Our team of Hall of Famers and guest writers are offering regular contributions throughout the 2023/24 Fantasy Premier League (FPL) campaign. Here, former champion Simon March asks how much is too much when it comes to investing in a particular team.
There’s a belief among some economists that an employee should never buy shares in the company they work for, the reason being that, as an employee, they already have enough riding on its success. It is controversial advice because if you worked for, say, Google in the early 2000s, it would have been very much in your interest to have bought shares in the company. But for every Google, there is an Enron and thus the core principle remains; it is sometimes dangerous to overinvest in one thing.
The principle is also applicable to FPL where we Fantasy managers are constantly debating whether to double or triple up on players from a certain team and also the, perhaps less-discussed quandary, of whether it is sensible to captain a player from a certain club if you also own other assets from that team.
These questions become more significant as we enter Double Gameweek season, so exactly how much is too much when it comes to investing in a particular team?
Defence and attack
It’s worth noting before we really get into it that doubling or tripling or quadrupling (if you are captaining) up on a team’s defence or attack is quite a different consideration to, say, owning a defender and a forward from the same team. When it comes to the latter scenario, it is debatable whether you should even consider it ‘doubling’ up at all since defenders and attackers exist on somewhat different planes in FPL.
While defenders may, of course, score attacking points and midfielders moderately gain from a clean sheet, for the most part, defenders and attackers can both score or not score points without overly affecting the other’s ability to do so. In other words, if a team’s striker is dropping a stinker, it doesn’t necessarily mean their teammates in defence won’t score FPL points. Though it remains true that, if a team is performing poorly in general, the odds of any of their assets bucking the trend and performing well will be lower.
Broadly speaking, however, the greater your exposure to assets from an individual team, the greater your opportunity is to profit from their success. This tends to be the focus as we approach a Double Gameweek. However, what we often ignore is that the opportunity for your investment to backfire also increases as your exposure grows.
So, when determining whether to fully invest in any individual team, the first question we need to ask is: how big is the opportunity and is the potential payoff worth the risk?
The positive factors affecting the size of a potential payoff include the quality of the assets (core ability and form), the team they play in, their opposition and, of course, how many fixtures they have in a given Gameweek. If all of these factors are favourable, then it makes sense, on the surface at least, to invest as heavily as possible. It is the FPL equivalent of having a really good hand in poker, if you don’t make the most of it, you will likely be left counting how much of the opportunity you missed, even if you win.
Of course, it is important to be honest and objective when assessing exactly how favourable these factors are. We FPL managers have a remarkable willingness to ignore most of these factors provided the teams and assets in question have a Double Gameweek. The mere presence of an extra fixture will rarely turn a bad asset into a good one and, of course, that asset will remain on your books until you employ other resources, transfers or a Wildcard, to remove them. Even a player who is good for a Gameweek or a Double Gameweek might not be somebody you want to hold long-term, so that’s always worth considering.
It’s also worth remembering that non-qualitative factors can cause heavy investment in an individual team to backfire. How often, for example, have we gone all-in on a team in a Double Gameweek only to find that some or all of the players get benched for at least one of the fixtures? When you invest heavily in a team you expose yourself to everything going on with that team, and if that includes fixture congestion or, heavens forbid, a late match postponement, you get all the consequences.
This is why, unlike poker players, investors tend to be less inclined to go ‘all-in’ on a prospect, even if it appears like a great opportunity and, instead, spread that risk across a portfolio of investments. Risk is a factor when determining value and thus, when we seek to value our FPL prospects, we shouldn’t ignore the potential pitfalls.
Points eat their own
Another important question to ask when investing heavily in a single team is whether you might end up competing against yourself for points. Defenders and goalkeepers, of course, can all gain clean sheet points, and this is one of the key benefits of doubling (or more) up in defence. However, a single error by one can ruin it for all of them.
With attackers, it’s a bit more complicated because, while there is theoretically no knowable limit to how many goals a team can score in a match, most teams average between 1-2 goals per game over a season with the league winners rarely scoring above 2.5 goals per game. Thus, goals are effectively finite and, while you might get lucky and own the scorers and/or assisters, the number of attacking points you can realistically expect in a fixture are also finite.
This definitely raises questions over the logic of investing heavily in the attack of teams where you intend to captain one of their players because, if you anticipate that your captain will dominate the goalscoring, you must also expect that fewer points will be left available for their teammates.
There are all sorts of mental rationalisations that can be made to counter this perspective (some more valid than others, especially in a Double Gameweek) and to justify heavy investment in individual teams, but what is often missed is the opportunity cost of doing so. Just because you’ve identified a team as the best prospect for whatever period of Gameweeks you’re looking at doesn’t mean that there aren’t also good prospects in other teams, investment in which might reduce your exposure to the negative aspects of tying yourself too much to one team and help to spread the risk.
How heavily you invest in a particular team is, on some level, a reflection of your risk appetite and perceptions of value and doubling, tripling or quadrupling up is not inherently a good or bad thing. However, it is a practice that is best approached mindfully as the emergence of a good opportunity does not necessarily warrant going all in on it.
We should be clear and honest with ourselves about exactly how good the opportunity in front of us is and about the risk associated with it. Sometimes, even if the prospect appears once-in-a-lifetime fantastic, it may still be better for us in the long term to try to gain some of it but not all of it, because doing so allows us to remain agile and take advantage of other opportunities either now, or further down the line.