What Separates a Valuable Differential From a Momentary Point Scorer?

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With so many intriguing points hauls across GW33, Jack Woodfield examines the important distinction between shrewd picks and impulsive mistakes.

There was a plenitude of unexpected double-figure point scorers in Gameweek 33, and we offer you nothing but congratulations if you had one (or more) in your FPL team.

While we weren’t surprised at Ander Herrera (£6.3m), Xherdan Shaqiri (£6.0m) and Vincent Kompany (£5.9m) registering 13, 13 and 14 points, respectively – of course, they’re all top quality players – we were perplexed at the swift turnaround of content across certain FPL sites (not that we’d name names) advocating Herrera et al as valuable differentials for the remainder of the season.

After all, there were negligible statistics prior to GW33 indicating that Herrera, Shaqiri and Kompany would return double-figure points hauls.

Valuable Differentials?

Between GW1-GW33, our Form Tracker shows Herrera was joint 50th for scoring midfielders; Shaqiri 63rd; and Kompany 124th among defenders.

Consequently, there is little data from this season indicating that their respective double-figure point hauls will continue, other than the stats from GW33, which is why I found it so bewildering to read analysis akin to, “This player scored THIRTEEN POINTS in GW33 and with such low ownership could help you win your mini-league!”

Yes, this is FPL – anything can and quite often does happen – and a case can always be made one way or another for backing X player to return big points, but without salient statistics to back up one’s claim, doing so is simply speculative.

So how can you tell if a player who returned big gains on one or two GWs is a valuable short-term differential, or merely a flash in the pan? In short, there is no short answer. I know that’s not what you wanted to hear, but please bear with me.

The Curious Case of Capoue

Take Etienne Capoue (£4.5m), for example. Mostly deployed as a defensive midfielder prior to this season, Capoue astonishingly registered four goals and an assist in the first five GWs.

The 64,023 FPL managers who punted on Capoue before the season had struck gold, and his 10-point return in GW1 convinced more than 126,000 new FPL managers to transfer him in for GW2.

But from GW6 Capoue then went seven games before scoring more than three points. By GW 8, 1.7 million FPL managers had selected Capoue, and those who brought him in after GW5 were left rueing the decision not to recruit him earlier.

So what was it that inspired FPL managers to transfer in Capoue during his hot streak, compared to those who bode their time and were left frustrated?

Our Attacking Form shows us that Watford were the sixth-highest scoring team between GW1-GW5, with Capoue playing in a slightly more advanced role. Considering his price prior to GW1 was £4.5m, those gambling on Capoue for GW2 were doing just that – gambling – but his low-cost would have assuaged the risk.

However, Capoue’s statistics make for enlightening reading. His attacking stats during the first five GWs are far from imperious – yes he was the Premier League’s second-highest goalscorer, but his four goals came from just 7 goal attempts, almost half the amount of Sanchez (13), Sterling (13) & Snodgrass (13) who had scored 3 at this stage in the season.

Ultimately in Capoue’s case there were two key variables:

The first was those statistics which suggested his output would be short-lived, as it was proven to be, and any additional gains were unpredictable. His goal-scoring run was good, but atypical of his overall game. Therefore no logical basis existed to validate Capoue as a valuable short-term differential other than ‘he might score again’.

The second was his cost: because his price was so low, his status as a valuable short-term differential could be justified, if you were lucky enough to gain from him, as he represented a minimum-risk gamble.

This is, of course, just one example, an analysis applicable only to Capoue, but the broader implications of these findings suggest there may be a method of establishing a valuable short-term differential.

Method Acting

This method concerns positive statistics vs. cost-effective gamble.

The broader mathematics of devising an equation for this method probably deserves a whole other article, but this is the gist of it:

#1. If a surprise player has returned a high recent point haul, and his stats reflect discernible defensive/attacking influence in his team, then this player could represent a valuable short- to mid-term differential.

#2. If a surprise player has returned a high recent point haul, but his stats do not reflect a sustained run, rather a short-lived purple patch, this point scoring might be fleeting, and this player’s inclusion would be a gamble.

#3. If in the case of #2, the cost of this player may dictate your transfer decision, and be deemed worthy of the risk depending on your financial cut-off point.

So, returning to my original point regarding Shaqiri, Kompany and Herrera, the trio’s stats do not suggest valuable investment opportunities, especially considering their respectively prices (all above £5.9m), and transferring them in would be a pretty big gamble.

But this isn’t to say you shouldn’t do this. FPL_Penguin said it best in his terrific article this week: go with your gut. If you think X transfer is the right thing to do, you should follow your instincts.

But, pertinently, do not be swayed by trite headlines and articles recommending scenario #2. If the statistics aren’t there, the evidence isn’t there.

Have you fallen for the lure of a cheap differential that failed to deliver this season? Perhaps you jumped on a bandwagon before it left the station and reaped the sweet rewards? Tell us about your successes and failures in the comments.  

By | 2017-04-20T21:46:17+00:00 April 20th, 2017|Opinion|0 Comments

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