About the Site Key Strategy
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 and are the Captain’s of their own ship at the end of the day.
But having a clear plan rather than just trading day to day is essential to success.
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.
Early Season Strategy - Summary
This is a Summary of the Cornerstone of the strategy. Part 3 is optional.
A Quick Review
Before starting a new strategy it’s always important to see if you got the previous ones right!
I’ve been really happy with how the last two Key Strategies played out and from everything I have heard, members are too. They covered the End of Season and the Summer. I am told strong profits have been made. Fantastic stuff.
These two strategies were mainly about exploiting some big trend shifts as the season ended, the transfer hype of Summer began, and then the focus returned towards performance players in recent weeks.
They were tough strategies to work out that relied heavily on getting the timing of your moves correct and a very strong understanding of the trends in play.
Obviously, everyone knows that performance players will be sold towards the end of the season and transfer rumour players bought.
But knowing when to pull that trigger and make your transition is far from easy, especially whilst factoring in events like the Share Split, dividend increase and performance matrix changes.
The key strategies so far this year got those major timing calls correct as we bought key transfer hype targets early (but often not too early) and sold them at peaks in May to move early again towards quality performance players meeting our key criteria, many of which we may still hold and want to keep holding.
This brought big profits from transfer hype and the high expectations for certain performance players ahead of the new season.
However, there is no “rinse and repeat” formula that will work every time. The strategies used successfully in 2019 wouldn’t work if just repeated in 2020. It’s always changing.
And this next strategy in particular is going to be a bit different from the previous ones.
In the coming months, there is no major trend shift to read and exploit. We need to find an advantage elsewhere this time.
The Road Ahead
In the first few months of the season, there is no escaping the hard reality of players getting judged week after week based on how they perform on FI.
It tends to be the most rational and logical time of year, where the players who score big time after time will see rewards.
Therefore, instead of a trend shift I expect to see a quality shift.
Firstly, because the market has for the last 5-6 months been driven by transfer gossip, hype and rumour, there is often a significant disconnect between price and true quality.
And even for the best traders who are using good quality information about who the best players are, we have had to make assumptions about which players are quality based heavily on last season data because it is all that has existed (until pre-season). Last season data is useful but there is a tendency to over rely on it and we shouldn’t.
With our players it is very much a case of “what have you done for me recently?”. We can’t afford to be too loyal to players who did well for us in the past.
There are plenty of weak players at high prices even now. And there hasn’t been much football to prove any of that and expose them, beyond what we see in pre-season. As site members you know far more about how sides are shaping up in pre-season than almost everyone.
So, many highly priced players who have been pumped for a transfer or youth hype reasons are actually fairly weak (even if that transfer rumour has now disappeared or that player has shown themselves to be quite poor – many traders will stick with a player they bought even if the reason they bought them has disappeared – a very common feature of bad traders).
And there are still lots of strong players who are quite cheap, perhaps because they did not hit a transfer rumour or because most people are unaware how strong they are likely to be yet.
Instead of gaining an advantage by reading the trend shift better than other people, in August to November, our advantage will primarily come from having much better information about which players are stronger than others than the vast majority of traders.
There is no real shortcut to that, it requires hard graft. (Ok, being a member of this site is a shortcut because I share a lot of scouting information, but you still have to look into the players I discuss yourself and make good judgements).
And, with the scoring matrix changes, I think an elite group of players will dominate more than ever and it is now harder for a long shot player to sneak a win.
That will play further into the hands of those with portfolios based on strong research. That’s a reason to be optimistic for us.
Let’s review the market trends and where they will be headed from here until November.
Quality Performance Players
In early season with the football back and a full season ahead, price will track real performance more closely than it has all year.
The players who win dividends or score big, and look like doing so time and time again will fly in price. Particularly where they match the other trends in play.
And the over priced underperformers (there will be many) will start to struggle as we get into the season.
I don’t see the overall trend for youth going anywhere anytime 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 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.
Players at 28/29 and over should still be expected to struggle for buyers although I expect this to soften up.
Especially for this year, 29-31 year old’s in their prime with big Euro 2020 expectations should fare better this season.
And, with dividends increased, and In Play Dividends (IPD’s) in particular getting a proportionately bigger boost, many elite veterans are a) low priced and b) in their prime and reaching peak output.
This should not be ignored, particularly in early season which is the safest time to hold older players as they have a full season ahead.
I would get twitchy on them as we approach December but I would have no fear at all of holding a quality elite veteran at the right price in early season, particularly if they are expected to be a big name at Euro 2020.
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 struggled last year as it was very difficult for them to differentiate themselves without a spike in their points from a goal. An elite ball playing centre back may have an amazing game but they would still get beaten by an average defender who scored the matchwinner. And on double or treble days that will happen often.
For many defenders, this will continue to be a problem and big name players who lack an edge could be set for a big fall.
However, following the performance scoring matrix changes, there is encouragement for defenders who have that edge that can cause a spike in their scores. That can now include assists and it brings creative defenders, often full backs, more into play.
So, I will now more regularly include defenders in my portfolio but they must have a clear edge that can cause a large spike in their score.
Last season, “Out of position” prospects like Alves or Guerreiro, i.e defenders who actually played as midfielders, were a big target at times because they would demonstrate vastly superior goal threat to other defenders. It was an unfair contest that was worth exploiting.
However, this season, that comes with much more risk and that player may be reclassified as a midfielder quite quickly if they start in that position regularly. So this tactic is no longer as attractive as it was.
Instead, we should target the outliers who have unusually high goal threat or assist potential.
Champions and Europa Leagues
This is always worth remembering as it will have a big impact on perceived value of those players as people get into the new season.
European involvement doesn’t make a bad player good. But it makes a good performance player even more valuable. It simply gives them more chances to win and often better quality chances too since the later stages are single game days with treble day value pay outs.
Now that these days have been protected and will not be spoiled by rescheduled games unlike in 18/19, traders will maintain optimism for players likely to be involved in the later stages of the Champions League.
And, traders may not be so twitchy to sell them this season either. The Euro Championships will give traders another reason to hold them beyond the Champions/Europa League and it makes sticking around for those late games potentially viable, unlike last season which was a damp squib as traders feared the end of season exit.
European Championships 2020
This is still rarely mentioned but it will almost certainly be one of the hottest issues of the season.
I included it as something to think about even in the Summer strategy as it well worth thinking ahead on this. I would not be buying a player specifically for this now! But, if I was interested in a player and I saw them being a star of the Euros, that would be a strong factor in their favour.
By December latest, players expected to star at the Euro’s should be running a premium price. 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.
Huge point to note that I rarely see discussed – Qualifiers are now going to count.
So, all season, Euro international players are going to avoid international break drops and may even get a boost.
Simply put, there are lots of reasons to be favouring European’s over other internationals this season.
In Play Dividend’s
I still don’t think many traders have quite realised how generous IPD’s are now.
In the dividend increase they were given a much larger proportional boost than other dividends, and we only saw them in action for a short time before the season ended.
People noticed that back then but I am not sure it fully sunk in.
Therefore, I am much more inclined to be buying IPD suitable players this season.
Very prolific goalscorers should be doing very well, particularly if they can be picked up at a bargain price. Even an unknown from a small club could deliver nicely here.
And overall, it’s another reason why buying “here and now” players pays off. This should help older players out a bit who are off trend but in their prime. But it will also hurt high priced benchwarmers who aren’t delivering anything.
Early Season Strategy - Cornerstones
Player prices are quite heavily based on historic performance at this time of year.
That’s not a bad thing, it’s a decent indicator and it’s the best one we have. But a lot can change and we have to be vigilant.
We will likely be holding a portfolio full of players that we expect to do well for the new season. Some will, some won’t.
As more pre-season data comes in and we see the first games, our first job is to weed out any underperformers and do it nice and early.
Obviously, I will be helping extensively with this through Scouting.
We do not want to be left holding highly priced underperformers that aren’t showing good underlying stats just because they were “good for us last year”. We don’t owe our shares any loyalty!
An easy mistake to make when trying to do this though is to panic sell – and we must avoid that.
I cannot stress this enough: One bad game is not a reason to sell.
Lots of people will and selling because you saw one poor game (or indeed buying because you saw one good game) is losing trading.
But, if over a number of pre/early season games, we are spotting a clear sign that a player is not going to be delivering the strong performance scores we might have expected, we will want to be offloading this weak player to free up cash for the more promising prospects.
The higher the player’s price, the more pressure they are under to deliver.
There are many highly priced players who people expect to do really well that are going to flop. It’s been months since there has been any performance scoring to prove any of these mass delusions wrong.
At this time of year, they are going to be judged week in, week out, and they will have to stand up to it.
Equally, if a player is not lighting up FI but their underlying stats suggest that will turn around, I’ll be relaxed about hanging in there provided they fit with our overall desirable traits/trends identified in Cornerstone 2.
Most traders by now are heavily invested in performance players the same as a Summer site strategy based portfolio would be.
Lots of traders caught us up during the course of the last key strategy which is why the Summer strategy did so well.
But we need to stay in this performance space too – there is no sensible trend shift to make at the moment.
Our advantage at this time has to come simply from being better at picking high quality players than the vast majority of traders. And that only comes with a) having the data b) knowing what to look for and c) a lot of hard work.
So this is a lot simpler than the previous strategies on the surface in that we don’t have to sweat on trend shift timings so much, at least until November/December.
But the effort it takes to do all that research and the skill in making those judgements means this is far from easy. Those who try and “wing it” will have a tougher time than they do when trying to guess a transfer rumour in the Summer for example.
Of course, members will keep getting a lot of fresh information through the site Scouting to assist them which will be a key advantage.
A site strategy portfolio would have a core made up of players who meet the following criteria:
Essential: Performance Quality
They will be quality performance players or potentially good quality, ideally at least for potential but no less than .
For a player 21+ or older, we likely want to see a good current rating as well as potential.
For a player under 21, we can be a bit more forgiving of current ratings provided their potential rating is high.
We want to avoid any poor players who are going to be exposed by consistent weak performance scores, particularly if carrying a high price.
Essential: Broadly match Site trends for age and playing position
In general we must respect the trend of youthful, attacking players. However, they must have a realistic prospect of playing regular football as per the other criteria.
21-24 is a great age provided the player is getting regular minutes. 24-27 can be where a player is in his prime and delivering his best results. These are the most reliable ages to target.
Under 21 players that show or greater potential for performance as well as a good trend fit should usually be bought heavily provided the price is right.
However, due to the youth trend burning so strongly, many young players are currently sitting at prices well above what they deserve. Be careful with this and stick to players who offer value and have real potential.
Older players at 28+ can be difficult to make huge profits on however I would not fear them particularly in early season if they look set to deliver consistently, either for performance, media or IPD purposes and they are offering strong value.
As discussed above, forwards will be favoured with midfielders a close second. Defenders have better prospects than before but be extremely selective and make sure they have unusually high goal threat or assist potential coupled with a strong baseline.
Price is everything. I cannot stress this enough.
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.
Certain players, if they are particularly strong or have media potential can have a valid reason to be significantly above site Guide Prices, so you shouldn’t take them too literally. The Guide Price articles explains when and why exceptions can be made.
But 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.
I considered making this essential but at this stage it would be a touch restrictive to rule out any non-European players altogether! Particularly if they have Champions League involvement.
That said, I will be giving a HEAVY BIAS towards players that have Champions/Europa League and European Championships involvement and I expect a large chunk of my portfolio to be made up of players fitting this description as we head towards November.
There will of course be exceptions. If a player meets all of the Essential criteria but lacks Euro 2020 involvement, I will not refuse to buy them but they would need to be particularly strong and particularly good value.
The more expensive the player, the more important this becomes. If I am paying a premium for a player than it would be essential to me.
But if I were to find a cheap prospect at 75p that I think may become the next Kai Havertz, whether they are at the Euros or not matters very little, there should still be a good profit there if I am right.
So there are tough judgements to be made here and I would not stress this “rule” too much.
Rather, see this is a nudge that we should be aiming to have our portfolios stacked with a good number of high performing players with high expectations for Euro 2020 by November at the latest.
The vast majority of my portfolio will be made up of the strong performers who meet the criteria from Cornerstone 2, probably 70-80%.
But there are two possible exceptions where I see opportunities: the first in IPD players, and the second in a small number of premium media picks. I’d suggest around 20-30% of your portfolio in this area if you go for it.
Or, putting 100% of it into Cornerstone 2 players is absolutely fine if you want to keep things simple.
In Play Dividends
IPD’s are lucrative now as discussed above and I think it is an area that can be looked at with 10-20% of a portfolio.
Strong goal scorers particularly if they also provide assists are set to return nicely and they don’t need to be superb trend fits or strong performance scorers in general.
In fact, where the player is not on trend they can be particularly great value for that reason. An elite veteran at 31 years old for example could well be near his goal scoring peak but be very cheap because of the usual fear of decline.
But for IPD purposes this does not matter very much and his goals are all going to payout the same during a big streak.
The absolute best time to exploit this is in early season since the veteran player has a whole season ahead of them. I would be a bit more wary of doing this in mid to late season.
I also think once traders fully realise how generous IPDs are, this sort of player could get a decent capital appreciation boost on top as they become more desirable and traders start to value the “here and now” a bit more.
Be careful of chasing IPD players though. They tend to attract the very short term trader who buys when a player scores and then sells shortly afterwards etc so prices can be volatile. If you aren’t confident, start slow with this or just stick to the Cornerstone 2 picks.
Premium / Media
I have not held premium priced players (top 10/15) since I sold them to traders getting far too excited by them in advance of the Share Split. Since then, this category of player has had a rough time generally.
Many of them have levelled off or fallen in price (with a few exceptions). And at the same time, the rest of the market has risen in price and come a bit closer towards them.
Whilst I would not go too far into this area until another dividend increase was credible in the near future (I don’t see one anytime soon) there may be scope in a portfolio to have 1 or 2 premium picks for those who want to.
There would be a high bar for this and it would require a player that I expect to do extremely well at least for media dividends all season (and really we want performance returns too at these prices) all the way through the domestic campaign as well as later stage Champions/Europa League and play a big part in the Euros.
If I thought 1 or 2 players met all of these features and were going to have an exceptional season, I’d be happy to put 10% of my portfolio into them in expectation of strong dividends and a decent capital increase.
I expect my portfolio from here until November to look roughly like this:
- 70-80% – Performance (Cornerstone 2 Selection Criteria)
- 10-20% – In Play Dividend Players
- 10% – Premium Selection
If you don’t fancy IPD or cannot find a premium pick you back for a great season, having 100% in performance players meeting Cornerstone 2 Selection criteria would be absolutely fine.
I would encourage members to read my article on aggression and portfolio make up and consider how many players they want to hold and how much they put in each player.
Personally, at this stage, in pre-season where this is a lot of uncertainty about starting positions and performance levels I am fairly “balanced” with 30-35 players in my portfolio.
My intention is to get more aggressive the more I learn about players throughout the season. As strong targets emerge from analysing match data (all shared in Scouting) I will increase the aggression and aim to come down more towards 20-25 players in the coming months.
The article contains further advice about selecting the right balance for you between aggression (potentially higher profits but higher risk) or a more diverse approach (moderate potential profits and more moderate risk).
At this time of year there is no substitute for good research.
Early season is probably the easiest time of year to navigate in terms of trends and overall strategy. What we are looking for is fairly straight forward and we don’t have to worry about timing so much in the coming months.
However, early season is the hardest time of year for research and analysis and it is increased effort in this area that really pays off.
The objective is to be picking up the highest quality, best value players possible that are going to be in demand all season, right the way through the European Qualifiers, Champions/Europa League and into the European Championships.
Coming out of the last strategy, we have already prepared well for this (I don’t prepare strategies in isolation, each one links to the next). Pre-season analysis and use of last season knowledge and the trends has helped us there.
But the picture will become clearer as we see the first month or two of games and we will refine portfolios as we go along.
Using the site trendometer and the Cornerstone 2 selection criteria, we know the types of players we are looking for. And I will assist by going through the numbers on every single match day under Scouting.
As we approach November/December I expect social media conversations about later stage European competition and Euro 2020 to be in full swing.
Not everyone will be thinking about all of those things now. But they will be.
But, we also want returns now, we don’t want to wait until 2020!
That’s why we are finding players who can deliver now but also should grow in desirability throughout the season.
As we start the season it is the players who are scoring big and scoring big often that will start to fly in price during this phase of the season.
If they are doing that and people start fancying them for the later stages of European competition and Euro 2020 as well it will increase confidence further. These players will also hold their prices longer into the season and avoid the worst of any end of season sell off later on.
As the season unfolds we may need to tweak things, and I will continually update the State of the Market with any nudges/pointers as we go along.
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.
Good luck with your trading and I hope this Key Strategy works as well as the last two! 🙂