Former FPL champion Simon March Lessons learned in the 2023/24 season

Our team of Hall of Famers and guest writers will provide regular contributions throughout the 2023/24 Fantasy Premier League (FPL) campaign. Here, former champion Simon March reflects on some of the lessons from the season just past.

Game Week 5 Wildcards

The end of the FPL season always brings mixed emotions. The final competition week often feels like the last day of term and the last day of summer rolled into one. We could all probably use a break at this point, but I’m sure we’ll miss this game when it’s over, too.

As of this writing, my overall ranking is around 2.5k. While I may still harbor unlikely ambitions of a triple-digit ranking, if you’d offered me the position at the start of the season, you’d probably be missing out on a hand now.

However, at the risk of causing some eye-rolls, I don’t think a good FPL season is defined solely by your ranking. Instead, it’s also where you learn something useful that you can take into the next course.

So, with that in mind, here’s what I’ll be taking with me from this season to the next.

This is not only talent discovery, but also talent management

simon courses

In a season with seemingly so many good options, what stands out to me is the importance of not only identifying talent within FPL “assets,” but also correctly classifying them within our squads. There are various options players can tick, but a lot depends on how you use them.

To me, good FPL assets fall into one of three categories, each with its own requirements. This classification affects how you assess a player’s potential and the best way to manage them.

long term value maintenance

First, we work to identify early on those individuals who are good value and perform consistently. Then, ideally, we would keep them as long as possible. These players form the backbone of our team. They aren’t necessarily regular captaincy choices, but they are established, tend to be available, and can be relied upon to provide consistent returns largely irrespective of fixtures.

On my team this season, these include Ollie Watkins (£8.9 million), Gabriel Magalath (£5.4 million), Cole Palmer (£6.3m) and Dominic Solanke (£7 million).

short term opportunity

The second category is short-term opportunity players who may not be available or consistent enough for us to support for a full season. However, we can move them in or out to take advantage of a good schedule or expected form. The better we manage the first category, the better we can maximize the value of the second, more dynamic category by aggressively leveraging our transfers.

Again, for my team this season, this category includes the following: Pascal Gross (£6.1 million), nicholas jackson (£7 million), James Maddison (£7.8m) and Brian Mbemo (£6.8m).

I do believe that our success in the FPL season will largely depend on how well we manage the first two categories. However, there is a third category, and the way we treat this group will not only have a disproportionate impact on our FPL rankings, but arguably also go a long way in defining our core identity as Fantasy managers.

big gun

The final category is high effective ownership (EO), often premium, often explosive, often popular FPL asset captain options. These players have the potential to really hurt you if you don’t own them, or indeed if you don’t captain them at the right moment.

This category has been dominated by two players this season, Erling Haaland (£14.2m) and Mohamed Salah (£13.4 million).We might as well count Sun Xingmin (£10 million) and Bukayo Saka (£8.9m) as a key asset in this range. You could also say that despite Palmer coming into this group at a budget price, especially in the second half of the season.

Judo and bomb disposal

FPL Match 36: Saturday's goals, assists, bonus points + stats

Some FPL managers pay attention to these high EO players and they see an opportunity. Just like judokas using momentum against their opponents, they look for a situation where everyone is pulling in the same direction and gain an advantage by subverting the trend and subtly pivoting in another direction. It takes intuition, timing, courage, and of course some luck, but I’ve seen enough FPL managers pull it off successfully that I believe there’s definitely an art to it.

I’ve always been a bit envious of these types of managers because when I see high EO players, I tend to see a bomb that needs to be defused. I wouldn’t normally bet against the likes of Erling Haaland and don’t rely on them for rankings. Any significant advantages I’ve gained have come from the first two categories I’ve described. For the most part, my goal is just to try and limit the damage that third category can do to my rankings. My past experience with shorting them has been “sub-optimal” so to speak.

No one gets 37 green arrows in an FPL season, so sometimes it’s necessary to minimize the size of the red arrows. However, I can’t help but think that no matter what you do with the first two categories of players, how you handle the third group will ultimately determine your season.

Looking to the future

simon courses

With that in mind, while I may be proud of my current ranking, I also need to realize that every season is different. The unique dynamics that define the 2023/24 season, most notably a narrow convergence around captaincy options, and a rich budget due to reasonable pricing and a plethora of low-cost options, may suit my preferred style of play. This contributed to my ranking.

That may not be the case next season and if I want to keep this momentum going, I may need to think about how to add more scope to my management style. In other words, I probably need to get better at taking these big risks, not just eliminating them.

On the contrary, if you are the type of manager who likes to buck the trend, take big risks, and pursue big ranking moves, then next season may well be a better fit for you than this one.

Perhaps it’s this promise of new beginnings and the opportunity to redefine or reinvent ourselves that keeps us coming back to this often brutal but always fascinating game. No matter where we end up this time, we may soon find ourselves back again, starting over next season. However, as the Greek philosopher and enthusiastic FPL manager Heraclitus once said: “No one steps in the same river twice, because it is not the same river and he is no longer the same person”.

We now have a few months to rest, reflect and maybe even reimagine ourselves as FPL managers. And then, before we know it, we’ll be starting it all over again.

Quick thanks

Before I leave, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Fantasy Football Scout for letting me contribute to their editorial content again this season. This is my ninth year as a Scouting writer, and as a fan of the site even longer, it has been a huge honor to have my words appear in their pages.

Special thanks to Scout editor Neil, I can assure you that what he gave you was more readable than what I received from him. Of course, many thanks to those who read and comment on these articles. We often go to some weird places together, but I’m not quite sure how people will receive them, so it means a lot to know that people like them.

Good luck to the final gaming week and hope you enjoy the holiday season.

Haaland's feet

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