Fantasy Football

Fantasy Premier League 2016/17 Summary: Transfers Analysis

Introduction

Throughout this season I have frequently heard Fantasy Premier League (FPL) managers on Twitter and in forums referring to transfers they have made as successes or failures depending on the net points gained, particularly when referring to when a 4 point penalty was incurred by making an extra transfer to supplement the free one managers receive each week. For example, if Player A scores 10 points but cost the manager 4 points to make the transfer, then the net gain of that transfer is seen to be 6 points.

I find this logic frustrating at times because it takes a narrow view of the transfer in the following ways:

  1. If a 4 point hit is incurred it is because an extra transfer has been made, so the cost of the 4 points is actually spread over two transfers, namely the free one and the extra one.
  2. The idea that a 4 point hit needs to be absorbed straight away is incorrect. An individual transfer might have cost 2 points, but that player maybe in the team for 10 gameweeks, meaning the 2 points hit will be made up throughout the duration of the transfer and not immediately.
  3. What is not always taken into consideration is the opportunity cost of making the transfer; e.g. what would have happened to your points total had the transfer not been made at all?

It is the third point that I am looking at in this post, albeit with the narrow focus on my team only (I accept that this is a purely selfish pursuit with little value to anyone other than me, but I’ve done the work so I may as well post it now!) I have looked at the net gain of the 46 standalone transfers and two Wildcards taking into consideration the true point hits where applicable, and comparing the points yield of the incoming and outgoing player over the life of the transfer. The objective is not to discuss game strategy, although this will be touched upon with albeit with some pretty heavy caveats, but rather, for the pure fun/masochism (delete as appropriate) of it, to pinpoint which decisions I made where good, and which were, shall we say, not so good.

Methodology

To clarify, the life of the transfer is the length of time the incoming player spent in my team. As an example, one of the 46 transfers I made was in GW14 when I transferred out Manchester City’s John Stones and bought in Southampton’s Cedric Soares. The life of that transfer was 11 GWs because I later sold Cedric in GW25. So to understand the effectiveness of the transfer I need to know:

  • How many points would Stones have scored for me during those 11 GWs had I not transferred him out (15)
  • How many points did Cedric score for me during those 11 GWs he was in my team (20)
  • Did I incur a penalty for making the transfer? (yes, it was one of two I made so there was a 2 points hit attributed to this transfer, with the other 2 points attributed to the other GW14 transfer of Kane to Lukaku)

Therefore, the yield of the transfer over its life was 20 – 15 – 2 = 3 points net gain. Over the 11 GWs, this amounted to an extra 0.273 points per GW. The yield of this transfer over its life was positive then, although just barely. But whilst it was far from the most successful I made, it was far from the worst.

To clarify, this analysis looks purely at whether I had a stronger squad as a result of the transfers; it does not account for whether I selected that player every week, nor does it consider captaincy choices.

Of course, not all transfers are the same, and they are all conducted for different reasons. To understand how I’ve played the game this season, I first need to categorise the transfers into groups. This is not an exact science as there are often multiple reasons for a transfer, but for the sake of this analysis I have attempted to define each transfer by its primary goal.

Types of transfer
  • Double Gameweeks (5): towards the end of the season, a lot of transfers are made with a DGW in mind, but these transfers were pure DGW transfers where a healthy player was transferred out to accommodate a player solely to take advantage of the DGW.
  • Enabler (6): transfers where a player was bought in solely to free up funds for another transfer.
  • Form and/or Fixtures (28): the most common type of transfer, where a player is transferred out for another purely because it was predicted that the incoming player will outscore the outgoing player.
  • Injury (4): transfers that have been forced because the outgoing player was injured.
  • Suspension (3): transfers that have been forced because the outgoing player picked up a suspension.
  • Wildcard 1 (7): transfers made during the first wildcard (GW6). These have been aggregated together because each transfer forms part of a greater plan that can fundamentally alter the team structure, so there is no one-to-one replacement as with normal transfers.
  • Wildcard 2 (12): transfers made during the second wildcard (GW30). See Wildcard 1 (above).

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Transfer Type Analysis

The chart below shows the average yield of additional points per week, per transfer and by transfer type.

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Mostly they adhere to our logical assumptions of what would have happened:

  • Transfers made to cover injuries and suspensions result in an increase in points because the outgoing transfer would have scored zero
  • Wildcards result in a boost in productivity because they offer more flexibility than normal transfers.
  • The points cost of Enabler transfers, where a cheaper player is drafted in to fund an upgrade somewhere else, was somewhat inevitable unfortunately.

There are two key points here that are of interest. The first is that Form and/or Fixtures transfers yielded an extra 1.2 points per week, per transfer, which shows that my decision making is not wildly out most of the time; 68% of my Form and/or Fixtures transfers were positive, as the following chart shows.

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Note: wildcards are not included in this chart because there is no one-to-one transfer within unlimited transfers as team structure is revised in many cases, therefore creating unfair comparisons.

The second is that of the five transfers I made to accommodate the double gameweeks (DGWs) later in the season, four resulted in a negative yield, which combined amounted to a loss of 1.7 points per week, per transfer, as detailed below.

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There is an extra dimension to consider with these stats though before we decry the folly of chasing the DGW pots of gold. The Lukaku > Aguero (GW27) transfer was conducted and over the life of the transfer Lukaku outscored Aguero at the rate of 7.0 points per week. However, Everton’s double gameweek and the suspension for Ibrahimovic meant that Lukaku was bought back into my team for GW28. So based purely on the numbers the GW27 transfer was a disaster, but actually its impact was not felt as keenly as it could have been; whilst that transfer cost 7.0 points per week, the Lukaku > Ibrahimovic (GW28, classified as a ‘Suspension’ transfer type in this analysis) yield 9.3 points per week.

Nonetheless, the double gameweeks can be said to have been relatively underwhelming for me. Sanchez > Mane (GW26) was a success, but selling Llorente and Alli for Negrado and Coutinho purely for their DGW potential cost me points. Additionally, it’s worth noting how much more successful the first Wildcard was relative to the second one where DGW planning was foremost in my thoughts.

However, again this data is arguably misleading. It should be noted that I played my second wildcard earlier than most, in GW30; had I played it closer to the DGW with fewer SGWs in the run-up, the second WC transfer type would have been potentially more successful than it was because some of the players I bought in (Valencia, Fabio, to name a couple) picked up injuries after I’d made the transfers. Playing the second wildcard closer to the DGW would have meant fewer injuries / suspensions as it accommodated fewer games in the run-in.

Therefore, on the surface the DGWs appear to have had a negative impact (or at least not a very positive one) on my season, but in reality this claim appears to have been exaggerated by the nature of the analysis; there is inevitable skewing of the data when we place a single objective against each transfer rather than the multitude of factors that go into each one.

The worst (and the best) transfer of the season

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Let’s be honest, this is what you came to see, isn’t it? Who don’t enjoy a spot of schadenfreude every now and then? But before I talk about my two worst transfers, I’m going to look at some of the better transfers. Note that I’m not going to talk about the Aguero-Lukaku-Ibrahimovic transfers at the extreme ends of the spectrum as I have already explored these are potentially misleading and not reflective of bad or good judgement.

Valencia > Kompany (GW37)

The question of best or worst transfer needs to be viewed within the context of the season and circumstances. The best transfer in terms of gains, with a yield of 10.0 points per week, was Antonio Valencia to Vincent Kompany. However, this transfer only had a life of two GWs, and considering Valencia had weeks before been dropped for the Manchester United Premier League games in preparation for the Europa League run-in, this is not a transfer I am especially proud of; indeed, an acceptable question is why was Valencia still in my team in GW36?

Summary: a forced move that turned out well

 

Jakupovic > Grant (GW9)

It could be argued that my best transfer was Jakupovic to Grant in GW9 because it yielded an extra 2.5 points per GW for a prolonged period of time. This could be viewed as sound judgement on my part, until you consider the fact that Jakupovic was dropped in GW6 and didn’t recover his place before, or for a long time after my transfer was made. It is not a great display of judgement to sell a player who is not playing.

Summary: too obvious a move to be considered brilliant, but very effective none the less

 

Mane > Sanchez (GW29)

Arguably the best transfer of the season was Mane to Sanchez in GW29. Coming off the back of a 13 point haul in GW27, I transferred Mane out regardless to take advantage of Sanchez’s fixtures. There was an element of luck involved here (perversely) as an injury to Mane in GW30 meant that by keeping Sanchez until the end of the season, despite a barren run, meant that the yield per week for over the life of this transfer was at 7.0 points.

Was this a good transfer? Whilst the numbers suggest so, the run of goalless games in the middle arguably meant that the funds wrapped up in Sanchez could have been distributed elsewhere. An extra transfer in hindsight might have yielded a better performance, and had Mane not been injured we may have been looking at this transfer in terms of a negative yield

Summary: I got lucky

 

Baines > Alonso (GW10)

I would argue my best transfer was Baines to Alonso in GW10, although I was surprised to note that over the 20 GW life of this transfer it only yielded an extra 1.3 points per week considering Alonso is widely hailed as one of the FPL players of the season. Surprisingly, Baines scored 10 hauls of 6+ points (include 2 double-digits) during that time, which is an impressive performance. This highlights the strength of Alonso during the season, in that he can still outscore a high-performing defender by 1.3 points per week. What makes this transfer a good one for me is the length of time I held it for, and this can be attributed to the fact I moved early to make it happen when Alonso was priced at 5.9. Until that point he had received clean sheet points and just a single assist, but following his goal against Everton in GW11, when it became apparent he was going to be a regular fixture in the Chelsea team, his value started to rocket.

Summary: Best transfer of the season

Sanchez > Hazard (GW12)

A terrible transfer, although I would say this is just the second-worst of the season. This was a case of badly misreading the tea-leaves and chasing form. As a Sanchez owner I watched in horror as from GW8-11 Hazard racked up hauls of 8,8,14 and 19 points, and in a panic I made the transfer despite Sanchez scoring 13 in GW10. It was a portent of the damage he would inflict in the coming weeks with 14, 23, 5 and 7 points from GW13-16, coincidentally scoring 49 points in 4 GWs whilst out of my team to mirror Hazard’s 49 points from GW8-11, also out of my team. The form lurched from one premium midfielder to the other, whilst my transfer took the opposite direction.

Summary: A classic example of chasing points, although I can’t say I wouldn’t do the same again

 

Kane > Ibrahimovic (GW19)

Whereas the Sanchez to Hazard transfer was characterised by frustration and born out of panic, the selling of Harry Kane in GW19 following two (captain) blanks at home to Hull and Burnley and a penalty miss against Southampton was born out of pure rage. This was immediately followed a 16 point haul against Watford in GW19, then a 17 pointer in GW21, 20 in GW26, 13 in GW27. All the while Ibrahimovic ticked over passively in my team, scoring goals and assists but with nothing like the ferocity (or bonus points) that Kane was firing in. What makes the transfer even worse was that for the five weeks I had Kane (GW14-18) he scored 0.8 points per week fewer than Romelu Lukaku who he replaced.

I made this transfer in game, moments after Kane was substituted after bringing in 4 points against Southampton. Whilst it did not yield as big a hit per week as the Sanchez to Hazard transfer in GW12, it surpasses it in terms of sheer stupidity, impulsiveness and ignorance. It is the only transfer I have made in-game in my FPL career, and it was the worst one I made this season.

Summary: A rage transfer that wasn’t thought through properly; I deserve everything I got. The worst transfer of the season.

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