Guest post: Wildcarding – the runaway train?

Ruth_NZ has been pondering whether he has the right wildcard strategy and is considering a different approach. I should add that he sent this to me before Robbie Brady scored this weekend. Over to Ruth:

The closer we get to wildcard time the more awkward I find it. I have felt a bit cornered for a while as my team, like everyone else’s, prepares to pass through the hoops and hurdles of blank gameweeks (BGWs) and double gameweeks (DGWs). It’s as if the path narrows at those bottlenecks and you end up having almost obligatory decisions to make about players to bring in and to remove. One manager may choose Dimitri Payet, another Michail Antonio (maybe they have less budget to play with) but neither are really considering Willian or Yannick Bolasie because they aren’t part of the evident optimal route.



Maybe it’s just me that feels this way. But I have been wrestling with it and have come to the conclusion that I have probably been starting from the wrong place – meaning fixtures. Especially the doubles and blanks.

What I think I actually need to do is to take a view on which teams (and players) I think will finish the season well. Then I need to bias my management of my team through the doubles and blanks to favour having, keeping or bringing in those players. As opposed to maximising the number of games my team has as a first principle. Player A may have three games in a certain period whilst Player B has four. But if Player A is in better form and playing for a team with positive momentum and he has equally good or perhaps even better fixtures (though one less) which is the best?

Here’s an example… Norwich City have brilliant fixtures from gameweeks 32-34 (NEW, cpl, SUN), then a blank, then Arsenal away and then a good gameweeks in 37 and 38 including a double (MUN, WAT, eve). Robbie Brady is a player I have had in mind for ages and Martin Olsson also interests me. Norwich are still fighting to survive, heads have not gone down and they have everything to play for. Yet I have been entirely dismissing Norwich from my thinking because they have no Gameweek 34 DGW and that nasty Gameweek 35 blank.



At the same time, I have been considering West Bromwich Albion players (Jonny Evans, Jonas Olsson, James Morrison) because they have a DGW in Gameweek 34 and no blank in Gameweek 35. But really? The DGW is Watford at home and Arsenal away. That’s just a decent Single Gameweek really. The Gameweek 35 game is Tottenham Hotspur away. That’s not much better than a blank in all honesty. Maybe the West Brom defenders get one point in each of those tough away fixtures and maybe they manage a clean sheet against Watford. But if I look from Gameweek 32 to Gameweek 38 are they better prospects than Norwich players? I don’t think they necessarily are.

There is also the additional factor of the missing Crystal Palace versus Everton game. When that is actually scheduled it will make a significant difference to the landscape.

If we wildcard into Gameweek 33 (very likely for me) then we have three weeks until we need to make final decisions. So that’s it for wildcard planning for a bit for me. I will use those three weeks to assess players and teams rather than fixtures and mechanics. And then I’ll put a squad together that I like the feel of, not one that is ruled by mathematical calculations. And if that means fielding nine or 10 players in BGW35 or less than the maximum attainable DGW players in Gameweek 34 and/or Gameweek 37 then so be it.



Incidentally, this is not a long way around to justify keeping Spurs and Leicester City players. I let Riyad Mahrez go many weeks ago. I am eager to replace Jamie Vardy with Troy Deeney or Anthony Martial. I’m happy to keep Christian Fuchs but I’ll also be fine losing him. Harry Kane I am ambivalent about even though he’s been in my team a long time. It’s the principle more than the detail I am looking at here.

The most difficult thing to get over (for me) is that I have saved my Bench Boost chip all season in order to maximise it in a DGW. To justify that decision I need to do just that. But the alternative is for me to accept that I didn’t need to save it at all and that I could/should have used it at any time when I had a great bench. If I make decisions now in order to justify mistakes I have already made then I’ll just be making more mistakes, right?

Shots on target form ticker: Gameweek 31

Although I have altered my season ticker to take us through to the end of the season, I am reluctant to do so with the form tickers because the data sample size used to generate them is a lot smaller.

In fact, the form ticker only covers five gameweeks this week. The reason is I have split Gameweek 34 in two (GW34A and GW34B) for the teams with double fixtures. The ticker average for each is based on the number of games that team is due to be played within the ticker period (e.g. four for Norwich City and six for Arsenal).

The Δ column shows the difference between the form ticker and the season ticker over the same Gameweek 31 to Gameweek 35 period. However, it does so with the Crystal Palace versus Everton fixture removed from Gameweek 35 that I had been left in the season ticker for long range planning purposes.

Here are my form tickers:
Shots on Target form ticker GW31-35 2015-16

Shots on Target Conceded ticker GW31-35 2015-16

As they did last week, Chelsea, Everton, Sunderland and Tottenham Hotpsur’s attacking prospects look better in the upcoming games than they do in the season ticker. Manchester City’s fixtures look worse, as do Southampton, Swansea City and West Bromwich Albion.

Defensively, the outlook is better for Newcastle United and Chelsea than it was in the season ticker, but a bit worse for West Bromwich Albion and Aston Villa

Salomón Rondón

Salomón Rondón hit his fourth goal in six games in West Bromwich Albion’s 1-0 win over Manchester United in Gameweek 29. However, the postponement of the Baggies’ Gameweek 30 fixture against Arsenal stopped him building any significant momentum in the Fantasy Premier League transfer market.



Now, with his blank gameweek behind him, those goals are drawing the attention of FPL managers with about 15,000 bringing the 6.5m striker in so far this week. Several club factors are increasing the attraction. West Brom have:

  • promising fixtures against Norwich City and Sunderland up next,
  • a Double Gameweek (DGW) in Gameweek 34, and
  • a fixture in Gameweek 35, unlike some DGW teams.

Games against Manchester City, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur in successive gameweeks from 33 to 35 dampen the prospects somewhat. Nevertheless it is understandable why some managers are looking at him – particularly those looking for a short term punt prior to playing their wildcard in Gameweek 33.

Salomón Rondón GW1-30 2015-16

Across the Premier League season as a whole, Rondón’s statistics look solid if unspectacular. He fails to make it into the top 10 among Premier League strikers in any of the shooting metrics shown in the chart, but the ratios between those measures look good. The Venezuelan international’s goals to shots on target ratio is nudging towards the top end of what we might expect, but that may be explained in part by his above average tendency to shoot from inside the box.

FPL managers considering Rondón should look carefully though at the shots on target and goal data for the recent run, in which he scored more than half his goals for the season in less than a third of his starting appearances. In those six weeks, he notched four times from five shots on target. That 80 per cent conversion rate is almost double his rate for the season as a whole.

Rondón has undoubtedly hit form and his fixtures may give FPL managers hope that it continues for another couple of weeks at least. But they shouldn’t be surprised if his current scoring rate eases off soon.

Shots on target season ticker: Gameweek 31

I’ve changed the shots on target season ticker this week to take account of the upcoming Double Gameweeks and that many FPL managers are now working on strategies to see them through to the end of the season.

Therefore, the season ticker runs to the season finale and has two columns each for Gameweeks 34 and 37, with the second column showing the second fixture for sides with a double in those weeks. I might take a closer look at the numbers for the doubles next week.

Please note, I have left the Crystal Palace versus Everton fixture (indicated by the gold band around the numbers) in Gameweek 35 even though it has been postponed. We don’t know which week it will be played in, but it will happen at some point during this period and it made sense from a planning perspective to include it to give a sense of what it might offer.

Shots on Target ticker GW31-38 2015-16

Shots on Target Conceded ticker GW31-38 2015-16

The average is derived from the number of games each team faces individually, so for Liverpool it is an average over 10 games but for Aston Villa it is over eight games.

In Gameweek 30 the ticker underestimated the average number of shots on target per team by 0.88. Eight of the 10 teams that played were within two shots on target of the ticker value, including five within one shot on target. The range was 6.82.

Leicester City were the biggest disappointment of the week, recording just one shot on target against Newcastle United – 4.88 below the ticker number. Norwich City also had a bad week as they failed to trouble Joe Hart in the Manchester City goal. Their ticker value had been 2.30.

Tottenham were projected to be the best shooters and they comfortably exceeded expectations for a second week running. Spurs hit eight shots on target against Aston Villa, which was 1.94 above the ticker value.

Double Gameweek planning: Part 11

The Double Gameweek (DGW) planning series comes to an end rather fittingly for a football-based game on part 11. The Premier League today announced fixture amendments that slotted all the games that need rearranging into the calendar with the exception of Crystal Palace versus Everton.

The Premier League hasn’t given any indication where they will place that one remaining fixture, but placing the Sunderland versus Everton fixture on the Wednesday in Gameweek 37 – with no suggestion that it could move – probably rules out a fabled Triple Gameweek. To fit another game in that week would require Everton to play three games in five days and I would be surprised if that happened.

There are midweek spots in Gameweeks 32, 33, 35 or 36 that could house the missing fixture, but it would require dispensation to break the rule that Premier League games should not clash with European fixtures. It is a simple solution, albeit one that requires some negotiation. We wait to see what the league decide. The decision could play a role in how Fantasy Premier League managers set up their teams to cope with the DGWs and the Gameweek 35 blanks.

Technically, the announcement said West Ham versus Manchester United and Liverpool versus Chelsea could move again if the Red Devils progress to the Europa League semi-finals, but if that happens I think the two fixtures would just switch places. I don’t think we need to worry about them going into different gameweeks.

Here is an updated version of the Double Gameweek planning chart. The purple boxes show a double gameweek team in the large tile and their opponents that week in the smaller tiles. The blank Gameweek 35 fixtures are shown in the dark grey box, with the confirmed fixtures for that week shown in the light green box. The yellow boxes show what schedule would like if the Crystal Palace versus Everton game is moved to later in Gameweek 35 or rearranged for Gameweek 36.

Double Gameweek planning part 11

Double Gameweek planning: Part 10

Are you ready to get confused? I am scratching my head trying to work out if I have my mental picture of the possible Double Gameweek (DGW) and blank scenarios right. I’ll share with you the picture I have, but if you spot any errors with it please leave me a comment.

The FA Cup quarter-finals have tidied up some details for us, but have also created a scheduling headache. I’ll start with what we know.

Firstly, we know two Premier League fixtures in Gameweek 35 will have to be rearranged in addition to West Ham United versus Manchester United. Crystal Palace versus Everton and Norwich City versus Watford will have to move because they clash with the FA Cup semi-finals.

Secondly, we now know Arsenal and Chelsea will only have one DGW each, but we don’t know yet whether they will be in Gameweek 34 or 37.

Thirdly, we know that Everton have three fixtures to rearrange, but only two easy slots set aside in which to play them. This is where it gets complicated – as partially indicated by the copious amounts of orange on the latest update to my chart from earlier in this series. Keep reading beyond the chart for an explanation.

Double Gameweek planning part 10

The chart shows the games that will go ahead in Gameweek 35 in the light green box. The yellow boxes indicate DGW scenarios that could happen in either Gameweek 34 or Gameweek 37. The larger tile indicates the team with a DGW and the smaller tiles show their opponents.

The Gameweek 35 matches that need rearranging are shown in the purple boxes.

The light blue boxes indicate a set of DGWs I suspect are likely to take place – but they could be swapped around if Everton’s game at Crystal Palace is scheduled for Gameweek 34. If they did that it would cause a domino effect: Manchester United’s game against Palace would have to move to Gameweek 37, which would push Manchester United’s game against West Ham back into Gameweek 34, which would push West Ham’s game against Watford into Gameweek 37 and Watford’s game against Norwich into Gameweek 34. But for now, let’s assume those fixtures stay where they are.

Are you confused yet? Well, we’re just getting started…

The Everton dilemma

Everton have fixtures against Liverpool, Sunderland and Crystal Palace to rearrange. I suspect the Merseyside derby will be scheduled in Gameweek 37, but that’s just a suspicion. If that is where the derby goes, then Liverpool’s rescheduled match with Chelsea from Gameweek 30 would slot into Gameweek 34.

If, however, the derby is scheduled in Gameweek 34, Liverpool’s game against Chelsea would go in Gameweek 37. In this scenario, Everton could play either Sunderland or Crystal Palace in Gameweek 37. But where do they fit the other tie? The simplest thing to do would be to seek dispensation to break the rule that Premier League games should not clash with European fixtures. Arsenal’s FA Cup replay against Hull City already broke a similar expectation and West Ham United’s tweet about their quarter-final replay suggests they are considering something similar.

WHU Tweet 13Mar2016

If Everton can use a European night for the third rescheduled game, then there are two options:

Play Sunderland in Gameweek 37

If they do this, Everton could keep the Palace game in Gameweek 35 and simply move it midweek – this would mean only one double gameweek for Palace and only two for Everton. Alternatively, they could rearrange it for Gameweek 36 – this would mean a third double gameweek for Everton and a second double gameweek for Palace.

Play Palace in Gameweek 37

If they do this, Everton could play Sunderland midweek in Gameweek 35 or 36. This would simply move Sunderland’s one DGW to whichever week was chosen. Everton would have a third DGW if the fixture was in Gameweek 36, but only two (and no blank) if it was in Gameweek 35.

Play Liverpool in Gameweek 37

If, as I suspect, they play the Merseyside derby in Gameweek 37, then Everton can play Sunderland in Gameweek 34 and rearrange the Palace tie for Gameweek 35 or 36 with the same result as described in the “Play Sunderland in Gameweek 37” above. If Everton wanted to play Palace in Gameweek 34, it should set off the domino effect to the light blue fixtures that I described earlier. It could create the same scenario for Everton and Sunderland as “Play Palace in Gameweek 37”.

I haven’t worked through options that put the Merseyside derby in Gameweek 35 or 36 because Liverpool are currently 2-0 up from their Europa League first leg against Manchester United. If Liverpool go through in the second leg, we wouldn’t find out until late Gameweek 33 whether they will be playing in the Europa League semi-finals midweek in Gameweeks 35 and 36.

Other options

Of course, if they don’t want to rearrange a Premier League game on a European night, the scheduling officials will have to get creative. I’m not going to start trying to second guess that now. Hopefully they will announce the rearranged games soon and we can get on with the business of planning which players we actually want to bring in.

Shots on target form ticker: Gameweek 30

Here are my shots on target and shots on target conceded form tickers for Gameweek 30.

Shots on Target form ticker GW30-35 2015-16

Shots on Target Conceded form ticker GW30-35 2015-16

The form tickers only use data from the last eight games and end with the 6GW Δ column to show the difference between the six-gameweek average (6GW ave.) on the form ticker and the season ticker.

Based on form, Chelsea and Everton’s attacking prospects look better in the upcoming games than they do in the season ticker, while Manchester City’s and Southampton’s look worse.

Defensively, the outlook is worse in the form ticker than the season ticker for Aston Villa, Crystal Palace and Swansea City, but better for Chelsea and Newcastle United.