The "Winning Easy" Team of the Season

With the season almost over it's time for some retrospective. First up here's a look at our team of the season.

The above image is our team of the season. I'm sure you could come up with a similar selection yourself. If you can't see the image for some reason the team is GK: Mignolet, DEF: Coleman, Mertesacker, Terry. MID: Hazard, Yaya Toure, Ramsey, Lallana. FWD Suarez, Lukaku, Giroud. You might not agree with some of these picks, in fact we are certain you won't! But we’ve made a few 'non-optimal selections' in order to prove a few points. Read on.

The team was picked using starting prices and the players listed here would have cost a measly £79.0m at the start of the season. This is a cheap team! This would have left £21m for your 4 bench players, or about £5m each. Very generous and assuming a few £4-4.5m players bought would leave sufficient funds to catch up on any missed price rises. This team also assumesno transfers made- a point we'll come back to later in this article. We'll also stick to some conventional wisdoms when picking the team (e.g. don't pick two players from same team’s attack or defence).

GK: Mignolet £5.5m - 130 points

The Liverpoolgoalie is the first of our deliberate non-optimal picks. There are certainly better 'keepers to pick from. However, Liverpool's defensive record in 2012/13 was very (16 clean sheets, the most of any team) and Mignolet was a high profile summer signing for the Reds. He was an extremely popular player on GW1, and indeed still is. He current resides in 29% of team. We've selected Mignolet as an example that your players do not always have to be the best - he is the 8th highest scoring GK - and that, in particular, the goalkeeper position is not one that will make or break your season. As an alternative to Mignolet, and once it has become well known that Liverpool's new attacking freedom had compromised their defence, a simple transfer to Speroni with your January wildcard (and once it was also well known that Crystal Palace could now defend) would have yielded an additional 32 points.

DEF: Terry £6m - 172 points

John Terry was not a popular pick on GW1. He struggled with a back injury at the end of last season and it wasn't known if he would be knackered or not this time around. What was known though (and featured heavily in our pre-season guide) was that during Mourinho's first stint with Chelsea they excelled defensively, that Mourinho is a defensive coach (historically he has improved each of the team he's manage goals against record by 30%), and that Chelsea started the season off with a double gameweek, As such, Branislav Ivanovic was a very popular pick in GW1. At £6.5m he's was slightly pricier than Terry but this team has some money left over to afford that and, more importantly, Ivanovic would have done the job nicely. He’s scored just 13 points less than Terry. Not a huge difference. Terry’s dominance overall has come from the new bonus point system, something we pointed out as far back as GW7, plenty of time to make a transfer between the two, especially when Ivanovic was out injured during January (e.g. Wildcard time).

DEF: Mertesacker £5.5m – 157 points

The Arsenal’s ‘Big German’ was another very popular pick on GW1. He made our team of the year last season too (priced at £5.0m) and many were surprised that he and the rest of the Gunner’s back line were priced lower than their counterparts amongst the top clubs. Arsenal’s defensive record last season was pretty good too (based on dominating possession) and they’ve kicked on from that this season. Both Mertesacker and Koscienly have proven good value this season although the German edges it due to a couple of goals early season and less time out injured.

DEF: Coleman £5.0 – 174 points

The Everton full-back was a popular pick in pre-season amongst fantasy mangers in the know. We highlighted him as key player back in June last year in our article “Everton Under Martinez” where we even projected Everton to remain a solid defensive team this season. Coleman’s initial starting price of £5.0m makes him the standout value player in the game – he is the highest points per million player in this list, and by a considerable margin. His ‘value for money’ coupled with a score high makes him pretty much a vital component of any success this season.

MID: Yaya Toure £8.5m – 223 points*

After Suarez, Yaya is arguably the most essential player in this season. His combination of starts, attacking involvement, free kicks and (in Aguero’s regular absence) penalties makes him the complete fantasy player. His all round game in the heart of midfield also places him right up in the mix when the bonus points are dished out (see Yaya Toure ate my Bonus Points). Despite all this he divided opinions amongst the more hardcore fantasy managers. We took a look a closer look at his season a few months ago in our article Yaya Toure Ate My Fantasy Football (he's a hungry fella!), concluding that just the addition of free kicks to his historic goal and assist record from seasons past was enough to make him a fantasy force. Add penalties to he recipe and he became nigh on unstoppable.

MID: Eden Hazard £9.5 – 200 points

Hazard was another extremely popular player in GW1 with Chelsea’s double gameweek, but he started the season very slowly, with just a single assist from the first six games. This was enough to see his ownership plummet, he was sold by almost half a million managers and his price dropped to £9.1m. Then he came to life. The following six games he scored 4 goals and 2 assists. He’s pretty much maintained that kind of form ever since. If ever there was a lesson to be learned about sticking with the bona fide stars of fantasy football and trusting them to bounce back from a bit of a slump then this is it.

Adam Lallana £6.0m – 176 points

After Seamus Coleman, Lallana represents one of the next best value buys in FPL this season. He was one of small handful of £6m midfielders who looked capable of doing something (we highlighted him along with Pablo Hernandez and James Morrison). He’d impressed in Southampton’s promotion from the Championship in 2011/12 with 11 goals and 10 assist but had ultimately disappointed the following season as the Saints adjusted to life in the Premier League, with just 4 goals and 3 assists. Both team and player have obviously made a step up this season with Lallana even tipped for to play an important part in the World Cup this summer.

For players like Lallana there’s an important lesson to be learned here which has come into acceptance recently and is known as the Football Aging Curve (nicely demonstrated here by football analyst Michael Caley). In general there’s a sharp improvement in a player’s playing time, shots taken and goals scored as they age, and which peaks around 24-26 years old. Lallana’s record in earlier seasons showed his potential. He turned 25 this season and is entering his prime. We’ll certainly be looking out for other ‘maturing’ players going into next season. Make sure you stick with us for that.

Aaron Ramsey £5.5m – 164 points (136 + 28)

Ramsey’s own points total of 136 is not that impressive in itself (he’s not even in the top 30 players) but we’ve included him in this team to make another important point. We’ve added an extra 28 points to Ramsey’s total, assuming an extra 2 points from some random sub for each of the 14 games Ramsey missed with injury. The point being - you don’t even need to replace injured players and can still do well in FPL. Think about that. Turning to Ramsey himself though, he’s clearly been what we call a ‘break out’ player this season. No one could have quite expected him to achieve what he has. However, once he did all the signs were there. We highlighted his potential back in GW5, noting that his goalscoring performances in a couple of extra games in Europe as well as his tactical deployment backed up his early promise. Also note that he was only 22 when the season started and, as with Lallana, a big improvement should be expected at this age.

Luis Suarez £11.0m – 293 points

Suarez has 31 goals now and 25 assists. He made our team of the year last season after 23 goals and 10 assists. Liverpool and Suarez have certainly turned it all up a notch this season. What more can we say. The very definition of essential.

Romelu Lukaku £8.5m – 162 points

Like a few others in this list, Lukaku’s points total is not that great in isolation. He’s behind Sturridge, Rooney, Giroud and Lambert and his form has been decidedly average. But here we want labour another point. You’re team does not need to be packed full of superstars to do well. After an amazing season on-loan at West Brom Lukaku was expected to start the season for Chelsea and as such found himself in around 1 in 4 teams n GW1. It didn’t go well. He saw just 40 minutes of action in DGW1 and was soon out on loan again, this time to Everton. His impact on his debut for the Toffees though was immediate, scoring as sub then picking up 2 goals and an assist in his full debut in GW6. His form this season has been up and down and you could say he’s just been average. Indeed, his ownership has been up and down all season too, But he’s remained consistent, consistently average for a striker from an upper table club, which as it turns out is actually good enough. Note that instead we could have opted for Sturridge but stuck to the unwise but popular (hence realistic) policy of limiting coverage to just 1 player per team's attack.

Olivier Giroud – £8.5m 182 points

Another example of a decent average player who can be useful to your team without being a blockbuster goal-scorer or grabbing the headlines. As with Lukaku, Giroud has been ‘good enough’ and the two have some very important things in FPL in common. Both have played the vast majority of games this season, have mostly steered clear of injury and have been a very steady (if unspectacular) source of points. Giroud’s popularity has see-sawed all season; we’ve lost count of the numbers of times he appeared in our Market Movers article, one week on the way in, the next on the way out. He’s a reliable player, and like Lukaku, playing an important role for a top team in both goalscoring and supporting others for assists.

How well would this team have done?

With Suarez as the default captain pick every week this team would have picked up 2326 points so far (with GW38 still to play). This would be good enough to be comfortably inside the top 10k right now. Remember this is even considering having Suarez blank and without a captain pick for the first 5 weeks. It also assumes no auto-sub points for anyone except Ramsey. Lots of these players have missed a few games this season. Lukaku missed 5 games, Suarez 5, Hazard, Terry and Yaya 3, Coleman, Mertesacker and Giroud 2. If we assume bog-standard 2 pointers from auto-subs we’re up to ~2376 points and very close to a top 1000 rank.

This is quite remarkable. A comfortable top 10k finish without having made any transfers, with the most basic of subs coming on for absent players, no complicated rotation strategies, no worrying about fixtures, or injuries, or runs of poor form.

The key to the success of this team though would be getting these players in at the right time. No matter what we say now with the benefit hindsight, picking all these players from day one would have required a huge deal of luck. However, it must be said that all these players were either hugely popular on GW1 or subject to massive early bandwagons. Hardly best kept secrets. Another important thing, and the one we’ve laboured to some length, is that these aren’t even all the best players! Mignolet, Giroud, Ramsey, Mertesacker and Lukaku could have been easily replaced at stages through the season, perhaps for even more points.

The truly essential players have been Suarez and Toure, and to a lesser extent Coleman, Lallana, Terry and Hazard. How would a team have fared with the next best players? With Rooney (C) instead of Suarez the team loses about 180 points and drops 100K places. Ouch. With Gerrard instead of YYT the damage is not so bad, falling by only 5k. With Silva instead of YYT (including 11 auto-sub 2pters) the team falls to ~8k. Hmmm… possibly Toure has not all that essential after all*. Similarly, a midfield of Ozil and Silva instead of Hazard and YYT sees this team achieve a rank around 20k.

There’s a great deal of food for thought here. What’s more, we had the same conclusions when we did this same analysis last season in one of our newsletters. It seems that perhaps fantasy football can actually be a lot easier than we all think.

UPDATE: After another goal and assist for in City's 4-0 win over Villa Yaya Toure firmly cemented himself back into proper essential territory. We've also realised that a point difference is much more costly the worse your overall rank is. Ranked 1000th in the world you would only drop 4K to around 5000th with a loss of 50 points. Ranked 10,000th you'd drop 25K to to around 35,000 from the same 50 point loss.

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