If last week the mood was mixed at best, this week negativity and anxiety have definitely been dominating. 

Confidence is wavering with continued price drops for many, but not all, players. The now familiar grumbles about the Matching Engine and the mechanics behind the market are still there. 

And I suspect the underdog winners across the weekend’s Gold Day’s didn’t help. One thing that really boosts the mood is some popular big dividend winners. We didn’t get them this weekend. This happens from time to time.

Actually most of these winners, Aguerd, Spinazzola, Lees-Melou, Benzema. They are punt picks for sure but they aren’t totally unforseeable. But not many traders are making those kinds of bets at the moment – they are seeking safety.

We did have one belated win for Musa Barrow who will be a bit more popular and well known to Scouting readers. But it took a late correction yesterday as his score was miscalculated on the day.

Team of the Month however did highlight how this new dividend award really rewards consistency. It’s really paying off for those big names, as expected. And takes the sting out of near misses – I really like TOTM – I just think in the next dividend review the payouts need beefing up a bit. Doubling of performance dividends left these rewards looking a little soft. But they are still really nice to win.

The big hitters will get their chance to shine in performance again very soon too – tonight, tomorrow and Thursday bringing wall to wall European action.

We also have internationals on the horizon – an untimely break in the match day momentum. FI should really make these games eligible for something so that it’s not such a dead period, even if it’s just IPD in my opinion. This is probably another reason why traders aren’t keen to invest at the moment.

That said, good international performances can drive prices (Grealish?) and it’s a chance for players to pick up some media too. It will also be a chance to evaluate Euro 2020 squads again – something that I have in the back of the mind in Key Strategy – but that will become more important the closer the tournament gets.

I’ve already done a full update of the international sides in the Euro 2020 section – and I’ll add anything new I spot over the international break too.

Once that is done, we have a relentless period of games running up to Christmas. Possibly more football than we’ve ever seen. Manchester City for example… if you were to buy a player on the 21st November you would get 9 fixtures in a 30 day IPD window. And 9 chances for your player to win performance dividends in a month with games every 3-4 days for most big sides.

That’s a lot to look forward to and I think one of the major things that will lift the mood is that consistency of big dividends dropping over time, particularly for popular players that lots of people are involved with.

As discussed though – there are two key ways of making money even in this difficult market that are worth repeating. 

Sometimes waiting and being patient is the right thing, player depending. But I also don’t like to sit on my hands and just wait for FI to save the day – it is possible to make money even in this market.

One of the most astoundingly obvious, as I’ve pointed out in Scouting many a time lately, is the huge rewards available for recyling IPD players right now.

The doubled IPD from last season, low market prices as people fear some slightly out of favour strikers, and the glut of match days are creating a very unique situation.

Players like Morata or Yedder… or even up to the price range of Lukaku and Lewandowski are just killing it when it comes to IPD returns. And when you are picking them up on cheap bids, it is usually very easy to find a good moment to refresh their IPD window.

You may even see such a player, when picking them at £1 or under, relatively easily hit £1.30 or £1.50 when they hit a good spell of form and fixtures – and that’s a massive percentage profit.

This is about as close to free money as I’ve ever seen on this platform. It’s certainly easier than trying to pick performance winners. And I’m making the most of it whilst I can. I usually have about 4-5 of these players depending on form and fixtures and I actively recycle them. It’s working well and I’d encourage anyone with a bit of time to give it a try. 

It isn’t that hard and often the build up to a big game (i.e a European night) is a good time to refresh the IPD window – take advantage of when a player is likely to be in demand ahead of a big game.

The other good source of profit is the low bid for the unpopular player who is actually looking very close to a win in Scouting. If they are likely winners but people just haven’t noticed you can pick them up cheap – and if they do win – that red button price can rise fast. 

Given how much effort goes into Scouting it’s important to use that to gain an edge – not simply buying the players who have obviously won – but buying the players who are close to wins and just lacking that bit of luck. There is often little difference in quality between the two – but a big difference in price.

I’ll talk about this more below. But first let’s briefly discuss Market Mechanics as it is a hot topic.

Changes to Market Mechanics

There is no doubt that FI are part of the solution when it comes to restoring confidence in the market.

They are well aware that tweaks to the market mechanics are needed. We are expecting a further update on that early this week – I’ll update this article if that drops and there is anything we can use.

But it’s worth discussing briefly now. I tend to focus more on what we can actually do as traders, rather than droning on about FI needing to do this or that. It’s beyond our control. I like to stay focused on my own game rather than get into that victim mentality where we are just waiting for someone else to fix our problems. That’s a losing mindset.

Not that the problems with the introduction of the Matching Engine aren’t real. I just like to stay focused on the things we can actually do something about.

I generally have found that FI tend to land on the right solutions – even if it takes them a while to get there. By and large I think they are competent and they have acheived a lot in 5 years.

They know as much as anyone that the Matching Engine has really unsettled things and they need to move fast to soothe nerves.

We’ve already seen a bit more transparency – information on the number of active traders and the total volume traded. The total volume seems more impressive than the active traders! This probably reflects a lot of people sitting tight in troubled times. And also – highlights just how young FI still really is when you compare it to the behemoths like Betfair. 

That’s bad, in that it still only takes a few traders to move the market around. And good, in that it leaves a hell of a lot of room for the product to grow.

The volume traded daily is quite an impressive figure though. 

Overall it’s good to have some benchmarks – I suspect this will help but only when people see the number of active users ticking up and the trading volume rising – that’s going to be a big trigger for confidence. I don’t think it’s done a great deal for us yet.

I’m very interested to see what they come up with on a new way of calculating portfolio values. I hope they do away with using phrases like the “VWAP”. This is just an average of the 900 highest blue button shares but phrases like that are death when trying to get new traders involved in the product. Too complicated for most.

I have literally no idea what they are going to come up with. But presumably what we will see is a way of averaging it out even further – so that just a handful of traders or even a single whale can’t screw with the price quite so much on a whim. This could have a big psychological impact – and presumably whatever voodoo they employ is going to make portfolios look better, not worse.

This could be a cheap trick but not an unwelcome one – people will likely take confidence from it. I just hope it is a credible method that stands up to scrutiny.

Depth of market… the ability to see how many bids or offers are really behind the price.

This seems popular at the moment but I’d say be careful what you wish for. In markets the depth is a way of gauging confidence in the market – and would you really want to expose how thin confidence is right now?

Anyone trying to Instant Sell a player will probably understand – often you may see a Sell Price but only be able to offload 5-50 shares and once they are gone the Sell Price disappears entirely.

If people can visibly see how thin some of these red button prices are it may just unsettle them further.

This functionality is needed but if I was FI I would probably introduce this when the market was a bit more optimistic.

Liquidity… this is the most important thing and if spreads were a little tighter and some of the more unpopular players could be sold for a reasonable price confidence would surge. 

This is what happens when confidence drains in markets – as discussed last week – traders are retreating to safer and safer picks (sometimes with interesting views about who is safe!). 

This can be a self defeating spiral – if nobody is willing to punt on players who are not considered popular – the stuff in our portfolios we don’t want can’t be sold for a decent price. I’ll talk more about this below in the next section.

It opens up huge value. And makes it very difficult to sell anything that hasn’t won recently or isn’t popular.

The biggest liquidity providers are the traders themselves. Eventually things will bottom out, stabilise, the exceptional value available will become too obvious to ignore. But that might take a while.

People are now clamouring for FI intervention. Mention of liquidity is notably absent from the expected update this week, though.

I can already see the anguish on social media coming when there isn’t any quick fix here. But there are limits to what they can do so I’d brace for disappointment on this.

Doing it themselves in a ham fisted way creates problems for them – they need to show they don’t interfere directly in the market.

And hiring liquidity providers? Well they have one, god knows where from. But getting more? Who do you call to be a liquidity provider in this market? Any experienced company are going to want to take time to understand the product before committing. And it can take years to become competent. 

There simply isn’t any company you can call and order a liquidity provider from. FI is a very novel and new thing. It’s going to take time.


Market Analysis

This week I thought I’d do something a little different, using FI’s new Data Centre which is in beta.

It’s… a decent start and could become a great resource. But it definitely looks in beta and needs a lot adding to it.

Last week I discussed what was driving prices on this market – my views basically being:

– There are clear rewards for consistent winners or perceived strong performers

– There are clear punishments for perceived poor performances or pitch time struggles (with very low levels of patience)

– The market is generally poor at valuing players – and is very dependant on recent big scores or wins to tell them who is good or not (and this can be very misleading). 

– There is less focus on hype and an increasing reluctance to pay high prices for far future returns. People are seeking the safety of dividend returners in the here and now and are less inclined to speculate wildly.

Let’s look at the price movements on the market in the last 3 difficult months, and see if we can spot anything to confirm or deny the above.

Here is the Forwards risers from the last 3 months by percentages, filtering out £1 and below players just to eliminate a bit of the noise.

This by and large to me looks like a list of players who have largely earned their price rises via good performances. Or at least have had a genuine reason for people to become optimistic.

Lewandowski. Kramaric. Fati. Bamba. Gouiri. Lozano. Diaz. Calvert-Lewin. Messi. Berardi. Benzema. Muller. Kean. Son. I mean pretty much all of them are players who have been performing well on the pitch. 

Or in the case of Cavani and Bale at least have a genuine reason for rising in price given they are big names incoming to the EPL.

There is a very notable absence of hype here. Good performances have always driven prices. But many a time on FI in any 3 month window there would have been plenty of hype surging well ahead for no reason other than speculation.

It is performances driving prices upwards now, and little else. The same is true if you look at midfielders or defenders.

It’s been possible to make some handsome profits with quality players – but only if they demonstrate obvious strength. One part of that we can control – by picking the most likely winners. 

But being the single best Forward on a day often with hundreds of players? Very hard. Over time quality will shine but there is a huge slice of luck involved on any given match day.

This is why basing our assumptions about who is good or not purely on this list would be a very bad idea. And yet – we know this is exactly what many people do.

This is, by and large, a decent list of quality players. The sort you will routinely find positively mentioned in Scouting. 

But others like Lozano, potentially Bale on recent reviews, Calvert-Lewin, Moise Kean (at this price although I liked him as a punt before his recent rise)… holding these too long may result in disappointment so it’s really important to be aware of their limitations through Scouting.

In other cases, possibly with Kimmich or Ward-Prowse or Maximilian Arnold, Kulusevski from the midfield 3 month risers – we may want to take our cue that whilst they had their big moments they have got more than their share of luck and it could be a time to cash out.

This need to “cluster” into recent consistent winners can make even good players too expensive. And paying too much for good players is a common mistake – although – that is much harder to do given the massive dividends and cheap prices this season!

This is how all that effort in Scouting can pay off. We know how likely it is players can repeat their results where as most don’t and we can trade accordingly.

The list of risers is largely showing what I’d expect. However, the list of who has fallen the most is perhaps even more interesting and complicated.


These are the most heavily dropping forwards above £1 in the last 3 months.

It’s a much more mixed bag of quality.

The clear theme is often pitch time struggles, or high expectations followed by a lack of immediate returns. 

Sometimes it is deserved. But there are plenty of good players that are taking a kicking too here. And by good I mean that they either have performance quality or at least potential. Or some other reason why they can be in demand in the not too distant future like a transfer.

Players like Abraham, Adama, Jimenez, Isak, Saint-Maximin, Martinez. These were never really in danger of justifying the price so the explanation is pretty simple.

But Dembelé? Yes he’s been out of the squad but that just makes the primary reason for holding him more likely – the transfer. I consider this totally irrational and therefore a great opportunity.

Ferran Torres? Has been doing just about as well as could be hoped. This reflects that problem we’ve seen very frequently – a new joiner to a club starts with huge optimism that he struggles to justify immediately and patience is low.

David… clearly a high profile early failure as covered for a long time in scouting. Though he was a valid pick early on he had promise. The important thing here is to cut that off early and that was very possible. We’ll get selections wrong from time to time – it’s how we deal with them that matters.

Greenwood… a high profile hype casualty so no surprise really to see players like that here. Just as you see Sancho, Pogba, Saka, Cherki, Maddison on the midfielders list or TAA and Alphonso Davies on the defenders list. Players that 3-6 months ago were “essential” – but were pretty clearly overhyped and almost doomed by their heavy price tags.

Some of these players are very high potential. Asensio dropped 35% and could be one of FI’s best players. He could also flop and get benched. But the budget price makes that a good bet in my book. Especially given he’s young and could always move somewhere else in the worst case scenario.

Leon Bailey. Paulinho. Skov. Maybe Martial or even Fekir. This is where these drops can be an advantage if not holding – people selling for these rock bottom prices are probably too pessimistic. Or if holding – at least you have a decent reason why they can bounce back.

Overall what this tells us is is that people are pretty bad at judging ability or potential when it comes to deciding what they should sell. Even worse than they are at judging who is the best value when considering who to buy.

Many traders are led heavily by short term results. And I suspect they are only marginally better at knowing who to buy because there is a clear indicator that tells them – i.e who is winning and putting up big scores. This gives them reassurance.

But in the absence of an obvious big score or a big win – people are often at a loss to know whether a player is worth holding or not. 

And winning is hard – not all of the players who look likely to win will win, not over just a few weeks anyway.

This means that in a downturn we have to cope with perfectly good players dropping in price. Which can be maddening. What can we actually do about that?

If not holding – it’s obviously an opportunity. If you have free cash now the value available is just insane – far in excess I’ve ever seen on FI. I’d love to be entering the market now as a new trader with a fat stack.

If we are holding though – it gives us tough decisions. 

Where the bid price is crazy low and we have a real reason to stay confident, like a transfer with Dembelé or possible good performances for Leon Bailey say – I’d be inclined to just stick that out. As long as we have a rational reason they can bounce back – we probably want to use our knowledge and avoid selling too cheaply.

When the player has clearly shown signs of failure and there isn’t a real reason to disagree with the market – it’s a case of realising that as soon as possible. Jonathan David for example – good monitoring of scouting gets you out of a bit of trouble there. 

And I think a big lesson to draw here is to be a bit more twitchy on players than usual and quicker to sell – particularly if they have a high price that has risen recently, and there is a very obvious problem that most people will notice. 

For example – if a player hasn’t started a couple of games and it is more than just one game rotation – that’s something most will notice. If the player has a bit of a poor game or two – they may get away with it provided they get a few chances to score. 

A player like Eriksen would be a good example. Quite tricky 3-4 months ago because given a game the potential is very high. But it was clear after a while that Conte was set against him – I kept faith at the time because he was still getting some minutes and he was showing strong performance numbers. But I think in this market where we know patience is this low – I will adapt my game here in similar situations.

In the past when the market was more confident, we could often sit and wait, relying on those performance numbers coming through to save our player. But in this market I’d recognise that this is not a market giving players with obvious problems too many chances.

It may be better with an Eriksen like scenario in future to be quicker to accept that it just looks bad, drop it, and consider going back later after any drop. 

Even if the numbers are quite good and you know he is capable of a big score. Because we have to be aware – most people will be unaware of those decent underlying numbers – they’ll only see the bit about Conte not liking him.

Of course – this only works early on when the price is still high and some people remain optimistic. It doesn’t work now – he’s already dropped in price and the damage is done. We’d probably be better served holding him by this stage.

If our player is consistently playing games and looking quite good in the stats – that’s a different story. That’s when we probably can rely on his strength coming through.

But I think for the foreseeable – for players who have a relatively high price that has risen recently… if they hit an obvious problem that most will notice we may want to move them on faster than we normally would in this market rather than waiting for that big score.

Final Thought

When I flick through the prices in the Data Centre from the last 3 months – it’s clear to me that the themes discussed last week are broadly right. 

That clustering into consistent winners. The struggle of previously hyped players with big price tags. The lack of patience with any player that hits a problem.

People are just seeking safety in real quality – they just don’t always know what real quality is.

In a downturn – the good players often get sold along with the bad. People often don’t have the information or ability to tell the difference. And when paniced aren’t always making very logical decisions anyway.

We should avoid judging success or failure by what people are doing in this current market. It’s our judgements of the quality of a player that will prove the more accurate over time.

But where we can tweak is to have that little bit of respect for the way the market really operates. There are fundamental flaws in the way lots of people judge value sure – but it’s widespread and we have to work with that, rather than just assuming common sense will prevail. 

It probably will eventually, but plenty of damage can be done whilst we wait for that. So, where a player has a high price and a really obvious problem emerges – I’m getting more likely to cut it off early lately.

Players aside, I am interested to see what FI come up with by way of a market update on the mechanics this week, which may even drop today.

Though I have to say my expectations are quite low. I’m expecting some small tweaks that will probably help – but I think many are setting themselves up for disappointment by hoping for some kind of big bazooka that immediately turbo charges the market.

It’s likely to be much more boring than that. I think a combination of time to heal, consistent dividends and some intervention from FI will turn the tide but I’m expecting more marathon than sprint.

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