FPL Podcast Observation 11: xG? xA? How to get FPL-Stats-knowledgeable

How does one get football-stats-knowledgeable?

A friend at FISO had asked me on how to get into football stats for FPL purposes. This observation is an expansion to my response to him, and is about
1) how one can understand football stats better, and
2) how one can continue to upgrade one’s knowledge every week in the face of this barrage of information.

Basically on how to drink from the firehose of FPL information, and on how to continue to use the firehose well.

My FPL playing style has not been too stats-based historically. I think that I have a decent grip of the concepts of the predominant football stats and their application to FPL. However, I am a bit of a lazy FPL stats person. And while I do not trust either of my gut feel or my eye-test, I have always been a football strategy nerd. I’d go Zonal Marking (@Zonal_Marking) over Double Pivot (@DoublePivotPod), almost everytime.

However, there are two problems here:

  1. I personally do not enjoy poring over FPL stats and numbers over the weekend. That is a substantial part of what I do at work, and I think the moment FPL will become work rather than play, I would either quit FPL or quit my job. The former is much more likely, haha.
  2. There is a particularly demanding two-year old who needs my attention over the weekend. There is also a particularly fierce better half, who does not share my love for football – so time on the telly is rationed. Two matches, that’s all – the Arsenal match and any other. Eye test, therefore, is not always comprehensive.

So I do not have a choice but to delve into stats to keep close to the game.

I have created a shortcut for myself. I listen to about 4-5 hours of podcast every week, while either driving back home from office, or while on the late-evening run. Do you have time for listen to podcasts? Here would be my recommendation on how you can be on top of football stats for FPL.

First, understanding the stats.
I recommend the most recent FML FPL podcast / fireside chat with Michael Caley. It is amazing. Alon is a very smart and knowledgeable FPL manager and host, and Michael Caley is one of the most well-known football stats-man. Below is the link to the pod. It will be an hour well-spent.
Link Here

I would also recommend a detailed post by our resident stats-expert at FISO, and perhaps one of the most consistent FPL managers in the world, Stemania on the xA stats. It gives a very good ‘current-state’ perspective for xA.

Second. Keeping abreast.
If you have the patience to go over tables and stats, become a Fantasy Football Scout member – very comprehensive, very good. I had been a member at FFS previously, but I feel that I have not able to use the stats as well as I would have liked to. This is what I do, and I would recommend. Listen to 2-3 of the following podcasts every week. These should give enough perspective on the stats behind the FPL players and teams. I do not make notes too often, I do not pore over tables. But just by osmosis, I capture enough important stats to make do.

Specific Stats-pods of football leagues and players across the world – with an in-depth look at stats. Nothing to do with FPL. Everything to do with stats.

  1. Double Pivot ( @DoublePivotPod ‏ )
  2. StatsBomb ( @StatsBomb )

FPL Oriented ones which primarily are about playing the game, but give regular (near-weekly) stats-based read-outs of Premier League teams and key players

  1. Who got the Assist ( @WGTA_FPL ‏ )
  2. FML FPL ( @FMLFPL )‏
  3. 2 Guys 1 Cup ( @FPL2Guys1Cup )
  4. It would be remiss of me not to mention Fantasy Football Scout – they have been pioneers and flag-bearers of FPL in many ways. Loads of respect. But I think they are missing a trick by not having a specific-to-stats readout every week. Joe’s (@FFScout_Joe) Goals-imminent table is really crying out for a podcast readout. What a brilliant innovation.
  5. To me, the one and only place of all stats-related discussions is the absolutely peerless yearly STC thread at FISO. Regularly visited by some of the smartest FPL minds I know – many of whom have brilliant FPL records as well. This year is a bit of a down-year: Mav3rick is on a sabbatical (you are missed, Mav), and Stemania has just recently embraced fatherhood (Congratulations!). But it is still excellent.

That has been good enough for me. I listen to podcasts, and I chat on FISO (not so much at twitter yet, but heck, I have just joined in). Perhaps they would be good enough for you too?


FPL Podcast Observation 7: How to Be Better @ FPL – Fantasy Football Scout #268 and Meet the Manager – Nick (Triggerlips) –

Meet The Manager – Nick (Triggerlips)

FFScoutcast #268


These are perhaps the two most intriguing podcasts I heard recently.

First, Nick (Triggerlips), whose twitter handle @NickTriggerlips I follow, was the featured manager for the week. When asked about what has been the biggest change in the game in the last few years – he talked about the tremendous overload of information. And it is true – Everyone seems to know everything. All data is at everyone’s fingertips, new data has been created to represent and explain the game better, all information about all clubs and all players are available now – there is no Carlos Kickaball anymore, and even all analysis has been done on all those data points – all juice has been extracted out of the data. And one does not have to go look for this data – it is available at my laptop screen, and yours. Earlier, there were just these few forums like FFS and FISO, where really only hardcores visited (PS: is it really FY-So? I have always called it Fee So).

Also, listen to the podcast, from the 47th minute onwards. David has made some excellent analysis of how Arsenal’s right wing is a weak spot because Bellerin is always so much high up the pitch (and he does not mention that Mustafi, the covering Right-Central-Defender is prone to a brainf*rt – while the left-sided central defender, Sokratis is quite good positionally, as is Monreal, the left full back) – so it seems ripe for the taking for Richarlison. Similarly Joe speaks about the headed-goal scope for Cardiff.

Do you see how granular data has become? The data has really been beaten to death. We all know. Everything.

There will never be another underpriced defender, or fantastic differential that will remain so after 3-4 gameweeks. We serious FPL players used to think that we would invariably climb the ranks at around the 25th GW or so because the casuals would be drifted out. But that is not the case anymore – or at least, there have been many more serious players than there were previously. Triggerlips mentions that there was a time when getting into the top 10K used to be the Gold-Standard event. And I remember at FISO, there was a thing about being in the Millionaires’ club 9i.e. having a GW rank of more than a million – those were the days when there used to be 1.2-1.5M players. These days, 1.2M is a decent GW rank. And a very decent top 1% is a lowly 60K or so…

So with the availability of all this data, and with the influx of so many good managers – what differentiates a good manager from a bad manager? Nick gives a few tips about it in the Meet the Manager. It is about playing skills. Patience. Not taking unnecessary hits. Being very careful about moving a good player out for another good player. Playing the prices etc.

I think it is equally important to understand about one’s own playing style, and take the effort to absolutely master it.

Are you an aggressive hit-taker? Sure, you might want to be – but are you often being successful taking the hits? Make an analysis, follow the style, and see if you are actually good at it. It’s not good enough to just want to be an aggressive player – one has to be good at it too.

Are you a differential-seeker? Do you have a knack of picking up some lowly-owned players, and consistently taste success with it? Track it for a season or two, and make your impartial judgment around it. If this is not your style, do not embrace this style, and keep to the template picks often.

Are you just risk averse? Maybe you are in real life, but is that something you are good with at FPL also? These are answers you need to find out about yourself. At FISO, we have been tracking the exploits of the legendary, shadowy figure of Ville Ronka for a while now. I am a fan at the altar of Ville, but what impresses me so much about Ville is how extremely comfortable he is about his playing style. Go hell or high water, he would not change his style – and every season, he is up there in the top 1K. In fact, the only season that he came down from his lofty peaks was also instructional. In Season 16-17, at the last few GWs of the season, Ville took hits, made monster changes and chased differentials from a 12k-odd position, and only made the scenario worse for himself, eventually ending with a 21k rank. This was not his game – and even Ville Ronka could not play like (say) Martin Kouwenberg and be successful – while Martin K does it every year and does brilliantly very often.

And not just these playing patterns, it’s also about formations: Are you good at rotating cheap defenders? Are you most comfortable with the 3-4-3? There are so many of these questions that need to be answered for yourself as a Fantasy Football player, before you can understand yourself.

But once you do that, here’s the benefit you can glean from it. There are many ways to skin the cat – there is no one way to do well at FPL. As long as one is comfortable doing one’s own thing – one has a good chance of doing very well indeed. And even if the season is different from others, one would have more flexibility to change format without totally flying off the rails.

This was also something that I have been debating with Ruth_NZ, a FISO colleague, last season. And I think there is good reason to pursue this further in future seasons. Jigyasa is a wonderful thing.


FISO’s Matt Martyniak WINS Fantasy Premier League!

Reflected glory if there ever was!

One of our FISO boys won Fantasy Premier League ’12-’13. First among 2.6 MILLION players. Spidermatt, take a bow.

He also plays in Fantasy Football Scout. Here’s what they say about him.

[Edit: And here’s the FISO dedication]

[PS: Join FISO. It’s addictive, it’s intelligent and it’s friendly. And once you are in, message /comment me here. I’ll help you navigate.]

The OhMyGod Fantasy Football week.


For the ones who do not know:

Fantasy Premier League is the most-played fantasy football game in the world, with nearly 3 Million people playing every year. Doing well in this online real-time football management game is seen by many as a source of major credit (read this).

On the 37th Gameweek of the 2011-12 Fantasy Premier League season.  I was ranked 98th. In the world. A minor debacle in GW 38 made me come down to 212th, which is where I finished the season.

I was probably 4th or 5th in FISO, and 2nd in India.

My greatest ambition in FPL has always been to end the season as 1st in India. I was very close ast season. Someday, I will do better.

Fantasy Premier League – Top 100,000 (the introduction)

Q1. Why should FPL (http://fantasy.premierleague.com) matter?
A1. With 2,653,139 players (yes, that’s more than two and a half million players) playing the online game, this is the most popular fantasy football/soccer game in the world. All countries in the world (almost) are represented. It’s big.

Q2. Why should being in the top 100K matter?
A2. Well, for starters, you would be in the top 96 percentile in the world in something related to football. In many parts of the world, that’s a major gloat. Plus, this game has sprung many forums, which you could be part of (with a top 100K rank, you wouldn’t be very respected though. There are guys who make it to the top 1K every year). It takes luck and skill.

Q3. 100K. Should be rather easy, non?
A3. Not really. The first year that I played this game, I stood at about 275K. And I do follow the game.

Q4. I’m somewhat interested. How do we register? Where’s the website?
A4. http://fantasy.premierleague.com

Q5. Lots of pages and lots of information there. Explain to me in brief bullet points, pretty please?
A5. You manage your own Fantasy team selected from the players in the Barclays Premier League. Pick your squad. With a budget of £100 million, choose a squad of 15 players made up of:
2 Goalkeepers
5 Defenders
5 Midfielders
3 Forwards
No more than 3 players can be selected from a single team.
Scoring – The players in your squad score points based on how they perform in Premier League matches.
Substitutions – You can make one substitution every week for free. Every further sub will take 4 points away from your overall points. There’s a season-long wildcard, which you can use any time within the season and change your full team, and another wildcard in January.

Q6. Wow, nice. How much do I pay to play this game?
A6. Fantasy Premier League is FREE to play. FREE! FREE! FREE!!!

Q7. Is there a prize?
Yeah, but it’s meager. Ignore the prize money aspect. You can make money in other ways.

Q8. This is getting interesting. I can make money? How?
A8. There are leagues that can be joined. Get 10 friends of yours, create a league, and beat them in this game, so that they can never say they know more football than you. Ask each one to shell out 10 bucks, and if you win, you can get 100 quid at the end of it all. Or lose your 10. How does that sound?

Q9. Good. Very good. I will win of course, and I will get not 10, but 30 people to join my league. Anybody can start a league?
A9. Yes. And don’t get too cocky. There are a lot of forums which dole out free advise. And you will anyway choose Carroll. And Chamakh. And Torres. And Vidic will get sent off. And so will Balotelli.

Q10. I like Balotelli.
A10. So do I. But if he sees a red card, it’s -3 points. And if he is rotated by Mancini, one of your reserve players will come in for the Gameweek.

Q11. Ouch. But anyways, I’m game. This is fun alright. How can I increase the fun?
A11. Join a forum. FantasyFootballScout and FISO are two of the most famous. I am at FISO. There are a lot of nice folks there, if you are thick-skinned enough to get past the first few days’ heckling.

Q12. Oh these nerds heckle too, eh?
A12. Yes, and they can get rather nasty. I was not heckled much, though. That’s because I lurked and shut up till I could understand the nuances of the forum.

Q13. I like fantasyfootballscout. It’s nice and colourful. In the comments, why do the guys put up names of 15 players, and say RMT?
A13. What could it be? Take a guess.

Q14. Eh…. RMT. Rub my t.. uh, no. Run me through? Riches, Money, Treasures? What the hell? I am bad at this… oh wait. Rank. My. Team. Rate My Team. Right?
A14. Right. Rate my team.

Q15. Okay then that’s what I need to do. Get a team, ask people to rate it, and do as I am told. All set?
A15. Sure. Just that you cannot blame them when Rooney goes on his ten-game slumps. You pays the money, you makes the decision.

Q16. Uh. Ok. You still say I should take your advice. Why? Are you any good.
A16. I am an okay player, you can choose not to take my advise. Two seasons ago, I just missed the top 1K, and was 6th in India. I am generally within the top 20K.

Q17. So you are kinda ok at this. Not too good though.
A17. Yes, kinda ok and not too good. My advice, and your football knowledge, should have a very good chance to get you to the top 100K. Not this season of course, it’s almost a quarter completed. But next season, if you start from the first Gameweek. You can join in this season to get a hang of things though. For any better than 100K, you join a forum. They are helpful.

Q18. Yes, that I have. Football knowledge, that is. Okay, let’s start.
A18. Okay. You registered? Looked around? You are set now? Okay, let’s go… wait for my next post.

(Tag: How to win at Premier League Fantasy Football –  http://fantasy.premierleague.com )