The Best of the Rest
How does taking the ‘Big 6’ out of the equation help us to assess those Fantasy Premier League prospects?
With the new season just 2 weeks away, it’s that time of the year when fantasy football managers start to frantically put together draft after draft as they search for that elusive Holy Grail.
New managers, new transfers and promoted clubs all need to be assessed, while extended breaks for many of the players involved in the 2018 World Cup finals also need to be factored in.
There is also the gulf in class between the Big 6 and the rest, so a useful exercise to do, is to remove the Big 6 from last season’s Premier League table to see how the other sides fared against each other. Transfermarkt have a handy little tool that does this for you and the results for the 2017/18 campaign are displayed below.
By removing the big hitters, it’s not surprising to see that the number of goals per game is reduced from 2.68 for a 20 club table to 2.32 for the 14 club table. You can expect such a pattern to be repeated year on year due to the quality of attacking options that Manchester United, Chelsea, Manchester City, Liverpool, Arsenal and Spurs all possess.
So, given that we now know that fixtures between non-Big 6 clubs are likely to yield less goals, it looks like a great starting point from which to try to unearth some defensive/goalkeeping options ahead of the new season so which teams catch the eye?
We obviously need to start with the Clarets who conceded just 15 goals in 26 matches, qualifying for Europe in the process and making a mockery of the underlying stats. Pretty much all of their defensive options are in-play again based on this but a few words of warning are needed.
Fixture congestion, assuming that they get past Aberdeen, could pose a problem, while injuries to goalkeepers Tom Heaton and Nick Pope don’t augur well. It is also worth pointing out that Burnley conceded 36 times in the non-Big 6 table in the season before last.
Only 4 teams have conceded fewer Premier League goals than the Magpies in 2018. Rafa Benitez remains at the helm and even though transfer activity has been relatively quiet, he will be expecting to better last season’s tally of 9 clean sheets.
West Ham United
Hammers’ games against non-Big 6 opposition averaged over 3 goals per game last season but the arrival of a new manager, in the form of Manuel Pellegrini as well as a plethora of additions including goalkeeper Łukasz Fabiański from Swansea City should enable West Ham to be far more defensively resilient. Looking at the squad the former Manchester City manager has assembled, one has to think that a place in the top 8 looks like a very realistic goal.
Big things are expected at Everton as well this season and the Goodison Park faithful will be hoping that new manager Marco Silva helps the Toffees repeat the sort of formidable home form that the former Hull City boss has been accustomed to during his managerial career.
Richarlison has arrived for a big fee but Everton will need to shore things up at the back if they are to have a stellar season. However, don’t rule out the chances of them mirroring their 2016/17 results, where they topped the ‘best of the rest’ table, collecting 9 points more than their closest rivals.
Expectations at Molineux are huge going into the 2018/19 campaign. Even though Wolves scored more and conceded fewer goals than any other side in the Championship last season, coach Nuno Espírito Santo hasn’t rested on his laurels, instead choosing to bring in plenty of new faces ahead of their Premier League opener.
Wolves have enough ammunition to finish in the top half of the table and they should accrue their fair share of clean sheets in the process.
Newcastle United and Everton
It remains to be seen whether Jordan Pickford will be available for Gameweek 1 following his exploits with the England national team at the World Cup and whether he will actually still be an Everton player this season. However, if he is, Fantasy Premier League managers will have the option of pairing him with Newcastle’s Martin Dúbravka in a goalkeeping combo that would enable them to select one of the duo in each round and not have to face Big 6 opposition at any stage of the season, unless fixtures are rearranged of course.
Food for thought indeed!