Monday, August 1, 2011

Notebook Preview: Chelsea

Looking back at last season

  • One of three sides (with Newcastle and Man Utd) to average over 2.0 GPG at home. Also one of three sides (with Arsenal and Man Utd) to average more than 1.5 GPG at home and on the road
  • Failed to score a goal a surprising 9 times, equal with West Brom and once more than Blackpool
  • 15 clean sheets ranked second only to Man City with 11 at home also second in the league (again, Man City led).
  • Averaged just 1.05 GPG conceded on the road, a league best mark, but yet only recorded 4 clean sheets away from Stamford Bridge.
  • Started the season with 7 clean sheets in the first 9 gameweeks; adding just 8 more over the next 29.
  • Goalkeepers as a unit ranked 2nd overall in points (after Man City) but ranked just 16th in value for money (P$ 0.621)
  • Defenders were the best unit in the league with 683 points. Even with their high prices this still translated as the second best value around (P$ 0.715 after only Fulham).
  • At home the defensive unit was formidable, leading the league in points (430), second in bonus points (28) and first in P$ (0.932).
  • Defensive players were awarded 28 bonus points at home (2nd) but just 3 away from home (20th)
  • Midfielders ranked 8th in total points and gave the worst value for money (P$ 0.611), driven by the under-performing Lampard, Benayoun, and Essien
  • Like their midfield counterparts, the front line did well in points (414 - 3rd) but failed to deliver value for money (P$ 0.450). Much of this was driven by the comparatively disappointing seasons for Torres and Anelka.
  • Started extremely hot with 21 goals in the first 5 games but then managed just 11 more by the midway point in the season. 

Predicted lineup
Cech (7.0m), Cole (7.5m), Terry (7.5m), Luiz (6.5m), Ivanovic (7.0m), Mikel (5.0m), Ramires (7.0m), Lampard (12.0m), Malouda (10.5m), Torres (11.0m), Drogba (10.5m)

Chelsea are one of the harder teams to predict here given the arrival of a new manager and the depth and variety of talent at his disposal. You have to figure that Torres will get consistent minutes despite not really fitting into a 4-5-1 or 4-2-3-1 system though you'd expect significant playing time for Kalou too, and Benayoun has enjoyed a nice pre-season so may also figure into Villas-Boas' plans. At the back I have forecast Alex as the odd man out but he may too vulture a few appearances from Luiz and Terry.

Safest Picks
Frank Lampard . . . down year in 2010/11 was really a product of low minutes rather than production - xP of 220 is still excellent . . . goal production still good (xG 17) but assists were way down (xA 7) . . . home form showed decline (5.2 PPG) while he still delivered on the road (6.5 PPG) . . . Villas-Boas has suggested he might play Lampard in a deeper role, similar to that used by the National side . . . with prices rising across the board, 12.0m may be too much to spend on any player right now . . . presence of Torres tends to push Lampard back and hinder his attacking runs . . . a lock to rack up 150 points if he plays but possibly not worth 12.0m investment over a whole season

Didier Drogba . . . didn't generate too much hype last season but still racked up 176 points with xP of 216 . . . unmatchable in the assist department with only Rooney (11) coming anywhere close to Drogba's 15 among forwards . . . hasn't shown an ability to fit in with Torres yet, though results in the pre-season have been better . . . averaged just 4.0 PPG when playing with Torres . . . presence of Sturridge adds further depth and increases rotation threat

Ashley Cole . . . lack of goals hurt his ceiling but still contributed at an elite level . . . missed only 35 minutes all season . . . his assists are more reliable than Terry's goals so non-defensive points look to be more predictable . . . lack of competition at left back (Zhirkov seems to be deployed only in midfield) makes his rotation risk less than Terry, Ivanovic and Luiz . . . Villas-Boas is preaching a more attacking style which may hurt Cole's defensive value but suggests some upside on the attacking front

Upside Plays
David Luiz . . . potentially the cheapest member of the potent Chelsea back line . . . xG of 7 led the team last season, dangerous from set pieces . . . xP of 201 led all defenders last season . . . rotation threat from Alex needs to be considered . . . started every game after making his debut in GW26 and generally played well throughout (versus Man Utd in GW36 the exception there)

Jon Obi Mikel . . . with Essien out until the new year Mikel should get plenty of minutes considering he was able to rack up 2200 last season . . . Ramires and McEachran obviously a threat to steal minutes though . . . offensive points will be limited though he might add the odd goal and assist . . . not a regular fantasy starter but given the lack of depth at 5.0m, could be worth consideration for a reliable bench plug until better options arise

Yossi Benayoun (7.0m) . . . a big rotation risk but his upside is huge for the price . . . had a great pre-season and appears to be in favor with Villas-Boas . . . back to back xP seasons of over 200 in 2008-10 show how high his ceiling is . . . if Lampard is played deeper in midfield, he could often feature as a central attacking midfielder

Salomon Kalou (7.5m) . . . when he plays he delivers . . . xG of 22, xA of 11 and xP of 264 all were team highs for Chelsea last season . . . delivered outstanding value at home (7.7 PPG) and away (6.4) . . . ability to play all three attacking positions may help him get playing time this year . . . at 7.5m he remains a pricey investment which makes holding him on the bench when he doesn't play tricky . . . return of Sturridge makes the front line even more crowded

No Thanks
Petr Cech . . . pricey 'keepers don't justify investment in my view . . . opening fixtures are okay but if you do want a top line GK, Hart looks to be the best option . . . Villas-Boaz has suggested a more attacking style which may hurt the defence a bit

John Terry . . . reputation from set pieces is probably a bit exaggerated as he's only scored 9 goals over the past 5 seasons . . . presence of Luiz and Alex along with his aging legs may encourage some rotation this season . . . hard to justify his price tag of 1.0m more than Luiz and 1.5m more than Alex . . . Cole's assists seem like a more sustainable source of points and he looks like the more consistent and valuable 7.5m Chelsea man . . . on the flip side, he could be a beneficiary under the new points system which could shift value in his favor

Fernando Torres . . . still not clear how he fits into the system . . . price tag is based on potential shown at Liverpool rather than at Chelsea . . . xP of 13 goals for last season is okay but averaged just 2.21 PPG in a Chelsea shirt . . . upside is so high that he shouldn't be excluded from your thoughts but it's better to be one week too late to realize he is back on form than to wait 10 weeks to prove he isn't

@Sto, WBA, Nor, @Sun, @MnU, Swa, @Bol, Eve

The home games look great and provide the likes of Drogba and Lampard with an opportunity to kick off another successful fantasy season with a bang. It's hard to imagine not captaining your top Chelsea players in GW2 or GW3 which should be a factor when selecting your opening day team. I'd be slightly more bearish on the defensive options as the four road trips are trickier than they look, each averaging more than 1.5 GPG except Sunderland (1.3). That said, along with Man City, Chelsea have distanced themselves in past years as a consistently elite defence and if owned can be started every week.

Final Thoughts
Chances are you are going to own a couple of Chelsea players at some point this season but the proposition is made trickier as the team looks as unsettled as it has for several years. With a new manager and aging stars, it's hard to foresee anyone racking up 34+ appearances in this side. With similar questions for other teams though, reliable options like Drogba, Lampard and Malouda should very much be on your radar to presumably deliver quality returns while you assess whether new arrivals or high ceiling plays like Suarez, Balotelli or Aguero are ready to be elite fantasy options.

The defence is a reliable as any other and I like the consistency of Cole and upside of Luiz to deliver excellent value right out of the gate. Until we see more from Villas-Boas' setup though, it is hard to be bullish to the point of owning multiple Chelsea defenders as was the case in Mourinho's glory years.

All the team previews to date can be found here along with specific pieces on the new bonus system and the GK-combo rotation strategy. All the other team previews will be coming over the next week. In the meantime comments are welcome below or at @plfantasy.


af said...

hi chris -
love your work, long time listener first time caller. interesting read on Chelsea, most curiously your lack of comment on Malouda in any of the call outs. Does this mean that he is neither a safe pick, possessing an upside, or a no thanks player, or is he a bit of all three and hence beyond inclusion?

Chris Glover said...

I probably should have commented but I couldn't decide to put him. I don't see him as totally safe due to rotation risk but I wouldn't say there's no way I would own him. He has some upside but probably showed it all last year. I guess I should put in the 'no thanks' for the start of the season bucket. Thanks for the post - good point

Pedro Barbosa said...

Greetings from Portugal! Your blog is on my favorit's bar from google chrome. But I would never bet on Drogba right now... Reading and taking notes! Your my teacher

Pedro Barbosa said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Steven said...

Ivanovic seems like a safe bet to me as well.

Chris Glover said...

Pedro - thanks for the comment. I'm fairly high on Drogba this season and can see him closing in on 20 goals

Steven - I am always concerned about Ivanovic due to the presence of Bosingwa who tends to steal games against the weaker sides. For 0.5m less I like Luiz more.

Watzco Jason said...

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