Fantasy Football – Best Season Yet :)

The 2016/2017 Premier League season has just finished and so has my season of Fantasy Premier League. After last year being my all time low, with a finishing position of 785,943, this year I’ve finished 16,876 out of over 4.5 million players. That’s in the top 0.4%, which really isn’t bad going. I’ve also won the various mini leagues in which I compete and even won a bit of money. Ker-ching!

So, what’s been different this year? What have a I learned to propel me up the rankings?

I think the main difference in the second half of my season was taking notice of the ownership of fantasy assets. In the past I’d always picked the players I’d wanted and not worried about what others were doing. I’ve come to realise that you can’t afford to ignore the market. Getting the right players at the right times affects their value in terms of price rises and drops and your overall team value. It also mitigates risk. If a player is scoring well and well owned then not having him can hurt you and lead to a serious drop in rank. Whereas owning him is less risky. If he does perform you creep up ahead of those who didn’t; if he flops it affects a lot of other players too so there’s less of a drop.

This idea of going with the popular pick is also true of the captaincy. It can hurt if a lot of your opponents pick a captain and he delivers a hi score. Go with flow and you’ll be ok. It makes sense to keep your big players in line with the game’s leaders and take the risks with the fringe players.

My other big learning point was using the chips effectively. This year I kept my second wildcard and bench boost back and used them in gameweeks 36 and 37 where there were an extra five fixtures. Lining up the squad for the double and then having 14 players with 2 fixtures gave me a massive boost. In gameweek 36 I climbed 50,000 places. In gameweek 37 a further 28,000.

My final takeaway is that I have tended to write off gameweeks 1 and 38 as a bit of a lottery. With risk of rotation and teams “on the beach” it can be hard to predict. However, there always seem to be a lot of goals in these games. It may be worth investing more in attacking players and even risking the All Out Attack chip or Triple Captain. A very late Triple Captain chip could bring about quite a swing in fortunes if the right payer gets a hat-trick.

Here’s the story of my season, and of seasons gone by, in stats:

Premier League – Position Relative to Wage Bill

It’s quite an established fact in football that, generally speaking, teams league position follows the clubs’ wage bills. The clubs with more resources win more games, get more points and finish higher in the league. There are always exceptions but they are exceptions and the general rule is this alignment between player wages and league position.

Here is the Premier League ranked by clubs’ wage bills for the 2016/2017 season, updated mid January, during transfer window. So, not 100% accurate but certainly indicative.

RankClubWage Bill
1Manchester City£225m
2Manchester United£220.8m
6Tottenham Hotspur£121.2m
8West Ham United£79.8m
9Stoke City£75.9m
11Leicester City£66m
12West Bromwich Albion£65m
14Swansea City£59m
15Crystal Palace£55m
20Hull City£25m

These positions should be where a club can expect to finish. If they finish higher they have over-achieved; lower and they have under-achieved. Although it’s never quite that simple. Another club over-achieving makes it appear that others are under-achieving and vice versa. It’s not all within a club’s control.

Looking at the current table today, 7th March 2017, most teams seem on course to finish within one or two positions of their wage bill rank. The notable exceptions are possible over-achievers Tottenham and Burnley and under-achievers Sunderland, Leicester and Manchester United. Though with a good or bad run it could all change.

We’re constantly looking at the table and teams’ positions – if they’re in the top 4 or bottom 3 and how many points off these but it doesn’t actually make a lot of sense. Yes 2 clubs may have played the same number of games but they haven’t played the same opponents. Even half way through the season they haven’t played the same home and away opponents. We can only really judge at the end of the season when all the games have been played.

When you look at teams and managers’ finishing positions in these terms it can change your perspective. Arsenal get a lot of media criticism for finishing 4th with Arsène Wenger and settling for that but he’s consistently hitting his target, which is arguably better for a club than boom and bust, up and down. Roberto Martinez had a tough time with Everton but his achievement of keeping Wigan Athletic in the Premier League for as long as he did was quite incredible. Wigan were a long way below any other side at the bottom in terms of wages and yet he got them to 17th or higher year on year before they eventually couldn’t compete any longer.

In these terms Burnley and Sean Dyche look like the true winners in 2016/2017 to me.

World’s Biggest Crossword

I like to do the odd crossword, always have, since I was about 12. I got this app in the Kindle Fire called World’s Biggest Crossword (WBCW). It’s not really a massive crossword at all, just a large collection of normal sized crosswords. There’s a grid of 19×19 squares, each of which leads to a new puzzle.

I’ve just completed it, 361 puzzles, 7455 clues in all. That’s quite a lot for someone who just likes the odd crossword. The reason I’ve played it so much is down to the clever way it’s designed to hook you in. You see you can’t just play any puzzle, you have to buy entry to it with tokens. The app awards you new tokens every day. The clever part is that it rewards you with more for returning on consecutive days so you quickly find yourself starting it up every day so as to maximise your token earnings. Very sneaky.

It’s completely free but I’ve seen a lot of banner ads in that time. Ker-ching! It also offers you more tokens in exchange for sharing on Facebook and/or Twitter. Not that I ever did that. I’m not going to start bothering people with my crossword progress. Seems like a sure fire way to lose friends and alienate people.

Flavoured Coffee

For Christmas I received a selection pack of syrups for coffee. You know the ones, Le Sirop de MONIN. Very nice. There are various flavours – vanilla, caramel, hazelnut, gingerbread and chocolate cookie. I’ve started putting a dash in my coffee every day and they’re a nice enhancement to my drink.

Only, I’ve realised something. You can’t really taste the flavour. All you really taste is the sweetness from the sugar. So, I checked the bottles and, as suspected, they’re mostly water and sugar with a tiny amount of extract of something else. You can’t actually tell the different flavours apart unless you add loads of the stuff, like proper big measures. So, when it comes down to it, I’m now taking sugar in my coffee when I wasn’t before, which probably isn’t good.

Fake Meat on Pizzas

Last night I had a “meat feast” pizza. It wasn’t actually called meat feast this time but you know the kind of thing. Unsurprisingly, it was disgusting. That’s it, I’m officially done with meaty pizzas. Well, until I forget in a few months, anyway. Embarrassingly, I’ve been here before.

Its toppings theoretically included chicken, ham, pepperoni, sausage and sausage meat. They actually included horrible cubes (yes, cubes) of reconstituted chicken, horrible cubes of reconstituted ham, incredibly thin and tasteless pepperoni, little grey cylinders of watery sausage and strange balls of what I’m generously presuming was sausage meat, though it could have been anything really.

I’m not sure that any of it was real meat. There, I’m calling fake meat. If someone told me that it was actually a vegetarian pizza and all the “meat” products were actually made from meat substitutes (what’s the point?) then I wouldn’t be at all surprised.

I should probably stress that this was a cheap, cook at home in your own oven pizza. I don’t want to rubbish all pizzas with meat toppings. I’ve been to many good restaurants and had very nice real meat topped dishes.

I think that when it comes to meat in any meal you get what you pay for. If you want to go cheap, stick to the meat-free offerings. Don’t get the claiming-to-be-meat but actually equally meat-free options.