4-time top 1k and top 10k finisher Abdul Rehman highlights the main talking points of the first four Gameweeks and how we should use this information moving forward.
The first International break is always a good time to take stock and review how your season has started and whaich players should be in your thinking going forward. The first four Gameweeks have been eventful, to say the least. With 145 goals scored in 38 games averaging 3.8 goals per game, four hattricks, and Manchester City, Liverpool, and Manchester United all succumbing to heavy defeats already it’s fair to say it’s been an unprecedented start to the 2020-21 season. In this article, I will try to make sense of it all and provide a review of the first four Gameweeks and highlight the main talking points and how we can use that information for Gameweek 5 and beyond
Check out our Ultimate Guide to FPL Gameweek 5 for all the key information, stats and tips you need going into the weekend’s action.
There have definitely been a few surprises in terms of team performances. I don’t think even after four games anybody could have predicted both Manchester clubs would be sat in the bottom half of the league and Everton as league leaders, followed by Aston Villa. The Toffees look like a transformed side under Carlo Ancelotti and the new signings in James Rodriguez (£7.8m), Abdoulaye Doucouré (£5.4m), and Allan (£5.4m) have all gelled together from the off and in turn, helped turn Dominic Calvert-Lewin (£7.6m) into a goal machine. The 23 year old England striker has scored six goals in four games including a hattrick in Gameweek 2 and even earned an England call-up, scoring on his debut. He has been in the form of his life and it’s backed up by his strong underlying numbers. In the first four games, he has managed 15 Shots (3rd), 9 Shots on Target (2nd), 13 Shots in the Box (3rd), and six Big Chances (1st). For a starting a price of £7.0m he has proven to be a bargain and it’s no surprise that his price has risen to £7.6m.
His new Columbian teammate has also made a mockery of his price tag scoring three goals and two assists in his first four games of English football. There was some talk in pre-season doubting his credentials and questioning whether he would be able to handle the fast-paced Premier League. He has certainly put those doubts to bed and really is continuing the same sort of impressive output he was achieving at both Read Madrid and Bayern Munich. He has registered 10 Shots, four Shots on Target, six Shots in the Box, and two Big Chances. He also sits third overall for Chances Created (12) and second for Big Chances Created (4). Even with his price rising by 0.3m to £7.8m he still remains a great value option.
Richarlison (£7.9m) is another one who has been playing well this season but just hasn’t scored as well hence him going slightly under the radar. His injury in Gameweek 4 will have something to do with that too. His underlying numbers have been just as good as his teammates mentioned above, with 14 Shots, three Shots on Target, 11 Shots in the Box and three Big Chances. He has managed one goal and three assists so far. He now also seems to be the first choice penalty taker when Gylfi Sigurdsson (£7.9m) is not on the pitch and with the Icelandic international no longer a first-team starter this definitely heightens the Brazilians appeal. With only £0.3m the difference between him and Calvert-Lewin now he could be a shrewd pick for those managers who haven’t yet picked up the Englishman.
Going forward though it may not be the best time to invest in Everton assets from a fixtures point of view as they face Liverpool (H), Southampton (a), Newcastle (a), and Manchester United (H) in their next four. However, with the way this season is shaping up I wouldn’t be surprised to see them scoring at the same rate. If you are looking at bringing in James Rodriguez then keep I would wait until Everton’s press conference as Ancelotti did mention he would be back late from international duty and may feature from the bench.
West Ham United
The Hammers are another team who have caught us fantasy managers by surprise. Despite their extremely tough run of fixtures they have been playing some of the best football in the league and are unlucky not to have more wins. After losing their first two games to Newcastle United (H) and Arsenal (a) they have won their last two games quite emphatically against tougher opponents in Wolves (H) and Leicester City (a). They trounced the former 4-0 and the latter 3-0 and they were not freak results either judging by their underlying numbers. Attacking wise they have been one of the best in the league with 58 Shots (3rd), 19 Shots on Target (7th), 42 Shots in the Box (3rd), and 10 Big Chances (4th). That’s pretty impressive considering they played Wolves who had the third-best defence in the league last season and Arsenal and Leicester who have an array of top-quality players. Their defensive stats are actually better believe it or not as they have only conceded 22 Shots in the Box (3rd), and have conceded the least Big Chances (4) and the least Shots on Target (7) in the league, five less than the three teams tied in second which are Burnley, Aston Villa, and Chelsea. Note Aston Villa and Burnley have played one game less also.
Michael Antonio (£6.3m) has started the season pretty much how he finished last. He has been going under the radar despite scoring two goals in his first four games. He has actually dropped in price twice and now sits at a very generous £6.3m. A few reasons for his price drop will of course be the form of other strikers in his price range such as Dominic Calvert-Lewin (£7.6m), Neal Maupay (£6.6m), and Calum Wilson (£6.4m) to name a few allied with some tough fixtures. Despite his difficult run of games though he has still managed to score against both Arsenal (a) and Leicester City (a) and been putting up very good attacking numbers. He has had 15 Shots (3rd), 8 Shots on Target (3rd), and 12 Shots on Target (4th). This is all despite playing Arsenal, Leicester, and Wolves. He has been unfortunate not to score more and with underlying stats as good as the premium options he is a player I can’t wait to bring into my team.
It’s not only Antonio who has been firing on all cylinders though. Jared Bowen (£6.3m), Pablo Fornals (£6.4m), Tomas Soucek (£4.9m), Aaron Cresswell (£4.9m) and Arthur Masuaku (£4.5m) have all been in the points and putting up good numbers. A breakdown of their Key Stats can be seen in the table below via our OPTA Stats. Soucek does stand out from the attackers here being the cheapest, and he has the most Shots (12) and Shots in the Box (9). Bowen also looks good value with three goals to his name with 11 Shots, three Shots on Target, seven Shots in the Box and three Big Chances. Cresswell and Masuaku have not only kept back to back clean sheets but got attacking returns too. The former has created 10 chances (which is the 5th most out of all players) and managed to notch two assists with the latter creating five chances and one assist. The points seem to be coming from all over the park. Even with their amazing underlying numbers as a team and individually, their next three games are as tough as they come. They play Spurs (a), Manchester City (H) and Liverpool (a) in their next three games so I would be hesitant to bring any of the Hammers assets in bar Antonio. Otherwise, It’s probably wise to wait until Gameweek 8 when they play Fulham (H) and their fixtures ease up.
Aston Villa sit second in the league despite having only played three games. Fresh in the memory is their epic win over Liverpool just last Gameweek where they hammered them 7-2 but their previous two games were also impressive as they kept back to back clean sheets with a 3-0 win away at Fulham and 1-0 win at home to Sheffield United whilst their underlying stats back up their good form both offensively and defensively. Despite playing a game less than 16 other teams they have had 48 Shots, 18 Shots on Target and 34 Shots in the Box. They have also had 10 Big Chances (4th) and scored 11 goals (2nd).
Defensively they have only conceded 24 Shots in the Box (5th), 12 Shots on Target (2nd). conceded five Big Chances (2nd) and conceding only two goals (1st).
New recruits Ross Barkley (£5.9m), Ollie Watkins (£5.9m), and Matthew Cash (£5.0m) have hit the ground running. The Villans have made some really good signings strengthening their starting 11 with every transfer so it’s no wonder they have improved. Barkley seems to be playing in a support striker role and in his first start managed 6 Shots, two Shots on Target and four Shots in the Box so he’s definitely one to keep an eye on.
Jack Grealish (£7.1m) who earned the Man of the Match award in his first England cap has been threatening with both goals and assists in the first three games. He has three goals and three assists with 9 Shots, three Shots on Target, eight Shots in the Box. He has also created 10 chances and two Big Chances.
Watkins has managed an impressive 10 Shots, four Shots on Target, 10 Shots in the Box and five Big Chances (2nd). All three of the Villa attackers mentioned look very good value for money especially Watkins and Barkley who could prove to be absolute bargains. With a good run of fixtures coming up I think they are definitely worth investing in and can see Watkins being the highest scoring £6m forward. They play Leeds United (H), Southampton (H), and Brighton (H) in the next five, and also have favourable games beyond that.
Leeds United have been very exciting to watch so far this season and are currently living up to the hype. It’s clear to see why Marcelo Bielsa is held in such high regard by his peers. Leeds keep possession brilliantly with their short passing and building from the back but are also capable of breaking with speed whilst the ‘Bielsa Press’ they adopt is also very effective pushing up at speed and players rotating positions at will. Since Bielsa’s appointment at the club, he really has revolutionised them and it’s no surprise he’s got them back to the Premier League after 16 long years.
They started the season with the toughest game you could ask for in Liverpool away but they made their mark instantly pushing the champions of England right to death in a narrow 4-3 loss. They then won their next two over Fulham and Sheffield United before drawing with Manchester City 1-1 in Gameweek 4 which again was an end to end entertaining match in which Leeds had the better of the Blues for most of the match. Before the season started their excellent defensive record was being highly talked about as they only conceded 35 goals last season in the Championship and had the best defensive record for any promoted team since stats began to be recorded. However, it is their attack which has shone so far.
Patrick Bamford (£5.8m) has bagged three goals and two assists in his first four games, and Mateusz Klich (£5.6m) and Helder Costa (£5.7m) have two goals and assist each. Their fullbacks who again were another big talking point pre-season have shown their attacking intent too but without the deserved rewards. Although their clean sheets haven’t come to full fruition yet, both full-backs have been performing as expected attacking wise. In the first four games, I have noticed that Stuart Dallas (£4.5m) does seem to carry the superior goal threat and Luke Ayling (£4.5m) the better assist threat. In the first four games, Dallas has the most Shots (4), Shots on Target (4), Big Chances (2), and xG (1.21) from all defenders in the league. He has on occasion this season switched position to midfield which is a factor in having such a high goal threat.
Although Leeds haven’t been as expected so far defensively conceding the most Shots (79) and Shots in the Box (49) in the league we have to bear in mind they have played the two best teams in the league already in Manchester City and Liverpool. They have a much friendlier run of fixtures to come and I feel they will start to keep more clean sheets and tighten up at the back.
Now on to the teams who we had so much faith in but have ultimately let us down. Chelsea, Manchester United and Manchester City assets were all touted and popular pre-season but have been a cause for frustration for most managers.
Timo Werner (£9.3m) and Kai Havertz (£8.4m) were highly owned pre Gameweek 1 with the former being the highest owned player heading into the first Gameweek. The ex-RB Leipzig striker came into the Premier League with a world-class scoring record and was generously priced at £9.5m too. Having scored 168 goals and 64 assists in 329 league games, looking back it really wasn’t a bad decision to start with him. Chelsea made some other top class signings like Hakim Ziyech (£7.9m) and Kai Havertz and with Christian Pulisic (£8.3m) thought to be in the squad in Gamweek 1 he had a wealth of talent to feed balls into him. Of course, that didn’t transpire and he has only managed a solitary assist in his first four games, and that also coming via winning a penalty. Frank Lampard has stuck him out on the wing where he has been nowhere near as effective as when he is played a centre forward. I am hoping once Pulisic and Ziyech are back which should be in Gameweek 5 as Ziyech played for Morocco during the international break and the American came on for seven minutes as a substitute in Gameweek 4, that Frank plays Werner back up top where he belongs.
They have a good home fixture in Southampton and I feel despite his price drops he is still worth keeping for one more week at least (if you still have him). Havertz has also disappointed after high hopes of him. He has managed an assist each in his last two outings against Crystal Palace and West Brom but at £8.5m that really isn’t enough especially with so many other midfield options firing. His stats have also been very poor, only three Shots, two Shots on Target and one Shots in the Box. He has created six chances but a player of his ability, price, and playing for Chelsea he really should have more. I think they will both come good eventually and with most of the injured Chelsea players now back there won’t be any excuses in the coming weeks.
Manchester United also have massively disappointed with a lot of fantasy managers even picking their players from Gameweek 1 even though they had a blank. That’s how much faith they had in them but they have had an awful start. Bruno Fernandes (£10.5m), Anthony Martial (£8.8m) and Marcus Rashford (£9.5m) were all popular picks and deservedly so. After succumbing to defeat in their opening fixtures at the hands of Crystal Palace, they very narrowly beat Brighton in which they were awarded a penalty after the final whistle had blown. Brighton also hit the woodwork a record five times in that game. Then of course there was the hammering to Tottenham in Gameweek 4 which will go down in history as one of their worst defeats at Old Trafford.
Although Bruno has two goals and an assist he was taken off at half time in the Spurs game amid rumours of a dressing room bust-up. Rashford scored a magnificent goal in Gameweek 3 but has still flattered to deceive. Martial has been the worst pick out of the bunch with just a solitary assist earned from a penalty against Tottenham and then subsequently getting sent off for violent conduct in the same match.
Something just isn’t right at the moment with Manchester United at the moment. Their lack of preseason is probably a factor in their slow start but they haven’t helped themselves in terms of defending and discipline either. Their underlying stats have been poor too as can be seen in the table below via our OPTA Stats.
I think it’s wise to stay away from their assets for now until they start firing again. With so many good value forward and midfield options in FPL this season I really don’t think they should be considered right now.
The Red Devils’ neighbours have also had a poor start to the season. After an impressive victory against Wolves in their opening fixture, they were emphatically beaten 5-2 by Leicester City at the Etihad in Gameweek 3 and then held to a draw by Leeds United in Gameweek 4; a game which they were outplayed in large parts. Kevin De Bruyne (£9.6m) blanked in his last two games after scoring, assisting and grabbing all three bonus points against Wolves. Raheem Sterling (£11.5m) managed to get on the score sheet last Gameweek and Riyad Mahrez (£8.5m) and Phil Foden (£6.6m) have also got a goal apiece with the Algerian also bagging an assist.
Despite their poor displays as a team over the past two Gameweeks, they are still creating chances and individual players scoring points and we know they will start firing again so Kevin and co will be amongst the points again. Unlike their rivals at Old Trafford, De Bruyne and Sterling have actually been putting up good underlying numbers. Despite playing only three games so far the Belgian has still created the most Chances (14) in the league and had 11 Shots, four Shots on Target, five Shots in the Box, and two Big Chances. Sterling has had 9 Shots, three Shots on Target and six Shots in the Box, while also creating six chances.
It just seems a matter of time before they start racking up the points again. I also feel the Blues are too good a team to ignore as they have the best players in the league and we have seen how good they can be both in real terms and from a fantasy football perspective. They will score a lot of goals during the season and so will their attacking players so it’s a risky move to go without City assets I feel, especially one of De Bruyne or Sterling. It’s best to be patient with their players and being hasty and transferring out is likely to bite you.
One thing to keep an eye on is that De Bruyne has emerged as an injury doubt for the Arsenal game in Gameweek 5. It looks like he picked up a fatigue injury while on international duty with Belgium so I will be eagerly awaiting Pep Guardiola’s press conference.
I think a lot of the upsets and sheer amount of goals can be put down to teams not having a proper preseason and also the fact of no fans in the stadium. I personally feel this trend won’t continue too long and we should revert back to mean. When exactly that will happen though is anybody’s guess and we can do as fantasy managers, really, is keep on making the logical and sound decisions for our teams and in the long run, it will work out fine.
I do still think that away teams have a slight advantage with no fans and expect a lesser home advantage but only slightly. I would not be transferring out proven assets like Kevin De Bruyne and would urge patience with any good and proven fantasy players especially if they have good fixtures coming up. And finally remember as fantasy managers we are looking for next week’s points, not last week’s. Therefore look at the underlying numbers and fixtures of any player you are thinking about transferring in or out of your team and make your decisions on cold hard facts rather than emotion. I know it’s been a tough start to the season for a lot of fantasy managers and knee-jerk transfers can seem very appealing. Be strong, hold off and make your decisions with a cool head.