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. Chasing a mini league lead or looking to gain ground on your rival? I present to you the final review of the season with a particular focus on free hit and differentials:

1) “Should I ditch Man United assets on Free Hit?” United were creating ∼3.20 big chances per game post restart but that figure has now dropped to ∼2.33 big chances per game over the past three Gameweeks. The eye test suggests that the United attackers look leggy, which is probably down to fatigue kicking in with United having played a lot of games in succession. Bruno Fernandes I think is the most expendable, having registered just two shots in the box over the past three Gameweeks. Mason Greenwood could be a good enabler at £4.8m, but I still think if you are looking for a Man United asset, then Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford are the ones to get as their numbers suggest that they are most likely to be involved. It’s worth noting that this is on paper, is a match made in heaven as far as penalties are concerned – Leicester have conceded the most penalties while United have been awarded the most this season. So even though Bruno Fernandes hasn’t done much from open play of late, there is a chance United get another penalty to their credit. I also think that Leicester will score, their attack is finally creating a good amount of chances and Jamie Vardy was yet again unlucky not be in the points against Spurs last week. This might be the week where he finally comes good. About time, I guess.

2) “Who are the enablers to get on Free Hit?” Budget might be a constraint if one looks to shoe-horn a large number of premium players into the starting eleven, so this is a very pertinent question. Arsenal’s Emi Martínez is only £4.3m and he now faces a Watford side where Ben Foster has himself admitted that “confidence is at an all-time crazy low” so he should be a good shout for a clean sheet this week. Erik Pieters, Kevin Long (£4.3m each) and Jarrad Branthwaite (£4.0m) all should start given the respective injury crisis in their teams, and have a good chance of a clean sheet this week. I’d be all over Neco Williams from Liverpool if there is any team news that he is starting pre-deadline – at £4.0m I think he is simply too good a bargain to pass up. Similarly, Phil Foden at £5.5m and Eddie Nketiah at £4.3m could be game changers, dependent on any early team news.

3) “We’ll be fighting like hell for him, he’s the best in the country” – Chris Wood’s comments for Nick Pope would be music to the ears of those who have invested in the Burnley stopper. As of now, Pope trails Ederson by one clean sheet for the golden glove. The Burnley team and Sean Dyche, earlier in his press conference, seemed unequivocally vociferous in his support for Pope. Burnley are second for clean sheets at home this season, hence doubling or tripling up on their defence might be popular. As far as the Burnley attack is concerned, I think there’s a good chance Chris Wood continues on his run of form yet again. He is second for big chances over the past two Gameweeks, while Brighton’s defensive numbers have been poor over recent times.

4) “What is the best way to overtake a deficit in my mini league?” It’s time to go upside chasing. That doesn’t necessarily mean adopting any drastic strategy and avoiding the best players, but at the very least one can take calculated risks. For example, I just mentioned how Burnley defence will be popular this week. Now this is where you might gain ground particularly if you’re on a Free Hit. There are four teams with better clean sheet odds than Burnley this week – Man City, Liverpool, Spurs and Chelsea. Double or triple up on one of those defences depending on the extent of your deficit. A Burnley clean sheet wipeout and a double clean sheet for you could see a 10+ point swing there alone. Go for explosive defenders. Goalscoring midfielders will help you make up ground in quick time. Invest in differentials. If the deficit is too huge, then ideally captain a Man City player that your rival doesn’t own. Take the chance that he might haul big. Roll the dice!

5) This leads me on to the next question, “Who are the explosive defenders to get?”. Trent Alexander Arnold one is the obvious one, and I’d take the liberty to assume that we know all about him. I have identified two differentials who I think can do well this week. The first is Andrew Robertson who is first for big chances created for defenders post restart. Another one who I like is Chelsea’s Reece James, particularly if there is early team news that he is starting at right wing back. James is second for big chances created for defenders post restart, which is particularly impressive given that his game time has been limited.

6) Michail Antonio and Christian Pulisic are the goalscoring midfielders I was referring to earlier. Both are in the form of their lives – but on paper this week their fixtures are tricky. I still think both are likely to do well though. Antonio is top for big chances of all players in the league post restart which just reaffirms the FPL beast he is. As far as Pulisic is concerned, only Sterling and Giroud have a better expected involvement than him over the past two weeks. Chelsea have created the most amount of big chances post the restart after Man City (including five big chances at Anfield) and with a Champions League spot to secure, I expect them to be at their best against Wolves.

7) “Who are the teams to target if I’m looking for a differential?” I think there are two such teams who are likely to win convincingly this week with their players having low FPL ownership at the same time. First of them is Spurs. At this point, I’d like to give a word of warning that it is usually risky business relying on Spurs for FPL returns. But this week, all signs point to a comfortable Spurs win against an injury prone Palace side missing almost their entire first choice defence. Harry Kane has been involved in 12 of 14 Spurs’ big chances post restart. That amounts to ∼86% involvement and over this period, Kane is top for big chances and xG for forwards in the league as well. Given that Palace have conceded the highest amount of big chances post restart, I think there’s a good chance that Heung Min Son is in the points too. “Who would I pick if I had to pick one of Kane or Son?” It depends on my team structure but the numbers suggest Kane:

Kane vs Son (post restart)
Minutes per shots in the box: ∼51 vs ∼60
Minutes per big chance: ∼80 vs ∼329
FPL points: 45 vs 45

I can go on and on about Palace’s struggles since restart. Only Norwich have created fewer big chances than them over this period, hence Spurs should be good for a clean sheet this week. The odds agree too.

8) The other team to target for differentials is Everton. Everton have a tremendous record at home against Bournemouth, having accumulated four wins from four and having scored twelve goals in total. Bournemouth meanwhile, have lost 12 of their last 13 away games and are now up against a side who have only lost once at home since September. If Villa or Watford end up scoring an early demoralising goal, then I think it could be a long 90 minutes for Bournemouth. I was scouring through the Everton forums, and most fans seem more confident about their side after the win against Sheffield United. Most fans are predicting a comfortable Everton win by two or more goals, with Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison being named as the likely goal scorers. I think if I was to choose between one I would pick Calvert Lewin, because if Ancelotti sticks with the formation that he did against Sheffield United the other day then Richarlison is likely to start wide where he might not be as effective as opposed to when he is playing centrally with Calvert Lewin. Calvert Lewin has recorded two big chances in his previous two games without notching, I think this might be the game where he finally breaks his duck having scored earlier in the season against the Cherries as well.

9) Aubameyang or Kane? For me, this is a fairly straight forward one. Even though I expect Arsenal to beat Watford fairly comfortably expecting Aubameyang to be involved, the difference between his and Kane’s numbers post restart is too huge for me to justify Aubameyang over Kane. Kane has accumulated nearly twice the number of big chances (9 to 5) than Aubameyang since the league has restarted. Kane for me.

10) Who are the three Man City players to get? My own personal team will revolve around the trio starting in the front three for Man City, dependent on team news. Yes, this is likely to be David Silva’s swansong in a Man City shirt and Kevin De Bruyne is chasing Henry’s assist record – but for me, the upside play is to go for the front three, regardless of whoever they are, because they are the ones most likely to get you that hat-trick that will propel you up the ranks at this stage of the season. Raheem Sterling picks himself as the standout captain this week. I mentioned last week how Norwich have been susceptible at the back conceding big chances to forwards at an abnormal clip week in week out, I expect Gabriel Jesus to be licking his lips too.

11) Mohamed Salah has taken underperformance to new heights in recent times. The Egyptian is top for shots in the box and big chances over the past four weeks, but his FPL returns haven’t justified his underlying numbers. I finally expect him to come good this week, with Newcastle fielding a second string defence with most of their defenders out injured. There seems to be a lot of chatter about rotation in the Liverpool team this week. There is a good chance that one of the forwards or one of the full backs miss out. I don’t think this will affect Liverpool too much though. The gulf in quality is so huge that they should have too much for Newcastle.

12) A player I am very likely to have on my Free Hit is Danny Ings. On paper, he looks the most realistic candidate to catch up with Vardy for the golden boot. Hasenhüttl has already iterated how they will give him the best possible opportunities to score. Further, he has the highest goal involvement % of all players to have played more than 1000 minutes in the league this season. Only Man City and Chelsea have created more big chances than Southampton over the past three Gameweeks, so for creativity their numbers are seriously impressive. Also keep in mind that no team has conceded more big chances away than home than Sheffield United have since restart. This is all adding up to a Danny Ings haul. Fingers crossed!

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Hope you have a cracking end to the season!

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