Guest Article: Time to go big at the back? by Chris Martin aka Sutton_Chris

As we eagerly approach the start of a brand new Premier League season, I thought I’d offer my musings on a subject that’s been on my mind recently as I’ve turned my thoughts towards all things Fantasy Football. As the title suggests I’m wondering if this season is one to go big at the back. By that I mean investing in premium defenders as opposed to being top heavy with premium strikers.

I decided to do a little analysis, comparing three of the best scoring strikers from last season with three of the top scoring defenders, all of whom were playing for most of the season;

Strikers: Aguero, Salah, Aubameyang

Defenders: Alexander-Arnold, Van Dijk, Robertson

Now at the start of the season the combined starting price for the strikers was £20m. Compare that with the starting price of the defenders of £10.5m and already you see a huge gulf in cost.

The next set of data I looked at was the total points of each player for the season. The combined score of the strikers was 867 compared with a combined score of the defenders of 728. The strikers win the day there, but when you take into account the starting prices of the players there is a lot more to take away from this than appears at first glance.

I then took each total combined score and divided it into the total combined starting prices and the findings were very interesting.

The answers to the above equations basically gives us the points per million figure, giving us a good reflection on true value.

The strikers points per million came in at 43.35. Now compare this to the PPM of the defenders and the result is very intriguing. The defender’s PPM came in at a staggering 69.93. This appears to offer tremendous value over the course of a season. The savings in cost from going big at the back last season as opposed to up front would have meant you’d have had way more funds to invest elsewhere in your team last season.

Now obviously the benefit of hindsight is always a wonderful thing and things may not play out in the same way this season. I’d argue however that I see no reason why the premium defenders (especially Liverpool) can’t offer more value than the premium strikers over the course of a season. Another caveat to add in for the coming season is that the Liverpool defenders will be valued higher this season (especially TAA and Robbo) but I’d imagine they will still be somewhat cheaper than those premium strikers within the game.

Whilst it can sometimes feel counter intuitive to go for that cheaper striker (or maybe go 4-4-2), I hope my analysis shows, that with a bit of bravery, the rewards can be potentially huge.

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20 thoughts on “Guest Article: Time to go big at the back? by Chris Martin aka Sutton_Chris

  1. Great article Chris. A very good analysis.

    So are you looking at a three man Liverpool defence with possibly Ederson or could have Alisson in goal (which might be the possible defence template)? A Man City defender would be ideal but guessing adding Laporte would make the budget a bit more stretched.

    So looking at upcoming prices Van Dijk at 6.0m (price increase of 2.0m), Robertson at 4.5m (1.5m) and TAA at 5.0m (1.0m) do these still value for money if they got similar points this season? And how would strikers points per million compare as a result? I expect the gap between the defence and strikers to be much smaller.

    Also need to consider the ceiling for the attackers is higher: Aguero, Salah and Aubameyang are goal hungry strikers with potential hat tricks in their armoury. The defenders don’t offer this option. Maybe the trend will reverse in the upcoming season as defenders get more expensive and strikers become cheaper (Salah and Kane have decreased in value whereas Aguero and Aubamenyang only slightly increased). I’m not ruling out going for Salah, Kane and Aubamenyang but then I am an attacking mindset (although it can be argued not a successful one).

    We are not guaranteed the same pattern will repeat as every season tends to be different – VAR could have an big impact on both clean sheets and penalty saves/goals. I learned from experience what worked for me in one season will not necessarily work as well in the following season. The game constantly changes and we need to adapt to become better fantasy football managers.

    1. I read var data from other leagues shows it actually reduces penalties as all those dives get disallowed.

      It may actually be more reason to invest in the back as opposed to up front.

    2. Correction: Aguero has increased more than I thought. His value has increased by 1.0m. (For some reason I thought he originally cost 7.0 instead of 6.5).

    3. It’s a really tough one. On one hand I completely agree that the players like Aguero, Salah, Kane, Aubameyang, etc are so capable of a hat trick but this time around I’m thinking it’s not going to be possible to accommodate them all without having really weak areas elsewhere in the team. I’m thinking the balanced approach might be best this season.

  2. A well written and interesting analysis Chris.

    I would make two points with regards to your findings.

    Firstly, I agree with RR. I have been doing Dream Team for some 25 years and no two seasons ever seem to be the same, so whilst the defensive points for last season were staggering and didn’t follow the regular trend of strikers stealing the lion’s share, does it then follow that this season will be the same?

    Secondly and probably most importantly, it’s worth noting that all 3 defenders used as a comparison were Liverpool defenders (4 of the 6 players being Liverpool if you include Salah), so the statistics only really apply to “Strikers vs The Liverpool defence”, such was their outstanding season.

    Of course there is no doubting how strong Liverpool were, largely due to the introduction of VVD and regular starting appearances from TAA (I cannot see another team amassing 97 points without winning the league), so I guess the real question here is not whether to go heavy on defenders over strikers, but which / how many Liverpool defenders to use?

    1. Yeah, excellent points Lee. Just had a quick look at the prices this morning and I think I’ll be going for TAA and Robbo from that Liverpool defence (might stick VVD in an experimental team). VVD is expensive at £6m compared to Robbo especially, at £4.5m.

      I’ve not had chance to study the prices at length yet but there seems to be a few potential bargains in there from Chelsea. Everton also have great fixtures early doors so Digne is a player that interests me a lot to start the season with.

      And of course, I’ll be getting my boy back in……….welcome back Matt Doherty, I’ve missed you so. 😉

      1. Yes, Doherty is likely to start in my team. Heard rumours of Diego Costa agreeing terms with Wolves too, although I’m not sure how much truth is in this yet.

        Also worth considering that whilst VVD, TAA & Robertson kept a good number of clean sheets, many of their points came by way of attacking threats – either goals, assists or both. It would be interesting to see a break down (if anyone has the time) of the the points earned in defensive vs attacking duties for the Liverpool defenders, but that’s just out of curiosity.

        I’m not sure who I will be going with yet, but I’d like to think that TAA cannot be benched after the way he finished the last 10 games or so??

      2. Great article Chris,

        I think a lot of people playing FPL are looking at this type of team set up, with the defenders scoring very favourably against similar priced players in midfield and up front.

        Basing the statistics from you article on this years prices your 3 example defenders would have a points per million of 47 whereas the strikers would have a ppm of 41.3.

        So you would have to say that the Sun have done a very good job of the pricing this year in closing the massive difference in value of the defenders vs the other positions.

        Personally, from my limited time looking, I think they have done a very good job of pricing this year, there is a nice balance of premium, medium and budget priced players. Definitely some bargains to be had and a lot of players 2m or under that I can see logging a decent amount of game time

        1. Yeah, as I say I haven’t had time yet to look in detail but the pricing has certainly closed that gap. Your calculations on this season’s prices (nice work 👍🏻) illustrate this perfectly so I’m now thinking maybe a more balanced team throughout could be the way to go now!…….lol I’ve just made my article obsolete already!! 😂

      3. Digne is someone who stood out to me as well, after you rightfully pointed out their run of good fixtures at the start of the season. I was also slightly disappointed to see Richarlison now being classed as a striker.

    2. I was going to attempt a block of Liverpool and Man City defenders but I think I’ve already knocked this idea on the head. It’s simply not going to be possible if we want at least a couple of Sterling, Kane, Aguero, Salah, Mane and so on. For me a well balanced team is going to be the way forward.

  3. Thanks as ever Chris for taking the time to come up with this article and for sending it over. Really appreciate it. I completely agree with everything you’ve said. I think the emphasis should certainly be on defenders this season – or at the very least treating them with equal importance as the rest of the team. Having said that it’s going to be very challenging to create a team with all the big names this time around. I’m also glad you’re looking at the points per 1m spent figure. This was something I worked out for every player last season. It’s a figure I find really useful as I’m quite statistically minded – I often see the whole game as some kind of maths problem which could be cracked on probability and previous stats. Not that I’ve ever managed to come up with a formula for this so far.

    1. It was a pleasure mate. Kinda thinking I got the timing of it a bit off (looking at the new prices now) but I enjoyed doing it nonetheless during my break time on the night shift. Hopefully people can extract some use out of it. If I can find the time during the season I’d be happy to chip in with a few more. Would be lovely to see some of of the other great minds which frequent this site do the same, just as RR did last season, but we all lead such busy lives nowadays it’s understandable if people can’t find the time.

      Bring on the new season!!!

      1. It would be great to get more of the opinions of other people. I certainly don’t feel like I’ve got the game nailed so as many people chipping in with different ideas just adds to the blog. I can’t believe the new season is a month away – the amount I’ve thought about football over the past week makes it feel like it’s right around the corner.

        1. I know mate, I’m the same. Imagine how fried our brains will be by the time the season starts! 😂🤪

  4. Might on reading this article go with Van Dijk, Robertson and TAA . They are likely to have very high ownership to begin with >25% and last season I lost my mini league to a Liverpool block. Will be difficult to bring in VdD later now given his high tag. he will be in high demand and very dangerous at set pieces. I can see the Liverpool defence dominating dream team again so I feel the need to have more than 1 of their defenders. (Unless they got that 3 player per team rule which has left confused 😐 ). So might adopt a different approach with adopting a defensive strategy.

    1. I’m 99% sure they won’t have the three players per team rule but you just never know. Before we saw player prices I was interested in a Liverpool block but I’m not so sure now. Might seriously harm the rest of your team? You’ll have to go cheap up front with those at the back won’t you?

    2. Van Dijk is definitely one of the first names on my team sheet, although I do wonder if his price will go much higher. The algorithm for price change is partly based on the player exceeding how well they are expected to do. Following last season and his price rise from 4m to 6m it would suggest to me that the expectation of him scoring points will have risen, and therefore his price wont rise as much/quickly as say a 4m defender. We actually don’t know what the price change cap will be this season and so that will have an effect on who to pick (in my case anyway). A 0.1 change is virtually redundant but a 0.2 or 0.3 change cap will force me to look at players differently (mostly from a transfer point of view in the first few months but also from the start) as I will want to build team value and cheaper players rise and sustain their rise much more easily than the premium players

      1. I’ve been put off a little by his price tag. I thought he was going to be 5m or maybe 5.5m. With some of the 3m options around I could see two of them outscoring him.

  5. just herd west ham has just broken club record with a new signing
    wonder what price he will come in at probably 3.5
    this year is quite a challenge to say the least.

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