Fantasy Football Question Time
Welcome to Fantasy Football Question Time, the second of our post-season interview articles. I have the great pleasure in being joined by six regular FF247 members who you will be very familiar with. But our guests have not being selected just because you know them, but because each one has had a very special season in FPL, with all six recording their best ever season in terms of overall rank. Let me introduce them to you – first on the couch is our Liverpool supporting enfant from Vermont, RedVT. Next up, also from the other side of the Atlantic and Harry Kane’s biggest fan is Pancho. To make this a truly global article, we visited Thailand, not just for the hell of it, but to visit ex-pat Colonial. Back to European soil and our third guest is FF247’s Portuguese man o’ war, DMC. And now two local lads – the first one is not sure whether to celebrate Newcastle’s promotion or Sunderland’s relegation, we have Rosco. And finally, last but certainly not least – one week he is #WengerIn then he’s #WengerOut but the one constant is his search for a RMT – it’s the Hitman himself, Mitro!
Welcome to you all. Now let’s hear what they had to say.
Cookie: Congratulations and welcome Red – your highest ever points tally (2,410), your best ever rank (587) and 15th in the USA. That’s a pretty special season. You should feel very proud.
Red: Thank you so much, Cookie. My goal like every year was to improve on last season’s overall rank and to do as well as possible in the Banterbury H2H league, as well as my other ML’s. So to end up where I did and win promotion with a #1 finish in Banterbury League 1 was a dream come true. I’d also like to again thank the FF247 team for their brilliant articles and advice, and to congratulate all the others in the FF247 community who had great seasons, fantastic ranks, and amazing mini-league comebacks and wins. There are some outstanding and very knowledgeable managers here and it’s great to see so many others do well.
Cookie: DMC, or the comeback king as we should call you – 379pts in the last three game-weeks saw you climb from 87k to a final ranking of 13,255 and a personal best rank. You must be exhausted!!
DMC: As GP would say: “and breathe…” That thought came to mind after those 3 final GWs, including a double, making it impossible to follow any other events other than FPL in those 15 days. I mean it was more intense than the Christmas period! Every goal, every assist, every sub, every card, it all counts for something in those final games and it is in fact exhausting. That being said, July can’t come soon enough! FPL is like trainspotting but with football players and teams instead of trains and we all live and love to spot them all!
Cookie: Rosco, your second season in playing FPL and you seem to have things sussed out!!
Rosco: Well I‘m not going to start making such grand declarations about myself, but my final Overall Rank this season at least indicates that I’m certainly on the right track!
As you say, last season was my first time playing FPL, and that was a journey of discovery for me. I had experience playing other fantasy games but I had never played with any real commitment. My foray into FPL started much the same however, I very quickly realised that FPL is a different beast to anything I had previously experienced.
I made many mistakes in my first season. I put too much faith in sites such as FFIX and one week I even transferred out Mahrez as per their suggestion only to watch him score a hat-trick against Swansea the following day…. he came straight back into my team, two transfers wasted, lesson learned! I ended up finishing my first season at 77k which I was very happy with.
It would be unfair of me not to say that discovering this site has played a massive part in my success, I’m not the first to say this and I certainly will not be the last! I discovered FF247 December 2015, I began posting on the boards immediately and the feedback I got from the members instantly made me feel like part of the family (if you never met your family in person and only talked about football – ideal really! ). It’s no coincidence that my rank began to improve from that point on.
Going into this season my goal was to improve on my 77k rank and try to win the ML I’d just came second in, thankfully I surpassed those goals so I’m happy as a pig in mud right now!
Cookie: Pancho, what a great season you had! Ranked 3,969 in the world and in seven previous seasons your best rank was 296k. Nice one mate – guess you are very pleased?
Pancho: Yeah, thanks, it was a great season for me! To say it was my best rank ever would be a ridiculous understatement!
Cookie: Colonial, welcome and congratulations on your rank of 1,283, you must be delighted with your season’s work?
Colonial: Yes Cookie I was very pleased with my overall ranking. I did particularly well in the last few GW’s but I did make a plan a few game weeks ahead of the DGW’s and it generally came off.
Cookie: Mitro, congratulations on a fine season, you beat your previous best ranking by just 288 places! Well done sir, you must be very pleased.
Mitro: I am over the moon mate, managed to retain several of my ML’s and win a fair bit of cash in the process, still haven’t officially broken into the Top 1K but I am hopeful if I don’t win it next season I will at least manage that.
Cookie: What do you put this season’s success down to?
Rosco: Towards the end of my first season I began to use tools such as the fixture tracker as opposed to looking at the fixtures in isolation from week to week. However, I was still a little trigger happy and if a player didn’t perform in a match I’d ditch them only to watch them punish me the following week (My hits in my first season would make Mitro proud!!) This season, I followed the old adage of ‘form is temporary, class is permanent’ I studied the tracker, brought in players with good fixtures and wasn’t as hasty to let them go even if they didn’t immediately deliver.
Another factor which helped was getting in players such as Marcos Alonso and Josh King early, a lot of this is luck but watching games and trusting your instincts plays a massive role in the process too.
Colonial: I picked the reliable players that I was most comfortable with and which are backed up by others who had very good OR’s in the past. I believe it is important to consolidate as quickly as possible a well balanced team . Hits cause a problem if one has to chop and change too often.
Pancho: Well, in past seasons I didn’t really have much to play for. Being from the states there isn’t an overwhelming interest in soccer, let alone the interest and dedication it takes to participate in FPL. I don’t even think I’ve participated in any mini leagues to speak of before this season. Somehow I convinced a bunch of my family to create teams this season and do a mini league. None of them ever watch a minute of the EPL, so I had to make sure I won or I would just need to hang up my FPL boots and retire. That really spurred me on to take it more seriously.
Mitro: Stubbornness and luck! I think a lot it comes down to the articles you guys post and supposedly all of the RMTs I do on the site! If you look at a couple of ranks from when I first started playing the game I was getting 79k & 77k for the first 2 seasons and then I made a massive leap to 3994 in my third season and I have managed to stay in the top 18k since then, these ranks do tie in with the time I spent on FF247 and all the information you guys collated. Like I said before I wouldn’t have managed to do this without your help (I know you think I don’t listen but I do…..)
Cookie: To be fair, you don’t listen when people tell you to ‘hold your transfer’ or ‘don’t take the hit’!!
Red: Well, aside from the invaluable articles and community input here, what worked best for me was changing my formation to a 3-5-2 from the traditional 3-4-3 after my 1st WC in GW6. It seemed that there was much more value to be had in midfield this year as opposed to the mid-priced forwards, so I decided to load up on quality midfielders and get a cheapo 3rd forward to ride the bench. This started producing good points from the off and allowed me to jump on in-form midfielders and chop and change them with more freedom than I felt when I only had 4 and was reluctant to get rid of one. Midfielders also have the added benefit of scoring an extra point for both clean sheets and goals scored.
The other thing that really helped me early on was bringing in some premium defenders on my GW6 WC like Walker and Koscielny at a time when clean sheets were very hard to come by and most weren’t spending big on defence. Kos immediately rewarded me with a goal and a 15 point haul, and my defence began earning me some great weekly points.
DMC: That’s a tough question. I had good and bad decisions throughout the season. Maybe the ability to be that little more patient with important players. They always come good, namely when you finally sell them (!), so, with that in mind, I kept away from rage transfers which proved very important to keep the pace between #100k and #300k for pretty much the entire season which is close enough for a final attack in the run in. I used my WC early and that also kept me more disciplined by knowing I couldn’t afford too many wrong moves in a short period of time.
Then there’s the ML factor – if your opponents are going well you need to keep pushing so having strong rivals in your ML helps.
Cookie: Red, your played your first wildcard in GW6 and that worked a treat, taking you from 300k to 127k and you never looked back from there – that was your last week outside of the top 100k. Was this a pre-planned move?
Red: Yes, this was a pre-planned move and one that ended up working out for me. I was in a position where I didn’t HAVE to WC, but by the 1st international break we can see who’s nailed, who’s playing well, and if there are any really cheap starters to round out our teams. It also allowed me to catch some price rises during the break with my WC active to increase my TV, and many of the players I brought in kept going up in the weeks after.
Cookie: Pancho, you played your first wildcard in GW2. Why so early? And despite a couple of good weeks after, you still found yourself falling down the rankings.
Pancho: That’s been pretty typical for me, if I’m honest. I don’t tend to know much about any players who weren’t in the EPL the previous season, so picking a solid squad at the beginning of the season doesn’t usually go so well. I’ve tended to just plan on using the WC to remedy that lack of knowledge in the early weeks.
But as is obvious, week 2 was too early to really discern any sense of individual and team form. I fell into my typical bad habit of hits to chase points and dropped down the rankings. I hit my season rock bottom in GW 8 at just above the 1 million mark. I had already used my WC and taken 9 hits. Something needed to change, so I began to cut back heavily on hits and only took 12 throughout the remaining 30 weeks.
Cookie: Colonial, you were in the top 10k from GW27 until the end – tell me at that point are you having dreams of winning the whole thing or preserving your rank?
Colonial: Well I have to be honest because my overriding goal is to improve my OR position, whilst many others treat their ML as the priority. This season I was going well at the end having planned to WC in 36 and BB in 37 and leave myself 2 FTs’ in 38. This went well but I took a great risk in the DGW of putting the captain on Jesus and not Sanchez. I knew the danger but just thought Jesus ( who impressed me each time I saw him play), and it could be a big differential. It did not work out and lost me some 20 points or so.
Cookie: DMC, you played your first wildcard in GW4 with mixed results – was that a deliberate policy?
DMC: It’s the first time I used it so early in the season. I wasn’t too unhappy with the start to the season but I though my cheap players were faring much worse than others in their price range and you can’t change that with a FT. Aguero getting sent off and Sanchez exploding in GW3, before an international break if memory serves me right, were icing on the cake and ML rivals had him etc etc so it had to be done and I don’t regret it a bit albeit not improving too much on the OR. Sometimes it’s about not losing the pace. I also switched it to 3-5-2. How Bony got a spot in that squad is beyond me. I vaguely recall someone hijacking my FPL credentials at the time. Must have been Mitro with his FFF trickery!!
Cookie: Rosco, your season was one of two halves – the first half saw you struggle to break the top 100k and then from GW18 onwards you only went one way. Talk us through your season briefly.
Rosco: My first season was all about my ML, with £4 Million plus players in the game I presumed I didn’t have a cat in hell’s chance of getting a decent Overall rank. Inevitably every transfer I made was in relation to what my ML opponents were doing. I began this season with the same mentality and week-to-week I would simply look at what transfers my opponents were making and ensure I covered their players. I was doing so much research I would often want to bring in a particular player but wouldn’t based on my opponents moves. After weeks of watching players ‘ I had wanted to get in’ score well I had an epiphany and thought ‘sod what my ML rivals are doing, I’m going to play for me. I took a couple of hits in GW 17 which initially hurt my rank but in GW 18 they paid off, I continued from there on in playing ‘my own game’
Cookie: DMC, you were very consistent all season before your explosive finish – did you think you could achieve that ranking with your second wildcard and Bench Boost in hand?
DMC: I would be lying if I said I thought #13k was possible back in GW26 when I saw myself in a season low #349k after 6 successive red arrows (was #84k when that horror show started) but I did know from last years’ experience that leaving the WC+BB combo or at the very least the WC for the DGWs is what it takes to climb yourself at least to top 100k. That’s also one of the reasons I took a few hits between GW24 and GW31 – the team needed a few tweaks but I knew I would need the WC later on. That said, I obviously didn’t expect things to turn this explosive. Heck I was at #48k before DGW37 started and I wouldn’t say I though climbing #35k more spots was still possible.
Cookie: Rosco, at the end of GW35 you were ranked 10,037, more than impressive – did you have any confidence that you’d almost break 2k?
Rosco: No not at all, just wishful thinking. GW 29 through 35 saw a lot of fluctuation in my OR, I jumped from 18k to 11k and then seemed to rise and fall each week, at one point I broke into the top 10k only to drop back to 12k 2 GW’s later. I played my WC in 36 and having been burnt in 27 in not covering Stoke I was very conscious to cover both Southampton and Arsenal. This paid off and I scored my first 100+ of the season with 63 of those points coming from my 3 Arsenal and 1 Southampton players, I think I’d assumed that everyone above me would do likewise but, I suddenly jumped from 10k to 3k, I think for me this really helped illustrate the merits of holding onto your WC if you can.
Cookie: Now Mitro, you have your own way of playing the game – more hits than Elvis they say. But this hasn’t stopped you recording your fourth successive season with a top 20k rank. The FPL textbook would have a heart attack reading your list of hits – for example, for nine game-weeks in a row from GW26 you took at least one hit yet climbed from 40k to 20k. Your strategy clearly works for you.
Mitro: Ha Ha that made me chuckle! I saw Init’s post the other night and I had a quick look at my history and it aint too shabby!! Most of the time I take hits to build my TV so when I do come to WC at a later date I have a bigger budget to play with. A couple of the guys I was chasing down in a few of ML had team values of 100.6 to 103.6 but mine was 107.3 on the last GW, those extra funds made a massive difference in the last few GW’s as I managed to buy a lot of players such KDB, Sane, Kane and Hazard! My opponents couldn’t afford these and ultimately this won my ML! I still can’t get my head around the fact that he never brought in Kane on the last day!
P.S I think around that time I was in a dark place and I was doing rage transfers.
Cookie:Pancho, very similarly to Init, you found yourself struggling for rank at halfway, but turned it around brilliantly. What was your plan and how did you execute it?
Pancho: Well, as I mentioned earlier, I was trying to break my bad habit of taking hits to chase the previous week’s points. It wasn’t an easy one to break, but I managed to really temper it in the second half of the season, only taking 5 hits from week 20 on. Correspondingly, I only saw 3 red arrows during the second half.
The major strategy decision I made was to use my second WC a bit early (GW29). If I remember correctly I had 3 defensive injuries, plus Mane and Kane injured. I also wanted Sanchez over a then underperforming Kun. At that point we knew most of the DGW matches as well, so I began to set myself up for them. I was pretty confident that I could set myself up well for both DGWs without many hits, and I only ended up taking one hit after that. That one hit, interestingly, came in the only GW I got a red arrow from GW 29 through 38. I dropped about 1400 places. It did set me up with Jesus, Sane, and Stephens, which all ended up panning out really well from then on though.
Cookie: What lessons have you learnt this year that you will take into next season?
Colonial: The lesson I learned and put into practice in GW38 was to match my big players with the rivals and hopefully avoid any surprises. This was very was very successful. I was also able to use my 2nd FT when King was withdrawn very close to kick off by bringing in Sane which was fortunate.
Pancho: The two that come to mind are: pay more attention to pre-season articles and don’t take so many hits early. I need to make educated decisions and then stick with those players. I saw red arrows 9 of the 14 weeks I took hits. Saving free transfers early on can be helpful in saving myself from hits and making any hits I do take more impactful.
DMC: I struggle a bit (that is, I stubbornly refuse) to accept, when it all starts, that inform cheap players from lesser teams may actually outscore the big guns for 2, 3, 4 sometimes several weeks in a row. So I hesitate too much in getting on them bandwagons for those cheapos (Capoue, Phillips, come to mind) which eventually leads to not buying them at all and thus staying out of those precious points. You’ll then need to find other gems during the season which is tough so the lesson may be to bite the bullet, including one or two hits, if needed, but don’t miss those early days cheap inform players.
Red: One thing I’ve learned that’s helped me a lot this season was to begin trusting my instincts more and trying not to make decisions just because everyone else is doing it, or just because someone else doesn’t think it’s a good idea. We are all experienced FPL managers who love and watch football, and we shouldn’t be afraid to follow our gut when we have an idea or see something.
Mitro: I will still plan to keep my WC chip for the DGWs, I just need to work out which chip to actually use in the DGW. Looking back at the past two seasons you would have to say for most that the TC chip is the one that reaps the most points.
Rosco: Don’t chase the points, but don’t ignore players in form either! This one is a bit of a double edged sword and one that requires research and more than a little luck!
Early in the season I was guilty of bringing in players because they had scored well the previous week, only to be let down in spectacular fashion (Llorente’s a good example of this). Unfortunately this is not always straightforward and sometimes a little research can pay a great return. Having had my fingers burnt one too many times early in the season, I wrongly ignored Zaha and Benteke by following this self-imposed vigilance and almost did it with Coutinho in GW38 (thanks for helping me see sense Cookie!)
Cookie: No worries, glad it worked out for you.
Cookie: On reflection, is there anything you wished you’d done differently this season?
Rosco: Picked a better GW1 team! Seriously though, I’m chuffed to bits with how this season has gone, and if anything I wish I had simply played my own game sooner.
DMC: Is this about Bony again? Well not much, I mean I won my cash ML, got a good final OR, my best ever, so no regrets here. If anything I regret not realising earlier how good CFC’s defensive system is under Conte. That defence is a fantasy gold mine and I ignored it for most of the season and that is something I wish I’d done differently.
Mitro: I am quite happy how things turned out but I do have a few regrets over the season. I should have got rid of Stones and Morgan a lot sooner, I was getting nothing from them. Also, there was a period between GW8 & 14 where I stopped taking hits!!
Mitro: It’s true!! GW11 really sticks out as a week I wanted to get Alonso and Hazard but I chickened out last minute, I think between them they got 32 points!
Pancho: Yeah, loads! Without nitpicking individual poor transfer decisions, of which there are plenty, I think just being patient with my first half WC until a bit more team form had shown itself would have been really helpful.
Red: Oh yes, loads of things! The main regret I’ll always have though was falling for the Zaha/Towsend/Negredo DGW34 hype. My Banterbury Champions League opponent had already taken a hit, so I decided I could afford a hit as well to bring in two more DGW players. The smart play would have been NOT giving him those extra 4 points, and to bring in Hazard for free as I had planned all week. But the lure of the DGW sucked me in and we all know how that turned out! This ended up being a big swing in points and cost me a place in the Banterbury CL final and a much better finish.
Colonial: I was going very well upto GW 15 when Coutinho and Austin had bad injuries and it took me many weeks to find the right balance. I should have been more careful with my replacements, because it cost many hits which are not a good thing. I do not mind hits in a DGW but I like to avoid them if possible.
Cookie: Red you live in Vermont – is FPL popular there?
Red: I have a few local friends who play, and some buddies from my University days. But they are mostly casuals and don’t put in the time or effort that we do. That’s the main reason I don’t join the FF247 Regulars League actually, as I don’t want people looking at my leagues and figuring out where I get my edge. They can find out about FF247, price change sites, and good ol’ Ben Dinnery on their own just like I did! Maybe this would be a good time to petition elle to change the name to just ‘The Regulars League’??
Cookie: If the powers that be at FPL HQ asked your advice in creating a new chip for next season – what would yours be?
Red: This is a tough one, as I actually preferred the game before all the chips. I don’t know about anyone else, but I think that stupid AOA chip has actually COST me points every time I’ve used it! I guess a ‘two captain’ chip would be my suggestion, where one week you can pick two players to captain.
DMC: Another wildcard perhaps? There are 38 GWs so why not chop that in 3-ish parts and allow one WC per each 13 GWs? The idea would be to have the casuals not give it up so soon. Another thought is to allow substitutions between games. For example, open the window after the 3pm Saturday games end and close it before the 5.30 starts and so on. I think it would add value to our bench; otherwise they’re a bunch of losers whom we don’t really want and just take value out of our team. Plus, that would give us that are always “on” more weekend fun! Also, I don’t see why can’t we play 5-2-3!
Colonial: I have not given this any thought but I would not like to see a second TC chip being introduced. This could have a dramatic effect to ones OR just because of luck. We work towards our goal for 38 weeks and a second TC would produce a disproportionate number of points. I came 1,283 and another 35 points would have made me 385, so you can see how tight the points position is at the top end and why a second TC would be unfair
Pancho: Having just read Init’s article today I like the idea of getting rid of the AOA chip and having two each of TC and BB would be great. In addition, I like two ideas that I’ve heard floated around by others: Twin Captains (choose 2 captains for a GW) and a Late Sub chip that can be played any time during the GW to swap any/all of your bench players in for players who have already played.
One that would be a little more crazy would be a Clone chip. This would allow you to turn any one of your players into the player of your choice in their position for one GW. For example, your Cheap enabler Capoue could become Sanchez for the GW and score Sanchez’s points instead of his own for that one week.
Rosco: I think most would agree that AOA is a waste and if they were to introduce a chip, it needs to be as powerful as BB and TC. Something like a vice captain chip would be simple enough, allowing double points for your CA and VC in a single GW!
Mitro: “Take points off your ML Rival” Chip. I would have loved this around GW35 when he was 93 ahead!!
Cookie: Which player is the first on your team sheet when the game relaunches next season?
Mitro: That’s a tough one as there are so many. Based on the last few games I would have to say its Harry Kane, but players such as Sanchez, Jesus and Alonso will definitely be in my team for GW1. It feels weird as the past couple of seasons I would have said Kun.
Pancho: Well, so much of this depends on prices, but as a Spurs fan it would have to be Kane. He absolutely smashed it this season and missed 8/9 matches through injury. I know there are a lot of questions about playing at Wembley, but I’ll probably follow him blindly anyway, for better or worse. I will also be anxiously checking the price list for Jesus though when that time comes.
DMC: Prices will determine that I suppose but, aside from the obvious ones such as Sanchez, Kane, Haz, I’m pretty much sold on Gabriel Jesus, Alli and Sadio Mane. Them and the Chelsea defenders!
Colonial: Oh this is difficult but as a Spurs supporter I must go with Kane. He generally stays fit and is a great striker.
Red: Depending on prices of course, probably Kane or Aguero/Jesus. I think I’m likely to keep faith with the 3-5-2 to start with, so there’s a very good chance I’ll be begin the campaign with Kane and one of the City boys up top!
Rosco: If he remains as a defender then Marco Alonso will be the first name on my team sheet, 100%!
I’d also like to say once more, a big thank you to all the team at FF247 who put out fantastic articles come rain or shine and also to the guys on the boards for their help and friendship over the season. Roll on next season!
Cookie: Thank you very much gentlemen, I could pick your bones all day but sadly that’s all we have time for. Many thanks for sharing your thoughts of the season and well done to you all for posting personal bests. Now all you need do is go and beat them next season!