June 2024

Remove bias and enjoy playing Fantasy Premier League Football (FPL)

~ minute read

Serious footballers serious fun

I'm really enjoying playing FPL, its fantastic! It's a relatively low touch and hugely rewarding and satisfying strategic game, it's even helped me enjoy the the premier league more and support each team for a variety of reasons! To be successful it's taught me that you must be aware of your cognitive biases and remain objective.

As a Liverpool fan I really struggled not to include my favourite players, but this bias was not helping me make good decisions or get the best from my team. So I had to work out where to source my information to make decisions and its this journey that continues to prove to be difficult. What I will tell you though, is that biases are everywhere so watch out for them.

In this musing I want to talk about the ten types of biases commonly associated with FPL so you can hopefully identify them and avoid as best you can.

I want to be crystal clear here I don't guarentee little green arrows every week, although that would be a nice consiquence, my intent is for you to enjoy the game for what it is and help you with your general decision making - Lets dive in!

1. Confirmation Bias

Superstar footballer

This is the tendency to search for, interpret, and remember information that confirms one's preconceptions, ignoring contradictory evidence.

Example: You believe that Kevin De Bruyne is 'essential' player for your season, so you focus only on information that supports keeping him in your team, ignoring his recent dip in form and his injury woes.

Practical steps to avoid: Actively seek out information that challenges your beliefs and make decisions based on a comprehensive view of available data. Regularly review player stats and performances and be honest with yourself.

Questions to Ask:

  1. What are the objective statistics for this player over the last few weeks?
  2. What do experts or other FPL managers say about this player?
  3. Are there players with better current performance that I'm overlooking?

2. Recency Bias

This is the tendency to give more weight to recent events than to earlier events.

Example: After Jarrod Bowen scores two goals in a recent match, you transfer him into your team, ignoring his overall season performance and his upcoming fixtures.

Practical steps to avoid: Look at a player's long-term performance data rather than just recent games. Consider the player's consistency over the entire season or multiple seasons.

Questions to ask:

  1. How has this player performed over the entire season?
  2. Is this recent performance an outlier or part of a trend?
  3. Are there other players with more consistent performances over time?

3. Bandwagon Effect

Lost of footballers

This is the tendency to do (or believe) things because many other people do (or believe) the same.

Example: You transfer in Bruno Fernandes because he has the highest ownership percentage, despite not being convinced by his recent performances.

Practical steps to avoid: Make decisions based on your own analysis rather than following the crowd. Evaluate the player's fit for your team and strategy.

Questions to ask:

  1. Why am I considering this player? Is it just because everyone else is?
  2. Does this player fit my team's needs and my overall strategy?
  3. What do the stats say about this player compared to other options?

4. Anchoring Bias

This occurs when people rely too heavily on the first piece of information they encounter (the "anchor") when making decisions.

Example: You fixate on Mohamed Salah's high price from the start of the season and avoid him even when his form justifies the cost.

Practical steps to avoid: Regularly update your assessments of players based on current performance and context. Avoid letting initial impressions overly influence your decisions, do your homework.

Questions to ask:

  1. Am I basing my decision on outdated information?
  2. How has the player's performance and role evolved since I first evaluated them?
  3. What is the current value of the player compared to their recent form and fixtures?

5. Availability Heuristic

Winners with the trophy

This is the tendency to overestimate the importance of information that is readily available, often recent or dramatic.

Example: You flick though the list of players and notice that Richarlison has a good amount of points so far this season. What you fail to realise is that despite these coming from a hat-trick against a promoted team, his overall performance in the season has been lackluster.

Practical steps to avoid: Look at a wide range of data and statistics rather than just memorable events. Ensure your decisions are based on a thorough analysis.

Questions to ask:

  1. Am I giving too much weight to a single memorable performance?
  2. What does the overall data say about this player's consistency?
  3. Are there other players with better, less dramatic but consistent performances?

6. Sunk Cost Fallacy

This is the tendency to continue investing in a decision based on the cumulative prior investment (time, money, effort), despite new evidence suggesting it may not be beneficial.

Example: You keep Raheem Sterling in your team because you've already spent a lot of budget on him, even though he's not delivering points.

Practical steps to avoid: Make decisions based on current and future potential, not past investments. Regularly reassess your team and be willing to make changes as needed.

Questions to ask:

  1. Am I keeping this player because of past investment or future potential?
  2. What are the opportunity costs of sticking with this player?
  3. Would I select this player if I were picking my team today?

7. Overconfidence Bias

Concentrating footballer

This is the tendency to overestimate one's abilities or the accuracy of one's predictions.

Example: You believe you have a superior strategy and ignore advice or warnings about your chosen players, like underestimating a tough fixture run for your key players.

Practical steps to avoid: Stay humble and open to new information and perspectives. Regularly review and analyze the performance of your team with a critical eye.

Questions to ask:

  1. What evidence do I have that supports my confidence in this decision?
  2. Am I considering potential risks and downsides?
  3. How can I incorporate feedback and advice from other sources?

8. Endowment Effect

This is the tendency to value something more highly simply because you own it.

Example: You overvalue Trent Alexander-Arnold and hesitate to transfer him out despite better-performing, lower-cost alternatives.

Practical steps to avoid: Objectively evaluate all players based on performance and potential, regardlessof whether they are currently in your team. Be willing to make changes for the overall benefit of your squad.

Questions to ask:

  1. Am I overvaluing this player just because they are already in my team?
  2. How does this player's performance compare to available alternatives?
  3. Would I choose this player if I were setting up my team from scratch?

9. Herding

Dominating footballer

This is the tendency to follow and mimic the actions of a larger group, regardless of individual analysis.

Example: You notice a sudden surge in transfers for Bukayo Saka and follow suit without conducting your own research.

Practical steps to avoid: Trust your own research and analysis over popular trends. Base your decisions on a thorough evaluation of the player's form, fixtures, and fit for your team.

Questions to ask:

  1. Why is there a surge in transfers for this player?
  2. Have I done my own research to justify this move?
  3. Does this player align with my team's strategy and needs?

10. Outcome Bias

This is the tendency to judge a decision based on its outcome rather than the quality of the decision-making process at the time it was made.

Example: You judge the decision to captain Timo Werner last round as a good one because he scored, despite your decision being based on incomplete or poor analysis.

Practical steps to avoid: Focus on the decision-making process rather than just the results. Reflect on the reasoning and information available at the time of the decision.

Questions to ask:

  1. Was my decision-making process sound regardless of the outcome?
  2. What information did I consider when making this decision?
  3. How can I improve my decision-making process in the future?

In conclusion

Be sure to keep FPL fun and rewarding by checking your biases. By pinpointing and understanding biases like confirmation bias, recency bias, and the bandwagon effect, I've been able to make more informed and rational choices. This has not only elevated my FPL performance but also made the entire experience more enjoyable. Embracing these insights can transform any FPL manager's strategy, paving the way for a more fulfilling and successful journey. Dive in, learn, and watch your game improve!