Week 21?! How did we manage to get this far into the future from my last article on Fantasy Premier League way back in September 2020? While it doesn’t feel like 20 gameweeks have gone since then, at the same time it weirdly feels like I’ve been a football fan for years now. In those few months, there have been highs and lows, triumph and failure, and I’ve enjoyed every moment. So what’s happened to this human male who proclaimed zero interest in football for 30 years, only to become obsessed with FPL?
In short, football has suddenly become a huge part of my life. I don’t know if it’s because of the global pandemic and the various lockdowns, but watching matches and preparing my FPL team has been one of the few reliably regular parts of my week. To the extent that during periods where there aren’t any matches or teams have the gall to play games outside of the Premier League, I’ve felt like something was missing. Since I’ve been part of a league with my family, it’s been a shared activity that we’ve all taken part in while not being able to actually do things together. And for my partner and I, it’s been something that we’ve gotten incredibly competitive over with late-night theory crafting and long chats about who to invest into each week. It’s been a blast and I can’t imagine this year without it.
However, while FPL has kept me going in a lot of ways, much like real-world gambling, the lows are brutal. Again, I think this is exacerbated by the pandemic but when you invest a lot of your time and energy into something only for it to fail, it doesn’t feel great. And while I fully understand that this is a game, it doesn’t take away from the fact that A) I want to win, and B) losing is rubbish. That being said, unlike real-world gambling when I have a particularly bad time (I’m looking at you 30 point gameweek 16), I haven’t lost any money. That means that while I’ll feel the loss in my head, it never reaches my wallet. And so I’m pumped to improve the following week without any negative implications.
Gambling, implications and real-world analysis aside, FPL is fun to tinker with. Like I mentioned in my previous article, it manages to combine my love of watching numbers go up with the joy of crafting a team. Previously I drew parallels to deck building in card games like Magic: The Gathering and list building in Warhammer, but I’m not sure the comparison is quite right. There’s an almost emotional attachment to a player who has been with you throughout the season or another that you bring in at a pivotal moment. Equally, there are those that you buy in and let you down and you question whether to add them to your team ever again. In this way, I think it’s more like Pokemon. And I know I just compared real-world football players to monster pets, but just hear me out.
In Pokemon you build a team, swapping in and out what works best for a given situation. However, over that same time, you have your favourites and those who you know won’t let you down. Now I know it isn’t exactly the same but for a large part of my FPL career, Harry Kane has been my Pokemon of choice. He’s managed to keep great points throughout, especially when other forwards have struggled and you know that if he can get a single goal then he’s going to get you some bonus points and if you’ve captained him this week that’s a lot of points. By the same measure, I brought in Ilkay Gundogan to fill my De Bruyne shaped hole and he exceeded my expectations this week. And much like Pokemon, it’s all about balance and forming that perfect team that’ll take you to the top of the league.
I’ve learnt lessons about when to spend points on transfer and when to stick to the free ones. A few times, I’ve spent four or even eight points to bring in players only to be burnt by their performance in subsequent games. It’s an interesting risk-reward mechanism within FPL in that you only get one free transfer per week and any subsequent ones cost you four points. However, one transfer rarely feels like enough so you have to balance when to use points to their fullest and when to simply sit back and wait. I stupidly swapped out Grealish the week after he got his 25 mega points and then spent points bringing him back the following week for a measly two. It’s easy to jump on a ‘trending’ player and be burnt by the fact that their best game is behind them, but at the same time, some only have good games to come. Managing this and working out who to bring in and when is important. Equally so, knowing when someone needs transferring out is imperative. I’m currently toying with the idea of dropping Salah after his recent streak of low points but equally feel like as soon as I do he’ll start racking up the numbers.
All of which makes every gameweek exciting and full of twists, turns and drama. I’m writing this after Sheffield’s 2-1 win over Manchester United, which was a heck of a game to watch. I was cheering for Sheffield all the way knowing that my brother has a United defender. At the same time knowing that while we both have Fernandes, and that he has captained him (gives double points). This meant that I didn’t want Fernandes to score because while it denied me points, it made my brother lose out more. And when that all came together to mean that Sheffield won with two goals, forcing a minus point onto his defender, and Ferndanes only got two points total, I was a happy man.
And that was a single game. Whereas players that you share can become standard affairs of wanting points, but not being too invested as they aren’t going to see you take the lead, it’s the ones you don’t that things get really exciting. The big hitters like Fernandes and Kane are owned by a huge amount of FPL managers (that’s what we call ourselves). However, if you can get big points from a player owned by a small number of players, especially in your own league, it can see you skyrocket up the league numbers.
Some of the most exciting moments have come from players who you’ve taken a chance with and risked including in your team, resulting in you coming out on top. It doesn’t matter if these matches are by the top six teams or the ones with the most famous faces, if it’s your player and you have a good feeling about him, then you are going to watch every second of that match hoping for an exceptional outcome. And when it happens, you feel like a genius.
And that’s my journey so far with Fantasy Premier League. It’s been fantastic and I can’t wait for the rest of the season. If you’ve not read my previous FPL article, then go check that out as an introduction about how a guy with no interest in football has gotten in so deep.
Thanks for reading. Unfortunately, there aren’t many articles like this so recommending where to go from here is hard. For more numbers driven nonsense check out my article on JRPG’s and delayed gratification. Alternatively, for more strategy stuff perhaps Mutant Year Zero could be your thing?
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