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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Liverpool midfield options

After six gameweeks Liverpool are the second highest scoring team in the Premier League. That success has attracted the attention of Fantasy Premier League managers who want a piece of the action.

With six mid-priced midfielders and one lower premium midfielder all clocking up about 400 minutes or more of play and the points being divided among them, there has been a lot of debate about which Liverpool midfielder is the best to own.

In this review I have excluded Jordan Henderson (6.4m), who anchors the midfield, because I wanted to narrow the field slightly and he is the only one of the seven to not achieve at least three shots on target this season.

I have included James Milner (6.5m), who is currently being used at left back, because of his three goals this season. All three goals have come from the penalty spot, including the two last week against Hull City that have attracted the attention of more than 40,000 FPL managers ahead of Gameweek 7.

Liverpool midfielders GW1-6 2016-17 Actions per 90

The attacking and creative metrics shown here are broken down into actions per 90 because while all six players have several hundred minutes of game time under their belt, Georginio Wijnaldum (7.7m) has played 30 per cent more minutes than Philippe Coutinho (8.2m). Game time, of course, is a consideration for managers, particularly with Daniel Sturridge’s presence hovering over most of these players and that’s where FPL managers will have to look to press conferences and other places for clues.

Penalties and how often Liverpool are likely to win them are also factors to consider. I have removed penalty goals and the shot numbers behind them from my calculations of actions per 90 minutes because of the significantly higher conversion rate for penalties. That is why Milner, who has taken all his shots from the spot, is showing zero goal threat except for penalties.

The stats show there isn’t much to chose between Coutinho, Roberto Firmino (8.4m), Adam Lallana (7.2m) and Sadio Mané (9.0m) in terms of shooting output.

Coutinho is a league ahead of the other three when it comes to shot volume, but roughly equal to them on the frequency with which he does so inside the penalty area. Therefore it is not a big surprise to see his goal output being similar.

Firmino is probably closest to the norm in terms of percentages of shots taken in the box, being on target and converted into goals. Although Mané and, particularly, Lallana have high shots on target conversion rates, the underlying data suggests they are good for future returns – albeit likely at a slower rate.

The numbers indicate Wijnaldum has a tendency to shoot from distance, but also suggest he will likely find the net in the Premier League occasionally this season.

Firmino has been the most creative of the midfielders and therefore seems to be a little unfortunate in not having that turned into an assist or two (the data set I’m using doesn’t recognise the assist the FPL granted him against Tottenham Hotspur in Gameweek 3).

For managers that don’t believe Liverpool will keep winning a penalty every other game on average, there is some redemption for Milner in his creativity. And Coutinho gains a little edge over Mané, Lallana and Wijnaldum when it comes to creating chances.

In terms of underlying statistics, Coutinho may have a slight edge over Firmino, Mané and Lallana, but the differences are not huge. Therefore, price becomes a consideration given the range on offer.

Liverpool midfielders GW1-6 2016-17 points and price

The second chart shows how many points each player has delivered so far per 90 minutes played (P90) and that points output adjusted by their current price (P90/£).

Here the value Lallana has offered so far (remember he may have been somewhat overachieving) is demonstrated, while we might want more from Mané for his price. It also suggests Coutinho has delivered the best return on investment so far.

Any one of Lallana, Firmino, Mané and Coutinho look decent picks. If budget isn’t a concern and you had to pick one above the rest then it looks like Coutinho has the edge based on statistics from the small number of games played so far. However, several people who watch more games than me have suggested Mané looks the most dangerous. I’d be interested to hear your views in the comments below. 

Liverpool’s starting eleven

There has been quite a buzz among Fantasy Premier League managers about Liverpool players this week following the Reds’ weekend demolition of Manchester City.

Liverpool had a great game against the Citizens. They notched four times and registered 12 shots on target, including 10 inside the box. The game has placed Liverpool’s attacking players firmly on the radar. Furthermore, the team line-up has looked fairly stable since Jürgen Klopp took over from Brendan Rodgers after Gameweek 9.

However, it is easy to look at players getting regular game time and forget that potential challengers to their spot could be missing with injury. Therefore, I decided to review the Liverpool midfield and forward line-up so far this season to remind myself of the state of play.

Liverpool's line-up GW1-13 2015-16

The chart shows the:

  • opposition Liverpool faced each week (Opp);
  • formation Liverpool played (Frmtn)*;
  • total minutes played by each player;
  • managerial era – Rodgers in grey and Klopp in white;
  • position of each player in each match** (dark blue for forward, blue for midfield, purple for defence and light blue if they came on as a substitute) or their status (red for injured, yellow for suspended). Players with a white or grey box beneath their name did not play that week.

I have only included players who have clocked up at least 100 minutes on the pitch. They are, from left to right: James Milner (Mil), Philippe Coutinho (Cou), Emre Can (Can), Leiva Lucas (Luc), Adam Lallana (Lal), Roberto Firmino (Fir), Jordon Ibe (Ibe), Jordan Henderson (Hen), Christian Benteke (Ben), Danny Ings (Ing), Daniel Sturridge (Stu) and Divock Origi (Ori).

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There are a few things I noted from the chart. Firstly, the five midfielders with most game time this season have looked very stable in the Klopp era, with the only change being Ibe (4.6m) coming in for Milner (6.6m) when he was briefly injured. With Henderson (6.6m) nearing a return from injury, it will be interesting to see if the club captain can get back into the team and, if so, who he displaces.

Sturridge (10.1m) is another major player for the Reds who is on the comeback trail from injury. Against Manchester City he was an unused substitute, but how long will Liverpool keep on the bench a player who over the last two seasons has scored 26 Premier League goals in 3,021 minutes? If he returns to the starting eleven that might also have a knock on effect on those midfield options.

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Finally, in his first four games, Klopp has started with an attacking midfielder (Firmino, 8.0m) upfront in away games against Chelsea and Manchester City, but a recognized striker in home games – Origi (5.6m) against Southampton and Benteke (8.3m) against Crystal Palace. Klopp might decide to stick with last week’s winning formula, or he might continue to rotate. If he does the latter, it could make things awkward for the more than 23,000 FPL managers who have bought Firmino this week.

Notes

*based on my interpretation of FourFourTwo Stat Zone‘s line-up guide – feel free to leave alternative suggestions in the comments

**also based my interpretation of FourFourTwo Stat Zone’s line-up guide.