Back To The FPL Future: GW3

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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 GW3 fixtures:


Manchester City v Arsenal

A big game to open Gameweek 3 then, and it does not look like one to cheer up Arsenal fans after what has been a difficult start to the season for the Gunners. It is well established that the Etihad is not a happy hunting ground for Arsenal, but the numbers from recent seasons lay it out starkly. Arsenal have not scored a goal yet in the Premier League, and they have not scored at the Etihad in the Premier League in 2 years, whilst City have put 3 goals past the Gunners in 3 of their last 5 visits. Arsenal have been missing a raft of first team players through injury and illness, and it remains to be seen if any will be able to start in the Saturday early kick off. If Arsenal are again missing key men, it seems likely that the average goals per game of 2.4 to 0.6 in City’s favour will only be upheld or increased.

It could be a good day for City assets then, both attacking and defensive. 2.8% owned Raheem Sterling has an incredible home record against the Gunners, with 3 goals and 3 assists in the last 5. De Bruyne also has a strong record with 2 goals and an assist in the same time, whilst Foden has a goal and an assist in the last 2 seasons since he has broken through into the team. If you own a City attacking asset and are considering what to do with them in your team, this may not be the week to sell given the potentially high ceiling for attacking returns (especially if that man is Raheem Sterling!).

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Aston Villa v Brentford

One of the few Brentford fixtures which actually has some recent league history, thanks to both sides sharing time in the Championship between 2016-2019. So whilst there is some history to look at, the caveats are that these were Championship fixtures and that both sides are somewhat different to what they were back then due to squad turnover.

Brentford have a strong recent record at Villa it must be said, with 2 draws and a win in the last 3. Villa are now a stronger team on paper and would be expected to win this, but they have not looked convincing defensively in either of their games and have somehow managed to score 4 goals in the opening 2 gameweeks from an xG of 2.1. This suggests they are currently overperforming for goals scored and that some regression would be expected at some point. It’s also worth noting that Villa’s 2.1 xG is itself inflated by the 2 penalties awarded to them in the opening 2 weeks.

As much as Brentford impressed in their opening game, they were disappointing against Palace and have given some mixed signals about where they are and what they are likely to do this season. That being said, given the issues regarding Aston Villa above and Brentford’s own decent record at Villa Park, there could well be something in this game for The Bees and they could continue this with a point or 3 or on Saturday. On the Villa side, they have the advantage of a clinical, Premier League proven match winner in Danny Ings who may well be the difference between these two sides.

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Brighton v Everton

Expect to see a close game between these two. Everton have not won at the Amex since Brighton were promoted to the Premier League, so if there is to be a victory on Saturday it might just go to the home side as it has done in 2 of the last 4 meetings on the South coast. Except for one crazy game in 19/20 (which still finished close between the two), these have all been low scoring games as well, reading like binary code with nothing but 1’s and 0’s. In fact, if we remove the almost anomalous 19/20 fixture, the average goals per game in this fixture is 0.6 – 0.3 in Brighton’s favour.

So we might expect a low ceiling for attacking returns for both sides, which perhaps doesn’t bode so well for Calvert-Lewin owners, of which there are already many more since GW2 finished. On the bright side, the England forward does have a goal and an assist to his name in the last 4 meetings at the Amex, so if Everton are to put one in the net (a big if) there is a decent chance it will be Calvert-Lewin involved in putting it there. These chances are only increased with the Everton man now being on Penalties and otherwise being the focal point of every Everton attack. On the one hand, a Calvert-Lewin attacking return. On the other, a Sanchez clean sheet. The lord giveth, and the lord taketh away….

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Newcastle v Southampton

Well, what an unexpectedly strong home record this turned out to be. On paper over the last 4 seasons (Newcastle were in the Championship in 16/17) you would have probably said Southampton were the stronger side, and you’d perhaps expect this to be reflected in the results. However, Newcastle have absolutely dominated this fixture in recent seasons. Southampton have lost every game, and Newcastle are averaging almost triple the goals per game to Southampton in this time with 2.8 to 1 respectively. This comes from Newcastle putting 3 goals past Southampton in 3 of the last 4 meetings at St. James’ Park. Newcastle will also be desperate to get their first points on the board this season, being back in front of their home crowd.

Such a high potential ceiling for attacking returns can only be good news to Wilson owners, who would have been frustrated with VAR in Gameweek 2. If Newcastle are to once again put 3 past Saints, there is a strong chance Wilson will be involved in at least 1 of those. 5.8% owned Saint-Maximin could also benefit from a high attacking ceiling; he will be hoping to add to his solitary assist so far this season and did get a brace of assists in the 3-2 win last time around. Also of note is that Willock scored on his Newcastle debut in this fixture last season whilst on loan from Arsenal, and will no doubt be keen to start notching the goals again in front of the home crowd following his permanent move.

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Norwich v Leicester

We have just the 1 fixture to look at in the last 5 seasons, thanks to Norwich’s penchant for Championship football during this time, which makes it hard to infer much from such a lack of data. This was, surprisingly, a 1-0 victory for the Canaries, and oh how they would love a repeat on Saturday afternoon. It is hard to make a case for Norwich getting anything from this game, but then that would have been the case last time too. Norwich though have made a poor start to the season conceding 8 goals in 2 games, although these were against Liverpool and Manchester City so it is not perhaps the results which were poor but the nature of the defeats.

Leicester though have just come off the back of a comprehensive 4-1 defeat themselves at West Ham, although they were down to 10 men after Ayoze Perez was shown a straight Red. The Foxes will need to pick themselves up after that defeat, and will have to do so at a Norwich side who may have just had the pick-me-up they needed by thrashing Bournemouth 6-0 in the league cup on Tuesday evening. Perhaps a confidence boost is just what Norwich needed to start picking up some Premier League points. Leicester were also the only team not to beat Norwich last time they were in the Premier League, with the reverse fixture in 19/20 ending 1-1. A potential bogey team? Straws clutched.

In truth, it is hard to see anything but a Leicester win here and many FPL managers may even be looking at captaincy for a Leicester player this week in the ‘target Norwich’ strategy. It is a fair shout, although a potentially risky one given the recent history between these sides.

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West Ham v Crystal Palace

This fixture has been fairly close in recent years with 2 draws, 2 home wins and 1 Palace win. Neither side has failed to score since the 16/17 meeting (which still featured 3 goals on the West Ham side) and the games have averaged out at 1.8 to 1.2 goals per game in West Ham’s favour. With Palace now also playing more open, attacking football under Vieira, this one could open up even more and create more goalscoring opportunities than the conservative Hodgson tactics previously allowed.

This could be ideal for the likes of Michail Antonio and Said Benrahma, who have taken the first couple of gameweeks by storm with double digit hauls, and often thrive with the counter-attacking opportunities that this new Palace side may allow. With the potential ceiling for attacking returns being so high in this game, and his form being so explosively strong at the moment, it is no wonder Antonio is one of the leading captaincy options amongst the FPL community for Gameweek 3. Antonio had a hattrick of assists in the 16/17 fixture, but has no returns since. With the relative parity in results over the last 5 years its a little awkward to call this one, but you do get the feeling that this new-look Palace side, who haven’t yet mastered their new style of play, could play into the hands of West Ham. There could be a relatively high ceiling for attacking returns for the home team, who have put 3 goals past the Eagles on 2 recent occasions and you feel could easily do so again.

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Liverpool v Chelsea

Interestingly this fixture has the exact same aggregate and average goals as West Ham v Palace over the last 5 seasons. And also like that fixture, there have been 2 draws, 2 home wins and 1 away win in this one. I’m not sure what to do with this information. What i do know is that this should a fascinating game. Both sides have started the season in imperious form, and one of the most talented Chelsea squads in recent years will provide one of the toughest tests for any side this season. Neutrals would love for this to be a repeat of the 8 goal thriller of the 19/20 meeting, but the average goals per game suggest something more around the 2-1 mark.

Salah has 2 goals and 1 assist across the last 5 seasons, whilst Alexander-Arnold both scored and assisted in the aforementioned 19/20 goal fest. ‘New’ Chelsea signing Romelu Lukaku got off to a flying start on his ‘debut’ and certainly has the ability to be a matchwinner here. All in all this is a hard one to predict, and there could equally be returns for all of the main assets or none of them.

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Burnley v Leeds

Another game with just the 1 season’s worth of history to look at, due to Leeds’ 16 year absence from the Premier League. It’s not much to go on, but it was an emphatic win for the away side and many observers will be expecting a similar sort of result on Sunday.

Popular FPL assets Bamford and Raphinha both earned their first attacking returns of the season in the draw with Everton, so both should be in the mood for more at Turf Moor. Raphinha only managed an assist amongst the 4 goals scored last season, while Bamford did not feature at all. You wouldn’t bet against them both popping up this time around though. On the Burnley side, they actually played quite well despite defeat at Anfield in Gameweek 2 and they should have enough about them this season to avoid relegation once again, but Leeds will certainly go into this one as favourites.

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Tottenham v Watford

Well the aggregate and average scores are completely one-sided in Spurs’ favour, but results between the sides have got closer and closer over the years, culminating in a 1-1 draw in 19/20. Watford to win the next one then? Probably not. Spurs should have too much about them to be caught out by Watford, even though Spurs have not necessarily been the better side in either of their wins so far.

Watford will also be a different proposition, as they will sit back and it will be the home side who are expected to be more attacking and bring the game to the visitors, rather than Spurs being the ones to just defend and counter-attack like they did in their first two games. These first games played to their strengths as they recorded just 34% possession against Man City and 42% at Wolves, allowing Nuno to operate his counter attacking style. Spurs don’t score a lot under Nuno, but they also don’t concede either having conceded 0 goals so far. The roles should be reversed on Sunday though, and whilst Spurs should have enough quality to beat Watford this way (especially with Kane back in contention after committing his future to Spurs), it could be awkward for them. One thing we may see, which has happened in both fixtures so far, is that when Spurs get their goal they sit back and defend their lead and rely on counter-attacks thereafter. If Spurs don’t get an early-ish goal it will be interesting to see how it plays out.

Re-discovered Dele Alli, who took a penalty last weekend, has a very strong record in this fixture with 3 goals in the last 4 of these fixtures, whilst 24.6% owned Son also has 3 goals in the same time. Son is understandably being talked about amongst the top captaincy options for Gameweek 3, and he has a decent chance of attacking returns. There just haven’t been too many of those for Spurs so far though.

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Wolves v Manchester Utd

These have been remarkably even games since Wolves’ promotion back into the Premier League, with a win each by identical scorelines and a draw. Wolves under their new manager have struggled to turn strong performances into points or even goals so far this season, and are without either heading into this game against a Utd side who are undefeated in their first 2 and have scored 6 goals in the process. Will this continue? Or are Wolves overdue some goals themselves?

There are no standout players from recent seasons, but this new Wolves side under the new manager might play into Utd’s hands somewhat, with their high lines allowing Utd to play to their strengths and use fast breaks and counter-attacks. This could benefit the visitors in much the same way Leeds’ open style of play did in the opening fixture, where Utd scored 5. The likes of Bruno Fernandes could really feel the benefit of this, as he did in that Leeds fixture where the Portugal international scored a hattrick. This could make Bruno a strong captaincy shout in a week in which the captaincy question feels a lot more open.

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Summary:

Potential GW3 fixtures to target: Man City v Arsenal, Newcastle v Southampton

Potential GW3 standout/star player(s): Raheem Sterling, Michail Antonio

Potential GW3 upsets/traps: Norwich v Leicester

Potential GW3 goal fests: Newcastle v Southampton, Wolves v Manchester United, Manchester City v Arsenal

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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