FPL Poker Tables GW12/13/14

It’s that time of year again when managers are advised to fasten their seatbelts, and hold on tight, as the FPL schedule is about to become hectic. Next week sees the first set of midweek fixtures this season, which comprise the sandwich filling of 3 gameweek deadlines in 9 days. Consequently, I’ll not have time to produce this blog for the next 2 gameweeks, so I’ll try to include enough pointers to them here to keep you going until I return for GW15.

In the interest of transparency I again attach 3 appendices at the end of this blog showing how my spreadsheet’s predictions fared in the previous week compared to other better known predictive models and algorithms. Despite bettering our season average so far, my model’s match result predictions last week were 3% less accurate than those of fivethirtyeight.com (see Appendix I), with that site drawing level for the season on a average mean absolute error of 0.36. Fivethirtyeight.com were also the only one of the three models I compare my spreadsheet’s score forecasts with to outperform them last week (see Appendix II). My model was the only one to get 2 scorelines correct though, which might have been 3, but for a “disgraceful” decision to award SOU a late penalty for a foul that happened outside the box. Whilst my spreadsheet’s clean sheet probabilities again proved more accurate than the bookies best odds posted by @FPL_Salah, they were less accurate last week than those same odds with the effects of bookies margins removed by @fplreview (see Appendix III). Suffice it to say that my spreadsheets are still counting down to the launch date of GW17, which is the point they will be fuelled by this season’s data only.

Meanwhile, there are five teams deemed more likely than not to score at least 2 goals in GW12, and maybe they can act as the crawler transporter moving my spreadsheet predictions to the launch pad.

Top 8 teams for predicted xG in GW12

All five are shown in the table below as expected to win their matches this weekend, but the probability of a 1 – 1 draw is actually higher than a 2 – 1 win for both WHU and LEI.

GW12 correct score forecasts

Apologies if you’re new to my blog, but after eleven weeks of doing so, I cannot bring myself to account for this apparent paradox to my readers yet again. They must be as bored of reading it as I am of writing it, so please refer to previous blogs for an explanation.

Unusually, there are only 3 correct score forecasts in GW12 that are not relatively straight forward. The one not already mentioned is the Manchester derby, which is reckoned to be 0.1% more likely to finish 2 – 0 than 3 – 0 (see table below), despite the Citizens being deemed 0.3% more likely to score 2 goals than 1.

Correct score forecast probability matrix for MUN vs MCI

Note that the probability given for the visitors winning 4 – 0 is more than double the chances of MUN winning (see table above). Old Trafford threatens to be more like the Theatre of Nightmares this weekend for Bruno owners. Let’s get #prayforsolskjaer trending, people!

LEE vs WHU, and LEI vs BHA are set to be much more evenly contested if the correct score forecast probability matrices below are anything to go by:

Correct score forecast probability matrix for LEE vs WHU and LEI vs BHA

Here are the projected correct score forecast tables for GW13 and GW14:

The table below shows how many points players are expected to get on average (excluding bonus points, and yellow/red cards). The red ‘P’s indicate where predicted scores have been inflated by the effects of recent penalty kicks, and the numbers in the column to the right of expected points show what these scores would have been if the distorting effects of penalties are removed. In other words, these are the average expected points assuming there are no opportunities to score from the penalty spot.

22 players above the 5 points threshold in GW12

KDB, Salah, and Vardy were among the top half dozen ranked attacking players in this table last week, and are so again this week if we follow Pep’s example, and ignore Torres and Foden.

As can be seen in the column furthest to the right, the points boost KDB receives from spot kick duties is significantly larger than is the case for Salah. If we knew in advance that neither player will be called upon to score from the penalty spot in GW12, then Salah‘s points prediction of 7.6 points would be a full point higher than KDB‘s. Furthermore, my spreadsheet assigns a 56.3% probability to the Egyptian scoring anytime vs 30.6% for the Belgian, for whom assist points are a bigger factor. Incidentally, in the absence of penalties, Mane‘s points prediction actually edges Salah‘s by 0.1.

Wilson and Watkins are the highest rated forwards this week, trumping the more premium strikers Vardy, Kane, Jesus and Werner.

Most of the players mentioned above feature near the top of my table for predicted points between now and my next blog (see below). The main worry for owners of Salah, Mane, and Robertson during this period has to be rotation, especially with the GW14 fixture away to Palace coming just 62 hours 30 minutes after the “six pointer” vs Spurs in GW13. Remember, 72 hours is considered by sports scientists to be the minimum safe recovery time for footballers, and Klopp made the wrong kind of headlines the last time his team was faced with a similar situation.

23 players above the 5 points threshold in GW13 and 17 in GW14

In my opinion, Wilson, Watkins, Kane and Grealish are the players in the table above likely to play the most minutes due to the recovery times between their games being least unfavourable.

My new rolling data charts made an immediate impact in the captaincy debate last week, emphatically challenging the story told by recent underlying stats that WOL were one of the league’s best defences. With time against me this week, I’m going to present a similar chart for FUL vs LIV in the hope of being spared having to run through my FFS stats tables. I did several charts last week and none looked remotely like the one below!

The chart above shows two trendlines, one for the home defence strength weighting showing how many goals FUL are expected to concede on average vs an average away attack, and the other for the away attack strength weighting showing how many goals LIV are expected to score on average vs an average home defence. These ratios are such that an average team would be expected to concede/score one goal vs another average team, but as can be seen, the Cottagers have a much worse than average home defence, and the Reds have a much better than average away attack. In none of my charts last week was a team’s defence strength weighting trendline above a team’s attack strength weighting trendline.

Last week, LIV had the highest attack strength weighting, and WOL the worst defence strength weighting, but it’s not quite as clear cut this week. There are actually 3 teams with a higher attack strength weighting than LIV this week (MCI, CHE, and WHU), but FUL have by far the worst defence strength weighting of any team, and so, the case for a Salah (or Mane) captaincy looks open-and-shut to me.

Of the four defenders who appeared in my players points table last week, only Robertson justified his place there, and he is one of only three defenders this time around, with Cancelo and Dias above him despite facing a Manchester derby at Old Trafford. Up against a team who did the league double over them last season, MCI are nevertheless reckoned by my spreadsheet to be more likely than not to keep a clean sheet. In order to do so, Pep will need to have learned his lesson with regard to MUN‘s counter-attacking threat.

Clean sheets look hard to come by in GW12

The chart below validates the clean sheet prediction for Pep’s men. The red trendline describes the sharp decline of MUN‘s home attack strength weighting, followed by a levelling off that is well below average, while the blue trendline shows MCI‘s away defence strength recovering, and consolidating, its position as the best in the league.

MCI continue to dominate my longer term clean sheet table, with good to strong chances of adding to their tally of 4 clean sheets so far in 4 of the next 6 gameweeks.

Leading 7 teams for clean sheets over the next 6 gameweeks

The patience of Martinez owners who held onto him despite AVL‘s blank last weekend looks set to be rewarded soon enough, as AVL are ranked second best for clean sheets over the next 6, with good to strong prospects in half of them. Meanwhile, LEE draw nearer to the 3 good clean sheet chances in a row (GW13-15) signposted last week, and Dallas and Ayling owners probably ought to stick to their guns.

Robertson and Cancelo continue to be the only defenders predicted to score at least 20 points (before bonuses) over the next 4 gameweeks (see table below).

15 players predicted to score over 20 points (not including bonuses) in the next 4 gameweeks

My latest 6GW spreadsheets with sortable columns takes us up to the end of the calendar year and is available for purchase at a ‘cheap as chips‘ cost of £2. Alternatively, with early blanks and doubles in GW18 & 19, the newly reduced, heavily discounted price of £25 to receive an updated sheet for each of the remaining 28 gameweeks might be a more attractive proposition. Please feel free to DM me any questions you may have about acquiring your own copies, or click here to go directly to my PayPal link.

That’s all for now, folks. May the GW12 flop, GW13 turn, and GW14 river be with you.

Coley a.k.a. FPL P0ker PlAyer @barCOLEYna

Appendix I – mean absolute error of result probabilities

Appendix II – mean absolute error of predicted goals

Appendix III – mean absolute error of clean sheet probabilities

FPL Poker Tables GW11

Last gameweek was another frustrating one for my spreadsheets, even though predictions performed favourably in comparison with other better known predictive models and algorithms. My spreadsheet proved more accurate than fivethirtyeight.com for both match result predictions (see appendix I) and correct score forecasts (see appendix II). It also performed better than “the world’s most powerful predictive fantasy football algorithm” with regards to the number of goals predicted, albeit only matching bookies best odds in the process (see appendix II). Once again though, they outperformed bookies best odds for clean sheet probabilities, even with the effects of their margins removed by FPL Review (see appendix III). These positive results were in spite of giving other models a big headstart by going out on a limb in fancying CHE so strongly to beat TOT.

The frustration arises from the fact that my spreadsheets’ superiority over bookies odds and other models is still only marginal so far this season, and frankly not yet justifying the time and energy I expend on them. The main causes of instability in my spreadsheet’s predictions continue to be the dizzying rate at which penalty kicks are being awarded, and the overly optimistic, best guess weightings that the promoted sides started the season with. These wrinkles are being incrementally ironed out though, and my spreadsheets are still counting down to the lift off expected after sixteen gameweeks of season data have been collected.

Onwards and upwards then, five teams are deemed more likely than not to score at least 2 goals in GW11.

Top 8 teams for predicted xG in GW11

All five are expected to win their matches this weekend, albeit just by the odd goal based on the most likely number of goals expected to be scored by each team.

GW11 correct score forecasts

I wrote last week about how reductive presenting a single correct score forecast was though, and how much more meaningful it would be to present scoreline predictions in a matrix. For example, the table above shows LIV 2 WOL 1, but the 9.1% probability assigned by my spreadsheet is not the highest, as the probability for 2 – 0 is reckoned to be 0.7% higher (see table below).

Correct score forecast matrix for LIV vs WOL

This is a much better way to visualise the likeliest scorelines of matches, in my opinion. Note that the probability of the Reds winning 3 – 0 is higher than doing so 1 – 0, and winning 3 – 1 more likely than drawing 1 – 1.

The fly in the ointment here though is that these probabilities are based on Liverpool’s last 8 home games, and Wolves’ last 8 away games, but Nuno Espirito Santo evidently took on board the part in my blog last week when I highlighted his team’s away attack strength weighting was worse-than-average and trending in the wrong direction. Here’s how it looked prior to their GW10 trip to the Emirates Stadium.

So, what did Nuno do for the first time in a away match during his time managing Wolves? He played with a back four! For the second match in a row actually, following a switch prompted by Coady‘s absence in their previous game. The ever-evolving nature of the sport is one of the things that makes life so difficult for predictive models in football. Point being here is another example of why we should always be wary of taking my spreadsheet’s predictions at face value.

All of which needs to be borne in mind when we see Salah at the top my players predicted points for GW11 (see table below), because we don’t yet have enough data to assess whether his prospects will be enhanced or diminished if WOL continue to forego their trademark back five. Also remaining to be seen, is the effect Jota has on the Egyptian’s attacking output and minutes.

The table below shows how many points players are expected to get on average (excluding bonus points, and yellow/red cards). The red ‘P’s indicate where predicted scores have been inflated by the effects of recent penalty kicks, and the numbers in the column to the right of expected points show what these scores would have been if the distorting effects of penalties are removed. In other words, these are the average expected points assuming there are no opportunities to score from the penalty spot.

19 players above 5 points threshold

KDB, Fernandes, Salah and Vardy were the top ranked attacking players in this table last week, and are all in the top half dozen this week (see table above). They were predicted to score 8.5, 8.1, 6.7, and 6.1 points on average, before bonus, and scored 9, 10, 6, and 5 points respectively, making for a very respectable mean absolute error of only 1.05 points for that quartet.

Salah and Vardy have a higher points prediction this weekend, while Fernandes‘ projected score remains the same. Surprisingly, the average expected points for KDB is over 2 points lower vs FUL than it was last week vs BUR, and both Jota and Ziyech are ranked higher than the City playmaker.

Kane returns to my players points table after missing the cut for the first time this season last week, which was vindicated by him blanking for the first time since GW1. Assuming his yellow flag is of the Mourinho mischief-making variety, he looks a good bet to maintain his good record in North London Derbies.

With so many players to choose the best captain from again, I will turn to My Stats Tables in Fantasy Football Scout’s Members Area in hopes of narrowing down our options. Of the 9 teams with representation in my Players Points table above, the only 3 not in the top half of my Team Offence table are unsurprisingly CRY, WBA, and BUR, which should probably put paid to any interest in Zaha, Pereira, and Wood as differential captains.

10 best teams for mins per non-penalty xG on target

That said, all 3 will be facing defences among the 7 worst in the league over the past 6 gameweeks (see table below). The case for Wood rests on him facing arguably the worst defence in the league currently in the form of EVE.

Significantly, the only captaincy options not facing weak defences in GW11 are those drawn from LIV and CHE, albeit the latter’s opponents (LEE) conceded only 0.22 less non-penalty xG than tenth worst WHU. Discouragingly, for those thinking of giving Salah, Jota, or Mane the armband, WOL have the fifth best defence by this metric, as well as joint-sixth best going by Big Chances conceded.

10 worst defences for non-penalty xG conceded

Vardy was a popular captain pick last weekend, and encouragingly, for those willing to back him again, he now faces the second worst defence by this metric. His captaincy claims are strengthened further by topping my Players xG table sorted by Minutes Per Shot On Target, which features only 4 players after removing Wilson and Watkins. Salah is the other notable inclusion in the table below.

4 player shortlist for expected goals

Both Fernandes and KDB retain their position in my expected assists table, with the MUN playmaker outscoring his MCI counterpart on every metric in the table below.

4 players in my expected assists table

As stated last week, the one area where KDB might have the upper hand is with set plays, especially as Telles has taken 9 corners in his 2 appearances to date. Ziyech marks his debut appearance in the table below with a chart topping position.

Through the process above I have whittled down the 19 players who made the cut in my predicted points table down to a shortlist of 5. These are Salah, Bruno, Vardy, Ziyech and KDB.

A key finding of my review of last season’s rolling data was that LEI were a much better team on the road, and that pattern looks to have continued this season. Monday night’s disappointing showing vs FUL notwithstanding, Vardy looks the best armband option to me in GW11.

Scout is the only fantasy football service I’ve ever paid for over the past seven seasons, and I’ve always believed their membership subscriptions offer great value for money. Anyone considering joining can find out more here.

[POSTSCRIPT: I updated my rolling data tables subsequent to first releasing this blog into the wild, and it has given me pause for thought with regards to the captaincy question. The main reason being the chart that follows, which shows two trendlines, one for how many goals LIV are expected to score on average vs an average away defence, and the other how many goals WOL are expected to concede on average vs an average home attack.

LIV home attack strength weighting 1.60

I did similar charts for MCI, MUN, LEI and CHE, and the key takeaway point from the exercise was that LIV have by far the best attack strength weighting of the 5 teams, and WOL the worst defence strength weighting of the 5 opposing teams. Furthermore, the Reds home attack strength is improving at the same time as the visitors’ away defence strength deteriorating. The gap between the two trendlines is also wider than is the case for any of the other matchups.

These findings are in stark contrast to the results arising from My Stats Tables in Fantasy Football Scout’s Members Area, which comes down to the fact that the data there is only considering the last 6 gameweeks, whereas my rolling data concerns sequences of last 8 home or away games, whichever is relevant, and because teams generally alternate between home and away, the time frame in question is roughly 16 gameweeks.

The question for me then is how much emphasis to place on more recent underlying stats vs longer term trends. Ah, the life of a FPL manager is never easy is it?!]

A season-high 6 defenders appeared in my players points table last week (Chilwell, Masuaku, Furlong, Bartley, PVA and James), with only the WHU and CRY defenders blanking. The WBA pair and Chilwell are joined this time around by yellow flagged Castagne and Robertson.

Bartley, Furlong and Castagne owe their place in my players points table primarily to underlying goal involvement stats, whereas Chilwell and Robertson can back those up with good clean sheet prospects also (see table below). MCI, MUN and BUR are the only other teams deemed more likely to concede zero goals than (exactly) one. No team is reckoned more likely than not to keep a clean sheet in GW11.

>36.7% highlighted in green because conceding 0 goals is more likely than conceding 1

My doubling up on MCI defenders ahead of a much heralded run of 6 good clean sheet chances in a row was all well and good, but was counterfeited by Pep choosing the worst moment to rest Cancelo, and by Mendy scoring his first goal for City whilst playing his best game in years!

Looking ahead, LEE catch the eye with 3 good clean sheet chances in a row (GW1315), while the Martinez owners who hold onto him despite AVL‘s blank this weekend look likely to gain compensation in back to back fixtures (GW13 & 14). Tellingly, AVL are ranked the fifth best for clean sheets over the next 6 gameweeks despite playing one game fewer.

Leading 5 teams for clean sheets over the next 6 gameweeks

Cancelo played the full 90 minutes vs Porto midweek, and Mendy played well last weekend, so there has to be a question mark as to him starting vs FUL on Saturday, which is exasperating because he is one of only two players who qualify for inclusion in my Defenders expected Goal Involvement table (see below). PVA is the other, and his owners have grounds for optimism going into GW11.

Compounding the grievance felt by Cancelo owners is the fact that he is also one of only two defenders to feature among the players expected to score above 20 points in the next 4 gameweeks (see table below).

15 players predicted to score over 20 points (not including bonus) in the next 4 gameweeks

SOU were projected last week to be the third highest scoring team in the 3 gameweeks between GW11 & 13, and I touted a possible move for Walcott, but he failed his audition against MUN, and LEI have edged SOU out now anyway as predicted third best scorers over the next 3 gameweeks. Given the strong case made for captaining the Foxes’ talisman, I plan to transfer Werner and Podence out for Vardy and Jota instead.

My latest 6GW spreadsheets with sortable columns takes us up to the end of the calendar year and is available for purchase at a ‘cheap as chips‘ cost of £2. Alternatively, with early blanks and doubles in GW18 & 19, the newly reduced, heavily discounted price of £25 to receive an updated sheet for each of the remaining 28 gameweeks might be a more attractive proposition. Please feel free to DM me any questions you may have about acquiring your own copies, or click here to go directly to my PayPal link.

That’s all for now, folks. May the GW11 flop be with you.

Coley a.k.a. FPL P0ker PlAyer @barCOLEYna

Appendix I – mean absolute error of result probabilities

Appendix II – mean absolute error of predicted goals

Appendix III – mean absolute error of clean sheet probabilities

FPL Poker Tables GW10

Most of the trends identified in my review of rolling data during the last international break were borne out by results in GW9. TOT‘s rapidly improving home attack and defence strength weightings were cited as “bad news for MCI”. BUR were hailed as the other “standout improver” in that department prior to keeping a clean sheet vs CRY, while the “biggest declines” reported for FUL and SHU foreshadowed their home defeats to EVE and WHU respectively.

The latter were one of two away teams identified as having “registered the most significant rises” in my away attack strength weightings, and an away win for the Hammers was one of only two bets (both winners) recommended by my @ColeysPotOdds betting spinoff account. WHU were also one of three relevant teams highlighted as “standout improvers in the away defence strength department”. ARS were another, and both these teams kept a clean sheet. SOU were the other, but conceded a single goal on the way to earning a correctly forecast one one score draw.

Meanwhile, WBA were rightly flagged up as having experienced “one of the sharpest declines” in the away defence strength department, but MUN‘s decline in home attack strength was exposed as “the biggest experienced by any team in any of the four categories”, leading me to describe the encounter between these two teams at Old Trafford as a reverse ‘irresistable force paradox’. I flipped the formulation of the classic paradox to: What happens when a stoppable force meets a movable object? The answer turned out to be that the stoppable force was Bruno‘s first penalty, and the movable object was the goalkeeper who moved too soon!

The 3 disappointments were AVL and LEE (in the home attack category), albeit the latter were only expected to draw against the most improved away defence of ARS anyway, and LEI (in the away attack strength category), who were forecast to lose vs LIV anyway.

This week’s better-than-average weightings trending in the right direction are SOU‘s home defence strength, which possibly spells bad news for Bruno backers, and AVL‘s away defence strength. Conversely, the worse-than-average weightings trending in the wrong direction are CRY‘s home defence strength and WOL‘s away attack strength, which bodes well for Wilson and ARS defenders.

There were five teams deemed more likely than not to score at least 2 goals last week, but this is reduced to four in GW10, who were coincidentally last season’s top four.

All four are expected to win their matches this weekend, and both CHE and MCI are considered to have a two goal edge over their opponents, even though the former face Mourinho’s much improved TOT.

GW10 correct score forecasts

With regards to the one one score draw forecast for LEI vs FUL, I ought to point out that this scoreline prediction falls between the cracks of my model’s algorithms. According to my spreadsheet there is sufficient predicted xG difference between the home and away sides here to credit the Foxes with a goal advantage and, as will be revealed later on, they are one of three teams deemed more likely to concede zero goals than one. Correspondingly, the Cottagers are deemed more likely to score no goals than one. The cause of this apparent paradox is the fact that the combined probabilities of Fulham scoring 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 goals, etc., is greater than them scoring 0.

This all goes to show how reductive nominating a single correct score forecast is. It would actually be more meaningful to present scoreline predictions in a matrix, and here’s how my spreadsheet’s probabilities would look for LEI vs FUL if doing so:

Correct score forecast matrix

This is a much better way to visualise the likeliest scorelines of matches, in my opinion. Note that LEI 1 FUL 0 has the highest probability here, with the next highest (1 – 1) nearly 3% lower. The good news for potential Vardy captainers is that a 2-0 home win is reckoned to have only 0.8% lower probability than 1 – 1.

Onto the even more tricky business of predicting players points! The table below shows how many points players are expected to get on average (excluding bonus points, and yellow/red cards). The red ‘P’s indicate where predicted scores have been inflated by the effects of recent penalty kicks, and the numbers in the column to the right of expected points show what these scores would have been if the distorting effects of penalties are removed. In other words, these are the average expected points assuming there are no opportunities to score from the penalty spot.

Kane missing from this table for the first time this season

There are more than double the number of players over the threshold of 5 expected points in GW10 than last week, and the number of teams represented has increased from 7 to 12. Only MCI and CHE have more than 2 players listed, with 5 and 4 respectively.

With so many players to choose the best captain from I turn now to My Stats Tables in Fantasy Football Scout’s Members Area in the hope of sorting the wheat from the chaff.

Of the dozen teams with representation in my Players Points table above, only half of them feature in the top half of my Team Offence table (LIV, AVL, CHE, LEI, MUN, and ARS). Having dominated my attacking stats tables for many years, MCI are conspicuous by their absence in the table below, which dents confidence in KDB, Sterling & Co. They rank a lowly 13th for non-penalty xG on target over the past 6 gameweeks.

10 best teams for mins per non-penalty xG on target

Disappointingly, only 4 of the 12 teams with representation in my Players Points table face teams in the bottom half of the table for non-penalty xG conceded over the last 6 gameweeks (see table below). Namely, LEI, NEW, BHA, and MCI.

FUL and CRY are ranked 5th and 7th worst defences by this metric, enhancing the captaincy claims of Vardy and Wilson. There is a glimmer of hope for MCI players here by virtue of BUR ranking as 10th worst (11th best?).

10 worst defences for non-penalty xG conceded

In an exercise that demonstrates you can manipulate stats to tell any story you want, the BHA defence is 9th worst when measured by minutes per big chance conceded over the last 6 gameweeks (see table below), which is a better perspective for Salah/Mane captainers.

9 worst teams for minutes per big chance conceded

SOU rank among the top half dozen defences by either measure which lessens the appeal of Bruno for the armband, irrespective of his 100% record of attacking returns in away games since joining MUN. And Werner will have to find his shooting boots if he is to prosper against Mourinho’s men who have conceded less than 1 big chance per match during their last 6 games.

I turn next to my Players tables to see if they can revive or solidify interest in any of the captain contenders under the microscope. I used to sort my Players xG table by Minutes Per xG, but because of the distorting effects of penalties, I sorted them by non-penalty xG instead last week. The problem with that metric though is it discriminates against players who have played fewer minutes, so I’ve gone for the Minutes Per Shot On Target metric instead this week (see table below), which showcases Salah‘s appeal as an armband candidate. The claims of Vardy, Watkins and Wilson are further strengthened also.

7 player shortlist for expected goals

Kane remains in my players expected goals table and, as we saw earlier, TOT top my Team Offence table. So how do we square this with Kane missing from my players points table for the first time this season? Firstly, as the table below shows, the CHE defence has been head and shoulders better than any other team over the last 6 gameweeks.

Secondly, TOT did have a very favourable fixture run prior to last week’s win vs MCI, so this will have played a part in their impressive underlying attack stats.

There were only 2 players in my expected assists table last week (Grealish and Rodriguez), but KDB and Fernandes arrive right on cue to join them in the same gameweek they are ranked 1st and 2nd in my players predicted points table. Bruno has often been dubbed United’s KDB but, if the stats from the last 6 gameweeks are anything to go by, it won’t be long before we start referring to KDB as City’s Bruno?

5 players in my expected assists table

It is clear from the table above that MUN‘s playmaker is creating chances for his colleagues at a faster rate than MCI‘s. Where KDB might have the advantage though is with set plays, as he is one of only 4 players who qualify for inclusion in my Set Piece Takers table (see below).

Through the process above I have whittled down the 23 players who made the cut in my predicted points table down to a shortlist of 6. These are KDB, Bruno, Salah, Vardy, Wilson and Watkins. For my team, that will mean choosing between the assumed first choice penalty takers for MCI, LIV and AVL.

Scout is the only fantasy football service I’ve ever paid for over the past seven seasons, and I’ve always believed their membership subscriptions offer great value for money. Anyone considering joining can find out more here.

Tarkowski (6 pts) was the only defender to appear in my players points table last week, but there are six in GW10. While the points potential of Chilwell, Masuaku, PVA and James are widely understood, the same cannot be said for WBA‘s Furlong and Bartley, both of whom are selected by only 0.2% of managers.

Of the 4 teams represented by those 6 defenders, only CHE are deemed more likely to concede zero goals than one (see table below), along with LEI and ARS. There were 2 such teams last week (WOL and BUR), and they only conceded a single goal between them. Unlike last week, there is a team (MCI) reckoned more likely than not to keep a clean sheet in GW10.

>36.7% highlighted in green because conceding 0 goals is more likely than conceding 1

If ever there was a time to invest in MCI‘s defence, then now is it. A cursory glance at the Clean Sheet Probability projections for the next 6 gameweeks (see table below) reveals a clean sweep of excellent prospects for the Sky Blues in each of them. The fact these 6 good clean sheet chances in a row would take me right up to a planned GW16 Wildcard explains why I have doubled up on MCI defenders going into GW10.

Leading 8 teams for clean sheets over the next 6 gameweeks

I have repeatedly banged the drum for Cancelo before and during the season. Not only was he singled out preseason in my backline bonus magnet blog as the best Sky Blues defender to own, his expected goal involvement has been good enough to see him take his place in my Defenders table (see below) right on cue. If Ederson can be persuaded to focus on guarding his net rather than the whole penalty box then a long overdue points haul could be imminent.

As advertised last week, ARS have 2 good clean sheet prospects in their next 3 games. The same was true for BUR last week who duly obliged, and ditto LEI the gameweek before.

My planned GW11 transfer doesn’t appear in my table of predicted top points scorers over the next 4 gameweeks (see below) but, provided he can avoid one of his regular injuries, he might do so this time next week. I will be watching his performance against MUN this weekend with nervous interest.

14 players predicted to score over 20 points (not including bonus) in the next 4 gameweeks

Nobody is more surprised than me that I’m seriously contemplating transferring in the infamous FPL troll that is Theo Walcott, but SOU are projected to be the third highest scoring team in the following 3 gameweeks (see table below), and his underlying stats from an admittedly small sample size of starts for the Saints indicate he might be the player to benefit most. Annoyingly though, GW13 will coincide with the first midweek Premier League fixtures of the season, meaning Theo will be required to remain fit for 3 games in a week.

My 6GW spreadsheets with sortable columns are available for purchase at a ‘cheap as chips‘ cost of £2 each, or the heavily discounted price of £30 for a season ticket. Please feel free to DM me any questions you may have about acquiring your own copies, or click here to go directly to my PayPal link.

That’s all for now, folks. May the GW10 flop be with you.

Coley a.k.a. FPL P0ker PlAyer @barCOLEYna

FPL Poker Tables GW9

Last week I conducted a review of rolling data to see what trends have emerged during the early stages of the current season. Many were identified, and I recommend using that blog as a reference point before making any transfers in the near future. Of more immediate relevance to these FPL Poker Tables blogs, however, was something that became abundantly clear during the course of that exercise. Namely, the inaccuracy of the initial weightings given to the promoted sides in terms of their attack and defence strength at home and away.

In only two out of a possible twelve instances were my initial best guess weightings found to have overestimated how much more difficult LEE, WBA and FUL would find life in the Premier League. The two exceptions were the home attack strength of LEE, and away attack strength of FUL, which have both fared better in xG terms than anticipated.

Consequently, my model has had to play catch-up since the start of the season, constantly modifying its evaluation of these teams’ true capabilities. Inevitably, this has had knock on effects on the accuracy of my spreadsheet’s predictions thus far. And this is why I’ve generally not published my spreadsheet’s predictions before the second international break in years gone by.

The subtext here is a plea for your patience whilst waiting for my model to reach equilibrium. In truth, I never expected that to occur before GW16 anyway, because only then will my model be drawing exclusively* on data drawn from this season. [*Except for one home game each from last season for BUR and MCI, and one away for AVL and MUN, because of their GW1 blanks.]

Thereafter, the results could be well worth waiting for though, if last season is anything to go by, when I secured seventeen successive green arrow gameweeks in a row, climbing ~4.2 million places in the process!

As stated previously, another complicating factor for my model this season has been the ridiculously high number of penalty kicks being awarded (41 so far compared to 19 during the same period last year), and this is a theme that appears repeatedly this week.

Supporters of SHU were warned last time of a potentially devastating storm by the name of Chelsea headed their way, and so it proved, with the Blues succeeding in living up to their star billing in my last expected goals table where they were predicted to score 3 goals.

This time around, there are no teams predicted to score 3, and only five teams (WHU, LIV, BUR, MCI, CHE) deemed more likely than not to score at least 2 goals in GW9.

Not for the first time this season, BUR sound the dubious prediction klaxon, which is probably due to them ending last season in uncharacteristically attacking fashion once safety from relegation was assured. As I pointed out in my 2019-20 season review of rolling data blog, this came at the expense of their defensive process, and it was always likely that Sean Dyche would revert back to type at the start of a new season. BUR have only played twice at home so far this season, which means three quarters of the data used by my algorithm dates back to the ReStart period when they were playing a much more cavalier brand of football. It will take a few more home games for my model to realign to the new reality, but I expect the downward trend in the Claret’s home attack strength ratio shown in the graph below to continue.

BUR attack strength weighting reverting back to its pre-lockdown mean

I have a confession to make about the BIG mistake I made last week when I rounded down my spreadsheet’s prediction of THREE goals for CHE to two, and TWO goals for MUN down to one, in the Correct Score Forecast table last week. I have to hold my hands up here to being too trigger happy with a new concept I was in far too much of a hurry to roll out. Namely, the significance I attached to the xG difference between teams playing against each other. With hindsight, I was likely swayed by a desire to justify rounding down the 2 goal forecast for WBA (vs TOT) that I felt embarrassed about.

I did the same with WBA in GW7 too, and the outcome vs FUL seemed to vindicate the policy. There is a simpler explanation for my model overvaluing the WBA attacking strength though, which is they started the season with an overly generous interpretation of their Championship form last year, and it’s taking time for that flattery to fully filter out. WBA have really struggled away from The Hawthorns and, as the graph below shows, their away attack strength weighting has been in freefall since the season began.

For what it’s worth, there are 3 matches in GW9 with insufficient predicted xG difference between the teams to credit one of them with a goal advantage, but I will not be repeating last week’s mistake, and the 2 goals that CHE, MCI and LIV are predicted to score will be allowed to stand (see table below).

GW9 correct score forecasts

My predicted players points table last week had Fernandes (17), KDB (5), Werner (7), James (2), Kane (9) and Chilwell (8) occupying the top 6 places, and averaging 8 points between them, so which players are ranked highest for GW9?

The table below shows how many points players are expected to get on average (excluding bonus points, and yellow/red cards). The red ‘P’s indicate where predicted scores have been inflated by the effects of recent penalty kicks, and the numbers in the column to the right of expected points show what these scores would have been if the distorting effects of penalties are removed. In other words, these are the average expected points assuming there are no opportunities to score from the penalty spot.

Kane maintaining his 100% appearance record

Last week’s table was dominated by players from big clubs, whereas this week’s sees greater representation from smaller clubs. Also, there are are only ten players over my 5 points threshold this week, albeit partly because of coronovirus and injuries. I’d have been bullish about Antonio‘s captaincy credentials but for his recent hamstring injury, while Wood‘s elevated position is suspect given the probable overestimation of Burnley’s home attack strength alluded to earlier. Vardy‘s prominence owes more to penalty kicks than is the case for Watkins or Zaha, who both feature in this table for the first time. Grealish is another new name for us to consider when looking at My Stats Tables in Fantasy Football Scout’s Members Area and, judging from my predicted players points table for the next 4 gameweeks (see further down), he might be set to feature regularly from now on.

The 7 teams with representation this time are WHU, LEI, BUR, AVL, CRY, TOT, LIV and EVE, and 5 of them make up the top 5 for taking fewest minutes per xG accrued in my Team Offence table below:

5 best teams for mins per xG

Because of the dramatic increase in penalties this season, however, I checked how it would affect the rankings if teams were sorted by non-penalty xG (on target) instead, and the table below shows how doing so changed things. Unsurprisingly, given the preposterous number of penalties they have already benefitted from, LEI are the main casualty of this measure, dropping from third best to eighth.

8 best attacks for non-penalty xG

EVE slip a couple of places, while AVL hold steady, and TOT exchange places with LIV at the top of the table.

The only teams not in the top half of the table above are WHU, BUR and CRY, which counts against Antonio, Wood and Zaha. The last two named are set to face each other at Turf Moor, while Vardy and Mane do so at Anfield. The 4 teams our remaining captaincy contenders face are SHU, BHA, FUL, and MCI, so bear them in mind as we turn our attention next to my team defence table.

7 worst defences by mins per xG conceded

At first glance, the table above arguably puts Wood back into the picture, but notice CRY have conceded 3 penalties (including the egregious one given against Ward in the 89th minute, which deprived my FPL team of his clean sheet points!). So I checked again how sorting teams by a metric that excluded penalties would affect the rankings, and the result of doing so (see table below) sees Palace go from second worst to a much less damning ninth worst. Either way, SHU remain in the bottom 3, and FUL in the bottom 5, which bodes well for Antonio (if fit), and James Rodriguez. And by extension, Calvert-Lewin.

9 worst defences for non-penalty xG conceded

LIV climb out of the bottom half of the table now, while LEI and AVL come in. The ranking of fourth worst for the last named might come as a shock to Martinez owners.

More pertinently though, you will note that the defences of BHA, MCI, and BUR are conspicuous by their absence in either table, and this is because they rank in the top 6 teams sorted by non-penalty xG conceded (first, fifth and sixth best respectively), which is unwelcome news for any would-be captainers of Grealish/Watkins, Zaha, and Kane/Son.

I turn next to my xG and xA tables to see if they can revive or solidify interest in any of the players under the microscope. Usually I sort my Players xG table by Minutes Per xG but again, because of the distorting effects of penalties, I’ve elected to sort by non-penalty xG instead this week, and the captaincy case for Kane, Watkins, Mane and Vardy is strengthened by their inclusion in the 7 player shortlist below. I’d much prefer this metric be ratioed for minutes played by the way, but that option isn’t currently available alas.

7 player shortlist for non-penalty expected goals table

The case for Captain Jack rests more on his creative output than his goal threat, and he is top of a very short shortlist of players meeting the criteria for a place in my expected assists table. Rodriguez strengthens his case for differential captain consideration too.

Only 2 players qualify for my expected assists table

Consulting these tables proved really helpful to me in the past few weeks, in terms of identifying the best captain, but this gameweek not so much. Truth be told, I’m no clearer now about the best option this week than I was beforehand. Vardy and Rodriguez would be major considerations for my armband if I owned either. The choice for my team will be between Grealish, Kane and Werner.

Players from MCI and CHE were unusually absent from my predicted players points table, and understandably so in the case of the former, but with CHE ranked 5th best for non-penalty xG in my team offence table, and NEW 6th worst for non-penalty xG conceded in my team defence table, a case can certainly be made for either Werner or Ziyech, albeit neither feature in my players expected goals or assists tables.

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There were 3 defenders in the predicted players points table last week, but only Tarkowski this. Yet another Burnley player whose lofty position ought to be treated with caution though, given the previously discussed probable overvaluation of their team’s home attack strength.

That said, BUR are the only other team alongside WOL deemed more likely to concede zero goals than one (see table below). There were 4 such teams last week, with 3 of them (WHU, LEI and BHA) obliging with clean sheets. Unlike last week, however, there are no teams deemed more likely than not to keep a clean sheet in GW9.

>36.7% highlighted in green because conceding 0 goals is more likely than conceding 1

Longer term, my Clean Sheet Probability table (see below) has been signaling for some time the arrival of MCI as the best defence to be invested in from GW10 onwards, and I have been banging the drum for Cancelo since before the season began. Not only was he singled out preseason in my backline bonus magnet blog as the best Sky Blues defender to own, but he been one of the Citizen’s most attacking outlets in all of his appearances so far. Against him is the availability of Zinchenko, and imminent return from injury of Mendy. There’s no question in my mind that the Portuguese is first choice, but rotation remains an ever present risk in the game of ‘Pep Roulette‘.

Leading 8 teams for clean sheets over the next 6 gameweeks

LEI were singled out last week having moved up into 3rd best in my model’s projections for the next 6 gameweeks, courtesy of 2 good clean sheet prospects in their next 3 games (GW8 & 10). With the first of those clean sheet banked, however, they slip back down a couple of places.

Belatedly, BUR make their first appearance of the season in the table above with 2 good clean sheet prospects in their next 3 games (3 in the next 6), but these only raise them up into 8th place, due to how unlikely the chances are in the other games, but that matters not if we are benching the likes of Taylor for those.

After this gameweek, it will be the turn of ARS to have 2 good clean sheet prospects in their next 3 games.

Looking further ahead with regards to players predicted points, the table below shows the expected top dozen points scorers over the next 4 gameweeks. The attacking triumvirate of Watkins, Grealish and Barkley really catch the eye here with their debut appearances in this table coinciding nicely with a favourable fixture swing for AVL.

My 6GW spreadsheets with sortable columns are available for purchase at a ‘cheap as chips‘ cost of £2 each, or the heavily discounted price of £30 for a season ticket. Please feel free to DM me any questions you may have about acquiring your own copies, or click here to go directly to my PayPal link.

That’s all for now, folks. May the GW9 flop be with you.

Coley a.k.a. FPL P0ker PlAyer @barCOLEYna

Review of rolling data

During pre-season I undertook an investigation into the extent to which teams’ attack and defence strength weightings fluctuated throughout last season. I found that exercise illuminating, so I’ve taken the opportunity afforded me by the latest International Break to repeat it, to see what interesting trends have emerged during the early stages of the current season.

Of particular interest to me this time around is what insights can be gained about the promoted sides. My starting point supposition is that my method of best guessing their relative attack and defence strengths overestimated how well LEE, WBA and FUL would transition to the Premier League.

First off, a quick reminder to you that I ran parallel models last season to test which number of gameweeks enabled my spreadsheets predictions to achieve the strongest correlation to actual scores, and I established that an 8 gameweek data range was optimal.  Ever since then, my spreadsheet’s predictions have been based on each team’s last 8 home or away games, whichever was relevant for the upcoming gameweek.

Every team is given a weighting for attack and defence strength, home and away, based on their last 8 home and last 8 away games. In theory, these ratios represent how many xG teams would be predicted to score or concede against an average defence or attack with a rating of 1.00. They are updated after each gameweek, and by charting the fluctuations in these ratios we can observe in which direction teams are trending.

The best to worst 8 game sequences are coloured on a scale of blue to red, making it easy to see where in the season each team’s best and worst xG form was leading into gameweeks 1 to 9. For example, the most noticeable trends in the home attack strength table below are the upward ones achieved by LEE, TOT, and AVL, and the downward ones sustained by BUR and MUN.

MUN‘s decline in home attack strength (see table above) is the biggest experienced by any team in any of the four categories. Their predicted xG vs an average defence with a rating of 1.00 has fallen since the start of the season from 1.23 to 0.73 (see graph below).

This is not encouraging news for all those bringing Fernandes into their teams ahead of a home game vs WBA, and/or planning to captain him. In better news though, as will be shown in the last of the four tables, the Baggies away defence strength weighting is deteriorating at the third fastest rate overall.

MUN decline in home attack

Meanwhile, the previous manager of MUN has TOT trending in the opposite direction.

TOT have the fasted rate of improvement in attack among non-promoted teams

The bad news for MCI, the next visitors to the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, is that Mourinho also has his team’s defence trending in the right direction (see table below), reducing the xG conceded on average vs an attack with a ratio of 1.00 from 1.16 down to 0.80.

They join SOU, ARS, BUR and BHA as the standout improvers in this department. Conversely, SHU, FUL and CRY experienced the biggest declines.

A little over a year ago, SOU conceded 9 goals at home, and their troubles at St Mary’s over the past couple of seasons have been well documented, so the transformation this season is especially creditworthy. And as the graphs below show, the Saints’ defence has trended in the right direction overall on the road also. The rate of improvement at St Mary’s is the fastest recorded by any team (home or away), and SOU are responsible for the biggest combined (home and away) improvement.

SOU currently have the most improved defence

Given the injury problems that have plagued the CRY backline this season, it is not altogether surprising that it is the Eagles whose home defence strength weighting has suffered the most so far.

CRY defence has deteriorated more than any other

With regards to attacking strength away, it is LEI and WHU who have registered the most significant rises in these weightings.

A key finding from my review of last season’s rolling 8 gw data, was how much better the performances of LEI were on their travels compared to playing at home, and despite the absence of supporters in the stands this has seemingly continued to be the case this season, with the rate of improvement in their attack strength weighting quite astonishing.

LEI have the most improved away attack, but…

It must be remembered, however, that LEI have been awarded a ridiculous number of penalties already, and 6 of the 8 they’ve been given came in 3 of the 4 away games they’ve played. This will undoubtedly have distorted my model’s reading of the data, so the meteoric rise in LEI’s away attack strength should not be taken at face value.

The fact that the next 2 fastest improvers were promoted sides, LEE (at home) and FUL (away), is probably indicative of nothing more than my best guess weightings for them at the start of the season erring too much on the side of caution.

TOT‘s rate of improvement in home attack strength was next fastest, followed by 2 teams of particular interest to FPL managers right now, given their immediate, favourable, fixture swings. They are WHU away, and AVL at home (see graphs below). Grealish and Watkins have been amongst the fastest risers in the FPL transfer market this week, and my model’s rolling 8GW data for AVL endorses their credentials.

The standout improvers in the away defence strength department are AVL, ARS, WHU and SOU (see table below). The suggestion earlier was that the home attack strength of LEE had been underestimated prior to the season beginning. Well, the reverse would appear to be true for the away defence strength of LEE, who along with another promoted side, WBA, have experienced one of the sharpest declines.

In fact, the rate of deterioration in the weighting of LEE’s defence strength is the fastest of any team, home or away. Please understand though, this is not to say their defence is one of the worst in the league. Far from it, in fact. Indeed, there are only 5 teams with a superior away defence strength currently. Although, “currently” is the operative word, and it remains to be seen how far their fall from grace will continue.

Once again, the explanation for this contradiction is likely to do with the initial weighting my best guess method assigned them (second best in the league!) which, with the benefit of hindsight, massively overestimated them. Unfortunately, for me, I based my starting keeper (Meslier) on this wholly unrealistic interpretation of last season’s championship form. Needless to say, I’ll not be using my best guess method ever again!

There are 7 teams with a worse away attack strength weighting than WBA at the moment, but that won’t remain the case for long judging from the Baggies rate of deterioration (third fastest), and the fact they were given the artificial headstart of an overly generous initial best guess weighting.

Having highlighted the impressive improvement in SOU’s defensive process earlier, it would be remiss of me to not do likewise for ARS. The Gunners have registered the second biggest combined improvement (home and away), and the rate of improvement in their away defence strength weighting is the fastest recorded by any team.

The other 2 teams shown making significant progress in the table above are AVL and WHU who, as I stated earlier, are both about to embark on favourable fixture runs. The Villains have actually improved their away defence strength weighting by more than ARS, and are yet to concede on their travels, albeit having played one game fewer, while the Hammers deserve high praise indeed for recording the third fastest rate of improvement in this category, despite their opening four away fixtures being against ARS, LEI, TOT, and LIV!

Finally, my hypothesis that my best guess method of weighting the promoted sides’ attack and defence strengths overestimated how well they would transition to the Premier League seems to have been borne out by this exercise. An initial best guess weighting that meaningfully underestimated their capabilities was found in only 2 instances out of a possible 12. Namely, the home attack strength of LEE, and away attack strength of FUL.

I have personally found this investigation into emerging patterns very helpful in terms of crystallising my perception of where teams are at with their attacking and defending processes. I hope the same can be said to be true for you.

Eight gameweeks down, thirty to go! May your arrows be green.

Coley aka FPL Poker Player @barCOLEYna

P.s. My 6GW spreadsheets with sortable columns continue to be in high demand with customers all around the world, and are available for purchase at a ‘cheap as chips‘ cost of £2 each, or the heavily discounted price of £30 for a season ticket. Please feel free to DM me any questions you may have about acquiring your own copies, or click here to go directly to my PayPal link.

FPL Poker Tables GW8

These articles are quick to trumpet the successes of previous gameweek’s predictions, so it would be remiss of me to not flag up there wasn’t much to crow about last week at all. Having been blown off course a little by results in GW6, my spreadsheet floundered again in GW7, being bettered by bookmakers odds for the second week running, albeit those are the only two times so far.

Whilst it is possible that their models are adapting faster to emerging patterns in this most unusual of seasons, a sample size of 20 matches is far too small to draw any conclusions, and their recent success could just as easily be down to variance.

One aspect of the season so far that is making things much more difficult for my model is the ridiculously high number of penalty kicks being awarded, with several last weekend being of the ‘super soft‘ variety.

Having become becalmed lately, the hope is that my spreadsheets can pick up a good tail wind in GW8, and avoid being marooned during the next International Break. And the weather system predicted to get us out of the doldrums is named ‘Chelsea‘.

Last week saw MCI be the first team this season predicted to most likely score 3 goals, but they never got out of second gear after scoring first, and showcased a new line in game management instead. This week sees another team predicted to score 3 goals against the same opponents, but SHU will be away this time, and not supported by stormy weather conditions, so maybe CHE can succeed where MCI failed.

Over the past 6 gameweeks, the average number of teams deemed more likely than not to score at least 2 goals has been slightly above 7, but there are 3 fewer in GW8 and, in descending order of expected goals, they occupy the top 4 places in the table below. Fewer goals equals fewer points, so don’t be surprised if we see a low average score in FPL this week.

WBA sound the dubious prediction klaxon for a second week in a row, which is almost certainy due to them starting the season with an overly generous interpretation of their Championship form last year. Note that the prediction in the Correct Score Forecast table below has them scoring only once, which is because, just like last week, there is insufficient xG difference between them and their opponents to credit them with a goal advantage.

The score forecast for MUN has also been scaled down for the exact same reason, whilst CHE superiority over SHU in terms of xG difference doesn’t quite extend to three goals, so they are downgraded to scoring twice.

The top three teams in the expected goals table provide 10 of the 14 players who made the cut for predicted points in GW8 (see table below), with 5, 3, and 2 drawn from CHE, MCI, and MUN respectively. Kane, Wilson, Aubameyang, and Trossard are the only exceptions to the monopoly those 3 teams have.

Kane maintains his 100% attendance record

The table above 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 the effects of penalty kicks, and show what they would have been if those are taken out of the equation.

Bruno owes his table topping position to having taken FIVE penalty kicks in his last 8 away games, whilst KDB took 2 in his last 8 home games. If we discount the distorting effect of penalty kicks, then Werner would be top, and the good news for his owners is that he established himself as his club’s number one penalty taker midweek.

There are 3 defenders from CHE in the top 15 ranked players, which is to be expected given the Blues are ranked top for expected goals scored and conceded in GW8. They are the only team deemed more likely than not to bank a clean sheet (see table below), while 4 teams (WHU, LEI, LEE, BHA) are considered more likely to concede zero goals than one, albeit not more likely than all the probabilities of conceding 1, 2, 3, etc., added together.

>36.7% highlighted in green because conceding 0 goals is more likely than conceding 1

In terms of captaincy, I backed the wrong runner in a two horse race between Salah and Kane yet again, but at least I didn’t bank another blank. For what it’s worth, I still believe both of my last 2 captain choices were correct judging from the number of chances to score squandered compared to the higher scoring alternatives.

Thankfully, there are different options to consider this week with LIV away to a defensively improving MCI. Judging from my spreadsheet’s expected goals predictions our focus should be on players from CHE, MCI and MUN, and Kane‘s prominence in the players points predictions means we should include TOT in our research.

Repeating the same process as for the last few weeks means turning to My Stats Tables in the Fantasy Football Scout Members Area to assist me in determining the best captaincy option. Once again, LIV and TOT are at the head of my Team Offence table, with neither of the Manchester clubs in the top 8 according to the Minutes Per xG metric.

CHE only 8th best for Mins Per xG

In both of the last 2 weeks, my Team Defence table cautioned against Kane captaincy due to the BHA and BUR backlines being shown to be performing well according to the Minutes Per xG Conceded metric. Encouragingly for GW8, however, TOT‘s next opponents are the worst team by this metric over the last six gameweeks.

WBA, EVE, SHU and LIV are all in the bottom half of the table for Mins Per xG Conceded

Turning to my Players Expected Goals table, it can be seen that Kane is the sole representative of the 4 teams under the microscope, so my captaincy decision this week feels refreshingly clear for once.

Sorted by Mins Per xG

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Looking further ahead with player ratings, the table below shows the expected top dozen points scorers over the next 4 gameweeks. The prominence of Wilson here rubs my face in my regrets about my rushed decision to bring Bamford in as my Antonio replacement instead.

Top dozen expected points scorers GW8-11

ARS were highlighted last week as being more likely to concede zero goals than one at Old Trafford, and they vindicated their recent arrival on my spreadsheet’s radar. With that clean sheet banked, however, they slip back down 3 places to 6th best in my model’s projections for the next 6 gameweeks. LEI take over their 3rd place with 2 good clean sheet prospects in their next 3 games (see table below).

Top half dozen teams for clean sheets over the next 6 gameweeks

As stated last week, at least one defensive assets from MCI is strongly advisable from GW10 onwards, and Cancelo, who was singled out preseason in my backline bonus magnet blog, has continued to look one of the Citizen’s best attacking outlets in all of his appearances so far. Against him is the recent return from injury of Zinchenko, and the everpresent danger of ‘Pep Roulette‘.

My 6GW spreadsheets with sortable columns continue to be in high demand with customers all around the world, and are available for purchase at a ‘cheap as chips‘ cost of £2 each, or the heavily discounted price of £30 for a season ticket. Please feel free to DM me any questions you may have about acquiring your own copies, or click here to go directly to my PayPal link.

That’s all for now, folks. May the GW8 flop be with you.

Coley a.k.a. FPL P0ker PlAyer @barCOLEYna

FPL Poker Tables GW7

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 0.3 xG difference 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.

LIV and TOT first and second for Mins Per xG

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.

BHA WHU and SHU are in the top half of the table for Mins Per xG Conceded

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!

Sorted by Mins Per xG

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.

Scout is the only fantasy football service I’ve ever paid for over the past seven seasons, and I’ve always believed their membership subscriptions offer great value for money. Anyone considering joining can find out more here.

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.

Top ten expected points scorers GW7-10

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.

my spreadsheet once again better than bookies odds

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‘.

My 6GW spreadsheets with sortable columns are now in high demand with customers all around the world, including in Indonesia, Slovenia, France, Malaysia, Singapore, India, and Ireland. They are available for purchase at a ‘cheap as chips‘ cost of £2 each, or the heavily discounted price of £30 for a season ticket. Please feel free to DM me any questions you may have about acquiring your own copies, or click here to go directly to my PayPal link.

That’s all for now, folks. May the GW7 flop be with you.

Coley a.k.a. FPL P0ker PlAyer @barCOLEYna

FPL Poker Tables GW6

My spreadsheet’s predictions continue to trend in the right direction, and recorded this season’s lowest mean absolute error (MAE) for correct score forecasts (0.80). After no correct score predictions in the first 3 gameweeks, and breaking our duck with one in GW4, my spreadsheet’s steady improvement was confirmed with two correct score forecasts last week. Once again, they were more accurate than those predicted by FiveThirtyEight (a highly rated forecasting model), implied by bookies best odds, and anticipated by “the world’s most powerful predictive algorithm”.

Moving on to scoreline predictions for GW6 then, I feel I ought to urge readers to make sure they are not eating or drinking whilst looking at the score forecast for the final fixture of the next round of matches. Please sign the following disclaimer before proceeding: I _________________ understand the following table contains a choke hazard, and agree that FPL P0ker PlAyer cannot be held liable in the event of my demise.

I’m probably going to spend a disproportionately long time here on Burnley (and Chris Wood) now, but this blog was delayed by my feeling the need to check for gremlins in the works. Surely, there was some easy to spot mistake that would account for this outlier of a prediction? Well, here’s the thing: I did identify the single data point most responsible for producing the 2-1 score forecast, and coincidentally, it was the 1-1 draw BUR achieved 6 home games ago against…

TOT! Now, before you Kane and Son captainers come at me, it has to be acknowledged that neither of those red hot properties featured in that game as they were both injured. So you will be more interested in the result from the previous season when both teams fielded line-ups similar to what we can expect this weekend, right?

23 Feb 2019 line-ups

Um, yeah, about that…

So, you see, not quite as outlandish a prediction after all, perhaps? It relates back to something I touched on in my 2019-20 Season Review blog which highlighted Burnley’s strong home attacking form in the second half of the year (see below).

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying BUR will beat TOT on Monday night. The Clarets have looked anaemic in their last 3 games, and I’ve already had my fingers burned backing them to score goals vs SOU in their only previous home game this season. I’m just accounting for the prediction is all.

So, who else apart from BUR are going to be banging them in this weekend? There are 6 other teams in GW6 deemed more likely to score twice than once, and in descending order of expected goals, they occupy the top 7 places in the table below:

So, we now know which teams are expected to score well, but which players from those teams are expected to be amongst the points? The table below shows how many points players are expected to get on average, excluding bonus points, and not factoring in yellow/red cards. Players whose rating is based on a small sample size are indicated with ‘$$$’, and players returning from injury with ‘!’. The column to the right of the expected points only applies to players whose scores are inflated by penalty kicks, and shows what they would have been if those are removed from the equation.

Vardy and Salah owe their prominence here in large part to penalty kick duties, and Mane is the highest placed player without them.

Hang on, Chris Wood is a bit high there isn’t he? Well, the eagle-eyed of you will have noticed that the Kiwi scored in both of those last 2 matches vs TOT at Turf Moor, so cut my spreadsheet some slack here, okay?

I finally broke my long captaincy losing streak with Kane in GW5 and, repeating the method that served me well last week, I returned to My Stats Tables in Fantasy Football Scout’s Membership Area to look for any pointers regarding my Salah vs Kane decision.

First off, there’s very little to separate the teams they play for at the head of my Team Offence table:

1st & 2nd for mins per expected goal this season

So, I turned to my Team Defence table in the hope that either of BUR or SHU look ripe for a kicking:

SHU & BUR 5th & 7th best for mins per expected goal conceded

No such luck. Both are in the top 7 this season so far, and not likely to be pushovers despite having mustered only one point apiece so far.

Given there’s not much to separate any of the teams then, I turned to my Players Expected Goals table, and was surprised to find Salah languishing so far down it despite being gifted 2 pens by Leeds in his first game.

Kane and Salah 3rd and 12th best for mins per expected goal

Despite having taken one penalty fewer, Kane has averaged his expected goals this season nearly 40 minutes faster than Salah so far. Offsetting that surprising finding a little, only the Egyptian appears in my Expected Assists table:

Salah 2nd only to Hamez for expected assists

So, there you go, I’m none the wiser as to who to choose, and my decision will probably go down to the wire. I actually wish I owned Mane as I’d have no such dilemma now. You will have spotted that he was behind only Vardy (4 pens) in my Players Expected Goals table. I would have no qualms about captaining him whatsoever.

For what it’s worth, Scout is the only fantasy football service I’ve ever paid for over the past seven seasons, and I’ve always believed their membership subscriptions offer great value for money. Anyone considering joining can find out more here.

As promised in the tweet I posted 4 days ago, my sortable players table has been expanded from next 2 gameweeks to next 4, and hopefully next 6 before GW7. The table below shows the expected top dozen points scorers over the next 4 gameweeks:

Top twelve expected points scorers GW6-9

My spreadsheet’s clean sheet probabilities didn’t fare quite so well against those implied by bookies best odds last week, proving to be 0.05% less accurate on average in GW5, after being 4% more accurate on average in GW4. I lay the blame for this slip up squarely at the feet of one Kepa Arrizabalaga, as my model assigned CHE the highest probability of a clean sheet, 15% higher than implied by bookies best odds.

MCI and WBA were deservingly assigned the 2nd and 3rd highest probabilities last week, however, and 4th ranked MUN only missed out because of Shaw’s clinical strike into his own net from 12 yards out.

I was particularly pleased by the clean sheet kept by WBA though, as it was tipped up by my betting spin-off account @ColeysPotOdds despite most people thinking the Baggies defence was hopeless. It will be interesting to see if the introduction of the Ivanovic and Hegazi centre-back pairing can change our minds about that, especially as my spreadsheet’s 6GW Clean Sheet Probability table below shows they have good prospects in GW10 & 11 (with a trip to shot-shy NEW following in GW12).

Alas, the double up on WOL defence touted last week as viable from GW6 onwards comes a week late as they successfully rode their luck vs LEE in GW5. WOL and LIV are the only teams deemed more likely to keep a clean sheet than not in GW6 (see table below), which is good news for owners of popular assets like Alexander-Arnold, Robertson, and Saiss. Owners of Dallas and Ayling, meanwhile, can take some comfort in the fact that LEE are deemed more likely to concede zero goals than one. As I’ve explained many times before, this is not the same as saying a clean sheet is more likely than not.

Only 3 strong candidates for clean sheets

My 6GW spreadsheets are now available for purchase at a cheap as chips cost of £2 each, or the heavily discounted price of £30 for a season ticket. Please feel free to DM me any questions you may have about acquiring your own copies, or click here to go directly to my PayPal link.

May the GW6 flop be with you!

Coley a.k.a. FPL P0ker PlAyer @barCOLEYna

FPL Poker Tables GW5

Thankfully, it didn’t take long for my spreadsheet’s predictions to deliver on last week’s expectation that they will become progressively more accurate with each passing gameweek. The omens are good that after struggling to navigate the choppy waters of the first 4 gameweeks, my spreadsheet’s course is being corrected, and the weather is set fair for smoother sailing from here on!

My spreadsheet belatedly registered it’s first correct score forecast (ARS 2 SHU 1). Incidentally, the bookmakers have only marked one match up correctly on that front too. It was fitting that the breakthrough should happen in that game as I chose that particular matchup last week to explain the rationale behind favouring the method I use for score predictions, rather than simply going by the scorelines assigned the highest probability (1 – 1 in that instance). Only 1 correct forecast from the opening 38 fixtures, however, is way down on last season’s average of 1.7 per gameweek, and highlights just how unpredictable results have been so far.

For all that my spreadsheet’s predictions are not yet performing to last season’s standards, they continue to fare better than the outcomes reckoned by bookmakers to be the most probable. In GW4, the bookies were closer to the actual number of goals scored for only 2 teams. Namely, MUN & WOL, who they had to score once rather than twice, but even there, I did flag up last week that WOL to win one nil was actually the highest probability my spreadsheet had assigned to any scoreline all season, and MUN were reduced to ten men after 28 minutes.

Unsurprisingly then, my spreadsheet convincingly beat the bookies when it came to the mean absolute error (MAE) of number of goals predicted, averaging 1.25 versus their 1.45 (the lower the better). Scorelines of MUN 1 TOT 6 and AVL 7 LIV 2 were the main reason for these MAE values being so high. By way of comparison, my spreadsheet last season was often able to record a MAE of around 0.50, which equates to being only half a goal out (on average) for each team’s score prediction.

With a new gameweek on the horizon, however, we should be looking forwards not backwards, so here then are the score predictions for GW5:

Disappointingly, from the FPL manager’s point of view that more goals equals more points, there are 3 fewer teams deemed more likely to score twice than once this week, and in descending order of expected goals, they occupy the top 5 places in the table below:

WBA, LIV, MUN and LEI more likely to score once

Ordinarily, I’d have been bracing myself for howls of protest about EVE being ranked top for goals with a Merseyside derby next on the agenda for them, but I reckon I can relax now after AVL knocked seven goals past the Champions!

Azpilicueta (5) and Saiss (9) both featured in the shortlist of 18 players expected to exceed the 5 FPL points average (excluding bonus) threshold last week, but so did Alexander-Arnold unfortunately. The first named is likely the only playing defender in the GW5 shortlist below (James bench and PVA injury), but it seems reasonable to assume Chilwell would be on this list too had he more gametime with CHE under his belt. I should point out that recent transfers and players from newly promoted teams are still not yet eligible for inclusion.

In a new development, I’ve shown what penalty takers’ expected average points would decrease to if penalty kicks were removed from the equation (see below). Encouragingly for Kane owners, this week’s table topper doesn’t owe his score to any.

Only Kane has appeared in all five of these tables so far, and it was my spreadsheet’s long range forecast that he would do that has made him an ever-present in my team so far. Son, Salah, and Antonio are the only players to have featured in all but one.

Kane maintaining a 100% record in making the cut

Note that Salah is ranked higher than all of the Toffees’ attacking triumverate, despite EVE being predicted to outscore LIV, and the reason why gives a good insight into how my players points predictions are calculated. Salah’s share of expected goal involvement in LIV’s last 8 away games was 38% of expected goals, and 17% of expected assists. This compares favourably to Calvert-Lewin (37% / 2%) and Richarlison (27% / 22%) in EVE’s last 8 home games, especially when the extra point per goal for Salah over DCL is factored in.

Sadly, my captain picks this season have followed on from last season in terms of being unmitigated disasters! So, I will be looking to Kane, Antonio or KDB to bring the current sequence of FOUR blanks to an end.

In recognition of the fact that I have perhaps become overreliant on my spreadsheets as the sole source for my captaincy decisions, I have returned to the methods that saw me win my main money mini-league three years out of four.

Looking at My Stats Tables in the Fantasy Football Scout Members Area, it bodes well for would-be Kane captainers to see TOT leading the way in terms of Minutes Per Big Chance (see below).

Sods Law would decree, however, that when I looked at my Team Defence table to see who are worst for Minutes Per Big Chance Conceded (see below), the hope that WHU are among them was completely confounded. In an echo of the ‘irresistible force paradox‘ it turns out that the unstoppable force that is Kane will be meeting the immovable object that the WHU defence have improbably become!

A case can still be made for Kane though if we consider that of the 4 teams WHU have faced so far, NEW, ARS, and WOL have hardly been setting the stats for attacking football on fire lately! In fact, those three teams are in the bottom half of the table for other metrics in My Stats Tables: Shots – Inside Box; and, Shots On Target.

Scout is the only fantasy football service I’ve ever paid for over the past seven seasons, and I’ve always believed their membership subscriptions offer great value for money. Anyone considering joining can find out more here.

Pleasingly, the 2 teams highlighted last week as having unusually high probabilities of a clean sheet (WOL 67% and CHE 62%) lived up to the hype. The latter are the only team this week reckoned more likely than not to keep a clean sheet in GW5. Whilst the 4 teams highlighted in green (MCI, WBA, MUN and SHU) are deemed less likely to concede one goal than none, they are still more likely to concede than not, because of the added possibility of conceding two, three, four, etc.

I made reference last week to my spreadsheet’s clean sheet probability calculations historically being its strongest suit, so it is pleasing to report that they were on average 4% more accurate in GW4 than the bookies probabilities posted by @FPL_Salah (see below).

And this wasn’t because the bookmakers had a particularly bad week by the way. In fact, their mean absolute error of 34.25 was better than the MAE of 37 they averaged in the 11 weeks I monitored between GW7 and GW17 last season. As promised last week, I did take a retrospective look back at the first 2 gameweeks of the current season, and the bookies came out on top in neither, which means they have now fared better than my spreadsheets in ONLY 3 of the last 16 gameweeks compared.

Another thing I tested last season was the accuracy of my spreadsheet’s longer-term forecasts, and the results were very encouraging indeed. I compared the projections for the following 5 gameweeks with current gameweek only predictions provided by “the world’s most powerful predictive fantasy football algorithm”. And, despite that model having the informational advantage of being up-to-date prior to each of the following 5 gameweeks, my spreadsheet outperformed it in each category I ran correlation tests on (number of goals teams scored, correct score forecasts, and mean absolute error). In other words, even from 5 gameweeks earlier, my spreadsheet’s projections proved more accurate than up to the minute predictions provided elsewhere.

The possibility of a double up on WOL defence in GW6 was touted last week, and they continue to look as though they have good prospects for 3 clean sheets out of 4 thereafter (see below).

WOL clean sheet potential looking golden in GW6-9

My 6GW spreadsheets are now available for purchase at a cheap as chips cost of £2 each, or the heavily discounted price of £30 for a season ticket. Please feel free to DM me any questions you may have about acquiring your own copies, or click here to go directly to my PayPal link.

May the GW5 flop be with you!

Coley a.k.a. FPL P0ker PlAyer @barCOLEYna

FPL Poker Tables GW4

Featured

Good news everyone. I’ve hit upon a genius idea to make my spreadsheets more accurate. Simply add 1 to every team’s predicted score, to take into account the effect of the new handball rule!

I’ve previously cited grounds for treating my spreadsheet’s predictions with caution at the start of the season (the impact of new transfers; the suspect form of several teams post-lockdown; and, the unknown quantity that are newly promoted teams), but it became clear last weekend that I’d missed the most distorting effect of all. The new handball rule is hands down (or up, away from the body, and outside the body line) the single biggest factor making results and scorelines so unpredictable this season.

After three gameweeks, my spreadsheets are yet a register a single correct score forecast! Last season, they managed an average of 2 per week, which may not sound like many, but is actually decent. That said, they had the BHA 1 MUN 2 scoreline right, up until the 4th minute of additional time, and the CRY 1 EVE 1 prediction would have been two out of two if you chalk off the ridiculous penalty awarded to the visitors because Joel Ward had forgot to superglue his arms to his sides!

Who saw MCI 2 LEI 5 and WHU 4 WOL 0 coming? Not my spreadsheet, that’s for sure! FUL 0 AVL 3 and BUR 0 SOU 1 were the other results to diverge from my model’s predictions markedly.

All I have to do to cheer myself up whenever I am feeling disappointed by my spreadsheet’s limitations, however, is compare its predictions with those deemed most probable by bookmakers. Half of the predictions tallied, but the bookies were out by more in 4 of the other 5, and this was enough to make the mean absolute error (MAE) and mean square error (MSE) of their predictions considerably worse than my spreadsheet (see below).

correlation test of predicted and actual goals

By way of comparison, my spreadsheets averaged a MAE of 0.8 last season, which is actually very respectable. Note, the lower the MAE the better. For ease of understanding, a MAE of 1.0 would equate to being one goal out (on average) for each team’s score prediction.

In other good news, the expectation is that my spreadsheet will become progressively more accurate with each passing gameweek, so let us turn now to the predictions for GW4. Here are the scorelines suggested by putting together each team’s most likely number of goals (see below). The probability of each scoreline is shown alongside.

17.8% for WOL 2 FUL 0 is the highest probability my spreadsheet has given to any result this season so far. That said, WOL 1 FUL 0 has an even higher probability of 20.2%! Remember, the method used to arrive at these correct score forecasts doesn’t necessarily equate to the scorelines with the highest probability. In fact, only 4 of these do so. The highest probability for the other scorelines are as follows: EVE 1 BHA 1; LEE 0 MCI 2; SOU 1 WBA 1; ARS 1 SHU 1; and, AVL 0 LIV 1.

So, you’re probably wondering why I don’t just list the scorelines with the highest probability? The short answer is because the method I prefer yields better results. Last week, for example, going with the highest probability scorelines would have fared worse than the bookies, with a MAE of 1.42.

The long answer would invite you to take the example of ARS vs SHU this weekend to understand why I prefer the method I use. Whilst it is true that 1 – 1 has a higher probability than 2 – 1, it is also true (paradoxically) that ARS have a higher probability of scoring twice than they do just the once, and I deem that to be the deciding factor.

Further good news for GW4 is that there are 8 teams deemed more likely to score twice than once and, in descending order of expected goals, they are shown in the table below:

good news for most of the big hitters

As highlighted by my Season Review blog earlier this month, Palace are nowhere near as defensively resolute away from home, and Werner sellers may come to regret their impatience this weekend. Aubameyang sellers last week may likewise be nervously eyeing his forthcoming fixture vs SHU, who will be without O’Connell. Meanwhile, Jimenez buyers disappointed by his blank vs WHU last weekend can be hopeful of belated returns vs FUL, seemingly the league’s whipping boys. There is plenty of encouragement here too for owners of the usual suspects from SOU, EVE, MCI, MUN and LIV.

In further welcome news for Jimenez owners, WOL also feature in the top 5 projected highest scoring teams in 2 of the following 3 gameweeks (see below).

WOL sit in the top 5 for expected goals in 3 of the next 4 gameweeks

Courtesy of my spreadsheet’s player points prediction model, Rashford is my sole MUN attacker, and I was pleasantly surprised just now to discover that he’s the least owned of the Reds’ front four. Especially so, given that he’s at the summit of my spreadsheet’s GW4 expected FPL points table (see below). Some of you will remember that Fernandes was ranked highest of the quartet last week, and justifiably so as it happened.

Intriguingly, 2 defenders from CHE feature in the top 4 here, which is territory normally reserved for the marauding fullbacks of LIV.

4 defenders made the cut

Scepticism was expressed last week about Sterling not featuring in the GW3 table, and I anticipate similar protests this week about the notable absences here of Fernandes, DCL, Jimenez, Aubameyang and KDB, so for context they are provided in the best of the rest table shown below.

a pack of Wolves

Remember though, these are averages. In reality, players points tend to polarise between high and low. So, in the absence of clean sheet points, a midfielder scoring a goal and earning a bonus point one week (8), but blanking the next (2), would have averaged 5 points.

At the other end of the pitch, meanwhile, there are much stronger candidates for clean sheets this week than there were last, although the unusually high probabilities assigned to WOL and CHE (see below) fly in the face of the fact that they conceded 7 goals between them in GW3! The hope is that the 4 goals shipped vs WHU last week was just a bad day at the office for the former, whilst the chalk and cheese performances of the latter’s defence playing at home rather than away was something else picked up on by my Season Review blog.

Historically, my spreadsheet’s clean sheet probability calculations have been its strongest suit, so it was disappointing that none of the 4 teams highlighted in green last week (MUN, LIV, MCI and CRY) managed to keep a clean sheet.

I kept a record last season, up until lockdown, of how my model’s clean sheet probabilities fared against those implied by bookies odds, and made popular by @FPL_Salah, and on only 2 out of 12 occasions did the bookies do better than my spreadsheet (1 tie). Last week, the bookies were on average 0.52% more accurate though, so that makes it 3 out of 13 for them now. Time hasn’t permitted me to look back at how they fared over the first 2 gameweeks, so I will report back on those after the International Break.

Just when confidence in the WOL backline has taken a knock, they actually top my clean sheet probability projections for the next 6 gameweeks, so it will be interesting to see how they fare this weekend before possibly committing to a double up in GW6.

Interestingly, one of the promoted teams are currently riding high in this same table in 4th place, which has me sitting up and taking notice, and bodes well for me making savings in my team’s defence.

Another thing I tested last season was the accuracy of my spreadsheet’s longer-term forecasts, and the results were very encouraging indeed. I compared the projections for the following 5 gameweeks with current gameweek only predictions provided by “the world’s most powerful predictive fantasy football algorithm”. And, despite that model having the informational advantage of being up-to-date prior to each of the following 5 gameweeks, my spreadsheet outperformed it in each category I ran correlation tests on (number of goals teams scored, correct score forecasts, and mean absolute error). In other words, even from 5 gameweeks away, my spreadsheet’s projections proved more accurate than up to the minute predictions provided elsewhere.

I raise this here because it’s high time I let it be more widely known that my 6GW spreadsheets have been on sale for some time now, since Project ReStart in fact. They are at a cheap as chips cost of £2 each, or the heavily discounted price of £30 for a season ticket.

I have hitherto been unsure about broadcasting this development, and consequently only sold sheets to those who took the initiative to enquire about buying them. In light of the increasing number of take-ups I’ve had lately, however, and the positive feedback received, there seems no good reason for me to continue keeping to the shadows, so please feel free to DM me any questions you may have about purchasing your own copies, or click here to go directly to my PayPal link.

May the GW4 flop be with you!

Coley a.k.a. FPL P0ker PlAyer @barCOLEYna

P.s. Since my last blog I’ve had the honour of being signed up to the Scout Network. Scout is the only fantasy football service I’ve ever paid for over the past seven seasons, and I’ve always believed their membership subscriptions offer great value for money. Especially as their Members Area played a key role in me winning my main money mini-league three years out of four! I tend to assume that everyone who takes FPL seriously is already a member these days, but if you’re not and you’re considering joining, then you can find out more here.