Sunday, 7 April 2013

Rising to FPL's Top 50 - Matej's Story

"Maaaaan, your team resembles a horrible highway accident!"

That was the exact moment I decided that I will no longer be the laughing stock of my private FPL league. You need to understand two things before I go into explaining how I managed to get into the Top 50 this season:

#1 – I was dragged into Fantasy football by my work colleagues. A delightful group of guys, a football referee, former football player among others and a girl who was probably the most knowledgeable of us all, decided to organize this and basically force as many people as possible to join. So I did. Unwillingly. But I was a clear underdog going into this.

#2 – I really don't follow football that much and I basically never had. Sure, I did play for a club for 2-3 years when I was a kid and I did watch an odd Champions league game here and there, but I was a basketball player first and foremost. To the core. But no one wanted to play Fantasy basketball. So I joined them. Did I mention I didn’t really want to?

How did my previous seasons look like?

Well, first year was a disaster, a train wreck. I finished 1,108,706. But this year hardly counts. I remember using auto fill option to create my team at the beginning of the season. I logged in perhaps every 5 GWs, just to see what was happening, but that was it. Second year was a slight improvement. I found the NeverCaptainNickyButt site and took all my intel there. Subs? Every 2-3 GWs. I think I remember captaining Elokobi once and I believe we even scored a goal that week. It was a definite highlight of the season. Do you still remember the quote from the beginning of the paragraph? 

Well, it was after this season that all of my colleagues were writing reviews of the season, elaborating on their thinking, best plays…and of course my team as well. The quote has a continuation – it went something like this: »You know you shouldn't look [at the accident] when you pass it by, but you just can't help yourself. So you do and you feel immediate regret. And nausea. This is how we felt looking at your team.” I mean, I know it was a joke. But it got me fired up.

Enter season #3. The season started with me actually putting some thoughts into my team (a first), but then leaving for vacation and letting the team rot. Thank god I selected Rooney for my initial team and even captained him, because he was on fire at the start of that season and singlehandedly kept me afloat when the rest of the team stank. But I was actually off to a very solid start. So I kind of made it halfway through the season, I am doing pretty well and I decide to look for some other websites offering insight into FPL, just for the fun of it. Enter Fantasy Premier League Hints.. Oh man, was that a precious find or what!?A stroke of luck! I still remember when he recommended Petrov for one of the DGWs. Everyone was absolutely positive I went nuts when I captained him and even mocked me about it. I think he ended up delivering 2 goals and a couple of bonus points that GW. And every week there was another differential on the blog that saw me slowly (but surely) eat into what was once a 300 point lead from the #1 in our classic league down to around 25 points by the end of the season and finishing in the second place of our classic league. Trust me, I kept this site a secret from everyone. It was my differential. And had the season lasted one more GW, I would have had him. I did however win the Head to Head league and some cash from all contestants. The cash was nice, but it could not compare to the disbelief I saw on their faces when they checked my scores week in and week out. I finished the season ranked 23,811.

And This Season?

Season 2012/13. This year it was different. I started looking into potential players 2-3 weeks before the start of the season and decided that my main source of information will beNever Captain Nicky Butt, Fantasy Football Cheat, Fantasy Football Scout and, of course, Fantasy Premier League Hints.

At the moment of writing this I am ranked 42 out of almost 2,6 million players. I have been in the Top 100 for the last 7 GWs and in Top 1000 for the last 17 GWs. My objective for the season was to be in the Top 10,000 and to win both my private leagues. I am currently on track to do all three.

Still, when @fplhints asked me whether I would be willing to write a post for his blog on how I got into the Top 100 and what I would recommend to others who are hoping to improve in FPL, I felt stomped for a moment. What was IT? What did I do differently this year? So I made a list, as follows:

A list of 10 Things to Do to Get into Top 100 of FPL (no guarantees).

1.  First and foremost, it is very much dependent on the LUCK factor. You may argue that all the moves you do are educated guesses and state multiple reasons as to why a move makes sense, but it mostly boils down to luck. Second to none. And I have had my fair share of it this season, no doubt about it.

2.  Make a mental list of your must-have players and try to introduce them in your team as much as possible. These are the players that you know will deliver week in and week out with an 80/20 probability. These are guys like Bale - when everybody was unloading Bale after 3 blank GWs at the start of the season, I intentionally stuck with him. I mean, come on, he is a MACHINE! Santi Cazorla (when I saw him play, I wanted to have him in my team – just a phenomenal player), RVP (need I explain this one?), Silva and Mata (my favorite player in BPL and I am no Chelsea fan) for me.

3.  Try to look for that differential.I built my lead this year with players like Torres (whom I knew had a lot left to prove and should start the season firing), Hazard (who was basically an unknown player), Michu (have you had any clue who he was before he came to England?) and Sterling (whom I got for 4.6 MM and proved to be a great differential) spring to mind. Sure, you will have your share of swings and misses, just like I have had with Shane Long and Emanuel Adebayor, but when it plays out, it feels soooo sweet.

4.  Look for great players who are under delivering at the moment and are being sold in large numbers. After 5 GWs and several dismal performances, I saw people ditching Suarez. Well, please, let me jump on this opportunity! There was no way in my mind that Liverpool will continue with such poor performances as they had in the first 5 GW, so I brought him in and he rewarded me with a hat-trick immediately. Before everyone else started buying him, I already made my differential.

5.  Try to identify the players who have something to prove, men on a mission. For me, it was Torres at the beginning of the season. Sure, he may have lost a step or two (and some skill, errrr), but man, his first goal of the year was a thing of beauty. Suarez, proclaiming that he will win the golden boot. Also, players who are battling relegation fall in this category – for this exact reason I have Remy in my team at this very moment.

6.  Don't leave players out of your team just because you dislike them or because you hate the team they play for. Or do, but then face the consequences. Fellaini, Walcott, Suarez and Tevez are players that I dislike for one or more reasons, but man, there is no way I am not including them in my team. I refused to put Papiss Cisse in my team last year, simply because EVERYBODY had him and I didn’t get him while he was still cheap. Bullshit. It might have cost me one of my leagues. There is no shame in jumping on the wagon every now and then, if the wagon is really cool and it takes you straight to the Promised Land.

7.  Plan ahead. Or don't. Personally, I don't really do that. If you have a laid out plan, it is very hard to step away from it, because you have already committed to it and you might end up doing a transfer just because you planned it and not because it is the right thing to do at the moment. However, plan for the DGWs. And don't forget that after DGWs, there are inevitably also blank GWs.

8.  Don't PANIC. If a player does not deliver for two weeks, think really hard if getting rid of him is the best decision. How does his schedule look like for the next couple GWs? Has he had droughts like this before? Does he usually bounce back quickly? And think what you will do if you transfer him out and he delivers BIG that GW? Will you transfer him back in?

9.  Keep your Wildcard for as long as possible.The original one that is. I still have it. I plan to use it as late as possible, most likely in GW36 when there should be some more DGW games. That is, keep it, if your team is not totally in disarray.

10. Enjoy. It is just a game. And it makes watching the matches so much more interesting. And tell me, how many of you add the points in your head when you see your players score or assist? J I do it all the time.
I leave you with one final thought. I think it is nice to have some sort of a routine to making the team. I spend 2x10 minutes during the week to read some of the comments from fans on the forums of the aforementioned websites, just to see what is happening, who is an injury doubt, who played in CL/cup/whatever. On Friday, I have one hour to check all four sites and see the players they recommend and make my team. That's it. Oh, and I am a Twitter buff, so I check the tweets regularly for information.

Well, I hope you have enjoyed the read and found some useful stuff for you. If you have any thoughts, feel free to connect with me via Twitter (@matejp23) and follow my Warsaw Hopefuls' bid to finish in the Top 100. All the best and thanks to @fplhints for this opportunity!