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Regression to the mean is a simple fact of fantasy sport life, whichever sport it may be. Once a player or a team has shown you their general level, they may over or under perform for a while, but soon that mean old mean drags you back towards it. Scoring hat tricks every other week? A month’s worth of blanks is surely not far away. Conceding goals with unusual regularity? A couple of clean sheets are probably in the post. These things generally actually DO even themselves out over a season, epecially one as long as the Premier League’s.
As we mentioned in our original ABC Transfer Guide articles, even the most prolific Returners and Haulers are going to blank about one third of the time, so when you bring in, say, Bruno Fernandes for an away game at the club that’s bottom of the division, you captain him, his team scores three goals and yet Bruno mysteriously has nothing to do with any of it, this is, on its own, nothing to be worried about. Over the long term. And it’s ok to come out of the cupboard under the stairs. Not that that’s where we are. No. Anyway, the other day we published a full ABC Transfer Guide and what follows should be read as an update to that. Ready? Here we go, into the hallway…
Oooh, everything is average nowadays…”
Wolves 2 Chelsea 1Embed from Getty Images
Wolves are showing signs of returning to the sort of stoic but hard edged performances of the last couple of years whereas Chelsea’s new found invincibility has taken a couple of chunky dents. This isn’t to say you should immediately take a -8 to ditch James, Chilwell and Werner in favour of Saiss, Podence and Neto, but hopefully it does reset expectations a touch. In terms of FPL points, Chelsea’s mdfield have flattered to deceive. Some have contended with illness or injury while others still seem to be finding their feet.
Despite all the exotic new signings their most reliable option by far has been plain old Mason Mount (2, 6, 2, 8, 2, 1). He keeps playing and often finds a way to put points on the board, but at £6.9m and with little sign of a Haul (10+ points according to our ABC criteria) there would seem to be cheaper options with more promise. Such as Podence (1, 2, 9, 2, 2, 9 – £5.4m) and Neto (2, 6, 13, 2, 2, 9 – £5.8m), for example, who, after a little hesitation, showed on Tuesday they could be ready to go from understudies to star turns via Raul Jimenez’s long term absence. Defensively, Chelsea are still tidy and James, Chilwell and Zouma always threaten an attacking return, but the clean sheets have dried up and three lively attacks (West Ham, Villa, Manchester City) are about to visit Stamford Bridge. Wolves haven’t kept a clean sheet in their last six.
Man City 1 West Brom 1Embed from Getty Images
Sam Lee wrote a brilliant article in The Athletic this week explaining why City have been so frustratingly disfunctional this season. Do read the whole thing if you can, but the short version is everybody is not quite where they’d like to be because everybody is partially covering for someone else and my goodness we’re all beginning to understand what David Silva used to do. City players relentlessly lack the consistency to make it onto our ABC lists this year, even HaulMeister De Bruyne who plays increasingly like a man who believes it’s all down to him. Meanwhile, in every match a random City player gets a double digit haul before typically disappearing without trace for the next six weeks: Walker, Mahrez, Mendy, Gundogan…
These days there’s more Pep Roulette on the pitch than off it as Bernardo Silva will tell you. West Brom, of course, were supposed to be swapping Bilic for Big Sam *before* this heroic performance and their owners might actually have been more annoyed with the result than City’s. Johnstone (£4.5m) in goal is fond of a 3 or 4 pointer if you like that sort of thing and Darnell Furlong has had more shots in the box (7) in his last six outings than any defender except levitating nodders Lewis Dunk and Harry Maguire. Watch to see if Allardyce can reinforce this with some of his trademark steel at the back.
“Everything is average nowada-ays…”
Arsenal 1 Southampton 1Embed from Getty Images
Arsenal, in contrast, seem to have decided that, like Southampton with Ralph Hassenhuttl last season, they have the right manager, he just needs time to sort everything out. I guess winning the FA Cup will help with that. Seems long ago, doesn’t it? Yet on Wednesday Aubameyang emerged from his autumnal hibernation to once again Get That Goal He Always Gets. We’re imagining a phone call from statistical soulmate Raul Jimenez set him right and persuaded him to get back on the treadmill for both of them. Until the Gunners finally shake the sleep from their eyes we wouldn’t be investing in their squad. Even the flickering promise of Gabriel couldn’t avoid a sleepwalk into the early bath.
And there’s the Saints… THIRD! And not bothered about being top because they’ve only just *been* there! Danny Ings (0, 0, 0, 8, 5, 1 – £8.4m) has resumed exactly where he left off and promises regular returns, but sidekick Che Adams (7, 7, 2, 2, 8, 5 – £6.0m) is currently matching him stride for stride, is behind only Dominic Calvert-Lewin for FPL efficiency and is still only owned by 7.3% of managers. We assume that’s because, just like us, they have triple Southampton defence. Must be. Whisper it, but Theo Walcott (6, 7, 2, 2, 3, 9 – £5.8m) is outpacing the more celebrated Stuart Armstrong (10, 2, 2, 2, 8, 2 – £5.5m) and James Ward-Prowse (3, 2, 11, 5, 3, 2 – £6.3m), though you may want to wait until after Saturday’s hosting of a grumpy Manchester City before signing any of them up. Us? Well, we can’t get Alex McCarthy out of the way (can we, Fraser Forster?) and Jannik Vestergaard can smite anybody with his trusty Mjölnir the Forehead, so we’re just hoping Heimdnarek can keep Captain Belgium off the Bifrost long enough for us to make good our escape.
“Everyone would do it if they can…”
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The Jumpers For Goalposts Guide To Football stated in error that “Leeds United often make a very good meal FOR opposing teams,” instead of “Leeds United often make a very good meal OF opposing teams”. Jumpers For Goalposts have summoned Marcelo Bielsa to testify that beauty is truth, truth beauty and that, as so often in life, apparent contradictions might actually both be true at the same time. Any managers suffering as a result must surely blame Fantasy Premier League itself for failing to be either beautiful or true. Patrick Bamford (7, 2, 2, 8, 5, 6 – £6.3m) continues to accompany Che Adams in snapping at DCL’s striking heels and Rodrigo’s (£5.7m) classy dozen announces him on the Bargain Third Forward runway. The sharing of the FPL spoils elsewhere is simply a continuation of how Leeds have operated for the last two seasons. They’ll all get something as we go, but only the strikers are likely to Haul. If you’re not already watching every Leeds match as if it were an endoscopy (lurid, Suj of Planet FPL, but we know *exactly* what you mean) then Stuart Dallas (0, 5, 8, 1, 1, 7 – £4.6m) continues to live up to his pre-season “must have cheap defender” billing while converted winger Gjanni Alioski (0, 9, 6, 1, 0 8 – £4.4m) is revelling in his new-won regular starter status at left back (3.2 points per match, the same as Tariq Lamptey), but may drop out once Diego Llorente can overcome the sight of grass.
In contrast, standing tall amdist the rubble was Callum Wilson (12, 2, 0, 12, 1, 5 – £6.6m), cutting something of a Captain Scarlet figure these days (“He withstands serious injury! He escapes the watery depths of relegation! Wheels coming off all over the place cannot harm him!”) and so it was that he walked unbowed from Elland Road clutching a precious assist. Believe it or not, right now he’s returning at the same levels as Jamie Vardy (Captain Blue) and even Harry Kane (Colonel White). Don’t let the Mysterons persuade you he can’t possibly survive Fulham, Manchester City, Liverpool and Leicester! *
West Ham 1 Crystal Palace 1Embed from Getty Images
Just when you think Christian Benteke is about to become the player he’s often threatened to be he goes and gets himself sent off. From a fantasy point of view, I guess not too many managers were thinking of bringing him in before Saturday’s match against his old club, the Liverpool Globetrotters, anyway, but given his growing understanding with Wilfried Zaha and Eberechi Eze don’t forget him. Or, indeed, them, especially as Zaha looks set to continue up front and firing in several shots per game.
West Ham have recently been offering value picks from front to back. Though it’s now four games since Lukasz Fabianski got a return, Coufal got an assist and some bonus in this one, Cresswell’s ticking over and Ogbonna looms at set-pieces like a lofty… looming thing. Even The Soucerwock has risen from the slithy toves and is merrily gyring and gimbling in other peoples’ penalty areas (“The jaws that bite! The head that clonks! Come to my team, my bargainish boy!”). Bowen can haul, but blanks a bit too often at £6.4m and Haller probably isn’t getting quite enough chances to be playable especially given three away games at stout defences (Chelsea, Southampton, Everton-ish) in the next four.
Leicester 0 Everton 2Embed from Getty Images
And talking of the Toffees, Vardy (4, 2, 5, 8, 13, 2) owners in particular will have been dismayed that Everton switched goalkeepers again and suddenly found the wherewithal to keep out an attack that’s usually pretty effective, but on this occasion only managed 2 attempts on target out of 14, more than half of which were from outside the area as Tielemans and Maddison tried their luck. The visitors, by contrast, got more than half of their 11 shots on target and all bar 2 were from inside the box. Anyone still hanging on to James Rodriguez – Everton have won their last two to go fifth in the league… without him. Dominic Calvert-Lewin (5, 13, 2, 6, 5, 5) found yet another way to get his owners a return, profiting from Mason Holgate turning in the rebound from his prior effort.
Leicester have conceded more from corners than any other team this season – their next four opponents are Spurs, Manchester United, Crystal Palace and Newcastle. James Justin provided a big headed chance for Vardy, but must be looking over his shoulder at the imminent return of Castagne and Pereira. Richarlison (0, 5, 2, 7, 1, 8) is also quietly back on the scene, and at £7.8m is now actually £0.1m cheaper than DCL for any prospective purchasers who might be eyeing up the approach of Arsenal and Sheffield United.
“Everything is going down the pan…”
Fulham 0 Brighton 0Embed from Getty Images
It’s the old story of the resistable force very nearly meeting the highly moveable object. Result: inertia. We must confess we didn’t watch it, but we imagine it was bit like that Eddie Izzard routine where armies rush into battle only to turn around, wondering if they’ve left the gas on. Both sides had 9 shots, both had 4 on target and both scored 0 goals. Fulham’s first goalless home league game in nine years. This was partly due to the form of Fulham keeper Alphonse Areola (there you go, first name fans) and Brighton’s returning custodian Robert Sanchez who both walked off with 29 BPS and a share of 2 bonus points, along with Fulham defender Joachim Andersen. It really was that sort of game. Fulham now have a clean sheet and only conceding one at Liverpool to show for changing to a back three so it might even be worth making an investment in either of those options or Tosin Adarabioyo who collected maximum bonus and is in the set piece mix. Ademola Lookman keeps buzzing around the box and at £5.0m is a rival to Tomas Soucek for that fifth midfielder spot.
For Brighton, Lewis Dunk was dangerous from dead balls once again and Tariq Lamptey was back to frightening the life out of the opposing left back, but at his current price of £4.8m it’s frustrating watching this rarely turn into anything concrete. Danny Welbeck (2, 9, 5, 5, 2, 2 – £5.5m) still offers a bargain option up front and has Sheffield United up next.
“Everyone is following the craze…”
Liverpool 2 Spurs 1Embed from Getty Images
Well, Liverpool are top again, so we guess a few things are still stubbornly resisting gravity including Mo Salah who continued his longstanding record as a perennial captaincy candidate and all around must-have with yet another goal. Roberto Firmino’s late appearance on the scoresheet defied both gravity and Tim Sherwood, nabbed him three maximum bonus points and denied Mo any on this occasion. Andy Robertson got another assist and is finally returning to last season’s levels though Trent Alexander-Arnold and Sadio Mane have both now been missing in action for a while. Heung-Min Son (3, 10, 3, 13, 5, 9) continues to compile the sort of season he’s always been capable of if he could just stay on the pitch.
As Spurs settle into a future of near-perennial counter attacking he seems likely to be more of a keeper than Harry Kane (9, 4, 2, 12, 9, 2) though the Spurs captain only failed to add to his tally by heading a corner down so hard it bounced well clear of the crossbar and having either (and possibly both) remains a Very Good Idea. As does investing in Hugo Lloris (6, 10, 10, 6, 3, 5) who returned yet again thanks to 9 (nine!) saves. His defenders aren’t far behind him, Eric Dier (6, 7, 6, 6, 2, 1) the cheapest at £5.0m.
Aston Villa 0 Burnley 0Embed from Getty Images
Back to the mean once again as Burnley concede a zillion shots but not one of them goes in. Chris Wood is quiet, so it’s time for that ever popular game for all the FPL family, “Who’s The Cheapest Burnley Defender?”. And the winner is… a tie at £4.4m between Matthew Lowton (6, 5, 0, 2, 8, 6) and Charlie Taylor (8, 7, 0, 2, 6, 6) with the latter probably just edging it as he’s created… three chances over the last six matches as opposed to Lowton’s… one. Fine margins, and all that. Or you could just get the bloke keeping out most of the shots (six saves against Villa), Sir Nick Pope (9, 10, 0, 3, 11, 11 – £5.4m) who seems to be well and truly back in his own personal rarefied atmosphere.
Villa’s 27 attempts were the most of the gameweek, though only 6 managed to make it on target and they will surely have better days. Jack Grealish (15, 6, 1, 10, 2, 3) is still at the forefront of everything they do, Ross Barkley could be back any moment to help shoulder the workload (and possibly shoot straighter), while Ollie Watkins (7, 13, 2, 0, 2, 1 – £6.1m) has surely got to scuff one in sooner or later, maybe starting at Big Sam’s West Brom.
“And everything is average nowadaaaaaaaaaaays…”
Sheffield United 2 Manchester United 3Embed from Getty Images
And so back to Bruno (17, 11, 10, 6, 3, 2), who for many FPL managers chose A Bad Day To Die Hard . Obviously, there’s no need to panic and we’re sure that the fact he’s scored fewer points in each of his last 5 games than the one before is nothing to worry abohmygoshohmygoshohmygosh. There is a sneaky, but surely unfounded, concern that Paul Pogba’s sudden declaration of interest in the the fortunes of his fellow Red Devils might be chipping away at Fernandes’s unquestioned role as Master and Commander. A flick here, a gorgeous diagonal there and suddenly Anthony Martial is Hauling ten points and Marcus Rashford is satisfying the ABC elite criteria with 5, 3, 5, 6, 3, 14. We’re just saying it’s interesting, that’s all.
People keep insisting Sheffield United are better than their points tally suggests (which, in fairness would not be difficult), but despite David McGoldrick’s triumphant 13 points and a fairly appealing schedule (bha, EVE, bur, cry, NEW) it might be asking too much of regression to the mean to make the Blades worthy of a place in your squad. Unless it feeds them after midnight.
*Any resemblance of Leeds United to the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal is, of course, purely coincidental. But if you’re playing them you might want to put a towel over your face just in case..