FanDuel Soccer Strategy: Does Stacking Work in EPL DFS?
Stacking is a crucial element in some daily fantasy sports, particularly NFL and MLB, as loading up on players from one team -- or one game -- raises the ceiling of your lineup.
There have been studies done for those sports (other cool stuff linked above) which show stacking is the way to go. There haven't been as many deep dives done on stacking in Premier League daily fantasy, even though plenty of EPL DFS players deploy some type of stack in their lineups.
Is stacking viable in Premier League DFS? If so, what's the best way to identify which stacks you should use? That's what I'm hoping to answer in this piece.
Let's take a look.
So we're all on the same page, the data I'm using goes back to the beginning of the 2019-20 season and covers only the FanDuel main slates, which gives us a sample of 169 matches and 338 total team games.
There are going to be various points where I've set some cutoffs for things like FanDuel points and betting lines. You may think the cutoffs should have been set differently, and you might have a good argument. But I did them in what I thought was the best way to get fair, quality information on stacking.
I want to stress that even though we're using close to a full season's worth of main slate data, the sample size is still small enough that I'd advise against making across-the-board, set-in-stone conclusions from this. Instead, my hope is this data helps you feel more informed when you sit down to make lineups.
You're about to be hit with a lot of numbers, but at the end, I'll give you what I thought were some of the key takeaways from everything. And this information is best applied to larger slates where there's at least four matches. On smaller slates, stacking can be difficult to avoid.
Lastly, all betting lines data came from Football-Data.co.uk.
Goals win money in EPL DFS, and the best real-world teams score the most goals -- this is the in-depth analysis you came for. But if, for example, Manchester City are a lopsided favorite, should you be using multiple City attackers?
Things are never cut-and-dried, but the numbers say there are some boxes that a team needs to check for them to be worth stacking.
In our 169-match sample (338 total team games), there are 87 instances in which a team had at least two attackers score 25-plus FanDuel points, and there are just 22 instances in which a team had at least three players score 25-plus FanDuel points. A two-man attacking stack from one team has a lot better shot of paying off than a three-man attacking stack, but hitting just 87 out of 338 times (25.7%), the odds of both of the players in your two-man stack having a big day just aren't that great.
Of course, those numbers are a little misleading, since stacking isn't in play for every team and every match. We are most likely to stack in situations in which one team is in a really good spot -- like when a big-six side is a healthy favorite.
So let's whittle it down to only the matches in which one team had win odds -- per Football-Data -- of at least 70% (at least a -233 favorite). That's been the case 40 times this Premier League campaign, and here's how those 40 big favorites fared fantasy-wise. Once we look at things this way, stacking becomes more appealing.
|Team||Opponent||Date||FWD/MID 25+ Point Scorers||Win Odds|
In this 40-match sample, 20 times (50.0%) a team had at least two forwards/midfielders score 25-plus FanDuel points. That's significantly better odds than the 25.7% clip we had when we looked at all team games. Of those 20 times, there were 10 instances in which a team had three or more players total at least 25 FanDuel points, so when the attackers from these teams did hit, they sometimes hit it really big, which is what we're chasing when we stack. Among the 10 times when a team had three-plus players score at least 25 FD points, Liverpool and Manchester City account for eight of them. They're good.
The downside here is that it's still just a 50% hit rate -- in terms of having at least two forwards/midfielders score 25-plus FanDuel points -- and then we still have to pick the right two guys for our lineup, which is far from a given. Also, those big favorites are usually going to be highly owned, which lessens their appeal a bit.
In the 40-match sample, there are 14 games (35%) in which the big favorite didn't have a single player score at least 25 FanDuel points, so all lineups which stacked attackers from those teams were likely dead in the water. And the randomness didn't get too much better when we look at only the 10 teams with win odds of 80% or better. Of those sides, four ended up with zero players recording 25-plus FanDuel points.
Surely, we could rely on our City and Liverpool stacks, though -- right?
Of the 40 big favorites in this sample, it's either Liverpool or Manchester City as the favored side in 20 of the matches. Those two teams combined to have at least two players score 20-plus FanDuel points 12 times when in this situation, so they had better hit odds than the rest of the teams, who combined to have at least two players score 20-plus FanDuel points only eight times in 20 instances.
And as we touched on earlier, of the 10 times in this sample in which a team had three or more players account for 25-plus FD points, Liverpool or City were said team on eight occasions, so if you want to stack three attackers from the same team over the rest of this season, you're probably pressing your luck in general, but you're getting reckless if you do it with anyone other than the Reds or Man City.
Stacks Involving a Goalie
A popular stack is to pair a defender -- or two defenders, which we'll get to in a minute -- and a goalie together in hopes of racking up multiple clean-sheet bonuses. Keepers get 10 points for a clean sheet, while defenders who play the entirety of the match are awarded a five-point bonus for a clean sheet. Depending on how many defenders you use in a defender-goalie stack, you can get up to 15 (one defender) or 20 (two) points in clean-sheet bonuses.
But how easy is it to predict clean sheets?
In the 338 total team games in our 2019-20 sample, there have been 93 clean sheets (27.5% of total team matches). A home team kept a clean sheet 54 times while a road team did so on 39 occasions. Here's a look at the average implied odds for under 2.5 goals when those clean sheets occurred.
for Under 2.5 Goals
|Home Team Kept a Clean Sheet||54||54.6%|
|Away Team Kept a Clean Sheet||39||48.5%|
Overall, when a team kept a clean sheet, the match was expected to see a below-average amount of goals. Nothing crazy there. But it doesn't necessarily help us too much when we're trying to predict a clean sheet ahead of time, so let's zero in a little more and look at some extremes in an effort to try to get more specific.
Logically, there are two situations that seem to make the most sense to target when looking to land a clean-sheet bonus -- matches which are expected to be really low scoring and matches which feature a really good team versus a bad team (read: when there's a big favorite).
First, the games with unusually high odds of having fewer than 2.5 goals. This season, there have been 12 matches (24 total team games) which have carried implied odds of at least 60% to see fewer than 2.5 goals -- much higher odds than the overall average of 46.3%. Of those 24 total team games, there were 12 clean sheets, seven of which were kept by the home team. While it's a small sample of only 24 total team matches, in these games that were expected to be very low scoring, one of the teams involved recorded a clean sheet exactly half the time. That's pretty solid.
On to the big favorites. There have been 31 matches this season in which a home team held implied win odds of at least 70%, and the home team kept a clean sheet just nine times (29.0%) in that split. Yuck.
Things look a little better if it's the away team that's the heavy favorite. A road team has had implied win odds of at least 70% on nine occasions this season, and the big away favorite registered a clean sheet in four of those nine instances (44.4%). That makes some sense, since the road team is going to have to be the much, much better side to be a lopsided favorite. Of note, City or Liverpool were the huge road favorite all nine times.
And in case you're wondering, there's zero overlap between the two situations we just looked at, so there hasn't been a game this year where a team had implied win odds of at least 70% in a match that had at least 60% implied odds of seeing under 2.5 goals.
Pairing two defenders and a keeper hasn't been a successful strategy too often this season.
In our sample of 338 total team matches, a team has had two defenders and a goalie each put up 20-plus FanDuel points just 19 times, and even then, you have to pick the right pair of defenders for your lineup. There have been 42 total instances of a team having two or more defenders score at least 20 FanDuel points, but among those 42, the team's goalie had at least 20 points on only the aforementioned 19 occasions.
On top of that, there's really very little rhyme or reason as to when the defender-defender-goalie stacks do hit. Of the 30 matches with the highest odds of going under 2.5 goals, only twice did a team have more than one defender score 20-plus FanDuel points, though the team's keeper did, too, in both of those occurrences.
If you're dead set on stacking two defenders and a goalie, you can have some success doing it with teams that are huge underdogs. It should be a good GPP strategy, too, as it'll likely be a contrarian one. Eight times this season a team has had three defenders score at least 20 FD points, and the average implied win odds for those nine teams was a lowly 24.2%, with no teams carrying implied win odds higher than 52%. So that's something.
On the flip side, these outputs are pretty hard to see coming. The average under 2.5 goals odds in the matches of those eight teams was 44.3%, which is actually right in line with the overall average for all matches. Five of these eight instances involved an underdog -- sometimes a big underdog -- surprisingly keeping a clean sheet, something that would've been difficult to buy into before the match.
With that said, if you like an underdog's chances better than oddsmakers do, it might be a good time to go all in and stack two defenders with a goalie if you're looking for a contrarian move in GPPs.
You can also pair a goalie with an attacker from his team.
The reasoning is simple. If you're including a goalie in a stack, then you obviously need a big fantasy output from the keeper, and when a goalie has a good fantasy day, it typically includes getting a win (10-point bonus). If the keeper's team wins, someone from his team scored a goal -- barring a 1-0 win via an own goal -- so you can stack the keeper with an attacker from his team in an effort to get said goal.
Of the 73 times this season in which a goalie has put up at least 20 FanDuel points in a match, at least one forward/midfielder on the keeper's team has scored 20-plus FanDuel points on 58 of those occasions. In 19 of those 58, two or more attackers on the goalie's team scored at least 20 FanDuel points, including 11 instances of three or more attackers hitting that mark.
Honing in on just those 11 times in which three or more forwards/midfielders had 20-plus FanDuel points in addition to the keeper going for 20-plus, the team that turned the trick had average implied win odds of 63.14%, and the matches these occurred in had average over 2.5 goals odds of 64.32%. So, in short, most of these matches were expected to be high-scoring, and the favored team usually delivered in a big way -- with multiple attackers and their goalie scoring 20-plus FanDuel points.
It's key to note that these teams had at least three attackers post 20-plus FanDuel points. Not only does that mean you could've stacked more than one attacker with the goalie, it also means you had a decent shot at rostering a forward/midfielder who popped if you picked just one.
Putting a Bow On It
Stacking is a high-variance play -- that's not breaking news. The ceiling is high; the floor is low.
On top of that, EPL DFS can be a volatile game because the sport of soccer can be such a volatile game. When you stack, you're taking a risk and rolling the dice, and the hope is that on the times you hit it right, you hit it big and put some bills in your pocket.
Obviously, every slate is its own animal, and we all have a different way of playing EPL DFS. That's what makes it fun. While nothing I'm about to say is be-all, end-all type of stuff, here are some of the key things I took away from this data.
-- You don't need to force a stack into every lineup you make.
-- If you're going to stack forwards/midfielders, it's best to do it with a side that's a heavy favorite (at least 70% implied win odds [-233]), and you're pushing it to use three attackers from the same team, even if it's Liverpool or Man City in what seems like a smash spot.
-- The risk-reward with stacking two defenders and a goalie usually isn't worth it, so if I'm looking to land multiple clean-sheet bonuses, I'll be keeping my stacks to one defender and a keeper.
-- If you want to stack a defender and goalie in hopes of double-dipping on a clean sheet, the best places to look are on an away team that has implied win odds of at least 70% (though the sample is small) or in matches with implied odds of at least 60% of seeing fewer than 2.5 goals.
-- If there's a massive favorite on a slate, a good way to take advantage of it is by stacking a goalie and an attacker from that team.