The Kaleidoscope is a new article series by contributor Eric Freeman that looks closer at the many perspectives and statistical patterns that often go overlooked when making FPL decisions. If you have a question or topic that you would like addressed, post a comment below or contact Eric on Twitter.
What is wrong at Tottenham? Sunday’s 0-1 loss at home against Everton left many Fantasy Premier League (FPL) managers regretting their decisions to begin the season with Spurs players on their teams. Even still, most will want a good reason before dropping ahead of one of the easiest runs of fixtures in the league. To aid these difficult decisions, this article will explore the contributing factors to Spurs’ ongoing struggles and their implications for FPL.
The End of an Era?
If you are like me, you intuitively think of Spurs as one of the select few clubs who consistently produce top FPL players. Well, that was true. A closer look at the numbers seems to suggest the tides have changed.
Last season was not merely a slight disappointment. Spurs fell off the proverbial FPL cliff, finishing with 1544 total fantasy points among all players—about 300-400 points less than each of the previous four seasons. For perspective, 1544 points was the same amount Burnley scored last season, slightly less than Sheffield United (1588), and slightly more than Newcastle (1492). That is not exactly the elite company one might expect Spurs to be in.
FPL is not a complicated game. If players are on teams that score lots of goals and/or concede few goals, then they are set up to score more Fantasy points. Spurs are not doing either of those things well anymore, at least not to the levels we have grown accustomed to. With no significant signs of improvement throughout last season after the arrival of manager José Mourinho, this could be the end of an era.
The Arrival of José Mourinho
Eyebrows were raised last November when former manager Mauricio Pochettino was replaced by Mourinho. For starters, their styles and tactics clash. Pochettino preferred a high-press attack while Mourinho has become increasingly defensive throughout his managerial career. Mourinho was able to help Spurs climb from 14th place to 6th by the season’s end, but he only mildly improved on their FPL-relevant statistics. It is difficult to imagine how attack-minded players like Harry Kane (£10.5m) or Dele Alli (£8.0m) will have the opportunity to return to their former FPL glory while playing under Mourinho.
Manchester United fans know this problem all too well. While their defensive record was outstanding during Mourinho’s first two seasons, goals were hard to come by (at least for the standards of a club of their quality). A quick comparison to Mourinho’s first 27 games at Tottenham shows that he has brought the same problem with him to north London, only this time the defensive numbers have worsened too.
It is hard to factor in squad morale into FPL analysis. But after only one game in the new season Mourinho has gone to the press to express his frustrations with his team, and rumours continue to swirl that some players have turned against him. It appears the timeline for the inevitable Mourinho meltdown has accelerated.
The Loss of Christian Eriksen
When Tottenham sold Christian Eriksen to Inter Milan last January, they lost a player who finished among the league’s top ten for chances created in each of the previous six seasons. Who filled his boots? Answer: No one. In fact, no Spurs player even finished among the top 30 for chances created in the 19/20 season.
In FPL terms, Eriksen’s departure not only means the loss of a great Fantasy asset for your team, but it also hurts the potential of every other attacking player he left behind. Spurs’ total Fantasy points dropped by nearly 300 last season, in which Eriksen played only 1090 minutes.
Mourinho has yet to replace his former number ten, and it seems that right now he is more concerned about signing another forward or possibly even negotiating a homecoming move for Gareth Bale. These deals could certainly strengthen Spurs’ lacklustre attack, but they will only provide a temporary distraction from the lingering problems in the midfield.
Harry Kane’s Injuries
Harry Kane is coming off a second-straight season where he has played in less than 30 league games due to injury, including a two-month stretch in early 2020 due to a thigh muscle rupture. In fact, he has missed significant time in each of the last four seasons due to a variety of injuries.
Losing your talisman has a wide-sweeping effect on the rest of the team, as documented by Fantasy Football Hub contributor Wee Rogue. When Kane was out injured between January and March of last season, both their defence and attack got significantly worse. When he plays, Kane is a quality forward in FPL who has averaged no less than 5.4 points-per-game since his breakout season in 2014. But his consistency and fitness is becoming less reliable for both his teammates and FPL managers.
This is another case of the “Form versus Fixtures” debate, but this time on a bigger scale. Can easy fixtures create good form for an entire team? It is certainly possible. Since Mourinho’s arrival in GW13 of last season, Spurs posted a 11-5-3 record against teams outside the top six. But that winning record was still not enough to create many viable options for FPL managers.
The expectation that Mourinho would strengthen the defence is not coming to fruition, and it is difficult to make a compelling case for any of their defenders right now. Personally, I would even avoid Matt Doherty (£6.0m) until Mourinho proves that he is willing to utilize the attacking skills that made him the fourth-highest scoring defender last season.
Kane could be serviceable in spurts if he manages to stay healthy. But his premium price tag makes it difficult to justify a spot on FPL teams when there are a few other less-expensive forwards who are capable of doing as well (or better) than him. Those who own him will want to closely monitor his fitness on the pitch, as Kane is known for playing through knocks and minor injuries.
So, if the team’s form has fizzled out and the easy fixtures may or may not help reignite it, can we trust any Spurs players right now? I believe there may be two notable exceptions: Heung-Min Son (£9.0m) and Hugo Lloris (£5.5m).
Son was one of the only players to significantly improve his FPL output under Mourinho and also during Kane’s absence. From GW13 onward he increased his points-per-game average by over half a point to 6.16. That scoring rate puts him on pace for 234 points over the course of an entire season, which would have finished second overall last season.
Lloris missed 15 games in the middle of the season due to a broken elbow. Before his injury he averaged 3.29 points-per-game. After his return he averaged a whopping 5.36, a season-long pace of 203 points. Tottenham’s leaky back line actually works in his favour, giving him more opportunities for save points and bonus points.
All this to say, there are several problems at Tottenham that are contributing to their poor form in FPL and none of these are likely to be solved in the near future. If you are sticking to your pre-season intuition and holding your Spurs players, you are ultimately putting your trust in the idea that an easy run of fixtures can create good form.
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