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Our first official transfer guide of the season will be posted later this week and will feature the 26 (TWENTY SIX) players who met our ABC criteria for elite FPL performance. Given that only 8 players eventually scored 200+ points last season we were a little taken aback at such a high pass rate and, given that we can only actually hire about half of them even on a wildcard, we began to look at how we might put a little distance between them. If you’ve read the Setting Out The Stall article you’ll already know we’re not trying to look at individual matches or gameweeks in our approach, but rather performance over, ideally, the six gameweeks just gone, aiming to recommend transfer targets that have a good chance of steady FPL returns over a month or two to come.
FPL discussion has for a long time featured “form and fixtures” as a staple. Several pundits and websites have their own ways of quantifying the difficulty of upcoming matches, but we felt we wanted our own that was in harmony with the ABC transfer criteria we’d already set out for transfers, something fairly straightforward that uses the most recent gameweeks as its timeframe. Inspiration came from a board game called Soccer Replay that’s been around since the 1980s, but which is still available to this day. That system allows you to play whole seasons, or perhaps an All Time Great World Cup, fairly quickly using team attack and defence ratings based on goals scored or conceded with “A” the best possible and “G” the worst.
Using only actual goals is fine if you’ve got all the data from all the matches in a competition, but in FPL we never have that and, with only six gameweeks completed, we have barely enough to work with. So for attack we’re blending goals scored, chances in the box and big chances created while we’re using the mirrors of those for defence plus clean sheets which we considered very important as, for many defensive assets, they are their main route to FPL points. This season is also odd because four teams have missed a game and the first couple of weeks in particular were a bit zany, most likely because defences in particular had had little chance to drill while penalties were being handed out like sweets. So we settled on using the last four gameweeks (3-6) as our starter data set and will look to add to that as time goes on.
Examining the relevant tables in the Fantasy Football Scout members area we looked, where possible, for clear distinctions between groups of teams on our chosen criteria. The finer decisions were, of course subjective – “bottom end of C or top end of D?” – and readers who go and look at the original tables are welcome to come to different conclusions. This approach is not looking for accuracy to 2 decimal places, but rather to give a general guide to how teams have recently performed to help in FPL transfer, and even lineup, decisions. Here, then are our initial Team Strength Tiers (TST):
In the upcoming transfer article we’ll use these ratings to look at the “strength of schedule” for each transfer target over the next few games, but for now, here’s a brief commentary on each tier.
DEFENCEEmbed from Getty Images
Southampton, having shaken off their drubbing from Spurs, are now setting the standard with 3 clean sheets from 4 while conceding only 2 big chances. Chelsea have let in 6 from 3 big chances, but now have a pair of clean sheets from games where they’ve had Mendy in goal and Thiago Silva at the heart of defence which looks likely to be the start of a new ‘spine’ for them. West Ham also have 2 clean sheets with 4 goals conceded.
Leeds have actually conceded the fewest goals (2) in the league from the last 4 matches, but have allowed 6 big chances and 36 efforts on goal inside the box. Wolves have similar stats on chance concession and clean sheets, but have let in 5 goals, the same as Villa who are the only other side with 2 clean sheets.
Each of Spurs, Burnley, Leicester and West Brom have 1 clean sheet and have conceded 5 or 6 goals from no more than 7 big chances.
Everton, Newcastle and Palace have not kept a clean sheet between them, but have conceded only 7 or 8 goals from 6 or 7 big chances.
This tier sees a step change in either big chances or goals conceded. Brighton have let in 9 goals while Arsenal, Sheffield United and Manchester City have allowed 9 or 10 big chances each.
Fulham have actually only conceded 7 goals, but from a league high 13 big chances, a total shared with… champions Liverpool, who watched 7 go in during a single 90 minutes at Villa Park as well as conceding 4 in their other 3 games and not keeping a clean sheet. Manchester United did manage one of those, but took their own medicine at home to Spurs and allowed 12 big chances overall. This tier provides perhaps the best prospects for immediate bounceback. West Brom leaped from here to the relative calm of Tier C when Monday’s 1-1 draw with Brighton replaced their 5-2 loss at Everton in gameweek 2.
ATTACKEmbed from Getty Images
Now this is what’s keeping Liverpool near the top of the division once again. No matter the alarming leaks springing across their defence, the forward line is still banging them in with regularity and could be even better if they could only capitalise on their league leading 17 big chances. Spurs are the equal top scorers over the last 4 with 11 Son-And-Kane routines from 15 big chances, second only to the Merseyside reds.
Villa also have 11 goals, this time from 14 big chances (many in that one game), but 3 came from outside the area which feels a little less ‘reproducible’. Everton were up in the top tier before their scrappy performance at Southampton.
Chelsea have 10 goals, but that’s outpacing their 8 big chances and is potentially susceptible to a bit of regression. The Hammers are in a similar situation with 11 from 7 big chances and, like Villa, 3 goals coming from outside the area.
This was the hardest single decision. Leeds have generated the most shots in the box in the league with 53 in 4 games, including matches against Wolves and Manchester City. Liverpool are next with 47. Leeds have also created 11 big chances, but what’s dropping them this far is that they’ve only converted 5 into goals and 3 of those came against Villa. A lot of upside here if that performance was a sign of things to come. Brighton, Leicester and Manchester City scored 5 or 6 from 6 or 7 big chances while Manchester United and Southampton made the most of fewer opportunities with 8 goals apiece.
This tier represents teams that got a bit more than expected from low big chances (Newcastle) or slightly under performed on that measure (Sheffield United, Palace and Arsenal).
The first reaction is “What on earth are Jimenez’s Wolves doing down here?” The problem is that nobody else is scoring, two of their three goals have been speculative Raúl efforts from outside the box, one of which took a huge deflection, and their most recent results have been 1-1, 1-0, 1-0 and a thumping at West Ham. Fulham have only scored 2, Burnley have only tallied 1 and West Brom, despite managing 4, have somehow conjured those from odds and ends after creating just the one big chance across the four fixtures. Research has yet to tell us whether there is a causal relationship between this and being forced to play every Monday at 5:30.
Come back later in the week for our ABC guide including how these tiers affect the leading FPL transfer targets.