In this review series, the brilliant AbuBakar shares his data-driven observations and FPL Gameweek 27 tips to help us make decisions for the upcoming Gameweeks.
The Review: Gameweek 26
Greetings everyone, welcome aboard to the latest edition of “The Review” where I cast my eyes on FPL events, past and future, heading into Double Gameweek 27:
Before I begin, I’d like to mention that I post about FPL on my Instagram too. Follow me there if you don’t already!
Q: In this section, I cover Manchester United.
Bruno Fernandes against the big 6 v Bruno Fernandes against the rest
Minutes per chance created: 51.7 v 26.5
Minutes per shots inside the box 94.8 v 66.1
Minutes per big chance: 284.5 v 132.3
Minutes per big chance created: NA v 101.17
By big six I refer to the traditional big six: Chelsea, Tottenham, Liverpool, Man City, Arsenal and Man United. Bruno is yet to create a single big chance and has accumulated just the one big chance from open play in his seven matches against the big six this season. Given these numbers, I don’t expect much from Bruno against a City defence in top form this season. It’s important to note that United’s attacking numbers have dipped too – they have recorded just two big chances in their previous four games with an average xG per game of 0.89 (as opposed to 1.72 over the season). Bruno, meanwhile, has had just the single shot in the box from open play in the past four games. What makes him a hard sell though is that he is likely to be the most captained player in Gameweek 28.
Man United’s clean sheets have been very hard to predict this season, with five of their 10 clean sheets coming against the top six. Luke Shaw continues to impress – over the past six Gameweeks, he is not only top among defenders for chances created but top also for chance creation among all players in the league which is incredible given that he plays as a defender.
Q: Who to captain in Gameweek 27 and why?
Gündoğan remains to be the City player with the highest attacking returns over the past six Gameweeks. Firstly, I re-assess De Bruyne’s impact on Gündoğan’s numbers after Gameweek 26:
Gündoğan with KDB v Gündoğan without KDB
Mins per shots inside the box: 43 v 48.88
Mins per big chance: 129 v 65.17
Mins per chance created: 59.54 v 39.1
Mins per big chance created: 774 v 195.5
Mins per expected involvement: 187.86 v 81.1
Gündoğan’s stats without De Bruyne are much better but he’s still making runs and taking up good positions based on the eye-test even when De Bruyne plays, hence Gündoğan remains a good captaincy shout. I think De Bruyne is likely to miss a game anyways because he started back-to-back games in Gameweek 26 so I wouldn’t base my captaincy decision on his involvement. Gündoğan’s record against the big six this season is phenomenal – he has five goals and an assist in five games against them with an expected goal involvement (xGi) of 4.13. His minutes per xGi is second in the league for midfielders in matches against the top six so chances are he’ll do well against Man United. Southampton are second worst for big chances conceded away from home this season so there is potential in both fixtures.
There is no point in guessing whether he plays both games or not, since there is no predictable pattern to Pep’s selections so no one knows who he is going to pick. He’s just been rested, so I’d expect him to be “safer” as compared to the rest of the City attackers in terms of security of starts. The other safe alternative option could be Rúben Dias. He has never been rested a league game since joining City and has only missed one game due to illness. Man United haven’t scored in any of their previous six matches against the big six while Southampton are second only to Palace for xG over the past four matches, so chances of a double clean sheet are highly likely. That makes João Cancelo another option, but I still don’t trust Pep enough to play him in three successive fixtures.
Q: Who are the best Harvey Barnes replacements?
I think the answer to this is fairly straightforward if you don’t own Raphinha. Raphinha has recorded at least one big chance involvement in six of his previous seven league appearances and continues to represent unreal value. He is top in the league for chances created and expected assists (xA) over the past four matches and plays for a Leeds side who are in the top five for xG this season. If you don’t own Raphinha, get him – simple.
Even though I don’t hold him in the same bracket as Raphinha, I think Mason Mount is the next best alternative for FPL managers looking to invest. He is in the top eight midfielders for shots inside the box, chance creation and expected goal involvement ever since Tuchel has taken over and now faces a favourable run of fixtures if you ignore his upcoming blank in Gameweek 29. There’s Bukayo Saka too and his numbers have been decent whenever he plays – but the talk of rotation from Arteta with Europa league around scares me.
Q: In this section, I discuss all things West Ham related.
West Ham with Lingard v West Ham without Lingard 20/21
Average xG per game: 1.54 v 1.4
Big chances per game: 2.2 v 1.9
It’s surprising to see that West Ham’s attacking numbers have improved over the last five matches since Lingard has joined as they faced some stern opposition in that spell. West Ham accumulated three big chances in their game v Man City which was an incredible feat considering that Man City’s defence had conceded just three big chances in their previous ten league games combined prior to that. Lingard has had a positive impact on the West Ham side as they do seem to be much more fluid while attacking. Lingard himself has not produced outstanding numbers but his presence has made the attacks much smoother.
I’d say Antonio still might be the FPL asset to go for when we look at individual numbers. No player in the league has a better expected goal involvement (xGi) than Antonio over the past four matches. He now faces a Leeds side who have conceded by far, the highest number of big chances away from home this season.
Lingard, meanwhile, is not even in the top ten for xG among midfielders since he joined but is top for overperformance – his xG is 1.23 but he has still managed to score thrice. Even though West Ham have a fixture in blank Gameweek 29, it’s worth noting that Lingard will be ineligible to play against Man United in Gameweek 28.
Q: When is the best time to Free Hit for those who have the chip available?
I see four options available here. I’ll get to them one by one. First is the obvious option of Free Hitting in Gameweek 29 which my friend Lateriser calls the “defensive Free Hit”. Most FPL managers have loaded up on Leeds, Villa and Spurs assets so getting a minimum of eight to nine players with a hit here and there shouldn’t be a problem. West Ham v Arsenal and Villa v Spurs are hard to call and are games that would cause no major surprise if they go either way which makes me think that the ceiling of Free Hitting in this Gameweek isn’t possibly as big. However, a very under-rated point which goes in the favour of Free Hitting here is that the significant majority of FPL managers will be taking a hit or two and be a few players short of a full eleven, so just by picking eleven players you can accumulate base points and make gains of around 10-15 points on the top 10k based on that alone.
The upside play is to Free Hit in Gameweek 33 where Spurs and Man City will be blanking. Managers not on a Free Hit here will either have to sell their premium City and Spurs assets (which isn’t ideal given fixtures either side of City and Spurs are great) or have them on the bench (which again means that they won’t be able to allocate their maximum budget on their first 11 for that Gameweek). Managers on Free Hit here can take advantage of fixtures such as Lee v Mun, Lei v Cpl, Avl v Wba and Liv v New by loading up on four to five differentials and banking on them to gain ground.
The other two options are to either Free Hit in another double Gameweek which might be scheduled later to accommodate fans (we don’t know much about that yet) or to wait for the last Gameweek of the season which is traditionally high scoring.
Q: In this section, I cover Spurs.
Heung Min Son was top of all players in the league for chances created this double Gameweek, and can count himself unlucky not to come out of it with more returns. The South Korean created nine chances, including five big chances for his team mates. It was interesting to note that he took up a more creative role with Bale in the team and let the likes of Kane, Bale and Moura do all the shooting (among them they accumulated 80% of Spurs’ shots inside the box this GW).
Harry Kane spurned all three of his three big chances this Gameweek, and his owners can count themselves highly unlucky to end up on the wrong side of variance. Son was involved in 83% of Spurs’ big chances in this double Gameweek, which is exceptional and highlights just how instrumental he is to Mourinho’s side. Kane had a big chance involvement ratio of 50% while Bale’s was just a paltry 16% which suggests that Son and Kane are still by far and away the best Spurs assets to own. Spurs embark on a great run of fixtures from Gameweek 30 and will have a double Gameweek to be scheduled too – something to keep in mind for those FPL managers who still have their triple captaincy chip left.
Q: In this section, I analyse Chelsea and their upcoming game against Everton.
Since Tuchel has taken over, Chelsea are best in the league for shots in the box conceded, big chances conceded, xG conceded, goals conceded and clean sheets. They look like a proper unit and hence it comes across as no surprise that their average xG conceded under Tuchel is just 0.47. These numbers are nothing short of exemplary and highlight the incredible value Rüdiger is offering at £4.6m. A fixture run that reads EVE lee WBA cry BHA whu FUL all the way up to Gameweek 34 suggests that more clean sheets are coming.
What this also means is that chances are likely to be few and far between for Calvert Lewin in the upcoming Gameweek when Everton play Chelsea. The same applies to the in-form Richarlison as well who has benefitted from a recent tweak in Ancelotti’s formation where he seems to be playing more of a central role recently. In the past three Gameweeks, Richarlison is averaging a big chance every 89 minutes (with an average xG per game of 0.47) as opposed to 227 minutes over the season (with an average xG per game of 0.28) which reflects the reason behind his recent resurgence.
Q: In this section, I share my thoughts on Mohamed Salah.
Salah has now blanked in 10 of his previous 13 matches which is of huge cause of concern for FPL managers given his premium price tag. I can totally understand why managers would want to sell him, but I’m still keeping the faith. Here’s why:
Salah is still top among midfielders for big chances over the past four matches. Liverpool are second only to Brighton in terms of xG during this run so it’s evident that they are facing a crisis of confidence. Salah has missed all six of his previous six big chances from open play and continues to remain one of the most underperforming midfielders in the game. It’s funny how our assessment of Liverpool and himself as an FPL asset would change dramatically had those chances been taken. I’m still backing Salah to translate these numbers into FPL points soon but he faces yet another tough examination against Fulham this week who are hardly pushovers anymore – they are in the top three teams for xG conceded over the past six matches.
Q: In this section, I reassess the impact of Grealish’s absence on Aston Villa.
Villa with Grealish v Villa without Grealish 20/21
Chances created per game: 11.32 v 8.67
Big chances per game: 2.55 v 2
Shots inside the box per game: 9.86 v 8
Needless to say, Villa are missing their talisman. His impact on Ollie Watkins’ numbers in particular is noteworthy. Watkins is yet to record a big chance in either of the three games in which Grealish has been injured, having a meagre average xG of just 0.08. Before that, he had registered eight big chances with an average xG of 0.44 in his previous 11 appearances when Grealish was in the side.
However, Villa face a Wolves side that are among the bottom three for big chances and xG conceded away from home this season. There’s still a fair chance that Watkins comes good against a Wolves side that have been leaky on the road defensively.
Q: In this section, I talk about Brighton.
I select a sample of eight games that Brighton have played this season:
Bri 2-3 Mun (xG: 2.6-1.5)
Cry 1-1 Bri (xG: 0.8-1.8)
Bri 0-0 Bur (xG: 1.5-0.4)
Bri 1-1 Shu (xG: 2.9-0.5)
Bri 0-0 Ful (xG: 1.8-0.5)
Bri 0-0 Avl (xG: 2.2-0.1)
Bri 1-2 Cry (xG: 2.5-0.2)
Wba 1-0 Bri (xG: 0.8-3)
Bri 5-8 Rest (Combined xG: 18.3-4.8)
Ladies and gentlemen, Brighton and Hove Albion. I’m at a loss of words!
Despite their underperformance hitting unimaginable heights with every passing Gameweek, it’s important to note that Brighton are best in the league (better than even Man City!) for big chances and xG conceded in home games this season. In my opinion, Brighton are the standout team for clean sheet potential in Gameweek 29 and present an opportunity for FPL managers to make gains at a time when most people will ignore their assets due to recent results.
I now run a comparison to assess Brighton’s defence home and away:
Brighton defence home v Brighton defence away (league position for relevant stat in brackets)
Shots in the box conceded per game: 4.76 (2nd) v 6.84 (7th)
Big chances conceded per game: 0.69 (1st) v 2.1 (13th)
Average xG conceded per game: 0.74 (1st) v 1.2 (10th)
While Brighton’s defence away from home is mid-table, at home they have been stellar. These numbers suggest that another home clean sheet is likely for Brighton against a toothless Newcastle attack in Gameweek 29 who are the worst in the league for xG and big chances away from home this season. I don’t like Brighton’s fixtures after Gameweek 29 (mun EVE che) though so it’s important not to over-invest in them for those managers not on a Free Hit in Gameweek 29.
The comparisons you see are the hard work of my friend @urboihamza (on Twitter). I would appreciate it if you could offer him some encouragement for the time he puts into my articles (follows/feedback appreciated!). He is a key contributor week in week out!
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