Forming Your FPL Strategy – A Psychological Approach

In this article I will deliver psychological advice related to goal-setting, in an attempt to help you create, develop, and adapt your FPL strategies for the upcoming FPL season.

Briefly, an FPL strategy is a guide that is usually created at the beginning of the season, detailing general behaviours and strategies that one would like to attempt to employ throughout the season.

The aim of this article is to help you to develop a strong strategy from the start, but one that will not leave you frustrated and down-trodden if you do not quite meet the desired goals.

Here is the structure for this article:

  1. The importance of being adaptive and dynamic.
  2. Avoiding imperatives – We must not ‘must’.
  3. We are creating a guide, not a set of rules.
  4. SMART goal-setting and how to take advantage of this.
  5. Avoid focusing on overall rank and top % finishes.

The importance of being adaptive & dynamic

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I had to start with this – because it is single-handedly the most important factor when designing any form of strategy or long-term plan.

You MUST be willing to adapt and respond in a dynamic fashion. Simply, this equates to your ability to realise when part of your FPL strategy is failing you, react in a timely fashion, and adapt that section without overhauling the entire plan. It certainly isn’t easy.

The key questions here are:

  1. “WHEN do we accept that our strategy is failing us, and that it needs to be adapted?”
  2. “When is it considered effective adaptation, and when is it considered over-reaction based on emotional impulses?”

The 3 Strike Rule – “3 Strikes, You’re Out”

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A little method I use for adapting and changing long-term plans is the ‘3 strike rule”.

If your plan fails you once, do NOT over-react and suddenly start tearing up your strategy that you spent hours formulating. Instead, trust that your plan was created with a sound mind, and give it another couple of chances.

For example, if one of your goals is to take less hits, but your GW1 squad scores 20 points below the average, do NOT suddenly take a -8 to ship your Salah to Auba and your Ziyech to Greenwood (just an example – I am not a psychic… or am I?)

However, if by GW3 you are slowly dropping down the ranks, and the restriction of taking less hits is prohibiting you from being aggressive and getting in-form players, it may be that you can adapt your plan.

For example, rather than ‘taking less hits’, you could adapt your plan to only taking -4 hits (not -8/-16), or you could adapt your plan to ‘do not make rage transfers, only take hits after a few days of reflection’.

Psychologically speaking, there are two main advantages of being adaptive and dynamic:

  1. Increased satisfaction – here is a quote from psychologist Guy Winch on the positive correlation between adaptability and happiness: “We constantly meet psychological challenges. Some of us succumb, we feel hopeless, disempowered, give up… and some meet challenges, take the knock and learn something from it. Our ability to have life satisfaction, to be happy [and] to have good relationships really depends on our ability to adapt.”
  2. Improved bounce-back ability – rather than considering ‘what could have been’, or making rage transfers and destroying your entire strategy, your focus will be on how you can improve and adapt to the new challenge that you are facing. This is true for ALL aspects of life – adaptability is key.

Avoiding imperatives – we must not ‘must’

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An imperative is a statement or command of complete necessity – in other words, something we MUST do. It is not optional, and as such puts a lot of pressure on achieving the act or command.

This becomes an issue as throughout the season we will inevitably fail to adhere to certain aspects of our strategy. If we feel as though we must do something, and we fail to achieve this, it can cause us to resent ourselves and feel frustration and sadness. Therefore, we must not ‘must’.

Alternatively, if we ‘aim’ to achieve something, or state that we should ‘try’ / ‘attempt’ to act a specific way, it will leave us feeling less resentful and frustrated if we fail to adhere to our strategies.

See an example of this from my strategy below – see the key word ‘attempt’ utilised here.

Photo Credit: Taken from my Twitter Strategy (

We are creating a guide, not a set of rules

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Briefly, linked to the aforementioned two points, you should view your strategy as a loose guide for the season, not a set of rules.

For example, in my FPL strategy, I have suggested that I should attempt to delay using my first wildcard for as long as possible. However, with the blanks of Manchester City and Manchester United, it may be that I need/want to use the first wildcard as early as GW2 or GW3.

If I viewed my strategy as a set of rules instead of a guide, I might feel that I could not play my wildcard early, and as such miss out on the opportunity to attack GW1, and react in GW2/GW3.

Therefore, to summarise the first three sections of this article – we should NOT think the following:

“My strategy is a set of rules that I must always follow, and I cannot adapt or change it throughout the season”.

Instead, we SHOULD think the following:

“My strategy is a general guide that I should attempt to follow, but be willing to adapt if it regularly restricts me”.

SMART goal-setting and how to take advantage of this

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SMART is a mnemonic device used for guiding goal-setting and game-plans in both professional and personal development. It is associated with improved ability to set more suitable goals, and also adhere to these goals. See the above picture to understand the 5 words represented by each letter.

Specific | Measurable | Achievable | Realistic | Timely

Here is how we can apply SMART goal-setting to our FPL strategies (small caveat – I am not saying that you should employ the below strategies, they are just used for the purpose of differentiating between SMART and non-SMART goals).


Non-specific: “Be more patient in FPL decision making, especially with hits”.

Specific: “Try to avoid taking -8 hits. Take less -4 hits, and only take them if the player coming out is injured or has a serious threat of being rotated”.


Non-measurable: “Try to make sure your team is not too dissimilar to the template, as too many differentials can hurt your rank”.

Measurable: “Using, try to keep your team similarity between 50-75%. At approximately 30% toward the back end of last season, I was heavily punished when non-owned players with high expected ownership hauled”.

ACHIEVABLE/REALISTIC (pulled together for ease)

Non-achievable/realistic: “Only switch captaincy between two premium options all year”.

Achievable/realistic: “Try to aim to have no more than 8-10 captains across the season. Having 12+ captains is suggestive of too many differential captaincy choices and attempting to chase a green arrow”.


Non-timely: “Take less hits across the season.”

Timely: “Aim to take less hits in the first half of the season. It is hard to give a specific number, but aim for less than 10 hits across the season, with around 30-40% of these in the first half of the season”.

Avoid focusing on overall rank and top % finishes

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Despite the fact that achieving a brilliant overall rank at the end of the season can earn you bragging rights, followers on Twitter, and the possibility to own an awesome mug made by @fplmerch, it should not be a part of your ‘strategy’ per se.

The reason for this is that technically speaking, your overall rank is not something that you can control, and suggesting that part of your strategy is to achieve a top 10k finish, is exercising ‘outcome bias’ – whereby we judge the effectiveness of our decisions and actions on our outcomes rather than the decision making process.

Instead, your strategy should be designed in a fashion that will optimise your ability to achieve the best possible rank. In other words, focus on the behaviours, skills and cognitive decision making that are precursors of a good end-of-season rank, but do not focus on what that end result may look like (e.g. top 10k, top 1k).

This will avoid disappointment if you fall short of your expected outcome, and will allow you to focus on how to master the wonderful game of FPL, instead of focusing on numbers and overall ranks.


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To conclude, when designing our FPL strategies for the 2020/21 season we should follow the following guidelines:

  1. Be adaptive and dynamic – use the three-strike rule to make changes.
  2. Avoid using imperatives – it will only cause resentment.
  3. Understand that the strategy is a guide, not a set of rules.
  4. Use the SMART goals mnemonic to create more structured strategies.
  5. Focus on the decision making process, not the outcome (e.g. OR).

Thank you for reading this article! Even if you are not creating your own FPL strategy, most of these tips apply to any goal-setting or strategy planning in your professional and personal lives.

If you do make your own FPL strategy, make sure to tag me when you post them on Twitter (@FPL__Raptor), or if you want them to remain private, send them to me via DM.

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