The Sky approach to FPL – 2018/19 Season

Notes, Opinions, Posts

Introduction

Firstly, let me go all the way back to the beginning of how this whole thing started, so that I can then explain how it was applied it practice.

Since stumbling along the Sky game, I’ve been far more successful and consistent at it than I have with the Official FPL game. For one reason or another it just suits me, and I’ve managed to finish with some very reasonable ranks over the years – Top 500 (2015/16), Just outside the top 100 (2016/17), and 37th (2017/18). And for anyone wondering, I finished 328th this year (2018/19).

This led me to question why it was that I had been so inconsistent with the official game, breaking down both formats in order to ascertain what I was doing differently in Sky, and then applying the findings to FPL.

Now I realise that the blog posts for the experiment dried up back in GW15, as work commitments and  time constraints sadly made it difficult to continue with the full focus that it deserved. But, for anyone that doesn’t already know from my twitter account, the team finished with an overall rank of 48th in the world, and no.1 in Wales!

That absolutely blows my mind considering it started as nothing more than an experiment born out of a need to try something different! In that respect, I think it’s safe to say that it turned out to be a resounding success. However, that’s not to say it was a perfect season by any means. Luck definitely played its part at times, and some fairly obvious (and no doubt relatable) mistakes were made.

That being said, I felt it only right to share my findings with the FPL community that encouraged and supported me to see it through. I’m hoping my notes below will indicate what worked, what didn’t, and maybe provide you with something to take away from what has been a truly eventful season for me personally.

NOTES – Sky vs FPL

Major differences (Sky v FPL):

  • Starting 11 v Squad of 15
  • MoM & bonus ‘targets’ (passes, tackles, SoT, save) v BPS ‘best 3’
  • 40 transfer limit v FT & hits
  • Transfer flexibility (mid to fwd, etc) v Like-for-like
  • No chips v Chips
  • Daily v Weekly captaincy
  • Fixed prices v Price rises/falls
  • Some positional differences (e.g Salah & Son fwds in Sky, Zaha a mid)

Similarities:

  • Double points for captain picks
  • Bonus factors can be indicative of BPS earners
  • Overhaul = Wildcard

Summary of Sky strategies to be applied:

  • Focus on starting 11 – minimise the need for a bench
  • Wildcard gw5 to mimic 1st Overhaul – set team for first 4 weeks only?!
  • Wildcard gw27 to mimic 2nd Overhaul – questionable timing?
  • Allow for 40 transfers
  • Formations – be flexible & follow the value
  • Pick GKs & defenders for the long term
  • Don’t be afraid to start cheap GKs & defenders
  • Watch out for regular bonus earners
  • Ignore price changes
  • Be patient

Additional Notes

Focus on starting 11 – minimise the need for a bench

  • Think there’s too much emphasis put on rotation.
  • Focussing transfers on the starting 11 very rarely meant carrying long-term injuries, reducing the need for the bench players to pick up the slack.
  • Removed the usual benching headaches e.g. Backing a 6.0m defender (plus 4.0 bench option) each & every week, as opposed to trying to 2nd guess which of two 4.5/5.0m rotation options to play. How often do we get that right/wrong??
  • Optimises working capital i.e. focussing more of the budget on the starting 11 means its working harder for the team on a weekly basis. Whereas an extra 0.5-1.0m on the bench might only earn you a few extra points every now & again.
  • If constantly relying on bench players, need to weigh up if thats actually a plausible strategy, or whether it means you have a less than optimal starting 11?
  • Despite trying, its impossible to completely ignore the bench as it’s part of the fundamental game structure.
  • That being said, in emergencies e.g. when you need to give yourself time to assess minor injuries, the benefits of a solid 4.0/4.5 bench option that can come on for 2-3 points is seriously underestimated.

Wildcard after GW4 to mimic 1st Sky Overhaul

  • Setting a team up for just the first 4 weeks has certain benefits.
  • Allows for a proactive approach, with initial squad selection concentrated on teams with good opening fixtures.
  • Can do this in the confidence that if you get you’re initial team wrong, you’ll be rectifying it quickly.
  • Possibility to steal a march on managers who set-up with a more ‘long-term’ view (started well & was never outside the top 100k all season).
  • Starting 11s were becoming stable by GW4 (New signings thrown straight in? Have budget options emerged?).
  • Early fixtures & stats give an indication of potential form & value (e.g Doherty, Wilson & Fraser)
  • Provided the ability to jump on emerging trends early (fullbacks e.g. RAM).
  • The above are based on 1 season of success only, so realise a GW4-5 WC may not always be the optimum use from year to year. Need a bigger sample size.
  • However, consider whether a ‘holding it just in case’ strategy is maximising the use of one of the games most powerful chips?

Self-imposed 40 transfer limit

  • “It’s only minus 4″……..Unlimited availability of transfer hits can subliminally promote unnecessary risk taking. These add up over time if used excessively.
  • Forces a more patient approach i.e. rather than just being a minus 4, two transfers are 5% of your total allocation. Get those wrong & suddenly that becomes 10% to rectify it. So “think twice, transfer once”.
  • Learn to rely on a core that you are happy to play week in, week out, regardless of fixtures.
  • Less inclined to rush blindly into bandwagons. If unsure, give yourself an extra week or two to assess.
  • Look to maximise each transfer. Planning becomes more strategic in terms of identifying ideal captaincy changes & fixture swings.
  • Contemplate if juggling premium assets is worth it? Held each of the primary captaincy options for 30+ gameweeks – Salah (35) & Aguero (30).
  • Pick GKs & defenders for the long term in order to save transfers for the higher risk/reward attackers, as these positions are more susceptible to variances in form and rotation.
  • Focussing on number of transfers, rather than the cost of hits, meant making multiple transfers were viewed more positively.
  • This change in perspective opens up greater opportunities to attack fixtures i.e. taking hits can be extremely beneficial if used strategically. (Took 6 hits this season, each of which were followed by significant jumps in OR in the GWs that followed). 
  • Finished the season having used 39 transfers.

Formations – be flexible & follow the value

  • Too much focus on set formations (usually either 3-4-3 or 3-5-2)
  • FPL not as flexible as Sky, but can still allow value to dictate formation.
  • Sky allows transfers between positions (e.g. a mid to a fwd, a fwd to a def, etc). Gets you thinking about value across the whole spectrum of players, not just within the positions themselves.
  • Heard arguments that direct comparisons across positions aren’t possible in FPL as you have to consider the second player in the trade-off.
  • However, this is not necessarily the case if 2nd player will always be a bench player e.g. if a 6.5 defender is providing greater value than a 6.5 mid, & the 2nd player in both scenario’s is bench fodder, then it can be considered a like-for-like comparison & be indicative of whether a formation switch would be useful.
  • May require the sacrifice of a transfer, so is more difficult to do later in the season when transfers are low. Wildcard weeks are the ideal opportunity to make use of such comparisons.

Chips

  • Aside from the wildcards, I believe too much emphasis is placed on the value of the other chips, & their use around DGWs.
  • Can attempt to plan as best as possible, but actual results are very hit & miss.
  • Triple captained Sane in DGW25 for a total of 3 points when there was little indication of him being dropped. Whereas Salah scored 57 points for those who used it in single GW36.
  • At the start of the season I expected a score of 16-24 to be an acceptable bench boost score.
  • Managed 16 from the BB in DGW35. This was acheived with 2 single GW players on the bench, and without spending any additonal funds it.
  • Accept it gives you the best possible chance at a decent outcome for the BB, but using it in a DGW with 4 DGW players is far from essential.
  • The free hit is the most valuable of the 3 chips, as navigating the complicated blank and double gameweek scenarios is extremely difficult without it.
  • However, you’ll still do well to gain any advantage over other top players that have saved it for the same purpose (scored 93 in DGW32, yet ended with a red arrow)   
  • Received a red arrow in every gameweek that I played one of these chips, yet still finished in the top 50.
  • This indicates that getting the captaincy and transfers right are far more important than the chips in acheiving a high overall rank.

Wildcard after GW26 to mimic 2nd Sky Overhaul

  • This was the worst part of following the Sky format, as ended up wildcarding into the weekend of the Carabao Cup final.
  • Its use made very little sense from a strategic standpoint, but should have predicted this given that Sky’s 2nd overhaul often feels forced and unecessary.
  • Made just 7 changes, with only 4 being to the actual starting 11. Even reversed one of those the following week to get a City player back.
  • Was blindly guessing at the effects of two rounds of FA Cup fixtures, whereas those that played it later had much more information to base decisions on.
  • Have to concede defeat on this one, as saving it for later was easily the better strategy for FPL. Would have saved some hits around the blanks and doubles.
  • Did prevent me from going all in on Brighton for the doubles though, so not a total loss.

Ignoring price changes

  • Price changes can adversely affect decision making.
  • Often forces early transfers, especially in the early stages of the season.
  • Ignoring changes ensures you can gather as much information as possible before making transfers, reducing the chances of picking any injured players.
  • Argument for needing to build team value, but this will happen naturally from just holding players while in good form. (Finished with a TV of 106.9, and a season high of 107.5 around GW29).
  • Also makes transferring out players who have built up value less complicated. The actual value isn’t released until a player is sold anyway, & if you’re considering selling it’s because you’ve either identified an issue (drop off in form or fixture swing), or a greater opportunity elsewhere.
  • May miss out on the odd 0.1 rise, or be priced out of a player, but the added information is worth more.

Team Performance Summary

  • Overall Rank: 48
  • Total transfers: 39
  • Overall points: 2,538
  • Average GW points: 66.79
  • Best GW score: 121 (GW36)
  • Total captain points: 567
  • Captain success: 27/38 (72%)
  • Captain contribution: 23% of total
  • Most captain points: Salah (246pts)
  • Most points (inc captain): Salah (363pts)
  • Preferred formation: 4-3-3
  • Total no. of players: 60 (including bench & FH)
  • No. players held for 10+ games: 23
  • Starting XI held for 10+ games: 17
  • Longest starting GKs (# GWs): Fabianski (19), Patricio (10), Lloris (5)
  • Longest starting Defs (# GWs): Robertson (37), Alonso (22), VvD (15)
  • Longest starting Mids (# GWs): Salah (35), Hazard (17), Sterling (17)
  • Longest serving Fwds (# GWs): Aguero (30), Wilson (19), Jimenez (18)
  • Bench warmers (# GWs): Hamer (22), Bennett (20), Ward (22) Hojbjerg (28)
  • Average total bench cost: £17.0m
  • Triple captaincy points: 3 (Sane – GW25)
  • Free hit points: 93 (GW32)
  • Bench Boost points: 16 (GW35 – Boruc, Bennett, Hojbjerg, Lascelles)