Neal Thurman

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FPL Draft Preview Week 11

Thursday, November 1, 2018

After Premier League Week 9, we focused on Arsenal and how draft fantasy managers should be looking at their long win streak as they construct their squads and value waiver claims and trades.  In the wake of Week 10, we’re going to move across North London and give the same treatment to Spurs who, popular narrative will tell you, are heading in the opposite direction from their neighbors.


The narratives associated with Spurs’ start to the season are as well-known as Arsenal’s. 


-          A large percentage of their key first choice side played through the final weekend of this summers’ World Cup with Belgium and England playing in the consolation match and France winning the final.

-          They doubled down on any potential fatigue issues by not refreshing their squad in the transfer market…at all.

-          The construction of the new White Hart Lane has been a bit of an embarrassment with small delays turning into larger delays culminating in this past weekend where they were forced to play the reigning champions on a pitch still lined with NFL markings and looking in disrepair from the (defending Super Bowl Champion) Philadelphia Eagles and Jacksonville Jaguars making the middle of the pitch a muddy, dirty mess a day before.

-          There are unsubstantiated concerns that Spurs face an even more difficult financial situation than Arsenal did when constructing the Emirates Stadium and that that was the root cause of their lack of transfer activity and that it could hinder their activity well into the future as their debt service weighs down their financial health.

-          Christen Eriksen only has 18 months to go on his contract and Barcelona and Real Madrid have been linked early and often.

-          Finally, the rumors about Mauricio Pochettino being frustrated with the situation and looking for an exit to Real Madrid or Manchester United continue. 

-          Despite all of the drama, injuries, fatigue, and mediocre performances, Spurs are a mere point off of the Top 4.


With Arsenal last week, we looked at progress against logical metrics like Top 4 and Title aspirations as well as what it all means for fantasy value.  We’ll do the same for Spurs in reverse as we look at whether they have regressed from being title and/or top four contenders and apply that context to the value of their players in FPL Draft for the remainder of this season.


Are They Worse?  

If you read the prevailing narratives, you’d think the bottom has dropped out at Spurs so far this season.  Harry Kane isn’t right.  Christen Eriksen has been injured.  Jan Vertonghen is out for a while more.  Dele Alli has regressed.  Hugo Lloris has make missteps on and off the pitch.  Mauricio Pochettino is frustrated and eying the exit door.  These guys must really be regressing. 


Hmm, not so fast my friends.  Here are last seasons’ key team metrics after 10 matches compared to those from this season:


2017-18: P10 W6 D2 L2 GF19 GA7 GD12 Points 20 Position 3rd

2018-19: P10 W7 D0 L3 GF16 GA 8 GD8 Points 21 Position 5th


Any good stats geek will tell you that the results at the level of the table are not necessarily the best barometer to measure how well a team is playing but, for me, you can look at it in two ways.  You could say that there is a little weakness based on goal differential (the best high-level team-based predictor of future performance) that could signal some regression to come compared to last season.  The alternative view, and the one I endorse, is that Spurs are doing remarkably well despite a difficult early situation and are well-positioned to be even better as key pieces get healthier and the rest of the league regresses to their level of exhaustion after Spurs started the season at a disadvantage due to their collective World Cup participation.


I’m not trying to apologize for the performances managers have seen from their high round Spurs draft picks to date.  What I’m suggesting is that things are likely to start picking up as Christen Eriksen comes back into the line-up as the primary catalyst for the attack.  Sometimes that one minor change is all it takes for everything else to suddenly click into place.


So, Are They Top Four Contenders?

I spent time last week discussing Arsenal’s top four chances which, based on what we’ve seen so far from City, Liverpool, and Chelsea, are inextricably tied to Spurs’ chances.  Barring significant purchases in January, Arsenal are what they are.  A team that is likely to beat most of the teams below them and struggle with the big boys.  The range of outcomes for Spurs seems wider. 


If the health and fatigue issues persist and there isn’t significant transfer market activity in January, then there is certainly a case for this being a lost season at Spurs as some of the 1-0 wins against bottom half teams become 1-1 draws or even losses due to continued subpar performances.  That is certainly the worst-case scenario.  In this scenario, Spurs are likely headed for the Europa League next season.


More likely, Harry Kane more closely resembles Harry Kane for the rest of the season and Christen Eriksen returns to something approaching his best and Spurs are on par with Arsenal beating the also-rans of the league while not necessarily being up to the standard of the top three.  In this, most likely, scenario Spurs and Arsenal battle it out until the final weeks of the season for fourth and fifth. 


The upside for Spurs is remembering that at this point last season, Son Hueng-Min had been almost entirely either absent or missing in action, Lucas Moura hadn’t arrived yet, and Erik Lamela wasn’t back from injury.  Moura has been one of the bright spots thus far this season but if he can keep up his form while Kane and Eriksen come back and one or both of Son and Lamela get back to their best then Spurs all-of-a-sudden have some depth.  If Jan Vertonghen comes back in December as predicted then the depth across the pitch starts looking much more impressive.  In this case, it seems likely that Spurs will be favorites for fourth over Arsenal. 


Do They Have a Shot at The Title?

No, but they never really did so nothing that has happened since mid-August really changes the title equation.


So, What Does It All Mean for Fantasy?

My philosophy in draft fantasy games is consistent across sports, when considering narratives and opportunities, I tend to look for big upside.  There are almost always opportunities to pick up solid contributors on waivers based on match-ups for a week or two. What isn’t always available is an opportunity to pick up a player with star-quality upside for less than an equal asset. The negative press around Spurs’ early season form may present just that opportunity.  Here’s a rundown of how to look at Spurs stars and role players going forward:

-          Harry Kane – As much as I’d love to say Spurs’ perceived slump might be enough to make Harry Kane available for fantasy managers, I suspect that the investment of the first, second or third overall pick is probably too big of a mental hurdle for a manager to overcome.  Perhaps the best trade you could construct is a multi-star trade where the manager you trade with can devalue Kane to slightly without getting a big name in return.  Something with a North London flavor that might work: Kane + Trippier for Lacazette (productive but without the peak value of Kane) + Bellerin (currently at the peak of his value after a run of attacking contributions).

-          Christen Eriksen – Here’s where I get excited about a potential value acquisition.  Eriksen has been out longer than expected.  He’s not performed when he has been “healthy”.  Mauricio Pochettino has intimated that he will have to be judicious with Eriksen once he does return. Reason to stay away? Maybe.  It feels like an opportunity to me.  Especially with the lack of high-quality midfielders playing regular minutes this season.  I’d see if I could get Eriksen for someone whose value is really high right now like Roberto Pereyra.  From a brand name standpoint, it isn’t an equal trade but Pereyra is the 6th most productive midfielder in the game so far this season.  Seeing where both go from here would be fascinating.

-          Dele Alli – Alli hasn’t played a full match since Week 4.  His point total is lower than Eric Dier.  Last season was already something of a regression from the heights of 2016-17, albeit one where he scored 9 and assisted on 13.  If your presumption is that there’s a bounce back coming for Alli to get at least close to double digit goals and assists (he’s currently sitting on 1 and 1) then that means that the rest of the season should be pretty productive.  Frankly, I wouldn’t even offer something as valuable as what we’ve seen from Pereyra.  I’d be looking more in the Theo Walcott or Johann Berg Gudmundsson territory.  The production has been solid and consistent from both and would offer solidity in place of the wildcard that is Dele Alli’s current profile.

-          Son Hueng-Min – I’m curious how many leagues he’s even owned in, this might be a waiver wire claim for a manager who has a lot of certain production from his or her other four midfielders.  Just remember that it was about this point last season when Son had next to no production and many, myself included, dropped him outright just before he went on an exceptional run of production for the rest of the campaign.

-          Lucas Moura – He’s been productive enough that you’re (rightfully) holding on to him.

-          Erik Lamela – He certainly has the potential but he’s more likely a Moura handcuff give the combination of others in front of him for play time and his injury history.

-          Kieran Trippier – A top tier defender.  There’s some upside here if Spurs start scoring more but his value is probably taken less of a hit due to the clean sheets Spurs have been compiling in their listless 1-0 wins.

-          Ben Davies – Talk about disappointing from a fantasy point-of-view, Davies has struggled mightily for both production and playing time.  Like Son, I’d consider picking him up if he’s available on waivers and my other four defenders were rock solid starters giving me a portfolio of strong to solid output.

-          Hugo Lloris – Like Trippier, his fantasy value has exceeded the narrative on him this season due to Spurs’ propensity for 1-0 wins.  The goalkeeper trade market seems likely to be limited but you might consider a switch from a mid-tier GK to Lloris as part of another trade as a potential upgrade.

So, last week I discussed that while Arsenal’s quality as a real life team seems to be going up that I was looking to divest from them as fantasy players other than a few examples.  The opposite is true with Spurs.  They definitely seem to be slightly less impressive a proposition as a squad as they were last season but they’re not nearly as far off the pace as the media narrative would have you believe.  Barring a Pochettino exit, my view is that Spurs are more likely to reclaim something close to their previous form than not.  That makes their big names great “buy low” candidates after modest production to start off the fantasy season. 


Waiver Wire Thoughts

As has become customary in this column, here are a few unexpected (and likely available) names who killed it in Week 10 and you may be considering adding on waivers:

  • Ross Barkley – We’ve covered him before and he’s probably already gone from your waiver wire but, if not, he continues to show us that his long trip through the wilderness may be coming to a close.
  • Luka Milivojevic – I wrote about midfield penalty-takers in my column on the site this week.  Milivojevic was a great 3rd or 4th midfield starter last season but this season, despite the outburst against Arsenal, he’s been a flop.  His 33 points total looks adequate for a low end squad player in an 8-team league but given that half of that total came in one week, that’s just not good enough to make him rosterable in any but the largest leagues.
  • Bruno – The fullback’s three-match production of 7, 6, and 12 points likely owes more to the scheduler than anything that should be considered sustainable.  That said, the schedule for the next six weeks remains pretty kind before a brutal stretch from mid-December to mid-January.  If you need a 5th defender, you could certainly do worse for the next six weeks.
  • Kiko Femenia – The starter of three in a row as Watford have rebounded from their dip in form.  He has yielded 18 fantasy points over his past two matches.  Like Bruno above but with a shorter (two match) window before the schedule gets too tough for him to make sense.   
  • Wilfried Ndidi – Hard to get too excited here despite the big week.  It wasn’t half of his production for the year but it was more than a third.  Not a good sign ten matches in.


If I didn’t cover a player or trend you’re interested in knowing about, you can always find me on Twitter @nealjthurman and ask or put the question to the entire Rotoworld Premier League team @Rotoworld_PL.

Neal Thurman manages the Rotoworld's Premier League coverage and contributes to Never Manage Alone which he co-founded. He is also a diehard Arsenal supporter. You can find him on Twitter @NealJThurman.
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