As we are midway through the season, it is an important time for some reflection which, for me, involves pausing and looking at some numbers.
And, anyone who knows me well enough should not be surprised to see that includes assessing the performance of big hitters against opposition of varying degree.
It has not been a good first half of the season but, with all my chips intact, I’m hoping I can turn things around in the second half of the campaign. I’ve been making some steady progress in the last few weeks but it isn’t the Nitro boost I’m hoping for.
I’ve recorded six green arrows out of the last eight Gameweeks where I’ve steadily climbed from 3.1 million to 1.47 million and I am hoping that trajectory continues.
This article is based on what I did at two previous occasions last season as well where I look at the performance of big hitters against different quality defences and try to make sense of the numbers and how it can help us in the future. This is the link to my previous article.
Just like my last piece on this subject, I divided the league into three tiers of defence (based on my opinion, form and some statistics). They are fairly similar to the assumptions I had last time around but please treat them strictly as my opinion.
Then using the very useful ‘Per 90’ and ‘Performance Versus’ filters from the Premium Members Area, I tabulated the performances of these big hitters against the three categories of defences to see how much of an effect the fixtures have on them.
I’ve delved further with my analysis this time around to see if we could gauge anything substantial from this data.
First off, the categorisation of teams is as follows:
- The Kolarov (Top Tier) – Liverpool, Manchester City, Chelsea, Tottehnham Hotspur, Leicester City, Manchester United
- The Lescott (Middle Tier) – Arsenal, Burnley, Everton, Wolves, Aston Villa, Southampton, West Ham
- The Bramble (Bottom Tier) – Brighton, Newcastle United, Leeds United, West Brom, Sheffield United, Fulham, Crystal Palace
This table comparison gives us the Goals + Assists per 90 for these assets against different defences in the previous season as well as this season. The first thing that jumps out to me is the averages.
While there was a distinct difference in the performance of assets against varying opposition in the previous season, the same hasn’t been the case this season. This is one of the reasons my ‘upside chasing’ strategy where I try to bring in players to captain in a good fixture hasn’t worked as effectively as last season primarily because broadly speaking, the performance of these premium picks against Kolarov (0.5 to 0.6) and Lescott (0.6 to 0.8) teams have improved.
Secondly, players are not as explosive against Bramble teams as they were last season (1.0 to 0.8). And thirdly, my subjective opinion is that the likes of Harry Kane (£11.1m), Bruno Fernandes (£11.3m) and Son Heung-min (£9.7m) who are the highly owned assets in this game, haven’t really slowed down to an extreme degree which makes going for other big hitters, even for captaincy, more risky than it was last season because simply put, you’re betting against players who aren’t really slowing down.
Let’s now look at the performance of players on a team to team basis.
Let’s talk about Kevin De Bruyne (£11.9m) first (in case you missed it, he looks out for a while). He’s playing in a slightly different position compared to last year and while he was hugely consistent against opposition of varying degree last season, he’s underperformed a bit against the Kolarov and Bramble teams this season.
This makes sense to me because of two things. Firstly, Manchester City haven’t been the same free-scoring team this year that they were in the last season and arguably more value lies in their defence. Secondly, I also put down De Bruyne’s underperformance down to the fact that he and his compatriots have missed a lot of the chances created as well and he has been underperforming compared to his underlying numbers. It is worth noting that he has three goals and an xG of 7.48 this season.
Raheem Sterling’s (£11.4m) numbers expectedly have gone down this season. What is worth noting is that he still has fairly strong numbers against ‘Bramble’ teams and is facing West Brom and Sheffield United in his next two fixtures. It is also worth noting that Phil Foden (£6.3m) has done fairly well against Kolarov and Lescott teams in the limited minutes he’s afforded against them.
Mohamed Salah (£12.5m) has fairly consistent numbers compared to last season with a slight improvement in performance against Lescott and Bramble teams. This despite the five blanks (hello Zambian FPL addict) that he has had off late. It is worth noting that Salah still has the second best performance against Bramble teams, behind Jamie Vardy (£10.1m).
Sadio Mané’s (£11.8m) numbers are still fairly consistent against Kolarov and Lescott teams but he’s seen quite a fall against the Bramble teams this season. The emergence of penalty picks and Mané’s form quite hasn’t been there in the first half of the season and it is worth monitoring if things change in the second half of the season.
When it comes to the Manchester United assets, it’s all about Bruno Fernandes (£11.3m). He’s shown a drastic improvement in his performance against the Kolarov and Lescott teams. He’s behind only Kane for performance against the Lescott teams and is as effective as Salah against Bramble opposition, which makes him a safe go to captaincy option against obliging defences. Marcus Rashford’s (£9.6m) numbers have reduced against good teams but he has seen a substantial improvement against poor teams. Such is Anthony Martial’s form (£8.8m) that his numbers have deteriorated across the board.
The big story here is the Spurs assets. While I don’t have Son’s numbers from last season, Both him and Kane do incredibly well against all three kinds of opposition.
The numbers for Kane and son against opposition of different category make sense to me as you’d expect Son to be more effective against Kolarov teams where they are expected to counter and you expect Kane to do better against Bramble opposition where you’d expect the opposition to sit deeper.
Kane’s numbers have improved across the board from last season. Son is second only to Foden against good teams which is a good sign for those looking at him for De Bruyne replacements with the game against Liverpool incoming. Both players are best in class against Lescott teams which is the prime reason for fixture chasing with other premium assets simply hasn’t been as effective. Kane is a more reliable captain against more obliging teams.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s (£11.3m) numbers have dropped across the board and he simply hasn’t been in form this season. He does have the highest Non-Pen xG numbers in the league in the last four Gameweeks so things do look like they are changing.
Historically, Auba is a good bet against weaker opposition but Arsenal’s fixtures don’t look very appealing in the mid-term. Vardy (who is also going to be out for a while) has done really well this season. He has increased his output against good opposition (hat trick vs Manchester City, goal and assist vs Spurs, assist vs Man United) and has been the most explosive asset amongst all the premium big hitters against obliging teams.
He has a staggering 1.7 Goal + Assist/90 against such teams which is a shame because Leicester City had a good fixture run and he would have been a great asset to own in these fixtures based on his previous appearances.
Here is just a last look at these numbers for this season and three things stand out to me.
- The Spurs assets have good numbers across the board
- Bruno, Vardy and Salah’s reliability against obliging teams could be key in the second half of the campaign.
- How these averages compare to last season
That said it doesn’t take much time for the Fantasy landscape to change and I will be looking forward to doing a similar analysis at the end of this season.
Good luck to everyone preparing for Gameweek 20.