Monday, August 8, 2011

Notebook Preview: Stoke City

Looking back at last season

  • 9 clean sheets last season tied the Potters for 8th in the league. 6 of these came at home, where they conceded less than a goal per game. 
  • Failed to score 13 times, tied for most in the league. This included a league high 10 times on the road. This inconsistency (somewhat fueled by Pulis' tactics) really limits the ability to start Stoke players every week and possibly limits them to spot start status.
  • Stoke keepers provided good value last season ranking 7th in points, 5th in bonus points and 6th in P$. Begovic is well priced again so there is hope that this will continue this season.
  • Unlike the keepers (who were bailed out by high save totals on the road), the Stoke defense only contributed great production at home. At the Brittania Stadium they ranked 6th in P90 and 2nd in P$, while on the road they managed marks of just 14th in each category. 
  • The midfield also saw significant splits, leading the league in P$ at home while struggling somewhat on the road (13th). The ever impressive Etherington as one of the few players who seemed immune to these extreme splits (4.5 PPG vs 4.3 PPG) thus making him the most reliable every week starter.
  • The front line was pretty poor, alternating between mediocrity at home (13th in P90, 11th in P$) and haplessness when away (20th in P90 and 19th in P$). 
  • The defense saw a bit of a decline in the second half of last season, conceding 26 goals after just 2 in the first half. It's probably not a real concern though and they remain a useful low-mid price defensive option.

Predicted Lineup (4-4-2)
Begovic (5.0m), Wilkinson (4.0m), Shawcross (5.0m), Woodgate (4.5m), Huth (6.0m), Pennant (6.0m), Whelan (5.0m), Whitehead (5.0m), Etherington (6.5m), Walters (6.0m), Jones (6.5m)

Safest Picks
Ryan Shawcross . . . a reliable option who will play every week and should give decent value at home (3.6 PPG) . . . at 5.0m he could be overpriced and he may be best served as a stop gap until the we see who will start at at full back (who are all priced between 4.0-4.5m) . . . doesn't bring much outside of clean sheet points and his upside is limited (xP 98) . . . can score goals thanks to Stoke's set piece focus but this certainly isn't something I would pay for . . . a short term rental until Wilkinson, Woodgate or Collins start logging consistent minutes.

Matt Etherington . . . xP over the past three seasons of 149, 173 and 168 . . . can contribute goals and assists and hasn't been overly reliant on bonus points . . . you'd like to see him stay a bit healthier but he has now topped 2500 for two straight seasons . . . delivers almost as well on the road (4.3 PPG) as at home (4.5 PPG) making him startable every week

Kenwyne Jones . . . four straight 100 point seasons . . . xG of 11 and xP of 149 represent good value for a player of Jones' cost . . . can operate as a lone striker or with a partner ensuring he rarely loses minutes . . . finished the season with 4 goals over the final 7 gameweeks . . . lack of assists (xA 2) makes him somewhat one dimensional so expect plenty of 2 point games . . . better at home (4.3 PPG, 6 goals) than on the road (3.4 PPG, 3 goals) suggesting he might be limited to rotation status

Upside Plays
Jonathan Walters . . . listed as a midfielder but often plays alongside Jones in a 4-4-2 system . . . quietly topped 100 points last season, ahead of fantasy relevant players like Danny Murphy and Simon Davies . . . xG 9, xA 4 and xP 159 show Walters' upside . . . like so many of his teammates he is substantially better at home (5.4 PPG) than away (3.2 PPG), likely due to his deeper deployment away from the Britannia Stadium . . . looks a little pricey at 6.0m but a prolonged run up front could make him an interesting prospect.

Jonathan Woodgate . . . clearly talented enough to play and help at this level but fitness has to be a concern . . . Pulis showed in Europe that he's willing to move Huth to right back to accommodate him . . . offers a significant discount on Huth and is cheaper than Shawcross so provides potential value if he can start and stay fit . . . too risky out of the gate and you'll always need a contingency plan if, and when, he gets injured, but you don't often get players of his quality on a decent side for this price

Jermaine Pennant . . . like Walters, Pennant quietly had a very good season last year topping 100 points for the first time . . . xG 5, xA 12 and xP 183 demonstrate the talent Pennant has shown in small doses in the past . . . finished the season strong with 5.9 PPG over his final 10 appearances including 3 double digit performances over that span . . . role as the team's key playmaker seems to suit him well, where he can forget about any defensive responsibilities  . . . huge home-road splits (6.0 PPG vs 2.8 PPG) will limit him to a spot starter if the same trends continue this year

No Thanks
Robert Huth . . . a classic case of overpaying for offensive defenders . . . he is a threat from set pieces but to justify the 1.5m over Woodgate would require another 6 goal season which seems unlikely at best . . . stick with Shawcross then switch to someone even cheaper

Che, @Nor, @WB, Liv, @Sun, MnU, @Swa, Ful

Defensively the fixtures are fairly middle of the road as they get the toughest teams at home while travelling to some weaker opponents. In truth you'd probably prefer to see that reversed as even with the home form it will be tough to start a Shawcross or Begovic against Chelsea, Liverpool and United in quick succession. If you're looking for a cheap plug then these fixtures probably don't kill Stoke as a decent option but for those looking for players to spot start in good situations, these fixtures don't really lend themselves to that strategy.

Offensively, the story is fairly similar as while there are some appetising opponents on the list, Stoke have been so bad away from home that you wouldn't be thrilled to start them even against the newly promoted sides. It looks safer to wait for easier home opponents, scout the likes of Pennant, Walters and Etherington and then make a move later in the season.

Final Thoughts
For a team who suffers so much criticism in the press, there is actually a decent amount of fantasy talent on offer here. If any of the 4.5m or less defenders can solidify a place in the team then they would be useful bench players and offer very good spot start value.

On the attacking side, Etherington looks like the only sure bet out of the gates but there's plenty here to follow as the season progresses and you wouldn't be surprised to see at least one of his teammates enjoying success again this year. This team is underrated in fantasy terms, just like in real life.

You can find all the previous team previews here and I encourage you to post comments/questions below or at @plfantasy.


angryratman said...

Walters could be a steal this season but only after gameweek6. See how he performs in the opening fixtures!

Chris Glover said...

Totally agree. I want to see where he lines up before I spend 6.0m, but he could be excellent value