It may not come with the same meaning as how Elliott Smith sang about it, but Splitsville is a very real thing in fantasy football. Most splits follow a fairly predictable pattern, but let’s look at several divides that really stand out in their unexpectedness and/or severity.
Kevin De Bruyne, with and without Kun Aguero
It goes without saying, but hey I’ll say it anyway, Kevin De Bruyne is an amazing player and a great fantasy star. That said, this season has been strange for him with respect to Manchester City’s other premier offensive whiz, Kun Aguero.
Official BPL Fantasy:
8 starts w/o Kun, 47 points, 5.88 ppg
10 starts w/ Kun, 44 points, 4.40 ppg
Difference of -25% w/ Kun
8 starts w/o Kun, 114 points, 14.25 ppg
10 starts w/ Kun, 82 points, 8.20 ppg
Difference of -42% w/ Kun
When KDB starts and Sergio Aguero does not, KDB is an offensive machine, tearing things up. When KDB and Aguero start together, KDB doesn’t do nearly as much from a fantasy perspective. (Aguero has also performed significantly better when he has started and KDB has not, but the sample size of three games leaves much to be desired.)
Unlike last season when the two seemed to feed off each other when Manuel Pellegrini was in charge, it strongly appears that there just isn’t room for the two of them to provide big fantasy returns at the same time under Pep Guardiola’s system this campaign. Simply put, it doesn’t look like KDB is worth having when Aguero is healthy and not suspended. Which, you know, happens to be the case at the moment. So if you’ve got KDB, you should strongly consider dropping him for a better option, particularly in Fantrax but certainly also in Official.
Roberto Firmino, with and without Philippe Coutinho
Philippe Coutinho was a must-have in fantasy line-ups in pairing with fellow Brazilian star Roberto Firmino until suffering injury in GW13 against Sunderland. It begs the question, how has Firmino made out in his countryman’s absence compared with the first third of the season when the two thrived together? (The 11 starts do not include the Sunderland game, when Coutinho was injured late in the first half.)
11 starts before Coutinho injury, 70 points, 6.36 ppg
8 starts after Coutinho injury, 25 points, 3.13 ppg
Difference of -51% after Coutinho injury
11 starts before Coutinho injury, 119 points, 10.82 ppg
8 starts after Coutinho injury, 54 points, 6.75 ppg
Difference of -38% after Coutinho injury
While Liverpool has certainly kept rolling since Coutinho’s injury in terms of team results, the same cannot be said for Firmino’s offensive production. He contributed five goals and three assists (five assists in the wacky BPL format) in his 11 appearances covering the team’s first 12 games, but has managed only a single score without any helpers in the eight contests since. Not surprisingly, that has translated into a pretty brutal falloff in fantasy.
If you have Firmino, I’m not going to tell you to drop him for the home fixture against Swansea even if Coutinho doesn’t start, because, well, the Swans are awful and Firmino’s as good a bet to run rampant on them as anyone. What I am telling you is that if you don’t have Firmino, now is not only the time to have one eye on grabbing Coutinho as he nears a return to the starting line-up, but you should have your other peeper on nabbing Firmino as well. Unlike Aguero and De Bruyne who seem to perform better on their own, Firmino and Coutinho are a dynamic duo together.
Tom Heaton vs. Thibaut Courtois, Home/Away Splits
Tom Heaton and Thibaut Courtois have been two of the best values in fantasy at the keeper position, thanks to Burnley’s newness following Championship promotion and Chelsea’s defensive stumbles last season. Heaton began the season at a bargain-rate cost of 4.5 in Official and dipped to a low of 5.43 in Fantrax while currently ranking as the #2 keeper in both Official (90 points) and Fantrax (145 points), behind only Chelsea’s Thibaut Courtois (91 and 162 points, respectively). Courtois started at 5.5 in Official and amazingly once could be had for as low as 3.71 in Fantrax. Now, of course, the pair’s prices have increased substantially.
Taking a gander at the tables, Heaton would not appear to be the all-purpose home and away play as seems the case with Courtois. After all, Burnley is +9 in goal differential at home compared to -17 on the road, a glaring differential of -26 between playing in the comfy confines of Turf Moor and traveling elsewhere. Comparatively, Chelsea is +22 at home and +8 away, a much smaller gap of -14. Not only that, but contrasting Chelsea away from Stamford Bridge at +8 and Burnley on the road at -17 leaves a whopping gap of 25.
The obvious conclusion to draw would seem to be that you should start Heaton only at home and Courtois regardless of locale, correct? And this week in particular, with lowly Hull visiting Stamford Bridge and Burnley traveling to the Emirates to face imposing Arsenal, going with Courtois over Heaton has to be a no-brainer, right?
Well, let’s take a look at the numbers.
11 Home starts, 53 points, 4.82 ppg
8 Away starts, 37 points, 4.63 ppg
Difference of -4% Away
11 Home starts, 105 points, 9.55 ppg
8 Away starts, 40 points, 5.00 ppg
Difference of -48% Away
10 Home starts, 46 points, 4.60 ppg
11 Away starts, 45 points, 4.09 ppg
Difference of -11% Away
10 Home starts, 91 points, 9.10 ppg
11 Away starts, 72 points, 6.45 ppg
Difference of -29% Away
So the answer you get is yes...and no. Yes, you should start Heaton only at home in Fantrax, but no, that is not the case in Official, where you can feel comfortable playing him anywhere, just as you can with Courtois. After all, Fantrax rewards Heaton for winning at home while severely penalizing him for losing on the road, whereas there is no win/loss/draw category in Official.
That leaves Heaton with an enormous pure percentage gulfs of 44% (subtracting 4% from 48%) between home and away splits when you compare BPL to Fantrax. Courtois, on the other hand, holds gaps between the two formats in home and away splits that are much closer at 18% (subtracting 11% from 29%).
I’m certainly not saying that you should start Heaton over Courtois at home this week in Official if you have both. But despite the seemingly imposing match-up at Arsenal, you really shouldn’t worry about starting Heaton if you don’t have an attractive option with your other keeper. He might give up a goal or two, but he should also nab plenty of saves and a loss isn’t going to hurt him. After all, he has 48 saves on the road (6.0 saves per game) including a pair of 11-save (!!!) performances, a 0-0 draw at Manchester United where he scored 11 points and a 3-1 loss at Southampton where he still scored 5 points despite the lopsided score. As well, of his 16 bonus points (more than double as many as the second place keeper, Victor Valdes), seven have come in his eight road games compared to nine in his 11 home fixtures. If the Gunners are wasteful and Heaton turns in a heroic performance with a clean sheet and/or penalty save, you will really be loving life.
Simon Mignolet vs. Loris Karius, by Season Stage
Speaking of keeper options, the Liverpool situation has been interesting with a revolving door between Simon Mignolet and Loris Karius. Taking things all together, there is not much separation between the pair of net minders. Each keeper has kept three clean sheets, with Mignolet allowing 12 goals in his 11 games, compared to 12 goals from Karius’ 10 tilts.
But that fails to take into account the real story in terms of season flow and momentum. Mignolet started the season in net for Liverpool, but failed to secure a clean sheet in any of his first five games, allowing a total of eight scores. Jurgen Klopp turned to Loris Karius, who responded with three clean sheets in his first eight games. However, a couple of disastrous performances (a 4-3 loss at Bournemouth and a 2-2 draw at home against West Ham) saw the job awarded back to the former regular, and the previously-beleaguered Mignolet has returned three clean sheets in the half dozen games since, putting his stamp back on the job.
Mignolet, first 5 games, 16 points, 3.20 ppg
Karius, middle 10 games, 32 points, 3.20 ppg
Difference of 0% for Karius vs. Mignolet
Mignolet, last 6 games, 26 points, 4.33 ppg
Difference of +35% for Mignolet vs. Karius
Mignolet, first 5 games, 16 points, 3.20 ppg
Karius, middle 10 games, 49 points, 4.90 ppg
Difference of +53% for Karius vs. Mignolet
Mignolet, last 6 games, 48 points, 8.00 ppg
Difference of +63% for Mignolet vs. Karius
From the above numbers, it is clear to see that the Liverpool keeper position has trended upward as the season has progressed and the Reds’ defense has tightened, leaving Mignolet looking poised to prosper assuming that he keeps the job going forward. In his recent starting spell, Mignolet has notched averages that are fairly similar to those that the aforementioned top keepers Courtois and Heaton have posted over the entire season. At friendly prices of 5.44 in Fantrax (compared to 13.68 for Courtois and 10.96 for Heaton in Fantrax at the moment) and 4.7 in Official, you could prosper as well with Mignolet if your keeper position(s) need refreshing.
If you are wondering how much Liverpool’s defensive prowess has to do with Coutinho’s disappearance, that certainly offers an interesting cutoff point. In the first 13 games, Liverpool allowed 14 goals (1.08 gpg) and secured three clean sheets. In the past eight games, it has conceded 10 goals, allowing more goals per game (1.25 gpg) but keeping the same amount of shutouts (three) in fewer matches. In that sense, it doesn’t seem to have a huge deal to do with whether Coutinho plays or not.
The takeaway hope is, rather, that things have more to do with whether Mignolet plays or Karius does. Of course, a more charitable view could hold that Firmino may have not been the only victim of Coutinho’s injury; if one were to take the opinion that the squad struggled mightily to adapt in the two games immediately following the playmaker’s injury, leaving Karius as the fall guy.
But in soccer as with everything else, it’s what you’ve done lately that’s most important. Karius allowed six goals in his last two games, whereas things are faring rosier with Mignolet back between the pipes, conceding only four goals total in the past six fixtures which included tough opposition such as Everton, Manchester City and Manchester United. The caveat being, of course, if Mignolet has a horrible game or two, all eyes will be on Klopp to see whether he pulls yet another switcheroo.
James Milner, Penalty Kick Splits
Apologies for going with a third Liverpool split in the five sections, but in borrowing a quote from the classic movie The Apartment, sometimes that’s the way it crumbles, cookie-wise. It’s been an interesting — nay, fascinating — season for the Merseysiders, both in real life and fantasy, one that perhaps even rivals the 2013-14 campaign when Luis Suarez, Daniel Sturridge and Steven Gerrard ran riot.
Let’s now look at James Milner, who has moved into a more defensive role on the field this season while also also becoming the Reds’ penalty taker following the departure of Christian Benteke to Crystal Palace.
If you have Harry Kane or Eden Hazard in Official BPL, you’re not considering dropping them from your starting line-up week-to-week based on match-up; meanwhile, in Fantrax you are probably not selecting either of them merely based on the seeming likelihood of getting a penalty in a given week. After all, both stars fit the bill as the very definition of a prolific Premier League player, nabbing their fair share of goals and assists outside of penalties. But is it a different story when it comes to someone like Milner, who has scored six goals this season — all via the penalty spot — and otherwise has only two assists?
Penalty kick taken/scored, 5 games, 53 points, 10.60 ppg
Penalty not taken/scored, 15 games, 37 points, 2.47 ppg
Difference of -77% when penalty not taken/scored
Penalty kick taken/scored, 5 games, 97 points, 19.40 ppg
Penalty not taken/scored, 15 games, 121 points, 8.07 ppg
Difference of -58% when penalty not taken/scored
(Note: Milner has scored all six of the PKs he has taken, so there is no disparity between games when he has taken a PK and games when he has scored a PK. But there was one game where he scored two penalties, leaving five games when he has taken and/or scored at least one penalty.)
Holy avocado dip, those are some one-sided splits! In both Official and Fantrax, it’s a huge difference between how Milner scores when he nabs a penalty versus when he doesn’t.
You might wonder, when did those penalties happen? Good question! Perhaps not coincidentally, four of those penalties were awarded in Liverpool’s first 12 games, when the aforementioned Philippe Coutinho was healthy. Only one penalty has been given to Liverpool in the eight games since (or two if you count the Sunderland second half). With Coutinho nearing a return to the starting line-up, that should leave you bullish on Milner’s chances going forward.
Milner is reasonably priced in Official (6.4), but comes at a hefty cost in Fantrax (17.54). So you should feel pretty good about rolling with Milner in Official no matter what the match-up (though feel free to put him on your bench if you have a better option in a game that does not look particularly attractive), whereas if you don’t already have him at discount in Fantrax, picking him up at retail would only make sense if the opponent gives up penalties at a high clip.
Here is Liverpool’s schedule in the near future and the number of penalties allowed by each of those teams:
vs. Swansea (5)
vs. Chelsea (1)
at Hull City (10)
vs. Tottenham (2)
at Leicester City (2)
The average allowed is 3.45 per team, so Swansea (fourth most PKs conceded) and Hull City (most allowed, by far) stand out as tempting games for Milner, while the other three are likely to be more barren. Of course, some people prefer to look at the referee of a given game (Mike Dean alert!!!), so that should be taken into consideration as well.
[Penalty Kick data source: www.myfootballfacts.com]
Which of those severe splits have turned your heads with respect to player selection? Do you trust them to stay true going forward or do any seem like aberrations which will right themselves? Are there any others that you have noticed? Get chatting with comments below!