Eldin Jakupovic

Hull City’s signing of David Marshall from Cardiff City will have Fantasy Premier League managers that own Eldin Jakupovic on edge. The Swiss goalkeeper (4.1m) has been one of the budget buys of the season so far, delivering 14 points for anyone who bought him pre-season for 4.0m and played him in every match. But Scotland international Marshall is being touted as challenging him for a starting place.

Whoever starts between the sticks for the Tigers will need to be good. Only Burnley have conceded more shots than Hull’s 70 so far this season, though to be fair to the Yorkshire club they have had a tricky start with home games against Premier League champions Leicester City and a shot-happy Manchester United sandwiching a kinder fixture away at Swansea.

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Despite that, Hull have limited their opponents to just two goals conceded, the joint second fewest early in this Premier League season. Part of that success has to be down to Jakupovic, who currently boasts a save percentage of 88 per cent. That is high and I would expect it to regress a bit if he keeps playing, though it is helped by the Tigers limiting their rivals to shooting from outside the box more often than not. Nevertheless, that save percentage also shows the good form Jakupovic has been in. 

There’s more to goalkeeping than shot-stopping, but Hull dropping Jakupovic immediately for Marshall would be tough on the former Grasshopper man.

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Crystal Palace’s defensive resolve

I’ve seen a few comments this week from people pointing out that Crystal Palace have not conceded many on the road this season and therefore it might be best not to captain Romelu Lukaku against them. I decided to dig into this a little further by looking at their defensive stats to check whether this was a fluke or a sign of consistent defensive resolve.

I’m sorry this chart is a bit busy, but there is a fair amount of information I want to look at. The chart shows away matches with grey bars and clean sheets secured by the Eagles as gold bars. To give an idea of the strength of the opponents faced, shooting averages are shown in shades blue for home or away games (depending on the opposition’s fixture with Palace). The shooting metrics are: opposition average shots (OpAvSh), opposition average shots in box (OpAvSiB), opposition average shots on target (OpAvSoT) and opposition average goals scored (OpAvGS). The south London club’s defensive resolve is shown by the shades of red – shots conceded (ShC), shots in box conceded (SiBC), shots on target conceded (SoTC) and goals conceded (GC).

Crystal Palace defence GW1-14 2015-16

Several points stand out to me from the chart. Two of Palace’s three clean sheets have been recorded exactly when we might expect them – against poor attacking sides (West Bromwich Albion in Gameweek 8 and Manchester United in Gameweek 11). They are the third worst in the league for conceding shots and fair particularly badly against stronger sides, but in the last eight weeks they haven’t given up many of the more dangerous shots on target.

The Eagles don’t concede many goals each match and have averaged just one goal against per game this season, which is the joint fourth best goals against record in the league. The difference isn’t great between home and away games though –  at Selhurst Park they have conceded a mid-table nine goals in eight games (one goal above one goal per game) and on the road they have conceded five in six games (one goal below one goal per game).

Palace don’t land many clean sheets (though the best chances for doing so seem somewhat predictable), but they don’t conceded many goals either. FPL managers might not want to play an Eagles defender against anyone but the weakest attacking opposition. However, they may also want think carefully before captaining a player against them.

Swansea City’s form

There has been a fair amount of talk this week about Swansea being out of form. The suggestion is that they have been playing badly, particularly widely owned attacking players like André Ayew and Bafétimbi Gomis. The former has been removed from 50,000 Fantasy Premier League teams so far this week and the latter from more than 80,000 teams.

Swansea are without a win in five matches, the same length of time Gomis has now gone without scoring. After bagging seven goals in the first four gameweeks, the Swans have only notched three times since. This blog post came about because I was interested in what clues the underlying statistics, plus the defensive strength of the opposition Swansea played, might reveal about their situation.

Swansea City form GW1-9 2015-16

I charted Swansea’s Shots, Shots in the Box (SiB), Shots on Target (SoT) and Goals, plus the average number of Shots Conceded (OpAvSC), Shots in Box Conceded (OpAvSiBC), Shots on Target Conceded (OpAvSoTC) and Goals Conceded (OpAvGC) by each opposition team up to and including their game against Swansea. In Gameweek 1 this means Swansea’s offensive record matches the defensive record of their opponent, Chelsea, because both teams had been involved in just one game. By the time Swansea played Stoke City in Gameweek 9, the Potters had played eight other games so Swansea’s performance has less overall impact on the defensive statistics. Put another way, some divergence is to be expected between Swansea’s weekly offensive statistics (shown by the blue lines) and their opponents’ respective average defensive statistics (shown by the grey and black lines) as the season progresses.

What’s interesting from the chart is how Swansea’s underlying offensive performance roughly peaks and troughs with the defensive strength of their rivals. For example, against Everton in gameweek 6, Swansea’s Shots and Shots in Box tick up against a rival that had conceded more of them on average than Manchester United and Watford, the Swans’ opposition in Gameweeks 3 and 4 respectively. It is worth noting, however, that the up tick did not show up in Shots on Target or Goals scored.

As an owner of Ayew, the chart gives me some reassurance that fixture strength may have played a part in Swansea’s recent drop in goal production. However, last week’s game against Stoke is more concerning because all but one statistic – Shots – failed to move in the same direction as the opponent’s defensive form.

Aston Villa defensive form GW1-9 2015-16

GC = Goals Conceded; SoTC = Shots on Target Conceded; SiB = Shots in Box Conceded; SC = Shots Conceded

Next up for Swansea is Aston Villa. The Villains have not kept a clean sheet since the first day of the season. However, the underlying statistics were generally not as bad as I expected them to be and there are six teams in the league who have conceded more goals than them. The chart clearly shows performances away from home are worse in the first five weeks, although that pattern has broken down in the last four weeks. On average, Villa’s defence has conceded 1.4 Goals, 4.1 Shots on Target 7.2 Shots in the Box and 11.8 Shots per gameweek this season.

The data doesn’t provide much clear cut evidence to work with. Villa appear to be poor defensively, but not terrible, and Swansea’s play has roughly swung with fixtures – although the last game was worrying. Nevertheless, I think I’m tempted to give Ayew another game and then reassess.