In this review series, the brilliant AbuBakar shares his data-driven observations and FPL Gameweek 18 tips to help us make decisions for the upcoming Gameweeks.
Hi everyone, welcome to the latest edition of “The Review” where I look at Free Hit and the upcoming blank Gameweek 18 in detail:
Q: Which players do I pick for my Free Hit squad?
Down below, I discuss each fixture individually highlighting the players that should be considered for the Free Hit:
– Sheffield United vs Newcastle:
The toughest fixture to call this week by far and ideally, I’d keep players from both these teams to a minimum for my free-hit squad.
Sheffield United are third bottom for big chances conceded at home all season. At the same time, Newcastle United are second worst for most big chances away from home all season. We can see a fixture where a poor home defence up against a poor away attack so it’s a very hard game to call.
Callum Wilson seems an obvious shout. I analyse him here:
Wilson Home v Away 20/21
Mins per shot inside the box 51 v 52
Mins per big chance 90 v 131
As we can see from the analysis above, Callum Wilson is not the most appealing of assets to own this week as the quality of chances he gets away from home significantly decreases due to Newcastle’s defensive approach. Almost 70% of Wilson’s big chances this season have come at home.
Karl Darlow is the player who could also bring some points to your team considering that his baseline BPS is the lowest in the entire Newcastle squad – which would mean he could rack up some bonus points with a clean sheet and a couple of saves. However, with Dubravka back to full fitness, Darlow’s starting position isn’t as assured hence the smart play would be to avoid both as you’d hate to end up with ten starting players on a Free Hit.
– Manchester City vs Brighton:
I’ll be starting off with the Man City back line. The top three picks are obviously Joao Cancelo, Ruben Dias and John Stones.
Cancelo has been fairly impressive and his stats pretty much prove that over the past four Gameweeks:
Mins per chance created: 135
Mins per big chance created: 135
Mins per touch in the final third: 3.55
Mins per baseline bonus: 5.2
Cancelo has been playing a fairly advanced role and likes to get into the final third. Hence it is no surprise that he is joint top for the most number of big chances created for defenders over the past four Gameweeks and ranked third, following Tierney and Dallas, for penalty area touches.
On the other hand, Stones and Dias have started eight games together in which City have won seven and drawn one, having conceded just one goal in eight games so doubling up on the Man City defence is a safe option. Dias and Stones might have an outside chance for a goal too, given that Brighton have conceded the second highest number of set piece goals this season after Leeds.
However, because of Cancelo’s explosive potential, he’d be the first defender I choose on the Free Hit. Although doubling up on Man City’s defence on the Free Hit might be a safe move, the upside lies in going with two attackers. The Kevin De Bruyne and Raheem Sterling (pending fitness) double up would be fairly low owned and if they do well, it could prove to be an explosive differential.
Next, I will talk about the City maestro, Kevin De Bruyne. De Bruyne has the highest number of big chances created in the entire league as of now, which is something you’d associate with someone of his class. He has a higher xG this season compared to last season and his underlying numbers suggest a significant increase in goal threat:
De Bruyne (19/20) vs De Bruyne (20/21)
Mins per shot inside the box: 68.2 vs 65.6
Mins per big chance: 466.3 vs 131.1
Mins per big chance created: 84.8 vs 102
Mins per chance created: 20.6 vs 27.8
De Bruyne’s stats show how attacking he has been but what is most interesting is that his conversion rate has dropped from 13% to 6% this season and that’s why we haven’t been seeing as many FPL points from him as his underlying numbers suggest. But in my opinion, it might only be a matter of time.
I’ll now look at a comparison between De Bruyne and Sterling for home games this season, as Man City’s next 3 games are at home:
De Bruyne (home games 20/21) vs Sterling (home games 20/21)
Mins per chance created: 31.76 vs 67.5
Mins per big chance created: 77.14 vs 180
Mins per shot in the box: 54 vs 45
Mins per big chance: 135 vs 77.14
Sterling outshines De Bruyne for goal threat here, as he by far and away has accumulated the highest number of big chances at home of all Man City players. However, when I look at their numbers over recent times:
De Bruyne vs Sterling last 6 GWs
Mins per chance created: 28 v 60
Mins per big chance created: 67 v 180
Mins per shot in the box: 45 v 49
Mins per big chance: 89 v 90
Mins per baseline bps: 6.6 v 11
It can be seen that De Bruyne seems to be matching Sterling for goal threat of late and hence due to better chance creation and bonus accumulation numbers, he would be my pick of the two if I was picking one City attacker.
– Arsenal vs Crystal Palace:
Arsenal have been very impressive over the last three Gameweeks. During this run, they have recorded the highest xG (6.95), scored the most amount of goals (8), recorded the highest shots on target (22) and created the highest amount of big chances (9) in the league.
Lacazette has recorded the greatest number of big chances over the past four Gameweeks in the entire league. He has scored a goal in each of his last three league appearances and it is no surprise given that during this spell he is averaging nearly three shots inside the box and significantly two big chances per game.
Arsenal will now be facing a Crystal Palace defence who are worst for big chances conceded and xG conceded over the last four Gameweeks so the stars are aligned in Arsenal’s favour. Here I run a comparison between two of their in-form budget midfielders:
Smith-Rowe vs Saka (Last Two GWs)
Shots inside the box: 1 vs 6
Big chances: 0 v 1
Chances created: 4 v 4
Big chances created: 1 v 1
Penalty area touches: 5 v 11
Saka clearly seems to be justifying the premium over Smith Rowe at the moment. It’s also worth mentioning that Saka is top among midfielders for shots inside the box over the last two Gameweeks and his average position has been very advanced and closest to Lacazette during this run.
I would also like to take the opportunity to point out Kieran Tierney’s stats here. For the past four Gameweeks, he is second among defenders for chances created and penalty area touches. Only the Liverpool full backs have enjoyed more touches than him in the final third during this spell too, which shows that Tierney has the potential to deliver points at both ends of the pitch.
– Burnley vs Man United:
Bruno Fernandes is an automatic selection and I have discussed more about him in the captaincy section later. Doubling up on Man United attack seems a great idea, as they are top for xG over the past four Gameweeks and have created the highest number of big chances away from home all season.
Now I’d like to talk about Marcus Rashford and the gulf in his home and away numbers:
Rashford (Home) vs Rashford (Away)
Mins per shot inside the box: 86.7 vs 30.8
Mins per big chance: 780 vs 58.5
Mins per big chance created: 780 vs 585
Mins per chance created: 111.4 vs 45
The difference couldn’t be more apparent. Rashford has managed to score in each of his last two away fixtures vs Burnley and it looks as if that run might continue. I’d imagine that for most FPL managers on Free Hit, the straight comparison would be between Son and Rashford. Hence, based on their upcoming fixtures, I compare their numbers:
Son (Home) vs Rashford (Away)
Mins per shot inside the box: 109.7 vs 30.8
Mins per big chance: 164.5 vs 58.5
Mins per big chance created: 219.3 vs 585
Mins per chance created: 36.6 vs 45
Granted that Son is an elite finisher, but the difference in numbers is telling. Rashford could be a great differential over Son this week.
The likes of Luke Shaw (top among defenders for chances created past 4 Gameweeks) and Alex Telles (6 chances created in the first 30 mins of the cup game) are posting good numbers but who plays left back against Burnley is anyone’s guess pending Shaw’s fitness. I think that other than that, Man United’s defenders carry a low ceiling so I would probably be avoiding Man United defence on Free Hit.
Anthony Martial and Edinson Cavani could do well given Man United’s attacking stats but you’d be a brave man to punt on either.
– Spurs vs Fulham:
Fulham defensive stats GW 1-9 v 10-15
Shots in the box conceded per game: 8.2 v 6.7
Big chances conceded per game: 2.3 v 2
Above I highlight the improvements that Fulham have made in their defence. During Gameweeks 10-15, Fulham played Man City, Liverpool, Leicester and Southampton yet we saw their numbers get better which is a testament to a change in Scott Parker’s approach. FPL managers take note, Fulham are not the walkover they once were so points galore with the Son and Kane double up may not be as obvious as most FPL managers are anticipating. A Spurs attacker should definitely be on the menu for Gameweek 18 though, here I look at which one to get:
Son (Home 20/21) vs Kane (Home 20/21)
Mins per shot inside the box: 109.7 vs 32.6
Mins per big chance: 164.5 vs 119.5
Mins per big chance created: 219.3 vs 143.4
Mins per chance created: 36.6 vs 79.7
Generally, I tend to favour Son as my FPL asset of choice but Kane’s numbers at home seem far better – he is also top for expected assists and involvement over home fixtures played this season. Kane is also the bookie favourites to score this week, and that too by a distance.
Investing in a Spurs defender or Lloris could also be a good idea given that Spurs are second favourites for a clean sheet according to the bookies this Gameweek.
At this point, I’d also like to mention that given the Spurs v Villa postponement, it makes sense to hold onto your Aston Villa assets as of now as they are likely to have a double Gameweek 19 followed by possibly another double Gameweek in Gameweek 20. Alternatively, Villa could even have a triple Gameweek in Gameweek 19 so hold your horses with Villa’s assets!
– Wolves vs Everton:
Wolves defence (Home) v Wolves defence (Away)
Shots inside the box conceded per game 5.75 v 8.78
Big chances conceded per game 1.25 v 2.11
The numbers couldn’t be any more different! I say that because Wolves are in the top 3 for xG conceded in home games all season, while simultaneously they are in the bottom 2 for xG conceded in all away games so the disparity is huge.
Saiss might be an asset to own considering the defensive solidity of Wolves at home. Out of all defenders in the league he is second best for shots inside the box despite the fact that he has missed five Gameweeks. If I was to own a Wolves defender, it would be him.
This will be a tough game for Everton. They will be missing their star-man Dominic Calvert-Lewin. His numbers have taken a turn for the worse which is a cause for concern for his owners:
DCL GW 1-11 v DCL GW 12-17
Mins per shot in the box 31.29 v 54.63
Mins per big chance 69.28 v 145.67
As shown in the analysis above, Calvert-Lewin’s attacking threat has reduced and he is accumulating less chances than he was in the early stages of the season. Calvert-Lewin has been averaging less than four points per game over the past seven Gameweeks and with the news of a hamstring injury, patience of even the loyalest of his owners might finally run out.
Pedro Neto could be a nice differential in this fixture considering the fact that he is in the top three midfielders for shots inside the box over the last two Gameweeks. Wolves have only failed to score just once in the league all season and with set pieces in his locker, almost everything will go through Neto particularly given the absence of Jimenez and Podence.
Q: How to decide whether to Free Hit, Wildcard or to go chip-less this week? Is bench boosting in Gameweek 19 still a viable strategy?
As always, this is a very team specific question which is very hard for me to generalise and answer. I would say the bare minimum threshold not to Free Hit is perhaps seven playable players in Gameweek 18 without a hit, the significant majority of which should ideally be the ones I have highlighted in my analysis above.
Having said that, I think with the announcement of Spurs v Fulham, this Gameweek can carry deceptive upside which might not be as apparent but I think Man City, Man United and Spurs all have winnable games on paper and possess the potential to go big. I was always in the Gameweek 29 Free Hit camp and I still hold the opinion that using the Free Hit till then could still be the optimal approach given that it allows one to wildcard in Gameweek 25 with a clear strategy, completely ignoring spending transfers on the lesser teams and pretending as if the blank Gameweek 29 doesn’t exist. But this Spurs v Fulham game has my head in a spin, and I wonder whether those who field 11 this Gameweek via the Free Hit could accumulate significant advantage over those who are fielding seven to eight players with hits accounted for. In my head, I will be working out the opportunity cost over the next 18 hours or so.
Wildcarding in Gameweek 18 could be a decent option too, given that Spurs, Man United and Man City all not only give a solid base to your team for the next two Gameweeks, but have decent fixtures after the double Gameweek too. Leeds and West Ham assets could act as decent bench fillers for the time being to feature in time for Gameweek 19. However, in my opinion the wildcard should be kept till longer if possible as there is still a large part of the season to go and if you have the opportunity to fix your team with a few hits spread here and there, I’d prefer that over wildcarding.
I will reiterate I don’t like the idea of bench boosting in Gameweek 19 given the COVID situation, as there is too much uncertainty and precedents of late postponements being set.
Q: Some frequently asked questions about the Free Hit:
(courtesy Who Got The Assist)
*Do I get my rolled transfers back if I Free Hit?
*Does free hit wipe out point hits I have already taken?
*Will my confirmed transfers before I Free Hit be in my team after this week?
*Will I have to pay a higher price for a player I bought on a free hit (if they’ve risen)?
*Do players in my team get affected, before I free hit, get affected by price rise/falls?
*What if FPL is paused during my free hit being active?
We don’t know.
*I have 2 free transfers. How many will I have next Gameweek should I decide to activate the Free Hit this Gameweek?
Q: Who is the best captaincy option this week?
Having already highlighted the improvement in Fulham’s defensive numbers of late, the standout options for me remain Kevin De Bruyne and Bruno Fernandes. I run a comparison over De Bruyne’s home and Fernandes’ away numbers this season, based on their respective fixtures this week:
De Bruyne Home v Fernandes Away (20/21)
Mins per chance created: 32 v 26
Mins per big chance created: 77 v 71
Mins per shot in the box: 54 v 52
Mins per big chance: 135 v 82
Looking at this, it seems as if Fernandes is running De Bruyne close for captaincy this week. In fact, Fernandes’ away numbers in isolation are slightly better than De Bruyne’s home numbers. But there is more to it than meets the eye. A very important factor is that with the inclusion of Pogba in the Man United team (which could be the case vs Burnley depending on his injury), Fernandes’ numbers seem to significantly drop off:
Fernandes with Pogba starting v Fernandes without Pogba starting (20/21)
Mins per chance created: 24.7 v 25.5
Mins per big chance created: 230.3 v 87.3
Mins per shot inside the box: 115.2 v 38.2
Mins per big chance: 172.8 v 76.4
De Bruyne’s numbers at home far outweigh those of Fernandes when he plays next to Pogba. Hence, I think that the smart play is to back De Bruyne for more FPL points this week – the bookies have them down as favourites to 2.5+ goals so the ceiling is clearly there! Man City’s attacking form is back too, as they now stand best for big chances created over the past 4 Gameweeks.
Q: Was Liverpool’s failure against Southampton a temporary blip or is it cause for concern? What does it mean for Salah?
I run a comparison between Liverpool’s away numbers this season and their away numbers last season to analyse the variance in away form:
Liverpool (Away 20/21) vs Liverpool (Away 19/20)
Shots inside the box per game: 8.78 vs 9.89
Big chances per game: 2.78 vs 2.52
Interestingly, attacking-wise Liverpool have dropped off a bit in terms of the shots inside the box this season but have been able to create chances of slightly better quality. This tells me that there is not much to read into the myth that away from home Liverpool have not been creating chances this season – as they are still averaging around three big chances per game. Now when I look at their defence:
Liverpool (Away 19/20) vs Liverpool (Away 20/21)
Shots inside the box conceded per game: 6.05 vs 5.44
Big chances conceded per game: 1.95 vs 2.33
Again there’s not much difference between the numbers, as Liverpool seem to be conceding more or less the same amount of shots inside the box. What’s concerning though is that Liverpool are conceding around ∼2.33 big chances per game away from home. Clean sheets will be hard to come by if they continue at this rate.
Salah (Away 20/21) vs Salah (Away 19/20)
Mins per shot inside the box: 42.35 vs 26.12
Mins per big chance: 90 vs 130.6
The same trend as witnessed with the Liverpool attack above follows here. Salah is getting shots in the box with a lower frequency but the quality of chances has significantly improved. Again, this counters the myth that Salah is a worse asset away from home this season.
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