Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Notebook Preview: Aston Villa

Looking back at last season
  • Managed just 48 goals (13th) which conceding 59 (14th) in what was a pretty mediocre fantasy season in the midlands. 
  • Three of the top five points scorers from last season (Downing, Young and Friedel) have all moved on.
  • Villa players racked up 40 assists last season, 20 of which came from Downing (9) and Young (11).
  • After moving to Villa, Bent added 9 goals in 16 games with a 5.4 PPG. He continued his career trend of contributing little outside of goals though (1 assist, 9 bonus points).
  • Villa racked up just 7 clean sheets (14th) though all of them came at home which ranked 7th in the league. At 5.0m the price tags might be low enough to warrant spot starting them at home this year if this trend continues.
  • Only Blackburn had a bigger differential between home (1.00 GPG) and road (2.11) goals allowed.
  • After Bent joined the team in January, Villa scored in every game but one.
  • Villa 'keepers ranked 8th in P$ at home but 19th on the road. Given is a nice addition but that kind of difference cannot be blamed on the consistent Friedel.
  • The midfield suffered a smilar fate, averaging 4.6 PPG at home but just 3.2 on the road. 
  • Strangely, the forwards fortunes were reversed, averaging 3.2 PPG at home but 4.9 PPG away from Villa Park. Both Bent (11 v 6) and Agbonlahor (3 v 0) were significantly better at goalscoring away from their home fans.
Predicted lineup (4-5-1)
Given (5.0m), Warnock (5.0m), Dunne (5.5m), Collins (5.5m), Young (5.0m), Makoun (5.5m), Petrov (6.0m), Ireland (6.0m), Albrighton (6.5m), N'Zogbia (7.5m), Bent (10.0m)

This is a tough one to call given McLeish's defensive tendencies and traditional reliance on the 4-5-1 counteracted by the presence of a couple of good forwards in Bent and Agbonlahor. Agbonlahor has played out wide before but, at least initially, I would imagine that McLeish will stick to his trusted formation with Agbonlahor getting plenty of minutes off the bench. 

Safest Picks
Shay Given . . . one of the better GK in the league finally gets a starting birth again . . . at 5.0m he could feature in a GK combo strategy to take advantage of Villa's play at home . . . Birmingham were also an elite home defensive team under McLeish which could translate across the Midlands

Charles N'Zogbia . . . his xP of 205 ranked 9th among all regular starting midfielders . . . fairly reliant on bonus points which could change in the new system and while supported by better players . . . second among all mids with 91 points away from home, only Adam also topped 80 . . . only had 7 assists in each of the past two seasons which could improve on an improved team . . . he would seem to be closer to the players ranked 8-9m rather than 6-7m and so could deliver good value at 7.5m

Darrent Bent . . . very consistent goalscorer, averaged 21 goals per season when extrapolated over 38 games over the past three seasons . . . brings little else in terms of assists or bonus points making him an all-or-nothing type player . . . played in all but 312 minutes of games over the past two seasons . . . might lose some minutes to Agbonlahor if McLeish sticks with the 4-5-1 system

Upside Plays
Marc Albrighton . . . led both Young and Downing in P90 (5.0) last season . . . over a full season his totals would have been 10 goals, 13 assists and 188 points . . . transfers should all but guarantee him regular minutes and at 21 is still getting better . . . one of few Villa players to play equally well at home (4.9 PPG) as on the road (5.0 PPG) . . . better chance of bonus points with Young gone and attacking style could win favour under the new system.

Luke Young / Stephen Warnock . . . McLeish has generated solid fantasy numbers for his defenders in Birmingham before and has more talent in Villa . . . at 5.0m this pair should play every week, make great home plays and could wind up one of the best mid-range options around . . . neither contribute much on the offensive side and McLeish's use of fullbacks at Birmingham would suggest they will be limited again

No thanks
Richard Dunne . . . too reliant on bonus points and goals over the years, both of which evaporated last year . . . no real reason to justify the extra 0.5m over his teammates

Gabriel Agbonlahor . . . looks undervalued at 6.5m based on talent but lack of playing time is a massive concern . . . Birmingham strikers ranked 18th last season, getting just 52 games of playing time and 8 goals between them . . . if played will likely be forced wide away from the box and points


aFix: 4-3-1
dFix: 3-3-2

A good looking start for the Villains with four home games against some of the weaker road defenses in the league. Given the splits we've seen in the past, and with McLeish's teams in Birmingham, several of the mid-range options might only be home plays but Bent and N'Zogbia make intriguing options out of the gate.

At 5.0m the defense is just cheap enough to be rotated, which could make them valuable when at Villa Park. With limited options for 4.5m, Given could be a very useful GK-combo play (more on that to come in a future post). 

The midfield looks a bit thin though Albrighton is a potential star. For 6.5m you're not going to get a sure thing and while Albrighton is in good company (Etherington, Henderson, Taaarabt) he projects as well as any of them. N'Zogbia is constantly underrated and while I like him more than most of his fellow 7.5m players, I'm not sure he is definitely worth the extra 1m over the aforementioned bunch. If he inherits set pieces though and the new bonus system takes a shine to him, he should once again be on the fantasy radar.

Up front, it's all Bent until McLeish shows a willingness to deploy an extra striker. Bent is extremely consistent in terms of goalscoring but a lack of other production makes it very hard to recommend him over the likes of Hernandez or Suarez (I haven't analysed the fixtures yet though so if Villa win out there he could be back in contention).

Stay tuned over the next couple of weeks for team previews and other features. If there is anything in particular you'd like to see discussed please post suggestions below or @plfantasy.


Arhaych said...

Great analysis, thank you. For someone who is dithering over the decision to have both N'Zogbia and Albrighton, this was useful.

Question - does N'Zogbia represent better value now he has changed team? Will McLeish give him any degree of freedom?

Steven said...

Thank you for reminding me about Shay Given at such a reduced price!

Chris Glover said...

Thanks Arhaych - I'm a bit torn on NZog. I admittedly didnt watch too many Wigan games but I always got the impression from highlights he was the top dog and got all set pieces, ran a lot of plays etc. At Villa he will be slightly more structured but is playing with superior players at most positions. At his old value of 6.5m I would be all over him but the 7.5m tag does scare me a bit. Still, I don't love anyone in the 8-9m range either. My head is telling me to steer clear until we see how McLeish lines em up.

Chris Glover said...

Steven - I haven't done the GK combo research yet, but you can be sure he will be high on the list of those players to target. While the majority of value derives from a player's team, saves cannot be totally ignored and Given ranks up there with the best in shot stopping.

nkbish0p said...

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Fantasy said...

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Anonymous said...

Hey Chris, big fan of your analysis - has been a great help putting together my side.

Would be interested to hear your thoughts on James Collins compared to the other options in Villa's defense? He seemed in good form during preseason but not sure if's worth the extra 0.5m over someone like Warnock/Young. Who would you recommend of the three?