My spreadsheet predictions were blown off course a little last week by the failure of the MUN vs CHE fixture to serve up any goals, which increased its average mean absolute error (MAE) for predicted goals to 0.90. As well as giving them a rare victory over my spreadsheets, the relative shortage of goals in GW6 allowed the generally more conservative score forecasts implied by bookmaker odds to set a new benchmark for best MAE this season of 0.60.
Things might have been very different, however, if VAR had served its purpose, and overturned the referee’s approval of Maguire’s impersonation of the Boston Strangler! Seriously, you’d be hard pressed to find anyone in possession of at least one brain cell who thought his first half headlock on Azpilicueta wasn’t a blatant penalty.
For the first time this season, we have a team predicted to score 3 goals. Until now, my spreadsheets have been fairly lukewarm about MCI at both ends of the pitch, and the results so far have vindicated that take, but if the projections for the upcoming gameweeks are anything to go by, assets from the blue half of Manchester are set to become my primary transfer targets again.
I spent far too long last week justifying Burnley’s prominence in my spreadsheet’s expected goals table, so I’ll not repeat that again here, except to point out they were well on top before Spurs scored with their first shot on target, three quarters of the way through the match, and they can consider themselves unfortunate to lose having won the xG battle.
There is no doubt, however, that BUR continue to fall short of my spreadsheet’s evaluation of their attacking strength and, given that CHE proved last week that a clean sheet on the road is not beyond their capability, it is reasonable to treat the 2 – 2 correct score forecast above with suspicion.
As well as BUR and CHE, there are 4 other teams (LIV, SOU, WBA* and WHU) deemed more likely to score twice than once in GW7, and in descending order of expected goals, they occupy the 6 places beneath MCI in the table below, with TOT and WOL in close attendance. [*WBA were downgraded to a single goal in the Correct Score Forecast table above, because there is only 0.3xG between them and FUL according to my spreadsheet.]
On the face of it, the table above looks very promising for owners of Ings, Werner and Jimenez, but none of that trio exceed the minimum 5 points threshold for the expected players points table below. There are a number of reasons that account for this, including the sharing of points in their respective teams, and elite level finishing skills being underestimated by a model anchored in averages.
The table below shows how many points players are expected to get on average, excluding bonus points, and not factoring in yellow/red cards. The column to the right of the expected points only applies to players whose scores are inflated by penalty kicks, and show what they would have been if penalties are taken out of the equation.
Kane maintains his 100% attendance record having featured in every one of these weekly tables, and he has the highest non-penalty affected points prediction in GW7. Salah is the only player to have appeared in all but one of these tables.
I acknowledged my sheet’s overvaluation of BUR earlier, and Wood drops below Foden if we discount penalties. In the absence of penalty kicks, Foden would be the highest rated MCI player, and his score prediction is in any event only a whisker below KDB‘s average with the benefit of them.
Mitrovic and Pereira are other notable inclusions here, and face off against each other in the Championship reunion organised for FUL and WBA.
In terms of captaincy, normal service was restored and I suffered my fifth Captain blank of the season. I struggled last week to find anything to swing the decision between Salah and Kane using My Stats Tables in Fantasy Football Scout’s Membership Area, but they did lead me to express the wish that I owned Mane, and to declare I’d have had no qualms about captaining him whatsoever.
So what direction might my tables point me in this week? Once again, LIV and TOT are at the head of my Team Offence table, with MCI a surprisingly distant 11th, tilting the balance in favour of Salah, Mane, Kane and Son. Shout out here to WHU who occupy 4th place despite a very difficult fixture run.
After using my Team Defence table last week, I warned Kane captainers not to expect BUR to be pushovers. The same looks to be true of BHA this week too (see table below), as they have conceded the least xG per 90 minutes of any team this season so far, despite having faced CHE, MUN and EVE in their opening half a dozen fixtures. That said, they will be without their talismanic central defender and club captain.
As for Salah and Mane‘s next opponents, it is to WHU‘s immense credit that they are ranked fifth best in the table above given their last 5 fixtures were against ARS, WOL, LEI, TOT and MCI. So, there are grounds here for curbing our enthusiasm about captaining either LIV player.
MCI‘s opponents SHU meanwhile have been more generous when it comes to conceding xG, doing so on average 17 minutes quicker than WHU, so that swings things back towards the likes of Sterling, KDB and Foden a little.
Turning to my Players Expected Goals table, it can be seen that Salah continues to lag behind his team mate Mane for mins per xG despite having twice benefitted from spot kick duties. Seven of the ten players listed below owe their prominence to penalties awarded to their teams, some more than others, ranging from Vardy (4) to Kane (1), which makes the positions of Mane, Calvert-Lewin and Lacazette in the table all the more commendable. Note the almost unheard of absence of MCI attackers here though!
Looking at MCI midfielders in the Players Stats table it soon became apparent that KDB, Sterling and Foden are the main players of interest, and the value of the last named becomes abundantly clear when you see that his expected goals rate is better than that of his much more expensive fellow English national. For this reason, Barnes to Foden looks my most likely transfer this week.
Having wished I had Mane to captain last week, the same applies to KDB this week. Thanks to having penalty kicks in his locker, he looks the pick of MCI assets on the table above. As I cannot easily bring him into my team this week though, I will most likely switch the armband back to Kane.
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Looking further ahead with player ratings, I’ve reneged on last week’s pledge to expand my players points table to next 6 gameweeks as I had misgivings about the value of doing so given that we’re generally much more short-term in our thinking regarding the players in our teams.
The table below shows the expected top ten points scorers over the next 4 gameweeks. In my team, Werner earns himself a stay of execution based on high hopes for GW8 & 10.
My spreadsheet’s clean sheet probabilities returned to winning ways last week against those implied by bookies best odds, and were still more accurate even when the effects of the market odds overrounds were removed by FPL Review.
In what was a nearly week for my spreadsheet, the two teams deemed more likely than not to keep a clean sheet last week (LIV & WOL) were only denied by a contentious spot kick award at Anfield, and an 89th minute free kick that exploited a poorly formed wall at Molyneux Stadium. Meanwhile, the comfort that owners of Dallas and Ayling were encouraged to take in LEE being deemed more likely to concede zero goals than one was not of the cold variety.
Hopefully, the forming of effective walls will feature in Nuno’s training plans this week, as WOL have very good prospects of redeeming themselves this week, which should come as a relief to those who have like me doubled up on their defenders.
The team that almost thwarted Jimenez last week, and frustrated Kane and Son in GW3, sit second in my spreadsheet’s Clean Sheet Probability rankings for GW7, backed up by Steve Bruce’s pledge to make NEW difficult to beat again. This is the first time this season that they’ve been assessed as more likely to concede zero goals than one, a comment that also applies to ARS and EVE who have both failed to add to the clean sheets they kept in GW1.
The informational advantage you have over my model, however, is that the EVE defence will be missing Digne and Coleman, due to suspension and injury respectively, so it seems reasonable to downgrade my sheet’s expectation accordingly.
Defenders from ARS were a popular pick before the first deadline of the season if I remember correctly, but the Gunners defence is only now beginning to register on my spreadsheet’s radar, moving rapidly up to third best for the next 6 games (see table below). I expect Tierney will become a popular target again, but Gabriel is currently a better option according to my spreadsheet.
Looking further ahead, defensive assets from MCI are strongly advised from GW10 onwards. Cancelo was singled out preseason in my backline bonus magnet blog, and the fact that he has looked one of the Citizen’s best attacking outlets in both of his league appearances so far bodes well for a big points haul soon. Against him is the recent return from injury of Zinchenko, and the everpresent danger of ‘Pep Roulette‘.
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May the GW7 flop be with you!
Coley a.k.a. FPL P0ker PlAyer (@barCOLEYna)