Interest in the FPL game continues to grow year after year. The 2019/20 season saw over 8 million managers participate and it wouldn’t be a stretch to think that number will increase this season. We also anticipate some players potentially being listed under new positions, however, Trent Alexander-Arnold isn’t a midfielder. Ahead of every new season is the speculation of price increases. Last season, it was the £12.5 opening price for Mo Salah and his defensive teammates at £7.0. Price plays into all our decisions when it comes to fantasy and there are key metrics that can break down the price based on performance to see if those players are “good value” or overpriced when selecting your team.
It’s the one position many mangers struggle with all season long, how to get all those quality midfielders into your starting squad. Well, you can’t. Consider the 2018/19 season when Salah was priced at £13.0 and Harry Kane, £12.5, that’s 31% of you starting budget when you consider you will have £17-18 million on your bench! No one will argue players like Salah, Sadio Mane and Raheem Sterling haven’t been valuable players over the last few years. Toss in those play makers like Kevin De Bruyne and the up and coming play of Bruno Fernandes, there are some premium decisions we need to consider.
In the past, I’ve almost immediately jumped to Salah to anchor my squad, however coming off his record setting 2017/18 season of 303 points, it’s been two seasons well off that pace, but seasons that saw his price continue to exceed £12. This coming season, I might not be so quick to jump on the Liverpool midfielders, opting to look for more consistency in play, those players who can pick up bonus points regularly.
The play of Fernandes, on his move to Manchester United was phenomenal! He returned attacking points in 11 of the 14 matches played, which led to his 0.71 VAPM. However with just 1186 minutes played, he didn’t meet that 2000 minute minimum to make my list, but rest assured he will be shortlisted when consider my starting midfield.
As mentioned in the first article of this series, just 9 midfielders made the grade, at or above 0.35 VAPM. A quick review of this metric takes the points per match (PPM) and subtract two points for 60 minutes played. That number is then divided by games played to give you the VAPM total. There is no exact science here and the numbers could potentially be skewed for players who didn’t play 90 minutes or appeared as a substitute rather than a starting player. Minutes played don’t always equate to the number of full games played, which has caused some concern but in the end I used games played as opposed to minutes, which decreased the number of played above the 0.35 threshold.
For players over 2000 minutes, Mane finished with a 0.57 VAPM, best in the league, while Salah, not as impressive finished at 0.39. Fewer minutes, games and a lower price gave Mane that decided advantage. When managers consider their starting XI, 43.2% of managers favored a 3-4-3 last season, while 24.9% decided on a 3-5-2. Realistically to field a competitive squad, you can’t have four premium midfielders out of the box, which could make for a very unbalance squad.
Since I am consider a 5-man defense, that would leave me the formation options of 4-5-1 or 5-3-2. Yes, believe it or not I have played a 5-2-3 in the past, but running out two midfielders was risky and I not willing to bank on defenders and forwards to generate the bulk of my points. Using VAPM in conjunction with other metrics could shorten your player list when prices are released and we starting building our squads.
Its not surprise this is the largest group of players (15) at a single position. These players will top my want list when prices are released. It’s no surprise that Fernandes will be near the top of the list, as will De Bruyne and surprisingly, Christian Pulisic. I need to lose that anti-American bias when it comes a player of his caliber, on the back of his success last season. Yet, it’s just one season, I would like to think that given another 800-1000 minutes he would surely score another 5-7 goals and 2-4 assists. Willian was the other Chelsea asset that finished near the top of this list with a 0.37 VAPM, if the more to Arsenal comes true, I could see him improving on his already strong statistics (9G/7A) from last year. Jack Grealish, depending on transfer rumors could be another candidate, finished with a 0.37 VAPM even with Aston Villa limping over the finish line. The potential addition of forward in the transfer market will only make Grealish more valuable at Villa. However, a move to a big club, like Manchester United has me thinking he would be as valuable with the other talent around him, depending on where OGS would play him.
Unlike any other group, this group has to produce some rather big numbers over the course of the season to maintain or exceed that 0.35 VAPM. Taking KDB for example, he started the season at £9.5 and posted returns in six out of the first seven games. As his price increased, the demand on him to improve his output sees a 16 points total over three games increase to 17 points. When he topped out at £10.5, his three game total was still 17 points, but over a five game stretch jumped to 29 points! That’s an assist a game playing 90 minutes and picking up a bonus point.
I feel this is where VAPM could potentially be more valuable. Managers play through the season using FDR (fixture difficult ratings) and performance or as we read all the time on Twitter and hear on podcasts, the age old debate of “form vs fixture.” While I didn’t plan on tracking all my substitutes, when the season restarted we didn’t know their form, so I used fixtures as the only point of reference. While I wasn’t using VAPM I did start a core group of players (8) over the last 9 game weeks.
Managers will undoubtedly spend the bulk of their budget on the midfield, as these players are usually the top performers in the league. A key this season, keep the faith and have patience to roll with those players who have performed for a number of years when using VAPM as a key metric. This could also be used in conjunction with other performance based statistics like per90 or xG/xA as confirmation. It’s going to be another interesting season, which is to kick off shortly. Be ready with the right information to help gain an advantage starting the first week. Good luck.
Next up, will be goalkeepers and forwards before the series on VAPM draws to a close.