For many sports fans around the world like myself, online fantasy sports games allow us to unleash our inner geek. On field prowess and abilities like ball-skills, fitness, strength, vision etc are replaced off the field with data, research, statistical analysis and predictive modeling. Many long time football fans and gifted players have tried and failed playing Fantasy Premier League. So how can you embrace your inner data nerd and become a Fantasy Football Geek? In this article we’ll explore 5 ways to geek it up to come out ahead of the pack this season.
Embracing the Inner Geek
1. Make a Fixture Spreadsheet
The first step is not even just for geeks, all fantasy football players should start off with a spreadsheet of fixtures for the season. It doesn’t require to many excel or Google docs skills to get yourself a nice season ticker setup. Keeping track of fixtures and gameweek deadlines means you’re all over who is playing, when they are playing and where they are playing. Your fixture spreadsheet unlocks your ability to find sequences of easier fixtures against poor performing or lower table teams that might represent an investment opportunity. Your fixture spreadsheet will also allow you to plan for upcoming double gameweeks or blank gameweeks, to ensure your squad it well placed to maximise point scoring.
Conditional formatting with a scaled colour scheme based on fixture difficultly is pretty much a must for the geeks out there. It’s essential to not just look at the teams playing, but also home vs away. Look at any goals & clean sheets stats over the past 10 Premier League seasons and it’s very clear that more goals are scored at home, and more clean sheets are kept at home. So a factored approach based on fixture location should be high on your list of pre-season to-do’s.
2. Form Table for Players & Teams
Once you’ve covered fixtures planning, it’s then time to keep track of both club form and player form. When players are hot, you want them in your team. And when teams have got that winning feeling, they sometimes play like they have 12 players on the pitch. Form is a great performance predictor for future matches, so monitoring this can be a key differentiator. You want to beat the bandwagon and jump on players running into a hot streak of form early, as managers transfer those players into your team and drive up their price. There are many sites around offering team form tables as well as player performance ratings.
3. Monitor Betting Odds
Bookies can be a great data point for fantasy premier league geeks looking for external signals. Betting companies will off odds on all kind of results, from matches, clean-sheets and goal scorers. The shorter the odds, then the more chances there are of that result happening (which is why the bookies offer the shorter odds). Keep in mind that betting companies are money making machines, and will offer odds that might seem attractive but are always in favour of the house. I’ve chosen not to include any links to betting companies here, instead you can Google the most popular ones for yourself.
4. Trending Player Ownership & Team Selections
For the more technical Fantasy Football Geek’s out there, scraping data from the official Fantasy Premier League site can offer a great crowd sourcing data point. Scraping data of the top 1000 or so FPL teams and looking at player ownership, captaincy, transfers and wildcard playing can be extremely insightful if things are not going great early on. Of course, it’s always best to be a leader rather than a follower, but the top teams are usually there for a reason. Using that crowd sourcing data point of top players also allows you to filter out transfer trends from the rest of the fodder, which can often be misplaced and reactive.
5. Custom Weighted Formula
This is where you can really take your fantasy premier league team to the next level, incorporating all the above data signals into a custom weighted algorithm to predict future transfers. Fixtures, form, odds, and player trends are key data ingredients that are available and in some capacity allow you to have a better idea of predicting a result. The weighting of each data point is something that can be explored by each FPL manager to find the blend that they feel works right for them. Last season’s incredible run of Leicester City was a great example of when form outweighs fixtures, but that didn’t hold up for all teams. And as Leicester’s run continued, the odds of their form bubble bursting continued to shorten & shorten.
There is of course no 100% correct sure fire way to predict a EPL result, but a data driven approach gives you indictors that can be used to increase your adds of predicting the correct outcomes.