By no means do I consider myself a fantasy football expert, experiencing just my 4th season playing in the FPL. Like any fantasy game played, it’s a learning experience, sometimes made simpler thanks to website and pundits, who provide their analysis and opinions. Not new to the EPL or football in general, as I have played and watched the beautiful game much my life. Yet living in the United States, soccer takes a backseat to many more popular sports; NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL and NASCAR.
Last year was a real struggle after GW6, seeing only 5 green arrows out of the ensuing 20 gameweeks. I analyzed players, statistics, as well as my strategy in order to stop the free fall. It eventually happened in GW27, finishing the 2017/18 FPL season on the back of 10 out of 12 green arrows, recovering admirably to win one mini league, but finishing well of my initial goals.
The new EPL season hasn’t begun and price information for the new game won’t be revealed until the week commencing July 10. Until that time, it’s speculation and strategizing for the upcoming season. I have been doing that a great degree using a few different websites, following along in many threads to get input and advice from other, more experienced (hopefully) fantasy managers.
I was turned on to the site Mathematically Safe authored by Peter Blake, which discussed a three-way budget defender rotation. The link I clicked was for the 2016/17 FPL season, but provided great insight for the upcoming season. Not knowing if Peter would provide a similar article for this season I begun working through the process of finding the best three defender rotation.
His “methodology” is as follows:
My task is to find the best combination of fixtures for three clubs from whom I can pick three regular starting defenders for a low price: £4.5m each, or £13.5m in total. A favourable fixture will be determined as:
- A home game
- Against a weak opposition to increase the probability of a clean sheet
After consulting a few bookie sites and partially based off previous years, my bottom 10 teams were (in no specific order):
- Leicester City (LEI)
- West Brom Albion (WBA)
- Stoke City (STO)
- Swansea (SWA)
- Crystal Palace (CPL)
- Burnley (BUR)
- Watford (WAT)
- Newcastle (NEW)
- Brighton & Hove Albion (BRI)
- Huddersfield Town (HUD)
- Bournemouth (BOU)
My bottom 10 were nearly inline with the bookies, who included Bournemouth, as opposed to Leicester City. For my analysis using Peter Blake’s methodology, I included both squads for a total of 11 teams. While working through all the combinations, I saw that Peter updated his article for the upcoming season. Unlike last year, this year he used the bottom 8 teams, which still feature prominently in my analysis but with a few changes. He included West Ham, while omitting Leicester City, Bournemouth and Newcastle.
Using Peter’s method and all the 3 team variations I set out to find the best home/away fixtures featuring the bottom 11 teams. The results are contingent on each team having a “budget” defender priced at £4.5m or below that starts. You can download my worksheet for all possible combinations.
Top Home/Away Fixtures
After spending parts of 3 days working through schedules, I was disappointed to see that Peter had finished his budget defenders article, but would with anticipation to read and compare with what I done.
The most favorable combination in my analysis with 25 home fixtures, 8 away fixtures during the first 33 gameweeks:
Bournemouth was woeful in defense last season, but the recent addition of Asmir Begovic in goal and Howe focusing on improving defensively this off season could possibly yield a worthwhile defender including Steve Cook and Adam Smith. Swansea offers up Alfie Mawson (finished at £4.6m) and Martin Olsson (finished at £4.1m). Watford under new manager Marco Silva could tighten things up at home. Most of their defenders should be under £4.5m, the only possible exception being Jose Holebas.
The next best combination with 24 home fixtures, 9 away fixtures during the first 33 gameweeks:
Burnley played outstanding at home, witnessed by Tom Heaton’s numbers. In front of him Brent Mee (finished at £4.4m) and Matthew Lowton (finished at £4.5m) could be contenders. Chances are Michael Keane will be priced at £5.0m. Bruno Martins Indi (finished at £4.9m) and Erik Pieters (finished at £4.6) could be the budget route into Stoke City. Pieters 6.7% TSB was the 9th overall budget defender under £4.9m. West Brom shows prominently in many of my combinations, but would leave managers with Johnny Evans (finished at £4.4m) and Allan Nyom (finished at £4.4m) as the only budget buys in the Baggies back line.
One of the key components I was looking at was not facing the top 10 teams. This was listed as a ‘No Cover’ on my worksheet and meant that defensive combination would face a top team home/away during the season. Along with the aforementioned combinations, there were 3 other combinations that yielded coverage for all 33 weeks:
- HUD/STO/WBA (23 home /10 away/0 no cover)
- BRI/STO/WBA (20 home / 13 away / 0 no cover)
- CPL/HUD/WAT (20 home / 13 away / 0 no cover)
There were other combinations that featured stronger home fixtures
- LEI/SWA/WBA (25/5/3)
- SWA/WAT/WBA (24/7/2)
- BRI/HUD/WBA (24/3/6)
- BOU/SWA/WBA (24/3/6)
- HUD/LEI/WBA (24/5/4)
- HUD/SWA/WBA (24/6/3)
- LEI/NEW/WBA (24/6/3)
- BRI/CPL/STO (23/6/4)
- BRI/HUD/NEW (23/6/4)
- BRI/HUD/STO (23/8/2)
- BOU/LEI/SWA (23/7/3)
- BOU/STO/WAT (23/6/4)
- BUR/LEI/WBA (23/9/1)
- BUR/NEW/WBA (23/8/2)
- BUR/SWA/WBA (23/6/4)
- CPL/STO/WAT (23/8/2)
- HUD/LEI/SWA (23/6/4)
- LEI/NEW/SWA (23/7/3)
All the defensive combinations listed above face teams outside of the top 11 I used in my sample size. But if playing a 3-4-3 or 3-5-2, looking to maximize your budget on offensive players, a £4.5m defender rotation could be beneficial. As Peter denoted in his recent article, some combinations “may not be ideal from a players’ perspective” due to player price, as he cites Scott Dann, Patrick van Aanholt being priced above £4.5m.”
Once prices are released, the week of July 10th, the rotation picture should be clear. While nothing will be set in stone, this article, as well as Peter’s latest, 3-Way Budget Defender Rotation should give many manager a solid starting point. If I had read his article before I delved into the data, I would not have run all the team combinations, but looking back on it, I am glad I did. Good luck in the upcoming FPL season!