The international break that we’ve just experienced after four weeks of Premier League action comes just early enough to play with the heads of draft managers. The extended break gives you time to (over)obsess about your team and, perhaps, talk yourself into tinkering that might not be so wise. Whether that tinkering is accepting a trade for a current high-flyer in the point totals or pushing out an under-performing draft pick for a successful early-season performer on waivers, I’m here to help you separate the good ideas from the bad with a few comparisons.
Neves had a spectacular debut in the Premier League. He is a very good player in real life and has been linked with a move to the likes of Manchester City, Manchester United, and Juventus. The problem is that he plays a position, holding midfielder, that is notoriously unproductive in the PL.com fantasy format. Look at the points he has accumulated in the Bonus Points System since Week 1 (the totals for Weeks 2-4 don’t, in aggregate, match the Week 1 total). He also has a holding midfield partner in Joao Moutinho who is taking a lot of set pieces and corners. The opportunity for Neves is limited.
Leicester City newboy James Maddison has a similar point total thus far in the season (19 for Neves, 18 for Maddison) but looks much more promising. Maddison has the same goal and assist (albeit spread over two matches rather than clustered in one) and has a similar BPS total for the season (75 vs 74) but that total is also spread at least a little more evenly which provides more evidence that Maddison’s point total isn’t driven entirely by a one-week outlier performance.
Add the eye test and it is reasonable to conclude that both Neves and Maddison are quality players and that Neves might even be the better of the two if you were managing a real-life team. At the same time, there seems to be more evidence that Maddison’s fantasy production is sustainable while Neves might be a great candidate to trade now before the string of 2s in the “fantasy points” column gets too long for him to retain any value.
It is a general rule that defenders, so long as they are regular starters, see their fantasy output vary together based on the team’s ability to keep clean sheets or not. Looking at the top of the defender point standings and seeing two Watford defenders – Jose Holebas (2nd) and Craig Cathcart (10th) – in the Top 10 you start to nod your head that the old adage remains true in this case.
In the immortal words of Burt Reynolds’ old college roommate Lee Corso, no so fast, my friends!
Jose Holebas’ production isn’t sustainable given the number of goals the Hornets have scored (9 in four matches) and the high percentage of those goals Holebas has been involved in thus far (5 of the 9 with either the goal or assist). That said, he has been creating chances at an elite level for over a season so you can see him continue to be an excellent point-producer even outside of Watford’s ability to generate clean sheets. My guess is that he finishes the season in the Top 10 for sure with an outside chance of the Top 5 with good health and a top-half finish in the table for his team.
Holebas’ teammate, Craig Cathcart, profiles much more as an early-season outlier. Cathcart has never scored more than a single goal in a Premier League season and only scored more than one once in the Championship (3 for the Hornets during their promotion campaign in 2014-15). This is not the picture of a prolific attacker coming out of the back. No, Cathcart’s high flying status in the point totals among defenders is due to the fact that his team has played well (one clean sheet) and he managed to get his annual goal early in the season.
My point in comparing the two is that even if you’re betting on Watford regressing to the mean over the next couple of months (which isn’t an unreasonable thing to do at all) then there is very good reason to keep Holebas through that regression while there is almost no case to either keep or pick up Cathcart.
The top two goalkeepers in fantasy points in the Premier League’s scoring system thus far this season are under the microscope next and despite their proximity in the goalkeeper points race, it doesn’t seem their prospects are that similar.
Like Craig Cathcart and Ruben Neves above, Alex McCarthy’s season-to-date looks excellent but the long-term outlook is a little fuzzier while the man topping the table looks like he could be the real deal. The case for Etheridge is pretty simple. The Bluebirds play a defense-first style that will hold down scoring among all but the most talented of opponents. This will mean Etheridge has every chance to look like a vintage Tony Pulis goalkeeper over the course of the season. Throw in Cardiff’s propensity to concede penalties and Etheridge’s propensity to save them and the potential to stay at the top of the goalkeeping point standings is legitimately there.
Look at how McCarthy arrived at his spot in the goalkeeper standings and the picture isn’t quite so kind. Southampton have given up a lot of shots against mediocre teams (meaning lots of saves for McCarthy) and managed to keep two clean sheets in the first four to go with the save points. Did I mention that one of the clean sheets was against Crystal Palace without Zaha who barely seem a Championship contender without their talisman?
As the schedule gets more difficult – their next five opponents are all average or above scoring teams thus far this season with Liverpool and Chelsea among them – the quality of the shots that the Saints are giving up is likely to increase as should the total number. The wheels could fall off of the McCarthy points train pretty quickly over the next month.
As a long-term prognosis, Etheridge is a great option to keep permanently in your squad while McCarthy is no more than a nice waiver wire claim or bench option for the occasional week when the Saints play the dregs of the division (and preferably at home).
In the wake of King’s goal against Everton, there were a lot of questions on Twitter that sounded like “should I drop [fill in the blank forward] and pick up Joshua King?”. If you look at King’s aggregate fantasy point totals over the past two seasons, you understand why. He’s been one of the more productive forwards outside of the big six clubs. Contrast that with teammate Callum Wilson who has been oft-injured but got off to a blistering start to the season in Weeks 1 & 2 but then went missing the next two matches. How should you look at these two going forward?
The hard part in evaluating Callum Wilson is that he’s never been healthy long enough in the Premier League for us to get a good sense of his consistency. We’ve seen him flash for sure but how likely is he to enter the realm of guys like Jamie Vardy or Romelu Lukaku (WBA + Everton editions) as consistently productive forwards outside of the top six? If you write off the Week 4 match as the entire Bournemouth team being outclassed (the Cherries had only 27% possession and one shot on target), then you have Wilson showing up with 6 shots on target over three matches where he could be reasonably expected to have any. From that, he scored two and added an assist. A solid early-season picture albeit one that is likely to show some regression to look more like the 10th most productive forward rather than the 3rd where he currently sits.
Contrast that with Joshua King’s history and it becomes pretty clear who you want in your squad…until the calendar turns to February 2019 or so. For some reason, Joshua King is now on his third season in a row of glacially slow starts to the season. In four starts he has a grand total of one shot on target and the only reasons we’re talking about him at all are that a) he scored it; and b) his second halves of the past two seasons have been extraordinary.
From August 2016 through the end of January 2017, King scored a paltry four goals in 22 Premier League matches. He then closed in style scoring 12 in his final 14. Move ahead to the next season when he was drafted as a rising star on the back of his sustained run to end the previous season. What did he do for an encore? He scored a grand total of two goals in the 20 Premier League appearances he made between August 2017 and the end of January 2018. From February 2018 through the end of that campaign? Six goals in 13 matches.
So, once again, Joshua King is off to a rough start to the season. The third time around are you willing to just write it off to randomness? I’m not.
Other Random Player Notes
- Cenk Tosun – He has two assists in four matches but if you watch the matches he’s barely touching the ball. Many dove in hoping that a new manager would change Tosun’s fortunes but I’d sell now because the assist rate looks unsustainable given his inactivity while his lack of shots is looking sustainable given that it is a carryover from last season.
- Steve Cook – Like Cathcart and Neves above, his gaudy point total thus far looks like a result of a single big outlier even rather than something sustainable.
- James Milner – The year many were hoping for last season (before the Andrew Robertson revolution took place) is happening but you have to assume that Fabinho will be taking those minutes soon.
- Lucas Moura – He has been productive in Son’s absence but with the South Korean international returning to the fold the distribution of minutes is going to be difficult. This one feels like the Willian/Pedro fantasy conundrum. I typically just avoid those situations but second place is trying to maneuver via trade and/or waivers to have both.
If I didn’t cover a player or trend you’re interested in knowing about, you can always find me on Twitter @nealjthurman and ask or put the question to the entire Rotoworld Premier League team @Rotoworld_PL.