FPL – Captain Plannering

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In the first article in this series I compiled some tables that showed how often Premier League teams had either scored or conceded 3+ goals in a match this season, presenting those findings on a home and away basis. In this second article I shall be using those statistics to generate a matrix showing which teams appear most likely to get a haul in each of the remaining 2020/21 gameweeks and then building from that a summary of a straightforward approach to the FPL captaincy for the rest of the season.

That first piece was talking about how likely teams were to be involved in an incidence of high scoring in general given their performances so far. The identity, or strength, of the opposition wasn’t brought into it. Given that there’s only a few gameweeks (and free transfers) left in this campaign that information can certainly be helpful in terms of overall FPL transfer policy, but it doesn’t give any idea of the level of “resistance” a team might face in any specific gameweek nor whether there are any promising, or forbidding, runs of fixtures for a team between now and gameweek 38. The approach in this article takes each fixture in each remaining gameweek and sets the tendency of a team to score high (home or away) against their opponent’s tendency to allow that to happen. Here’s the table for gameweek 31 as an illustration:

Let’s take the Fulham v Wolves fixture. So far this season Fulham have never scored 3 or more goals at home in a single game (0%) while Wolves have conceded that many in 27% of their away matches. Fulham are, then, very unlikely to get a big score, but Wolves might be just the team to let them. Taking the average of those two percentages feels appropriate as a thumbnail way of predicting how likely Fulham are to get a bagful of goals, which if they managed would usually mean a big FPL return for at least one of their attackers.

In this case, the average of the two numbers rounds (down) to 13%. From results so far, Fulham are as likely to concede a big score at Craven Cottage as Wolves are on the road (27%), but Wolves have at least managed to grab one haul away from home (at local rivals West Brom in GW19 – 7%) and so their overall predicted likelihood of repeating that feat is slightly higher. But not by much. And with so few scores being counted (about 13 or 14) the difference is unlikely to be statistically significant in this case.

But what we’re really doing this exercise for is to look for the top few instances where a big score looks likely so that we can narrow down our captaincy choices. We don’t have to look far to find the top pick in gameweek 31. It feels realistic to suggest that Manchester City have about a one in three chance (37%) of going on a spree at home to Leeds, though Chelsea might remind you that the flipside of that is, of course, there’s a better than even chance (63% ) that they won’t do it. It’s still the most promising looking option on the table here ahead of the second best, which a little surprisingly turns out to be Southampton at West Bromwich Albion.

We noted in the original article that there wasn’t a lot of difference amongst home defences in terms of giving away big scores except where the Baggies were concerned and that is enough here to make Southampton’s (30%) attackers a captaincy option worth considering for this particular fixture. Not far behind the Saints are the Red Devils of Manchester United (27%), largely on the formidable strength of their away performances rather than any particular weakness of Spurs at home.

By now that’s three teams on the “recommended” list for gameweek 31 and you have to start thinking about where you draw a line before you’ve recommended two thirds of the league, which wouldn’t really help. Looking at all the tables for the different gameweeks it emerges that 21% is a sort of watershed figure – the “top end of ordinary”. In some weeks that one percentage adds about a quarter of the league to our list of promising teams, so it seems wise to stick with recommending only teams who generate a score of 22% or better and that, on this occasion, brings West Brom (23%) back into the reckoning in a positive way as Southampton have unfortunately had more than their fair share of bad days away from St Mary’s.

As a final flourish, it seems appropriate to make some sort of distinction between the very strongest high scoring candidates and those just a little below them. Again looking at all the data, the dividing line seems to be 26% and above (which will be designated as category A) and 22-25% (category B). So, in gameweek 31, it would be recommended that an FPL captain should best be chosen from one of the following quartet:

If you apply these criteria to each of the remaining gameweeks, you end up with this table:

At the top you have Manchester City who provide a viable top captaincy option in seven of the remaining ten gameweeks and only miss out on two of the other three because they currently don’t have a scheduled fixture in them. At the bottom you have four teams who provide a single, category B level option in one particular gameweek which might be useful if you already have one of those players in your squad, but probably isn’t worth making a specific transfer for.

Five teams don’t appear at all: Aston Villa, Crystal Palace, Everton, Newcastle United and Sheffield United. The absence of Villa is particularly striking, but starts making sense as soon as your eyes land on their run in: TOT, FUL, liv, MCI, WBA, eve, MUN, cry, tot, CHE. Their biggest percentage likelihood of a haul is at Palace in GW36 (20%). Everton manage a 21% and a 20%, but never better than that.

Given the table above, a steady FPL captaincy strategy could look something like this:

GAmeweekTeam to Captain from
GW29-30Leeds (most likely Bamford or Raphinha)
GW31-33Manchester United (Bruno Fernandes)
GW35   Manchester United or Liverpool (Salah,Mane,Jota)
GW36   Liverpool
GW37-38West Ham (Antonio or Lingard)

As an alternative, if you already have Spurs and City attackers and don’t mind playing Pep Roulette and Bale Out (Before 60 Mins) at the same time, you might try:

Gameweekteam to captain from
GW29Spurs (Kane, or perhaps Bale)
GW30-32Manchester City (Gabriyad Sernardo de Funderling)
GW33   Leicester (Vardy, Iheanacho, Maddison, Barnes)
GW34-37Manchester City or…
GW34   …Spurs
GW35   …Leicester
GW36   …Spurs
GW37   …West Ham (Antonio or Lingard)
GW38   West Ham

Obviously, there are many paths through, but I hope this matrix narrows down your options to the best of the best.

Unless, of course, you are a devotee of the cult of Captaining A Defensive Asset. As I showed in a recent article, over a few gameweeks the top scorer will virtually always be an attacker, but clean sheets are much more common than hat-tricks and some defenders have mastered the dark arts of The Golden Set Piece, The Magical Through Ball or even the mesmerising Game Of A Thousand Accurate Passes. Could there be some weeks where a penalty taking goalkeeper walks off with the highest score? Well, if you want a look at how you might spring such a differential surprise on your unsuspecting mini-league rivals you won’t want to miss the final article in this trilogy. Look out for it over the international break.

And… <psssst>… Captain. Stuart. Dallas. At. Fulham…

38320cookie-checkFPL – Captain Plannering
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