Community

Player Value and the Most Efficient Use of the FPL Budget

The approach

I decided to look at player value and try to do some analysis on using the £100m in the most efficient way possible.

Now when we look at value, the players with the best points per million are almost always the budget picks, however a team full of the best value players won’t cost very much and won’t net you many points.

The approach I decided to take was to start with a base team of 11 of the highest scoring 4.0m goalkeepers, 4.0m defenders, 4.5m midfields and 4.5m forwards. I then looked for the best upgrade to that team that offered the best value (points per million). I continued with this approach until the team value was at £100m (presuming the cheapest possible bench) or until there were no more upgrades available without breaching that budget.

This, in theory, should give you the best value 11 players while using the whole budget available.

I created a simple script to run this process and automated it for all possible formations using the starting price for the players and their final points tally for the season.

Limitations of the approach

This approach effectively gives you the best ‘ghost ship’ team not accounting for autosubs.

It presumes the best way to play is to maximize your first 11 with as little spent as possible on the bench, which may or may not be true.

Captaincy is not factored into the approach, although the highest scoring player of the season does tend to make their way into the most efficient use of funds as we will see.

It also doesn’t cater for players who don’t play consistently throughout the season (through injury, rotation or simply being a January signing).

My aim with the approach was not to help identify the specific players to select, but to identify any themes in efficient use of funds giving a higher chance of selecting the right types and combinations of players during the season.

The results 2018-19

I initially ran the formula on data from the 2018/19 season with no team restrictions and the formation that came out highest was 4-5-1 with a total points tally of 2283 excluding captain:

GK: Alisson | 5.5m | 176
DEF: Andrew Robertson | 6m | 213
DEF: Virgil van Dijk | 6m | 208
DEF: Aymeric Laporte | 5.5m | 177
DEF: Trent Alexander-Arnold | 5m | 185
MID: Mohamed Salah | 13m | 259
MID: Sadio Mane | 9.5m | 231
MID: Raheem Sterling | 11m | 234
MID: Eden Hazard | 10.5m | 238
MID: Ryan Fraser | 5.5m | 181
FWD: Raul Jimenez | 5.5m | 181

Not far behind was 3-5-2 with 2274 with Wilson up front instead of Laporte in defence.

Obviously, those results are only of limited use due to the volume of Liverpool players. It does, however, highlight the dominance of Liverpool players in FPL value-for-money last season.

Running the process again but limiting it to three players from Liverpool turned out 3-5-2 with the best score of 2196:

GK: Ederson | 5.5m | 169
DEF: Andrew Robertson | 6m | 213
DEF Aymeric Laporte | 5.5m | 177
DEF: Trent Alexander-Arnold | 5m | 185
MID: Sadio Mane | 9.5m | 231
MID: Raheem Sterling | 11m | 234
MID: Eden Hazard | 10.5m | 238
MID: Ryan Fraser | 5.5m | 181
MID: Gylfi Sigurdsson | 7.5m | 182
FWD: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang | 11m | 205
FWD: Raul Jiminez | 5.5m | 181

Although Robertson, Alexander-Arnold and Mane came out as the optimal Liverpool players, there was very little in it. Swapping in Salah for Mane, having both Mane and Salah and dropping a defender, or even going for three at the back. All came within a few 10 points of each other.

Looking back to 2016-18

Rerunning the same process for 2017-18 gives a best result of 2136 for a 3-5-2 formation of:

GK: David De Gea | 5.5m | 172
DEF: Nicolas Otamendi | 5.5m | 156
DEF: Cesar Azpilicueta | 6.5m | 175
DEF: Marcos Alonso | 7m | 165
MID: Raheem Sterling | 8m | 229
MID: Mohamed Salah | 9m | 303
MID: Pascal Groß | 5.5m | 164
MID: Christian Eriksen | 9.5m | 199
MID: Kevin De Bruyne | 10m | 209
FWD: Roberto Firmino | 8.5m | 181
FWD: Jamie Vardy | 8.5m | 183

Going back further to the 2016-17 season gives us 4-5-1 with a score of 2095:

GK: Tom Heaton | 5m | 149
DEF: Marcos Alonso | 7m | 177
DEF: Cesar Azpilicueta | 6.5m | 170
DEF: Charlie Daniels | 5m | 134
DEF: Gary Cahill | 6.5m | 178
MID: Josh King | 6m | 178
MID: Alexis Sanchez | 11.5m | 264
MID: Christina Eriksen | 9m | 218
MID: Deli Alli | 9m | 225
MID: Gylfi Sigurdsson | 7.5m | 181
FWD: Romelu Lukaku | 10m | 221

Themes

The actual players that come out each year are perhaps not very surprising in retrospect – they are the players that did well that season. There are, however, some themes that emerge that are quite interesting to note.

Premium at the back

Every single result comes out with a premium defence. Only once do we see a defender at 5m and once a goalkeeper at 5m, all other iterations have 5.5m+ defenders as the most efficient use of funds.

Even with his monster haul of 157 for 4.5m in 2017/18, it was still worth upgrading Fabianski to De Gea for that season. That extra 1m wouldn’t have got you a better points boost spending it anywhere else on the field.

Similarly, Doherty and his 144 for 4.5m last season were not enough to get him near the best use of funds.

Overall, 0.5m spent upgrading at the back almost always nets you more points than spending it in midfield or attack. In the last three seasons, the best approach would have been to get the highest scoring defenders, no matter the cost.

Five at the back

Despite the value being in upgrading the defence, there are generally not enough high scoring premium defenders to make five at the back worthwhile. Last year 5-4-1 came close to competitive as a formation, but only if you were allowed four Liverpool defenders plus Salah and Mane (which of course, you weren’t).

Theoretically, if we had three teams with lots of clean sheets, all with attacking defenders that were fairly rotation-proof, it might work, but the last three seasons that hasn’t happened.

Formations

Formations tend to perform fairly consistently season-to-season, certainly for the last three anyway. To analyse the overall performance of each formation, I averaged the points difference for each formation when compared to the optimal formation each season:

3-5-2: 5 points
4-5-1: 14 points
4-4-2: 19 points
3-4-3: 31 points
5-4-1: 44 points
4-3-3: 51 points
5-3-2: 57 points
5-2-3: 105 points

So 3-5-2, being on average within 5 points of the optimum formation over the last three seasons, is the fairly clear winner here. Surprising for me is how close behind 4-5-1 and 4-4-2 are, and that they are ahead of the usually popular 3-4-3.

If we rank the formations in order of score for each season (1-8), and look at the standard deviation (distance to the average) for each, none is higher than 1.5, showing that there is very little fluctuation in which formation performs best: some formation are just always better than others.

3-4-3 actually has the highest variance of results, fluctuating between second best through to fifth best, showing that while it can sometime perform well, it hasn’t done so consistently.

Use 5-2-3 if you want to lose your mini-league, it ranks 8th out of 8 for each of the last three seasons.

Price bands

For those who base their team selection around price points, there does not seem to be an optimum setup that works every year. There are, however, some themes that run throughout all three analysed seasons.

More than three heavy hitters is a sub-optimum setup. There isn’t an instance of four heavy hitters working out for the best.

A price of 11m and above usually requires a score of ~220 points to justify the spend. In the past three seasons only Aubameyang squeezed into contention with 205 in the premium bracket, and that was only because too many Liverpool players did well so that you couldn’t have Salah and Mane with two defenders.

There is almost always at least one 5.5 – 6.5m candidate that comes good – getting that one right seems to be key to using your budget wisely. No matter what formation you roll in any season, the cheap overperforming attacker appears in every formation that season (Jimenez and Fraser last season, Gross in 2017-18 and Josh King in 2016-17).

Forwards are struggling

Forwards just don’t get much over 200 points, with 1 less point for a goal and no clean sheet points. It was a theme that came out last season, but the data backs it up. Mid-priced or cheap forwards are almost always the most efficient way to go.

Unless we can get a forward on fire this year, or the midfielders flop, its unlikely any will justify an 11m+ price tag.

Conclusion

The fact that the data bears out people’s recent experiences encourages me that there are some useful lessons to be learned from this way of analysing team setup.

Every season is different but there does seem to be some common ground, at least in recent seasons, that can inform decision our making.

My plan, pre-price releases, is to go for 3-5-2 with premium options across the entire back four and mid-to-cheap up front.

122 Comments Post a Comment
  1. Lord Tachanka
    • 3 Years
    1 year, 27 days ago

    Premium Forwards can win you a gameweek, Premium Mids will win you the season.

    My selection is based on the philosophy: Mids score highest in the game, grab them first. Next, defenders offer best value, load up there second. Then buy forwards with whatever budget you have left.

    1. Creedey
      • 5 Years
      1 year, 26 days ago

      I like the way you're thinking here

  2. ydnakurz
    • Fantasy Football Scout Member
    • 1 Year
    1 year, 27 days ago

    What a great article! Was going 3-5-2 into this season and I feel even more comfortable doing that now 🙂

    1. Hedge
      • Fantasy Football Scout Member
      • 9 Years
      1 year, 25 days ago

      Thanks for the feedback

  3. Someday, Nugget!
    • Fantasy Football Scout Member
    • 10 Years
    1 year, 26 days ago

    Yes, I agree. This is a very well written, thought-provoking article. Well done, Hedge.

    1. Hedge
      • Fantasy Football Scout Member
      • 9 Years
      1 year, 25 days ago

      Cheers

  4. Aurora Borealis?
    • 9 Years
    1 year, 26 days ago

    Excellent article. I took the advise on board and this is the team I ended up with

    Ederson
    TAA/VVD/Digne
    Salah/Sterling/Sig/Perez/Brooks
    King/Murray

    Subs: Button/Kelly/Simpson/Greenwood

    1. Hedge
      • Fantasy Football Scout Member
      • 9 Years
      1 year, 25 days ago

      Thanks, looks good to me, though not 100% on Murray

  5. jester112358
    • 5 Years
    1 year, 26 days ago

    Why would you do this kind of study with last year's prices instead of the current ones?

    1. jester112358
      • 5 Years
      1 year, 26 days ago

      I would also like to highlight that points / price isn't the best approach when we talk about value. Defenders tend to be more robust and play more minutes per season than other positions. I personally think that better approach is to use PPG/Value. For example in this kind of study you might easily miss gems like Tielemans who only played 12 games but had rather high ppg of 4.8 for his current price of 6.5.

      1. Hedge
        • Fantasy Football Scout Member
        • 9 Years
        1 year, 25 days ago

        I used last year's prices because I wrote the article before launch.

        Interesting idea on using PPG. You'd have to filter out players who have a high PPG but no prospect of playing week in week out.

        Might explore more for a follow up article

        1. Sgt Frank Drebin
          • 3 Years
          1 year, 8 days ago

          Very interesting and useful article, thank you for it!

          I've been running optimization based on PPG or 6 games projections from the members area from time to time and most of the teams it returns a team with 5 premium defenders. I think I have to figure out I'm doing wrong it seems...

          The team I got for this season based on lasts season PPG was:

          TAA - Robertson - Van Dijk - Laporte - Alonso
          Sterling - Pogba - Tielemans
          Wilson - Vardy

          1. Sgt Frank Drebin
            • 3 Years
            1 year, 8 days ago

            I am very sorry, I did a terrible thing - did not read your methodology. Certainly this approach about the value is far more interesting and correct, hence the results are different from taking just total points or points per game. Thanks again for this article, it'll make me reconsider my starting formation again!

  6. Creedey
    • 5 Years
    1 year, 26 days ago

    This is absolutely fantastic. Great read!

    1. Hedge
      • Fantasy Football Scout Member
      • 9 Years
      1 year, 25 days ago

      Cheers

  7. Maximus Bonimus Pointimus
    • 10 Years
    1 year, 26 days ago

    Nice article

    I’m locked on 5 at the back for the first season ever this year - and I think it’s largely driven by the fact that this is probably the year where we DO have enough premium defenders to enable it - assuming Liverpool & City continue to be solid, and that EVerton continue where they left off last season

    Attacking wise, two premiums definitely seems optimal to me (24.5 formSalah & Sterling seems quite reasonable) and Vardy is the first striker in a long while who I think has a decent-ish chance at challenging elite midfielders for points - he is quite simply on fire in Rodgers’ system since Puel was sacked - himself & King are as far as I’m willing to go with strikers this season - at least until we get through GW1 🙂

    1. Hedge
      • Fantasy Football Scout Member
      • 9 Years
      1 year, 25 days ago

      Cheers. Yes, last season was the closest to 5atb being competitive. Look out for the follow up article on last year's points and this season's prices...

  8. The 5% Team
    • 2 Years
    1 year, 25 days ago

    Very interesting to read.
    Hope to see a follow up article soon 🙂

  9. Yankee Toffee
    • 5 Years
    1 year, 20 days ago

    Great read, cheers!

  10. JurgenSchmidt
    • 6 Years
    1 year, 19 days ago

    What a hero.

  11. skindogg
    • 10 Years
    1 year, 17 days ago

    Good stuff mate, very well written also. Keep up the good work.

  12. toshmax
    • 1 Year
    1 year, 17 days ago

    Excellent detail, knowledge and effort. Well played, sir

  13. Lebowski85
    • 7 Years
    1 year, 17 days ago

    This is next level stuff! Love it

  14. King Kohli
    • 7 Years
    1 year, 17 days ago

    Which looks better?

    A. Kane + Kdb
    B. Sterling + Vardy

    1. IrishRed
      • Fantasy Football Scout Member
      • 4 Years
      1 year, 17 days ago

      B

  15. Hakim Ziyech
    • 1 Year
    1 year, 17 days ago

    Order of Priority?! please
    1.Salah
    2.Trent
    3. Mane
    4. VvD
    5. Robbo
    6. Firmino

    Thanks

    1. Hakim Ziyech
      • 1 Year
      1 year, 17 days ago

      7. Alisson

      Thank you

  16. Society
    • Fantasy Football Scout Member
    • 1 Year
    1 year, 16 days ago

    I'm certainly no hero at this game, but I've been reading advice in articles from FPL experts.
    This article highlights 3-5-2, then 4-5-1 as the most productive for 3yrs.
    While 5 at the back is gaining strength.
    The thing is, expert draft XI's are nearly all showing 100% investment in 1st XI with dud reserves ..... most of whom are unlikely to play.
    With the early season uncertainty, whole season rotation risk & whole season injury/suspension risk, are we not better off having at least 2 on the bench that we think will play ?
    Surely a weekly total of 52 is better than 50 when we don't have enough players to cover every position ?

  17. Society
    • Fantasy Football Scout Member
    • 1 Year
    1 year, 16 days ago

    My 1st draft has Tielmans, Jimenez & Dendoncker benched, with a reserve keeper who I think might play.
    I may not be any good at the game, but my enjoyment comes from feeling like I've picked a full team. Being no good, I've reduced the failure feeling ..... which hopefully increases the points & flexibility to chase points.

  18. Cowboy John
    • 8 Years
    3 days, 2 hours ago

    A year late to this, but this is outstanding stuff. Well done.

  19. Lindelol
    • Fantasy Football Scout Member
    • 2 Years
    3 days, 1 hour ago

    well done. Will look into this in more detail