Thursday, 8 August 2019

2019-20 Fantasy Premier League: A preview

2018-19 FPL review

A frantic final week of the Premier League transfer window (purchase window, rather - there is still time for outgoing surprises) saw Harry Maguire (Leicester to Man Utd), Giovani Lo Celso (Betis to Spurs), David Luiz (Chelsea to Arsenal) and Ryan Sessegnon (Fulham to Spurs) secure major moves to the Premier League top 6, while Belgians Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku were notable big-money exits from the league during the summer window. West Ham have spent significantly in bolstering their ranks after Arnautovic's move to China, while Villa have made full use of their victory in the richest game in football by spending over £100m in a bid to stay in the top division.

The league also welcomes VAR this season, which should stir up memories of the 2018 FIFA World Cup, not only for its effective application, but also the fantasy implications of having increased penalties awarded.

Fixture difficulty review

Let us first review which teams are set for a soft start to the season that could provide value for picks from their sides. Last season, FPL assigned difficulty ratings from 2 to 5 for a player's fixtures based on opposition and venue. While the FPL Gods decided for 2018-19 that Brighton, Liverpool and Crystal Palace would be a notch easier to face at home than away, the powers that be have allotted a single difficulty rating to each team this season - Brighton and the promoted sides get a 2, last season's record-setting title racers City and Liverpool are rated 5, the rest of the Big 6 are rated 4, and the remaining teams have been slapped with a 3.

To start with, below is a list of teams sorted by the average difficulty of their first 6 matches this season.

Let's pause for a moment. Just how reliable is this difficulty rating anyway? A quick study of the PP90 scored against a team's difficulty rating lends credibility to the notion of taking this number a little seriously. When you break it down further by home/away, the point is even clearer:

  1. While there isn't a huge gap (relatively) between the 2s and 3s as compared to the other brackets, it is nevertheless more beneficial to go up against a 2.
  2. You get more points home than away, no matter who you face.
  3. Fixtures against the big 6 are real toughies, particularly against the top 2.

Player selections

Having reviewed some of the major numbers from last season, let us see how we can tie those to the difficulty of the fixtures the players are set to face.

Looking at players who provided a PP90 (points per 90 mins) of 5 or more with an opening-six fixture difficulty of 3 and under, let's see if we can pick off some high-potential picks.

The above chart, which plots last season's PP90 (vertical axis) against the opening-six difficulty (horizontal axis), provides a quick view into picks that could form the core of your FPL team. The color (low: green, high: red) indicates FPL ownership, and size indicates price.

The obvious

Everton and Bournemouth have been handed rather kind openings to the season. We've already seen Bournemouth assets deliver value with a kind opening schedule last season, which will make Wilson (8.0), Sigurdsson (8.0) and Fraser (7.5) enticing mid-price value picks. Digne (6.0) looks like a must-have in every backline at this point.

The next tier in fixture difficulty brings with it a leap in PP90, as we move into the Liverpool and Man City assets. It is quite subjective which mix to go with, but Mane's near-certain unavailability for GW1 puts Salah (12.5) and Sterling (12.0) at the top of premium picks to have. It wouldn't be too outlandish to bank on de Bruyne (9.5) improving his PP90 of 5.5 from an injury-blighted 2018-19. PP90 and set-piece action could also be used as ammunition to select Alexander-Arnold (7.0) over his similar-priced partner Robertson (7.0).

Premium options with difficult openings that can nonetheless not be ignore are Aubameyang (11.0) and fit-again Harry Kane (11.0), whose fixture-proof marauding should keep them on FPL managers' minds

A wait-and-watch approach is best taken with United and Chelsea assets, who begin the season facing each other, although it does look enticing both from PP90 and pre-season to bank on Barkley (6.0) to deliver the goods early on, with the Englishman having played his way into Lampard's plans.

The fringe

From the fixture difficulty list, it seems like cheap picks from seasoned Premiership sides Brighton, Palace and Burnley can be used as a decent fringe to enable a sturdy core of Liverpool, City, Bournemouth and Everton players. Leandro Trossard (6.0) could be a decent 4th midfielder, lining up for a more progressive-minded Brighton team, while their trusted FPL stalwart Matt Ryan (4.5) already features in nearly 14% of team selections. Elsewhere, Palace's Martin Kelly (4.0) is another popular enabler, finding himself in a staggering 24.5% of FPL teams. Burnley's best value option seems to be their keeper Pope (4.5), while Chris Wood (6.5) isn't the worst mid-priced striker option to start the season.

The Blogger's Team

Hopefully, this post has given you some ideas to start the season. The Friday night deadline is fast approach - Good luck!