The Hard Tackle had the privilege of interviewing India’s number one Fantasy Premier League (FPL) manager last season – Pranil Sheth.
Pranil navigated through an unpredictable Premier League season to finish eight points clear of his nearest opponent in the country standings. Pranil’s team, titled “Bad team on paper”, eventually ended up finishing 77th in the world rankings. He recounts the highs and lows of an unforgettable FPL campaign in an exclusive interview with The Hard tackle below.
1. Congratulations Pranil! First up, how does it feel to finish as the number one Indian manager in Fantasy Premier League 2015-16?
It feels bloody good, obviously. I’m elated. It’s nice to have a hobby like FPL validated through a good rank and even better to have the bragging rights amongst your mates. Being able to say ‘don’t blame you guys for losing, you’re competing with India’s finest’ makes it totally worth it. I came really close a couple of seasons ago with an overall rank of 22 and India number one with 3 weeks to go. I rolled the dice and fell straight to 189. The dice fell on the right number this time around.
2. What were your emotions like as the final day of the season progressed? Did the news of the postponement of Manchester United-Bournemouth make you nervous?
I was 12th in India before the last week so I wasn’t really expecting to finish first. There wasn’t any nervousness. I was on vacation and was actually watching City play Swansea as I’m a Manchester United fan and was hoping for a 4th place finish for them. My brother is an Arsenal fan and he knew I captained Giroud. When he told me he’s scored a second, that is when I thought I might be onto something here. Seconds later, Ollie score a third. Before the last game, most in the top 10 had United assets and the guy in 2nd place had Martial. But with Louis Van Gaal at the helm, I knew he didn’t pose much of a threat so I wasn’t too worried.
3. As you know, this was a very unpredictable Premier League season because of Leicester City’s unprecedented rise to the top. What strategy did you employ to navigate through the uncertainties of the FPL campaign?
I actually was incredibly lost in the first half of the season. I didn’t watch much football last season (except for the United games) since I was incredibly busy with work and took a year off from FPL as well. I felt rusty and had a pathetic start to the season. I was ranked 1.8 million more than halfway through the season. But I knew where the good punts were once I had seen enough football and climbed like crazy in the second half of the season. I’m pretty sure if I was active last season, I would have been in the global top 10 this year.
4. What made you decide on bringing in Olivier Giroud and Sadio Mane as your final transfers of the season?
Giroud was an incredibly easy decision for me once I knew Danny Welbeck was injured. It was a classic case of Aston-Villa hunting. They are the whipping boys of the league and Arsenal play their best football when they have zero pressure. Mane was a case of looking for an explosive player playing for a team with some motivation. Mane was due and Southampton were scoring a lot of goals. Also helped that Palace were in the FA cup final so I knew what to expect from a second string Palace team.
5. I can see that you used your two Wildcards in Gameweek 3 and 36. Tell us your thinking behind that?
It’s very difficult to get a team right in GW1. You have to be really really lucky to manage that since you can’t judge form. My team was a disaster. I needed to fix that in GW3. Not that my wildcard team was much better. Gameweek 36 wildcard was because my team was in great shape throughout the second half of the season so never really felt a reason to make wholesale changes. I only wildcarded in GW36 due to the presence of double gameweek fixtures in GW37 which gave me an opportunity to play my bench boost.
6. Tell us your opinion about the 3 chips introduced by FPL this season. How helpful were they to you in retrospect?
I personally am not a big fan of the chips. Especially in the H2H leagues since your team can get targeted. But I remain focused on the overall rank and did really well with 2 out of my 3 chips. The moment I read about the triple captain chip, I knew I could only trust one player with it. Triple captaining Kun Aguero in a double gameweek was a no brainer. And the bench boost was used in the second double fixture gameweek where I had 13 players playing 2 games. Obviously I saw a jump in rank because of that. The all out attack chip was rubbish and actually cost me more points as I had Bellerin and Toby on my bench where both scored double figures against each other in the North London derby.
7. What particular clubs and players were the key to your success? Which player was entrusted with the captain’s armband most often by you this season?
I’m a firm believer in captaining strikers from big teams. You can’t go very wrong with that. Aguero and Kane got my armband for most games. I’ve never captained a defender in FPL. Players who were key to my good rank were Alli, Firmino, Alderweireld, Bellerin, Fuchs, Butland and De Bruyne. I jumped very early on all of them. No particular team though. You can’t let emotions get in the way of FPL.
8. How conservative an FPL player are you? How often did you take hits this season?
I’m not a conservative player at all. I take gambles whenever I see value in them and hate boring transfers. I’m always about the higher upside. Compared to my previous seasons, I’ve taken lesser hits this year. A total of 14 hits this year for me.
9. What were the best and the worst decisions you made over the course of the season?
Aguero triple captain has to by my best decision this year. I triple captained him for the highest score posted by any player in a single gameweek. My Aguero captaincy in GW8 against Newcastle United and Giroud captaincy in the last gameweek are other honourable mentions. Worst decisions were probably zero investment in Leicester players early on. I jumped onto Mahrez very late after persisting with Mane for a long time.
10. You finished with a global ranking of 77, 2212 and 189 in the last 3 FPL seasons. What do you think is the secret behind your consistency?
I think I have a good eye of judging form of key players who are capable of scoring and assisting. People often fail to differentiate between good players and good FPL players. I know the difference really well. And I don’t go chasing points very often. You have to anticipate where the points are going to come from rather than chase the points already scored. But there has to be a balance.
11. Which Premier League club do you support? How happy are you with your team’s final finishing position in the league table?
I’m a Manchester United fan. Not at all happy with our 5th position and am delighted that Van Gaal has been shown the door. I couldn’t stand the brand of football we were playing. To be fair to Louis though, he has set up a great base for Jose Mourinho, our next manager. He has left United in a better shape than he found it.
12. Lastly, what tips would you like to pass on to other Indian FPL managers?
Copy my team and you’ll win your mini-league. On a more serious note, don’t let emotion influence your transfers and don’t be too patient and safe. Always look for a higher upside.