While we enjoy a week off from FPL, we have been very lucky to catch up with two managers of FPL, who are both having a fantastic season. Barntons Bashers or B-Bash, as you will more readily recognise him, and James101, are sitting pretty at nos. 1 & 2 in the FF247 league, but even more impressively, B-Bash is in 53rd position in the world, while James, is sitting pretty in 628th position. If you’re impressed by that, consider that this is only B-Bash’s second season playing FPL, while it is James’ 3rd.
Both B-Bash & James have very kindly agreed to share their thoughts on the season so far, how they are planning for the remainder of the season, their take on the game itself and how they plan for a game-week, amongst other things!
B-Bash, what can I say? Your second season playing fantasy football and you’re showing us all how it’s done! 53rd the world – 1,486 points. You must be fairly pleased?! How do you sleep at night with all the excitement?
Hello Cookie! It is only my 2nd season and to be honest there is no one more surprised, or ecstatic than me about my season so far! It’s very exciting indeed, but also makes the whole thing a little more stressful too as I ponder over every decision to try and stay up where I am. I have woken up in the dark hours of the morning and ended up with my iPad on my lap looking at formations and player stats!
I bet the Mrs loves that!!
James, you’re having a stormer of a season – 628rd in the world, 1,442 points – it’s a magnificent performance. I know you’ll say you won’t be happy unless you’re no.1, but secretly you must be very chuffed?
Ha. True, I’ll say all the right things about being satisfied with such a high position, but to be honest I’m thinking that I’m within 72 points of the top spot at a good point in the season. Clearly my first priority is to finish higher than Inittowinit’s incredible finishing position last year, which was 442nd. Oh, and there’s a certain Mr Bash to haul in too!
B-Bash, you clearly know your stuff. Last season you finished in 4,744 place. Come on, what’s your secret?
Secret? Ha-ha I promise you I haven’t got one. Last season I did not follow overall rank at all, as I was just in a league my brother-in-law set up for family. I only concentrated on that throughout. It was only towards the end I realised where I was in the world and I thought to myself, “wow, not bad”. I started this season exactly the same, the only difference this time around was I started looking at twitter and that is a whole world of information and opinion on FPL. I use this excellent website for the advice and predictions that you lads put together, check twitter for FPL articles, then sit down with a pen, paper and a mug of tea and go through my team and where I need to make a change.
B-Bash: Nope, tea. Always tea.
OK, good to know.
James, you’re now in your third season playing FPL – you’ve never before finished in the top 100k – what do you put this season’s performance down to?
This is the first season I’ve played the game seriously. The first two seasons I played as a “casual”. Five minutes skimming the form lists, and a quick trade or two, or more! I wasn’t aware of wildcard strategies. Didn’t know you could see player price rises in advance. Had no real thoughts on team value, formations, etc. Nor was I aware that excellent sites like FF247 existed, where you could chat through your ideas. In a way it’s a surprise I managed to finish so high in my first two years.
Gentlemen,what do you identify as some of your best decisions this season?
B-Bash: Best decisions? Easy really. Coleman from the start. Mertesacker, Yaya and obviously Suarez from GW6. Can’t go without mentioning Adebayor! That was a great differential for me that made me rise at a time when people where sticking with other strikers. Marshall is worthy of a mention too, because I bought him from GW1 and when Boruc got injured, he covered admirably till I was in a position to sell Boruc.
James: I moved early on Suarez and Sturridge (SAS), happily “taking a risk” on holding more than one forward from the same team, judging them on merit as individuals instead. I picked up Yaya and have held onto him – I don’t buy into the “lucky” accusations. You don’t get to be African Footballer of the Year more than once through luck. I also picked up Ramsey and some others relatively early, gaining me both points and team value – something I do believe is important (play a high TV team in a H2H near the end of the season if you don’t believe me). I ignored certain players or dropped them fast when they stopped delivering, and before I got burned like many, Ozil and Benteke are good examples here I guess. I selected 2 keepers’ form the same team, playing Boruc weekly until injured, and using the cash elsewhere.
Have you made any bad decision this season?
James:“Any”? I could be flippant and say sure, many, many, and that’s probably true to a certain extent. I mean my transfer history is there for all to see! But, and I think this is significant, despite the element of chance in this game, solid play will bring its rewards over a long enough timeline, much like a good poker player being more dominant the larger number of hands that are played. For example, I could maybe beat a world Poker champion in a single hand game, with the right cards, but over multiple rounds, I’d get taken to pieces. So, captaining an on-fire Suarez and getting 10 points last week was not a bad decision just because he returned a mortal number of points. Just as captaining Ryan Bennett last week and getting 30 points was not necessarily a good decision, just because he delivered a huge return – prior to this week’s 15 point haul he’d scored only 19 points all season. Evaluate the alternatives, understand the risks / rewards with your approach, use experienced FF players as sounding boards, and then make your own decision. Don’t beat yourself up for individual peaks troughs in your score. Look at your average performance, and your trend. What I’m trying to say is, it’s a marathon, not a snickers, son (or something like that).
B-Bash: Thankfully, (touch wood) there haven’t been many! The ones that stand out though are sticking with Soldado for the first 5 game-weeks. Another one was taking the armband from Suarez for his trip to Spurs. I captained Rooney who scored 5 points and Suarez bagged 22! I was watching it in the pub with my other LFC chaps, screaming for him to stop, begging Rodgers to take him off. We had the 3 points in the bag! Morrison has been a let-down also, but he’s gone now! Oh, and I should have stuck with Lukaku this last week, instead of selling him for Negredo!
James, you’re not afraid to take a hit and make multiple transfers. This strategy is frowned upon by many, but it clearly hasn’t hampered you. Will you continue this way through the season?
In short, yes. The globally ranked number one player has made 31 transfers this year. I view the game in terms of ROI (return on investment) – the investment being the cost of a hit. There is nothing inherently bad or good about a hit in my opinion. A hit is simply a purchase decision. You agree to pay a certain price, believing that the value you receive for it justifies the cost. Hits don’t tend to be worthwhile on “sideways moves” or more defensive players (note, I didn’t say “defenders”). But taking a hit to bring in an on-fire Aguero, Suarez, Hazard, etc. I’ve no issue with that. The difference between my approach and many is just that I play a game with a higher risk profile. I take a hit to gain a greater reward. I find it far more fun than “playing it safe” and holding on to an almost guaranteed 2 or 3 point increment, though it means you are far more reliant on making the correct decisions. That said, of course it would be wonderful if we could all plan hitless seasons, but injuries, managerial whims, etc., take a chainsaw to such well-laid plans in my experience.
B-Bash, you’ve only taken three hits this season – is this a conscious decision on discipline or have you just been generally happy with your side and not felt the need to make multiple transfers?
Personally, I don’t like hits. I’m aware that people do well by taking hits regularly, but I do try and avoid them. Out of the 3 I’ve taken, I will stand by 2 of them because they worked. The 1st was to get Aguero in and the 2nd was to get Walcott. The second also included getting Ade too! The 3rd was the worst because that was when Walcott got injured, so easy, Wally out Ozil in but then Rooney got injured and it was a call to get rid or stick with him when I was worried of losing ground to people that could put 3 strikers out. I then had the dilemma of a replacement. Hits are too stressful for me hence I avoid them.
Interesting, two different viewpoints, showing clearly that there is no right or wrong answer to this often debated FF topic as your performances show.
Do you tend to wait until later in the week to make your transfers or find yourself reacting to price changes and deal early?
James:I play each GW and make each transfer on an individual basis, so this varies. Having discovered the Rise / Fall prediction sites this year (Total fpl, etc…) what I will say is I don’t usually transfer a player earlier than I need to. If their price is static, I’ll wait as late as possible. Other events may unfold that change my priorities…
B-Bash: I will always wait as late as I can to make transfers. Friday evening earliest, but if I know I’ll have a chance Saturday morning, I’ll wait till then. Price rises don’t bother me as much as the possibility of buying a player early who then takes a knock and can’t play. The only time I would let price rises affect my decision to buy, would be if I think he’ll rise beyond my budget, but even then the player would have to be worth it!
You both played your season-long wildcard in GW6 – how did that work out for you?
B-Bash: Playing my wildcard in GW6 completely transformed my season. I was languishing about 15th in my works league and had dropped in my family league, so despite not really wanting to, I played my wildcard. My wildcard brings 3 names to mind. Mertesacker, Yaya and Suarez. I’ve never owned Sturridge, not that I don’t rate him, but I was waiting for Suarez. So whilst many were sticking with Sturridge, I made ground getting Suarez from the start! And Yaya has been my Michu from last season! Mertesacker has been brilliant also, but Arsenal have lots of talent at the back, so do I change? No idea yet!
James: It worked out okay for me too. I scored 79 points and ranked 48,000 overall that game-week. Not my highest score this year (that was 114pts in GW14) but nice, nevertheless. I moved from 600,000 to 160,000 in the overall rankings as a result, the single largest improvement I’ve made all season. IMO that’s what a WC can and should do for a team.
B-Bash, I see your January wildcard is active as we speak. Can you share your plans/ideas for that with us?
Yes, my wildcard is active. I activated it on Saturday night. Purely financial reasons. I said earlier that I’ll wait till the last minute, and I really wanted to do that with my wildcard, but I had a fear that Aguero was going to get to the point where I couldn’t afford any of the teams I’ve drafted together. I don’t have a specific plan, as long as I have Chelsea, City and Arsenal in the middle and Liverpool and City up front, then I’ll fill in the blanks around that. As things stand, I have players in my team that won’t be there come next Tuesday. It’s a work in progress.
James,you’ve just played your January wildcard – are you happy with your team now and has the wildcard worked out well for you so far?
I’m pretty happy with my team, yes. There are always things you’d like to improve, but I have a fun team, full of the league’s best attacking players, from my front 3 (Suarez Aguero Sturridge) through the midst (Hazard, Yaya, Eriksen, Lallana) to defence (Baines, Sagna, Coleman). There are a couple of differentials in there: Eriksen and maybe Sagna for example. And a differential in that I have both Baines and Coleman (though we are waiting on injury news with the latter). The WC helped me sort out some niggling issues with fringe players too, this is important as attrition is a factor across a long EPL season.
Any regrets that you haven’t got a wildcard left for the rest of the season?
B-Bash: No. I played it when I needed to and it worked out for me. Yes, I’m envious of anyone who still has it especially if there up in the top area waiting to pounce, but no, no regrets playing it when I did
James: No. I’m sure it’d be nice to have one for any double game weeks etc., but I’m okay with how I’ve used them this season.
How much time do you spend looking at your fantasy team and future strategy each week?
James:Probably not enough! I chat with the guys on FF247, but that’s usually more about their teams than mine. That said, through RMT’ing other’s teams I learn a lot, solidify my own views, and that does help.
B-Bash: Too much. But the thing is, it’s so addictive! If I’m not on FF247 then I’m on twitter checking for articles on good buys, sinking ships and differentials. That’s before I get home and get my mug of tea and pen & paper and start looking at my team! The worst time is when I’m out and about on a Saturday afternoon, and I’m constantly checking the scores as discreetly as I can!
How many weeks in advance do you plan transfers and strategy?
B-Bash: I don’t actually plan too far ahead. I have a rough plan, which I just jot down, but there is constantly things happening to scupper any plans I may make. I did very well throughout December, but I planned on selling Ravel weeks ago, but the constant red and yellow flags barred me doing it! It’s only the fringe players I look at rotating and transferring and with these I do check their fixture list, whereas the likes of Hazard, Yaya, Suarez etc., their fixtures don’t matter, I’m not selling them and they’re playing!!
James: I don’t ever look much more than 3 weeks into the future. I’m realistic; if the plan is complex it’s likely to be pretty delicate too. And will therefore fall to pieces when something changes. And in FF, in my experience, something always changes.
You’re a regular and very popular member of FF247, constantly offering advice as well as seeking opinion. How much do you rely on the discussion boards to influence your decisions?
James: Aww shucks! To be honest a lot of the regulars on FF247 are WAY more experienced than me. I’m happy to offer an opinion though; it’s nice to be asked. I listen to those who I think get the game, and there are some very good players on FF247. But, and this is important, I always make my own decisions. This is a game that tests judgement, intellect and character in my opinion, at least it does if you want to compete at the top. Can you identify a trend that others haven’t? Do you have the self-confidence to go for it when others are saying don’t? And then, can you hold your nerve when they are pointing out you should have listened? I guess I’m saying: Where would be the fun if you just found a good manager and followed them? Be your own man/lady and over a long enough timeline you will enjoy the game more and probably do better in my view.
B-Bash: I rely on it massively! For a start you immediately surround yourself with people who are all as passionate as each other about FPL. People on there are always ready to give their opinions, which I value greatly. I enjoy giving advice too. I do believe you’ve got to give advice where you can if you expect people to look at your dilemma and help you out. A lot of time I know what I want to do, but just want some moral support with my decision. It’s when the majority tells me something different I panic!
B-Bash – you’re 53rd in the world, for heaven’s sake, James you’re near to the top 500. Quite magnificent. But at what point will you start looking at those above you and try and include some differentials to them in an effort to overtake them and reach the summit?
B-Bash: That’s a good point, but at the moment I’m more concerned about not messing up and dropping a load of places by doing something different. If someone climbs through the ranks by playing a differential or a risky captain choice, then all credit to them. I sat and considered putting Adebayor as my captain last weekend and was really tempted. I even saw that Potty predicted Suarez to draw a blank! But I couldn’t do it. I’d have gone to 29th in the world had I done it, but the last time I took the armband off him…..5 nil away at Spurs – ouch! So for now, I’ll just keep playing as I have and not bother looking at the teams above me.
James: Well I have a couple of unusual picks, e.g. Baines as well as Coleman. I hoped that I’d hit the top 500 this week but they combined for 4 points away to West Brom! My trend is upwards, only 2 red arrows since GW3, and we have a lot more game-weeks to go. I’m only 72pts off the number 1 guy, last week I was 89 points behind him, so I’m happy that my approach is working ok for me. I will play my own game, but I don’t think I need to take any crazy risks at this stage. Honestly, I’m not sure I’ll look at those above me at all.
For those managers currently in their first season playing FPL, what advice would you give them?
James: I’m pretty inexperienced to be giving advice, but…Put your money into a solid backbone. Have low-cost but playing subs. Do pay attention to team value – but don’t obsess over it. Keep your transfers within a risk profile you are happy with. Don’t try to be too clever / cute with multiple differentials, but do consider having a couple. Don’t knee-jerk after a bad game week, or “chase points” after a player has a big one. Play the long game, your average score is the number that matters. To be honest, my best advice is “ask for advice”. FF247 is full of very sharp managers. Take advantage!
B-Bash: The advice I would give would be try and play 3-4-3, with 2 good defenders, 3 great mids and 2 studs up front! Fill in the blanks with players who are in form and all play! Not easy all the time, but it’s a template. Be patient when making transfers, especially on International or FA Cup weeks. Oh, and ask questions! I still regularly mither people on twitter as well as on here.
Looking ahead to the rest of the season, which of the following would you recommend?
Zabaleta, Ivanovic or Mertesacker?
B-Bash: Mertesacker. Bit more expensive but in form and always a chance of clean sheets.
James: Yep, Mertesacker for me too. He’s ahead on both total score and current form, always plays, is an attacking threat (home and away), and leads a defensive unit that’s functioning well.
Cabaye, Lallana or Eriksen?
James: Eriksen. Cabaye may be going to PSG, or not, so a risk – though a great player if not. Lallana is solid option, and maybe the safe bet. Eriksen is the “wildcard” in this group. I picked up Eriksen as soon as I saw how he was being used by Spurs under Sherwood, no regrets so far. I’ll probably have both Cabaye and Lallana in my team again though at some point!
B-Bash: Erikaye!! Seriously though, this is the most difficult one to call. Lallana is my least favoured of the three. Going to go with Cabaye…just!
Adebayor, Lukaku or Giroud?
B-Bash: Adebayor. Cheaper and in great form.
James: Adebayor also. Best suited to the EPL is Lukaku in my opinion. But, in terms of best fit to current team, then Adebayor is looking like a good option. Giroud is a bit of a let-down to be honest, given the midfield he has behind him I feel he should be scoring more.
Lads, I need you to be honest here. Picture the scenario: it’s the final GW of the season and you have a narrow lead in your most important mini-league. You know your nearest competitor could be lurking on the site. Do you feed them wrong information by lying about who you have transferred in for that week?
B-Bash: Lol! In all honesty, I think I would check the site, see if they had posted anything first. If I was having a dilemma I’d still ask for opinions, but would avoid stating openly who I’d chosen. I wouldn’t lie about a transfer though as its not long till next season and something like that wouldn’t be forgotten…….by anyone!
James: No. Very rarely I may decide not to confirm who my captain pick is, or something like that, but I tend to be open most of the time. And I’d not lie, it would be embarrassing to win in any way other than a fair game. Here’s the thing; I play my own game, if others want to watch and adapt their strategy to match or beat mine, I don’t mind. I believe that playing a “pure” (unencumbered) game is more effective than trying to second guess someone else and adapt your plans to include that. I work out what the best way to maximise my points out is, and I do that, I find that by doing so the H2H matches and the ranking positions take care of themselves.
B-Bash, James thank you so much for your time and honesty. It was truly great to learn how you see the game and the tactics you deploy. Keep up the great work this season and on behalf of everyone, let’s see you two in the top 10 going into the last game-week of the season….and then anything is possible.
This interview was conducted by Cookie.
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