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

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.

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

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. 

Everything but the goal: GW5

This experiment is in danger of becoming as risky to player game time as my Over the Radar series was to player health last season. Last week my pick Philippe Coutinho was benched on his return from international duty despite Liverpool making special arrangements to fly him home. That’s the second week in a row my Everything but the Goal pick has been riding the pine at kick-off.

Everything but the Goal is an experiment to see what success, if any, can be had by selecting a player who has had good underlying statistics 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.

Coutinho managed two blocked long-range shots after replacing Daniel Sturridge in the 76th minute, but he was missing for the third gameweek in a row.

My pick for Gameweek 5 was close between Sturridge (five shots, three in the box and four on target in Ganeweek 4) and Shane Long, who gets the nod. Both carry some bench risk, but this experiment is about whether underlying performance indicates imminent returns so I feel I should pick a strong performer from the week before if they have a reasonable chance of starting. The Southampton striker had five shots, including four inside the penalty area and three on target, against Arsenal but failed to find the net. His mission against Swansea City is to score.

Last week my control pick – a player with good underlying statistics who did deliver the previous week – was Eden Hazard, but he also went missing. The control pick for Gameweek 5 has to be Romelu Lukaku after his monster performance against Sunderland. Of his nine shots, eight were in the box, six were on target and three rippled the net. I’m looking for at least one goal from Lukaku this week.

Season EBTG score: Found 0 – 3 Missing.

Season control score: Found 0 – 3 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.

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.

The Coutinho conundrum

Philippe Countinho has long been a tempting player for Fantasy Premier League managers. He tends to score enough goals each season to put him on the radar, without scoring enough to make him a key player. He also teases managers by backing up those goals with a high number of shots.

With two goals in Liverpool’s opening weekend win at the Arsenal, Coutinho has already put himself firmly on the radar for 2016-17. The 8.1m midfielder has been far and away the most popular transfer in, with more than 250,000 FPL managers adding him to their ranks, and he was one of the first three players to go up in price this season.

reviewed Coutinho’s performance in November after a Gameweek 11 brace against  Chelsea. His underlying statistics showed a player who took a lot of shots, but they were often from long range and frequently blocked.

At that time, Jürgen Klopp had only been Liverpool manager for a few weeks. As Klopp is famed for gegenpressing (pressing the opposition as soon as possession is lost), I thought it would be interesting to take a look at some of Coutinho’s key underlying data for the rest of last season to see if that approach was turning him into a more prolific finisher.

There wasn’t a huge difference in the rate at which Coutinho’s shots were blocked. The Brazilian had 37 per cent of shots blocked under Klopp, 42 per cent in the small sample size of games played in 2015-16 prior to the German’s arrival and 39 per cent in the last full season under Rodgers.

Philippe Coutinho Shots on Target conversion rate to GW1 2016-17

What has improved since the latter stages of Rodgers’ rein is the rate at which Coutinho converts shots on target into goals. Under Klopp, he turned shots on target into goals at a higher rate than the Premier League average for midfielders over the course of the season. However, it should be noted he achieved a shots on target conversion rate of 30 per cent in 2012-13 when he was managed by Rodgers. (We can put the 2016-17 numbers to one side for now because one game is too small a sample size to make a judgement on and I would be stunned if he maintained 67 per cent for the rest of the season.)
Philippe Coutinho percentage shots in the box to GW1 2016-17

One of the key factors I also like to look at is where players are unleashing their attempts from because shots fired from inside the area normally have a higher conversion rate than those hit from outside. In Rodgers’ last couple of months in charge, Coutinho was shooting from inside the box at close to the league average for midfielders, but since Klopp took over he has reverted back to taking about two-thirds of his shots from long range, as he did in 2014-15.

Philippe Coutinho percentage shots on target to GW1 2016-17

That distance shooting doesn’t appear to help Countinho’s ability to test the opposition keeper. The proportion of shots hitting the target under both Klopp and Rodgers was below the league average for midfielders last year. Nevertheless, Coutinho was also top among midfielder for shots taken in 2015-16, so his volume might compensate for his inaccuracy to some extent.

Countinho is a conundrum. His shots on target conversion rate improved under Klopp, but the reason why is not apparent from the statistics I have looked at here. The Brazilian still had a large proportion of his shots blocked (he topped the league among midfielders last season), he is frequently shooting from distance and he’s is still failing to hit the target with nearly three-quarters of his shots. Unless Gameweek 1 marked the start of a fresh beginning for Coutinho, I’m wary about buying into the notion that he has taken a major step up in performance. Some useful indicators suggest not much has changed.

However, statistics don’t always tell the whole story. I wasn’t able to watch Liverpool’s game against Arsenal, but if anyone who saw the game also saw something in Coutinho’s play that gives them optimism he can sustain this level of performance I’d be delighted to hear about it.