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

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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

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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.

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Everything but the Goal: GW10

The Everything but the Goal pick for GW10 is Christian Benteke. The Crystal Palace striker has fire nine shots over the past two gameweeks, all from inside the box, but he has struggled to find the target with just one of those efforts testing the goalkeeper.

The control selection is Chelsea’s Eden Hazard, who has also had nine shots in the same period, including eight inside the penalty area. He has only fired two shots on target, but scored with both of those efforts.

For both Benteke and Hazard the objective is to score, which is what both of last week’s picks, Southampton’s Charlie Austin and Dusan Tadic, failed to do.

Season EBTG score: Found 1 – 7 Missing

Season control score: Found 2 – 6 Missing

Everything but the goal: GW4

My experiment continues to see what success, if any, can be had by selecting a player who has had good underlying stats in a small number of recent games, but has failed to produce returns. Each week, I score the player from the previous week on whether they found their objective (goal, assist, clean sheet etc.) or whether they were missing again.

The pick last week was Vincent Janssen, the new Tottenham Hotspur striker. It quickly went sideways when the game began with Janssen on the bench, but an injury to Kyle Walker prompted Mauricio Pochettino to reshuffle his team 28 minutes in and bring on the 22-year-old Dutchman. Sadly, he didn’t get a sniff of goal and is easily classed as missing.

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This week we will see if Philippe Coutinho can do any better. The Liverpool midfielder netted twice in Gameweek 1, but has failed to find the net since then despite unleashing 12 shots. All but one of his eight efforts in Gameweek 2 came from outside the box, but last week three of his four attempts were inside the penalty area and two tested the keeper. His task this week is to score.

I’ve also decided this experiment needs a control group to compare the results of Everything but the Goal with a player who also had good underlying statistics, but did deliver returns. For Gameweek 2, I would have picked Salomón Rondón for his six shots, including five in the area and two on target, against Crystal Palace. In Gameweek 3 the pick would have been Sergio Agüero for four shots, all in the area, including two that beat the keeper and one that was saved. Both those players failed to find the net the following week.

This week the control player will be Chelsea’s Eden Hazard, who scored against Burnley from one of his four shots on target. Three of his seven attempts were in the area. This week, I’m looking to the Belgian to score again.

Season EBTG score: Found 0 – 2 Missing.

Season control score: Found 0 – 2 Missing.

Diego Costa

Gameweek 26 saw Diego Costa score his seventh goal in the eight Premier League matches he has played since Guus Hiddink returned to the Chelsea dugout. That is quite a turnaround in fortune for a striker who scored just three times in the first 14 games he played this season.

The following chart demonstrates why Costa has seen this sudden surge in scoring.

Diego Costa GW1-26 2015-16

Quite simply, Costa is shooting more frequently. Before Hiddink began to work with the Chelsea players, Costa had fired more than two shots in a game on just two occasions: against West Bromwich Albion in Gameweek 3 and against Norwich in Gameweek 13 (both games in which he scored). Since Gameweek 18 he has achieved that in six games. Costa’s shots and shots on target per 90 numbers have nearly doubled since Guus Hiddink took over and his shots in the box per 90 is twice what it was before.

One note of caution is that Costa’s shots on target conversion rate in the Hiddink era is 64 per cent, which is too high to sustain for long. However, even if that conversion rate regresses, it may not drop far. Last season, when Costa was firing shots on target at a rate very similar to that achieved recently, his conversion rate was 55 per cent. That is at the very top end of what we might expect over the course of the season, but the chart above indicates how he can achieve it.

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The conversion rate for shots inside the box is higher than those hit outside the penalty area and the former Atlético Madrid player hits nearly all his shots inside the box. In fact, since Hiddink entered the dugout, Costa hasn’t fired one shot from outside the box. This is a hallmark of Costa’s game in the Premier League. Last season he hit 88 per cent of his shots inside the penalty area and so far this season he has hit 94 per cent of his shots from there.

Costa is undoubtedly a good player when he is on form, the question though is whether there is space in a Fantasy Premier League manager’s three-man front line for him. The Spanish international is among the top three forwards for goals scored and shots inside the box since Gameweek 18, and in the top six for shots and shots on target. With Harry Kane (10.1m) and Sergio Agüero (13.6m) posting similar figures and already in 37.9 and 31.4 per cent of teams respectively, many FPL managers would have to pull a lot of cash from elsewhere in their squad to fit Costa (10.6m) in too.

However, the upcoming blanks and double gameweeks could see the popular forward lines disrupted. Agüero has no Premier League match in Gameweek 27, and both he and Kane would have a blank in Gameweek 30 if their teams progress in the FA Cup. If Manchester City win their FA Cup fifth round game next weekend it would give Chelsea a Gameweek 30 match, but if the Citizens lose it is Chelsea that will have the Premier League blank. Therefore, I would suggest FPL managers thinking of buying Costa should wait for the result of that cup game.

Double Gameweek planning: Part seven

Angelo Ogbonna’s last-gasp winner for West Ham United in their FA Cup fourth round replay triumph over Liverpool was an important result for Fantasy Premier League managers. Liverpool’s failure to progress to the fifth round of the cup sets up the prospect of a fourth Premier League fixture being played in Gameweek 30, thereby increasing the likelihood that more FPL managers will be able to field 11 players that week without taking a points hit or using their wildcard.

Liverpool’s cup exit means there is a league opponent waiting in Gameweek 30 for whichever side loses the FA Cup fifth round match between Chelsea and Manchester City. If Chelsea lose they will face Liverpool in Gameweek 30, while a loss for Manchester City will give them a league game against Norwich City.

One potential wrinkle for this scenario is if that FA Cup match goes to a replay. The Champions League commitments of Chelsea and Manchester City limit the scope for them to replay the fixture before the quarter-finals. Therefore, they might have to take Gameweek 30 (the date of the FA Cup quarter-finals) for a fifth round replay.

Another result of West Ham’s win is that Liverpool are now guaranteed a Gameweek 35 fixture against Newcastle United because both sides are out of the FA Cup. That brings to three the number of league fixtures scheduled to go ahead in Gameweek 35, which is FA Cup semi-final weekend. It also means Newcastle United join Leicester City and Southampton in being the only sides currently set to have games in both Gameweek 30 and Gameweek 35. However, the Magpies, unlike the Foxes and the Saints, do not have a Gameweek 27 fixture.

I have updated the Double Gameweek (DGW) and blank fixture chart I shared in earlier posts in this series.

Double Gameweek planning part 7

The chart shows the Capital One Cup final match up (lilac), the blank Gameweek 27 fixtures (purple), potential DGW options for the teams affected by the Capital One Cup final (yellow), potential blank Premier League gameweeks for teams because of the FA Cup (dark grey), the only guaranteed Gameweek 30 and Gameweek 35 fixtures so far (light green) and the Gameweek 30 fixtures that hinge on the outcome of the FA Cup fifth round matches between Bournemouth and Everton, and Chelsea and Manchester City (dark green) – the winners of those ties should have a blank and the losers a Premier League fixture in Gameweek 30 (assuming no replay is required).

The light grey boxes show where Aston Villa (Gameweek 30), Stoke City, Norwich City and Sunderland (all Gameweek 35) are waiting to discover if their Premier League opponents (Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester City, Watford and Arsenal respectively) progress in the FA Cup.

The teams that could have a DGW in Gameweek 34 or Gameweek 37 as a result of Premier League teams facing each other in the FA Cup fifth round are shown in the orange boxes. The other Premier League teams that could have a DGW if they reach the FA Cup quarter-finals are highlighted in the light blue boxes.

Chelsea’s attack

There has been some buzz this week that “Chelsea are back” as an attacking force. The Blues have scored eight goals in four Premier League games since the departure of José Mourinho as manager and Diego Costa, who has scored three of those goals, has been bought by more than 70,000 Fantasy Premier League Managers this gameweek. Furthermore, Oscar, who has scored twice, has been added to more than 14,000 teams.

Is this Chelsea revival for real, or is it the latest false start this season? Undoubtedly, eight goals in Gameweeks 17-20 compares well to one goal in Gameweeks 12-15.

Chelsea's attacking performance GW1-20 2015-16

The chart shows, in shades of blue, Chelsea’s attacking performance in terms of shots, shots in the box, shots on target and goals over the first 20 gameweeks of this season. It also shows, in shades of red, the average number of shots, shots in box, shots on target and goals conceded per game by the opposition over the same period.

Chelsea’s goals and underlying data roughly kept track with their opposition until about Gameweek 8. After that, Chelsea’s attacking threat diminished. They rediscovered it in Gameweek 12, but at that point their goal conversion almost completely dried up until Mourinho’s final game in charge. With the departure of Mourinho, there appears to be an uptick in the number of goals scored, but nothing extraordinary relative to the opposition, except the three goals away at Crystal Palace in Gameweek 20.

Where there has been a big improvement in the post-Mourinho era has been in goal conversion rates.

Chelsea conversion rates GW1-20 2015-16Whereas Chelsea under Mourinho were converting fewer shots, shots in the box and shots on target into goals than the league average, that has completely changed around since he left – although it should be noted the sample size in the post-Mourinho era is very small.

Being a team used to competing at the top of the league, some FPL managers might expect to see Chelsea performing above the league average when it comes to conversion. The players are priced such that we should expect better performances out of them. Here is how they performed last season, when they were crowned champions.

Chelsea conversion rates 2014-15While Chelsea’s current shot conversion rate and shots in box conversion rate is not too far off their performance above the league average last season, their shots on target conversion rate in the post-Mourinho era is looking unsustainable. Last year, Chelsea converted shots on target at 4.35 per cent above the league average. In the post-Mourinho era they are converting at 19 per cent above the league average.

Chelsea’s goal conversion may have improved since Mourinho left, but don’t expect the team to keep scoring as frequently in the long term unless they further improve their all round attacking game and consistently exceed the standards set by their opposition.

Guest post: José Mourinho – the fallout

Following the news on Thursday about the sacking of José Mourinho, I asked Chelsea regular Ruth_NZ for his thoughts on what comes next for the Blues. Here is his view:

The situation at Chelsea now is worse than most outside the club will realise. Many will assume that removing the manager, who many neutrals disliked, will go a long way to resolving what has been wrong. But they probably don’t understand the standing José Mourinho had with the Stamford Bridge faithful.

For many Chelsea regulars, this will be almost like a bereavement. And if the players suddenly start to perform like champions after Mourinho has gone they won’t be thanked for it, they will be scorned for it. In my opinion, losing Mourinho will set Chelsea back three years. There won’t be peace now until half the squad have gone (including Eden Hazard if he wasn’t really injured last weekend) and a new manager and team have made the right connection with the fans.

I have spoken to quite a few regular, match-going Chelsea fans. Not one is happy that it came to this and not one is happy that Mourinho is gone. It’s not that we don’t understand the decision or even that we disagree with it. It’s that we really regret it, as the club does too if you read the statement on the website. The only sound explanation for it is a rift with some key players. If that’s the case then the Stamford Bridge crowd will not be settled till those players have gone too.

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So, I believe the fallout from this has only just begun. It may be that José Mourinho lost the players (or some of them). What the players will now discover is that they have lost the fans. Chelsea technical director Michael Emenalo has talked about “palpable discord between manager and players”. This is not going to be put up with by the fans if they believe the some of the players wanted Mourinho sacked and downed tools.

Former England forward Alan Shearer said: “I have never known a capitulation like it. The players have just not performed and have a lot to answer for. They’ve let the club and the manager down.” That is now the feeling that many Stamford Bridge regulars have and it won’t be easily assuaged.

Personally I think you can write off Chelsea assets for the forseeable future in Fantasy Premier League terms. If I were the board I would use this as an opportunity to give youngsters like Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Patrick Bamford, who can be brought back after Christmas, a good run of games for Chelsea and see what our youngsters can actually do in a first team shirt.

Maybe outsiders think that all Chelsea fans are glory hunters. I can assure you that while those “fans” do exist (and have already stopped trying to get tickets for games), the majority are not. Chelsea is a club with a proud history and there are some things the core supporters value more than short-term success.