With a Saturday morning available without matches to focus on, I compiled the week-to-week activities of our favorite blog ringer Mo [Team Name = Egypt] who finished 7th overall in an effort to figure out what he is doing differently than I am doing (and recommending). The answers certainly challenged a few of the preconceived notions I had about how to succeed in the game. They also convinced me that I have not gone far enough in exploiting some of the tendencies that I DO try to exploit (and pass along) as part of building my team.
With that introduction, and apologies to Mo who doesn't know that I've been working on this, here are the things I've learned from going over how he assembled his team over the past season. I'm not saying that this is the ONLY way to win and it may be that it isn't always a winning strategy. Mo has consistently been very good at the game though so we should all learn the lessons that he has to teach.
Love the Sure Thing
I know this is actually a repeat of one of Jeremy's Rules but it came out SO clearly here that I thought it was worth backing up that rule with some statistics (and not the kind that are being made to lie). Outside of Week 18 when we all unexpectedly lost matches to snow-outs after the deadline, Mo only had 11 slots go fallow all season out of 418 possibilities. Of those 11, at least two were due to holding on to a player at a major discount (more on this later). That means that out of 418 possible chances, he only lost opportunity to rotation, late injuries, etc. 9 times or about 2% of the time. I'd say that was pretty important then.
Love the Double More
Of the 8 weeks where there were players playing two matches in the second half of the season, Mo took those opportunities as often as possible. Over 8 weeks, that's 88 possible selections of "two-gamers". Here's how his choices broke down: 67 of his 88 selections ACTUALLY played two matches across those 8 weeks. What of the other 21 you ask?
- 11 COULD have played two matches but were either rotated, injured, or suspended (meaning he really picked 78 of 88 two-gamers and just got unlucky on 11 of them).
- 3 of them were kept for discounts (again, more on this later).
- 5 of them were enablers.
- Exactly TWO of them were kept because he thought that their one match would be an improvement on the two-match alternatives and here's how those worked out...
- Lamps at home to Wolves yielded almost nothing (2 points)
- Der Hammer at home to Blackburn worked out reasonably well (19 points)
Home Sweet Home
When I start analyzing the schedule each week, I have traditionally ranked my options in the following way:
- "Big Team" playing at home against an also-ran.
- "Big Team" playing away against an also-ran.
- Mid-table team playing at home against an also-ran.
- "Big Team" playing away against a mid-table team.
- Mid-table team playing away against an also-ran.
Just to give you a sense of the average difference in the (final) standings between the players he selected and their opponents - the number was 5.7 places. That is a fairly high number but in my mind not as significant as the difference between home and away players that he selected.
Go Beyond the Badge
When I tabulated the teams that Mo got his players from, I was guessing that the frequency of selection would show an inverse relation to the team's position in the final table (i.e., the top teams would show the most selections and the relegated teams the fewest). While there was a very minor correlation, it wasn't nearly as heavy as I'd imagined. Mo picked Birmingham players (31 times) almost exactly the same number of times as he picked Manchester United players (32). Bolton (12) as frequently as WHU (also 12). You get the idea. Interestingly, Arsenal (47) and Liverpool (46) were the two most frequent choices and Sunderland (5) was his least frequent.
I don't know if this necessarily pushes us in any specific direction going forward but it will certainly help me break out of ruts where I start over-valuing players on the Top 6 teams. There's always value to be had elsewhere so long as you know where to look.
Don't Get Defensive
Just to give you a sense of how Mo lined up on average and how many points he yielded from each position, here's the rundown:
- Number of Weeks Using 4 Defenders: 6 out of 38 - As you'll see from the average scores per position below, Midfielders and Forwards are about equally productive (just over 10/match/player) while Defenders and Goalkeepers were less valuable. That he selected 4 defenders even as often as 6 times means he probably dropped points those 6 weeks.
- Average Points from Goalkeeper: 6.32
- Average Points per Defender: 7.35
- Average Points per Midfielder: 10.6
- Average Points per Forward: 10.46
Don't Fall in Love
I've saved the one that shocked me the most for last. We spend a lot of time talking about keeping players at a discount and in some cases doing so for large chunks of the season (see Kolarov). The biggest revelation from Mo's team selection analysis was that he didn't fall in for this sort of player love. Despite the ability to keep players at a discount he turned over his team with stunning regularity. He didn't hold any player for more than 11 total weeks (Reina) followed by two that he had on 10 occasions (Brunt and RvP). His longest streak of holding any one player consecutively was RvP for 9 weeks and after that the numbers fell off sharply with most "streaks" being no more than a couple of matches at a time.
The biggest lesson for me in all of this analysis has been not to get too attached to players at discounts under anything but the most extreme of circumstances - an exceptional player like RvP at a great discount. Saving 2.00 to 4.00 on a player is probably not enough to justify keeping him in a week where he is playing away and isn't likely to be very productive.