Back To The FPL Future: GW12

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Bogey teams. Glaring differences between home and away form. Those players who just always seem to score against certain clubs. Sometimes fixtures past can offer some insight into fixtures future.

Looking at the recent history of the fixtures for the upcoming Gameweek can provide some potentially useful insights as to what we might expect to unfold. This is reinforced by a study of 25,000 games of football, which demonstrated a direct correlation between previous fixture results and the next fixture results. It is the reason why, for example, Everton’s 1-0 win at Liverpool in 2020/21 was so notable as their first win at Anfield in the Premier League since 1999; it was the exception that proved the rule.

In these weekly articles we’ll look at the last 5 seasons of each fixture, which should provide enough data to start to identify patterns and trends whilst at the same time keeping things relevant enough for the current FPL season. We’ll then reconcile this historical data with what we are seeing this season, current form, injuries etc.

Common themes, potential upsets, unexpected blanks or hauls for certain players. There are well known examples like how Jamie Vardy loves to score against Arsenal. Or how Harry Kane loves to score against Arsenal. Or how Kevin de Bruyne loves to score against Ar…. you get the idea.

So, let’s take a look at the GW12 fixtures:

LEICESTER V CHELSEA

Chelsea have won 3 and drawn 1 of their last 5 visits to the King Power, with the only Leicester win coming last season. Will the Foxes follow that up with another win here? It seems unlikely based on the current form of both sides.

Leicester followed up their defeat to Arsenal with a 1-1 draw at struggling Leeds. They have not hit the heights of the past couple of seasons where their impressive performances meant they battled for the top spot at times. This may be symptomatic of an apparent drop in performance levels of key players such as James Maddison and Harvey Barnes.

Chelsea, meanwhile, have been racking up wins for fun all season and are currently 3 points clear at the top of the table. They have been lucky at times though, generally scoring more goals than their xG suggests they should have whilst conceding less than their xGC suggests. This could be partly explained by them benefitting from having world class players throughout the squad with elite finishing ability, but it could also hint at potential overperformance. Defensively they have overperformed their xGC often relying on the brilliance of Edouard Mendy to keep teams out. In total so far this season they have 27 goals from an xG of 19.4, and have conceded 4 goals from an xGC of 10.85.

In general, elite players tend to overperform expected stats. This is what makes them elite players; they overperform what the average player would do. Chelsea will of course continue to benefit from this throughout the season, but it hints at a side that are relying on the sheer quality of their players to get them through games rather than always being overwhelmingly creative or working particularly hard. We saw them slip up in GW11 in a 1-1 draw at home to Burnley, after failing to finish the game off.

That being said, their sheer quality should be enough to see them past this Leicester side, who have lost as many games as they have won so far (4) and are struggling for any sort of form or consistency. Vardy has blanked in his last 3 games this season and has a poor record in this fixture, with just a solitary penalty in a 2-1 defeat his only attacking return in the last 5 seasons. A good time to jump off him if you have him perhaps. Surprisingly, Rudiger has a decent attacking record in this one, certainly better than Vardy’s anyway, with 2 goals and 1 assist in the same time. This actually means the German has the most attacking returns of any player in this fixture over the last 5 seasons! Rudiger Triple Captain anyone?

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ASTON VILLA V BRIGHTON

We only have a couple of fixtures to look at here so we cannot draw any conclusions from this. Both sides took it in turns to get 2-1 wins as well, just to muddy the waters even further.

What you would say is that Brighton are the better team on paper and on current form, although it will be interesting how quickly new Villa manager Steven Gerrard can have an effect on these players. This is a talented Villa squad, capable of playing various systems and giving Gerrard plenty of options to work with. You would have to imagine its a tall ask for a result in his first game against a very well drilled Brighton side well established in their system, however.

In an interesting side-note, Brighton have had a player sent off in each of the last 2 fixtures at Villa Park, with Lamptey being shown a red last season and Mooy being given his marching orders the season before that. For Brighton’s sake, they will be hoping to nip this record in the bud on Saturday.

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BURNLEY V CRYSTAL PALACE

This has been a very even fixture in over the past 5 seasons, with 3 home wins to 2 away wins and a very even number of goals scored in that time as well.

The major change this time around, however, is Vieira and this new look Palace side. No longer a dull defensive side (with the greatest respect to Roy), Palace are fast becoming one of the most formidable sides in the league and are the in form team along with Arsenal in terms of their current unbeaten run. They play out from the back and utilise a hard working high press, which forces mistakes from the opposition which leads to goal scoring opportunities (as seen recently against Arsenal leading to a Benteke goal).

In fact, they have made the most pressures of any team in the league so far this season (1801), above the likes of Leeds, Brentford, Brighton and Liverpool who you might think of first as the foremost pressing teams. This underlines the aggressive, proactive style in which they now play and which is being carried out by a crop of talented, high energy young players. The Eagles are rising up the table and this seems like a team who will challenge for European places.

Burnley did well to stay in the game and snatch a point at Chelsea in GW11, but really and truly Chelsea should have put the game to bed long before. It will give The Clarets some belief, but really and truly Palace should have too much for them here.

Zaha doesn’t have the best record in this fixture, but may be a good option going forwards given the new style and how this will benefit his chances. He’s also on pens. Conor Gallagher may be one of the best midfield options in his price bracket, and if Palace can keep getting results against the toughest opposition in the league then there’s no reason why he can’t be a season keeper!

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NEWCASTLE V BRENTFORD

We do actually have 1 league game in this fixture in the past 5 seasons, although that was a Championship game. Even though familiar faces featured in Gayle and Shelvey, there is not a lot that can be drawn from this result in isolation.

This will be Eddie Howe’s first game in charge as Newcastle manager, so we will get a flavour of what’s to come under his tenure. If his Bournemouth days are anything to go by, it will be an open, attacking style which scores goals but also concedes a lot. We could see Newcastle become even more porous at the back; they have been this poor defensively playing with a back 5, and its likely that it will now move to a back 4 under Howe.

There could well be a ‘target Newcastle’ strategy which develops (or indeed continues), even whilst Newcastle’s own attacking assets might become more interesting themselves. The likes of Wilson and Saint-Maximin may benefit from a more attacking focus, and the former has also worked with Howe before at Bournemouth and had some very strong FPL seasons under him.

This may all just play into the hands of Brentford though, who surely take Brighton’s crown in the xG wheel of misfortune. They arguably should have won against Norwich last time out, and throughout the season they have underperformed their xG much to the frustration of Toney and Mbuemo owners. Brentford continue to pass they eye test, however, and these two in particular continue to look most likely for attacking returns every game. Quite how they have avoided points so spectacularly is a mystery. If you have one or both of them you will be understandably considering moving them on after a frustrating few weeks, but perhaps it is hasty to get rid just before a potentially juicy game against Newcastle!

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NORWICH V SOUTHAMPTON

Another fixture with just the 1 game to look at in the past 5 seasons then. This was, as you might expect, a Southampton win.

Despite Norwich earning their first win of the season at Brentford last week, you would expect a similar result here on Saturday. It’s hard to see Southampton scoring 3 again, however, as they have been somewhat goal shy so far and have the 3rd lowest number of goals scored (10) of any team in the league so far, with only Spurs (9) and Norwich (5) scoring fewer.

Where Southampton have done well is defensively; they are consistently hard to score against which has been a nice trait for Livramento owners particularly and is part of the reason he has already racked up so many points.

A 1-0 away win here would seem most likely. Another Livramento goal and clean sheet then please boys.

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WATFORD V MANCHESTER UTD

Could we be looking at something of a bogey fixture here for Man Utd? They have not been without success at Vicarage road in recent seasons, but they have lost 2 of the last 4 and Watford have a better goals record in that time too.

One thing is for certain and that is that Utd need to get back into winning ways after being comprehensively beaten in 2 of their last 3 Premier League games this season. The same is true for Watford and Ranieri though, with the Italian losing 3 of his first 4 games after being tasked with improving results at the club. Maybe we’ll see just how much the Watford players want that pizza.

One interesting but probably unreliable thing of note is that Watford have been awarded a penalty in 3 of the last 4 games here. If they can continue this trend there may be attacking returns for the Watford penalty taker, not that we really know who that is. Deeney took most of them last season before Joao Pedro and Ismaila Sarr took over and shared 2 each after that. It appears to be between these two then, but especially with a new manager in place its not clear who will be given the duty going forward.

If it is Sarr then he could be on for decent returns, as he also scored and assisted the last time these sides met in what was a 2-0 Watford win. You would be expecting a Utd win here though, even despite their own poor form. This would have been the case in every meeting mind you.

Watford have conceded in every game since Ranieri took over, so there may at least be goals in this for Utd and attacking returns offer for FPL managers who still own Utd assets. They have looked vulnerable defensively as well though, so we may well see goals for both sides here. Could we be looking a potential goal fest? The average goals per game of each side over the last 5 years suggests there is historically a relatively high attacking ceiling for both teams.

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WOLVES V WEST HAM

Wolves have the beating of West Ham in 2 of the last 3 since they were promoted, but the tables were turned last season and on current form you can only see this continuing with another win for the Hammers.

West Ham’s trajectory has overtaken Wolves since they last met, with the away side now sitting 3rd in the table above Liverpool thanks to their thrilling win against the Reds last time out. They did well to hold Liverpool back and then take their chances at the other end when they came. It was also notable that Liverpool did look tired late on which didn’t help.

Wolves were not great in their 2-0 defeat at Palace in GW11 (which incidentally was exactly the scoreline i predicted in last week’s article just to toot my own horn) and they continue to look vulnerable defensively. In fact Wolves only have 2 clean sheets all season, coming in games versus Watford and the previously mentioned goal-shy Southampton.

There is likely to be attacking returns for West Ham players in this one then, which bodes well for Antonio owners hoping for a first goal in 2 Gameweeks. The Jamaica international did score a worldy over the international break as well, which perhaps will give him his confidence and taste for goals back ahead of the Premier League resuming. Jarrod Bowen will also be looking to continue his impressive vein of form in front of goal.

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LIVERPOOL V ARSENAL

This does not make for pretty reading for Arsenal fans. They have lost every one of their last 5 visits to Anfield by substantial scorelines, resulting in a staggering 18 goals for Liverpool in this time. Recent history suggests we should be looking at at least 3 goals for the home side here in the Saturday evening kick off, something the Gunners will be up against it to prevent.

Arsenal have only blanked once at Anfield in the last 5 seasons, however, back in 17/18, so a Liverpool clean sheet may be in doubt. The Gunners are also in much better defensive shape than when they met in this fixture last season, now having a much improved and, importantly, settled back line which also boasts the goalkeeping heroics of Aaron Ramsdale behind them. Arsenal are currently also on the longest unbeaten streak of any team in the league; indeed, Ramsdale has yet to taste defeat in an Arsenal shirt since taking over the No.1 spot from Leno in GW4.

Liverpool themselves have slipped up in the past couple of weeks, letting a 2 goal lead slip at home versus Brighton and then losing at West Ham. Will there be any kind of lingering mental hurdle to get back into winning ways? It’s important that they do in order to not lose further ground in the title race.

All in all, Liverpool are still clearly a level above Arsenal and, the last couple of weeks aside, have been playing some of the best football in the league. They are top in the majority of attacking metrics and underlying stats, and most observers reasonably expect Liverpool to win here. This is probably accurate and recent history certainly indicates this could be a one-sided game, but with the current context of both teams and Arsenal’s own improvement since these sides last met, perhaps it won’t be such a large scoreline against them this time.

Salah has an incredible record at home versus Arsenal with 4 goals and 3 assists in the last 4 (since he joined the club), underlining that once again he is the standout captaincy option. Its almost not a debate these days. Mane also has a decent record with 3 goals and 2 assists in the last 5, whilst Alexander-Arnold has an assist in each of his last 2 so perhaps there will be some attacking returns for him even if a clean sheet isn’t nailed.

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MANCHESTER CITY V EVERTON

Everton are winless in the last 5 years in this fixture and have lost each of the last 3. They are also still missing key players, and this game would be a struggle even with a fully fit squad. It’s not looking great for the Toffees.

We should be looking at a comfortable City win on paper and current form. They come off the back of a 2-0 win in the Manchester derby which will be great for morale, whilst Everton have just a single point from the last 12 on offer which included an embarrassing 5-2 defeat at home to Watford. It was 5-0 to City in this game last season, and Everton will surely hoping to just keep it a bit more respectable this time round.

Jesus seem to like playing Everton at home, with 5 goals in the last 3 games, whilst Foden is a popular FPL pick and did score in the 5-0 win last season.

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TOTTENHAM V LEEDS

The final game of GW12 is another one with only 1 game to examine, thanks to Leeds’ 16 year spell outside of the Premier League. All eyes will be on Spurs to see how they are developing under new boss Antonio Conte, and whether Son and Kane will reward the many many FPL managers who have jumped on them early hoping to catch big numbers.

This is a real opportunity for the first win of Conte’s reign against a relatively poor Leeds side who are still battling with key injuries to their team. The only thing to note is that Conte has still had barely any time to work with his side, overseeing one training session before Spurs’ European Conference League game, a couple of sessions before the the draw at Everton and immediately after that it was the international break and his squad dispersed around the globe for 2 weeks.

This will be in contrast to a Leeds side which, however depleted, are extremely well drilled at this stage in how their manager wants to play, and know his game plan like the back of their hand. It will be a battle between a better but less drilled squad, and a weaker but well drilled squad. It could be an intriguing game, and there are some stats to suggest that Leeds have tightened up in defence over recent weeks so it will be interesting to see how this one plays out. Tottenham have scored the second fewest goals of any team in the league so far (9), above only bottom of the table Norwich (5) so they can certainly do with an improvement from their attacking players.

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Summary:

GW12 fixtures to target:

Manchester City v Everton

Tottenham v Leeds

Potential GW12 standout/star player(s):

Salah

Mane

Jesus

Potential GW12 upsets/traps:

Watford v Manchester Utd

Potential GW12 goal fests:

Liverpool v Arsenal

Manchester City v Everton

Watford v Manchester Utd

So there we have it. I hope this has given some food for thought, some insight into potential games and players to target for this gameweek, and maybe some potential traps or upsets as well. Good luck all, see you on the other side!

FOOTNOTES:

Past meetings in cup competitions have been excluded from the table of results, as we are only interested in league results. Not to mention cup competitions can have more erratic/unreliable results with unique atmospheres and weakened teams often played.

There are also varying amounts of fixture history in the last 5 seasons to draw upon, by virtue of 3 teams being relegated to and promoted from the Championship every year. Brentford, for example, have never played in the Premier League and so will often have little to no league history in the last 5 years versus certain teams. It was considered to replace those teams in these articles with ‘similar’ teams for the sake of comparison, but it was decided that this would be more unreliable, subjective and arbitrary and therefore would not represent an accurate or fair analysis.

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