In this edition of Breaking the Template, @Hibbo_FPL examines the merits of holding or selling the suspended Michail Antonio (£7.9m) who misses out on FPL Gameweek 5. This article will provide FPL tips to help managers to break the strong starting template and achieve that desired top 10k finish.
Antonio: the Data so far
Michail Antonio (£7.9m) has notched four goals in the opening four gameweeks, ranking top amongst forwards for goal threat in the process. Over the period Antonio has dominated for shot volume ranking first for shots (18) and shots on target (8).
In addition to shot volume, approximately 83% of Antonio’s shots have been from close range, ranking first for shots inside the box (15).
Furthermore, high-quality chances have been in abundant supply, with Antonio ranking first amongst forwards for big chances received (6).
Unsurprisingly, the proximity and frequency of his shots see Antonio dominating the expected goal metrics, ranking first for both expected goals (3.60) and non-penalty expected goals (2.83). The Jamaican international is as creative as he is lethal, ranking first for assists (4), big chances created (3), and xA (1.99).
In terms of fixtures, Antonio misses the visit of Manchester United to the London Stadium following his second yellow card against Southampton. Given the perceived difficulty of this immediate fixture, owners with bench cover could hold and address other squad issues.
In Gameweek 6, West Ham travel to face a Leeds United side who have endured a difficult start to the season. Over the first four games, Leeds rank joint-worst for shots conceded (75) and worst for shots on target conceded (28). Furthermore, Leeds rank second-worst for goals conceded (11) and expected goals conceded xGC (9.3).
It’s important not to drive a narrative but to provide balance and, most importantly, context. Over the first four, the opposition Leeds have faced rank amongst the best in the division for non-penalty expected goals (NPxG). Notably, against that metric Liverpool rank first (10.6) and Manchester United rank third (7.8).
In Gameweek 7, Brentford visit the London Stadium and have quickly established themselves as a “mid-table defence”. Over the first four, Brentford were fourth best for shots conceded (40) and joint-fourth best for shots on target conceded (13).
The Bees have conceded just two goals which align almost perfectly with their non-penalty expected goals conceded (2.1). For context, over the period, the opposition faced have lacked threat with Brighton ranked highest in ninth place for non-penalty expected goals (4.9).
The addition of Europa League football adds an extra layer of complexity which sees West Ham play nine matches over the next seven weeks. It remains to be seen whether West Ham have the squad depth to play Sunday football with the lethargy that Europa League Thursday nights invariably bring.
The International Factor
During the most recent international break, Antonio debuted for Jamaica in a World Cup qualifier against Panama which ended in a 3-0 defeat. The upcoming October international break will see Jamaica close their World Cup qualifying campaign with a triple-header against USMNT, Canada & Honduras.
Interestingly, Jamaica faces their next three opponents in countries on the UK amber travel list, meaning Antonio should be allowed to both travel and play. For a player accustomed to both injuries and a restful international break, this is a step into unchartered territory.
While 31-year-old Antonio will be delighted to tick both European & international competition off his football bucket list, his hamstrings might not be so grateful. Notably, Antonio suffered his second significant hamstring injury of last season in April 2021 which ruled him out for the remainder of the 2020/21 season.
Antonio has been recently quoted as saying, “I’ve noticed since I changed my diet I’ve had less niggles and I’ve not felt my hamstrings at all”. However, for, Antonio’s long term fitness, the proof in the pudding won’t be in the eating but in load management.
The return of Raul Jimenez (£7.4m) to Premier League action following his fractured skull against Arsenal last season has been nothing short of remarkable. In terms of goal threat, Jimenez ranks second behind Antonio amongst forwards for shots (13) and shots in the box (12).
The wayward Mexican has been found badly wanting for accuracy, ranking poorly for shots on target (1). Furthermore, while Bruno Lage’s Wolves side have been commended for their attacking style, Jimenez has struggled for big chances (1).
Two factors point to a Firmino-esque change in role for Raul Jimenez. As a team, Wolves rank fifth for big chances, but the Mexican has had minimal involvement. Secondly, the former Benfica man ranks first amongst forwards for key passes (12).
Furthermore, question marks remain over whether Jimenez will resume spot-kick duty given the success of Ruben Neves in his absence.
In terms of fixtures, in Gameweek 5 Wolves welcome a defensively sound Brentford to Molineux in what could be a cagey affair. A trip to Southampton appeals before a hugely enticing home tie against a ramshackle Newcastle United that rank worst in the division for xGC (10.5).
Patrick Bamford (£7.9m) has endured a slower start to his second Premier League season with Leeds, largely due to tough opening fixtures. In terms of goal threat, Bamford ranks amongst forwards joint-fifth for shots (15) and fifth for shots in the box (10).
Bamford has operated with greater accuracy than the Mexican, ranking better for shots on target (3). Having faced two of the division’s best sides, Liverpool and Manchester United, in the opening four it bodes well that Bamford has returned a goal and an assist against non-elite opposition.
In terms of fixtures, over the next three Leeds have a very favourable run, beginning with a visit to Newcastle, which is conducive to a big Bamford score. Back to back home games against West Ham and Watford appeal, with the Hornets joint-fifth worst for big chances conceded (10).
In conclusion, given the production of Michail Antonio, it could be considered knee-jerk to remove the West Ham marksman because of a one-game suspension. However, it’ll be largely team-dependent whether FPL managers have the strength in depth to hold and bench Antonio for Gameweek 5.
The injury to Dominic Calvert-Lewin (£8.2m) has limited the pool of alternatives but those chasing the upside should back the fixtures and Patrick Bamford to steal a march on their rivals. However, any possible transfer should be left till near the deadline given rumours about a possible hamstring issue that is being managed.
After the strength of the starting template, FPL managers have been faced with early decisions which could prove to be sliding door moments for their season. Bamford is very much the aggressive template breaking pick, however the elite level production of Michail Antonio will be that touch more differential by Gameweek 6.
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For those that have read, thank you. Keep an eye out for more articles through-out the season and drop me a follow on Twitter @Hibbo_FPL.
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