Last season I devised a method to calculate an alternative – and more accurate! – Premier League table. The inaugural version, which can be found here, correctly stated that Chelsea’s current position at the time (4th) was undervaluing them, whilst Manchester City’s (1st) was also misleading. The original analysis worked by taking into account the strength of schedule for each time, and adjusting the point’s totals accordingly. This season I have modified it slightly to also consider whether fixtures were played at home or away. This should hopefully improve the accuracy of these pseudo-predictions given that teams, on average, earn just over 60% of their league points at home. This increased precision does, however, mean that the alternative table uses point’s totals to 1 decimal place. So with 6 weeks in the books, what does the alternative EPL think? Are the two Manchester clubs really head neck and neck? Are Crystal Palace really that bad?
Strength of Schedule
The Toughest Opening Schedule Award goes to Leicester City. The 2015-16 champions have faced Liverpool and Chelsea at home, and Manchester United away (subjectively you would also include Arsenal away in this too, but given their relatively poor start to the season, this fixture was only slightly harder than Huddersfield Town away). Consequently, in the alternative table we see Leicester rise to 14th, with almost 3 points more than they actually have.
Other teams with tough starts include Everton (versus all of the top 4!), Stoke City (versus Chelsea, Manchester United, and Arsenal), and West Ham United (versus Tottenham Hotspur, and Manchester United). Again, all 3 see improvements in league position in the alternative table; particularly Everton who go from 14th to 8th.
The Easiest Opening Schedule Award goes to Manchester United. Mourinho’s men may be joint top, but given the opposition they’ve faced so far it’s probably not surprising. They have yet to play a team that are (currently) in the top half, whilst their 3 home fixtures having been against teams in the bottom 14. Though the alternative league table doesn’t drop them down any positions, it does suggest that they are not quite on par with their cross-city rivals, and only slightly ahead of 3rd place Chelsea.
8th placed Huddersfield Town have also benefited from a less-than-taxing schedule, with a trip to mid-table Burnley being their toughest test so far. Likewise both West Bromwich Albion and Manchester City have faced 2 teams currently in the relegation zone, suggesting that they too are sitting prettier than actually is the case.
This analysis can essentially act as a “sell-high, buy low” guide for Togga managers. Certain teams (and therefore players) are not as bad as they seem, whilst others are probably overachieving at present. Obviously these can be identified yourself using the above table, but here are my 6 suggestions:
- After Palace at home, Manchester United’s schedule sees them take on Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur, and Chelsea in their next 4 games. Mata has probably been their only weak link so far and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him pulled at the hour mark in most of these games (if not dropped altogether). Hold fire until after the Palace match (by which point the injury news regarding Pogba – a factor in any United midfield decision – should be more clear) but he could be worth trading.
- Schindler and Mooy are averaging 14.33 and 12.17 PPM, respectively, for Huddersfield. If there’s anyone in your league that is drawn by these numbers then it could be worth cashing in now. Whilst they have both been very good so far this season, with matches against Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester United, and Liverpool coming up it would be a surprise for them to keep this sort of rate up.
- The third suggestion to sell is a bit of a curveball given that the team are currently looking very, VERY good. But if you can get good value for Kyle Walker, I would do so. He’s averaging just 6.93 according to WhoScored.com (a good rating but considerably less than 10 other outfield players for Manchester City) and with Danilo a £27 million like-for-like replacement waiting in the wings, would Guardiola really hesitate in making a change?
- Leicester City’s next 5 matches are all against teams currently in the bottom 12, none of which are averaging a goal a game. Thus, now is the time to grab a defender. Maguire would be the obvious call, but he may be difficult to acquire, so look for whichever left-back starts: Fuchs or Chilwell – the former was a very good Togga pickup last season, whilst the latter has been playing well in limited opportunities this season.
- This one is a long-term plan given that they have Manchester United and Chelsea next up. But that may actually work to your advantage as their owners may be more inclined to trade. Zaha, Benteke, and Townsend for Crystal Palace are all top pickups when the team is doing well. The first two are currently injury concerns (I did say this was a long-term plan!) but when back should improve on their below-average PPMs. Crystal Palace cannot continue to be this bad (and Hodgson should have a positive impact), so jump on the bandwagon early.
- Take your pick from these underperforming forwards: Defoe (PPM 3.83), Arnautovic (1.13), Rooney (6.67), and Jese (5.80). They should all remain regular starters, and with their clubs set to face less-demanding schedules, a trade for them could easily pay dividends. Their trade value shouldn’t be too high either.
I will be updating this table each week and posting it on my Twitter feed @the_innergeek