Hub Contributor Stuart Saint crunches the numbers from the first half of the season to unearth the consistent performers we can rely on for each position.

My Fantasy Premier League (FPL) approach is very straightforward, try to score 60 points a week. I think achieving this would equates to doing well in most mini leagues, a respectable overall rank and over the course of a season if feels achievable. In order to achieve 60 points per Gameweek  each starter needs to average 5.45 points over the course of their time in your side.

It is never as clean as this, players blank and some haul, ultimately to achieve my target I just need them to reach 60 points between them, how they get there is immaterial.

As has been said many times, this is the strangest of seasons. Premium players (£9.5m plus) are smashing it one week and blanking the next. We have gone from Andrew Robertson and Trent Alexander Arnold in a high percentage of sides, to removing value from the backline and moving it into the midfield premiums, the likes of Heung-Min Son, Kevin De Bruyne, Bruno Fernandes and Mohamed Salah in the same side with budget options like  Bukayo Saka and Tomas Soucek alongside them. There are plenty of affordable options in attack that enable this flexibility with Rhian Brewster, Ollie Watkins, Patrick Bamford and Callum Wilson. More recently double ups in the Man City defence are being seen with Ruben Dias, John Stones and  Joao Cancelo all now popular. The interest isn’t surprising considering John Stones Gameweek 19 return of 27 points, needless to say, these types of scores are rare (for a defender in one Gameweek), great when they happen, but rare.

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John Stones scored and incredible 27 FPL points in Double Gameweek 19

In this article, I want to highlight the consistent performers in each position over the first half of the season at different price points. To do this I have utilised tools from OPTA stats and Comparison tools in Fantasy Football Hub and my interpretation of the statistics.

Goalkeepers

There are only two keepers who have played more than 10 games and are averaging over 5 points per appearance. These are Nick Pope and Emiliano Martinez, both have 92 FPL points after 17 appearances and therefore both are averaging 5.41 points per appearance.

Burnley’s league position may not suggest a team who have been defensively strong, but in many games the results have been close, 12 of their 17 games have had one goal or less. Burnley have not been able to maintain this consistency throughout the season, it appears inconsistency, escapes no-one, the 5-0 drubbing at Man City springs to mind. Burnley keeper Pope has been the standout defensive player for ‘The Clarets’. With five double digit Gameweeks, when Burnley keep clean sheets, Pope gets bonus points with 17 bonus points banked already this season.

Pope is outperforming his expected stats, he has an expected clean sheet (xCS) of 4.18, Burnley have registered seven. He is also expected to have conceded (xGC) 25.94 goals but has only conceded 17, 8.94 (let’s call it nine) better than expected.

At 5.4m and owned by 10.7% of FPL managers, Pope will be looking to maintain his high level of performance as he challenges Jordan Pickford for the England number one spot.

The other consistent performing keeper is Aston Villa’s Martinez. After 10 years at Arsenal, Martinez finally got a stint in the first team in June 2020 following an injury to Bernd Leno.

Martinez went on to play in the FA cup final and Charity Shield and made it clear he wanted first team football. When Leno returned, Martinez found himself back in the number two position and was allowed to leave and join Aston Villa. He has continued to impress, and his arrival has given a visible boost to the Villa defenders.

Like Pope, Martinez is exceeding his expected points for clean sheets and goals conceded. He is expected to have conceded 23.45 goals but has only conceded 18 and he is expected to have 5.95 clean sheets and currently has nine.

At the slightly cheaper price of £5.1m, it is clear to see why Martinez boasts an FPL ownership of a 32.1%.

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Pope v Martinez 20/21 Season Comparison

Defenders

Defenders averaging over five points per appearance (based on 10 appearances or more) is limited to only three players.

Following his Gameweek 19 heroics, it is no surprise John Stones is leading the way. With 10 appearances and 71 points, Stones is averaging 7.1 points per appearance. It will be difficult to maintain this level of returns, but with the partnership with Ruben Dias, Man City look defensively solid. Aymeric Laporte is back available and this raises a little concern over the security of his place, but at 5.1million, Stones could be a risk worth taking.

The other two defenders averaging over five points per appearance are Chelsea’s, Kurt Zouma and Ben Chilwell averaging 5.2 and 5.0 points per appearance, respectively.

Zouma has four goals this season, highlighting the attacking threat he poses from set-pieces for Chelsea, only Harry Maguire has had more headed attempts amongst defenders.

Both Chilwell and Zouma have both been involved in 6 clean sheets, the Chelsea centre back is the fifth highest scoring defender currently in the game with 78 points. There does need to be some caution applied, Zouma has recently lost his place to Antonio Rudiger and has not played in the last two premier league games.

The attacking threat is also reflected within Chilwell’s returns.

As one of Chelsea’s dedicated corner takers (20 taken) he has four assists and two goals. Chilwell has fitted into the Chelsea side and is unlikely to be replaced by either Marcos Alonso or Emerson any time soon.

Defenders that can offer more than one route to points like Stones, Chilwell and Zouma keep the games when the clean sheet is lost early, interesting.

Other defenders not quite averaging 5 points per appearance but pretty close include, Andrew Robertson (4.6), Ruben Dias (4.8), Joao Cancelo (4.9) and Jannik Vestergaard (4.85).

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Midfielders

There is a value divide amongst midfielders, premium players (value >9.5m) and the rest (value <9.5m).

From the Premium players, there are 3 averaging over 7 points per appearance, Mohamed Salah (7.17), Bruno Fernandes (7.37) and Heung-Min Son (7.72). Over 18/19 appearances these sorts of returns and consistency are the reason they are priced as premium players, you pay for what you get.

Mohamed Salah, has the lowest average of the three players highlighted, but has been on a poor run with no attacking returns since his 33 minute cameo in Gameweek 14 against Crystal Palace, where he registered two goals, an assist and two bonus points. Between Gameweek 1 and Gameweek 14 Salah was averaging 9.08 points per appearance.

The high ceiling of potential points associated with Salah ensures high level of ownership amongst FPL managers, even at £12.5m. For the managers that do not own Salah, it’s often not fun, not owning him, even when having a dip in form, the next game could be the game he hurts you.

Salah has 13 goals from 18 appearances and has 129 points with a goal involvement of 50%. Salah has the second least assists amongst the premium players with four above only Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang who has one.

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Between Gameweek 1 and Gameweek 14 Salah was averaging 9.08 points per appearance

Bruno Fernandes has been a revelation since joining Manchester United in the January 2019 transfer window. This season Bruno has 11 goals (only slightly outperforming his xG of 10.37) and nine assists, with a goal involvement of 56%, Bruno is the definition of consistent.

He is the penalty taker for Man Utd, five of his goals have come from the penalty spot, missing only one this season. It feels like when he steps up (and sometimes hops) to take the penalty there is usually only one outcome. The only miss came in Gameweeek 5’s 4-1 victory over Newcastle, a game in which Bruno also scored, assisted and even with the penalty miss picked up all three bonus points.

There are very few players who have more routes to points than Bruno Fernandes. He takes most set pieces; he has nine assists but with 12 big chances created this could be even better. Finally, just from watching the United games it is clear, Bruno is not afraid to shoot. He has registered 63 shots ( 3.3 shots per appearance) and of these 28 (44%) are on target. As the saying goes ‘you cant win the lottery if you don’t buy a ticket’, Bruno is stocking up on tickets and the 54.6% of FPL owners who have Bruno in their sides are seeing the rewards.

It’s clear Bruno is important to the team and manager, he plays a lot of minutes and when given a break you can see his visible frustration at being substituted, even in games that are won, he wants to be out there and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer needs him if Manchester Untied are going to maintain their push for honours.

The only midfielder above Fernandes in the points per appearance rankings in Heung-Min Son, averaging 7.72 points per appearance.

The partnership between Son and Harry Kane has received a lot of attention, it is clear to see Kane dropping deep often being tracked by the opposition centre back, leaving space behind for Son to attack. As with any Jose Mourinho side, Spurs are relentless with this approach and it only needs to work once for them to get ahead, they then make it extremely difficult for any side to get past the well drilled and organised defensive block.

In the early season this was utilised in the 5-2 victory against Saints and the 6-1 victory at Old Trafford. Spurs got ahead, which forced the other side to come out and ‘have a go’ committing more players forward, which left more space to attack, particularly against the high line of the Southampton system, where Son remarkably scored 4 goals but only got two bonus points.

Son has seven double digit returns this season, with 12 goals and six assists, 18 bonus points and a goal involvement of 55%.

Son is not taking as many shots as the other premium players mentioned, with nearly half that of both Salah and Fernandes, however his accuracy is what sets him apart with 56% of his shots being on target. His accuracy is also reflected by his outperformance of his xG, as stated he has 12 goals but an xG of 8.71, so Son is converting chances from areas with a low expected return due to his accuracy. The best example of this is the wonder goal he scored against Arsenal in the North London derby, which had an xG of 0.02 (www.understat.com).

Son’s numbers are particularly good considering he is not on penalties or direct free kicks. He does take corners and almost exclusively delivers these corners into the box, of the 50 corners he has taken, 48 have gone into the penalty area, much like the analogy with Bruno, if you are delivering the ball to the right areas you have a good chance of getting assists.

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Son v Fernandes 20/21 Comparison

The under £9.5m midfield player category is where the value is, getting these picks right is often the hardest challenge but can make the difference between reaching or falling short of your FPL targets.

Three sub-£9.5m players who have played more than 10 games are averaging over five points per appearance, Jack Grealish (6.19), Wilfred Zaha (5.75) and Ilkay Gundogan (5.08). There are also a few players close the likes of James Maddison, Anwar El Ghazi and James Ward Prowse but over five points, just the three.

Ilkay Gundogan is possibly the only one of the three who is not considered a talisman for his side. We have seen him as a more attacking player involved in and around the penalty area in recent weeks and this has been picked up within the FPL community. The emergence of a solid defence at City, has allowed Gundogan to push forward with confidence in the defence behind him.

What he is lacking in creativity (zero assists one big chance created) he is making up for in threat, five goals in his last seven games makes him about as in form as possible. At £5.5m and with West Brom, Sheffield United and Burnley in the next three games, accompanied by Kevin De Bruyne’s absence through injury, ‘Gundo’ is likely to see an increase in his ownership and a more prominent role in the City side.

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Gundogan is becoming the go-to Man City midfield option for many Fantasy managers

Wilfred Zaha, on the other hand is the definition of a talisman for Palace. This season, Zaha has taken and scored two penalties, it is not confirmed that Zaha is permanently on penalties with Luka Milivojevic restored to the midfield in recent weeks, but it certainly gives him a chance.

Outside of penalties, Zaha isn’t taking set-pieces, these mostly fall to Andros Townsend and Eberechi Eze, Zaha instead positions himself in and around the penalty area. Zaha has had 37 shots, 33 of which have been inside the box, being well positioned for his eight goals.  Zaha also has supplied three assists and 16 key passes.

Positionally, Zaha is not concerned with defending. He has attempted 379 passes, 315 have been in the opposition’s half and 192 (50% of attempted passes) have been in the final third with 69% completion.

Only one player has had more touches in the box than Zaha (102, 14% of all touches) and that’s Jack Grealish (125). Grealish has really risen to the challenge given by England manager Gareth Southgate, to improve his end product. This season so far, the Villa captain has five goals and 10 assists, which is the highest number of assists amongst all midfielder’s and level with Kevin De Bruyne. He has created 12 big chances the same as Fernandes with only Kevin De Bruyne creating more.

Just from watching Villa you can see how important Grealish is, similar to Zaha and Fernandes, he constantly offers an outlet for the defenders.

Grealish is involved in the taking of set pieces, particularly corners. At the start of the season, it appeared to be Ross Barkley on these, then following the Barkley injury Grealish started to take more but this again slowed down when Bertrand Traore began getting more game time, so while corners, with the threat of Ezri Konsa and Tyrone Mings ,is a route to points for Grealish it is not a prime source.

Grealish’s pass completion rate in the final third is 81%, helped by the great movement of Ollie Watkins in front of him as Villa’s lone striker. This accuracy has allowed Villa to maintain possession in the opposition’s half, which immediately means they can be higher up the pitch as a team and Grealish can offer more threat and more importantly potential FPL points.

It is often talked about, but Grealish is fouled, a lot. He has been fouled twice in the box with penalties given, although it no longer looks like Grealish taking penalties instead looks to be El Ghazi or Watkins, it is a fair assumption that if a penalty is awarded there is a chance of a Grealish assist.

It is worth noting Grealish is on four yellow’s so one away from a one game ban.

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Zaha v Grealish 20/21 Comparison

Forwards

There are six strikers averaging over 5 points a game, Harry Kane (7.89), Jamie Vardy (6.44), Dominic Calvert Lewin (5.94), Patrick Bamford (5.72), Callum Wilson (5.62) and Danny Ings (5.62).

Harry Kane is doing what Harry Kane does, consistent FPL returns. 12 goals, of all different varieties, 3 penalties, 6 others from inside the box including 3 headers and 3 from outside the box. He has also been assisting (mostly Son) with frightening consistency, 12 big chances created and 11 assists. It feels with Kane in your side you have got a chance and similar to Salah that when you have not got him, its not enjoyable to watch Spurs. As mentioned above Spurs have a way of playing and Kane is essential to this. I do not need to spend a lot of time on Kane…. he’s pretty good.

Jamie Vardy, also I am not going to dwell on, he is currently injured, and it has been reported he is going to have a hernia operation so could be out for a number of weeks. I would assume Vardy owners with £10.1m tied up in him will be looking to off load, so unless an upgrade to Kane is on the cards the next two most consistent are Bamford and Calvert-Lewin.

Calvert-Lewin is returning from a hamstring issue that has kept him out since Gameweek 17. At the start of the season he showed great consistency, registering an attacking return in 12 of the first 15 Gameweeks of the season with 11 goals (all from inside the box, with four being headers) and four assists. The returns haven’t been dynamic with only two double digit hauls. There has been a dip in goal scoring form which may be a sign of lack of opportunities due to injuries amongst the Everton squad but without a goal since Gameweek 11 I think it is something to bear in mind, especially with Leicester, Manchester United and Liverpool within the next 6 Gameweeks.

Patrick Bamford has been a surprise this season, with the addition of Rodrigo Moreno to the Leeds ranks it was thought Bamford would be a squad player, instead he has been a focal point, in a Leeds side that are brilliant to watch.

Bamford has 10 goals, which is in line with his xG (10.67), he also has five assists. There is a concern amongst Leeds fans that Bamford does miss a lot of chances, this is supported in the 18 big chances he has had and furthermore by the shots taken (65) with only Kane having taken more (69) but he seems like a stronger character than we have seen in the Premier League previously and he keeps getting into the positions to try again.

More recently he was handed penalty responsibility and dispatched the penalty with confidence into the side netting, I would assume penalties are his to lose.

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Calvert-Lewin v Bamford 20/21 Comparison

The £6.0 to £9.0m price range striker is a conundrum that is causing many FPL managers a headache, the good news is, there are plenty of options all within 30 FPL points of each other with Bamford (103), Calvert-Lewin (95), Callum Wilson (92), Ollie Watkins (77) and Danny Ings (73). Movement between these options, using the precious free transfers is possible but for the gains on offer it may be worth sticking with two or three and taking the rough with the smooth.

Drop me a follow on Twitter @chesswithdice!

 

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