Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Dousing the fire, fanning the flames: Gameweek 29

A slight change of pace with this week's fanning the flames piece due to a couple of observations over the last few weeks and months. First, I felt that old graphic didn't really show enough information that might lead us to fan said flame (or, more likely douse those hyped up fires). Second, looking at the data on a single week basis was always going to lead to a large number of 'variances' due to the ridiculously small samples involved. I've therefore currently included three gameweeks of data, but have built the model to allow for anywhere between one and five to be included so this may again be tweaked in the future. Finally, this is a piece which should probably run every two or three weeks to avoid too much repetition, so this new format lends itself more to that time frame.

First then, let's look at the new graphic and a couple of lines to illuminate the way the data is intended to be read:

The G, xG, A, xA, P and xP simply set out the expected goals, assists and points for the selected player over the defined period (in this case three weeks). The only point to note is that the expected values are based on the actual shot totals accrued, rather than the model which uses historic averages. The key reason for differences therefore will be players converting chances at a higher than expected rate, a telltale sign that we way wish to temper our excitement after a big game or two.

The charts are split into two categories: trends and full season data. The former show the players' performance over the last x weeks (again, this time we're using three) and the latter shows the conversion rates for the full season. The key point here of course is to illustrate unusually high conversion rates to suggest that a player's uptick in "form" may be unsustainable or that it is a genuine product of taking more quality shots etc.

SiB% Percentage of a player's shots taken inside the box
SoT% Percentage of a player's shots that hit the target (a rate that limited research suggests is a sustainable skills rather than goals per SoT which appears to be heavily luck driven)
CC% Percentage of player's created chances converted into assists

Without further delay then, on with the analysis:

Gabriel Agbonlahor
It's not that Agbonlahor is totally without appeal, it's just that for 0.3m you can upgrade to the legitimately excellent Benteke, who is still held by an inexplicably low 11% of managers. As we can see from his data here, his 'success' has been more attributable to higher conversion rates, with his goal coming on just two SoT, which then of course earned him a dubious three bonus points which are still massively correlated to goals.
Status: Sell

Gareth Bale
I try not to dwell on the elite players in these pieces as you all know that Bale is one of, if not the best midfielder in the league right now, but just to emphasise that point: a quick scroll through each of the highlighted players will show that only three players boasted an xP of 10 or more, with Bale topping them all with a stunning 16. This score was supported by 20 (twenty!) shots and 12 created chances, so while it's inevitable that he can't quite continue at this rate for the rest of the season, there is more than enough here to justify any price rises or the large ownership numbers. The only knock on Bale is the lack of double gameweeks on his horizon, which puts him at a slight disadvantage to some of his premium peers.
Status: Buy

Dimitar Berbatov
Berbatov appears to have lost some of his luster of late, seeing him lose 170k followers over the past few weeks. That will likely change after back-to-back scoring games and there's enough evidence in the data to suggest his success may be sustainable. You don't love this week's trip to White Hart Lane but otherwise Fulham enjoy a decent run for the remainder of the year and Berbatov is well placed to take advantage of those fixtures. There's some concern about the rate at which he's hit the target of late, but the Bulgarian continues to take quality shots and is helped out by his penalty duties to supplement his points haul. He isn't as flashy as the likes of Benteke or Lukaku (who admittedly, I hype all the time) but his ownership numbers are now considerably below that pair (along with other mid level favourites like Lambert, Fletcher and Sturridge) and thus he deserves some attention.
Status: Buy

Yohan Cabaye
I love Cabaye and given my complaints in the past about a lack of central midfielders in the league who can genuinely dominate a game for 90 minutes, I'm delighted to see him emerge as a force at Newcastle. The shot totals are great too but that SiB% is worrying and needless to say he won't continue to hit the target at a 50% clip is he continues to shoot from long distance (even if he can shoot with the accuracy shown this week with his delightful free kick). His goalscoring threat is, of course, supplemented by a very good assist potential, though for one reason or another his teammates haven't helped him to date in that department (one assist from 36 created chances). The upcoming trip to Wigan is harder than it sounds and given the follow up date with Man City at the Etihad, there's strong reason to hold off here for a couple of weeks. After that though Cabaye is an interesting pickup at 6.6m if you aren't convinced by Sissoko's prospects in this side.
Status: Consider investment after GW31.

Santi Cazorla
Cazorla is another once-loved option who lost 150k owners in a matter of weeks before bouncing back with a couple of good performances in GW26-27. The data above (only based on two games given Arsenal's off week in GW29) shows nothing out of the ordinary other than a slightly higher tendency to take shots inside the box (and of course of a note of caution that his two goals came against a weak Villa side). Arsenal's next four gameweeks are pretty sensational on paper, and even extended to the end of the year look pretty solid, meaning that the likes of Cazorla could easily be slotted into your lineup and relied upon from here on if you so desire.
Status: Buy in a vacuum, though he's still behind Bale in the model

Papiss Cisse
I was set to write that Newcastle have really turned a corner of late, adding 12 goals over their last 6 games, but a closer look at the data makes me a touch nervous. Over that period that have created, on average, 25% less SiB than other teams did against those same opponents, with the only positive being the +47% performance against Chelsea (without that game they average -39%). There have been plenty of long range efforts, but while I sung the praises of Cabaye above, I'm not willing to heavily back a team who are relying on lottery-shots for success, especially when it comes to judging Cisse. The model sees Cisse as more of a Benteke/Berbatov/Fletcher type player, and I don't see anything to really justify the premium needed to upgrade to him over that trio (among others). One positive is his low ownership number, though given that required premium, I'd personally prefer to hold the more popular option this time, and try and differentiate elsewhere, where better value can be found.
Status: Sell based on that price tag

Jack Collison
It appears that Nolan, Noble and Cole are all short term absentees so the increase in playing time for Collison will likely be short lived.
Status: Sell

Stewart Downing
Downing is a potentially perfect Moneyball type player, as the very mention of his name sends scores of fans into giggling hysterics, particularly if accompanied by any kind of praise. His apparent security in this very promising Liverpool side is certainly a plus, as is the rate he's been taking close range shots (which has clearly improved of late too, whether by chance or design is less clear). The problem is still a lack of volume of efforts though, and his goal this week was obviously a touch fortunate (though in his defense, he did have to be in a good position and then finish it off). At 5.7m he's possibly a touch overpriced as he really belongs in the same group as the Puncheon/Pilkington/Maloney group, but if you have a small amount of cash lying around and are currently invested in someone whose form or playing time has suffered, I don't think it's crazy to take a look at the oft-mocked winger. The next four games look solid (though three are on the road) and a lack of double gameweek potential does hurt him over several of his peers, but his 1% ownership is a factor and anybody who gets to play with Sturridge and Suarez every week with little competition for playing time looks okay to me.
Status: Cautious buy, though I'd still say better upside can be found in his price bracket.

Marouane Fellaini
The trends for Fellaini show a fantasy player in decline, though in fairness he is coming down from a frankly insane platform where we was racking up elite SiB totals on a weekly basis for a mid level price tag. The fixtures don't look too promising for Everton, at least for the next three weeks, after which they get the double gameweek (though with half of that coming at the Emirates I wouldn't be forecasting huge totals for Fellaini and co that week either). A look at the midfield points standings shows that no one ahead of Fellaini can be had for close to his price tag, and that probably holds up for projections too, though with the tougher fixtures and his declining stats, I'd venture he's probably closer to the 6-7.0m group now than his is to the truly elite options above him.
Status: Still ownable but he shouldn't be targeted until GW33 for the double gameweek.

Junior Hoilett
Hoilett is a useful player, though as a Canadian resident I am obliged to offer a comment that he really needs to give up on his chances of playing for England and come to the great white north. Moving on from that though, Hoilett looks like a classic regression candidate, having hit the target with every one of his shots these past couple of weeks, while getting his three created chances converted into two goals. While I like Remy quite a bit, I think we can conclude that QPR aren't ready to shatter conversion records this year, so I'll pass on Hoilett until we see quite a lot more from the Canadian.
Status: Sell

Shinji Kagawa
Three shots, three on target and three goals (extremely well taken I might add). However, the fact that we only have one game of data here illustrates the chief concern here: playing time. I love the idea of Kagawa, particularly if deployed further up field, but nothing to date suggests that situation is sustainable.
Status: Sell

Arouna Kone
Kone's numbers look good and haven't really fluctuated over the past run of games so there's good reason to buy what the Ivorian has been selling of late. There's a lot to like with Wigan's fixtures, and aside from the trip to the Etihad, you probably feel good starting Kone in every game from here on in. The fact that Wigan absolutely have to try and win every game is a further bonus as the traditional late season slumps may start to kick in for some of the mid table teams (on another note, has anyone ever actually researched this? Do mid table teams tend to 'slack off' towards the end of the year or is that just a convenient narrative to explain natural slumps in form? Sounds like a project to me). Anyway, at 6.5m he's right in that group with a few of the players mentioned above (and below) and his upcoming fixtures and low ownership number may well propel him towards the top of that class.
Status: Buy

Rickie Lambert
There's really nothing to be said about Lambert that hasn't already featured in these very electronic pages. His consistency has been excellent for a mid level option, with 13 games of 5 or more points and 2 points or more every week bar one. He lacks the upside of some of the flashier picks (as evidence by just three double digit games in 29 appearances) but he makes up for it with his penalty duties which help flatten his production and allow him the potential to contribute against any team. Though the results have taken a turn for the worse, Southampton are still creating plenty of chances and scoring goals at a decent clip, and thus Lambert looks well placed to continue his useful fantasy form. The fixtures alone wouldn't necessarily turn me off, but together with his slightly higher price tag, I'd suggest that Lambert is probably towards the bottom of the best mid-level options, but he remains ownable and moving him on isn't a priority if your team is struggling.
Status: Hold

Romelu Lukaku
Another excellent mid level forward, Lukaku has been simply sensational this year and his star would be even brighter had he not been held back through a lack of playing time. For context, the list of players with a better goals per 90 minute rate than Lukaku starts and ends with Javier Hernandez (who has only played for 690 minutes). Lukaku's rate of 0.86 goals every 90 minutes tops Suarez (0.79), van Persie (0.77) and Rooney (0.66) while obliterating his mid-level peers in Sturridge (0.54), Benteke (0.50) and Lambert (0.46).    Just imagine where we'd be if Steve Clark had read the Moneyball piece over at Fantasy Football Scout. As it is, this isn't a great time to invest, with a couple of tricky away trips (Stoke and West Ham) followed by Arsenal at home and then a week off. GW34-37 look great though, particularly if sweetened by a double gameweek, so though I wouldn't necessarily be looking to pull the trigger now, he's certainly someone to keep in mind.
Status: Monitor, and wait for better fixtures

Leon Osman
I like Osman quite a bit and would give him a look were Everton a team that was steam rolling opponents, as they were for a while in the early stages of the season. Now, however, while it's unfair to say they're in poor form, they are certainly more inconsistent than before and thus the fringe players like Osman can sometimes get left out in the cold for weeks on end in terms of points production. I'm still okay owning the alpha dog (Fellaini) in this team but Osman isn't cheap enough to offer value as a bit part player in an increasingly inconsistent team.
Status: Sell

Steve Pienaar
Pienaar is essentially in the same situation as Osman, though he does bring a better assist threat. Still, his price puts him in an awkward spot between those who can be relied on more readily and those who come at a substantial discount. That, plus the aforementioned struggles and upcoming fixture list make the South African a sell too.
Status: Sell

Loic Remy
I had heard about Remy before he came to the Premier League, but had never seen him play until his scoring debut against West Ham. I was impressed then and nothing has countered those initial feelings in the subsequent weeks. His SoT% over the last few games is obviously too high but his 50% rate for the year looks fine and while his G/SoT again looks unsustainable, he's clearly doing enough to offer some value at 5.9m, just be careful you're not assuming he's going to score in three of every four starts. Despite the hype around Redknapp, I would offer a word of caution that under his guidance the team is averaging 37% less SiB that opponent adjusted league average (-7% under Hughes) and this has actually declined of late with a -48% rate over the last 10 games. They may be more "committed", "gritty" or "harder to beat" but in fantasy we generally care about volume of chances and only the truly special players can overcome a lack of chances to become an elite fantasy option. Whether or not Remy is there is questionable but the encouraging point is that while QPR have struggled to create quality chances, a large percentage of them (42%) are falling at Remy's feet and thus he can still succeed despite his teams limitations. The fixtures look good enough and Remy comes at a nice discount, suggesting he too deserves a look in this crowded mid level group.
Status: Buy

Morgan Schneiderlin
Schneiderlin's shot totals look balanced but only in the same way that the return on investment earned on sticking your money under the mattress is consistent every year. Simply put, he isn't a fantasy option.
Status: Sell

Stephane Sessegnon
Sessegnon was one of the players I was interested in coming into the year and while it feels like he never really got going this campaign, his totals will actually end being okay. I'm not crazy about this Sunderland team's consistency and I do fear that they could be one of those teams who simply drift through the rest of the season if the results suggest they are relatively safe in the next couple of weeks. The next six games look pretty tough after this week's visit of Norwich and for 7.1m Sessegnon is too expensive to be spot starting sporadically.
Status: Sell

Gylfi Sigurdsson
Good player, bad situation. Lennon and Dempsey are both said to be close to a return, with Adebayor also rated as 75% to play this week to further cloud the playing time at White Hart Lane. I like this Spurs team and really want another way to access it outside of Bale but Villas Boas hasn't shown too much faith in Sigurdsson when everyone is fit and I'm not willing to bet 7.8m that he changes his mind at this point in the year.
Status: Sell

David Silva
Oh David, what happened? Once hailed as the best fantasy midfielder in the league, his shot totals are now so meager that even his ultra-elite assist potential can only rescue him to the point of justifying a price tag about 2.0m less than his own. I've been waiting for City to turn things around all year, and while they've shown flashes at times, the inability to get their best players on the pitch and in the key positions has cost them and anyone who invested in their stars. The upcoming games don't look great and with plenty of other elite midfield options, the great Spaniard simply isn't an option anymore.
Status: Sell

Luis Suarez
Suarez's trend numbers look a touch worrying, but remember that they are based on just two games worth of data given Liverpool's lack of fixture in GW27. Needless to say he hasn't justified his insane points return over those couple of weeks (it would be impossible to do so based on an average model like mine) but there is really nothing in the data or the narrative to cause any concern here. The only slight knock are the fixtures which see Liverpool face three away games in the next four (all to teams fighting to stay in the league) compounded by a lack of a double gameweek enjoyed by some of his peers. Still, right now you're getting van Persie production for a 20% discount so you can't have everything.
Status: Buy

Carlos Tevez
Meh. Like Silva, it's hard to totally write Tevez off as these players are so talented that they can make a humble blogger look rather foolish, but the odds just aren't in Tevez's favour with his recent 'form' looking to be as much attributable to a higher G/SoT conversion rate than some sustainable skill improvement or tactical revelation. Throw in a continued lack of guaranteed playing time and you have a player whose production is closer to the pack behind him rather than the elite pair ahead of him and thus he's another City prospect I'm out on for now.
Status: Sell

Andreas Weimann
Weimann has done really well when he's played and he actually rated atop the model projections for last week but I filtered him out due to the lack of sample size of his production. He's creating a lot of chances to supplement a healthy shot total, while his ratios have remained solid and consistent throughout his starts. With Bent close to a return and N'Zogbia/Agbonlahor also competing for finite time alongside Benteke, I'm a bit nervous about how often Weimann will play, but for 5.0m he's certainly worth a look and would make a nice third forward for those needing to free up cash to use elsewhere. The playing time risk might make me hesitate about using a transfer on him (for fear you'll need to sell again very soon) but if you're lucky enough to have the wildcard in hand, Weimann is a nice option to supplement your elite picks.
Status: Cautious buy in the right situation

Yaya Toure
The good news is that he's probably offering close to the same value as teammate Silva (with a slightly lower assist threat) but I'm not sure that's even enough to justify his price tag. Yaya seems to be used in an advanced role more sparingly this season and given City's upcoming games I just can't get excited about him anymore.
Status: Sell

1 comment:

Eraser said...

Great stuff Chris, glad to have this article back. I have also wondered whether relegation threatened teams are better attacking towards the end of the season, and if midtable teams tend to burn out. I haven't seen any great research to see if the numbers fit the story, but I guess I'm inclined to prefer better players with less "motivation."