The first four Gameweeks of FPL have been such a roller-coaster for the so-called ‘non-casual’ FPL manager. Ubiquitous information has been a double-bladed sword, ruining transfer plans and overall points. The injury-story of Son Heung-Min, apparently, was the most recent highlight as he scored 18 points when his status in FPL is flagged as 25% chances of playing due to injury. The casual players who ‘forget’ to transfer him out pre-deadline are the ones singing joys, while the more competitive managers often find themselves regretful. In a season where the final scores become more and more unpredictable, what do we have in our pocket to narrow the odds?
The statistics have been very deceiving early this season. All the research on the underlying stats was rarely fruitful, leaving blanks left, right and center on captain selections. Kevin De Bruyne, for example, was totally electric in Gameweek 2. Without any proper pre-season, he singlehandedly destroyed the statistically best defence at the end of the last season. Wolves, who conceded the least amount of shots in the box, big chances, and had the lowest xGC since Gameweek 25 last season until the beginning of this season, was sliced through like butter, and De Bruyne had 6 chances created all by himself, more than half of the whole Wolves’ players managed the whole game. Add that with the most goal attempts in the match, 1 goal, 1 assist, and maximum bonus points, he was definitely a very good captain option coming forward. Since then, he has played against the Leicester City side who had just conceded twice against Burnley and the Leeds United side who conceded 8 times in 3 games pre-Gameweek 4. The result is so obvious in FPL perspective – two successive blanks. There are numerous more examples of this, but the miseries are not what we’re going to talk about in this article.
It’s very hard to jump on players’ haul at the right time, which seems to be key in FPL, particularly in this kind of season. So many points missed, and jumping to players’ bandwagon after their hauls are good, but not best, so to speak. Regarding the prediction on when and which players are gonna haul, the famous tool to forecast such thing is the goals imminent table. Full credit to Joe Lepper who came up with the idea of creating such a powerful table! In this article, I am going to talk about how the table was set initially by Joe, how it has been working in the first four Gameweeks, and analyzing its flexibility in forecasting the next players to haul.
THE GOALS IMMINENT TABLE
Principally, the goals imminent table is constructed to scout the incoming players that are either coming very close to scoring goals or just cannot finish their chances. Using the Opta-stats driven data, Joe filtered the goal threat stats of every single FPL assets based on certain criteria in the last four Gameweeks.
His boundary conditions are set, currently, to select the players who make minimum 10 goal attempts, have at minimum 0.20 xG, but have not scored more than 1 goal through those shots. He assumed that the boundary conditions represent the players good positioning, as they can take the number of shots given, and the quality of their shots is bounded by the minimum xG to filter players like Townsend or Shelvey who likes to shot on sight from everywhere across the pitch. The table is updated each Gameweek, working on a moving average environment. The dynamic updates automatically filter the players who cannot finish their chances and drop their confidence after repetitive failures.
In this article, as we are not even yet into Gameweek 5, I tweak the table’s boundary condition a little bit. For Gameweek 2 only, I decrease the number of required shots to 5 instead of 10. The Gameweek 3 and 4 have the same amount of shots boundary of 10. The data is not collected based on four Gameweeks data, but from gameweek 1 until the latest available data. Let’s see how the table performs.
GAMEWEEK 2 PREDICTION & RESULT
In Gameweek 1, there were 5 players who met the criteria: Raul Jimenez, Richarlison, Harvey Barnes, Timo Werner, and Sadio Mane. Just to remind, each of them had at least 5 goal attempts with a total xG of at least 0.2, but did not score more than 1 goal. Using the data in Gameweek 1, the goals imminent table predicted these 5 players to get goals in Gameweek 2.
The results were mouthwatering. Seven goals, 1 assist, 1 missed (penalty) assist, and 7 bonus points were collected by these five players in Gameweek 2, combining 49 FPL points among them! Harvey Barnes, Richarlison, and Sadio Mane had double-digit hauls, and Timo Werner was the only blank player from the list.
GAMEWEEK 3 PREDICTION & RESULT
The minimum shots limit was updated back to 10 in Gameweek 3, and there were only 2 players who passed the criteria, Richarlison (again) and Harvey Barnes (again). I am not sure if the table worked in consecutive weeks, but the prediction was the two players should be scoring goals in Gameweek 3 based on the first 2 Gameweeks data.
The results were not as magnificent as the first Gameweek, but considering the freakish Gameweek we had since Gameweek 2 to Gameweek 4, we will take 10 points from two players, right? Harvey Barnes did blank, but Richarlison scored 1 goal and got all 3 bonus points, returning 8 FPL points for his owners.
GAMEWEEK 4 PREDICTION & RESULT
Gameweek 4 was arguably the hardest Gameweek to predict, but on the flip side, the goals imminent table now has 3 Gameweeks worth of data, more than what it previously had. The tables listed Harry Kane, Richarlison (again), Michail Antonio, Harvey Barnes (again), Timo Werner (again), and Tomas Soucek. The players I give the ‘(again)’ sign are now either very close to returning or just cannot score, seriously.
In hindsight, it turned out to be one of the most unpredictable Gameweeks, ever. Manchester United lost 1-6 at home, and the reigning champion, Liverpool, got battered 7-2 by the reinvigorated Aston Villa. But, once again, the goals imminent table did not disappoint. The six players listed combined 5.33 points on average among them, having 3 goals, 1 assist, 1 disallowed goal, and 5 bonus points. That includes the unluckily injured Richarlison with only 1 point return in the mix.
Between Gameweek 2 and Gameweek 4, the goals imminent table has had 8 unique players in the list, and so far 6 players have produced at least one attacking return! The only two players who failed to live up to the expectation were Timo Werner (who in reality is indeed a disappointment) and Tomas Soucek (who to be fair is a 5th midfielder material, and his 13 point returns in four Gameweeks is nowhere near shameful considering his kind price).
On average, the players have returned 91 FPL points among them from 11 goals and 2 assists combined. That is a remarkable achievement in a season where each Gameweek, at least two assets among Salah, Mane, Aubameyang, De Bruyne, Sterling, and Bruno Fernandes always blank.
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT
As so far the table looked to be working perfectly fine, FPL managers are, sorry to say, hard to satisfy. If there is another way to get more points, we will do – and that’s exactly what I am doing here. I am looking for different boundaries and see how the table can be even more optimized. In short, I decrease the shots lower boundary to 5 goal attempts and lengthened the evaluation period up to the end of Gameweek 4. This way, the table for Gameweek 2 is not necessary to be discussed as the original table was tweaked that way, anyway.
For Gameweek 3 and Gameweek 4, the results are good enough compared to the original table. Obviously, we loosened the criteria here, so there will be more players listed and it brings more uncertainties in FPL perspective. Here is the result of the simulated new boundaries.
There are 10 new players listed going into Gameweek 3: Giorginio Wijnaldum, James Ward-Prowse, Aaron Connolly, Jonjo Shelvey, Denis Praet, Callum Wilson, Michail Antonio, Che Adams, Tomas Soucek, and Jarrod Bowen. Up to the end of Gameweek 4, each of these players has 2 Gameweeks to prove their ‘goal imminency’. Eventually, 5 players have returned more than 6 points in Gameweek 3 and 4 combined, an incredible 73 points in total to be specific, while the other 5 failed. The ‘failure five’ are Wijnaldum, Ward-Prowse, Connolly, Shelvey, and Praet (injured for Gameweek 4).
Going into Gameweek 4, the new table gives 12 new names: Kevin de Bruyne, Lucas Moura, Mason Mount, Grady Diangana, Josh Brownhill, Giovanni Lo Celso, Andy Carroll, Solly March, Jack Grealish, Leandro Trossard, James Rodriguez, and Ollie Watkins. Unluckily, 3 players did not feature in Gameweek 4; Mount and Carroll due to the surprising team selections and Lo Celso due to injury. From the remaining 9 players that played, 5 of them returned 7 goals and 7 assists combined, returning in total pleasantly 71 points!
ANALYSIS ON THE EFFORT TO IMPROVE THE TABLE
Unavoidable uncertainties and noise appears when the shots’ lower boundary is decreased. The number of failures increases significantly, with only 2 players having blanked on the original table (Werner and Soucek) compared to the 12 on the new table, although 3 of them are unlucky absentees.
On the positive side, the hauls are still detectable, especially through Wilson, Grealish, Rodriguez, and Watkins in Gameweek 4. It looks like more a gamble than the previous list, but the upside is still there.
Most importantly, we can see a pattern on the new table results. The ‘failures’ are mainly the central or box-to-box midfielders playing no further than the number 10 role. Wijnaldum, Ward-Prowse, Shelvey, Praet, Brownhill, and Lo Celso are the names I mean. The strikers/wingers/attacking midfielders, on the other side, are mostly successful.
We can’t deny, though, that the original table gives us more certainties and confidence, although the options are significantly more limited. Additionally, the lower number of shots boundary are more applicable to more advanced players, while the higher number is more widely applicable to any positions.
In summary, we have been diving into Joe’s goals imminent table. In the first four Gameweeks this season, the table is undeniably one of the most powerful tools to predict hauls. However, its selection and flexibility can be put to test; the more accepting you are to uncertainties, the wider selection you have with higher risk. Whether the table is going to work perfectly the whole season remains to be seen, and don’t forget that as powerful as the goals imminent table has been, you should not just ignore the other tools you have to play your game. Have a good international break and may Gameweek 5 onwards are more kind to us than the first four!