Back To The FPL Future: GW2

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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.

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

So, let’s take a look at the GW2 fixtures:

Liverpool v Burnley

First up is one of the fixtures many FPL managers will be targeting for captaincy options, with Salah being the favourite. When you think of Liverpool at Anfield against Burnley, you may think of comfortable home wins to nil, much like the 5-0 drubbings Manchester City seem to always hand out whenever Burnley visit. Why do we think this though? Because actually, the picture here is rather different. This has been a surprisingly close fixture over the last 5 seasons, with 2 score draws and a Burnley win in the mix. Apart from the 2018/19 meeting, the games have also been relatively low scoring.

In fact, Burnley have never failed to score at Anfield in the last 5 seasons, which may cast some doubt on the clean sheet potential of the home side. Perhaps the picture we see from recent fixtures also casts doubt on a Liverpool captaincy altogether? Perhaps this is something of a Bogey fixture for Liverpool, which defies the odds and our expectations. There is potentially a relatively low ceiling for Liverpool attacking assets given the 1.6 goals per game average in recent years, and Burnley somehow seem to always score at Anfield which ruins defensive returns.

Salah, one of the most popular captaincy picks for GW2, has only scored 1 goal at home to the Clarets over the last 5 seasons, and that was 4 years ago in 17/18. Firmino and Mane both braced in the more exciting 18/19 meeting between these two sides, but other than this there are no standout players from recent years. There is one thing that may make the difference and break the mould this time around however, something we have already seen having an affect in the GW1 fixtures, and that is the return of raucous home crowds. If Liverpool are to break the Burnley hoodoo they seem to have at Anfield, then a once-again-roaring Kop end may well hold the key.

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Aston Villa v Newcastle

There are only a couple of season’s worth of data here thanks to Villa’s time in the Championship, but both of those were consecutive 2-0 wins for the home side. It is not a great amount of information to draw a picture from. Villa will this time be without talisman Jack Grealish, who had an assist in each of the last 2 fixtures at Villa Park, and they may be a little hard to predict after embarking on life after Jack with an opening day loss at Watford.

There were good signs and bad amongst that display, and the poor Villa defending may give hope to Wilson owners that the Newcastle forward can continue his scoring start to the season with another goal or two on Saturday. New signing Joe Willock, who wasn’t registered in time to play the opening day fixture, will also boost Newcastle’s attack and was in excellent form whilst previously on loan from Arsenal. There could well be goals in this game, from both sides this time, as neither looked defensively sound in their opening fixtures and conceded 7 goals between them. Ings will be hoping to continue topping up his Villa account with another goal at the weekend, and you wouldn’t bet against the proven Premier League striker doing that with Watkins and new signing Leon Bailey expected to be available for this one.

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Crystal Palace v Brentford

As will be the case with the majority of Brentford’s fixtures this season, there is no table to provide as there have been no league meetings between these sides in the last 5 seasons (since 1964 in fact).

Brentford were wonderful to watch in the Premier League opener on Friday night (unless you’re an Arsenal fan). There were question marks over how they would adapt to the Premier League with their style, and whether it would go like Leeds last season or Norwich the season before that. It turns out they were more Leeds-esque (it’s a word i swear), and were thrilling from start to finish with their fast flowing counter-attacks. Ivan Toney had no shots all game, but was otherwise central to their attacking moves and was regularly seen to be flicking the ball out to wide runners like Mbuemo (who had a cracking game) as they rushed forwards. Its was very much like the Kane-Son counterattack linkups we’ve seen at Spurs over the last few years. There is no doubt Toney will bring attacking returns sooner or later, and is notably the Brentford penalty taker.

This Brentford side visit a Palace team in transition, but who are trying to play ‘attacking’ football themselves under new boss Vieira. There were some positive signs despite defeat at Stamford Bridge, and two attack minded sides going head to head at Selhurst Park could make for a very entertaining game for neutrals.

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Leeds v Everton

There is just the one fixture to go on here in the last 5 seasons, so it is hard to infer much from this. It was a narrow defeat for Leeds, but the effects of the home crowd may be a difference-maker this time around. Leeds fans have not been able to watch their team play in a packed Elland Road atmosphere since their promotion, and the stadium could be rocking on Saturday afternoon.

Popular FPL forward Calvert-Lewin scored here last season, and Lucas Digne bagged an assist. That same combo this weekend would prove very popular for a lot of FPL managers who have at least one in their team, and Calvert-Lewin spoke in the week about how the new manager is working on getting more crosses into him from wide, which should benefit both players’ attacking returns potential.

The home side will be looking to pick themselves up from a heavy opening day defeat, in front of a roaring home crowd, and the likes of Bamford and Raphinha, who were so reliable last season will be keen to open their accounts. This could be a very intriguing game indeed.

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Manchester City v Norwich

If you don’t have any Man City attacking assets, get one. Yes there is only 1 fixture to go on here thanks to Norwich’s time in the Championship (last one of these i promise), but the potential is here for another thrashing at the hands of the home side. City will be eager to make up for the worst possible start to their title defence in the opening day loss at Spurs, and scored 5 against the Canaries last time they met at the Etihad. Norwich themselves started with a 3-0 defeat at home to Liverpool, so have already shown capacity to concede a lot of goals against top teams.

De Bruyne put in a masterclass last time round with 2 goals and an assist, whilst Sterling, Jesus and Mahrez all popped up with a goal each. Predicting Pep’s starting 11 each week is enough to make anyone go mad, but this is a lottery that’s worth buying a ticket for. The likes of De Bruyne could be a differential captaincy option, being just 2.7% owned. The only issue with the Belgian will be whether he starts the game, after starting on the bench at Spurs. Jack Grealish will also be keen to start getting his name on the scoresheet for his new club.

Potentially of note is that, in an interview aired in the build-up to Spurs v City last weekend, Grealish talked about Pep telling him to track back less (as was his instinct in his Villa days) and stay higher up the pitch to receive the ball. He even mentioned discussions with Pep over playing in the false 9 position, as well as a 10 and on either wing. We could yet see a more attacking Grealish than we’ve seen before! Watch this space on that one.

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Brighton v Watford

If City v Norwich promises goals, then Brighton v Watford might be the one to skip on Match of The Day if you’re a neutral. Brighton and Watford have met thrice at the Amex in the last 5 seasons, with the games averaging out at 0.7 to 0.3 goals per game respectively. There are no particular stand-out players, although this could be the game for the most popular goalkeeper in FPL (Sanchez) to finally earn a clean sheet. If the away side are going to overturn a record of just 1 goal in their last 3 at Brighton then Ismaila Sarr may be the one to achieve this, with the talented Senegalese already popping up with a goal in the 3-2 win over Villa on opening day.

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Southampton v Manchester United

These have been close games in recent seasons. There have been 3 draws along with 2 Utd wins, which does mean the Saints are winless in this fixture over the last 5. This doesn’t bode well for Southampton, who have also lost their opening fixture 3-1, have lost their best striker in Danny Ings to Villa and one of their best centre backs in Jannik Vestergaard to Leicester. The new forward signings for Southampton do look promising, especially Adam Armstrong who started life at his new club with a bang, getting a debut goal. But Southampton do look very vulnerable defensively, conceding 3 to Everton and now facing a United side who have just put 5 past Leeds. And dare i mention the reverse fixture last season where Utd put 9 past Southampton? There appears to be a high ceiling for goals in this one given recent context.

FPL monster and hat-trick hero last weekend, Bruno Fernandes scored and assisted in the 3-2 win at St. Mary’s last season and should be full of confidence after his display against Leeds. It is still unclear whether Cavani will be fit to play, but he scored 2 and assisted 1 last season as well, so will have fond memories of his last trip to this part of the south coast.

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Wolves v Tottenham

Following Wolves’ promotion for the 2018/19 season, results between these two sides at Molineux have gradually got closer and closer, culminating in a 1-1 draw last season. Could this be the year Wolves finally get a win? There are a few interesting contextual factors in this one.

Firstly, the return of Jimenez. It was great to see him back on the pitch at Leicester last weekend, playing the full 90 as well. He has a strong record in this fixture too, with a goal and 2 assists in 2 seasons before his injury in 2020/21. He could be the one to make the difference, especially in Wolves’ first game back in front of their own fans where he is sure to get a wonderful reception. Secondly, Spurs have to travel to Spain on Thursday for a Europa Conference League Play-Off game against Pacos De Ferreira. Whilst it’s unclear if they will play a full strength team in that one or not, midweek travel is not ideal and causes a lot of disruption in preparation ahead of this meeting with Wolves, who will have had a whole week to prepare.

Finally, we will see Nuno Espirito Santo lining up against his former club for the first time, which provides a bit of added spice. On the Spurs side, neither Kane or Son have the strongest records at Molineux, with 1 goal and 1 assist respectively in 2018/19.

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Arsenal v Chelsea

Arsenal actually have a pretty good record at home against London rivals Chelsea, with 3 wins and a draw in the last 5. They also boast over double the aggregate goals to the Blues in that time, averaging 2.2 goals per game to Chelsea’s 1. This is, however, probably the strongest Chelsea team to have been put together in years, having just won the Champions League and now with the arrival of Romelu Lukaku, they come up against what feels like one of the weakest Arsenal sides in years.

That being said, Chelsea have been stronger on paper than Arsenal for the majority of the last 5 seasons and have still come away with nothing the majority of the time, so perhaps this is something of a bogey fixture for the Blues. It promises to be a good game, full of goals, but it’s hard not to see Chelsea winning this one if Lukaku starts, which does remain to be seen.

Bellerin actually has a decent record in this fixture with 2 assists and a goal, although he is rumoured to be unhappy amid links to a move away from the club. Lacazette has 2 goals in the last 3 games, but was unwell last week and could not play and it remains to be seen if he recovers in time for this one. This match comes at a very tough time for the Gunners.

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West Ham v Leicester

This has been a very close fixture in recent years. An aggregate of 9 West Ham goals to 10 Leicester, averaging at 1.8 per game to 2 respectively shows just how much of a knife edge this one tends to be on. There have been 2 draws, 2 away wins and 1 home win in the last 5, and the wins have all been by 1 goal margins. With such high average goals per game each, this suggests we may see something of a goal fest, with attacking returns for both teams from an FPL perspective.

This bodes well for the likes of popular FPL pick Antonio, who scored on opening day, as well as other key attacking assets on display like Said Benrahma, Jarrod Bowen, Jamie Vardy, Kelechi Iheanacho and Harvey Barnes amongst several others. Any one of those players could help themselves to one or more attacking returns if the average goals per game in this fixture is upheld, which should make for a great game for the neutral. No clean sheets for either side in any of the last 5 seasons means this might not be one defensive returns and clean sheet points. West Ham have also already put 4 past Newcastle, although Leicester should prove a sterner test.

Iheanacho has a very strong recent record in this fixture, with 3 goals in the last 2 games at West Ham, whilst Bowen helped himself to a goal and an assist in the same game last season. Vardy had a strong early record against the Hammers with 2 goals and 2 assists in 3 seasons, but has no returns in the last 2.

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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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