Hub Community writer @Hibbo_FPL shares his thoughts on which are the best Manchester United assets to target for FPL Blank Gameweek 18.
Our focus now turns to Gameweek 18 when, given a reduced number of games (six), we will undoubtedly see the first large-scale deployment of chips this season amongst active team’s as a large portion of the FPL community wield their “Free Hit” chip. Both Burnley & Manchester United, who were due to blank, gained a fixture at the 11th hour when on New Year’s Eve their tie at Turf Moor was rescheduled for Tuesday 12th January. This article will focus on assessing Manchester United assets ahead of Gameweek 18.
Season to date
Man United endured a fairly wretched start to the season. In the opening six games the Red Devils dropped 11 points with the 6-1 defeat at home to Spurs a humiliating low point that led to renewed calls amongst disgruntled fans for the sullen Solskjaer to be sacked. However, a 3-1 victory away at Goodison Park lit the touch paper and sparked a run of league form which yielded eights wins and two draws. The most recent victory, a 2-1 home win over Aston Villa, propelled Man United to level on points with Liverpool with a game in hand.
Tale of the tape
A dive into the stats shows that, over the last eight gameweeks, Man United top the table amongst all teams in the division for goals (20), shots on target (53), and big chances (31). Furthermore, Man United sit top for all teams for goals scored away from home (21) despite having played two games less than Leicester and Leeds who sit second and third respectively. It’s worth noting that Man United haven’t kept an away clean sheet this season in the Premier League. During the same period Burnley have been 3rd worst in the division for both shots conceded and shots on target conceded (per appearance). In home games this season Burnley rank amongst some of the worst in the division with only five goals scored in seven matches.
Bruno Fernandes is an obvious selection and a mainstay of the majority of FPL sides. Looking at the data for last eight gameweeks, in terms of goal threat Bruno ranks joint first for big chances received (7), sits third for xG (4.45) and joint first for goals scored (5). Fernandes also holds the role of creator in chief at Man United ranking second for big chances created (5) and assists (5). Staggeringly, since his arrival at Old Trafford from Sporting Lisbon the Portuguese international has amassed 247 fantasy point in only 23 gameweeks. He has proven himself neither one-trick pony nor penalty dependent but a bonafide fantasy heavyweight. These extraordinary level of returns put Bruno very much in the mix as a perma-captain. The question for many is – is owning him enough or will you back him with the “armband”?
Marcus or Martial?
Following a slow start to the season, Newcastle game with-standing, Marcus Rashford found his shooting boots away to West Ham and has been on a “heater” ever since with five goals in seven games. In contrast, in 17 gameweeks Anthony Martial has notched only twice. Looking at the data for last eight gameweeks, for all players, Rashford ties third for shots on target (11), shares a four way tie joint top of big chances received (7) and sits fourth for xG (4.00). Rashford also sits top (on a four way tie) for goals scored with 5. Interestingly when analysing only away games this season (per appearance) Rashford tops all players for shots on target (1.9 per appearance) and big chances (1.4 per appearance). For a number of reasons I would plump with Rashford over Martial as a pick.
Firstly, the weight of evidence of the underlying data of Rashford shows that his performance levels have been no fluke. Secondly, whilst I do not feel Martial is at the same level right now I also have doubts over his game time with the evergreen Cavani waiting in reserve. Furthermore, from a structure point of view with the majority of premium picks for both Gameweels 18 and 19 and beyond in the midfield (with the exception of a big forward) it may be hard to make a forward like Martial work in terms of the budget.
A case for the defence?
Without an away clean sheet this season, despite Burnley’s blunt attack, it would be hard to have confidence in a Man United shut out. In terms of goal threat Harry Maguire looks the pick of the bunch with three attempts on target over the last eight gameweeks. In terms of creative spark, over the same period, Luke Shaw has created two big chances with xA (expected assist) rating of 1.25. Shaw, whilst appearing ahead of Alex Telles in the current pecking order, he still appears very much a rotation risk making him a no-go for me.
I am definitely enamoured by the Manchester United attack and I am very much on target for an attacking double up in my Gameweek 18 “free hit”. For me, Bruno Fernandes is a lock, is certainly in my team and in a two horse race with Man City’s Kevin De Bruyne for captaincy. Rashford looks very appealing from a numbers perspective, especially away from home. At the close of Gameweek 17 Rashford sat in just under 10% of top 10k teams and I expect a large amount of movement in that number with those on the free-hit, wildcard and transfers. However, there could still be gains if Rashford hauls at Burnley given that those “muddling through” with transfers may have higher priority transfers. Man United defensive numbers are cause for concern and the underlying numbers for threat or creativity amongst their defenders doesn’t really scream “upside”.
The fantasy landscape is subject to constant change. Plans should remain fluid, transfers should be left as late as possible, and the pursuit of team value forgone. At the time of writing Aston Villa have closed their training ground after reporting an outbreak of Covid which could put their match with Spurs at risk of cancellation. If Villa and Spurs lose their Gameweek 18 fixture the limited pool of players could push those on a “free hit” towards a third United player. This scenario would mean a budget awash with money to punt on premium differential options like Sterling or Aubameyang. I would possibly consider double Man City midfield (De Bruyne & Sterling) rather than two City defenders. This could mean a punt on Maguire rather than triple on Man United attack as I don’t think their fixture screams goals. Good luck for the Gameweek ahead (if we even have one!).
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