Back To The FPL Future: GW30

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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 GW30 fixtures:

Chelsea v West Bromwich Albion

There haven’t been any fixtures in the past couple of seasons due to West Brom’s relegation following the 2017/18 season, but as expected Chelsea have the advantage in the 3 seasons prior to that. Thomas Tuchel has yet to taste defeat in the Premier League since taking over the Blues, and it’s hard to see anything but a home win in the Saturday early kick-off. Chelsea have been defensively rock-solid since the German took over, whilst the attacking unit have been a little rotation prone, making it harder to select the best option from Chelsea’s attack. A triple Chelsea defence would probably result in triple clean sheet points for FPL managers this weekend.

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Leeds v Sheffield Utd

There are only a couple of fixture to examine in the past 5 seasons for this Yorkshire derby, and both of those were Championship games. Interestingly, Sheffield Utd have history on their side here in recent times, with 2 out of 2 away wins at Elland Road. However, both of these occurred pre- Marcelo Bielsa at Leeds, which is a huge caveat. Since Marcelo Bielsa arrived, Leeds are a different animal to when Sheffield Utd last came to visit, and the Blades are having a torrid season themselves. They seem to have caught a terminal case of second season syndrome in the Premier League, sitting rock bottom as the whipping boys of 2020/21. It’s hard to imagine another away win here on Saturday given current form, but it is a local derby where form often goes out the window, plus Sheffield Utd are fighting for Premier League survival.

Owners of Leeds assets, both attacking and defensive, will be confident of points. Owning 2 or 3 Leeds players will likely deliver decent returns across the board.

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Leicester v Manchester City

This is an intriguing fixture, and history suggests it could be a little unpredictable. The aggregate and average goals scored are identical, and both teams have taken it in turns to win since a goalless draw in Leicester’s title winning season. Going by this pattern of alternating wins (please don’t) suggests it’s Leicester’s turn to win this time round, although that would be a surprising result on current form this season.

That unpredictability filters down to the player level too from an FPL perspective. Vardy scored a hattrick in a 4-2 win in 2016/17, but since then has just a single assist to his name. Jesus has 2 goals in the last 3, whilst Mahrez has just a couple of assists over the last 4. De Bruyne has just a solitary goal, scored in the 2017/18 season, and is not on the best form of his career this season by his own sky-high standards. All of this makes it very difficult to identify any key players who have stood out, and whilst most people will expect a Man City win on current form, history suggests it may be a little less predictable.

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Aston Villa v Fulham

Another fixture with only a couple of fixtures to look at in the past 5 years. Both of these have been narrow home wins, and on paper this is probably the more likely outcome assuming talisman Jack Grealish is back from injury. This certainly seems to be the case, with Dean Smith indicating that he is back up for selection.

Fulham have been a much more solid outfit in this latter part of the season, and Villa had been poor without Grealish, so there may have been an opportunity for The Cottagers to get something here on Sunday without Grealish on the pitch. But with Grealish back, Villa are a different outfit and will likely return to more like the top 6 side they were prior to his injury. A continuation of historic results, namely a narrow home win, is therefore seems a more likely result on Sunday. No players of FPL relevance stand out from historical results, but it would be typical for Grealish to mark his return from injury with a return or two.

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Arsenal v Liverpool

A very close fixture over the last 5 years, 3 of the last 5 results have been draws, with a win each thrown into the mix. This also makes for identical aggregate and average scores, with a considerable average of nearly 2 goals per game each. With Liverpool’s relatively poor form this season, coupled with Arsenal’s own Jekyll and Hyde form, a score draw is perhaps a likely outcome again this weekend.

Lacazette actually has a very good record at home to Liverpool, with 2 goals and 2 assist in the last 3 seasons. Interestingly, Salah has just a solitary goal in 2017/18, so it is perhaps not best to rely on him for points at The Emirates. There aren’t really any other players who particularly stand out; Mane has a couple of goals to his name across the last 4 seasons, whilst Firmino has a goal and an assist albeit both in the same game. Both sides have a tendency for defensive lapses this season, so points probably lie in attacking returns. Lacazette would be an interesting differential with a good record against Saturday’s opponents.

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Southampton v Burnley

Our third fixture in GW30 where both opponents have an identical aggregate and average score. Bizarrely, Burnley actually have the better record at St. Mary’s in terms of results, with 2 wins over the last 4. In fact, the last time Southampton came away with all 3 points was 4 years ago in the 2016/17 season. Southampton have been on a terrible run of form recently in the Premier League, although Burnley haven’t exactly been setting the league alight themselves. Most observers would probably expect a home win here, but history suggests the opposite and current form also doesn’t support a win for the home side.

No players particularly stand out; Danny Ings did score against his former team last season, but that is the only attacking return he has in this fixture. This is probably a fixture with very few players of FPL interest on display outside of Danny Ings, and is maybe a fixture to avoid due to the slightly unpredictable nature of results.

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Newcastle v Tottenham

This is one where the average and aggregate scores are heavily skewed by one result; the infamous Spurs bottling of the 2015/16 season where they lost 5-1 at 10 man Newcastle on the final day to finish 3rd, behind North London rivals Arsenal. This one freak game aside, the results have been far more as expected, with 3 Spurs wins in a row where they scored 7 goals in the process. This means we can probably expect a comfortable away win at St. James’ on Sunday.

Harry Kane will probably be the most popular captaincy option for GW30, and he did score a brace in the 3-1 win last season (although he has no attacking returns prior to this). Heung-Min Son scored in the same game last season, but again this is his only attacking return in this fixture over the last 5 years. Newcastle have actually only failed to score in this fixture once in the last 5 seasons, so perhaps a clean sheet isn’t as nailed for Spurs as it might first appear.

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Manchester Utd v Brighton

Most people will be expecting a home win here, and United managing 3 times the aggregate score of Brighton suggests that’s probably what we’ll see on Sunday. United have won by progressively larger scorelines as the years have gone on, although Brighton have put in some impressive performances of late so it is hard to see that trend continuing.

It is hard to identify any particular players who stand out from only 3 fixtures. Martial got a brace of assists last season but has no other attacking returns other than this. Dunk has scored 2 goals over the last 3, but one of these was into his own net to condemn Brighton to a 1-0 defeat in 2017/18. The only Brighton player who stands out is Pascal Gross, who has a goal and an assist in the last 2.

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Everton v Crystal Palace

2 consecutive draws have been followed by 3 consecutive home wins, with Everton averaging over double the goals per game to The Eagles. On current form another home win seems inevitable, but it must be said that under Ancelotti The Toffees have often slipped up against ‘lesser’ opposition, whilst performing better against stronger opposition. The latest example of this came when losing 2-1 at home to Burnley just 3 weeks after beating Liverpool 2-0 at Anfield. This can make Everton results a little unpredictable, even if they should be winning games like this on paper.

Calvert-Lewin has a strong recent record in this fixture, with 2 goals and 1 assist in the last 2 games, whilst the revitalised Gylfi Sigurdsson hauled in 2017/18 with a goal and an assist. Other than this, nobody really stands out. Zaha just has 1 assist to his name which came in the meeting last season, the same goes for Richarlison with his only goal coming last year in the 3-1 win.

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Wolves v West Ham

Only a couple of fixtures in the past 5 years, and surprisingly West Ham failed to even score a goal in either of those games, with Wolves scoring 5 without reply. The balance of power seems to have shifted between these two teams somewhat, however. Wolves have looked pretty underwhelming all season, whereas West Ham have often looked impressive especially since the loan signing of Messi Jesse Lingard. Since the last two Wolves wins, the home side have sold key players in Diogo Jota and Matt Doherty who were instrumental as part of their attacking force, and have also lost the figurehead at the sharp end of that attack in Raul Jimenez to a long-term injury. All this context means that we may well see a much more even game played out on Monday evening, or if anything a reversal in fortunes in favour of West Ham.

Jimenez may indeed be sorely missed, as he braced in the 3-0 win in 2018/19. Moutinho surprisingly has a decent record with 3 assist in the last 2. But it would be a brave FPL manager who backs this Wolves attack on current form, even despite their strong recent history in this fixture.

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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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