FPL Family’s Sam explains how player stats help her decide whether to stay loyal to a Fantasy asset early in the season.
Transfer strategy and planning is one of the biggest parts of Fantasy Premier League management in the first few Gameweeks of the season.
There are always some players who come from nowhere to embark on a fantastic run, regardless of fixtures. This season, players like Patrick Bamford (£5.8m) and Dominic Calvert-Lewin (£7.4m) seem to be falling into that category.
With these players, it makes sense to move early and benefit not only from their form and FPL points but also from price rises and therefore valuable improvements in team value.
However, there are others who have made an excellent start to the season and returned good early points for their managers but who haven’t necessarily had the history of consistent FPL returns. This makes many experienced Fantasy managers wary and question whether they are a wise investment in the long term or whether they are a transfer waiting to happen in a few weeks when the purple patch ends and their returns falter.
For me, Alexandre Lacazette (£8.5m) may very well fall into this category, which potentially explains why his ownership is still very low even though he has returned seven points in each of the opening three Gameweeks of the season.
Separating the long-term picks from those that have short-term potential and those that we should avoid altogether can be a challenge, especially when this is coupled with decisions on players that you own already and would have to make way for one of these in-form assets.
During pre-season, I was hugely impressed with Che Adams (£5.9m). He was eye-catching with his attacking returns, positioning, partnership with Danny Ings (£8.4m) and general all-round match fitness and attitude. Fast forward to Gameweeks 1 and 2 and Southampton really struggled to get going. At this stage, Adams took a price drop as many managers looked to make the move away from a Southampton team who seemed off-kilter.
However, a look through the Premium Members Area suggested that actually, it wasn’t necessarily an easy decision and that the underlying stats were there to support maintaining the faith in Adams. Maybe, just maybe, transferring him out was premature.
Adams’ expected goals (xG) tally across the opening two Gameweeks suggested he was incredibly unlucky not to have returned. His xG currently is sitting at 1.28 for the 2020/21 season, his expected goal involvement (xGI) is 1.52, and he ranks very highly in Joe’s ‘Goals Imminent’ table – so his underlying stats suggested he is worth some loyalty.
He has had 89 touches so far this season, registering a touch every 2.7 minutes, with a goal involvement of 50% and a successful take-on percentage of 100%. His total of six goal attempts is more than Anthony Martial (£8.9m) with two, Roberto Firmino (£9.4m) with four, and level with his much more expensive teammate Danny Ings (£8.4m) and Jamie Vardy (£10.0m).
Adams finally returned in Gameweek 3, registering his first assist of the season as Southampton bounced back from their defeat by Spurs in Gameweek 2. That wasn’t before he had taken a price drop ahead of the game against Burnley, however.
It can be very easy at the start of the season to look at players like Adams and “rage-transfer” them out for others in the same price point that have performed well or indeed to take hits and redistribute money to upgrade these players.
This is when the Premium Members Area really comes into its own for me, as purely looking at points scored isn’t often reflective of the way the season has started for the player – so there is potential that you lose a player before they come good.
The aforementioned Vardy is an example of this. On paper, he is a perfect FPL asset with five goals so far. However, those five goals have come from just six shots, and four of them were penalties. When you look at Vardy’s xG of 3.60 he looks like a fantastic option, which with the level of penalties awarded this season he is. However, his non-penalty XG is just 0.45 and that is far lower than we would expect for a player of his price tag.
Looking closely at the underlying stats alongside the eye test is essential for ensuring the right transfers. It does seem easier to stay loyal to players who sit in the value bracket, however the underlying stats for the early Gameweeks applies to the premium assets just as much.
Going into Gameweek 1, the lack of clarity around Manchester United in terms of transfers and player fitness meant that I made a last-minute decision not to start the season with Bruno Fernandes (£10.5m) or Marcus Rashford (£9.5m) on the bench and instead bring in Son Heung-min (£9.0m) for Spurs’ opening game at home to Everton. At the end of that Gameweek, I decided to ignore the underlying stats for that Everton game and make my preplanned transfer, which was to swap Son for Fernandes. This was a big mistake. Son scored four goals in Gameweek 2 against Southampton, whereas Fernandes blanked versus Crystal Palace.
For me, this taught me a valuable lesson both in terms of flexibility and not being afraid of going against the original planning.
The eye test and Premium Members Area comparisons have always been a vital part of the way that I manage my FPL team but I often use it more for the budget and mid-priced options.
The Son fiasco has made me aware that underlying stats are just as important for the premium players as they are for the cheaper options. Overall, missing out on Son’s haul hurt but it proved to me that loyalty pays off – so long as the stats back up the decision to hold.
Lessons Learned from FPL Gameweek 3
- Brighton and Hove Albion 2-3 Manchester United
- Crystal Palace 1-2 Everton
- West Bromwich Albion 3-3 Chelsea
- Burnley 0-1 Southampton
- Sheffield United 0-1 Leeds United
- Tottenham Hotspur 1-1 Newcastle United
- Manchester City 2-5 Leicester City
- West Ham United 4-0 Wolverhampton Wanderers
- Fulham 0-3 Aston Villa
- Liverpool 3-1 Arsenal
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