As the start of the 2012/13 season of the Fantasy Premier League (FPL) draws nearer, managers are frantically tinkering with their squads so as to hit the ground running and take an early lead in their respective mini leagues. The veterans amongst us can certainly vouch for the importance of selecting the right squad of players who are not only regular starters, but also have the potential to grab points on a consistent basis.
Keeping this in mind, our first statistical article for this season will analyse the performance of the players from last season’s campaign using a slightly different measurement tool called ‘minutes played per fantasy point’ (MFP). The MFP statistic will tell us the average number of minutes on the pitch it took a player to earn one fantasy point last season. Clearly the lower the number of minutes it took them, the more valuable they are for FPL managers like us! The reason for using this particular variable, instead of the overly simplistic ‘total points earned’ (TP) figure, is to level the playing field for players like McClean, Sigurdsson and Cisse who exploded onto the scene in the second half of the season.
So without further ado, lets get stuck into the stats! To make this analysis as useful as possible, we have split our review into the separate FPL player categories of goalkeepers, defenders, midfielders and forwards.
Please note that any players who played less than 900 minutes (10 games) were omitted from the analysis.
Since the two Manchester clubs had the tightest defences in the league last season, it’s quite unsurprising to see the top two spots occupied by the goalkeepers David De Gea and Joe Hart. While Hart spent 848 minutes (approximately 9 matches) longer on the pitch and registered 4 more clean sheets than David De Gea, the latter had a marginally higher MFP figure of 20.49 i.e. 1 fantasy point for every 20.49 minutes spent on the pitch. However, with Anders Lindegaard pushing De Gea for the No.1 jersey at Old Trafford, about 20.3% of FPL managers have opted to shell out the extra £1m for Hart’s extremely low rotation risk, thereby making him the second most popular pick between the sticks.
Michel Vorm’s stellar debut season in England’s top flight, in which he kept 14 clean sheets (3rd highest in the league) and made 139 saves, bettered only by Wolves stopper Wayne Hennessey, resulted in a MFP figure of 22.18. This was enough to capture 3rd place in our rankings. Although he is priced at £5.5m, the same level as Krul, Howard, Friedel and Szczesny, Swansea’s favourable fixture list has encouraged FPL managers to invest heavily in the Dutch goalkeeper. With that being said, Sunderland’s Simon Mignolet achieved a marginally lower MFP figure than Vorm and could be viewed as a differential, thereby saving £0.5m.
The rest of the pack had very similar MFP scores. With the exception of Begovic, the remaining goalkeepers are regular starters for their respective clubs and are expected to achieve similar results this season.
The first name on the list certainly came as a surprise to us. Manchester United’s fullback Rafael leads the chart with a MFP figure of 16.38. A closer look at this number illustrates that the Brazilian spent 950 minutes on the pitch, which was just about enough for him to be eligible to be considered for our purposes. However, in that limited time he managed 4 assists, 6 clean sheets and won 76.4% of his tackles and 50% of his aerial duels. With Chris Smalling currently sidelined with a toe injury, his main rival for the vacant right back position seems to be Phil Jones. If Rafael can remain injury free and perform consistently, he could cement a place in United’s back four and could offer an excellent differential for the upcoming season. Although, there could be a spanner in the works with Sir Alex choosing to deploy Antonio Valencia in that position. On balance Rafael would be a risky choice this season, but the stats do tell an interesting story with regards to his potential.
Pablo Zabaleta, Vincent Kompany, Ryan Taylor and Thomas Vermaelen have very similar MFP figures in the 19-20 range. Zabaleta spent the least time on the pitch from the four, yet he managed 1 goal, 1 assist and 10 clean sheets in his 18 starts. Zabaleta’s suitors are likely to increase rapidly especially if Mancini sticks to his new 3-5-2 formation with two attacking wing backs. For those who don’t like to rely on chance, there is always the option of selecting the Manchester City skipper and last season’s second highest point scoring defender Vincent Kompany. The Belgian international is clearly one of the best centre halves in the league. His clean sheet potential and threat from set pieces has made him the most popular defender in the league with an ownership of almost 25%.
Ryan Taylor is a versatile player who can play in either full back role as well as in midfield. With 23 starts, 2 goals, 6 assists and a bulk of set piece duties under his belt last season, FPL managers will certainly be hoping to see more of Taylor in midfield, thereby making him an immediate out of position prospect for the upcoming season.
With Robin Van Persie seemingly on his way out from Arsenal, Thomas Vermaelen is likely to be appointed as the new captain. This will cement his place in the Gunner’s starting line-up. If the ex Ajax defender can maintain his goal scoring prowess and improve his clean sheet figures, he could quite easily be one of the top scoring defenders this season.
Manchester City’s Adam Johnson leads the midfielder rankings with a MFP figure of 12.13 which equates to 1 FPL point for every 12.13 minutes spent on the pitch. Johnson started only 10 times for Roberto Mancini’s side, with 16 of his 26 appearances coming as a sub. Despite that, the former Middlesbrough player delivered every time he got an opportunity, with 6 goals, 6 assists and 10 bonus points for a total of 101 points in 1225 minutes or 13.6 games. However, with Yaya Toure, David Silva, Gareth Barry (when he returns from injury) and new boy Jack Rodwell occupying the midfield berths for Manchester City, Johnson may find it extremely difficult to break into the starting XI.
Manchester United’s wingers, Ashley Young, Nani and Antonio Valencia are featured in 2nd, 3rd and 8th place in our list. Although Young scored the lowest number of points from the three, he managed to do so in approximately 800 minutes less game time than either Valencia or Nani. This implies that the Englishman was far more efficient with the time he spent on the pitch than his two team mates. With that being said, the only concern with picking any of the United wingers is that they are all prone to rotation risk. It seems the safest strategy is to wait and see how United line up for the first few games of the season before splashing the cash on any of these players.
That brings us to the Tottenham duo of Rafael Van Der Vaart and Gylfi Sigurdsson. The former scored fewer goals and assists in his second season in the Premier League. Despite that he managed to surpass his debut season total of 165 points, due to the 27 bonus points he collected along the way (the most for any midfielder). His Icelandic teammate initially arrived at Swansea on a 6 month loan from Hoffenheim during the second half of last season. He was deployed in an advanced midfield role in Brendan Rodgers 4-3-3 formation and quickly adapted to the rigours of the Premier League. His performances took the fantasy football world by storm and within a matter of weeks Sigurdsson went from being a differential to a ‘must have’ player in every squad. He finished the season with 7 goals and 5 assists for a total of 102 points and a MFP of 15.29, the highest for any player from a newly promoted side. His exploits from last season have resulted in a price tag of £9m, the same as his teammate Van Der Vaart. Tottenham manager Andre Villa Boas has hinted at using a 4-2-3-1 formation this season, meaning that Sigurdsson and Van Der Vaart will be competing with each other for the advanced midfield role behind the striker.
David Silva, Steven Pienaar and Juan Mata share one thing in common and that is being the most creative midfielder at their respective clubs. This can be illustrated by the fact that the trio managed 16 goals and 40 assists between them last season. It seems that Silva and Pienaar will be one of the first names on the team sheets and are likely to play an integral role in the upcoming campaigns for Manchester City and Everton respectively. However, the same can’t be said about Mata, with the purchase of Hazard and Marin casting doubt in the minds of FPL managers about the amount of game time his price tag commands.
It’s certainly not surprising to see Newcastle United’s winter transfer window signing Cisse occupying 1st place in our MFP table. The Senegalese international marked his debut with a winner against Aston Villa. After that there was no looking back for the ex Freiburg striker who embarked on an incredible goal scoring streak in which he netted 13 times and even managed a couple of assists. He finished the season on 105 points (including 20 bonus points) in 1147 minutes of game time for a MFP figure of 10.92. With Alan Pardew changing to a 4-4-2 formation for a majority of Newcastle’s pre-season games, the question on everyone’s mind is can Cisse emulate his goal scoring form from the tail end of last season or will the new formation allow his compatriot Demba Ba to step up his game and remind FPL managers why he was one of most popular picks in the first half of the season?
Manchester City’s forwards, with the exception of Tevez, also made it into our list. From the three Edin Dzeko has the lowest MFP (11.79). The Bosnian international started only 16 games for Roberto Mancini’s side, but still managed to score 14 goals and get 6 assists in the process. With Carlos Tevez and Mario Balotelli competing with Dzeko for the vacant spot alongside Sergio Aguero, it seems unlikely that the ex-Wolfsburg forward will be able to cement a starting place at the Etihad Stadium. That brings us to Sergio Aguero. The Argentine arrived in England from Athletico Madrid with great expectations and he certainly did not disappoint. In his first season at Manchester City, Aguero notched 23 goals and 9 assists in 2667 minutes or approximately 29.5 games, resulting in a MFP score of 12.64. Home games against newly promoted Southampton and QPR in the first three gameweeks has seen considerable investment coming his way and has made him the most popular striker in this season’s FPL competition.
Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney and last season’s golden boot winner Robin Van Persie have very similar MFP figures of 12.88 and 13.06. Rooney scored fewer goals and assists than the Dutchman, yet he managed to come out on top primarily due to the fact that he spent approximately 550 fewer minutes or 6 fewer games on the pitch to register his final score of 230 vs Van Persie’s 269.
Finally we turn our attention to Everton front man Nikica Jelavic. Signed from Rangers during the winter transfer window, the Croatian thrived in David Moyes 4-5-1 and firmly established himself as Everton’s leading striker within a few months of his arrival. He finished the season with 9 goals (69 points) scored in just under a 1000 minutes of football, thereby producing a MFP of 14.48.
Final Summary – The Top Ten
To conclude, the table above provides a clear indication that forwards and midfielders are more likely to spend fewer minutes on the pitch to earn each fantasy point. So our final piece of advice is to invest a large portion of the budget in strengthening the midfield and forward areas, while picking defenders and goalkeepers who play regularly and are likely to pick up clean sheets along the way. Till next time……..
This article was written by the Archivist