We are now just over halfway through the Fantasy Premier League season and as we head into Gameweek 22, I thought I’d do a simple review of the goalscoring trends we have seen so far this season.
In the first part of the season, we saw an incredible number of goals flying in. In fact, the first goalless draw was not recorded until West Bromwich Albion and Burnley both drew a blank at the Hawthorns in Gameweek 5. Across Gameweeks 1-10, we saw an average of 28.9 goals per Gameweek, or 2.95 goals per match. Teams scored three or more goals in a match on no fewer than 44 occasions, so in any given week across the first quarter of the season we could reasonably expect that four teams would score more than twice.
We also saw big performances from a wider variety of teams, rather than dominance from a select few. In the first two Gameweeks alone, ten different teams scored three or more goals in one or both of their matches.
Clean sheets were harder to come by, with an average of 5.4 clean sheets per Gameweek. By this logic, nearly three-quarters of the league were likely to concede at least one goal each week, so points for defenders were more likely to come from their attacking prowess rather than their solidity at the back.
Since Gameweek 11, the number of goals scored has fallen to an average of 23.6 per Gameweek, or 2.4 goals per match. This means that we are seeing approximately five fewer goals across the league each week. Teams have been arguably less explosive, with three or more goals scored on 31 occasions, or just 2.82 per Gameweek. Clean sheets have increased slightly to an average of 6.27 per Gameweek.
Breaking this down even further, we can look at the trends across four segments in the half of the season played so far:
By taking into account that Gameweek 19 had 15 matches and that the fourth segment has six Gameweeks, not five, this skews the above data slightly. The below table takes the same data into account but normalised for the number of matches played:
The key figures in this table are the three in bold. In the first five weeks of the season, the average number of goals scored per match (3.54) was significantly higher than it has been across the past six weeks (2.13). In fact, Gameweeks 1-5 saw significantly more goals than the rest of the season, and since Gameweek 6 the number of goals scored seems to have normalised. The frenetic start to the season where goals were flying in saw some outstanding results and some huge scores for our FPL assets, but in recent weeks there have been fewer big hauls. In fact, the average number of times a team has scored three or more goals (per match, per week) since Gameweek 6 (0.29) has more than halved from the first five weeks of the season (0.65).
The other key figure is that the average number of clean sheets per match, per Gameweek has increased dramatically over the last four Gameweeks to 0.75, compared to 0.47 in the first five weeks of the season.
What does all of this mean for FPL?
In the first part of the season, I fell behind many of my peers because I was looking at the value of defenders. Trent Alexander-Arnold (7.3m) and Andrew Robertson (7.4m) are the most expensive defenders in the game, but their points per million (PPM) ratio across the past two seasons has made them good value, despite their hefty (for a defender) price tag. In 2018/19, Robertson scored 213 points and in 2019/20 he scored 181 points. Harry Kane (11.1m) on the other hand, scored 160 and 158 points in the same seasons. Kane was priced at 12.5m in 2018, while Robertson was half the price at 6.0m.
In any “normal” year, this may have been a reasonable strategy, but this year their lack of clean sheets, and more notably, their lack of attacking returns early in the season saw me wasting a lot of my budget on expensive defenders who were not producing. Meanwhile, attacking assets were banging in the goals and because my team value was set up with too much money spent in defence, it took me weeks to adjust the balance of my team to include Harry Kane in Gameweek 6, by which point he’d already scored five goals and registered seven assists and scored 60 points in the process.
On the other hand, now that the goals are “drying up”, defenders are suddenly much better value. The significant increase in numbers of clean sheets means that managers who invested early in the teams that are keeping shut outs, such as Manchester City, Manchester United and Arsenal, will have profited a lot more from spending a little extra on routes into these defences. The Manchester City defensive double or even triple up is becoming increasingly popular, and after keeping their tenth clean sheet in twelve Premier League outings at the weekend against Sheffield United, this tactic looks a strong one going forward.
In fact, Ruben Dias (6.0m), John Stones (5.2m) and Joao Cancelo (6.0m) have all chipped in with attacking returns on top of their clean sheets, registering a whopping 32, 33 and 25 points respectively in the process since DGW19. This is despite Stones and Cancelo both being subject to Pep Guardiola’s rotation policy, with Cancelo starting just two of the four fixtures and John Stones starting three. Anyone owning all three since DGW19 has been richly rewarded.
The tables above also partially explain why many of us have been frustrated with the lack of goals from our usually explosive premium assets. There simply haven’t been as many goals. In fact, since Liverpool’s 7-0 thrashing of Crystal Palace on 19th December, the average goals per match across the league is just 2.16. With fewer goals going in, we’re not seeing as many of the bumper hauls we would usually expect from the likes of Bruno Fernandes (11.4m), Heung-Min Son (9.8m), the recently injured Kane and Mohamed Salah (12.6m), despite the Egyptian’s brace against West Ham yesterday.
The take-home point for me is that we must be adaptable and willing to change our strategy throughout the season. Yes, it is important to have big hitting attackers, but the past four Gameweeks have seen me rise in the overall rankings significantly, and my points have come mostly from defenders. With players likely suffering from fatigue from the sheer number of matches they are playing, I’ll continue picking defenders from the teams who have been solid at the back, even if they do cost up to 6.0m. If the trend changes in the next few weeks and we start seeing more goals, I’ll re-address the balance of my team to be more top heavy.
But as Mohamed Salah proved yesterday, selling the big guns to free up funds must be done with caution. There’s a reason the premium attackers are priced so highly – and their goal droughts will all come to an end at some point!
#premium #assets #form #injured #time #focus #defence