First thoughts on the Free Hit chip

On 11th July, as FPL managers worldwide were mashing refresh in anticipation for the 17/18 game to open, FPL towers threw us a bone with information about a new chip – free hit – which replaces the widely derided all out attack:

This chip basically allows you to bring in as many players as you want – a whole new squad, potentially – for one Gameweek only. It’s a really interesting idea, and I’ll be fascinated to see what “best practice” emerges from it.

The way I see it, there are two “best practice” applications to the chip:

  • In Blank Gameweeks (BGWs) for some sides, where you’d previously had had to plan your transfers meticulously to ensure you get an XI on the pitch.
  • In Double Gameweeks (DGWs) if you have, for whatever reason, used your wildcard early and/or haven’t planned satisfactorily , plus don’t want to take hits to create the perfect side.

In this short article, I’m going to focus on the former (which will be how I envision using the chip) through a personal anecdote around the tale of Gameweek 28 last season.

An illustrative story

Around the end of January last season, some clever bods in the FPL community, notably via FFS and also @bencrellin on Twitter, began to raise awareness of potential upcoming BGWs due to Cup fixtures.

The big BGW was later confirmed to be Gameweek 28, in which only 4 matches ended up going ahead:

BOU v whu

EVE v wba

HUL v swa

LIV v bur

Accordingly, many FPL managers (including myself) adjusted our transfer strategy.

From GW22-24, with the exclusion of Kun Aguero and Raheem Sterling, who came in for the City DGW in 27, I exclusively brought in players who had a game that week – Chris Brunt (GW22), Romelu Lukaku and Ramiro Funes Mori (24), Sadio Mane and Gylfi Sigurdsson (GW26) and Seamus Coleman and Fernando Llorente (28).  This led to me having 10 players in GW28, and a score of 52(-4) which would’ve been more if I’d gotten over my affective forecasting issues and captained Lukaku.

In contrast, my FPL arch-rival and cousin Mark, didn’t read any of this news and, instead, brought in players that were doing well during that time. He pulled his wildcard in GW23, but only brought in Llorente of any players in 23 (Sanchez, Walcott, Lescott were the others he brought in – yep, he pulled a WC to do 4 transfers. You can see the level of player we’re dealing with here), brought in Pickford and Sterling in 24, Martins Indi in for GW25, Hazard for 26, Kun (to cover TC) and Pedro in 27 before, finally, bringing in Kaku in 28. He got 38 that week, including a Kaku ©, with only 6 players on the field.

Here are our GWs side by side:

Me = Left; Mark = Right

However, with the introduction of the “free hit” chip, I’ve begun to wonder a bit about the lead up to that Gameweek. Having a look back at Mark’s scores versus mine in this period, his “bring in the best performing players” idea (n.b. not a strategy, he didn’t know what he was doing really) outperformed my transfer strategy of planning for GW28 by 29 points (n.b. this is face value GW scores, given I’m writing this quickly as an example):

This really showed in GW26, where my GW28-friendly side was absolutely decimated by Mark’s team by 74 points to 46:

Left = Me; Right = Mark

Because he wasn’t aware of the blanks, Mark’s team contained a multitude of players that I wasn’t considering such as Kane (note his trio of Spurs, who were in ridiculous form), Costa and Hazard. He even had 8 on the bench with Fraser.

Looking at this history, through rigidly sticking with my “blank navigation plan” through this period, I missed out on so many points. I ignored getting more Spurs, for example, who were absolutely killing it at the time. To compound matters, I removed Alli for Sterling in GW28, within which Alli went on to score 12 points (goal and assist) versus Sterling’s 6 (assist; blank). I also missed out on a whacking 33 points through not considering Harry Kane either (hattie in GW26, brace in GW27… covered elsewhere, too). I won’t do a “what I would’ve gotten if…” analysis now , as that could be misleading using captain hindsight to guess what I might’ve done. However, it’s worth also referencing the fact I was forced to wildcard earlier than usual (GW32, 4 GWs after the blanks and 4 GWs before everyone else) and that I took 12 points worth of hits (unusual for me) in those Gameweeks in an effort to transition out of my “blank friendly squad” which, ultimately, required the wildcard to do.

Concluding thoughts

Psychologically, the behaviour I exhibited is linked to the idea of anchoring, or more specifically the focus effect which is where one important piece of information to the individual is used to structure subsequent judgements around. As the name suggests, one is focused on to such an extent on that one event that errors are made in related decisions. In this case, because I’d focused heavily on GW28 being blank, I’d made errors in ignoring the great form of Spurs (as a principle example), which led to me losing out to my arch-rival in this period, who didn’t experience the same behavioural impacts because he was ignorant of what was going on.

The beauty of the free hit chip, then, is that it liberates us more engaged FPL managers from this issue occurring again. It levels the playing field in times like these between the engaged and non-engaged.

Blank gameweeks are inevitable, as they are the fuel that fires the later big DGWs. For me, the best use for the new chip is clear; we can push the button on it for the one anomalous BGW that’s on the horizon, and then revert to our teams which are geared to “normal” gameweeks after that.

It could be good for managers like me, whose tendency to overthink clearly tends to result in clouded judgement and tunnel vision; knowing I have the “get out of jail free” card with the chip if a BGW is approaching is great. It gives me another weapon in my arsenal to help me to navigate the tricky time in the calendar, which can only be a good thing.

All in all, I’m in favour of the new chip.

But can you open the game already, FPL towers!?

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