FPL Community Questions: prioritising premiums, the best £4.5m rotation pairs, and navigating DGW19 without a wildcard.

Welcome back to our ‘Community Questions’ series where we discuss the community conundrums in an attempt to provide a different perspective, or perhaps some statistical information or insight some of you may not have thought about.

Each week, we will set up a thread and ask the community what questions they have. We will then pick the most interesting ones, or the questions that apply to a wider majority, to feature on this article where contributors to team FPL Connect will provide you with our own answers.

This week, FPL Raptor (Ross Dowsett) will be answering your questions. I (Ross) am a PhD student and a Lecturer in Sport and Exercise Psychology, with a BSc in Psychology and an MSc in Sport and Exercise Psychology. My main focus is discussing the various methods of optimising our decision-making in FPL, as well as finding innovative ways to cope with the highs and lows of FPL.

You can find me on Twitter here >> https://twitter.com/FPL__Raptor

1. Which premium assets should we prioritise?

Almost all of the questions this week revolved around which premium assets we should be choosing, and how we should reshuffle our teams to get them in (see above three tweets). I will have my say on the matter generally, and then give you my current ranking on the main premium assets.

*Caveat to begin with – I currently own Salah, KDB, Bruno and Son. Whilst there are multiple premium options, I will be focusing on those four, with Kane as the fifth premium option. Each situation is different, so take this as a very general opinion and make decisions that best optimise your current situation.*

Firstly, I would like to say that I think that it is perfectly viable to fit four premium options into our teams with a small reshuffle. I think that three premium options will allow for a more balanced team, and that five premium options will lead you to having a very weak bench or needing to start at least two very cheap options every week.

I am not sure that it is worth taking a -8 this week to cram in premium options at the expense of the rest of our teams. I think my main advice is that if you own Salah, KDB, Bruno, Kane or Son, I would not take any of those five out to fit in another. Stick with your premium assets, as all five of those options can haul despite the fixture type.

The only reason that I would potentially be shifting my premiums around regularly is to focus on captaincy. You want to make sure that each week you believe you own one of the top two captaincy options. If you are not in a position whereby you own four or more premiums, this may require you to plan ahead and may warrant a -4 or -8 to bring in a solid captaincy option. Here is my captaincy plan over the next five gameweeks.

As you can see, I plan on captaining Salah twice over the next four GWs, and Bruno/KDB in GW13 and GW14 respectively. Son is not a captaincy option for me until GW16, and therefore if I need to lose one premium over the 2 GWs it’ll probably be him. I think this week if you do not own Salah but do own Kane/Son, and are willing to risk going without Salah, it is not necessarily a bad move. Indeed, you could potentially then wait until GW15 to bring Salah in, as there are other viable captaincy options in GW13 and GW14.

If I had to choose four premium options now I would probably say: Salah, KDB, Bruno and Kane. If you cannot afford all of those, I would opt for Son over Kane, as they are usually both involved in the goals. If I had to only choose three, I would probably drop the Spurs duo until GW16, as their xpts per 90 and fixtures are both the least appealing. The xpts per 90 for the five main premium options across the last five GWs are as follows (taken from Fantasy Football Hub):

KDB –> 7.54 xpts

Bruno –> 7.49 xpts

Salah –> 6.83 xpts

Son –> 4.61xpts

Kane —> 4.57 xpts

In summary, KDB and Bruno look absolutely essential at the moment, and Salah’s captaincy potential over the next 5 GWs is worth considering. The Spurs duo have tough fixtures and slightly lower underlying stats, but their form, combination play and clinical nature makes it difficult to drop them from our teams.

2. Who are the best £4.5m cheap defenders, and which teams rotate well over the upcoming gameweeks?

There are two rotation pairs that I have identified as working well over the upcoming gameweeks:

  1. Southampton and Aston Villa
  2. Newcastle and Leeds

Therefore, a rotation between KWP and Targett for a combined (£9.1m), or a rotation between Lewis and Ayling for a combined (£8.8m) may be the best way moving forward. There are potentially some other better rotations, but these are the ones I have been eyeing up and can be done for fairly cheap!

3. Premium strikers – do we need them?

Thanks once again for the question @Gooner_FPL. Legend. I think the answer to your question for me would be, “we simply do not know yet.” If your question was, “can we go without premium strikers over the festive period” I would say, yes absolutely. Whilst Kane is in fine form I believe most of the premium midfielders could match or outscore him over the next 4-5 gameweeks. Vardy and Leicester have been very underwhelming, and Werner cannot find his scoring boots so far in the Premier League. Aguero’s fitness will continue to be an issue, and Jesus does not look to be a natural goalscorer.

As you can see in the above picture (my current team for GW12), it is possible to have 4 premium midfielders, a balanced defence, and a potent attack. I think perhaps the only change would be Watkins –> Wilson. The cheap strikers provide such incredible value, where as the cheap midfielders this year have been less than impressive. Therefore, it seems unwise to have a premium striker and a cheap midfielder, when a premium midfielder and a cheap striker would probably provide better value.

4. Should we remove DCL? If so, is Giroud a viable replacement?

Firstly, I would say that whilst I have not owned DCL at any point this season, If I did own him I would not be removing him any time soon. So far this season, DCL has returned against Spurs, Man United and Liverpool. In fact, his only two blanks have been against Leeds and Southampton (“easier” fixtures). I hate to say players are fixture proof, but you do expect Everton to keep scoring despite the tricky games, and if they do, DCL will probably be involved in one way or another! In fact, here is a brilliant tweet by Mark Sutherns (https://twitter.com/FFScout_Mark) earlier emphasising that even with reduced chances across the next few gameweeks, you do have to wonder whether his superior conversion rate would still make it a viable option to keep him:

“Looking into some numbers behind losing Calvert-Lewin. His next 4 opponents concede, on average, a Big Chance every 82.3 mins compared to Bamford’s next 4 which is 68.1 mins. The Leeds man could & should get more Big Chances, then, but DLC’s conversion is far stronger. Calvert-Lewin has converted 9 of 14 Big Chances (64.2%), Bamford 4 of 13 (30.7%).”

I’ll allow you to take that as you wish, but certainly some interesting stats provided by Mark there! If you were jumping off, I would go for Wilson as he has a nice run of fixtures from GW12 onwards and the extra funds could come in handy. Alternatively, I would be looking at Antonio as West Ham have the confirmed DGW in GW19 and he is their talisman, or Bamford just due to the sheer amount of chances he gets.

With respect to the Giroud punt, the mere fact that he is a rotation risk would put me off. You would expect him to play no more than 60-70% of the Premier League fixtures over the next month, and if he is benched, you would predict that he would come off the bench to replace Tammy late on. As such, the strength of your bench would be largely irrelevant. He will likely get returns on most games he starts, but I would not bet on that being too many!

5. Who is the best mid-priced midfielder? Replacements for Ziyech/Rodriguez.

Many people this week will be looking to replace Ziyech (due to injury) and Rodriguez (due to consecutive blanks). Many may also be looking at removing Mahrez due to his blank against Fulham and potential rotation in the festive period. Therefore, the key question is who is the best sub-£8.0m midfielder for the upcoming congested schedule? Personally, my answer to this will always be Grealish. If you already have Grealish, I would take a punt on Bowen (see below stats across the previous 5 GWs taken from Fantasy Football Hub).

Grealish’s xpts per90 over the last 5 gameweeks is 6.78, that is brilliant! He is able to score and assist, and has a relatively high possibility of being on penalties after the Watkins miss. Assuming you already have Grealish, my second option would be Bowen. As already mentioned, we now know that West Ham will definitely have a DGW in GW19, and whilst his underlying stats are not quite as positive as Grealish’s, he is certainly passing the eye test and looks much more of a goal threat in recent weeks.

6. How can we navigate and prepare for the upcoming DGW19 without a wildcard?

Firstly, I would recommend anyone reading this to follow @BenCrellin (https://twitter.com/BenCrellin), as without him, navigating doubles and blanks would be impossible – thank you Ben! Secondly, unfortunately it is going to be difficult for potentially both wildcarders and non-wildcarders to navigate due to the delay in announcing the January fixture schedules. Ben’s advice earlier today for those without the wildcard was this:

“If your team is in good shape then you can look to bring in West Ham players. Aim to have 2 FTs when the rest of the BGW18 + DGW19 fixtures are announced. Then decide on a chip strategy based on how well your team is set up for DGW19 or BGW18.”

Essentially, until more fixtures are announced, or the entire January schedule is revealed, all we can currently do is plan to get at least one or two West Ham players in.

7. How important is it to avoid emotion-driven transfers? Let’s talk Psychology!

I have left this question until last as I know that Psychology is not everyone’s primary focus, but here is my answer to your question. It is incredibly important to avoid making decisions in a strategic game based purely on impulsive emotions, especially negative emotions such as anger, frustration or exasperation. This does not mean that moving early or making early transfers is negative, but simply that making them from a position of negative affection will result in sub-optimal decision-making. There is quite a bit of research on the potential negative consequences of emotional decision-making, but perhaps a more important focus should be on how to avoid this.

My key advice for all FPL managers, and something that will definitely help with emotional kneejerk transfers, is Psychological distancing.

A broad definition of this technique is the separation of oneself from the immediate situation, to consider the broader perspective (i.e. the bigger picture). To utilise Psychological Distancing in FPL, you should ask yourself these questions when experiencing unsuccessful decisions:

  • “Is it really THAT bad if I fail in my captaincy choice, have a bad GW and drop in rank?” (The correct answer is NO!)
  • “What is the worst thing that will happen if I have a bad week and drop in rank?” (The correct answer is “nothing really, I just have a lower rank”).
  • “Will this affect my overall life in a negative way?” (The correct answer is no it will not, or it shouldn’t anyway).

By asking yourself these questions you can aim to rationalise and distance yourself from your negative thoughts and realise that FPL isn’t everything. It is only a small part of your life. It’s success or failure is not the end of the world, even if it feels like it is. Even if it is your full-time job, perfect success on a weekly basis is not the most important part of being in the FPL Community. Positivity, interactions, discussions and good tips are much more important!

If placing FPL in the bigger picture of your current life does not work, we can take this one step further, using a technique I regularly use in everyday life – placing the event in the bigger picture of your future life!

Similar to the above, here are some questions you can ask yourself:

  • “In 1 year time, will I really care that I had a captaincy fail in GW12 of the 2020/2021 season?” (You really shouldn’t!)
  • “In 5 years time, will I even be thinking about picking Mahrez over KDB for GW11 of the 2020/21 season?(Absolutely not!)

These events will seem so unimportant in the future. They only seem so important now due to the intensity of emotions that humans are programmed to feel, and we are caught up in the here-and-now. The purpose of psychological distancing in this context is that it will allow us to detach ourselves from the emotions we are feeling in the present immediately after a gameweek, and therefore we will not make decisions based on impulsive emotional responses. Once we have distanced ourselves, we can return to the important decision and make a more rational, logical choice.

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