It’s five weeks since my last blog If Carlsberg Did FPL Spreadsheets…. in which I announced my pioneering spreadsheets, and invited interested FPL managers to test-fly them in the following 4 week period (GW5-8). I have said all along my sheets would need the first 8 gameweeks to be fully up to speed, so now seems a good time to bring you all up to date with how things have gone.
Thanks to my test-pilots, anomalies were identified, teething problem fixed, and tips received that ensured smoother functionality of sortable table columns, as well as a number of other breakthroughs and improvements made.
My initial plan to supply my test-pilots with player ratings, however, was abandoned after our first mission. My belief that trying to predict individual player points is a fools errands was only deepened by what unfolded in GW5. I am firmly of the view that averaging out aggregate player xG/xA values, short-term or long, fails to recognise that player points tend to polarise between high and low scores. So I returned to my original position that the best approach is to advertise teams with the best combined form and fixtures, and leave it to individual managers to determine the best fit transfers for their teams thereafter.
That said, I have looked back at the player table I provided my test-pilots with prior to GW5 and, with the benefit of hindsight, they look pretty damn good! If we ignore Bryan and Davies, who only had one start between them, 6 of only 7 other defenders highlighted (Doherty, Laporte, Trippier, Monreal, Robertson and Alonso) were all amongst the top two dozen highest scoring defenders (1st, 4th, 6th, 14th, 21st and 24th respectively) during this period.
Obviously, the standout pick here was Doherty, who had averaged only 2 points per game at that point remember. Bringing him in on my GW6 wildcard was one of my better moves, and coincided with my ranking improving from over 233K to under 53K in the space of 2 weeks.
Something else I did during the trial period was to compare and contrast my spreadsheet’s predictions with those of a well-known predictive fantasy football algorithm, marketed as the ‘world’s most powerful‘. Small sample size notwithstanding, my algorithm outperformed the paywalled one in all but one respect.
My spreadsheet correctly forecast more team goals, more match scorelines, more accurately the number of goals scored, and had a significantly better correlation between predicted and actual goals as measured by Mean Absolute Error. Odd then that it predicted fewer correct results.
The main selling point of my spreadsheets, however, is the way they are able to anticipate patterns and trends before they’ve even emerged by projecting forwards the long-term implications of short-term predictions.
HATERS GONNA HATE
One of the things I’ve enjoyed most about tweeting screenshots of my spreadsheets is the way that they are like a red rag to a bull for some members of our FPL community who cannot help but contest some of the more leftfield predictions that my sheets make.
I should confess here that my somewhat contrarian nature is well suited to my sheets. I like that they regularly highlight maverick moves, because that is where most differential value is to be found. I do understand though that most FPL managers don’t have the requisite nerve for going against the crowd quite as often as I do. Maybe that’s the poker player in me.
By the way, it does amuse me when my sheets are objected to for not being in line with received wisdom and/or bookies odds. After all, what would be the point of going to all the trouble of generating predictions if they merely mirrored other widely available resources?
Mainly though, my enjoyment of the challenges to my spreadsheets stems from the fact that they usually backfire on the doubters and knockers. For example, before GW5 my sheets were challenged for singling out CPL as the clean sheet banker of that gameweek.
Admittedly, an entry error subsequently came to light that scaled down their probability odds from 62% to 55%. Even so, in bookmakers terms, that’s about a 9/11 chance, so an odds-on favourite, whereas odds were available to back them at 7/4 against, which equates to a probability of around 36.5%.
MCI and WLV were the only other teams to keep a clean sheet in GW5, which could have been highly significant with so many managers having benched Palace defenders after their failure to deliver on an expected clean sheet the previous week.
Courtesy of my sheets though, I’d benched Wan-Bissaka the week before, and swerved his zero points return, and now my sheets had me moving in the opposite direction to the majority once again.
Unfortunately for those of us who purposely started Wan-Bissaka in GW5, our advantage was negated by the unexpected absence of Mendy that weekend. This meant most owners were spared the indignity of having a player with 9 points sitting on their bench.
Before GW7 I was asked my opinion about transferring in Arnautovic before WHU faced up against MUN. Whilst understanding the reluctance to take a hit to do so, I felt obliged to share my sheet’s forecast that the Hammers would score twice. In fact, they scored three times – stupid sheet – and predictably enough, Arnie was amongst the goals, because if ever the FPL Gods have an opportunity to punish managers exercising patience and showing restraint, then sure enough they’ll take it.
More recently, I was asked (politely) by one of my test-pilots to account for my sheet’s prediction that TOT would struggle to score more than once vs CDF in a week when so many FPL managers were taking hits to bring in and captain Kane. This enquiry came in response to the following excerpt in the GW8 preview I emailed to all of those in receipt of my spreadsheet tables.
This was another big call by my spreadsheet, and one I heeded by transferring in Lacazette and leave 3m in the bank, rather than bring in the most transferred in and most captained player of GW8, purely because my sheet rated the chances of goals to be higher for ARS than TOT.
The move would have been a master stroke, but for FPL’s uncanny habit of bringing us down to earth. The player I sold to bring Lacazette (12 pts) in was Wilson (14 pts). D’oh!
It was the final game of the last weekend, however, that arguably represented the biggest test yet for my spreadsheets, as its forecast of a MCI clean sheet (projected before GW6) was met with scepticism and barely concealed ridicule in several quarters.
Like Peter denying knowledge of Jesus after the Last Supper, I was guilty of making excuses for my spreadsheet’s prediction.
In fact, by the time GW7 results were taken into account, my spreadsheets position on the probability of a clean sheet for the champions at Anfield had hardened from 44% to 56.5%.
Going into GW8 though, I began to repent my earlier disowning of my sheets, and posted a rationale for having faith in their prediction.
Not only did MCI not concede, they rarely looked like doing so. Furthermore, my sheet’s 0-1 forecast was only prevented by a Mahrez penalty kick miss that is probably still in orbit around the Moon!
As I’ve said many times before, the thing with stats is that they are only true until they are not. They tell us what has happened in the past, not what will happen in the future. From my perspective, the LIV vs MCI result illustrates this point perfectly.
In the interests of balance, I ought to acknowledge one public challenger has yet to fall by the wayside. Prior to GW6, the prominence given by my sheets to BOU defence for their next 6 fixtures run was publicly disparaged by one manager.
Although misinterpretating my Clean Sheet Probability table because teams with the same number of predicted shutouts were shown in alphabetical order (CHE were actually rated as 2nd best), the shock 4-0 defeat suffered by the Cherries at Turf Moor did little to contradict such scepticism.
We are only halfway through the 6 week period in question, however, and the jury is still out as to whether the cynicism was fully justified. It is worth noting that only six teams (MCI, ARS, TOT, CHE, LIV and WLV) have more clean sheets than the one BOU gained last time out vs WAT over those first 3 gameweeks, and I have said all along that my spreadsheets will not be firing on all cylinders until they have 8 gameweeks of data.
That success at Vicarage Road notwithstanding, Bournemouth’s defence ranking for the next rolling block of 6 fixtures (GW9-14) has fallen to 15th, so my sheets may not remain unbowed for much longer.
WHO WANT SOME?
I have been back in touch with the 5 managers who missed out on my last intake of test-pilots, and am pleased to welcome them all to my squadron. Having gained experience in distributing reports, reviews and spreadsheets to a large crew of people over the past month, I now feel able to expand my operation further, and repeat the exercise all over again for the next 4 gameweeks (GW9-GW12) leading up to the next international break.
If you are interested in trying out my spreadsheets, and willing to give constructive feedback, please RT and DM me to register your interest.
In the meantime, it would be very much appreciated if the naysayers could continue throwing down gauntlets, as my spreadsheet predictions seem to thrive on them!
And remember: Flying isn’t dangerous. Crashing is what’s dangerous! To your overall ranking that is.
All FPL accounts and tweets in this blog – even those based on real people – are entirely fictional. All FPL account tweets are recreated – poorly.
No feelings were intended to be harmed in the making of this blog.