Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Ramble On: Gameweek 6

It's that time again to take a ramble around the league and pick out the key fantasy news, trends and stats from the weekend's action.

It was an unpredictable week from both a fantasy and real world perspective and my - along with many others' - teams suffered accordingly. Six teams managed clean sheets (ranked 2nd, 7th, 11th, 12th, 14th, and 15th) though few (sane) managers will have started City players against the mighty Chelsea or indeed West Ham defenders for, well, any reason. That made defensive points aside from Birmingham somewhat sporadic as seen by Pure Juice's poor showing this week. My prediction spreadsheet also whiffed on several games only getting 9 teams' score correct within 1 goals and two teams being more than 2 goals wrong, though to be fair these were both in the wacky game at the Emirates (West Brom predicted to score 0, Arsenal predicted to score 4).

Let's run round the key news for the weekend and assess the fantasy impact:

This defense is not to be trusted. I picked Koscielny this week as a sleeper pick and he and the Arsenal defense let me down badly. They were shambolic from start to finish and the wide players from West Brom were given the freedom of London to play dangerous balls into the box and generally cause havoc. Arsenal were wasteful going forward and aside from Nasri you struggle to see where consistent goals are coming from in this team without Van Persie and Fabregas. I have mentioned Nasri as an interesting prospect before, but to be honest I felt he lacked the consistency to be a regular fantasy contributor. Of all the players I currently track, Nasri is third among midfielders in Points per Million Spent (though he has only played 3 games), trailing only the budget options of Adam and Barton. What excites me the most is the 4 bonus points he has earned in just 3 games, which should allow him to have success even when the goals do not flow. The fact he appears to be on penalty duties in Fabregas and Van Persie's absence also sweetens the deal. The key phrase though is 'in Fabregas' absence' as when the Spanish playmaker returns Nasri will be forced to play wider and will surely have bonus points and penalty duties stripped from him. He remains a good option but I don't see the goals and bonus points flowing when Fabregas returns.

Well they were due an off game and I'm not sweating them losing to a team who I think will make the top four when the season shakes out. Chelsea had substantially more possession (57%) and more shots (18 to 10) than City and I think we just have to say well done to City in this one. Expect Drogba and Malouda to be back among my top captain picks next week as they face they shaky Arsenal.

Man City
As with Chelsea this result really doesn't tell me anything I didn't know. The defense is very solid at home and once settled (Boateng came on in this one so I expect he'll be fully fit soon) will make a great every-week start option. They still struggle offensively and while Tevez is a good option, it is hard to justify picking him ahead of Drogba and Berbatov and almost impossible to pick him as well as that pair. I thought Milner might develop into a fantasy stud but he was stuck on the left wing in this game and Mancini's defensive tactics are killing his fantasy value. At 9.1m he is too expensive to have quiet games and comparing his production with Malouda suggests he is overpriced.

Torres owners will rejoice as the Spaniard notched two assists but the nature of the them does not inspire confidence that El Nino is back yet. The first was a bizarre incident  - and I think a referee error - and was a lucky assist for Torres to win. For the second he did brilliantly to beat his man but the ball into the middle was poor and only found Gerrard after a deflection. His chalkboard shows how little he was involved and he only managed 2 shots all game, which is noticeably worse than the last time he faced (and dominated) Sunderland. I have said before that I think Torres is one of the 5 best players in the league but he is not in that form right now and despite Liverpool's favorable upcoming fixtures and Chelsea's tough run, I cannot condone picking him over Drogba right now.

Gerrard should have been sent off for a deliberate elbow to the face of Wellbeck (there's no way that someone like Cattermole or Joey Barton stays on the field after that challenge) but he did manage a goal, which he took very well. 2 bonus points all year emphasise his fall from grace and despite the last 2 games I think he is grossly overpriced right now and only has value for Fabregas owners looking for an expensive stop-gap.

Unfortunately it seems that Konchesky will miss the game with Blackpool this week which is a real blow for fantasy owners. However, the injury is said to not be that bad and he could return for the Merseyside derby in GW8. I think he is good enough long term value to warrant holding through his time on the sidelines.

Man Utd
Another surprise was Bolton holding United at the Reebok and I think the game highlighted that Johnny Evans is really not a top four centre back and United need Ferdinand back now. I think when that happens they will become the second best defensive unit after Chelsea making O'Shea (5.6m) and Ferdinand (6.5m) outstanding value. Rooney was quiet again and he is not a fantasy option right now. His head is elsewhere and his confidence is at an all time low. He is inexplicably the 6th most held fantasy forward which should give you some comfort that there are plenty of owners out there who are too slow to react to ever threaten the top of mini leagues around the world.

After his explosive start, Scholes has now contributed just a single assist in the last 4 games and when his age and the busy schedule catch up to him, rotation risk will make this situation worse. If you were lucky enough to benefit from his good form then well done to you but for me going forward, until Valencia can recover his fitness and form, only Nani is a viable fantasy midfield option in United's team.

Bent reminded us that he is still fantasy relevant but I am still concerned that he has been overly reliable on penalties this year (3 of his 5 goals have been from the spot). He would be on my radar but at the moment I feel that both Drogba and Berbatov are pretty much must own players so unless you are ready to drop 30m on your strikeforce it is hard to fit Bent in right now. Also note that their fixtures are very tough over the next few weeks before you jump on his bandwagon this week.

A wonderful ball from Onohua and an assist for El Mohamady for the penalty will interest some but the defense is still too unreliable (one clean sheet) to generate sufficient (and consistent) fantasy returns. El Mohamady has generated plenty of buzz over at Fantasy Football Scout but if you are picking a defensive player for their offensive promise, you really need to play them every week or you will find yourself frustrated all year as you play him the wrong weeks (just ask Graham Alexander owners from last season). I am unwilling to play a Sunderland defender in most, or all, weeks so I am therefore holding off here for now.

This was a hugely disappointing result for me as Stoke have been simply terrible on the road over the past 12 months and the numbers suggested Newcastle would be too much for them at St James Park. The early pressure was all Newcastle and the midfield combo of Barton, Nolan and Ben Arfa looks like it should provide value throughout the season. I think all three warrant some fantasy consideration. The defense however sat deeper and deeper as Stoke went in search for the equalizer and despite numerous warnings - including two efforts hitting the woodwork - Newcastle failed to adjust and Stoke got the deserved equalizer and later the winner. They are still a promoted side so we shouldn't expect gold every week but I still like this defensive unit and think they will be top 6 in terms of value at the year end.

Robert Huth caused havoc from set pieces all day and with his and Kenwyne Jones' aerial presence, Stoke should continue to enjoy success in this area all season long. 57% of Stoke's goals have come from set pieces and that trend should continue to give fantasy production to Etherington and Jones, who both deserve fantasy consideration. The knock on Jones is that at 6.8m he is significantly more expensive that the likes of Carroll and Odenwingie and so it makes him tricky to fit into teams who are already spending big on Drogba, Berbatov or Tevez. Stoke have a very nice set of fixtures coming up though and Jones is playing as well as any striker available for under 8m right now.

West Brom
Odenwingie is for real. I think he has all the tools to succeed in this league and at 5.1m he is fantasy napalm (what I can't use outdated John Mayer gags now?). He leads all players with a PPMS of 1.320 through 6 games and has contributed in every game except GW3. West Brom have some appertising games on the horizon and Odenwingie should be due for a price rise any day now. If you are holding someone like Rodallega, Jerome or Dembele, do yourself a favour and get Odenwingie in now, saving yourself some money and scoring more points in the process.

Stat Highlights
My favorite stat I like to talk about is Points Per Million Spent (PPMS) which tries to show a players' value considering his points scored on a per game basis and the cost it takes to purchase that player. This stat is tough to use after just a couple of games but now we're 6 weeks in I think it's time to have a quick look at the story so far. The top rated players are as below (minimum 4 games played):
  1. Odenwingie 1.320
  2. Carroll 1.111
  3. Elmander 1.042
  4. Foster 1.037
  5. Hart 1.032
  6. Ebanks-Blake 0.950
  7. Adam 0.933
  8. Barton 0.926
  9. Nani 0.915
  10. Kalou 0.907
I think what is interesting with this list is (a) only Hart, Nani and perhaps Foster were considered to be legit every week starters before the season, (b) these players are not just delivering value but also among the league leaders in points scored, and (c) no defenders managed to crack the top 15. A couple of these boys have been boosted on many fantasy blogs but the likes of Odenwingie (3% owned), Elmander (4%), Ebanks Blake (1%) and Kalou (3%) are still being largely ignored. I understand why Kalou has been ignored as one of the first sacred rules of fantasy league (though slightly flawed) is that you need to play consistently to generate points and Kalou is never assured of a place in the Chelsea first team. However, what matters is points accrued over the season and to date you'd have been better served with Kalou than almost any other midfielder around. I think that Kalou is a viable option given Benayoun's injury but it will be frustrating and you'll have to play him every week and suffer a few 1 pointers to ensure you don't bench him on a good week (that kind of strategy is not for me and so I will steer clear).

It's less clear why Elmander and particularly Odenwingie have been ignored. I think we as a fan base dismiss goals and good form by unkown or unrated players as unsustainable which, while possibly true over the course of a season, is not necessarily correct over a short term. Confidence is huge in football (see Rooney, Wayne), particularly for forwards, and if a player is in good form then we should try and ride the lightning and not be scared of missing the boat. Too often we need 3 or 4 goals before we give someone a chance, by which time we probably are too late.

Remember these are not opinions but statistical facts so if you find yourself turned off by the thought of Johan Elmander leading your line (and believe me as a Bolton fan I would have been with you all last season) then you need to consider how you are picking players. Both Bolton and West Brom have good fixtures over the next 9 or 10 weeks and both players deserve consideration, no matter what their reputation.

Time to divest
Here are some widely held players who are delivering terrible value for money right now and should be sold until they can prove they have recovered (or kept for one more game based on the matchup in Torres and Gerrard's case):
  1. Ryan Shawcross (0.272) - 14% owned
  2. Aaron Lennon (0.375) - 3% owned
  3. Fernando Torres (0.377) - 7% owned
  4. Richard Dunne (0.377) - 7% owned
  5. Patrice Evra (0.383) - 15% owned
  6. Glen Johnson (0.383) - 5% owned
  7. Frank Lampard (0.388) - 10% owned
  8. Charles N'Zogbia (0.395) - 6% owned
  9. Steven Gerrard (0.420) - 14% owned
  10. Wayne Rooney (0.441) - 18% owned
Now to be clear I am not saying that all these players will have bad seasons and not bounce back. In fact I would still take the over on Rooney hitting 15 league goals this season or Lampard having a great run of form. However, I think it is safer and smarter to get out now and save yourself 2, 5 or who knows how many bad games and then jump back in when these players look to be back in form. This seems preferable to me than holding a guy through weeks of bad form just to avoid missing out on his one 'bounce back' game. To me this is a classic mistake of fantasy where the lost points from players you dropped hurt a lot more than the ones you lose every week sticking with lemon in a bad patch of form.

You can argue that some of these players are worth keeping and indeed it would seem crazy to spend a transfer on transferring out Torres when he plays Blackpool at home, but he has not shown that he will necessarily punish the Seasiders so while your heart suggests this is a slam dunk pick, the stats suggest otherwise. I think all of the above non-Liverpool players should be sold now and Torres and Gerrard should be moved on after this week.

As a final note, I have been working on an adjusted Points Per Million Spent (aPPMS) which builds in the fact that a players success at this early juncture might be influenced by the teams he has played more than his own ability. I therefore build in a schedule ratio to adjust for this factor. I will post a seperate article on this later in the week and explain how the new stat changes the best players so far this season (essentially the same group of players but a few exceptions do crop up and their order and individual value does change quite considerably).

Well this one certainly lived up to the rambling title and I look forward to hearing your thoughts below or @plfantasy on the issues discussed above. As I say I'll be back shortly with the (rambling) explanation on aPPMS which was written on a Red-Bull-fueled-red-eye flight (I promise it will be edited though!).


Steven said...


I LOVE the PPMS statistic. Do you create it yourself or does someone generate it somewhere? I wish the official game would keep it as a stat. I have always tried to go for players with the highest PPMS I could find. It's hard to predict when someone will bounce back like you say in your article, but being able to rely on the heavy hitters with the highest value from the bargain bin makes all the difference in the world.

Oshada said...

Hi Chris, first of all, fantastic work! This is such a useful blog. My team is Foster/Vidic/Hangeland/Williamson/Ferguson/Nani/Arshavin/Malouda/Drogba/Tevez/Carroll with Stockdale/Gardner/Richards/Foley on bench. I have 0.3m in the bank as well. I've been thinking of bringing Odemwingie in for Carroll and upgrade Hangeland to Boateng. Is it worth it? Thanks!

Ryan said...

Nice rambling Chris!

2 seasons ago I tried gathering data to generate what would now be called your PPMS statistic but soon got lazy and gave up. LOL! It's a very interesting yardstick to use in our struggle to maximise points for every million pounds we have.

I was just wondering a few things:
1. To what extent do you find the PPMS reliable?
2. What exactly are the Value(Form) and Value(Season) statistics? And are they similar to your PPMS?

Simon said...

Hi Chris,

Great blog and definitely gives food for thought when planning my team! Got a question that's slightly off topic:

I've made 2 transfers already this gameweek (4 point hit), but if I was to play my wildcard, would the 4 point hit be reinstated?

Ryan said...

...oh, and one more question:

I'm thinking of buying Newcastle and West Brom midfielders and/or strikers to use as long-term back-up players as their fixtures look alright. I plan to use them as substitutes for each other depending on their opposition's defence. Assuming we have no budget constraint, which combo do you reckon looks the best?

> NU mid + NU fwd (Carroll)
> NU mid + WB fwd (Odemwedgie)
> WB mid + NU fwd (Carroll)
> WB mid + WB fwd (Odemwedgie)

For midfielders, it's either Nolan, Barton, Ben Arfa, Thomas or Brunt. Deciding between these 5 is another story altogether.

Ryan said...

Hi Chris,

What do you think of the best replacement for Koncheski who is suffering from injury?

Chris Glover said...

Steven - I do create the PPMS myself which is a bit of a pain in the ass but I like having all the data in excel so I can generate other things. I like the stat and I like aPPMS even more (see next post). The only thing you have to watch is that sometimes you need points ahead of value as shown by Drogba's solid but unspectacular PPMS of 0.736.

Oshada - thanks. First of all, great looking team. The only player who probably needs moving is Stockdale but I understand why you had him. I like the proposed transfers and I think Boateng could be a beast when he is fit. The question over his fitness makes him risky though Mancini said he 'may start' against Juve:


I would therefore wait a couple of weeks until (a) Boateng is fit and in the side and (b) Caroll has played the appertising Wigan at home fixture in GW8 (when Odenwingie would travel to Old Trafford). In the meantime perhaps you could switchout Stockdale for Krul who would save you 0.2m as well as his fixtures meshing nicely with Ben Foster's.

Chris Glover said...

Ryan - I think PPMS is a decent measure of fantasy 'success' but you need to be careful not to value points over value as a team that costs 75m to generate 1800 points will ultimately lose to a team that costs the full 100m but scores 1900. That said, the boys who are going to generate the big points are pretty obvious and widely held so the key is to get the best value 5,6 and 7m guys which PPMS helps you do.

I am not totally sure where they get their value numbers from. The value(season) is almost points over cost but some players are slightly out. Value (form) is closer to PPMS but it obviously only looks at a few games rather than a whole season. Both have their use but I like to use my own as (a) I know exactly what drives them and (b) it might give some indication of value that other players (who have access to the mainstream stats) might miss.

Over the season I think Caroll might end up with more points as he accustomed to the english winter, tough games etc that odenwingie may or may not struggle with. That said, for WBA fixtures until GW21 are awesome and so I like him to deliver better value in the mid term. Given that Newcastle also have good fixtures and have a very good midfield I think it makes sense to spread your eggs and go WBA fwd and New mid. Of the New mids I think Nolan, Ben Arfa and Barton are all fantasy worthy. If I wanted to play one every week I'd take Nolan to take advantage of penalties. However as a spot starter I might go with Ben Arfa and save the 0.6m. Barton is a good option too but I see him being reliant on bonus points (much like Ferguson) which is okay but again it's hard to pick the games he'll succeed in and so you may end up with alot of 2 pointers. Carroll/Nolan overall best. Odem/Ben Arfa best value.

Simon - I'm pretty sure the 4 point hit would be reinstated if you played the wildcard. I think the rule is something like all the week's transfers are free and I know for a fact you can make transfers over a number of days for free (even taking advantage of price rises if you're clever).

Chris Glover said...

Thanks for the comments and good questions guys.

Simon - if you are thinking of playing your wildcard why not post here or on the next article and people can weigh in with their opinions.

Ryan said...

Totally agree with the you-get-what-you-pay-for caveat. Also kinda aware of the shortcomings (e.g skewness, biasedness) of the Value(Form), Value(Season) and Form statistics.

I now realise that Nolan is perhaps too expensive for me so I'll either go with Ben Arfa or Barton. I don't mind getting Barton if he can consistently get 2-3 bonus points (like Barry Ferguson) even though he can be a yellow/red card magnet. Don't know much about Ben Arfa but I won't rule him out. He was subbed out just after the hour mark against Stoke - hopefully it wasn't because he got injured or was ineffective.

Anyway, thanks for your help Chris!