Welcome back to the Stats Corner! If you’ve ever read one of my articles, you will know that I love statistics. Statistics do not lie. The people interpreting them may do so (intentionally or accidentally), but the numbers themselves do not. We’re at a point now where trying to prevent the infiltration of data in football is about as successful as the Premier League’s handling of VAR. So let’s embrace it. Statistics have helped Liverpool return to relevance and Manchester City assert their dominance, but more importantly, they could also help you win your fantasy football league.
Every few weeks – between the Underlying Numbers and EPL Points Against articles – I will bring you Stats Corner. In Stats Corner I will provide the latest breakdown of Points per 90 (PP90), Lost Points, and Expected Goals: Bookends Removed; three statistics that can help you in your quest for fantasy glory…and which can (probably) only be found here. Oh, and I’ll also pop in a bonus statistic just for fun.
PP90 stands for ‘Points per 90’ and is simply the FP/G of a player if they were to play the full 90 minutes. By and large it is probably a better reflection of a player’s fantasy value than FP/G, which does not take into account how much of a game a player has played, only that they played. PP90 better appreciates the value of those players who do not always start. Knowing this can then give us an advantage on those occasions when they do make the starting eleven.
KDB’s 20.5 points in just 63 minutes against Aston Villa has helped him close the gap on teammate Mahrez in the PP90 table, with Aguero not too far behind in third. It really has become a “who’s who” of the Premier League, with all the big names present, and supporting the theory that this perhaps provides a better indication of a player’s fantasy value compared to normal FP/G. City and Liverpool amazingly account for 8 of the 10 players and don’t be surprised if this becomes all 10 once the Champions League rolls back around and the two clubs rotate in league fixtures more than teams like Wolves and Leicester.
As has become commonplace now, it is the right hand ‘Discrepancy’ list that contains most relevance from a Fantrax fantasy perspective. In particular, the Sheffield United pair are worth keeping an eye on once their games against Arsenal and Manchester City are out of the way. Mousset and McBurnie have been taking it in turns to line up alongside McGoldrick in the attack, so that uncertainty may explain the low ownerships (27% and 10%, respectively). Or perhaps people are disgusted by McBurnie’s disgraceful behavior, in which he was caught on camera acting like a dreaded football fan, and are boycotting his potential fantasy value in response.
There would seem to be no reason for Hasenhuttl to tinker much with what has become a winning formula at Southampton, but if he does fancy changing things around, Djenepo – and any Djenepo owners – could be the ones to benefit. One team that may want to freshen things up are Norwich, who were battered 4-0 away at Manchester United on Saturday, and so we may see the return of Onel Hernandez. The midfielder had a decent little run in November/December but has spent most of his time on the bench since then. If he were to start against Bournemouth at home in Gameweek 23, he could prove a very useful pickup.
Not quite making the list, but very much worth looking out for when the lineups come out are Lamela (47% ownership; PP90 of 11.95), Trossard (70%; 13.28), Bernard (42%; 10.63), Trezeguet (21%; 10.29), Snodgrass (51%; 11.16), Sarr (60%; 10.50), and Saint-Maximin (46%, 12.24).
One of the many ways in which Fantrax EPL is the best form of fantasy football is in the types of scoring system that can be implemented, most notable of which is the Togga scoring system. Togga scoring allows for negative points – or Lost Points – and includes dispossessions, cards, and own goals (note, they do not include goals conceded). Cards and own goals are relatively rare occurrences, and therefore knowing which players have FP/G’s that are skewed by such things could give you a leg up on the competition.
Zaha sits atop this list because he has been dispossessed 90 times. NINETY. The next highest is Buendia with 55. This is Sir Don Bradman levels of 1st to 2nd place differences. To be fair to the Palace man, his success rate (54.1%) isn’t too bad, with Deulofeu (50.6%), Pulisic (45.2%), Richarlison (44.2%), and Sterling (43.8%) just some of the notable wingers/forwards with poorer dribbling. The problem for Zaha owners is that he just does it so much!
From a fantasy perspective, the most relevant name here remains Doucoure. His ownership has, rightly so, jumped considerably with Watford’s resurgence, but some owners may still be looking at that 7.98 FP/G and be tempted to part ways. His own goal and five yellows earlier in the season will be contributing to that, but in his new, more attacking role it’s unlikely that these numbers will be repeated. If you can get hold of him for the cost of someone around the 9-10 FP/G mark, then it should be a good deal. Others hampered by own goal syndrome include Chris Wood and Serge Aurier.
Expected Goals: Bookends Removed
Expected goals is “a statistical measure of the quality of chances created and conceded” (Understat.com). These expected numbers are based on averages, so we should expect the teams that have above-average players to consistently outperform them. But for everyone else, we should see their performances (and therefore their league position) more closely align with expected numbers as the season goes on. Obviously fantasy points and league performance go hand-in-hand (see the PP90 above for evidence of that!), so knowing this information can help us stay one step ahead in finding that breakout player (or player who has already peaked!).
Many football sources use expected goals tables as an indicator of which teams have the best/worst defenses and attacks. The problem with this is that every team in the Premier League has the capability to play excellently or atrociously on the odd occasion (the old “every dog has his day”/”it never rains but it pours” idioms comes to mind). Grouping such occasions into our sample of data distorts the final picture being presented. One way around this is to simply remove the bookends: the best and worst performances of each team during the season. For instance, Manchester City has an average XG of 2.68 per game, but if you remove their best (6.63 vs Watford) and worst (1.09 vs Sheffield United), then it becomes “just” 2.55. This is, in my opinion, gives you a better estimate of what to expect from an attacking perspective next time City play. Now, with 22 games of the season gone, we will be removing the TWO best and TWO worst performances; leaving the XG and XGA tables to be based on the middle 18 games.
Eight teams have XG’s that are flattering them if “normal” XG tables are considered, though none are by a considerable margin. This has been a running theme for a while now for Aston Villa and West Ham, and things have actually gotten worse for Villa since the Gameweek 19 Stats Corner, as their only (decent) forward Wesley suffered a season-ending injury. Dean Smith will be relying even more on star man Jack Grealish…which could be a good thing for owners…though there’s perhaps a stronger argument that the sinking ship will actually drag Grealish’s points down.
Elsewhere, Newcastle has outperformed XG all season, which if they had some top players at their disposal, would lead me to believe that this could continue. Unfortunately, Almiron, Shelvey, and Joelinton do not fit into that category, and so I’ll be betting on a steady slide down the table. These three (plus Willems) have all been scoring nicely in recent weeks from a Fantrax perspective, and so if you own them, there may be the opportunity to cash in and trade for someone better (Bernard, Hojbjerg, perhaps?).
Watford and West Ham are two other teams that XG Bookends Removed suggest are being over-valued, though both have new managers, so it is may be best to wait and see for a few weeks before potentially trying to infer anything here.
- Norwich’s two worst attacking performances have come in the last three games (0.28 XG vs Manchester United and 0.27 XG vs Tottenham)…Pukki out?
- Bournemouth is falling off a cliff…between Gameweeks 1 and 12, they averaged 1.38 XG per game, whilst between Gameweeks 13 and 22, they have averaged 0.68 XG per game.
- Even in their worst attacking performances of the season, Liverpool and Manchester City still generated over 1 XG (Liverpool: 1.03 vs Chelsea and Manchester United; Manchester City: 1.09 vs Sheffield United).
On the defensive side of things, we see nine teams whose XGA in “normal” tables is underestimating their ability. In particular, Leicester, Southampton, Watford, and Brighton all improve substantially when bookends are removed. Despite this, Brighton remains a below-average unit, whilst Southampton and Watford are only average, so don’t immediately go and pick up their defenders! Check the matchups first, and then see who’s available. Watford’s upcoming schedule (Man City game aside) is decent, which makes Kabasele a nice-looking option. Southampton’s is okay…in deeper leagues, Stephens, Soares, and Vestergaard might be worth a punt.
It’s definitely worth testing the waters with some of Leicester’s defenders (if you don’t already own them). Just two wins from their last six in the league may be making owners of Chilwell, Soyuncu, and Ricardo Pereira question whether Leicester is about to fall down the league in line with pre-season expectations. They may indeed do, but this is still a good defense and one that should score nicely in Fantrax.
- Aston Villa, Newcastle United, and West Ham United are poor defensively. They’ve only restricted opponents to under 1 XG twice each all season. Sheffield United, by contrast, has done so 10 times – including in 6 of their last 8 games.
- Over the last 9 games, Aston Villa’s average XGA per game is 2.53. This is by far the highest in the league, with the next highest during that period being Newcastle, at 1.86 XGA per game. Interestingly, Southampton has the second best, at 0.79 – behind only Liverpool (0.75).
- West Ham has been erratic recently…in their last five matches, they’ve had their two best defensive performances of the season (vs Bournemouth and Southampton), along with three games where they’ve given up over 2 XG.
Bonus Corner: Splits
The “Splits” tab on each player is a great tool for getting a deeper insight into a player’s fantasy value. Here you can see a breakdown of the points they’ve scored in various situations, for example, at home or away; in wins and losses; by each month; against each opponent; and even day vs night games (the latter two probably hold little value here and are likely remnants of Fantrax’s other fantasy sports). It is a tool that, from conversations I’ve had with others, probably doesn’t get utilized enough. It can – particularly in the second half of the season like we are in now – help you determine waivers, free agents pickups, and team selection, and it would actually be really beneficial to have a function where you could sort the “Players” tab by various splits. Unfortunately, that does not exist yet. On the plus side, it did mean that this was an easy “Bonus Corner” feature for me to put together…
Note: Data in the above tables was taken on January 7th, prior to Gameweek 22. It only includes players who had, at the time, scored at least 150 points (Togga Scoring). This resulted in a data set of 75 players.
The tables above show the players who have the biggest splits in terms of home-away and wins-losses. Perhaps surprisingly, playing at home hasn’t proven to be that advantageous from a Fantrax fantasy point of view. The average FP/G of the top 75 scoring players so far this season is 11.39 when at home, and 10.29 when away. Winning, on the other hand, does bring about the abundance of points that you would expect compared to losing. In victory, the average FP/G of these players is 14.35, whilst in defeat, it drops sizably to just 6.67.
If we’re looking for patterns, nothing – to my eyes – appears obvious. There may be an argument for the idea that home advantage is more important for players from worse teams (Grealish, Buendia, Cantwell, Deulofeu), though. This makes sense intuitively too – Liverpool and City can, and do, beat teams wherever they play, whereas Villa and Norwich tend to perform better in familiar surroundings. But it’s not a clear cut thing, as Salah’s appearance on the “Home Preference” list and Richarlison’s appearance on the “Away Preference” list demonstrates. The wins-losses splits for these particular players are even more of a mystery…any ideas are very much welcomed!
Weekly Quiz: We know KDB is the King overall, and – spoiler – he is King of the Home FP/G too. But who is King of the Away FP/G, Wins FP/G, and Losses FP/G? Don’t go back and look at the tables!
“The idea that I [should] trust my eyes more than the stats, I don’t buy that because I’ve seen magicians pull rabbits out of hats and I know that the rabbit’s not in there.” (Billy Beane; Moneyball)
For any of the data used in this article, please feel free to get in touch with me via Twitter. Predominant sources used include www.understat.com (source for Expected Goals: Bookends Removed), www.premierleague.com, www.sofascore.com, and www.whoscored.com.
Away FP/G: Raheem Sterling (17.45). Wins FP/G: Teemu Pukki (23.50). Losses FP/G: Raheem Sterling (14.40).
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