Paul Williams ‘Diary of an FPL Manager’ –  The Greater Importance: Fixtures or Form?


Here’s new FFGeek contributor Paul Williams with his bi-weekly ‘Diary of an FPL Manager’ series.  This week Paul is discussing the age old conundrum of fixtures or form.   Paul is one of the Top 10 FPL Managers I follow and finished 412 overall last season, 1,382 in 16/17 and 7,164 in 15/16.

Paul Williams ‘Diary of an FPL Manager’ –  The Greater Importance: Fixtures or Form?

You can read more from Paul in his Diary of an FPL Manager’ series on his facebook blog using this link.

An area of FPL that sparks a large amount of debate and divides a lot of managers is the argument of what is of greater importance when considering transfers: Fixtures or Form?

Prior to this season, I have consistently placed more emphasis on fixtures and have always kept my own basic tracker to determine who I believe has the strongest set of immediate, upcoming games (I concentrate on the next six Gameweeks). This has generally served me well and helped me to achieve my Top 10,000 Overall Rank for the past three seasons (including a Top 500 finish last year).

However, this season has been a little bit different for a couple of reasons:

1.) Although I value players from the ‘top-six’ higher than players from other teams, I now consider there to be a ‘top-two’ above this. For me, Man City and Liverpool are a cut above their rivals both defensively and dynamically going forward. They are setting an incredibly high bar regardless of who they are playing against. As a consequence, because they are continuously on form, I now almost discount their fixtures – something I have never done before.

2.) There seems to be a larger selection of players who are able to maintain their form (and their points output) through a seemingly difficult run of fixtures, e.g. Holebas and Mitrovic.

This season I have yet to have the opportunity to change players based on upcoming fixtures due to so many doubts and flags – Coleman, Cairney, Zaha, Wilshere, Pedro and Richarlison have all served to force my hand. Of course, the only time I could make unlimited transfers was when I played my Wildcard. However, I changed my long-term stance of valuing fixtures above form and kept a number of players with somewhat problematic schedules. I look at players I deemed untouchable, such as: Alonso, Mendy, Mane, Hazard and Aguero – players who are imminently facing each other and other teams from the ‘top six’ and I am left with a lot of questions.

Nevertheless, every player that I have just mentioned is a top, premium player who can usually be relied upon to deliver a steady stream of points. They are not players who could be considered the latest ‘fad’ – players who produce for one or two Gameweeks and are then bought en masse. For example, this season, players who could fall into that bracket are: Mkhitaryan, Walcott, Pereyra and last week’s most transferred in player, Ryan Fraser.

Now, in my opinion, patience is one of the biggest factors separating managers who repeatedly attain a high rank and those that fall slightly short. Rarely, will top managers (who value fixtures over form) be suckered into making transfers that require a points hit for someone who has just scored big. Usually, those managers at the top try to keep the core of their squad together and based upon whether they regard fixtures or form as more important will either rotate the rest of their squad based on fixtures or go with players off the back of a high score who are being transferred in by the thousand and take the price rises that subsequently come along as well.

I tend to do the same by keeping a core group of players – but I try to look for alternatives to the obvious. However, occasionally, like during the last Gameweek, the obvious is the best option.

When Pedro got injured on Europa League duty, it merely made up my mind to transfer him out – he was probably already doubtful to start in Gameweek Six anyway due to Willian’s two goals in two games. To have clarity on who’s best to sell is a big positive, especially when there is no chance for them to come back and immediately make you regret selling them. Unfortunately, I was less clear on who to bring in. There was a whole array of options, including: Richarlison, Schurrle, Pereyra and the midfielder that I went for in the end, Fraser.

The little Bournemouth winger was the most popular ‘transfer in’ for Gameweek Six – over six hundred thousand teams made the move – however, as I said, I like to explore the more obscure options too. In this case though, Fraser just made sense and was the best choice in several different criteria: He was the cheapest, he had arguably the strongest set of immediate fixtures, he was the most on form selection and as a result of his popularity, he was the most likely to rise in price. The only caveat I could see was that ultimately I consider Richarlison a better, and potentially more potent, player. Nevertheless, Fraser appeared a great pick… Two points later the case doesn’t necessarily look as strong – but, small mercies, his price continues to rise.

Finally, regardless of whether you value fixtures over form or form over fixtures, what you see on paper cannot tell you everything you need to know in order to be successful. If that were the case, FPL would be won by a team run by Artificial Intelligence using some kind of machine-learning algorithm (they do exist). Strong fixtures and underlying stats can’t tell you about a player’s will and desire. Unless you actually take the time to watch the games, you won’t see players like Richarlison and Mitrovic furiously banging their fist on the floor and berating their teammates for wasted opportunities. These are the type of hungry, young players you should be looking to fit into your team.

Read more from Paul in his Diary of an FPL Manager’ series in his facebook blog using this link.

Paul is one of the 10 top FPL managers I follow

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