UPDATE: This article has been annotated with revisions, because the brilliant @trevg1977 has gone deeper and pointed out flaws in the logic, and full credit to him for it. I am very happy to make these clarifications even though have exposed an oversight on my part because I feel I am now smarter for it. Rather than delete the post, I will talk you through the logic of how the original argument has been disproved, in red below.
This season I have been conducting surveys of Fantasy Premier League managers via this blog to investigate game strategy and approaches to the game. Thus far I have conducted a pre-season and mid-season survey, and plan to complete the research with an end-of-season survey. Analysis of the results will be conducted in the summer when all the data is in and the final rank of each manager is known, and I thank everyone who has taken part to date. I do not want to talk about the provisional results too much just yet, but there has been one response that is so popular that I think it can be fairly described as ‘Conventional Wisdom’.
The question of interest that has been posed in both surveys to date is:
Is it favourable to play the Bench Boost chip in a double gameweek?
For those unaware, a Bench Boost chip is a one-time option that can be played and for that week you will score points for all 15 of your squad players rather than just the starting XI, and a double gameweek (DGW) is when some teams have two games due to rearranged fixtures from earlier in the season. There were three options to choose from: ‘Yes’, ‘No’, and ‘I Don’t Know / Maybe’. In the pre-season survey, 86% of respondents answered ‘Yes’, and in the mid-season survey 85% did the same. The results conclusively show that the majority of FPL managers think it is favourable to play their Bench Boost chip during a DGW.
No additional benefits
My argument centres on the reasoning that the primary function of the Bench Boost chip is to increase the number of players in your squad scoring points. Instinct suggests that the DGWs provide the perfect opportunity for this: you have a squad packed with players who are playing twice, and you can play all of them, so whereas in a normal week you can have only up to 11 opportunities for points (referred to from now as ‘game opportunities’), in a DGW you can have as many as 30 if you play the Bench Boost (15 players all playing twice). However, it is only in extreme circumstances that a DGW can provide benefits over and above a standard GW.
Let’s take two scenarios as a way of demonstrating how the DGWs are no more effective than a standard GW.
Scenario one: Imagine you play your Bench Boost chip in a standard GW where all 20 teams play just once, and let’s assume all 15 players in your squad are fit, available and selected. The number of game opportunities your players have for scoring points is 15 (e.g. 15 players, all playing once). This represents an increase of +4 over the standard 11 game opportunities afforded a certain week.
Scenario two: Now, let’s imagine you play your Bench Boost chip in a DGW where you have 10 of your starting XI playing twice. The game opportunities within your squad are now 25 (e.g. 10 players playing twice, and five playing once). This sounds like a lot, but consider what would have happened had you not played the Bench Boost chip: you would have 10 players playing twice and one playing once, for a total of 21 game opportunities. This represents a gain of +4 opportunities, which is the same as the standard GW from the first scenario.
The table below demonstrates this; the row highlighted in red represents a standard GW (scenario one described above, where no players have a DGW), whilst the blue row represents scenario two. The far right column represents the additional benefit (game opportunities) a Bench Boost chip can provide.
The table shows that the Bench Boost chip only becomes favourable in a DGW if you have 12 or more players on a DGW; e.g. you need to pack your starting XI with only DGW players and then any incremental benefit comes from the DGW players on the bench. That means concentrating the players in your squad from just a handful of teams.
UPDATE: Here is where @trevg1977 shone new light on the problem. My fundamental flaw has been to assume that the non-Bench Boost manager and the Bench Boost manager have the same mentality, which is not true. Scenario Two above is the mentality of a non-Bench Boost manager, who loads his starting XI with DGW players because he knows he cannot play the Bench Boost. However, the presence of the Bench Boost would have altered his mentality and made the distinction between bench and starting XI redundant. Therefore, his single GW players would not be guaranteed to be subs in the ‘non-Bench Boost’ scenario but instead would have started.
As an illustration, let’s look again at Scenario Two. The manager has 10 DGW players and 5 single GW players. But because he knows he can play the Bench Boost, his 5 single GW players are Alexis Sanchez, Hector Bellerin, Dele Alli, Harry Kane and David De Gea. Therefore in the alternative scenario where he doesn’t play the Bench Boost, these five would certainly be in the starting XI, relegating four DGW players to the bench. Therefore, his game opportunities for the non-Bench Boost option would be 17 (six DGW + 5 single GW), but with the Bench Boost this increases to 25 (10 DGW + 5 single GW), an gain of +8. Therefore, there is a scenario where the Bench Boost is a much better option than a single GW.
Update: The above explanation renders the rest of the article false and redundant. I will leave it up in the interest of transparency, but I recommend you don’t read any of it because it simply isn’t true! Thanks again to @Trevg1977 for his thoughts, he is a true FPL thinker, so go follow him now.
Now, stop reading…
Go on, leave!
A risky tactic
12 or more players on a DGW is a pure ‘fixtures over form’ tactic, and may prove beneficial for getting an extra 1-4 game opportunities from that DGW but can hinder the rest of the season, particularly if a wildcard has been used to get the players in as you have no chance to reverse it without point hits. Taking 2015/2016’s DGW 34 as an example, which was considered a large DGW as 10 teams had two games, there are a host of form players who would have needed to have been dropped in order to maximise the impact of the Bench Boost:
- Champion’s Leicester and main challengers Tottenham did not have DGWs, so Vardy, Mahrez, the Leicester defence, Kane, Alli, Alderweireld, etc, would needed to have been sold in order to accommodate DGW players.
- Southampton duo Sadio Mane and Dusan Tadic would not have been in the squad due to an absence of a DGW, but they went on to score 50 and 43 points respectively from GW34 onwards.
- The same is true of Andre Ayew at Swansea, who scored 42 points in the closing weeks.
- Chelsea were just beginning their revival after a traumatic season, but Eden Hazard would score 38 points in the final few games, and he didn’t have a DGW.
The logic of getting in as many DGW players as possible is a sensible one, but in order to get any additional points benefit from the Bench Boost chip you are required to take it to the extreme, overlooking form players and/or teams with a good run-in all for milking one DGW for all its worth. This is a strategy that will potentially cost you a lot in point hits to reverse.
A further point to consider here is that if you load 12 DGW players into your squad in order to get the +1 game opportunity you wouldn’t get from a standard GW (e.g. +5 rather than +4), you have to rely on all 27 game opportunities (12 players playing twice, three playing once) delivering points: if one player is rested for one game – not an inconceivable eventuality – then the game opportunities are reduced to 26 and a we have gain of +4 game opportunities which is the same as a Bench Boost deployment on a standard GW, and the DGW/Bench Boost advantage that you unbalanced your team to achieve is lost.
Of course, the benefit of playing a Bench Boost so soon after a wildcard is that it is likely that all the players you picked are fit and playing for their team, which increases the potential for a +4 gain; taking my team at present as an example, I have two injuries to subs in my squad, so playing my Bench Boost now will result in a +2 gain only. However, this extols the virtues of Bench Boosting after a wildcard, and whilst this may coincide with a DGW, its proximity is incidental only.
There is a benefit to be had from playing your Bench Boost during a DGW, but it is a risky venture (12 or more DGW players) for which the chances of plentiful rewards are slim, both in the short and long term. Having said all that, there are no real downsides to using the Bench Boost chip during a DGW either aside from the risk of players being rested during a crowded schedule. The point is that in most scenarios, it doesn’t really matter when you play it. Of course the allure of the DGW / Bench Boost combination is the potential for a grand 150+ point score, and as the game should be about fun, there is no reason not to go for that target, however it should be remembered that unless you have 12 or more DGW players the Bench Boost will not provide an incremental benefit towards a high score than it would on any other GW.
Considering the fact that for the Bench Boost effect to be maximised you need all players playing, the ideal time to use it is theoretically during a quiet period of the season when the risk of rotation is lower, perhaps even after GWs 5-10 when first teams are settling down and a lot of FPL managers consider using their first wildcard. The uproar caused by the DGWs, which add to a crowded schedule for clubs with competing cup priorities and fatigue issues at the business end of the season, arguably make them a bad time to use the Bench Boost.