The Perks of Playing Draft Style Fantasy Premier League Football

For years the only way to play fantasy Premier League football online was via the official Premier League site. Since then it has evolved into a massive game that includes the possibility of winning money or tickets or jerseys across several different sites. The problem with many of these leagues is that they are all based on a salary format wherein you are given a set salary to spend on the players you want. Each week you are limited in the number of transfers you can make and many of these leagues feature “cookie cutter” lineups that tend to sap a lot of the fun, particularly if you want to get risky and play a differential.

Last season I was introduced to a revolutionary idea in FPL in participating in draft style fantasy Premier League football. It is something that has been a staple in American fantasy sports and the concept is something that I grew up with while playing the old pencil and paper fantasy baseball as a kid.

The great thing about playing draft FPL is that your team doesn’t have to be so stale. If you don’t like a player you drafted you can drop him for a free agent or pick up a player on waivers. The other part I enjoy about Togga’s draft style FPL is that you can work out trades with other managers in your league.

If you need help getting started you can always message me on Twitter @Todd_Shenk or head over to Togga and check out their forums where you can get advice, help, or find a league that is drafting. Leagues can be started year round and the holiday period is a great time to start a half season league.

The following article outlines a recent trade in the writer’s league and is featured on Togga’s main blog site where you can find excellent pieces each day including player updates and rankings.

Deal Breakdown: Fabregas And Lamela vs. Ramsey And Shaqiri

Two members of Togga’s writing team recently agreed to a deal in our site’s Writers’ League: John sent out Aaron Ramsey and Xherdan Shaqiri and received Cesc Fabregas and Erik Lamela from Emmett. The players involved have been controversial from a fantasy perspective, so we thought we’d share our respective ideas on the deal, how draft FPL differs from salary-cap leagues, and would encourage you to leave your comments below as well.

John’s Thoughts:

The idea of this deal came about when Emmett sent a message out to our Slack group asking if anyone wanted to make a trade for a Chelsea player, as he was attempting to divest in the club.
Chelsea’s poor start to the season, and the nebulous distinction of Fabregas as one of the key players contributing to their demise, has done a lot to poison the well regarding perceptions of Fabregas’s performances, but are those perceptions realistic, or does their inaccuracy make him buy-low candidates?
While Fabregas has been pretty solidly at or above par for an eight-team league, he’s been harmed by Chelsea’s lack of team success. He has almost the same counting statistics as he had in the second half of last season, but far fewer points as he hasn’t earned the clean sheet bonus. Cesc has also, in an ‘off-season, already racked up 24 chances created (23rd among Togga players). If that number was borne out in other statistics, he’d again be among the best Togga midfielders, but he’s only had two of those 24 chances converted into goals–Wes Hoolahan, on the other hand, has created 22 chances, and earned five assists.

Chelsea is certainly in poor form at the moment, and Mourinho may need to be shown the door. But the level of talent at the club can only be muted for so long. The January transfer window, at the very least, will see a capable striker (rumors of Zlatan Ibrahimovic) come into the club and give Cesc someone more reliable to fire passes into. If Fabregas had been playing with reliable finishers and had a total of, say, six assists instead, he’d have added 20 points to his season total and likely made the deal a non-starter.
This being the case, the bigger concern for me is Cesc’s career trajectory after the Christmas period. It’s become a recurring trend that the former Barcelona man’s form spikes and then goes on a gradual decline when Saint Nick goes on his world tour. I needed to pull the trigger now to minimize the long-term risk of the deal.

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Fabregas’s 2014-15 Season. The Y-Axis is ‘Squawka Score’: a performance score that roughly correlates to Togga fantasy performance.

Since Emmett was looking to move a player, I knew that I had room to negotiate, but I was also short on assets–especially in midfield. He offered me Fabregas for Ramsey straight up. I declined; while this deal was probably fair, I had Fabregas’s new year form in my head and to needed to firmly win the deal in order to get my four win, six loss side back up the league table, so I countered by adding Lamela and Shaqiri to the deal.

Adding Lamela was my secret weapon. Like Fabregas, he’s another player who’s harmed more by a poisoned narrative and poor form than his actual performances. If one thing’s clear, it’s that Pocchetino is going to stick with the Argentine winger, as he’s turned into one of the more industrious wide players in England and given himself to the team and Pocchetino’s pressing style.
And his recent poor performances came away against Arsenal, at home against Chelsea, and away against West Brom. These are three of the better, battle tested defensive lines in the Premier League. Over the course of the season he’s absolutely feasted on the traditional mid-table and lower clubs. Fixtures against Norwich and Newcastle on the horizon could prove immensely profitable.
While there is some risk in acquiring two sublimely talented players who are clearly performing below par, Shaqiri and Ramsey had produced nothing for my team. Before their stellar weeks last week, both had only put up 15+ points twice this season. I drafted them on the promise of Ramsey’s goalscoring prowess and Shaqiri’s creative freedom, but they had yet to live up to those expectations.

Cutting bait on these players after their best weeks was a difficult decision, but it might have been my only chance to do so at ‘face value’. The odds of Ramsey making it through the season unscathed by injury are mediocre, and even so he’s never created 50 chances in a Premier League season. I can’t afford anymore ‘nothing’ performances.

Emmett’s Thoughts:

I had a midfield containing both Eden Hazard and Cesc Fabregas so, since I was a bit Chelsea heavy in midfield, I started fishing around for a reasonable trade offer to take the Spaniard off my hands. I noticed John had Aaron Ramsey in his squad and I had zero Arsenal coverage. With Cazorla and Coquelin both injured, Ramsey would revert back to his favoured central midfield position–where he had been so “fantasy” productive in the past. The only risk, from my perspective, is that the Welshman is almost as unreliable as Daniel Sturridge, and who knows when he will break down next.

However, the potential upside of him returning to the numbers he has shown in the past from the centre of midfield made this a risk worth taking in my mind, and, as I will argue below, Fabregas appears to be a player in decline. Take a look at my previous article entitled Ramsey vs. Redmond to get more on Ramsey.
John was not going to be so kind, though, and instead requested Eric Lamela and in return would throw Xherdan Shaqiri into the bargain. At first I was a little reluctant to lose Spurs midfield coverage, especially with the way Spurs are performing this season but, it could be argued that with Spurs in the Europa league, Lamela is more at risk to get rested, especially with healthy competition in that area between himself, Son, Chadli and Dembele vying for 2 of the 3 attacking midfield roles for Spurs (assuming Eriksen starts). I have started to warm to the idea of Shaqiri and even though his output is a little erratic (11.2 points/90), his form at the Britannia is excellent. Considering that I already own Hazard, Silva, Henderson, Sissoko and Sadio Mane, Shaqiri might be a nice option for Stoke’s home games.

Anyway for me, the critical trade here was Fabregas for Ramsey and this is why I decided to let the Spaniard go, so let’s delve deeper:
When Fernando Torres signed for Chelsea in the January transfer window of 2011, only the nostalgic were sad to see him go. Since his electrifying maiden season for Liverpool in which he scored 34 goals in all competitions, Torres’ output gradually deteriorated, along with his fitness. He averaged 23 Premier League games for his final 3 seasons at Anfield. Once he went to Chelsea, the rest was history. He only scored 20 goals in his 110 Premier League games for the South Londoners and looked a shadow of the player he was in his first stint for Athletico Madrid and his first couple of seasons for Liverpool.

You are probably wondering why I am talking about Torres, but bear with me; he is an example of a player thrust into the limelight too early in his career (he was Atletico’s captain at the age of 19) and ended up approaching a burn out late into his twenties. The same can be said of Wayne Rooney, who debuted for Everton at 16 before moving to Manchester United two years later. He sparkled and shone for many seasons but now looks nothing more than shadow of his best.

This doesn’t stop lots of folks to continue picking him in his or her Fantasy Teams’. We are all victims of memory bias whether it be Rooney’s stunning Champions League debut hat trick against Fenerbahce or his scissor kick against Manchester City, when you think of Rooney you think of one of the best strikers of his generation. The stats don’t lie, however, and his performance over the last couple of seasons has been horrible, so bad in fact that it forced United to go out and spend crazy money on a French teenager.

So along with Torres and Rooney, you can add Cesc Fabregas to this infamous list. The Spaniard made his debut for Arsenal at the age of sixteen after being snatched from Barcelona’s youth system. During his time in North London he gradually became a talismanic figure so much so that he became captain at the age of 21. After 7 full seasons at Arsenal only Thierry Henry, Wayne Rooney, Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard and Ryan Giggs made more assists than Fabregas, which will give you an idea of the sort of Fantasy powerhouse he was and this output has only started to really fade in the last 12 months. Take a look at the following comparisons of early season (Pre-January) and late season (Post-December) from the last 3 and a half seasons:

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Fabregas’ output pre and post January for the 2012/13 and 2013/14 seasons is pretty consistent. The real change however is when he moved to Chelsea. After a blistering start where he notched up an incredible 326 points before the New Year his tally diminished considerably in the second half of the season. To those who argue that this is typical Fabregas (that he starts well and then fades) then surely his form this season should be more in line with the beginning and not the end of last season.
This analysis coupled with watching Chelsea over the past twelve months has led me to believe this is not a blip and perhaps more in line with a player who started his professional career and is now experiencing something close to a burn-out.

Only time will tell whether Fabregas turns out to be another Torres or Rooney or he returns to the midfield dynamo we know and love; It’s a reasonable risk to avoid finding out.