Monday, 10 June 2013

FPL 101 (Summer School for Rookies and Newbies)

FPL Pre-season Warmup – Avoiding “Rookie Mistakes”

Maybe you’ve recently finished your first or second FPL season or are standing at the proverbial water’s edge, staring out at the churning waters of the FPL ocean, wondering what’s out there, contemplating playing the game for the first time this coming season.  From one rookie to another, here are a few hard learned lessons and tips that could be the FPL life jacket you’re looking for.

Before We Begin – Why Are You Playing?

In my experience, those playing FPL more or less fit into one of two different categories.  First, there are those who are fans of the sport of football in general and the English Premier League specifically and who use FPL as a way to enhance their weekend viewing of the games and to get to know some of the “other” players beside the household names we see highlighted during major international tournaments.  Second, there are those who not only play the game to enhance their viewing, but also take the FPL game itself seriously and delve into the complexities of the game with an eye towards scoring the most points possible and improving their mini-league and overall ranking.

This distinction is an extremely important one as the FPL game means something different depending on which of these groups you find yourself in.  If you’re like me, you will probably find that playing the game for fun and to try to learn more about the Premier League inevitably leads to you finding yourself getting further involved, almost addicted, and focusing on points, points, points.  For the purposes of this article I will assume that you have one eye looking towards next season with a goal of playing the game seriously.  With this in mind, following are a few tips I wish were shared with me before I locked in my first gw1 FPL team.

Know the Rules and Scoring System

There are many fantasy games out there based on the sport we love.  Before playing the official FPL game I played Fantasy World Cup 2010 and 2 seasons of ESPN Fantasy Football for Premier League.  It wasn’t until the 2011-12 EPL season that I found the “official” FPL game.  I remember setting up my ESPN team for my third season when some friends invited me to join a mini-league they’d created the prior year in FPL.  I joined without doing any homework and by gw2 I realized keeping up with 2 teams wasn’t going to be possible.  With friends in FPL and recognizing that a) it was the official fantasy game of the EPL and b) there were over 2.5 MILLION players, the decision was easy and quick.  My ESPN team was abandoned and I was floating in the waters of FPL with nothing but my old presumptions based on a game I no longer played.

If you’ve played other fantasy football games in the past, and even if you haven’t, familiarize yourself with the Rules and Scoring System as best you can.  Yes, it can get a little tedious and there are more fun ways to spend your spare time, but knowing the rules and scoring distinctions can really help not only when formulating the team you’ll start the season with but with the hundreds of decisions you’ll make throughout the season.  Distinctions are important and if you don’t recognize them early you’ll be cursing them later.
 
Need a refresher or want to understand the rules and scoring before playing this season?  Follow this link for everything you need to know: http://fantasy.premierleague.com/rules/

(This link is active as of June 9, 2013)

Do Not Pick Players Based Solely on Team Affiliation

If for some strange reason you print this article, circle, highlight and underline this one.  As a fan of EPL, you almost surely have a team or teams you support with wild abandon and a team or teams that you, uh, don’t support (sometimes with equal or more fervor and energy than you reserve for your favorite team).

Picking your team and making transfers based solely on which teams you love and hate is a recipe for disaster.  Take it from someone who has experienced it personally; the ONLY thing worse than watching a good player on one of your least favorite teams score goals and rack up points is not having them on your FPL team and watching your rivals who were smart enough to pick them bury you in FPL too.  It’s enough to drive you mad.  Enough said.

Be Aware of All Fixtures and Competitions 

Closely behind the disappointment of watching your affiliation-related stubbornness cost you valuable FPL points is the fear, panic, and ultimate self-punishment that comes with making a transfer early only to find out there is a mid-week Carling Cup fixture in which your newly transferred player will feature and quite possibly either get injured or be subsequently rested for the weekend EPL fixture.

To my knowledge, the official FPL site does not publicize or warn you of these fixtures that you absolutely, positively need to be aware of when formulating your strategy for a particular gameweek.  Find the best source of information you can for fixtures in all competitions that EPL teams compete in and make sure you do not get caught unaware.
 
Don’t Rely on a Single News Source

As you get further involved in your FPL addiction you will find that there are diametrically opposed realities of wanting to know as soon as possible what a team’s expected lineup will be for their upcoming fixture and knowing that if there is any certainty whatsoever, it only comes after days (often 3 or 4) of sniffing out news stories and having multiple journos help to confirm or deny rumors and managerial leanings that are printed and theorized early in the week.

Fortunately (or unfortunately) there are many websites and “help” sites out there that post predicted lineups for the upcoming round of EPL fixtures.  Be careful though; I do not know where they get their information and they are not always accurate.  I learned the hard way not to rely on one single source of information.  If you are lucky you may find a source or two that seem to get things right more often than not.  If you find them, please send me the info.  Otherwise, do your homework and dig around.  There are all kinds of theories out there (the Liverpool bib theory comes to mind) but I have yet to find a single, reliable source of information for starting lineups that would give me a leg up on transfer decisions.

A Penny Saved is a Penny Earned

This is another tip that is high on my list of things I wish I had learned sooner.  If you’re like me, your natural inclination as an FPL manager is to utilize every penny at your disposal to “maximize” your squad; especially early on when you are creating your team for gw1 and before player values have fluctuated.

I think this year will be different for me.  One of the things that I learned this past season was the value of keeping some money in the bank.  As I look back on the 2012-2013 FPL season, I remember vividly multiple, MULTIPLE game weeks where 0.1m was the difference between making a transfer I really, really wanted and settling for one that I could afford.

In addition to the pure economics involved, the biggest difference for me was the breathing room afforded by having 0.2m or 0.3m sitting in the bank.  It was frequently the difference between feeling rushed and panicked to make a transfer too early and being able to calmly make better decisions, knowing that a 0.1m rise in price of the guy I wanted or a 0.1m dip in price of the guy I wanted to offload would not force me into making a hasty decision too early in the gameweek.  “Panic” transfers are no fun.

I hope in this list you find something valuable that you can use as you get ready for your second or third season of FPL.  And if you are standing there wondering whether this is the year that you play the game for the first time, I hope that you find something here that makes it more likely that you will click “CONFIRM TEAM” for the first time this coming August.  Over 2.5 million of us can’t be wrong.

I hope you’re enjoying your “off season”.

Walt (@EPLFanForLife)

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