Ok let’s get straight into this before anything else distracts me.

To All the Players I Slated Before...

I meant every word of my scouting in recent years questioning the viability of Haaland, Mbappé and the like. It was true. 

Sometimes, I flirted with players like this depending on price and circumstance if a wave of hype was obviously coming and it made sense to ride it. But we always had to be aware of the limitations of such players and know when that hype had gone too far.

But things are different now. And I am not a man to hold grudges. I’m adaptable. Let’s be friends, Erling.

The New Winning Bar

If we cast our minds back to Friday’s Live Blog, which seems a hell of a long time ago now, I said that the winning bars will likely look a bit like this from now on:

Bronze or Silver League – defenders and forwards around 170-200 and midfielders 180-210. 

Gold League – defenders and forwards around 210-220 and 220-230 in midfield. 

We actually have a lot of experience of seeing contests amongst around 4 or 8 matches, so this is fairly easy to set a bar on.

I am not just taking a straight average though. I am being harsh to make sure that if we get it wrong, we are wrong in the right way. 

I am setting the winning bar higher than it really should be, so that we don’t catch too many players who just squeak wins occasionally with 150. Which is possible, and will happen quite often. But we can find players better than that for value right now who can get comfortably over the bar.

I’m actually quite stunned my mind could factor that stuff in whilst in shock on that Friday night. Coke does have it’s uses. Coca-Cola, that is.

Big Goalscorers with Weak Baselines

On FI we have never been far away from someone complaining about the fact that the big goalscorers like Haaland or Mbappé were not heavily rewarded on FI. 

It was a bit overblown. 

Goals have always been heavily rewarded on FI. It is built to reward exactly that. But you also needed to make a wider contribution too generally, and this is good for a stockmarket because it makes things less predictable and gives traders more options.

These goalscorers used to be rewarded by IPD. So a Morata, Immobile, Yedder, Lukaku could exist perfectly happily on a diet of IPD dividends and any Match Day dividends were just a bonus. Haaland or Mbappé could not – they were just too expensive for IPD to cover.

But to most fans watching, if you see Haaland smashing in 2 goals but he doesn’t get himself near the top of the scoreboard – this looks weird. We analysts can whine on about the overall contribution to the game etc and it’s not wrong. But FI needs to pass that “eye test” of the average fan. 

Someone like Mbappé was a bit more complicated. He actually does make a solid contribution to the game but he just slipped between the cracks in the matrix – he did good things that he was just not rewarded for. I had a bit more hope for Mbappé as a future scoring matrix tweak could bring him in quite easily. 

That isn’t needed any more.

And this is a good thing – a product that better reflects reality is just more attractive to fans. And there should be fewer instances of people chasing highly attractive but flawed star names to prices far above what they can ever hope to acheive. 

Most of these players can easily get over the 170-200 winning bar on Bronze/Silver with just 1 goal, provided it is matchwinning. Without the matchwinner, it may well still be a struggle. 

To be assured of competing on a Gold and hitting 210/22, someone like Haaland would need likely need 2 goals. Haaland is one of the worst examples though, ironically. He does little else other than score. But that is enough now.

Some of these examples might have been ones that often got favourable reviews  anyway, but if included here, it is because their prospects have improved significantly now.

Examples: Haaland, Mbappé, André Silva, Kane, Lukaku, Lautaro Martinez, Immobile, Morata, Zlatan (Retirement Home?), Belotti, Salah, Mané, Calvert-Lewin, Kramaric, Depay, Yedder, Ekambi, Gouiri, Moise Kean, Icardi, Delort, Volland. Jonathan David, Raphinha, Lewandowski

Note however, I wouldn’t make this a free for all on anyone who can possibly score a goal. Bamford for example is still quite weak. In the coming weeks, I will go into more detail on exactly who is better than who… but right now I think the broad brush strokes will be enough.

High Baseline, Low Threat

Another point of contention – some people hate it when the midfielder wins for spending the game tip tapping around midfield racking up points. Others see this as a vital part of build up play that should be rewarded, there is more to great football than just goals after all.

If you make scoring tweaks here you have to be careful, as if you reduce baseline as a factor and put it more on goals, things get more predictable and in a market you want a wide range of choices. And if you are FI you also want quite a bit of randomness. If it is all on goals everyone just gravitates there as it is really obvious who the regular scorers are, leading to stagnation as people just sit on predictable holds.

There is a tweak that likely satisfies all sides, something like reducing the penalty for accurate passing under pressure in the final third. So that risky, but potentially more incisive passing gets to compete with the safe tip tapping. Anyway. Matrix can wait for another day.

Who are the big baseliners who benefit strongly here, and can now win far more often than they could before?

Examples: Nkunku, Savanier, Upamecano, Kostic, Ward-Prowse, Rodri, Alex Sandro, Locatelli, Brozovic, Verratti, Paredes, Gueye, Tah, Van-Dijk, Christensen, Alba, Jorginho, Sulé, Marquinhos, Bastoni, 

What is interesting here is that a player who might average around 120-150 and is known as a former “high baseliner” legend of FI like Parejo is struggling some here.

This will require a significant adjustment to our thinking. See, the value in Parejo was never in his consistent 120-150. It is in that one day when he explodes with a goal, giving him a total high enough to claim Star Man.

Now, it is not really worth holding a Parejo for that 1 day where he explodes and wins 2p. It was only worth waiting for that day when you win 14p or 28p. And once Leagues starts… that day ain’t ever gonna come.

Remember, we need players who can win again, and again, and again ideally in rapid succession to generate interest. 

So, with these sorts of high baseliners now we either need an exceptional baseline, like Rodri or Tapsoba, that can get over the regularly line without help from a goal or assist. Or, we need enough goals and assists to get that player over the winning bar regularly. Occasional goals ain’t going to cut it anymore.

It is also worth highlighting that I have come across players that were good before, but who are getting a significant boost from Leagues, at least in terms of being regular winners. 

Kimmich for example. Not exactly a struggler before but… it looks now frankly absurd the number of times he will be getting over the winning bar. Now, existing holders are not going to be seeing him as a winner from all this. He isn’t overall, far from it.

He was smashed from £6.50 to 83p and the yield overall will be down too. Kimmich is exactly the sort of player who lost from all this.

However, if we do get through this, and ever see Leagues, we need a perhaps painful mental reset. By this point, Kimmich is undervalued and oversold. Hugely so. There will be little success for us in always framing things against our buy price or the values of the past. Only what is value from here. And Kimmich undoubtedly is.

I may have mentioned some of these yesterday but it is worth highlighting that players like this will be in a similar boat to Kimmich and were good already but are now likely regular winners in Leagues: Alberto, Tapsoba, Dias, Stones, Cancelo, De Jong, Thiago, TAA, Insigne, Robertson, De Bruyne, Angelino, Kovacic, Alonso. 

 

Final Thought for Today

With players such as the above added to our existing base of scouting, we’ve got more options than ever if it comes to picking a “Squad”. 

If we want 50 really good choices, they are there waiting for us. It’s a little challenging but also quite fun to get a balance across the leagues and across positions, if that is what we are going for.

For example: we don’t really want to pick 10 EPL midfielders in a 50 player portfolio, because only 2 can ever win even on the biggest match day, so we are ensuring that we would definitely have 8 losers! This is why coverage and balance is important.

And certainly right now… things as they are… finding value in targets we already know about is not exactly a problem we have. The main problem we have is the stability of FI itself. 

But I think what Scouting looks like under Leagues should we get there is less about tagging players as “good performance player” and “bad performance player” and probably more about working out who is looking that 20-30% better right now

Thing is, whilst I think many people will see a lot of options in Leagues because of the lower winning bar… I think this is a bit of a trap.

If we were to get a bit lazy and think “well, anyone can win now! I’ll pick my favourite teams”. Well. You could. But it’s unlikely to be optimal. I think that mindset leads to a portfolio of fairly mediocre players who can win occasionally but never really generate much momentum.

We want tight portfolios that have the very best picks.

And then, we’ll be surfing the peaks and troughs of the market. As one player wins a few in succession, people will notice and come in for them. Great. 

But if we do our job, we will probably know of another player, equally good, who is cheaper because he hasn’t won in a while. And we can switch horses, pocketing the difference. 

In many ways, I think bad Scouting just got easier in Leagues. Much easier to pick an average player and eventually get that win now, right? 

But I think good Scouting will be harder. We will need to be sifting the outstanding 3.5 out of 5 stars and 4 out of 5 stars+ players from a very, very big chasing pack of mediocre 3 out of 5 stars passengers that will weigh us down. 

And it can be fine margins between those two lines.

A challenge, but one I am looking forward to and I just hope we get there.

It is still touch and go and whilst I understand that FI are probably best letting things settle for a few days before they say anything…

If that space is left unfilled for a 1-2 more days that silence will start to get deafening. 

I would at least like to know that they are still up for turning this around. Sticking in. Apologetic. Humble. Showing us they have a plan for getting back up off the canvas. 

It’s all very well preparing for Leagues and certainly worthwhile to get all this thinking down, but it really is hard to focus on this when I remain worried about the bigger picture. 50/50 still, maybe?

I will be taking tomorrow as a rest day, but like I say, I’ll be monitoring and will jump back in if we get any significant news.

And I will be back on Friday either way.

Oh and I just want to say. This is another day where I have had an inbox full of amazing supportive messages, a complete antidote to some of the hysterical poison often thrown around on social media or the garbage you can read in the news etc. This is keeping me motivated more than anything else.

There are good people out there. And it probably wasn’t until these recent days that I realised so many of them had been reading my stuff all this time. I guess in a crisis you find out what people are really like.

Best,

Adam.

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