Back To The FPL Future: GW34

iheanacho
Reading Time: 8 minutes

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 GW34 fixtures:

Southampton v Leicester
FPL Fixtures Southampton Leicester

It looks like we have an absolute firecracker of a game to open GW34 on Friday night, at least based on recent history. Helped in part by the infamous 9-0 mauling (sorry Saints fans) Southampton received last season, this fixture averages almost 5 goals per game between the two sides. This certainly seems to be the fixture to target as the goal fest of the weekend, and Leicester may well expect the lion’s share of those goals given their excellent recent record at St. Mary’s. The Foxes have won the last 3 by an aggregate score of 15-2, which will be welcome news for owners of Leicester attacking assets.

Iheanacho is certainly the form man at the moment from a Leicester perspective, but as he has only really broken through this season he doesn’t feature amongst the returns in previous seasons. With the propensity for goals in this game, Leicester’s recent record in this fixture and Iheanacho’s red hot form, the 24 year old is surely an excellent captaincy option this weekend if you are looking beyond Kane for the armband. Vardy may also be an excellent shout; the England man scored a hattrick and got an assist in the thrashing last season, but also had a decent record of 2 goals and an assist in the 4 games before this.

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Chelsea v Fulham
FPL Fixtures Chelsea Fulham

There is only 1 fixture in the last 5 years to look at, thanks to Fulham spending most of their time in the second tier during this period. Unsurprisingly, the previous game was a comfortable home win. Chelsea also won the reverse fixture 1-0 earlier this season, and it’s hard to look past the Blues for anything but another comfortable win at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.

Due to squad turnover, there are no current players of FPL relevance who stand out from the previous game. Most observers will be expecting a Chelsea clean sheet to compliment a home win, so Chelsea defensive cover seems like a must with perhaps even a double or triple up for some managers. The Chelsea attacking unit has been a little hard to predict under Tuchel, but Mason Mount has often been a reliable source of points and is relatively nailed under the German.

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Burnley v West Ham
FPL Fixtures Burnley West Ham

The Clarets have a decent record at home to West Ham in recent years, with a draw and then 2 consecutive wins in the last 3. Burnley have also scored an increasing number of goals over the last 3 home games v West Ham, scoring 1, then 2 and then finally 3 goals in the latest fixture which was a 3-0 win. Could they continue this trend and make it 4 this time round? They certainly managed this in GW33, putting 4 past Wolves at Molineux thanks to a Chris Wood masterclass.

Speaking of a Chris Wood masterclass, the New Zealand international has an excellent record in this fixture with a goal in each of the last 3 games. Owners will surely be expecting more great things from him in GW34; he certainly has a strong record to extend at Turf Moor on Monday night.

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Tottenham v Sheffield Utd
FPL Fixtures Spurs Sheff Utd

Another game with only 1 fixture in the last 5 seasons, thanks to Sheffield Utd’s time in the Championship and League 1. This was a surprise 1-1 draw, but this was back when Sheffield Utd still performed well and looked a decent side. They are a totally different proposition this season, and anything but a comfortable home win would be a massive shock. Spurs did win the away fixture 3-1, and a similar scoreline (minus the Blades goal) will probably be expected here on Sunday.

Heung Min-Son scored in this fixture last season so has a bit of history, whilst captaincy favourite Harry Kane scored in the reverse fixture this season and owners will be hoping for big things from the Spurs talisman.

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Crystal Palace v Manchester City
FPL Fixtures Crystal Palace Man City

Unsurprisingly the Citizens have the better record in this fixture, having won 4 of the last 5. It’s hardly a goal fest mind you, with City averaging 1.6 goals per game to Palace’s 0.4. Going based on recent history, a relatively low scoring away win could be on the cards here in the Saturday early kick-off, and we also have to factor in City’s midweek Champions League exploits and the accompanying squad rotation.

Sterling has a strong record for City at Selhurst Park, with 2 goals and 1 assist in the last 2 games. Gabriel Jesus also has a decent record with a couple of goals himself in the same time. Palace have failed to score in 3 of the last 5, so a City clean sheet looks a decent possibility.

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Everton v Aston Villa
FPL Fixtures Everton Aston Villa

There are only a couple of fixtures in the past 5 years thanks to Villa’s relegation in 2015/16. It is hard to draw much of a pattern from 2 games, especially when one was a bit of a thrashing by the Toffees and the other was a 1-1 draw. With the continued absence of the talismanic Jack Grealish through injury, Everton probably have more about them than the visitors on paper and most will probably be expecting another home win on Saturday night. Mind you, Everton have had something of a tendency this season to step up their game against ‘bigger’ teams whilst often slipping up against ‘lesser’ teams, so it will be interesting to see how this plays out.

Ross Barkley scored a brace and got an assist in the 2015/16 meeting, but this was in a blue shirt and he will be lining up on the other side of the pitch this time around. It would be a surprise if we get anything near a repeat of that performance. Other than this there are no standout players due to the low number of games played.

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Manchester Utd v Liverpool
FPL Fixtures Man Utd Liverpool

Possibly the biggest game of the weekend, many will be tuning in hoping for a feast of elite football. Unfortunately for the neutrals, however, this fixture has been relatively low-scoring in recent years with Utd averaging 1.4 goals per game to Liverpool’s 0.8. Big games like this are often disappointing relative to the pre-match hype, although these teams have only failed to score in one of the last 5 games- which came for both at the same time in the 0-0 draw in 2018/19.

Fit-again Marcus Rashford has a strong record at home to Liverpool, with 3 goals across the last 3 games. Other than this it’s hard to identify any standout players due to squad turnover and the relatively low scoring nature of the games. You wouldn’t put money on a clean sheet for either side here on Sunday, so owners of defensive assets will likely need to rely on attacking returns from the like of Shaw and Trent.

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Brighton v Leeds
FPL Fixtures Brighton Leeds

One of the few Leeds fixtures with any kind of history to look at, thanks to both teams’ shared time in the Championship. There has been nothing in the last 3 seasons, however, which the time period that Leeds have been completely transformed by Marcelo Bielsa. Whilst Brighton have the record on their side with 2 wins out of the last 2, scoring 6 goals without reply in the process, this will be a completely different Leeds side coming to the Amex on Saturday.

Leeds have been very impressive this season and are the neutrals favourite, whilst Brighton have often struggled to turn otherwise strong performances into points. This will be an intriguing match up and is hard to call, although Brighton did win the reverse fixture by a narrow 1-0 scoreline in January.

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Newcastle v Arsenal
FPL Fixtures Newcastle Arsenal

Arsenal have won 3 of the last 4 between these sides at St. James Park, with a 5th fixture being missed out on due to Newcastle’s season in the Championship in 2016/17. The games have been very close, however, with Arsenal averaging 1 goal per game to Newcastle’s 0.75. Every win has been by a 1 goal margin, and the games have been generally low scoring. Perhaps not a fixture with the highest ceiling for attacking assets, but Arsenal have kept clean sheets in 2 out of 4 so perhaps there will be some joy in the defence.

Arsenal will be hoping Aubameyang is declared fit following his bout of Malaria; the Gabonese has a goal and 2 assists in the last 3 so has often proved pivotal in this fixture.

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West Brom v Wolves

There is no table to analyse for this particular fixture, as there have been no league meetings between these sides at the Hawthorns in the past 5 seasons. Coincidentally, these West Midlands sides passed like ships in the night as West Brom were relegated to the Championship at the end of the 2017/18 season whilst Wolves were promoted to the Premier League at the same time.

It was West Brom who took the bragging rights in the reverse fixture, winning 3-2 at Molineux thanks largely to a brace from talisman Matheus Pereira. Wolves have been disappointing of late, most recently losing 4-0 at home to normally goal-shy Burnley, whilst the home side have fared a little better and have only lost 1 of their last 4 games, which included that 5-2 win at Chelsea. On current form a home win here would not be so surprising, and Matheus Pereira is likely to once again be their key man if so.

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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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