Everything but the Goal: GW16

Neither the Everything but the Goal pick nor the control selection for Gameweek 16 had the highest shot tallies last week, but they did fire their efforts from more dangerous areas. The Everything but the Goal pick is Leicester City’s Islam Slimani, who failed beat Manchester City goalkeeper Claudio Bravo with four shots. Three of those efforts were off target but taken close to the six yard box, while the fourth was hit from just outside the box and was on target.
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The control pick is Swansea City striker Fernando Llorente, who also fired four shots. He netted twice past Sunderland goalkeeper Jordan Pickford with his two shots on target. His other two shots, which were also taken well inside the area, both missed the target.

For both players the objective is to score, which is what the Everything but the Goal selection for Gameweek 15, Victor Anichebe, and the control pick, Harry Kane, failed to achieve.

Sorry for the lack of an Everything but the Goal post last week. Emre Can, the Everything but the Goal pick for Gameweek 14, found the target in Gameweek 15, but Sergio Agüero, the control selection, did not.

Season EBTG score: Found 3 – 11 Missing

Season control score: Found 4 – 10 Missing

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Double Gameweek planning: Part six

Although I’ve included this post as part of the Double Gameweek (DGW) planning series, it’s mostly concerned with the looming blank Gameweek 30 for many Premier League teams. I’ve seen some Fantasy Premier League managers attempting to calculate how many players they will have in their team in Gameweek 30. However, the sheer number of permutations the FA Cup fourth round replays and fifth round fixtures generate makes calculating the figure very complex.

Therefore, let’s strip it down to the basics. There are only two fixtures we know for sure will be played in Gameweek 30. To calculate how many players you currently have for Gameweek 30 count the number of active players you have from the following teams in your FPL squad:

  • Leicester City
  • Newcastle United
  • Stoke City
  • Southampton

That’s it, that’s how many players you currently have for Gameweek 30.

However, we know that there will be at least one more fixture played in Gameweek 30 – we just don’t know which pair of teams will take part. Count the number of players you have from the teams involved in each fixture:

Fixture A) Sunderland and Everton
Fixture B) Swansea and Bournemouth

By Gameweek 30 you should have the players from Fixture A or Fixture B available too, but we do not know which fixture it will be yet. You will not have players from both fixtures, just one or the other.

More players may yet become available to you, but that will depend on:

  1. The results of the FA Cup fifth round fixtures in Gameweek 26, and
  2. How you use your transfers between now and Gameweek 30.

So, if the number you came up with is low, think very carefully about each transfer you make between now and Gameweek 30.

Finally, for those who want a visual reminder of the state of play, here’s an updated version of DGW planning chart I shared in part five and earlier posts in this series.

Double Gameweek planning part 6

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 Everton’s fifth round FA Cup match with Bournemouth (dark green) – the winner of that tie will have a blank and the loser a Premier League fixture in Gameweek 30.

There are two Premier League fixtures in Gameweek 30 and four in Gameweek 35 (light grey) where the team in the larger tile is waiting to discover if the team beneath them in the smaller tile progresses in the FA Cup.

The teams that could have a DGW in Gameweek 34 or Gameweek 37 as a result of the Premier League teams facing each other in the fifth round of the FA Cup 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 shown in the light blue boxes.

Gylfi Sigurdsson

We know from his stellar performance in early 2012, plus his strong showing last season, that Gylfi Sigurdsson can be Fantasy Premier League gold when he is in a Swansea City shirt. However, the shine came off the Icelandic international earlier this season.

As usual when charting player data, I’ve separated penalty kick data from the regular data because of the substantially higher conversion rate from the spot.

Gylfi Sigurdsson GW1-20 2015-16

Like his team, Sigurdsson had a bright start in the opening few weeks of this season, even though his sole attacking return at that stage was an assist in Gameweek 4. The following week he failed to register a single shot or create a single opportunity and his output stagnated, apart from one converted penalty against Southampton in Gameweek 7 and a long range strike against Aston Villa in Gameweek 10.

The former Tottenham Hotspur player’s creativity began to flicker back into life in Gameweek 12 and he rediscovered his shooting boots in Gameweek 15. However, it came too late to save former Swans boss Gary Monk, who was sacked after the 3-0 loss to Leicester City that week. Under replacement manager Alan Curtis, Sigurdsson’s underlying statistics have begun to glow again and he finally delivered another goal last week.

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Despite hitting 14 shots on target, excluding the penalty, Sigurdsson’s two goal return is not a huge surprise given he spent much of the season shooting from outside the penalty area, where conversion rates are lower.

However, over the last six gameweeks, he has not only been creating chances and shooting more frequently, but also taking a greater proportion of his shots from closer range. In those six gameweeks he has created half of his chances for team mates, 43 per cent of his shots, two-thirds of his shots in the box and 57 per cent of his shots on target (all shooting statistics exclude the penalty).

As a result, the poor 34 per cent of shots being taken in the box this season – as shown in the chart – is a healthier 53 per cent over the last six weeks. If Sigurdsson can keep this up, more attacking returns are surely not far away.

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.

Agüero replacements: Mid-price forwards

Yesterday I looked at the expensive forward options for Fantasy Premier League managers replacing Manchester City’s injured hitman Sergio Agüero. Today it is the turn of the mid-price forwards.

The choice in this price bracket is deeper than at the premium end of the field. Five options stand out to me as worth considering: Graziano Pellè (8.2m), Romelu Lukaku (8.4m), Bafétimbi Gomis (7.1m), Anthony Martial (8.4m) and Wilfried Bony (8.2m).

With more than a quarter of a million transfers in already during this international break, Pellè, the top scoring FPL forward with 52 points from 708 minutes played, has emerged as a clear favourite. Lukaku (49 points, 694 min) is another popular choice with over 70,000 transfers in. Despite being the prime candidate to replace Agüero in Manchester City’s normally potent attack, Wilfried Bony (11 points, 218 min) has only received just over 20,000 transfers in. After starting the season with four goals in four games, FPL managers have fallen out of love with Gomis (32 points, 628 min) and he has about 75,000 net transfers out this gameweek. It’s a similar story with Martial (25 points, 296 min), who has failed to score in his last two games and is now in 25,000 fewer teams overall than he was at the start of the international break.

Mid-price Agüero replacements

As I did yesterday, I have included Agüero’s statistics to provide a comparison and displayed the data in minutes per action to account for the wide variety of game time among these players.

Pellè’s stats are comparable to those of Agüero when it comes to shots inside the box, but in terms of the other metrics the Southampton striker does not stand head and shoulders above the other options over the season as a whole. Bony is ahead of Pellè in Minutes per Shot, Gomis in minutes per Shot on Target and Lukaku and Martial lead the way in Minutes per Goal.

Since I looked at Martial after Gameweek 6, the regression I was predicting has begun to kick in and the Manchester United forward has only taken two more shots. The Red Devils next two games aren’t easy but after that their schedule opens up though I wouldn’t say those fixtures are easy (eve, MCI, cpl, WBA, wat, lei).

Two weeks ago, I exposed the myth that Romelu Lukaku only scores against top teams and the Everton man kept up his fine form with a strike in his five-shot game against Liverpool. The Belgian has two tough games up next, but after that the fixtures look almost as good as they can get (MUN, ars, SUN, whm, AVL, bou).

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With four goals and five assists in his last five games, Pellè is clearly a man in form. With a nice run of fixtures (LEI, liv, BOU, sun, STO) before a Gameweek 14 match against Manchester City, it is clear why the Italian is such a popular pick this week. The Saints striker’s Shots on Target conversion rate is a touch high. However, given the high percentage of shots he hits from inside the box, there might be a case for arguing it is the Shots on Target rate that is too low and not that the number of goals scored is too high.

Gomis is an interesting case given the common perception that he is out of form. He was hauled off at half-time in Gameweek 7 after failing to record a single shot. That game aside, however, his underlying stats have continued to tick over since I looked at his performance after Gameweek 4, even if the goals have stopped flowing. As Fantasy Football Scout member Balders pointed out, the four fixtures he blanked in were against some of the better defensive teams in the Premier League (wat, EVE, sot, TOT). With four good fixtures in the next six (STO, avl, ARS, nor, BOU, liv), it wouldn’t surprise me if Gomis rediscovered his scoring touch soon.

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Despite some minor speculation to the contrary, Bony’s minutes so far this season suggest he is the first choice back up at Manchester City to Agüero. It is hard to judge a guy who has only played a significant amount of minutes in two games, but the data shows that per minute he is keeping up with the other options considered here in every metric aside from goals. The Citizens may be missing Silva as well as Agüero this week, but they would remain one of the most potent attacking sides in the league even if they suffered a 20 per cent drop in shooting opportunities created. And with three good fixtures in the four games Agüero is likely to miss (BOU, mun, NOR, avl), Bony could soon notch his first goal of the season. However, as Ruth pointed out in the comments on yesterday’s post, switching back to Agüero from Bony could be tricky unless you have two free transfers or a lot of money in the bank.

Red mist

Last week I noticed there had been a lot of players sent off during matches and decided to take a look at whether this was a trend or just a misperception on my part.

What I found confirmed my suspicions. In the first six weeks of the 2015-16 Fantasy Premier League season 15 red cards were dished out – a 66.66 per cent increase on the first six weeks of last season. As the first chart shows, two bad gameweeks accounted for a good chuck of those dismissals.

Red cards GW1-6 2015-16

Were referees being more disciplinarian or was this just coincidence? I looked at the number of yellow cards doled out and discovered 20 more yellow cards were brandished in the first six gameweeks this season than last season – an increase of 9.35 per cent.

Yellow cards GW1-6 2015-16

Of the players who were sent off, it appears five were dismissed for fighting (which includes stamping), four for receiving a second yellow card and three each for professional fouls and bad fouls. The sample size, as with all this data, is small so it is hard to draw conclusions, but it looks like referees are being a bit stricter and the players haven’t helped themselves either.

Does the man in the middle, the referee, affect how often players are being sent off? The sample size was such that I only thought it fair to look at the referees who have taken charge of at least three games.

Referee cards GW1-6 2015-16

Martin Atkinson dished out nearly five yellow cards per game match on average during the first six weeks, but hadn’t sent anyone off. Neither had Craig Parsons, who averaged four yellow cards per match. At the other end of the scale, Michael Oliver had shown players a red card three times, for an average of one red every other game. Kevin Friend also waved red three times, or once per game officiated on average, and he averaged more yellow cards per match than any of the other referees. We can’t read much into the data at this stage, but if I have a card magnet in my team this might make me a little more cautious about playing him if Friend is taking charge of his next match.

I also looked at which teams had been affected by red cards being waved. Four teams had experienced red card situations in matches at least three times this season: Arsenal (3), Chelsea (4), Swansea City (4) and West Ham United (4). Arsenal had received two reds and seen their opponents receive one. Chelsea benefited twice and were punished twice. West Ham had suffered three reds and seen their opponents suffer one, while Swansea saw an opposition player head for an early shower on all four occasions.

How much does a red card affect a game? In 60 per cent of the matches this season where one team played a man down for at least 10 minutes, the team with fewer players conceded one goal. The aggregate score in such situations was 6-1 in favour of the team with an extra man. On both occasions where a team was reduced to nine men (Stoke City v West Bromwich Albion and Chelsea v Arsenal), the team with fewer players conceded a goal and lost the match.

With one match left of Gameweek 7 we have yet to see a red card brandished. Have the players been better behaved, or the referees calmed down, or are we just witnessing a statistical data point on the other side of the trend line? It’s too early to tell. But if the officials do keep dismissing players at the rate they did over the first six weeks it is going to affect results on frequent basis and, potentially, our perception of how good teams are when facing full strength opposition. How often does an FPL manager looking to bring a player in cross-reference the player’s team performance with the number of red cards shown in their matches?

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Could it be that Swansea City were not as good as their four points from their opening two games against Chelsea and Newcastle suggested because both opponents played a man down for a large portion of those games? I think that would be a harsh call. In both situations it was the Swans’ attacking play that drew the fouls that led to players being sent off.

Of those players who are card magnets in the Premier League, few are likely feature in our Fantasy Premier League teams. Furthermore, the list of players sent off this season is not limited to the usual suspects. Therefore, I’m not sure this data gives us any major insight into the future. But it does give us something else to think about when assessing the performance of some teams this season.

Guest post: The case for the defence (part two)

In part one of his guest post, Ruth_NZ looked at the reasons why Premier League clubs keep clean sheets and divided them into four groups, starting with four sides that prioritise defence (Group A): Chelsea, Southampton, West Bromwich Albion and Watford. In part two he looks at the other three groups and how players from these groups can fit your team structure:

Group B – Pragmatic (Balanced Defensive)

West Ham United, Swansea City, Norwich City, Sunderland

For Group B I am also looking for two things:

  • The manager has a balanced approach and a willingness to adopt to a more defensive style when necessary – in other words the mindset is pragmatic;
  • The team has demonstrated an ability to be organised and to put such tactical adjustments into practice.

Swansea are fairly obvious I think – their 1-0 win at Arsenal at the back end of last season demonstrated it clearly. Some have said they were lucky to get that clean sheet. What I saw was great organisation, resilience and a determination to fight for it. And that’s what I’m looking for, teams that have that kind of character on the defensive side of the game. Swansea are not a defensive team but they are no pushover either.

West Ham have earned their place here on the basis of three stellar away results and three clean sheets in their first six games under Slaven Bilić. They have been very impressive in defence apart from when they got sucked into a goalfest against Bournemouth that obviously infuriated their manager (who made a “rage substitution” of one of his defenders before half-time). I doubt that will be allowed to happen too often, especially when Alex Song strengthens them further in the defensive midfield position.

My inclusion of Sunderland here will probably be laughed out of court. However four clean sheets in eight games under Dick Advocaat last season showed what could be done when the chips were down. Sunderland have added a bunch of new players and probably don’t quite know what they are right now. But I’d expect their defensive resilience to improve in due course and when it does they could offer very good rotation options at bargain prices.

Norwich are similar – they managed nine clean sheets (21 goals conceded) in 25 games under Alex Neil last season. Neil is a pragmatic manager who values good defending, so whilst Norwich may not be the most reliable defensive team right now but I’d expect them to become harder to beat as the season wears on – especially when Martin Olsson is fully fit again as currently they effectively have a winger (Robbie Brady) playing left back.

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Group B players

The idea of a Group B player is that they are good rotation options who can also be played with a fair chance of a clean sheet in tougher-looking fixtures. My recommendations here would be:

Swansea – Ashley Williams.

He’s one of the best centre backs in the Premier League and a good bonus point producer. Some will prefer a fullback (Kyle Naughton or Neil Taylor) for the greater assist potential and I wouldn’t argue with that either. Personally I like the defender likeliest to get three bonus points in a 0-0. I would disregard Lukasz Fabianski because he’s the same price as his defenders (whereas Asmir Begovic and/or Boaz Myhill can be had below the price of their defence).

West Ham – Winston Reid, Aaron Cresswell.

Reid seems to be the best shout for bonus points in general, while Cresswell will probably just about justify the 0.6 hike from his attacking points. Take your pick really, though 5.6m is maybe too much for a defender that you won’t play every week , in which case it would be a matter of getting Cresswell for good fixture runs and then out again perhaps.

Sunderland – None.

None to recommend right now, that is. But the Sunderland defence is dropping in price all the time and later in the season, when (if) Sunderland focus on being hard to beat, it is quite possible that good value rotation defenders at 4.2 or even 4.1 will be available there.

Norwich – None.

Russell Martin has three goals in six games and won’t conceivably sustain it. As with Sunderland it will be a matter of watching and waiting for signs of the defensive toughening up. Norwich have a nice run of games after Christmas – maybe that will be a good time to take another look and if Olsson is 4.4/4.3m around then he could be a good rotation player to have.

Group C – Balanced Attacking

Manchester United, Everton, Tottenham Hotspur, Liverpool, Bournemouth, Stoke City, Newcastle United

There are two types of team here:

  • Teams where the manager has a more defensive incline but where the fans or board expect a more offensive approach (Manchester United, Spurs, Stoke);
  • Teams where the manager prefers a more attacking style but tries to restrain himself, not always successfully (Everton, Liverpool, Bournemouth, Newcastle).

In other words these are teams that tend to fall into a more attacking mode by default and often lack the defensive resilience we are looking for in a reliable clean sheet team. United might be wrongly grouped here, it is too soon to tell. I think Louis Van Gaal would prefer his team to be in Group B (or even Group A) but the pressure for United to be an attacking team is very high. The same applies, perhaps to a lesser degree, to Mauricio Pochettino at Spurs whilst Mark Hughes has to demonstrate added attacking flair to justify his replacement of Tony Pulis – that is what he was brought in for.

Meanwhile, it is clear that Roberto Martinez, Brendan Rodgers, Eddie Howe and Steve McClaren are managers that prefer attack but try to temper that to the realities of the Premier League. When their teams are in very good form they may get runs of clean sheets (Liverpool had seven in nine games during their purple patch last season) but they will be harder to predict or rely upon.

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Group C players

I would therefore tend to mainly look among these teams for players with worthwhile attacking or bonus point potential and aim to bring them in for good fixture runs. They wouldn’t be staples I’d expect to keep for long periods.

Manchester United – Marcos Rojo, or possibly no-one.

Luke Shaw was a very good option until his injury, he was in my team in fact. But the card-prone Matteo Darmian doesn’t offer the same threat on the other flank and Chris Smalling is expensive at 6.2m. Rojo should be a regular at 5.4m and we will know that by the time United hit their next good fixture run (Gameweeks 12-18). I wouldn’t be bringing a United defender in before that.

Everton – Seamus Coleman, John Stones.

Everton’s good fixture run is from Gameweeks 11-20, during which they have six home games in 10 games and no traditional “Top 5” teams to face. Coleman’s attacking threat is well demonstrated and in a fixture period where Everton should also achieve some clean sheets he could well be worth his 6.0m tag. Stones is 0.5 cheaper and has less attacking threat but is better for baseline bonus points. He’s clearly a better choice than Phil Jagielka who does less well on bonus points and is also more threatened on game time after the arrival of Ramiro Funes Mori.

Stoke – Glen Johnson. Or possibly no-one until Ryan Shawcross returns.

Stoke are in their good fixture run right now (until Gameweek 11) and Johnson has a good record of assists and the odd goal. The problem is that Stoke keep so few clean sheets; so often they seem to find a way to concede one goal. They only managed two clean sheets before Christmas last season (despite conceding only 45 goals in the whole season) and look set on a similar track again. Johnson is in my current team but I wouldn’t bring him in if I didn’t already have him.

Spurs – Kyle Walker, Eric Dier.

Spurs have a very nice fixture run from Gameweeks 15-25 and by that time we’ll be clearer whether Dier has locked down the defensive midfield position. Otherwise Walker at 5.0m would seem to be a good pick with a decent record of assists. Ben Davies will likely see some rotation with Danny Rose over the Christmas period at least.

Liverpool – None.

I just don’t trust Liverpool defensively under Rodgers and they don’t have a defender with significant attacking prospects. Martin Skrtel is a bonus burglar and could be considered for Liverpool’s decent fixture run (Gameweeks 14-20) but I’d want more threat for 5.5m really.

Bournemouth – None.

I’m not at all convinced that Eddie Howe will prioritise defense sufficiently to make a Bournemouth defender valid outside of a very good fixture run. And the next of these doesn’t occur until after Christmas. Francis at 4.5m is clearly the one to have because of his assist potential but not before Gameweek 21 as far as I am concerned.

Newcastle – Daryl Janmaat, Massaido Haidara.

Newcastle continue to look quite hapless defensively despite McClaren’s obvious attempts to organise them better. However it is true that their opening run of fixtures has been really tricky with United, Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City to face in a six-week period and other tough games like Swansea away. Newcastle have a much kinder fixture run from Gameweeks 9-19 and Janmaat, especially, could be a very good fixture-based selection during that period. At 4.9 or 4.8 and with a great assists record there is a lot to like there. Haidara at 4.5 also has some attacking prospects and could be a worthwhile rotation option during that period. Tim Krul could rotate well with McCarthy but Heurelho Gomes looks preferable at the same price.

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Group D – Attacking Priority

Manchester City, Leicester City, Arsenal, Crystal Palace, Aston Villa

Group D are teams that are designed to attack first and foremost. It might seem strange to say that considering City’s five clean sheets so far but as I said previously, a lot of that can be put down to City’s “shock-and-awe” attack and Vincent Kompany’s resurgence. It is no surprise that City have gone on to concede five goals in just over two games since Kompany’s injury against Juventus. There is still no evidence that City can be relied on as a clean sheet team, especially whilst Kompany is out. Manuel Pellegrini is on record as prioritising attractive, attacking play. That’s not so good for clean sheet prospects in the long run, though City have such a strong squad that they will doubtless get a fair few.

The same can be said about Arsenal, though Arsene Wenger seems even more stubbornly wedded to his preferred style. The refusal to sign a central/defensive midfielder in the last three transfer windows leaves Arsenal very reliant on Francis Coquelin (a player who was out on loan in the Championship nine months ago). They also have a weakness in central defence, with only the inexperienced Gabriel and Calum Chambers to stand in for the injury-prone Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker. Can Arsenal be relied on as a clean sheet team? Not for me, not right now, not even with Petr Cech in goal.

Leicester, Palace and Villa have one clean sheet between them after 18 games played, managers who like to attack and, in Pardew’s case, have even stated that he “wants his team to focus more on scoring goals than on not conceding them”. Clearly not teams to look to for clean sheets.

Group D players

Manchester City – Aleksandar Kolarov, Kompany.

City are in the middle of a good run of fixtures and only have two tough away games (United, Arsenal) before Christmas. While Gaël Clichy is out injured, Kolarov is gametime secure and he has great attacking potential. Right now, a good pick. As for Kompany, he’s probably less good value but if it is clean sheets you are after, City seem more likely to get them with Kompany in the team.

Arsenal – Héctor Bellerín, Nacho Monreal.

Arsenal have a kind fixture run from Gameweeks 9-20 with only two or three obviously tricky ones during that period. Bellerín and Monreal seem much of a muchness for attacking threat and game time security, but personally I think there are better options at 5.5m.

Leicester – None. Not even the goalkeeper really, there are better options at 4.5.

Villa – None. Not right now.

Villa have a kinder fixture run from Gameweek 18 (Christmas) and possibly Jordan Amavi or Leandro Bacuna could be looked at for attacking threat then. But both seem very heavily priced at 5.0m in a team that can’t be predicted to keep many clean sheets.

Palace – Alex McCarthy.

I wouldn’t touch a Palace defender with a bargepole; none of them have anywhere near the attacking threat to compensate for the very few clean sheets they are likely to achieve. But McCarthy is 4.1m (the cheapest first choice goalkeeper in the game), appears to be his manager’s preferred goalkeeper and has save points on his side. Coupled with a goalkeeper that can play most games he’s a very good selection.

Ruth_NZ suggested defence

Summary

I am now transitioning to a 4-4-2 structure in my squad, so for me I want five or six of my seven defensive slots to be filled by long-term “staples” (from Group A or possibly Group B) and one to two variables based on fixture runs and attacking threat, mainly from Group B and C. For a 3-4-3 or 3-5-2 formation it is only then a question of whether you effectively “kill” a defender slot by having a 4.0m defender you will never play. So here’s my summary of the players I’d look at. It’s quite a short list!

Staples – Good clean sheet and bonus point or save candidates

  • Goalkeeper pairs – Myhill/McCarthy (Ben Foster/McCarthy later), Gomes/McCarthy, Begovic/McCarthy, possibly Krul/McCarthy if Newcastle improve
  • Defenders – César Azpilicueta, Jose Fonte/Ryan Bertrand, Jonny Evans/Craig Dawson, Craig Cathcart, Williams, possibly Reid/Cresswell

Fixture-based selections (good fixture runs)

  • Goalkeeper – best to have a long-term cheap pair
  • Defenders – Rojo, Walker/Dier, Coleman/Stones, Janmaat/Haidara, Kolarov, possibly Francis, possibly Bellerin/Monreal

By constructing a defence in that way, I believe you give yourself stability, the best chances of consistent clean sheets and the opportunity to maximise returns from more attacking defenders when circumstances favour them without making too many defender transfers.