In this FPL review series, the brilliant AbuBakar shares his data-driven observations to help us make decisions for the upcoming Gameweeks.

Hi everyone, welcome to The Review. Here I bring some clarity to your transfer thoughts heading into the business end of the season as we approach Gameweek 37+:

1) I think by now it’s fairly obvious that Bruno Fernandes, Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford are the ones to have from Man United. Their defence has done reasonably, and so has Mason Greenwood here and there but it has been this trio which has brought about the perfect mix of consistency and explosiveness. Man United have had 22 big chances post the restart – averaging over three a game. Rashford has been involved in ∼55% of them, Martial in ∼41% and Fernandes in ∼36%. Greenwood has been involved in less than 5% of these big chances yet has four goals and an assist to his credit. His lack of returns is down to regression and possibly due to the fact that he wasn’t fully fit against Palace. I guess at just £4.9m there’s not too much you can ask of him though. Rashford was consistently underperforming on his underlying stats, hence his 12 point haul will come across as huge relief to the FPL managers who stuck by him. He now has the best expected goal involvement of all forwards in the league post the restart.

2) One thing I’ve noticed is that Norwich tend to concede an abnormally huge amount of big chances to strikers. In their past two games, the opposition striker against them has been averaging eight shots in the box and four big chances per game. During the past five Gameweeks, Norwich have conceded the most headed opportunities and are ranked second for most set pieces conceded during this spell. Chris Wood, who is Burnley’s chief goal and aerial threat, looks poised to take advantage. He has already recorded a brace against the Canaries earlier in the season and that goal vs Wolves should give him confidence. Burnley’s strikers are often under-appreciated hence this might have gone under the radar but only Vardy, Jesus and Abraham have recorded more big chances in the league than Wood this season. Why do I prefer Wood over Rodriguez? Firstly, Rodriguez is a slight doubt but even if he was 100% fit, Wood has penalties and the better numbers so I prefer him. Rodriguez is taking almost twice the time to accumulate a big chance (∼142 minutes per big chance) as compared to Wood (∼79 minutes per big chance) over the season. It’s also worth noting that only Pukki and Ings have a better goal involvement % in the league than Wood this season. So when Burnley score, Wood should be involved. Norwich have failed to create a single big chance over their past two fixtures, averaging only three shots in the box per game so this fixture is another ideal opportunity for Nick Pope to be among the points again. James Tarkowski is another outside shout who should do well, given Norwich’s frailties at both ends of the field.

3) Danny Ings is the gift that keeps on giving for FPL managers. His goal yesterday demonstrated as to why he has the highest goal involvement % of all players in the league to have played 1000+ minutes this season. I mentioned a couple of Gameweeks ago that Ings vs Everton recorded the most penalty area touches an outfield player has managed in a single game in the opposition’s penalty area box all season. Ings was second for most penalty area touches for forwards this week, which again signifies how hungry he is to get into threatening positions. Southampton have improved of late as well, creating on average three big chances per game over the past three Gameweeks so the alarm bells will be ringing for the Cherries when the Saints visit. Brighton meanwhile, are playing like a team that can’t wait for the season to come to an end. Brighton were second worst for big chances conceded this week which is in line with their recent defensive trends. Those eyeing up Chris Wood – take notice as Brighton will visit Turf Moor in Gameweek 38+.

4) A lot of FPL managers fell victim to Pep’s rotation roulette this week. I myself was a Sterling captainer – given that he played 45 minutes I would have expected him to get me some returns. However, the fact that this week, Bournemouth conceded the fewest attempts at the Etihad during Guardiola’s tenure in the Premier League is a stat I could never have seen coming in a million years. City had an xG of ∼0.6 without registering a single big chance, while Bournemouth had an xG of ∼1.8. I’d like to think that the game was an aberration, and just one of those days as a City asset captainer. If the game was replayed, 19 out of 20 times the outcome would have been a comfortable City win. Just wasn’t to be – full credit to Bournemouth. This week, Man City’s FA Cup game vs Arsenal is scheduled after the FPL deadline. Which means that we’re at Pep’s mercy – yet again. Your guess about the starting lineup against Watford is as good as mine. I’d like to think that given that the likes of Sterling, De Bruyne and Mahrez have already had their rest, so they should (in italics) be safe to start two games in a row. But this is Pep, so who knows. Just pick your poison and be ready to accept fate!

5) Who is the best captain this week? I think we have an incredible amount of good options at our disposal this week so we will notice a nice spread. The safe and the most popular options will be the United trio against West Ham. In my opinion, Rashford has the best statistics but Martial and Fernandes will get you the extra point per clean sheet and goal so it’s a tough call. I still think United and City are head and shoulders above any other team for attacking statistics post restart, so they are the ones I’d target for captaincy. In my opinion, City still have the bigger upside – in their past three games against Watford, they have put 17 past them but who will be on that team sheet at Vicerage Road is anyone’s guess, so it’s a bit of a risk.

6) Four shots in the box and two big chances for Mohamed Salah in his previous two games each without registering a FPL return is an incredible amount of underperformance. Those stats suggest that owning him was the right call, he should have had two double digit hauls yet blanked twice. That is unfortunately a brutal outcome for owners, who showed faith in the Egyptian. Sadio Manés numbers this week were really impressive too, but at least he rewarded his owners with some kind of FPL return. The Senegalese international registered two big chances, five shots in the box and created a big chance for his teammates. He arguably should have had more than eight points.

7) Andrew Robertson has been out-statting Trent Alexander Arnold which is why he has outscored him 34 points to 30 since the restart. Post restart, Robertson has created a chance every ∼41 minutes (vs Trent’s ∼53) and a big chance every ∼162 minutes (vs Trent’s ∼531). During this period, Robertson has taken 19 corners which has improved his creativity. However, I still wouldn’t suggest doing a sideways transfer because I think there are more upside moves to make than defensive transfers at this stage of the season. Liverpool pre-restart were conceding ∼5.93 shots in the box (vs ∼5.86 post restart) and ∼1.52 big chances per game (vs 2 post restart). Their defensive numbers are similar but worth noting that defensive errors per game have risen from ∼0.65 pre to ∼0.85 post restart. That tells me that the defensive structure is still alright, but complacency is kicking in with the title settled.

8) Eight shots in the box, three big chances, 16 penalty area touches for Olivier Giroud and three shots in the box, one big chance for Christian Pulisic with 1 big chance created by either against Norwich suggests that Giroud’s and Pulisic’s owners were extremely unfortunate to register sub-par FPL returns. Non owners got away with one there! Would I keep either for Liverpool? Liverpool may seem out of form but they are still a good defensive side, and are ranked fourth best for xGc post restart. I expect them to be more switched on this week, Klopp will want a reaction against a Chelsea side. Pulisic and Giroud may yet register a return at Anfield but I think there are better options with higher ceilings this week, so I’d still be looking to sell.

9) Two big chances to score and four big chances created by Jamie Vardy against Sheffield United shows how unfortunate he was to register only a meagre five point return. He hit the upright while his involvements were thwarted time and time again by Henderson. On another day, he should have had a at least a 15 point haul. No player has registered more big chances than Vardy over the past four Gameweeks and Leicester have it all to play for, so keeping him as a differential in this form could be a reasonable strategy.

10) Quite a few FPL managers binned Raúl Jiménez a couple of weeks ago and have been left frustrated by his new found scoring spree. The Mexican registered bonus points yet again, which was the 14th time he has done so having scored in 16 league games so far. Jiménez’s sellers can find solace in the fact that his underlying numbers haven’t greatly improved. He scored a world class goal this week, and a penalty the week earlier but this shouldn’t mask the fact that he has only registered one big chance from open play since the restart. Frankly speaking, his statistics have been poor (and I say that as an owner!) but he now welcomes a Palace side to the Molineux who have conceded the highest number of big chances per game since the restart.

11) Harry Kane has been involved in 11 of 13 Spurs’ big chances post restart. That amounts to ∼85% involvement and over this period Kane is top for big chances and xG for forwards in the league as well. However, Spurs in terms of creating chances have been substandard post the restart and seem too heavily dependent on Kane. Nowadays, Kane often seems to go under the FPL radar because of the fact that cheaper forwards are performing equally well. He could be a differential for those looking to make up ground in Gameweek 38+, when Spurs visit Palace. He can even do well this Gameweek give his stellar record against the Foxes, Kane has scored more goals against them than against any other Premier League side in his career.

12) Everton’s attack continues to present a sorry sight in recent weeks. Only Norwich have accumulated fewer big chances than Everton post the restart. If by any chance you still have Dominic Calvert Lewin in your team, it’s time to get rid. Under Ancelotti, he was averaging ∼3.36 shots in the box and ∼1.27 big chances per game but since the restart, those numbers have plummeted to 2 and ∼0.29 respectively.

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