Fantasy EPL Gameweek 9: EPL Points Against…A Strategy for Streaming
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 6.9 shots per game so far…and those aren’t necessarily even on target!), 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 eight goalkeepers that have faced Arsenal so far this season have scored 2.25 points, 0, 16.25, 8, 0, 0.25, 6, and 0 then the EPL Points Against would be 4.09. It is essentially putting objective values to things that we already think of when making defensive decisions: “Watford have scored just four goals so far…shall I see what Spurs defenders are available?”, or “Maguire has a decent FP/G, but do I trust him against that Liverpool attack?” 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 the 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 based on the EPL Points Against, 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.
Last Time Out in the EPL Points Against: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
As mentioned in a previous article, rather than just giving out advice without any sort of accountability, I will be instead taking a brief looking back at my predictions each week to assess how I fared. Here is who I predicted to produce the goods in gameweeks 7 and 8, based on EPL Points Against, and their subsequent performances:
Kepa Arrizabalaga (10 points at home to Brighton & Hove Albion; 0 points away at Southampton). Well, technically even the 0 points in Gameweek 8 was an improvement on his -0.04 FP/G when this article was written! Nevertheless, it was up and down with the Kepa pick. Southampton away was always going to be the tricky one, but a zero is still disappointing.
Norwich City Goalkeeper (-1.75 points away at Crystal Palace; 12.5 points home to Aston Villa). This was written as ‘Tim Krul’, but the beauty of this metric is that it is independent of the actual player. McGovern’s penalty save gets this prediction out of jail as he somehow picks up 12.5 points despite conceding five goals (this must be some sort of record!). Like Kepa, it’s one good and one bad.
Frederic Guilbert (13.25 points home to Burnley; -0.75 points away at Norwich City). See the above two. Success in one, failure in the other. Not much to add here, though it is surprising – and worth pointing out – that the Villa fullback is now owned in just 27% of leagues, yet has an 8.67 FP/G.
Jonny Evans – Gameweek 7 only (18.25 points home to Newcastle United). Big win with this one. Despite the victory over Manchester United in Gameweek 8, Newcastle is just a bad, bad team. So bad that even Jonny Evans can pick up an assist.
John Lundstram – Gameweek 8 only (8.75 points away at Watford). It was actually a slight dip on his 10 FP/G average when this article was written, but we’ll take 8.75 points from a (then) 44% owned defender all day long. He was actually the joint-lowest scoring of Sheffield United’s six defenders so if you went for someone else when I suggested “Any Sheffield United Defender”, then it was an even bigger success.
Not a bad effort last time out, with five wins and three losses (if we’re tallying the gameweeks separately). Something to note here is the hit and miss nature when trying to find a player to perform well in both weeks. Kepa, ‘the Norwich GK’, and Guilbert all produced in games that the data suggested they would produce, but then didn’t in games which were a bit more ambiguous. Streaming should be a week-by-week strategy ideally, and so from now on, these articles will split the gameweeks when making suggestions, rather than trying to make a compromise that falls halfway.
EPL Points Against: The Goalkeepers
Pickford and Patricio both scored well against City in GWs 7 and 8, causing the champions’ EPL Points Against to rise to 3.13 – the exact same as Burnley’s, and behind Bournemouth, Leicester, Liverpool, and Wolves. At the other end of the spectrum, facing Watford continues to be a lucrative business for goalkeepers after the Hornets blanked two more times. Their EPL Points Against is a staggering 11.06 – the next closest team to this is Everton at 8.50.
Gameweek 9 Targets
Paulo Gazzaniga (45% ownership; FP/G = 4.12)
This is being written on Tuesday, and as of right now, Gazzaniga’s ownership is just 45%. I cannot believe it will still be this low by the time this article gets published. Tottenham faces Watford at home in Gameweek 9 and anything less than a double-digit performance for Lloris’ replacement will be a disappointment. Watford’s shot-to-goal conversion rate is the lowest in the league – by some distance. They need Troy Deeney back ASAP, but this week seems too early still, and Spurs should be another team that will benefit from his absence.
Tom Heaton (18% ownership; FP/G = 4.03)
Heaton’s scores have been up and down at home this season, but I’m backing him to have a good weekend against Brighton…I think. Anyone who watched Villa’s 5-1 win at Norwich last time out will know that game could easily have been 4-4 after 30 minutes if it hadn’t been for some last-ditch blocks by Mings and company. Unfortunately, I can’t see any options that I am more comfortable with (and that have low ownership), so I think it’ll have to be the Villa man. If it helps, the Seagulls’ EPL Points Against for goalkeepers is favorable at 7.44 – seventh highest in the league. Plus, goalkeepers at home average 1.08 points more than goalkeepers on the road.
Gameweek 10 Targets
Mat Ryan (55% ownership; FP/G = 6.78)
Speaking of Brighton, Mat Ryan could be a nice pickup in Gameweek 10. I actually don’t think Everton – their opponents that week – are that bad a team. At least not as bad as the league table and social media seems to imply. But their EPL Points Against for goalkeepers is second highest in the league, and it is even higher when they are away from home (10.88). Brighton has the ninth-best xGA (bookends removed) in the league and the last time they played at the Amex they destroyed a similarly sinking ship in Tottenham. Everton also has the third-worst shots-to-goals ratio in the league, so there’s sound reason to think Ryan’s good points scoring (7th best FP/G for goalkeepers on Fantrax) continues.
Aaron Ramsdale (18 ownership; FP/G = 4.75).
In Gameweek 10 Bournemouth faces Watford. And so for all the Watford related reasons that made Gazzaniga a suggestion for Gameweek 9; apply them here too. That said, confidence in Ramsdale won’t be as high as for the Spurs man. Not only are Bournemouth considerably worse defensively, but they will be facing Watford on the road, where Watford has scored three of their four league goals this season. One crazy strategy you could try if none of these guys tickle your fancy…play without a goalkeeper! Some leagues don’t allow this, but even in those, you could just put in a backup who won’t get on the pitch. It sounds like a stupid idea, but almost 22% of all goalkeeper scores this season have produced negative points…so if you really can’t find someone you like, don’t force it!
EPL Points Against: The Defense
Like in real life, nobody comes close to the big two when it comes to the EPL Points Against for defenders. Even the Wolves clean sheet at the Etihad is not quite enough to make the average defender score against City a positive number. That’s an absurd stat. It’s not surprising that many of the bars mirror those in the goalkeeper chart, after all, clean sheets and goals conceded contribute heavily to both positions points. But there are a few differences; most notably, perhaps, is Newcastle United. The EPL Points Against for the Magpies is 10.13, second only to Watford’s 10.51. Ricardo Pereira’s goal and clean sheet against them in Gameweek 8 has certainly elevated this, but even so, the numbers point towards Newcastle being a good opposition to target.
Gameweek 9 Targets
Simon Francis (0% ownership; FP/G = 4.25)
My money is on Francis to return to the Bournemouth starting lineup this weekend for the first since suffering the cruciate ligament injury that ended his season on Boxing Day last year (excluding the league cup tie against Burton). If he does then he has a very nice matchup on paper to help him get back into the swing of things. Defenses facing Norwich at home have kept three clean sheets from four games and are averaging 12.85 points per game. Even if he doesn’t start in Gameweek 9, this guy is worth picking up – he has easily outscored Nathan Ake over the last two seasons and Ake is owned in 82% of leagues. Oh, and fun fact: in just 11 minutes against Arsenal in Gameweek 8 he won five aerials, one tackle, and made two clearances to tally 7.5 points!
Tottenham Hotspur Fullback
Jumping on a Spurs defender right now feels like a tragedy waiting to happen, but nevertheless, we will go with what the numbers are saying. And the numbers say that a matchup against Watford is as good as you can get in the league. Like Norwich, the Hornets have blanked on three of four away games so far, and interestingly, they have also conceded three goals to defenders in those games. It’s tricky to figure out which Spurs defender to go for though (Alderweireld, at 91%, is the only one to have over 64% ownership). Rose will probably return, given Ben Davies’ unsuccessful return to the side against Brighton, but whether Pochettino goes for Aurier, KWP, or somebody else entirely on the right-hand side is anybody’s guess. Make sure you are clicking refresh on the Spurs Twitter page at 2 pm on Saturday.
Gameweek 10 Targets
Martin Montoya (9% ownership; FP/G = 8.11)
Brighton faces Everton in Gameweek 10 and that should bode well for their already high-scoring defenders. Montoya is my pick, mainly because I generally opt for fullbacks over center-backs when possible, but Adam Webster is also criminally under-owned at just 18%. Brighton is one of only five teams that have yet to score from a set-piece this season, which may also support the argument to go with Montoya over one of the big guys hoping to get on the end of a corner or free-kick. Defenders facing Everton at home this season have averaged 11.13 (Crystal Palace), 11.56 (Aston Villa), 8.25 (Bournemouth), and 15.38 (Burnley). It always feels risky doubling up in defense (see Mat Ryan suggestion above), but when it comes off the reward can help win you your matchup.
West Ham starting defender – preferably Arthur Masuaku (18% ownership; FP/G = 10.81)
The West Ham left-back spot looks to be a good battle, and just when you think two-goals-in-two-weeks-Cresswell has nailed down the spot, he picks up an injury. It’s unclear how bad the knock is, and it could just be a minor one, but it wouldn’t be surprising at all to see Masuaku back in the side, given that he started the season there and played excellently until his sending off in Gameweek 4. West Ham faces Sheffield United in Gameweek 10 and the Blades have a high EPL Points Against for defenders – thanks largely to an anemic attack.
You’ll probably have noticed that almost all of my suggestions tend to be players playing at home. There’s a good reason for that. Overall, the average defender is scoring 6.52 points per game, but this rises to 7.92 at home and drops to 5.16 when on the road. So even if you ignore these suggestions, bear that stat in mind.
The Final Whistle
So that’s it for Gameweeks 9 and 10. The EPL Points Against – at least in these very early days of the season – suggest that we steer clear of teams facing Liverpool and City…though we probably don’t need data to figure that one out. They also point to a few less expected teams for the goalkeepers and highlight some that we should target, like Watford and Everton. I’ll be back in two weeks to assess how the suggested players did, as well as to provide some more the numbers suggest should perform well in Gameweeks 11 and 12. 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 the ghost points.
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