In Depth Team Guides, Part 2 – Aston Villa, West Brom, Sunderland

In Depth Team Guides, Part 2 is the second of a four-part guide that sizes up last season’s performance and makes recommendations for the first half of the season. This series isn’t merely a preseason guide – it is recommended that you refer to this guide during each international break as well, as it will contain rotation pairings useful for the various part of the first half of the season. Part 2 tells the tales of the survivors from last season’s relegation Battle Royale – we examine how new managers Sherwood, Advocaat and Pulis led their teams to survival, and we figure out how to utilise their strengths for the new season.

Aston Villa – We Sherwood Love Benteke Back

Prelude

Let’s get straight to the point – Benteke left an extremely big void for Tim Sherwood to fill (which has nothing to do with Benteke’s size), and Sherwood has bought some interesting replacements from Ligue 1. Idrissa Gueye and Jordan Amavi have been brought in as upgrades to the departed Fabian Delph and Matt Lowton respectively. Meanwhile, Jordan Ayew has also been brought in for Austrian Andreas Weimann, so we’re expecting Sherwood to stick to the same philosophy this season, whatever it may be.

Despite having something to show with the Benteke money, Sherwood has yet to answer the ultimate question on every FPL manager’s mind – who will score the goals for the Villans? Benteke’s all-rounded strengths bailed Villa out of trouble heaps of times last seasons, whether from crosses, individual brilliance or simply brute force. Sherwood’s ability as a motivator now comes under scrutiny as he will negotiate 2015/16 with a mix of old and new players, and getting the most out of his men will be key if Villa were to remain in the division.

Aston Villa in the Numbers, 2014/15

Attack:

Villa’s extremely limited number of matches put up some interesting figures; bordering on the bizarre, quite frankly. Their Jekyll & Hyde performances range from their convincing “4 shots on target, 4 goals” performance against Sunderland to the profligate 1-0 win over West Ham in May that saw them net once in 14 tries. What’s interesting here is that Villa do take a fair percentage of their shots from outside the box. Fortunately, it is this very statistic

Defense:

Villa’s defensive numbers were almost non-existent during Tim Sherwood’s tenure – Brad Guzan’s save percentage that fluctuated between 50 and 70%, bar the miraculous month of March, where they limited Swansea, West Brom and Sunderland to only 2 goals. While they predictably conceded heaps against the big sides, Villa papered over their “cracks” with clinical finishing, as seen in their 3-3 draw against QPR, as well as their 3-2 win over Everton. There doesn’t seem to be an indicator of whether home strength plays a part, and perhaps a separate study has to be done another day; whatever the reason, Villa’s new recruits at least give us some hope that they’ll improve at the back.

Who Do We Need for 2015/16, and Why

Aston Villa’s value in defense got a shot in the arm recently, as Micah Richards joined Sherwood’s brigade – FPL veterans would have vivid memories of an extremely young fullback galloping forward from right back, and you’d trust him to have the same impact when given the chance.

Based on Sherwood’s performances from last season, we all know that there are two versions of the Villans that could potentially show up. However, their home strength is still something to be reckoned with, and with that in mind we present Villa’s best rotations:

GW 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
AVL
bou
MUN
cry
SUN
lei
WBA
liv
STK
SOU
new
EVE
wat
NOR
wba
MUN
SWA
che
 GW 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
AVL
bou
MUN
cry
SUN
lei
WBA
liv
STK
WAT
eve
WBA
SOU
mci
SWA
new
CRY
bou
GW 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
AVL
bou
MUN
cry
SUN
lei
WBA
liv
STK
WHU
ars
LEI
BOU
liv
NEW
mci
NOR
sun

The tradeoff here seems to be between reliability and home strength. Villa’s partners present some fixture pairings that completely avoid the top 6 altogether. However, Watford and West Ham’s strength at home are complete unknowns for obvious reasons. Southampton have 2 more away games, but against fairly winnable opposition, Europa League fatigue is their only concern.

Perhaps the “tiebreaker” here lies in what happens after their fixture strength runs out over the first 8:

 GW 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16
AVL
che
SWA
tot
MCI
eve
WAT
sou
ARS
SOU
lei
liv
BOU
SUN
STK
mci
AVL
cry
 GW 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16
AVL
che
SWA
cb-M
MCI
eve
WAT
sou
ARS
SUN
wba
NEW
eve
SOU
cry
STK
ars
WAT
GW 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16
AVL
che
SWA
tot
MCI
eve
WAT
sou
ARS
WHU
cry
CHE
wat
EVE
tot
WBA
mun
STK

There are a few notable observations here:

  • All of Villa’s rotation partners after the second international break are Premier League sides from the ‘best of the rest”. If you’re looking at sides without Europa League commitments for a rotation partner, Sunderland seems to stand out and despite playing Southampton twice.
  • Fixture strength doesn’t particularly favour a Villan/X pair here. An even mix of home and away games means that you’re purely relying on form rather than home strength – for Aston Villa defenders you might get away with it, but with their partners, you might get caught out here.
  • Villa/Southampton and Villa/West Ham are incredibly consistent. If a particular Villa defender shows both attacking and defensive form, you’re very welcome to spend transfers alternating between Southampton and West Ham as a decent strategy, perhaps capitalising on whoever hits form between their attacking fullbacks.

West Brom – Same Cast, Different Plot?

Prelude

SOLID is the most apt description you can give to any side under Tony Pulis, and 2015/16’s squad looks even more polished with the addition of modest, yet “solid” players such as James McClean, James Chester and Ricky Lambert. The seasoned FPL manager can tell you the glory years of all 3 names mentioned, and under Tony Pulis’ guidance there is a very good chance that direct football will be the name of the game for the 2015/16 season.

West Brom’s biggest predicament come the new season lies within improving on their 4-2-3-1. While its solidity is unquestionable, Albion’s personnel loss in the shape of Mulumbu only leaves Yacob, Gardner and Fletcher in the defensive midfield role. The fullback role is another mystery that upset many a manager last season – Chris Brunt’s conversion to that spot dented a lot of their Fantasy appeal, especially as Craig Dawson was equally impotent in right-back.

West Brom in the Numbers, 2014/15

Attack:

When a team scores 13 of their 19 goals from set pieces and 8 of them from corners, there’s a sinking feeling that West Brom needs to hire Roberto Carlos as their set piece coach in order to improve any further. Interestingly, “only 5” of these 13 goals were scored at home, and to add to the intrigue, West Brom managed to better a goal a game at home, scoring 11 goals in 9. Caution should be preached, however, as this included the 3-0 final day win over a second string Chelsea, so if you’re looking at Brom as the glass half-empty, 8 goals in 8 isn’t a particularly attractive statistic to depend on.

The silver lining in the numbers is that they do equally well away from home, albeit depending on dead ball situations. Here’s contrast for you – all 8 goals West Brom scored were from dead balls, compared to 5 of the Baggies’ 10 goals at home. I’m not joking – they scored from 2 from the corner flag against Burnley, Berahino nabbed one against Villa from a scrambled corner, Puncheon got one directly while Gardner’s screamer was off a corner clearance, Olsson’s winner against Man United came via a deflected free kick, McAuley’s consolation against Arsenal was via a corner and Anichebe equalised against Newcastle from a free kick.

Defense:

Now, let’s explore the obvious – where exactly did the Baggies improve under Pulis defensively? The first obvious answer lies within their shot preventing ability. Brom’s shots-on-target conceded per month dropped from 4~5 a game (21 in 5 games in November, 25 in 6 games in December) way down to 13 in 4 (just over 3 per game) and 11 in 4 (just under 3 per game) during the months of January and February respectively. Pulis also managed to control the types of shots Brom conceded, which led to a significant rise in both keepers’ save percentages – Foster’s rose by a good 10% while Myhill bettered that, bar the final day defeat against Arsenal.

Who Do We Need for 2015/16, and Why

Chris Brunt! Free kicks, corners and such make him an obvious pick if you want a cheap, no brainer pick that is likely to be fixture proof. It doesn’t matter if he shows up at left back really; unless he doesn’t make the starting XI, he’s a gem no matter where he plays.

West Brom’s defenders strangely have not inflated despite Pulis’ fantastic defensive record during his tenure. Whatever the reason, permanently playing a West Brom defender is completely out of the question, particularly in the period before the transfer window closes – Man City, Chelsea, and an extremely dangerous Stoke game at the Britannia will certainly have you diving for cover even if you’ve decided to have Myhill at the ready.

The light at the end of the tunnel is that their fixtures peak after the first international break, making them decent rotation partners (or even permanent first XI material) for the rest of the first half of the season. With avoiding their first 4 in mind, here’s what you could possibly work with at the very start:

GW 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
WBA
MCI
wat
CHE
stk
SOU
avl
EVE
cry
SUN
nor
LEI
mun
STK
LIV
tot
nor
WBA
ars
LEI
BOU
avl
swa
WAT
new
CHE
GW 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
WBA
MCI
wat
cb-M
stk
SOU
avl
EVE
cry
SUN
nor
LEI
mun
SUN
lei
NOR
SWA
avl
TOT
bou
mun
WHU
wba
NEW
eve
SOU
GW 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
WBA
MCI
wat
CHE
stk
SOU
avl
EVE
cry
SUN
nor
LEI
mun
NOR
CRY
sun
STK
sou
BOU
liv
whu
LEI
new
WBA
mci
SWA
GW 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
WBA
MCI
wat
CHE
stk
SOU
avl
EVE
cry
SUN
nor
LEI
mun
BOU
AVL
liv
whu
LEI
nor
SUN
stk
WAT
mci
TOT
sou
NEW

Among the plethora of options present, a new pairs stand out immediately, and just like [insert team here], the risk/reward scenarios are as follows:

  • Pairing them with 3 particular sides – Norwich, Bournemouth or Sunderland may give you more home games, but they are mostly against established Premier League sides. If you’re a firm believer that the Hawthorns will be a fortress in the opening weeks, go with that rotation.
  • The remaining partner, Stoke, and symbolises a further unique approach. The WBA/Stoke pair has Liverpool as their first game (better than Man City at least) but they go on a fantastic run of fixtures after that, stretching all the way to Gameweek 12.

As a closing statement to the strategy, here’s a suggestion you can use to optimise West Brom’s fixture strength – You pick the partner you want to pair with West Brom, find a suitable rotation for THAT partner for the first 4 Gameweeks, and you pick up the West Brom player after the break. For instance, pairing Stoke and Sunderland at the start will work for 4 weeks. After the break, you could switch out either defender for a WBA one to exploit WBA’s synergy with either defender!.

Sunderland – Devil’s Advocaat

Prelude

Younes Kaboul, Sebastian Coates and Jeremain Lens join Dick Advocaat’s men at the Stadium of Light as Sunderland attempt to build on the salvage of their horror season which was 2014/15. After sacking Gus Poyet with 4 wins going into March, Advocaat pushed them over the line with 3 more vital ones, finishing the season in 16th by beating Newcastle, Southampton and Everton.

One of the keys to their revival was Advocaat’s bravery in fielding 3 center forwards on the pitch – Graham, Defoe, Fletcher and Wickham all spells up top and they delivered the goods, albeit in sporadic fashion. Sunderland’s 4-3-3 worked as a double edged sword, utilising Patrick van Aanholt’s marauding runs into the box but they were extremely outnumbered on the flanks otherwise. With Antoine’s Reveillere’s release and no replacement in sight, perhaps we’ll see Advocaat use 4 central defenders, similar to Pulis’ setup at West Brom.

Sunderland in the Numbers, 2014/15

Attack:

4 games home and away isn’t a lot to work with, and in all honesty, Sunderland didn’t exactly improve in attack either. This is probably why the talk of the town isn’t about Sunderland attack despite their opening fixtures being so great – there is literally no one that is the focus of their team strategy, and the manner of their victories last season were somewhat fortunate as well. Gomez’ 2 penalties come to mind, as well as Defoe’s wonder strike against Newcastle would ring a few bells, but apart from van Aanholt’s dangerous moments, Advocaat’s rescue mission certainly didn’t have any extended highlights either.

Defense:

The backline’s improvement was certainly key to their survival here. They basically turned from an extremely poor outfit (conceding 7 shots on target a game) into an average side (about 4-5 a game), despite switching to a more attacking formation – central midfield dominance seems to be the key for Sunderland, with Cattermole and Gomez extremely vital cogs in the center of the park that sets a platform for their front 3 to toil without the need to track back. There have been worrying signs of Sunderland’s forwards tracking back that has dented their appeal – memories of Defoe tracking back down the wing, unable to participate in counterattacks as a result would be pretty familiar if you’re a Sunderland fan.

Who Do We Need for 2015/16, and Why

Sunderland’s defenders are going to be immensely popular come Gameweek 1. Their opening 4 fixtures are incredibly safe (if you’ve done any homework) and more significantly, they’ve only bought ONE centerback, which makes John O’Shea a very likely starter unless Sebastian Coates makes a miracle start over Kaboul and O’Shea.

Despite Sunderland’s fixtures becoming sour after their first 4, their home games remain incredibly strong. Spurs on Gameweek 5 and Liverpool in Gameweek 19 aside, Sunderland do not face last year’s top 4 at home in the opening half of the season, providing them some decent options for rotation. Since their opening 4 is so strong, I’ve decided to put more weight on their fixtures from Gameweeks 5-12 rather than 1-8:

GW 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
SUN
TOT
bou
mun
WHU
wba
NEW
eve
SOU
WHU
NEW
mci
NOR
sun
cry
CHE
wat
EVE
 GW 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
SUN
TOT
bou
mun
WHU
wba
NEW
eve
SOU
SOU
wba
MUN
SWA
che
lei
liv
BOU
sun
GW 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
SUN
TOT
bou
mun
WHU
wba
NEW
eve
SOU
WBA
SOU
avl
EVE
cry
SUN
nor
LEI
mun

As mentioned earlier, it seems that the “early no West Brom” strategy looks extremely effective and Sunderland/Southampton seem to be the only pair that is able to challenge that after Gameweek 4. The strategy here seems pretty straightforward, so let’s focus on what happens when things start to go south for the 3 pairs above.

An issue with Sunderland’s back end of the first half is that they have an incredibly tough November. Arsenal, Chelsea, Man City and Liverpool over 5 Gameweeks is not something to be optimistic about, so you’re better off selling before this dangerous period. I’m sure as long as you’re active enough in the FPL community, you’ll get that warning early enough anyway.

Authors

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Berbacat

A passionate fan of football related tactics, attempting to translate it into writing, futsal, and Fantasy Football.

20 thoughts on “In Depth Team Guides, Part 2 – Aston Villa, West Brom, Sunderland

  1. My team
    Butland
    Ruddy
    Clyne
    Mertesacker
    Huth
    Darmian
    Baker
    Depay
    fabregas
    Sterling
    Ozil
    Sinclair
    Kane
    Pelle
    Benteke

    Lots of formations available,

    Any good guys

  2. Fantastic stuff Berba! Just go on! https://cdn4.fantasyfootballfirst.co.uk/wp-content/plugins/wp-monalisa/icons/tiphat.gif

    I’ll have the freedom to once again repeat teams from last night. I’m going to sleep, I hope I’m not boring. I play with my friends in the league where the winner receives a jersey so it’s essential this season. https://cdn4.fantasyfootballfirst.co.uk/wp-content/plugins/wp-monalisa/icons/idunno.gif

    Click to enlarge image

  3. Interesting stuff…

    Considering WBA’s defence, I don’t see why having a defender will be a disaster for four weeks. I just can’t see myself wasting an early season FT on a mid-priced defender! I’ve got Myhill/Hennessey as my current goalie rotation and they work pretty well until Speroni gets back. I’m definitely not getting a different keeper just for four weeks…
    Other than that everything makes sense to me and is very helpful!

    • At the end of last season results at home were
      Villa Clean sheets in 8 games 0.00
      Palace Clean sheets in 9 games 1

      Considering that I wouldn’t touch Villa or Palace with a rusty barge pole for defence until they show they have signed a hypnotist at centre back.

  4. I need one more 4.5 def and I already have Clyne, Cedric, Huth & O,Shea (picked over Coates).
    Thinking of Micah Richards, opinions please on his prospects form etc?

    • @Ross I’m in the same boat. I have Azpi, Mert, Cedric, 4.0 & 4.5.

      I’m between:
      Bassong (Had him a couple of years ago, he’s carring a cure)
      Huth (Have schimi in net)
      Francis (Potential but unproven)
      Richards (Aston Villa have been VERY poor defensively)
      Coates (People are saying he is nailed over O’Shea)
      O’Shea (Doubts about starting)
      Gomez (Currently in the team but have Milner & Benteke)

      What are you thinking?

      • @ceegee I am in almost exactly the same boat as you,

        I have Azpi, Bellerin, and Cedric Plus Targett and Oxford.

        I am tempted to downgrade Cedric to Yoshida and put in a 4.5m Sunderland defender due to their rotation with Southampton.

        Do people think this is a good idea or stick with as is???

  5. Thanks for another great pre-season article!!https://cdn4.fantasyfootballfirst.co.uk/wp-content/plugins/wp-monalisa/icons/10outof10.gif Summer is over and time to get back on the FPL horse! Not possible to get it done without the help of all your articles and analysis’s.
    Cant wait for the season to get started!!

  6. As a Sunderland fan I would be very very surprised if O’Shea starts over Coates. Also, we have Billy Jones who is a RB and we brought in Matthews from Celtic who is also a RB, so there is no way in hell we’ll be playing 4 CB’s. Also, I don’t know what you’re talking about when you say we’ve only bought one CB when you mention above that we brought in Coates and Kaboul??

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