It seems that the days have gone when teams play with a classic little n’ large attacking duo up front. In fact, many teams now employ formations which do not utilize two forwards, or require a hybrid attacker. This often means the most potent attacking duos aren’t two forwards, but a forward-midfielder combination. When looking at the EPL for fantasy Premier League purposes, which attacking duo should you look to draft as your main men this season? In this article the Premier League’s top duos are compared statistically against the rest to see who comes out on top.
Let’s start by identifying the top duos from each team based loosely on either top scorer/assist maker. This may not apply across the board for every team, as an example, Hazard would be Chelsea’s main midfielder to target even if he did only get five assists last season. [Editor’s note: Hazard recorded nine FPL assists last season, but only credited with five assists outside fantasy circles].
Let’s face it, drafting a top tier duo is extremely unlikely, especially since it’s been established that top strikers are in very short supply. These five names regularly occupy the proverbial tier: Alexis Sanchez, Roberto Firmino, Harry Kane, Romelu Lukaku and Sergio Aguero (we’ll talk about the Chelsea lads later). But there is value in the second tier and across the board to make sure you don’t have a disastrous first couple of rounds to start your draft. Depending how many teams make up your league will certainly change the outcome of how successful you are in acquiring a top rate duo. But first, let’s look at a basic visual representation of each duo combined based on last season’s stats:
A simple look at the above graph tells us what many fantasy owners already know; namely that Kane and Christian Eriksen were two of the most productive players in Togga last season. This is also not taking into account the production of Dele Alli and Son Hueng-Min who could have been a separate duo in the graph and outperformed most other duos. Key takeaway here is: draft Tottenham players.
Not surprisingly, Arsenal, Man City, Liverpool, Chelsea and Man Utd are all among the top performing duos. A few caveats to consider here are the inflated results of the promoted teams as well as Chelsea’s and Man Utd’s strikers changing from last season. Lukaku’s effort for Everton last campaign should be replicated this season, especially with an increase in quality support players around him. However, Morata is perhaps a bit of an unknown since his transfer from Real Madrid. At the very least, he’ll be Chelsea’s main man and will therefore get the minutes to show his quality. He could quite easily become a top tier striker in his maiden EPL season. My prediction is that Costa won’t be playing for Chelsea come Aug. 31st.
Swansea scored quite highly, perhaps surprising a few of us. Sigurdsson is somebody we are all aware of, but perhaps where the surprise lays is in the fact that Llorente scored 15 goals making them one of the better performing duos in the EPL. In fact, Sigurdsson assisted Llorente directly with 6/13 (46%) of his assists. Now, if Sigurdsson moves from Swansea to Everton before the end of the transfer window, would you be happy if you’d drafted Llorente beforehand? Probably not.
Now we can all pick players based on how many goals they scored last season, but let’s take this a little farther. What if, for example, Charlie Austin had been injury free last season? Same with Andy Carroll. Looking at Austin’s stats, he scored 6 goals for Southampton last campaign which isn’t exactly mouth watering but he only played 940 minutes out of a possible maximum 3,420 (90 mins x 38 games).
If we normalise all of the data, i.e. rate every player as though they had played the exact same amount of time (in this instance 3,420 minutes) then we get Austin’s normalised goal tally of 22! Obviously, most players don’t play the maximum minutes in a season so we could probably knock a couple off that tally but you get the idea. Applying that to all the top duos at every club, we get the following results.
Converting the total into the Togga scoring system (9pts for a goal, 6pts for an assist):
Now the picture looks a little different. The most striking difference is Chelsea’s total. This is due to Morata only playing 1332 minutes (39% of playing time) for Real Madrid last season. After normlising his production, his goals tally goes from 15 (actual) to 38.5 (predicted)!!! This is clearly an unbelievable tally; he would have to smash the record of 31 goals in a single 38 game season (Shearer 95-96, Ronaldo 07-08 and Suarez 13-14 for all you trivia enthusiasts). What it does demonstrate however, is that Morata is lethal in front of goal and has shown it at the very top level in his limited opportunity there. He and Hazard should definitely be targeted in the first two rounds.
The normalised data still has the usual suspects (Arsenal, Liverpool, Man City, Man Utd and Tottenham) at the top end of the scoring so drafting these players should take priority in the first 2 rounds as well.
The other big winners from the normalised data are Southampton, Stoke and West Ham. Austin, Crouch and Carroll are undoubtedly proven EPL strikers and if all of them play a substantial amount of minutes next season (around the 2800 mark), it should give each of them a decent fantasy return. This is assuming of course they can stay healthy which you are no doubt pessimistic about. Likewise, if their attacking duo counterparts (Tadic, Shaqiri and Antonio) can avoid substantial injury layoffs this season, their return should profit most teams as well. Look to draft these in the mid to late rounds for potential fantasy sleepers.
One team with an unclear value is Everton. Mainly because it is unlikely Ross Barkley will be there but the end of August. Yannick Bolasie would be the smartest choice as his backup but with his rehabilitation still ongoing, it may be a while before he’s back on the pitch. The loss of Lukaku and the addition of Rooney is the reason the duo stats for Everton are middle of the road. With a lot of other new faces there, it will be hard to gauge who their star players will be this season.
A word on the promoted teams; Brighton, Huddersfield, and Newcastle. The data for these teams, particularly Newcastle and Brighton, may be a little skewed (OK, maybe more than a little). Newcastle’s Dwight Gayle and Brighton’s Glenn Murray had goal returns of 23 and 24 respectively in the Championship last season. At this stage it would be unrealistic to say that these two will replicate that this season now that they’re in the EPL (just ask Andre Gray (Burnley), Abel Hernandez (Hull) and Jordan Rhodes (Middlesbrough)). As with any of the promoted teams, it can be a crapshoot whether there is any fantasy relevance in their attacking players. Savvy managers will look to their duo counterparts for any sort of value, in particular exciting FPL prospect Anthony Knockaert. Some late round luck could really help your season but it will probably be down to exactly that…luck.
There are a couple of other things to consider that can have an effect of the above analysis:
1. Will my chosen player still be in the EPL come August 31st? (See Costa above. Coutinho to Barcelona??)
2. Conversely, will a player come in between my draft and August 31st and usurp my drafted player? (Think David Luiz/John Terry last season.)
3. Will my drafted player suddenly become a bench warmer? (Hands up if you took Fabregas in the first round last season. Enough said.)
4. Similarly, will my player be a part of a regular squad rotation? (If you’re drafting Man City players: beware.)
5. Does my player contribute with other Togga points and not just goals and assists?
When it comes to your draft, making sure you have two top level players is vital in the early rounds. But what is perhaps more vital, it making sure they are players who will play a majority of the minutes in the League. Players like Pogba and Kevin De Bruyne are extremely likely to start every week barring any catastrophic injuries, now the choice is up to you.