Ten fixtures, 20 teams, no doubles, no blanks, no postponements (touch wood), and everyone’s pretty much used all their chips.
Gameweek 38 is Fantasy Premier League (FPL) stripped back to its basics, how we used to play it way back when.
I’ve seen plenty of commenters within our own weird little corner of the internet saying how much they’re ready for the summer now, how the endless procession of last-minute cancellations and short-notice rearrangements and blanks and doubles and catastrophic points swings has taken its toll. Thinking back to my journalism studies days, it’s felt akin to one of those live newsroom exercises where you’re repeatedly being fed absurd new nuggets of information and having to constantly rewrite your intro.
I share the jaded feeling to some extent but I do wonder whether we’ll look back with more fondness on a rollercoaster 2021/22 in years to come.
It goes without saying that the circumstances of how the week-to-week bedlam came about aren’t to be celebrated in the slightest, with Covid’s impact on our daft wee game small fry compared to the death and disruption it has caused in real life.
But chaos is part of the reason why we love football in the first place, so why shouldn’t our pre-conceived chip strategies and transfer plans be challenged once in a while?
We’ll likely soon be back to how things were, with maybe two or three Blank Gameweeks a season and as many Double Gameweeks following in their wake. They’ll be relatively easy to plan for in advance, as they’ll be around FA Cup/EFL Cup weekends, and we’ll not have nearly as much reactionary, short-term firefighting that has been a feature of 2021/22. It’ll all be very familiar, the cream will rise to the top again barring the usual luck/variance and we’ll be back to the ‘snooker player’ approach to FPL of thinking four to six shots/weeks/moves ahead.
How comforting, how rewarding, how… boring?
How many times in the past have we bemoaned medium-term templates forming and seasons stagnating? And with the rise of algorithms, points projections and automated team recommendations, you could easily get away without any manual ‘thinking’ in a routine campaign and still rank highly.
This season has been exhilarating, frustrating and agonising in equal measure, with beautifully-laid plans obliterated by a lateral flow test or three and so, so many 50/50 decisions rewarded handsomely or punished unimaginably.
Commanding mini-league leads have been overturned in the space of a Gameweek or two, entire seasons’ works have been undone with one red arrow. It’s been more snakes and ladders than Risk, with a big fat serpent catching many on square 99.
But it has seldom been dull and I think, over time, the short-term scars will heal and we’ll be left with some more positive memories of Double Gameweek hauls for the likes of Jarrod Bowen, Bruno Fernandes, Mohamed Salah, Kai Havertz, Philippe Coutinho, Marcos Alonso, Kevin De Bruyne and James Maddison.
FPL anecdotes are made from such points bonanzas and we’ve had about a decade’s worth in one year.
Just as a post-script, longer-term readers of the site will remember the Pre-Match Preamble being very much Mark Sutherns’ baby.
When David Munday and I joined the team four years ago, we made a concerted decision not to continue with these articles as they were so utterly associated with Mark and, quite frankly, who would give a toss about what we thought? Reading this, you’re probably wishing I’d stuck to my guns…
But the Pre-Match Preamble continues to be fondly remembered even now, so a final-day reflection seemed like a good excuse to resurrect it. Do let us know in the comments below if it’s a series you’d like to see revived in future, perhaps with a ‘Have I Got News For You’-style rotating writer.
Good luck with your Gameweeks, thanks for reading, and the very best for the summer.
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