Back To The FPL Future: GW29

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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 GW29 fixtures:

Fulham v Leeds

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One of the few Leeds fixtures with any kind of recent history to write about, thanks to both teams’ shared time in the Championship. Leeds haven’t scored in their last 4 games, and haven’t won at Craven Cottage in the past 5 seasons. Two defeats, briefly interrupted by Fulham’s 2018/19 foray into the Premier League, have followed two 1-1 draws, and Fulham are averaging almost twice the goals per game to Leeds in this fixture. This is perhaps not a game with the highest ceiling for attacking returns for owners of Leeds assets, especially with Fulham’s strong defensive numbers.

Bamford scored in 2-1 defeat last season, but the player with the best recent record is out-of-favour forward Alexandar Mitrovic, who has an excellent record with 2 goals and 1 assist in the last 2. Given the likely low ceiling for Leeds, and Fulham’s normally goal shy nature, it is hard to identify any stand out candidates from recent history in what will most likely be a low scoring game.

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Brighton v Newcastle

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A pretty even fixture in recent times, with a win each followed by 2 consecutive draws. This would suggest another close game on Saturday, but Newcastle have looked poor of late and Brighton rather good. Many FPL managers are expecting a home win, and that probably does seem the most likely this time round. That being said, Brighton have made a mockery of xG stats of late, and once in a while Newcastle put in a trap of a performance to convince you they might not be a bad team. It’ll be interesting to see what plays out on Saturday, but Brighton defensive assets seem as safe a bet as any for this weekend at least.

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West Ham v Arsenal

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Arsenal are averaging almost twice the goals per game in this fixture compared to the hammers, but a large chunk of this came in 1 game in the 2016/17 thrashing. With that aside, this fixture has been a lot more even with 2 draws and a win each. West Ham are having a very good season and look solid both in defence and in attack (when Messi Lingard plays at least). Arsenal appear the better team (on paper at least) and looked utterly dominant in the North London derby last weekend, but are still capable of some Jekyll and Hyde performances at time. Another thing to consider is the Thursday night Europa League game that Arsenal have to contend with as opposed to West Ham’s full week rest. All of this could suggest another close game at the London Stadium.

Aubameyang and Pepe starred in the meeting last season, with a goal and an assist each, and Arsenal eyes will certainly be locked on the Gunners captain for goals here again on Sunday. Other than this there are no longer term trends to help us identify players who regularly perform in this fixture, with only 1 goal between these two teams in the two season prior to that. Arsenal may well be without the brilliance of Bukayo Saka as well, which will hinder them somewhat.

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Aston Villa v Spurs

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There are only a couple of fixtures to look at in our time period due to Villa’s time in the Championship, and both of these were away wins at Villa Park. Spurs also scored 2 and 3 goals in those games, but that was back when Villa were a poorer side and Spurs were much better than their current form suggests.

Villa do not look to be able to dominate games and get wins without talisman Jack Grealish, but are still strong defensively and are capable of grinding out draws and fighting for points without him. Added to that is that Spurs have continued to be Spursy, being utterly dominated for the vast majority of the North London derby before throwing away a 2-0 Europa League lead to go crashing out of the competition on Thursday. Their futile midweek exploits, plus the likely absence of key player Heung Min-Son, suggest this match could be something of a struggle for Spurs on Sunday, and we may see a low scoring game play out.

A draw, or perhaps a low scoring away win (a goal please Harry) might be the most likely outcome, but Son did score 2 in the win here last season and his absence will be sorely missed for Spurs. Whilst Kane did brace in the 2015/16 meeting, he blanked last season and perhaps faces a low ceiling here.

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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. Leeds, for example, have been absent from the Premier league for 16 years 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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