In this FPL review series, the brilliant AbuBakar shares his data-driven observations to help us make decisions for the upcoming Gameweeks.
Greetings all! I present to you this week’s “The Review” as I cast my eyes on the Premier League football played over the weekend:
1) Timo Werner: Keep or sell?
Before I start with this week’s review, I’d like to say that instead of focusing primarily on what happened in what I believe was a freakish Gameweek, it is important to focus on the general trends we have witnessed till date.
Opinion seems to be divided on Timo Werner in the FPL community. While some think that the goal in the cup midweek vs Spurs was a finish of a man with confidence, there are others who say that Werner playing on the left and not as the main central striker getting the bulk of the chances does not warrant the £9.4 million investment. Personally, I can see the case for both sides of the argument and I think it depends on your team whether or not you decide to keep him. In my case, I own Dominic Calvert Lewin and Raúl Jiménez already so I have decided to keep Werner. If I didn’t, I would have been far more tempted to get rid as I believe those are the two strikers to have in the weeks to come (more on that below).
I don’t think Frank Lampard knows at the minute where he sees Werner in the Chelsea formation long term himself. I’m sure we’ll see the best of Werner once Pulisic and Ziyech are back in the team to supply more chances to him, but by then Werner could drop further in value. Werner is one of the best ranked forwards for a FPL return according to the bookies odds this week, so I am keeping faith despite knowing in the back of my mind that his ceiling might not be as great with Chelsea struggling to create chances. I still believe if there’s one attacking asset I want from Chelsea, it’s him though.
2) In this section, I discuss two of the most in-form premium strikers in the league right now.
First up is Harry Kane who has a better expected goal involvement from open play over the first three weeks than anyone else in the league. I think he’s going a bit under the radar given that Spurs haven’t won a penalty yet. Add a couple of penalty goals to his FPL score and everyone will be talking about him! The potential loss of Son is huge this week but he’s definitely one keeping an eye out on from Gameweek 5 (WHU bur BHA wba). Spurs have impressed me this year, having the joint highest amount of big chances in the league so far.
The other forward I want to talk about is Jamie Vardy, who sits top for forwards for FPL points right now. Four of five of Vardy’s big chances this season have come from penalties and the Leicester forward has accumulated only two shots inside the box from open play. Currently, only Leeds have overperformed in terms of their xG more than Leicester so that is another point to note as well. The likes of Jimenez, Ings, Calvert Lewin and co for significantly lesser price have better numbers from open play and in my opinion offer better value. Vardy at that price without captaincy is still a non-option for me, despite his fixtures. I still think Harvey Barnes from Leicester offers better value for money (more on that below).
3) In this section, I discuss two of the most in-form budget strikers in the league right now.
First up are Brighton and Neal Maupay. Brighton created ten big chances in nine games over the post restart period last season. This season, they have already created nine chances in just three games and now sit joint second best for big chances of all teams in the league. Take into account that their numbers have been impressive despite having played Man United and Chelsea in two of their first three. This makes me think that Maupay and Trossard will be genuine options this season.
Trossard is someone I like and he delivered a class performance against United, but I can’t trust Potter to play Trossard week in week out because he’s a bit random with his team selections. Once the going gets tough, I’m not entirely confident Potter wouldn’t switch things around. So I’d like to see a bit more from him. Gameweek 6 is when I think Brighton attacking assets will seriously come into my consideration because that is when their fixtures turn.
Five big chances in the past two games for Dominic Calvert Lewin now takes him top for big chances of all players in the league. His six pointer against Palace will probably go under the radar but the numbers are telling me that he is a poacher being consistently fed by the very best in James Rodriguez. More goals are on the way, and I think he’s such incredible value at £7.5m that he could potentially be one to keep for the long run. What also helps him is that Everton are currently ranked best for non-penalty xG, so they are clearly a team on the rise and in form.
Richarlison or Calvert Lewin? The fact that Richarlison is on penalties now has made him far more appealing as an asset than he was when the season began. It’s a shame that he doesn’t get the same recognition or attention as Calvert Lewin because he’s a great player to own in isolation. In fact, the only forward in the league to have more shots in the box than Richarlison this season is Calvert Lewin. If I were to pick one, I prefer Calvert Lewin as he is cheaper and more of a poacher but it’s close. He has more than double the number of big chances than Richarlison despite them being neck to neck for shots inside the box which reiterates Carlo Ancelotti’s point about him being an Inzaghi-esque poacher.
4) Is it worth getting rid of Son and what are my thoughts on the various midfield options?
Many of you might be thinking about getting rid of the South Korean but Mourinho has refused to rule Heung Min Son out for the game against Man United – saying that Son is an “optimistic” individual and might be back as soon as the international break ends. Worst case scenario might be that he misses Gameweek 5. Spurs’ fixtures from Gameweek 5 to 8 are favourable (WHU bur BHA wba) so it makes sense to keep Son on your bench and not get rid of him so soon. However, if you’re looking for alternatives, there a number of viable options that can fill his boots for your FPL team:
Marcus Rashford: Priced at £9.5M, Rashford has created three chances, had three attempts on goal and has recorded five penalty area touches in his two matches so far. He was United’s brightest spark v Brighton, being the most advanced United player and always eager to get into the box. Fixtures for Rashford are mixed (TOT new CHE ARS) but I think there’s a chance he does well this week, particularly because Doherty is very attacking so there will be space down the left to be exploited. According to the odds most likely Man United player to score and with a proven track record at home, there’s every chance that he comes good.
James Rodríguez: With a price tag of £7.7M, Rodriguez has made a fairly bright start to his PL career. He is not the kind of player who likes to get in the box too much but has the vision to find the right pass to create the goal. This kind of worries me from an FPL point of view – there are fears that he might often end up assisting the assister and the points might be hogged by Richarlison and Calvert Lewin. James is also on corner duty, having taken 12 corner kicks already and having created two big chances from them, both for Calvert Lewin which he has failed to convert. He isn’t on penalties which I thought he would be, but he has legit assist potential. James Rodríguez has created 15 chances in four appearances for Everton in all competitions – the most of any Premier League player so far this season.
Harvey Barnes: Priced at £7.0M, Barnes is the one I personally think is the one to pick in midfield. Barnes has scored one and assisted one goal this season. He has recorded a whopping total of seven shots on target and has also created one big chance. Another stat to note is that Barnes has had 20 penalty area touches which supplement what I see from him in his heat map – he is consistently getting touches in and around the six yard box. Barnes hasn’t returned a lot of points other than in the Burnley game but his statistics show that should change very soon. What’s in his favour is that Leicester are in form and now have West Ham and Villa at home – in those two corresponding fixtures last season Barnes scored thrice and got an assist, with Leicester scoring eight in total. It’s also worth mentioning that no team have scored more goals in the league than Leicester this season, and Barnes currently sits second for shots inside the box after Salah for midfielders.
Zaha: Priced at £7.2M, the Crystal Palace attacker might be worth consideration. Zaha has scored three goals in three games after being deployed as a striker. Accumulating a total of three big chances out of which he converted two, Zaha seems to be impressing a lot early season. With Ayew missing a penalty, it’s likely that Zaha will be on penalty duty too now which might be huge for Zaha. Zaha has often flattered to deceive in the past, but with favourable fixtures after this week (BHA ful WOL LEE bur NEW wba), this might finally be the time when he comes good.
Foden/Mahrez: Priced at only £6.6M, the Manchester City prospect impressed a lot last season. I think Foden should be secure to start the next two Gameweeks as he was rested in the cup and is then missing the internationals. Price tag is the key for Foden, and this is what makes him a super attractive option playing in an explosive Man City attack.
Priced at £8.4M, Mahrez has just got back into the City squad after recovering from Covid. With a goal and an assist against Leicester and considering the injuries in the City attack, you’d think his place is secure but with Ferran Torres impressing in midweek, I’m beginning to have second doubts. Most City fans on their forums don’t expect Mahrez to start this weekend too. But when he does play, he’s easily the best option in his price range.
Agüero and Jesus are expected to be back after the internationals and with the fixture congestion kicking in due to the Champions League, it will become even harder to second guess whether Foden and Mahrez would hold onto their places – it is a futile exercise guessing Pep anyway.
5) In this section, I’d like to talk about Chelsea’s defence and in particular Reece James
Chelsea’s numbers last season at home were fairly impressive. At home, Chelsea conceded the least amount of big chances. They were ranked third for the least number of goals conceded at home, just below Man City and Sheffield United. Another fact to be noted is that they conceded the least amount of shots on target at home so their defence at home is reasonably tight.
Away from home is another story for Chelsea. Chelsea were ranked sixth for the least amount of shots conceded on target but the fact that they conceded the most amount of goals away from home in the entire league is worrying. They conceded a total of 42 big chances away from home (compared to 22 at home) and 142 shots in the box away from home (compared to 77 at home) so the gap in home and away defensive statistics under Lampard is apparent. The fact that Chelsea tend to concede almost double the quality and amount of chances away from home is noticeable in these numbers that I have quoted.
Things might change this season with the singing of Mendy, the new Chelsea goalkeeper, who seemed, seemed fairly confident in goal against Spurs in the cup tie. I’d like to quote a stat from the Twitter page xGPhilosophy here which states that Edouard Mendy conceded just 19 goals from 26.41(xG) for Rennes last season. An xG differential for expected goals prevented of +7.41 is really good for a goalkeeper, so that bodes well for the Chelsea defence.
Reece James is the one Chelsea defender every fantasy manager has his eyes on right now. In the recent 3-3 with West Brom, James recorded the highest amount of final third touches with a total of 48 which was even more than what the likes of Trent and Robertson managed against Arsenal. He also managed to get two penalty area touches. He created six chances that game, the most of any defender has managed in a single game this season, with one of them being a big chance. This is personal opinion but I still think it’s his shirt to lose for now, particularly after he was rested in the cup.
With two home fixtures coming up for Chelsea, this might be the ideal time to get James if you don’t already have him. Chelsea, as mentioned before, do better at home and James might be able to haul in one of the next two fixtures.
6) Eight of the 11 big chances West Brom have conceded have been to strikers
Three big chances conceded v Chelsea makes them worst of all teams for big chances conceded and expected goals conceded. I’d be highly surprised if Adams and Ings walk out of the fixture this week without a haul. If you own Ché Adams, he’s a definite hold for me this week. Southampton have created as many big chances in their one game against Spurs this season than they created in their two away games combined, so that makes me think that Southampton might do better attacking wise at home.
Who would I pick if I had to pick one of Ings or Jiménez? This is a really tough call as both are on penalties, in form and have more or less the same price. I’d go Jiménez as I think as his fixtures over the next four are better than that of Ings. Ings has Chelsea away (who will hopefully be better with the new keeper who looked more assured in the cup), Everton (currently in the top three for least big chances conceded) and then Villa away who have looked solid as well. I’m sure Ings will do well here but I just don’t think his ceiling is as high as Jimenez’s in the next four (FUL lee NEW CRY).
7) Who is the best captain this week?
I think Raheem Sterling is the standout captaincy option this week. I had my reservations about him playing as a striker and whether that would prove detrimental to his FPL output, like it did vs Leicester. Having watched a near full strength City look slick against Burnley though, I think I’d like to put that performance against Leicester as a temporary blip without reading too much into it – like most fixtures this Gameweek. Sterling vs Burnley alone had six big chances playing as a central striker, and with the way Leeds set up, I can see chances being aplenty for Sterling yet again at the weekend. Honestly, an out of position Man City striker classified as a midfielder in FPL will always be a good captaincy option regardless of opposition.
Statistics and odds both point me in the direction of captaining a Man City player this week. Man City are the bookies favourites to score 2.5+ goals and Sterling is the most likely Man City goalscorer according to the odds. Leeds despite their recent clean sheet are still ranked second worst for xGc and big chances conceded. Leeds chose to have a go at Liverpool and should Bielsa stick to a similar strategy, that is likely to backfire and play into the hands of the City attackers. Surprisingly, Man City are ranked in the bottom five for non-penalty xG since the season has started. It’s important to note though that they have only played only twice this season and have come up against two of the better defences in the league (Wolves and Leicester).
Who would I captain if I owned both De Bruyne and Sterling? I think I would lean towards Sterling, particularly because of the fact that he tends to do better away from home than De Bruyne based on what we saw during prolonged periods last season. I’d like to quote some numbers here from the post restart period, but a disclaimer is necessary – both these players played in different positions last season so trends may change this time. In the away games played post restart, Sterling accumulated six big chances (to De Bruyne’s zero), 10 shots inside the box (to De Bruyne’s 3) at an average of a shade above 10 FPL points per game (to De Bruyne’s 4.5 FPL points per game). I’d expect a reaction from Pep this week, so I don’t think you can go too wrong either way.
You can hardly go wrong with proven Premier League quality like De Bruyne and Salah, though. De Bruyne is on penalties and on all set pieces, so with his high rate of chance creation, he is likely to get a share of the bonus with just one FPL return. Salah is the most likely player in the league to score this week according to the odds. However, it’s worth mentioning that Salah is yet to record a big chance from open play this season nor have Villa conceded any big chance from open play till date. Then there’s Raúl Jiménez who comes up against a woeful Fulham defence. The return of Podence will be huge and I think Jiménez is likely to do well this week. Fulham are joint second with Leeds for most big chances created but Wolves are in the bottom three for xG, highlighting that they haven’t clicked as an attacking force yet. Maybe this is the week their fortunes will change.
8) This is probably going a bit under the radar but no midfielder in the league has recorded more big chances than Sadio Mané this season and he is also ranked third of all players for big chances from open play.
It’s worth noting that he has had more big chances than Salah, out-stating him four to zero for big chances from open play. Salah has 13 shots inside the box (most of all players in the league) compared to Mané’s nine but despite the impressive volume of shots, the Egyptian is yet to record a big chance from open play this season. No team has created more big chances than Liverpool this season and 40% have fallen to Mané alone.
9) Is it worth doubling up on Liverpool’s defence with Trent and Robertson?
If I was wildcarding this week, I would have definitely doubled up on Liverpool’s defence with Trent Alexander Arnold and Andy Robertson as I think it is likely to be a very fruitful strategy with the fixtures to come (avl eve SHU WHU). I don’t say this due to a case of recency bias for their performances against Arsenal at the weekend but instead for their consistent numbers over a prolonged period.
Both Trent and Robertson are in a league of their own. Trent is best for defenders for big chances created while Robertson seems to have upped his goal threat this season as he now stands best for defenders for big chances, shots in the box and penalty area touches. To put things into context about how far and away Trent and Robertson out-do their Premier League counterparts, it is also worth looking at touches in the final third. So at the moment, Robertson is ranked first for defenders in the league for touches in the final third (132), with Trent second (109) and then Digne (83) on a distant third with ∼31% less involvement than Trent and ∼59% lesser than Robertson in the final third.
Defensively, Liverpool’s numbers are alright. They have conceded the fewest amount of shots in the box in the league despite having played thrice but it’s complacency and individual mistakes that are hurting them. 50% of their big chances conceded have been unforced and down to individual errors by their defenders. Once those are out of the way, Trent and Robertson have the ability to haul big in any game given that it just takes an assist and a clean sheet for a defender to go big.
10) Which defences would I invest in if I was wildcarding?
As mentioned earlier, I would go double Liverpool for sure. I still think Reece James will be a great asset to own. There’s Lamptey I like as well but he’s flirting with a move to Bayern so I think Taylor from Burnley could be an able deputy. I know the sample size is small but Burnley statistically one of the most underperforming defences in the league so far, despite having conceded five times in two games. They have conceded just two big chances but have ended up conceding freakish goals. Despite the loss of Tarkowski and Mee, they don’t seem to be conceding too many chances. Expect clean sheets in the coming weeks with the fixtures getting better.
Then there’s the case of the Wolves defence. Wolves conceded six big chances in nine games post restart last season. They have already conceded nine big chances in three games this season – their defence looks a shadow of their former selves. One can only hope a favourable run of fixtures (FUL lee NEW CRY) and some clean sheets can help build confidence. They are the bookies favourites for a clean sheet this week and Fulham have the second worst non penalty xG after West Brom so chances of a clean sheet are big. This doesn’t bode too well if you are a Mitrović owner either. If I were picking a Wolves defender on wildcard, I’d lean more towards Semedo than Saïss because of his attacking potential as a wing back and because there are growing murmurs among the Wolves fans expecting Dendoncker to displace Saïss due to his recent performances.
I would like to thank my friend @urboihamza (on Twitter) for helping me with my research and writing.
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