Monday, 25 December 2017

2017-18 Fantasy Premier League: Mid-term report

Between Man City's utter domination of the Hardest League In The WorldTM, blood-pressure-inducing rotation and "most transferred-in" frustration, those 19 weeks zipped by pretty quick, huh?

Pep Guardiola, Man City manager
"I own you. Every single one of you."

The time is ripe to review the happenings so far short time that remains before the second half of the season kicks off, and get an idea of where to invest in the weeks to come. For the purposes of this post, players who've played at least 900 minutes have been considered.

Top performers

Let's begin by looking at players who make the most of their time on the pitch.

Setting fire to turfs countrywide

The return of Mohamed Salah to the Premier League is the biggest highlight in PP90 terms as he leads the way with just over 9 points per 90 minutes. The top 5 is, perhaps predictably, dominated by the current front 3 of Manchester City. If you wish to look past the randomly-rotated Man City strikers, you might be surprised to see that the best delivery for time on the pitch up front comes next from Rooney, edging out Morata and Kane.

Value for money

Next, let's add a slight twist to the above by dividing PP90 by the player's price.

Everyone loves a discount

Tom Heaton's deputy Nick Pope leads the way, having outscored his current price 1.12x every game. He is joined in the top 10 by his teammate Stephen Ward, who recorded 0.93x. Early-season favourite Ben Davies is now caught in rotation, but racked up numbers good enough to see him second on the list at 1.08x. Depoitre should be a hot favourite as third striker, scoring close to his price every 90 minutes.

Consistent

Aggregate statistics are decent, but ideally you'd also want your players to not blank often (especially if you have designs on the FPL cup). Defining the event of outscoring 'free' points (3 points for midfielders, 2 points for others) as having impacted a match and ranking the top 10 players by the proportion of matches they impacted, we get this:

We detest firing blanks

Salah leads the ranks of men least likely to blank, scoring under 4 points in just 5 out of 19 gameweeks. Manchester United are represented by 4 players in the top 10, with 3 from their sturdy backline. Meanwhile, Sterling's presence in the top 5 of all the above rankings underlines his status as a must-have at this moment as a player with great output and minimal blanks at a reasonable price.

Extra notes

So, what else can one make of all that?
  1. Pope and Fabianski form the best goalkeeper duo: They both feature in the top 10 (across positions) for consistency as well as value for money, and are in the top 3 for total GK points as well.
  2. Given the points output trends this season, doubling up on Liverpool or (and?) Man City midfielders may not be the worst idea.
  3. Your backline needs Phil Jones (5th overall in value and 7th in consistency), and if scoring points every week is important to you, no nailed-on premium striker is doing that as frequently as Lukaku (63% games impacted).
If there's anything else you wish to see/know, don't hesitate to let me know. Greetings of the season to you, and good luck for the second half!

Saturday, 14 October 2017

International football: The maligned sibling

The "club vs country" debate rages on, and nobody sides with "club" more strongly than England fans disconnected from their national team and millions of Fantasy Premier League managers who played their hands early in the international break. Predictably, the period ended with a long list of crocks including big names like Mustafi and Kante, leaving a large number of folks less than pleased.

Lukas Podolski, German forward
Podolski recovering from a nightmare that he and Klose only played club football

However, the format is unique and compelling in its own way, providing the opportunity for fans of a country to unite and watch players motivated for a different cause. This is a playing field disconnected from the riches and royalty of top-level European football which brings forth a very different meaning and emotion. You cannot just buy players into a national team, and you cannot just "go again next year". You have to make it count with the players you have, and when an opportunity comes once in 4 years, every game matters.

Here are four of the most incredible moments from FIFA World Cup qualifiers played over the past couple of weeks.

Iceland became the least-populated nation to ever make the World Cup


Panama qualify for their first ever World Cup


Argentina jump 3 places with a final day away win to qualify



Egypt reach their first World Cup in nearly 3 decades


Try telling these people that international football should take a back seat!

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Fantasy Premier League 2017/18 - Gameweek 2

That was quite the opening weekend, eh? 13 goals were scored in the two games preceding the standard Saturday 3 PM kickoff, and the fun didn't end there as Burnley pulled off the biggest upset in recent memory by storming the home of the champions to get their first PL victory against Chelsea. Huddersfield had a day to remember as they ran away 0-3 winners from Selhurst Park in their first Premier League match before Tottenham and the clubs from Manchester restored a look of normalcy to the results.

Sergio Aguero, Manchester City striker
Man City got off to a Kuntastic start

The fixtures

Swansea vs Man Utd
Bournemouth vs Watford
Burnley vs West Brom
Leicester vs Brighton
Liverpool vs Crystal Palace
Southampton vs West Ham
Stoke vs Arsenal
Huddersfield vs Newcastle
Spurs vs Chelsea
Man City vs Everton

Player selections

Forwards

Lukaku (11.5) - FPL favourite Lukaku added a brace against West Ham to his tally of x goals from the last y seasons. There is a very high likelihood of him adding to it in the coming matches against sides that struggled for form last season.

Lacazette (10.5) - The Frenchman's early Gameweek 1 strike made it 29 goals from 31 league appearances since the start of last season, and he should add to it against a Stoke side that shipped 7 goals over two games against the Gunners last season.

Roberto Firmino, Liverpool forward
The Mino that Man Utd don't love

Firmino (8.5) - The Brazilian frontman is the cheapest route to a Liverpool attack that should deliver regardless of the opposition. He followed up a 5.3 PPG showing from 2016/17 with a 13 point haul at Vicarage Road.

Midfielders

Eriksen/Alli (9.5) - The duo carried their form into this term as they did the damage from midfield for last season's top scorers on opening day. Next, they face a Chelsea side that fell victim to their antics early this year, and are on the ropes with poor form and a raft of injuries and suspensions.

Ritchie (6.0) - The Magpies got off to an unflattering start against last season's runners-up, but should see their output brighten in the upcoming fixtures which see them with the kindest schedule in the next 5 matches (average FPL difficulty 2). Their chief set-piece taker should be among the points.

Ward-Prowse (5.5) -  James Ward-Prowse is a great option for a fifth midfielder owing to a combination of price, set-piece duties, and a kind fixture list.

James Ward-Prowse, Southampton midfielder
"It wasn't me, I'm a Saint"

Defenders

Bertrand (5.5) - The Saints full back reaped 8 points against Swansea, and is likely to continue delivering big returns with games against West Ham, Huddersfield, Watford and Palace looming.

Jones (5.0) - Phil Jones appears to be the preferred option as Bailly's centre-back partner, which makes him the cheapest route into a Man Utd defence that should benefit from Matic's signing and a raft of fixtures against mid-table opponents.

Phil Jones, Manchester united defender
"Take that, Lindelof!"

Lowe (4.5) - As mentioned last week, Huddersfield have an easy opening that they made the most of with a 0-3 win in GW 1. With additional penalty/set-piece threat, Lowe looks like a great value-for-money add to your squad.

Goalkeepers

Foster (5.0) - The Baggies keeper pulled a solid 7 points from the opening day, and should see more of the same with matches against Brighton, Burnley and a home game against Stoke in the next 3

Elliot (4.0) - Basement-priced Rob Elliot would be a tidy enabler for your squad, and has the benefit of the aforementioned schedule.

The Blogger's Team

A mere 66 to start with. What's next?

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Fantasy Premier League 2017/18: Gameweek 1 - The fixtures

Villain of the FA Cup final Victor Moses provided the Community Shield's opening goal, reacting sharply to a loose ball following a Chelsea corner early in the second half. The Blues held their lead until Pedro got himself sent off in a rush of blood, conceding a late free kick that Arsenal's new signing Sead Kolasinac headed in. Thibaut Courtois provided a memorable/forgettable (depending on whose side you're on) moment by taking - and skying - Chelsea's second penalty in the ABBA shootout. Arsenal went on to win the Shield 4-1 on penalties, raising the curtain on the English top division season.

With you on penalty #2, this goes without saying, Thibaut

(I know the image is from the FA Cup final, don't bite my head off)

Things will get real on Friday. Without much further ado, let's dive into the fixtures. The color coding is based on the FPL difficult ratings (1: Dark green to 5: Dark red)

Who's Hot

Man Utd

Man Utd's opening 6 fixtures of the Premier League season

With an average FPL difficulty of 2.33 for their opening 6 matches, the Red Devils have the easiest opening to the season among last season's top 6. The Europa League winners face teams from last season's bottom half in their opening 4 matches as well, making their personnel a good bet to make a strong start to the season.

Matic's (5.0) will most likely partner Herrera (5.5) as a midfield screen, making Pogba (8.0) an enticing selection in a role that promises further attacking returns. Lukaku (11.5) is the lucrative premium selection from this side, with De Gea (5.5) the cheapest assured route to defensive returns.

Man City

Man City's opening 6 fixtures of the Premier League season

The opening schedule is a boon, with the only difficult fixtures coming defensively leaky Merseyside. Add to this the fact that just a trip to Stamford Bridge mars the 4 fixtures following these, setting up Pep Guardiola's attackers to provide a strong foundation for the opening third of the campaign.

Just a point shy of the 200 mark, creative outlet Kevin de Bruyne (10.0) provided 21 assists and 6 goals last season. Gabriel Jesus (10.5) proved extremely useful when called upon, and is the manager's preferred forward. The recommendation with their defensive assets would be to wait and watch, despite Pep Guardiola bolstering his ranks in the summer.

Southampton

Southampton's opening 6 fixtures of the Premier League season

The Saints are the only team with 4 home games in the opening 6, and they also reap the benefits of facing promoted Huddersfield and bottom half sides in their first 5 matches. They should be a force to reckon with in our initial lineups, even if they should lose Virgil van Dijk (5.5).

Owing to popular pick's Yoshida's price rise, Cedric (5.0) offers the joint-cheapest outfield route into the Saints rearguard along with him and Forster. While the dynamics up front are less clear between Austin and Gabbiadini, Tadic (6.5) looks a solid pick at his marked-down price following last season's 4 points per game (PPG) showing.

Who's Not

Chelsea

Chelsea's opening 6 fixtures of the Premier League season

Chelsea are handed an unkind opening schedule. Given two strikers settling into the first team, a defensively suspect second half of last season and the absence of explosive midfield asset Eden Hazard (10.5) for possibly the entire duration, there is little upside to investing in the champions at this time.

Everton

Everton's opening 6 fixtures of the Premier League season

The Toffees finished a respectable 7th in 2016/17 following a forgettable previous campaign. Having lost star hitman Lukaku (11.5) to Man Utd and got old boy Rooney (7.5) in exchange, Ronald Koeman wouldn't have been best pleased with the fixtures computer - Two promising home games sandwich an otherwise challenging schedule, to say the least.

Leicester

Leicester's opening 6 fixtures of the Premier League season

The 2015-16 underdog winners are handed a torrid opening, with a cloud hanging over the future of talisman Riyad Mahrez (8.5). Two fixtures against promoted sides brighten up what is otherwise a very challenging schedule.

Bang for your buck

Huddersfield Town

Huddersfield's opening 6 fixtures of the Premier League season

Promotion playoff winners Huddersfield Town boast the easiest opening fixtures according to the average FPL difficulty ratings. Aaron Mooy (5.5) looks a solid punt for a fifth midfielder, while German left back Chris Lowe (4.5) is their most enticing defensive pick owing to a combination of price, penalty-taking and corner kick duties, although he is a rotation risk owing to the addition of Scott Malone (4.5).

Brighton and Hove Albion

Brighton's opening 6 fixtures of the Premier League season

Brighton had the joint-best defensive record in the Championship last season, particularly at home - They let in just 12 from 23 games at the Amex stadium. They have the potential to be this season's Burnley -> Mathew Ryan (4.5) could be this season's Tom Heaton, and Markus Suttner (4.5) is nailed-on at left back. The opening two fixtures aside, you could get tidy value for money in the games that follow.

Bournemouth

Bournemouth's opening 6 fixtures of the Premier League season

Ryan Fraser (5.5) delivered 5.1 PPG last season, is still terribly cheap and looks set to play a big role in the Cherries' third straight Premier League season. Asmir Begovic (4.5) has clean sheet potential in half of the opening 6, should deliver save points in the other half and rotates nicely with Brighton's defence.

Sunday, 30 July 2017

The Season That Was: Fantasy Premier League

With just 2 weeks to go for the new Premier League season, the hype is building slowly as the teams wind down pre-season across the world to mount an assault on the big prizes. The sums around the players warming up for the new season are as mind-boggling as ever - At the time of writing, Premier League clubs have thrown over 970 million at the transfer market so far at 167 player movements. With a month to go before the window shuts, the 1 billion mark is set to be shattered (and then some).

"And to think I came over for 10 bleedin' million..."

One of the most popular pieces of machinery built around this hype-train is the official Fantasy Premier League game, with over 4 million players contesting last season. Let's now dive into numbers from the 2016/17 Fantasy Premier League with laser focus. All numbers were calculated considering data from players who played at least 450 minutes (the equivalent of 5 full-length matches), and matches where the player in question made an appearance.

The teams

Anyone who's taken a good look at a player's info would know that FPL assigns a 'difficulty score' ranging from 1 to 5 for all fixtures that a player has coming next. Unfortunately, I couldn't find this precise detail in the data for matches in the past (basically, all of them from 2016/17), so I went about this the hard way - using player statistics to figure out how difficult a given opponent was.

It is a simple concept: Difficulty = How hard it is to get FPL points against a team. Find out how stingy a team is. This is fairly straightforward - Consider the average points allowed per player per game (overall, home and away).

Clubs ordered by stinginess. Rankings look familiar?

Sunderland offered up 3.9 points per game to opposition players, a level of generosity 85% higher than that of champions Chelsea (2.11), who gave away just a little more than appearance points overall. The red and blue lines show an expected trend - That teams are generally stronger at home (2.77 allowed) than away (3.35 allowed).

A couple of noteworthy observations emerge if we consider the gap between points allowed at home vs away by team:
1. Home comforts: Watford (+1.34), Everton (+1.21) and Hull (+1.19) have the largest difference between how many more points they allow away as compared to their own backyards.
2. Voyagers: West Ham (-0.21) and Southampton (-0.1) were the two teams that were harder to host than visit.

The players

Reliable

#9 is a #9. These things write themselves

The player who "impacted" (Scored 4 or more points) the largest proportion of games was Gabriel Jesus, who scored/assisted in 7 out of 10 (70%) appearances. At a price not too far removed from last season’s 9.0, he should be on several managers’ radars for a strong start to 2017/18. He is followed by Diego Costa (23/35 = 66%), whose strong first half to the season sees him capture second place on this list. Third is Chelsea’s marauding left full back Marcos Alonso (20/31 = 65%).

Take your positions

The position with the best average points per game was... Goalkeeper!

The fat kid gets to... score the most FPL points

Not only did the men with the gloves outdo the others overall, standing between the sticks was also the most venue-agnostic position with a home advantage of 0.3 points per game (PPG) as compared to the defenders, for whom home advantage mattered three times as much (0.9 PPG)

Keepers also have the smallest price range (4.0 - 5.5) among all positions, however, so you might be well-served picking someone at 'basement price' to enable points elsewhere. Indeed, the top-scoring goalkeeper (oxymoron alert) was the 4.5-priced Tom Heaton.

Bang for your buck

Adjusting for price, last season's MVP was Kieran Trippier, who delivered a mammoth 1.62 PPG per pound, delivering 51 points from just 568 minutes of play, priced at £5.0 at the start of last season. Also getting the most bonus points per 90 mins (1.1) for his position thanks to 5 assists, he looks an enticing prospect at£5.5.

While that is an interesting fact, it is only made relevant by the knowledge that he is now nailed-on in the absence of Walker. Generally, looking at a top 10 list here only makes sense for people who've played considerable minutes, so let's get stricter with our filter - A minimum of 1,350 minutes (15 full matches' worth) will be required.

Junior has grown up

The top 4 were listed as midfielders, and the bottom 6 are defensive players - half of those goalkeepers. Predictably, all their prices have risen for this edition, some more than others. Stanislas, Fraser and Heaton are nailed-on players with the smallest increments (+£0.5). Fans of Josh King were hardest hit by the summer revisions, with the 16-goal midfielder seeing a +£2.0 increment, and a change of role to Forward.

The biggest premium-priced let-down by far was the 2015-16 PFA Player of the Year Riyad Mahrez, who delivered a measly 120 points from 36 matches for his initial £9.5 price tag, while Odion Ighalo was another who flattered in 2015-16 only to disappoint last season (0.36 PPG per pound at £7.5).

Bonus round

A popular aspect of FPL curiosity I will address last is bonus points. Who doesn't love gift points?

Premium domination: Free points are not so free

Sticking with the above section's 1,350 minute requirement, we find that the top 10 list is dominated by premium-priced players. Fernando Llorente, Swansea's £7.5 frontman, is currently the most affordable of this bunch.

I hope you found this interesting and useful as you prepare to boss your FPL leagues. If you want to have a look at the data, feel free to go ahead! Also let me know if there’s anything else you all want to know, and I can try to make it happen