Not all Fantasy points are created equal. While we obviously want to maximise the total returns gained over the course of the season, on an individual level we also need to account for the cost of those points and the certainty with which they can be projected.
Cost is fairly easy to measure by looking at points divided by millions of pounds spent. Risk, however, is more tricky but will be defined here as an inconsistent player. For example, consider the two players below:
|Gameweek 1||Gameweek 2||Gameweek 3||Gameweek 4||Average|
Both players give you the same total points but Player B’s erratic production is much harder to anticipate and can have a negative impact for a variety of reasons:
Transfer targets become difficult to predict, as you don’t know if Player B is a legitimate Fantasy option or merely someone who had a couple of standout games. It’s much more likely that Player A will be able to maintain his production going forward.
Squad players become trickier to rotate in your first XI, as you’re unable to predict with any certainty just what they might contribute that Gameweek. If you play a player week in, week out, this isn’t an issue, but if you are looking to rotate a player, consistency can be a valuable asset.
Inconsistent players are far more difficult to manage when it comes to the captain’s armband, someone like Player B could explode or flop in any given Gameweek. Captain him every week and this is not a concern but if, like most Fantasy managers, you change your captain on a regular basis, this unpredictability just increases the risk involved.
This data can only be used alongside other factors as it is (a) retrospective rather than predictive and (b) it isn’t necessarily a good idea to rid yourself of all risk in your side as this will also limit potential.
That said, we can attempt to identify comparable players who might bring equally good production potential for less risk, and thus represent a better use of your team’s valuable funds.
Before we start, a note about the charts included in this article. They plot a players average (mean) Gameweek score, against the standard deviation of those scores – eg: the level of rise and fall week by week, as a representation of the “risk” involved with a player. The further a player appears to the right of the X axis (bottom horizontal axis) of the chart, the greater the deviation or risk involved. The further the player appears up the Y axis (left vertical axis) – the greater their average Gameweek score. Ultimately, we’re looking for players with strong Gameweek scores, with as low a risk factor as possible – these players give strong returns but, crucially, are also consistent.
Let’s begin by looking at the forwards…
We can immediately see that in general, higher reward is accompanied by higher risk. This stands to reason – the top players have the ability to score double digit points in any given Gameweek, and thus have further to fall when things don’t go their way. However, there are a couple of match-ups where the ‘risk’ involved could be deciding factor:
Sergio Aguero vs Wayne Rooney – The Manchester rivals have been tough to distinguish this year. Both have averaged around six points per game, though Rooney has edged ahead in the past fortnight in terms of points per week thanks to a couple of big performances.
The popular perception is that Rooney brings a level of consistency matched by few but, in fact, his points total has been boosted by a handful of huge performances, including back-to-back hat tricks in Gameweeks three and four. That in itself isn’t a big problem but the fact that these displays have come against the likes of Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal made it likelier that Rooney wasn’t given the captain’s armband by his owners on those occasions.
Starting with Blackburn at home this weekend, Man City have the slightly more favourable fixtures in the short-term, and with Aguero consistently chipping in with good returns, he might just be the wiser choice right now.
Emmanuel Adebayor and Demba Ba vs. Elite forwards – there is a strong argument based on the above data, to plug both Adebayor and Ba into your lineup, using the funds saved to invest in midfield (where cheaper, consistent talent has been very hard to find). Both mid-price strikers have managed to deliver great consistency to match their high returns, as opposed to other flash-in-the-pans assets whose production has been erratic at best (we’re looking at you, Yakubu). Both Tottenham and Newcastle have a strong set of fixtures on the horizon, so while it isn’t controversial to suggest this pair is worth owning, there’s an argument to suggest that they can be owned instead of Rooney and Aguero, rather than alongside them.
Daniel Sturridge vs Edin Dzeko – Sturridge started the season on the sidelines and a lack of stand-out individual performances have really kept him out of the Fantasy headlines. His ownership has crept up into double digits but that level is still below what one would expect for a player with Sturridge’s risk/reward profile. He has found the net in eight different games, not far behind Rooney, Aguero and Ba (10) but a lack of substantial returns has suppressed his overall points total, and thus the interest of Fantasy managers. It goes without saying that Chelsea, and hence Sturridge, lack the upside of the two Manchester teams but if you’re looking to save some cash up top, or to differentiate from the widely-held Ba, Sturridge brings consistent returns, not often found for a player in his price range.
Steven Fletcher vs All other sub-7.0m forwards– the Wolves front man gained some attention during his solid run of form a few weeks back, but the above chart shows he may still be a touch undervalued. Yakubu and Zamora have both been more fancied Fantasy assets at some point this year but they carry much more risk than Fletcher, who has simply shown up and delivered close to five points per game at an almost unmatched level. Zamora may have a slightly higher upside but, if you’re a position to be rotating your third forward, Fletcher’s consistency makes him a very desirable option.
Steve Morison vs Danny Graham and Grant Holt – Morison has only delivered points on a league average basis, so this isn’t going to be the most exciting decision you make for your team. However, the attributes for a good third forward (who will often find himself benched) must include a level of consistency and Morison enjoys an advantage in that area, ahead of the group of comparable four-point-players. He’s found himself benched in the last two weeks and those concerns must obviously be addressed first, but if you believe he can get back into the Norwich lineup, he remains one of the best budget forwards to own.
You can immediately see the correlation is stronger among midfielders with fewer outliers to highlight. There are however, a couple of familiar names that are worth highlighting:
David Silva vs. Everyone else – Okay, admittedly, highlighting the second-top scoring midfielder around, owned by 44% of FPL managers isn’t going to win any awards for investigative journalism. However, idle wildcards are the devil’s tools and with Gareth Bale and Clint Dempsey continuing to impress, there may be many managers tempted to turn their collective backs on the Spanish maestro.
While looking for the next big thing is obviously a sound idea, the above data merely lends further weight to the fact that Silva is simply too good to drop. Bale has the edge on him in terms of pure point production per game but he has been significantly more unpredictable, raising the question as to whether Bale’s form will continue for the remainder of the season.
Silva, on the other hand, has failed to score or assist a goal in back-to-back starts just twice all season. When spending 10.0 plus, the security of knowing what you’re getting for your money is a huge benefit, especially if that stability is not accompanied by a downgrade in overall production. Assuming most Fantasy managers reading this already own Silva, this may be one area where apathy wins out . Doing nothing might just be the way to go with Silva – that transfer itch might be better scratched elsewhere.
Theo Walcott vs Mid range midfielders – Consistency isn’t the first word you associate with the frustrating Walcott but, in Fantasy terms at least, he has been exactly that this season. The winger chipped in with nine games of between five and nine points compared to fourteen disappointing outings, which doesn’t sound great in a vacuum but actually compares favourably to several more fancied options: Stephane Sessegnon (9 vs 14), Nani (8 vs 14) and Dempsey (8 vs 13). The high scores have been limited, which has really kept Walcott out of Fantasy managers’ minds and thus he represents a good buying opportunity given his high floor and mid-range ceiling. Having been dropped for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain the FA Cup trip to Sunderland last weekend, however, Walcott’s starts will need to be monitored, with a first-team starting place perhaps under question for the first time this season.
Consistency of defensive points is always going to be tied more to a player’s team than his own ability, so the analysis here is less telling, but a couple of names still pop up which deserve a quick mention:
Kyle Walker vs Benoit Assou-Ekotto – With a couple of big performances over the past six weeks, Assou-Ekotto has leapt to the top of the defensive points charts, though the above would suggest that team-mate Walker represents better value. Aside from the fact he is slightly cheaper and owned by less than half as many Fantasy managers, Walker has also delivered slightly better per-game returns on a much more consistent basis. Throw in Walker’s comparable, or marginally better, performance stats (including shots on goal and key passes) and you have a clear cut differential candidate who should remain on the radar.
Vincent Kompany vs Thomas Vermaelen – Vermaelen has rarely been a hot Fantasy property this term, but his positioning in our chart illustrates a worthy point of note. Defensive goalscorers obviously carry significant potential but the unpredictability of those returns can often limit a player’s value. If the goals have come in games where logic suggests the player should have been benched in our Fantasy lineups, they may have been wasted, but would have still boosted a player in the overall scoring charts.
Vermaelen has earned a large portion of his points from offensive production so, unless you are willing to play him every week, he looks way too unpredictable to justify his decent returns when compared with someone like Kompany, whose production has been much flatter, with City’s defensive returns his bread and butter.