid that the dog-eat-dog theatre of war that is FPL should become the domain of participation-trophies or *shudder* ‘just playing for fun’. The competitive spirit that surrounds FPL is a big part of what makes it so compulsive. However, that is not the reason why 50k should be the new 10k.
A top 10k finish was always supposed to be an exclusive club but not necessarily an ‘elite club’. The point of it was that, if you were a dedicated player, it typically remained just about achievable as a goal at least up until the business end of the season and this added a lot of engagement and motivation for that type of FPL manager.
Nowadays, unless you have an extraordinary run late on, your chances of a top 10k finish are probably more-or-less determined by the start of the final third of the season, probably even earlier. Because we don’t talk about breaking the top 50k with the same sort of reverence that we talk about breaking the top 10k, we find at this stage, a small (and ever-decreasing relative to the whole) group of managers in and around the 10k with lots to compete for followed by, well, everyone else. It’s a bit like how you might imagine the lower leagues would be without the play-offs.
There are tens of thousands of managers in and around 50k who, for reasons explained above, should feel like they’re having a great season with everything to play for, but because our conventions and our standards of success haven’t evolved or expanded along with the game, instead these managers are probably just waiting for the season to end.
Why 50k? Well, technically we’d be best served by shifting to a percentage-based model where we’re all aiming for the top 0.5% and the target evolves automatically alongside the number of players but, probably because we look at ranks in absolute terms, that model never seems to catch on. ‘Top 50k’, on the other hand, is probably just about catchy enough to stick and, being the equivalent of ‘Top 10k’ about ten years ago relative to the number of players then and now, it should serve us for another few seasons at least, depending on how fast FPL continues to grow.
A top 10k finish may never not be an iconic target in FPL, particularly for us old-school managers, but it no longer means what it used to mean. The game is far bigger and more competitive than it was when ‘Top 10k’ emerged as the de facto target for serious FPL managers looking to measure themselves against more than just their mini-leagues.
A top 10k finish is now arguably closer to what a top 1k finish used to represent and there’s a reason why ‘top 1k’ was never the standard. For a competition to be compelling, targets need to be challenging but also realistically achievable for a big enough group of people so as to maintain the competitive motivation at a scale that can sustain its community. This cannot be done if those targets are too narrow, or too elitist in nature.
If you are the type of FPL manager who understands the difference between finishing 10,000 and 10,001 in the world, you will also understand why finishing in the 40,000s versus in the 50,000s or 60,000s should also matter but, right now, I’m not sure that it does and the game suffers as a result. That’s why we need to adopt the top 50k as the standard target for serious managers.
Postscript; coincidentally, yes I have just broken into the top 50k for the first time this season, I’m really not sure why you’d think that is important…
Full-year memberships, monthly subscriptions and a FREE trial are all now available.
Join now to get the following:
- Plot your transfer strategies using the fully interactive Season Ticker.
- Get projections for every Premier League player provided by the Rate My Team statistical model.
- Use Rate My Team throughout the season to guide your selections and transfers.
- Get access to over 150+ exclusive members articles over the season.
- Analyse our OPTA-powered statistic tables specifically tailored for Fantasy Football Managers.
- Use our exclusive tool to build custom stats tables from over 100 OPTA player and team stats.
- Enjoy our Flat-Track Bully feature which introduces an opposition filter to your tables.
- View heatmaps and expected goals data for every player.
- Use our powerful comparison tool to analyse players head-to-head.