This article was written before the Mali vs Mauritania match. Some information is not up to date.
AFCON 2019 Round 1 matches are about to conclude and, as expected, Egypt, Nigeria, Morocco, Senegal, Algeria and Ivory Coast kicked off the tournament with excellent performances and a win — Tunisia was the only top contender that disappointed, with draw against Angola. Uganda showed solidity in defense and secured a convenient victory over DR Congo.
However, no team had a walk over to win its game, with four matches finishing at 1–0 and three matches at 2–0.
Round 1 was a low scoring GameWeek, with quite a few number of clean sheets and, so far, only Mali managed to score more than two goals, winning by 4–1 against Mauritania. In fact, before this game, we only had 16 goals scored in nine games (1.77 goals/match). To put that into perspective, AFCON2017, in Gabon, registered 66 goals across 32 matches, with an average of 2.06 goals/match.
This round raises questions whether fantasy managers need to reassess investing in heavy hitters from midfield and forwards. We analyzed each position and we collected all relevant data to come up with concrete conclusions from round 1.
Seven GKs managed to score 5 pts or more in round 1. Akpeyi (5.0M / NGA) was the star man in this position, with CS and 6 saves, taking him to 9 pts. It was interesting to see how goalkeepers from 3rd and 4th spot teams scored respectful fantasy points because of the number of saves.
Sibanda (4.5M / ZIM) conceded a sole goal from Trezeguet but he managed to score 6 pts, as he made 8 saves in the match.
Kazapua (4.0M / NAM) was the cheapest starting goalkeeper. He was on 8 pts until they conceded the unfortunate own goal in the last minutes of the game. He finished the game at 4pts.
Manula (4.5M / TAN) is another example of how to rack up the points just from the saves. Although Tanzania conceded two goals from Senegal, he managed to make 9 saves. That is 4 pts from saves. Manula finished at 5 pts.
Many Fantasy managers will have the tendency to pick the expensive goalkeepers from top-side teams who have higher chances to keep CS, but round 1 shows the ability of 4.0M and 4.5M to rack up the points just from saves, so fantasy managers may need to consider, potentially or deliberately, picking cheap goalkeepers who face teams like Egypt, Senegal, Nigeria — teams who will shoot on target more often.
We have seen a lot of value from the defenders in this first GameWeek. Egypt, Uganda, Nigeria, Morocco, Senegal and Algeria all kept clean sheets. Aina (6.0M / NGA), Ashraf (6.0M / EGY) and Atal (6.0M / ALG) rewarded their managers with an assist too, taking them to 10 pts tally, more than any other defender this round.
Another key aspect in the fantasy game is the number of balls recovered (BS). Aina (6.0M / NGA), Ashraf (6.0M / EGY), Sabaly (5.5M / SEN) and Walusimbi (5.0M / UGA) have all scored extra points by having more than 5 balls recovered in their matches.
Omar Moussa (4.0M / BDI) scored 4 pts, 2 of which came from 10 balls recovered, more than any other defender in round 1.
Uganda proved again that five clean sheets in six games in the qualification was not a matter of luck. They were very solid defensively and DR Congo could not find a way to break them down. Jjuuko (4.5M / UGA) and Mugabi (4.5M / UGA) are great options for clean sheets at this price bracket, while their teammate Walusimbi (5.0M) scored 7 pts (CS + 1 pt from 5 balls recovered).
Nigeria, Uganda and Egypt have great fixtures in GameWeek 2 and investing in this squads looks like the way to go. South Africa could offer CS potential as they face Namibia, who failed to register any shot on target against Morocco.
The high amount of clean sheets in round 1 may encourage fantasy managers to go heavy in the back. It will be tempting to go 4 in the back or even 5 in the back after seeing the potential the defenders can offer in the game.
Many fantasy managers were sweating on Hakim Ziyach (11.5M / MAR) to deliver points after moving the captaincy from Salah (13.0M /EGY), who scored only 5 pts. A late own goal (assisted by Ziyach) put those who kept faith in him with 8 pts. The question remains, did they justify their prices and shall managers keep the heavy hitters?
Salah (13.0M / EGY) did not score for Egypt in the first game but he had four shots on target, more than any other player in the tournament. Moreover, Salah created two attempts for assist, both missed by Mohsen (9.5M). This is what we expect from Salah as he finished the Premier League season with 64 shots on target, 14 more than the next player, Paul Pogba. Fantasy managers should expect Salah to continue his offensive role and goals are imminent for him.
Ziyach (11.0M / MAR) was Morocco’s MVP in their match vs Namibia. The midfielder had three shots on target, three attempts for assist and nine balls recovered, more than any of his teammates in all aspects. He is also on set-pieces, which boosts his fantasy prospects. Ziyach is a key player for the national team and his statistics suggest he will continue to deliver points because of his defensive and offensive sides.
Mahrez (10.5M / ALG) scored a goal in the game vs Kenya. Unlike Ziyach and Salah, Mahrez registered less shots on target (two) and attempts of assist (none). The heat map showed that the Algerian captain played in a deeper role, to support the midfield. That being said, Mahrez rewarded his fantasy managers with an extra point from 5 balls recovered, which makes him the perfect package to deliver offensive and defensive points.
Alex Iwobi (9.0M / NGA) and Wilfrid Zaha (9.5M / CIV) disappointed their managers with 3 and 1 point respectively. Iwobi played very deep on the left wing and did not make any shot in the game. However, he provided three attempts of assists but none was converted to a goal. Zaha started from the bench as Ivory Coast coach started Gradel (7.0M / CIV) on the left wing. Zaha came off the bench in the last 21 minutes but failed to make any impact.
The midfielders from the premium bracket put in great performances offensively and defensively which rewarded fantasy managers extra points from, for example, shots on target and ball recoveries. On the other hand, the midfielders from the mid-price bracket (7.0M-10.0M) failed to impress fantasy managers, unlike the budget midfielders. This raises question marks whether fantasy managers should invest in the mid-price bracket midfielders.
Unlike Defense and Midfield, there was much less value from the forwards in round 1. In fact, no forward scored more than 7 pts this round. Six players managed to score a goal, with five of them priced at 8.0M or less.
Ighalo (11.5M / NGA) was the only premium forward who started from the bench, came on in the last 17 minutes and scored the only goal for Nigeria vs Burundi.
Bounedjah (8.0M / ALG) met the expectations and carried on his fine form with his club to the national team, scoring from the penalty spot. He also registered four shots in total (but only one on target).
Kaddu (5.0M / UGA) was the most valuable forward this round by scoring a goal for Uganda and registering 6 pts.
The premium forwards failed to justify their price tag. Keeping faith in Ighalo may pay off given the great fixtures for Nigeria moving forward. Apart from that, it looks like the budget strikers can bring good value if you pick the right assets.
We can now connect all the dots from our analysis. Having low scoring results meant higher amount of clean sheets, hence high value in the defense and less opportunities for the expensive forwards to justify their prices. Meanwhile, Salah, Mahrez and Ziyach kicked off well statistically and returned relatively good fantasy points, but the expectations remain high on the Egyptian king to prove that he deserves to be the most expensive player in the game.
Many fantasy managers may reassess their investments and go big in defense, keep some heavy hitters in midfield and rely on the budget forwards to get the business done.