Haul Marks Part I

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It’s only GW3 and already wildcards are being flung about like the proverbial confetti. FPL Managers are rushing to cash in their only chance to completely renew their squad in the first sixteen gameweeks, living in fear of players they don’t own “hauling”, but still reluctant to let go of those who are at least getting them a “return”. Those two terms are widespread in the FPL community, but without strict definition. This article looks to provide that and uses last season’s data to identify those most (and least) likely to give you some statistical bang for your theoretical buck.

So what’s a Return, then?

It’s tempting to say it’s anything on top of the 2 standard points for 60+ minutes on the pitch, but it’s rare to see a midfielder’s solitary clean sheet point greeted with anything other than a sardonic roll of the eyes. A return is when your player has scored, assisted or kept a clean sheet. Or spent all afternoon heroically compiling save points and an accompanying bonus or two. Is it spoiled by a late yellow card for kicking the ball away? By no means! A red card or a missed penalty can seriously put a dampener on it, though – you’re almost back to where you started. So a clean sheet minus a booking, then, or an appearance plus an assist. 5 points (or more) = 1 Return.

And how about a Haul?

Well, it’s clearly got to be a fair bit more than a Return, but still common enough to be helpful in sifting out the “big hitters”, the captaincy candidates, from the guys who keep the team ticking over but you wouldn’t trust with the armband. Scanning lists of players and numbers there’s something compelling about a double digit score. It’s noticeable. It stands out. 9 doesn’t feel that different from 8 or 7, but 10… nooooow you’re talking. That’s a headline score, a score you hope has got a little (c) next to it to make it into a right royal rank raiser. That’s a Haul, that is. 10 points (or more) = 1 Haul. 

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What’s the maximum number of hauls I can expect over a season?

An isolated Haul, especially early in the campaign, is like an FPL supermagnet, producing a powerful field that draws in Tweets, podcasts and fantasy millions in large numbers. But anyone who’s played at least a season will have had the experience of rushing to buy, yet later reflecting that that Haul was the exception rather than the rule. So what’s the sunny side of that, the most Hauls a player might get if they stayed fit and in form?

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Last season’s HaulMeister was Kevin De Bruyne with 10 from 34 appearances, accounting for around half of his league leading 251 points overall. That means KDB achieved a Haul in 29% of his appearances, which is also the best for anybody with 15 or more matches played*. So that’s realistically the high watermark, the very most you could expect in ‘wow’ scoring in FPL – 1 Haul in every 3 or 4 games.

*There may turn out to be a reason why that rather arbitrary looking threshold was chosen…

What’s the maximum number of returns I can expect over a season?

The PFA’s Player of the Year managed an impressive 21 returns at a rate of 62% per appearance, but he was outReturned by Liverpool left back Andy Robertson who amassed 24 at a rate of 69%. If you’re looking for reliability, there’s your man. Just don’t expect Hauls. Andy doesn’t really do them. Or at least he didn’t last season. One haul only across 3111 minutes for a total of 181 points. In contrast his colleague Trent Alexander-Arnold got EIGHT of them in 3173 minutes for 210 points, but three fewer returns (21, like KDB). This crystallises the crucial difference between Hauls and Returns at the zenith of FPL. That 0.5 extra for TAA is for the 14s and 13s he conjures up, but if you’re OK with the most consistent Returner in the game instead, you can have him for one price point down the scale. 

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Who Hauls the most consistently often when they Return?

Both Kevin De Bruyne (62%/29%) and Mo Salah (61%/27%) converted around half their Returns into Hauls, but is there a player who still gets regular Returns and then goes on to Haul at an even better rate? Step forward, shimmy and send us the wrong way, Willian! Admittedly these are numbers from his final season at Chelsea, but Arsenal’s new attacking midfielder set-pieced his way to a dozen Returns in 2595 minutes, seven of which (58%) went on to reach double figures. Raheem Sterling was only a bonus point or two behind on 56% (16 returns, 9 hauls)

Is there an Anti-Returner, the very embodiment of a baseline player for whom a Return is merely the second half of a ticket on public transport?

Anybody playing in goal, the backline or the posse of attackers is bound, even accidentally, to acquire a clean sheet or an assist if they simply hang around on the pitch long enough, but amongst the fraternity of defensive MIDs there is stiff competition for the title of Albatrossymandias, Void of Voids (motto: “Look upon my dogged interceptions and despair”). Last season the award went to Jack Cork of Burnley who painstakingly patrolled the edge of his own final third for 2614 assiduous minutes, totalling 70 FPL points and never once letting any of his side’s twelve clean sheets spoil his perfect Returnlessness. 

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And is there, by any chance, a startling exception that you’ve spent most of the article trying not to talk about who threatens to rewrite the boundaries of Hauling?

Bruno Fernandes, stop trying to ruin a perfectly good article!! Through tear-stained contact lenses it is my solemn duty to report that, in 14* appearances at the end of last season the Portuguese maestro zipped to 11 Returns at a rate of 79% (10% better than Robertson) and frollicked to 6 Hauls at a rate of 43% (eclipsing De Bruyne’s 29% by some margin), numbers which, if he were able to maintain that across a whole campaign would… well, even if Messi had turned up he might have had to give best to the zillion hundred FPL points Fernandes would stockpile.

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We now know he definitely can do it on an adrenaline fuelled, penalty strewn run in to Champions League qualification. What we don’t know is whether, faced with the same sort of grind De Bruyne and Salah have had to get used to, he can keep Returning that prolifically until next summer comes around. So far we have the blank against Crystal Palace. It will probably take until near Christmas before we really know exactly who he is, statiscally.

* See above: De Bruyne, Kevin; HaulMeister

“But what of Sadio Mané or Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang?” I hear you cry. “And are there any players or patterns to look out for in my search for FPL Return glory?”

Find out in part II of Haul Marks. Click here to read https://jumpersforgoalposts.info/2020/09/25/haul-marks-part-ii/

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