Back To The FPL Future: GW33

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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 GW33 fixtures:

Arsenal v Everton
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We have an extremely one-sided fixture in recent years to kick off GW33 on Friday night. Arsenal have won 5 out of the last 5, averaging 3 goals per game to Everton’s 1. Both of these sides have been a little unpredictable this season which does throw some doubt on how this game will play out, but based on recent history it appears a home win is probably on the cards. However, it must be said that Everton have tended to raise their game against the ‘bigger’ clubs this season whilst slipping up against ‘lesser’ teams, and it remains to be seen what effect, if any, the European Super League debacle will have on the Arsenal team, with fan protests planned at the Emirates before kick-off.

Arsenal will also be without key forwards Aubameyang and Lacazette through illness and injury respectively, so it remains to be seen if their blunter attacking force will manage to match their 3 goal per game average.

Aubameyang will certainly be a big miss, with the Gabonese forward notching 4 goals in the last 3 home meetings v Everton. Eddie Nketiah replaced Lacazette following the Frenchman’s injury last week, and the young England international did score in the 3-2 win last season, so boasts some form here considering how little game time he gets.

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Liverpool v Newcastle
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Unsurprisingly, Liverpool have the better record in this fixture, averaging 2.75 goals per game to Newcastle’s 0.75.

Salah has an excellent record in this fixture, with 3 goals and 1 assist in the last 3 games. Trent Alexander-Arnold added an assist to his clean sheet in the meeting in 2018/19, and given his revival in form you could see him replicating this again on Saturday. It must be said that Newcastle have looked a much better side since the return of Saint-Maximin and Wilson from injury, so perhaps a clean sheet isn’t a forgone conclusion especially with Liverpool’s leakier defence this season, and their struggles at home.

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Sheffield Utd v Brighton
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Only 1 game in our time period due to the Blades’ time in the Championship and League 1. We get to watch the xG strugglers visit the all-round strugglers. It finished 1-1 last season, and a low scoring draw here perhaps wouldn’t be a surprise. But given the excellent performances Brighton have shown at times this season it really should be a game for the Seagulls to look at as a chance for all 3 points.

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West Ham v Chelsea
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West Ham have a surprisingly good home record in this all-London clash. They have won 3 of the last 5, and drew in 2018/19 with Chelsea’s only victory coming 4 years ago thanks to 2 goals from Hazard and Costa. Each of the win has been by a single goal, so all of the games have been tight affairs even when there were a lot of goals scored like last year.

West Ham are having a strong season competing for the top 4 and are level on points with Saturday’s visitors, meaning we may well see another close game again here. Based on recent history, a narrow home win may be the most likely outcome, but the Hammers currently face injuries to key men in Aaron Cresswell, Declan Rice and Michail Antonio. This may well be an opportunity for Chelsea to grab a rare win at London Stadium.

Due to squad turnover for both sides, it is hard to identify any current FPL players of relevance who stand out, although in-form Jarrod Bowen did help himself to a brace of assists last season and will be seen as key to unlocking what has been a tighter Chelsea defence under Thomas Tuchel.

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Aston Villa v West Brom
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There is not a huge amount to glean from this given that there have been no meetings at Villa Park between these two sides since 2015/16. Villa did win the reverse fixture 3-0, and under normal circumstances you would probably expect a similar result here on Sunday. However, Villa have struggled without the talismanic Jack Grealish, who played in the reverse fixture but is expected to still be out through injury this weekend.

The Baggies are also fighting for their Premier League survival, and are doing a good job so far with 2 wins in their last 2, beating Chelsea at Stamford bridge in that crazy 5-2 win, and comfortably seeing off Southampton in a 3-0 win the following week. A repeat of the 2015/16 result, might not be so unexpected after all, especially for a derby game which can often throw up odd results.

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Leicester v Crystal Palace
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What struck me about the recent history of this fixture is that, in 2 of the last 3 seasons, Leicester have lost 0-3 and 1-4 to Palace. This certainly runs contrary to the perceived relative strength of these two sides, but i have spoken to Leicester fan and fellow Jumpers For Goalposts contributor FPL Foxy, who assures me that this period of thrashings at the hands of the Eagles is over, and normal service has been resumed (please direct all abuse complaints to him if this doesn’t pan out). Leicester did turn the tables with a 3-0 win last season, so as a double Leicester asset owner myself, i sincerely hope he’s right.

Man of the moment Kelechi Iheanacho scored in that 3-0 win last season, so does have some form in this fixture, whilst the currently out-of-form Jamie Vardy scored a brace in the same game. Same again please lads. It must be said that Vardy only had a single goal to his name in this fixture prior to the win last year, which came in the title winning 2015/16 season. On the Palace side, Zaha scored 3 goals across those two aforementioned away wins, so his 8.4% ownership may be hopeful of a return.

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Wolves v Burnley
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Only a couple of fixtures in the last 5 seasons due to Wolves’ time in the Championship, but the home side appear to just about have the edge.

The still-injured Raul Jimenez has both of Wolves’ only 2 goals in this fixture, and, given Burnley’s generally goal-shy nature, we are probably in for a low scoring affair here on Sunday. This is unlikely to be a game for the neutrals, with a high chance for a 0-0 draw. Cue a 7 goal thriller.

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Leeds United v Manchester United

There is no table to show for this fixture as there have been no meetings between these sides at Elland Road in the past 5 years, or the past 16 years for that matter thanks to Leeds’ 16 year absence from the top flight. The reverse fixture was an 8 goal thriller in favour of Manchester United, who put 6 past Leeds. Bruno Fernandes hauled in that game with 2 goals and 2 assists, whilst McTominay of all people also scored 2 and assisted 1. Despite being on the losing side, popular Leeds man Raphinha still helped himself to 2 assists.

This game may not be so high scoring, however. Leeds have tightened up against the top teams of late, abandoning their normal high tempo, open style for a more solid defensive approach. This has certainly worked for them, as since GW28 they have drawn 0-0 with Chelsea, beaten Manchester City 2-1 and also held Liverpool to a 1-1 draw on Monday night. Assuming Leeds keep to this approach, the ceiling feels a lot lower than in the reverse fixture, with perhaps a draw or even a home win on the cards. Leeds, after all, will be hoping for revenge against the long-time rivals. Just bear in mind that those expecting a goal fest may be disappointed.

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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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