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).

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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.

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Étienne Capoue

Étienne Capoue grabbed his third goal of the season in Watford’s Gameweek 4 win over West Ham United and left many Fantasy Premier League managers wondering if their cheap fifth midfielder should be a regular starter from here on out. Others are more bold, asking if we are seeing the rise of this season’s Riyad Mahrez.

I’ll come back to Mahrez in a bit. First, here are Capoue’s statistics from the 2016-17 season.

Étienne Capoue GW1-4 2016-17

All but one of his four efforts on target has beaten the keeper, giving him a shots on target conversion rate of 75 per cent, which is more than double the average for Premier League midfielders as a group. Yaya Touré managed to sustain that kind of conversion rate for a year in his 2013-14 miracle season, but only with the aid of penalties and free-kicks, which Capoue doesn’t have.

However, the biggest mismatch in these statistics is in scoring three goals off just six shots of any kind. Among midfielders, the Frenchman is joint second in the Premier League for goals scored, but outside the top 30 for shots taken. Capoue’s current goal output looks completely unsustainable unless his shot volume increases.

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This is where the comparison with Mahrez comes in. Last season after four games the Algerian winger had a high shots on target conversion rate of 60 percent (excluding a penalty), but he backed that up with 12 shots, including eight in the area. His underlying data suggested more success was likely, whereas Capoue’s suggests overachievement so far.

The beauty of Capoue, of course, is his price. He started the season at 4.5m and has only risen to 4.8m so far. Even if his goal-scoring regresses, such that from here on out he only finds the net at a more sustainable rate to his shot numbers, he would still be good for the fifth midfield spot.