When FPL ended back in May, I took a hiatus from all things football-related, including this blog. Partly, it was to have a break from an intense 10 months of football. Partly, it was because I had just come into a busy period of life. But mostly, it was because my FPL performance was poor for season 2017 / 2018.

A break would be a symbolical closing of that chapter; a proverbial shutting of the book and putting to rest a shambolic performance. Well, it wasn’t as big as a train-wreck as I had put it, but it was way below my expectations. A final global rank of  175,738 meant that I wasn’t even inside top 100k. Having been inside top 2k before, this was nowhere near acceptable for me.

So, like Superman flying back to his fortress of solitude, I withdrew from all things football; save for reading a couple of articles here and there about the on-going transfer sagas of EPL clubs, I was pretty much football-free. I did not even catch the Confederations Cup, not even a single match. A football-free summer, for me.

I now feel recharged. Sufficient time had lapsed for last season to now feel very distant. A brand new start could begin once more. The great thing about FPL is that your performances of past seasons mean nothing once a new one begins. Unlike the real world where winning competitions would have a direct impact on strengthening your team: better team morale, attractiveness to star players, more team money to spend on building squad, more sponsorship deals, etc. In FPL world, thankfully, your previous seasons’s achievements and money in the bank does not carry forward.

So from this point on, there is practically no edge that last season’s winner has over the poor sod who finished bottom of the FPL table last season, except bragging rights. It is quite literally anyone’s game from this point on.

With renewed vigour, I am ready. But in order to move forward, one must learn from the past. I have collected my thoughts, and in addition to the other tips which I wrote 1 season ago, here are what I think contributed to my lacklustre performance and how I intend to avoid them this coming season:

1.  Not Keeping to a Gameplan

My strategies were pretty inconsistent last season. At times I played it safe. At times I played it like a maverick. At times I aimed to build team value. At times, I rolled the dice. There is nothing wrong with mixing up your strategies once in a while, but there is a difference between mixing it up for no reason at all and mixing it up strategically. Mine was unfortunately the former.

This season, I must remind myself to stick with the plan, don’t panic and make moves that is part of the overarching plan rather than randomly switching strategies every now and again.

2. Avoid Conflicts of Interest

I only registered 1 team for FPL last season. Yet I entered 2 very different types of competition which were both money leagues. I played in a straightforward money league, where monthly scores and overall position determined prize money. I also played in a league where it was 4 vs 4, with total points scored by both sides’s players reflecting the amount of money to be won or lost.

Both competitions had me in positions of conflict, last season. There were times when I needed to say, play it safe by picking the overwhelming Captain favourite for the straight out league. But then, my 4 vs 4 teammates had a strategy to leverage on a particular maverick pick just to maximise our winnings that week. I therefore could not pick appropriate strategies that would optimise my scores for both competitions simultaenously.

This season, I will have to be more hardworking to create separate teams for separate purposes, to avoid conflict of interest.

3. Don’t Take Too Hits – Unless Absolutely Necessary

This is classic wisdom. This is sound logic. This is so blatantly obvious that it becomes cliche to even mention it. A -4 hit may seem like only 4 points when it’s being done but its ramifications are substantial. Even if I were to take just 1 hit every other game, that comes up to a whopping 76 points per season. 76 points is A LOT OF POINTS. I have certainly taken more than just 19 hits last season.

That is just the pure maths involved. There are other hidden factors involved in a hit. This includes the points the player you took a hit for scores vs the points the player you took a hit for scores. Sometimes, it becomes more than just -4 because the player you shipped out goes on a blinder and gets a haul while the player you took a hit for returns nothing.

Thus, the amount of points deducted just for making an extra transfer is therefore not worth it unless there are special circumstances involved, i.e. removing a long-term injury or taking advantage of a blank or double gameweek. Even then, you’d have to think 2-3 times before clicking it.

4. Over or Under Thinking is Bad

Again, this sounds like another piece of conventional wisdom, yet many times most of us, myself being a big perpetrator here, tend to veer to the extremes of either overthinking a move, or not thinking about it very much.

There is no exact science here. There is no visible line on the sand where your research turns from useful to hindrance. It comes with gut instinct, it comes with experience. It is listening to that inner, calm voice that tells you that you already know as much as you can about a particular player given all available information and that thinking about it a few times more may end up causing you to doubt a sound strategy.

I have to find that inner voice more often than shut it up. There were a few times last season where I hit that ‘Goldilocks spot’ of analysing a move ‘just right’, but they were too few and far in between. They were more an exception than the norm. This season, I have to strike that balance a bit.

I must remember Prof X’s advice to Magneto in X-Men: First Class that “true power lies in that spot in between happiness and anger”. Or something like that. I may not have reproduced it verbatim but it’s such a cool line that I found worth regurgitating from memory. I aim to apply it to FPL and make decisions that are just between being happy with a potential move and anger at why I’m making that move. Try, I must.

5. The Herd is Not Always Right

Herd mentality is a dangerous thing. Yet here we are, deep in the Internet age and majority of people in our world still succumb to behaviour and habits which conform to the majority for fear of not following the crowd.

At times, knowing what the ‘herd’ is thinking is good, for example when having to pick an overwhelming captain favourite. That’s when following several captain’s poll on several popular sites come in handy. You want to minimise the risk of a severe rank drop in case that popular pick explodes and your own pick doesn’t.

But there are also times when the herd gets something wrong and everyone who blindly follows it are on a bandwagon down the wrong road. It takes very little congruence of factors to create a herd mentality. You need a few mega-influencers or ‘experts’ to get an idea into maintstream thinking and before long, that idea, whether rightly or wrongly, attains a life of its own.

The key is to be astute enough to pick up on crowd choices without getting influenced by herd-think which has no basis or seem to have sprung out of a questionable opinion or trend.