Back To The FPL Future: GW4

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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.

We’ll look at the last 5 seasons of each fixture in these articles, which should provide enough data to start to identify patterns and trends whilst at the same time keeping things relevant enough for the current FPL season. 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 GW4 fixtures:

Crystal Palace v Tottenham

Spurs have won all 3 of their games this season 1-0, which is not indicating the highest ceiling for attacking potential so far. So, what better way to break this pattern than a fixture where Spurs have scored precisely 1 goal in every game for the past 5 years? It is advantage Spurs though with 3 away wins and 2 draws in this time, and they’ll go into the Saturday early kick off as favourites once again. The last 5 season’s results coupled with this season’s consecutive 1-0 wins may well suggest we’ll see 1-0 to Spurs again here. Cue a 6 goal thriller.

The potentially low ceiling for attacking returns may be of concern for owners of Spurs attacking assets such as Heung-Min Son (26%) and Harry Kane (8%). What will be of some comfort to Kane owners, however, is Kane’s almost ridiculous record of an attacking return in every game at Selhurst Park in the last 5 years (albeit these have been single attacking returns each time). 3 goals and 2 assists for the England forward in this fixture suggests he’ll probably get something again this weekend to reward owners, although it may not be an explosive game for him.

Interestingly, Schlupp has 2 goals in the last 2 for the Eagles, something i’m sure will delight his 0.1% ownership. Probably not much more to say on that. There have been 2 consecutive 1-1 draws in the last 2 seasons which may give some hope for an attacking return for the home side, and Spurs themselves are overdue conceding with an xGC (expected goals conceded) of 4.22, having let in 0 so far.

So some regression may be expected at some point for Spurs, but will it start in this fixture? It must be said that Spurs often thrive in counter-attacking games, which they have been set up for under previous boss Jose Mourinho as well as current boss Nuno Espirito Santo. With Palace’s more attacking style of play under new manager Patrick Vieira, as well as the home side still chasing their first win of the season, this might just be a game which is set up comfortably for Spurs to record another 3 points, and keep them top of the table.

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Arsenal v Norwich

I’m sure Arsenal fans weren’t expecting this to be a relegation 6 pointer before the season began. I kid of course. I still expect Arsenal to be fine and challenging for around the same positions they have finished the last couple of seasons, but it has been a torrid start for the Gunners. They were never really expected to get much from games against probably the two best teams in the world in Chelsea and Man City, but the manner of those defeats has been alarming.

There are mitigating circumstances of course; they have been ravaged by a mixture of Covid and injuries to key players, which has essentially ripped the spine of the team out to this point. They also continue to play with Granit Xhaka. Things can only improve then, as key players start to return to training, new signings are bedded in and Xhaka can’t play through suspension.

There is just the 1 fixture in the last 5 seasons to look at for Arsenal v Norwich so we can’t really glean much from this lack of data, but this finally looks like a game where Arsenal can register their first points (and goals) of the season. Norwich are also looking for their first points of the season, but away at the Emirates may not be the place for it if their last outing was anything to go by. If Arsenal can replicate the 4-0 of 2019/20, it will go some way to repairing the damage their season has already taken.

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Brentford v Brighton

Unlike most of Brentford’s fixtures this season, there is at least some league history in this one even if it is just the 1 Championship game from 2016/17. That was a 3-3 goal fest, but both teams, especially Brentford, are somewhat different to back then.

Brighton are already infamous as the xG underachievers of the Premier League whilst at the same time being defensively very strong, and Brentford have themselves surprisingly looked stronger defensively than they have done going forwards, which is perhaps the opposite of what was expected of them this season. Brentford have conceded just the 1 goal so far this despite playing Arsenal and then 2 subsequent away games. Perhaps if there is to be another draw between these two on Saturday afternoon, as was the case in 2016/17, it is more likely to be a bore draw than a 6 goal thriller.

Both sides boast popular £4.5m goalkeeper choices in the 24.4% owned Sanchez and 8.5% owned Raya, as well as decent defensive assets on both sides, so a 0-0 would probably suit owners just fine (with lots of saves please). Popular pre-season forward Ivan Toney (19.3%) did get off the mark last week with a goal though, so if there was to miraculously be another goal fest between these sides there will be many hoping he is involved.

Leicester v Manchester City

This has been quite a close fixture in recent seasons, with Leicester averaging 1.2 goals per game to Man City’s 1.6, and managing 2 wins to Man City’s 3. Advantage Man City then.

Looking a little closer we can also see that the Man City wins in this timeframe are more recently tilted, with the away side having won the last 2. Leicester’s aggregate and average goals are also a little deceptive; despite scoring 6 goals in the last 5, these have actually all come in just 2 games, with Leicester blanking in 3 of the last 5. This therefore seems to be a bit of a boom or bust fixture for the Foxes. Which one will it be on Saturday? Given Man City’s form so far, and the fact that Leicester themselves have not looked particularly impressive despite 2 wins out of 3, you’d probably bet on bust.

That being said, the reigning champions may well be without the Brazilian contingent of their side, namely stalwart goalkeeper Ederson and in-form Gabriel Jesus, after the Brazilian FA asked FIFA to enforce a 5 day ban on players not released by Premier League clubs for the recent internationals. It remains to be seen how this situation is resolved at the time of writing, and how this might affect them on the pitch.

Man City have scored in each of the last 5 games at the Kingpower, scoring 2 goals on 3 occasions. This and their own form suggests a decent ceiling for attacking returns for the away side, although as usual it is hard to predict where these returns might fall in their attacking line up, or even what team Pep is going to start in the first place. Jesus might be missed if he is indeed banned by FIFA, as he has 3 goals in the last 4 at Leicester including 2 in the last 2. There should be some goals in this one.

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Manchester Utd v Newcastle

Possibly THE fixture to target in this weekends fixtures. Newcastle were playing in the Championship in 2016/17, but, in the 4 league visits to Old Trafford since they bounced back, Man Utd have won all 4 and scored an incredible 14 goals in the process. Starting from the 2017/18 fixture to the most recent one, the home side have scored 4, then 3, then 4 and then 3 again. Does this tenuous pattern mean its time for Man Utd to score 4 again next? It certainly wouldn’t feel at all surprising if they did or even bettered this, especially with club legend Ronaldo expected to make his second debut back in front of the home crowd. If it were possible (thanks TV blackout rules) all eyes would be on this game to witness his return in what will be an electric atmosphere.

Interestingly, Newcastle have never failed to score at Old Trafford in the last 4 years, which may put clean sheet points in doubt for Man Utd defensive assets. It’s the attack we’ll want to be targeting this fixture for though, and if the average goals per game is maintained or even increased, the likes of Ronaldo could have a field day. The Portugal captain is one of the standout captaincy options in GW4 and the high historical attacking returns ceiling in this fixture only heightens this. Man Utd did win a penalty last season, scored by Bruno Fernandes, and many are expecting Ronaldo to take over these duties from his Portugal team mate. It remains to be seen how this pans out, but if he does it increases his captaincy credentials even further. Martial actually has a very strong record in this fixture with 4 goals and 1 assist in the last 5, but the Frenchman is out of favour currently in the attacking lineup. A big win is expected of the home side here, and there could be big points on the board for owners of Man Utd attacking assets.

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Southampton v West Ham

West Ham have a strong record at St Mary’s, with 3 wins to Southampton’s 1. They have scored lower and lower numbers of goals as the seasons have gone on, culminating in a 0-0 draw last season, but it’s hard not to see them reversing those numbers with the form they, and particularly Michail Antonio, have been in so far this seaason. Southampton have also not been particularly convincing so far this season, having drawn 2 and lost 1 of their opening 3 games, conceding 6 goals in the process.

This fixture has generally been a good one for West Ham centre forwards over the years, with Haller, Chicharito and Carroll all on the scoresheet in recent years. This could bode well for Antonio to continue the trend, and the in-form forward has a couple of assists to his name in this fixture in recent years when not being utilised in his current role.

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Watford v Wolves

These two sides have played each other twice at Vicarage Road in the last 5 seasons, exchanging 2-1 wins in consecutive seasons. Squad and manager turnover has changed a lot at these sides since then (especially at Watford), and Wolves now look by far the better team on paper at least. The underlying stats in Wolves’ performances so far, despite 3 losses (to 3 top teams), indicate that goals and wins are only a matter of time and that this could be a very high achieving Wolves team.

So Wolves will be favourites, but this will also be the first game where they will be expected to bring the attack against a team who are expected to sit back and sit deep with the low block. It remains to be seen how Wolves will adapt to this type of game compared to the more counter-attacking games they have played so far which possibly suit them a bit more (particularly the juggernaut Adama Traore).

We saw Spurs, who also tend to play a more counter-attacking style, also struggle last week at home to Watford and managed a 1-0 win. From an FPL perspective all eyes will be on Wolves, how they handle the first game of a very favourable fixture run, and how their more appealing assets perform. The likes of Jimenez, Semedo, Traore etc who have all looked so promising could see their seasons begin in earnest.

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Chelsea v Aston Villa

Again there are only a couple of games to look at in this fixture, thanks to Villa’s time in the Championship, but those games have been surprisingly close including a 1-1 draw last season. It’s hard to draw much from just 2 games, and it must be said it is hard to see anything but a comfortable Chelsea win here on Saturday evening.

Chelsea have strengthened significantly since these sides last met at Stamford Bridge, with the additions of Lukaku and Saul Niguez and the massive improvement under Thomas Tuchel. Meanwhile, Villa have sold their talisman Jack Grealish and are looking far weaker without him currently.

The signings made with the Grealish money have all been good, but will take time to gel and the underlying stats say that Villa have been lucky to score as many and concede as few as they have so far (and they have only played ‘weaker’ opposition so far). This could be the game where Villa are found out; you can’t help but feel there is the potential for a thrashing here at the hands of Chelsea, especially with Goalkeeping god Emi Martinez ruled out through quarantine regulations for this one. Its a good week to own Chelsea players, and the likes of Lukaku, Havertz, Mount and James could fill their boots.

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Leeds v Liverpool

Just the one game here, and it was a score draw. In the second half of last season Leeds tightened up a lot, especially against the bigger sides, and often earned results like this. Leeds haven’t started as impressively this season and are looking more like the Leeds from the first half of last season who got turned over so often by the top sides. It remains to be seen which Leeds will turn up on Sunday, but they will need to be on top of their game if they are to get anything from this. But they did manage it last season.

They will have the home advantage, although in their only home game so far this season they conceded 2 against the Blue half of Merseyside. It also remains to be seen how new signing Dan James impacts the squad, and there are discussions over whether there might be a positional shift for Raphinha to accommodate James, with Raphinha moving into more of a No.10 spot. In fact it remains to be seen whether Raphinha will be able to play at all in this game, as he may be caught up in the aforementioned saga with the Brazilian FA and banned for 5 days.

Firmino and Allison for Liverpool will also be affected, which likely means guaranteed minutes for Jota in Firmino’s absence. Certainly one to watch. Hopefully this will be a fun game for the neutrals with 2 attacking teams up against each other missing key personnel, but it may be harder to call a result than expected if last season is anything to go by. Liverpool will still be the favourites, but Leeds will work their socks off and you can never write them off.

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Everton v Burnley

Perhaps surprisingly, Burnley have nicked a couple of wins here in the last 5 seasons. Everton have won the other 3, and generally the games have been relatively low scoring (although Everton are still averaging over a goal a game). This perhaps isn’t a game to set the world alight, but given how poor Burnley have looked so far this season and how strong Everton have looked, we should be looking at a comfortable home win here. That being said, Burnley might fancy their chances after winning 2-1 at Goodison Park last season.

Calvert-Lewin has 2 goals in the last 2 fixtures at home to Burnley, is now on penalties and is generally the focal point of every Everton attack. Given his record here and his strong start to the season, it would be very surprising if he doesn’t come away with at least 1 more attacking return on Monday. This is all, of course, dependant on whether he is fit to start, as the England forward is currently flagged with a muscle injury. As an interesting aside, Ben Mee has scored 2 own goals in the last 5 meetings between these sides at Goodison park. Scary prospects for his 0.7% ownership. Surely he couldn’t add a 3rd, could he?

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Summary:

GW4 fixtures to target:

Man Utd v Newcastle

Potential GW4 standout/star player(s):

Kane, Ronaldo, Calvert-Lewin

Potential GW4 upsets/traps:

Palace v Spurs

Potential GW4 goal fests:

Man Utd v Newcastle, Chelsea v Villa

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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