Club World Cups, EFL Cup Finals, FA Cup matches, and those damn COVID postponements have led to the most chaotic season of all time in terms of schedules. Things have become so bad that Ben Crellin’s spreadsheet more closely resembles a question-mark splattered Picasso painting than the magic fixture tracker we all know and love. As a result we now have more double gameweeks on the horizon than Watford have had managers (well, almost).
A DGW is usually a time for the forward-thinking fantasy manager to cash in on their preparation and planning. This might be less applicable in a season where the motto “take it one game at a time” resonates more greatly with every passing day, but there may still be some useful tactics that we can tuck away and bring out when the Premier League eventually comes out of this strange, self-imposed hibernation.
By my Crellin-less calculations, we have five teams that sit above the rest in terms of DGW exploitation. These are Burnley, Arsenal, Tottenham, Leicester, and Everton. Now within these, there are some obvious – and therefore pointless to analyse – selections. Even the Ranieri-est of managers would know to start Tarkowski, Ramsdale, Kane, Maddison, and Calvert-Lewin if they are lucky enough to have them on their roster. But what about the others? What about the players likely on the free agent list? I’m glad you asked…
In this analysis we’re going to take a look at some frequencies. By that I mean, the number of times a player has scored X amount of points. In doing so, we can then calculate the likelihood of these players scoring less than Y points in a DGW. We’re only going to analyse players who have started at least nine Premier League matches and who are rostered in fewer than 70% of leagues. Furthermore, the points recorded are only from games in which they have started.
The graphs for each player depict the frequency (y-axis) of their fantasy points scores (x-axis). The % in the top left is the likelihood of them scoring 11.5 points or fewer in a DGW (a decent score, but one that would perhaps still be disappointing under the circumstances and which could quite easily be beaten with an astute pickup of a single gameweek player). The colour-coding of this number is my more-subjective rating of their value: dark orange equals DGW trap and dark green equals DGW treat. Lighter shades of these colours reflect less certainty, whilst the light yellow is "on the fence erring on the side of trap" and the light blue is "on the fence erring on the side of treat".
Six players fit the criteria for analysis for Burnley: club captain Ben Mee, midfield stalwarts Ashley Westwood and Josh Brownhill, old-school fullbacks Charlie Taylor and Matt Lowton, and the former fantasy favourite Johann Gudmundsson.
Ashley Westwood is the pick of the Burnley lot for me. Despite having the same % score as Taylor, his lack of negative points this season gives him the edge and a betting man would have him at 14 points in a DGW. That said, his ceiling is clearly not as high as the left-back’s, so if you have the choice, it may be worth considering how much risk is needed. A fantasy matchup against a high-flying side might warrant the risk of Taylor in exchange for his 16+ point potential, whilst a matchup against a wooden spoon contender might steer you into the safe hands of Westwood. Matt Lowton’s numbers are a poor man’s Taylor’s, whilst Ben Mee’s sit in the middle of the Taylor and Westwood patterns. Brownhill should be a reluctant DGW pick; a very low ceiling and a strong chance of putting up disappointing scores – but it could be worse. Johann Gudmundsson is probably the biggest DGW trap going. Unless Burnley sign a winger and stay injury free (which they may indeed do), Dyche is going to be forced to continue starting the Icelandic international. And in a DGW fantasy managers everywhere will be tempted to do so as well. Don’t.
For Arsenal, we have five players of note: the much-improved Gabriel Magalhaes, the almost-out-the-door Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, and the tenacious midfield triumvirate of Thomas Partey, Albert Sambi Lokonga, and Granit Xhaka.
Aubameyang’s name up here might be an irrelevant one given his apparent non-future as a Gunner, but for what it’s worth, he would be a nice pickup were he to start both games in a DGW. Were he a guaranteed starter, young Lokonga might be the go-to guy as well, but he’s not – which makes it a difficult decision for fantasy managers if he gets given the nod in the first game of a DGW. Gabriel doesn’t have that issue – nailed on as he is at centre-back – but the four negative scores is a big concern. Even if he goes big in one game – which he is capable of doing – those negative numbers can bring a fantasy manager crashing back down to earth. Still, it’s a risk I’d probably be willing to take. Thomas Partey is finally beginning to show why Arsenal parted with £45million to bring him to England, but his fantasy value is still low. Even in a DGW, his ceiling is non-existent. I wouldn’t exactly call him a trap, but there are far better options out there. One player who, perhaps not surprisingly, is a trap is everyone’s favourite: Granit Xhaka. The Swiss midfielder had re-established himself in the starting 11 before the 11th red card of his career saw him miss Arsenal’s most recent game. Whether he returns to the lineup is neither here nor there from a fantasy perspective: he’s a trap. Avoid.
North-London rivals Spurs also have five players for us to consider: the 3-star Hotel Emerson Royal (breakfast optional), the defensive trio of Eric Dier, Ben Davies, and Japhet Tanganga, and the apparently increasingly indispensable Oliver Skipp.
Since Conte’s arrival, Emerson Royal has mixed the scintillating with the senseless; returning four double-digit scores (including a 28 and a 30) with four scores of fewer than five (including two negatives). Poor IRL performances saw him drop to the bench for Tottenham’s last match, meaning we can now add unpredictability in starting position to unpredictability in fantasy value. Tough one here, but I’m leaning to DGW trap. The same goes for centre-backs Ben Davies and Japhet Tanganga. Each have multiple negative returns to their name this season and that risk is not worth the possible reward. Eric Dier also has three negative returns but has accompanied them with far more instances of strong fantasy showings. In fact, 11 of his 18 starts (61%) have seen him score at least 8 points. He could be a nice DGW treat. Finally, we have our second major DGW trap, and that is Oliver Skipp. The young midfielder may be slowly winning over the Spurs faithful, but it’s not reflected in fantasy (yet). Zero double-digit returns from his 14 starts demonstrate a head-hurting ceiling and even a DGW from him is more than likely going to end up the same way.
Leicester’s injury-riddled season has resulted in a lot of players being used by Rodgers, and as such a massive nine players fit the criteria for inclusion in our analysis: a whole defensive back five can be made from the likes of Kasper Schmeichel, Luke Thomas, Caglar Soyuncu, Jonny Evans, and Timothy Castagne, whilst the peripheral figures of Boubakary Soumare and Daniel Amartey make the cut, as well as midfield powerhouse Wilfred Ndidi and enigmatic winger-forward Ademola Lookman.
We kick things off with perhaps the second-best DGW treat in the form of Wilfred Ndidi. With a season low of 2.5 and a season high of 11, you know what you’re getting with the Nigerian and this plays well in a DGW. Fellow midfielder Soumare has less promising numbers and should probably be avoided, whilst wide-man Lookman has a concerning number of low scores to his name that also put him in the same bracket. Defenders Castagne, Thomas, Evans, and Soyuncu will always be tempting fantasy options even if this season their returns have diminished thanks to having the league’s 6th worst GA and 5th worst XGA. I actually like Thomas for a DGW though – his scores have been decent since a rocky start to the season (save for that Manchester City game) – and he has just a 25% chance of scoring below 11.5. The currently injured Jonny Evans would be appealing depending on the matchups, but Soyuncu is one that may be better left alone whilst Castagne is firmly in the trap category. One defender not already mentioned is the stand-in Amartey. Given his backup status at the club it’s unlikely many – if any – fantasy managers would consider the 2.1 FP/G man, but on the off-chance that they do, then they should stop immediately. The potential DGW trap of Amartey would make Gudmunsson and Skipp look like genius pickups. Last but not least is Mr Leicester himself, Kasper Schmeichel. Given that goalkeeper’s generally score less in fantasy, it is perhaps unfair to judge Schmeichel on his 36% likelihood of scoring 11.5 or fewer. If we change this to a more appropriate 7.5, then the percentage drops to just 12% - making him a far more palatable prospect for the more reserved fantasy manager.
Finally, Everton provide us with five more notable names: rising star Anthony Gordon, combative midfielder Allan, no-nonsense defenders Ben Godfrey and Seamus Coleman, and England’s number 1 (???) Jordan Pickford.
Given the club’s struggles so far this season – reflected in the fantasy production of most players – it is no surprise to see three of the five candidates in the DGW trap group. Brazilian Allan has returned between 2 and 3.75 points so many times this season that I had to adjust the y-axis specifically for him – that should say it all about his potential here. The versatile Godfrey has been more consistent, though with four negative scores and nothing over 13, his fantasy value is clearly equally limited. The veteran Coleman has had a couple of games in which he’s rolled back the years, but four negative returns and another five of between zero and two points should set alarm bells ringing for any fantasy manager who finds themselves debating picking him up. Finally, to round things up we have Pickford. Similar to Schmeichel, the likelihood of Pickford returning 11.5 or fewer in a DGW is 34%, but unlike his goalkeeping compatriot, if we reduce this target score to 7.5, his percentage does not see the same sizeable decrease, instead, staying at a rather elevated 28%. If you have to choose, opt for Schmeichel – though neither may actually be the wise move.
The Final Whistle
So that’s it for the analysis. We’ve identified some DGW traps (Gudmundsson and Skipp), some DGW treats (Westwood, Taylor, Dier, and Ndidi), and whole host of players in between. Whether you take the plunge with some of these shouldn’t purely be based on the numbers of course. Aside from all the other usual variables, it’s important to consider matchups, the quality of your fantasy opponent (and therefore the risk required), and whether the player in question will start the second of his doubleheader (fortunately our very own DraftLad has been helping you on that front). If these align nicely, then the right pickup can be a lightbulb moment during the gloomy DGW chaos.
Good luck navigating the rest of the season! I’ll leave you with five more graphs that may be of interest. Fun fact for Son rosterers: you're five times more likely to get a 28-pointer from the loveable South Korean during a DGW than you are to get fewer than 12 points!
For all the latest from the Inner Geek, follow @the_innergeek on Twitter!
And for more in-depth and exclusive resources, become a member of The Inner Circle.