A New Start: Five Principles for FPL Season 2020/21

In David’s article this time, he turns his attention to five principles which will help him ride the unique problems which the 2020/21 season will throw at the FPL Manager Community.

Favour Flexibility Above All

The beauty of FPL is that we are always learning, both about the strategic nuances of the game and ourselves; we formulate and test various theories in response to the unique conditions which occur throughout each season.

We are enriched by these successes and failures which aid our decision-making when it is time to choose from different, but comparable, choices in the future. All of this whilst understanding that our biases, natural style of play and temperament will provide both a help and hindrance along the way.

The mid-season postponement in 2019/20 provided some such unique conditions; the break and unlimited transfers upon return throwing many a well-laid plan into disarray. My expectation is that the season ahead will prove equally challenging and that managers will be well served to favour flexibility above all.

A difficult season ahead to match a difficult year – the threat of the ongoing pandemic will directly affect the season and the reasons for this are two-fold.

Condensed Fixture List

Firstly, there are structural conditions such as the condensed fixture list ahead of Euro 2021, meaning we will see increased rotation and the impact of fatigue from little recovery time. I intend to conduct a further empirical study of this, but we can see a good example of the direct correlation between tiredness and fantasy output when reviewing Manchester United’s crawl over the finish line.

There also remains the potential for the surprise absences of players and entire fixture cancellations at the eleventh hour on match days – these could occur post-deadline and we will require our bench players to step into the fray.

Plan for Known Unknowns

Secondly, one only needs to take a moment to absorb the increasing noise on our social media communities, witness the creeping commercialisation of FPL guidance and critically, the reduction in real-world alternatives for our leisure and viewing time to realise that the top ranks will be more competitively fought than ever.

This season will not be like project restart – the necessary international travel of players for European and International fixtures ensures that the ‘bubble’ cannot exist or be as effective as before. We will undoubtedly see players missing in action due to quarantine and we must attempt to plan for these known-unknowns.

The Power of Knowledge: Five Principles

As experienced and ‘absorbed’ managers, it has felt in recent seasons that our competitive advantage is being eroded away following the advent of the FPL industry.

However, I anticipate that this season will see a significant return to the power of knowledge. The key to gleaming this information will be patience; the data will not arrive until late into the week and I would advocate the following five principles throughout the season:

1. Hold transfers whenever possible

Unlike the old adage, two birds in the bush will be preferable to one in the hand. Red flags will arrive late and 2 free transfers will provide a greater number of replacements to choose from.

2. Playing price points to enable an exit plan

Be aware that if you select a player on a price island, it leaves little room for manoeuvre. When building your squad or selecting a player to transfer in, also consider if there is a satisfactory alternative at this price point to provide a 1 free transfer exit plan. DO NOT let this deter you from your preferred option if there isn’t one, but it will be a benefit to know which player you would jump ship to in advance.

3. Hold chips

I accept that the optimum use of chips can be argued until the cows come home, and is only measurable in hindsight, but keeping the first (pre-GW16) Wildcard until as late as possible is a hill which I am willing to die on this season. This does not mean use it in Gameweek 16, but I would recommend waiting until the reality of blank GW18 and double GW19 are at least in view.

4. Plan captains

There will be enough issues to juggle at the fringes of our squads, without having to worry about owning the optimum captain, or at least one you will find adequate, each week. Look through the fixture list many weeks in advance and pencil in who you think will be the standout candidate for the armband out of all players, not just your current squad. Should you find yourself with free transfer going spare, it may be prudent to bring them in one or two weeks ahead of time, so as to save yourself a headache when other problems arise.

5. Beware bandwagons

Walcott, Barkley, Pukki, Fraser, Cantwell, Shane Duffy (c). We have all been there and bought multiple t-shirts. Some nice ones, some shit. The thing about bandwagons is that even if they are a short-term success, it takes you at least one free transfer away from your overall masterplan. Free transfers are precious; consider if alleviating this week’s bout of FOMO is worth deviating from your carefully laid plan.

Follow David (and us!)

You can find David as @FPLHaggis on Twitter. You should follow him now to be the first in line in reading his future articles. Of you course you shoudl follow the official SPA_Games Twitter account as well @AdmisSpa.

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