Matt Martyniak: «It's important to watch games, statistics don't always tell you the overall or complete picture»
Vladimir Stishenok visited England, met Fantasy Premier League (FPL) champion Matt Martyniak and found out how he managed to leave behind three million competitors.
— Why are you playing FPL in the first place?
— I play FPL primarily because I enjoy it. I like fantasy football, I like real life football, and I like the Premier League, and FPL for me is the best fantasy football game out there.
— If you have to choose three main things behind your success in fantasy sport which ones will you choose?
— There are so many things, or links in the chain, to be successful at fantasy sport, and they all need to work together. I suppose the three main things that have helped me the most are:
1) Research — that is to study the fantasy game itself (FPL) and to study this in relation to the sport itself (Premier League) to see how to maximize your weekly points potential.
2) Watching games — preferably live games, but recorded highlights can help too.
3) Making my own decisions on my players, team selection, and tactics — and then trust in them. But don't be afraid to admit mistakes. If I make mistakes then I try to quickly rectify it and move on with limited damage caused.
— How much time should be given to the fantasy sport games to be able to succeed?
— It is difficult to answer how much time exactly should be given as every fantasy sport game differs, and each of us fantasy managers differ too.
For me what works is to try and catch up with the FPL and Premier League news every other day, if not daily (probably no more than 30 mins each time) and then wait for the final team news, which is usually 1-2 days before deadline. I'd probably spend around one hour or so if possible on the evening before the deadline to make my final decisions.
— Eternal question number one. What is more important: to watch games or to learn stats?
— For me it's more important to watch games. Statistics can be helpful, but they also cannot be helpful as they don't always tell you the overall or complete picture.
In watching games I can see how the players play in relation to the team set up and management style of play and see how all of this fits into the FPL game itself. I will then look at some of the stats (not all stats) to see if they back up my thinking or not before I make a decsion.
My most successful seasons in FPL have come from mainly watching games and making decisons based on what I've seen, and vice versa, when I haven't watched many games I haven't done that well!
— Eternal question number two. Form or fixtures?
— I prefer form over fixtures. Often good players in form can get good points against any opposing team, and vice versa, poor form players often don't get points despite the favorable fixture.
However, both the form and the fixture is most often the optimum, or the 'perfect storm', that has the greatest potential to generate the greatest points.
— How has your approach to playing FPL changed during all those years and why?
— FPL, like the Premier League, has changed over the years, and each season differs. My approach is the same each season in that I need to be flexible and adaptable to the present situation.
You have to adapt and be forward thinking to the new changes in FPL and also in the Premier League itself. The sooner you adapt, the sooner you can get the 'right team' and then start getting some good consistency to start moving forwards up the rankings.
— What are the decision(s) you are proud of the most?
— Probably getting on and off the right players at the right time. FPL is mainly about timing. You have to have the right players at the right time. You can't get them all right all of the time, but the more you do get right at the right time then the more you are successful.
— Are risky, rush or panic decisions can be justified and in what case?
— What works for me is to make calculated informed decisions, to not rush, and to not panic. Some risks can work yes and can be justified, but more often than not risks will not work. So I prefer to minimize my risks and if I need to take a risk then it's often a calculated risk. I like to play the percentages.
Being patient along with having a cool head is a major part of being successful at FPL.
— Is it reasonable to trust your gut feeling even if it conflicts with public opinion?
— Yes sure. There are lots of factors that can help towards being successful in FPL, and often your own gut feeling shouldn't be dismissed as it can be a big help. I often use my gut feeling to finalize my decisions after watching the games and looking at some statistics — especially where decisions are around 50/50.
We all have different views and opinions on the FPL game and real life football in general, and while it's always good to take on board public opinion and advice, it's important for me to trust my own opinion backed up by my own gut feeling based on what I've seen and heard whether it's for or against the public opinion.
— What are the most funny moments of your long FPL career?
— Leaving Guy Demel and his points on the bench a few times during my title winning season made me laugh. If I didn't laugh I'd have cried!
I suppose owning Gervinho that same season made me laugh a bit also. Despite him being a stressful and terrible pick, he did contribute to two significant moments in my title winning season. Firstly, he got an assist and bonus points in the first game he played for me before he was dropped after the next game and never to play again.
Secondly, and thankfully he didn't get on the pitch against Wigan in DGW37 and as a result I got Maloney's bench points who scored in that same game.
Those two Gervinho moments — good and bad — you could say helped signifcantly towards me winning the FPL title in the end!
— What are the key things to keep in mind while choosing your captain for the gameweek?
— I try to keep the captain pick simple and go for the best and most explosive FPL player in form, and preferable with the good fixture to match.
The FPL captain pick is a game within the FPL game itself, and while it's a good opportunity to get double points and make up ground on those managers above you, it's equally important not to lose points and to lose ground to those managers below you. Therefore, I rarely take a punt or risk on a non popular captain. Instead I often pick a solid, reliable, and popular captain pick, in order not to fall behind and down the rankings if it goes wrong.
— What advice can you give to the newcomers to fantasy sport?
— My number one rule in FPL is: 'Play the FPL game the way it set up to play, and play it in relation to the Premier League itself'. This means read the rules of the fantasy game and study the real life game, and then try to match them together to try and get the optimum fit to then able you to maximise you're weekly points potential.
Also what is key is to enjoy it and don't take it too seriously. Fantasy sport is only a game after all, and when you enjoy something then you usually do better at it!