A common draft strategy voiced during pre-season was to not waste a pick on a goalkeeper. Or at least not to waste a high/moderate pick (i.e. first ten rounds). This is something I strongly believe in. Goalkeepers for the big teams are very reliant on clean sheets for their points (Ederson is facing just six shots per game so far), whilst goalkeepers for the small teams are, clearly, at risk of conceding a lot and therefore actually ending with negative points. Finding the happy medium is an almost impossible task, and one that is most effectively achieved on a week-by-week (“streaming”) basis by looking at EPL Points Against.
EPL Points Against…What is it?
EPL Points Against calculates how many points a position, in general, is averaging against a particular team. For instance, if the four goalkeepers that have faced Arsenal so far this season have scored 2.25 points, 0, 16.25, and 8, then the EPL Points Against would be 6.63. It is essentially putting objective values to things that we already think of when making defensive decisions: “I might have to bench Max Aarons this week, given how City have been scoring for fun”, or “Watford have only scored two this season…let’s see if there are any Arsenal defenders available to pick up…” If you adopt a streaming strategy, then these numbers can be vital.
But who to get? A buddy in my league, despite spending the whole summer admitting that I was right, and that he would go for the streaming strategy, took Alisson in the 7th round. His explanation was that he didn’t want the hassle of having to research who to get each week. The hassle of having to dig into the numbers; looking at opposition, past scores, trends, and many of the other things that could influence a goalkeeper’s points potential. It was a fair response. But he didn’t bank on these articles being written.
Every other week I will take on that hassle for you, and – hopefully – identify the best streaming options for goalkeepers and defenders. Yep, defenders should be streamed too! You have to start at least three defenders, and one or two of them may well be high draft picks. But the draftable defender list does not go three circuits deep. And so that third defender should again be a week-by-week selection, allowing you to have hopefully stacked up on midfielders and forwards – where the big points are generally earned. Don’t worry if you didn’t adopt this strategy in your draft though – you can still trade your way into this position. If you do, then follow these articles and I will help you stream your way to success.
EPL Points Against: The Goalkeepers
It probably shouldn’t need saying, but avoiding goalkeepers who are facing Liverpool or Manchester City is rule 1 of streaming (so that’ll be Newcastle’s Dubravka and Norwich’s Krul in GW 5). The EPL Points Against here, from the first four weeks of the season, supports this common sense approach, but it also fits nicely with shot-conversion rates that show these two powerhouses to be far more clinical than everyone else in the league.
Outside of the big two, you should also be cautious of Leicester, or specifically, a Jamie Vardy-led Leicester. Vardy is one of the most clinical forwards in the Premier League. He has three goals from four shots so far this season, and – of the players who have scored 10+ goals in each of the last two seasons – his goals to shots ratio is second only to Aubameyang (see table below). From a fantasy perspective for this week, though, it would take a very brave manager to drop his GW 5 opponent David de Gea.
Enough of who not to get though. Who should you target this week? Now, I’ll caveat this by saying – and this applies probably for another six game-weeks at least – that this data is based on a VERY small sample size. As the season progresses, my confidence in the EPL Points Against data will grow, but for now, the numbers will merely shape things, and it will be my eyes that narrow it down to a name or two.
First up is Aston Villa’s Tom Heaton, owned in 21% of leagues. Villa may have started poorly, but they’ve only conceded six goals despite allowing 19.3 shots per game – most in the league. Opposition goalkeepers facing West Ham have scored 14 (Ederson), 2 (Ryan), 14 (Foster), and 8.75 (Krul) to accrue the highest EPL Points Against in the league (9.69). Villa kept a clean sheet against Everton the last time they played at home…if they do it again, Heaton might end up being one of the highest scorers of the week. The second option is Rui Patricio of Wolves. It’s always dangerous to pick a goalkeeper against a traditional “big six” club, but I’m not convinced that that group exists this season – at least when it comes to performances on the pitch. Big two, yes, but then after that…are Chelsea, Tottenham, Arsenal, and United really that much better than Leicester, Everton, West Ham, and (I still believe) Wolves? Maybe I’m being a bit unfair; time will tell. Nevertheless, Rui Patricio against a trigger-happy Chelsea with the third worst conversion rate in the league? I’d take that.
EPL Points Against: The Defence
Defenders facing the attack of Watford have done very well so far this season (EPL Points Against of 10.82), but I trust Arsenal’s backline as much as, well, as much as Arsenal fans trust their backline. Chelsea’s is not much better (they have a decent looking matchup against Wolves according to the numbers above), whilst Manchester City’s defenders – facing Norwich City – are all highly owned, so a bit of a boring choice here. (Note: despite this, make sure you check the City lineup just in case Pep does a Pep-like thing by bringing in Cancelo – 57% ownership – at right back).
So with that all said, perhaps the two most intriguing options would be from teams facing Burnley and Crystal Palace (EPL Points Against of 9.09 and 8.92, respectively). For the former, it’s Brighton, and we have the likes of Dan Burn at just 36% ownership. Burnley’s xG is the fourth lowest in the league, and they have played the second most long-balls so far this season – so there should be lots of points for aerials won for the giant centre-back (Wikipedia has him listed at 6 foot 7…that can’t be right can it?!). Anyway, Burn vs Burnley; that’s the call. It’s Tottenham who has the pleasure of hosting the second-lowest xG, Palace, in GW 5. Vertonghen might be the reliable, low-ownership bet here (57%), but be alert just in case Aurier receives a rare show of faith from Pochettino. The Ivorian has great fantasy value when he actually plays and the manager may choose to give him a chance considering that there is no other natural right back fit, and given that this is a game they should win comfortably.
The Final Whistle
So that’s it for GW 5. The EPL Points Against – at least in these very early days of the season!! – point to Heaton, Patricio, Burn, and Vertonghen/Aurier as nice streaming options. I’ll be back in two weeks to assess how these four did, as well as to provide another four that the numbers suggest should perform well in GW 7. Remember, next week we go back to the underlying numbers and check out which players are reliant on the main three (goals, assists, and clean sheets), and which ones rack up points on the counting stats.
Are you ready to use EPL Points Against as another tool in your fantasy belt? Let us know in the comments below.
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