Welcome Fantasy A-League fans! In each edition of the Fantasy A-League Focus I’ll be taking a look at some of the key issues emerging in the A-League and analyse their implications for fantasy coaches.
As discussed in last week’s Fantasy A-League Focus, Shots on Target is probably the most important statistic in determining whether players and teams can sustain or improve their fantasy football form. To reiterate, if a team or player has a lot of shots on target, they’re likely to score a lot of goals (eventually), while if they aren’t registering many their goals will dry up.
Graham Arnold’s Sydney FC are currently top of the table after a late strike from Milos Ninkovic saw off cross-city rivals the Wanderers. They’ve had the most shots on target in the league (16, equal with 3 other teams) and conceded the least (3 – which is less than half of what the nearest team, Western Sydney, have conceded).
Against the Jets and the Wanderers, Sydney took the points with a late goal after earlier strikes from their opponents had been ruled out controversially for offside. So how on earth could anyone – save perhaps for Grumpy Graham – say they are unlucky? If anything, they have been extremely lucky, right?
Well, let’s have a look at the stats. Currently the Sky Blues are converting just under 19 per cent of their shots on target into goals – only Western Sydney are converting a lower percentage of their shots on target into goals.
Shots on Target (Team) after Round 3
(Stats via Opta / A-League match centre)
*Does not include own goals as they do not count as shots on target
Generally speaking, teams will convert roughly 30 per cent of their shots on target into goals – some will do better, some will do worse. Currently the league as a whole is converting 32 per cent of its shots on target into goals, which is exactly what it did last season.
Thanks to Gil Albertson’s fantastic Shooting Totals data tables, we can see that last season Melbourne Victory converted a league-high 44.1 per cent of their shots on target into goals, while the worst conversion percentage belonged to the Wanderers, with 23 per cent.
Sydney FC converted 34.7 per cent of their shots on target last season into goals, ranking them 5th.
So what does it all mean for fantasy coaches? Simply, that we can expect Sydney players to score more goals in future, provided that they continue to generate a lot of shots on target.
True, they only had the one this round against the Wanderers, however Western Sydney are one of the stingier teams in terms of allowing shots on target. As noted above only the Sky Blues have conceded a smaller number.
Their next opponents, the Central Coast Mariners, are a very different proposition indeed. They’ve conceded the most goals and the most shots on target (7 more than the next worst teams) this season.
Shots on Target Conceded (Team) after Round 3:
(Stats via Opta / A-League Match Centre)
*Does not include own goals as they do not count as shots on target
Hence why, as mentioned last week, Alex Brosque could be a good selection for the trip to Gosford, as may Ninkovic or Filip Holosko. Shane Smeltz is struggling so far in his new role as 1st choice striker, with just 1 shot on target in three games.
Sydney’s defence remains outstanding so far, making Vedran Janjetovic & co. worthwhile choices. However they will be tested against not only the attack-minded Mariners this week but the Roar and the Victory, who they face in Rounds 5 and 6.
Now if Sydney are unlucky, spare a thought for their rivals the Wanderers (unless you’re a Sky Blues fan, in which case you’ll probably elect to laugh instead).
Western Sydney are currently converting just 18.2 per cent of their shots on target into goals, while 57 per cent of the shots on target they’ve conceded have resulted in goals for the opposition. They are the worst team in the league in both of these statistics. And again, that does not count the own goal they copped against Adelaide too.
In Round 1 the Wanderers were indeed poor against Brisbane and conceded 3 goals through abysmal defending, but since then they’ve improved. They were unlucky not to take 3 points against Adelaide and were the better side against Sydney, with a Jaushua Sotirio goal ruled out through a close offside call.
Thanks to their defensive style of play and Tony Popovic’s frequent squad rotations, the Wanderers have typically been unreliable choices in fantasy – and their returns from the first 3 rounds probably don’t help their case again this season.
Indeed new striker Federico Piovaccari has struggled so far in terms of providing a danger to the opposition’s goal, with just 1 shot on target in 3 games, while Romeo Castelen – who came off injured against Sydney – hasn’t made the most of his chances, nor has Sotirio.
Perhaps a shining light will emerge soon, in the form of Dario Vidosic. Vidosic has had 3 shots on target (equal with Castelen as the most of any Wanderer) and 2 shot assists in just 138 minutes of action. As we saw during his time at Adelaide Vidosic can be a dangerous player, and he may be one Western Sydney player to add to your watch list.
Meanwhile, the Wanderers look much stronger in defence with the addition of Spanish import Alberto Aguilar ($150k). Aguilar picked up 2 bonus points for his performance in the Sydney Derby and could well be the added resolve their defence needs. Of course, this could also improve the output of ambitious left back Scott Jamieson, who would be expected to feature regularly in the line-up, and is more attacking than centre back Aguilar. He is however $250k, so if you are going with the cheap defenders strategy Aguilar is the man to consider.
What’s wrong with the Victory?
Well, not much really. Sure, the likes of Besart Berisha, Gui Finkler and Fahid Ben Khalfallah haven’t had the explosive starts to the season most would have expected, but they are still registering shots on target (3 in 3 games each, while Kosta Barbarouses has hit the target 4 times).
As noted above, Victory turned a league-high 44.1 per cent of their shots on target into goals last season, while the league average was 32 per cent.
This season, only 21.4 per cent of their shots on target have resulted in goals. So while they would do very well indeed to match their shots on target to goals percentage from last season, they’ll surely improve their current output given it is even below Western Sydney’s league-low shots on target to goals percentage of 23 per cent from last season.
Thanks again to Gil Albertson’s data, we know that last season the Victory’s shots on target to shots on target conceded ratio was 55 per cent – currently it is 56 per cent. So they are performing the same in this respect, it’s just that they are converting far less of their shots on target into goals this season.
Next up the Victory face Wellington at home. While Merrick’s men have allowed only 10 shots on target so far this season (1 less than Victory), 50 per cent have resulted in goals. While we can expect this too to decrease, on current form it suggests if Victory can produce a decent number of shots against the Phoenix they will have more luck in scoring goals. So consider sticking with your Victory stars despite the seemingly inconsistent start.
- The Jets are currently struggling to produce shots on target, but not goals. Unless they start getting more shots on target, expect that to change. Likewise, they’ve conceded just twice despite allowing 18 shots on target (only the reckless Mariners have allowed more).
- Brisbane profited from the Wanderers’ defensive calamities in Round 1, scoring from 3 of their 4 shots on target. Since then they’ve scored 4 from 11, a more realistic rate, and it’s fair to expect further regression. But as long as they keep getting shots on target they’ll keep scoring goals.
- Wellington forward Roy Krishna leads the league in shots on target with 7, 2 more than Fabio Ferreira. The Phoenix have a tough game in Melbourne against the Victory, but after that they face the Mariners…
- Adelaide are just terrible. Aside from phantom striker ‘Own Goal’ (not to be confused with this guy) they are yet to find the back of the opposition net, and have registered a league-low 5 shots on target. They’ve been a bit better down the other end, conceding only 9 shots on target (3rd best record in the league, behind the two Sydney teams). However, as Perth showed, you don’t need to create a lot of chances to score against the Reds. Ominously, a trip to visit league top scorers Brisbane is next. This all suggests you should consider moving on any Adelaide players you have, save for cheapies like ‘keeper John Hall.