Stag’s Take – Gameweek 9
Another international break draws to a close and FPL returns this weekend, putting an especially energy sapping fortnight of football drama and disgrace to bed.
An area of Fantasy Premier League which is oft-mentioned but rarely discussed in depth, price changes, has been in the spotlight this week because of Kevin De Bruyne’s failure to drop by even 0.1. After Gameweek 7, the Belgian was in 43% of all sides and his form essentially made it so that he was present in almost all active sides. Now, as we tick towards Gameweek 9, his ownership has dropped to about 31% after over 650,000 net transfers out pre-Gameweek 8 and another net drop of 56,000 owners over the IB. Price changes? None. Anthony Martial’s price proved similarly resolute earlier in the season when he went from 18.6% to 6.6%, with over 30% of his owners going overboard in a single inter-gameweek period (GW4-GW5) without any effect. He has since dropped twice, but one of these came completely out of the blue when the only people that owned Martial were lads who had given up on the game already. This is well and good if the drops were consistent with other falls, but unfortunately people are finding price changes to have an arbitrary aspect to them at times this season. To take one example, Gylfi Sigurdsson started the season with ownership north of 10% overall (791k) and has dropped by 0.4 over the course of 560k transfers out, though he only lost at most about 30% of his owners in any one inter-gameweek period.
There are a number of sites which aim to do what FPL Towers should give us, but understandably they struggle to forecast every price movement correctly. Managers need transparency. As the season progresses, team value becomes even more important in funding transfers, free hits and wildcards, but your buying power is dictated by how well you have managed your side all year. Price changes are probably the only feature of FPL which gives those of us who spend too much time thinking about the game any advantage at all over the standard casual who makes transfers on a Friday evening after sorting by “overall points” and selecting the first affordable option. It’s a huge advantage to a manager if they can “hop off” and then return to a player without having to buy for (much) more than they sold, a quirk of the game enabled by your selling price increasing by only 0.1 for every 0.2 a player’s price jumps from whatever price you purchased them for. De Bruyne is a good illustration of this.
He started the season at 9.5 and was quite popular. By Gameweek 3, he was 9.6 and people like me who had overlooked him in pre-season had picked him up. By October 4th, the even of Gameweek 8, he was 10.0, injured, and expected to fall. I sold him for 9.8, expecting at least one drop, if not two, meaning that I would be able to purchase him again for 9.9 or 9.8. All forecast applications backed the decision. As it transpires though, he hasn’t dropped and he is 0.2 out of reach for me now. It’s frustrating.
Luck is a huge factor in FPL, but skill is a factor – skill in deciphering stats, skill at anticipating good performances, skill at playing the game based on its scoring system and other rules. When the price changes can appear arbitrary, or even dare I say it, manipulated, it has a knock on effect on everything, but those who benefit are just lucky, because nobody can know what’s actually going to happen with certainty. It’s an easy fix – just show us the numbers. In the mean time, I know who to blame....... It's Rebekah Vardy's account.
When a star becomes a “has been” and you’re still attending their concert, it’s worth looking around and wondering why you’re still partying like it’s Newcastle at home in Gameweek 2. Pukki is the most transferred out player this Gameweek, the only player breaching 400,000 sales (Salah 390,000 is second), following Norwich’s extremely poor defeats to Crystal Palace and more recently, Aston Villa. But should he be given one more week?
My feeling is yes. The Canaries’ opponents, Bournemouth, are one of the few teams in the division who are yet to keep a clean sheet, continuing their time honoured tradition of defensive frailty during their Premier League years. They rank highly in terms of shots in the box and big chances conceded so far this term, but they actually lead the league on xGC (15.37). More prescient is the fact that their lead is actually greater when you filter xGC to just that which was conceded from open play. It’s a real concern for Eddie Howe’s team, it just so happens that going forward, they have been capable of scoring enough to earn a top half place after eight matches. Bear in mind to that the Pukki Party went home over the break to national acclaim, getting an encore after a brace against Armenia in Helsinki to put the Finns in position to qualify for their first ever major tournament.
That said, the obvious sideways move is to bring in the potential Pukki Party pooper, Callum Wilson. The England international has been remarkably consistent all season, scoring five times and assisting a further three, returning in every gameweek but the most recent one. His underlying statistics in recent weeks are actually very similar to Pukki’s, but the atmosphere around Bournemouth and their form makes everything look much rosier for him. Couple that with the fact that all season, Norwich’s defence has been leaky and since then it has been ravaged by injuries, however Gameweek 9 seems to be the weekend where their physio room has less players than their dressing room again. To what extent will players returning from injury boost Norwich’s fortunes and scupper Bournemouth’s? I suspect the difference in Norwich’s attack could be huge given that they play in a scintillating attacking style which requires familiarity to carry out pre-planned attacking movements, but the return of either Alex Tettey or Tom Trybull (both have been pictured in full training but remain red flagged) to the gap in between defence and midfield should aid their cause defensively. It was this channel which Villa ruthlessly exposed in Gameweek 8.
I’m staying at the Pukki Party.
Chelsea’s even newer hope
Frank Lampard’s smiley revolution had its finest hour so far in Gameweek 8 as The Blues brushed Southampton aside with ease at St. Mary’s with goals from, inter alia, Tammy Abraham and Mason Mount. One of Chelsea’s star performers on the day was Callum Hudson-Odoi who started his first Premier League game of the campaign after a long layoff. The teenager picked up an early assist against the Saints to add to one he picked up off the bench a week earlier against Brighton, both of which came either side of another assist off the bench in the Champions League against Lille. During the international break, the good form continued with a brace against Austria’s Under-21s, where CHO looked far above the standard on display by all accounts.
Remarkably, CHO was actually Chelsea’s furthest forward player in Gameweek 8 by average position, recording shot stats similar to both Abraham and Mount. In fact, it was the two midfielders who actually outperformed the striker in terms of goal threat. CHO was also Chelsea’s joint-most creative outlet with Willian, underlying his FPL potential in every sense. It is conceivable that in the long term, he will prove to be a better FPL asset than Mason Mount. However, questions still remain about his likelihood of starting each week. I think that if you’re looking for a midfield punt, you should look no further than CHO.
PL Red Letter Day
Manchester United versus Liverpool, there is no bigger game in English football historically, though now the disparity between the sides is at a point where a Danny Mills combined XI featuring only Liverpool players can no longer be cast aside as a troll.
United are expected to be missing David De Gea for the clash, though Sergio Romero has proved an able deputy in his appearances for the club in recent seasons, but Wan-Bissaka, Shaw and Anthony Martial are all touch-and-go. Liverpool also face worries but have no major absences. I don’t anticipate that this will be the turkey shoot for Liverpool that the form books point to, but The Reds should still clamber over this hurdle with ease. Will it be Salah or Mané who leads the charge though?
A marked difference to Mané’s patterns in previous seasons, and even the first weeks of the season, is that he is now shooting at a rate that is almost identical to Mohamed Salah. There used always be an xG gap between them too in favour of the Egyptian, but the last four gameweeks have seen the balance title completely in favour of the in-form Senegal international. For a long time, I was a vocal member of the pro-Salah camp, adamant that he would come through thanks to superior stats and because Mané was “over-performing” a bit. I think I was wrong.
Tammy Abraham (Newcastle H)
It’s still hard to grasp that a player who was on loan in the Championship last season is currently the PL top scorer but this is the world we now live in.
Abraham has benefited the most since Frank Lampard took over with a system built to primarily serve him, and should continue that against Newcastle this weekend. The Toon have done much better than doomsday prophets suggested in August, but they remain vulnerable and cough up a lot of chances to their opponents. In particular, they have conceded the second mist headed goals, a skill in Abraham’s locker which we have seen succeed only once so far this term (against Wolves) but which delivered six of his 26 goals last term.
Harry Kane (Watford H)
Spurs may be doing badly but Watford are doing worse. Kane has conspired to score in some of the most dire games he has featured in this term and it is difficult to envision him not finding the net at home to the Hornets.
Raheem Sterling (Crystal Palace A)
City have had a long time to stew on a huge setback against Wolves in Gameweek 8. Their defeats often lead to big responses, as Watford most recently found out this term. Sterling has had a quiet few weeks but had a good international break, scoring twice against Bulgaria (who it must be noted, are extremely poor), and should play a big part of normal service resuming for City.
Stag has been providing #FPL Tips since July 2015 and has been a contributor for Rotoworld.com since August 2016. He is a self-proclaimed wannabe fantasy football genius, a student, and die-hard tea enthusiast.