This is the first of what I hope will become a regular series of articles which use a methodology I have developed to identify the players with the most potential for points in the Fantasy Premier League (FPL) game. For those new to this methodology, here is a brief overview of the research I have been doing and how I have come to develop this ranking system:
- I correlated FPL points from 2014 to 2016 with key underlying metrics for each position, which through a simple linear regression analysis gave me equations which explain what should be happening each game from an FPL perspective. The key word here being ‘should’; over the course of the season actions will generally revert, but on an individual game level there is no telling what will actually happen. This method is a way of ranking players by their probability of performing through assessment of their on-pitch actions, or what I’m calling form, over the last four games.
- I then rank each club based on the forthcoming six fixtures. This is done by understanding the propensity of the opponents to concede big chances and the propensity of the midfielder or forward’s team to create big chances. For goalkeepers and defenders, the reverse is taken into account.
- For the goalkeepers and defenders, clean sheets play a significant role in assessing their form, which is a team action covered by the fixtures ranking. Therefore, in order to get a true view of a player’s form regardless of their team’s activity, I neutralise the clean sheets metric by giving all players a value of zero for this metric.
- The overall rank over the player is discovered by simply calculating the average between the form (individual) rank and the fixture (team) rank.
Here’s an example to illustrate my methodology. Let’s take Christian Eriksen of Tottenham.
- From gameweeks 4 to 7 his form suggested he should be scoring 0.0439 points for every minute he was on the pitch (not including appearances), which earns him a form rank of 9th. Whether he scored this amount is not of interest, what is important is that he should have done based on the equation for midfielders.
- Tottenham in that time created 7 ‘big chances’ according to Opta, or 1.75 per game. In that same period, Tottenham’s next six opponents from gameweek 8 onwards conceded an average of 1.875 big chances per game. Therefore, we calculate Tottenham’s attacking potential over the next six as 1.813, or the average of them both, which earns him a fixture rank of 7th.
- Taking the average of the form rank (9th) and fixture rank (7th) gives him an overall rank score of 8. Only 7 midfielders earned a better rank score than this, so his overall rank amongst midfielders is 8th.
Please note that only players who have played more than the equivalent of more than one full game in the last four qualify for the rankings.
It should also be noted for anyone looking to use this analysis as the gospel that some players will over-perform against the model and others will under-perform. The research is designed to increase probability, not provide a definitive answer.
Top 10 Goalkeeper Rankings: Gameweek 8 Onwards
Note: 11 names are shown due to a tie for 10th place
What is notable about the goalkeepers highlighted is that the strong individual performers have bad fixtures coming up, and those with good fixtures are not strong on individual performances within the context of FPL. We are left with a true form vs. fixtures dilemma; is it better to back the Manchester United defence to keep a clean sheet which will be the majority of David De Gea’s points, or back the form of Jordon Pickford to collect save points and hope for a clean sheet that is unlikely to arrive?
Top 20 Defender Rankings: Gameweek 8 Onwards
Note: 21 names are shown due to a tie for 20th place
Watford’s set-piece taking wing-back Jose Holebas is the name at the top of the rankings as his individual form is strong and his club have good potential for clean sheets in the next six games. Chelsea’s switch to a 3-4-3 against Hull has propelled Marcos Alonso into the wing-back position for his club and up to second in the rankings; whilst Chelsea’s potential for clean sheets are average, he is the top performing defender based on the individual metrics when he has been on the pitch.
Top 20 Midfielder Rankings: Gameweek 8 Onwards
Note: 22 names are shown due to a tie for 20th place
Liverpool’s extremely favourable fixtures and excellent individual performances mean that a remarkable six of their players make it into the top 20 midfielders list, with Roberto Firmino at the summit. Tottenham similarly have three players in the top 8. A surprising name to be found near the top of the rankings is West Brom’s James McClean, but he has registered a shot on target every 49 minutes in the last four games, a rate bettered only by Firmino and Kevin De Bruyne at the summit of the list. Another unexpected name to appear is Wahbi Khazri after being frozen out under David Moyes at Sunderland, but strong underlying stats in his first start against West Brom and post-match words of praise from his manager may mean that he comes back into the FPL reckoning soon.
Top 15 Forward Rankings: Gameweek 8 Onwards
Note: the source of this data lists Watford’s Issac Success as a forward, whereas in the FPL game he is a midfielder. I will update the tables in due course.
The list of top strikers is littered with players who are not sound investments due to their insecurity of minutes. If we ignore these players (plus the injured Harry Kane), then Success’ Watford teammates Troy Deeney and Odion Ighalo occupy the 3rd and 4th positions on the list by virtue of their fixture list, making them appealing FPL assets in the coming weeks. A notable name missing from the top of the rankings is Marcus Rashford despite appearing to have nailed down a starting berth at Manchester United.
The hot topic as I write this is whether to ditch Ibrahimovic from the squad. Removing the unsecure players from the list, the Swede sits at 5th in the rankings, weighed down by his fixtures against solid teams. The data suggests that it would be a hasty move to get rid of him, but from a personal perspective three things count against him:
- The mass hysteria around his continuous blanks at home to Leicester (GW6) and Stoke (GW7) mean that he is going to drop in price, probably by £0.2m or £0.3m to well below his original £11.5m value. His premium tag means he has a long way to fall, so time is not on a FPL manager’s side
- The aforementioned fixtures, including Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal in the next six, not to mention a surprisingly-resilient-against-the-big-teams Burnley, mean that his opportunities are likely to be more limited in the coming weeks. There are forwards with better fixtures coming up.
- The £11.5m most managers have invested in him can be useful elsewhere in the squad, and the falling price means that bringing him back in if it looks like he’s hitting form will be a lot easier if his price dips to £11.0m than when it was up at £11.9m.
In my opinion, despite his underlying stats, now is a good time to sell Ibrahimovic.
If you have any questions, I can be found on Twitter @artemidorus_1.