My 19/20 FPL Season Review
The longest ever premier league season is now over, so it’s time to look back at my fantasy football season and see what lessons I can learn.
There were a lot of highs and lows this season. I normally try to choose just one game-week to focus on, but this year it was too difficult. There were three game-weeks in particular that I will remember for a long time. First in game-week seven I played my first wildcard and it was an epic success. I added three Leicester players to my team who rewarded me with a 5-0 demolition of Newcastle and my captain Vardy scored two goals. There were returns all over my team giving me a total of 91 points. This gave me a game-week rank of 1,323 which is best weekly rank of all time. It also catapulted me up the league table by over two million places, which must also be a personal record.
My second highlight was again focused on Leicester, who thrashed ten men Southampton 9-0. Captain Vardy scored three goals and an assist, which was my best captain pick of the season. I was following this game online, and I couldn’t believe what I was reading. At 4-0 it looked like Vardy was going to miss out, and then he went on to assist in four of the next five goals. Every time Leicester went forward it seemed like they would score. I didn’t even pick the best three players, and I still got 57 points from one game. It was the most memorable experience I have had following a match. What made it really special was that it was a Friday night game. I woke up on Saturday with 57 points and nine matches still to go. I expect I will never have a Friday night game like that again.
The last game-week is special for multiple reasons. The story of the season is clearly Covid-19 and it was unclear for the longest time if football would return, and how FPL would handle this unprecedented situation. Game-week 30 would have been special simply for being the return of football after so much uncertainty. On top of that we had a double game-week and a free wildcard for everyone, ensuring some high scores were on the horizon. If you still had your normal wildcard remaining, you could really target the four teams with a double game-week. I couldn’t do this, so I felt like I was going to be at a disadvantage compared to other enfranchised players.
As it turned out, many of my single game-week players had fantastic scores, and Manchester City were unstoppable with 3-0 and 5-0 wins over Arsenal and Burnley. Unfortunately my captain Agüero wasn’t in the goals, and picked up an injury, but in just 55 minutes overall he scored two assists. Other Man City players weren’t as restrained, with De Bruyne, Mahrez and Foden getting massive scores. In finished with 118 points using my bench boost, which is my personal record. Until I started this review, I didn’t realise how many personal bests I set this year.
My Favourite Players
Given how prominently Vardy featured in the last section, he absolutely has to be my player of the season. I bought him at the perfect time to capitalise on some huge returns when his ownership was still quite low. The other players of note are the Liverpool defensive trio of Van Dijk, Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold. For the first time I invested heavily in my defence this year and I played all three of them together until the season was postponed. This huge investment took time to pay dividends and Liverpool’s uncharacteristic sloppiness cost me in the beginning of the season, but I kept faith and when their solidity returned I was heavily rewarded with a consistent rise up the league table. Trent in particular was incredible getting returns in eleven straight games, including a phenomenal 24 points against Leicester. He was also my triple captain this year, and his 12 points in a double game-week was almost a disappointment given how incredible he was this season. I definitely wish I had been able to keep him after the restart, but I needed to sell him to raise cash for other players.
Just like the highs, there were many lows. My lowest score of the season was game-week 8 with 20 points. The observant reader will notice that this is immediately after my 91 point game-week where I had my highest ever game-week rank of 1,323. How can the one team have such a big change in fortunes from one week to the next?
July was also incredibly frustrating. It clearly wasn’t as bad as a 20 point game-week, but I started the month with my highest rank of the season just inside the top 15,000. The dream was still alive, and then July happened. There were a number of frustrating incidents involving Bournemouth. From the first of July I lost five clean-sheets to Bournemouth, including the disaster that was Söyüncü. More on that in the next section. In addition my captain Ings missed a penalty against Bournemouth. Including the captaincy and bonus points, this cost me 18 points for one missed penalty! I’ve never had an FPL bogey team like this before. At least the good news is that they got relegated so they can’t trouble me next season.
The single worst part of July was my free-hit. I changed my plans at the last minute and decided to aggressively target a few teams. This backfired and I would have been better off if I had done nothing for the week. Chips are really powerful so wasting one of them is really painful.
July did finish with a green arrow after five red arrows, but I made a transfer that will love long in the memory. David Silva is one of my favourite players, so I just had to captain him on the last day of the season. To do this I had to take out De Bruyne. I knew this was a bad move, but I like to have fun on the last day of the season. This tradition of fun picks cost me 32 points since De Bruyne would have been my captain. Ouch! It still wasn’t enough to put me in the top 10,000. If I had missed out like that on the last day of the season I would really be annoyed.
My Worst Buys
Many of my transfers didn’t work out as well as Vardy. Zaha, Saint-Maximin and Pukki all promised good things. I brought them in when they had good fixtures and I only got one assist between the three of them.
The worst buy however has to be Söyüncü. In game-week 35 I thought I had three defenders with terrible fixtures. I didn’t bank on Sheffield United keeping a clean-sheet against Chelsea, so the transfer was a total waste. Unfortunately I chose the worst defender I could to bring in. Despite leading relegation fodder Bournemouth 1-0, Leicester fell apart, conceding four, with Söyüncü picking up a red card. I was expecting good thing from him and instead I got -3 points and needed to make another transfer the next week.
Captaincy has always been a challenging issue for me. I never manage to match the top managers for points from managers. This year I got much closer to the average of the top 10,000 managers with my 261 points against an average of 265 points for the top managers. Looking at the graph you can see my performance was very similar to an average manager. Note, these figures are from before doubling or tripling. This is noticeably much closer than last season where I got 233 points against an average of 287. I do wonder why the average for top managers is down by 22 points.
Another interesting statistic is that I got double-digit returns eleven times this season. Last year I achieved this only eight times, so this was a marked improvement. Something that only became clear doing this review was that I captained forwards for 30 out of the 38 game-weeks. Given that midfielders get extra points for clean-sheets and goals, this is probably a big mistake. I will talk more about this in my lessons for next season later.
Triple Captain Chips
This was a dramatic year for triple captain chips. The majority of top managers used their chip in game-week 24 when Liverpool had a double game-week. If you look at the graph below, the spike for Salah’s 16 points this week is extremely clear. But spare a thought for those who captained Mané in the same week. He played 32 minutes and got injured for one point. This drags the average score for top managers down to 11.7 which is similar to last years 11.5 average.
I managed to just beat the average again this year. I also used my triple captain chip in game-week 24, but I used it on a defender! Trent Alexander-Arnold didn’t let me down and scored 12 points. With only an assist and a clean-sheet I avoided the dreaded triple captain blank, but he didn’t explode like Salah. I am still waiting for that year with an amazing triple captain.
Free Hit Chips
The free hit chip is the hardest to evaluate, and one I know I failed to use correctly this year. Unlike most seasons, the FA Cup quarter finals didn’t create a game-week with a large number of postponed games. This meant there was no obvious place to play it. To assess the value of a chip, I compare the free hit team score against the average score for top managers that game-week who didn’t use any chips. As I discussed earlier, I used it in game-week 34 and scored 63 points against an average of 75.9 for top managers who didn’t use a chip. This difference of -12.9 is very painful. Last year I was 21 points above the average, so that is a huge swing from last season.
I calculated this difference for all the top managers and the graph gives me some comfort. It’s clear many top managers also struggled with the free hit this season. The top managers got 4.5 points of value from the chip this season against 14.9 points of value last season. The graph shows even more. Like me, many of these top managers finished below the average the week they played the chip. I will definitely be more careful in future using this chip, as when it backfires, it feels so bad.
Bench Boost Chips
Just like the triple captain chip, there was clearly one strategy preferred by most top managers. The combination of free wildcard and bench boost meant 59% of top managers played their free hit chip in game-week 30 immediately after football resumed. The fact that only four teams had double game-weeks shows in the averages. Last year the four bench players scored an average of 23 points for the top managers, while this year it was down to 17.7 points. This is the chip where I performed the best against the average with 19 points on my bench, which is much improved from the 12 points I scored last year.
Reviewing my Philosophy
I spent the last two seasons using only budget defenders and goalkeepers. It worked really well in the 17/18 season, and not very well in 18/19. This season I wanted to try something very different. I went extremely big at the back, and at the beginning of the season I was sometimes playing a 5-2-3 formation. I was extremely reliant on the Liverpool defence, which was poor at the beginning of the season and unstoppable at other times. I think this also led me to focusing on strikers more than midfield. I mentioned earlier that 30 of my 38 captains were strikers. I need to be captaining midfielders more often. The extra points for clean-sheets and goals are just too important.
Another strategy I used many times over the season was tripling up on teams. I started the season with three Liverpool defenders, my first wildcard gave me three Leicester players, and after the free wildcard I had three Manchester United, three Sheffield United and three Wolves players. Traditional FPL advice says that this is a bad thing to do, and I don’t normally do this. This season shows that it can really work, but I think I need to be a little more cautious. Owning Harry Maguire was really annoying too, as he made it harder to own three Manchester United attackers at a time when they were so effective but still very affordable. I need to be more aware of difficulties like this in the future. Doing it at the right time can be amazing.
Lessons for Next Season
Once again my objective for the new season is to reach the top 10,000 mark. It is clearly getting harder and harder to do this. I scored more points this season than my best season two years ago, but my rank was much lower. I think the biggest lesson I need to take is to not give up. In July when results weren’t going my way, I used my free-hit chip poorly. I investing heavily in just four teams trying to chase an explosive score because I believed it was unlikely I could reach the top 10,000 otherwise. In fact there were a number of big swings in the final weeks that could have gone my way. Even though I was chasing and had plenty of points to catch up, I didn’t need to go all in on my free-hit gamble. I started the season poorly, and made up a huge amount of ground over the season. This season showed me that you should never give up, and that even when it feels like you need to gamble when time is running out, consistent and conservative play can push you surprisingly high up the rankings.
The most important take away from this season is that I’m really excited for next season. My 18/19 season was really disappointing, so having a season with so many memorable moments in it and set so many personal records has really reinvigorated my enthusiasm for the game. I can’t wait until the game launches and I can make 100 drafts of my team for the new season.