Predicting the Unexpected FPL Haul

Note: This was originally written before the Spurs game. Heung Min Son has since, added a slice of respectability to our weeks, with an 11 pointer.

However, I am going to leave the article as it was. It still describes the bemusement that most of GW 6 was met with in the community. Son has only ever so slightly papered over those cracks.

GW 6 – What even are you?

As GW 6 comes to a close, many FPL managers have been left with that now familiar sinking feeling. What started out with us admiring our starting XI & their beautiful fixtures, has ended with us wondering, how we haven’t even scraped 50 points? Hands up, who was fantasising about a century of points and 500k green arrow this week?

You only have to look at this week’s ‘Kings of The Game Week’, (Son has now entered) to see what a random week it has been. Not a traditional top 6 attacking player in sight. This season’s darlings of Everton and Villa are nowhere to be seen.

That trio of Riedawald, Murphy & Cairney is mind boggling, unexpected and just plain damn weird. I’d go as far as saying, if you did very well this week, your team may not be in great shape going forwards.

So, in what seems like a more unpredictable season than usual, what can we do? In this article I am going to have a look at some unexpected hauls from the GW.

Was there any way of predicting these scores, via the previous week’s underlying stats? Is there any other way we could ensure we own these players, when they do unexpectedly haul?

Or should we just forget this week, stick to the plan and hope that everyone’s now best friend variance, is kinder going forwards.

Patrick Bamford £5.9m

Noel Whelan raves about Leeds United striker Patrick Bamford |  Sportslens.com
Photo Credit: https://sportslens.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/D0nK1jnXQAEYDVF.jpg

17 points

3 goals, 3 bonus

Let’s start with Bamford, who netted a stunning hattrick vs the league’s best defence. Villa, who had conceded just twice in their opening 4 games, were swept aside by Leeds and the reincarnation of Robin Van Persie. So, was there anything in the previous numbers, that could have predicted this?

Bamford had enjoyed a very good start to the season, scoring 3 goals & 2 assists in his first 3 games. This was followed by blanks in his next 2, tricky home fixtures vs City and Wolves.

In these 2 games he had 7 shots, all in the box, 2 big chances and an xG of 0.98. Very satisfactory underlying stats, especially considering the difficulty of opposition. He was basically doing Bamford things. Getting into good situations and frustrating.

Let’s look at Leeds attacking numbers prior to the Villa game…

They had scored 9 goals in their opening 5 games however, they had only scored twice in their previous 3. Their total shots (58) and big chances (9) were average but they were 4th best for shots in the box (45). For me Leeds are an attacking but economical team.

Was there anything in the Villa defence we could have pinpointed? From a numbers POV, no. They were the league’s tightest defence, had conceded 2 in 4 and kept 3 clean sheets. They ranked well on all of the expected defensive stats too.

Only the Egyptian King himself had breached their defence this season. So how could we pin our hopes on the ‘English Orphan’? Now being revised to the English Emperor…

From a statistical view, there is no way we could have dreamt of a Bamford haul here. Leeds were not in goal scoring form, Villa were tight, and Bamford was Bamford. For someone like me who did not own him, I could never have got him in.

However, I do think you could have easily back doored your way into this hat-trick, had you owned him at some point this season. While there was no way of predicting this based on stats, looking at how we play the game in general may help.

Patience this season, is looking more and more like a key attribute to have. Plenty started with Bamford and plenty more brought him in early doors. Having racked up 32 points in his first 5 games, surely, he had earned a stay of execution in non-wild carding teams? At starting price 5.5m what more can we expect of him? He’s cheap, he starts, and he gets chances.

I do value cheap players, who take up good positions and have decent shot volume. Much maligned strikers, like Bamford and Adams who are not clinical, will sometimes score well, based on this and the law of averages. They are also playing in solid attacking teams.

They will provide value. As we have already seen with both, holding through a couple of blanks can pay dividends. This is off course on the proviso, that their under lying stats remain solid.

Wilf Zaha £7.3m

Wilfried Zaha pleased with goalscoring form after Palace beat Burnley | ITV  News
Photo Credit: https://images.ctfassets.net/pjshm78m9jt4/304667_header/d1131331350e1c02b7fe8de0885159af/importedImage304667_header

13 points

1 Goal, 1 assist, 3 bonus.

Some might say hauling vs Fulham was not unexpected. However, to my eyes Fulham had shown slight signs of improvement. Conceding only 2 goals, in their previous 2 and facing a shot shy Palace I expected a tight enough game. Also, who would ever back a Palace attacker to haul?

I won’t bore you with stats on this one. Zaha’s underlying stats are never great and Palaces are even worse. They had 1 shot on goal in the previous game vs Brighton. A Zaha penalty. Even the allure of a game vs Fulham, did not overly tempt me into considering him.

However, Zaha was a very viable asset. 4 goals so far, penalties and tasty fixtures, mean there were worse ways to spend £7.2m (now £7.3m) of our budget. Signing him in GW 5, would have given us a run of Brighton, Fulham, Wolves, Leeds, Burnley, Newcastle and WBA.

Zaha is also playing OOP as a forward and is crucial to Palace’s counter attacking style. It seems that most (myself included) were happy to ignore all of this, based on long held concerns of him as an FPL asset.

Yet there he sits 3rd for all midfielders, just 2 points behind Salah and ahead of much lauded mid-priced midfielders Rodriguez and Grealish. Could some previously held misconceptions have led us to missing a trick here?

One thing to note here, is that Milivojevic started his 1st game and completed 90 minutes last time out. If he comes back in I would imagine he is back on penalties. One to keep an eye on.

However, this article is not one recommending getting in a Bamford or a Zaha. It is analysing how we can best place our teams, to have the likes of them when they do unexpectedly haul.

Putting it all together

Put Together: O que Significa Put Together Em Inglês?
Photo Credit: https://inglesnoteclado.com.br/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/Put-Together-O-que-Significa-Put-Together-Em-Ingl%C3%AAs.jpg

Predicting unexpected hauls is probably not a viable strategy. The clue is in the ‘unexpected’ bit. However, I do think I have learned a few things so far, that may allow me to hold such players when they do score big.

Patience

It is definitely a season for more patience. When faced with a sea of unpredictability, it is perhaps better to sit tight in certain spots. Doing so could have earned us hauls such as Zaha and Bamford above. It could also have led us to Che Adams haul vs Chelsea or Vardys vs City etc.

Allow for new evidence

This season appears to be like no other and needs to be looked at on it’s own merits. That could involve relaxing long held conceptions of certain players & teams, if they are giving us reason to do so. Permanently labelling players like Zaha et al as trolls may not be doing me any favours.

Flashy players like Zaha, who are fouled a lot and go down even when not fouled, may do better with no crowds. I’m sure Wilf takes some amount of abuse from the stands. The current situation may give him a more relaxing, pressure free environment, to strut his stuff. His FPL points tally so far, would suggest so.

Don’t be afraid to drop down/hold £ ITB temporarily

There is so much value to be had this season. Budget and mid priced options have been punching well above their weight. Yet we are often reluctant to swap a premium, for a mid priced player, whilst holding money ITB to revert when needed.

An example of this was my search for a KDB replacement in GW5. I briefly did consider Zaha for 2 weeks, while holding £4m plus to switch back to a premium. It would have given me nice fixtures vs Brighton and Fulham and 22 points. Instead I went for the safety of Bruno Fernandes.

So many things were blocking this Zaha transfer for me. 1) my opinion of him from seasons gone by. 2) My reluctance to drop down from a premium. 3) My dislike of having too much money ITB. 2 & 3 should not be concerns if short term things. Points > pounds & I am not changing the structure of my team, as I have the funds to switch back up instantly. Something for me to look out for, perhaps.

Conclusion

Looking at this weeks Dream Team, I set out to see if there was any way we could have predicted some of these unexpected hauls. I have focused on Bamford and Zaha here, as they were at least feasible.

Statistically, I don’t think there is any way we could confidently identify these hauls. However, focusing on the way we play the game, could easily lead to us having them in our teams, when they do go big.

I have traditionally structured my team in a set way. I will have a handful of big hitters, who stay there for large parts of the season. Everyone else is interchangeable and I use my xfers to swap budget and mid-priced options, based on form and fixtures.

This season seems to be playing out a little differently. There’s tonnes of value to be had below 9.0m and holding a batch of these players for 6-8 + games, through barren runs as well as purple patches, could prove key.

Deciding when to stick or twist, is and has always been the skill here. For example, are Grealish owners getting itchy transfer fingers, on the back of 2 blanks? Will a 3rd blank vs Soton, be one too many and will we hear those same sellers, curse how unlucky they are if he hauls vs Arsenal?

Given the number of goals and unexpected results thus far, I would be more inclined to forgive an extra blank or 2, knowing that a season defining haul could be around any corner.

So, for me while we could never predict such hauls, a mix of patience and viewing each season on it’s own merits, could lead to us enjoying some future unexpected hauls.

Good luck in GW 7 folks. It looks just as juicy as GW 6 😉

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