Thursday, August 11, 2011

Notebook Preview: Tottenham Hotspur

Looking back at last season
  • Reputation as a high scoring team is not totally justified ranking just 10th at home with 1.58 GPG and 6th on the road (1.32 GPG).
  • They did however only fail to score 8 times, a mark that tied for 4th best in the league
  • Just 8 clean sheets on the season ranked 12th, without much dominance at home (5) or on the road (3).
  • The defense substantially improved in the second half though with 7 clean sheets compared to just 1 in the first half. This was despite conceding the same number of goals in total, so it could be someone of a statistical trick rather than a marked improvement in tactics.
  • Their 'keepers gave decent value last year ranking 11th in P90 and 8th in P$. Some of this value was derived from Cudicini's cheap minutes which will be gone this year with Friedel's arrival. 
  • Defensive unit was actually more valuable on the road, ranking 8th in P90 (13th at home) and 3rd in P$ (11th at home). This is encouraging as it suggests Spurs defenders can be deployed every week
  • Midfield gave good production (6th in P90) but failed to deliver great value (16th in P$) thanks to the high price tags of Van der Vaart, Modric and Bale. They also ranked 1st in bonus points awarded so be sure to monitor this situation under the new system in the early season if you opt for any of that trio.
  • Up front the team really delivered very little with a 10th ranking in P90 and 16th in P$. If one player can take the initiative and play the majority of minutes they would be valuable but with 3 or 4 average players competing for one spot, it seems Van der Vaart is the only pick to open the season with up front.
Predicted lineup (4-4-1-1)
Gomes (5.5m), Assou Ekotto (5.0m), Dawson (5.5m), Gallas (5.0m), Corluka (5.5m), Bale (8.0), Modric (8.0m), Sandro (5.0m), Lennon (7.5m), Van der Vaart (10.0m), Defoe (8.5m)

There is pretty substantial depth across the whole back five, which makes picking who will start for sure rather tricky. The midfield looks more settled, especially in light of Pienaar's injury. There is good depth and I wouldn't bet Sandro will play every game, but the four fantasy relevant midfielders only really face a threat from Kranjcar and the odd game where Redknapp's goes two up top. Crouch probably fits the system more than Defoe but Crouch proved to be fairly ineffective last year and I would wager the job is Defoe's to lose.

Safest Picks
Benoit Assou-Ekotto . . . appears to be the only natural left sided defender available . . . logged the most minutes of all Spurs defenders last season (2569) . . . team averaged 1.3 GPG conceded when he played compared to 0.7 for King and 0.9 for Corluka . . . offers very little outside of clean sheets (0 goals and assists last season) . . . valued at 0.5m less than Dawson, Corluka and Walker making him somewhat more attractive . . . very little upside and should not be considered a long term starter, more a decent plug to open the season with until we know which cheaper teams are good

Rafael Van der Vaart . . . of players with at least 2000 minutes, only Nani and Berbatov had a better xP (254) . . . superb production in goals (13) and assists (9) which could have been higher with better fitness (xG 20, xA 14) . . . had a whole off season to prepare so fitness should be better than last year . . . all Spurs forwards have been linked with moves away from the club suggesting Redknapp is ready to play just one with Van der Vaart just off . . . probably has the fewest questions marks among 10m+ midfielders

Upside Plays
Jermaine Defoe . . . hard to believe he’s just one year removed from an 18 goal campaign (xG 24) . . . hard to see how he fits into the system with Van der Vaart playing in the whole of a loan striker . . . xG of just 9 last year giving him an xP of 129 . . . for a sub-9.0m forward though his upside is extremely high and if he can get on a hot streak he will deliver excellent value . . . I want to see who gets sold and how Van der Vaart lines up before I invest here but any player one season removed from an 18 goal season should remain on our radar.

Kyle Walker . . . played superbly last season with xG of 3, xA of 8 and xP of 130 despite playing on a Villa side which struggled for large portions of the season . . . Redknapp doesn't seem to be convinced by any of his right back options, playing Corluka, Hutton and even Gallas there last year . . . brings much more attacking potential than either of Spurs' other right backs and the fact they were able to get 4 assists of their own suggests Walker could be one of the better attacking options if given a run in the side . . . there is good depth at centre back which may prevent Corluka sliding inside and thus hold back Walker's minutes, so again hold off for now but very much pay attention to this situation as the season progresses

Gareth Bale . . . at times last season he may have been the best player in the league . . . incredibly inconsistent in fantasy terms though with 59 points coming in just 5 games supplemented with 18 games of 2 points or less . . . xG (10), xA (4) and xP (165) numbers are pretty impressive but with that kind of inconsistency you have to start him every single week or risk missing out on a big chunk of his season's points . . . still just 22, he might have the highest ceiling of anyone in his 8.0m bracket

No Thanks
Peter Crouch . . . appears to fit the system well and seemed to link up nicely with Van der Vaart last season, assisting a number of his goals . . . xG (7), xA (12) and xP (162) all look fairly good and would be excellent value for a 7.0m forward . . . as has been the case throughout his career though, Redknapp appears to have seen enough and Crouch has been linked with a move away from White Hart Lane all off-season . . . if he stays it isn't unbelievable that he could supplant Defoe and play regularly but there are far too many 'ifs' to even consider him right now

Heurelho Gomes . . . caught in the middle of elite keepers and rotatable options . . . Spurs defense is nowhere near the top units and will likely rank behind lower profile teams like Stoke or Sunderland whose keepers come at a cheaper price . . . constant threat of Friedel will also linger all year

Luka Modric . . . much better played in reality than fantasy xG and xA of 4 suggest his upside may be limited . . . he often plays the pass which splits a defense though it’s often not the final assist . . . rumours of a player leaving in the off season rarely lead to a hot start if the transfer doesn’t go ahead . . . other options in the same price bracket have a better history of goal scoring (Modric has 3 goals each of the past 3 seasons).

Eve, @MnU, MnC, @Wol, Liv, @Wig, Ars, @New

Defensively, Spurs appear to rank around the middle of the pack thanks to their extremely tough opening schedule. They have to take on four of the league's best sides while Newcastle also proved to be an extremely tough opponent at St James' Park. Given the uncertainty about who will play and the fact they cost a bit more than other mid-level teams, I would suggest steering clear for now.

Offensively it's a similar story with a very tough run of games after GW1. That said, the problem is more that there are no easy games rather than that all the fixtures are brutally hard. Aside from the trip to Old Trafford, all their opponents at least concede some goals and so the likes of Van der Vaart (if fit) and Bale make decent opening day starters.

Final Thoughts
There's obviously a lot of talent in this side but my concern is that they are sometimes priced as elite options when in reality they are often closer to the middle of the pack than the league's best. Van der Vaart would be very high on my rankings but his fitness is already in question which makes it tough to recommend anyone from this team with absolute certainty for GW1. I am intrigued by Bale's upside but there are several players in that price ranges so plenty of thought is needed to be sure you like him more than Dempsey, N'Zogbia, Yaya and Downing.

All the other team previews can be found here, and the latest strength of schedule rankings can be found here. Please post your questions/comments below or at @plfantasy. Not long until the big kick off now (provided it isn't delayed by the group of moron rioters).


Thommas said...

Tottenham - Everton called off to those few of you who haven't heard already.

Carra picking his fantasy team:

Brett said...

Given that Fabregas and Nasri look to be set to leaving Arsenal, how does that affect who you like in Arsenal's midfield? What is the impact on City's midfield? Suddenly with Nasri there, picking Silva and/or Toure looks too risky as they won't get enough minutes.

What do you think?