I acknowledge that not everyone in the FFUK league will be as obsessed with FPL as I am. But based on the WhatsApp group I think it’s safe to say that at least a few of you are. So it’s a fair bet that as soon as the FPL player list is released (in the next few days – maybe even today!) many of us will spend the following ‘few’ evenings trawling through the players and narrowing down our shortlists. But what should we be looking for?
The obvious starting point is to look at last season’s stats, with ‘total score’ being the most fundamental of those statistics. However, if you want an advantage over the casual FPL player then you have to look a bit harder. ‘Value (season)’ (i.e. ‘total score’ divided by ‘price’) is another useful stat, especially when you’re trying to find the best £4.5m defender to fill your slot at the back. But again, that’s still a pretty basic metric that’s not likely to give you an advantage over your rivals.
Personally I tend to gravitate towards ‘point per match’ as it takes into account factors such as time out through injury / suspension, or where a player joined in the January transfer window. But ‘points per match’ can still give you a bum steer in certain circumstances and you need to dig a bit deeper to unearth the really useful information. For example, there are always some players that were subject to rotation in the early part of the season or even just getting a few minutes off the bench here and there before nailing down a regular starting spot. Even if a player only gets a solitary minute it will count as an appearance and thus have an impact on ‘points per match’.
Therefore I thought it would be useful to assess ‘points per minute’, which is not currently a metric available in FPL’s suite of statistics. Just to avoid any ambiguity, and for Daz’s benefit in particular, ‘points per minute’ is simply ‘total score’ divided by ‘minutes played’. That calculation comes out with some pretty small numbers so to make things a bit more relevant I multiplied up by 90 to give a theoretical figure for ‘points per 90 minutes’, which I’ll refer to as PP90.
Before we get onto the data, I should point out that there are still plenty of flaws in this metric if viewed in isolation. It’s extremely unlikely that any player (particularly midfielders or forwards) will play 90 minutes every single time they make an appearance, especially a player that was subject to rotation last season. However, when viewed in conjunction with other metrics, I think you’ll soon appreciate that PP90 can help elucidate some otherwise hidden gems. I should also point out that:
- I’ve excluded players from the three relegated teams from this analysis
- I’ve also excluded any players who scored less than 50 points last season (to eliminate people like Declan Rice who played one minute for West Ham and scored one point, thus giving him a PP90 of 90 points per game)
- I’ve only focussed on forwards and midfielders in this article as the PP90 rankings for defenders and keepers aren’t much different from the ‘points per match’ rankings
Let’s start with the forwards…
It looks pretty clear that neither Iheanacho nor Giroud will get many minutes next season if they stay with their current clubs. However, if they move to other Premier League clubs then this analysis suggests that they could definitely be worth a look. Obviously they might not get the same sort of service at Leicester or West Ham that they got last season at City and Arsenal, but even so, seeing this data has given me some food for thought.
Another consideration from the Giroud data is that if Lacazette can monopolise the main striker role at the Emirates next season and deliver something close to Giroud’s PP90 then he could score some serious points.
Ibrahimovic aside, the other two forwards on this list are Austin and Shallow Hal. Southampton and West Brom both open up with very good runs of fixtures, so if either Austin or (dare I say it) HRK look like they’re in the driving seat to start up top then perhaps they could come into contention for those third striker spots.
What about midfielders?
Again, it’s no surprise to see the likes of Sanchez, Coutinho, Hazard and Alli (and possibly Pedro) on this list. I knew Son had had a good season, but I didn’t realise quite how well he’d performed. He finished the season as the 9th highest scoring midfielder and the 12th best when it comes to ‘points per match’. But you didn’t need this PP90 data to glean that information – you could have got that straight from FPL’s statistics.
However, there are two other players here that really interest me off the back of this analysis.
I had no idea that Fàbregas had done so well when he was on the pitch (perhaps I should have been paying more attention!). Like Son, he outscored Sanchez in terms of PP90, which I initially found hard to comprehend as the impish Spaniard was only the 27th highest scoring midfielder and only ranked 23rd in terms of points per match for midfielders. However, drilling down into the game-by-game data proved valuable – Cesc managed 60+ minutes in only 12 of his 29 appearances last season, but during those 12 matches he returned a remarkable three goals and 11 assists (plus 14 bonus points). Conte obviously trusted Matic more against the big teams so Fàbregas was normally only given starts against the weaker sides (although he did get 170 minutes against City). But even so those returns are extremely impressive.
Fàbregas is a prime example of why you sometimes need to dig a bit deeper into the data to find those potential gems. Of course he could quite easily suffer the same fate next season and be subject to regular rotation, in which case you might just want to ignore this analysis altogether! But if he can nail down a regular starting berth (particularly with Matic potentially departing and rumours that Bakayoko might ‘do a Lukaku’ and snub Chelsea for Man U) then Fàbregas could be absolute fantasy gold at a price of just £7.0m.
J-Rod is another very interesting proposition. In 2013/14 he scored a very impressive 15 goals for Southampton as part of a front three alongside Adam Lallana and Rickie Lambert. However, he then only managed a total of 351 minutes in his subsequent two injury-ravaged seasons. Last season he managed 24 appearances but only played 90 minutes in four of those, and only started on four other occasions. That left him with a distinctly average 3.0 points per match, only 68th on the list of midfielders and unlikely to prompt much interest.
Indeed, last season’s return of five goals and two assists doesn’t sound too impressive. But when you consider that those returns came in only 893 minutes it puts a different spin on it. If he could manage three times as many minutes and maintain his ratio of attacking returns that would be 15 goals and six assists.
Then consider he’s just moved to West Brom and at 27 he’s now in his prime. If he can avoid injuries and is given enough given pitch time (potentially at the expense of HRK!) this analysis suggests he could be worth more than a cursory glance, especially considering West Brom’s favourable early fixtures. We’ll have to wait and see whether he’s classified as midfielder again this season and what his price will be. But that’s just two more reasons to be looking forward to the player list coming out – bring it on…