A Note from Neal: I would like to re-introduce the audience to one of the leaders in the field of forecasting player performance from league-to-league and division-to-division. Aaron Nielsen has amassed a massive database of player performance data from over 60 leagues around the world over a number of years. Using this data he has developed forecasting tools that have helped him accurately project player production as they make the leap from “lesser” leagues (e.g., Holland, Portugal, MLS, the Championship) to the Premier League. In addition to working with clubs to help them scout players, he has consulted on the development of betting lines, video game characteristics and, most importantly to us, fantasy games. His Fantasy Points Value (FpV) metric focuses on expected point production vs. the price of the player in question. This one is particularly useful if you are playing in a league where you are choosing a player for an entire season or looking for early season bargains to stash on your bench.
Aaron’s FP/90 metric projects a player’s production per 90 minutes. This one could just as easily be called Player Quality. This sounds like the one you want to focus on all the time but it doesn’t take durability or projected minutes played into effect. Theo Walcott and Aaron Ramsey rated highly by this measure for their efforts last season but neither were very durable. If you’re choosing among a number of players for a single week that you’re pretty sure are going to start then this is a solid metric to look at. Just be careful with players who have injury histories or competition for their positions who rate highly on this dimension.
The statistical techniques Aaron uses to create his forecasts is his secret sauce but fortunately he has agreed to share some of the results as we look to unwrap some of the more difficult issues that face fantasy managers each season: how will the new players to the league perform and how will the newly promoted teams/players do?
In part two of his four part analysis, Aaron focuses on newly promoted Leicester City. Part one focused on QPR, part three will focus on Burnley, and part four will shine the spotlight on the new players coming in to the league’s established teams.
I’ll let Aaron take it from here and be back at the end to wrap things up:
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Leicster City has had one of the highest budgets in the English Championship the last few seasons so it shouldn't be a surprise that they were able to win the Championship last season and gain automatic promotion. The roster has been well-architected including the addition of two prospects I rated from the second division in France and a player I had as the top non-league player in England during the 2010-2011 season. Throw in a couple of proven EPL veterans, two former Manchester United prospects and the son of one of the greatest Premier League player of all-time and the Foxes should be both interesting and competitive in their return to the Premier League.
It looks likely that Leicester will play a 4-4-2 formation in the Premier League as it was the formation they used most of last season in the Championship. The difference this season will be that they have added a club-record signing in forward Leonardo Ulloa which will mean added competition for those two forward spots. Ulloa is a 6'3 Argentinean forward who was purchased from Brighton where he scored 14 goals in the Championship last season including five via headers. The Foxes also brought in Marc Albrighton from Aston Villa. Fantasy managers will be particularly interested in this signing both because of his flashes of strong production at Villa and because he may well get more playing time than some bigger name arrivals to the league. At the end, Premier League survival for the Foxes may well rely on their keeper Kasper Schmeichel. The quality they found in the son of the Great Dane gave Leicester a major advantage over many clubs in the Championship and, like his father, Kasper was able to control his box and make key saves when asked.
There are a number of Leicester players that fantasy managers might take a risk on depending on the format that they are playing. Defenders Matthew Upson and Paul Konchesky have great experience and will be known to most fantasy managers from their time playing at Arsenal and Liverpool respectively. Former Manchester United products Daniel Drinkwater and Ritchie de Laet have been key players in the Foxes success and expect to be automatics for most games this season. Meanwhile, forward David Nugent has a long history of success including nine goals in the Premier League and six double digit goal seasons in the Championship highlighted by him hitting for 20 last season.
While the above names may be better known, there are some lesser known names that are even more exciting as fantasy prospects. French wide player Anthony Knockaert started his career at Guingamp, the club that also brought Didier Drogba to the big time. Knockaert was featured in my top prospect list for France Ligue 2 in 2011 and was signed by Liecester ahead of the 2012 season. Like most skilled wingers, Knockaert has the ability to dribble and cross but what sets him apart is his ability to score from long distance including direct free kicks. Riyad Mahrez is another tricky winger brought in from France and might be even more skilled than Knockaert although does not yet have the finishing touch to be considered a strong fantasy prospect.
Finally, Jamie Vardy was playing non-league football three years ago. I rated him as my top non-league player after a 31-goal season and Leicester purchased him for a non-league record million pounds. With a little bit of Rickie Lambert to his game, Vardy is not pretty but he has proven effective with 16 goals and 4 assists in the Championship for the Foxes. The biggest concern with Vardy is that he may well lose minutes to the newly arrived Ulloa.
Projected Leiceter City Starting XI with 2013-2014 English Premier League Expected Results
Others: DF Jeffrey Schlupp 8.5 FPV, 2.2 FP/90, MF Marc Albrighton 12.4 FPV, 2.7 FP/90, FW Jamie Vardy 16.8 FPV, 4.4 FP/90
Closing Thoughts from Neal: I'm a little uncertain how to justify the projection of Marc Albrighton as a reserve in this chart vs. the expectation that most seem (including Aaron in his narrative) to have that he will start regularly and potentially play a lot of minutes. Alas, there are occasional issues with any analytical system and this is one likely source of such issues. There is very little recent history of Albrighton getting minutes at Villa so projecting his minutes at a new club with two up and coming wingers based on a few pre-season matches of dubious quality it a difficult task and even more so for an analytical model. If you're looking for my take, I'm investing on the upside and Premier League experience of Albrighton as a late/inexpensive pick-up in draft/auction formats and a potential budget value in salary cap formats.
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