Variance in FPL and Recovering From Gameweek 3

Can we start again?

FPL is back and for many, it has announced it’s return, with an uncalled for back hand across the face. The opening game weeks have been rough. GW3 has reminded many, that FPL owes them nothing.

Like any high variance game there will be downswings as well as upswings, and how we deal with these, will contribute greatly to our overall rank and enjoyment of the game.

By just knowing and accepting this, we are putting ourselves in a better position to deal with these dreaded down swings. GW3 alone has surely illustrated to us what a high variance game this can be.

There is both skill and luck involved in FPL, but when lady luck is against us there is often very little we can do. In this article I want to look briefly at variance. What it is, how it relates to FPL and how I attempt to deal with it.

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You could write a book on variance (plenty have) but I will look to explain it in a very simple way.

In FPL, variance will not measure how well you play. It shows how much your results can vary and differ from expectation.

Sometimes you can make what seems like a logical and well thought out decision, only to receive 0 reward. However, if you make solid and logical decisions over the season, you should expect to reap the rewards. In reality, it could take even longer than a season for this to happen.

If I flip a coin 100 times, I expect it to land on heads 50 times. However, this does not always happen. It can take a much larger sample size for things to balance out. If it lands on heads 56 /100 times then I have been on the right side of variance.

Let’s look at a more football related example. On average say 75% of penalty kicks are scored. This means technically Vardy will miss 1/4 of his penalties. He has already scored 4/4. While this is a tiny sample, have us Vardy owners technically experienced positive variance?

Should he miss 2/4 after you buy him, there is absolutely nothing you could do about it. We have no control over the order of his misses. Of course, there is nothing to say that his share of misses has to happen this season. He also may be a super accomplished penalty taker and only miss 15% of his penalties over a 5 year period.

As FPL managers we do not overtly care about Vardy’s 5 year penalty record. We only really care whether he scores when he is in our team.

Unfortunately, for us we have no control over when he scores and can only pray to Mark Sutherns when we see our man take that run up from 12 yards.

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Now let’s look at an FPL example. Heung Min Son was a strong captaincy pick in GW3. He was in super form coming off the back of a 4-goal haul last time out. He was playing a Newcastle side who had been swept aside by Brighton in GW2.

Plenty would have said that Newcastle’s low defensive block would not suit Son. However, he does not solely rely on running in behind to score goals. He is also a skilled long-distance shooter on either foot. He also takes his fair share of set-pieces. He is a triple threat.

As it transpired, he hit the bar with 2 long shots and put a corner on to Eric Dier’s head 6 yards out (he missed). On another day Son captainers could have been celebrating a 1st half haul.

Instead, they were deprived of their captain for the whole 2nd half as he was subbed off with an injury. You literally could not make this up. None of this takes from the fact that he was a very good captain pick. If we were to captain Son 100 times, this sequence of events may not happen again.

The first step to dealing with bad luck is knowing and accepting that it exists. The very nature of the FPL game leaves us open to experiencing these episodes of uncontrollable misfortune. Knowing this helps me move on to the next GW quickly.

Our whole season will be an aggregation of these good and bad incidents. We expect if we make many more good decisions than bad ones we will be on the right side of lady luck.

“Everybody will eventually run worse than they thought was possible. The difference between a winner and a loser is that the latter thinks they do not deserve it”

Craig Hartman

Below I will look at some things that help me swat away the FPL lows.

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Accept that FPL can be unpredictable

We can attempt to reduce variance by making consistently solid, long term decisions. We can review footage of games, analyse stats and pinpoint optimal fixture runs. We can focus on making correct decisions rather than the points they lead to, and eliminate results-based thinking.

However, we still must accept that FPL is unpredictable and that sometimes no matter how well we plan, things won’t go our way.

Let’s look at some highlights of this from GW3.

  • Son goes off at half time.
  • Podence was transferred in by the Twitter masses but turns out to be injured.
  • Bruno scores a 100th minute penalty after looking like he was on his way to a 4 pointer.
  • Vardy scores a hattrick vs City at the Etihad.

There were plenty more but let’s look at these for now. I was on the wrong side of the 1st two and the right side of the 2nd two which led to me having a solid week. However, I could have easily been on the wrong side of all 4 as many were and had a dreadful week.

The margins here are so fine. Selling Vardy on your wildcard before City was not an obvious mistake. Holding him for the City game, knowing he had 2 plum home fixtures after was also fine. The end result between these 2 decisions turned out to be astronomical.

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Make a note of your good luck

In life and FPL, we tend to remember the bad luck far more than the good luck. The fact remains that we will enjoy both. It is important to mark the moments of good fortune, so that we do not get overwhelmed by the bad luck.

If we don’t it may lead to us becoming bitter and demoralised. This in turn can lead to sub optimal decisions, such as hail Mary captaincy punts or rage transfers.

So, keep track of how many consecutive 50:50 captaincy decisions go your way, and the times your 2nd sub hauls and somehow makes it into your starting XI. Remember when your goalie saves a penalty, or when the highly owned player you don’t have misses one.

This will make the negative variance much easier to deal with. Good fortune is nothing to be embarrassed about. There is no doubt, that in a game with over 7 million players, those that finish with an elite rank will have been heavily on the right side of variance. Embrace that, it is a swell place to be.

Stop checking your rank

We are 3 GWs down. There is 0 benefit to checking your OR after every game. It will be a very long season if like some, you check your OR after every incident involving a player you own. OR right now is, for the most part, irrelevant.

Ranks are so bunched up right now, that it is no real indicator of how well you are doing. Plenty ahead of you will lose interest, have used chips or have been riding that good luck train to the top 100k.

If you have started well that is a great platform. However, there is nothing worse than checking LiveRank and seeing the ‘negative’ impacts of your early moves and the big red trap door that you are tumbling through.

It may lead to more sub optimal and desperate moves and it is far too early for them. Keep focusing on correct decisions rather than points and your OR – these will come.

I’m not trying to ruin all of your fun. Do check your rank. Do it once at the end of each game day perhaps? This will give you a better idea of where you really are. For me there is no need to experience every single mini high and low of a GW.

Do you really need to know that Ings yellow card has dropped you 10k places?

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Identify mistakes/make a plan

Sometimes we will have to accept, that part of our FPL downswing is due to bad play and not just variance. Being beat silly by the mallet of misfortune can lead to us making mistakes. What started out as bad luck, is now being exacerbated by us trying to dig ourselves out of it.

Preseason I made a 5 GW plan. I picked my squad for these 5 weeks, booked in my transfers and captains, with the intent to wildcard in GW6.

I am not usually this rigid, but it allows me to acquire more data, avoid unwanted bandwagons and forgive a player a bad performance or 2 early on.

This has worked well, as after the horror of no Salah in GW1, I have mopped up all of Son’s goals, Vardy’s goals and Bruno’s latest haul. After making a plan, you are less likely to go flip flopping between players and sometimes missing out on all of their hauls.

Do this anytime during the season when you feel things are not going your way. Make a 2-3-week plan and ride it out. You may be more likely to remove emotions from your decisions and avoid results based thinking this way.

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Take some time off

At some point we can all get to a point where we don’t want to look at FPL anymore. So, don’t. Go for a run, listen to some music, spend some time with your loved ones (they may be confused as to why you are interacting with them on a weekend but hey..).

It seems so easy, but you’ll be amazed at how recharged you’ll feel after a break from the game. This doesn’t have to be anything drastic. Please don’t take to Twitter, to announce you won’t be around this Wednesday or Thursday.

Many of us can be stuck on auto pilot when it comes to FPL. We automatically log in to FPL Twitter every day, check our teams, recheck our teams, check price changes etc. Just take a break from all things FPL even for a day and go again.


This is a very simplistic look at downswings and variance. Giving the GW that was in it I hoped it might help some.

I understand this is a far more complex subject than what I have covered, but I don’t think many want to read complex maths formulas, after getting 18 points on their wildcard.

I may return to this and cover more aspects of variance, such as your own playing style and other ways to deal with it.

For now, I think it is important to just accept that variance is a bitch and keep making them solid decisions.

I read the below on a poker forum many years ago and I think we can apply it to FPL.

“Correct decisions where we win = money” (FPL points)

“Correct decisions where we lose = money (FPL points) in the long run as variance evens itself out”


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