FPL tips from Warren Buffett after a wacky week*
*He doesn't actually play but if he did. Gameweek 26 preview
It’s fair to say Gameweek 25 was a tale of the good, bad and ugly for Fantasy Premier League players and Fantasy Gameweek.
The good: Arsenal delivered, with their players accounting for four of the top-five scorers in Gameweek 25, as we suggested could happen.
The bad: Liverpool’s attack largely disappointed (although their defence delivered back-to-back clean-sheets) and Everton and Wolves double gameweek was a disaster.
The ugly: Gabriel Martinelli (MID, £6.5m) scored the most points of anyone - 26, which is actually the most points that any player has scored in any gameweek this season. This remarkable haul happened after Martinelli had been transferred out of more than a million teams in recent weeks on the back of disappointing performances.
We had flagged in Fantasy Gameweek that Martinelli was failing the eye test when you watched Arsenal and that the data suggested his performances had dropped off. Martinelli was also getting subbed off by Mikel Arteta for new signing Leandro Trossard (MID, £6.6m). We said Bukayo Saka (MID, £8.5m) and Martin Odegaard (MID, £7m) looked more attractive FPL options.
But then Eddie Nketiah (FWD, £6.8m) unexpectedly drops to the bench, Martinelli comes back into the team and he scores 26 points in two games, including three goals and six bonus points.
So, er, what is the point in FPL analysis exactly? What is the point in us helping you identify trends like Martinelli dropping off?
Well, let us explain. Martinelli’s haul shows the value of quality analysis. That is not analysis that tells you what to do and promises some sort of truth based on superficial data, but recognises the uncertainty and luck involved in sport, the fallacy of making predictions and the benefits of thinking long-term rather than short-term. We touched on these points in our piece outlining some general FPL tips. This is the analysis we want to offer with Impect, our data partner.
The point about Martinelli’s struggles was correct - look at Tom’s tweet above - but he was also still the same player who scored all those FPL points earlier in the season and a forward playing for the league leaders. So his haul in this gameweek was still in his range of outcomes, it was just the probability of that happening had dropped, and it look more likely to happen for Saka and Odegaard.
For more on how to think about probabilities and how to play fantasy games I recommend reading Lucky Maverick on Substack here. This piece looks at how you can gain an edge. This extract stands out:
Don’t do the equivalent of over-scrutinizing a coin’s properties to figure out if heads might come up 50.1% of the time and ignore what you win if it does. Life isn’t a coin flip, but it’s more random than most think, which ironically is what allows for the biggest edge. Many of the best hidden rules are found in areas where people are most significantly underestimating the luck factor.
Thus, when searching for hidden rules to find an edge, try to identify areas in which people are focused on accuracy or probability or the most likely outcome, and not the payoffs. And there are many such situations. Many times, this will be the result of them “solving” for the wrong thing, i.e. projected points vs. lineup win probability
To take this point to its extreme, this is what it means for FPL - we are all trying to work out who is going to do well, but this is futile to some extent, so think of other ways you can gain an advantage over your rivals.
This week Warren Buffett, the legendary investor, published his annual letter to investors. It includes some great nuggets on what he and partner Charlie Munger have learned over the years about decision-making. You can read the letter here. Apparently it was his frustration playing FPL that led him to these observations, so let’s look at what he really meant, because there are great lessons here that we can use*
(*He is a 92-year-old billionaire from Nebraska, USA, and does not play FPL, but let’s imagine he does….)
We are understanding about business mistakes; our tolerance for personal misconduct is zero
We have persisted with Darwin Nunez over Ivan Toney in our FPL team this season and it is getting ridiculous…
Charlie and I are not stock-pickers; we are business-pickers
I don’t care that Miguel Almiron only costs £5.5m, Jack Grealish was right about him - he is rubbish
Over the years, I have made many mistakes
I refused to pick Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy in the season Leicester won the league
It’s crucial to understand that stocks often trade at truly foolish prices, both high and low
God knows why FPL priced Marcus Rashford at only £6.5m at the start of the season
“Efficient” markets exist only in textbooks. In truth, marketable stocks and bonds are baffling, their behavior usually understandable only in retrospect
I have no idea what I am doing, but Alan Shearer keeps saying on Match of the Day that Haaland looks like a good striker
In 58 years of Berkshire management, most of my capital-allocation decisions have been no better than so-so. In some cases, also, bad moves by me have been rescued by very large doses of luck
I only left Gabriel Martinelli in my team this week because my phone battery died when I was making my transfers
Our satisfactory results have been the product of about a dozen truly good decisions – that would be about one every five years
I have had Erling Haaland in my team all season. The rest of my team is rubbish
The weeds wither away in significance as the flowers bloom
I have also had Mo Salah in my team all season
Our CEO will always be the Chief Risk Officer – a task it is irresponsible to delegate
There is no way I am picking Reece James again. He is always injured
The world is full of foolish gamblers, and they will not do as well as the patient investor
I can’t believe I put Everton players in my team for their double gameweek
If you don’t see the world the way it is, it’s like judging something through a distorted lens
Don’t listen to anything Jamie Redknapp says on Sky
Patience can be learned. Having a long attention span and the ability to concentrate on one thing for a long time is a huge advantage
Having Trent Alexander-Arnold in my team all season finally paid off this week
A string of wonderful numbers times zero will always equal zero. Don’t count on getting rich twice
How many points did you say Firpo got this week?!
You have to keep learning if you want to become a great investor. When the world changes, you must change
Forget what I said about Martinelli, it was always the plan to keep him in
Thanks for that Warren. With that, let’s look ahead to Gameweek 26. Starting with who is rising and falling after Gameweek 25. The deadline for transfers this week is 11am UK time on Saturday March 4. There are no double gameweeks this week, but Brighton, Crystal Palace, Southampton and Brentford play twice next week and then in Gameweek 28 there are no matches for Brighton, Fulham Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and West Ham. In Gameweek 29 there are 12 teams with two matches. More here. This mix of fixtures means that some top FPL players have said they will play their wildcard this week, with Arsenal, Brighton and Brentford players popular choices…
Risers and fallers
Risers and Fallers aims to help you identify the FPL players who delivered performances that made us sit up and take notice in recent gameweeks, and those we think you should be downgrading in your assessments ahead of Gameweek 26 and beyond. That analysis combines our considerations of value, talent, form and opportunity to score points in the coming games, all supported by Impect’s excellent data.
That formula doesn’t change this week, but it does come with a caveat. As the 2022/23 season enters its denouement, the Premier League fixtures are piling up.
If you’ve already used your Free Hit chip (which allows unlimited transfers in a single gameweek), you will need to think strategically about which players to bring in over the next couple of gameweeks.
For example, Brentford have six fixtures over the next four gameweeks. Fulham and Manchester City, on the other hand, have just three, while Arsenal, Everton, Liverpool, Manchester United, Tottenham, West Ham and Wolves have four. Every other side has five games.
Minutes on the pitch significantly impacts value, and that is reflected in this week’s Risers and Fallers.
Gabriel Martinelli (MID, £6.5m)
We’ve identified the ultra-talented Brazilian winger as a faller in recent weeks, an analysis that was supported by his FPL output, the eye test and an alarming drop-off in his underlying data. Added to this, Martinelli was benched in Gameweek 24 against Aston Villa, having been substituted early in his previous three appearances.
Up until that Villa game, when he bagged a last-minute breakaway goal after Emiliano Martinez (GK, £4.9m) had gone walkabout, Martinelli had failed to deliver an attacking return in six games.
He now has four goals in his last three and looks to have seen off the immediate threat to his minutes posed by Leandro Trossard (MID, £6.6m), who instead has stepped into a false nine role ahead of Eddie Nketiah (FWD, £6.8m). Those eyeing up the impressive Belgian winger should factor in the likely imminent return of Gabriel Jesus (FWD, £7.9m).
If you have Martinelli or the brilliant Bukayo Saka (MID, £8.5m) in your side, you won’t be ditching either ahead of a soft run of fixtures against Bournemouth (H), Fulham (A), Crystal Palace (H) and Leeds United (H). There might not be a double fixture on the horizon, but only Arsenal and Spurs of the current top four have a fixture in Gameweek 28.
If you’re looking for a differential defender, Oleksandr Zinchenko (DEF, £5.1m), who has delivered attacking returns in two of the last three fixtures and is a high performer on Impect, is worth a look.
Ivan Toney (FWD, £7.6m)
Toney appears in Risers not because of his performance against Crystal Palace in Gameweek 25 – his Impect data was distinctly average in that game and Brentford as a team delivered an expected goals (xG) of 0.8 versus their opponent’s 1.22.
However, six fixtures in four gameweeks for one of the top strikers in the league on every available measure is something we simply cannot ignore.
His output in recent games hasn’t set the world alight – two goals in the last five to be exact – but this is a player who often gets his returns in bursts.
Toney has had back-to-back games with zero attacking returns five times this season. The first of those was followed up by a hat-trick against Leeds, the second with three goals in two games against Newcastle and Brighton, and the third – a four-game stretch – he bounced back with four goals and an assist in three games.
In short: this is a player who, over the course of the season, has been difficult to pin down week-to-week, but stick with him and you’ll likely be rewarded – particularly with two double gameweeks on offer. Just make sure you keep an eye on the news for any developments on the Football Association’s investigation into allegations that Toney broke betting rules. At some stage he is likely to face a suspension, but it is not clear when.
Sean Dyche proved during his time at Burnley he is capable of dragging results out of very ordinary footballers. However, he has taken over an Everton side devoid of confidence and without an attacking outlet to ease the pressure on an increasingly creaky-looking defence.
Dyche was right to point out the performance was good against Leeds in Gameweek 24, when their opponents registered a post-shot xG of 0.
Everton looked bright at times going forward against a lively Aston Villa outfit and can consider themselves unlucky to not have found the back of the net in a 2-0 reversal, having registered an xG of 1.45 and a post-shot xG of just over 1.
However, Villa’s corresponding xG (2) and post-shot xG (2.8) reflected the ease with which they created chances (although to be fair Villa’s progressive attack have looked consistently threatening in recent weeks).
Things got worse at the Emirates, with Arsenal’s post-shot xG of 3.17 only slightly outperformed by the four goals they scored.
Nottingham Forest away and Brentford at home aren’t as challenging as that fixture, but it’s hard to trust a backline that’s leaking chances as readily as Everton.
Cody Gakpo (MID, £7.8m)
Another recent Riser, Cody Gakpo looked to have established himself as Jurgen Klopp’s first-choice centre forward, having started five games in a row and scored in back-to-back fixtures against Everton and Newcastle.
Both of those goalscoring outings were supported by strong underlying data (his offensive Impect score was better than 80% of players in his position group), and FPL managers unsurprisingly chose to snap the Netherlands international up ahead of a double Gameweek against Crystal Palace (A) and Wolves (H).
Four points in those two fixtures was clearly below expectations, but it was Klopp’s decision to drop Gakpo in favour of Diogo Jota (FWD, £8.8m) that is really concerning.
With Mo Salah (MID, £12.7m) a guaranteed starter, that leaves Jota, Darwin Nunez (FWD, £8.8m) and Gakpo to fight for two starting berths. Gakpo probably offers the highest upside as a goalscoring midfielder (both Nunez and Jota are strikers in FPL, and Gakpo is also £1 million cheaper), but his surprise benching means he has to be given a value downgrade.
Leicester City attackers without James Maddison (MID, £8.1m)
Leicester followed eight goals in two fixtures against Aston Villa and Spurs with a 3-0 defeat at Old Trafford and an insipid 1-0 home loss against Arsenal. Their post-shot xG in that Arsenal game was 0.
The Foxes then deservedly crashed out of the FA Cup to Championship side Blackburn Rovers. In both those two recent fixtures, James Maddison was absent.
If he returns, Leicester attackers are immediately more valuable, especially against average sides. But without him, it’s worth looking elsewhere in FPL.
Let’s finish by taking a quick look at the leaders in some key performance indicators from Impect. As explained above, it is important to look at this data over a longer period than just one week. The data below is for the Premier League since it restarted after the World Cup…
Offensive Impect since December 26 (minimum 180 minutes)
Manor Solomon - 100 (only 1.3 matches, but wanted to include for context)
Marcus Rashford - 100
Danny Ings - 99
Evan Ferguson - 99
Ollie Watkins - 98
Harry Kane - 98
Kelechi Iheanacho - 98
Solly March - 97
Erling Haaland - 97
Bruno Fernandes - 96
Marcus Rashford - 5.6
Ollie Watkins - 5.5
Harry Kane - 5.2
Erling Haaland - 4.8
Eddie Nketiah - 4.7
Kaoru Mitoma - 4.2
James Ward-Prowse - 3.9
Solly March - 3.7
Aleksandar Mitrovic - 3.4
Brennan Johnson - 3.3
Darwin Nunez - 3.3
That’s it for this edition. Thanks for reading and best of luck in Gameweek 26
Graham and Tom