Monday, 6 January 2014

How Do You Solve A Problem Like...Player Prejudice?

Player prejudice? What do I mean by that? Well, first off I guess I had better define the term "prejudice":

"preconceived opinion that is not based on reason or actual experience".
synonyms: preconceived idea, preconception, preconceived notion..

So, in terms of FPL, this refers to those players that you will - for one reason or another - refuse point blank to have anywhere near your team.

These reasons could be many and varied and will be unique to the individual manager. Club prejudice could come into play; Leeds Utd fans refusing to put a Manchester United player anywhere near their FPL squad for example. A previous bad experience with a particular player could cause you to avoid that player forever more - regardless of what his current form suggests. Historical data from previous seasons could be a factor, for instance foreign players from sunnier climes who have never performed once the weather turns grotty post-Christmas. The list could be endless.

I'll start off with an example. This season, the one player above all others that I have demonstrated a particular prejudice towards is Eden Hazard. Sounds nuts right? The top scoring midfielder and ranked second in terms of overall points out of everyone. Ah, but I did have him in my team at the start of the season. I debated his selection long and hard as his inconsistency has always been an issue for me ever since his arrival in the Premier League (bit of historical prejudice there!). The Double Gameweek at the start of the season swayed me and I put him in AND gave him the Captains armband. And the reward?

6 Points in the first game and 10 Points in the second game Chelsea played in GW1 (score doubled as Captain.

16 Points.

Reasonable? Yes. But hardly the explosive start I wanted to make this season. I could have captained Christian Benteke and got 36 Points (and yes, he was in my GW1 team!). Or Steven Whittaker of Norwich. He would have got me 22 Points.

But I stuck with Hazard. His points return in GW2? 3 Pts. When it comes to certain players I am not a patient man, and the fact Chelsea had no game in GW3 made my decision easier. I sold him for Ross Barkley and felt vindicated when I saw Hazard's points return stay pathetically low. GW4 = 1 Pt / GW5 = 3 Pts / GW6 = 2 Pts.

I was LAUGHING! I was the ultimate FPL manager! Ditching Hazard was a MASTERSTROKE! Ok, he then scored 8 Pts in GW7 and 18 Pts in GW8, but this was an exception, as his 2 Pt return in both GW9 and GW10 proved. I was revelling in my smugness as thousands of FPL managers fell for the Hazard bandwagon and rushed to get him into their teams following that 18 Pt haul. Not me though. No way Jose! (pun intended).

My player prejudice then became selective blindness. In the next 10 GW's up to and including GW20 he has provided a double figure points return on no less than 5 occasions. But I chose to bury my head in the sand and ignore these figures. I had Ramsey and Ozil providing similar returns so no problem. But then Ramsey got injured, Ozil's form dipped and all of a sudden Hazard popped back up on my radar. But what did I discover? He had become an unaffordable purchase. Where the hell had his price of £10.3m come from? He was only(!!) £9.5m at the start of the season. How had I missed this?

A combination really of prejudice, stubborness, selective blindness and an unwavering belief that Hazard is an inconsistent FPL performer who flatters to deceive. One good gameweek followed by two poor ones is how I view him. Looks like I'm not as good at this FPL lark as I like to think I am perhaps?

But Hazard isn't the only one I'm prejudiced against I'm afraid. As much as I like to say club prejudice doesn't get factored in to my management decisions, I'm ashamed to say sometimes it does. I'm a Wolverhampton Wanderers supporter, and I have often missed out on some decent points returns in previous seasons by my steadfast refusal to accept a West Brom player into my squad. Lukaku last season is a prime example. Luckily, this season there are no "must-haves" from the Baggies team so I don't feel too guilty! I am a strong believer that Stephane Sessegnon is massively over-rated, and he will never recapture his decent form demonstrated at Sunderland last year. As if to demonstrate the case in point (prejudice), Sessegnon was in my team for most of last season.

So, what other prejudices do I have? Am I right in believing what I believe, or am I demonstrating my managerial naivety in NOT basing my team decisions on reasoning and examination of the evidence in front of me?

Players I currently won't entertain owning, despite evidence to the contrary:

1. Yaya Toure - His form can't last! He is massively overperforming and his stats flatter to deceive.
2. Sunderland Back 5 - They are bottom of the league for a reason! They get hammered every week!
3. Adam Lallana - He'll get found out soon, he's not that good and Saints are going backwards.
4. Danny Welbeck - Really? Are you kidding me? Hasn't he only scored 2 goals in 5 years or something?
5. Emmanuel Adebayor - Oh come on! This is getting ridiculous! Doesn't he train with the Spurs Under-12's? This is a nonsense bandwagon? He's 4 years past his best!
6. Yoan Gouffran - This is a guy that will have 2 or 3 good GW's on the bounce and people will think he's the new Alan Shearer. He'll actually be the new Nile Ranger.
7. West Brom players - Just no. It helps that they are in the bottom 3. What? They're 14th and enjoying a decent run of form? No way!
8. Daniel Sturridge - Ok, so he's injured. But even when he's back I wouldn't come in for him. Too inconsistent. Huh? He scored 9 goals in 12 games before injury including 4 in a row TWICE!?!

Guess I better address my prejudices. Now I've analysed it, I realise how stupid I've been. Not just this season, but in previous years.

I activated my January Wildcard this evening. Injuries forced my hand, and the news about Walcott was the final decider. Guess what I did? I put the following players in my squad:

Vito Mannone (Sunderland GK)
Wes Brown (Sunderland Def)
Eden Hazard (Over-expensive Chelsea Mid)
Emmanuel Adebayor (Over the hill Spurs bandwagon Str)

So I'm cured then! No longer prejudiced against any particular player or club (except West Brom!)

I've been humbled by the experience and admit my behaviour has been detrimental to my overall score.

I hope you too can address your prejudices, and remember; preconceived opinions not based on reason or actual experience can affect your FPL team.

PS - Ok, so I've now got Hazard, but I do FIRMLY believe his form will drop-off massively now the wind, rain and mud are a factor as we enter the New Year. I guess time will tell...