FPL Diary - end of season extract

It's getting to the end of the season and there's nothing to play for - well, nonsense! There's ALWAYS something to play for, and in this extract from our limited release FPL Diary, elite managers Toby and Gianni examine some final scenarios and share some strategies for getting that crucial last laugh.

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Common FPL scenarios and how to come out on top

Below we’ve outlined four scenarios that you are likely to encounter throughout the season. We’ll also explain how you should handle each of these scenarios. Using a chip can get you out of a tight spot but seeing as FPL managers don’t have the luxury of a chip each week, let’s assume that all chips have been used and we’re at the business end of the season. We appreciate that your situations won’t be limited to these four scenarios, but they are the most common.

Scenario one: I’m a fair bit ahead of my rivals – how do I keep it that way?

Luck plays a part but you’ve earned your position. It’s time to remove as much risk from your play as possible to try and consolidate your lead. 

Be aware that your mini-league rivals are likely plotting against you. You might not take a huge interest in their players, but you can guarantee they will be scrutinising yours. If they’re smart, they’ll be trying to bring in differentials, since having players that you have isn’t going to help them gain ground. For you, now is not the time for differentials – leave that to the chasing pack and trust in your big hitters to keep performing. 

As you’re top of your league, you’ve likely been making some smart captain choices. But now is not the time for complacency. Play it safe because your nearest rival may only be one good (or lucky) captain choice away from catching you. 

Some weeks your captain choice is obvious, but often it’s a toss-up between two players: two in-form, premium midfielders/forwards with comfortable fixtures. Before making your choice, you need to consider what your nearest rival will do. 

If your nearest rival owns both these players, try and second-guess who they will go for and mimic them. Look back at their history and see if you can establish a pattern in their choices. Do they tend to favour Kane over Agüero? Are they a sucker for Wilfried Zaha whatever the fixture?

If your nearest competitor owns only one of those players, then you absolutely captain them because they are very likely to do the same. You could argue it’s a defensive strategy, but it’s one that is most likely to guarantee you success. 

If your nearest competitor has neither player, then stick to your usual thought process. Captain your big hitter and hope that your rivals don’t get lucky with a differential pick. You may even consider mimicking a player or two from your rivals in order to reduce the risk of them damaging you with a differential pick. 

Scenario two: I’m a fair bit behind my rivals – how do I catch up? 

If you’re still playing religiously each week then fair play for not quitting, as so many do when they’re struggling in the second half of the season. We’ve all been there, lagging behind our rivals, but after a few great weeks you could be back in the mix.

Unless you make changes, then it’s unlikely the pattern of play will change. And as you only have one transfer each week, you should consider taking a few four-point hits. It may be tempting to try and emulate the players above you and bring in the players that have been doing the business for them, but this is counterproductive: any points they get won’t help you gain ground on your rival since you both have them. It’s time for some differentials.

To make up ground on your rivals you need points, but to get there you need money in the bank. 

So before you dive into the transfer market, earmark the dead wood. You need to sell high-value assets that haven’t been performing – trust us, you will have at least one in your team – check their Points Per Match Per Million if you’re unsure. Preferably midfielders and forwards, because not only do they carry higher values but they earn higher returns. 

So you can really tinker with your team, resist making a transfer so you can bank a free transfer and carry it into the next gameweek. Your rivals will think that you have given up but little do they know, you’re going to take an eight-point hit and make four changes next week completely changing the look of your team. Better to go down swinging rather than out with a whimper right?

In Chapter 6, Spot the differential, we talked about using the FPL site to find the best differentials. Now is the time to put the theory into practice. 

Unfortunately, the most in-form players are likely to be owned by those higher up your mini-league so you’re looking for small things. Perhaps a forward that could have had a brace last week but hit the woodwork twice, or a midfielder that didn’t register an assist but created five key chances for his high-scoring team.

Don’t go overboard with four-point hits, but start to evaluate if what you’re doing is working. 

Finally, it’s time to start making some bold captain choices. You’ve got nothing to lose and the only way you’re likely to catch up is by captaining a differential that your rival doesn’t have.

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Scenario three: I’m slightly ahead of my rivals – how can I stretch my lead?

When your rivals are in touching distance, being in front is not normally a comfortable experience. You may have a few extra points but your every move is being watched and every decision scrutinised. One bad decision and it could be game over. 

Compared to circumstances in scenario one, you should care less about what your rivals are doing because you are still so close to your competitors.
Play your own game and don’t try and second-guess their transfer targets or captain choices, because when there’s only a few points separating teams you have to expect that league positions will change.

One of your greatest weapons will be mind games – influencing your rivals into making bad captain choices or leaving a goalkeeper on the bench after scoring double figures. See our Mind Games section later in this chapter for some mischievous ideas. 

Scenario four: I’m very close behind my rivals – how can I overtake them?

Your teams might be very similar in quality but you need to be smarter and concentrate on small gains. 

Imagine that you and your closest rival both own Salah, Kane, De Bruyne and Sterling. That’s around half your budget spent on just four players. Because of this, your budget options are more important than ever before. After all, you’re not selling your big names if your closest rival owns them too, even if they’re not accumulating high returns every week, that’s just too much of a risk. With the season drawing to a close, you should consider selling a couple of your budget players from well-established, mid-table teams who are in a comfortable position with nothing to play for. Instead, be on the lookout for teams with more at stake – those that are in the relegation mix, for example. 

By investing in a handful of players across these types of teams, you can fill your team with differentials without sacrificing points from your big hitters. They may not give huge returns every week, but you should be picking up more points than your nearest rival whose budget options are producing very little. 

It’s also worth considering a high-priced differential or two – mid-way through the 2018/19 season, Roberto Firmino was owned by 7% of FPL managers and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang by 15% – we’re talking about proven FPL players who weren’t short of form – they just lost out to the Agüero, Kane and Salah bandwagon. We’re not suggesting you make wholesale changes (scenario two), but by taking a punt on one premium differential forward you know your rivals don’t own, you’re taking a calculated risk in your efforts to leapfrog them.

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