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Splitsville: Statistical Gaps to Exploit for Fantasy Premier League Success

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Let’s delve into some key statistical splits and discover how that knowledge can translate into FPL and Fantrax fantasy gains for the remainder of the Premier League season.

Sergio Aguero - Manchester City - Premier League
When should you add or even captain Sergio Aguero? Just like real estate, the answer is location, location, location.
Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images

There are splits which are in the normal range of expectation, and then there are wider that seem to defy logic. Let’s investigate five extreme statistical player performance splits from the season so far. Taking a look at the numbers, how can we best convert those peculiar quirks into advantages in our fantasy teams the rest of the way?

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1. THE MARKO ARNAUTOVIC EFFECT AT WEST HAM

West Ham striker Marko Arnautovic has been a marvelous performer this season. He has put up 76 points in Official FPL (4.8 ppg) and 142 points in Fantrax (8.9 ppg) in only 16 games and 1,240 minutes. If he could remain healthy, he’d be magic, but instead he has been in and out of the line-up due to injury.

Interestingly, though, the question has arisen as to whether or not his injury has been a boon — and his health an impediment — to the fantasy fortunes or Felipe Anderson and Robert Snodgrass. After all, since Arnau’s latest return, the big man has scored twice in three games while the Anderson and Snoddy wells have run dry. Is there a real pattern of causality that fantasy managers should take away? Might it actually be more advantageous to the fake football world if the star striker went out — and stayed out — for an extended period of time? Or is it instead a mirage, a fluke that seems a pattern due to recency bias? [Hat tip to David on the topic.]

West Ham United - Premier League
Will the health of Marko Arnautovic determine how many Felipe Anderson and Robert Snodgrass celebrations we see the rest of this season?
Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

Let’s compare how the midfielders have done in all 15 games where Arnautovic has played 55+ minutes (GW 1-5, 7-9, 11-14, and 20-22), and compare it to how they have fared in the other seven games where he has played 40 or fewer minutes, including when he has not featured at all (GW 6, 10, and 15-19).

FELIPE ANDERSON

With Arno: 15 games, 5 goals, 1 assist, 66 FPL points (4.4 ppg), 147 Fantrax points (9.8 ppg)

Without Arno: 7 games, 3 goals, 2 assists, 42 FPL points (6.0 ppg), 86 Fantrax points (12.3 ppg)

Difference: +36% in FPL and +26% in Fantrax without Arno

ROBERT SNODGRASS

With Arno: 10 games, 0 goals, 1 assist, 19 FPL points (1.9 ppg), 37 Fantrax points (3.7 ppg)

Without Arno: 6 games, 2 goals, 2 assists, 36 FPL points (6.0 ppg), 77 Fantrax points (12.8 ppg)

Difference: +216% in FPL and +246% in Fantrax without Arno

Holy avocado dip, Batman! Indeed there is a serious impact, particularly for Snodgrass. If you have Anderson or Snodgrass, you’ll definitely feel a lot better about them were Arnautovic to go back to the trainer’s table for a significant period of time, or if he transfers to another team. If instead Arnautovic stays and enjoys a good run of health, you’ll be better off owning the striker than either midfielder. And if his fitness continues to be a back and forth proposition, you can probably best use Anderson and/or Snodgrass only as plug-and-play options... or simply avoid the situation altogether if you don’t want the headache.

Of course, outside of Felipe Anderson, the West Ham offensive line-up has been a bit of a nightmare proposition this season in terms of starting reliability, so that may be another reason to stay away entirely. On top of Arnautovic, many others have dealt with injury issues here and there, notably Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez, Lucas Perez, Jack Wilshere and Andy Carroll (and that doesn’t even count current long-term absences from Manuel Lanzini and Andriy Yarmolenko). Samir Nasri’s winter transfer addition might prove a helpful solution, but could instead add to the confusion; Nasri may also prove unwelcome for Snodgrass backers if Manuel Pellegrini prefers his former Citizen star at Snoddy’s expense.

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2. THE MANCHESTER CITY HOME AND AWAY CHASM

It’s not unusual for there to be a disparity between home and away performance. Naturally, though, with some teams — and players — it can be bigger than others.

Manchester City aren’t bad on the road, no, not at all, they’re great. But they simply dominate at home, taking things to another level entirely. And nobody exemplifies that difference more than their living legend striker Sergio Aguero.

SERGIO AGUERO

Home: 10 games, 8 goals, 6 assists, 75 FPL points (7.5 ppg), 132 Fantrax points (13.2 ppg)

Away: 8 games, 2 goals, 1 assist, 24 FPL points (3.0 ppg), 61 Fantrax points (7.6 ppg)

Difference: +150% in FPL and +74% in Fantrax at home

What does that mean? If you have Kun and you’re thinking about captaining him, feel free to do so when he’s about to run rampant at the Etihad. And if you’re looking for a one-game plug-in for your Fantrax team, look no further than the Sky Blue superstar when he is homeward bound. When the Citizens go traveling, though, you’ll probably want to turn your captain’s armband — and your Fantrax thoughts — elsewhere.

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3. HOW MIGHT SON HEUNG-MIN’S ASIAN TRIP IMPACT TOTTENHAM STARS?

Son Heung-min has been in such a purple patch of form lately, you could easily confuse him with Barney the Dinosaur. But it’s not just him; his Tottenham offensive teammates Dele Alli, Christian Eriksen and Harry Kane have also joined in on the big fun. Now that Son ventures off to the 2019 AFC Asian Cup competition for several weeks, it’s natural to wonder how his absence might impact the production of the Tottenham attacking stars around him.

Well, it just so happens that we have a template from earlier in the season when Son was off helping South Korea win the gold medal at the 2018 Asian Games, while he also has missed several other games due to injury or rest otherwise. How did Lucas Moura fare filling in, and how did the other Spurs stars do? Let’s take a look at the numbers, comparing the 13 games where Son has played 50+ minutes (GW 6-8, 11, 13-16, and 18-22) with the 9 times where he has managed 20 or fewer minutes, or not played at all (GW 1-5, 9&10, 12, and 17).

DELE ALLI

With Son: 9 games, 3 goals, 1 assist, 38 FPL points (4.2 ppg), 65 Fantrax points (7.2 ppg)

Without Son: 7 games, 1 goal, 1 assist, 26 FPL points (3.7 ppg), 71 Fantrax points (10.1 ppg)

Difference: -12% in FPL and +40% in Fantrax without Son

CHRISTIAN ERIKSEN

With Son: 8 games, 3 goals, 5 assists, 57 FPL points (7.1 ppg), 96 Fantrax points (12.0 ppg)

Without Son: 8 games, 1 goal, 2 assists, 26 FPL points (3.3 ppg), 61 Fantrax points (7.6 ppg)

Difference: -54% in FPL and -37% without Son

HARRY KANE

With Son: 13 games, 12 goals, 2 assists, 96 FPL points (7.4 ppg), 230 Fantrax points (17.7 ppg)

Without Son: 9 games, 2 goals, 3 assists, 36 FPL points (4.0 ppg), 51 Fantrax points (5.7 ppg)

Difference: -46% in FPL and -68% in Fantrax without Son

LUCAS MOURA

With Son: 10 games, 3 goals, 1 assist, 43 FPL points (4.3 ppg), 72 Fantrax points (7.2 ppg)

Without Son: 9 games, 3 goals, 1 assist, 41 FPL points (4.6 ppg), 51 Fantrax points (5.7 ppg)

Difference: +7% in FPL and -21% in Fantrax without Son

Alli and Moura have experienced mixed results with Son’s absence, so it’s tough to establish a read where they are concerned. However, playmaker Christian Eriksen clearly looks to have been impacted negatively with Son out of action; perhaps he knows how to set up and play off Son thanks to their experience together, whereas he has been unable to establish that connection yet with Moura, a relative newcomer.

The difference for Kane has been even more pronounced, astronomical even; part of it may be that Son has occupied the attention of opposing defenses at a much greater level than Moura, freeing up precious space for the deadly Kane to take advantage. It could have even more to do with positioning, with Pochettino pushing Moura up front, leaving Kane in a more reserved role. Ultimately, Moura seems to have turned Kane into more of a helper than a finisher, as Kane actually tallied more assists than goals when Son was out, a sad waste of the superstar’s ruthless scoring talents.

Looking at the numbers, one key takeaway is that if you were thinking of adding Eriksen, you just may want to take a second thought and instead turn to Alli (in Fantrax) or Moura (in FPL).

Unfortunately, following Kane’s injury at the end of the Manchester United game, the latest reports are that Kane will not only join Son in missing the next few weeks, but he will be out even longer, putting a further wrench into things. It’s one thing to try and figure out how the Tottenham offense will fare without Son, but doing so without both Son and Kane is an entirely different proposition. If you feel that Son and Kane both being out will leave the Spurs offense in tatters, you might simply want to take a pass on everybody in the Tottenham attack.

When Kane does return, naturally you will want to consider whether to bring him into your fantasy sides. While doing so, be sure to take into account the status of Son with a mind to the numbers above.

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4. MANCHESTER UNITED’S BIG NEW MANAGER BUMP

It has been night and day since the sacking of Jose Mourinho and the addition of interim manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (plus a sweep of the coaching staff). Mourinho’s Manchester United took only 26 points from the first 17 games; under Solksjaer & Co, the Red Devils have brilliantly grabbed 15 points from 5, all victories. The goal differentials tell a big story also, as Mourinho was at 0 (a.k.a. even) in his time this season, while Ole has delivered an amazing +12, especially considering the short time frame.

What has that meant? A fantastic fantasy explosion, particularly for a pair of offensive stars. Simply put, the talents of Paul Pogba and Marcus Rashfrod have been unleashed as the attack has experienced a wondrous liberation. (The defense has also improved as recently covered by David, so let’s stick to the “fun” side of the ball here.)

Paul Pogba and Marcus Rashford - Manchester United - Premier League
Have you gotten in on Manchester United’s rejuvenated duo of Pogba and Rashford yet?
Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images

PAUL POGBA

With Mourinho: 14 games, 3 goals, 3 assists, 51 FPL points (3.6 ppg), 125 Fantrax points (8.9 ppg)

With Solskjaer: 5 games, 4 goals, 5 assists, 54 FPL points (10.8 ppg), 115 Fantrax points (23.0 ppg)

Difference: +200% in FPL and +158% in Fantrax with Solskjaer

MARCUS RASHFORD

With Mourinho: 14 games, 3 goals, 5 assists, 48 FPL points (3.4 ppg), 99 Fantrax points (7.1 ppg)

With Solskjaer: 5 games, 4 goals, 2 assists, 38 FPL points (7.6 ppg), 81 Fantrax points (16.2 ppg)

Difference: +124% in FPL and +128% in Fantrax with Solskjaer

How insanely eye-popping are those splits?! If you haven’t gotten in on Pogba and Rashford yet, what the heck are you waiting for? And if you haven’t, you’re not alone. Unbelievably right now, Pogba is owned by only 33% of FPL managers, and Rashford lags at a criminally low 26%. Mega-kudos to those of you who anticipated the sea-change and bought in on the sacking news — your rewards are already in your fantasy scores!

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5. BOURNEMOUTH’S ROUGH AND TUMBLE STRETCH OF SCHEDULE

Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth side got off to a nice start this season, and many fantasy managers benefited from the Cherries’ early easy schedule. But as Week 11 approached, I warned fantasy practitioners to get off the Bournemouth bandwagon due to the team’s frightfully imposing fixtures through Week 29, with advice to look elsewhere for comfort. In retrospect, how sage has that suggestion actually proven, and what should you do if you ignored my counsel then? Let’s look at the performance of the two key Bournemouth players, Ryan Fraser and Callum Wilson, in Weeks 1-10 versus Weeks 11-22.

RYAN FRASER

Easy Schedule: 10 games, 3 goals, 5 assists, 62 FPL points (6.2 ppg), 113 Fantrax points (11.3 ppg)

Tough Schedule: 12 games, 2 goals, 4 assists, 49 FPL points (4.1 ppg), 120 Fantrax points (10.0 ppg)

Difference: -34% in FPL and -12% in Fantrax with the tougher schedule

CALLUM WILSON

Easy Schedule: 10 games, 5 goals, 7 assists, 63 FPL points (6.3 ppg), 107 Fantrax points (10.7 ppg)

Tough Schedule: 10 games, 4 goals, 1 assist, 42 FPL points (4.2 ppg), 60 Fantrax points (6.0 ppg)

Difference: -33% in FPL and -44% in Fantrax with the tougher schedule

Indeed, you probably should have gotten off the bandwagon, particularly with Wilson. (It is difficult to find a midfielder with Fraser’s production around his price point, even taking the falloff into account, whereas there are several quality budget forwards who may be viewed as more attractive than Wilson in light of his schedule.) And you will want to stay off, as the rough stretch continues for a while longer. But circle Week 30 on your calendar, when you’ll want to be ready to buy in on Bournemouth again for the home stretch of favorable fixtures!

[Note: Statistics used in the above article came via the Official Fantasy Premier League and Fantrax websites.]

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How are the statistical splits examined above going to impact who you buy and sell in your fantasy teams? Do you think these trends have predictive value, or do you instead expect regression to the mean? Are there any other interesting numerical gaps you have noticed? Let us know in the comments below!

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