It ,s a fact. fantasy is guesswork
BEN GOULD ponders how he can improve his standing in the online game
FANTASY football’s warping of our natural instincts is well-documented. You can find yourself cheering on even the game’s most heinous villains when their touch in the opposition’s half brings the promise of precious points – even when they’re playing your own team. The even murkier side of this phenomenon is much less discussed, however – what becomes of the poor souls for whom FF dominates their football lives and yet, somehow, results in utter failure?
Spending inadvisable amounts of time browsing dedicated FF forums and websites can lead to the belief that you, too, can finish in those mystical top few thousand places if you simply follow the advice given. Last season, I took the game “seriously” for the first time and my final placing in the mid-fourteen thousands was comfortably my best ever. Foolishly I thought that by dedicating even more time to this campaign I could only improve. Didn’t we all!
Unfortunately, internet groupthink tends to build beliefs on the shaky foundation of semiinformed speculation and the flimsiest of hunches. For example, Kevin Mirallas was supposed to be a points machine under Roberto Martinez – listed as a midfielder, but playing in the same wide right position which had yielded huge returns for the likes of Antonio Valencia and Charles N’Zogbia at Wigan (whose postMartinez careers have hardly sparkled). Phillipe Coutinho? Brilliant on arrival, therefore bound to be amazeballs after a full preseason in an even more attacking Liverpool side.
Instead, they’ve joined the vast majority of last season’s big-hitters in utterly failing to deliver. Theo Walcott is crocked again. Juan Mata has barely played for reasons unclear. Gareth Bale is gone. Michu and Christian Benteke are suffering the dreaded second season syndrome (as world medical authorities don’t call it). And Robin van Persie would have to be netting a hattrick every other week to jusfity his eye-watering price tag.
The warning signs were there. All the big clubs were in flux, with new managers bringing in bucketloads of new attacking players to make lineup predictions impossible, or in David Moyes’ case bringing in sod all. Thus we relied on the tiniest crumbs of managerial chit-chat during preseason, somehow forgetting that everything these men say is either kidology, hyperbole or out-and-out shameless fibbery. Edin Dzeko would apparently be City’s main striker this season, or at least that’s how Senor Pellegrini massaged his ego in July after welcoming another £40 million-worth of forwards to the Etihad.
Arsenal were the exceptions, of course, but nobody was expecting them to take advantage of their rivals’ chaos with quite so much relish. Unearthing such undervalued gems as Aaron Ramsey – unquestionably the breakout star of the season – before everyone else is one of the keys to FF success. Wait for too long to get them in and you’re merely jumping on the bandwagon, where any benefits they bring are shared by all your rivals too.
At the beginning of last season there were enough certainties (eg Bale, RVP) to build your team around, and others who the internet quickly agreed were must-haves (Michu, Begovic, Suarez). This could set you off on a fine start that lesser-informed opponents would then struggle to claw back. One year on, all those guys are premium-priced and every cheaper player tipped to ascend to the next level has turned out to be a damp squib in fantasy terms.
The more of these mistakes you make early on, the quicker you begin to press the panic button, increasing the risk of you leaping onto yet more false bandwagons as the transfer window closes – Christian Eriksen as the fulcrum of a newly free-flowing Spurs attack, for example. Before you know it, 10 games have gone and you’re 1.5 millionth in the world, wondering where it all went wrong. Oh sure, some of those guys up above who’ve had lucky starts will lose interest or stop playing altogether. But gaining a few hundred thousand places by default is a rather empty victory.
It’s tempting to just throw your hands up to say it’s all about luck. But then hindsight kicks in, and with it the nagging refrain of “there’s always next season”. If I just follow my instinct sometimes rather than slavishly latching onto the so-called internet experts then surely the future is mine for the taking.
The other possibility is for me to remain forever mediocre, with the odd high-scoring week all I’ll have to show for all those months of dedication and sacrifice. Which neatly sums up the fan experience as a whole, when you come to think about it. Maybe FF isn’t so warped after all.