Our Gameweek 9 coverage ends with this regular look back at a player, team and discussion point that attracted our interest in the weekend’s matches.
Marko Arnautovic hasn’t rewarded investment in his services over the past two Gameweeks in registering one-point returns against Brighton and Spurs, but with West Ham’s fixtures set to take a turn for the better, there is plenty of encouragement for those sitting on – or considering buying – the talismanic Austrian.
After seven Gameweeks without a clean sheet, Brighton and Hove Albion have registered shut-outs in their last two Premier League matches – but there are few signs of improvement in their underlying defensive statistics despite this.
We also explore perhaps one of the more underappreciated key performance indicators for midfielders and forwards: goal conversion rate.
The Player – Marko Arnautovic
West Ham United and Marko Arnautovic (£7.0m) haven’t found the back of the net in their last two league fixtures but there is little wrong with the Austrian’s underlying attacking statistics.
No FPL forward has had as many penalty box touches, attempts on goal and shots on target than Arnautovic over the last two Gameweeks, with only Joshua King (£6.4m) having had more efforts from inside the opposition box among players in his position.
Hugo Lloris (£5.4m) kept Arnautovic at bay on four occasions at the London Stadium on Saturday, with another of the Austrian’s efforts creeping just wide of the French goalkeeper’s post.
Over the course of the season, Arnautovic ranks second among FPL forwards for penalty box touches and fourth for attempts on goal and shots on target – this despite missing the Gameweek 6 draw against Chelsea, being substituted around the hour mark in three of his eight appearances and managing an underlying knee problem that sometimes prevents him training.
In those three starts that he has made since that stalemate against the Blues, only two strikers have created more chances than Arnautovic.
One slight concern is the injury to Andriy Yarmolenko (£6.8m), who is set to be sidelined for almost the whole of 2018/19 with an Achilles tear.
Arnautovic had started to develop a good understanding with the Ukrainian midfielder and Felipe Anderson (£6.8m), who flanked the Austrian forward either in a 4-3-3 or the 4-2-3-1 that Manuel Pellegrini rolled out on Saturday.
The good news is that Yarmolenko’s inclusion in the starting XI has actually had minimal effect on Arnautovic’s output, with the former Stoke City player’s minutes-per-chance average and rate of big chances actually deteriorating (only slightly) since Yarmolenko started in the Premier League for the first time in Gameweek 5.
The minor worry would perhaps be over who replaces Yarmolenko in his absence.
Grady Diangana (£4.5m) was brought on as a like-for-like replacement for the injured Ukrainian on Saturday, but with Anderson putting in a particularly poor display, Pellegrini subsequently turned to the services of Javier Hernandez (£6.2m) for the first time since Gameweek 4.
The medium-term concern for Arnautovic’s owners was that when Hernandez was fit and firing, the Mexican striker might take Arnautovic’s place as the spearhead of the Hammers’ attack, with the Austrian forward perhaps moved to a slightly more withdrawn supporting role.
The positive news on Saturday was that Arnautovic had more shots on goal (three) in the 33 minutes that “Chicarito” was on the field than in the 57 minutes (two) preceding Hernandez’s introduction.
Pellegrini could, of course, just as easily turn to Diangana, Michail Antonio (£6.8m) or Robert Snodgrass (£5.3m) to take Yarmolenko’s place and retain Arnautovic as the focal point of the Hammers’ attack. There would certainly seem little sense in unsettling West Ham’s biggest goal threat in order to accommodate another asset in attack.
Even if Hernandez was to be given a start, it could be alongside Arnautovic in a 4-3-1-2/4-4-2 rather than as the new central striker.
Whatever happens, there will be plenty of interest in Arnautovic’s services despite his successive blanks: West Ham sit top of our Season Ticker between now and Gameweek 21, with Manchester City the only “big six” club that the Hammers have to face between now and early 2019.
The Team – Brighton and Hove Albion
After recording back-to-back clean sheets, there is plenty of interest in Brighton’s defensive assets for their forthcoming run of fixtures – a sequence of matches that see the Seagulls avoid any of the “big six” until Gameweek 17.
Look a little closer, though, and the south coast side are far from watertight at the back.
29.3% of the shots that Newcastle United have registered this season came in Brighton’s 1-0 win on Tyneside, with no club in Gameweek 9 conceding more goal attempts (27) than Chris Hughton’s troops.
Just two sides allowed more shots in the box, with only Burnley (who were away at Manchester City) allowing more attempts on target.
Brighton’s excellent run of fixtures began just before the international break with a home match against West Ham United, but in the last two Gameweeks, the Seagulls have allowed more shots on goal than any other Premier League club.
While only three of those opportunities were deemed “big chances”, Brighton have the sixth-worst expected goals conceded (xGC) total for Gameweeks 8 and 9 despite the favourable nature of their fixtures.
The Seagulls’ xGC is actually worse than that of Fulham and Newcastle, who have conceded nine and four goals respectively over the last two Gameweeks.
Matthew Ryan (£4.5m), Shane Duffy (£4.5m) and Lewis Dunk (£4.4m) have, of course, benefitted from both the successive shut-outs and the saves and blocks they have had to make en route to those clean sheets.
No goalkeeper has made more saves than Ryan over the last two league matches, while Dunk and Duffy top the CBIs (clearances, blocks and interceptions) table for defenders during this period.
While this is excellent news for their appeal on the Bonus Points System, it does betray the fact that the Brighton backline have allowed a lot of shots on goal in two fixtures against teams in the bottom seven of the Premier League table.
Up next for Brighton are two matches that are not quite as appealing as they seemed in August: Wolves at home and Everton away, with both clubs currently sitting in the top half of the table.
Duffy is attracting particular interest given that he has been involved in four of Brighton’s goals this season, but the Irish defender’s underlying attacking statistics are far from inspiring: 35 FPL defenders have recorded more attempts on goal than Duffy, who has mustered only one shot in five matches against non-“big six” opposition.
While we wouldn’t deter any Fantasy manager from investing in the Brighton backline (particularly given their fixture run from Gameweeks 12-16), the statistics detailed above should at least provide some context as to the Seagulls’ shut-outs in Gameweeks 8 and 9 and act as a caveat to those expecting more clean sheets in the coming weeks.
The Talking Point – Goal Conversion Rate
As Fantasy writers and managers, we at FFS tend to place a lot of emphasis on underlying statistics. Some FPL bosses will, indeed, think that we perhaps focus too much on KPIs such as penalty box touches and attempts on goal.
This has particularly come to the fore this season regarding Arsenal’s attacking assets.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (£10.8m) has scored six goals from as many shots on target in the last half-dozen Gameweeks, repeatedly defying those of us who say his goal-scoring form isn’t sustainable.
Mesut Ozil (£8.4m) has scored three goals from as many shots in his last four league starts, while in the three weeks leading up to Gameweek 9, Alexandre Lacazette (£9.7m) had scored with every one of his three shots on target.
Is goal conversion rate something we should pay more attention to, then?
It is certainly relevant – the “big six” all sit in the top ten for goal conversion among Premier League sides, underscoring the obvious point that better quality players convert a higher proportion of their chances, no matter how many or few.
One only has to look at poor Christian Benteke‘s (£6.3m) KPIs last season – ranked fifth and above the likes of Lacazette, Aubameyang, Jamie Vardy (£9.0m) and Roberto Firmino (£9.3m) for big chances among FPL forwards, the Crystal Palace forward found the back of the net on just three occasions and had the worst goal conversion rate of any first-team striker in 2017/18.
Which brings us back to Aubameyang. Of the FPL forwards who played more than 300 minutes in the Premier League last season, the Gabonese striker had the best goal conversion rate in the division.
Aubameyang’s goal conversion rate in this campaign is remarkably similar to what it was in 2017/18, only behind Glenn Murray (£6.6m) among FPL forwards this season.
Murray’s goal conversion rate was commendable in 2017/18 too and a reminder to us Fantasy managers that a striker needn’t be racking up the shots to break the ten-goal barrier in FPL.
Vardy’s goal conversion rate has been above the magic 20% mark in each of the last three seasons and the Leicester striker scored 20 goals in 2017/18 despite having an average minutes-per-chance rate inferior to that of Benteke, Joselu (£5.0m) and Steve Mounie (£5.8m).
While attacking KPIs such as shots in the box and big chances still play significant roles in our decisions as Fantasy managers, the goal conversion rate is, perhaps, one statistic that we ought to pay more scrutiny to going forward.
Members can view goal conversion rates on the Goal Threat tabs under Players Stats.
Become a Member and access our data
Memberships for the 2018/19 campaign are now available for the price of just £15.
Join now to get the following:
- Plot your transfer strategies using the fully interactive Season Ticker.
- Get projections for every Premier League player provided by the Rate My Team statistical model.
- Use Rate My Team throughout the season to guide your selections and transfers.
- Get access to over 130+ exclusive members articles over the season.
- Analyse our OPTA-powered statistic tables specifically tailored for Fantasy Football Managers.
- Use our exclusive tool to build custom stats tables from over 100 OPTA player and team stats.
- View heatmaps and expected goals data for every player.
- Use our powerful comparison tool to analyse players head-to-head.