Looking back, it’s difficult to compare the 2020-21 Fantasy Premier League season to any other. Empty stadiums, chaotic schedule, players in isolation, and so many other strange challenges.
Personally, I achieved my best historical ranking, of 375th in the world, and won NMA’s mini-league during circumstances never imagined. My success was a comfort for me in an otherwise unstructured, evolving adaptation of a new reality.
I’ve been playing FPL over the course of a decade, taking it more seriously only in the last few years. Prior to last season, my highest overall ranking at the conclusion of a season was 27,079, which is respectable, but still nowhere near the consistency of veterans with constant top 10k finishes year-after-year.
I say this as words of encouragement for beginners and veterans alike: Whatever happens or has happened, the wonderful quality in sport and the game of FPL is that your slate is wiped sparkling clean at the end of each campaign. You begin again now, tied for the #1 spot.
That said, there are lessons to be learned from last season. Here are my tips and ideas on how to make the 2021-22 season your personal best.
Let Go Of Last Season
At the peak of registration in FPL, we could easily see over 8.5 million managers. Many of those managers will be new, and many will give up before the season ends. Some are bogus, creating a whole new team each week in the hopes of one-week glory.
But for the millions willing to stick out the grueling 38 game-weeks, it’s important to let go of whatever triumphs or tribulations you experienced in 2020-21.
Many managers have a specific approach to the game; for example, some are determined to never take point hits with additional transfers, no matter the circumstances. However, I believe in an adaptive approach, never pegging myself down. A lot of folks would be shocked to learn that last season I took 59 total transfers, including -100 worth of point hits. That is more than double what most managers allowed themselves; the average was just 28 total transfers incurring hits worth only -48 points.
Some would say that without those extra hits, my rank would be higher. However, I’d argue that the transfers strengthened my side, helping me gain points. Many of my transfers and hits were due to rescheduled matches early on, some of which led to achieving a season-high rank of 70th in the world in GW-22, with GW-19 delivering 146 points and my most successful bench boost ever. On average, FPL managers scored 74 points using this chip. That’s a point gain that balanced out needed hits.
Bottom line: Labeling yourself as a specific kind of player starts you off at a disadvantage. Keep your mind open and free of bias as much as possible.
Don’t Chase Points
Not always, but often, if you buy a player in a purple patch and with low ownership who suddenly becomes a “must own”, it’s already too late. Take Jesse Lingard and his fantastic form: 9 goals and 4 assists in 16 matches played after being loaned to West Ham. He started incredibly hot, only to eventually cool off, leaving many holdout managers hurting with another transfer headache when he blanked for them. Sometimes it’s worth the gamble to jump in after two successive outstanding performances, but in general, if you didn’t get in early, avoid the risk.
Hold On To Chips, But Don’t Build A Team For Them
Chips are a tool for your FPL squad, not the other way around. I often hear managers confess they are planning to use their first wildcard in one particular future week, then their next wildcard in some later week, and onward with bench boost, free hit, and the triple captain.
But if you follow this strategy, again you are setting rigid boundaries around your team that will likely need to be broken down. If you build a team, for example, with the intention of wildcarding in GW-8, but your squad struggles due to unforeseen circumstances by GW-3, you become more susceptible to panic transfers.
Personally, at the beginning of the season, my aim is to start with a solid base of proven FPL players with one or two unpredictable players at most. If things go south, I have my chips to bail me out, but the idea is I don’t plan to use them at any particular fixed point in time.
Form Doesn’t Exist
This one is simple: Any player, especially proven attackers, can explode out of a point slump at any time. Mohamed Salah was ultimately reliable as always last season for FPL points, but certainly had peaks and valleys. Just as chasing points can hurt you, so can bailing on a player your research or experience tells you is consistent over time. Perceived bad form only takes one hat-trick to make you seriously regret doubting one of your core squad members. I captained Salah 13 times for a total of 196 points last season, and even without nailing the weeks that he had great returns, that’s still an average of about 15 points per captaincy. Not bad over the course of a long season.
Stress Reliever, Not Inducer
My final piece of advice on your approach to the new FPL season is to consider why you are playing and what psychological effects the game has on you. If you find yourself stressed and angry before the first ball is kicked, it’s time to reassess and remind yourself that this is an activity meant for fun. Of course we all want to win and achieve FPL glory and bragging rights. But in the end, this should be an outlet for your passion for the sport, an enjoyable learning experience, an opportunity to connect with others from diverse backgrounds and opinions, and a chance to have a laugh if it all falls apart. It’s a game first. Treat it as such.
I wish you all a good season with an even higher ranking.
Cheers and best wishes,
Grady (NMA’s FPL mini-league champion, 2020-21)
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For descriptions, instructions and links to NMA’s mini-leagues, read How to Join NMA’s FPL Mini-League and How to Join NMA’s Fantrax Leagues.
How will you approach this FPL season? Have you already hit the 100 preseason draft mark? Deleted your Twitter account yet? Who’s your breakout pick this season? Please let us know how you’re getting on in the comments!