In this Gameweek preview series, the brilliant AbuBakar shares his data-driven observations and FPL Gameweek 34 tips to help us make decisions for the upcoming Gameweeks.
The Preview: Gameweek 34
Greetings everyone, welcome to my latest article where I discuss all the pertinent questions relevant to the upcoming Gameweek:
Q: Bruno Fernandes – keep or sell?
Bruno Fernandes GW 1-25 v 26-29 v 30-33
Shots in the box per game: 1.28 v 0.5 v 1.5
Big chance involvements per game: 1.28 v 0.5 v 1
Chances created per game: 2.85 v 2.75 v 1.75
United xG per game: 1.67 v 1.1 v 1.87
FPL points per game: 7.6 v 4.75 v 3
To answer this week’s burning question, I have broken down Bruno Fernandes’ numbers into three different sets of data. You’ll notice that Bruno’s FPL points per game have rapidly kept on decreasing over these three periods – however, I believe that his underlying numbers recently (Gameweeks 30-33) are much closer to his numbers when in prime form in Gameweek 1-25. The only slump I noticed in Bruno’s statistics was between Gameweek 26-29, a period during which only Leeds and Palace had failed to register fewer big chances than Man United.
Over recent weeks (Gameweek 30-33), Bruno’s numbers for goal threat are parallel to his numbers earlier in the season. The only marked difference I notice has been in a sharp drop in creativity – and that is due to the fact that Shaw is taking a larger piece of the set pieces. There are a couple of additional reasons as to why Bruno hasn’t been among the goals despite having similar goal threat numbers.
Firstly, his accuracy has dipped. From Gameweek 1-29, 43% of Bruno’s shots were on target. Unfortunately, that figure has dipped to 36% from Gameweek 30-33. Secondly, Man United have won just the single penalty since Gameweek 26 as compared to the seven penalties they had won during Bruno’s run of form till Gameweek 25. His numbers are still decent – he’s a keep for me, particularly considering the potential double Gameweek in 35.
Q: Diogo Jota – keep or sell?
I personally believe this is a bit of a no brainer. Over the past two Gameweeks, Jota is top among all players in the league for shots in the box. He is outdoing his Liverpool team-mates Salah and Mane in terms of xG and big chances over this spell too. Among the mid-priced midfielders, he almost always comfortably has the best odds to score every week. With a fixture run that reads SOU wba bur CRY after this week’s fixture against Man United, I see no reason to sell Jota – even if there’s a risk of a random benching here or there. I fancy him to get more chances in 30 minutes than most in 90 anyway.
Q: In this section, I discuss how to tackle the Man United v Liverpool game for FPL managers loaded up on their assets.
A lot of FPL managers are worried about this Gameweek in particular having loaded up on United’s and Liverpool’s assets. The only popular asset I would consider benching here is Jota – and that too if you can afford to do so. It’s not as if Jota is a bad option to play this week. I’ve already spoken about the fact that Shaw is hogging United’s set pieces – which is why he is top among all players for chances created in the past two matches.
His consistency is incredible – no player has created more chances in the league this calendar year. This is why he’s potentially an explosive option as he has the added advantage of bonus accumulation whenever Man United are to keep a clean sheet. The same applies to Trent as well – him and Shaw are level for chances created among all players in the league from Gameweek 26-33.
Salah and Bruno given their pedigree pick themselves and I believe they are too risky to bench. Greenwood is only behind Salah for shots in the box over the past four matches – it’s still far too early to dismiss him as an option.
Q: Is it better to Free Hit in Gameweek 35 or Gameweek 36?
As of now, I think a significant majority of FPL managers will have their teams stacked with Man United, Leicester and Chelsea assets. This is why I believe the template is strong in double Gameweek 35 which reduces the appeal of Free Hitting here as it’s unlikely you’d catch big hauls even if you load your team up with additional Villa, Palace or Southampton assets.
Instead, a Free Hit in Gameweek 36 is likely to bring far more value addition. The core focus for FPL managers over the coming Gameweeks will be to be in a position to field as many players as possible in both the double Gameweek 35 and in blank Gameweek 36 – and that might come at a compromise of quality. Free Hitters in Gameweek 36 can target loading up on Everton (SHU) and Man City (new), both of whom are likely to have some hauls between them.
Q: In this section, I cover Leicester.
Iheanacho GW26-33 vs Vardy GW26-31 vs Vardy GW32-33
Mins per shot in box: 33.9 v 90 v 29.1
Mins per big chance: 75.33 v 180 v 58.33
Mins per xGi: 104.1 v 210.9 v 112.2
Since Gameweek 26, only Kane has recorded a better xGi and more big chances in the league than Iheanacho. Iheanacho’s underlying numbers are such that his FPL average of 8.8 points per game from Gameweek 26 onwards actually seems remarkably sustainable till the end of the season – if you still don’t have Iheanacho in your team, get him in now! I would probably still pick him over Vardy even if both had the same price.
Having said that, Vardy’s numbers over the past two matches have improved significantly as shown in the analysis above. He is getting big chances and shooting inside the box and a more frequent rate – points are coming. Maddison unfortunately looks peripheral in this new formation – he’s had just the one shot inside the box and no big chance involvements over his past two starts.
Q: In this section, I cover Leeds.
Leeds GW 1-24 vs Leeds GW 25-33
Shots in the box conceded per game: 9.3 v 8.5
Big chances conceded per game: 2.6 v 1.3
Average xG conceded per game: 1.7 v 1.25
Needless to say, Leeds are a completely unrecognizable team from what we witnessed of them earlier in the season. Their defensive numbers have improved big time. In Bielsa’s words, his players are “growing in maturity and gaining experience to manage games”. The eye-opening stat for me is that big chances conceded have halved in recent weeks – which is why I believe that Stuart Dallas may still have a role to play in the run-in (bha TOT bur sou WBA). I have a feeling there’s a big haul in him before the end of the season.
On the other side of the spectrum, Leeds are in the bottom five for both xG and big chances since Gameweek 26. This I believe, has been brought about by a combination of an increase in fixture difficulty and the injury to Raphinha. The underlying numbers don’t look great for Bamphinha but I believe that their difficult run has passed and owners should now cash in with Leeds’ fixtures till the end of the season. Both are worth keeping for me.
Q: Who are the best differentials for the run-in?
This is a very popular question this week given that a lot of FPL managers are looking to gain ground on their rivals at this stage of the season. I’ve always believed that there is a reason why a differential is a differential – because it always comes with some risk attached to it. Hence, both my picks here come with some sort of uncertainty attached to them.
My attacking differential would be Bale. I believe his benching in the Carabao Cup final was tactical and he should start in the favorable fixtures that Spurs have (SHU lee WOL AVL). I believe he has a high ceiling. My defensive differential would be Lucas Digne (AVL whu+avl SHU WOL). Even though I’m always skeptical of Everton’s defence, Digne does possess assist potential going forward and a potential double in Gameweek 35 followed by a home game against Sheffield United in Gameweek 36 means there’s upside to catch.
Q: Who is the best budget striker to own in the coming gameweeks?
There are a lot of candidates competing for top slot here – Wood, Calvert Lewin, Richarlison, Ings, Bamford and Watkins. Wood has the best underlying statistics having accumulated the highest number of big chances of all players in the league over the previous six matches but has one less fixture to play. Like the Everton boys, Ings and Watkins have an additional fixture too but their fixtures either side of the double don’t look as great. This is why I believe Calvert Lewin, is by far, the best pick among the forwards for the run-in. Here’s a comparison I run between the Everton forwards:
DCL vs Richarlison Last 4 matches
Mins per shot in box: 51.42 v 35.9
Mins per big chance: 72 v 119.66
Mins per xGi: 174.8 v 181.3
Even though Richarlison is shooting at a more frequent rate, it is Calvert Lewin who is being afforded the better quality of chances. Even though Everton don’t have great attacking numbers at the moment, I believe it makes sense to back them with the fixtures come up (AVL whu+avl SHU WOL). It’s not as if Calvert Lewin has bad numbers himself – over the past six matches, he’s only behind Kane, Iheanacho and Wood for big chances. Further, what I like about him is that his most difficult fixture (mci) is in Gameweek 38 so he’s easily sellable after his good run.
Q: In this section, I talk about Wilfried Zaha.
Zaha’s a bit of a tricky one. I’ll list his pros and cons and leave the decision to you:
Pros: I was surprised to find this stat but when I did some digging I found Zaha to be only behind Son, Salah and Sterling for minutes per big chance from open play in matches against the bottom ten so he’s an absolute flat track bully. Palace’s fixtures in the double are likely to be against Sheffield United and Southampton so there’s potential there. Also worth noting that Palace are one of the few teams who have potentially have a double in 35 and then a fixture again in 36.
Cons: He plays for Palace who have arguably the worst attacking statistics over the season – no one has recorded fewer big chances or a worse xG. Further, Zaha almost always needs multiple returns to haul big. Only once has he recorded bonus points with one attacking return over the course of the season.
Q: In this section, I analyze Arsenal’s fixture v Newcastle.
Arsenal defensive numbers GW1-25 v GW26-33*
Shots in box conceded per game 6.96 v 6
Big chances conceded per game 1.52 v 1.14
Average xG conceded per game 1.19 v 0.86
The Gameweek 26-33 data set does not include Arsenal’s match against Liverpool as I believe that game was a statistical outlier in which Arsenal refused to turn up. Other than that, Arsenal’s defence has been posting some very encouraging numbers of late. Owners have been highly unlucky to lose clean sheets due to a Fulham penalty and a freakish Leno error. However, Arsenal are now up against an in-form Newcastle attack:
Newcastle attacking numbers GW1-29 v GW30-33
Shots in box per game: 8.79 v 11.25
Big chances per game: 1.82 v 3
Average xG per game: 1.44 v 2.27
It is no surprise that Newcastle’s attack has been rejuvenated with the return from injury of Allan Saint-Maximin. I’d be very surprised if they didn’t score against Arsenal – if you have the luxury of benching your Arsenal defender, then I would choose to do that.
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The Preview: GW 34 – A thread
— AbuBakar Siddiq (@BigManBakar) April 28, 2021
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