Thursday, October 24, 2013

Dousing the Fire, Fanning the Flames: Gameweek 8

As a quick introduction for those new to the blog, this piece runs every couple of weeks during the season and looks to shine a light on those "hot" players whose "form" looks unsustainable and those "cold" players who should enjoy success in the future if they keep playing the way they have to date. The below chart shows this week's subjects, with those on the left having outscored their underlying data and those on the right having outperformed their score.

Before we start, as is becoming a tendency on this blog, I need to add a quick caveat as to exactly what we're saying here. First, we are not saying that a player will somehow "get back" or "give back" their production to date or that bad luck will necessarily follow good luck. We are saying that players' (and teams') conversion rates should regress to the mean, seeing them earn points at a rate more in line with their underlying stats (which could be a good or bad thing, depending on which side of the below ledger you find yourself). Second, just because a player has outperformed their stats doesn't mean they don't represent a good pickup. If a 5.0m midfielder had 47 points to date but we believed he had only "earned" 36, he would place highly in the 'overperforming' rankings (-11) yet still represent the best budget midfielder in the league. Similarly, a player could have "earned" 36 points, a +7 compared to an actual total of 29, yet would be a relatively poor investment if his price tag was 12.0m. The point, of course, is that context is key, and that's what we hope to establish in the narrative below the chart.


With eight weeks in the books, it's just about time to look at some of the early over and under achievers and take a look at their underlying data to see where the model foresees them heading in the future. To get the most out of the below analysis, I recommend opening the player dashboard so you can play along at home.

Dousing the Fire

Yaya Toure -19
Yaya is a tough player to get a handle on as he does seem to outperform his underlying stats with some consistency (well. in his couple of years in England at least). That said, his goals per shots on target rate (G/SoT) still sits at almost 60% which is almost double what we'd expect and we'd forecast it to continue to regress as it has over the past few weeks. On the positive side, the current iteration of the model probably underestimates his bonus potential somewhat, given that he can impress the bonus system with passing, tackling and shooting (as opposed to, say, someone like Ozil who offers very little in the defensive half of the pitch). Currently we award 1.8 bonus points per goal scored (based on observed averages from the past two seasons) so this difference isn't going to bridge the gap between his points and expected points (xP) anytime soon. His xP of 33 puts him as a borderline top-10 midfielder and the certainty with which he produces adds to his value, yet at 9.5m we need to see an elite ceiling and floor and the data just doesn't suggest Toure can be that man. It's hard to sell on a high performing player owned by 37% of managers but all signs point in that direction right now.
Status: Sell unless you feel you strongly value consistency over value

Aaron Ramsey -19
Ramsey is enjoying an outstanding season and this ranking shouldn't be considered any kind of slight against his efforts to date. True, he's highly unlikely to continue to convert SoT at a 60% clip and created chances (CC) at a 43% rate, yet his production can take a huge hit and he'd still represent outstanding value. His xP of 39 is still 4th among all midfielders (Michu, Gerrard and Paulinho) and only Brady (whose value is largely wrapped up in penalties) and Mirallas can come close in his price range. Despite a trip to Old Trafford, the upcoming fixtures look reasonable and so current Ramsey owners should be happy riding the Welshman even if we expect his production to slow in the current weeks.
Status: Buy. He'll regress but has produced enough to more than justify his cost

Sergio Aguero -14
Aguero is quite possibly the best forward in the league and if there is one player whose totals I might be willing to accept won't regress all the way to a mean, Aguero would be in the conversation. Though high, a 50% G/SoT isn't insane for a player of his caliber, receiving the kind of quality chances he has, though of course some regression would be expected. We can also expect some decline in that shot on target rate (SoT%) which currently sits at 66%, up from 41% in prior year (for comparison, last season van Persie sat at 45%, Benteke at 38%). This could be partly offset by an overall improvement from City (who are averaging a full two shots less per game than prior year), but barring a dramatic shift, we're likely to see Aguero's incredible strike rate slow a little. With an xP of 42, Aguero has been excellent however you look at it, but at 11.0m+, some caution must be exercised by those looking to bring him in at the expense of the cheaper group of Sturridge, Giroud and Soldado.
Status: Hold. Has about as much upside as anyone yet hasn't produced enough to imply he's definitely worth the extra cost over his peers.

Loic Remy -14
Many will be surprised to see Remy on this list, not because we're saying he's overachieved but that to draw such a conclusion means the player has achieved something. Remy has received very little attention and just an 8% ownership number, despite notching five goals in his five starts this year for Newcastle and coming in at a reasonable price tag. He has, however, a couple of black marks against his name. First (as with most players in this list), his G/SoT of 63% is unsustainably high and almost double his historic rate of 32%. Second, he has been deployed in a deeper role in occasion with Cisse leading the line, yet has offered very little by way of assist potential, making him a one category fantasy player not playing in a position where he can best contribute to that category. We've seen players succeed in deeper roles before, so the latter point isn't a death sentence, but it is an issue when viewed together with his useful but not terribly inspiring xP of 28.
Status: Hold for this week against Sunderland but long term he could be considered for sale if better options emerge.

Adam Lallana -14
Another player who has received very little attention, Lallana comes out of GW8 with 44 points, a 4th placed midfielder ranking yet an ownership number of just 5%. Back to back double digit gameweeks will likely get the attention of the masses though, so the question as to the sustainability of his recent success becomes key. Though the model sees him as more of a 30 point player than one pushing the top of the leaderboard, several factors still go in his favour. First, his xP of 30 would still put him 11th among midfielders, with only two of those ahead of him (Brady and Townsend) available for a lower price. Second, no single factor in his underlying profile suggests steep regression is in his future. A 40% G/SoT looks a touch high but nothing to be worried about, though his A/CC% rate of 20% does look a bit high compared to his team's conversion totals to date.
Status: Buy. He isn't an elite midfielder but he doesn't need to be to produce value at 6.2m. Southampton have played better of late and have some promising fixtures on the horizon (starting this week with Fulham at home) and Lallana is well placed to take advantage of most good things his team does.

Oscar -12
Oscar is in a very similar position to Yaya Toure in that he's been excellent this year (xP 33) and could finish the season as a top-10 midfielder, yet at 9.0m his production is unlikely to offer excellent value. He hasn't proven to be a particularly clinical player in the past (largely driven by his percentage of long range efforts) so a 57% G/SoT is obviously not something to rely on. The bigger concern with him though is the issue of rotation as Mourinho has shown a tendency to shuffle his pack with some regularity. Oscar has been voluntarily benched twice already and with Champions League action in full swing coupled with Chelsea's excellent depth in midfield, we can expect that trend to continue over the coming weeks.
Status: Sell. Oscar is far from a bad option and his recent resting could suggest he plays the next couple of games. But, given that they include the visit of City and a tough trip to Newcastle, we could see Oscar essentially contribute nothing for the next month or longer if the regression monster really starts to kick in.

Daniel Sturridge -12
The question has arisen over the last few weeks whether Sturridge or Suarez is the best option in this promising Liverpool side and while the first reaction was Suarez, it is a very close call. This -12 score suggests Sturridge has overachieved, yet that's only because he's coming from such a ridiculously lofty position. Seven goals in eight games is almost unprecedented and only 39 players managed to score in seven different games all season last year, with players like Aguero (11), Hazard (9) and Rooney (8) not eclipsing that total by a wide margin. Sturridge's xP of 47 leads the league and the only real red flag in his data is his A/CC rate of 40%, though given that (a) not too much of his value is tied up in assists and (b) he has the potential to earn easy assists by squaring to Suarez, even that figure shouldn't terrify you. It should be noted that Suarez has posted outstanding numbers in his three game sample (earning an xP of 20 or 6.66 per game compared to Sturridge's 5.9 per game rate) but essentially both have the potential to lead the league in fantasy points and the key decision right now is whether you value a lower price (Sturridge) or a "differential" option (I use that term lightly given Suarez's 19% ownership number, but it's certainly preferable to Sturridge's 41%).
Status: Buy. Gun to my head, I still believe Suarez is the slightly better play, but given the lower price tag and statistical performance to date, you can't go wrong with either right now.

Steve Sidwell -11
Sidwell was highlighted in the preseason as a solid minimum priced option, though obviously it wasn't forecast for him to sit just outside the top-ten among all midfielders at any point of the season. In reality, of course, that lofty ranking is sure to collapse in the coming weeks with Sidwell representing one of the more extreme regression candidates in the league. The Fulham man has notched just four total shots with two on target (100% G/SoT), putting him in line with such goal scoring titans as Luke Shaw or James Tomkins. Incredibly, his A/CC rate is also 100%, a rate that will also plummet as the season progresses, no matter how clinical Dimitar Berbatov might be. 5.0m options are essentially a lottery and few, if any, will provide any kind of sustained production, so in that sense Sidwell's reliable playing time keeps him ownable. That said, for just 0.2m more, Brady is the current holder of penalty duties for Hull, a fact that should ensure he continues to pull away from Sidwell as the season progresses.
Status: Hold. Selling Sidwell isn't a priority but you need to be realistic about you have here.

Mesut Ozil -10
Ozil's dashboard is somewhat idiosyncratic, with a number of areas looking set for regression is opposite directions. He's actually performed below expectations in terms of G/SoT with a rate of just 29% compared to his historic average of 38%. On the flip side though, he's hit the target at an incredible (an unsustainable) rate of 88% which will cancel out most of any gains seen on his G/SoT rate. His A/CC rate of 33% looks high, even compared with Arsenal's excellent 19% average (the league sits at just over 10%), though the quality of his play and his teammates finishing ability could well see him finish the year at a rate well above league average. His 5.8 xP per game leads all midfielder to date and there's no metric to find that really suggests anything but a stellar season for the German playmaker, even if it doesn't finish with him notching a 7.8 PPG score.
Status: Buy

Fanning the Flames

Rickie Lambert +18
Lambert's numbers are fairly incredible to date, notching an xP of 44 (4th highest in the league) yet coming in just 15th among forwards in actual points. A low G/SoT should regress in the coming weeks and with a good share of Southampton's shots in the box, he should benefit from Southampton's improving play. The next three games look very promising and there are really no other reliable options in Lambert's price range who can offer the same level of upside and consistency.
Status: Strong buy

Wilfried Bony +16
Bony has been solid when he has featured for Swansea but has been slowed by missing a couple of games along with the unusual position of scoring two goals and an assist yet earning zero bonus points. Bony has accounted for 38% of Swansea's SiB when he's played which is an excellent rate and we'd expect some improvement from his 25% G/SoT rate, even if his historic rate sits at just 32%.
Status: Buy. At 7.5m there is value to be found here, especially given his penalty duties and upcoming fixtures, though between the two options above, the data gives a slight edge to Lambert.

Jon Walters +14
Walters has been better than his production suggests, hitting the target four times already without any returns. Yet, even if converting as expected, his xP of 28 would be just about in line with his price tag and not really offer a great deal of upside compared to his comparatively priced peers. Ownable? Sure. A key target? Not really, especially considering his team's attacking struggles.
Status: Sell, or hold if your team has serious issues to address.

Danny Graham +13
Graham has put in some decent displays for Hull without any reward, both in terms of goals and assists. His upside is limited, but at 5.1m he can be a useful bench option for those looking to minimise their expense on the bench. Unfortunately, Graham has picked up a knee injury and will likely miss a couple of games, but he can be considered for review once he returns.
Status: Monitor on his return from injury for increased signs of life.

Robin van Persie +12
van Persie's underlying numbers remain very good (xP 44) though a combination of a bit of bad luck coupled with that extortionate price tag have led to him being labelled a bust so far this season. The last three weeks have seen over half a million managers sell the Dutchman, somewhat strange timing given the next four promising games. Before the season I maintained that it was all but impossible for him to justify the extra investment needed to bring him in and despite his +12 mark here, the fact still remains that other players can offer similar returns for a much lower price. If timed right, I can see van Persie being a player to target when playing your wildcard; to try and milk as much value as possible over a short period, but unless we see a significant turn around from United, it's unlikely that he'll be the elite captain option every week, as he was last season.
Status: Buy in terms of production but the price tag would still scare me off.

Michu +12
Another of last year's elite is having some comparative struggles so far this year, though here we see a player who is really suffering through some unfortunate conversion rates. His G/SoT rates have been excellent throughout his career (in Spain and England) yet currently sits at just 20%, less than half of his 46% average. It's a similar story on the assist front, with his A/CC of 7% again coming in at around half of his team's average (13%). His xP of 46 simply leads all midfielders and is second only to Sturridge (47) overall and the upcoming fixtures look outstanding right up to Christmas, other than a tough trip to the Etihad in GW13.
Status: Buy. Not a true differentiator with an ownership number of 16%, yet he offers elite upside and a nice alternative to the overly familiar pair of Yaya Toure and Ozil.

Andre Schurrle +12
Given his price tag and classification as a midfielder, it would be great to add Schurrle to our shortlist, yet a lack of playing time and rotation risk makes him all but impossible to own for the foreseeable future.
Status: Monitor for playing time improvement.

1 comment:

Eraser said...

What's your opinion on owning both Suarez and Sturridge? Too many eggs in one basket or a solid play?