Interview with Fabian – FPLBET 2018/19 Mini League Winner

We sat down with last years FPLBET prize league winner, Fabian von Harling to discuss a thrilling season, which saw him finish with a total of 2,534 points. That was an average of 66.68 points per game week and ultimately, was enough to seal an overall rank of 56 and a well earned top finish in our prize league!

Fabian won a Sonos One speaker for his performance and he was kind enough to share some of his secret sauce from last year. Enjoy!

1.  Please tell us a little about yourself, where you live, what you do for a day job and so on, a little bio would be great.

Absolutely! Well, my name is Fabian von Harling. I am 29 years old, and I live in Kristiansand, Norway (also known as the Norwegian Riviera). I work as a legal advisor, and it appears I spend a bit too much time on FPL.  

2.  What premier league team do you follow – obviously, you’re from Norway but when did you start watching premier league?  What made you support the team that you do?

I am Manchester United fan, as quite a few Norwegians are. The reason for that is basically Eric Cantona’s goal at home to Sunderland in 1996. I remember seeing that goal, and it was the greatest thing I ever saw. Naturally, I spent the next few months chipping the keeper with my collar popped. At the same time, United was becoming more Norwegian by the week with the signings of Solskjaer, Berg, Johnsen and Nevland. No looking back after that.

English football has been a huge part of Norwegian culture since the seventies, and luckily my parents were willing to get the channels needed to watch Premier League football. Been watching it almost without pause ever since.

3.  Can you tell us about your history with FPL, how long have you been playing?  What’s your previous performance been like? Highest rank and so on?

I started playing FPL in 2012/13. The first few seasons it was mostly something I did to compete with my friends, and I never really spent to much time on it. The first three seasons I finished 57k, 89k and 15k.  Around 2015/16 I gradually watched less and less football, and i almost stopped paying attention to FPL. Ahead of the 2017/18 season I decided to give FPL a “real” try, and to actually spend time on preparations and research. If my interest in FPL and Premier League football did not pick up, I would stop playing altogether. I ended up finishing 1138 overall and had a lot of fun with it. The season reinvigorated my interest in Premier League football, and I was hooked on FPL in a completely new way! I decided to try to dig even deeper, and I have enjoyed this season even more.

4. What was your strategy going into the season, how do you like to setup your teams from the start?

I think my strategy can be summarized in two main points. I just try to find a player combination that maximizes value, and I try to set up a team I believe will perform from the get-go. My goal to start the season was to set up a team that would not need a Wildcard early on.

I don’t really have a “formula” for how I like to set up my team. The last two seasons, I have preferred going with just two strikers, so that might be the mot “formulaic” choices I’ve made. Prior to this season, I didn’t see all that much value in the third striker segment (of course, this was before Raul Jimenez made his presence felt), and felt I could get some decent returns from low-cost players like Doherty, Wan-Bissaka and Hughes. My set up was in no way perfect, as Alexis Sanchez, Ben Davies and Jordan Pickford illustrate. But my team performed well, and it had the necessary flexibility allowing me to shift towards the ideal set up without having to use my Wildcard early.

Other than the main points outlined above, I will to an ever-increasing degree focus on proven players that have shown a certain degree of reliability. The start of the season is always difficult because of the many unknowns. There are so many new players, managers and set-ups, and the thought of getting the next Salah from the start is always a temptation. I find that I prefer to stay with the guys that have done it in the Prem before and to minimize the number of punts on newcomers. Of course, you always need a few bargain players, and you always have to try to punt on the next Doherty and Wan-B. My plan will just be to avoid gambling on Sanchez-like players.

5.  What 3 players have been your go-to players across the season, guys you just couldn’t leave out?

The obvious ones are Robbo and one of the Liverpool midfielders. Other than that, I haven’t really had any guys that were always part of my set up and always started. I probably should have had a few more, like a second Pool defender. But I do want to mention guys like Doherty and Wan-Bissaka, who stayed in my squad for large parts of the season, and Jimenez and Frasier who were absolute budget monsters for large parts of the season.

6.  What players did you consider to be differentials, the guys who delivered for you when everyone else was looking the other way?

I’m not the biggest differential guy, and that aspect doesn’t really factor into my decision making. Therefore, I’m not all that sure which of my guys could be viewed as differentials. But having Doherty for the first 10 GWs was valuable. As was having Frasier, although not having Wilson probably eliminated that advantage. Jota performed decently when I finally got him in, and Digne provided some great ups and downs.

7.  When did you play your triple captain – did it pay off?

I played my triple captain chip in double gameweek 25 and put the captaincy on Aguero. He came in with a hattrick against Arsenal, so it definitely paid off. Along with captaining Salah against Bournemouth in GW16, my DGW25 triple captaincy is probably the decisive correct decision of my season. I went into GW25 with an OR of 1375, and it lifted me to OR 251.

8.  What was your wildcard strategy?

It was shit. Joking aside, my Wildcards were one of the underwhelming parts of the season. As mentioned above, I try to set up my GW1 team with the goal of not having to use my Wildcard early. The best part of my WC strategy was that I succeeded in not having to use my first WC early on, and I didn’t actually use it until I absolutely had to. I activated it prior to GW20 and went on to three red arrows in four GWs. The Wildcard itself wasn’t altogether terrible, but it did contain blunders such as Felipe Anderson and Richarlison. In short, I struggled to find a clear view of what I wanted my WC squad to be, and it ended up being a meddling effort that necessitated a few transfers the following weeks.

My second WC was an essential part of my chip strategy. I set my team up for a WC in GW34, with a Bench Boost in GW35. And once again, the WC was underwhelming. I missed on some important decisions and focused too much on fielding as many DGW players as possible in my Bench Boost squad. Picking Trippier ahead of TAA was the biggest mistake of the season. My double Spurs midfield and Southampton duo of JWP and Valery were hardly homerun decisions either. Improving my WC decision making has to be a priority for next season.

9.  Did bench boost work out for you?  What was your timing and thinking around playing it?

Yes and no. It worked out in the sense that it gave me a good score, a trip to the three digits club and a solid green arrow. But it was also underwhelming, as I had made some errors picking the squad. Masina in for Duffy was bad, Valery got sick which led to JWP being played at wingback, and Spurs were just poor. Both Jota and Raul were unlucky to not score better as well. The week could, and should, have been significantly better, but poor decision making and stupid bad luck got in the way.

10. How far forward do you look when picking your team? Any tips for managers on team selection and your process for picking your starting 11?

It really varies a lot. When setting up your GW1 and WC squads, you naturally have to try to look 10 GWs ahead. As the season progresses, it shifted to constantly having to weigh transfer options against your need for free transfers in future GWs. Ideally, I try to always keep track of how the core of my team should look for the next 5-6 GWs. I try to look out for major shifts in fixtures, and I try to leave room to shift towards getting players from teams that looks like it’s coming to life. A big part of FPL is identifying which players look likely to burst into form. I try to be open to adjusting any transfers plans i have. It’s hard to say exactly how these decisions should be made. Some rely more on statistics than others, for instance tracking the underlying stats etc. But for me, the deciding factor will always be the eye-test. If my eyes and gut tell me a player is doing well, I’m picking him regardless of his underlying stats. 

11.  What do you think was the key to your success over the full season?

Consistency and patience. With every passing year, I learn to be a bit more patient, and it does pay off. It also helps me stay consistent in my decision making. I spend a bit of time listening to a few FPL podcasts, and I very rarely make any moves before having had the time to do a bit of research. Deciding to listen to a podcast and read a bit before making any decisions is really helpful with eliminating knee-jerk reactions and unnecessary moves. Giving myself time to think a bit leads to more consistent performance, I think.

12. Can you tell us about the team you ended the season with over the last month?  What did you do well, what would you have changed?

My team through the last month was basically my Wildcard team, as I wildcarded in GW35. And as I mentioned above, the team underwhelmed a bit. I relied a bit too much on players with a DGW35, which left me some way away from my ideal squad in the last three GWs. Parts of the team did decently, but not picking TAA was a major blunder. Aside from changing a few of the player decisions, I think my chip strategy overall could’ve been more aggressive. I chose a conservative and safe tactic, perhaps aside from TCing Aguero in DGW25. I’m going to be looking at my options for the upcoming season and might perhaps change my chip approach.

13.  Is there anything you would change about the FPL game?  Anything you don’t like or would like to see improved?

This one is hard to answer, simply because I’m struggling to find improvements. I think the game is well set up as is. I’m not particularly fond of the chips and would probably like to see them gone. But I guess it’s more likely we’ll see more or new chips.

One major annoyance I think most FPL players experience is the lack of consistency in how FPL Towers give deflected assists. I think it’s a bit concerning that you see similar incidents judged differently on a week to week basis, and I hope we see more consistency next season. Also, whoever decided it was a good idea to suddenly add two 4,0 midfielders (and Colin Quaner while on loan) for the first time ever in the middle of the season needs to be stripped of his/hers FPL duties. There are several million active FPL players, and I think more professionalism is to be expected.

14. How would you sum up your season?

Fun and consistent! Or perhaps consistently fun! Both are suitable really! It started with a few blunders, was elevated by a few very important captaincy decisions, and ended on a few blunders. But altogether very fun, and I think my greatest achievement was simply being very consistent.  

Fabian’s season in pictures…

GW1: Alexis and Ben Davies. A lot can happen in 38 GWs…

GW5: Fraser, Doherty and Wan-B do the business. From 157k à 22k

GW16: Salah with a huge captaincy hit. From 10k à 1520

GW25: Triple Captaincy comes in. Up to OR 251

GW32: Free Hit chip

GW34: Wildcard time. 3 red arrows in the next for GWs

GW35: Bench Boost time

GW38: Final Squad, OR 56

Full season overview: All in all, a consistent season

I hope you agree this is an awesome recap from Fabian. If you think you have what it takes to beat Fabian this year, then sign up to our mini-league. Keep an eye on our Twitter bio here for details!

Editor in Chief of FPLBET.

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