There’s been some discussion for the past week or two about whether or not we should be looking to play more defenders in our starting XI’s. It’s pretty obvious for all to see that the defenders are getting quite a few more points than in previous years, and it is well noted that the midfield guns are seriously struggling. I thought I’d look into this a little bit and find some reasons why this could be occurring.
I’ve done some pretty basic analysis on some of the key statistics when considering a defender’s worth and potential point scoring ability, which then indirectly links into the midfielder output, that being goals conceded/scored and clean sheets. As you can see from the table above, it’s as clear as the sky is blue the number of goals scored has nose dived from the same time period in previous seasons. What we’ve noticed so far this season is that although the number of clean sheets is equivalent to the 2011/12 season as an example, the total number of goals is much lower.
Not that many of us can remember back to the 2011/12 however, so last season should be a better barometer as it’s fresher in our minds. The stats are vastly different… The total goals scored last season for the first three game weeks was 4.62 while so far this year it’s a mind numbingly low 3.03. That’s 1 ½ goals, per game… Clean sheets are 0.55 versus 0.83 this season.
There’s a heap of valid reasons why this could have occurred. Although not one of these could be directly attributed to this phenomenon, they all are part shareholders;
Managerial changes – There was a higher than normal number of clubs start this season with a new manager, particularly at the bigger clubs. When a manager takes over a club there is always a period of transition while the players get used to new techniques or game plans.
Season preparation – More clubs than ever before are leaving the shores of England and travelling to the four corners of the world on preseason tours. The associated problems with lack of regular training, injury treatment and jet lag would easily have contributed to a slow start.
Strikers – Not many clubs have started the season with strikers in form or have proven track records in the EPL. You could suggest that only Man Utd with RVP have someone we could rely on to score goals but outside of him Rooney, Welbeck and Chicarito are either sad, raw or injured. The rest have either bought brand new forwards who haven’t played in the EPL before (Spurs, Swansea), have far too many of them (Man City, Chelsea) or are just plain crap, injured or suspended (Everton, West Ham and Liverpool). The direct result of this is less fluid attacking play during the “bedding in” period or while the get back to fitness (or happiness).
Formation stagnation – Perhaps a more drastic idea but the 4-2-3-1 may have reached the end of its lifespan? There comes a time in every formation that the defence of it becomes so well drilled that it’s no longer effective. The past year or two have seen managers attempt to introduce slight tweaks to it such as false nines and inverted wingers, but maybe that’s not enough. Will someone have the courage to try something new?
EPL equalisation – With the increased TV revenue, the middle and lower tier clubs in the Premier League have been better equipped than before to buy expensive players. This has seen some of the clubs outside the top 4 dramatically improve their squads and may have led to a more even division. The likes of Norwich, Crystal Palace and Swansea have all spent around the 20m mark meanwhile Southampton topped them with nearly 40m! You wouldn’t have even thought about that a couple of years ago.
Oil Rich Europe – The number of clubs being bought by stupidly wealthy owners has increased in the past 12-18 months. Although the lower teams have been able to strengthen their squads during this time, the shops that the big clubs do their business at now have a lot more customers! I can assume the Bale deal held up a lot of potential transfers with only the Ozil transfer managing to be pushed through, but players like Cavani and Falcao have “surprisingly” chosen to ply their trade in the much less prestigious French league… I’m not saying those two would have come to England but there was less opportunities to become billionaires previously. This adds further weight to EPL equalisation theory…
Lastly, and probably more importantly… The way the Fantasy Premier League hands out bonus points has been tweaked, with a slight increase in the ability for defenders to score points. This would’ve been to make point scoring potential a little more even across the positions. The fact remains however, that the defenders have been doing a pretty good job and in a lot of cases have actually deserved the extra points.
Will this continue? No, it won’t. Once teams start becoming more settled with both the personnel they’ve recently procured and get used to the new manager’s style of play we will see the goals start to flow again.