EPL fantasy season runs a great many months, spotted with frequent breaks and periods of madness. It behooves us to take a breath and reset our expectations based on the information we have gathered over the opening seven gameweeks of the 2012-13 Barclays Premier League season. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this game is predicting Fantasy Premier League bonus points. Bonus points (BP) are based on EA Sports Player Performance Index (EAS PPI) scores and vary from match to match and week to week. In other words, a player’s EAS PPI of 18 (higher is better) may earn three (3) BP in a scoreless draw, while another player who rates an 18 in a 4-1 match does not earn a single BP.
It is no surprise that the bonus points skew towards goal scorers. The top three, and four of the top six, are all rated Forward in the FPL. EPL fantasy managers will recognize these names and likely own them as their selection reflects their prices and early EPL fantasy success: Demba Ba (12 BP, 29.8% selected), Steven Fletcher (12 BP, 10.8% selected), Peter Crouch (11 BP, 9.1% selected) and Fernando Torres (nine BP, 25.5% selected).
Steven Fletcher is the most remarkable player in the league this season. Aside from his unbelievable scoring record — he netted five goals in his opening four matches with Sunderland — he also recorded four consecutive outings with the max. three BP. His 12 BP have come in five BPL fixtures while Demba Ba, level with 12 BP, has played in all seven of the Magpies League fixtures. Ba has also recorded the max. three BP in four fixtures, corresponding with the four fixtures in which he scored. Ba has two braces and two one-goal outings to his credit this term. Playing in Alan Pardew’s system, Ba is partnered with countryman Papiss Cisse and the duo appear to provide more stress on opposing defenses than Fletcher operating alone. Newcastle has scored eight goals with Ba netting six. Fletcher has scored all five of his squad’s goals since his arrival from Wolverhampton.
In keeping with the trend, Peter Crouch has scored in three fixtures and received the full BP allocation each time. However, Crouch also scored two BP in the opening gameweek. The interesting aspect of that outing was that Crouch did not score or create an assist in a fixture which ended 1-1 — goals for the Royals’ Le Fondre and Potters’ Michael Kightly. Knightly did earn three bonus points and Glenn Whelan, who assisted his goal, also recorded two. Both Reading goal-scorer Le Fondre and creator, Garath McCleary were shutout.
Only five ‘keepers have recorded bonus points this season and none has received bonus points in more than one gameweek. Asmir Begovic, Jussi Jaaskelainen and Ali Al-Habsi have two apiece while Julio Cesar and Ben Foster have each earned one.
Their EAS PPI scores are damn near useless as we’re not expecting any ‘keeper to take more than eight or nine bonus points on the year. Using Ben Foster as a baseline, the Baggies netminder earned eight BP on the strength of 10 clean sheets and 109 saves in 2011-12. In 2010-11 he stopped 178 shots, kept nine clean sheets and recorded a massive 153 FPL points, but just nine from bonus. Keep your expectations low even when GW post cleanies. 34 clean sheets have been posted in Barclays Premier League action this term and only have five resulted in bonus points. This is one of the reasons we never captain our GK, even in a double-fixture gameweek.
45 defenders have earned at least one bonus point and the group have accounted for 132 of the total bonus pool of 436 points — 30%. 137 total players have received at least one bonus point, so while the defenders have accounted for 30% of the points, they also account for 33% of the total players. 11 defenders have recorded a single bonus point, a further eight have two and 12 have posted three. While 14 defenders have earned four or more bonus points, the striation at the top is severe with Leighton Baines’ nine BP setting the bar. Three Chelsea defenders have earned five or more bonus points with Ivanovic (six), Ashley Cole and Gary Cahill (five) each landing in the top seven BP earners at their position.
Defender bonus points are strongly linked to goals. Goals from defenders appear to be weighted more heavily than goals from forwards and a single goal from a defender — even in a match where they fail to keep a clean sheet — can net not only the six points a defender goal carries in FPL, but a three point bonus. Each of the Chelsea trio has benefited from early goal-scoring prowess and we will again caution against investing in Blues following the international break. Chelsea’s fixtures run: Spurs (a), Man Utd (h), Swansea (a), Liverpool (h), West Brom (a) and Man City (h). We do not trust defender scoring or the Blues ability to keep many clean sheets against the opposition and we’re selling in favour of Everton, Manchester City and Fulham defenders who face an easier slate after the break.
Read this post at EPLIndex.com – Premier League’s Most Creative Defenders – for a better sense of which defenders to own going forward. Keep in mind, predicting defender goals is difficult, but using their chances created to predict EPL fantasy success has much greater probability. You can also read a short synopsis of the article on our site here.
We like Baines, Rafael, Riise, Assou-Ekotto (when healthy), Walker and Jenkinson/Gibbs to continue to see FPL bonus point success. Micah Richards may also join their company with a run in the first team.
It is unsurprising that the list of Most Creative Midfielders overlaps significantly with the highest bonus point tallies. As with other positions, goals play a large role in factoring bonus points. For midfielders, it appears that assists and high volumes of accurate passing also impact the EAS PPI. We postulated last season that a high shot to goal ratio was helpful and that a low shot to shot on target ratio would not be overcome by other factors. That appears to hold this season, as well.
Nine midfielders have earned five or more FPL bonus points. It is a bit of an arbitrary cut-off ; for EPL fantasy managers the rationale was that five points puts the player on pace for 27 bonus points which would be better than last season’s top performers. Four BP after seven matches is a pace of 21.71, which would be just below the best. Last season David Silva and Gareth Bale each earned 21 FPL bonus points while Clint Dempsey was at 22. Juan Mata, who was the only player apart from Silva to create more than 100 chances last term, finished the year with six goals, 16 assists and 12 bonus points. Hi EAS PPLI for the season was 499, level with John Terry who outpointed the Spaniard with 18 BP. Frank Lampard scored 11 goals, assisted five and had 16 BP with a final EAS PPI of 481.
It is clear that goals factor heavily, but they do not outweigh the other components. While we do not know the specific formula, we can deduce statistics which are heavily weighted by comparing EAS PPI scores with Opta and other available statistics. Swansea’s Michu is a perfect example of this. Michu’s Opta stats show that he is not as involved in the build-up, his passing numbers are, volume-wise, significantly lower than other midfielders and he has yet to score the full allocation of BP. Twice he earned two BP in a fixture — in each of the first two League fixtures. It is interesting that he scored a brace and secured only two BP in the opening match. Michu’s two goals and an assist were bested by Nathan Dyer’s brace and EAS PPI of 49. In that same fixture Michu posted a 48. Clearly underlying statistics are weighted heavily, or at least are not outweighed by simple goals and assists.
Gareth Bale is a FantasyGaffer favourite and his nine bonus points (two better than Yaya Toure and Hatem Ben Arfa) lead the position. The Welsh winger is coming under some criticism for allegations of diving on the club and international level, but the results in EPL fantasy are tremendous. We’ve already remarked that we would not sell him for any other player in the game, and his table-topping form sees him eight points off the pace set by Eden Hazard and his two goal, six assist haul with 43 to the Belgian’s 51. Bale embarks on a number of dribbles, has high levels of success with both the dribbles, crosses and shots, and makes a number of chances while also keeping his passing accuracy high. He is the perfect statistical player and EPL fantasy managers should consider investing if they have not.
We like: Bale, David Silva, Santi Cazorla, Steve Pienaar, Hatem Ben Arfa and James Morrison to continue to earn bonus points, though we expect the pace that Bale and Ben Arfa are on will not be sustained over the full year.
We’ve touched on forwards a bit already in the introduction, but we wanted to include one additional study here. Robin van Persie commands the highest fee in the Fantasy Premier League at £13.4m. This has not dissuaded many EPL fantasy players as his selection stands at 30.8%. He has recorded three goals and two assists and has a respectable seven bonus points. However, all seven of his bonus points have come in the fixtures when he scored goals. In the two matches in which he recorded an assist, United have scored five goals (allowed three) and the Dutch forward has tallied five and four FPL points without the benefit of bonus. In Arsene Wenger’s system last term the forward scored 30 goals with 13 assists and a league-leading 45 bonus points. At his current pace he would record a respectable season tally of 16 goals, 11 assists and 38 bonus points. That is quite a haul, but not 269 point run-away-and-hide season he posted in 2011-12.
If van Persie is going to be reliant on his goals to provide bonus points, his value does take a slight hit and we have to consider players in less prolific sides to remain higher value for EAS PPI scores which net bonus points. Van Persie may well outscore Crouch, Fletcher and Torres come the end of the season, but if they each could present better bonus opportunities. Given his exceedingly high price, this bears monitoring. And keep in mind, a hat-trick may cause RVP’s goal tally to jump, leveling the pace with last term, but he can not earn more three bonus points for that outing. If Fletcher scores one goal in three successive fixtures he is a good bet to pick up 7-9 bonus points in total, and would likely outscore RVP in the process.
The question, of course, is if you believe Fletcher capable of continuing to score one a match, and also if you believe RVP will only score in bunches. With Rooney back in the fold, there are greater chances United will score, but not always a greater chance van Persie will. As the attacking stats are spread over a greater number of players, it is unlikely that van Persie will lead United in chances created, shots, on target, goals scored and assists this term as he did Arsenal last. Without that statistical dominance, it is unlikely that he will reach last season’s FPL bonus point tally in 2012-13.
We’re counting on Fletcher, Berbatov, Crouch and Shane Long to provide a discount route to high BP returns. Top goal scorers who figure to lead the scoring chart at seasons end — van Persie, Ba, Torres, Suarez, Tevez and Aguero — will all benefit greatly as well, but not necessarily in proportion to their FPL prices.
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