Big Hype. Little Substance. Part 2.

This is my intro to Big Hype Little Substance – if you read this yesterday, head straight to the players!

In the previous five articles in this series I’ve focused on players who in my opinion have a strong mix of quality and value. 

But it would be remiss if we didn’t also consider the opposite – players who are currently popular but will find it very difficult to live up to their price tags due to high expectations and limited ability. 

This is a toxic combination. And it’s very common. 

If someone asked me what is the one difference between an average trader and a good one – this is it. Good traders do not hold overhyped players too long and achieve consistent progress rather than taking two steps forward one step back.

This doesn’t mean a good trader gets everything right. But there are good losses and bad losses. A strong player at value player who just doesn’t win because of bad luck or a bad patch of form? 

That’s going to happen and it’s acceptable, especially if we can cut it off early. You can make good bets that don’t come off. It’s ok.

But continuing to hold a poor quality, overpriced player who never really had much chance of winning or carried as much risk of collapse as a hype related price rise? Unforgivable.

As we saw from the analysis of the pre-season scouting last season that I mentioned yesterday, knowing the real ability of players is crucial. 

It not only saves you whatever you’d lose holding an overhyped player too long but it gives you the opportunity to use that money on something with a higher chance of success.

The average loss from a player I was cautious on last pre-season was -5.6% which sounds modest. That could range from a 102% profit in the best case all the way down to -34.7% in the worst. If you adjust that considering the market increased by 57% though the best case would be a 45% profit and the worst a 91% loss. That shows you how much the rise in the market papers over some of these losses.

97% of players I was cautious on did not outperform the market over pre-season to December. That’s just 2 out of the 58. Who were they? Chilwell and Sabitzer and both of them succumbed eventually – dipping sharply in January. No player can exist on hype forever – they will always get found out in the end if they do not have the dividend potential to back up their price tag.

Some players are exceptionally resilient. Sancho was not a brilliant trade from early season to December, he significantly underperformed the market before picking up in January. But with someone like him or Mbappé the hype is so big and the belief so strong that they can survive a lot. But eventually they too will have to justify the price tag.

Now if we contrast that with the players I was positive on – we can see it is not a perfect record as we can’t get everything right – but the overall result is vastly superior to chasing popular but expensive and weak players.

Here our top result is a 219.8% profit and the worst possible result a 4.44% profit. Adjusting for the rise in the market our best possible result is a 162.8% profit and our worst possible result is a 53% loss.

So, on average, we dodged a -5% loss in weak and popular players in favour of an average gain of 81%. An 86% swing in our end results. That’s huge. The key lesson here is that by chasing that popular but weak player we have not just cost ourselves 5% – we cost ourselves 86% because we made poor use of our limited funds.

And, this analysis assumed that we are locked into our trades from whenever we bought them in pre-season all the way through to December. As if I’d gone on holiday and not done anything at all. That’s a harsh measure of these results but it had to be that way so that we can compare like with like, otherwise you could cherry pick and say “yeah I dropped that player before his price fall”. I might well have, but I couldn’t have always proven it so I left that bit out of this analysis.

But it’s fair to say that with active trading we would likely have cut off some of the weakest earlier and brought our average trade profit up markedly from 81%.

I’m highlighting this analysis again now because I think it’s so important to hammer this home as we enter a new season.

There are times of year where chasing a bit of the hype is a good thing to do. Early season is not one of them.

Yet, it’s really hard for many to see that. It is genuinely difficult to ignore the hype and the social media pumping and avoid being influenced by it. So my hope is that some cold hard numbers will help with that.

On social media in particular lots of people loathe realistic assessments of players because it bursts the bubble. But realistic assessments of players are absolutely crucial and if I focused only on the players who were good value I’d only be doing half my job.

I don’t pull any punches on the site when it comes to assessing players fairly. And if last season’s results are anything to go by – my cautious predictions were justified 97% of the time.

So that’s an intro into the next part of pre-season preview – the overhyped players. Primarily these are going to be weak performance players at high prices due to either deliberate pumping from rats or well meaning but equally dangerous ignorance about the players real ability. Usually, people are seduced by a good trend fit – but a good trend fit is only one ingredient for longer term success.

Occasionally in this category there will be a strong performance player at too high a price. These are probably not quite so toxic to profits because at least they have something to back them up. But they aren’t all that great either and if we want the best results we need all our money in the most optimal places.

I would add that it can work out to hold overhyped players in pre-season and even into the early games provided you know the real quality of the player and are simply exploiting the foolishness of others. But you do have to know what you are doing. And get the timing right – you really don’t want to hold too long. 

We will see occasional big scores from poor players but they will be rare. When someone like Martinelli or Pulisic puts up a big score it’s almost certainly not going to be because holders were right after all it’s because of the natural variance in statistics and games of chance. 

The weakness of bad players will be exposed over time – so hold too long into the season at your peril. It’s much better to be shot of them before they have a chance to show how average or worse they really are because most of them absolutely will. 

With that uplifting introduction out of the way, let’s get to it.

Joao Felix - 20 - Atletico

This trade has an interesting story to it and is a classic case study that is useful for new traders and for the old hands to remind ourselves of. 

Early on, back in 18/19, Felix was relatively unknown and cheap. I was very positive at that point and featured him in my New Trader Challenge that season (A public blog of my trades for that season where I started with £1k and finished with £3.2k). 

I certainly went heavy on him myself. He fit my “Big Buy” criteria because he had that hype factor but was still cheap. He had some performance potential. And with his numbers in Portugal rumours of a big move were pretty much guaranteed. At that price – there really weren’t too many things that could go wrong which is important when making a big bet. 

A positive about being squirrelled away in an ineligible league? He never really needed to prove brilliance because he wasn’t being scored on FI. Goals were enough to get interest. And at that point in the trade – that’s desirable. 

Most youngsters aren’t going to explode straight away and often the worst that can happen to a hyped kid is a run of games – they usually lose their mystery factor and demonstrate they aren’t all that special.

But those transfer rumours gathered pace and it wasn’t long before the sub £1 bargain was a £4+ player. And back then, £4 plus was an enormous price tag, probably equivalent to £7-8 now. 

When the rumours of a move to Atletico firmed up – I was out of there with my profit sharp. Had the move been Real Madrid… I would still have cashed some of my shares for risk management but I suspect I would have stuck in at Standard Buy level, at least for a while.

But Atletico are not a good platform and Felix was never exceptional, just promising. So that was that. 

He maintained his price for a while though because lots of people remained overoptimistic and spellbound by the thought of having the next teenage world star. But eventually, the consistent mediocrity ground traders down and the price started to slide.

That’s happened to many a “wonderkid” but what’s interesting about Felix is that the price held up relatively well – it’s been stagnant around £3.50 for nearly a year.

A holder may think they haven’t lost all that much. But they would be wrong. In a market that rises this fast – stagnation really holds us back. It showcases the difference between stubborness and patience – which is really difficult to judge. 

Because Felix never really had a chance – I call this stubbornness. Traders were bewitched by that hope they had “the next Ronaldo” and it has led them into a loss and a long, stagnant hold. That still doesn’t have much chance of recovering soon.

Now contrast this with something like Kroos who from January had a similar drop then 6 months of stagnation. That’s a bad result. But it’s much less obviously a bad decision because there was a concrete reason why he could succeed. 

I offloaded most veterans in Key Strategy in December but as I said at the time I did retain Kroos throughout because he was strong enough to punch through and keep winning. 

As it happened, he didn’t! Bad form and a bit of bad luck conspired. But was it a bad decision based on what I knew in January? I don’t think so. He did have the capacity to keep winning it just didn’t come off. And he is recovering now and has every chance of delivering big scores in the new season.

Felix on the other hand – he basically never had a chance and if you paid attention and knew what to look for you would have known that after the first few competitive games. And nothing has really changed for him and he’s no more likely to succeed than he was. Yet people are still holding and hoping.

Yet, in the future, if he moves to a better club we may indeed see him compete. His Portugal numbers are much better. There was a reason I liked him in the first place. 

However, rather than just blindly hoping things will be better for him this season, I would say a better plan is to wait for the likely early disappointment and consider picking him up in November which is closer to the Euros and possibly a transfer next Summer.

Lee Kang-In - 19 - Valencia

Kang-In crops up from time to time and a look at his 12 month price history tells the story. He tends to rise quickly and fall just as fast.

We see these surges of optimism based on little more than “He’s well regarded at Valencia!”. Maybe they are started through social media pumping or trade groups. He’s on an up right now.

But when you get down to it – there really isn’t a lot there to make him an FI contender. 

Because he hasn’t played many full games this can be used as an excuse for his poor scores. This little element of mystery makes him easier to sell. But that’s not it – even if you adjust his numbers for playing the full 90 – he’s too soft to cut it in midfield regularly.

In his favour, he should get more starts next season and this price rise may be in anticipation of that. Plus, the £1.59 to £1.72 price tag isn’t outrageous and he is far fromt the worst offender when it comes to being overpriced.

In fact, it is a fair price as after a few years development he may well come good. But traders aren’t really that patient. If we see underwhelming opening results which is likely, I’d expect interest to drift away and given the frequency with which Kang-In rises and then tanks.. it would make me extra wary that he could be a favourite of a pump and dump group.

The best case scenario I think would be a start and an early goal or two. So you can make a case for continuing to hold for that. But unless through Scouting we see a dramatic improvement he’s unlikely to make a real FI impact longer term. 

His pre-season friendly numbers aren’t much better than usual so I’m not hugely optimistic on that.

Ansu Fati - 17 - Barcelona

A really borderline one, and you could sensibly sign him up as a premium youth pick in the same why you might go for Foden. 

This is the sort of player I would be more “neutral” on rather than “cautious”.

Fati is an incredible prospect and is also very FI suitable. He’s also breaking into the team sooner than could have been hoped and we should see regular minutes. So it’s very possible he will come through for some wins next season and the market will be thrilled about that.

That makes him a ton better than some of the other highly priced no hopers. 

The main problem is that pretty much everyone knows all this. And he’s priced to match.

So, I would expect him to be a steady, solid long term pick. I would personally avoid something this popular and obvious because if we think about it getting Fati to double in price from £5 to £10 is actually quite difficult. 

Where as for many other players who are equally good but slightly less popular you could get them from £2 to £4 for the same result and that’s much more acheivable. 

And, if we are going to spend so much time winkling out the best value then in my view we should use that advantage rather than going for something very obvious that everyone knows about already.

I don’t think he’s likely to be an optimal use of cash. But, if you really want to buy highly priced youth then buying the ones with genuine potential that can actually be realised sometime soon like Fati or Foden is the way to go about it.

Without the whopping dividend increase I’d be much less keen but now that we have it players like this become more reasonable. £5-6 is not going to be quite as big a deal as it is now come the season end.

Lautaro Martinez - 22 - Inter

Great player and proving a wonderful goalscorer but for performance purposes – abysmal. And likely always will be no matter the club.

I’ve not been keen since he approached £3 and he made it close to £4 on transfer hype before dropping back to £2.96 on a bid today. 

He may yet sign for Barcelona but it’s extremely unlikely to improve him. If you scored points for superb off the ball movement he’d do very well. But you don’t.

His style is all kinds of wrong for FI and he needs 2-3 goals just to get close and even then he often gets beat.

That doesn’t make him valueless because IPD and very occasional wins are possible.

£3-4 though? A big stretch and a gamble because holders risked that transfer collapsing and the price tumbling.

The worst part about that bet? Even if he moved the price probably collapses anyway. It’s something of a lose lose and there was no rational reason not to cash him out well in advance of the transfer window.

If we see a further price collapse possibly due to the transfer link definitely dying (or perhaps if he does move!) then at £2.50 I could start to see the value with the improved IPD now on offer. But it would have to be ahead of a run of CL games or similar for me.

Harvey Elliott - 17 - Liverpool

Elliott should see some minutes this season but he’s far too young to be anything close to a regular.

He does have some potential and he is an FI suitable player in style at least. But he’s well behind others including Curtis Jones who is actually significantly cheaper and much more likely to feature for the first team next season being a couple of years further along in development. 

It’s one of those things that would be baffling if we didn’t see gaping logic flaws in this market all the time. 

£3.39 to £3.70 is just way more than Elliott can realistically carry. 

At least there is some real potential to back Elliott up. But timing is still important and this is an example of traders going too early. People always think they want to “get on early” but it’s not about jumping on players it’s about jumping on at the right moment. 

One of those right moments would be when he was very cheap and relatively unknown. By now? He’s got a high price tag and very few opportunities to make a real impact and that’s a recipe for stagnation and decline.

If however we see him dip significantly more towards £2.50? He’d look much more attractive because the price is lower and also he’d have a bit longer to develop and be closer to real action.

Harvey Barnes - 22 - Leicester

At this point you could probably argue that the worst of the damage has been done here. After a £2.42 high he’s now £1.70 on the bid.

Barnes has always looked soft for FI scoring. There were some moments where the price is right and you might punt on him but again – it’s another example of how holding too long with limited knowledge of real ability has hurt traders.

He isn’t awful. If you squint at the numbers a bit you can sort of see how a good score might happen if everything fell into place. But it’s going to be rare.

A classic example of the sorts of players to be wary of if they have already risen – particularly if the main redeeming feature is “Young and English”. That can be enough to raise a price but it’s not enough to sustain it.

If we saw him dropping back towards £1.50 he might look reasonable again.

Fabio Silva - 18 - Wolves

Hmm. A risky one but not without some potential upside.

As wonderkids go the hype is huge and Wolves is a decent move. Not the best performance club but what holders are really aiming for is some goals to get him on Match of the Day. That would probably be enough to get him rising.

To trade this effectively you’ve got to be aware of that though. Because if he doesn’t start or doesn’t look like scoring… we may see the hype fade rapidly.

Underpinning this is that when it comes to performance suitability he looks… well.. terrible. Really bad. I’d expect him to need hatricks to be in the running for dividends. But being awful for FI didn’t stop Haaland early on. 

There is some merit in this trade provided the holder was aware of that reality and was trying to trade around Match of the Day highlight moments. 

It would take careful attention because I think you’d want to drop him if he really doesn’t look like scoring to get out ahead of any exodus. And if he does catch fire and really start flying? I don’t think we’d want to be too greedy with this. 

With a young player with real potential we could consider sticking in but when the chances of showing real FI potential are this low? Not one to push our luck with beyond any spell of hype.

Eduardo Camavinga - 17 - Rennes

A favourite of traders who pick their players based on Football Manager, Camavinga is a pretty ropey fit for FI in reality.

This is a good example actually of something we’re going to see in early season – the big score from a weak player.

In the second Ligue 1 game Camavinga scored and won a dividend. Great for holders. But also potentially dangerous.

If you are a deliberate pumper on social media – this is your dream. It’s easy and believable “evidence” to push back on anyone who says Camavinga isn’t FI suitable.

If you don’t really understand how FI scoring works… that big early score for a strong trend fit highly priced player is extremely tempting and could lead you into paying too much.

But here’s the thing – one big score tells you almost nothing about any player. People will overreact to big scores in early games in the coming season – whether that comes from a player who can feasibly repeat that big score or not.

It’s super important to be aware through Scouting who the consistent players are – and who they aren’t. In this way, if we have players who we suspect are good quality and they show yet more favourable evidence in early games – we know the new evidence fits with the existing evidence and there is a decent chance we are onto something. 

If however we see goals and big scores from players unexpectedly – we know it doesn’t fit with the history and this is likely to be a freak event – we won’t want to chase that player because it’s unlikely to repeat again.

Occasionally, something real does change. But if there is no reason for an improvement (like a position or tactical change) then more often than not something looks too good to be true because it is. 

So back to Camavinga at £4? The odds of him winning consistently at Rennes when all the leagues are back are very low. 

The baselines are solid as you expect for deep players but the goal threat is weak. And Rennes aren’t a team who win every game so the chances of his 3-4 goals a season falling on days Rennes win and being matchwinners?

We’re talking 2-3 times a season absolute tops and then he’ll still have to beat all the other midfielders on that day which is a tall order.

We should see hype for a big transfer at some stage but I think it’s too early to hold for that. 

There is a treacherous period ahead for hype picks. Other players are just more likely to win and people will want to free up cash to chase the winners. 

Unlike much of 2020 when football has been very off and on – we’re entering a relentless period of football where the focus is going to constantly be drawn to the actual winners. 

There will be good times to exploit the hype, but I don’t think the next month or two is one of them.

Ferran Torres - 20 - Manchester City

It may turn out that Torres doesn’t deserve to be in this grouping at all.

There is actually plenty to like about his game and playing at City he could easily excel. I note as well he came on and scored for Spain this week, always helpful. 

We’ve already seen a price collapse after the transfer… and that’s for a move that is actually good! The number of times it pays to cash in before the transfer can actually conclude is unreal. 

Possibly the one time I recall sticking with a transfer throughout this season was Bruno Fernandes because I was convinced of his performance quality as per the January Scouting. It’s something I do only in exceptional cases.

Actually with Torres having now dropped to £2.49 you can make a case. I just think it’s one to be cautious on and watch very carefully because it can go very well or very badly.

If he does make it on and score for City he could fly. One encouraging thing is that at 20 he’s not a kid and will be expecting minutes. It is tough under Guardiola just ask Foden. But it’s not unreasonable to expect at least some substitute appearances.

The main obstacle is rotation and Pep being Pep and not playing youngsters often enough. But it’s a packed season that will call for use of the squad and they have lost Silva and Sané which opens things up a bit. 

A month ago I wouldn’t have touched this in a radiation hazard suit. But after this price drop I am slowly talking myself into this as I write!

At a £2.51 bid or thereabouts he’s actually a good pick with real potential. If I’m wary it’s because I don’t trust Pep to play him enough but if we see signs of him in the starting line up or coming on regularly from the bench I might consider it, especially if he drops a bit further due to not starting any early games.

A tricky trade that is interestingly balanced between risk and reward. You could also take the view that when a trade makes you think this hard… there might be easier stuff on the table. Will be an interesting one to watch though and I’m sure I’ll cover him again in Scouting before long.

Also in this grouping

Erling Braut-Haaland (See Premium Players article)

Mason Greenwood (See Premium Players article)

Trent Alexander-Arnold (See Premium Players article)

Kylian Mbappé (See Premium Players article)

Jadon Sancho (See Premium Players article)

Rayan Cherki 

Mason Mount

Tammy Abraham

Aaron Wan-Bissaka

Todd Cantwell

Eberechi Eze

Kalvin Phillips

Said Benrahma

Tariq Lamptey

Declan Rice

Kieran Tierney

Ollie Watkins

Daniel James 

Mattijs De Ligt

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