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Premier League : Mid-Season Review (Part 3)

Guest Post from SuperGrover at www.shotsontarget.co.uk a fantastic site for insight and analysis into the Fantasy Premier League!

FantasyYirma are pleased to feature this Mid-Season Review PART 3 and the conclusion to his ongoing mini-series.

Don’t forget to drop your comments below and thanks again to www.shotsontarget.co.uk

If you would like to submit a guest post for the site, contact Ryan at fantasyyirma@hotmail.com

Midseason Team Analysis – The Bottom Half

This is part 3 of 3 from SuperGrover and his most excellent review of each team’s performances in the Premier League so far and his expactation for the remainder of the season.
Check our the other articles here if you missed them:
This article covers the 8 teams left in the bottom half of the table.
Fulham started as one of the surprise attacking teams in the league, with new transfer Dmitiar Berbatov propelling an offense that averaged 2.2 goals the first 11 games.  Since then, the wheels have completely come off, with Fulham averaging just 0.8 goals over the second half of the campaign.  Looking at the underlying numbers only adds fuel to the fire.  Fulham’s six week form is awful, worst in the league in attack and 2nd worst in defense.  Injuries have played a part, but how much of one remains to be seen.
Fun Fact:  In the first 12 weeks, Fulham average 9.2 shots in the box.  Since then, they have averaged only 5.

Prediction:  Jol struggles to find offensive identity all season.  The Berbatov honeymoon ends as his work rate becomes a real problem while Fulham fights relegation.  In the end, they manage to stave off relegation but aren’t completely comfortable until game week 37.

Very interesting club.  Sunderland started out very defensive minded, producing shots at levels not commensurate with the goals being scored (they averaged just 1.6 shots on target the 10 weeks but managed to score 7 goals during that time).  Since then, the attack has improved tremendously, with the six week form rating the Black Cats as the 5th best attack in the league!It does appear that opening up the attack has left their defense somewhat weakened.  Over those same ten weeks, goals allowed have increased 50% while other defensive metrics have shown similar increases.  Nonetheless, the new attacking prowess has been an overall positive as Sunderland is simply better than they were before.

Fun Fact:  Steven Fletcher scored 5 goals on his first 5 shots on target this season.  He has scored 3 in his last 13.

Prediction:  Martin O’Neil’s tactical changes results in more goals on both sides, but allows Sunderland to remain in the premier league another season.

I have to admit, I enjoy Rickie Lambert.  He’s not the most gifted player and will never be more than he is, but he understands the game and he understands how to score.  I have been rooting for the Saints and Lambert ever since locking onto the striker as a preseason budget option.  I couldn’t be more pleased with the results.

It was presumed that Southampton started the season poorly, but much of that was due to a difficult run of fixtures that saw defeats to Man City, Man United, Arsenal and Everton in the first 6 games.  Since then, Southampton are 4-7-5, accumulating 20 points in just 16 weeks.   Interestingly, the underlying statistics indicated they weren’t as bad as thought all along.  Further, the introduction of Jack Cork in week 11 seemed to correspond to a change in tactics.  The defense was much more organized and the attack more cautious, taking chances when available but not stringing out to do so.  Luke Shaw’s emergence and a more settled central pairing also helped.  The results can be seen in the six week form that shows the Saints as a poor attack but stingy defensively.

Fun Fact:  Rickie Lambert has created the 2nd most chances among all forwards with 45.

Prediction:  The recent form is no fluke and the Saints stay clear of relegation.  Rickie Lambert scores 15 goals and Luke Shaw is hailed as the next Garreth Bale.

Demba Ba was excellent, but injuries hit the Toon hard in the first half of the season, especially on the backline.  The result is a desperate attempt to stave of relegation, something that seemed highly unlikely for this talented but flawed club.The underlying statistics tell the story here.  Defensively, Newcastle are terrible, one of the worst two defenses in the league (by some margin).  Offensively, Newcastle take far too many shots outside the box, resulting in low conversion rates for shots on target.   Given the absence of Ba, it’s difficult to see how this will improve.

Fun Fact:  Newcastle’s midfielders have taken 118 shots, but only 34 in the box.  By comparison, Liverpool’s mids have 164 but 83 in the box.

Prediction:  Newcastle improve somewhat as injuries subside, but problems remain.  The relegation fight goes until the very last few games of the season with a goal here or there being the difference.

Wigan are unique among the Premier League as they are the only squad to regularly employ a backline of three.  The uniqueness is interesting, but hasn’t resulted in much success on the pitch.  Wigan have been below average both offensively and defensively, ranking 10th and 15th, respectively.  With that said, Wigan’s shot numbers look a bit better than their actual results, with both the attack and defence performing much worse than expected.  That along with a favorable schedule down the stretch suggests that improvement may very well be possible for the Latics.Fun Fact:  Wigan have just two goals from outside the box all season, tied for lowest in the league.

Prediction:  The fixtures ease up a bit, but Wigan’s record improves little.  A clear relegation candidate heading into the last fortnight of the season.

Aston Villa are not a good team.  The results on the field have been poor and the underlying statistics not much better.  They have struggled to generate and stop shots and the resulting goals conceded should be expected.

The caveat is that Villa’s goal differential is an aberration to some extent.  While they have been poor, they haven’t been 6 goals worse than everyone else.  Further, unlike some other bottom dwellers they have registered a few points against some of the better teams in the league, winning at Anfield, drawing with Arsenal and taking 4 points from their meetings with Swansea.  Nonetheless, this is a bad team that needs to improve quickly or face relegation.

Fun Fact:  Christian Benteke has scored or assisted on 76.9% of all Villa’s goals this season, easily the highest of all players with at least 1000 minutes played.

Prediction:  Benteke continues to dominate, but Villa don’t have enough to back him up.  Without a turn around, Villa get demoted.

Reading are the worst team in the league and it’s not all that close.  Offensively, Reading have been among a group of poor offensive teams at the bottom of the table, scoring occasionally but never generating an consistent attack.  Defensively, Reading are atrocious, allowing more shots, shots in the box, shots on target, and goals than any other team in the league.  They have been poor, and lucky to have the points they do.  This is a team with little upside and little chance of finishing out of the relegation zone.

Fun Fact:  Pavel Pogrebnyak has scored on 27.8% of all shots, 7% better than Mr. Van Persie himself.  Unfortunately, the Russian has just 18 shots all season.

Prediction:  Reading’s fate is sealed before the month of May.

Harry’s next big thing still reside at the bottom of the table 5 points away from safety.  It seems assured the Rangers will be demoted, right?  Not so fast.

QPR weren’t the worst team in the league when Redknapp took over and they certainly aren’t now.  Their underlying numbers suggest they should have about 8 more goals on the season while allowing about 3 fewer.  Now, one should look at the numbers above and immediately note a problem in their attack, namely Adel Taarabt.  Taarabt is an unquestionably talented player, but one who far too often settles for shots well outside the penalty area.  By himself, he has made QPR a team that relies upon low precision shots outside the box as evidenced by the shots in the box numbers above.  That has to change going forward.
On the other side of the ball, QPR have actually been pretty solid, especially under Redknapp, who has decided to park the bus against better competition the last couple weeks, securing 4 unexpected points in the process.  Even before that QPR showed defensive potential with much of the negative goal differential driven by an opening day 5-0 defeat in which they actually allowed just 6 shots on goal.
QPR currently rank 12th in the total ratings.  While that may be inflated for reasons listed above, there’s no reason to count this team as automatic relegation candidate.  They can fight their way out of the cellar.
Fun Fact:  QPR score a goal around every 16.5 shots.  Manchester United score a goal every 6.2.
Prediction:  QPR bring in enough talent to present a legitimate attacking threat though the rest of the season. Taarabt settles down and Harry leads the team to a 17th place finish and another year in the premier league.

Premier League: Fightback Statistics! (Part 2)

Many thanks to @JonnyGrossmark for providing this excellent guest post. If you are not following him on Twitter already – get on it!

As always, Guest posts are welcome on the FantasyYirma page. If you have an idea for a new article or would like to promote a recent piece contact Ryan at fantasyYirma@hotmail.com for more information.

#FY

 

Part 1 of this series is available here

Mid-Table Sides “FightBack” Analysis

Having looked at the Top 6 teams, it is appropriate to look at the teams which sit outside the top six but which were expected at the beginning of the season to find a mid table berth and have no fear of relegation but no thoughts of getting into Europe.

EPL-Fight-Back-Data-2008-2009-to-Jan-13-Mid-Table

I have written extensively about Newcastle this season and they are a very interesting in terms of the phrase “yo- yo’ on the basis that they are a team that goes up and down the EPL table.

Focusing on their inability to fight back when conceding first should have given some doubt in the ability of Pardew to get Newcastle into the Top 6 again this season.

Pardew was awarded the League Managers Association award for last season which is voted for by fellow professional managers and Sir Alex won it in 2011 and this is a prestigious award. In effect this cemented the 8 year contract that Pardew signed to give him time to deliver the first trophy since they won the fairs Cup in 1969.

My question is do we take at face value that Pardew did an excellent job or do we add raw data to the mix to show that last season Newcastle over achieved and a drop in positions was an expected outcome this season with potential that Newcastle could easily drop out of the EPL in the next few seasons again?

If I advise that Pardew does not have the ability to micro manage players you could rightly counter and say that Newcastle finished 5th last year so obviously he must have the mindset to lead his squad and motivate the players on and off the pitch with a solid team behind him.

I would argue that under Pardew, Newcastle have only won 37% of games and that  he has had success with regard to getting teams from the Championship into the EPL but not been able to consolidate on the progress.

It is also a well known fact that at West Ham, Pardew was given media training to be able to connect with the fans more and I express the thought that how well does he communicate with his own players after the BBC described him as a …”distant animal”. I have watched a number of games this season (mainly recorded) looking at the body language of Pardew and apart from writing notes, I have not seen anything to suggest that he commands the loyalty of the players as in too many games this season, Newcastle have given up as soon as they have conceded first and they are also showing an inability to hold onto leads having won just 50% of the games where they scored first this  season which is not top six form and astonishingly since Pardew joined, Newcastle have not won one game when conceding first and their last win was against West Ham in October 2010. Newcastle conceded an early goal scored by Carlton Cole on 12 minutes to “fightback” and Newcastle dominated most of the game under Hughton who I consider to be far more capable as a Manager then Pardew.

Football blogging is at a stage where if it does not fit the model then it must be a random event such as playing snakes and ladders which has zero skill value but I think this is a dangerous route to take as one of the biggest academic arguments is over sample size but in football past performance is not an indicator of future performance although there is no reason to think that Newcastle will become a “fightback” team in the near future.

We are only limited by our interpretation of the data presented. When Spurs beat Wigan 9-1 we can clearly see that this is a random event as there was not expectation at Half Time that Wigan would concede eight second half goals. Newcastle coming 5th last season cannot be explained as a random event but can show the limitations of the understanding of data as we are now in a situation where Pardew is now publicly blaming the players(survival analysis) when he is the one who should be blamed.

Compare this to Sunderland conceding first exactly 17 times over the previous four completed seasons. Is this consistent behaviour random or explained?

By   @JonnyGrossmark

Newcastle United: Third season syndrome?

newcastle-united-manager-alan-pardew-169126494

Given their past experiences at the top end of the Premier League table in the mid to late 1990s – times they really, really loved – it is easy to forget that Newcastle United are still a recently promoted club.

Relegation in the 2008/09 season meant a season in the Championship for the Geordies and their devoted followers, who were able to watch a team including the likes of Andy Carroll, Kevin Nolan and Joey Barton bounce straight back to the big time at the first time of asking under manager Chris Hughton.

Just a glance at those names above and a consideration of the varying degrees of success they’ve had since they held aloft the Championship trophy in 2010 will tell you that two-and-half years can be an awful long time in football, and as today’s vastly different Newcastle staff face up to the realisation that they are in another tough relegation battle they are unable to call upon the experiences of too many of those who were involved in the last one.

A reasonably solid first season back in the Premier League in 2010/11 – albeit one which didn’t prevent the removal of Hughton – was suddenly transformed into a rapid change of personnel as the likes of Carroll, Nolan, Barton and Jose Enrique departed and Demba Ba, Yohan Cabaye, Hatem Ben Arfa and Davide Santon arrived. It could have gone one of two ways, but it went upwards.

Aided by last January’s arrival of Papiss Cisse the Magpies flew to a thoroughly deserved fifth place in the table, impressing all onlookers and embarrassing a number of teams below them who had spent a lot more money in the quest for success.

Given the relative newness of the team and breath of fresh air brought by many of the personnel in some ways it was the equivalent of a new team to the division impressing in their maiden campaign; an approach which would place the current problems experienced by Alan Pardew and his side squarely in the dreaded ‘second season syndrome’ territory.

Fifteenth in the table and only two points above the relegation zone, Newcastle go into Saturday’s trip to Norwich off the back of nine defeats in their last 11 league games and a demoralising FA Cup loss at Brighton & Hove Albion last Saturday.

Pardew has problems, that much is self-evident, and with Ba deciding to swap the north-east of England for west London – ensuring that the Senegalese top scorer is just another name to come and go during Tyneside’s whirlwind two-and-a-half years – the onus will fall upon Cisse to start finding the net again to lift his side up the table.

Given that matches against fellow strugglers Aston Villa and Reading follow the Norwich game it is not too far-fetched to claim that January is the most important month for Newcastle in quite some time, especially as February brings a fixture against Ba’s Chelsea and a trip to Tottenham as well as the distraction of a two-legged Europa League tie against the Ukrainians Metalist Kharkiv.

European football appears to have come far too soon to a squad and a manager who have struggled to cope with the demands it brings, and these next few weeks before they head out onto the continent again offer a huge chance for Newcastle to pull away from those who – at the moment – appear more likely than them to remain near the foot of the table the longer the season goes on.

The Magpies dare not fail.

Their third season back in the big time has exhibited many of the characteristics of a team going through a second season of struggle after a first season of success, and with Pardew admitting that his team face a second period of the campaign in which they’ll be more concerned about the bottom places in the table than the ones at the top, the likes of Cabaye, Ben Arfa and Cisse simply can’t return to fitness and top form quick enough.

Time has a habit of flying just when you don’t want it to, after all.

@Mark_Jones86

Gameweek 15 preview: The case for the defence – Volume II

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After our Gameweek 8 focus on some of the men who ply their trade at the back, the case for the defence has been reopened ahead of a weekend which is likely to see defenders prove as important as ever.

Scrappy Gameweeks 13 and 14 saw clean sheets and defensive bonus points become vital, and if you can get your hands on a player who will provide both as well as offering an attacking threat then it’s wise to hold onto him. Fortunately there is one currently stationed on Liverpool’s left wing.

Just how long Brendan Rodgers continues with his efforts to transform Jose Enrique (£5.9m) into the new Gareth Bale remains to be seen, but the Liverpool manager’s selection of the Spaniard ahead of converted left-back Stewart Downing in his side’s last two games shows that this is an experiment which is set to last.

Ever since taking up the left midfield role in the second half of Liverpool’s 1-1 draw at Chelsea in Gameweek 11, Enrique has carried a greater goal threat than any other Reds player bar Luis Suarez. He almost scored in that Chelsea game, provided a goal and an assist in the win over Wigan, had an effort controversially disallowed at Swansea and came close numerous times in Wednesday’s loss at Tottenham.

With Southampton visiting Anfield on Saturday the home crowd will be expecting their underachieving team to both create plenty of chances and keep it tight at the back, two elements of their game that could see Enrique pick up plenty of points. He could even be a left-field left-sided captaincy choice for the brave and the bold amongst you.

Whilst the former Newcastle man is a familiar face to Fantasy players thanks to his five-and-a-half years in the English game, there is also a relative newcomer who could also be worth considering this weekend.

Manchester City’s Matija Nastasic (£5.5m) will need no introduction to Joleon Lescott after the young Serbian took the England defender’s place in the City team, and after starting City’s last six league games the 19-year-old looks here to stay.

The champions have kept five clean sheets in those six matches, and whilst Nastasic’s team-mate Pablo Zabaleta (£5.8m) is another name to consider as an alternative to the expensive Vincent Kompany (£7.2m), the Serb’s price only looks like rising throughout the campaign as City’s title challenge seemingly grows stronger. City’s defenders do come with a warning of a fixture list which sees them face Everton and Manchester United in their next two matches, but Nastasic might just be worth the risk.

Elsewhere as we continue our look at the men at the back, perhaps the weekend’s best chance of a stalemate – Gold-dust when we conduct these cases for the defence – comes at Loftus Road where QPR face Aston Villa in a contest which will see Ryan Nelsen (£4.0m) marshal the home defence and Villa’s Matthew Lowton (£4.5m), Ciaran Clark and Eric Lichaj (both £4.4m) all feature for the visitors.

Manchester United left out Rio Ferdinand (£5.9m) for the midweek win over West Ham at Old Trafford, with full-backs Patrice Evra (£6.8m) and Rafael (£6.5m) perhaps the only two certain starters for their Saturday evening trip to Reading, whilst Chelsea seem to have no problem keeping clean sheets under Rafael Benitez, with Ashley Cole (£6.5) certain to be a key part of the attempt to keep a third in a row as they go to West Ham.

If you need a cheaper option though then it might pay to head to North London, where Per Mertesacker (£5.3m) has started Arsenal’s last eight matches and popped up with a goal in the Gameweek 12 win over Tottenham.

The Gunners have only kept two clean sheets in those eight matches, but they’ll expect to be on the front foot as Swansea visit the Emirates Stadium on Saturday, whilst the return from suspension of Fabricio Coloccini (£5.0m) should shore up Newcastle’s back-line for Monday night’s visit of Wigan.

@Mark_Jones86

Second season syndrome?

All were new signings in 2011/12, and all impressed in Yirma, but can the five players below keep up that form heading in to 2012/13??

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Demba Ba, Newcastle, Forward – Fantasy Price Tag £7.5m

Few players had more schizophrenic seasons than Ba last time out, as the arrival of a man we’ll mention below saw his goalscoring form at first dry up and then evaporate completely.

It was tougher to find a Fantasy manager without the Senegalese in his team in the first half of last season than one who did have him, as Ba’s goals shot Newcastle up the table and kept several Fantasy bosses scratching their heads over captaincy selections on Saturday mornings.

Then the forward headed off the Africa Cup of Nations in January, returned with his international team-mate alongside him and suddenly the goals dried up.

Newcastle boss Alan Pardew had of course decided to alter Ba’s position slightly, and although it must be said that he did still weigh in with some assists, the forward’s impact was seemingly reducing game by game, so much so that the summer of transfer rumours surrounding his exit from Tyneside were hardly surprising.

He stayed of course, but a repeat showing from last year’s dazzling first few months looks unlikely.

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Nikica Jelavic, Everton, Forward – Fantasy Price Tag £8.5m

Up in Scotland, Jelavic is now merely a substantial if solitary profit in the Rangers accounts, but the happy memories that Gers’ fans had of him are now being shared in the Blue half of Merseyside.

Jelavic’s predatory instincts have unsurprisingly gone down well amongst Everton fans who have arguably not seen a finer forward in Blue since the early days of Wayne Rooney, and the Croatian will be determined to shine in his first full campaign at Goodison Park.

Much was made last season of Jelavic’s instant, one touch finishes, and so whilst you may want to avoid him if you prefer your forwards to be more involved in the play and frequently able to contribute with assists, as an out-and-out goalscorer in a team who will play to his strengths there can’t be many better picks.

After a summer away at the Euros, this campaign will be the ultimate test to see if the Croatian can produce it consistently in Fantasy Premier League.

The early signs are all encouraging ones.

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Papiss Cisse, Newcastle, Forward – Fantasy Price Tag £9.5m

It can’t possibly go as well for Cisse as it did from January to May. Can it? CAN IT???

The Senegalese’s impact at Newcastle following his transfer from German club Freiburg was nothing short of extraordinary, as goals were scored and records tumbled all over the place.

A clinical, almost effortless forward, Cisse’s performances at St James’s Park (sorry Mike Ashley) have drawn comparisons with Andy Cole’s, and there is no doubt that Newcastle will once again look to play to his strengths as they did so well during the latter half of last season.

However, what with the demands of the Europa League, yet another Africa Cup of Nations coming up in January and now that defenders know his threat a little more, it will be extremely difficult for Cisse to repeat last season’s heroics again this time around.

At £9.5m he’ll have plenty of takers, but expecting him to produce the same fireworks as he did in 2011/12 might just leave you disappointed.

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Sergio Aguero, Manchester City, Forward – Fantasy Price Tag £11.5m

The moment that Aguero secured the league title for Manchester City in May will be burned into the brains of his club’s supporters’ for a lifetime, and probably the minds of Manchester United fans for even longer.

It was deserved too, both for the club and a player who made the transition from La Liga to Fantasy Premier League with ease ever since he scored twice on his debut against Swansea in City’s opening match of the campaign.

Aguero is a livewire; a player who never gives defenders a second on the ball and leaves them wondering for hours just what they can do to stop him.

Bar Robin van Persie he was the best forward in England last season – that Kyle Walker took the PFA Young Player of the Year award ahead of Aguero isn’t a good advert for the decisions of footballers – and the Argentinean looks more than ready to help his side defend their title this time.

He is a simply brilliant attacker, and one that you need to find room for in any team – Fantasy or otherwise – whatever the cost.

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Yohan Cabaye, Newcastle, Midfielder – Fantasy Price Tag £7.0m

As this column indicates, Newcastle bought pretty well last season, and there is an argument for saying that Cabaye was the best addition of the lot.

A lively midfielder, the Frenchman showcased more than a keen eye for goal the longer 2011/12 went on, and after a year of getting used to playing against the big-hitters of the league he’ll now have to understand that he is one.

One of the lesser discussed qualities of Cabaye, however, is his toughness. He can mix it in the middle with pretty much anyone, and so seeing as he is highly unlikely to become overawed by the new challenges he faces as he becomes a marked man, there is nothing to suggest that he won’t prove to be a success on Tyneside again.

As discussed above, the rigours placed on Newcastle this season might ensure that they don’t reach the highs they did in the last campaign, but their French midfielder can still impress.

A bargain buy? Oui.

*M

@Mark_Jones86

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