Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Forward Thinking

We often talk about the different strategies we can use to assemble our team or squad and in the past there have been a number of different options. For a couple of seasons it was essential to own at least one (preferably two) of the holy trinity of midfielders (Ronaldo, Lampard and Gerrard) and play/captain them every week regardless of their fixtures. At other times, the difference between elite defenses and everyone else was huge, making it necessary to double down on United defenders (remember those 12 straight clean sheets!) or pair John Terry with Ashley Cole just to keep up. We've had elite forwards, must-own budget midfielders (Chaz Adam anyone?) and spot start subs, all of which provide a different number of ways to go each year (at least until the late stages when teams start to look pretty homogenous).

This year has been different so far. Good defenders are starting to dominate the listings and no one from either Manchester team or Chelsea come at a discount. The midfield is a similar story with just a couple of mid level players managing to crack the who's who of expensive mids dominating the leaderboard. Up top has been even less varied. We've had 5 or 6 weeks of greatness from Rooney and then Aguero and Van Persie along with a whole heap of players who have struggled for consistency all year.

So the strategies that worked through 14 gameweeks are:
  • 2 elite forwards, 2 elite midfielder, 2/3 elite defenders and a bunch of hit and miss prospects
  • 3 elite forwards, 1 elite midfielder, 2/3 elite defenders and a bunch of hit and miss prospects
  • Lose
I'm going to get to the possibility of using other strategies going forward in a later post (specifically regarding loading up on expensive defenders or forwards) but for now, let's focus on strategy one and, in particular, how to fill that final slot in a 2 elite forward system.

The Options
We're trying to find players to plug into a side with 4 elite mids/fwds so cash is going to be tight. Though I don't like using arbitrary cut off points, we're going to do exactly that and say everyone valued at over 6.0m is out. In truth, there aren't really many players who just miss out with Bendtner and I suppose Welbeck being the unlucky pair. We are left with 59 players who have featured for their sides this year. Now let's cut down population like a list of Arsene Wenger transfer targets.

Minimum minutes: 630 
Players have missed time for various reasons but whether they are injured, suspended or simply dropped, they won't do you much good on the bench. Again, I'm not crazy about setting arbitrary cut offs but for simplicity we'll demand that players have played in half of all available minutes to date. We're also going to get rid of Di Santo, whose minutes came in the early stages of the season and has since found himself on the outside. That cuts 44 players from the list and we're left with 15. So long Grant Holt, Andy Johnson and Bryan Ruiz.

Average more than a shot on target per 90 minutes
We've talked about the correlation between shots on target and goals before, so without rehashing the analysis, in short, it's the best indicator of future goal scoring form I've found. The league average for forwards last year was a goal every three shots on target (well, 3.18) so if a player is hitting the target every week he should at least be on course for 10 goals or so on the year (of course averages won't quite work like that, but I like this cut off to weed a few of the non-shooting forwards out: I'm looking at you Heskey). So this means goodbye to Messrs Best, Heskey, Bothroyd, Long, K Davies, Doyle and Hoilett. And then there were eight.

The Short List

The above players have different qualities and no one really stands out above the pack. You can however split them into 3 categories:

  • In form: Yakubu, Helguson, Klasnic and Fletcher have exceeded their expected goals (xG, based on their shot data) by some distance and, on average, are due for some regression in the future. If, or when, that occurs is less clear.
  • Consistent: Morison and Graham are performing right where they should be and barring other factors should be able to continue this pace over the long term.
  • Underachievers: Rodallega and Dembele are getting decent minutes and taking plenty of shots but aren't seeing the results you'd expect. Dembele looked active against Liverpool but he is clearly fond of shooting from distance, which somewhat distorts his value here. Nevertheless, with 66% of his goals hitting the target, the law of averages suggests he will start scoring if he can keep taking shots at his current level.

How you make your final decision obviously depends on what you're looking for, along with how long you plan to hold them for. If you're looking to plug someone in for the foreseeable future, I would lean towards that consistent group and pay extra attention to minutes played and value for money (P$). You need someone who can come off your bench whenever needed and pick up those 2-6 pointers with consistency.

If you're looking for a shorter term fix, then the fixture list becomes an important factor. Based on the strength of schedule data, Klasnic and Dembele have the best upcoming games though Fulham's are very up and down making Dembele less reliable on a consistent basis. Rodallega, Helguson and Graham have pretty rough fixtures over the next 8 weeks which would turn me off Rodallega for sure though the other two are so cheap that you need to weigh up how often you think you'll be forced to play them.

With a number of good budget defenders, I would imagine that your #3 forward will often be your 2nd or 3rd sub and thus if you pursue this strategy I would favor the players at the cheaper end of the above list. In fact, i would target the two players in the 'consistent' section who just happen to be the cheapest on offer. Neither team are forecasted to score too many goals but this pair have proven to be heavily involved in their team's success and I like their success to continue going forward.

Let me know in the comments below or @plfantasy if you have any other specific strategies that need exploring. Next I will look at spending big on your front three, basically focusing on Adebayor and Dzeko and whether they're worth sacrificing a premium midifielder for.


amtosh said...

I've gone the 3 elite forwards (Aguero, RVP and Adebayor), two elite midfielders (Bale and Silva) and three elite defenders (Kompany, Jones and J. Enrique) supplemented by some bargain buys (Moses, D. Simpson, HBA)

It seems to have worked so far.

I don't think you can afford not to have RVP, Aguero is the focal point of a good City team and has been shooting alot, and Adebayor is undervalued and Spurs are good.

Why do you need a cheap forward?

amtosh said...

Incidentally, I've got a question for you.

Would you trust the match ups or the quality?

For example, I've got Aguero, Silva and Kompany playing away to Chelsea this week and Adebayor and Bale away to Stoke.

Would you play them or Simpson and HBA who are away to Norwich and Moses who is away to WBA?

Clearly, the better match ups are the second group, but the first group has more quality.

JamesT said...

Great analysis of the strikers. For me it's Graham or Morrison based on consistency and price. Yakubu could join the group on consistency but until then I'm sticking with one of the two cheaper ones.

Re: amtosh - I think for the purpose of this post, the elite midfielders and forwards referred to are the £10m+ players e.g. Nani, Silva, Aguero, RVP etc. If Bale and Adebayor continue their form then perhaps the strategy would be more like 4 elite attackers + Bale + budget fillers.

WS said...

Thanks for the analysis.

For cheap forwards, is Welbeck a good one to have for the next few games? (versus Yakubu or Ba)

Will Smailing play most of Dec/Jan fixtures as Vidic is out?

CDI said...

Jones, Enrique, Richards
VDV, Lennon, Silva, Johnson
Ade, Aguero, RVP

subs: monk, simpson, dyer
(note this isn't my real team, just one I can afford and have used something close to it)

I imagine a few people have an even higher team values than me and could afford the lennon to bale upgrade. Having ade doesn't mean you have to sacrifice an elite mf or an elite defender.

CDI said...

Forgot to add, great blog once again. Do you think theres merit to building your team value early this year? As another poster mentioned they have vastly overpriced alot of players forcing many of us to have similar team cores. With a higher team value you might be able to add that 1 differential which pushes things into your favor.

Team value is 107.2 and have taken 1 hit this year and hope to not take anymore with my WC still available.

Snorre said...

I think you're making a logical error in discounting the entire "in form"-group because they have outperformed their xG.

First of all your logic is based on that all strikers have the same efficiency, while it's quite obvious that some are just better finishers and will need fewer shots on target per goal. Most strikers needing 3 shots per target should not reduce the value of those needing only two.

Secondly, if we accept your claim that three shots makes a goal, that still doesn't mean that the "in form"-group is due a cold streak, it only means that in the future they should only score once every three shots (on average). They are still expected to reach a higher goal/shot than the consistently average guys at the end of the season, though they are of course not expected to outperform the average in the future.

In other words, just cause someone scored 4 goals last weekend doesn't mean they should now go 4 weeks without goals to maintain their average. In my opinion, the in-form guys should be rated equally or higher than the consistent ones, depending on if you think some strikers are more efficient than others.

Great job on the blog, looking forward to the posts on the other strategies!

Gummi at fantasyformation.com said...

Funnily enough, I chose the "Lose" option for the first 14 Gameweeks, mostly by thinking that Rooney was a consistent elite striker.

Excellent analysis once again and informative to see you think through the budget defenders.

I went for Klasnic, based on fixtures and for the chance that he is actually as proficient as his numbers indicate.

I would love to see your thoughts on the strategy of going for a non-playing 3rd sub (and even 2nd sub).

doka93 said...

Just slightly off topic but I can't find any mention of the Fantasy Cup on the website, although after doing my maths I concluded that it begins on either GW16 or GW17. Any confirmation on whether they're still doing it this year and if so when it begins? Cheers!