Fantasy Football · Premier League

Do older players peak early in the Premier League?

The chaps at the excellent Fantasy Premier League (FPL) podcast ‘Always Cheating’ (Twitter: @hailcheaters, podcast here)  proposed a theory on Twitter earlier today that ‘older’ players peak earlier in the season (I hesitate to use the term older seeing I am now way past their cut-off of 28).

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I wouldn’t normally respond to such a request for detailed analysis because I’d be calling open season on my free time, but Josh and Brandon provide such quality entertainment for my morning commute once a week that I thought they deserved to be given something back. Guys, for now at least, we’re even.

 

Methodology

For this analysis I have looked only at players who played the equivalent of 25 or more games in a season (2,250 minutes or higher) because that is probably all we are interested in from an FPL perspective. I then looked at the first half of the season total FPL points scored (up to and including GW19) and the second half of season total (after GW19) to see whether there was a drop off for each player. Finally, after some manual research, I was able to isolate the players who were 28 or over on the 1st August of that season. The data covers the last three seasons (2014/15 to 2016/17).

 

Analysis

The data reveals that there were the following numbers of players in each season at or over the age of 28 who completed at least 2,250 minutes throughout the season:

  • 2014/15: 54
  • 2015/16: 55
  • 2016/17: 62

The following charts plot the percentage increase or decrease of the second half of the season as a proportion of the points scored in the first half. For example, Sergio Aguero scored 76 FPL points in the first 19 gameweeks of the 2016/17 season. Here, we have set this as the baseline (0), and we see that he scored 99 points in the second half of the season, which is an increase of 30.26%. Therefore, his second half of season percentage increase is recorded as +30.26%. The numbers highlighted in the green and red labels denoted respectively the share of players who beat their baseline in the second half of the season and those who decreased against it.

Figure 1: Performance of second half 2014/15 vs. first half baseline, players 28 or over and played at least 2,250 minutes only (n=54)

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Figure 2: Performance of second half 2015/16 vs. first half baseline, players 28 or over and played at least 2,250 minutes only (n=55)

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Figure 3: Performance of second half 2016/17 vs. first half baseline, players 28 or over and played at least 2,250 minutes only (n=62)

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As we can see here, the data shows that key players over the age of 28, far from decreasing in the second half of the season, actually improve with time. In only one season (2015/16) are there more players lowering FPL output in the second half of the season, but at a ratio of 51%:49% the difference is so negligible as to be irrelevant for the purposes of providing a definitive argument. Similarly, of the other two seasons analysed there is little in the way of conclusive evidence that they improve in the second half of the 2014/15 season. Only 2016/17, where the percentage point difference is 16 (58-42) and the sample size is at its largest can we be anything approaching confident in drawing a conclusion.

Using the data we have though, we can be confident in saying that age doesn’t impact performance detrimentally as the season progresses, at least not in the aggregate.

So, Josh and Brandon, I hope this goes some way to answering your question, and I hope others reading can find some use for the information too. For those unaware of the podcast, I’d strongly recommend it for FPL fans, it is top notch.

As always, you can find me on Twitter @artemidorus_1

Hail Cheaters!

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