Mindset & Psychology

2 months ago

Transfer Traps to Avoid in Fantasy Football: Psychological Biases

Today, we are looking at our beloved season-long EPL contest from a different angle. calmente – a seasoned FPL player with a degree in psychology – makes his debut with a look at traps fantasy managers fall into due to certain tricks our brains are very likely to play on us. This and other articles highlighting this aspect of playing fantasy sports can be found using our new Mindset & Psychology tag. Enjoy and be mindful of your fantasy game!  



English Premier League season-long tournaments are getting bigger every year, with millions already playing the free FPL version of the game or fighting for life-changing cash in Fanteam's Million Game with €200,000 for first. The majority of the managers take it extremely seriously, with regular planning, analyzing, and informing being part of their daily routine. The existence and success of our website is a testament to the abovementioned aspects of our beloved fantasy football game.

The rapid growth that EPL season-long games continue to experience is mainly due to its simplistic, yet genius concept of scoring that leaves the players hungry for success. Possibly, the most important aspect when it comes to having success in the game, or at least the most popular one, is making transfers.

The rules concerning transfers force managers to be careful when making their choice on which players to bring into their teams. There are situations when it is acceptable to take a hit, to save a transfer, to take a “weaker player” in order to fund moves elsewhere, and many more tactical moves that almost always have a massive influence on how the season shapes out.

As with all things that involve people competing with each other, we can notice many psychological biases and patterns that are playing a huge part in the daily functioning of EPL season-long contests. There are many of them worthy of discussion, but today we will only focus on two important psychological phenomena that affect FPL managers when making transfers: confirmation bias and bandwagon effect.


Confirmation Bias

In psychology, confirmation bias is defined as the

tendency to process information by looking for, or interpreting, information that is consistent with one’s existing beliefs

In FanTeam and FPL, this translates to searching for information that increases your confidence in bringing in a player that you already want to have in your team. It also includes ignoring information that might point out why you should not have that same player in your team.

Let’s say you want to get Lukaku in your team. When you get on Twitter, you would be more likely to like the tweets of people saying they plan to bring in Lukaku or ones showing stats and opinions on why you should get him, rather than ones that point out the downsides of getting him in your team.

Don’t get me wrong, having confidence in your decisions and strategy is crucial when making transfers. After all, if you are rarely making your own decisions and are just copying moves that you see on the internet, you are less likely to feel good about your results when the game week concludes.

An effective way to beat confirmation bias is to have an open mind when it comes to absorbing information about players and strategies. Primarily, you need to be critical of your own thought patterns and decision-making. A strategy that often works for me is no matter how much I like a player; I try to consider the downsides of that move.


In the aforementioned Lukaku case, I would pay attention to posts that point out Lukaku’s price which would negatively affect the balance in my team, or his history of being a streaky finisher (i.e. scoring eight goals in six matches, then going scoreless in the next seven games). The positives of owning Lukaku, together with the two negative aspects I mentioned about him (along with a handful of other ones) should create an internal debate in my mind on whether I should buy him or not. The outcome of this would hopefully result in an unbiased decision that I would proudly stand by.

To conclude, the most important thing to do when weighing in transfer options is to look at both sides of the coin and to come to an impartial, and hopefully, fruitful decision that you would not regret making.

Read more: Fanteam Rookie Blog: Episode 6

Bandwagon Effect

The bandwagon effect is defined as

the tendency for people to do something primarily because other people are doing it, regardless of their own beliefs

This is a pretty self-explanatory phenomenon that occurs quite often, especially in season-long EPL games. The rise of fantasy-related EPL content on Reddit and Twitter further fueled this effect when it comes to making transfers. It is enough for two posts to pop off on Reddit, or a couple of popular content creators to take a hard stance on a 50/50 subject, and all hell could break loose. Players might be transferred out or in by the thousands overnight, which could result in the already fragile equilibrium of a situation shifting in either direction.

A great example of this would be the recent situation of Antonio getting a red card in the most recent game week. The red card means that FPL’s golden boy will now miss the next game (GW5). The result of this event was that Antonio’s ownership dropped from 52% to a staggering 42% in a matter of only 48 hours.

This is a mind-blowing drop in ownership that will definitely have a huge effect on the global rankings. It is a clear showing of the bandwagon effect, mixed with overreacting and panic-selling.

When I opened Twitter after the game, my feed was flooded with questions and opinions about what to do with Antonio. People were in full-blown panic mode and tweets with replacement options were pouring out by the second. The problem with this type of reactive behavior is that it often leaves many managers feeling lost and forced to make panic moves, which almost always results in feelings of regret.

It can be pretty hard to avoid being absorbed by the bandwagon effect, but there are some ways to prevent it from affecting you. Probably the most drastic, yet powerful method to combat this is to take at least a 48-hour break from EPL fantasy-related content on social media after the game week is concluded. This can be hard for some people (myself included), but it can help the managers to keep a clear head about the big events that occurred in the past game week.

Let’s tie this to the Antonio case. We saw that his ownership drop in the first 48 hours after his game ended was 10%, which is obviously a huge number of managers selling him. However, in the following 24 hours, he saw a drop of only 1 %, which shows us that after the initial period of managers panicking and knee-jerking, the dust settled down and people are back to carefully planning their next moves.

This method can sometimes result in missing out on a valuable price rise or drop, but in the majority of cases, it is the smarter move, as it results in a carefully thought-out plan that you can feel proud standing by no matter how it turns out.


To wrap up, it is clear that the world of FPL is not immune to the human nature that affects the way we think and how we behave as human beings. We are prone to making mistakes, falling into psychological traps, and feeling negative emotions about our decisions. There is no shame in falling for traps, as long as you recognize them and try to learn from them. The message of this article would be to identify your own biases, develop a strategy on how to fight them, and try to remain as objective about incoming information as you can. I will be back shortly with another batch of psychological traps for you, till next time, take care!