FPL Team Strategy – A Statistical Approach

FPL Team Strategy

Personal opinions and emotion are a part of FPL team strategy. Whether you like it or not they play a part to some degree. That could be in the form of a team you support, a rival team you despise or a fondness for a particular player. These emotional decisions might pay off occasionally but rest assured that in the long-term they are costing you points.

FPL Team Strategy

We consciously decided to take a different approach to our FPL team strategy this season. And that approach was rely on as much statistical data as possible to pick the team. Now you can go overboard on this. For example if you’re looking at the points per match metric for defenders then by that logic Phil Jones would be your 2nd pick defender. Given his uncertainty around starting this would be a rash decision. This shows it is important to take multiple, and relevant, statistics into account. Team fixtures, formations and new signings are just a few other factors that need to be accounted for. Another factor is trying to determine whether a player over or under-performed the previous season. For example you could argue Alexis Sanchez under-performed whilst Mohamed Salah over-performed.

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As a result we looked at multiple metrics and combined these with the factors mentioned above to try and create a team based on as much statistical evidence as possible. We go through each our team’s players below.

Forwards

We looked at forwards first with the intention of prioritising them. As the player prices worked out we were able to select a strong defence also. At the time we were willing to go attack heavy though. The metric used for this was points per match per £m. This metric is good to use as not only does it take points per match into account but then breaks it down further by this season’s prices. Of course it doesn’t indicate how likely a player is to start so other statistics such as matches and minutes played is also required.

Sergio Aguero – £11.0m

Sergio Aguero was picked by 12.9% of FPL managers at the beginning of the Community Shield. Fast forward a week and his pick percentage is 31.8%! His £11.0m price tag is a lot cheaper than he has been in recent seasons also. Competition from Gabriel Jesus and a lack of minutes (he played 57% of Premier League minutes) might have caused this price decrease. His points per match is the highest among Fantasy Premier League forwards. Combine this with Man City’s incredibly favorable fixture set to start the season then Aguero was a must pick, the first name in our squad.

Wilfried Zaha – £7.0m

Wilfried Zaha and Marko Arnautovic have similar statistics. Both are priced £7.0m and both had similar returns. Arnautovic leads the points per £m metric whilst Zaha comes top on the points per match per £m metric. This shows Zaha played a couple of less matches then Arnautovic – not a problem if there is no reason to think either is more than the other to play more matches. We selected Zaha over Arnautovic because his fixtures are good after Gameweek 4. Arnautovic on the other hand has a poor run of fixtures all the way through to Gameweek 10. Some FPL managers argue fixtures shouldn’t be weighted highly. There might be some truth to this but there are odds on matches for a reason and in the long-term these odds are correct. Had West Ham’s start to the season been better we could have picked both (as a lot of FPL managers did) but we have just gone with Zaha.

Joshua King – £6.5m

Joshua King’s 178 points in 2016/17 might have been him over-performing. However his 100 points from last season might have been the opposite. These 110 points shaved £1.0m off his price tag to £6.5m. If this season’s points total lies in between these two then £6.5m is a good investment. Bournemouth have a good start to the season fixture wise and King has looked good in pre-season. He scored four goals and provided one assist. We’re a little guilty here of not ignoring pre-season form, which most of the time you should! Interestingly if King scored 140 points last season he would have been the best value forward in FPL. He is also on penalties, a notable bonus. At least he should be now after Callum Wilson’s miss in Gameweek 1!

Midfielders

Mohamed Salah – £13.0m

From the end of last season the intention was to not pick Mohamed Salah. We expected his price to be between £12.0m/£13.0m. We had to go change up the plan though because even if he scores 20% less points he’s still a good pick. Furthermore Liverpool’s excellent fixtures meant he couldn’t be ignored. A lot of FPL managers have hedged their bets with Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane instead, which is a wise thing to do, but with West Ham and Brighton at home in Gameweek 1 and 3 respectively, Salah had to be in. Even at £13.0m Salah offers the 2nd best points per £m ratio among midfielders and forwards. Moreover his points per match ratio is 8.42. To put that in perspective Raheem Sterling, who also had an incredible season, scored 6.94 on this metric.

Bernardo Silva – £7.5m

Bernardo Silva is probably our least statistical pick. He was brought in primarily because of Man City’s fixtures – their players are a necessity. Secondary to this was his price, he is Man City’s cheapest midfielder that could score several goals should he play. Pep Guardiola also came out and strongly inferred he will be starting against Arsenal which means another good performance could see him retain his place for the Huddersfield game at home. If he can start the majority of Man City’s good fixture run then at £7.5m he’s a steal. One statistic that is in his favor is points per minute per £m, he is 3rd in this stat among midfielders. This is due to scoring 6 and assisting 5 last season but having a lot of appearances from the substitutes bench.

Richarlison de Andrade – £6.5m

In our opinion Richarlison might the most must have player in FPL. His points under Marco Silva have been well documented and there is no reason why he can’t get close to that form again. Under Marco Silva at Watford, Richarlison averaged 4.3 points per match. If he can do that again that is a great return for a £6.5m midfielder. There’s also the bonus of Everton having arguably the best fixture set in the Premier League over the beginning of the season. Update: He’s not going to score two goals every week but if he can average close to one in three then FPL managers without him are going to suffer.

Fernandinho – £5.5m

Fernandinho, similar to Kante, is a selection that may raise many FPL manager’s eyebrows. The stats support Fernandinho’s selection though. Based on last season’s points totals and this season’s prices Fernandinho is the 4th best value midfielder. Combine that with the need of a cheaper player and trying to make the most of Man City’s fixtures he goes into our team.

Helder Costa – £5.0m

Another budget player was required, mainly to not overload and waste money on our bench. Ruben Neves was the obvious pick at £5.0m but after some research Helder Costa was the statistical pick. Costa scored 6 and provided 5 assists last season. Fellow Wolves player Neves scored 6 and only provided one assist, this was in 9 more appearances also. Factor in Costa plays in a more advanced role then going by statistics we had to pick him over Neves.

Defenders

Marcos Alonso – £6.5m

Had Chelsea been expected to play with wing backs this season then Marcos Alonso would have been another must have pick. As it is it looks like Chelsea are going to deploy a 433 formation. This undoubtedly takes a little bit away from Alonso as his defensive responsibilities will increase. Even so with a £0.5m decrease on last season and 7 goals (two assists) to his name he’s still a great pick. Update: Chelsea did play a 433 but Alonso appeared to have license to get forward, winning a penalty for one assist.

Andrew Robertson – £6.0m

Liverpool’s fixtures have been discussed which is one reason to include Andrew Robertson. The main reason to include him though is his points per match score of 5.05. This is the best among FPL defenders, even beating Alonso’s score of 5.00. In the 22 games Robertson played last season he scored once and claimed 6 assists. It would be very surprising for him not to start ahead of Alberto Moreno.

Ben Davies – £6.0m

The Tottenham man is top 5 in each of the metrics points per match, points per minute and points per match per £m. Plenty of evidence to support his inclusion. Tottenham’s fixtures are certainly less than desirable over the first part of the season. Even so because of the overwhelming statistical evidence to include him he has to be in our team.

Trent Alexander-Arnold – £5.0m

Trent Alexander-Arnold is ranked number two on the points per match per £m metric, just behind Man Utd’s Phil Jones. Unfortunately neither are guaranteed to start but we think Alexander-Arnold is the more likely. The 19 year old faces competition from Joseph Gomez and Nathaniel Clyne. The latter could start Gameweek 1 ahead of him because of the World Cup. Regardless we think Alexander-Arnold will be Liverpool’s first choice right back over the season and as such his points per match, and potential to improve, forces us to pick him.

James Tomkins – £4.5m

Our final defender needed to be a budget one which we needed to spend £4.5m on. There were several options but based on fixtures and goal statistics, James Tomkins came out on top. He has scored three goals in each of the last two seasons. This is the most among £4.5m defenders. Other £4.5m defenders who scored more points last season (Mathias Jorgensen, Jamaal Lascelles, Christopher Schindler and Shane Duffy) all have poor fixtures to start the season. As a result Tomkins was our man.

Goalkeepers

Jordan Pickford – £5.0m

With only one Everton player in the team and their fixtures winking at us, Jordan Pickford was an easy decision at £5.0m. His shot stopping ability and thus saves is well known. Additionally, with the signings of Yerry Mina and Lucas Digne hopefully Everton can better their 10 clean sheets from last season.

Ben Foster – £4.5m

There is nothing complicated about Ben Foster being our other goalkeeper. Everton face difficult fixtures in Gameweek 6 and Gameweek 10. As a result we looked for the goalkeeper’s fixtures who best compliment this. Watford’s fixtures against Fulham (a) and Huddersfield (H) compensate for this nicely.

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