Fantasy Premier League

FPL champion: My secrets to becoming world No 1

27 May 2024
Cole Palmer and Nicolas Jackson

Jonas Sand Labakk reveals what he has done differently this season to win the title

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The success of Jonas Sand Labakk in becoming Fantasy Premier League champion shows that anyone can dream of being the world No 1, regardless of how they have performed in previous seasons.

Labakk had never finished inside the top 120,000 in the world before this campaign, when he won by a massive 51 points.

Granted, as the 20-year-old points out, “For many of those ranks, I've been a child.” But nonetheless, he has made key changes to his approach this season, which have had a huge impact and can both inspire and help Fantasy managers who would love to see similar improvements in their own rank.

Using analytics to plan ahead

“In recent years, mainly through other Fantasy Football games, I've got a totally new perspective when it comes to Fantasy Football,” says Labakk. “I’m a huge fan of analytics and optimisation.

“It’s no news that you need some positive variance or luck in order to win FPL, but it also requires much from you. You have to put in hours. You have need to do research.
 
“I recently adapted the analytics into my playing style, and I'm 100 per cent sure I would never have become No 1 had it not been for that. 

“It's mainly models that I use, where they take a lot of Expected stats. I don't know how many stats they use and how they exactly use it, but the end product is what they call ‘Expected Value’.

See: How to use Expected Goals data in Fantasy

“Out of that, over a four to six-Gameweek span, for example, you can see how they expect the player to perform."

Avoiding points hits and early transfers

Labakk’s meticulous approach meant he took just a trio of minus-four points hits over his successful campaign.

On each of those three occasions, his decisions were influenced by Blank or Double Gameweeks. In Gameweek 17, he removed the injured Erling Haaland ahead of Manchester City’s Blank Gameweek 18, while he made two transfers in both Double Gameweek 28 and Blank Gameweek 29 to help him navigate the late-season schedule.

“I now try to avoid hits as much as possible,” says Labakk. “And I have a structured plan where I plan for, let's say, between four to six weeks in advance. But obviously there might be injuries that can occur."

Some FPL managers like to buy in-demand players early in the week before their price rises, thereby gradually developing a squad that is worth more than the initial £100m that managers are given to spend. But Labakk turned against that approach this season.

“I tried to avoid early transfers as much as possible," he says. "I valued the information [about injuries etc] at the end of the week over the team value.

“That was something I wanted to focus on this season, as I have a history where they might have come back to bite me. I’ve learned that a £0.1m or £0.2m swing might not mean all too much in the bigger picture. 

“We saw that especially last year [in 2022/23] where most people had something like £7m or £8m in the bank because everyone had players like [Kaoru] Mitoma and [Alexis] Mac Allister. So I don't think the team value this season and last season has been a deciding factor.”

Playing safe

“I've recently become quite risk-averse when it comes to Fantasy Football,” says Labakk. “Boring picks, they are boring for a reason. 

“Hopefully, I think the narrative that you need to take crazy stupid picks or something in order to win [the world title] some day is put to bed, because I don't think that's the way.

“I think you need to find your own way of playing and stick to that playing style. Unless the playing style is terrible, you should see results.”

Snapping up players before they go BIG

Getting ahead of the curve with transfer targets was another vital ingredient to Labakk’s success.

He was canny enough to bring in Cole Palmer while the midfielder was still priced at his opening cost of £5.0m and had made only four starts for Chelsea.

The Norwegian also puts his late-season swoops for Man City and Chelsea assets for their Double Gameweeks among the most prescient moves of his victorious season. 

“I went early on Palmer," says Labakk. "I think it was Gameweek 11 – and he ended up with the most points [across the season] despite only starting to play regularly in Gameweek 7.

"Then I had [Josko] Gvardiol from Gameweek 32. He didn't get many points that week, but from 33 onwards he's been insane. 

"The same goes for [Nicolas] Jackson in Gameweek 33. At that time I’d already used my Wildcard, and I knew that since Chelsea had both a Double in 35 and an alright fixture in 36, and a Double in 37, I knew many people were going to go for Jackson.

"But Jackson had to avoid a yellow card for two games. It was kind of a risk but it ended up paying very well.”

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