Fantasy EPL Quarter-mark review: Ultimate guide for the season

WHETHER you’re preparing for a draft or playing salary cap fantasy, there can be little doubt the start of the season is the toughest to prepare for.

Typically new managers introduce fresh ideas, and existing managers look to integrate new players and shake up their finely tuned systems. Particularly at the top end of the league, where the biggest clubs have the most options and flexibility, it can be nigh on impossible to predict how the mad geniuses will organise their wealth of talent – Prior to round one, you may have asked yourself questions like, should I take Giroud or Morata? Milner or Keita? Mahrez or Sane? Aubameyang or Lacazette? Bailly or Smalling?

The truth is, no-one had the answers – Not even Sarri, Klopp, Guardiola or Emery who have revelled in the luxury of their many selection conundrums. Jose Mourinho, perhaps to a lesser extent.

Thankfully however, with the first quarter of the season behind us, the amorphous ideas and formations of our beloved Premier League managers have begun to take a much more concrete form. As such, patterns have emerged. Players begin to find form, and thus managerial favour, and conversely others drop right off the radar. Here at Punter Problems, we’ve crunched the numbers and put together a comprehensive, statistics-based guide for fantasy footballers’ remaining three quarters of the season.

Disclaimer: All statistics refer to the official Premier League fantasy football unique scoring system. If you’re playing DraftKings, ESPN or any other format, the scoring parameters will likely vary. Please note however that ALL formats reward goals and assists as the key point metrics, meaning outcomes will be comparable.

The Top Scorers (all players with 50 or more points)

1. Eden Hazard (CHE) 75 points, 8.33ppg

2. Marcos Alonso (CHE) 61 points, 6.78ppg

3. Sergio Aguero (MCI) 58 points, 6.44ppg

4. Andrew Robertson (LIV) 57 points, 6.33ppg

5. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (ARS) 55 points, 6.11ppg

6. Kieran Trippier (TOT) 52 points, 6.5ppg

7. Ryan Fraser (BOU) 51 points, 5.67ppg

8. Alex Lacazette (ARS) 50 points, 5.55ppg

9. Callum Wilson (BOU) 50 points, 5.55ppg

10. Mo Salah (LIV) 50 points, 5.55ppg

11. Raheem Sterling (MCI) 50 points, 7.14ppg

12. Matt Doherty (WOL) 50 points, 5.55pg

What does it tell us?

Our top scorers list is comprised of four strikers, four midfielders, and four defenders, suggesting you needn’t necessarily look further up the pitch to rack up big points – But more on that point later. Notably, all top six players play for the “big six” clubs, those historically in the top positions and currently in the top quarter of the table. Looking at the list in its entirety, 75% of the top scorers play for the “big six” clubs, highlighting the importance of utilising players from these teams. Thus far, the contrary approach of selecting the “big fish in the small pond” has not proved as fruitful a strategy – Where is Kevin Phillips when you need him?

Can we expect the trend to continue?

Yes, most likely – As we’ve reached the season’s quarter-mark the historical cream has risen to the top at the expense of early-season trailblazers like Watford and Wolves, who meekly threatened to challenge the established order. The current top five are exactly the calibre of team you would expect to be there (minus the floundering Manchester United) and there is already a four-point gap opening up to sixth place Bournemouth. The days where a club like Leicester City mounted a challenge for the title seems like a lifetime ago. Expect this list to be dominated by players from big clubs, though not exclusively.

The Sleepers

1. Benjamin Mendy (MCI)

2. Kevin De Bruyne (MCI)

3. Dejan Lovren (LIV)

4. Gerard Deulofeu (WAT)

5. Erik Lamela (TOT)

These are the guys who might be challenging for the top scorers spots if circumstances had permitted. Hamstrung by injuries and/or reduced playing time, we expect the sleepers to work their way into the reckoning for top picks.

With 47 points accumulated in 6 games, Mendy has averaged a whopping 7.83ppg – Only Eden Hazard has picked up more per game (of players who have played in five matches or more). A foot injury kept Mendy out for three games, and you’d have to imagine he’d be well over the 50 point mark otherwise. Kevin De Bruyne was Manchester City’s player of the season in their title-winning campaign, with eight goals and 16 assists. He’s yet to start a game this campaign due to a knee injury, but is a certainty to resume his place, having returned to action against Burnley. Dejan Lovren also missed the start of the campaign through injury, but has notched an incredible 18 points in two games since returning, or 9ppg. Lovren has performed admirably and looks to have won back his spot in the starting eleven, though competition for places in the Liverpool backline is fierce.

The first three are obvious considerations, Deolefeu and Lamela perhaps less so. Lamela has actually been fully fit all season and effective as an impact player off the bench, but was man-of-the-match in his first start for Tottenham last week. Spurs fans have remarked they are finally seeing glimpses of the player they thought they’d signed years ago. The ex-Barcelona and Everton man Deulofeu also missed a portion of the season through injury, but looked a different class in Watford’s away win at Wolves, and should certainly be a consideration, in particular when looking for tier 2 midfielders.

Unsung heroes

1. Ryan Fraser (BOU) 51 points, 5.67ppg

2. Callum Wilson (BOU) 50 points, 5.55ppg

3. Matt Doherty (WOL) 50 points, 5.55pg

4. Aleksander Mitrovic (FUL) 47 points, 5.22ppg

5. Gylfi Sigurdsson (EVE) 45 points, 5ppg

What does it tell us?

So far this season, these guys have racked up the most points outside of the “big six” – All five are in good form and worth considering for slots particularly if you are looking for budget alternatives.

Can we expect the trend to continue?

No, it’s unlikely – This is the area where we tend to see the most ebbs and flows with form and consistency, meaning guys like Vardy, Schurrle, Maddison and Pereyra could easily challenge these positions in another nine games time. Our advice? Look at the fixture list – Pick form players, but also pick the guys with fixtures and circumstances fertile for a stand-out performance. For example, as dangerous as Mitrovic has looked this season, he was isolated and anonymous at the Etihad. Make game-to-game decisions for your tier 2 players.

Top five goalkeepers

1. Ederson (MCI) 49 points, 5.44ppg

2. Alisson (LIV) 45 points, 5ppg

3. Rui Patricio (WOL) 42 points, 4.67ppg

4. Hennessy (CRY) 40 points, 4.44ppg

5. Hart (BUR) 39 points, 4.33ppg

What does it tell us?

These are probably the most interesting statistics, but also the most misleading – With three of the top five scoring keepers coming outside of the “big six” bubble. The reality is that penalty saves award huge points for goalkeepers (especially when you factor in bonus points), and this has enabled some of the less celebrated keepers to tally enormous totals. The problem is, of course, that it’s impossible to predict whether a goalkeeper is going to face a penalty, let alone save one; this should never be the basis for your selection. A single-game spike throws the average out of whack with such a small sample size of nine games.

Can we expect it to continue?

No. Pick the keeper most likely to keep a clean sheet, at present this is either Ederson or Alisson, both having kept six clean sheets in nine games. Bare in mind, your choice of goalkeeper in weekly fantasy should be determined by the fixture and quality of opposition; examine the team’s likelihood to keep a clean sheet, rather than just the keepers quality. There’s a reason David De Gea, probably the best keeper in the league, is languishing near the bottom of active goalies. We expect the statistics to express themselves more reliably as the season progresses, meaning the top keepers will be determined by clean sheets. Though Chelsea’s defence has looked shaky at times, the efficiency in which they retain possession against smaller clubs mean that Kepa looks a great bet at home against weaker opposition, and he will be cheaper than Ederson or Alisson.

Where to obtain the most points?

Forwards vs Midfielders vs Defenders

Top 10 forwards total score – 466, average of 46.6 after 9 games, or 5.18ppg

Top 10 midfielders total score – 491, average of 49.1 after 9 games or 5.46ppg

Top 10 defenders total score – 484, average of 48.4 after 9 games or 5.38ppg

Top 10 goalkeepers total score – 394, average of 39.4 after 9 games or 4.38ppg

What does it tell us?

Midfielders have scored the most point this season, and if you look at the list of players, they have also been the most influential performers. Eden Hazard is easily the player of the season thus far. Defenders, usually not prioritised during a draft or worth quite as much in the salary cap market, have over-performed, outscoring strikers. This is because fullbacks like Mendy, Trippier, Alonso and Robertson are so willing to bomb forward and often find themselves playing a role in goals. Six of the top ten defenders are full-backs, highlighting the importance of prioritising the defenders given license to get forward and notch monster points. The statistically high number of clean sheets has also helped. Unsurprisingly, keepers have won the least points by a considerable margin.

Also, be aware there is a significant drop-off for strikers after the top ten – This seems obvious considering there are fewer strikers in the league compared to midfielders and defenders, but it also highlights the lack of good options at this moment in time. So in short, you’re not mad if you have Aguero or Kane in your lineup every week.

Can we expect the trend to continue?

It’s really tricky – The average number of clean sheets per round this season is 5.78 – Last season, the average after 38 rounds was 5.95, indicating that Premier League clubs have improved defensively. However, this is likely in part because the season has not progressed long enough for statistical norms to express themselves – For example, Manchester City and Liverpool have both kept clean sheets in 67% of their games, which would be a higher rate than any team in history. The record is held by Chelsea who kept a clean sheet in 63% of games with Cech in goal. What does this tell us? Extrapolation would suggest both City and Liverpool will keep less clean sheets at a lower rate over the course of the season. This means that defenders, and goalkeepers, might pick up fewer points. But whether that will happen in the next nine game phase of the season? The margins are too negligible to make that prediction.

Biggest disappointments

1. Every Manchester United defender

2. Gabriel Jesus 14 points, 1.56ppg

3. Marcus Rashford 13 points, 2.17ppg

4. Alexis Sanchez 22 points, 3.14ppg

What does it tell us?

Notice the theme? As much as I hate picking on Jose Mourinho (Okay, I lie), his Manchester United outfit are in all-sorts. Mourinho is constantly chopping and changing his haphazard starting eleven that reliably looks sapped of all belief, and appears to have lost its identity. Despite the abundance of riches at his disposal, he seems to bring out the worst in his players, mirroring his last season at Chelsea which culminated in an eerily similar free-fall from grace. Last season, Manchester United kept the most clean sheets in the Premier league, this season they have only kept one, and Fulham are the only club that have kept fewer(0). Remember, the first rule of fantasy football is ensuring your selection, beyond any reasonable doubt, is actually going to play. If you want to include Reds in your lineup, be very, very wary – Jose loves to play hot potato with his starting eleven.

Aside from the red Mancunians, Brazil international Gabriel Jesus has disappointed for the champions this season, picking up just 14 points in 9 appearances, and only starting one match. On the back of a season where he scored 13 goals in 29 appearances and even forced Aguero out of the side, he will be disappointed, though he has yet to show any signs of regaining his old form.