Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Selecting defenders within the same team

We talked about this earlier in the season, but with a couple more games in the bag, I've updated the viz which attempts to help you choose your defenders. The "All Players" tab should in theory help you do this coming with a blank slate, but the raison d'etre for the viz is to help you choose between players in the same side, once you've decided that, for example, you want a City defender.

The viz can be found linked from the main menu, and here and should be opened separately to best read this piece. A few notes as of GW5 below.

Arsenal
I'm not sure how much value there is with this defense right now, but if you are planning to play the fixtures and take a chance with one of Emery's men, this would suggest it should be Mustafi rather than the 10% owner Bellerin who you should target.

Bournemouth
Cook is the man here for now, though if a clear winner emerges from the developing Daniels vs Rico battle then one of those players could topple him based on either a lower price tag (Daniels, 4.4m) or Rico potentially taking set pieces.

Chelsea
However you present the stats, it seems that Alonso can justify his lofty price tag, though I think it's worth noting Rudiger here, who has offered a genuine attacking threat and comes at a discount that will probably reach 1.0m soon. Luiz is a surprise here as he has offered very little at the attacking end, despite his prior reputation.

Crystal Palace 
Coming into the season I had serious doubts about Van Aanholt's ability to justify what I thought was a 1.0m premium over his teammates, but actually turned out to be a 1.5m premium, after the emergence of Wan-Bissaka. In a previous post we estimated that every 1.0m spent needs to earn somewhere around 26 points, and so with a 2.5-3.0 point advantage after 5 gameweeks, we'd project Van Aanholt to end up a little short of that, but not a million miles away. However, if we feel that Wan-Bissaka is going to keep his job then the gap becomes 1.5m and then you're looking at needing something like 35-40 points to justify the added cost, and I just don't think Van Aaanholt is there unless (a) he starts become a legitimate goal threat from direct free kicks or penalties, or (b) you think his playing time is significantly more locked down than Wan-Bissaka.

Everton
Keane is an interesting name here as he accumulated those projected attacking points in just three games. He's due to return as soon as this week after his head injury which could make him an interesting name to look at for the GW7-9 run which sees Everton face FUL (H), LEI (A) and CRY (H). Despite the lack of clean sheets and 9 goals conceded, Everton's underlying defensive numbers are actually reasonably good, which could suggest a few defensive returns in the future too.

Leicester
I know Maguire got his goal but Chilwell continues to offer more attacking potential based on the underlying stats for less money and significantly less ownership. Pereira has received some recent buzz too, but he's only created one extra chance than Chilwell while Chilwell has also offered more of a goal threat than the Portuguese fullback.

Liverpool
17% of managers continue to hold out with van Dijk but even though Robertson's price has risen by 0.2m, I would still encourage people to make that move. Van Dijk has just two attempts on goal through five games, which is admittedly more than Robertson's one, but then of course the Scotsman blows his Dutch colleague out of the water with 10 created chances to 0. At this stage I think one can make an argument that Alexander-Arnold or even Gomez represent better value than Van Dijk, unless you feel that the return of Matip will overly complicate their playing time.

Man City
Similarly, there is really very little reason to stick with Walker over Mendy at this stage, unless we learn that the recent knee issue is a cause for concern. Even then, if you were worried about Mendy, I think Walker to Laporte makes a lot of sense as the Frenchman (rested over the summer) starts to make one of those centre back spots his own in Pep's side.

Man Utd
The worry here is that by the time United get their defense sorted, Shaw will face rotation with Young, Valencia and Dalot. Mourinho has already been discussing the need for multiple full backs and while Shaw has been solid, he's obviously far from rotation proof in this side. At 5.1m he's cheap enough to have benched every now and then though, so he's still probably the pick here.

Tottenham
I don't know if this will be useful information to act on, but prima facie it is remarkable to me that Davies is ahead of Tripper here. The chances created given a slight nod to the England man (7 to 6) but Davies has more total shots and SiB to give him the overall edge, not even counting that these came in fewer minutes. Alas, those words "fewer minutes" are probably the death of Davies' fantasy value as he is already being heavily rotated with Rose, where as we assume Trippier will only be rested as needed, with the less reliable Aurier stepping in. If Davies offered a discount of 0.5m or more, those benchings might be worth absorbing, but for 0.2m I don't think we can justify the risk as things stand.

Wolves
The underlying data absolutely loves Matt Doherty, whose 8 total shots trail only Alonso, 7 SiB lead all defenders and who places a solid 9th in created chances too. The question here is how often you are going to play your Wolves defender. If he is just an enabler, recruited to warm the bench and deliver 2 points when you have an unexpected rotation issue, then Bennett - at 4.1m - is still worth a thought. However, I think this does a disservice to Wolves, whose 25 SiB conceded are tied for third, behind just Liverpool and City. I don't think we're ready to say Wolves defenders are every week starters, but if you think they might rotate into half your games, then the additional goal and assist threat becomes much more valuable and Doherty becomes an outstanding pickup. After back to back clean sheets, I am amazed his price is holding firm at 4.4m.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Selling Salah

Given his exploits last season, and a pretty healthy start to this one, it's hard to believe the thought of selling Salah is even worth exploring. But, international weeks give us time to think through less obvious solutions so let's make a case for it. But first, a few opening notes:
  1. This is a short term measure. Despite Mane's hot start and promising form from the likes of Hazard, I still believe Salah is the best fantasy option for the season. His underlying numbers are excellent, his team looks as good as ever and his playing time is assured (other than the odd rest of course).
  2. This move make more sense if you haven't yet wildcarded, but plan to do so in the next 4-6 weeks, potentially before GW9 during the international break. If you have already played that chip then using three or four transfers in 4 gameweeks to rotate one player (along with a corresponding move) might be tricky (although if you have wildcarded the rest of your team is presumably settled?)
  3. This move arguably makes more sense if you haven't enjoyed the best start of the season and want to shake things up a bit, although I personally try and avoid such thinking at this early stage of the season too much.
The player
We don't need to dwell here, suffice to say that Salah has shown that he is anything but a one season wonder. He leads all midfielders in total shots (19), shots inside the box (12), shots on target (7) and created chances (13). Those totals would place him among the top 2 or 3 forwards too (the majority of which offer very little by way of assist potential). He played at the World Cup, but Egypt of course suffered an early exit so he's also relatively rested (though did face a trip to Egypt over the international break).

The opponents
From GW5-GW8 Liverpool will face Spurs away, Southampton at home, Chelsea away and Man City at home. There's not much argument to be made that this is a tough run. Spurs haven't looked amazing in a couple of their games this year and their 34 SiB conceded is somewhat mediocre, but they've still conceded just 4 in 4, with City and Chelsea both slightly ahead with 3 in 4 (Southampton have also only conceded 4 in 4, though underlying data suggests they have perhaps been a touch fortuitous and aren't a great defense).

In these fixtures last season Liverpool lost 4-1 at Tottenham, beat Southampton 3-0, lost 1-0 at Chelsea and then recorded that memorable 4-3 win over Man City. How to interpet Salah's output during this period is hard to measure. On the one hand, he notched 4 goals and an assist (although one was that fortuitous lob over Ederson after the Brazilian misplayed a pass) - an impressive haul in just 4 games - the kind that earned him his 13.0m price tag. However, Salah's xG was just 1.36 and his xA was 0.35, suggesting he was somewhat fortunate to rack up the points he did. One can note that he exceeded his xG total all season, but 32 goals vs 24 xG is a 33% premium, not the 300% premium we observed in these four games. Admittedly, looking at single game xG isn't really the way it was intended to be used, but I do think it highlights that there remains some question about Salah's output versus these opponents last season.

The alternatives
One of the reasons you can justify Salah's 13.0m price tag is by captaining him most weeks. A 7 point haul for 13.0m doesn't sound great but when you're consistently doubling that to mid-double digit returns, the purchase starts to make much more sense. With that in mind then, whether or not you sell Salah for this short period is in part dependant on who you will give the armband to. It's possible that in three of these fixtures you would likely consider someone else for the captaincy, and thus not having Salah becomes more palatable, and missing out of another captain-worthy option becomes more painful.

A quick reminder of the elite options' fixtures over the next four gameweeks:

  • Kane, Eriksen: LIV, @BHA, @HUD, CAR
  • Hazard: CAR, @WHU, LIV, @SOU
  • Aguero, Sterling et al: FUL, @CAR, BHA, @LIV
  • Lukaku: @WAT, WOL, @WHU, NEW

From this list, I would suggest that all these options are going to offer at least 3 opportunities for captaincy, with the worst game probably being City's trip to Anfield.

Of course, the forwards listed here would require a double transfer to access, but when dealing with such large amounts of cash, I think you'd only make the move if there were specifically two players you really wanted. Who that second player would be is a major question - and possibly subject of its own blog article - but to get an idea of the range of options moving Salah would open up:

  • Salah to Sterling/Hazard frees up 2.0-2.3m which could allow you switch a 2-point bench player like Neves or Kante into a Pedro, Walcott or Richarlison. You could also move a budget defender and jump on the Alonso bandwagon (or any of the other elite defenders)
  • Salah to Eriksen frees up 3.6m which is enough to convert Vardy into Kane or Zaha into Aguero. 
  • Salah to Aguero frees up just 1.7m, although even that can be enough to move up a level among defenders, from either Maguire to Alonso or from Bournemouth to Tottenham.
One final thing we have to consider here is the risk of rotation as we move into the European schedule and bumps and bruises start to take their toll (this might be especially true in a season following a World Cup). The relevant big teams play the below fixtures in all competitions between now and October 20th (the start of GW9, after the international break, and when Liverpool face Huddersfield i.e. the date you probably want Salah back in your side.

Chelsea (Premier League games are underlined)
Cardiff H, PAOK A, West Ham A, Liverpool A, Liverpool H, Vidi H, Southampton A

I'm not typically in the business of guessing lineups, but I think it's probably reasonable to say that, as a team, Chelsea has the best situation here (not necessarily in terms of strength of opponent but specifically as it pertains to rotation threat). PAOK are Chelsea's toughest Europa league opponent so Sarri may well send a full strength team to Greece, but then Chelsea still get the normal two days rest before a trip to West Ham on the following Sunday. With Liverpool to come in the league right on the heels of the Carabao Cup fixture, one suspects we'll see rotation there and then the other Europa League game is against lowly Vidi at the Bridge, where we could again expect to see some bench options. With Hazard also being eased into the season already, I'd be even more confident of Hazard's minutes here.

Man City
Fulham H, Lyon H, Cardiff A, Oxford Utd A, Brighton H, Hoffenheim A, Liverpool H

Guardiola will want to start City's Champions League strongly against Lyon, who are on paper their toughest opponent. Given the squad depth, it wouldn't be surprising to see a rotated team head to Cardiff the following weekend, which is a pretty favourable fixture to miss. I'd perhaps feel slightly more confident in Aguero getting the nod as we've sometimes seen Pep drop his "faster" players against sides who might play 11 behind the ball, in a desire to have as many technically gifted players as possible to work in tight spaces. That would arguably favour the Argentine over Sterling but either are liable to be dropped in this run. We can presume that City will want to be at full strength for the visit of Liverpool, meaning potential lost minutes either during the trip to Hoffenheim or in the previous week's visit of Brighton. One could imagine a scenario where Aguero and co start that Brighton game but are quick to be pulled off if City jump out to a lead (something to be considered when handing out the armband).

Man Utd
Watford A, Young Boys H, Wolves H, Derby H, West Ham A, Valencia H, Newcastle H

With Rashford suspended for the next two Premier League games, Lukaku immediately enjoys almost guaranteed starts against Watford and Wolves, with perhaps Rashford spelling him some minutes in the trip to Young Boys - a must win game for United given the other strong opponents in United's group. Assuming we see a rotated team in the Carabao Cup - as we did at this stage last season in the 4-1 win over Burton - that would again leave Lukaku rested to face West Ham. The only question would then we whether the Belgian would be utilized against both Valencia and Newcastle, which if not would be a huge blow as that's a promising fixture despite Newcastle's solid defensive efforts to date. Given how much he was relied on last season, the pressure on Mourinho and the apparent lack of faith in Rashford, I might say that Lukaku is best placed to play all four games over this period. 

That said, he's also on the weakest team, may therefore have less opportunities and, frankly, just isn't as good a player as the other names on this list so this is a very tough call. Sometimes we avoid making decisions for fear of looking foolish, and of all the players to sell Salah for, Lukaku probably has the biggest risk of making you feel idiotic, but don't let that alone scare you off - there is plenty of evidence to support this move.

Tottenham
Liverpool H, Inter A, Brighton A, Watford H, Huddersfield A, Barcelona H, Cardiff H

Other than this week's visit of Liverpool I was very interested in getting access to this Spurs side, especially with Son returning from international duty. The fixture list does complicate things a little though. Spurs have been handed a really tough Champions League group and face two of their toughest games in the coming month. After presumably playing a full strength side against both Liverpool and Inter, one could see a couple of players getting a rest at Brighton, especially those who enjoyed a busy summer and have started every game so far - including Eriksen and Kane. With the visit of Barcelona then focusing the mind, you wonder if those top assets might then again be given a reduced role in either the proceeding trip to Huddersfield or the subsequent visit of Cardiif. 

Normally I would say that Spurs players have the safest roles given the comparative lack of depth compared to the other elite side but with the emergence of Lucas Moura, the obvious fatigue of the players involved at the World Cup and the complication of their very difficult Champions League group, I am now not so sure. If Kane and co were firing on all cylinders I'd be more willing to overlook this concern but as it is, this group seems like too big of a risk to sell Salah for.

The summary
I think the case for Hazard is probably the strongest, especially if that 2.3m will then allow you to access another key target. Lukaku is tempting as a differentiator (8%) owned but my own personal front line is pretty set - Aguero, Wilson and Mitrovic - and I will probably keep them intact until I wildcard. City's fixtures make Sterling really tempting, even if his likelihood of rotation is higher than some of the other options. Again, in my personal situation I already have three City players (Ederson, Mendy and Aguero) who I'm pretty happy with so it's difficult to fit the England man in. The money saved by switching to Eriksen is pretty tempting - the 4.0m in the bank would allow me to switch the freefalling Jota into Sanchez(!) - but those fixtures are a big concern. One move I didn't discuss above is to do Salah to Mane to lessen the financial blow of the tough fixture list, though that seems like a lot of transfers to commit to the project unless you have a strong idea in how as to how to use the 3.0m saved (I'm not yet convinced that Mane will continue to offer equal output to Salah).

There's a case to be made here, for sure, but I think it only makes in specific circumstances so I wouldn't want to force the issue. Those who do make a move face four weeks of watching games from behind the couch, but isn't that what makes fantasy fun!

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Comparing like-for-like fixtures and underlying data

As noted in other recent posts, it can be hard to know what data to rely upon in the early gameweeks. We all know that shots inside the box or those on target tend to correlate well to goals, but with only a few of those events happening each week, it can be easy to overreact to unstable data. One data point I am interested in, is how well teams are doing compared to same fixtures from prior season. This data is still fraught with issues - teams might have changed personnel or have injuries or simply suffered a bad game - but we at least have a baseline to compare against which gives a little more context to what we're looking at.

The below visualization shows the Goals (G), Expected Goals (xG), Shots Inside the Box (SiB), Created Chances (CC) and Successful Passes in the Final Third (P3rd) for each team's fixtures for 2018-19 (CY) compared to the same slate of games from the 2017-18 season (PY). We'll highlight a couple of the more interesting observations below the viz:


Chelsea
Of the four games Chelsea have played to date, they drew a blank in three of them in the corresponding fixture last season. Their combined xG over those games was 3.0 - so there's no doubt they were a little unlucky to come up empty - but still, the difference between that streak of zeros and this season's 7 goal haul (with an xG of 4.3) help to underline the potential improvement we are seeing under Sarri. They doubled their SiB in two of those games and have come close to tripling the number of passes they have completed in the final third of the pitch. Looking at the opponents doesn't appear to completely explain this improvement either. Ignoring Huddersfield, against which Chelsea played just about as well as last season, we find Arsenal who one could argue are still finding their feet under Emery but are otherwise largely unchanged from last season, a Newcastle side that is largely unchanged and gave Man City a good game this past weekend, and a Bournemouth side who appear stronger than last season.

The pressure that Sarri's team is going to create with so much possession in the final third is surely going to be too much for some sides, and while one can argue how that translates into wins and losses, in fantasy terms it creates more chances, which typically lead to shots and points over the course of a season. Chelsea's lineup make it somewhat difficult to load up on their players, as you might do with, say, Mendy, De Bruyne and Aguero at City, but this improvement makes Hazard extremely appealing and I think justifies doubling up the Belgian and Kante, or even Pedro (though I fear too much rotation with the latter with Willian also available). If Morata could find some form and develop under this system then he too might play his way into contention before the year ends. We've already discussed how Alonso appears to justify his price tag - at least compared to his Chelsea colleagues - and nothing here seems to contradict that fact.

Liverpool
Liverpool have the worst differential between the goals they've scored in the four games this season versus their haul in the same fixtures last season. Of course, before you immediately start planning for how you're going to divert your 13m Salah funds, consider that the baseline they have fallen from was impossibly high - 13 goals in 4 games - and if you look at their xG they are actually much closer with 9.3 xG for this season compared with 10.4 xG for last. That said, a quick peak at the underlying data does show some drop beyond just unfortunate timing with a significant drop in both SiB and CC. I don't think this is anything close to being a cause for concern but it might be a small factor when considering whether to sell Salah for a few weeks during this tough run of games: if the heights aren't quite what they were last year then it becomes less scary to sell the Egyptian and use your funds elsewhere with a reduced fear of Liverpool massacring sides and earning huge points totals for their players. For what it's worth, I am considering moving Salah and Alexander-Arnold for 4 gameweeks, given the fixtures and the fact that neither have seen a price rise to date that will make buying them back a big issue.

Leicester
Leicester's stats are interesting, though I'm not sure what they mean from a fantasy perspective. Their xG and SiB are down around 40% from the corresponding fixtures last season, and that has played itself out in the goals column, that has decreased from 6 to 4 (they did of course manager two against Wolves which is excluded from this analysis, so let's not be too harsh too quickly). Their passes completed in the final third have doubled though, which suggests increased attacking possession. I don't see enough Leicester games to conclude that this is an intentional strategic shift or whether it's due to Vardy missing a couple of games (and with him that ability to counter so well), but it's something to watch going forward as it could shift how different Leicester assets are valued in this side. For now though, I want to see a return to form when Vardy is back or else fear this side might offer little fantasy value this year.

Man Utd
This data might prove to be some relief for Man Utd fans, given that the majority of the news about their club seems to suggest the sky is falling. After struggling to generate shots in GW1 and GW2, United doubled the number of SiB against TOT and BUR that they managed last season, and saw their xG rise from 1.6 to 4.0 in those two games. Their completed passes in the final third took an almost unbelievable drop against Leicester and particularly Brighton, to the point I had to go back and check the data but based on what we've since seen against Spurs and Burnley, the outlier wasn't so much those games this season but the corresponding fixtures last season where United were able to dominate possession against weaker sides, albeit not always to great effect as United of course went on to lose that game to Brighton. I'm not exactly sure what to make of this fact. Are United more clinical, luckier, or just playing a different way? I think we need a few more games from this team to figure out what they are and which, if any, of their pricey assets might be able to contribute to our fantasy teams.

Brighton
It's too early to write teams off, or even be overly "concerned" about their prospects for a long season ahead, but the early data for Brighton is not as promising as one might think given their win over Man Utd and a close loss to Liverpool. Their created chances and shots inside the box have fallen off significantly from last year, and while their xG looks not too bad, it is being propped up by the penalty they earned against United (worth 0.79 xG). Now it's not necessarily fair to just arbitrarily take that penalty away as they did indeed earn it, but just to note that without it, they'd have an xG of 1.8 over three games in which they managed 3.3 xG last year. Again, we're not close to worrying yet or taking away credit for the penalties, but of they were indeed events of luck rather than due to a repeatable skill on Brighton's behalf, this might be of note of caution to those starting to look at the likes of Pascal Gross for fantasy production based on his team's prior season performance.

Everton
It's not a spectacular improvement but Everton have improved pretty much across the board in their three fixtures to date (we're excluding the GW1 effort against Wolves in which they also notched a couple of goals, albeit perhaps a bit fortuitously). They haven't played the toughest run of games of course, but the idea behind this analysis is that is allows for like-for-like comparisons and on this basis, the team has clearly developed. With injuries and suspensions impacting Walcott and Richarlison and Tosun and Sigurdsson yet to attract much attention, it's possible that people might start to forget about Everton, but the data here suggests they have the makings of a good mid-level team that might be a source of reasonably price squad players.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Looking at early conversion rates (to justify your transfers or crush your dreams)

There seems to be an emerging narrative in the early week of the season that fantasy teams are starting to converge and a “template” has emerged for people to follow. The strong start of the elite full backs, the apparent “must own” status of pricey Salah and Aguero and a couple of budget midfield enablers (Neves and Kante) make it seem like this is the case. If we look at the prior year ownership data for GW3 though, we see a broadly similar pattern of ownership:

Overall we had 14 players with 20%+ ownership where as this season we have 17, with one clear leader over 50% and a handful more over 30%. This season I think we have a couple more budget options with the likes of Wan-Bissaka, Richarlison, Neves, Kante and to an extent Zaha and Mkhitaryan, where as last year we saw just Hernandez, Hegazi and Rooney. I wonder if the the presence of these budget options here might well be what is leading folks to conclude that teams are starting to all look the same. Differentiation is always an important consideration and so while the question as to whether or not teams are less diverse is an interesting question, but the point I wanted to dwell on here was another.

If we look back at that list of early favourites from last season and see where their ownership percentage was a few gameweeks later, we see some interesting results:

By GW10, 12 of the 14 most-owned players had either decreased in ownership or stayed approximately the same. The likes of Rooney, David Luiz, Mane, Hernandez and Alli had all seen their ownership percentage drop by over 10% with only Salah and Kane increasing their numbers significantly. By the halfway point of the season five players had lost 20 percentage points or more. On the flip side, players like David Silva, Jesus, Sane, Otamendi, Doucoure, GroƟ, Azipilicueta and Richarlison all had low ownership numbers at this point last season but by GW10 were all close to 20% owned.

So all that is a long road to get to our destination of concluding that we probably don’t know as much as we think we do, and those players who look to be essential now might be discarded in a few weeks and new options will surely emerge. I’ve noted before that I’m not super comfortable suggesting that Player X is a “good” pickup because he has good shot totals as this data is so noisy after just a couple of games. Schurrle, for example, seems to be getting some buzz given his high shot totals but a quick peak at the underlying data shows a mediocre xG, backed up by watching last week’s game – he’s clearly a promising option with a good pedigree and involvement in that team, but his mandate appeared to be to shoot on sight and thus his lofty shot totals are probably not a great data point to rely on alone. To try and tease some of these over (and under) achievers out, we can plot players’ conversion rates for this season (CY) and compare to the prior year data (PY) as well as the rate at which their teammates are converting chances (Tm). If we see some of these “hot” players with conversion rates that are well above normal then that might pour some cold water on our enthusiasm (or vice versa for players whose rates are inexplicably low).

Mkhitaryan (20% ownership)
Clearly his G/SiB rate is higher than expected, but not so much as to scream regression. His SiB/PBT rate is right around where we'd expect, suggesting he's earning his shots at a reliable rate, and of course he still offers some value from shots outside the box given his ability. The rate at which he's creating chances coupled with a slightly lower than expected conversion rate suggests his assist potential could even be a little understated. Arsenal have a good fixture list over the next seven weeks but there aren't too many other options in this team you'd feel comfortable backing. You typically like your mid-price options to offer a bit more differentiation but 20% isn't too high and the pick just makes sense right now.

Wilson and Fraser
As I started to write this, I very much expected both Wilson and Fraser to have the kind of stats that pointed towards a nosedive in the coming weeks. I'm a fan of Wilson and Fraser has really impressed, but for a reasonable but non-explosive Bournemouth side, I just didn't imagine there would be enough there to support their points hauls. However, Wilson actually has a slightly lower G/SiB conversion rate and while he is earning shots at a slightly higher rate based on his PBT, that could at least be in part down to the way this side is playing. His assist threat looks overstated but for a 7 million forward, you don't need many assists so long as the goals keep flowing. 14% (and climbing) is a reasonable number of managers, most of whom are presumably quite active as he surely wasn't a huge GW1 play, but with many teams looking to install two mid-level forwards, there's good reason to suggest Wilson can be one of those players.

Again, Fraser appears to have some hints around the edges that he's overachieved a little, but really nothing to worry about. His set piece ability will mean that he will always have the potential to create more chances than open play numbers would suggest and with a decent stable of teammates, it's not unreasonable to think they will be converted a decent rate.

Alonso
The Spanish full back is good value for his goal and is arguably as likely as anyone to lead all defenders in goals by the end of the season. His assist haul however is significantly overblown and we'd expect some serious regression there. This means that to justify that premium price tag, you need reasonable confidence that he's also going to earn defensive points. Chelsea only have the one clean sheet from the first three games, although they are second only to Liverpool in terms of shots conceded inside the box, despite two away games (albeit to somewhat weak opposition) and the visit of Arsenal. If you buy the red flag about assist potential and aren't totally convinced about Chelsea's defensive potential then I'm not sure Alonso justifies the 0.4m more than Mendy, or the 0.6m over Robertson (both of whom I would expect to notch plenty of assists and clean sheets but perhaps not the goals). That said, there is a pretty strong case for owning all three of that group and I therefore wouldn't argue against feeling the need to bring Alonso in while his price continues to rise.

Zaha
The numbers here suggest we pour a bit of cold water on Zaha, although given his price and guaranteed playing time, I don't think we need to panic. However, with a G/SiB more than double last year, we'd expect him to slow down a bit and when you look down that list of teammates, you can see why. Without too much other attacking quality in the side, teams should be able to focus on Zaha and as the season goes on and the tactics become more known, it'll be a hard lift for Zaha to continue his form. Of course, Townsend is a decent player, the attacking full back pair of Wan-Bissaka and van Aanholt look promising and new arrival Meyer comes with a good reputation, so it's possible this Palace side continue to develop as the season progresses. I'd say if you own him or sign him now then the move still make sense, but with brutal fixtures starting in GW10 and continuing for the most part through GW18, time is certainly of the essence.

Richarlison and Walcott
The Everton duo have 5 goals between them and a combined ownership now approaching 40% (with a shift from the Brazilian to the English man due to the former's red card). However, Richarlison has scored 3 goals from 4 SiB and Walcott has 2 goals from his 3 SiB; both rates which look unsustainable for anyone, nevermind two players whose profile pictures weren't exactly shortlisted when defining "clinical" in the dictionary. Now, 4 SiB in two and a half games is a totally reasonable haul for Richarlison and his penalty box touches and pass numbers suggest he will continue to earn those high value shots. The numbers don't, however, speak of a "must own" player and with his absence in GW4-6 followed by trips to Man Utd, Chelsea and Liverpool in GW10-14, I wouldn't rule out selling him and circling back after those games are in the books.

Walcott too has some reasonable underlying data and his game isn't necessarily going to be well reflected by stats looking at total touches, but his shot totals are pretty low and he's offering little assist threat, making him a fine but not overly exciting option at 6.7m. With home games against WHU, HUD and FUL in the next 4 gameweeks, he makes sense as a short term rental, or for anyone convinced they need to switch back to Richarlison immediately post-suspension, but I don't know if this move is certain enough to justify the 500,000+ transfers we've already seen in the gameweek. Of course, there aren't too many options in the 6-8m who look totally convincing right now, so the move certainly isn't crazy either.

Maddison
Speaking of mid-level midfielders, I am surprised Maddison's ownership numbers are so low given the chatter around the Leicester man, although not at all surprising based on his underlying data. A single SiB and two CC don't suggest a breakout in the near future, even if he has impressed to the eyeball test in that role off of Vardy and more recently Iheanacho.

Mane and Salah
One current line of thinking is that Mane can provide sufficient Liverpool cover to free you of the need to own Salah, giving you over 3 million to spend elsewhere in your team without losing too much ground. Through three gameweeks that strategy has obviously proven wise with Mane not only matching but actually surpassing Salah in both goals and fantasy points. This data suggests the next set of gameweeks might not go the same way though. While Mane has been significantly more clinical than last season - converting his SiB at double last year's rate - Salah has actually been less clinical than we might expect, although I think it's reasonable to expect some regression from last season's lofty heights. The fact that Mane is second only to Salah in total shots sounds promising but when you realise that Salah has literally doubled Mane's total efforts and out shot him 11 to 8 inside the box, it starts to suggest there really does remain a gap here, and it's probably not a question as to whether Salah starts to outscore his teammate, but by how much, and more importantly, whether than gap justifies 3 million pounds. I think there's a pretty strong case to be made for owning both Mane and Salah, especially given Firmino not looking quite as sharp as last season, but given the 60% combined ownership numbers for Robertson, Van Dijk and Alexander-Arnold, that means you could have 28 million or so invested in a single team that is about to face TOT, CHE and MCI in the next five gameweeks. I could definitely see a scenario where I own both these players in the future but right now that looks tough to justify and given Salah's threat, that Mane ownership number starts to look a bit big to me.

Mendy
Despite Mendy having 6 totals shots (compared to Alonso's 7), I don't think it's controversial to suggest that the Chelsea man would be strong favourite to finish the season with more goals. Assist wise, both players have benefited from unsustainably high conversion rates of the created chances, though Mendy's case is not as extreme as Alonso who has literally more assists than created chances. I think it's fair to conclude that Mendy offers just about the best assist threat among defenders though, given his advanced role in the best team and so while the lack of reliable goal production is a concern, I do think the assists will continue to come, and I'd expect City to have the best defense again, which together with a lack of too many options at his position in the City squad, conspire to make Mendy justifiable at any price up to probably close to 7.0m.

Not much to add on Aguero here, other than to note that while he already leads the league in goals, he's just doing what he does. Nothing suggests he's overachieving or outperforming his stats by a material amount, and the only thing likely to slow him down is rotation (which could come as soon as this week) or injury.

Trippier
All this data should be taken with a pinch of salt given the small sample, and that applies even more to Trippier who missed a game, but I just want to note here that while the England man can probably fairly be put in that elite fullback group with Mendy and Alonso when it comes to assist potential (5 CC already in just 166 minutes of action), I don't think his goal threat is that much higher, if at all, just because of his free kick ability. He's managed just two totals shots in his two games, and only four touches in the penalty area, compared to double digit efforts from Alonso and Mendy. The free kicks are certainly a nice bonus, but with Eriksen, Alli and even players like Lamela and Dier in the side, I don't know if that's quite the gold mine that memories of Russia might suggest for the England fullback.

Pereyra
I think most managers buying Pereyra are savvy enough to know that his current pace is obviously going to slow down, the question just being by how much. WIth that in mind then, I think this data is actually quite positive. A 38% G/SiB is high, but not laughably so and it's fair to argue he's been good value for at least one or two goals based on the underlying data. His 8 shots have all come inside the box giving him the exact shot profile as the significanlt pricier duo of Alli and Mane. At 6.2m he's just about cheap enough to bench every second or third week, although the upcoming fixtures of TOT, MUN and at ARS look perhaps too daunting to justify pulling the trigger now. If you haven't already jumped in, then it might now be worth waiting out that run of games given the presumed slow down in price rise after the early gameweek rush.

Arnautovic
I imagine a lot of teams had Arnautovic in them at some point during the preseason given his reasonable price tag, ability and success last year in a more advanced role, and he opened the season with a solid but not sky-high ownership number that surprisingly hasn't changed too much. I guess his injury status is weighing against his back-to-back goalscoring games, offering a bit of time for prospective buyers to consider their options. He's earning chances at a higher rate than last year, though that could partly be role-related, but nothing else is really a cause for concern here and once the injury situation is cleared up I would definitely have the Austrian on.my shortlist The only significant arguments against the West Ham man are the overall uncertainty around his team - the Hammers have managed just 16 SiB in three games, the 4th lowest mark in the league - and the decent array of mid-price forwards that have emerged (Wilson, Mitrovic, Zaha, Tosun) as competition.

I'm going to leave it there for now, having only focused on those with high ownership numbers, but plan a follow up post where we look at players with low ownership numbers whose underlying data suggest some position regression in their future.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

How much extra value do premium defenders need to offer? Part II

Previously we looked at some data from last season and tried to set a rough benchmark as to how much value you need from premium defenders in order to be worth their higher price tag. If you didn't catch that piece then I'd encourage you to do so, but if not, the TL;DR is that we estimated that you should be aiming to earn somewhere around 26 points attacking points (goals, assists and bonus points) for every 1.0m extra invested over a player in the same team i.e. Alonso over Luiz or Walker over Stones. It's also worth re-empahasising that this would exclude any playing time concerns, which further complicate things somewhat.

The below graphic starts to plot the defenders from each team to quickly highlight the potential areas where the more expensive players are starting to show their value. I must note here that two gameweeks is too soon to draw any strong conclusions based on the underlying stats, but then again, we need to start making transfer decisions now so like it or not this is what we have. My own approach is to keep my prior based on what we know from last season or beyond, taking care to adjust it as new data comes in, and not tear it down based on one or two good games. After the vizualisation I will flag a few names that have caught my eye:



Chelsea
Chelsea were the team that inspired this piece and Alonson was the specific player. Despite Azpilicueta's 14% ownership and assist at the weekend, there is really no way to justify him in your team based on the 2nd level data (shots and created chances), although if you dig a little deeper into attacking touches and passes, the Spanish duo start to look more comparable. Rudiger has offered a decent amount of attacking threat but with Alonso stronger claim on a starting spot and a general preference for the consistent threat from attacking full backs over the sporadic returns from centre backs scoring from set pieces, I would give the nod to Alonso there without much question. Luiz makes the decision close as now you're talking about a little over a million pounds, which would play out to be something like 30 points, and we know that Luiz carries his own threat, not just from headers but from taking set pieces himself and even the odd long range thunderbolt. The expected points gap through two games is about 2 points which puts Alonso ahead of schedule in justifying the premium, and again, with the higher likelihood of holding his starting spot I think this is one area where the most expensive defender is actually worth the premium. The 26% ownership is a bit of a turn off and the fixture list is good rather than great, but if you're buying Chelsea I would agree that Alonso is the best way to do so.

Crystal Palace
After his run to end last season, I expected Van Aanholt to be a significant bandwagon pick this season. However, it looks like his price tag probably scared many off initially, and then the subsequent emergence of Wan-Bissaka as a 4.0m starter and Schlupp as a defender-playing-in-midfield option, the former Chelsea man is somewhat being ignored. Based on this early data I would say that decision looks smart, although Schlupp could well lose playing time now Meyer looks ready to slide into midfield and Wan-Bissaka will miss a game through suspension. The youngster's attacking threat make him incredible value at 4.0m but even if he fell out of favour, the likely replacement would be another 4.0m man in Kelly, and it's really hard to see Van Aanholt generating enough points to justify a 1.5m premium over either of these options.

Leicester
Maguire is obviously a threat from set pieces and this is one example where that prior shouldn't be overtaken by two games of blanks from the England man in terms of shots on goal. That said, Chilwell really impressed against Man United and has already generated some decent attacking data, all while costing 0.5m less and being something of a differentiator. This is a close one and picking Chilwell might be being a touch too clever, although I can't help but feel that some of Maguire's perceived value comes from his marauding runs upfield and his place in the England team, which count for nought in fantasy football. I was also surprised to see that he wasn't even particularly a bonus magnet last season with just 10 points on 716 BPS. This one is arguable either way, and despite the advantage Chilwell shows here, you can also make the case for Pereira, who has some very nice level 3 data (touches in the final third etc).

Man City
This one looks like no-brainer given the start Mendy has enjoyed, and I don't really have any push back on that conclusion, other than to say that his price is already up to 6.2m, he's already owned by 27% of managers (and rising) and given his playing time last season, it's not hard to imagine sitting out a game or two in the near future, which would frustratingly be likely to come against an easier opponent. It's all but impossible to choose the more expensive Walker though, so if you are looking to go in a different direction to access this City defense then you're stuck playing the Pep Guessing game between Stones, Laporte and Kompany. I didn't list goalies here, but Ederson is probably the best pick after Mendy given his lack of rotation threat and the potential for the odd assist.

It's a credit to fantasy managers and an indication that generally people are getting more savvy with the fact that what appear to be the best option from a number of teams are currently the most selected player, including Arsenal (Bellerin), Brighton (Duffy), Burnley (Tarkowski), Man Utd (Shaw), Liverpool (Robertson) and Watford (Holebas).

I will add this vizualisation to the man menu and check back in a couple of gameweeks to see if anyone new is emerging.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

How much extra value do premium defenders need to offer? Part I

At this stage of the season, those of us who are statistically inclined face a bit of a dilemma. We know that too much weight should not be placed on the limited data that's available, but yet the alternative is to rely on no data and simply make your picks based on the one or two games of action you've seen, or worse, some voodoo about world class players not being able to score in August.

With this in mind, this time of year offers a good opportunity to explore a couple of other broader topics before the games start coming thick and fast and we get lost in expected goal regressions. Though data in a wider sense may not yet be stable, we can start to take some reasonable confidence from starting lineups and some of the lessons we can draw from there. Specifically here, I am interested in (a) which players offer a discount among their teammates and (b) when would we be willing to pay for the more expensive option. This is typically most useful when it comes to defenders and 'keepers as the substantial part of their value normally derives from clean sheets - which are the same for all starting players - with the difference then being their attacking potential. Two forwards are obviously much harder to compare as while they enjoy the same opponents each week, everything else is different.

What I am interested in then is, if we have a defensive line valued like this:

  • GK: 5.5m
  • DEF: 6.0m
  • DEF: 5.0m
  • DEF: 5.0m
  • DEF: 5.0m
and we expect them all to start essentially every game, what does the premium 6.0m defender need to do in order to justify his price tag?

The big picture benchmark
Looking at the big picture, over the course of the season you'll want to eclipse 2,000 points and probably push into that 2,200+ point range. Without chasing value too much, you should be able to have an average team value of somewhere around 102m (yes it will be higher later, but you're likely to have 8-10 weeks in that 100-101 range unless you hit on some very early risers). However, 17-18m (or more) of that value is going to be sat on the bench each week, meaning you need your ~85m squad to generate those 2,200 points. This means for every million you spend, you need to be earning somewhere around 26 points.

26 points doesn't sound like that much for elite defenders to earn, when the likes of Alonso or Bendy are more than capable of notching double digits in a single gameweek. However, remember that these points need to come from attacking sources only, as their teammates will obviously score clean sheet points at the same rate. This is a slight oversimplification as you may also be paying for increased stability of playing time, and then bonus points further cloud the issue as these can be earned for both defensive and offensive outcomes, but I'm going to put a pin in those questions for now.

If we calculate attacking points as a simple formula of goals x 6 plus assists x 3, then you end up with just six defenders who managed 26 points or more. Not 26 points more than their teammates but 26 attacking points in total. As above, this is an underestimation as we're ignoring bonus points, so if we include an estimate of their full value then you get 29 players who would have notched 26 points or more. The reality is likely then between these two numbers but I have included an estimate of bonus points in the numbers below.

2017-18 cast studies
Let's have a look at a couple of teams from last season to see this calculation in action. Note that I am using starting prices as (a) these are more widely available and (b) it lessens to variety of prices to just seven categories (4.0m, 4.5m, 5.0m . . . 7.0m) rather than having to account for every 0.1m.


Here's an example where I think the top two players are offering not just the attacking bonus but also the playing time stability, as the other centre backs in the team tended to get rotated throughout the season. Ignoring that though, we see that Azpilicueta costs 0.5m more than the pack and would have delivered around 10 more attacking points (if one CB had been consistently deployed). So this is slightly below the 26 point rate noted above but given the extra stability I think a strong argument could be made he was worth it. Similarly, the next upgrade from Azpilicueta to his Spanish colleague Alonso provided an additional 13 points, which for 0.5m equates exactly with our 26 points per million mark. In this situation then, I think it's fair to conclude that Alonso was the best pick, although as fantasy team's became saturated with him, one could make a reasonable case for Azpilicueta too.


Based on these values Harry Maguire was a no-brainer, offering a 24 point premium for just 0.5m. As the season wound on though, his price rose to 5.5m, which seems like about the equilibrium: a 1.0m premium for 24 points (in reality Maguire was worth a little less than this as he earned bonus points at a lower rate than the model suggests, but the general point remains).



Here we can see a team where no one player was able to differentiate themselves and the best selection would likely have been whoever was cheapest (assuming they had a similar chance at playing time). I've shown Watford here but the same logic applies to several teams and the lesson is not to assume that a team's best attacking option is not necessarily a worthy option.

Now we've set the context and defined what we're looking for, in the next post we'll have a first look at this year's team selections and a cautious first glance at the attacking data and see which premium defenders are off to the kind of start that might justify their price tag.

Monday, August 20, 2018

An emerging buy opportunity

Just a quick post today to highlight what I think is a promising buy opportunity, not currently getting too much attention. What's on offer:

  • A proven midfielder who has averaged the equivalent of 31 games of action over the last 5 seasons
  • Currently ranked 12th among midfielders in successful passes in the final third and 9th in created chances.
  • Took penalties for his team last season (though that could be in jeopardy this year)
  • Currently just the third most owned midfielder on his team.

Sounds reasonably promising so far, but what if I added that he accumulated those impressive stats in just 43 minutes of action this season? We're of course talking about Eden Hazard. Not exactly an unknown quantity - indeed he's still owned by 12% of managers despite his fitness concerns - but with question marks surrounding arguably half of all midfielders valued at 9.0m or above, Hazard's return to fitness in a rejuvenated Chelsea side seems like a real opportunity.

Even without their talisman, Chelsea have managed 6 goals and 22 shots inside the box in their two games, trailing only City and Spurs in both categories (and surely having faced a harder schedule than their London rivals). The next 10 games see them face two top sides (MUN and TOT) although both travel to the Bridge, as do four other opponents (BOU, CAR, CPL and EVE), together forming a promising set of fixtures for the fit-again Hazard.

The arrival of "Sarri-ball" was awaited with anticipation, and while it is again far too soon to draw conclusions as yet, the two games to date have been very promising and when compared to the corresponding fixtures from prior season (at HUD and ARS at home) we see signs of improvement (again, small size warning and a note that Arsenal are a team in flux themselves):

  • 2017-18: 25 shots, 17 SiB, 201 passes in final 3rd, 3 goals
  • 2018-19: 37 shots, 22 SiB, 262 passes in final 3rd, 6 goals

The potential loss of penalty duties to Jorginho could be a blow, although with Chelsea doing all they can to persuade him to stay beyond the season, it's not yet certain whether that transition will indeed happen. Without too much concrete information at this stage of the season, the certainty that a fit again Hazard would bring to your side is extremely valuable, and as an early buyer you could enjoy a month or so of differentiation as others opt for Mane, Eriksen and Pogba. Those players each have their merits too, so I'm not necessarily say we can be sure Hazard is worth the extra cost above that group, but for those of you with Sanchez, De Bruyne or other City players whose minutes are causing you stress, Hazard is worth a long look this week.

For what it's worth, I was a foolish early investor in Alexis Sanchez, and with his "small issue" and United's uninspiring start to the campaign, this was a pretty easy switch for me to make before the Chilean's value presumably falls ahead of this week's visit of Spurs.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

The best data categories for early gameweeks

Gameweek 1 has been somewhat less dramatic than last season. With the new Friday kick off and a solid day of Saturday action under our belts I went to bed on August 12th just like any other Saturday night. A few hours later I was woken by my wife who was in labour - 7 weeks before our due date. A few more hours later our twin girls appeared and let's just say that questions around Gabriel Jesus's playing time or Paul Pogba's xG suddenly seemed somewhat trivial. Needless to say, the past year has meant I've had less time to dedicate to fantasy football, although the early starts on the weekend make watching the 7am ET games much easier.

Over the offseason I have been debating how, if at all, this blog can continue to offer value. With the prevalence of Opta's xG, my own version of a similar (but more basic) model becomes somewhat irrelevant and my absence from England means that I will never be as up to date on team news as those who live in the city, read the local press and have Sky Sports New on a loop. Time constraints also make it very hard to individually maintain a broad catalogue of data visualizations trying to monitor fixture strength, expected points, injuries, playing time and form.

My plan then is to try and focus on bigger picture pieces that try to develop a concept and provide some push back to the extreme shifts in mood that tend to fill the discussion boards of popular sites (player X is a "must own", player Y must be sold after his 2 point performance this week).

This first post then is trying to identify (a) what are the metrics we should be looking at in the early weeks to predict future success and (b) how do the current hot/cold transfer targets perform in these areas.

Correlation and stabilisation
I think a majority - or at least a large number - of fantasy managers understand the idea that a goal in gameweek one or two does not mean that player is destined for a great season. Early goals last season for the likes of Jese, Robson-Kanu, Okaka, and Okazaki were not the spark for greatness, with that group all failing to score more than one more goal for the remainder of the campaign. Of course, an early goal for Salah was indeed the first sign of an incredible season on his return to English football, so we don't want to totally ignore the early action and be slow to respond.

The area where analysis seems to typically lie at the moment is to focus on what I will call Level 2 events (with Level 1 being the actual outcome of a goal and/or assist). Level 2 events are the building blocks for goals, most notably shots of various varieties but also key passes and crosses. Over a longer enough period these events are predictive of goals and if you target them over a season you will surely enjoy success. However, here I am going to look at Level 3 events, namely the kind of actions which are indicative of a player who will ultimately create Level 2 events than will lead to goals/assists. Level 3 events include actions such as touches in the penalty box and passes in the final third of the pitch. xG is obviously an incredibly useful metric, but in these early weeks when we're still trying to work out who is likely to be in the right position to even earn/create shots, digging even deeper can be useful.

The reason I want to talk about these Level 3 events is because of the speed at which they stabilize. Taking data from last season I compared the yearly totals for players, on a per minute basis, against their cumulative totals through GW1, GW2, etc. all the way through the first 15 weeks of the season. As expected, the correlation between player totals in GW1 and GW38 is essentially non-existant in all categories: success in GW1 alone is a very poor predictor of season success. Allowing for a bit of noise as players debut at different stages, this correlation improves week-by-week so that by GW15 we have a number of metrics that correlate very well to a player's actual profile. In other words, by GW15 we have a good idea of a player's profile in terms of their ability to generate shots and create chances. The question though is whether we start to understand that profile earlier than GW15.



The interesting point here is that shots inside the box (SiB) - a metric favoured as a predictor of goals by many, including this site - takes a relatively long time to stabilise. Even after 6 gameweeks, the correlation between players' SiB per 90 minutes at that point with the rate they would ultimately post for the season was just 22%. It would take until GW13 until this rate reached the 50% mark. Conversely, the events I have dubbed "Level 3" were much quicker to stabilise, reaching that same 50% correlation level in just six or seven gameweeks. Indeed, passes in the final third eclipsed the 40% correlation rate in just 4 gameweeks. With this in mind, let's take a look at some of the names making early headlines and involved in the early transfer action, and see if this "Level 3" data offers any useful insights:


The first thing I noted here was that fantasy managers are clearly getting more savvy and you don't see a lot of absolutely terrible transfers in this list. Based on this metric alone Neves is a bit of an overreaction although he of course offers value from long range efforts and from set pieces so it's hard to push back too much on a 5.0m purchase price. Diogo Jota did eclipse his teammate in this one metric but it's too close to argue either way and Jota of course comes with a higher price tag.

I am a big fan of Paul Pogba but this table offers another notch against him. Despite playing very well in gameweek one, he still didn't get into really attacking positions and his fitness remains a concern after a long World Cup campaign. Penalty duties are of course a huge bonus but Sanchez may still take some spot kicks in the future, and even then, United scored one penalty all last season with other talented teams like Liverpool and Spurs only notching two a piece, so I'm not sure penalty duties are quite the treasure trove some seem to think (Milivojevic aside).

It's a similar story for Jorginho (who took an even more impressive penalty than Pogba) though he faces a greater threat of losing these responsibilities when Hazard returns. At 5.0m though, he comes at a significant discount so I can see the temptation. I'm surprised his teammate Kante isn't getting more buzz, although he did enter the season with a high ownership rate. His goal is one thing - coming on his only shot - but the presence of Jorginho offers the intriguing chance for the Frenchman to be released to play further upfield in this potentially exciting Chelsea lineup, as evidenced by the number of passes he received in the final third. Pedro tops this list but with Willian also playing well and Hazard close to full fitness, it's very hard to see a scenario in which the former Barcelona man gets reliable minutes. Perhaps if Hazard can take some time in a Fale 9 role in place of Morata and Giroud?

Eriksen stands out here as an outlier among the players being sold, who otherwise did indeed have generally poor GW1 games. If you liked Eriksen going into GW1 there was nothing here to concern you - but for what it's worth his fixtures and teammates' fitness remain worrisome.

The Liverpool trio of Salah, Firmino and Mane all rank highly here, adding weight to the suggestion that doubling up on Klopp's men might be a good idea. Indeed, Keita and Milner would also place highly on this list but haven't yet garnered much transfer attention as yet. If you do want to double up though, it would be a good idea to act now, as bringing in extra Reds before the GW5-8 run of games against TOT, CHE and MCI would seem ill advised.

They aren't shown in the table as they've seen minimal transfer activity to date, but the Fulham duo of Seri and Crainey both did well by this metric with 19 and 15 passes respectively. With Mitrovic racking up 8 of his own, I think we saw enough from Fulham despite their loss to not abandon them too soon.

City looked to hit the ground running despite a few absences with Aguero (9), Bernardo Silva (11), Mahrez (10) and Sterling (17) all placing well. I am very surprised that Sterling has received so little transfer interest as he's clearly an elite player who's only drawbacks are his fitness after the World Cup - which seems fine - and I suppose rotation risk. Like Pogba above, a rest day could be in his future but this game seems to suggest he is first choice when fit and thus there remains significant value despite the high price tag.

Finally, the hype around the Bournemouth group of King, Wilson and Fraser seems well deserved based on this single game with all players heavily involved. Defoe's presence on the bench is still a slight concern but in the medium term you have to like the value here given Bournemouth's reasonable fixture list.