In this review series, the brilliant AbuBakar shares his data-driven observations and FPL Gameweek 29 tips to help us make decisions for the upcoming Gameweeks.
The Review: Gameweek 28
The Review: Gameweek 28
Hi everyone, welcome to the latest edition of “The Review” where I look at Free Hit and the upcoming blank Gameweek 29 at length:
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 to show your support!
Q: Which players do I pick for my Free Hit squad?
Down below, I discuss each fixture individually highlighting the players that should be picked for the Free Hit:
– Aston Villa v Spurs:
I start by running a comparison on Kane’s performances against the league’s top and bottom 10:
Kane against the league’s top 10 v Kane against the bottom 10 after Gameweek 10 (League rank for relevant stat among forwards given in brackets)
Mins per shots inside box: 53.18 (10th) v 34.65 (2nd)
Mins per big chance: 585 (26th) v 88.55 (2nd)
Mins per expected goal involvement: 370.3 v 112.6
Needless to say, Kane has had his fair share of struggles against better opposition. He has scored just four times in seven games against the top 10 after Gameweek 10. I now highlight the difference in Spurs’ attacking numbers home and away:
Spurs home v away this season (League rank for relevant stat given in brackets)
Big chances per game: 2.71 (2nd) v 1.92 (11th)
Average xG per game: 1.53 (6th) v 1.11 (13nd)
As is visible, Mourinho seems to adopt a pragmatic safety-first approach away from home. These are the reasons why I believe the captaincy isn’t as straightforward as it may seem on paper, even though we are struggling to find better alternatives. I now look at Kane’s performances with and without Son given that the South Korean is an injury doubt:
Kane with Son 20/21 v Kane without Son (sample used: the 5 league games Kane played without Son in 19/20)
Mins per xGi: 138 v 138
Mins per xG: 170 v 172
Mins per big chance: 120 v 145
The numbers are similar but it is worth noting how dependent Spurs have been on Son for creativity this term. He has created around 20% of Spurs’ chances this season while his big chance involvement amounts to almost 51%. Kane had other alternatives like Eriksen and Lo Celso to create for him last season when Son wasn’t around. However, it is worth noting that Villa’s defensive numbers have slumped over recent weeks which may play into Spurs’ hands:
Aston Villa’s defensive numbers GW21-28 v GW1-20
Big chances conceded per game: 1.78 v 1.38
Average xG conceded per game: 1.41 v 1.2
This may benefit Gareth Bale in particular who was called out by Mourinho for a “lack of intensity” this week. Kane is top among forwards for xGi in the last six matches and with Bale, presents FPL managers with a limited number of premium options with some sort of potential this week.
Villa received a huge boost this week with the news that Grealish is back in training. Whether he is match fit or not remains to be seen but his influence on the team has been incredible:
Villa with Grealish v Villa without Grealish this season
Chances created per game: 11.31 v 8.8
Big chances per game: 2.54 v 1.8
Average xG per game: 1.58 v 1.19
Grealish’s impact on Watkins’ numbers has been significant as well. Watkins is yet to record a big chance in either of the five games in which Grealish has been injured, having a meagre average xG of just 0.12. 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. Watkins is now six matches without a goal now and even from the eye test, it was apparent how frustrated he was v Newcastle because every time El Ghazi had the opportunity to cross, he chose to cut in and shoot from distance.
– Brighton v Newcastle:
Brighton are this week’s odds-on favourites to win their game, keep a clean sheet, and score more than 2.5 goals this week (courtesy @Drafthound). Brighton are 3rd for xG and 1st for xG conceded in home games this season while Newcastle are 20th for xG conceded and 19th for xG in away games this season. As big of a mismatch as there can be on paper – Brighton v Newcastle is clearly the fixture to target this week! I’m aware that Brighton are 18th in the home Premier League table but their position does not do justice to their performances. Honestly, with those numbers as unbelievable as it sounds, they should be challenging for the Champions League! According to their xG numbers, they have scored 12 fewer goals than they should have done and conceded nine more goals than they were expected to – that is painful.
Recent results might put people off Brighton defence but their numbers at home, whether defensive or attacking, have been borderline elite. Hence, I believe that we need to look at this home fixture vs Newcastle with far more optimism. I run a few comparisons to shed more light on the basis of my bullishness:
Brighton home v Brighton away 20/21
Shots in the box per game: 10.8 v 6.6
Big chances per game: 2.4 v 1.4
Average xG per game: 1.8 v 1.2
Brighton home v Brighton away 20/21
Shots in the box conceded per game: 4.8 v 6.7
Big chances conceded per game: 0.8 v 2.1
Average xG conceded per game: 0.8 v 1.2
I now use my friend @FPLTIPSINDIA’s comparison on Brighton defenders over the past seven matches:
Dunk vs Veltman vs White vs Burn (GW 22-28)
Mins per Big Chance 630 vs 270 vs NA vs NA
Mins per shot inside box 105 vs 77.1 vs 311.5 vs 117
Mins per expected involvement 1032.8 vs 348.4 vs 5191.7 vs 568
Mins per baseline BPS 6.6 vs 8.9 vs 7.6 vs 9
That tells me that Dunk and Veltman are by far and away the Brighton defenders to get given their attacking numbers. Dunk’s goal vs Southampton had a xG of 0.03 and Forster really should have had done better but that now takes Dunk up to second highest for most goals scored among defenders this season. He fares best among Brighton defenders for bonus accumulation too and will fancy himself against a Newcastle side who have conceded the highest number of headed attempts in the past six matches. Veltman is top among the league’s defenders for shots in the box and second for big chances over the past four matches but if Potter decides to use Groß as a wing back like he did in the second half against the Saints, then Veltman’s attacking threat as a centre back could be limited. Robert Sánchez has started 17 times this season and accumulated save points on just five occasions, so I prefer the Brighton defenders over him on a Free Hit.
As far as the Brighton attack is concerned, they have scored more than one goal just seven times this season. Trossard was playing in an advanced position against Saints and has accumulated eight shots in the box in his previous five starts. He has scored just three times this season which is why Potter has challenged him to increase his goal and assist output. Maupay is the bookies’ favourite after Kane for anytime goalscorer this week but a quick glance through the forums tells me that Brighton fans anticipate Welbeck to be vital for their run in and expect him to chip in with crucial goals.
– Fulham v Leeds:
Despite having failed to score in their previous three league games, I’d still back the Leeds attack to break their duck here – particularly given that it’s an away game. Leeds are top in the league for shots in the box and in the top four for xG non-penalty in away games this season so pose a far greater goal threat on their travels.
No Leeds player has returned more FPL points than Raphinha since he has started playing since Gameweek 9. He has had at least one big chance involvement in seven of Leeds’ past nine matches. Noticeably, Raphinha has been playing in advanced positions closer to Bamford in recent times and hence it is no surprise that over the past six matches, Raphinha among midfielders is top for chances created and expected goal involvement while at the same time sitting second best for big chances created. Leeds will further be boosted by the return to fitness of Patrick Bamford who is a serial away day specialist – over the past six away games, he is ranked top among forwards for big chances created and shots in the box.
Fulham will hardly be any pushovers though. They have kept five clean sheets in their previous eight matches, and even in the game against Man City where they conceded thrice they restricted City to just seven shots in the box which is quite some way down from Man City’s average number of 10.41 shots in the box per game this season. Andersen might be worth considering given how poorly Leeds defend set pieces.
Contrary to popular opinion, Leeds at home have been decent defensively – at home, Leeds are ranked 9th in the league for xG conceded (vs 20th away), having an average xG conceded per game of 1.2 (vs 1.9 away) and conceding on average 1.7 big chances per game (vs 3 away). That tells me that Maja might be worth considering. Leeds have the worst xG conceded away from home in the league while Maja is in the top three among forwards for xG in the past six matches and during that spell has been involved in ∼63% of Fulham’s big chances. Lookman is another interesting one as well – he is top among Fulham players for chances created in the past six matches but has been involved in just one of Fulham’s eight big chances. It will be fascinating to see who takes penalties for Fulham should a penalty be awarded given that Leeds have conceded the highest number of penalties in the league this season.
Even though Leeds away have been leaky, it’s not as if Fulham have been prolific in front of goal either. Fulham are ranked 19th in the league for goals scored and xG over their past six home matches. This brings Stuart Dallas to the radar, who has more goals than any other defender in the league this season and is likely to play in an advanced position in midfield.
– West Ham v Arsenal:
Arsenal’s attack might be worth targeting in the blank Gameweek as well. I’ve noticed that Arsenal’s numbers have shot up the charts in recent times. Arsenal over the previous six matches are second only to Man City for xG while in the previous six away games, Arsenal are best in the league for xG which bodes well for them ahead of their away fixture v West Ham. Aubameyang is top among midfielders for shots in the box, expected goals and expected goal involvement over the previous four matches and is a good differential captain for FPL managers willing to punt. He has four goals in his previous four starts so has form behind his back.
Keep an eye out on Saka’s fitness. If he is fit, then he is definitely one to consider on a Free Hit as his numbers are great whenever he plays. If Saka is out, then Pepe is an interesting shout. In his last six league starts, he has accumulated 16 shots in the box. Arteta praised both Ødegaard and Smith-Rowe recently and they are also worth considering given how Arsenal line up in the Europa League.
Arsenal’s defence has improved in recent times too. They are ranked second only to Chelsea for xG conceded over the past three matches which makes Tierney worth considering. Among all defenders who play this Gameweek, Tierney is top for chances created in the past six matches and can exploit West Ham’s weakness on their right flank – only Newcastle have conceded more chances than West Ham down the right flank over the past six matches.
It will be fascinating to see the approach that Moyes adopts this Gameweek after he chose to park the bus and sit deep vs Man United. If he does adopt a similar pragmatic approach, it will have a knock-on effect on Lingard and Antonio. It is worth noting that West Ham have been more fluid with Lingard in the team this season:
West Ham with Lingard v West Ham without Lingard 20/21
Average xG per game: 1.59 v 1.36
Big chances per game: 2.50 v 1.82
Lingard is top for shots inside the box and second for expected goal involvement over the past four matches, while Antonio is second among forwards for xG over the last six matches. They are the ones to get from West Ham.
Q: How to decide whether to Free Hit or not this week?
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 29 without a hit, the significant majority of which should ideally be the ones I have highlighted in my analysis above. In this worst possible scenario, your red arrow shouldn’t be as big as most others will be in the same boat as you. I would suggest you make a Free Hit draft, and compare the expected points of that draft with your current team. If you can see a minimum gain of 15 points through the additional players, then I would be in favour of Free Hitting.
Ideally, I’d like to keep the Free Hit for the blank Gameweek 33 or the potential double in Gameweek 35 but I notice that we are underestimating the gain we can make just by accumulating base points and avoiding hits this week just because the fixtures/players are “unsexy”. Using Free Hit in Gameweek 33 has a high ceiling – there are clear fixtures to target but I believe it is somewhat manageable as most managers will be able to field 11. What stands out for me is that there is nothing that guarantees that the Free Hit squad you choose in Gameweek 33 will not outscore your current selection in Gameweek 33 which makes Free Hitting there a high-risk strategy.
Q: Is loading up on differentials the best possible way to use the Free Hit?
The upside play on the Free Hit is to pick all differentials and hit the players that haul while the template blanks. This is very unlikely in my opinion and not something I’d recommend. In my opinion, the best way to gain rank is to cover the main five to six template players, and fill the rest of your team up with differentials. This way you are guaranteed to gain rank without any risk and if your differentials perform, that green arrow will only be bigger. Given the chaos this week, most managers will be taking hits and fielding significantly less players than a Free Hit squad anyway so there’s a minimum gain of 10 points to be made, which could shoot to 25+ if the correct differentials are picked.
Q: Some frequently asked questions about the Free Hit:
*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?
*I have 2 free transfers. How many will I have next Gameweek should I decide to activate the Free Hit this Gameweek?
Q: Manchester City assets – keep or sell?
This is a very tricky question to answer given the fact that Pep has basically said that he is going to rotate “six to seven” players in every game from now on in. Man City are the standout team in the league this season so obviously selling their assets is tough, even when you consider that at best, they will play just three times in the next five Gameweeks given their blanks in Gameweek 29 and Gameweek 33. I think Dias is the easiest one to keep, as the recent trends show that he is the most secure among the Man City defenders. I think Stones is worth keeping as well, because of the value that he offers – even if he misses the odd game at that price, he’s still great value.
Cancelo is tricky because even though he is highly prone to rotation, I believe he has one of the highest upsides in the game as far as defenders are concerned. What I like about Cancelo is that he has just been subbed on once in the league this season and Pep doesn’t have a history of bringing full backs late on in games either, so Cancelo isn’t too susceptible to a one pointer. If you have a good bench, you can afford to keep him. I’m sure Gündoğan and De Bruyne both will start against Leicester after the break as Pep will see that as a tough game on paper. Gündoğan is tremendous value and De Bruyne is in the form of his life so they are risky sells before that game but I think a more compelling case can be made of selling either of them over the City defenders.
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