Taking a Moneyball Approach to FPL

It’s minefield to pick your Fantasy Premier League team these days. There’s an abundance of data points, statistics, fixture analysis, press coverage, betting odds, pages and pages of forums & reddit threads about next weeks matches – it can be incredibly overwhelming, time consuming and lead you into round in circles back to where you started. It’s very easy to jump on bandwagons, follow the press press hype and opt for the ‘big’ headline names for your Fantasy Premier League team. But those decisions are often entirely subjective and based on popularity and hype rather that data and substance. Those types of decisions can really hurt your Fantasy Premier League team by wasting precious financial resources on players who don’t consistently deliver a large return of points week on week.

Taking a moneyball approach to FPL.

Taking a Moneyball Approach

Moneyball, originally a book published by Michael Lewis and later adapted into a Hollywood film staring Brad Pitt & Jonah Hill, tell the tale of a small budget American baseball franchise Oakland Athletics who changed their recruitment policies to focus on proven statistical evidence and sabermetrics. Their belief was current scouts focused on subjective factors and wrong metrics, which lead to higher risk recruitment. This “Moneyball” approach allowed them to find real value in the market, and assemble a highly competitive team for a fraction of the price of their richer competitors.

The applications of this to Fantasy Premier League, is to focus on find ‘value’ in the transfer market. Forget all the names, the clubs, the hype, the fan clubs. It’s all subjective. Sure it might look mighty satisfying (and intimidating to your friends) to have a front three striker line of Wayne Rooney – Radamel Falcao – Mario Balotelli, but the objective of the game is not to see who can fit most players with big reputations into their Fantasy Premier League team. These are subjective factors that should have no place in Fantasy Premier League player selection. If we take a look at Wayne Rooney for example, Rooney has a return of 87 points for the season to date. But there are 37 players who have scored more points than Rooney this season to date, 8 of them in his position as a forward in the FPL. What is quite surprising is that, despite there fact that 8 other Forwards have more points than Rooney, he is selected in 17% of Fantasy Premier League teams! He’s the 4th most selected Forward, only Sergio Aguero, Harry Kane and Diego Costa are selected in more teams!

Finding Value in the Fantasy Premier League Market

Striping away all the external factors and strategy, the objective of the Fantasy Premier League game is quite clear. All managers start with £100 million which you are free to invest in players, and your objective is to deliver the most points as possible for your allotted £100 million. So in reality this becomes a simple ‘Return on Investment’ (ROI) game, something akin to the metrics Stock Brokers or Marketing Managers might be subjected to. Your £100 million is your investment, and your FPL points are your return. And just like a media plan that a marketing manager might compose, each player in your Fantasy Premier League represents a calculated investment from which, you should be expecting a healthy return of points. If the return is not worth the investment, then this player should be discarded from your team. A simple formula for ROI is to “the benefit (return) of an investment is divided by the cost of the investment; the result is expressed as a percentage or a ratio.

If we then apply this ROI formula to the top points scorers in the Fantasy Premier League so far, we can find which players are delivering the highest return for your money invested in them.

Top 50 FPL Player by ROI

Player Team Pos Price Points ROI
Kane TOT FWD 6.3 126 20.00
Forster SOU GKP 5.5 103 18.73
Clyne SOU DEF 6 112 18.67
Downing WHU MID 6.6 123 18.64
Foster WBA GKP 4.6 84 18.26
Austin QPR FWD 6.4 116 18.13
Berahino WBA FWD 5.5 99 18.00
Green QPR GKP 4.5 81 18.00
Bertrand SOU DEF 5.7 102 17.89
Heaton BUR GKP 4.6 82 17.83
Fabianski SWA GKP 5.2 92 17.69
Guzan AVL GKP 4.7 83 17.66
Fonte SOU DEF 5.8 102 17.59
Ivanovic CHE DEF 7.3 128 17.53
Ings BUR FWD 5.8 101 17.41
Terry CHE DEF 6.8 118 17.35
Speroni CRY GKP 4.8 83 17.29
Colback NEW MID 4.9 82 16.73
Ki Sung-yueng SWA MID 4.9 82 16.73
Lloris TOT GKP 5.6 93 16.61
Janmaat NEW DEF 5.3 88 16.60
Walters STK MID 5.3 88 16.60
Ulloa LEI FWD 5 82 16.40
Jagielka EVE DEF 5.5 90 16.36
Mignolet LIV GKP 5.2 85 16.35
de Gea MUN GKP 5.9 96 16.27
Sigurdsson SWA MID 6.4 104 16.25
Fer QPR MID 5.6 91 16.25
Chadli TOT MID 6.5 105 16.15
Naismith EVE FWD 4.8 77 16.04
O'Shea SUN DEF 4.6 73 15.87
Pantilimon SUN GKP 4.6 73 15.87
Wisdom WBA DEF 4.6 73 15.87
Boyd BUR MID 4.7 74 15.74
Cresswell WHU DEF 5.6 88 15.71
Adrián WHU GKP 5.1 80 15.69
Williams SWA DEF 5.3 83 15.66
Henderson LIV MID 6.1 95 15.57
Begovic STK GKP 4.8 74 15.42
Lescott WBA DEF 4.9 75 15.31
McGregor HUL GKP 4.8 72 15.00
Cissé NEW FWD 5.4 81 15.00
Larsson SUN MID 5.4 81 15.00
Barnes BUR FWD 4.4 66 15.00
Cissokho AVL DEF 4.7 70 14.89
Vergini SUN DEF 4.5 67 14.89
Ayoze NEW FWD 4.6 68 14.78
Elmohamady HUL MID 4.9 72 14.69
Eriksen TOT MID 8.5 124 14.59
Trippier BUR DEF 4.8 70 14.58

Using this approach as the starting point for your Fantasy Premier League Team, you can shape the core of your team based on points return. Though it is important to points out that there are of course restrictions in the market, such as the number of players in each position and the number of players from each club, and there is no benefit in coming in under budget and not using all your £100 million.

In terms of the makeup of these top 50 Fantasy Premier League player who offer the best ‘value’, there are more defenders than any other position – with 15 of the 50 in been defenders. So it quite clear that defenders offer the best points return for the investment, than any other position. This data may influence your teams’ formation, as fielding a higher number of defender in your starring 11 is advantageous (provided they are the right ones). To drill this home, for the £12.8 you could invest in Sergio Aguero for his 128 points, you could have 214 points for Southampton pair Nathaniel Clyne and Ryan Bertrand, and still have a spare £1.1 million to invest in other area’s of your team. You can quite easily compose a squad based on ROI that far exceeds the points return of the best team the in FPL to date.

Final Thoughts

Based on ownership data, it’s quite evident that the majority of Fantasy Premier League player base a lot of their player selections on player reputations and other subjective factors which do not align with the objective of the game. The fact that players such as Angel Di Maria of Manchester United is owned by 16% of teams, despite the fact that there are 15 other midfielders delivering a high return of points based on the players price (investment), means that financial resources are being wasted on players that do not represent good value for money. I implore Fantasy Premier League managers to analyze their teams basted on value for money, and make modifications to cull players who are not delivering for them.

2 thoughts on “Taking a Moneyball Approach to FPL

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *