Think Different: An FPL Tale Part V

Fancy numbers and key metrics looks great on paper, but as we know, the game is played on a grassy pitch. Preparation and knowledge of players and teams is key in putting out a starting XI that will be successful, there is still a pinch of luck involved when it comes to play the FPL game. This year preparation will take into account last year and how players performed in a broken season, coupled with their season ending statistics and some key metrics, including VAPM. None of this guarantees I will post a good season, but it should be an indication of players who will perform at or above the the level to achieve my total points goals.

SEASON PREPARATION

Now that the game has launched, I’ve auto picked my team, in order to give me some time to sort though the data I’ve collected. While there are hundreds of players to look at, realistically the list I intend to start the season is less than 100 players. Risky? Possibly. I’ve not take into account the promoted teams; Fulham, Leeds United and West Brom. Knowing how well two of those three played last time they were in the Premier League, I am not too worried about leaving their players out at the start of the season regardless of their “cheap as chips” prices. At this point, I am not watching Twitter to have my opinions swayed on who the talking heads think we need to bring in to start the season.

As I stated in the article to start the series, I plan on managing two teams, my team, 6thGoal and the FPL Beer Mule, using my son’s account. The difference between the two accounts will be the fact that the FPL Beer Mule will be playing a 5-man defense all season long, while I over think transfers and captain selections for my main squad. As expected numbers appear lower, since many players received a price increase

PLANNING USING VAPM

Using statistics from last season and current player prices for this season, I’ve recalculated for each position and how players might fare this season. There is no rocket science or black magic using any of these figures. This is just another metric to use when preparing for the season. I will stand by the results and opinions I put forth through the end of the season. If they are inconclusive or wrong, then I will reevaluate and see where I could improve on this metric. I’m not here to make any FPL manager believe this is the “best” or “most useful” metric to measure players. I just wanted to use statistics we have and see if we can extrapolate potential for the upcoming season.

The final pieces of the VAPM puzzle are set to be revealed. This rest of this article will focus on predicted VAPM for the 2020/2021 Premier League season. Each position will be broken down, as it was in the previous articles of this season. You will see the predicted VAPM and that of the 2019/2020, as well as the two season prior to that. Showing a player’s historical value seems to help you when it comes to a player who nailed VAPM last season, but traditionally hasn’t done the same in the past.

I will also go over an alternate view of starting a 5-man defense this season, which will most likely turn into a 38 week series posted at 6thgoal.com or another top fantasy site I am in talks with. This is where my interest lies this season, as I think there is much value in a defensive minded squad. The question will be, do I have the patience to ride with sort of strategy. Then I am reminded of the 391 points TAA and Robertson scored last year and I saying emphatically, “hell yes!”

GOALKEEPERS

You can look at or past Lloris in the top spot, playing just 21 games due to injury last year, I have no doubt the Frenchman will return to favor this season and flourish for Spurs. There could be some question about the defense in front of him, but I could see Lloris securing 12-15 clean sheets on the season. His £5.5 price tag is a bit concerning, given the other competition in that bracket.

Many mangers won’t think twice about dropping Pope (£5.5) into their starting XI, but the same thing could be said of Henderson, who will need bump up his performance this year to equal his VAPM of last season. Schmeichel played well enough to make the list, but there could be some question marks in the Foxes defense with Ben Chilwell looking for a transfer. They have some younger talent, but could be tough for him to post another 13 clean sheets, but he has performed well in the last two seasons.

Bernd Leno featured in 30 games before injury, when Emiliano Martinez came in to play very well for the Gunners. Rest assured Leno starts this season for Arsenal, who are looking to improve defensively and has a kind price of £5.0. Other options in this bracket are Guaita at Palace and Dubravka up at Newcastle.

The only £4.5 goalkeeper, seems to be the one we see every year, Brighton’s Mat Ryan. You can expect him to play every game and could bring that needed 0.35 between the posts over the course of the season. The Seagulls do have some talent on defense but need to tighten things up. Ryan, coupled with Button (£4.0) will give you the cheapest duo in the back at £9.5, no rotation required.

Tom Heaton. Remember him? He put up 150 and 149 in back to back season, but that’s a few years removed. He’s missed 45 games over the last three season, but Villa is pushing to get him back between the posts for the start of the season. He can get the job done, recording 10 clean sheets twice, but that Villa defense is a back shaky, however his £4.5 is very kind. Even at 34 years old, he could care some value, but we need to see how he comes back.

DEFENDERS

If you decide to start with Alexander-Arnold (0.47 VAPM) and either Robertson (0.43 VAPM) or van Dijk, then hold them all season long. That was my mistake last season, I gave up on Liverpool midway through the season and didn’t believe in them when the season restarted for the final nine weeks of the years. What a mistake. I will quote their total one more time, as TAA and Robertson combined for 391 points on the season. Amazing!

Rest assured both defenders will be in my starting XI this season. However, if that £0.5 is need for an attacker, I wouldn’t hesitate to drop Robertson in favor of van Dijk, who scored just 4 fewer points than his teammate and finished with a 0.41 VAPM. For those managers who would rather rely on attacking defenders, then Doherty, Chilwell and Pereira all carry similar VAPM but their price varies. Any of those options are valid, depending on how your team is setting up offensively.

John Egan, like van Dijk is the only other center back to make the list and kindly priced at £5.0. Entering the season, I am somewhat skeptical of the Blades, but you can’t take away what they accomplished in their first season. If Henderson remains at the club, I would love to see Egan in my starting XI. There were a few Blades defenders who finished at or above 0.35, but based on their price increase to start the season, fall just a bit short headed into game week one. Baldock (£5.5) and Stevens (£5.5) are both 0.32 VAPM and more expensive than Egan or O’Connell, who’s down at 0.27 VAPM.

One thing you might notice, there are no £4.5 defenders on this list. Those that finished in and around £4.5 didn’t score enough points to make the top 25 selected for this VAPM exercise. I have gone back over the data and compiled a small list of £4.5 defenders who warrant consideration. There were just 10 defenders in the bracket who qualified with 2000 minutes played. For this exercise, I’ve added a number of other budget defenders who could get playing time this season.

In all honesty, none of them really jump out as being viable options to start the season. Lascelles could be the best of the bunch, depending on the takeover and potential transfers ahead of the season. The defenders at Burnley will be interesting, as I am not sure who will be the starters along with Tarkowski and Mee. Does Lowton win his job back or will be see Pieters, Bardsley and Taylor gain further playing time. They are probably the ones to watch. The other candidate, is Justin at Leicester City, not sure if he gets the nod as the starter when (or if) Chilwell moves during the transfer window.

MIDFIELDERS

The question was asked on Twitter by Al Chanos (@al_chanos), “After your analysis, do you feel that most of the evidence supports the big at the back theory? 4 Premium defs score 150+ last season costing 7m or less. There also isn’t a real need for premium mids/fwds other than as captain options.

At the midfield position, I do feel you could go one of two directions with your midfielder. If you budget light at the back, then you go ahead and stack your midfield attack with some of the premium options, as I think there are five viable options. However, if you decide to investing heavily in defense, there are some good options between at varying price brackets to round out your four or five starters. Assuming the majority of the managers will play five midfielders, they will be budgeting very light defensively, looking to get the most “bang for their buck” or pound in this case.

Looking at ownership numbers for this article, it’s no surprise to see De Bruyne (62.6%) and Fernandes (42.7%) the top owned midfielders. I do feel Fernandes was on a scoring pace that wasn’t sustainable, posting attacking returns in 11 out of 14 games. That said, if the numbers are extrapolated out, he scores 317 points over a 38-week season. That outperforms Salah from 2017/2018 when he finished with 303 points.  Salah and Mane both make the cut as being quality options, with the Egyptian scoring just a bit higher, 0.40 vs 0.35 VAPM. The other pricey premium, Raheem Sterling (£11.5)  also makes the grade at 0.36 VAPM. One could speculate that the reclassification for Aubameyang will work to his advantage in FPL, gaining clean sheet points and an extra point per goal. That would give him 237 (vs 205 pts.) on the season and would push his VAPM to 0.42 versus the 0.31 he’s currently listed at in the table above.

Below these premium priced midfielders, there is a small selection between £8.0-9.5; Pulisic, Mahrez, Son and Rashford. Adding 26 additional points to Rashford for his reclassification, he would have finished with 203 points (vs 177 pts.) and a 0.48 VAPM. Not sure you can go wrong with any of these players to anchor your midfield as they all represent quality.

The £6.5 to £8.0 is devoid of any players posting the 0.35 VAPM, but we see Lundstram (11.2%TSB ) and Rashford (9.5% TSB), both reclassified making headway. Surprisingly, Jonjo Shelvey (£5.5) is also in the top group with a 0.37 VAPM, as he finished at 0.51 last season. There are some big names who did miss out because of minutes of just didn’t hit the 0.35 cutoff. Not sure Henderson carries much FPL value, but he finished last year 0.36. but misses the cut my 0.01. Dele Alli is another player who had an injury plagued season (1847 minutes) but probably would have finished with a higher VAPM, but did come in at 0.34. Finally, a new venue for Willian, but an extra million for the Brazilian. Could we have seen the best Willian has to offer last year with 168 points? With the players around him, he could double up on goals and assists this season, but might be a watch and wait to start the season.

FORWARDS

While I’m not trying to lead any FPL manager with this series, I don’t plan on having any of the premium forwards to start the season. This is one position, where you can get off with 2-3 budget options. The £6.5 bracket is very popular as Wood (0.35) and the newly reclassified Antonio (0.40) fall into potential options. The caveat on Antonio, he didn’t meet the 2000 minute minimum due to injury.

The only premium is Vardy at £10.0 on the very short list for inclusion based on his 0.40 VAPM. Every year we doubt him and he posts strong returns. At this point, I really have no reason to think he couldn’t post another season like we saw last year. The extended three month break could have given him time to rest and come back strong but that could be said about any player. Danny Ings is currently owned by 20.5% of fantasy managers but is well off the pace of new boy, Timo Werner (36.4%), Martial (29.2%) and Mitrovic (28.4) returning with Fulham to the Premier League. Mitrovic posted 9 goals in 2015/2016 when the Cottagers were last up and a price of £6.0 is kind, given he was £6.5 last time FPL manager could select him. Ings remained healthy, playing in every game and rewarded owners with a 0.38 VAPM.

Aguero and Kane are out because of their £10.5 price, Abraham was inconsistent after starting the season so strong and with Werner there now, probably relegated to the bench. Richarlison isn’t a forward in my opinion and his good output last year won’t be rewarded with the reclassification. As I continue going down the lists of players under 0.35, none of them carry much value right now to start the season Calvert-Lewin posted excellent numbers but a paltry 0.21 VAPM. Lots of £0.5 price increases in this group, but we will have to evaluate their potential after the season begins.

CONCLUSION

I will leave this section up to FPL managers, draw your own conclusions. As I’ve gone over this list, compiling statistics and crunching the numbers, VAPM will provide me a smaller list from I will use to start the season. The name of the FPL game is to get it right for GW1 and don’t look back. Patience with a defense that is pricey but struggling, a forward you know as 20-25 goals in him, but has yet to a purple patch. That is what these lists are intended to help with, your initial selections.

The VAPM metric can be used along side other statistics and metrics you use to star the season. In some way I feel this metric can validate the selection of a  player in my starting XI when I look at that other data during the decision making process. Regardless of the direction you go or how the decisions you make, this exercise was meant to look at FPL statistics with an eye to the upcoming season. Use it or not, it’s up to you.

I know I said I would provide a section on a 5-man defense. Looks like this article has already ran longer enough, so there will be one more installment going over my strategy as I look to bulk up at the back.

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