Free Hit chip

The 2017-18 Fantasy Premier League season is nearly upon us and the game makers have started dripping out the prices of some players. Among the players announced so far the best value appears to be in midfield, with Alli – the second highest scoring player in the game last season – looking a particular bargain at 9.5m.

Then, yesterday, came the surprise announcement that the All Out Attack chip is being replaced with a new chip called Free Hit. We’re still waiting for the fine print on how the chip works, but basically it allows you to put your squad into hibernation for one week, select as many new players as you want for the next gameweek, then have the old squad return the following week.

I’m sorry this post isn’t going to be a stunning statistical analysis of the new chip’s potential impact, it’s just a little rant to get my strong initial feelings about it off my chest.

I know the All Out Attack chip wasn’t popular with many people, but I didn’t mind it because I felt it created, in a very minor way, a little bit of variety in the game. This new chip, I suspect, will do the opposite.

The obvious place to use the chip last season was to ride out Gameweek 28, when the schedule was reduced to four fixtures. Those games featured just two of the eventual top seven Premier League teams. FPL managers faced a choice in the weeks coming up to Gameweek 28, do they: A) keep their players from top sides and ride out the blank fixtures, or B) sell some of those good players and bring in players who have matches?

That choice helped create differentiation. Among those who chose option B the pool of good players was small, but crucially it was different to those who chose option A.

The choice also afforded people a chance to shake up their overall rank, either through the players they kept or the players they brought in.

With this new chip, that choice will likely be removed. The template move among serious managers will probably be to keep the Free Hit chip for the blank gameweek caused by the FA Cup quarter finals. The same popular template team will likely run until that week, be swapped out for one week for another template team, then carry on as it was before.

There will be merit in looking for alternative ways to use the chip, but the old blank gameweek choice was very powerful. For example, despite there being just four fixtures, I gained more than 50 points on the the FPL average in Gameweek 28 last season because of the choices I made.

The new chip is powerful too and it could potentially match the power of the blank gameweek choice if used creatively elsewhere. But negating a blank gameweek will probably become the default position like the Wildcard-Bench Boost combination played over two gameweeks has become the orthodoxy for many managers approaching the late season double gameweeks.

For the risk takers there will be opportunity in looking for unorthodox ways to use the chip, but the safe play is likely to be to save it for a big blank gameweek. In all likelihood, the chip will produce a more cookie cutter experience and the game will be poorer for it.

Everything but the Goal: GW16

Neither the Everything but the Goal pick nor the control selection for Gameweek 16 had the highest shot tallies last week, but they did fire their efforts from more dangerous areas. The Everything but the Goal pick is Leicester City’s Islam Slimani, who failed beat Manchester City goalkeeper Claudio Bravo with four shots. Three of those efforts were off target but taken close to the six yard box, while the fourth was hit from just outside the box and was on target.


The control pick is Swansea City striker Fernando Llorente, who also fired four shots. He netted twice past Sunderland goalkeeper Jordan Pickford with his two shots on target. His other two shots, which were also taken well inside the area, both missed the target.

For both players the objective is to score, which is what the Everything but the Goal selection for Gameweek 15, Victor Anichebe, and the control pick, Harry Kane, failed to achieve.

Sorry for the lack of an Everything but the Goal post last week. Emre Can, the Everything but the Goal pick for Gameweek 14, found the target in Gameweek 15, but Sergio Agüero, the control selection, did not.

Season EBTG score: Found 3 – 11 Missing

Season control score: Found 4 – 10 Missing

Everything but the Goal: GW14

We turn to the Liverpool midfield for the Everything but the Goal pick for Gameweek 14. Emre Can fired five attempts against Sunderland, all but one of them from inside the box. However, he is not the strongest pick this season because failed to find the target with any of the shots.

Once again I turn to Sergio Agüero for the control selection. The Manchester City forward unleashed seven shots against Burnley, including four in the box and four on target. Of those on target shots, two beat the goalkeeper.

For both players the objective is to score, which Everton’s Yannick Bolasie and Sunderland’s Victor Anichebe failed to achieve as the Gameweek 13 picks.

Season EBTG score: Found 2 – 10 Missing

Season control score: Found 4 – 8 Missing

Everything but the Goal: GW13

The Everything but the Goal pick for Gameweek 13 is Yannick Bolasie. The Everton midfielder hit four shots against Swansea City in Gameweek 12. Three of those attempts were in the box and two found the target, but none hit the back of the net.

The control selection is Victor Anichebe. The Sunderland striker fired five shots against Hull City, including four from inside the box. He scored with his two shots on target.

For both players the objective is to score, which Gameweek 12 picks Daniel Sturridge and Sergio Agüero failed to do.

Season EBTG score: Found 2 – 9 Missing

Season control score: Found 4 – 7 Missing

 

A few random thoughts after Gameweek 12

Following on from my stock take post earlier this week, here are a few other random thoughts about the Fantasy Premier League after Gameweek 12.

Liverpool



Liverpool are a fantastic attacking outfit this season, but are they as good when Lallana isn’t playing? I read one observer talk about Lallana’s importance to the team around the time he played limited minutes in gameweeks 7 and 8, suggesting they weren’t as strong without him. Remembering this after the Reds’ Lallana-less 0-0 draw with Southampton, I dug into the stats. The sample size is tiny, so you can’t really draw any conclusions from it, but Liverpool’s shots on target numbers are down more than 25 per cent in Premier League games where Lallana has played 31 minutes or less.

When I reviewed the Liverpool midfield earlier this season, I said James Milner was showing no attacking threat outside of penalties. He has shown a little more threat since then; not much, but enough to move the dial off zero.

Joe Allen



Joe Allen’s FPL potential seems dependent on whether he plays in the hole or not. I watched a good chunk of Stoke City’s Gameweek 11 match against West Ham United and he was active in and around the penalty area until the 71st minute, when Glenn Whelan was replace by Bojan Krkic. The Welsh international’s attacking threat was instantly curtailed after he dropped back into the double pivot.

With Whelan injured in Gameweek 12, Allen was again in the double pivot and failed to get even one shot away. Whelan could be fit by the time Allen is back from his one game suspension, so it will be interesting to see where he lines up.

Chelsea

I’m stating the obvious here, but Chelsea look very good at both ends of the pitch when playing 3-4-3. I have three of their assets and wish the game would allow me four – regardless of fixtures.

Taking stock after Gameweek 12

The 2016-17 season is roughly one-third complete, which seems like a good moment to take stock.

For me personally and, I suspect, some other statistics-driven managers, this has been a somewhat frustrating season. Some players showing good underlying numbers have not posted returns as well as expected (for example, Zlatan Ibrahimovic), while others have delivered points but nagging doubts have kept some Fantasy Premier League managers away (Diego Costa and his yellow cards, Theo Walcott and perceived threats to his game time).

There’s been another group of players who have over-performed their underlying statistics for a while, keeping it going just long enough to provide returns for early adopters before frustrating those who started them later when their ownership made them difficult to avoid (for example, Étienne Capoue). And then there are the players who show signs of delivering sustainable returns at a reasonable price, but only at the whim of where their manager plays them (for example, Joe Allen) or their muscles (Adam Lallana).

These elements exist to some degree in every season of course, but they seem particularly pronounced this year when the performance of a good number of premium and upper mid-priced fantasy assets has pressed for their inclusion in our FPL squads while few consistent budget options have emerged to free up the funds to pay for them.

On top of that, the transfer market has seemed to move quicker than ever this season. By that, I mean fewer people seem to be waiting until the end of the week to make their moves and there seems to be less diversity in the choices being made. That’s only a perception though, I’ve not done any analysis to see if it really is moving more quickly.

Differentials seem to be problematic this season. I’m not sure whether:

  • they are just harder to find, or
  • if they are more frequently announcing their arrival with goals rather than good underlying numbers, or
  • if there are too many options performing well, particularly in midfield, to risk hunting for them, or
  • they are no longer hidden because more FPL managers are better informed than ever before, or
  • some combination of the above.

Life has been very busy for me this autumn and I have not been able to dig into the statistics as much as I would like, either for my own FPL team or for this blog, so maybe the answers are out there and I haven’t found them yet.

I have some more random thoughts to add, but I’ll save them for a later post or posts if I get time.

Everything but the Goal: GW12

The Everything but the Goal pick for GW12 is Daniel Sturridge. The Liverpool striker racked up six shots in Gameweek 11 against Watford, including four in the box and four on target, despite not even getting on the pitch until the 71st minute. With doubts over the fitness of team mates Philippe Coutinho and Adam Lallana, he stands a good chance of starting this week.

The control selection for a second week running is Manchester City’s Sergio Agüero, who clocked up eight shots, including seven in the area and three on target, against Middlesborough in Gameweek 12.

For both forwards the objective is to score, which is what both control pick Agüero and Everything but the Goal choice Zlatan Ibrahimovic achieved last week.

Season EBTG score: Found 2 – 8 Missing

Season control score: Found 4 – 6 Missing