The impact of potential performance changes.

FI’s top man Adam Cole did a great Twitter “ask me anything” last week taking questions from traders. Obviously, he can’t give full answers to everything because it’s market sensitive but there was some good stuff in there.

The biggest for me was the fairly strong statement above about changes to the performance scoring system.

He says “for next season” so there is a strong likelihood the changes might be in place by then. I would say though, despite best intentions, not every statement like this gets delivered on time. 

And, it was a relatively informal Q+A so the wording may not be 100% calculated. So it’s not guaranteed we will see changes. 

Now, as we will see when I go through the discussion on my Twitter thread on this topic, performance changes are not universally popular.

People make the bets they make and they don’t want the conditions to change which is understandable. 

At the same time, FI can and must evolve the product over time to make it as appealing as possible to more football fans.
 

FI can be a game all to itself at times, with some of the performance winners a real headscratcher for football fans who know the game but don’t know FI.

It’s not that bad. You can see plenty of the world’s best footballers being rewarded on FI at present. But there are some excellent players who don’t get much reward and some pretty basic/unexciting play that gets heavily rewarded.

In my Twitter thread there are some really great points made, both pro changes and against them.

Realistically though, I think FI do have to make some changes over time. If there is a compromise or trader consensus to be found, my take after reading trader comments on Twitter would be this:

Make a small number of surgical tweaks that have broad support amongst traders and make the game more appealing/intuitive to potential new customers. 

What I don’t think traders want is a large number of changes in one season, or anything that comes as a surprise or would be particularly controversial.

How FI announce or consult on changes is important too. Adam Cole mentions an end of season survey which is great, but I also think depending on his how this is phrased, it could lead traders to make lots of assumptions about possible changes, bet on that basis, and then be disappointed if it doesn’t happen. 

I would therefore keep a survey as open as possible without too many multiple choices that give the answers away.

Below, I’m going to briefly round up the key changes that have been suggested by followers on Twitter and then give my view and analysis. 

I’m focusing on the important ones that offer sensible tweaks without causing severe disruption on the market because I don’t think there is appetite for that. 

Possible Changes

Game Winning Goal

I’m well on the record as really disliking Game Winning Goal :). I feel that it has very little to do with actual football performance and everything to do with artificially making the winners tougher to predict for the benefit of FI.

But not everyone agrees and lots of people like it because it introduces a random element that prevents the more consistent players winning regularly and allows more long shots to come through. This is probably true.

My opening suggestion was to scrap it entirely in favour of some kind of modest bonus for scoring a brace or hat-trick. That more reflects real performance although does risk giving Forwards yet another advantage that they just don’t need.

What came through strongly in the Twitter discussion was a preference for keeping GWG but reducing it’s impact to make it a strong factor but not THE factor that you can rarely win without. I think that’s a better idea.

Reducing GWG to 20 or at least 30 would seem to be a good tweak that nobody would be too distressed or overjoyed about which is the sign of a good compromise. And it doesn’t really hammer or benefit any particular player that I can think of because it is a random element by nature.

There were also suggestions that the points could instead be given to whoever got Man of the Match (FI would have to pick a provider for this assessment that had the respect of traders). I like this as it is intuitive to any fan and better reflects real world football.

Key Passes

There is definitely broad feeling amongst many traders that points for passing needs a tweak. Dull tip tapping around in deep midfield or defence is rewarded just as heavily as incisive key passes in the final third which takes far more skill.

As someone who now makes a living analysing performance stats to determine the best players, if I can think of one change that would really make FI better reflect reality this is it. But it would be a big change and have a serious impact on who the best players are so it needs to be done carefully and very gradually.

Some Key Passes are rewarded via assists. But, if a midfielder makes an incisive run (dribbles covered below) and then opens up the defence with a great ball, it’s not his fault if the striker fluffs the chance.

An action like that should obviously be rewarded far more then a centre back tapping it to another centre back even if the striker misses.

I don’t mind 1 point for any pass staying. But I think a modest bonus for a key pass would work well, perhaps getting 3 points instead of 1 (+2). This shouldn’t wreak havoc but would be a nice tweak.

Dribbles

Seeing a player beat a man and dribble into a dangerous area is one of the most exciting things to watch and requires a lot of skill. Yet, it isn’t rewarded at all on FI and this was frequently mentioned by traders in my Twitter thread. 

This is responsible for a lot of trader errors/disappointment because people instinctively watch these players and think they must be great. But on FI, they tend to really under perform.

I think adding a modest number of points (maybe just +3) for a meaningful take on/dribble combined with a minus number of points for failure (-2?) would be a good balance. You want to reward the players who beat their man and advance with the ball into a dangerous area.

I don’t think we want to reward anyone walking the ball out from defence unchallenged. Or the wannabe who tries to beat his man multiple times and always loses the ball.

This would make watching a take on attempt really exciting as it could go either way for a big point swing. And that better reflects the excitement of watching it in reality.

Defenders

Defenders weren’t specifically mentioned in the thread but it’s something I want to touch on briefly.

Defenders are really struggling to differentiate themselves right now because there are so many ball playing defenders that are capable of putting up a 150 score. Predicting who will get a few more passes on a given day is both impossible and boring.

They tend to get beaten anyway by whichever defender happens to bag the match winner on the day.

It’s a big reason why defender prices are so suppressed and any “out of position” defenders who are actually midfielders are like gold dust. 

It requires a bit of deep thinking about what makes up a “great game” for a defender and there isn’t an easy answer, certainly not one that will sufficiently compete with the random defender of the day who scores the match winner but otherwise has an average game.

Aerial duels is the most common suggestion. Key passes would give some good full backs a nice boost. And the above reduction in game winning goal would really help too.

Conclusion

Overall I think there is some appetite for some surgical tweaks to the FI scoring system. And, it’s unrealistic to expect FI to stay the same forever.

But, they need to be small, gradual and have broad support amongst traders (although you’ll never please everyone). 

The above suggestions are a starting point for discussion and my hope is that someone at FI picks up on the article to help them with their process. Likes and shares on the Twitter post are therefore appreciated on this one!

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