In chemistry, there exists a balancing point where a given substance, at a precise combination of both pressure and temperature, can simultaneously present itself in all three phases of matter: solid, liquid, and gas. This is called the triple point. This platform is not the place to take you through the mathematics and theories that have generated this scientific discovery [but editor Jeff got his degree in physics, so ask him if you’re curious]. But, I would argue, however, that this phenomenon exists in our lives as Fantasy Premier League (FPL) managers.
If you were to, hypothetically, graph our managerial approach on a Cartesian coordinate system, with the variables of analysis and narrative, there lies a point each game-week where this same intersection takes place. For 90 minutes each weekend, we get actual, visual evidence where all the narrative and analysis intersect, to be proven correct, or incorrect, in its singularity for that week. For all the news reports, match statistics, game-plan theory, and points projections, that we can gather and absorb, soccer, and its resulting fantasy pursuits, still remain a flawed application of science and storytelling. The game is still played with 22 players on the field, all capable of earning fantasy points, and a single ball, which is a necessary requirement for nearly every scoring category, that they all must share.
The brief amount of time that the players take the pitch is our triple point. As we watch, all of the information we have processed — our past research, current performance, and future expectations — coexist at a single juncture of analysis. Any given player that you watch, or focus on, exists in all three states, not of matter (that would be messy), but of time. Invariably, you are persuaded to make a judgment. A given player is: better / worse than his past performance, equal to what his current performance shows, or expecting better / worse / same fantasy point production from his next touch, all at the same time. Now, there are many variables managers look at when evaluating a players across time; form and fixtures are the two most common. And, commensurately, on another graph, there is a balancing point of actions: buy, sell, or hold.
This is the point where this article could diverge into a giant examination of the pitfalls of poor statistical evaluation: correlation does not equal causation, small sample sizes, and confirmation bias. Making a judgement on a single game is perilous. Granted, the 90 minutes each player spends during the game is still the best way to evaluate the way in which a team or player plays, or contributes during a game. So, why point all this out during this soliloquy? First, I know that FPL has an hour between lineup lock and the start of the first game (Fantrax 15 minutes, YMMV), and I would like to to spend that time here reading. Second, FPL is a game of player evaluation. Watching games, and more specifically players, is how to best determine the next buying and selling opportunities. Thirdly, and finally, to point out that games are still the best way to evaluate players. Nothing else that happens during the week should be as influential as what happens on the field each weekend.
Here is a player, or position, I will be watching for each team this weekend:
All prices are Official FPL and current as of October 19th, 2018.
For Chelsea, will Marcos Alonso (DEF, £7.0m) return to his early season form? With Chelsea’s great run of fixtures to the end of the year, is it best to simply chase the clean sheet with a cheaper Chelsea defender? Or, is Alonso worth holding in an effort to seize the attacking returns he showed earlier in the season?
On the Man U. side of the ball, the main focus will be on Jose Mourinho. With his players rebelling and his continued employment swirling, will he turn to the whip? Or, will he continue to pull back the reins? If it is a player you want, is this iteration of Paul Pogba (MID, £8.1m) for real?
Due to his injury, Ryan Fraser (MID, £6.0m) will have my full attention, regardless of whether he plays or not. Is what we have seen thus far real, reliable, production? Also, is the emergence of others in the Bournemouth squad a threat to his production: David Brooks (MID, 5.0) and a once again healthy Junior Stanislas (MID, £6.0) who has already cut into Fraser’s minutes?
Danny Ings (FWD, £5.7m) has proven to be a reliable commodity from the discount striker bin. What want from Southampton is a consistent producer. I can get behind the price-points of these assets, but deciding who it will be from week to week has been a challenge. My leading candidates are Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg (MID, £4.5m), Mario Lemina (MID, £5.0m), Nathan Redmond (MID, £5.3m), or one of the outside backs: Ryan Bertrand (DEF, £4.9m) or Cedric Soares (DEF, £4.1m).
Can this Cardiff defense hold firm? The upcoming run of fixtures looks favorable if they can lock down the back-end. Sol Bamba (DEF, £4.5m) leads all Cardiff outfield players in points. His defensive abilities plus continued excellence on the attacking third could pay dividends as a major differential.
All eyes will be on Aleksandar Mitrovic (FWD, £6.9m). He has not scored in two games. This upcoming run of games will prove whether Mitrovic is an underpriced goal scorer or just another bargain-bin strike option.
Kevin De Bruyne (MID, £9.7) will have the attention of nearly every manager across the FPL universe. Does he start? Does he even play? How does he look? Do I buy him now, at a discount? No surprises here.
Because City’s potent attack, this will be a proving ground for the Burnley defense. A strong performance here could be the signal that Sean Dyche’s men are back to their ‘must own’ status. Fellow colleague Chris Manfredi wrote up an article spotlighting Joe Hart (GK, £4.6m) which would fall under this category, as well.
Newcastle v Brighton
Will the Newcastle defense shore up in time for this upcoming run of fixtures? If so, DeAndre Yedlin (DEF, £4.5m) is a tantalizing defensive option.
Who is the play-maker at Brighton? Pascal Gross (MID, £6.7m) is expected to return this week. Will he return to the heights of fantasy glory that he reached last season? Or, are we seeing an emergence of the new Brighton talisman, Anthony Knockaert (MID, £5.5m)?
Who is going to emerge from the West Ham midfield? Marko Arnautovic (FWD, £7.0m) has moved into fixture proof status for me. But, who is going to help him carry the Hammers’ attack?
With the injury to Danny Rose (DEF, £5.9m), can Ben Davies (DEF, £5.6m) cement himself in the role of right back, even when Rose returns? BONUS WATCH: If Christian Erikson (MID, £9.2m) does return to playing action, is he the most important player at Tottenham?
We know the Wolves’ defense is good. But, is Raul Jimenez (FWD, £5.6m) the best of the discount strikers?
Will Gerard Deulofeu (MID, £5.4m) be a reliable contributor for the Hornets? Various midfielders have stood out among the rest, for Watford, at various points during the season. Can Deulofeu be the consistent provider we have been waiting for?
Is there anything other than cheap goalkeepers at Huddersfield?
For Liverpool, who is hurt? Who is not hurt? And, what does the team look like in the meantime?
At Everton, I will be watching the battle of the midfield stars. Despite Marco Silva’s attacking nature, I cannot see owning two Everton assets, especially at the same position. Who is the main man in the Toffee attack: Richarlison (MID, £6.8m) or Gylfi Sigurdsson (MID, £7.4m)?
Is the recent uptick in Crystal Palace fantasy performance a product of a favorable run of fixtures? Have some players moved above the rotation-level production? I am looking at you, Wilfred Zaha (FWD, £6.9m)!
Is this Arsenal defense finally going to be reliable for fantasy purposes? Hector Bellerin (DEF, £5.4m) and Nacho Monreal (DEF, £5.5m) would be stand out options if they could pair some defensive returns with their attacking point potential.
Is James Maddison (MID, £7.0m) fixture proof? Recently, he has picked on teams expected to finish on the lower half of the table. Can Maddison earn points against the big boys?
Football, in spite of its statistical advancements, does not function like baseball in its explicit application of statistics. One game, this week, does not prove anything above to be true. But, combined with what we have already seen, the next fantasy star is out there for us to discover. And, the first to act has a decided advantage in this game. However, games remain a relevant tool from an evaluation perspective. So, join us for game-week nine, won’t you?
What story-lines will you be looking for in game-week nine? What players do you think will have the most influential impact from a fantasy perspective? And who is on your barn-door watch-list? Let’s discuss in the comment section below!