In the final part of this three part series I will discuss my overall game plan for each stage of the season to come.

So far we have covered the lessons learned from last year and how I see the direction of the market and the key trends in 2018/19.

All of this feeds into my season strategy, which I nail down before I even think about which players to buy.

The purpose of this series is to spark debate and thought, I would not recommend that everyone follows my strategy.

Like any other, it requires a certain set of skills and mindset and there is more than one way to win.

There are however near guaranteed ways to lose. One of them is having no real strategy at all and indulging in erratic “recreational” trading.

We have to be making the trades we want to make, not allowing the market to dictate what we do with it’s irrational short term movements.

Overall Strategy

My strategy will be based on acquiring high performing players at value prices for medium and long term holds. I’ll play to my analytical strengths and continue with extensive statistical analysis to guide my buying decisions.

My portfolio will be performance heavy and consist of about 30 players. This is the number I can hold whilst sticking to my principle of “never hold more players than you can genuinely keep an eye on.”

With my tight aggressive approach, (see Part Two) I am putting my money only into the absolute A grade trades. I consider this reasonably diverse, but not to the point where I am buying B list assets.

I expect to target the value in the £3 – £6 range because I expect the best of these to be pushing £8 – £10 before the season end.

I will also do research on value younger players who are perhaps one or two seasons away from a first team place. These will be relative unknowns and absolutely not any that have been extensively bought.

My rotation policy with premium players (£8+) will continue, alternating around monthly if it looks like one is due a big Media dividend spree. On top of that, in a change from last year, I expect 10% of my portfolio to sit in a limited number of premium assets that I expect to do consistently well.

This is because my portfolio is now of sufficient size that I can do that without robbing myself of money I want to put into the cheaper players. And secondly, it’s a hedge against the possibility that in the next couple of years, dividends could become more important as stellar player value increases become harder to come by.

I will generally not be day trading, mainly due to the high risk/reward nature that delivers huge gains one day and then crushing lows the next. It also does not suit my lifestyle, I do not want to be glued to screens all day waiting to see if a player I don’t care about is going to set fire to his hotel room again and hit the headlines. But I will make rare exceptions when I know I will be online anyway and I can see a slam dunk trade.

Holding players with strong underlying statistics (as opposed to hype or speculation picks) is also the best way to both profit from unexpected windfalls (like the recent bonus) and to withstand any unexpected crashes. If a crash happens, and it will at some point, the hype picks/youngsters/speculation picks will be the first against the wall and I will not be holding them.

Barring any complete curve balls, my tight aggressive approach should lead to continuous and steady growth in my portfolio with very few significant losses, the same as last year. This is opposed to a short term high risk high reward strategy which can be very up and down and subject to variance because you are often relying on a specific short term event happening. I only need statistically likely events to happen over the course of a season.

A long term strategy with smooth, continuous gains keeps me calm, happy and focused and avoids any tilt associated with a trade going bad. It involves hours of research each week, but I can do that when I want and am not subject to the news cycle. Nor do I have to watch every match because frankly, if I believe in a player long term I do not have to care if he has one bad game.

Phases of the Season

I split the season up into the following phases:

  • Pre-Season
  • Early Season
  • January transfer window
  • Late Season

I have an overall plan for how I will be operating at each stage, but obviously, this is based on the assumption that the season plays out according to my predictions from Part Two. I am confident in this overall but there will be some curve balls for sure. I’ll have to adjust this as I go to react to what is really happening.Pre-Season

Roughly covering May to early August, this is where I am generally working the hardest. My goal is to enter the season with all of the key targets bought up very early.

Anyone following the blog will know that I started my buying during the World Cup, long before the rush for performance buzz players for the new season was in full swing. As a result, I am now set to enter the season sitting on huge rises for these players. As people exited World Cup assets and then turned towards performance buzz players in the last couple of weeks, they inevitably had to come and shop in my market.

This was a straight forward prediction to make, before the season people only have one place to go. So I got there nice and early and parked myself bang in the middle of it.

Operating a few months ahead of the market is a theme of my trading. This is where I believe the value is.

I decided not to prepare my portfolio for the the media buzz spree after the World Cup. That was a good call because it was disappointing in the end, but nobody was to know that. The reason I avoided it is that you don’t need to be too early on a big media story to profit big (see Coutinho, Sanchez last year). This is why I am happy to jump on relatively late if I see an extended period of media returns coming. This allowed me to get my money into more performance buzz players ahead of the crowds.

Through my extensive research and analysis, I target value players who have either a consistent history of impressive scores or who have the stats to suggest that they might improve next season if something key changes.

I’ve had a few people say to me that I seem to rely on last years data extensively and that as a limited data set, it does not guarantee future success. This is absolutely correct. But perhaps I haven’t fully explained exactly why I use it so much.

I am not putting my faith in a high performing player from last year continuing to succeed. Some will, some won’t. I am taking a calculated risk that others traders are going to buy players with a history of success before the new season. Traders should. Good underlying statistics are the most rationale basis we have for buying a player in my view. My extensive analysis just gets me in that bit earlier before others catch on.

Whether they go on to do well again next season is a whole other question and sorting out the one season wonders from the consistent performers will be one of the toughest parts of the season to come.

But to set myself up for success, I want to be buying up the key assets early and sitting on huge price rises as the first games begin. This buys me the time and space I will need in early season to evaluate who will be consistent and who will fade away.Early Season

Early season is going to be very volatile time where traders over-react to really inconsequential events.

A squad player or youngster starts and plays well? Great, he’s still going to be replaced by the star coming back from the World Cup. A defensive midfielder who usually gets 2-3 goals a season scores in the opener? Cue mass buying! But he will be sold when as usual he doesn’t score for another few games. A quality striker fails to score? He’ll get sold. But when he scores next game people will come crawling back.

This is going to be really tricky to navigate as this is where we are going to have to try to fathom the difference between the early game events that matter and those that do not.

This is the hardest part of the “buy early” strategy. I am currently holding very desirable assets with a strong history of performance returns. But my problem is that only maybe 60-70% of them will stay good, and it won’t be easy to tell which is which straight away. How to sort the wheat from the chaff is worthy of an article in itself and I’ll cover my approach to that later this week.

This is going to be hard work. But I have put myself in a dominant position as I am holding most of the likely big performers already. I won’t have to be chasing any rises on well established stars. Say Aguero gets another brace in the first game, I do not want to be sat there cringing and having to buy at that point because the value will have gone.

And for those I need to offload, I am sitting on a healthy cushion of gains which gives me time and space to make my decisions, and to comfortably ignore the short term panic decisions of others if I want to.

The other theme is that there will be emerging players who start very well and rise sharply in value. To deal with this, I have set aside around 20% of my bankroll as liquid cash. I do not want to be having to sell any players I want to keep to finance any quick moves. I want to be able to respond quickly and not sacrifice anyone I would rather keep.

After 4-5 weeks have gone by, we will start to see a bit of consistency from the best players and they will be able to survive a bad game or two without an exodus. Traders will also be tired of getting burned by knee jerk decisions and things should settle a bit.

From there, it should be relatively steady as she goes for me as I just continue to monitor what I have and keep checking the stats for any emerging value talent.January

A shorter phase but worthy of mention because of the huge gains that can be on offer during the transfer window.

As early as November we can be looking for our key explosive transfer target. Let’s say that by November Pogba or Hazard are throwing tantrums and agitating for a move, it can be worth trying to get involved sooner. However, as I said above, for the really big stories, you don’t always need to be on all that early to make big money.

The key with these is to ride them just far enough without being greedy. You do not want to be the guy left holding them when the transfer gets completed (particularly if the move is out of the Premier League) because the price will tank. Ideally, you want to be exiting whilst others are still seeing reason to buy so that you can sell to market and avoid an instant sell.

Don’t hang on for those last few dividends, it isn’t worth it. Get out and take the value increase you can bank now.Late Season

In the last few months of the season, starting around March, things start to change. The optimism will dissipate and worries of an “end of season sell off” will start surfacing, particularly for performance buzz based players.

The Index may well come up with events like bonuses to try to keep things level, they will be aware of it as much as anyone.

But this will be a worry and we were largely spared this last season because the World Cup tided things over.

Traders will start getting twitchy. They will be slower to jump on emerging players and quicker to sell in the event of bad news.

This is actually my favourite time of year and I think of it a bit like my “harvest” season. As a medium to long term trader, I have planted my seeds in pre-season and look to take the bulk of my profits around this point.

The time to be exiting a trade is when others still see a reason to buy. So it makes sense to come out earlier than others. Big set piece events are a great time to do it. Will Salah and Ronaldo be clashing in the Champions League semi-final at this point? Great, short term traders can buy them off me for an inflated price on the day of the match.

I’ll be taking a long hard look at my portfolio at this point and taking profits on trades that I think I have ridden as far as they can go.

I do not expect however to be slashing and burning my entire portfolio.

The consistent players with years left at the top will be great long term holds, and I can survive any short term dip. If they are good enough, the value will return in pre-season and I don’t really need to worry.

As the season ends, it will be a prime chance to buy up any players that have been involved in an end of season sell off. And the cycle continues as we head into pre-season once again.Conclusion

So, that’s the overall plan! It’s good to have one but obviously we have to stay flexible. This is all just based on my interpretation of how things will progress.

It’s almost certain that something big and unexpected will fly in and and torpedo even the best laid plans. Then we will find out how adaptable we are!

There are also a ton of different ways to play the Football Index. If you like my approach, or have a totally different one, I’d love to hear about it on Twitter.

I originally started blogging just as a way of setting out my thoughts. I’ve really enjoyed it and my trading has definitely got better as I spend more time thinking about it. I hope you find it useful too.

The blog has grown to around 300 readers a day in just a few months! That’s great given my personal expectation was about 10 with 2 of those being my girlfriend on 2 phones to make me feel better.

Thanks for reading and I wish you the best of luck for the season ahead.

If you find this post useful please like the post on Twitter or share using the below buttons. You can also follow me on Twitter at @_FI_trader for additional daily thoughts and tips.


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