Transfer Activity: Abstinents and Wheeler Dealers

My articles on the final top 1K and top 10K teams made me wonder if there is indeed some ‘optimal’ range for the number of transfers that we should strive for to achieve the highest possible overall rank. In this post, I take a look at transfer policies of the top 100,000 teams and see how transfer activity was associated with the final rank on a larger scale.

Total Number of Transfers for top 100K FPL Teams

The winner 14/15 scored 2,470 points, a team with a top 100K rank scored 2,058 points. Here is how transfer activity varied for this range of points:

Top 100K - Number of TransfersFor each amount of total points scored, this chart shows average, minimum, and maximum numbers of transfers. The 5th and 95th percentiles correspond to the amount of transfers so that 5%  and 95% of the teams made fewer transfers.

  • The average number of transfers shows little variance and remains stable at roughly 43-44 transfers, although it slightly decreases towards the right.
  • As we go down the rankings, there is more diversity in transfer activity. The spread between the 5% of the teams with the most transfers and the 5% with the least transfers expands, so does the spread between the minimum and maximum numbers of transfers.
  • At the 2,097 points mark, the minimum number of transfers is 0. Is this the highest ranked dead team? Nope, it’s a fake dead team which made 0 transfers but played both wildcards (what a weird way to play FPL 😀 ). The actual highest ranked dead team has got 2,043 points and finished at rank 121,629. That’s without Hazard or Sanchez, but with the front line of Aguero(c), Austin, and Harry Kane as a third sub. Yes, it did get those 18 points vs Chelsea 🙂

To get another perspective, let’s consider how transfer policies in top 100, top 1K, top 10K, and top 100K differed from one another.

Number of Transfers – Difference between Top 100K, Top 10K, Top 1K, and Top 100

The chart below depicts how the total number of transfers was distributed in each sample.

Transfers 1

  • As already pointed out above, the amount of transfers made by an average top 100K team was only slightly higher compared to that of an average top 10K team. The difference from top 1K and top 100 was more significant: roughly 2 and 3.5 transfers respectively.
  • Among lower ranked teams, shares of teams with transfer activity close to average decline, while shares of teams with significantly more or less transfers increase. Teams with passive or overly agressive transfer strategies were rarely successful and were more likely to end up on lower points.

Here is another way to look at the same data – cumulative distributions (each point of such a distribution shows what share of teams made a certain amount of transfers or less).

Transfers 2

Points Spent on Transfers – Difference between Top 100K, Top 10K, Top 1K, and Top 100

The charts below reflect the same picture with respect to points spent on transfers:

Point Hits 1

Point Hits 2

  • The shares of teams with very few or no hits were similiar for top 100, top 1K, top 10K, and higher among top 100K teams. Roughly 70% of top 100 teams spent 12-32 points on extra transfers.


What is the point of all these graphs? Well, interpetation and conclusions are up to everyone reading this post, my view is the following:

  • Even though the FPL winner didn’t make any hits this season, ruling out point hits doesn’t look like optimal behaviour. The fact that he didn’t take any hits may be simply down to extreme luck with respect to avoiding injuries or may indicate that being a bit less cautious was likely to result in an even higher point tally.
  • On the other hand, moments for taking hits should be chosen carefully. Being overaggressive on the transfer market may decrease your chances for a top finish. But when a hit is obvious, don’t hesitate. This season, 3-8 carefully taken hits were likely to have a positive effect on your final rank.

Of course, it’s also important to understand that transfer activity is secondary to the ability to pick right players. In fact, a lot of what I consider ‘agressive transfer strategies’ may well have been a result of bad player picking ability or bad luck with injuries: when a FPL team has many non-performing players, its rank plummets, and the fantasy manager often has to make more transfers in an attempt to improve the state of his team and catch up. Highly ranked teams may have had less of such bad luck and had fewer transfers to make simply because their players were better performing. The point made above about completely avoiding point hits being a bad strategy still stands though.

These conclusions are based on the data for season 14/15. Each season is different and there is no guarantee that 3-8 point hits will still be an optimal amount next season. For example, in season 13/14 the picture was more messy with more transfer activity being optimal (no top 100K data though):

1. Transfers 13/14 – Distribution 

2. Transfers 13/14 – Cumulative Distribution 

3. Point Hits 14/15 – Distribution 

4. Point Hits 14/15 – Cumulative Distribution


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