Playing the market in the international break

I have seen some FPL managers suggest the first international break is a great time to play a wildcard. They argue the extra long period between gameweek deadlines makes it a great time to buy in that week’s popular bandwagon players who could potentially rise twice in price, sell them for a 0.1 profit and bring in the long-term choices you really want.

Although I answered those managers early last week who were asking who the likely double risers would be, I strongly doubt the tactic is effective. It may have partially worked a few seasons ago when there were lower thresholds for double and triple risers, but not now. I believe transfer activity is similar to a regular game week, but spread over two weeks instead of one. This chart shows why I think that:

International break transfer pattern

The chart shows the pattern of net transfers in (NTI) for the three most popular players in the international break. I predicted last week that these were the only three likely double risers. Bournemouth’s Callum Wilson rose a second time early Friday morning and I believe the other two would have risen early Saturday morning if the Fantasy Premier League site hadn’t crashed on Friday night. Swansea City’s André Ayew and Bafétimbi Gomis played on August 30, which is why their NTI didn’t take off until then.

Look at what happens even for the three most popular players during the international break: for seven days – one week – their NTI slows to a relative crawl. These are players who on most days during the international break recorded NTI twice that of the next most popular players.

Some might argue that despite the slow pace of transfers even less popular players should clock up enough transfers for a double rise, but the first international break of the season is a popular time to play a wildcard. There were 188,272 wildcards used in Gameweek 5 which, if previous years are any guide, is likely to be the third highest number in the first half of this season.

The next chart shows how those wildcards stack up against the total net transfers in for the three players listed above.

International break NTI and wildcard total

There’s a good chance that FPL managers playing a wildcard during this week will be bring one or more of these players in. Wildcards transfers are believe to be ineffective in price change calculations. If 70 per cent of wildcards were used to bring in these three players, they would have only collected around 148-168,000 effective net transfers in.

The prediction model used by FPL Statistics suggested a double rise during the international break required around 140,000 effective net transfers in, plus whatever effective NTI was lost when the NTI counters reset after the first rise.

Given the number of wildcards in play, these three popular picks only just, or would have only just, managed a double rise during the international break. So what hope would the other players have had?

If you had brought Gomis, Ayew and Wilson in on a wildcard, how many of them would you have planned to sell at the end of the week? They have been three of the best performers of the season so far. I asked some managers during the week and a couple told me they planned to shift Ayew. They didn’t say why but I expect it was because they didn’t want to double up on Swansea’s attack. If there were seven or eight double risers during the break there would have been more players that managers would be willing to sell and they might have generated more returns, but 0.1 looks a poor return if a manager plays the wildcard purely to make money.

As long as the existing price change rules are in effect and the first international break remains a popular time to wildcard, playing the wildcard during that break to make money looks to be no more effective than playing it any other week.


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