Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Great Fabregas Debate

It seems that the majority of things I have done wrong this season revolve around Fabregas. I have been on the Fabregas band wagon since his stunning appearances in the U-17 World Championship back in 2003 and this sometimes perhaps clouds my judgment. I am therefore only going to make statements below that are based wholly in fact.

Arsenal's run in
By my calculations, Arsenal don't face a single game from here on in where they are expected to score less than one GPG and only two games (@Tot and @Bla) are less than 1.5 GPG. They have 6 games in which they are expected to score at least 2 goals. Compared to the other top teams, we see Arsenal are very well placed:

Expected games scoring 1.5 GPG or less:
  1. Arsenal 2
  2. Man United 4
  3. Tottenham 8
  4. Chelsea 8
  5. Man City 9
Expected games scoring 2 GPG or more:
  1. Chelsea 8
  2. Arsenal 7
  3. Man Utd 7
  4. Newcastle 6
  5. Tottenham 2
  6. Man City 1
When you consider the fact that Chelsea's goal scoring numbers are massively influenced by their insane start to the year, Arsenal look like slam dunk picks to score the most goals from here on in.

The problem is the Arsenal's goals are very fragmented throughout the team with 13 different players already finding the net this year. If we put aside the forwards for a minute and look at the midfield, I think we can quickly cut out Rosicky, Wilshere, Diaby and probably Walcott as either lacking the minutes or attacking prowess to be regular fantasy contributors. I liked Arshavin at the start of the year and while has has been pretty solid this year, he seems to be being rotated more and more with the return of Van Persie and given his high price I am cutting him too. Song has been very good value this year but for the sake of argument here I am going to exclude him as he is a rotation prospect rather than an every week starter.

That leaves, of course, Nasri and Fabregas who are the focal point of this piece. I am intrigued by how the two play together and how this will translate to fantasy points for the remainder of the season.

Positional play
Let's take three games, one in which Fabregas played without Nasri (Bolton), one in which Nasri played without Fabregas (West Brom) and one in which they played together (Tottenham).

Samir Nasri

 by Guardian Chalkboards

Cesc Fabregas

 by Guardian Chalkboards

Fabregas plays centrally regardless of who else is playing while Nasri is pushed wide to either the right (as seen above) or sometimes to the left when Walcott also plays. This isn't necessarily a bad thing (some of the best fantasy players are wingers) but it does mean you have to be careful which data you are basing your transfer decisions on. Let's look at some numbers:

Fantasy points per game
  • Nasri playing without Fabregas: Nasri 6.86 PPG
  • Fabregas playing without Nasri: Fabregas 5.33 PPG
  • Both playing: Nasri 4.45 PPG, Fabregas 5.55 PPG
The one caveat here is that Fabregas has only played 3 games without Nasri so the sample size is a bit small to draw huge conclusions from but I think the Nasri data is fairly reliable and illustrative of what I was trying to convey a few weeks back when I suggested Nasri's value would diminish.

What drives fantasy points? Well a lot of things, but I like shots as a useful measure for midfielders and it usually illustrates they are in attacking positions, are given license to shoot and are more likely to wrack up bonus points.

Shots per game
  • Nasri playing without Fabregas: Nasri 4.4 shots per gane
  • Fabregas playing without Nasri: Fabregas 1.7 shots per game
  • Both playing: Nasri 1.9 shots per game, Fabregas 3.0 shots per game
What's interesting here is that Fabregas gains while Nasri loses shots when the pair play together. This makes sense given Nasri's wide positions but the concern is that Nasri is not getting assists, with or without Fabregas. With Arsenal it's always hard to predict where the assist will come from as they don't tend to use typical attacking moves (like crosses from Baines straight to Cahill's head, or midfielder plays long ball to Crouch's head who knock down for Van der Vaart) but rather always look for the extra pass. Therefore being a 'winger' can hurt someone like Nasri's value as he loses his shots from the centre of the field but doesn't pick up too many extra assists.

Quality Games
I define a quality game as one in which a player adds 6 points or more in a game. Let's look at the percentage of quality games each player has notched:
  • Nasri playing without Fabregas: Nasri 57% QG
  • Fabregas playing without Nasri: Fabregas 33% QG
  • Both playing: Nasri 27% QG, Fabregas 55% QG
As with shots, Fabregas benefits from Nasri's presence, while Nasri is again hurt by Fabregas.

If you are trailing in your league or want to make a push up the leader board I think Fabregas (7.8% owned) is the best way to achieve this. There is some downside with his injury concerns and the fact he can sometimes take up deeper position but he has top 5 potential and a low ownership which doesn't apply to anyone else right now.
Nasri been more immune to rotation than I expected but his form has declined nonetheless. If you want to go all in on Arsenal he still makes a great pickup and owning him and Fabregas would likely guarantee you at least some kind of return from them each week (if you owned them both you would have enjoyed 9 double digit weeks and just 2 bad weeks when they both played). The issue is whether you can afford Nani and Van der Vaart too who I still regard as close to must own.
I have been premature with Fabregas before but it's time to start taking risks so given his apparent fitness and his good form since returning I think now is the time to bring Cesc back to the fantasy lime light.


Jaime Guadagni said...

great article! funny tho, i was reading your article last night and was thinking i need to drop bale (since i have vdv and he looks like he has been overworked and maybe injured) anyways i was looking at the match ups and realized the same thing about arsenals future match-ups. i ended up going with nasri both because i didn't have the funds to pick up cesc and casue he has been sooo injury prone. i hope i dont regret this decision like so many other this season. namely selling berbatov the week before his 5 goals!!!!!! argggg

anyways... i was looking for a email for you but i guess i will just say it here....

this is an amazing blog! and i enjoy reading your opinions but it hurts my eyes because of the high contrast white type on dark green. after reading a post if you look away you can still see lines of black and white ghosting over your eyesight (and im only 27). again i think you have great content and would love to continue reading but please either make the text a slight grey or make the background not so dark. or both.

oh and one more thing... i still have robinson on my team, hart is playing so im not too worried but i wanted to pick up a cheap quality keeper. my thoughts before he got injured was al-habsi but now im thinking either gordon or foster... any thoughts?

Mike Crider said...

Although I look forward to reading your upcoming wild card analysis, Chris.... I got anxious and had to pull the trigger today to get my team back on the right track (sitting 15th of 35 in my league right now).

You made a good argument for Fabregas and I took your advice to make the switch from Nasri... I REALLY hope he stays healthy. I also contemplated moving Lampard back in because he looks to be fully fit now and coming back into form, but couldn't find a good way to fit in his 12.4m

Here's the "new and improved" squad:

Gordon / Al-Habsi

Vidic / Bardsley / Coleman / Foley / Gouhouri

Fabregas / VDV / Nani / Adam / Parker

Tevez / Berbatov / Carroll

* I Really contemplated selling Carroll for Dudley Campbell, but I would have taken a HUGE salary hit because I bought Carroll so early. That may be a future transaction if Carroll doesn't return in good form after injury.

Leo said...

Yep i brought him straight in too, spent 4 points to do it, now the only decision is whether to be brave and captain him away to west ham. Everybody else will have tevez captain, could be a decisive moment.

As we know arsenal are rampant away. Tevez is unpredictable at home, its such an easy fixture i could even see tevez rested (dzecko!?). It would be so typically fabregas to do the absolute business at upton park.....take the gamble with me Chris?

Sean said...

I have the Spurs duo as well as the Arsenal duo. Very well thought out article and incisive, but Nasri and Cesc are alike in many way and different in many. One of the ways is the trigger on their foot. Cesc has a bit more of a hair trigger than Samir. nasri is more of a nibbler, and not even the typical winger, he rarely enters early crosses and looks to break defenders down to the very last inch of the baseline of play to get a high percentage shot or low cross. As would a Messi or even a Fabregas when in the same field position. The only draw-back to a Nasri is that a Wenger takes advantage of his versatility so much to a point that when Nasri sometimes finds himself positioned centrally he at times forgets to behave as such, and does not pull the trigger to put as many balls on frame as full time central playmakers. But no one has the freedom out there that Nasri has, and you can't apply a point system to that. An additional analysis to apply would be to 'starting position' and 'scoring positions'. I've seen a handful of matches where Nasri would start on the left with Rosicky on the right or central, achieving nothing. And Nasri would just find a nice way to take over that side. Nasri has had to play more of the handyman role patching holes here and there, and has still had the opportunity and legs to take over a match and score goals. If I dump anyone it's Bale, he looks a bit banged up. I'll also look to offload Elmander after this week Carroll should be fit.

Sean said...

My line-up:


Baines, Evatt, Djourou

VDV, Bale, Nasri, Adam, Fabregas

Berbatov, Tevez

Reserves: Krull, Elmander, Onouha, Rafael

michael.westcombe said...

Terrific stuff! Thank you - bought him in a couple of weeks ago ...

auburn.tigers2011 said...

Love the new look Chris. Thanks for the hard work!

softcoal said...

I just found your site. Appreciate your "analytical" analysis. Why are certain players omitted from the player data-dempsey, barton, dann, djourou, campbell, for example?

Also recs on Carroll, bought him for 5, can sell for 5.6, would pay 6.3 to buy him back?

Chris Glover said...

Jamie – i have been looking at the blog’s layout for sometime and I have decided to take a key from the likes of Zonal marking and The Equaliser blog who use a clean simplified layout which I think suits the style of my blog and allows for better presentation of stats – I hope you like it.

I too plan to do Bale > Nasri this week both because of Arsenal’s fixtures and because I fear for Bale’s rotation/injury after a long gruelling season already.

For your keeper, as you know I normally employ a rotation system but given the amount of spare cash people have this year Joe hart is a nice option. Using my predictions City face tricky games in GW24, 27, 30, 32 and 38. Teams with good fixtures in these weeks include Sunderland, Chelsea, Man Utd, Arsenal and Stoke. Of these I like Gordon as the best value, followed by Fabianski.

Mike – the squad is looking good. I’m not a huge fan of Wolves defense but they have picked up of late so Foley is probably an okay pickup. I also think there could be better found than Parker who has gone very cold but he is usually fairly consistent so I could understand if thought he might come good again (his fixtures are only okay mind).

Re Caroll, if you are sat on a large profit and have waited this long I think it’s worth waiting another week or so, providing you are comfortable with your starting XI over the next week or two. For your keeper pair, be careful with matchups such as GW24 when Gordon visits Blackpool and Al Habsi goes to Arsenal (both tough places to keep a clean sheet). I will be posting the best keeper pairs tonight in case you wish to make the move before the next deadline.

Leo – I haven’t looked at the data yet but I would imagine the two picks of the week could well be Fabregas and Tevez (given MnU’s tricky trip to White Hart Lane). You are right in saying Tevez has been inconsistent at home and while i think he will play, he is risky. I may too roll the dice with Cesc once I’ve looked at the data.

Sean – nice analysis. ‘Finishing position’ is indeed key as the heat map can’t necessarily show this. It only takes one stroll into a good position and you’ve got your 7 points. I would agree that Nasri > Bale for the rest of the year but would still argue Fab > Nasri (in pure points, Nasri still probably better value)

Not sure if you’re using your wildcard soon but you need to be careful with your squad in that Djorou and Rafael are rotation risks and Krul is now benched. With Onouha’s injury (though he is back soon) a shock resting of a Vdv or Tevez might leave you with 10 men. Djorou is tough to replace for the money – possibly Danny Simpson? Rafael is good value providing you have a sub to come in when he’s dropped for his brother, Smalling, Neville etc.

Chris Glover said...

Michael / Auburn - thanks, appreciate it.

Softcoal - this is just an omission on my behalf. I don't track every player as it takes too long so I add people as and when they become fantasy relevant. Not sure why Dempsey and Barton wouldn't appear as they have been relevant all year. I will add those listed, and if anyone has any others please let me know.

Mike Crider said...

Thanks for the input, Chris. I've held Foley all season long and he's been good to have on the bench as he's almost consistantly gotten 2 points and sometimes a little more... At 4m, that's not bad. Re: Parker, I was a bit short of cash with the prices of Fab, VDV, Tevez, Berba, Nani, etc... I was contemplating Dempsey (don't remember the price diff between him and Parker now). I have 0 in the bank so any suggestions for someone Parkers price or less would be great. I've given up on aiming for clean sheets in def and goalkeeper as I have had horrible luck. I've decided to add spend most of my money in mid-field. Al-habsi was best available at what I could afford, but I'll look forward to your goalkeeper pairings.

softcoal said...

Thanks for adding the players on my list. I can understand the time issue.

Well, I just dropped Nasri for Cesc. I had planned the transfer before reading 'The Debate" but the facts put me over the top.

Still not sure what to do with Carroll. Can I afford to drop him, or can I not afford to keep him?

Also, I blew it last week picking up two Blackpool defenders. What was I thinking? Now I've got an issue in the back: Konchesky, Evatt and Crainey! I'm not willing to spend 4 points, so it will have to wait until next week (GW 24).

Mike Crider said...

So does anyone have an opinion on how a move to Birmingham or Aston Villa would impact Charlie Adam?