The members area always has a live key strategy which helps put all of the scouting, transfer and market information into context.
It’s not designed to be prescriptive, some members like to stick to it, others pick and choose bits they like, and others just like to see the discussion and have their own plan.
All of this is fine because there is no “perfect” strategy. People have different skills and time commitments to work with.
That said, I do believe in certain principles that can be applied to multiple strategies that are essential to success.
These include working ahead of the market, not following it. Giving yourself multiple ways to win, not just betting on one thing to happen. And making sure you are consciously managing risk as well as gunning for opportunities.
You may want to grab a drink or something because this is going to be a long post! 🙂
These key strategies are crucial. The biggest factor influencing our total returns is how well you nail the trends at the correct time. We need to get our strategy set before we worry about the individual players.
Without a clear strategy, you can end up just following the market stampedes and you are going to get, at best, a mixed bag of results.
So, let’s get to it. After the success of the previous End of Season strategy which couldn’t have gone much better, it’s going to be hard to top that but here goes.
Key Strategy Summary
This is a Summary of the 3 Cornerstones of the strategy. 3 is optional because it will take a fair bit of skill/market knowledge to get right. If you aren’t confident with it, stick to Cornerstones 1 and 2.
The Road Ahead
When planning the previous Key Strategy in February, a shift towards media and away from performance was extremely likely as the season ended.
That’s not rocket science. There was almost nowhere else for the market to go but media with no football happening. The timing wasn’t as easily predictable though, especially with the distraction of the Share Split in the way.
Now, the opposite is true for performance. We know that traders almost certainly have to shift back to performance in time for the new season.
But we don’t know exactly when the majority of traders will do that. The existing season is not even over yet and many “pure” performance players are still dropping.
We also have 3 full months of Summer media ahead. In June and July 5 media places are paid for 2 months putting some lucrative and attractive dividends on the table.
Part 1 of the Summer bonus is now done. Part 2 will encourage some more spend probably towards the end of June as people try to qualify for as much of the 5% as they can before the window shuts. There is no real incentive for people to rush to do that sooner.
Three notable events are the U20 World Cup, the Nations League, and the U21 Euro Championships which will get some attention at the time and may be worth punting on but are not major factors to overall strategy.
From July, we will be into pre-season and I’ll be running through all the match stats to try to find a) new talent and b) determine whether strong performers from last year are set to continue or drop off.
Let’s look at the site trends from the Dashboard and anticipate what they will be in July. This will help us pinpoint where we need to be heading.
Predicted Trends: July
Quality Performance Players
There are still 2 months until July and between now and then, the balance will shift between early May when performance is still off trend towards it becoming the major factor on the market by July.
The broad trends in age and playing position I do not see changing any time soon. Whilst the bubbles of individual youngsters who have been overbought can pop at anytime and my advice about not holding onto them too long at those prices still stands, young players are always going to attract some level of premium.
Over time, I think the youth trend will be reined in from the current manic levels. There will be some harsh lessons and savage drops in this area (as we have already seen recently).
But FI has not yet been around long enough yet for “England’s next big thing” to become “impact player for Stoke”.
When that starts to happen people will start to respect the risk young players come with more, but, I expect it will remain a strong trend for the foreseeable.
You have to respect the trends that exist even when they are crazy. We should work with it, but protect ourselves and don’t hold onto over priced players too long because we never know when this bubble will burst.
Likewise, players at 29 and over should still be expected to struggle although over the long term I expect this to soften up. Especially for this year, 29-30 year old’s in their prime with big Euro 2020 expectations should fare better this season.
I expect the positional trends to remain broadly the same.
Forwards will remain the most desirable because a) it is easier for them to win with a lower score, b) they typically score most goals for IPD purposes and c) they generally carry the bigger media appeal.
Midfielders will remain attractive although it is an increasingly congested category and very competitive.
Defenders I expect to get a bit more interest come pre-season as people try to find some gems or cut price bargains. But by and large, my view from the “What’s wrong with defenders?” article still stands.
There was a time when big club high baseline ball playing defenders in the Otamendi mould would clean up. No longer. There are just too many ball playing defenders now competing with each other. And they often get beaten by the random goal scoring defender of the day.
I will still have some defenders as part of my portfolio but I will be looking for the statistical freaks. The defenders on penalties or free kicks. Or defenders who actually play in midfield or as a winger. Basically, they will need to have something exceptional about them to make the cut.
There could be some cut price “standard” low goal threat defenders who are worth having, if the price is very low, they are at least quality, and they may transfer to an EPL club.
Summer Transfers (Positive and Negative)
By July there will still be plenty of transfer action going on in fact it will likely peak in early August in the final week.
That’s why I don’t think it is optimal to just full shift to performance now and effectively sit out a quarter of the year.
The buying in anticipation of the positive moves is not going to go away and will remain a big factor on the market.
However, unlike the previous trend shift where a performance player would slowly bleed out over weeks, a player can be bang on trend with a positive link one day, and then due to some breaking news, suddenly bang off trend because the move is no longer happening, or he is going to a weak club.
We can still make bets on this but as discussed above, we should always have more than just the hope of a transfer alone as a reason to hold to protect against this risk.
Champions and Europa Leagues
At time of writing, most of the leagues have big questions to settle about who will secure the Champions and Europa League places.
That will have a big impact on perceived value of those players as people prepare for the new season.
Such players are going to be attracting a price premium all Summer if people are optimistic on their performance credentials because they are playing more matches.
European involvement doesn’t make a bad player good. But it makes a good performance player even more valuable.
European Championships 2020
This is rarely mentioned yet but it will be almost certainly the hottest issue of next season.
I have not seen official confirmation this will be included for performance but I cannot see how it wouldn’t be.
It should be part of our thoughts now.
Unless something unexpected comes up, this is set to be the thing that dominates trader thinking in the same way the Share Split did this season.
By December latest, players expected to star at the Euro’s should be running a huge premium. And there will also be plenty of hunting for value picks, youth internationals who might break through, and of course the search for and social media pumping of the ever elusive “Bulgarian Messi” will begin.
In Play Dividend’s
By nature, IPD punt players have to stay off trend at least until early August. But in early/mid August IPD suitable players should get a bit of a surge.
Therefore, rather than punting on the actual IPDs, it is probably easier just to buy them around mid-July and then sell them to people piling in before the season starts to maximise their 30 days window.
Summer Strategy - Cornerstones
Cornerstone 1 is about taking profits from players (who have probably already risen heavily if following the last Key Strategy) in order to a) reduce your risk of a drop if the right transfer link doesn’t happen and b) free up cash to invest in players that could rise further.
It can be a wrench to drop a player like this because “what if he does go to Manchester United?” but with feet on the ground, we know that beyond the initial media blitz, most hyped up players are not going to be returning enough in reality to justify these price tags.
Once the transfer hype fades, lots of traders will be selling anyway so if we want to hold them for the season, there will likely be another good time to buy.
This way, we are going to miss a few of the big moves that do materialise. But, we have already locked in a large share of the profits around the expectations of that move. And, as long as we use that money well, we can make more profit elsewhere.
And, for every big link that does happen many more of them don’t. We are not going to be there taking losses when they fall over at a high price either and we are already seeing examples of this happening.
If we stick in too long with this sort of player we will end up with a very mixed bag of results and we don’t want that.
This specifically applies to players who are very risky because a) they have peaked very sharply in value in anticipation of the transfer and b) a large part of that value is based on the hope of getting that transfer.
If a player relies on a transfer but is still at a value price they could be well worth keeping.
Or, if they retain value because they strongly hit other trends and are still performance suitable if they remain at their existing club, we can be more comfortable about holding them longer.
Through May, I will still be content to keep some transfer holds if I am confident in their value and the strength of the transfer link. As we head into June, I will be much more keen to move them on.
This is the key part of the strategy. Whilst there is an optional nod to some pursuit of short term media during the Summer in Cornerstone 3, getting our portfolios set up with players people will want to hold for the new season by early June is priority number one.
If you do nothing else in the strategy, do this.
No matter how hyped up people get for media, and they probably will, particularly in late May/early June as the 5 place pay outs begin, never lose sight of this main goal.
Many people will say the dividends on offer are too good to ignore. People will say that premium media players for dividends are essential.
It is exactly because people will be distracted by the short term media bonus that highly desirable players in demand for the new season should be available at a cut price in mid-May and early June.
In the last Key Strategy, we made the best profits out of anticipation of the Share Split ahead of time and did not pile in to Share Split players in the last weeks before as many others did. We therefore avoided the post Share Split drops. And we were already in position when the market realised it needed to move to media a week or two later.
We are going to do something similar again but this time, we will use the Media Madness as the distraction instead of the Share Split. As others thrash around trying to chase too many transfers, we will maintain our focus on the most important trends in play.
If following Key Strategy from February, we have already made large profits from the expectation of these media dividends. We don’t actually need to stick around to get them. Although for those who want to, we will still catch some of them in Cornerstone 3.
Cornerstone 2 is about making sure we have the vast majority of our portfolio focused on players that will be in high demand for the new season because they meet the following criteria:
Essential: Performance Suitability
They will be quality performance players, at least and ideally for potential, ideally at both their current and likely destination clubs.
For a Forward, I may slacken requirements to a provided they are a strong goalscorer and a good fit with other trends.
If they are only performance suitable at the likely destination club, that can be fine, but we must be able to get them at a particularly value price, never after they have spiked in price towards or beyond on trend site Guide Prices.
They must be playing in an eligible performance league next season. If they are almost certain to move to a big 5 league this is ok, but be extra careful if a link could break down and leave that player as ineligible for performance next season particularly as we get into June.
Essential: Broadly match Site trends for age and playing position
In general we will respect the trend of youthful, attacking players. However, they must have a realistic prospect of playing regular football as per the other criteria.
We can still go for defenders but I recommend going for defenders that have some kind of exceptional attacking threat as discussed in “What’s wrong with defenders?”. I would only go for a high baseline average threat style defender if they were very on trend and very good value.
Price is everything. A player can be an exact match for all of our criteria but if the price is already flying way above site Guide Prices, it is almost certainly not a good or optimal trade.
No matter how much I may like or want a player, if the price is not good value I put them down and find something else.
The stronger the fit with the Cornerstone 2 criteria including the Desirable ones below, the more we can be prepared to pay. But, we must always find value, optimal profits are not made by following players that have risen sharply already.
Highly Desirable: Champions/Europa League involvement OR European Championships involvement, ideally BOTH.
Champions League is best, Europa League is good. If they have transfer rumours, we ideally want involvement at both current and any likely destination club.
We also want players likely to be involved in the European Championships, either as a potential starter for their national side or as a youngster with a good chance of at least making the squad. The bigger the nation the better.
Ideally, they will be involved in all these competitions. But one or the other is fine.
I would consider players without involvement in these competitions but they have to be available at a very good value price.
Desirable: Transfer Speculation
By June, we should not be holding any players that are highly priced and rely too heavily on an individual transfer happening as per Cornerstone 1.
However, if we can find “Goldilocks” players who fit all of our criteria, have transfer speculation and remain solid players whether they get a move or not, we should make the most of them.
These players are not easy to find anymore but they do exist, either because they are strong performance players who have under performed this season, or because their transfer link has not yet caught fire.
With 5 places being paid for media, there are some attractive dividends on offer in this area short term.
However, I have flagged this as optional/advanced, as it runs slightly at odds with the core strategy in Cornerstones 1 and 2 so could be a bit confusing for newer traders. It also requires a fair bit of skill and market knowledge to time it right.
It’s not required to do this, it just might add some short term profit in late May/June in what otherwise could be a quiet spell. If you are confident with the idea and have the time, go for it. If you don’t, skip this step and focus on Cornerstone 1 and 2.
There is likely to be a big fuss made of media players as we approach June when the 5 place media payouts begin. When people see players winning regular media dividends in early June, people may rush to hoover up those players.
By mid to late May, if we spot players who are almost certain to be getting regular dividends throughout June, we can buy them up to try to get some capital appreciation as others rush in, and collect some dividends ourselves.
These players can be more high risk and we can loosen up from our Cornerstone 2 selection criteria although hitting as many of these as possible is still great.
Cornerstone 3 picks do not have to come from the big media player “usual suspects”. Any player likely to win consistent media dividends in early/mid June will do the job.
Beware of some of the historic graphs floating around showing who has won the most media annually etc. It’s useful to know but do not mentally give any player a free pass – we want a good reason for that player to be in the news in June.
I am also wary of going too early on premium players and will wait because many players at this price are struggling at the moment under the weight of their prices.
There will be lots of pressure on social media to “get in early” on these sorts of players. Some of that can be well meant but generally that is from holders of those players who have been seeing big losses, don’t pay it too much attention.
This is actually one of the few occasions where you don’t really need to get in particularly early.
Even now, we cannot accurately predict who exactly will be getting the media focus come early June. Whoever we pick now is as likely to miss his transfer link and tank as he is to get the one we want and rise.
As long as we aren’t greedy and don’t hold on too long, we can wait until it becomes clear who is about to go on a long media streak and jump on and off relatively quickly to get most of the benefit and avoid taking losses on the transfer gambles that go wrong.
I try hard to avoid specific player examples in these strategies but I appreciate this step is a bit complicated so I am going to give a couple.
Example 1: Neymar or Mbappé (or that calibre of player) who are widely expected not to move this Summer catch serious transfer speculation in May, for example a serious statement of unhappiness/intent to leave this Summer. I’d be happy to get on that straight away, almost regardless of price.
I would look to ride any wave of hype to bank some capital appreciation and collect some dividends, selling to market if there is a big spike in the value or by mid June at the latest. (Note: big moves out of the EPL like Hazard and Pogba are a bit trickier and difficult to jump on late as covered in the Transfer Centre).
Example 2: A big name incoming to a big EPL club, like Dybala, Fekir, Coutinho, Icardi. If it is a rare big move from one EPL club to another (long shot – Richarlison?) that would be ideal too.
If this looks extremely likely and like it could be a story for at least a few weeks, this would be an option particularly because they may well fit with many Cornerstone 2 requirements anyway.
If so, we could be more comfortable holding them longer or even into the season if the trend fit and price remains sensible (probably won’t though!).
It may be that this is a player we have anyway and we buy more. Or we might even have sold them for Cornerstone 1 to manage risk and need to get them back for the short term. That is absolutely fine and there is nothing wrong with re-buying if it is in your interest.
The above chart shows how I imagine my portfolio will be balanced from now until July.
We are now at the end of our last Key Strategy (end of Season). So, we are probably currently holding predominantly media focused buys as per the End of April in the chart.
We will now gradually transition to performance focused buys in May, moving away from media as you can see.
This transition looks quite dramatic but bear in mind that even the last Key Strategy kept performance quality as a firm part of it’s selection criteria. So, some of our existing portfolio we may decide are now solid performance holds for the new season in their own right.
So when people ask “when do we move back to performance for next season?” my answer is “we never really left.”
This is one of the reasons I kept performance quality as a requirement even in the last strategy as we moved towards media. This pre-planning gives us options now.
Because we didn’t buy weak transfer hype only trades, we could decide that players originally bought for media purposes are still good performance holds and can stay on as part of our new portfolio.
These decisions are mainly about price. If they have massively spiked in value it is probably time to cash in. Even if they are fantastic performance players, if the value has hugely spiked up because of a possible transfer, I will almost always sell up and move to something else.
I will be content to hold some transfer speculation picks if I am really sure about them through May particularly if they have not spiked in value and there is still time for them to catch the right link and fly. But as we get into June, the more I will want to focus on performance.
This can be mentally tough to do because there is that Fear of Missing Out if the hoped for link does happen and you miss the big transfer. But more links will collapse than are confirmed and we would end up with a mixed bag of results if we gamble on transfers happening or not.
Also, once the transfer is done the price could easily crash again and if we really want them at the target club there will probably be a chance to pick them up later. Many traders are just in it for the transfer hype.
By contrast, trader behaviour, knowing everyone has almost nowhere else to go but performance by July, is much easier to predict and therefore a much better thing for us to bet on.
By laser focusing our portfolios on the trends ahead, and avoiding piling in late to further media buys we hugely increase our chances of winning and massively reduce our risk of taking losses.
I strongly recommend a gradual transition over May rather than slashing and burning everything too quickly. Spreads add up. Always aim to sell to market.
Many performance players are still dropping. And there is still juice to be squeezed from good media picks.
If you remain confident in a transfer, the price isn’t insane, and they are reasonable long term holds, you may want to wait and see if you can sell them at a premium if they get good gossip and rise in price.
In May I will be a bit more relaxed about holding onto transfer holds I like. By June, I’ll be keener to move them on.
Instant Sell should be a last resort used when something unexpected happens, a mistake has been made or if you really think the player is about to dive.
You will also note that during June/July I expect to have some money in the bank ready to buy up players from the Opportunities section below.
By late July this will be “all in” in preparation for the new season but before then, I want some flexibility.
Last Season’s Strong Performance Players
When we start buying performance players for next season, we should target the obvious ones first, probably from early to mid May depending on how in demand the player will be.
Your first buys do not have to be too clever and the fact that they may or may not continue to perform as strongly next season is not so important right now.
Traders who shop narrowly by past dividend returns/performance scores will be buying them anyway so we just have to buy them first.
In pre-season and early season, I will be scouting and verifying whether they are actually set to continue to be successful or not and we can offload any who look like they are fading away then.
Get a list of targets and then watch the price to try to find the optimal time to buy them. The more well known/strong the player is the earlier you will likely have to buy to get a good price.
Failed Transfer Links
Given that most transfer links do not actually happen, or the exact hoped for move does not materialise, it is much more reliable to be waiting to pick up the pieces than it is to be the person making the bet on the transfer.
Because we have a very clear idea of the players we want, it’s going to be easy to identify a suitable player when he tanks because his transfer link collapsed.
For example. Player A is hotly anticipated to move from a Europa League Bundesliga club to a Champions League EPL club. He is a decent performance player and also a leading attacker for a major international side likely to be at Euro 2020.
The price has rocketed because of his transfer link. Then one day in June the link is killed and he is set to remain at his Bundesliga club. The price tanks. He has now dropped in price but remains a strong fit for our strategy. Probably a good target.
For this reason, having at least 10% of your balance free is a great idea during the unpredictable Summer. This is an accumulation phase not a time where you have to be “all in”.
Once pre-season starts in July I will be scouting all of the games to find a) new talent that might be pushing for starts and b) which established players might be improving or declining.
This is where our performance picks will get smarter and we will dump any of last seasons strong players that look like declining and load up with any promising talent available.
There should be many opportunities here so I am going to be happy to have free cash in time for pre-season and be greedily buying up any cut price value I see.
As above, having free balance available this Summer is going to be helpful.
My philosophy is leading the market, not following it. Being where other traders are almost certainly going to want to be just that bit ahead of them.
It’s not easy because you can shoot yourself in the foot if you try to go too early before the off trend players have finished dropping and before you have maximised your profits on the currently trending players.
And, if your player analysis isn’t on point, you can buy bad players even if they appear to fit the trend and that can get you into trouble too. The site performance ratings will help with this, and you can stay tuned to my player scouting during pre-season for help with that.
Just like we did for the last Key Strategy, we are moving into the right place early whilst the market is distracted by a short term event. Last time it was the Share Split. This time it will be Media Madness.
Cornerstones 1 and 2 are the heart of this strategy. We are planting seeds that will grow and hopefully make us another round of superb profits by July.
If using Cornerstone 3, we will be able to grind a bit more profit from the media madness, whilst remembering to maintain focus on positioning correctly for July.
There are some mentally difficult things to do here. Selling players you might have got attached to who have made you big profits and might yet fly further if they get the right transfer link isn’t easy because you get the Fear of Missing Out.
But remember, for every transfer link that comes off more of them will go badly and using good risk management will win you far more than you lose if you make it a habit.
And, there will be times, probably late May/early June where we might feel like we are missing the media party a bit. If using Cornerstone 3 well you can still be involved to an extent and keep yourself occupied!
But if nothing unexpected happens, and we make good player choices and stay disciplined, we should be well rewarded for our efforts as we reach July.
Putting this strategy together has taken me literally weeks of writing/thinking and I appreciate it is quite long and detailed, but I think that is what members want/deserve rather than just being told some basics about who to buy.
If you have any questions or there is something that doesn’t make sense to you, I am very happy to take questions via the Contact FIT button below or Twitter DM’s.
As the Summer goes by we may need to adjust strategy slightly, and I will continually update the State of the Market with any nudges/pointers as we go along.
Here’s to this Key Strategy working as well as the last one! 🙂
Good luck with your trading.
As we go along, the strategy may need to be adjusted to adapt to any changes. I’ll discuss them all here to keep the original intact to compare it to and so we can review it at the end properly.
22 May – Cornerstone 3 – New Bonus Terms
Before I start, a reminder that Cornerstone 3 is flagged optional/advanced for a reason!
Transfer trades are hard to get right and each situation can be very different. The Key Strategy in Practice: Transfer Trading article. explains this in more detail.
Following the announcement of the new bonus terms, an adjusted Cornerstone 3 would now read as follows (changes underlined):
With the bonus being upgraded from 5% to 10% this now creates a more powerful incentive for a bull run in late June as people try to turn over bonus requirements.
It also increases the risk of significant price falls for some players in early July as people take out cash they only put in to get the bonus.
At 5%, many might have ignored this bonus but 10% will be more of a big deal.
Before I suggested buying in mid-May to sell in early or mid-June.
Now, I would extend that window. We could be buying and holding for the rest of May and deeper into June (probably no further than the 24th June).
We would then be looking to sell any players that have spiked sharply in value during mid to late June (1 or 2 weeks later than previously planned).
We want to sell to traders trying to turn over their bonus requirement late in the final week of June. Generally, we can expect them to buy recently rising targets with live transfer rumours. By late June we may also see some next season performance buying
In this May – June 24th window, we could be selling or buying at any time depending on the price and the other factors explained below.
Buys in May can be fairly obvious. But when buying in June, I would not be picking up any players who have had long expected moves and are already at a high price. It would be more players who get an emerging transfer rumour (Maybe Asensio coming to the EPL or similar).
Generally, if I am going to use a bonus, I get the money in earlier not last minute if I can. If for some reason you won’t have the money until late June, I would stick to buying performance players in preparation for the new season at that time, not chasing into any media players that are already running a high price.
Revised Portfolio Balance below, with a slightly gentler move from media > performance.